meet corbyn’s red nazi backer


McCluskey sparks Labour backlash over tough line on free movement
Larry Elliott, Severin Carrell, Heather Stewart, Groon, Nov 13 2019

Jeremy Corbyn’s key union supporter, Unite’s Len McCluskey, sparked a backlash on Tuesday as he told the Labour leader that victory in the general election means taking a tough line on free movement of workers. In a Guardian interview, the Unite general secretary said shadow cabinet members should not upset Labour’s carefully crafted Brexit position during the election and that he would oppose any attempts to extend free movement as voted for at the party’s annual conference in Brighton. His intervention, ahead of Saturday’s meeting to sign off the manifesto, infuriated activists who campaigned for the radical pro-migration motion passed at conference. Alena Ivanova, from the Labour Campaign for Free Movement, said:

A Romanian care worker and a British bus driver have more in common with each other than they do with their boss. That is the basis of the trade union movement. Len MCluskey’s job is to fight for their full rights, for decent pay and the right not to be deported and harassed by the state because of their immigration status.

Several senior Labour figures privately expressed concern about McCluskey’s approach and said they expected his view to prevail at Labour’s manifesto meeting this weekend. One Labour candidate hoping to retain their remain-voting seat warned:

Len has re-emerged as the flagbearer of the old Labour right. He’s part of a backward-looking, small-c conservative nostalgia-tripping wing of the labour movement that wants “trade union rights for British workers.”

Unite is Labour’s biggest affiliate and will have considerable influence as the election manifesto is finalised over the coming days. Corbyn was challenged about McCluskey’s comments on a campaign visit to Scotland, but declined to be drawn, saying only:

We’re going to have our clause V meeting at the weekend and no doubt that issue is going to be discussed there. There are massive job shortages in the NHS across the whole of the UK. I think there are something like 30,000 to 40,000 nurse vacancies. There’s also a shortage of doctors across the whole of the NHS. EU workers have made a massive contribution to our society.

McCluskey tells Corbyn to defy calls to extend freedom of movement
Larry Elliott, Groon, Nov 13 2019

Len McCluskey. Photo: Leon Neal

Jeremy Corbyn’s key union supporter, UNITE’s Len McCluskey, has told the Labour leader that victory in the general election means winning over the party’s traditional working-class supporters with a tough line on free movement of workers. In a Guardian interview, the UNITE general secretary said shadow cabinet members should not upset Labour’s carefully crafted Brexit position during the election and that he would oppose any attempts to extend free movement, as voted for at the party’s annual conference in Brighton. McCluskey said:

We will have to see what’s in the manifesto, but I don’t think that is a sensible approach and I will be expressing that view.

He added that he was keen to shore up the party’s support in marginal seats in the Midlands and north of England being targeted by Boris Johnson. With the Conservatives seeking to make migration a key election issue, McCluskey said Labour needed to show how it was going to prevent pay and conditions from being undercut before it could consider relaxing its stance. He said:

It’s wrong in my view to have any greater free movement of labour unless you get stricter labour market regulation.

Unite is Labour’s biggest affiliate and will have considerable influence as the election manifesto is finalised over the coming days. In a wide-ranging interview, McCluskey said:

  • Labour needed to get the election debate off Brexit and on to the day-to-day issues that really mattered to voters.
  • The shadow cabinet should keep quiet about how it would campaign in the event of another referendum.
  • White working-class supporters of leave in the 2016 referendum would be driven into the arms of a hard-right party unless their concerns about migration were dealt with.
  • There would be no attempt to move Labour back to the centre if the party lost the election.
  • He predicted paramilitary attacks on UK mainland ports as a result of a customs border down the Irish Sea that forms a key part of Johnson’s Brexit withdrawal deal.

McCluskey said his union had campaigned on a platform of remain and reform in the 2016 referendum. He said:

The reform part was important. The idea that we were happy with Europe is a joke. We clearly weren’t.

He said Labour’s Brexit strategy, to renegotiate a deal and then hold a confirmatory referendum with an option on the ballot paper to remain, would cut through if it was expressed often enough and clearly enough. He said:

Labour’s task is to get beyond Brexit and get on to issues that affect ordinary people on a day-to-day basis. I believe Labour can do that.

