Posts Tagged ‘‘The Independent’’

‘I’ Article About Research into Artificial Wombs and their Morality

January 8, 2020

This is another science story from yesterday’s I for 7th January 2020. It’s about current research into developing artificial wombs. At the moment, these would be for very premature babies, but they could in theory go much further, which raises some serious ethical issues.

The article by Alla Katsnelson, ‘Baby in a bag: could humans be grown in an artificial womb?’ runs

Critically preterm babies face an uncertain future. Although a foetus is considered viable at 24 weeks of gestation, only about 60 per cent of babies born so young will survive, and many will experience life-long complications.

For those born a couple of weeks earlier, the statistics are even more dire: just 10 per cent of babies born at 22 weeks are likely to survive.

building a so-called artificial womb could potentially save these babies. In October, researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands announced that they had received a grant for E2.9m (£2.5m) to develop a prototype of such a device. But the project isn’t the only artificial womb on the horizon. In 2017, researchers in Philadelphia transferred foetal lambs, aged between 105 and 115 days of gestation (equivalent to about 28 to 30 weeks human gestation), into a so-called biobag filled with artificial amniotic fluid. After several weeks in the bag, the lambs developed normally. And in March 2019, an Australian and Japanese research team kept younger lambs, about 95 days’ gestational age, alive in a different system.

Dr Matthew Kemp, who led the latter work, admits that researchers don’t fully understand foetal growth in the womb, which makes replicating it a challenge. The Dutch group noted plans to roll out a clinic-ready prototype in five years, but Dr Kemp says it will probably take much longer. And because the technology is so costly, it’s unlikely to be widely available any time soon.

So far, what researchers call artificial wombs are essentially souped-up incubators. They provide a fluid-filled space in which a foetus can receive nutrients and oxygen through a ‘placenta’. From there to full-on ectogenesis – incubating foetuses outside a human for the full duration of a pregnancy – is an enormous leap.

But many bioethicists note that technology moves quickly, and proactively thinking through the possibilities is important.

In this more futuristic vision, artificial wombs can do a lot for society, says Dr Elizabeth Yuko, a bioethicist at Fordham University in New York. It could allow people who can’t carry a pregnancy for whatever reason – illness, infertility, age, or gender – to do so. It might also shift some of the childbearing responsibilities carried by women. But it also raises concerns. For example, ex-utero gestation would probably turn reproductive rights on their head, says Elizabeth Chloe Romanis, a lawyer and bioethicist at the University of Manchester. If a foetus can gestate outside a woman’s body, the choice fo whether or not to have the baby might be deemed out of her hands.

Another issue is that our legal rights are predicated on having been born alive. “I don’t think that a gestating subject in an artificial womb necessarily meets that requirement,” says Romanis. “That raises some questions about human entities ex-utero that have never existed before.

There have been newspaper articles about the development of artificial wombs since the 1980s, at least. The Absurder published one c. 1985, and I think the Independent also published one in the 1990s. And the whole area of artificial reproduction has been a live issue since the first ‘test tube’ baby created through in vitro fertilisation in the 1970s. But it also raises the spectacle of the kind of dystopian society Aldous Huxley portrayed in Brave New World, where humans are bred in hatcheries, engineered and conditioned for their future role in society. The Auronar, the telepathic race to which Cally, one of the heroes of the Beeb’s SF series, Blake’s 7, also reproduced through artificial gestation.And one of the predictions in Brian Stableford’s and David Langford’s future history, The Third Millennium, is that during this millennium this will be the preferred method of human reproduction, at least in some extraterrestrial colonies. And over a decade Radio 4 broadcast a series in which various intellectuals created fictional museums. One was ‘the museum of the biological body’, set in a post-human future in which people were neuter cyborgs born from hatcheries. This is obviously very far off, and I doubt anywhere near the majority of humans would ever want to reject gender and sexuality completely, whatever certain sections of the trans community might believe.

As with cloning and Dolly the Sheep, it raises very profound and disturbing questions about humanity’s future and how far technology should expand into the area of reproduction.

Tories Pushing Children into Poverty and Stripping Them of Their Rights

January 4, 2020

Yesterday Mike commented on a piece in the Independent, which reported that, thanks to the Tories, Britain had been declared ‘inadequate’ in its protection of children’s right. Britain has now fallen from 11th to 156th place in the global rankings for children’s rights. It’s now in the bottom lowest ten performers after getting the lowest possible score in all six indicators in the Children’s Rights Environment, according to KidsRights Index 2017.

There are serious concerns about structural discrimination in the UK, particularly against Muslims following recent anti-terrorism measure, and against Gypsy and immigrant children.

I’ve already put up some stats on how the Tories’ vile austerity policy has pushed more families and children into ‘food poverty’ – meaning hunger, potential malnutrition and starvation. But the book also worries about the social impact hunger has on people. Families can no longer afford to families and friends around to share a meal, and this is raising concerns that this will also increase the social isolation of the families affected.

Rebecca O’Connell and Laura Hamilton write in their chapter on food poverty in Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity

However, evidence from the PSE UK suggests that 11 per cent of households could not afford to have friends or family around for a meal or drink at least once a month in 2012 compared to 6 per cent in 1999. Furthermore, the proportion who could not afford to have a friend’s child around for tea or snack once a fortnight doubled between 1999 and 2012, from 4 per cent to 8 per cent, representing 1,000,000 children. ~Given that social relationships between children and their peers are an integral aspect of their development and well-being, the consequences are likely to be highly damaging and include increasing social exclusion and societal fragmentation. (p.97)

If ethnic minority families are particularly affected, then this will increase their exclusion and alienation from mainstream society, and could lead to some becoming dangerously radicalised. And their could be a similar effect among poor Whites, who may believe that Black and Asian families are being far better treated because of their colour through positive discrimination policies. Increasing poverty and the removal of anti-discrimination legislation and safeguards is a recipe for increasing racial tension.

Joanna Mack in her chapter on maltreatment and child mortality in the above book also gives the stats on how Britain compares with some of the other European countries: it’s abysmal. She writes

The consequences of such reductions in income is that the UK, which has long had a poor record on child poverty compared to many other nations with similar levels of economic development, has slipped further behind. Eurostat, which gathers comprehensive data from across Europe, reports that in 2014 over 22 per cent of children in the UK lived in deprived households, taken as being unable to afford three or more of a range of household items, compared to 14 per cent in France, around 12 per cent in Germany and a mere 4 per cent in Norway and Sweden. In 2007, before the austerity years, the UK’s rate was 15 per cent well below the EU average – now it is above. (p.87).

