Posts Tagged ‘The New Statesman’

Kate Maltby Smears Corbyn and his Supporters as Conspiracy Theorists

August 25, 2019

Last Thursday, 22nd August 2019, Kate Maltby decided to give us all the benefit of her views on Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and the ‘Trumpification of British politics’ in the pages of the I. She opined that both BoJo and Corbyn were like the megalomaniac manbaby over the other side of the pond. She was also irritated by the fact that the similarity between Corbyn and Trump hadn’t been picked up by the public in the same way the similarity between Johnson and Trump had. She then went on to whine that both Trump and Corbyn’s politics were based in conspiracy theories undermining western democratic politics, conspiracies which she thought came straight from Putin and the Kremlin. She wrote

Yet to those of us hwo have followed Corbyn’s rise closely, the sight of him comparing any other politician to Donald Trump felt like an act of such shamelessness that it might only be matched by the Ponzi President himself. If there is a single line running through Tump’s politics, it is the practice of rule by conspiracy theory. Yet it is from those who believe that the existing democratic order is essentially a conspiracy that Corbyn also draws his base. As researcher Peter Pomerantsev writes in his superb new book, This Is Not Propaganda, “we live in a world of mass persuasion run amok, where the means of manipulation have gone forth and multiplied”. The digital imprint of the Russian state has been particularly successful in undermining the confidence of voters in western democracies in our own democratic norms and even our ability as voters to understand our political realities.

The analyst Ben Nimmo has summed up the Russian approach to disinformation as “dismiss, distort, distract, dismay”. Hence, the birth of a whole new online culture populated by voters who don’t even share a basic epistemology with existing “elites”. Johnson and the Brexit campaign benefited most clearly from this crisis of trust, but so does their fellow Eurosceptic, Jeremy Corbyn. Track the pro-Corbyn and pro-Trump networks online, and you’ll find a commitment to anti-vax theories that tell you the Government wants to make your children ill. Johnson, to his anti-Trumpist credit, has just announced a campaign to counter this particular theory.

Both are surrounded by supporters who trade in conspiracy theories about Jews. While Corbyn’s party is under formal investigation for anti-Semitism, only this week Trump was manically R’Ting the conspiracy anti-evangelical Wayne Allyn Root, who attacked Jewish Democrats for not supporting him.

She then goes on to take Corbyn to task for not coming down hard enough on the Russians about the Skripal poisoning, and for using the memory of the lies over the Gulf War to cast doubt on the Russian’s guilt.

This is all shameless bilge and propaganda itself. The I also reviewed Pomerantsev’s book, and declared that while it was very good on the subject of Russian propaganda, there was very little material about how the West also manipulates information.

And manipulate it the West certainly does. The conspiracy magazine Lobster has been showing since the beginning of the 1980s how the British and American secret state and other covert organisations have manipulated information and worked secretly to influence state policy to their advantage. During the Cold War there was an entire department, the IRD, or Information Research Department set up within the British state to counter Russian and other enemy propaganda. It also tried to undermine the Labour party by producing disinformation and fake texts linking Labour politicians with the IRA and Soviet espionage. And we’ve seen this campaign start up again under the Tories in the form of the Integrity Initiative, with its extensive links to British intelligence and the cyberwarfare division of the SAS producing smears trying to link Corbyn to the Russians. When various right-wing loons and shameless liars haven’t been trying to claim that Corbyn was somehow an agent for the Czechs.

That the British secret state has also done its best to undermine democracy is solid fact. Britain’s disinformation campaign against its foreign enemies is the subject of a book, Disrupt and Deny: Spies, Special Forces, and the Secret Pursuit of British Foreign Policy, by Rory Cormac, (Oxford: OUP 2018). The blurb for this reads

It has long been an open secret that British leaders use spies and special forces to interfere in the affairs of others-as discreetly as deniably as possible.

Since 1945, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, has spread misinformation designed to divide and discredit targets from the Middle East to Eastern Europe and Northern Ireland. It has instigated whispering campaigns and planted false evidence on officials working behind the Iron Curtain, whilst GCHQ now uses the internet to undermine terrorist recruiters. MI6 has tried to foment revolution in Albania, and to instigate coups in Congo, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran. It has sabotaged ships to prevent the passage of refugees to Israel, secretly funnelled aid to insurgents in Afghanistan, and launched cultural and economic warfare, not only against Cold War enemies such as Communist Czechoslovakia, but also NATO allies.

Through bribery and blackmail, Britain has rigged elections as colonies moved to independence. It has fought secret wars in Yemen, Indonesia, and Oman-and discreetly used special forces to eliminate enemies, from colonial Malaya to Libya during the Arab Spring. This is the world of covert action: a vital, though controversial tool of statecraft and perhaps the most sensitive of all government activity. If used wisely, it can play an important role in pursuing national interests in a dangerous world. If used poorly, it can cause political scandal-or worse.