He said members of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet should not prejudge how they might campaign in a second referendum and must remain disciplined. He said:

I am calling on some members of the shadow cabinet who are passionate remainers that they shouldn’t declare now which way they will campaign. We have to ask: why did so many people vote to leave? Too many of those who live in metropolitan political and media circles don’t really grasp why people voted the way they did.

He said one reason for the leave vote was deindustrialisation, with people living in the “forgotten towns and cities” not just asking “what has Europe done for us” but also keen to give the political elite “a slap in the face.” He said:

The other reason was migrant labour coming to the UK from Europe. If you don’t understand those concerns you fail to grasp the divisions that exist. Migrant workers are to blame for absolutely nothing in this country. They are just trying to better their lives and the lives of their families. It’s the greedy bosses that are using them to undercut pay and conditions. If we don’t deal with the issues and concerns we will create a vacuum that will be filled by a far right seeking to become the voice of the white working class.

McCluskey said he did not agree with the view expressed by some on the left that complete free movement of capital should be matched by complete free movement of labour. He said:

The only beneficiaries are the bosses of unscrupulous companies.

Labour could form the next government, McCluskey said, provided it could persuade leave and working-class voters that Labour was on their side. If people thought the Tories were suddenly going to remember the forgotten towns and stop the influx of cheap labour then they were living in “cloud cuckoo land,” he said. McCluskey said he expected Corbyn to be Britain’s next prime minister, but predicted there would be no drift back to the centre even if Johnson remained in Downing Street, because nobody in the party was offering an alternative ideology to the leader’s anti-austerity stance. He said:

I don’t think there will be a retreat from the left. Jeremy Corbyn changed British politics for ever four years ago. I am not expecting Jeremy to lose but whoever comes after him and whenever that happens, it will be somebody committed to making Britain a fairer, juster country. The shift is for good.

McCluskey said ports on the UK mainland such as Holyhead and Stranraer would be targets for loyalist paramilitaries as a result of a customs border in the Irish Sea that forms part of the withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU. He said:

Do we have to wait for people to be blown up for someone to recognise this?

Labour shifts Kashmir policy after backlash by ethnic Indian voters
Patrick Wintour, Groon, Nov 12 2019

Labour has responded to a backlash among voters of Indian heritage in the UK by shifting its stance on the Kashmir dispute and insisting it is a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan in which Labour will not interfere. The clarification has been made in a letter sent by the Labour party chairman, Ian Lavery, in which he admits an emergency motion on Kashmir passed by Labour at its annual conference had caused offence to some British Indians and India itself. The motion said there was a humanitarian crisis in the disputed territory and that the people of Kashmir should be given the right of self-determination. It also called for international monitors to be allowed into the region. The motion has led some Indian groups in the UK to call on their community to vote Conservative. More than 100 Indian groups wrote to Jeremy Corbyn in protest, and more recently the criticism of Labour has spread to social media. There have also been complaints that only one candidate of Indian heritage has been selected in a safe Labour seat, and none in a target seat. In his letter Lavery promises:

The Labour party will not take a pro-Indian or pro-Pakistan stance on Kashmir. We are adamant that the deeply felt and genuinely held differences on the issue of Kashmir must not be allowed to divide communities against each other here in the UK. Kashmir is a bilateral matter for India and Pakistan to resolve together, by means of a peaceful solution which protects the human rights of the Kashmiri people and respects their right to have a say in their own future.

Former national security adviser Mark Lyall Grant has predicted rising extremism in the UK unless the issue is settled. Lyall Grant told a meeting at Chatham House organised by strategic advisory firm CTD Advisors that India’s decision to revoke Kashmir’s special status was likely to lead to greater extremism in the region. He said the temptation for the Pakistan intelligence services would be once again to support cross-border militancy, even if the Pakistan civilian authorities opposed such a move. He said greater extremism in Kashmir would have a direct impact on the UK, adding that 60-70% of British Pakistanis had origins in the Mirpur district in Kashmir. He copntinued:

Therefore there is a risk of radicalisation in this country of British Kashmiris. We all know that diasporas tend to be more radical than communities left behind, and I do not see why this should be any different.

