Posts Tagged ‘Keir Starmer’

The Board of Deputies of British Jews: Tory, Rich, Fanatically Zionist, Unrepresentative and ‘an Affront to Democracy’

January 15, 2020

Mike has put up several pieces this week commenting on the decision of all five contenders for the Labour leadership – Lisa Nandy, Keir Starmer, Jess Phillips, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Emily Thornberry – to sign a series of ten pledges devised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews on how they will tackle anti-Semitism in the Labour party. This has outraged Mike and a very large number of other Labour supporters and members, because it is a capitulation to the Board. It effectively cedes to the Board extremely wide-ranging and draconian powers over who can be accused of anti-Semitism, and how they should be tried, judged and punished. Mike and the other commenters, bloggers and activists on this issue have extensively criticised the document and how it represents a very serious breach of natural justice. For example, those accused of anti-Semitism are more or less to be treated as guilty simply through the accusation, and expelled promptly. I’ve made the point as an historian with an interest in the European witch hunts of the Middle Ages and 16th and 17th centuries that accused witches could expect a fairer trial than the kangaroo courts set up by the Labour party, and which are demanded by the Board and their satellite organisations within the party, like the Jewish Labour Movement. Some of the demands made by the Board very much resemble the way cults and totalitarian states exercise total control over their members’ lives. For example, another of the provisions demands that existing members do not have anything to do with those expelled for anti-Semitism. This is exactly like the way cults and less extreme religious sects demand that their members have nothing to do with those outside them, thus cutting ties with family and friends.

The Board is also not a credible judge of what constitutes anti-Semitism. They have been extremely bad on the issue on anti-Semitism in the Labour, acting in bad faith and deliberately falsifying its extent, supporting evidence and maligning and smearing decent women and men. 

Their motives throughout their pursuit of this issue has certainly been not to defend Jews against anti-Semitism. Rather, like their counterparts elsewhere in the Jewish establishment – the Chief Rabbinate, the Jewish press and the Jewish Leadership Council – it has been extremely party political. The goal has been to oust Corbyn as leader of the Labour party, purge it of his supporters and prevent it coming to power. Not because Corbyn is an anti-Semite – he isn’t by any objective standard – but because he is a staunch anti-racist and a critic of Israel’s slow-motion ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. And as Tories, like the rest of the Jewish establishment, they were also frightened by a movement within the Labour party that would restore power and dignity to working people, including Jews. David Rosenberg has made the point on his ‘Rebel Notes’ blog that the Board and its ilk do not represent Jews, who are working or lower-middle class – yes, they exist! – they don’t represent the Jewish disabled, the Jews who work in or use the public services. And they don’t give a damn about racism and real anti-Semitism. He has described how, when he was a young activist in ’70s and ’80s, the Board did its level best to stop Jews going on anti-racism demonstrations and gigs like ‘Rock Against Racism’. Ostensibly this was to protect the young and impressionable from anti-Zionist propaganda. But others suspected the real reason was that they had zero interest in joining protests against discrimination and hate against Blacks and Asians. And Tony Greenstein, another staunch Jewish critic of Israel and fierce opponent of racism and Fascism in all its forms, has described how, in the 1930s, when British Jews were in real existential danger from Mosley and other genuine Fascist and Nazi groups, the Board did nothing to encourage them to resist. When Mosley and his storm troopers marched through the East End of London to intimidate and terrorise the Jews and other minorities there, the Board meekly told them to stay indoors. Fortunately there were Jews, who didn’t believe in passively tolerating the BUF, and joined with the Communists, unions and other left-winger to give Mosley’s thugs the hiding they richly deserved.

The Board claims the authority to dictate the Labour party’s policy towards anti-Semitism as the organ representing the Jewish community as a whole. This is a lie.