In Disrupt and Deny, Rory Cormac tells the remarkable true story of Britain’s secret scheming against her enemies, as well as her friends. He uncovers a world of intrigue and manoeuvring within the darkest corridors of Whitehall, where officials fought to maintain control of this most sensitive and seductive work. A fascinating tale of covert operations in its own right, it is also the story of Britain’s attempt over the decades to use smoke and mirrors to mask its decline as global power.

As readers of this blog will be aware, it’s blatantly untrue that Corbyn and his supporters, or at least the vast majority of them, have conspiracy theories about Jews. What they are aware of is the way accusations of anti-Semitism have been levelled at Corbyn and the Labour left for purely political reasons. The Right, including the Blairites in the party, like Tom Watson and John Mann, are using it to try to maintain the Thatcherite status quo. And the Israel lobby is doing it simply to smear and discredit anyone critical of that nation’s apartheid system and its slow-motion ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

I am at a loss, however, to know where Maltby got the idea that Corbynists are opponents of vaccination. The American anti-vaxxers, from what I’ve seen, tend to be on the political right, Conservatives and Libertarians. The kind of people who watch Alex Jones’ InfoWars and have the same bizarre ideas of ‘Purity Of Essence’ as the mad American general Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War satire, Dr. Strangelove. The type of people, who think putting fluoride in the water is a globalist plot, and any kind of welfare state is a horrendous Commie assault on democracy. Definitely not the kind of people, who support Jeremy Corbyn. In fact, it looks like the accusation is simply a shameless invention of Maltby herself.

I’m not surprised that Maltby has come out with this lying screed. Along with her CV, in which she informs us she’s written for The Financial TimesThe Spectator, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The TLS, The Times, and The New Statesman, and appeared on various TV and radio programmes, she also declares that

Much of what I’ve gleaned about the workings of Westminster I’ve learned from my time on the team behind Bright Blue, the liberal Conservative pressure group and think tank. 

See: http://www.katemaltby.com/about-me/

She’s a Tory, and the only difference I can make out between ‘liberal’ and right-wing Tories, is that the ‘liberals’ are less open in their hatred of the poor and disabled, and their determination to punish, humiliate and kill them. Oh yes, and their better at deceiving the Tory rank and file that they don’t want to destroy the welfare state and privatise the health service.

She’s just another right-wing hack, upset and irritated by the fact that an increasingly media-savvy public are aware of how much the lamestream media is manipulated by corporate and right-wing political interests. And she’s just following a well-worn media path by trying to link Corbyn and his supporters to anti-Semitism, conspiracy theories and the Russians. It’s time she, and the various shameless hacks like her, were given the boot. Then people might start believing in their politicians and their media.

 

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David Davis’ Sexual Assault of Diane Abbott, and the Hypocrisy of Harriet Harman

February 12, 2017

Mike and the Skwawkbox have this week posted a series of articles reporting and commenting on David Davis’ unwelcome attempt to foist his attentions on Diane Abbott, and the complete failure of Harriet Harman to stand by her alleged feminist and egalitarian beliefs and actually stand up for her.

Davis is the minister in charge of Brexit. On Wednesday, Abbott voted to support the Article 50 bill, so that evening Davis mockingly showed his appreciation by hugging her and allegedly trying to kiss her in the Strangers’ Bar in the House of Commons. For which Abbott rightly told him to ‘F*** off.’

Mike’s article quote Niamh Ni Mhaoileoin in Left Foot Forward, who commented on the lack of condemnation of Davis’ actions by the Tories shows how they believe sexual assault is still acceptable. She makes the point that if an MP like Abbott can be assaulted with impunity, then younger women in more junior positions are that much more vulnerable. She wrote

“His behaviour is offensive and disrespectful to Abbott — who has repeatedly been a target for sexism and racism — but it also raises serious questions about Davis’s attitude to women generally, and his treatment of younger, more vulnerable women he encounters.

“For those young women, who put up with sexism for fear of losing out professionally if they complain, the message this gives is that there’s no level of success that will shield them from the lecherous and powerful men of Westminster.

“One of parliament’s longest sitting members? Doesn’t matter. Shadowing on of the great offices of state? Doesn’t matter. There will always be someone who’s willing to humiliate you then ‘walk off laughing’.”

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/09/did-david-davis-sexually-harass-diane-abbott/

Yesterday, Mike reported that Young Labour Women and Labour Students Women have also condemned Davis’ actions and the way they have been treated. In their view, this has not only been misogynist, in that Davis’ harassment has been viewed by the media as a jolly jape, but is also racist. Abbott’s understandable outrage at his assault has been deliberately misrepresented to conform to the stereotype of the ‘angry black woman’. They therefore called upon Theresa May to launch an investigation into the incident, and show that the government will not turn a blind eye to such abuse.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/11/where-is-the-tory-party-investigation-into-david-daviss-harassment-of-diane-abbott/

Davis denies trying to kiss her. But he did embrace her, and then sent offensive texts afterwards to one of his Tory colleagues in which he made jokes about not being blind. This has been reported in the Mail, so Mike advises us to make up our own minds whether it is true. This is part of their article quoted by Mike:

‘I whispered in her ear ‘Thanks for your vote’ hence the ‘F off’. I am not blind.’ Davis’ friend responded: ‘Ha! Ha! Thank god you aren’t blind. Great week for you and Brexit!’