She also reports that the increase in child poverty in the UK was of such concern to the UN that it called for the reintroduction of the targets for the reduction of child poverty, which the government had repealed in 2016, and for ‘the provision ‘for clear and accountable mechanisms for the eradication of child poverty’ and the revision of recent benefit reforms.’ (p. 85).

Mike was so angry about this catastrophic reduction in Britain’s status for respecting children’s rights that he urged his readers to tell people who voted Tory about it, and that thanks to their vote, Britain will continue to fail future generations. He also urged them to ask the following questions

And tell them that discrimination against children on racial or religious grounds has been incorporated into the structure of UK society under the Conservatives.

Ask them whether they consider themselves to be racists and, if not, why they support a racist administration.

And if they say they don’t, remind them that prime minister Boris Johnson is a known racist.

Point them to the anti-Semitism in his novel if they want proof beyond his Islamophobic comments and other recent outbursts.

UK plummets from 11th to 156th in global children’s rights rankings. The Tories are responsible

Britain is becoming more racist, and its children poorer, thanks to the Tories. And it’s all so that the 1 per cent, including Bozo, Rees-Mogg and the rest of them, can get richer.

Barnier Recording Shows Johnson Will Not Get Brexit Done Next Year

December 14, 2019

It looks like all those, who voted Tory believing that Boris really will ‘get Brexit done’ are in for a very rude disappointment. Thursday’s I carried a story that a recording of the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, shows him stating that a proper deal with EU will take longer than the 11 months anticipated by our buffoonish, lying Prime Minister. The report by Hugo Gye ran

Boris Johnson won’t be able to get a Brexit trade deal by the end of next year, the EU’s chief negotiator says.

Michel Barnier was caught on tape telling diplomats that 11 months would not be long enough to strike a comprehensive free-trade agreement between Britain and Europe. He predicted that the only deal possible would be a bare-bones “vital minimum” arrangement.

Mr Johnson’s opponents claimed the recording proves he is lying about Brexit – but the Tories insisted Mr Barnier will be proved wrong.

If the Prime Minister is re-elected, he has promised Britain will leave the EU on 31 January and enter a transition period ending on 31 December, 2020. He has vowed not to extend that period even if there is no trade deal in place.

In a recording published by The Independent, Mr Barnier could be heard saying: “We will not get everything done in 11 months. It is unrealistic.” He said that a “cliff-edge” Brexit was still possible if a stripped back deal was not agreed.

Labour’s campaign chief, Andrew Gwynne, said a cliff-edge no-deal was “exactly what he [Johnson] wants so he can drive the UK into a toxic trade deal with Donald Trump and put the NHS up for sale”.

A Tory spokesman responded: “Barnier also said the Withdrawal Agreement couldn’t be reopened”. 

Perhaps when the supposed transition period fails to end, some of the people who voted for the Conservatives because of Brexit might realise how they’ve been fooled, just like the British public’s been fooled before. But on the other hand, you can depend that the Tories and their compliant press will frame this as all the EU’s fault, and try to promote a no-deal Brexit as the best thing that’s ever happened for Britain.

Which it will be for the hedge funds supporting the Tories and banking on Britain’s economic collapse.

The Abuse No-One’s Talking about: Ultra-Zionist Smears, Intimidation and Threats

December 14, 2019

The media’s been full of stories about how politicians are being sent abuse and death threats, with many of these stories focusing on the internet. It’s been going on for some time, and the Labour right tried to weaponise the issue against Corbyn. Following Hillary Clinton’s lie that Bernie Sanders’ supporters were all misogynist ‘Bernie Bros’, various right-wing female MPs tried the same smear against Corbyn’s supporters. They claimed that they were receiving sexist and misogynist abuse from them. Many of these stories fell apart on inspection, and by and large I don’t think the Blairite women were getting more abuse than anyone else. Half of the abuse directed at female MPs in the Labour party goes to Diane Abbott. Some of the tales of abuse couldn’t be supported, as it seems that the messages sent could not be found or shown. And other messages weren’t sent by members of the Labour party, and so Corbyn couldn’t be responsible.

The same smears of abuse were also used by the Israel lobby – Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement. And the same criticisms apply here. The existence of some of these abusive texts couldn’t be corroborated, some weren’t sent by members of the party and the actual numbers of real anti-Semites in the party is actually minuscule. But nevertheless the press was full of smear stories by Blairites like Ruth Smeeth and others that the Labour Party was not a safe space for Jews, not since Jeremy Corbyn became leader.

But what the press and media do not report is the extensive smearing and bullying by the Israel lobby and ultra-Zionist activists. This is immense and horrific. Anyone – anyone at all – who dares to make the mildest criticism of Israel and its barbarous treatment of the Palestinians is immediately accused of anti-Semitism. And this is particularly true of Jews. I’ve blogged about the way Jackie Walker receives horrific abuse after her smearing as an anti-Semite and expulsion from the Labour party. Jackie, despite being Jewish by faith and blood, is told she isn’t a Jew because she’s a woman of colour. They also call for her to be lynched – an especially serious threat, as her mother was a Black civil rights activist from the American Deep South – and her body to be set on fire and stuffed into bin bags. Tony Greenstein has received emails telling him that he and his family should have been murdered in the Holocaust. He has also been assaulted by an angry Israeli.

And it goes on. Peter Oborne in his programme on the Israel lobby for Channel 4’s Despatches ten years or so ago showed how respective journalists at the Guardian and BBC were subjected to the same smears by the Board of Deputies of British Jews when they reported massacres and atrocities committed by the Israelis or their allies, the Christian Phalange, in Lebanon. These accusations were leveled at Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin. When David Attenborough stepped in to deny them, he too was accused of being an anti-Semite. And this abuse has been hurled at people like Mike and other Corbyn supporters in the Labour party. Lobster also cites former Guardian reporter Nick Davies in their review of a book dismantling the anti-Semitism smears, Bad News for Labour. Davies described in Flat Earth News how reporters and journalists were subjected to horrific abuse and allegations from Israel’s supporters. John Booth, the author of Lobster’s review, writes

‘Journalists who write stories which offend the politics of the Israel lobby are subjected to a campaign of formal complaints and pressure on their editors; most of all, they are inundated with letters and emails which can be extravagant in their hostility,’ he writes.
‘Robert Fisk of The Independent has been told that his mother was Adolf Eichmann’s daughter, that he belongs in hell with Osama bin Laden, that he is a “hate peddler”, “a leading anti-semite and protofascist Islamophile propagandist” and a paedophile.’