Mike today put up a statement by Jewish Voice for Labour – a far more representative Jewish organisation than the Board – about this issue. And the simple answer is: they aren’t. The JVL said

The Board’s claim to be democratic is, however, distinctly tenuous. There are no British Jewish elections, no direct way for all British Jews to directly elect the board’s 300 Deputies. To be involved in electing Deputies, one must be a member of one or more of approximately 138 synagogues, or be connected to one of 34 ‘communal organisations’ (such as the UJIA or Reform Judaism) that are affiliated with the Board, all of which elect one to five Deputies—anyone not involved with these institutions does not have a vote, despite the Board still claiming to speak on their behalf. Inevitably, some individuals may be represented multiple times, through being members of more than one organisation.

The biggest problem, however, is with the elections held by affiliate organisations to select their deputies—it is these that justify the Board’s claim to be a representative democracy. Transparency is a fundamental requirement of democracy—there needs to be openness as to who the electorate is and how many of them turn out in order for any election to be considered legitimate. Despite its own constitution obliging it to receive the data (Appendix A, Clause 3: “the election shall not be validated unless the form incorporates… the total number of members of the congregation… and the number who attended the election meeting”), the Board does not release a list of the membership size or the numbers voting in each affiliate organisation, and claims to have no idea what the numbers might be. The Board’s spokesman explained to me that, “While we do need to be more thorough in collecting statistics, these figures wouldn’t add anything—they don’t speak to the democratic legitimacy of the organisation or to anything else.” This seems extraordinarily complacent—can we imagine a British election in which the size of the electorate, the list of candidates standing, and the turnout remained secret? It would be regarded as an affront to democracy.

The anti-democratic nature of the Board is confirmed by other Jewish critics, like Tony. They point out that the Board really only represents the United Synagogue, which is believed to have 40,000 members out of a total Jewish population in the country of 280,000 – 300,000. They don’t represent that third of the Jewish people, who are secular and don’t attend synagogue. Neither do they represent the Orthodox, may represent as much as a quarter of all Jewish Brits and are set to overtake the United Synagogue as the largest section of the Jewish population in a few years. Some synagogues haven’t had elections for years, and so have sitting candidates. Others don’t allow women to vote. And the Board also defines itself as a Zionist organisation, and so excludes Jews, who do not support Israel.

So it seems that the Board represents, at most, 1/3 of British Jews. That’s hardly a majority and gives them no mandate to issue their demands.

As for the Board’s manifest lack of democracy, it all reminds me of Britain before the 1833 Reform Act, with its pocket and rotten boroughs. But these are the people claiming to have the moral authority to speak for the British Jewish community!

I fully understand why the Labour leadership candidates signed the Board’s wretched pledges. They hoped that this would end the Board’s interference in the Labour party and their continued criticism. But it won’t. The Board and other Zionist organisations that use allegations of anti-Semitism as a weapon against their critics will not be satisfied. They see such capitulation as weakness, and will always press for further concessions. This is what Corbyn and his advisers, like Seaumas Milne, failed to understand. Instead of caving in, Corbyn should have fought back.

My own feeling now is that the only way to settle this issue decisively in Labour’s favour is to attack and discredit the Board – to show how biased and unrepresentative it is, to reveal how it lies and libels decent men and women, and particularly self-respecting Jews.

That would be a long, very hard, and perilous struggle, especially as the media and Tory press would be on the side of the Board all the way.

But until it is done, the Board as it stands now will always be a politically partisan threat to British democracy and genuine Jewish security and anti-racist action.

Terrified Tories Now Brand Press Office as ‘Fact Check Centre’ to Deceive Journalists

November 20, 2019

Well, boys and girls, and children of all ages, here’s more proof that the Tories are really running scared of Corbyn. Despite all the claims that they’re 20 points ahead of him in the polls, this latest trick seems to show that they’re afraid the opposite is true. Last night after the Labour leader apparently utterly trashed Johnson in the debate on ITV the Tory Press Office took the unusual step of rebranding their Central Office as ‘factcheckUK’. As Mike says, this was presumably so they could tweet false claims that Johnson had won the confrontation. In fact CCHQ announced that Johnson was the clear winner, putting a video about it up on Twitter. Presumably they thought we’d forgotten about how they’ve got form editing videos to present a false impression of their opponents. Like the way they inserted a pause into a video they put out of Keir Starmer’s interview on the Andrew Marr show, to make it look like he hesitated and couldn’t answer a question.