Davis: ‘Actually it would make a good Optical Express advert… Yes, a reasonable success.’

His last text appears to be a reference not to Optical Express but another opticians, Specsavers, whose TV adverts feature hilarious mix-ups caused by bad eyesight, followed by the slogan: ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers.’

His line about not being blind seems to be a reference to Miss Abbott’s appearance.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/12/misogynist-david-davis-now-accused-of-sexist-texts-after-trying-to-embrace-diane-abbott/

The assault was part of a week of bullying of Abbott, including one incident in which a Tory councillor, Pearmain, called her ‘an ape’. However, the Skwawkbox noted that Harriet Harman, who has been touring promoting her new book, A Woman’s Work, and other female Labour MPs, who were ready to denounce the attacks on Angela Eagle for sexism, have said absolutely nothing about Davis’ assault on Abbott. The Skwawkbox wrote

The first ever minister for women and a former Secretary of State for women and equality, Ms Harman is considered a prominent campaigner on behalf of women’s rights and equality, so of course she would be quick to jump into the fray on Ms Abbott’s behalf, right?

Wrong. Ms Harman’s Twitter feed is active, for that of a busy politician. She found plenty of time for tweets to promote her new book. She found time to tweet in praise of Jess Phillips, a Labour MP and Chair of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party, who infamously bragged about telling Ms Abbott to ‘f*ck off’ and laughed as Abbott was mocked by a TV impressionist.

But a message of support and solidarity with a mistreated female colleague, or to condemn the racism of Councillor Pearmain or the misogyny of David Davis?

Nope.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/10/dianeabbott-called-ape-by-tory-assaulted-by-tory-wheres-outrage-from-harman-and-co-the-skwawkbox/

and follow the link to the original article.

This really shows the threadbare feminism and supposed anti-racism of Harman and her camp. Harman is fiercely ambitious – she’s been going around telling everyone what a great leader of the Labour party she’d make, and presents herself as a feminist firebrand. So much so that at least one Tory organ has called her ‘Harriet Harperson’.

Last week, Guy Debord’s Cat wrote a piece criticising the bizarre behaviour not just of Harman, but one of her supporters, Helen Lewis, one of the hacks on the New Statesman. Lewis sent a tweet declaring that Harman was a person, who had really stood up to the ‘establishment’.

Wrong. Like many of the anti-Corbyn lobby, Harman is the establishment. She supported the government’s anti-welfare bill, and ordered other Labour MPs to do the same. Then she told Southwark News a few weeks later that she’d oppose it.

Then both Harman and Lewis issued messages calling on Corbyn to quit. The reason for this is that Corbyn imposed a three-line whip on the Article 50 vote. This is the first stage in the process, but as the Cat has pointed out, it’s been misrepresented by the media as the last stage. So Harman and Lewis have been trying, once again, to oust Corbyn.

See https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/01/29/the-crazy-upside-down-world-of-helen-lewis/

In the article, the Cat reminds us that both Lewis and Harman come from privileged backgrounds, and therefore represent the Establishment. They are certainly not against it. He writes

In the last few weeks, the media has paraded a series of Orwellian neologisms like “post truth politics” before us. Can we therefore regard Lewis’s Tweet as “post-reality”? Let’s remember that Lewis herself comes from a privileged background and is, for all intents and purposes, like Harman, a member of the establishment. So it’s unlikely that she possesses the ability to identify anti-establishmentarianism and is more likely to characterize it as something else.

Harman’s feminism and alleged anti-racism is all about getting nice, middle and upper class women into power, while keeping the proles down. It’s the same kind of faux feminism mouthed by Hillary Clinton. Her supporters also made much about the supposed misogyny of the ‘Bernie Bros’ – who didn’t exist – who criticised her campaign. But Clinton is an extremely rich woman from a privileged background, who has been responsible for some the actions of the US government which have harmed women both in America and the Developing World. It was Killary who voted with her husband, Bill, to continue destroying the American welfare system after Reagan. It was Killary, who passed the anti-drugs legislation which has resulted in so many Black men being slung into jail, even though the same proportion of Blacks and White use drugs. It was Killary who talked about ‘superpredators’, when this term referred almost exclusively to young Black men. And it was Killary who made sure that US support went to the military junta in Honduras when they overthrew the previous, liberal president.

Clinton has always supported corporate power, including taking massive payments from Wall Street. Over half of Americans now recognise the need for a single-payer healthcare system. They also want education to be free. But Clinton blocked this, telling Americans that it was ‘utopian’.