This abuse has reached the point that according to the Lobster article, Jewish journalists are afraid to publish articles critical of Israel. Evening Standard journo Mira Bar-Hillel, who was born in Jerusalem, says that they fear retribution if they do.

And left-wing supporters of Jeremy Corbyn have also received this horrific abuse in the Labour party. Sally Eason, the founder of Labour Left Voice, was forced to leave the Labour party because of her criticisms of Israel. Eason’s Sephardic Jewish on her mother’s side. And so she was targeted for concerted abuse and trolling by a network of right-wing scumbags, including David Collier and the Gnasherjew troll farm, which was cheerfully reblogged by ‘jobbing actor’ Tracy Ann Oberman. Mike also suffers vicious abuse from people, who continue to believe the smears that he’s an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier despite his success in getting these utterly false allegations retracted from the papers that printed them. And last week I was insulted by someone angry at my support for Corbyn against the anti-Semitism smears. They sent the comment ‘Fuck you. From a Jew’. It was only one such insult, and it’s mild compared to that sent to people like Mike, Tony and Jackie. But it does show the abusive nature of Israel’s most ardent supporters.

But if you believe the media, the abuse is all one way. It’s all those evil anti-Semites in the Labour sending hatred and death threats to women and Jews. The reality is that Corbynites have also been on the receiving end of horrific abuse, much of the abuse the Blairites claim was sent to them seems to be nonexistent. And some of the most vicious, and viciously anti-Semitic abuse is that sent by the Israel lobby and supporters of Britain’s Jewish establishment. And thanks to the abuse sent by people like David Collier and his friends in Gnasherjew, Israel-critical Jews do not feel safe.

That is real, viciously dangerous anti-Semitic abuse. And it is not reported in the Media. Disgusting!

Lobster’s review of the book, Bad News for Labour: Anti-Semitism, the Party and Public Belief, by Greg Philo, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg, Antony Lerman and David Miller is at: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster78/lob78-bad-news-labour.pdf

Media Silent as Toxic Tommy Robinson Gives His Vote to the Tories

November 23, 2019

There are some individuals, who are so noxious, that their endorsement is instant death to organisations and causes. UKIP found that out when fuehrer Gerard Batten recruited Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin, Mark ‘Count Dankula’ Meechan and Paul Joseph Watson. Oh yes, and Tommy Robinson, formerly of the EDL, formerly of PEGIDA, and frequently in the Nick, as a special adviser on Islam. The result was that, faced with competition from their rivals, the Brexit party, or Farage Political Vehicle Mark II and these horrors from the far right, UKIP’s members voted with their feet and walked out. UKIP collapsed, elected a Dick Braine as leader, and has since imploded in an ugly mass of accusations and litigation. This hasn’t dissuaded Robinson from endorsing other political parties, however. And the latest party he’s decided to give his public support is Boris Johnson and the Tories.

The Huffington Post, Mirror and Independent reported that Robinson had given his vote to Johnson, saying “Everyone should vote for Boris Johnson.If we want Brexit, if we believe in democracy, we have to have Brexit. So yeah. Go Boris”. The Huffington Post also stated that BoJob had been called on to reject the thug’s endorsement. Jo Swinson made an adverse comment about Boris’ new supporter, and Corbyn drily remarked “The Trump – Johnson – Farage alliance has a new member”. He didn’t need to make any further comment on Robinson giving his noxious support to two of this noxious trio.

But the Tory press have been mysteriously silent about it all, in sharp contrast to the glee with which they splashed all over their front pages the fake claims that David Duke, the former head of the Klan, had endorsed Corbyn and that the Labour leader had the support of Nick Griffin of the BNP. The Labour leader didn’t. But the Tories do have the support of Robinson. And while they’re silent about it, BoJob hasn’t repudiated it either.

Zelo Street observes that there’s a synergy about it. Robinson likes to turn up outside his critics’ and opponents’ homes in the middle of the night mob-handed, looking for a ‘polite conversation’ and has been jailed for assault. And BoJob was phoned up years ago by his friend Darius Guppy, who wanted the address of a journalist so he could have the man beaten up. BoJob kindly complied. This incident was discussed a few years ago on Have I Got News For You. This was when it was still satirically sharp and rather funnier.

Zelo Street remarks

‘It’s no surprise that Bozo is not disowning Stephen Lennon’s endorsement. Nor is it any surprise that his pals in the press are keeping schtum about it. A Bozo Government would not be averse to a little gratuitous thuggery and bullying.

Stephen Lennon and Boris Johnson – two peas in a pod. I’ll just leave that one there.’

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/tommy-robinson-says-vote-tory.html

But it also seems that Robinson has problems of his own. He’s facing bankruptcy from libel actions from two of the people he’s smeared.

Robinson is being sued for libel on behalf of Jamal, a Syrian refugee, who was beaten up at school. Robinson decided to go round and interview his attacker, during which the statements at the heart of the case were made. Statements which Robinson is having difficulty defending. The case has reached the High Court, and Robinson claims he is facing a possible bill of £650,000. Robinson has bleated that this is “financial terrorism”. Just as he has claimed that his arrest and conviction for contempt of court have similarly been the government trying to shut him up. The reality was that the judges, who had him arrested and tried were trying to give the defendants a fair trial. And this was placed in severe jeopardy by Robinson’s antics outside the court.

And the historian and teacher Mike Stuchbery is also raising money to sue Robinson. Stuchbery had blogged about Robinson’s activities, so Robinson dealt with him the way he frequently did with his critics. He turned up on his doorstep in the middle of the night with his stormtroopers, started banging on Robinson’s doors and windows and made what Zelo Street has described as, ah, ‘creative accusations’. He also doxxed him twice. Stuchbery has since moved to Germany, saying of the incident that Robinson’s

actions have cost me a lot, in terms of health and professional opportunities. It will take years to get back where I was before he directed his followers at me, with patently untrue allegations”.

A crowdfunding page has been set up to help Stuchbery raise enough money through donations to sue Robinson. And Roanna Carleton Taylor, who helped set up the crowdfunder, has appealed for more of Robinson’s victims will come forward so that legal actions can be brought against Robinson on their behalf.

We intend to document, pursue and fund legal action to make Lennon and his gang members pay for each and every illegal action they commit … To this end we ask anyone who believes they have a legitimate case to sue Lennon to come forward”.

