Posts Tagged ‘Islington’

Radio 4 Programme on Racism and the Marginalisation of the White Poor in Bristol

October 4, 2019

The edition of the Radio 4 programme, Analysis, for Sunday 6th October 2019, is on ‘Whiteness’. The blurb for the programme on page 129 of the Radio Times runs

Neil Maggs, a Bristol-based journalist, is watching the debate on white privilege and race play out across the city he has grown up in. While he accepts much of the discourse on White privilege, he worries that an over-emphasis on race could further marginalise some of the poorer, white inhabitants in Bristol. How can society find a way through this, and what can different groups of white people agree on about their whiteness? 

The programme’s on at 9.30 pm.

It’s a good question. There has certainly been more than a degree of resentment about the amount of funding that has gone into St. Paul’s and the other racially-mixed areas in Bristol’s inner city, while the outlying, mostly White working class suburbs to the south of Bristol have largely been ignored. And one of the reasons suggested for the rise of UKIP, now eclipsed by the equally noxious Brexit party, has been that working class White voters felt ignored and left-behind by the Labour party. They were certainly ignored by Blair and New Labour, who were far more keen on picking up votes from more affluent voters in swing constituencies, and appealing to the middle classes by adopting the Tory policies of privatisation and the destruction of the welfare state. And some of the resurgence of racism and anti-feminism in parts of the British working class may well be a reaction to this. Because while Blair and co. courted the middle class, they were also very loud about being anti-racist and feminist. It was an attitude that may well have created over here a constituency of angry White men that in America votes for Trump and the Republicans. Hopefully that is changing now that Corbyn is standing up for the working class as a whole. David Rosenberg has stated several times, and particularly against Margaret Hodge and her policy of doing nothing, that the way to tackle Fascism is to stress working class solidarity and class issues. These are tactics Hodge definitely didn’t follow in Islington, to the point where the BNP actually sent her a bouquet of flowers when they got seven councillors elected in Dagenham and Barking. That’s something the Tory press forgot when they worked themselves up into a lather yesterday when her constituency parties voted to trigger her for re-selection as the local MP.

The BBC programme offers a provocative new perspective on race relations and White identity in Bristol. It might be interesting to hear what it has to say. Providing it doesn’t portray poor or working class White Bristolians as uniformly racist. 

Anti-Black Racism and the Anti-Semitism Smears

August 2, 2019

Looking back at two of the most notorious instances, where decent anti-racists have been smeared as an anti-Semites, it occurred to me that behind them there’s a very nasty strain of anti-black racism. These two cases were the attacks on Jackie Walker, the vice-chair of Momentum by the Campaign Against Truth and the Jewish Labour Movement, and against Marc Wadsworth by Ruth Smeeth. Both were not only passionate and committed campaigners against all varieties of racism, they were also Black.

Walker is Jewish by descent and faith. Her partner is Jewish, and she sent her daughter to a Jewish school. She is an outspoken opponent of Israeli apartheid, and began attacking it through her activism against its counterpart in South Africa. Because of this some Zionist organisation has apparently identified her as the second most dangerous threat to Israel along with Jeremy Corbyn.

She was accused of anti-Semitism when snoopers from the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism dug up an old Facebook conversation between her and two or three other historians and scholars discussing Jewish financial involvement in the slave trade. Walker made it clear that she was looking at it partly from the angle of being a Jew herself. She said that the Jews involved were ‘my people too’. It’s a legitimate area of historical research, and Jackie has subsequently very ably defended herself by citing studies of this by mainstream, respectable Jewish historians. Nowhere did she claim that the Jews were solely responsible for the slave trade, or even its main investors. She has made it clear that the responsibility for the slave trade lies with the Christian monarchs of the states that engaged in it.

Nevertheless, her words were taken out of context and further distorted, and she was the subject of a vile article in the Jewish Chronicle claiming that she had. This formed the basis for a complaint against her to the Labour party demanding her expulsion. She was also accused of anti-Semitism by the Jewish Labour Movement. They secretly recorded her at a workshop on the proper commemoration of the Holocaust for Holocaust Memorial Day. Jackie complained that she was unable  to work with their definition of anti-Semitism and objected to the way Holocaust Memorial Day concentrated exclusively on Jewish suffering to the exclusion of other groups, who had also suffered similar genocides, like Black Africans. I believe the definition of anti-Semitism to which she objected wasn’t the normal definition that it is simply hatred of Jews as Jews, but the IHRC definition, which conflates it with opposition to Israel. And while Holocaust Memorial Day does mention the holocausts of other ethnicities, there is increasing hostility amongst some Zionists on their inclusion. As Tony Greenstein has shown, the Israeli state is keen to present the Holocaust as a unique phenomenon which targeted only Jews, despite the Nazis’ determination to murder other groups and races, like the Roma and the disabled, not to mention the Slav peoples they intended to enslave and turn into a class of peasant serfs.