This has not stopped her supporters presenting her as some kind of feminist radical. Madeleine Albright, who has been responsible for extolling and promoting some of America’s worst foreign policy atrocities, declared that there was a ‘special place in hell for women, who do not support [her]’. It was a view that many American women rejected, on the reasonable grounds that Hillary’s election to the presidency, while a historic feminist victory, actually wouldn’t make any material difference to the worsening conditions they and their families find themselves in.

And Harman’s the same. A woman from a privileged background, who stands for the corporate control of the Labour party, which Blair introduced, who despises the working class, who appears to be entirely comfortable with the privatisation of the NHS. Which was again continued after Thatcher and Major by Tony Blair.

In considering her feminist credentials, I’m reminded of a line from the American comedy Frasier. There was one episode where Niles’ estranged wife, Meris, was accused of stealing a piece of art from the Vatican. Niles thought that it was most unfair that she should be so accused, and so exploded ‘Rich, white women just aren’t getting their fair whack!’ Or words to that effect.

As for the Tories, their feminism has always been cosmetic. Margaret Thatcher did not see herself as a feminist, and her cabinet was repeatedly attacked by feminists because it had no female members. The Tory press, particularly the Scum, the Express and the Mail, have always been extremely anti-feminist. Over the years the Mail has run endless articles arguing that women’s places is back at home in the kitchen, and certainly not at work. And all of them have attacked legislation promoting racial and sexual equality, and outlawing the kind of assault Abbott has suffered, as ‘political correctness gone mad’.

They also have a cavalier attitude to sexual assault, regardless of the gender and sexual orientation of the perp and the victim. Remember when one Tory politico was acquitted of trying to rape a male colleague? Even though that gentleman was found not guilty, he had still tried to force his attentions on the man, and the incident showed an atmosphere in parliament where aides, both female and male, were regularly groped by the politicians.

So no, Harman and her colleagues aren’t going to stand up for Abbott. She’s too left-wing and too Old Labour, which puts her well outside the circle of privileged women Harman wants to promote. And as well as being deeply sexist and racist, whatever Cameron claims to have done, the Tory party seem to think that sexual assault is just one of those things the proles and new bugs have to put up with from their superiors. No doubt it all comes from the culture of bullying, including sexual assault, that went on at Eton and the other public schools.

It’s disgusting, and it’s high time Harman put her act in order to back Abbott on this point, and for May to show that her party is genuinely committed to protecting people of all backgrounds from sexual harassment. But I’m not holding my breath.

Zelo Street: Louise Mensch Bullies 17 Year Old Girl

December 15, 2015

Louise Mensch Threat Advisory

Doc Hackenbush’s Threat Advisory Graphic: When on Twitter, be on Mensch Alert.

Private Eye now has a column, where it collects advertising snippets and soundbites from celebrities boasting that something-or-other ‘is in their DNA’. I don’t know whether the Sun’s got in there yet, but whatever it’s editors claim is in their genetic makeup, it’s pretty clear that a large chunk of their genome is sheer thuggishness and bullying. Zelo Street has posted an article on Louise Mensch’s sneers and petty spite on Twitter directed against June Eric-Udorie, Sun Pundit Bullies ANOTHER Teenager . Mensch, the former Tory MP and columnist with the Scum decided to attack Eric-Udorie on behalf of the Torygraph scribbler, Julia Hartley-Brewer, who appears to have a lost a debate to Eric-Udorie. The piece begins

Those who look in regularly on Zelo Street may remember the way the Murdoch Sun harassed Abby Tomlinson of Milifandom fame earlier this year, turning up not only on her doorstep, but that of her Grandma. This was followed up with characteristically obsessive bullying from (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch, who gave every indication of enjoying using her position to harangue a 17 year old girl.

And to no surprise at all, Ms Mensch is now at it again. After the Telegraph’s tedious pundit Julia Hartley Brewer found that a debate she had attended had turned out not necessarily to her advantage, she used the bully pulpit afforded her by that paper to tell anyone still reading of “My thoughts after an evening spent debating ‘Is feminism the new F word’. Deep sighs all round”. The subject of her ire was clear.

Hartley-Brewer was particularly exercised by the fact that she got lectured on feminism by a 17 year old girl, and took pains to make sure the on-line readers of her blog knew it was Eric-Udorie.

So, what compelling counterarguments did Hartley-Brewer and Mensch marshal to rebut Eric-Udorie’s? Well, as far as I can, absolutely none. Just sneers about her age, and snooty dismissals of her arguments. Apparently, Eric-Udorie was preaching ‘moronic fauxminism’. Other sneers include telling her that she’s part of ‘generation snowflake’, and that if she can’t stand the pressures of debating in public, she could always try ‘club Penguin’.

You can read the whole long list of sneers yourself on the original article at http://zelo-street.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/sun-pundit-bullies-another-teenager.html.