Zelo Street states that Robinson doorstepped several people before picking on Stuchbery, one of whom was Tim Fenton himself. He predicts that after Stuchbery finishes with Robinson, there will be no shortage of others going to court to sue the thug for what he did to them. And that’s not a threat, it’s a promise.

The prospect does not look good for Robinson, who claims that from the last two days of donations, his fundraising is ‘dead’. If he loses, he just might have to move out of that very expensive house that’s in his wife’s name, because of his conviction for mortgage fraud, and go live in a smaller property. Like Hatey Katie Hopkins had to move out of her £500,000 house because of a libel case she lost.

Zelo Street suggests that the age of Robinson’s intimidation and bullying may soon be over. Let’s hope so. And let’s hope his hero Johnson goes down with him.

If you want to contributed to Mike Stuchbery’s campaign, go to this article at Zelo Street and follow the link:

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/tommy-robinson-faces-defamation.html

 

Scared Johnson Now Reduced to Throwing Coarse Insults at Labour

November 13, 2019

Oo-er, Johnson must be getting scared! I have a rule of thumb that someone is winning an argument when their opponent turns to ad hominem insults or profanity. And by this standard, Johnson is losing, as today he hurled a coarse insult in Labour’s direction. Speaking at a manufacturer of electric vehicles today, our comedy prime minister was expected to make a speech referring to the ‘groundhoggery of Brexit’, the ‘horror show’ of a Corbyn government propped up by Nicola Sturgeon, and described the prospect of second referendums on Brexit and Scottish independence as ‘political onanism’. Onanism is a rather elevated term for masturbation. It comes from Onan, one of the figures in the Old Testament. ‘Groundhoggery’ simply comes from the film Groundhog Day, whose hero is condemned to relive the same day over and over until he finds some way of breaking the cycle.

The I’s Nigel Morris, in his article on the planned speech, ‘PM: I’ll pour cold water on Labhour’s Brexit ‘onanism’, said that Johnson would ‘risk accusations of resorting to crude insults’. Yes, he has. Mike put up a piece about it this morning, titled ‘Boris’ obscene insult with cement the nation’s opinion of him’.  Michael Rosen, the Children’s Poet Laureate, tweeted

Dear Dominic
Are you absolutely sure that I should drop one of these obscure obscenity bombs every few days?
Horatio pro fellatio
Boris

And the Independent commented that this wasn’t the first time Johnson had resorted to off-colour language in public. He described money spent on child abuse inquiries as ‘spaffed up the wall’, gay men as ‘tank-top wearing bum-boys’ and referred to the President of Turkey in a limerick with a word rhyming with ‘Ankara’. How statesmanlike! And I have to say, I find his smear of gay men rather bizarre. They’ve got a reputation for being rather well-turned out, otherwise we wouldn’t have the show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, in which two gay men advise a straight bloke on how to dress better. And from what I remember, the tanktop was never an exclusively gay fashion. It appeared in the ’70s, and all kinds of men and boys wore it without any thought that it had anything to do with homosexuality. I had one. Lenny Henry had a joke about how he had one, and wondered why he couldn’t pick up women at the disco when wearing it. And it’s a bit rich for Johnson, who was educated at Eton, to make sneering remarks about homosexuals with the reputation public schools have for homosexuality.

Johnson was also expected to say that while Britain was admired and respected around the world, foreign countries would be baffled by our failure to get Brexit done. Mike concludes his piece by stating that

the leaders of those other countries that have caused Mr Johnson such concern will be even more “baffled” if he wins an election with language like this.

Boris Johnson’s obscene insult will merely cement the nation’s opinion – of him

Quite. Johnson is increasingly showing himself to be an incompetent buffoon, who can only stave off attacks on his government and conduct in office through coarse insult. And it belies the confidence the Tory press claim they have in a Conservative election victory. Today’s Times had its leading headline on the front page proclaiming that the Tories were 14 points in the lead over Labour. But yesterday’s I reported that there was confusion among politicians over the whether polls could be trusted.

Johnson’s little bit of crudity suggests he and his chief advisor, Dominic Cummins, don’t.

To paraphrase the old movie poster for the David Cronenberg remake of The Fly, they’r afraid. They’re very afraid.

Make them so and vote them out on December 12.

Israel Lobby Thugs Try to Close Down Book Launch with Threats and Intimidation

September 25, 2019

This can’t be left unchallenged. Yesterday a group of thugs from the Israel lobby, egged on by their fellows and supporters on social media, forced Waterstones in Brighton to abandon a book launch. When the event was moved to the Rialto, they tried the same tactics there, only for the management of that venue to stand firm.

The book in question was Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief by Greg Philo, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg, Antony Lerman and David Miller. This is a critical examination of the anti-Semitism crisis in the Labour party, particularly the denunciations of the party last summer that claimed it was institutionally racist and an existential threat to Britain’s Jews. The promotional material about the book, published by Pluto Press, however, states that

This book clears the confusion by drawing on deep and original research on public beliefs and media representation of antisemitism and the Labour Party, revealing shocking findings of misinformation spread by the press, including the supposedly impartial BBC, and the liberal Guardian.

Bringing in discussions around the IHRA definition, anti-Zionism and Israel/Palestine, as well as including a clear chronology of events, this book is a must for anyone wanting to find out the reality behind the headlines.

The authors are mainstream academics specialising in media studies, Jewish/Gentile relations and anti-Semitism. Mike, in his excellent article on the issue, gives their academic fields and qualifications. They are

Greg Philo is Professor of Communications and Social Change at the University of Glasgow, and Director of the Glasgow University Media Unit. Mike Berry is a lecturer in the Journalism School at Cardiff University. Justin Schlosberg is a media activist, researcher and lecturer in Journalism and Media at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is a former Chair of the Media Reform Coalition and Edmund J Safra Network Fellow at Harvard University. Antony Lerman is Senior Fellow at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue in Vienna and Honorary Fellow of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations at Southampton University. He has written on multiculturalism, racism, antisemitism, and Israel/Palestine for the Guardian, Independent, New York Times, Haaretz, Prospect, Jewish Chronicle and London Review of Books. And David Miller is Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bristol. He is a founder director of Public Interest Investigations and a director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies. 

As Mike points out, they are academics, not anti-Semites. The two don’t go together, except in the pseudo-academia set up to provide a spurious intellectual veneer for the real hard right. Which these professors certainly don’t represent.