Jackie was duly expelled from the party, though not for anti-Semitism, which he accusers couldn’t prove, but on other, spurious charges, like bringing the party into disrepute or some other nonsense. Since then, she has been the victim of sustained, vicious abuse. She has been told that she should be hanged from trees, or killed and her body dumped in bin bags. This is so vile, that she has forbidden her daughters from reading her email, because she doesn’t want to see them upset by the abuse their mother is getting. And amongst these accusations is the claim that she cannot be properly Jewish, because she’s black. Which is itself definitely racist.

Now it seems to me that at the heart of these smears against Walker is the assumption that, as a Black anti-racist activist, she must be an anti-Semite. This is based on the very public comments several decades ago of two leading Black American figures, Louis Farrakhan and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Farrakhan is, or was, the head of the Nation of Islam, the religious movement led by Malcolm X. Although it sees itself as a form of Islam, it is by Muslim standards highly heretical. It’s based around the worship of W.D. Fard, a Syrian immigrant to the US, as God incarnate. It also has elements of those new religious movements centred on UFOs, like the Aetherius Society. Farrakhan claims that he was taken up by a UFO from a mountain in Mexico to an orbiting ‘mother wheel’, where he was told that W.D. Fard and Jesus were alive and well on Venus, where they would direct the future war against Whites.

As well as bitterly hostile to Whites, Farrakhan is also vehemently anti-Semitic. He really does believe that the Jews were responsible for the slave trade. This is definitely rejected by every proper scholar of the subject, including Jackie herself. 

In the late 1980s and 1990s, Farrakhan organised a series of events protesting against the conditions of Black people in America. One of the most spectacular was the ‘Million Man March’, in which a million Black men were to march on Washington D.C. It was supposed to be a men-only event, as the religion has very traditional views on sex and gender roles. Women were supposed to be at home, looking after the children. And it was supposed to be for Blacks only. In the event, the organisers could only reach the numbers they wanted through letting Whites join.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson was a Christian minister, who was also a Black anti-racism activist. He was popular, and at one stage it looked like he might win the Democratic presidential nomination. Eddie Murphy in his stand-up comedy routine included jokes about the shock White racists would get after they drunkenly voted for him as a joke, only to wake up the next morning to find Jackson in the White House. It’s possible that two decades before Barack Obama, America could have seen its first Black president. Jackson’s political ambitions took a nosedive, however, when he began to move close to Farrakhan and made anti-Semitic comments. The most notorious of these was when he called New York ‘Hymietown’ because of its large Jewish population.

It therefore seems very strongly to me that the accusations of anti-Semitism against Jackie Walker were partly intended to recall the real anti-Semitism of Farrakhan and Jackson. The implication there seemed to be that because she dared discuss Jewish involvement in the slave trade, she must share Farrakhan’s odious views. Not least of which is because she’s a Black anti-racist activist, and so was he.

Ditto with Marc Wadsworth. He was smeared by Ruth Smeeth because he caught her passing on information to a Torygraph journo next to her at a Labour party event. She then claimed that he was guilty of using the anti-Semitic trope of Jews as leaders of a conspiracy against her. The lamestream press had a field day with this, repeating this lie and even screaming that he was the Labour activist, who made her cry.

Wadsworth is not Jewish, but he is a committed anti-racist activist. Among his achievements was getting the parents of the murdered Black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, to meet Nelson Mandela. He also worked with the Board of Deputies of British Jews to formulate improved legislation to protect Jews from real anti-Semitic violence after a spate of attacks by the NF/BNP in the Isle of Dogs in the 1980s. He’s very, very definitely not a racist. But truth doesn’t matter to these scoundrels, and they libelled him as such anyway.

Like Jackie Walker.

I think part of the underlying assumption here is that both Jackie and Marc must be racist themselves, because they’re Black. When riots broke out in Black communities across Britain in the first years of Thatcher’s reign c. 1981/2, the Tory press claimed that they weren’t caused by poor social conditions, lack of opportunities, high unemployment suffered by British Blacks, or institutional racism in British society. No! The real reason Blacks in Toxteth, Liverpool, St. Paul’s, Bristol, and Brixton in London, was because they were anti-White racists. And although nearly four decades have passed since then, I think that’s still the assumption, or the implication, behind the accusations against Marc and Jackie. Black anti-racism activists must be anti-White, and anti-Semitic, because of the assumptions and events of over three decades ago.