But the folks on Twitter weren’t impressed, and the attacks on Tory Lies Central came thick and fast. Mike’s put up a few of them. Jess Brammar posted this tweet, responding to a post stating that this rebranding was so dystopian, Charlie Brooker had taken a leaf from Orwell’s 1984 and declared war on East Asia.

So, let’s get this straight…in this election campaign, journalists have to engage with a Tory press office that thought it was ok to pretend to be a fact checking service to deceive members of the public on twitter during an election debate. https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/tory-hq-

@RalfLittle posted a satirical piece calling the Labour Party a bunch of pussies and stating that food banks rock under the heading ‘Conservative Press Orifice’. He also posted this piece under the same heading

The Conservative Press Office would never appear to be something it isn’t in order to spread disinformation. We resent the accusation. Also Boris Johnson has loads of kids but won’t say how many. https://twitter.com/AdamMarkDavis/status/1196897520905048065 

Technically Ron declared that Corbyn intended to put Thatcher’s ghost into a jar and hurl it into the Sun, and reminded us that David Cameron had had carnal intercourse with a pig, and we were now leaving the EU.

Mike concludes

Way to go, Tories. Not only did your man mess up his big TV appearance…

But you’ve also ensured that nobody will believe another word to come out of your publicity machine.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/11/19/tories-pretend-their-press-office-is-a-fact-check-organisation-public-ridicule-is-hilarious/

The Tories already have a very unenviable reputation for lying. Apparently on the debate last night Johnson started to bang on about ‘transparency’, at which point there was laughter from the audience. I think Cummings and his other advisers might have to wake up soon and realise that their party has a ‘credibility gap’.

As for their party election broadcasts, perhaps they should give them the title of one of the Police Squad movies as they’re so desperate. How about ‘The Smell of Fear’. That would accurately sum up their claims about Labour.

Jeremy Corbyn Blasts Universal Credit

October 23, 2018

As Mike has described in detail on his blog, Universal Credit is set to increase the misery of millions more people across the UK when it is rolled out across the country. Various Tories have made gestures of opposing it, but as Mike also explains, you can’t trust any of them. When Tory rebels have their bluff called, or the government offers just a token gesture to placate them, they immediately show their true colours: blue, all the way through. They automatically give in. And the Tories making noises about opposing it are doing no more than that: making noises. Heidi Allen made a great show of weeping in parliament at one woman’s description of the hardships she had suffered due to Iain Duncan Smith’s wretched brainchild. But when Labour made a humble petition to have all the documents published, which the government has not released on the effects of Universal Credit, Allen voted against it with the rest of the Tory party.

Hypocrites to a man and woman.

The Labour party is genuinely critical of Universal Credit, and will do something about it. And in this video, Jeremy Corbyn attacks it and reveals some of the changes he intends to make. He also talks about the mess Brexit has created regarding Northern Ireland and the open border with Eire. It’s from the Daily Heil’s channel on YouTube, but they seem to be letting him speak without misrepresenting him. Corbyn made the comments to them when he appeared in Bristol, and gave his opinion that British schoolchildren needed to know the complete history of the British Empire, and what it had done to the subject nations and peoples.

The video shows Corbyn getting out of his car in front of Bristol Cathedral and the city’s Central Library before going into City Hall, where he watches a video on the Empire. It then moves to him standing outside, with College Green and Park Street, including the Lord Mayor’s chapel, as his backdrop. He says

Three million families are going to be worse off by about fifty pounds a week from Universal Credit, 2.7 million more families will be forced into Universal Credit next year. So immediately we will say ‘We will stop this process and we will make sure that no-one is worse-off under Universal Credit. The experience of Universal Credit has been that the majority of people are considerably worse off, many forced into debt due to delays in payments and many, particularly in the private rented sector, property or home is put at risk because of it. This has got to change very, very rapidly. I raised it yesterday with the Prime Minister the question of the poverty that’s come about because of austerity and because of University credit.