Attention will now turn to how Labour words its election manifesto on this issue. In a sign of the controversy the issue creates inside Labour, the former foreign secretary Jack Straw called on Pakistan to withdraw its claim to Kashmir. Speaking at the same Chatham House event as Lyall Grant, Straw said he was “extremely sympathetic” to the plight of Muslim people in J&K, and said the actions of Indian PM Narendra Modi in revoking the state’s special status were “outrageous, preposterous, a complete breach of human rights and without any strategy attached,” b
ut he continued:

The thing I am clearest about is the way in which the whole of Pakistan’s politics and economics has become distorted in this vain search or attempt to redraw the boundaries of Kashmir and to take J&K into the Pakistan Republic. That is completely unobtainable, impossible, but that goal has led to Pakistan sponsoring terrorism across the line of control, without any question, we all know that, and it has also led to a bloated defence spending and disproportionate power to the defence forces of Pakistan. Pakistan needs to reflect on why its economy has not grown at the same rate as India’s. Pakistan’s state sponsorship of terrorism reduces its diplomatic traction. If the ISI think the answer to the situation is a bit more terrorism, they will be gravely mistaken.

Corbyn is doing a Marxist word-yawn in Blackpool, Boris is stealing Theresa May’s lines and the Lib Dems have a ridiculous new candidate
Tom Peck, Independent, Nov 12 2019

How can it possibly be real that in exactly a month’s time, we will be wandering into a polling booth to actually vote for one of this lot? What we are being asked to take part in is not so much a general election as a slow-motion Naked Attraction anxiety dream. There we stand, wide-eyed and in the raw, while the terrifying options slowly reveal themselves, feet-first from inside their colour-coded cubicles. We’ve actually got to agree to meet up with one of these things in a public place and oh my god, why has that one got a tail? Are they, are they actual scales? How’s turquoise got its tongue down there? And why is it forked? Stop filming! Stop filming! What’s going on? I can’t feel my legs! Help! Help! Oh well. This is where we are. If we are to view the four main options side by side, at the end of one of the more subdued days on the campaign trail thus far, what leaps out at you is absolutely nothing at all. Jeremy Corbyn has been doing his “the rich are bad, the poor are good” schtick in a conference room in Blackpool, his now traditional Marxist word-yawn. Still, it makes sense in a way, because he was born rich, and he is very very bad indeed, and if he’d been born poor his talent wouldn’t have taken him beyond the end of his road. Boris Johnson has been doing an “interview” with the fearless interrogators of the Conservative party social media team, who have pursued him in and out of a canteen to ask him what he likes to have for breakfast, and who you should vote for in the next election. To this one, he genuinely said the words:

Vote for any of the other parties and you’ll end up with a coalition of chaos.

This is the same message verbatim as David Cameron in 2015 and Theresa May in 2017. If you’re taken in by that risible filth for a third time in four years, then you deserve absolutely everything you get. Unfortunately, you will also be inflicting it on those that don’t deserve it, but that’s democracy. Suck it up, losers, as Alexis de Tocqueville almost said. Nigel Farage, meanwhile, has been cancelling various bits of his campaign tour, presumably as he tries to work out some way to getting his campaign bus round the country without passing through any of the 317 Conservative constituencies he’s no longer campaigning in. This time, it’s Cornwall. A real chicken/fox/grain/river game, that one, although I’m happy to help out with the first bit: leave the chicken on the campaign bus. All this, to achieve the now-fabled thing called “cut-through.” The most trendy analysis of this late decade is that politicians are being crap on purpose. Tell blatant lies, embarrass yourself, put out statements in Comic Sans and the conversation is shifted on to your territory, even if it’s to argue with you. And on that front, it’s the Lib Dems who’ve really stolen a march on everyone, who have today officially named the “Stop Brexit” man, last seen waving his banner behind an exasperated MP on the 24-hour news channels probably about 10 seconds ago, as a parliamentary candidate. Steve Bray is his name, and he’ll be carting his four-foot-long Victorian megaphone up and down the Cynon Valley for the next month. His message is simple enough: “Stop Brexit.” It is rumoured to be the only two words the man knows. It is more than 100 years since Oscar Wilde observed that there is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. But these words were offered by way of self-consolation, having found himself the subject of public vitriol. They were never quite intended as strategic advice. Never mind, eh? Times change.