Meanwhile, it’s noticeable how uninterested in combating racism, or actively racist those making the accusations of anti-Semitism are. the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism has precious little to say about real Fascism and anti-Semitism, preferring to rail instead against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. Margaret Hodge did so little to combat the NF/BNP in Islington, that when the BNP’s Derek Beacon and his storm troopers got onto Tower Hamlet’s council, they sent her a bouquet of flowers. Tom Watson, who has done his best to facilitate these accusations in the Labour party, was a friend of Phil Woolas, who was prosecuted for running an islamophobic campaign portraying Muslims as terrorists. David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group has written on his blog about how the Board of Deputies of British Jews in the 1980s did their level best to prevent Jews from going on anti-racist marches and events like Rock Against Racism. The ostensible reason was that they were afraid Jews would be exposed to anti-Zionist propaganda. But others suspected that the real reason was that the Board did not want them mixing with people from different races and communities. And the respected historian of Jewish community in Britain, Geoffrey Alderman, was put under pressure by the Board in the 1970s to remove from his book his finding that 2 per cent of the Jewish community in the UK voted for the BNP because they hated Blacks and didn’t want their children going to school with them.

Of course, the people making these defamatory accusations of anti-Semitism against decent people don’t confine them to Blacks. They also make them against Whites, and particularly against Jews critical of Israel. These latter, who obviously include Jackie, are subjected to the most vile abuse, which would automatically be considered anti-Semitic if it came from non-Jews. Like some of the comments Tony Greenstein has received by Zionist Jews, telling him that they wish he and his family had died in the Shoah.

But it seems to me that behind the smears of Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth there is nevertheless a very strong undertone of anti-Black racism, a racism that permeates their accusers and the right-wing media, which supported those smears.

 

 

Anti-Semitism Witch-Hunter Margaret Hodge Accused of Anti-Semitism

July 24, 2019

This is a very interesting development in the anti-Semitism furore that has engulfed the Labour Party. Margaret Hodge, who so delights in accusing Corbyn supporters of anti-Semitism, and called Corbyn himself a ‘fucking anti-Semite’, has been accused herself of anti-Semitism. Her accusers is Shraga Stern, a Haredi Jew, a member and supporter of the Labour Party. Mr Stern met Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour MP Dan Carden at Portcullis House in Westminster. Where he was photographed by Hodge, who then tweeted the picture to one of Murdoch’s journalistic minions. She added the caption

Having lunch & wondering why Corbyn wants to be seen talking to an anti-LGBT activist who doesn’t represent the mainstream Jewish community yet chooses to sideline groups like Jewish Labour Movement.

Stern told the Jewish Chronicle that the picture’s appearance made him feel ‘quite intimidated’. He’s been the subject of recent claims that he’s against the LGBT community because of his activism in the area of sex education. However, Stern himself has replied to the accusation by saying that he isn’t against gays, but simply wants Orthodox children to be given their sex education at home, in accordance with their tradition. He was also offended at being described as a ‘non-mainstream Jew’. He therefore sent her an email objecting to her comments, and a formal complaint to the Labour Party. He states in his letter

The evidence proves the intention of the attack was for maintaining Jewish traditions.

It is ok, to be hurt and assaulted for simply living in the UK as a Charedi Jew? 

Is it acceptable for a party member to suffer from stress due to anti-Semitic assaults for being a Charedi Jew? 

Is it ok, for a Member of Parliament to assault a fellow Jew just for the reason that his external appearances are different? 

Last but not least, why is it wrong for Jeremy Corbyn to speak to a second-class Jew. (Your words).

In his complaint to the Labour Party, Stern complains that Hodge defamed him as an anti-LGBT activist. He states firmly that he is not, and that he is against all sex teaching in the classroom, as this should be done by the parents at home according to Charedi Jewish custom. He states that he made this clear throughout his campaign. He says

‘She is attacking me for continuing my religious Jewish tradition … This is pure religious anti-Semitism against me my religion and my rabbis.’