He goes on, but it’s obvious there’s been a cut at this section of the interview.

Well, it would cost in the sense that we’re cutting benefits by Universal Credit, we would be maintaining existing levels of benefit immediately.

There’s then a question from the interviewing journalist, who asks about ‘those savings being built into projections of the country’s (path?)’

Corbyn replies that
That is the problem. The savings that are built in are at the expense of the poorest in our society.

Then comes the inevitable question: ‘so how will you pay?’

Corbyn replies

We’ll pay for it by increasing income from corporate taxation and the wealthiest in our society. We would not be taxing the lowest paid and medium income groups.

Another cut, then

I think it has to change, I think the system has to change dramatically and we will be using a more comprehensive system on this, but essentially our benchmarks would be: nobody should be worse off, nobody should have their homes put at risk because of Universal Credit.

Another cut, then

Well, I think it’s a very real threat, and the DUP are obviously speaking up for their own constituency on this, and indeed there is a great deal of unity on this amongst all political parties in Northern Ireland across all the political divide on having an open border with the Republic, obviously open trade and therefore a customs union within the European Union which reflects that, and I think their position is very real. We will judge this government against the six tests that Keir Starmer has laid out for us and we will vote accordingly in parliament, but we cannot support chequers.

Another cut, then Corbyn concludes

The government has had more than two years to negotiate this and still hasn’t made any progress on it. Quite simply there has to be open trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and that has to be the basis of any agreement.

Mike today reported that the DUP were threatening to vote against Tweezer and with as many as 40 other Tory MPs. May was seen blustering in parliament when it came to questions about Northern Ireland. She declared to do that Brexit was ’95 per cent complete’. Among the many excellent Tweets Mike has put up about this issue, from Clare Hepworth, David Lammy, Corbyn and Steven Swinford was a nice rebuttal from Dan Lewis, the NW Chair of the CWU. He reminded everyone that the Titanic also successfully completed 95 per cent of its journey.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/10/22/so-much-for-her-1bn-bribe-dup-turns-against-may-and-joins-the-eurosceptics/

Tweezer and her disgusting party are a menace to the British people. The poverty foisted on us through austerity and Universal Credit is killing people. And their debacle over Northern Ireland risks one of the essential pillars of the Good Friday Agreement. And if that goes, then the province really could return to murderous chaos.

Mike states that it’s possible she won’t last till the end of the week. I hope so. And if she’s pushed tomorrow, it won’t be too soon.

Vox Political: Tory Win Vote Not to Take Child Refugees

April 26, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political also has a story reporting that the Tories have won a knife edge vote against a motion that would have obliged Britain to take in about 3,000 child refugees a year. The motion was tabled by the Labour Peer, Lord Dubs, who was one of those fortunate enough to be given sanctuary in Britain away from the Nazis through the Kindertransport in 1939. Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Immigration Minister, has stated that this won’t stop their efforts to get the bill passed, and that the fight will go on.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/04/26/labour-says-fight-will-go-on-after-tories-vote-down-child-refugee-plan/

Mike has covered the problem of child refugees before. They were an issue twenty years ago, when Yasmin Alibhai-Browne in her column in the Independent urged Britain to take them in. The issue has become more acute since it was revealed that over a hundred of them have just disappeared after the Calais migrant camp, the ‘Jungle’, was levelled. Mike’s article on that incident highlighted the fact that the children were at risk, not just of poverty, but also of exploitation. He asked rhetorically if this was acceptable.

Simple humanity says it is not.

But apparently, the Tories think so. Or at least, if there’s a choice between saving the government and saving children, they’d rather bail out Cameron.

Vox Political: Six MPs Explain Why They’re Voting against Bombing Syria

December 1, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has posted six individual pieces about Labour MPs, who are against bombing Syria, in which they give their reasons for opposing the government’s policy.