But this hasn’t stopped the Israel lobby and its supporters, both institutional and individual, going berserk and throwing around gross accusations of – what else! – anti-Semitism. The event was supposed to begin at 7.30, and would feature a panel discussion with the authors and Ken Loach. Two venues were forced to cancel it through intimidation and bullying that was so intense, an employee at one of the venues could not return to work.

The organisations supporting the bullying, and claiming the event was anti-Semitic were the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Sussex Jewish Representative Council. The individuals giving their support to it included one charmer giving his Twitter handle as #JC4 and then an icon of a toilet, Neil Barstow, Natalia Sloam, Nobody Norman Esq, Heidi Bachram, Ian Mackintosh, Jane Habib, Curry Fleur and Fiona Sharpe.

Mike states that he would like to see all the above interviewed by the rozzers about the threats suffered by the staff at Waterstone’s and the Rialto. He states it is especially abhorrent coming from those, who claim the moral high ground, and are using threats of violence to silence those they have smeared as anti-Semites and prevent them from exonerating themselves. He also points to a Tweet by one Gary Spedding, a venomous individual, who wrote an on-line article smearing Mike as an anti-Semite, which he refused to take down when Mike contacted him to show it was wrong. Spedding also added a few more ad homs against him on the way. It is to be hoped that Spedding also gets his collar felt about this.

Mike goes on to state that he does acknowledge that there is anti-Semitism in the Labour party. It just doesn’t exist in the book the Zionist fanatics were attacking, nor amongst the staff at Waterstones or the Rialto.

He concludes

These aren’t campaigners fighting prejudice against Jews.

They are vicious, hate-filled bigots.

And they need to be stopped before they seriously harm somebody.

One more thing – they did get an aspect of their campaign right: the slogan “Don’t host hate”. That’s a good slogan, and it can very clearly be applied to these bigots.

So I’m having it. If you see these people, or anyone else pushing their message, then flag it up with #DontHostHate

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/24/bullying-bigots-tried-to-stop-book-launch-when-will-they-be-arrested/

Tony Greenstein, another victim of the anti-Semitism smear campaign, and a self-respecting Jew, who has always campaigned against racism and anti-Semitism as well as Zionism, has more information on this disgraceful thuggery on his blog at:

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/09/book-burners-r-us-waterstones-shameful.html

Tony begins his article by describing the way the Israel lobby tried to prevent the performance of the play, Sedition, by the socialist playwright Jim Allen, 25 years ago. This drew the Israel lobby’s ire because it was about the 1944 trial in Jerusalem of the Zionist leader, Erich Kasztner, who had made a deal with Adolf Eichmann which sent half a million Hungarian Jews to death in Auschwitz. The play was due to be staged at the Royal Court. It was taken off, but so great was the public indignation against the attack on it, that it was performed instead at London’s Conway Hall and became the subject of a book, Dramas Played Off Stage.

Tony continues

That is what we need to see happen with Bad News for Labour. The Zionists know that their anti-Semitism smear campaign in the Labour Party is fraudulent and that they have cowed and coerced timid Corbyn into going along with the nonsense that the Labour Party is full of anti-Semites including himself. We must ensure that this book is publicised because it contains all the ammunition and evidence we need to demonstrate that the ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign has nothing to do with antisemitism and has no evidential basis. 

It is shocking enough that the supporters of Israeli Apartheid have been able to ‘persuade’ through threats and abuse, venues like the Holiday Inn, Jury’s Inn and Friends Meeting House into cancelling meetings with Chris Williamson. The cancellation on Monday night of a book by 5 academics of Bad News for Labour – Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief takes this one step further. It is an attack on freedom of thought and inquiry and demonstrates the police state mentality of Zionism’s rabid supporters.

He goes on to quote the great German Jewish poet, Heinrich Heine, “Where books are burned, in the end, people will be burned” – which prophesied the mass book-burnings and murder of the Nazis. Justin Scholsberg, one of the authors, said last night that it was worse than McCarthyism and approached the book-burnings of the Nazis. Tony states

Cancelling a book launch and threatening to boycott Waterstones for holding the event is a Nazi tactic. It demonstrates just how far along the road to destroying our civil liberties and freedom of speech the Zionists have travelled. Literally Zionism is the enemy of a free society, not only in Israel/Palestine but in Britain, Europe and the United States.

He then goes on to discuss the culpable silence of the so-called liberal press about this incident, except for The Canary and the Skwawkbox, and calls upon his readers to imagine the outrage the Right would go into if the Left had done something similar against the genuinely racist books some of them have produced, like Douglas Murray’s racist Strange Death of Europe – Immigration, Identity and Islam.

And there’s much more in his very full article about the incident and the excuses made by Waterstone’s CEO for pulling the book launch from his store.

Tony and other Jewish anti-Zionists have long provided very detailed descriptions of just how violent and threatening the militant Zionists are, and their determination to shut down any criticism of their favourite apartheid state. They smear their opponents as anti-Semites – decent people like Mike, Martin Odoni, Tony Greenstein himself, Jackie Walker, Cyril Chilson, and Chris Williamson, so that they receive vile abuse. Some, like Walker and Williamson, have been sent death threats. Greenstein has also been assaulted by Jewish American Zionists. And a little while ago Tony also put up a piece describing how the CST – the paramilitary Community Security Trust – which is supposed to defend Jews, acts like Fascist stormtroopers when stewarding pro-Israel events. This includes beating up Muslims and anti-apartheid Jews. One rabbi was even hit in the face by these squadristi.

The people organising this campaign of abuse and intimidation should be called to account. And this includes the Board of Deputies. They are not above the law, and they are repeatedly demonstrating glaringly clearly that they do not represent the Jewish community of this country as a whole. They only represent the United Synagogue, and the pro-Israel branch of that. They are a viciously sectarian organisation, who actively support those who raise their fists at the people they consider the ‘wrong sort of Jew’. 

Establishment Media Bias and the Cheltenham Literary Festival

September 23, 2019

Someone really ought to do a study of the way the big literary festivals – Haye-on-Wye, Cheltenham and the others – select the books and media celebs they want to push and the way they try to manipulate public opinion towards the establishment consensus. Because, believe me, it is there.

In a couple of weeks’ time, right at the beginning of October, it’ll be the Cheltenham Literary Festival. As it’s booklet of coming events tells you, it’s been proudly going for 70 years. I think it was set up, or given a great deal of assistance when it was set up, by Alan Hancock, who owned a secondhand bookshop on Cheltenham’s Promenade. It was a fascinating place, where you could acquire some really fascinating, valuable academic books cheaply. But it had the same internal layout as the fictional setting of the 1990’s Channel 4 comedy, Black Books, but without Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey or Tamsin Grieg.