He also passed on a dossier of information relating to her time as leader of Islington council, which he believes indicates a negative attitude towards Orthodox Jews. This is reproduced in the Skwawkbox article about the incident. They seem to relate to the plans by West London Synagogue to redevelop the Jewish cemetery for housing and a playground. This was strongly opposed by Orthodox Jews, although the scheme was supported by the council. The protesters, however, had the support of Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn, whom the Orthodox community publicly thanked for their stance.

See: https://skwawkbox.org/2019/07/23/hodge-subject-of-formal-antisemitism-complaint-by-orthodox-jewish-labour-member/

The Skwawkbox notes that there are about 67,000 Charedi Jews in the UK, who make up a quarter of the Jewish population. This is expected to increase to half within fifteen years.

Mike in his article about this says that it will test the Labour Party’s complaints team, who try to protect all party representatives like Hodge from all complaints against them. He wonders whether they will try to sweep her anti-Semitic attack – one that appears to be part of a series going back decades – under the carpet. He also observes that this shows the highly partisan nature of the lamestream media that it hasn’t been widely reported in the national press. He illustrates this point with a tweet from the Prole Star, which accurately points out that if a Corbyn ally had been accused instead, it would be on every news outlet for weeks. The tweets states

Their silence is pretty strange considering they love to talk about anti-Semitism so much. The mainstream media have proven they don’t really care about racism. It’s just a weapon to smear their opponents. Absolutely disgusting.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/07/24/witch-hunter-accused-of-anti-semitic-attack-isnt-it-odd-that-the-mass-media-

Absolutely right. The French Philosophical Feline, Guy Debord’s Cat, showed this very clearly in a post from the 7th of this month responding to Gordon Brown’s comments about the anti-Semitism accusations. Brown supported them, so the Cat pointed out the various racist incidents in the Labour Party against Blacks and Asians that Brown chose to ignore, not to mention that against Roma and other Travellers. He then went on to state, absolutely correctly, that there is a hierarchy of racism in this country and that the racism Blacks experience comes a very distant second, third or fourth place behind the anti-Semitism smears. And that even real anti-Semitic incidents are ignored instead of the smears. He showed this very clearly with a report about a Far Right terrorist, Tristan Morgan, who had been sentenced to be locked up in hospital indefinitely. Morgan had tried to burn down an 18th century synagogue in Exeter, Devon, on the 18th July 2018, a day commemorating the Holocaust. Morgan himself laughed when he committed the attack, though he was put on fire by the blast from the fire he started.

See: https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/gordon-browns-selective-anti-racism/

I’m not surprised that Hodge targeted Mr Stern with this nasty sneer. Stern’s a very staunch supporter of Corbyn. I believe he was among the people, who met the Labour leader when he visited a London mosque a few months ago, whose members had been victims of a White Islamophobic terrorist attack. I also recall that he was involved with a letter sent by a number of Haredi rabbis to the papers defending Corbyn, and stating that he has been a good friend to British Jews to the papers, as well as other efforts showing that Corbyn actually has widespread support amongst British Jews. Which the Jewish Chronicle has tried its very best to invalidate through quibbles about the right of some of those, who signed to be credited as proper representatives of British Jewry. But it does seem that Diane Abbott and Corbyn are genuinely held in high regard by the Orthodox community for their support over Islington council’s plan to redevelop the community’s cemetery.

And it’s more than a little rich for Hodge to accuse Mr Stern of not being a mainstream Jew, when the Jewish Labour Movement can in truth be accurately described as a fringe organisation. Jewish bloggers have pointed out that it seems to have less than 200 members, that over half of these aren’t Jewish. Unlike Jewish Voice for Labour, which appears to be a genuinely Jewish organisation. But Jewish Voice for Labour is ignored or vilified by the lamestream media and the Jewish establishment in this country as they’re pro-Corbyn, and so don’t count as ‘proper’ Jews. Which is very definitely an anti-Semitic stance.

Hodge herself has also been massively indifferent to the rise of very real racism. When Derek Beacon and his storm troopers in the BNP got elected on Tower Hamlets council, they rewarded Hodge for her lack of efforts to oppose them by sending her a bouquet. As an MP she was so lackadaisical and unimpressive that the Jewish Chronicle was calling on her to resign. But now she’s screaming that she’s terribly concerned about anti-Semitism in the Labour party, of which she is a victim, despite all evidence to the contrary.

It will be very interesting to see how the Labour complaints team handle this, and I wish Mr Stern every success.

Shock Horror! Jewish Telegraph Hails Corbyn as ‘Prime Minister in Waiting’ Who Supports Jews!