Margaret Hodge refuses to back Corbyn, exposing fraud of Labour’s “socialist transformation”
Thomas Scripps, WSWS, Nov 13 2019

Labour Party MP Dame Margaret Hodge has refused to endorse party leader Jeremy Corbyn as a potential prime minister. Her comments come just days after former Labour MPs John Woodcock, John Mann and Ian Austin called for a vote for Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party. Hodge has dedicated the past four years of her life to staging provocation after provocation against left-wing Labour members through slanderous and politically toxic accusations of anti-Semitism, targeting party leader Jeremy Corbyn in particular. But the fact that she has been able to do so is thanks entirely to the cowardice and complicity of Corbyn and his closest allies. In 2016, Hodge triggered a failed right-wing putsch to oust Corbyn as Labour leader by submitting a motion of no confidence against him. In 2018, she cornered Corbyn behind the Speaker’s chair in the House of Commons and screamed in his face:

You’re a fucking anti-Semite and a racist!

She claimed at a meeting in which Tory MP Chris Green called for Labour councillors and MPs to “eject” Corbyn that she had experienced “anti-Semitic abuse” in the Labour Party “greater in number and more horrid in content than what I was subjected to by Nick Griffin and the BNP.” Corbyn’s response was to first drop the investigation into Hodge’s lying verbal abuse against him, to tell her and the rest of Labour’s Blairite MPs at the party’s 2018 annual conference:

We are on a journey together and can only complete it together.

He then forced Labour to accept a definition of anti-Semitism that criminalises opposition to Israel, and to offer no opposition to a politically-motivated investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into “anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.” Last month, political cowardice turned to farce. Hodge was triggered for reselection as Labour’s MP for Barking, meaning she would have to win a vote of the local Constituency Labour Party to keep her position. At a meeting on Oct 28, Hodge was able to secure a majority in her favour in an outcome greeted throughout the media as a victory of Labour “moderates” over a “Corbynista” plot backed by pro-Corbyn pressure group Momentum. This provided an opportunity for fellow Labour MP Ruth Smeeth, the chair of the Jewish Labour Movement who was revealed by WikiLeaks to be a CIA asset, to declare in parliament:

I just want to put on record the fact that Margaret Hodge, the honourable (member) for Barking, has been reselected this evening, against an appalling attack by members of our party.

The Board of Jewish Deputies added:

Trolls who opposed her reckoned without Margaret’s strength and popularity. Not lost on anyone that Labour’s so-called ‘anti-racist’ leader missing in action as his drones tried to force out another Jewish MP.

However, the architects of this “moderate” victory were not Hodge, Smeeth and the BoJD but Momentum, who had never tried to unseat Hodge in the first place! Barking and Dagenham CLP member John Pawson explained on Labour List:

It’s not a left-wing coup as the media have suggested. There are only about five or six of us lefties who attend CLP meetings. The handful of us on the left didn’t really know how the trigger ballot system worked, and given the political make-up of the CLP, we all expected Margaret Hodge would be automatically reselected. The result was as much a surprise to us as it was to everyone else. What I’m hearing is that this move has come from those in the CLP who have supported Margaret Hodge and share her political views but had expected her to retire and wanted an MP who lives in the constituency.

Jon Lansman, the leader of Momentum, concurred in a tweet on Sep 29:

The Left is most certainly not behind the triggering of Margaret Hodge in Barking nor was it the result of anti-Semitism. I’m told it happened because members on the Right had expected her to retire & want an MP who actually lives there, not one who has always lived in Islington.

Asked why he was not working to remove her, Lansman replied:

Because the Left is too small a minority in Barking to achieve it.

Lansman’s refusal to fight in Barking is part of an ongoing effort—agreed with Corbyn and his advisors—to suppress left-wing sentiment in the membership and maintain unity with the Blairite core of the Parliamentary Labour Party. The Hodge affair is only the most devastating exposure of Momentum’s fraudulent deselection campaign, announced this July with the claim:

Campaigning for open selections across the country will help surface a new generation of young, BAME, working-class leaders who will take on the political establishment and provide a genuine alternative.