Everything about Hartley-Brewer’s and Mensch’s responses screams that it comes from butthurt, bruised egos. They are, after all, mature adults, who’ve appeared on TV. Julia Hartley-Brewer was last seen, if I recall correctly, on Have I Got News For You, where they quizzed her about her unflattering comments about Corbyn. Surprise! Surprise! You’d hardly expect that from a writer for the Torygraph. According to Zelo Street, Eric-Udorie has written for the Groaniad and the Staggers. This is a spectacular achievement, as she’s only 17. Journalism is now extremely competitive, and it’s extremely difficult to get taken on as a writer at the nationals, from what I understand. So Eric-Udorie is clearly an extremely intelligent young woman. And obviously too intelligent for her detractors, who have been reduced to name-calling and peevish comments instead.

As for Louise Mensch, before she became a Tory MP, according to Private Eye, she worked in a record shop, where she was known chiefly for writing bad poetry and trying to get the rest of the staff to try Ecstasy. I know everyone has start off somewhere, and a lot of teenagers and people in their twenties have literary ambitions that exceed their ability at the time. You can’t really blame her for that. But you can criticise her for bullying a teenage girl, who’s shown a bit more intelligence than she ever will.

1914 and the Lack of Popular Enthusiasm for the War

November 1, 2014

The documentaries and commemorative articles screened and published this year about the outbreak of the First World War have repeated the claim that it was greeted with enthusiasm by the mass of the British public. I was sent this paper by Nick Jones a few months ago, and unfortunately have only just now got round to publishing it. It’s an important, eye-opening piece, as Nick argues that the general, jingoistic patriotism claimed by many historians did not actually exist, though there were local patches of support for the War. Reaction to the War seems to have been mixed at many levels of society. The Royal Family weren’t keen on waging war on the Kaiser, who was, after all, the king’s cousin. The ‘little bounder’ Lloyd George, as Nick shows, was ambivalent about the War. The Labour Party was split on the issue, between those who believed support for the War would make the party more electorally respectable, and those, like Keir Hardie, who continued their principle opposition.

Nick’s article shows that some of the support for the War came from the gentry, and from particular commercial or bureaucratic groups, which saw a material advantage in the crisis. These included cinema chains, who used it as an excuse to open on Sundays under the pretext that they were supporting the war effort. Other organisations were equally cynical, but much more malign in their attitudes to the working class. These were the guardians of the workhouses, mental hospitals, borstals and labour colonies, who took the opportunity to reduce their inmates rations on the grounds that cuts needed to be made in anticipation of food shortages caused by the War. Some went even further, and forced their inmates to leave to join the army, thus reducing the economic burden of welfare expenditure for their ratepayers. Nick shows that some employers also used the same tactic to lay off staff by encouraging them to join the armed forces instead.

So, little popular enthusiasm for the War. But it did provide an opportunity for more cynical exploitation of the poor, the ill, the unemployed and the desperate. All in the name of patriotism and serving one’s country. Here’s Nick’s article:

Little Support for the War

There has, until very recently, been a general consensus amongst historians that the nation marched happily to war in 1914. A moment’s reflection might question this.

The classic account is that of Arthur Marwick;
“As the time limit [for the ultimatum] approached a great concourse of people gathered in Trafalgar Square and Whitehall…when the British declaration of war upon Germany was issued at the Foreign Office it was greeted with ’round after round of cheers'(1)

Yet an eye-witness later recalled; “We listened in silence. There was no public proclamation that we were at war. The great crowd rapidly dispersed”(2)

Outside London things were also done quietly;
“The little country town was full of anxious people. on the Tuesday night that war was to be declared, waiting in the half-lighted streets for the news that…never came until the morning…at 8 o’clock, when the post office opened .. or postmaster read to us a telegram, ‘War is declared..’ It seemed quite unreal to us, and after a few moments of talk we settled down to our ordinary lives..” (3)

Subsequent historians have repeated Marwick’s suggestion of general optimism. John Turner remarks “The Liberal government …and the British public, entered the conflict in 1914 expecting a short struggle, brought to an end by the success of British sea-power and the armies of the Entente” and in a recent study David Silbey suggests that “By the time Britain declared war, most of the population had converted to a pro-war position (4)

But Marwick had offered a note of caution ; “The patriots did not have things their own way” (5) In York; “When war was declared [the town] went into a turmoil and nothing caused greater annoyance and upset than the commandeering of horses for the army (6)

Another writer points out a few flaws in the accepted versions. He notes a lack of enthusiasm for war in Wales and that such crowds as there were in London, consisted of “a normal August Bank Holiday crowd” . He was unable to locate any precise numbers.(7)
[Further scholarly research] has suggested the indifference displayed by the population at large, to the ‘gentry’s’ enthusiasm for the war. Bonnie White’s [assessment] of recruiting in Devon suggests that, despite the efforts of the local grandees, appeals to ‘patriotism’ were not reciprocated with ‘local ardour’. Noting that; “As elsewhere in the country, Devonians were apprehensive about leaving their communities for military service”. (8)

The Royal Family, Liberals and the Labour Party

The Royal Family may not have been too keen to enter a conflict against a state headed by one of their closest relatives. Kaiser William had also been a member of their Life Guards. It is not recorded whether he was issued with mobilisation papers after the declaration of hostilities.