April 23, 2019

Five days ago on the 18th April 2019, the Skwawkbox published a very interesting little piece about an article by Geoffrey Alderman in the Jewish Telegraph, which actually praises Jeremy Corbyn. The Jewish Telegraph was, you will remember, one of three Jewish newspapers, another of which was the Jewish Chronicle, which together ran an article condemning Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party as viciously anti-Semitic and a danger to the future of Jews in this country. Alderman is a well-known history prof, who received an award from Oxford University for his work on Anglo-Jewish history. His latest piece for his fortnightly column in the Jewish Telegraph was entitled ‘Horrors! Corbyn’s a ‘PM in Waiting’ – Accept It’.

The Skwawkbox notes that Alderman is still critical of Labour, but dismisses the allegation that Labour represents an ‘existential threat’ to Britain’s Jews. He attacks ‘various scare stories’ to point out that there is no danger of Labour banning the kosher butchery of animals, banning male circumcision, or of Diane Abbott closing down synagogues once she is Home Secretary.

Alderman also went to state that Corbyn has an impressive record of supporting Jewish communal initiatives, like putting his name to Abbott’s 2010 early day motion supporting the resettlement of Yemeni Jews in Britain, and attending a ceremony in 2015 in his constituency in Islington to commemorate the original site of the North London synagogue.

He also pointed out that Tweezer and Johnson had also adopted the UN resolution condemning Jewish control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including the Jewish Quarter and the Wailing Wall. He states that he had suggested then that the Jewish community could express their displeasure at this by disinviting Tweezer and Boris from all Jewish communal events, and that Jewish groups should refuse to cooperate with the government over initiatives like the anti-terrorist ‘Prevent’ campaign.

The Skwawkbox article concludes

A single article does not, of course, necessarily signal a complete change of editorial direction – but the publication of this article is a striking contrast to last year’s front page, which the Telegraph shared with two other publications to attack Corbyn as a threat.

See: https://skwawkbox.org/2019/04/18/jewish-telegraph-pm-in-waiting-corbyns-impressive-record-of-support-for-jewish-initiatives/

The Skwawkbox is correct, and Alderman’s article clearly shows that he’s an ardent Zionist, who supports Israeli expansionism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. But it also shows that, perhaps, the united front the right-wing British Jewish establishment has put on to try and discredit Corbyn may be beginning to fracture. Possibly because there’s now a real possibility that Corbyn will get into No. 10, and that the Jewish establishment will then have to work with him regardless.

Margaret Hodge and the Islington Child Abuse Scandal

March 4, 2019

Here’s another reason why no-one should give their trust or their votes to the Independent Grouping. Apart from the fact that they’re deadbeat Blairites and Tories, who stand for privatisation, including that of the NHS, the destruction of the welfare state, tuition fees, shifting the tax burden to the poor away from the rich, and supporting Theresa May with a confidence and supply motion in order to stop Labour gaining power. Margaret Hodge, one of the most vociferous of the Blairites smearing her Corbyn supporters as anti-Semites has shown that she will try and ignore and play down accusations of child abuse in areas under her authority.

In 2003 a scandal broke out about Hodge’s suitability to sit in Blair’s cabinet. Liz Davies, a social worker, had uncovered incidents of child abuse in Islington council’s care homes, when she was leader of the council. Hodge had first tried to cover it up, claiming that children in care homes were ‘disruptive’. She had also insulted one of the former inmates who had come forward to tell of his experience of abuse, Demetrios Panton. Panton was now an adult, and Hodge apologised to him for her abuse. Nevertheless, in the Davies’ eyes, this still meant that she was totally unsuited for serving as Children’s Minister in Blair’s  government.

I found this recording of an interview Davies gave on The World Tonight in 2003, posted up by Desiring Progress on YouTube in 2013. I haven’t heard all of it, but in what I have heard, Davies makes her views of this whole sordid business and Hodge’s attempts to stop news of the abuse coming out very clear, and she demands Hodge’s resignation.

Hodge is a massive liar when it comes to accusations of anti-Semitism. The programme’s host states that she was supposed to be a good children’s minister under Blair. However, from this it’s clear that Hodge’s first response to accusations and reports of child abuse in organisations for which she is responsible has not been to believe and protect the children, but to try to protect herself and cover it up. No doubt if something like that happened again now, she accused the whistleblower of anti-Semitism to try to make them look guilty, rather than herself.

She is a liar, a slanderer, and an opponent of those genuinely concerned with the protection and welfare of vulnerable children, an attitude made worse by her group’s absolute contempt for democracy. We need to have bye-elections now, and get her out of parliament.