Since then, just eight Labour MPs have faced reselection battles, most unrelated to challenging Blairite MPs. Of those reselections involving Momentum, not a single “left” challenger has been successful. As Labour List editor Sienna Rodgers explained in the Guardian:

Far from facilitating a Corbynite takeover, the trigger-ballot battles taking place across the country have allowed the Labour leader’s critics to come out largely unscathed and better organised than ever… what has stunned insiders is the sheer number of Corbyn sceptics who haven’t been triggered. Tom Watson, Liz Kendall, Neil Coyle, Jess Phillips, Siobhain McDonagh, Alison McGovern, Rachel Reeves, Ruth Smeeth, Gareth Snell, Wes Streeting, these are all names associated with the so-called ‘moderate’ wing of the party, and yet all have been automatically reselected.

Claims that Corbyn would carry out a “socialist transformation” of Labour and create a party “for the many not the few” have proven to be a fraud. Including their role at the 2018 Labour conference sabotaging popular moves for mandatory reselection and then shutting down no confidence votes and reselection campaigns, Corbyn and his allies have done everything in their power to ensure that Labour remains the party of the Blairite few, against the many thousands of members who want to see the latter gone. They have given the reactionaries the platform to attack those who joined the Labour Party in 2015, hoping to back Corbyn’s professed anti-war and anti-austerity politics. This takes its most abhorrent form in the return to the political stage of the war criminal Tony Blair, who recently wrote in the Financial Times:

Tactical voting will be necessary to return politicians who do not spout populism.

Populism for Blair means any criticism of “dodgy landlords,” “billionaires” and a “corrupt system.” His favoured politicians include the Lib Dems and pro-Remain MPs expelled from the Conservatives by Boris Johnson in September for rebelling over Brexit, most of whom have now been readmitted to the Tory party. Of them he opines:

Parliament would be worse without the Conservative independents.

Blair knows that Corbyn will not lift a finger against him and his cronies, despite Labour’s constitution explicitly stating that any member “who joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party” will “automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member.” By contrast, Corbyn has allowed his supporters to be expelled on the pretext merely that they retweeted statements of Green Party leaders and other non-Labour figures like George Galloway. The Blairites can do what they want, when they want. The measure of Corbyn’s politics is that, through his own efforts, he enters his second general election at the head of the same party fundamentally that launched the 2003 war in Iraq, the 2008 bailout of the banks and launched the drive for austerity. Any incoming Labour government poses a grave danger to the British working class. The only solution is to build an independent revolutionary party on a genuinely socialist, internationalist programme.

Here is Blair’s screed:

Tactical voting will be necessary to return politicians who do not spout populism
Tony Blair, FT, Nov 3 2019

We are witnessing the infantilisation of British politics. The Dec 12 general election has been called to resolve Brexit but, if that is the question, it should be asked in a referendum. Millions of voters are confused and uncertain, lost in a maze of tactical voting conundrums. We see competing campaigns of populism, left and right, from the two parties capable of forming a government. Moderate MPs are either retiring or powerless, left to fight under banners they do not really believe in. The spine of British politics has always been a solid centre. It has fractured. Repairing it and healing it will take time. The issue is: how, in this election, do we preserve that possibility while navigating the Brexit nightmare. The Conservatives’ strategy is simple: you may not like us or Brexit, but the alternative is Corbyn. Johnson’s Brexit policy is a total fraud. In this sense, Farage is right. Johnson got his Brexit deal with the EU by selling out unionists and agreeing to a border in the Irish Sea. Now comes the negotiation over Britain’s future relationship with Europe. There, we have the same dilemma as beset us over Northern Ireland: Do we want access to European markets, in which case the EU will demand a level playing field on tax and regulation; or do we want the “freedom” to go our own way with the economic costs associated with leaving Europe’s trading system? The Conservatives insist that returning them to office “gets Brexit done” but all it does is to begin the next phase.