In political circles, opinion was divided The ruling Liberal Party was deeply split over the war.

The Cabinet itself was divided almost equally. The day before war was declared four of its members resigned over the issue. Lloyd George was later reported to have believed ‘There appears to be nothing for a Liberal to do but to look on while the hurricane rages”. He did promise not to campaign against the War as he had done against the Boer War (9.)

There was a near fatal split between the Parliamentary Labour Party and the ILP.

Henderson, leader of the former, opted for participation in the war effort on pragmatic grounds, He thought that ‘Labour’ could show its fitness for government by collaboration with the ‘war party’. Ramsay MacDonald resigned the chairmanship of the Party when the Parliamentary section voted for ‘supplies’. Kier Hardie after voicing his dissent, retired to his Merthyr constituency and attempted to build opposition to the war from there.

War Fever in the Gentry and Contractors for the London Mental Asylums

It is true that there was an outburst of ‘popular’ enthusiasm for the conflict in some quarters.

“Next morning…there was much buying up of stores in the town by the gentry.. Prices were going up in the town; sugar had doubled, bread was a half-penny dearer” The London County Council “Asylums and Mental Deficiency Committee faced a spate of letters from “contractors [who] sent in claims for extra payment for goods which have been supplied since war was declared” (10)

The inmates of such institutions were less fortunate. In Bermondsey, by London Docks where it might be expected ‘business’ might be brisk, the Board of Guardians decreed that;

“If the Rations of the Staff or the Dietary of the Inmates can be curtailed in any way without inflicting any hardships … no hesitation whatever should occur in carrying the same into effect”.

These generous souls offered a list of suggestions how economies might be effected; “Preserved Meat, Fish or Beef Extract” could replace “Meat”. Biscuits should be offered instead of the lashings of ‘Bread and Cake’ inmates consumed. “Egg Powder” must replace “Eggs”. Superintendents ought to “Omit altogether Eggs (and) Poultry” except for the Sick, as shortages were anticipated. (11)

Hollesley Bay Labour Colony

The supervisor of the Hollesley Bay Labour Colony, no doubt keen to minimise rate-payers ‘burdens’, reduced the food ration there at the earliest opportunity. ‘owing to the military preparations in East Anglia” As a result the men protested’ and asked for an assurance that no further curtailment would take place. As the superintendant could [or would] not give this undertaking 101 men had left the Colony”

It is not recorded where they went to. A Deputation from the remaining inmates went to” the Central Office where they were interviewed by the vice-chairman of the committee who informed them…no further assistance [would] be given..to any of the men who had left the Colony”(12)

Employers and Redundancy

Employers saw it as a golden opportunity to shed ‘surplus’ (or recalcitrant) parts of their workforce. Balfour, a leading figure in the Conservative party thought it wrong that “employers [were] offering their employees the choice of getting the sack or joining Kitchener’s New Army” (13)

All Local Authorities acknowledged that there would be problems of ‘distress’ due to the war [and prepared measures to deal with mass unemployment.


Jingoism and the Cinemas

Not everyone greeted the outbreak of hostilities with long faces though.

LJ Collins has noted that ‘the theatre was employed as a recruiting and propaganda agent, and raiser of funds for war’ filling places in the auditorium. Although they were closed when war was declared, they still had to pay the bills and fill seats. There was a tradition of jingoism in popular entertainment, theatrical managements had used it to curry respectability with licensing authorities. Charity fundraising galas proved a godsend in filling empty spaces. (14)

One group of entrepreneurs welcomed the outbreak of war with open arms. The bioscopes, or Cinematographs were a relatively new form of entertainment. Like Music Halls, they were licensed by Local Authorities and had to observe strictly regulated opening hours. These prevented them from admitting patrons on a Sunday. One way in which they circumvented such restrictions was to offer ‘benefit performances’ for charities.

On August 18th WF Pettie, proprietor of the Crofton Park Picture Theatre applied to the LCC’s Theatres and Music Halls Committee for permission to open on Sundays in contravention of a previous undertaking not to do so. he offered ‘that the proceeds…be applied wholly or in part to the Prince of Wales’s National Relief Fund.” Permission was refused. (15)

The LCC’s Committee felt obliged to assess the effect of the war on attendances at cinemas. This was deputed to the London Fire Brigade. For the most part, audiences were down. In the East End, whilst a few managers thought sanguinely of affairs. they attributed any loss of business to the warm weather.

The managers of The Britannia, Hoxton ‘stated’ that their ‘house [was] doing better than ever, packed; war not affecting them at all”. Also in Hoxton, the manager of the premises at 55 Pitfield Street stated that his “house [was] doing rather well.”

Yet the majority bemoaned a loss of business. At the Variety Theatre Hoxton ‘Managers stated [that they were] doing fairly well, but [were] affected by large numbers of territorials called up.