The Labour Right’s Campaigns for the Tories to Smash the Labour Left

September 25, 2016

This is another piece from Lobster, which throws more light on the machinations of the Blairites in the Labour party against Jeremy Corbyn. Mike over in Vox Political has put up a few pieces speculating that in the event of Corbyn winning the election, the Blairites will continue working against him with the deliberate intention of securing a Conservative victory at the next election. With that done, they can blame Corbyn for the party’s defeat, and set about getting rid of him.

A piece in Robin Ramsay’s ‘View from the Bridge’ section in Lobster 61 actually shows this is all too plausible. The Labour right did it to Michael Foot in the run-up to the split that became the SDP. In the subsection, ‘Revolutionary Defeatism’, Ramsay discusses a piece in the Groaniad for 19th March 2011, which describes how her private secretary, Ian Gow MP, met the Labour MP Neville Sandelson. Sandelson was one of those, who went off to join the SDP six months after the meeting. Gow stated in his report of the meeting that

‘Sandelson says that his remaining political purpose is to ensure the re-election of the Conservative Party at the next Election, because only by another Conservative victory will there come about that split in the Labour Party, which he considers to be an essential precondition for a real purge of the Labour Left.’

Sandelson also joined the other founders of the SDP in deliberately voting for Michael Foot, as they knew he was far too left-wing for the British public. It was a way of deliberately sabotaging the Labour party’s chances of winning the election.

We’ve already seen Labour councillors in Islington sending emails to Tories and Lib Dems trying to get them to join the Labour party so they could oust Jeremy Corbyn. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Labour rebels haven’t also had high level meetings with the Tory leadership about sabotaging the Labour party’s chances at the next election either, as a means of saving the capitalist entryist wing and preserving Thatcherism. After all, they did before, thirty years ago.

For more information, go to: http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster61/lob61-view-from-the-bridge.pdf The item is at pages 38 to 39.

More From Lobster on New Labour’s Links to the Israel Lobby

September 23, 2016

Yesterday I put up a couple of pieces about items on New Labour and its connections to the Israel lobby. One of these pieces discussed James Purnell and James Harding, former Labour politicos and now directors of the BBC, who were involved in attempts to overthrow Jeremy Corbyn when they were councillors in Islington in the 1990s.

Robin Ramsay’s ‘View from the Bridge’ column in Lobster 58 for winter 2009-2010 has further information on the connections between Blair and Brown’s entryist clique and the Israel lobby. He reported that Grim Gordon had appointed Ivan Lewis as the responsible minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for Israel and the Middle East. Lewis was the vice chairman of Labour Friends of Israel. (pp. 109-110).

In the same issue he also reports that Channel 4 had broken one of the last great taboos of British journalism, and broadcast a documentary on the Israel lobby. He states that the accompanying booklet is ‘seriously good’ and should demonstrate that the Israel lobby is ‘real and significant’. It was available from as a download from and .

I don’t know whether it’s still available after all these years. Probably not. But it could still be worth a look. (pp. 110).

The Blairites were deeply entwined with Labour Friends of Israel, and the current anti-Semitism allegations, which have now resurfaced again with Liverpool MP Louise Ellman, are all about preserving their influence, against opposition from both gentiles and Jews.

That issue is Lobster is available free online. Go to Lobster’s webpage and select it from the numbers listed.

Corruption and the Sale of Tory Seats in the Early 20th Century

February 27, 2016

From contemporary political corruption in America, to political corruption here in Britain. In the early 20th century parts of the Conservative party were scandalised by the cynical way safe seats were sold to the highest bidder by the local Conservative associations. These charged for the time exorbitant fees to prospective candidates. ‘Gracchus’, the pseudonymus author of the anti-Tory book, Your MP, devotes a whole chapter to the corrupt sale of seats, and the massive preponderance of the rich in the Tory and National Liberal parties. However, this passage in particular on pages 27 to 28 makes the point.

Now we go deeper still: we find one of our witnesses, one of Major Patriot’s Tory colleagues, saying that “it is lamentable that Tory seats should be sold to the richest candidate.”

And, turning back, we find a reference to a “financial burden not within the capacity of all” potential candidates (East Toxteth), and another M.P. complaining that “a married man with an income of £2,000 a year” cannot afford to be an M.P. (Spelthorne).