The festival’s overall literary stance is, very roughly, broadsheet papers + BBC, especially Radio 4. It pretty much shows what’s captured the attention of the newspaper literary pages and the BBC news team, several of whom naturally have books coming out, and who are appearing. In past years I’ve seen John Simpson, Simon Hoggart, Quentin Letts, Giles Brandreth and John Humphreys talk or appear on panels. This year they’ve got, amongst others, Emily Maitlis and Humphrey’s again.

Much of the Festival’s content is innocuous enough, even praiseworthy from a left-wing perspective. For example, there are a number of authors talking about their books about empowering women and ethnic minorities. These include Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene talking about their book, Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible, which is what it says: a guide for Black girls. Other topics and books discussed are on how empowered Black men are, and various feminist works about how gynaecological problems should be discussed openly, and the changing nature of the female muse. Rather than being passive creatures, modern muses are active, liberated women conquering business, sports, the arts and science. There’s also a piece on the future of masculinity, titled ‘Will Boys Still Be Boys’, which asks what will happen to boys now that the idea that there is a natural realm of masculinity, such as superiority and aggression, has been disproved. The concern with ethnic minority authors has always been there, or at least since the 1990s. Then, and in the early part of this century, a frequent theme of the Festival was ‘crossing continents’, which gave a platform to prominent literary authors from outside Europe and the West. It also gave space to Black and Asian literature from the UK. I can remember too, how one of the events staged at the Festival was a celebration of Black British poetry, much of it in Caribbean Patois.

The Festival also caters for more popular tastes. In the past it had speaking the Fantasy author, Terry Pratchett, along with the approved, heavyweight literary types. It has events for children’s books, and this year features such media celebrities as Francis Rossi from Status Quo and Paul Merton. So, something for everyone, or so it seems.

But nevertheless, the Establishment bias is there, especially as so many of the speakers, like Maitlis and Humphreys, are drawn from the mainstream media. Back in the 1990s the Festival was sponsored by the Independent. Now it’s sponsored by the Times, the Murdoch rag whose sister paper, the Sunset Times, has spent so much time smearing Corbyn and his supporters as Communist infiltrators or vicious anti-Semites. Maitlis and Humphreys are BBC news team, and so, almost by definition, they’re Conservative propagandists. Especially as Humphreys is retiring, and has given interviews and written pieces for the Heil. Any chance of hearing something from the Cheltenham Festival about the current political situation that doesn’t conform to what the Establishment wants you to hear, or is prepared to tolerate? Answers on a postcard, please. Here’s a couple of examples. One of the topics under discussion is ‘Populism’. I don’t know what they’re planning to include in it, but from previous discussions of this in the media, I’m prepared to bet that they’ll talk about Trump, possibly Boris Johnson, the rise of extreme right-wing movements in Europe and elsewhere in the world, like Marine Le Pen former Front National in France, the AfD in Germany, Orban and so on in Hungary, Bolsonaro in Brazil and the Five Star Movement in Italy. All of whom are definitely populists. But they’ll also probably include Corbyn and Momentum, because Corbyn is genuinely left-wing, challenges the Thatcherite neoliberal consensus and will empower the masses. All of which threatens the Establishment. There are also individual politicians speaking this year, but the only one I found from the Left was Jess Philips. Who isn’t remotely left-wing in the traditional sense, though she is an outspoken feminist.

The other topic is about what should be done with Putin. Now let’s not delude ourselves, Putin is a corrupt thug, and under him Russia has become once again a very autocratic state. Political and religious dissidents, including journalists, are being attacked, jailed and in some cases murdered. Among the religious groups he’s decided are a threat to Mother Russia are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m not a member of the denomination, and find their doorstep campaigning as irritating as everyone else. But they are certainly not a dangerous cult or terrorist organisation. And they have stood up to tyrants. They were persecuted by the Nazis during the Third Reich, with their members imprisoned in the concentration camps, including a 17 year old boy, because they wouldn’t accept Hitler as a secular messiah. For which I respect for them. The Arkhiplut has enriched himself, and rewarded his cronies with company directorships, while assassinating the oligarchs, who haven’t toed his line. And I still remember the genocidal butchery he unleashed in Chechnya nearly two decades ago, because they had the temerity to break away.

But geopolitically, I don’t regard Putin as a military threat. In terms of foreign policy it seems that Putin is interested solely in preserving the safety of his country from western encirclement. Hence the invasion of the Ukraine to protect the Russian minority there. If he really wanted to conquer the country, rather than the Donbass, his tanks would be in Kiev by now. I’ve blogged before about how Gorbachev was promised by the West that in return for allowing the former eastern European satellites to break away from the USSR, they would remain neutral and not become members of NATO. That’s been violated. They’ve all become members, and there are NATO military bases now on Russia’s doorstep. The Maidan Revolution of 2012 which overthrew the previous, pro-Russian president of Ukraine was stage managed by the American state department and the National Endowment for Democracy under Hillary Clinton and Victoria Nuland. There’s evidence that the antagonism against Putin’s regime comes from western multinationals, who feel aggrieved at not being able to seize Russian companies as promised by Putin’s predecessor, the corrupt, drunken buffoon Boris Yeltsin. Putin also seems to be quite genuine in his belief in a multipolar world, in which his country, as well as others like China, are also superpowers. But the Americans are interested only in maintaining their position as the world’s only superpower through ‘full spectrum dominance’: that is, absolute military superiority. The US’ military budget supersedes both the Russian and that of the four other major global countries combined. Arguably, Russia ain’t the global threat. America and NATO are.

Festivals like that of Cheltenham are important. They’re business arrangements, of course. They exist to sell books. But they also encourage literacy, and allow the public to come face to face with the people, who inform and entertain them through the written word. Although here the books’ pages of Private Eye complained years ago that the Festival and others like it gave more space to celebrities from television, sport, music and other areas, rather than people, whose primary living was from writing. But the information we are given is shaped by the media – by the papers and broadcasters, who give the public the news, and the publishers, who decide which books on which subjects to publish. And then there’s the bias of the individual festivals themselves. And in the case of Cheltenham, it is very establishment. It’s liberal in terms of feminism and multiculturalism, but other conservative, and increasing Conservative, in others. It’s through events like Cheltenham that the media tries to create and support the establishment consensus.