Labour, having failed to back another referendum, claims to be fighting the election to have one afterwards, claiming it can negotiate a better deal with the EU which it will then put to the people. But it cannot say if it would support its own deal in that referendum. The Tories do not deserve to win a majority, and it is profoundly against the interests of the country if they win a big one. Yet that is possible because of a split opposition and Labour’s strategy. Corbyn’s campaign launch speech attacking “dodgy landlords,” “billionaires” and a “corrupt system” is textbook populism. It is no more acceptable in the mouth of someone who calls themselves left-wing than in the mouth of Donald Trump’s right. I can take you to countries whose systems are corrupt. Ours isn’t. That is no more true than the Brexiter myth that the MPs refused to pass Brexit because they are sitting on their backsides, taking their salary and showing contempt for the British people. Government is about the hard challenge of analysis, policy development and delivery. It requires understanding of how the world is changing and how complex legacy systems can be adapted to technological change. This is our 21st century industrial revolution. Yet our politicians compete to tell us that there are simple answers: either parting ways with the EU, our largest trading partner, or removing pantomime villains of capitalism.

Whenever an election is called, some MPs stand down. What is depressing this time is that many of those leaving clearly have much still to give, particularly those female MPs who cite the ugliness of political discourse as a reason. There will be many voters who distrust Johnson, fear Corbyn and who do not think the Lib Dems can form a credible government. Two criteria should guide their votes. One is naturally Brexit. For those whom getting a new referendum is determinative, there will be a lot of help available with tactical voting to prevent a Conservative majority. But the other factor is also important: we need to get into parliament many reasonable and capable politicians of all parties who will not spout populism. We need people who will put reasoned argument before ideology and understand that democracy is about regarding opponents as people with whom you disagree, not enemies. This is a moment to judge the calibre and character of individual candidates carefully. There is a core of good Labour MPs who will not be whipped into supporting policy they do not believe in. They deserve strong support even from those not inclined to vote Labour. Parliament would be worse without the Conservative independents. If this parliament has shown anything it is that independent-minded MPs can make a difference and work constructively together. We need that spirit in the new parliament. Achieving the right result, not only on Brexit but for that centre-ground spine, requires sophistication and care. Voters must pay attention through the campaign as public opinion evolves. After this election, the real battle over the future of British politics will begin.

Comedy outro:

It’s not a conspiracy. Boris Johnson is just bad at laying wreaths and mopping floors
Joel Golby, Groon, Nov 13 2019

Proud and elated to announce this week that I have managed to fill in two of my election bingo card squares: I got “Nigel Farage is up to something” and “conspiracy row involving the BBC” one day after another. I just need “man on the street yells directly in the face of standing MP,” “viral Sarah Vine column in which she coyly alludes to Michael Gove being horny” and “Jacob Rees-Mogg looms in the background, terribly” and I win a tenner off Chuka Umunna. Anyway, Armistice Day this week, which is either a sombre occasion for reflection on the unfathomably heroic sacrifice hundreds of thousands of soldiers made for our country (good) or a sort of competitive respect event in which there isn’t a single poppy big enough to show our thanks (bad). This year’s Cenotaph-adjacent vein-busters were basically the same as the previous years:

Fury as Jeremy Corbyn fails to shave his head and paint ‘LEST WE FORGET’ across his skull in poppy-red face paint.

I for one am calling for fresh story lines. Nearby, Boris Johnson looked frankly as if he’d left my house at 10 am in an Uber with a can of Dark Fruit for the road, “to perk one up.” He looked like I’d been begging him to get two hours sleep, but he insists on playing The xx remixes off YouTube instead. Keeps asking me how the PlayStation controller works and whether it is possible to close any more curtains. His phone’s on 1% because he keeps Googling what time the shops open. That sort of thing. Only… oh? The footage of the wreath-laying on BBC Breakfast on Monday morning showed a markedly fresher-faced Johnson, laying a different coloured wreath, the right way up this time, and looking, well, as if he didn’t have an entry-stamp to The Dolphin on his inner wrist and £60 in notes in his wallet just in case. Eagle-eyed viewers immediately noticed the discrepancy, and the BBC issued a short mea culpa: the line they stuck to was that footage of the 2016 wreath-laying, prepared for a preview of the 2019 wreath-laying, was accidentally used instead of footage of the 2019 ceremony. And because it’s 2019 we all accepted the apology and moved on. Ah, sorry, my mistake, no: because it’s 2019 we’re still talking about it days later and will continue to for many days and possibly years to come.