At the Adelphi Chapel, Hackney Road the manager thought his
‘Bad business [could be] attributed to [the] number of territorials and reservists called up, who with their women folk were regular patrons”. (16)

Audience figures for individual cinemas are hard to come by. Even when they are, a number of variables need to be taken into consideration. Above all the popularity of the programme offered, the entrance price and competition from other entertainments

The manager of the Essex Road and Packington Street Cinema offered a more informed opinion, He believed;

“The cinematograph business might…suffer somewhat owing to the renters insisting on cash for films instead of allowing a two weeks credit, as formerly (17)

Managers who had regularly opened for business on Sundays before the War, quickly found a new excuse for doing so.

At The Princess Row, Kew cinema the manager Harry Gray claimed on the 30th “I am open by direction of my employers in aid of the Middlesex War Relief Fund..” by the 13th the reply had been modified to “I am open by direction of the owners and on the advice of Counsel. The proceeds are diverted to Charity, the Middlesex War Relief Fund”. (18)

At the Electric Palace, Cricklewood, the police had reported on the 7th June 1914 “The Managers informed me that the proceeds after deducting expenses would be given to London Medical Charities” On 16th August they were; “informed by the manager Mr Hallam that the proceeds after deducting expenses would be given to the War Fund. (19)

Borstal Boys Recruited into Army

On a more mundane level, it is remarkable how many young offenders were pardoned by Home Office Warrants during the latter part of 1914. Richard Van Emden has noted that approximately 150 ‘former borstal boys were known to be serving’ at the end of 1914.

Accurate figures are not easy to gauge. The figure of 150 is given by the Association’s annual Report. In the a minute of March 1915 it was noted that “320 Borstal Boys have been discharged direct into the Army and many others have enlisted on discharge or within a few weeks”

They had an inducement to do so as “The Association was asked by the [Prison] Commissioners to provide a suitable outfit for boys enlisting in the Army from the Institutions… a piece of soap, a towel and a leather belt have been added to the outfit provided” The generous souls overseeing the borstals felt able to be this magnanimous since they no longer had to ‘make any payments on account of fares, board & lodging or extra clothing in these cases’ thus saving over £300. As the war dragged on the Army was the destination for nearly all boys who left the ‘Institution’. By September 1916 it was estimated that “Nearly 50% of the boys who have enlisted are already in action abroad”. (20)

Recruitment and the Workhouses

Poor Law Guardians and Workhouse masters took the opportunity to remove some of their ‘clients’ to the care of recruiting sergeants.

The Clerk to the Sedgefield, Durham, Union, a JW Lodge, circulated a motion passed there on 26th August to other Unions;
“in view of the large number of able-bodied vagrants … who appear to be generally living on the community, the attention of the Local Government Board and War Office be drawn to the matter with a request that legislation be passed for the purpose of utilising.. the services of these able-bodied men for the Country’s good at this time of National stress” (21)

He found some receptive ears.

Cyril Pearce records that ‘Huddersfield’s Poor Law Guardians.. agreed to support a proposal to compel all able-bodied male applicants to enlist. Its supporters claimed that this policy would soon clear out the vagrant wards and ‘be very great relief to the expenses of the country’ (22)

In fact this had been official policy since the declaration of War. A Relief Committee was set up under the chairmanship of Balfour. When the Cabinet had sought a vote for supplies in the House of Commons, it had included measures to alleviate any distress caused by the resultant unemployment. The Local Government Board, under Herbert Samuel, set up a formal Committee for the Prevention and Relief of Distress.

Administered by an Education official Joseph Alfred Pease, it’s aim was to co-ordinate the various methods of Relief, including Charities and Poor Law Boards.

As early as August 7th. recommendations had reached the Charity Organisation Society in London, who passed them on to its members, that “Single able-bodied men and lodging-house cases should be dealt with by the Poor Law”(23) The COS was soon “asked by the Local Government Board Intelligence Department for London..to collect certain information indicating the existence or otherwise of abnormal distress” in the Capital (24)

Within a week of the declaration of war draft guidelines for the dispensation of relief had been distributed by the Local Government Board Committee. These stated; “that men living with their families should have priority over single men, or those living apart….relief should be refused to young single men capable of military service”.(25)

Notes

1. [The Deluge p.31 1967 ed citing Daily News 5 August 1914 Daily Mail ibid] The Guardian pages for the 4th and 5th of August give a far more nuanced impression of the public response and list some of the appeals for peace and/or neutrality
2. [M MacDonagh. London During the Great War, London, 1935. p.10. MacDonagh was the Times correspondent. It is good to know the Mail has maintained its veracity through the years. J.C.C Davidson recalled the occasion differently some years later; “Whitehall was simply packed with a seething mass of people…(after sending the Colonial Office telegrams relaying the declaration of war) “We started back to Downing Street, to find thousands of people milling around shouting and singing and bursting with cheers.. They didn’t know what they were in for, and they had this awful war fever..” quoted in R.R. James; Memoirs of A Conservative, London, 1969 pp.10-11].
3. M. Fordham ‘War and The Village’, The New Statesman, August 15 1914. p.593]