But that consensus is rightly breaking down, as increasingly more people become aware that it is only creating mass poverty. The Establishment’s refusal to tolerate other, competing opinions – their demonisation of Corbyn and his supporters as Communists, Trotskyites and Nazis, for example – is leading to further alienation and disaffection. Working people don’t find their voices and concerns reflected in the media. Which is why they’re turning to the online alternatives. But Festivals like Cheltenham carry on promoting the same establishment agenda, with the odd voice from the opposition, just like the Beeb’s Question Time. And this is going to change any time soon, not with lyingt rags like the Times sponsoring it.

Nigel Farage Reveals Contempt for Royal Family to Ozzie Tories

August 13, 2019

Yesterday, the Groaniad reported that Nigel Farage had made some unpleasant, and quite possibly impolitic, comments about the royal family atthe Conservative Political Action Conference in Sydney. The Brexit party’s fuhrer spared the Queen his sneers, but went on to attack Prince Harry and Megan Markle for their ‘irrelevant’ social justice and environmental concerns, called the late Queen Mother a ‘slightly overweight gin drinker’. He then went on to say that he hoped the Queen would continue to live a long time to stop ‘Charlie boy’, as he called Prince Charles, becoming king, and that William would live forever to stop Harry ascending the throne. He also bewailed how Megan Markle changed Harry’s laddish behaviour. According to today’s I, page 9, the Fuhrage said

Terrifying! Here was Harry, here he was this young, brave, boisterous, all male, getting into trouble, turning up at stag parties inappropriately dressed, drinking too much and causing all kinds of mayhem. And now he’s met Megan Markle and it’s fallen off a cliff.

The I explained that when Fuhrage referred to him as being ‘inappropriately dressed’ at stag parties, he meant the time when Harry turned up at one dressed in Nazi uniform. According to the I, a spokesman for the man ‘Judge Dredd’ satirised as ‘Bilious Barrage’ claimed that the Groaniad had taken his comments out of context. But as Mike says in his article about this, it’s irrelevant whether Farage meant what he said or not. He was telling his right-wing audience what they wanted to hear: that he was their friend.

He was raising money from rich foreigners again.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/08/12/what-he-thinks-they-want-to-hear-farage-attacks-royals-in-speech-to-far-right-aussies/

Now I’m aware that some of the readers of this blog may well be republicans, who believe that the monarchy is a vestige of feudal privilege and that we would be better off with a proper democratic constitution and an elected presidency. I’m also aware that what Farage said at the conference would be unremarkable if it came from a member of the public or a journalist. A few years ago, before his career imploded due to plagiarism, Johan Hari wrote a very long article in either the Independent or Guardian attacking the royal family. A tranche of government material had been declassified and released to the national archives. These revealed that ministers and senior civil servants had been worried about Prince Charles writing letters to newspapers and various official bodies trying to influence government policy. He was, for example, very keen to stop the closure of the grammar schools. The officials found his interference a headache because the monarchy is supposed to be above politics. They are definitely not supposed to try to influence government policy.

The Tory press, including and especially the Heil, despise Charles. I can remember the Rothermere’s mighty organ claiming that that the Tories were discussing ways to ensure that the Crown passed directly from the Queen to William, completely bypassing Charles. The reason they cited for this was that Charles was too close to Laurens van der Post, the author of Testament to the Bushmen. Under van der Post’s influence, the Heil claimed, the future heir to the throne had become too New Age in his spiritual beliefs. He had indicated that he wanted to be known as ‘Defender of Faith’ when he ascended the throne, an inclusive title to cover all religions, rather than ‘Defender of the Faith’, meaning exclusively Christianity. As he would be the head of the Church of England, this would create a constitutional crisis. I wonder if the real reason was that Charles appeared a bit too left-wing, especially in his concern for the unemployed. And Charles’ office also spoke out against the decision by John Major’s government to close down Britain’s mining industry.

Hari was also scathing about the Queen Mother. He claimed that she was certainly no democrat, complaining that it was ‘so unnatural’ when she was a young woman. Ministers were also upset at the government apparently having to spend £1 million a year keeping an office open for her so she could get the results at Ascot. Private Eye has also described her as ‘greedy’ and criticised Charles for hypocrisy over his views on architecture. Charles caused outrage a little while ago by describing modern buildings as ‘monstrous carbuncles’. But the Prince himself was also employing the same type of architects to design similar buildings. They also attacked him for the colossal overpricing of his organic honey.

Now we live in a democracy, where you are allowed to criticise the government and the monarchy. One where people do, often. But what makes Farage’s comments unwise is that they come from a ruthlessly ambitious politician. Attacks on the royal family are bound to be controversial because they still have a central role in the country’s constitution. The Queen is the head of state, and the royal family act as this country’s ambassadors. They also have a politically unifying role. Some people may find it easier to respect a head of state like the Queen, who is above party politics. To many people the royal family also embody British history and tradition, and they are still regarded with respect by millions of British and commonwealth citizens. I dare say this is particularly true of Conservatives. I’ve a Conservative friend, who hates the Scum because, in his view, it has done nothing but run down the royal family. And looking at the wretched rag, I can’t say he’s wrong either. Nor is it alone – all of the papers run stories trying to create some controversy about the royal family. The latest of these are about Markle, and how she is apparently throwing her weight around and causing some kind of feud with the rest of the royals.

Farage’s piece of lese majeste Down Under is controversial and offensive because it comes from a politician, who clearly hopes one day to serve in government. If he did, it would surely create tensions between him and the Crown. It’s also impolitic, as even though the culture of deference is supposed to have gone, the constitutional importance of the monarchy means that any criticisms politicians have of the royal family or differences of opinion between them should be settled discreetly. Farage has shown himself to be incapable of maintaining a tactful silence on the matter.

Of course, what Farage really hates about Harry and Megan, along with Conservative rags like the Spectator, is that Harry has dared to be environmentally concerned, like his father. He’s also fallen behind Markle’s feminism, so obviously they despise him for that. And there’s also a nasty tone of racism there was well. They certainly wouldn’t have objected if he’d married a White American. But instead he married a woman of colour. Farage’s apparent view that Harry dressing up as a Nazi officer was just natural masculine hi-jinks shows just how seriously he takes the issue and the offence it caused. I’ve no problem with comedies spoofing the Nazis, like Mel Brooks’ The Producers or the BBC’s ‘Allo, ‘Allo. But the Nazis themselves were far from a joke, and people are quite right to be angry at those who think dressing up as them is a jolly jape. But Farage and his audience obviously don’t. Quite possibly the Conservatives he addressed are still pining for a White Australia policy. But in their environmentalism and their social concerns, Harry and Megan, as Mike says, are just showing themselves to be a modern couple. The monarchy also has to move with the times, whatever reactionaries like Farage like to think.