Are there lessons from what history will refer to as #Wreathgate? On the one hand, it does seem like a particularly lazy conspiracy to make Boris Johnson look good: is anyone more likely to vote for the man because he combed his hair once three years ago, rather than looking like he finished all my cans at 3 am, and in desperation moved on to that Lucozade bottle full of amaretto I took to Leeds Fest this summer instead? Very hard to tell. On the other hand, if you’ve ever seen a nerd in a dark room editing video you would realise how particularly difficult it would be to reach three years back into the archives and accidentally splice one shot in among the fresh stuff. It is simply too many mouse-clicks to fathom. On a third hand, which is a thing: Rob Burley, the editor for BBC live political programmes and unlikely star of this election so far, came out and tweeted a Big And Bruising denial, talking of:

… wave upon wave of insulting, self-righteous and hysterical tweets keep on coming because people really want it to be true …

This perversely makes me believe the conspiracy more. I don’t know what to do. What I do know is this: if you’re going to do a conspiracy in big, big 2019, do it a bit better than that. Do you know how many eyes are watching? Do you know how many high-functioning online entire subreddits dedicated to this there are? Do you know how on edge we all are after the whole Epstein thing? In 2016, Pindo conspiracy heads got carried away and fired a rifle in a pizza parlour because it didn’t have a big enough basement. We’re not in the mood for this any more. You can’t go round splicing respectful footage into other respectful footage and thinking you can get away with it. Do better, BBC. Do better. Sorry to double down on Boris Johnson, but the footage of him going to flooded Derbyshire and tepidly mopping up a Specsavers is very fascinating to me. There’s always something intriguing about watching politicians trying to act like people under the laser-hot glare of the media. We all remember how spectacularly Ed Miliband messed up eating a sandwich just because someone was watching him, but the man cleans like he’s only been introduced to the sheer concept of mopping in a short brief on the car ride over. Would be very up for a series of videos of him just doing things over the next five weeks. Scratching his head over the recycling schedule. Logging into Netflix using only a TV remote. Changing the timer on his oven after the clocks go back. Sky News, hit me up for more.

Two key policies from the Lib Dems this week: the first, a proposed lifelong-learning “skills wallet” grant of £10k for every adult in the UK, or about one year of tuition fees, if you’re counting. The skills wallet is a sort of manifesto equivalent of stepping on a rake you last left outside nine entire years ago, and has already been picked over by more cerebral columnists, so it falls to me to announce the second: a later breakfast policy at McDonald’s, suggested as a joke by Lib Dem HQ, which would be a disaster for this country. The strict 10.30 am cut-off that currently exists works on two levels: it gets hungover people out of bed with some sort of deadline to work to, and it means cooks don’t have to keep a fried egg warm all day in an over-capacity kitchen. If you want an Egg McMuffin, wake up and get it. Anything beyond that is anti-worker, frankly. This should be a far bigger furore than it is.

Johnson’s disastrous performance in Yorkshire proves his calculated ‘average Joe’ act is dead
Sean O’Grady, Independent, Nov 13 2019

Politicians have always been heckled. The better ones are usually able to return fire with some half-witty, withering retort, like Jimmy Carr or Ricky Gervais would. The rest just have to put up with it, seemingly dumbfounded that anyone could fail to find their shtick unconvincing and unfunny. Like Boris Johnson, who looked almost hurt when he finally decided to show his face in flooded-out Yorkshire on Wednesday. Looking like he had just emerged from the Tardis on some strange new world, his young assistant Carrie by his side, he was barracked heartily by aliens with “where’ve you been?” and “you took your time.” Johnson was left looking bewildered, although that’s because he is, most of the time. So went Johnson’s first contact of the campaign with the general public, the very folk he is asking to install him for a full five-year term in Downing Street with a big majority so he can do whatever the hell he likes, which is the only state of existence in which he is truly happy. Johnson may beat Jeremy Corbyn on most of the personal ratings in the polls, but there is a reason why his minders try to keep him away from the electors. He really does lack the “common touch.” The public are, perhaps, learning to sense it.