4. J Turner, British Politics and The Great War; Yale 1992. p.4; DJ Silbey The British Working Class and Enthusiasm for War, London 2005, p.20.
5. [Deluge p.30]
6. Peacock, York In The Great War p 294]

7. [A Gregory, British ”War Enthusiasm’ in 1914: a Reassessment’ in G. Braybon (Ed); Evidence History and the Great War, New York & Oxford, 2003 p 71 ]

8. White [citing Cox Be Proud; p.20 Mansfield; in Gliddon, 1988. p18ff]
9. [BL Add Mss. 46386 f.52. ; Cabinet Letter to George V;f,69; Runciman to Spender Nov 4th 1929 f.72. See also Ramsay MacDonald’s memoir; PRO 30/69/1232]
10. [[Fordham op cit p 593] LMA/ LCC Minutes 3 Nov 1914 pp 694-5; Report 27th Oct 1914….See also 13 October 1914, p.537 report of 29th September 1914 Printed Minutes of Proceedings, July-Dec 1914]

11. [LMA BBG 104. Bermondsey Board of Guardians Minutes and Cash Papers; Memorandum B, 8th August 1914.]

12. “[LMA /CUB 71. Minute August 6th f.75. Minute 22nd Sept. f.84.]

13. [Balfour to Lady Wemyss; August 29 1914 cited K Young; Balfour London, 1963. p.350]

14. [ [LJ Collins Theatre At War, Oxford 1998, p.3]. P Summerfield ‘The Effingham Arms and Empire’, in E & S Yeo (Eds) Popular Culture and Class Conflicts, Hassocks, 1981 S Pennybacker; ‘It was not what she said….The London County Council and Music Halls’; in PJ Bailey Music Hall, Milton Keynes, 1986]

15. [Minute 7th October LCC/MIN/ 10,735 Signed Minutes Theatres and Music Halls Sub-Committee Minutes 1914 f.761.]

16. [[LMA ibid 4/458 7th Oct 1914; 10,981 Visit 29th August p.1].
/ LMA ibid 10981 31st August p.3].
17. [LCC; p.2 10, 981 31st August]
18. [MCC/CL/ES/EL/1/16 Middlesex County Council; Engineer and Surveyors Department; Entertainment Licensing; Files concerning prosecutions against licensed premises no folio but dated 21st Sept.]. f.31956]
18. [3 May to 9 August : MCC/CL/ES/EL/1/33; MCC/CL/ES/EL/1/17 Middlesex County Council; Engineer and Surveyors Department; Entertainment Licensing; Files concerning prosecutions against licensed premises]
20. [Emden, Boy Soldiers of The Great War p.127. Emden’s precise quote is ‘Of 336 boys released from borstal institutions in the year ending March 1915 150 were in the forces, while in all some 60 former borstal boys were known to be serving’ quoting , presumably, HO 247/2 Annual Report, p 12. Borstal Association Records. Remarks on Income and Expenditure during the year 1914-1915. p. 2. ibid. Tss Report On Cases. Oct 1916. Some were fortunate enough to be rejected by the Military they appear to have, largely, ‘gone to sea’]
21. [reproduced in LMA/BBG /104. Bermondsey Board of Guardians Reports; Minutes Vol. XXXIV. No.8 p.27 22nd Sept 1914.]
22. [Pearce Comrades In Conscience pp 81-2 citing Huddersfield Daily Examiner 1.9.1914 Worker (Huddersfield) 5.9.1914] .

23.[ Circular No 3 7th August 1914 COS Archive; LMA/A/FWA/C/A3/49/1 between ff. 323-4].

24. [Circular August 14th 1914.ibid.]

25.[COS Minutes Vol 50; LMA/A/FWA/C/A3/50/1 between ff. 3-4 August 20th 1914. “The Local Government Board advised in their circular of August 10th…”]

So the image of cheering crowds, ecstatically greeting the news that war had come, is a myth. The reality was a deep ambivalence about the War amongst nearly all levels of society, and, for many, indifference. It was also cynically used by the nascent cinema to gain greater respectability, while employers, borstals and the managers of the workhouses and labour camps for the unemployed used it as a means to cut down on expenditure, either by reducing rations or encouraging their unwanted staff and inmates to join up.

There are several parallels to the war in Iraq nearly a century later. There was wide opposition to the beginning of the War, with a million people marching against it. The present government has continued its campaign of welfare cuts, including laying off senior military staff, while simultaneously running recruitment campaigns trying to get more people to enlist. And as the Capped Crusader, Michael Moore showed in Fahrenheit 9/11, the burden of the War has fallen on the poor and working class. It is they, who have been targeted by the recruiting sergeants, while the rich and powerful, with the possible exception of the British Royal Family, have been keen to keep their sons and daughters well away from the frontline.

And the mass media, the cinema in the case of the First World War, and the TV news now, have done their best to support and promote the War.

It makes you wonder… After all the rhetoric about the War to End All Wars, what have we learned … what has changed over the past century?