Farage’s comments aren’t just disrespectful to the royal family, they also show how he places his own political ambitions above them as an institution as well as showing his contempt for the genuinely liberal attitudes Harry and Megan have espoused. I hope they lose him votes with that part of the Conservative-voting public, who still revere the her Maj and the other royals above the sneers of press and media. 

 

Priti Patel and the Barbarity of the Reintroduction of the Death Penalty

July 27, 2019

Yesterday, Mike put up a piece reporting that Boris Johnson, the raging, incompetent blond beast now in charge of the government, has appointed Priti Patel as his home secretary. And she supports the reintroduction of the death penalty.

I’m not surprised. Johnson is a man of the Tory hard right, and there’s a section of the British public that has been demanding the return of the death penalty for years. I think support for capital punishment is probably spread between both parties, but I’m reasonably sure it’s much stronger in the Conservatives. This is the party that, after all, tries to project itself as the party of law and order and keeps demanding tougher sentencing for criminals. And that includes the death penalty for murder. It’s clear that Bozza is now very much appealing to that constituency with his appointment of Patel, although he himself won’t say whether he favours it himself.

I very well understand why some people want it back. There are unrepentant criminals responsible for the most sickening crimes, who do make you feel that they should pay the ultimate penalty. Like the Nazis at Nuremberg, who planned and presided over the horrific murder and torture of millions of individuals and the proposed extermination of entire races. Before Eichmann was executed he said something about regret and remorse being for the weak and inferior. Himmler in a notorious speech to the SS at the death camps actually boasted about the horrors they were committing, claiming that it was deeply moral and that though it was hard unpleasant, they would come through it with the moral character intact, still pure. With such twisted morality, such deep evil, you feel that death really is too good for them. And the same with serial killers and child murderers, like the Moors Murderers.

But as Mike showed in his piece, there are very, very strong arguments against capital punishment. Not least is the fact that innocent people have been convicted of murder in gross miscarriages of justice. This was Ian Hislop’s argument in a clip from Question Time he put up in his article, in which the editor of Private Eye mopped the floor with Patel. Hislop said that over the years his magazine had uncovered many such cases, and that if we had had the death penalty, then the people wrongfully convicted would be dead. He also pointed out that if we had it, we would also have turned some very unpleasant people into martyrs. By that, he means the various terrorists that have shot and bombed their way across Britain since the return of Irish nationalist terrorism in the 1970s. And some of those convicted of Irish Republican terrorist offences were victims of the miscarriage of justice. Like the Birmingham Six, who were wrongfully jailed for the Birmingham pub bombings. If these men had been executed for the crime, not only would the British state have killed innocent people, but that fact would have been picked up and strenuously broadcast by the IRA as yet more evidence of British oppression. And the Islamist terrorists responsible for 7/7 and other outrages see themselves as shahids – martyrs for Islam. At one level, executing them would be giving them exactly what they want. And their deaths would be used by the other zealots for propaganda, as righteous Muslims going to their eternal reward for killing the kufar.

All Patel could do in the face of this argument was bluster about being absolutely sure of the accused’s guilt before sentencing. That’s right – judges were obliged to point out to juries in murder cases during capital punishment that if they had any doubt whatsoever, they should not convict. But as Hislop then went to argue, innocent people were still convicted even with the weight of the burden of proof. And then Patel fell back on the old canard that it acted as a deterrent. There’s no evidence of that. A friend of mine, who’d actually read Pierrepoint’s memoirs, told me that Britain’s last hangman had said that in his experience, it didn’t act as a deterrent at all. According to Peter Hitchens, who is very much one of the law and order brigade – he’d like to see people jailed for drunkenness, for example – Pierrepoint changed his mind about this just before he died. But I think the evidence is that it doesn’t. In fact, it seems to encourage violence. I can remember reading in article in one of the papers back in the ’90s – the FT perhaps, or the Independent – that there’s actually a rise in violent incidents around the time of executions in the US. The article said that it was almost as though people felt that if the state could inflict violence, so could they.

I’d also argue that there are some murderers, who should be punished, but who also can be rehabilitated. When I was working as a volunteer at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, some of my co-workers were convicts at the end of their sentence. They were working towards being finally paroled and released back into the community. It was quite an experienced working with these people. Although they were murderers, they weren’t monsters. They were articulate, and often creative and highly educated. Some were so inoffensive, you wondered what circumstances led to them committing their crime. I realise that the people I knew may not be entirely representative. The Museum only took those who were genuinely willing to work there, rather than just exploit the system. And I am not suggesting for a single minute that murder should be treated leniently. I am merely arguing that there are some people responsible for this crime, who can be usefully rehabilitated after their punishment. And there may well be mitigating circumstances in individual cases that should rule out the death penalty.

And sometime, letting a murderer live and contemplate his guilt can be more terrible than simply killing them. One of the priests at my local church in south Bristol was a prison chaplain. He told us once how a murderer in one of the prisons in which he ministered told him one day, that he had no idea how difficult it was for the prisoner to live with the knowledge of what he’d done.

Way back in the 12th century, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the cleric who wrote the constitution for the Knights Templars, once saved a murderer from execution. He had him taken down from the scaffold. When the crowd objected, he told them he was going to take the man to do something far harder than simply being killed, and led him off to become a monk. This was during the great age of monastic reform, when life in some of the new orders being founded was very hard.

Many of the early Christians under the Roman Empire also had very strong views against the judicial system and its punishments. They objected to the death penalty, because Our Lord had been unjustly condemned to death by the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, Christians had no choice but to adopt and become responsible for the trial and punishment of criminals. But some bishops and clergy remained firmly against it to the end. One clergyman stated that he could not see how any Christian could have a man tortured or sentenced to death, and then lie back in ease and luxury on cushions afterwards. The Christians, who object to the death penalty are heirs to this tradition.

The reintroduction of the death penalty cannot be justified, not least because of the very real danger of wrongful conviction. By appointing Patel, one of its supporters, Johnson has shown how amoral he is in pandering to such vindictive populism. He, Patel and the other horrors in his cabinet are an affront to British justice. Get them out!