Take a look at his election campaign video on YouTube, the first in what may prove to be a remarkably short series. In it, we see Johnson bumbling around what we assume is a Conservative campaign office, but might be the old Wernham Hogg set from The Office, with Tory slogan posters blue-tacked around the walls in rather too neat a way for it to be happenchance, chatting to an off-camera mockney mockumentary interviewer, the man on the Clapham Boris Bus, you might say. He is so obviously an actor it is wincingly painful to listen to his line of alternatively “popular” and proper political questions: whether he likes marmite (yes) following why do we need this election (the usual stuff about parliament getting itself stuck, rather than his opportunistic dash for power on another sham manifesto, and before Brexit turns into a protracted economic recession). The video is a useful political artefact only because it makes blindingly clear quite how out-of-touch this product of Eton and Balliol actually is, a man who has never known want. As his girlfriend Carrie was reported to have perceptively told him during their wine-stained row:

You just don’t care for anything, because you’re spoilt! You have no care for money or anything!

The Johnson vid is like what would happen if David Brent or Alan Partridge suddenly found themselves running the country, except that Brent and Partridge are more real than Johnson’s impersonation of a “regular guy.” He is not any such thing, as we ought to know. His promises are empty, his politics a charade, his persona as carefully crafted as his dishevelled hair. Sometimes there are glimpses of how little he cares about anything. Even Our Glorious Dead. If, for example, Corbyn or Jo Swinson has turned up at the Cenotaph for remembrance day looking like they were suffering from a particularly brutal hangover, coat undone, forgot their cue and left the wreath upside down, the press would have wet themselves with indignation. The BBC, albeit accidentally, helped Boris out by paying a previous clip of him at the ceremony, minimising some of the damage.

The truth about Johnson is that everything about him is as confected and invented as any teenage pop group star. Even his cute puppy is an artfully placed prop. I don’t believe he bags up its muck each morning. If Johnson lost this election, poor old Dilyn the Jack Russell would find himself sent off to the vets to be euthanised, while he tells the reporters some story about the little fella being happily re-homed. I don’t believe, either, that he paints buses with jolly passengers on board onto old crates of wine. I don’t really reckon he spends much time listening to The Clash either. When he told the blokey bloke on the video that he’d cooked steak and oven chips for himself and Carrie the night before, I found myself wanting proof. Even then, I’d consider it staged. Johnson reminds me very much of what Harry S Truman once said about Richard Nixon:

Richard Nixon is a no-good lying bastard. He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and if he ever caught himself telling the truth, he’d lie just to keep his hand in.

The only thing I am prepared to accept about Johnson is that he has the morals of a Tomcat and is fond of red wine. Too fond, I should imagine. If he wins? If he takes us for the fools we would be to trust him? After a year or so he will find he can’t afford to do the things he said he’d do because he will have delivered such a hard Brexit, including the growing possibility of a no-deal Brexit (as promised to Nigel Farage). Thus there will be no growth and no tax revenues to spend on the “people’s priorities.” There will be no money left for more police, new hospitals or better schools. He will cut and cut services and benefits even as he is reducing taxes for the wealthy. He will erode workers’ rights, forget about climate change and just run the country for the benefit of the following, in strictly correct order: Johnson himself; the Conservative party; the Conservative party’s friends and major donors; his current girlfriend(s); and er, that’s it. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson might be better with the public than Theresa May, but not for the right reasons. She was hopeless at the old sympatico routine, but she never pretended to be anything other than the brittle, suspicious, shy figure she actually was. Johnson will do and say anything to anyone to be popular, but none of it is for real. He follows the Bob Monkhouse doctrine: when the old comic was asked what was the most important quality in life, he answered:

Sincerity. If you can fake that, you can fake anything.

“Boris” is an act, a fake. He is also like the Incredible Hulk he once so ludicrously compared himself to: you really don’t want to know him when his true character is revealed.

Blower, Telegraph, Nov 13 2019

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