They are

Cat Smith, the MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood,
http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/01/cat-smith-labours-lancaster-and-fleetwood-mp-will-not-support-air-strikes/

Jo Stevens, the MP for Cardiff Central
http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/01/cardiff-central-mp-will-vote-against-air-strikes-in-syria/

Matthew Pennycook, the MP for Greenwich and Woolwich
http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/01/greenwich-and-woolwich-mp-weighs-in-against-air-strikes-in-syria/

Paula Sheriff, the MP for Dewsbury and Mirfield
http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/01/paula-sheriff-labours-dewsbury-and-mirfield-mp-opposes-air-strikes/

John Mann. Mann has criticised Corbyn about the way he handled setting out Labour’s policy, putting his own beliefs ahead of everyone else’s. But he is also going to vote against bombing Syria.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/01/john-mann-is-a-corbyn-critic-but-like-corbyn-he-opposes-air-strikes-in-syria/

And Keir Starmer, the Labour MP for Holbourne and St. Pancras, formerly Director of Public Prosecutions
http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/01/former-dpp-keir-starmer-is-no-pacifist-but-he-wont-support-air-strikes-in-syria/.

These give various reasons for not supporting Cameron’s decision. These include the lack of UN and international support, concern for the ordinary people caught up in the bombing and the further destabilisation that will occur, and the belief that bombing alone will not solve the problem. Starmer in particular makes it clear that Cameron’s statement that there are 70,000 fighters already in Syria willing to take our side is wholly unrealistic.

Mike has also written another long piece observing that the media seems desperate to make Labour seem responsible for Britain’s bombing of Syria, if this goes ahead, despite Corbyn and the majority of Labour members opposing it.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/01/syria-have-the-uk-news-media-ever-been-as-desperate-to-convince-the-public-of-a-lie/

This bias is shared not just by newspapers like the Metro, but also by the Beeb’s own Newsnight programme. The narrative being spun here is that if some Labour MPs do vote with the government, the bombing will be due to division in the Labour party. Mike observes that they’re desperate for a war and more blood spilt, but want to blame it on the Labour party instead of with the government.

I can’t say I’m surprised at the tactic. When Thatcher and Major were in power, the constant refrain from the Tories was that Labour was divided by factionalism, and hence a shambolic mess that shouldn’t be in power. Quite different from the confident and monolithic Tories, whipped into line by Maggie. This changed with the control-freakery of New Labour, but now that Cameron has emerged from the Left of the party – actually, the traditional centre ground before Bliar took it to the right – they’ve simply dusted off and revived that bit of Tory rhetoric. They’ve also remembered how unpopular the invasion of Iraq was, and how deeply Bliar and his crew have been resented for that. And so they’re determined to pin this on Corbyn’s Labour. Even though they’ve been loudly denouncing Corbyn for being somehow unpatriotic and openly supporting terrorism from the IRA to Osama bin Laden.

It’s unsurprising that most of the Tory media are against Labour. It’s also almost to be expected that Newsnight would follow suit. The Beeb is currently fending off Tory plans to strip it of the licence fee, or privatise it. Their response has been to roll over and adopt a fawningly pro-government position in the hope that it will somehow appease them. It won’t.

It’s also a strategy by which the media can hide their own volte face in supporting the bombing. Nearly a decade and a half ago, many Conservative MPs opposed the invasion of Iraq, and various Tory rags like the Spectator also took an anti-War line. Now they’re pro-war, in contrast to the grassroots of the Labour party, which is opposed to it. But it’s clearly an uncomfortable position. After all, Private Eye and other consistent critics of humbug by the great and good make a point of showing up cases where MPs and the media have changed their opinions when it’s been convenient. Their support for bombing now could cause people to question whether their opposition to the Iraq invasion came from genuine conviction, or simply because this time the calls for military action came from the Labour party. So they have to pass responsibility for bombing onto Labour, in order to avoid criticising their favoured party, the Tories, or appearing to contradict themselves by supporting military action in circumstances similar to Bliar’s invasion of Iraq.