There is plenty of evidence on this. P.W. Donner (Basingstoke) was reported by the Morning Post, 28.6.35, to have said that he “had been forced to leave Islington, his present constituency, on the grounds of health and economy. The Hampshire Executive (of the Tory Party) had asked him for a subscription less than half what he was now paying in Islington.”

The Hon. Quintin Hogg (Oxford) wrote in the Nineteenth Century, January, 1934, that “the local Tory associations are rotten to the core”. In one agricultural constituency, he wrote, prospective Tory candidates have been informed they need not apply unless they can subscribe to the organisation the fantastic sum of £3,000 per annum.

In a northern industrial city, £600 a year is the least annual subscription that the Association will consider.

According to the a valuable study recently published, Parliamentary Representation, by J.F.S. Ross, the average amounts of election expenses for contested elections in 1935 were in round figures:

Conservative candidates……£780
Liberal candidates. ………£520
Labour candidates…………£360

One Conservative candidate, Mr. Ian Harvey, published in January, 1939, a memorandum headed “A Plutocratic System,” which goes so far as to state that “in nearly every case” (when candidates for Tory seats are chosen) “the question of finance is of primary importance.” He estimated that men “have always an excellent chance of being adopted “if they are willing “to pay all their elections expenses (anything between £400 and £1,200) and to subscribe between £500 and £1,000 (a year) to the local Association.”

The Federation of University Conservative Associations, meeting in London as Mr Ian Harvey’s memo was published, passed unanimously a resolution deploring the influence on the choice of candidates of “considerations of personal fortune”.

In the book by Mr Ross there are further examples, from Frome in Somerset, Hendon, and the University of London Conservative Association. Mr Ross calculates that only one person out of each 1,150 of the adult population has the income necessary to have “an excellent chance” in Mr Harvey’s phrase, of being adopted as a Tory M.P.

When Mr R.A. Brabner, (Hythe) was chosen as candidate, it was stated in the London Press that he “will pay £500 a year to the Conservative Association, and his election expenses. That is a fairly moderate contribution for a safe seat near London” (Evening Standard, 27.6.39).

The same inquisitive newspaper noted, about Lt.-Col. F.G. Doland (Balham and Tooting(, that his is “an expensive seat to fight. The Conservative candidate’s election expenses are between £700 and £700 … I understand that the Conservatives expect their candidates to find this money out of their own pockets, and, in addition, to provide a ‘subsidy’ of about £600 a year” (13.7.36).

Sir Derek Gunston (Thornbury), one of the very few Tory M.P. on the Executive of the League of Nations Union, spoke more recently on the subject of “purchasable seats’:

“Rich, safe seats, with ample resources that could be tapped, are too lazy to make the effort so long as they can find rich men who, while willing to go through the mill of fighting an election, are nevertheless prepared to pay for a safe seat. In practice you find the able but less well-off candidates fighting the hopeless seats. It is the rich, safe seats which demand the highest contributions (Evening Standard, 2.10.41).

Let us try to be clear what all this evidence amounts to. it does not mean that every Tory buys his seat. It means that enough of them do so to matter a great deal – to matter so much that very many other Tories protest, are uneasy, try to get the matter altered. (But do not succeed in doing so).
(My emphasis).

It therefore comes as no surprise that 95% of MPs are millionaires. Nor is it surprising that contemporary grass roots Tories complain about being sidelined in favour of rich donors. This type of corruption also became endemic in New Labour, when various businessmen ostentatiously switched from the Tories to Labour, and then were parachuted into safe Labour seats in preference to the local parties’ preferred candidates. And there has always been an element of corporate corruption in politics, where Corporations have bought influence by contributing to party coffers. It’s rife within the modern parties, and particularly the Conservatives, where the Tory party conference was largely funded through sponsorship and donations by rich corporations seeking a slice of public contracts. For example, Jeremy Hunt last year moderated a discussion about the future of the NHS in a talk sponsored by a private healthcare firm.

While the effective sale of Tory safe seats may not exist, or proceed in quite the same form, this passage shows how cynical the Tories were in choosing the richest as their preferred candidates, and the influence money could get you in the party.

Financial Times Review of Biography of Douglas Adams

October 27, 2015

Adams Hitchhiker Photo

Adams on the set of the BBC’s TV series of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Going through a pile of old newspaper clippings, I came across a review by David Honigmann of M.J. Simpson’s Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams, published by Hodder & Stoughton, from the Saturday edition of the Financial Times for 22nd/23rd March 2003. Here it is.

The psychologist Meredith Belbin distinguished between a range of roles that individuals could play on a team. There are the co-ordinators who keep things moving, the resource investigators who grub around for materials and cut deals, the shaper/finishers who make sure projects get completed and the plants who throw out ideas. Douglas, it is fair to say, was a plant. In a casual conversation, he could throw out enough ideas for a lifetime’s writing. It was just the actual writing that came hard to him. He was ambitious enough to live in poverty on odd jobs while waiting for his big break, with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but not ambitious enough to keep working at the same rate once fame arrived.

M.J. Simpson’s biography of Adams is surprisingly tart, coming from a fan whose obsession with his subject seems to fall just this side of stalkerhood. The charges against Adams are four-fold: he procrastinated, he was starstruck, he exaggerated, his knowledge of science fiction was shallow. That Adams procrastinated is not in doubt. He learned the habit at the feet of a master, working with Graham Chapman during Chapman’s alcoholic post-Python years. After the original Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, all his books were delivered late – in many cases they were only begun after the deadline had passed. But he was, in general, so reliable as a cash-cow that editors and publishers were prepared to wait for milking-time. Nonetheless, at the time of his death, Adams had not completed a book for eight years, and his last project, Starship Titanic, had received only a lukewarm reception.

Starstruck, Adams certainly seems to have been. He went to Cambridge to ingratiate himself with the Footlights crowd: he wanted to be John Cleese and worked his way into at least an outer ring of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. His parties were studded with musicians from Procol Harum, Pink Floyd and Wings, and Islington media glitterati.

“The audience were more famous than the band,” recalls one of the latter ruefully. For his 42nd birthday, he was given a certificate entitling him to appear on stage with Pink Floyd. His school chaplain suspects that his atheism was caused by his hero-worship of Richard Dawkins. At best, this tendency in Adams meant that he exposed himself to a wide range of ideas, many of which he developed in his own work; at its worst, this star-spotting was mostly harmless. That Adams played up his anecdotes seems likely. Simpson patiently debunks some of the myths: the first book did not go straight to number one in the Sunday Times bestseller list; Adams did not have to fight his way through crowds to get to his first book signing; the original idea for Hitchhiker did not (probably) come to him as he lay drunk in a field outside Innsbruck. The myths became part of Adams’ brand. He told the stories well, as can be heard on Douglas Adams’s Guide to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, an audiocassette from BBC Worldwide. In essence, they fulfilled his desire to be a performer, not just a writer.

They may have served a function as self-defence in the face of a world with almost limitless tempting distractions. And they seem to have fulfilled his need for external validation: as someone who cherished throughout his life the time when a hard-to-please English teacher gave him 10 out of 10 for a story, he succumbed to the temptation to make his career a little more successful, a little more lucky.

The final suggestion is that Adams’s knowledge of science fiction was shallow. This is probably correct: one of the characteristics of science fiction fandom is that someone, somewhere, always knows more than you do. But as a science fiction writer, Adams had the mastertouch of being able to put names on concepts that no one previously knew they needed. The number of Hitchhiker concepts now embedded in the internet (such as the Babel Fish as a universal translator) is a tribute to this. There is one strikingly sad moment in Douglas Adams’s Guide, when Adams notes, “when you pass 40 – and I’m well past 40 – you suddenly become aware that all the things on your agenda … you’re not going to do them all.”

Had he lived longer, it is doubtful whether he would have produced much more, unless driven to it by economic necessity. Simpson considers this a waste of his talent. More charitably, one might conclude that most of his ambitions had been fulfilled and a few decades of intellectual puttering about and indulging his hobbies was a fair reward.

Despite Simpson’s general diligence, there is one striking lacuna. For the last decade or so of his life, Adams had been working on a novel to be called The Salmon of Doubt. What was to be in it changed periodically but the title remained – surprising, given Adams’s general indifference to titles. Simpson dismisses it as “a meaningless phrase”, but it is nothing of the sort. The Salmon of Doubt is a riff on the Irish legend of the Salmon of Certainty, which grants whoever eats it all the knowledge in the world. The seer Fionn labours for seven years to catch it, but when he does he leaves someone else to cook it while he gathers firewood. The other man – who turns out to be Fionn, son Uail, son of Baiscne – consumes three drops of oil from the fish, and he gets the knowledge, not Fionn the seer.

In other words, what turned out to be Adams’s last project was named for the story of someone who procrastinates for seven years over a project to gain the secrets of life, the universe and everything, only to have the prize snatched away from him at the last minute. He would have appreciated the irony.

And here’s the opening titles from the BBC TV version: