Category Archives: Uncategorized

IMO, corbyn & mccluskey are both lying turds

McCluskey denies any involvement in botched attempt to unseat Tom Watson
Anahita Hossein-Pour, PoliticsHome, Sep 22 2019

Unite leader Len McCluskey has dismissed claims that he was involved in attempting to oust Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson as “fake news.” The union boss was believed to be among allies of Jeremy Corbyn behind a bid to abolish the top job, due to Mr Watson’s “disloyalty” over Brexit. Momentum chief Jon Lansman tabled the emergency motion at Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee on Friday, but the efforts have since been quashed by the Labour leader who announced a “review” of the role. Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge, Mr McCluskey denied being part of the controversial move. He said:

This is just another fake news, I had nothing to do with it, I knew nothing about it. The first I heard about it was when it broke in the media. This is fake news because obviously the media are looking for a story.

McCluskey said he was “ambivalent” about the deputy leadership post and was focused on helping Corbyn become PM. He went on:

It’s gone. It’s dealt with. In some ways it’s a good thing, because it demonstrated Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. He stepped in. He calmed it all down, and it’s yesterday’s news. Basically what it is, is just frustration because the deputy leader in any organisation, the prime role, is to assist the leader and unfortunately Tom gives the impression, every time he speaks, is to undermine the leader. Now that frustration amongst members will manifest itself and I think that’s all that happened.

Mr Watson had condemned the attack on him as a “drive-by shooting” and likened the bid to the “kind of thing that happens in Venezuela.” Corbyn told BBC’s Andrew Marr he was unaware that motion was going to be put forward, but that it was “no secret” discussions were ongoing about the role of deputy leader. He said:

I knew there were discussions going on about the role of deputy leader, I did not know that that particular motion was going to be put at that time. There was a move that didn’t happen, didn’t work and I intervened to make sure we have an open and democratic discussion about the structure of our party, and that’s where we are at.

McCluskey said that if members of the shadow cabinet like Watson were not willing to back Jeremy Corbyn’s line on Brexit, they should resign.
Andrew Sparrow, Graun, Sep 22 2019

Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, when asked if he had a message for senior Labour figures who were arguing that the party should commit to campaigning for remain in any second referendum on Brexit he replied:

We must go into an election united. And when we have a policy on Brexit, and Jeremy Corbyn makes it clear that that is the policy, then that’s what leading members of the shadow cabinet should argue for. If they find that they can’t argue for it because they feel strongly, well of course they have that right, but they should step aside, and step aside from the shadow cabinet, which will become the cabinet, and they can argue whatever they want. But the policy and my appeals to them, and to Emily and to anybody else is, support your leader … If we get to a position where Jeremy is saying, let’s not make our decision on how we will campaign until we know what the deal, my appeal to her, support Jeremy and that’s my appeal to the whole of conference.

Asked if that meant he was unhappy with people saying the party should commit now to backing Remain in any future referendum, McCluskey said:

In this situation … in order for Labour to get through the message of unity and healing our nation, everybody needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet. Now if the leadership team, the shadow cabinet soon to be the cabinet find that difficult then yes, they should step aside.

A reminder: among those people who have been saying today that Labour should commit now to backing remain in a second referendum come what may are: Tom Watson, the deputy leader, Richard Leonard, the Scottish Labour leader and Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Labour leader and Welsh first minister.

From Brexit to a general election, Labour cannot make up its mind
Robert Peston, ITV News, Sep 22 2019

Welcome to Labour’s Twilight Zone, its ruling NEC, whose members don’t know whether they have or haven’t approved a draft policy statement in favour of a referendum combined with militant agnosticism on Leave versus Remain. Some members of the NEC said they opposed the policy, because they see it as a backdoor route orchestrated by Milne, McCluskey and Murphy to move the party towards becoming a Brexit party all over again. Yesterday, NEC chair Wendy Nichols asked for amendments to the statement. There were too many for a compromise to be found. Another meeting was scheduled for 8 am this morning and then summarily cancelled after 11 pm last night. So NEC members now don’t know whether the draft policy statement, which would postpone the choice between Leave or Remain till three months after a general election, is or is not the official position. All of which probably means there will be a titanic struggle here in Brighton between the Remainers led by Watson, Beckett, Starmer & Thornberry on the one hand, and McCluskey and the Lexiteers on the other, over whether the party should NOW make a commitment that in any future referendum it would oppose any form of Brexit. What is perhaps nuts is that NEC members don’t even know whether said policy statement would or should be submitted to conference for a confirmatory vote.

That is not the end of the ambiguity around what the NEC is doing. NEC members tell me they don’t know whether or not they have approved a new policy that the deputy leader would no longer automatically become leader if the elected leader quit, or whether all they’ve done is approve a consultation on ending an automatic transfer of power to the deputy. This really matters, because if Corbyn were to quit, it matters whether Watson were interim leader or whether the NEC could appoint a candidate it feels would work to keep alight the Corbyn flame. There are colleagues of Corbyn who think that he could quit much sooner than he suggested in his BBC interview this morning. Finally, there is a third and perhaps more profound source of anxiety about the position of the Labour Party, and that is whether Labour wants and would endeavour to bring about an election before a referendum, or would prefer a referendum or some other resolution of the Brexit uncertainty in advance of an election. Corbyn and his allies say they want the general election soon and first. Led by Tom Watson, a clear majority of Labour MPs want a referendum either before the election or simultaneous with it, thus giving us two monumentally important choices on the same day, heaven help us: for government and for in or out of the EU. So for the avoidance of doubt, Corbyn’s Labour is as divided, confused, faction-riven and disorganised as Johnson’s Tories. If you are humming the Pet Shop Boys’ “What have I done to deserve this?” join the club. I am not ashamed to show my age.

do ya head in

Yemeni Rebels Warn Iran Plans Another Strike Soon
Dion Nissenbaum, WSJ, Sep 21 2019

BEIRUT — Houthi militants in Yemen have warned foreign diplomats that Iran is preparing a follow-up strike to the missile and drone attack that crippled the Toad oil industry a week ago, people familiar with the matter said. Leaders of the group said they were raising the alarm about the possible new attack after they were pressed by Iran to play a role in it, these people said. It…

purely defensive assets coming up, boss

Pindo destroyer famous for ‘self-defense strikes’ on Yemen redeploys to Toad coast as Pentagon prepares more purely defensive assets
RT.com, Sep 22 2019

The Pindo destroyer Nitze, armed with surface-to-air and Tomahawk cruise missiles, was redeployed off the north-east coast of Toad Arabia, as part of the Pindo effort to “plug the holes” in the KSA’s air defenses. Under the pretext of the “dramatic escalation of Iranian aggression,” the Pentagon announced the deployment of additional troops and other military assets to the Persian Gulf. Exact details are still being worked out, but the deployment will be “limited” and purely “defensive” in nature, the Pentagon promised. In the meantime, one guided missile destroyer has already been redeployed to the northern Persian Gulf to “plug the holes” in Toad air defenses, according to Pindo media reports. Equipped with Aegis radar and surface-to-air missiles, the Nitze is better known for a ‘self-defense’ Tomahawk strike on Yemen. In a rare act of direct military involvement in the Toad/UAE Yemen war, in 2016, the Nitze carried out a series of strikes supposedly targeting “radar sites” in the name of protecting “freedom of navigation.” Faschingstein accused the Houthis of launching several missiles at a Pindo warship, causing no casualties or damage. All the targets of the ‘self-defense’ attack were located “in remote areas, where there was little risk of civilian casualties or collateral damage,” the Obama-era Pentagon claimed at the time. The Trump administration has also vowed to protect the “freedom of navigation” in the strategic Strait of Hormuz and beyond, and has long been gathering a coalition of the willing to confront Iran. However, only the UK volunteered to join the anti-Iran flotilla so far. Australia has volunteered to take part too, but sometime next year. Later in August, Bahrain agreed to participate, after the CENTCOM chief paid the King a visit. Only the recent attack that briefly knocked out 50% of Toad oil production, albeit causing no casualties or significant long-term damage, convinced the Toads & UAE it was time to enlist. The Sep 14 incident was an embarrassment for Pindostan, since its costly air defense systems failed to protect Toad oil facilities from drones and missiles. So now Faschingstein is rushing to bolster its ally’s security, even though the Toads already have “the most powerful air defense system in the region that provides full radar coverage,” according to a high-ranking Russian military source. While the Houthis claimed responsibility for the sabotage and promised more attacks unless the Toads and the UAE halt their war in Yemen, Riyadh refuses to believe that they have the capability. The Toads insist that Iran had a hand in the raid, which they claim came “from the north” and caught their air defense units off-guard.

the troughers

Boris Johnson urged to justify ‘awarding public funds to close friend’
Matthew Weaver, Groan, Sep 22 2019

Johnson with Arcuri at an Innotech summit, Jul 2013. Photo: Innotech

Boris Johnson is under pressure to explain why he allegedly failed to declare an interest in the allocation of public money to a close friend while he was mayor of London. The Sunday Times reported that a company run by Jennifer Arcuri, an Pindo technology entrepreneur and friend of Johnson, was given tens of thousands of pounds in public funds and access to overseas trade missions led by Johnson during the prime minister’s time as mayor. Downing Street has refused to comment on the reports. But Labour is demanding that No 10 provide a full explanation for how the funds and favours were granted to Arcuri. Jon Trickett, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said:

Boris Johnson must now give a full account of his actions in response to these grave and most serious allegations of the misuse use of public money in his former role as mayor of London. The public has a right to know how and why these funds were used for the benefit of a close personal friend without on the face of it legitimate reason. This cannot be swept under the carpet. It is a matter of the integrity of the man now leading our country, who appears to believe he can get away with anything.

Arcuri’s company Innotech was given £10k in sponsorship from a mayoral organisation in 2013, the Sunday Times reports. Johnson was also the guest speaker at four of its events, it alleges. A year later Arcuri won a £15k grant under a government programme to encourage foreign entrepreneurs in the UK, the Sunday Times alleges. Despite Arcuri moving back to Pindostan last year, earlier this year her latest company Hacker House won a £100k cyber-skills grant intended to foster UK talent. The Dept for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which is responsible for the scheme, confirmed to the Guardian it was investigating how the payment was made. But it pointed out the funds were awarded to a UK-registered company. The report also suggests that Arcuri was initially refused permission to attend two of the trade mission trips because her business did not meet the eligibility criteria. But after the intervention of Johnson she was allowed on to the missions, according to an email seen by the paper. It points out that Johnson was bound by a Greater London Authority code of conduct to declare any private interests. He was also banned from providing undue benefits to friends. Arcuri, now 34, was quoted by the Sunday Times as saying:

Any grants received by my companies and any trade mission I joined were purely in respect of my role as a legitimate businesswoman.

There is precedent for members of the government being forced to resign over conflicts of interest. In 2011, then defence secretary Liam Fox resigned after he was found to have procured high-level overseas meetings for his friend and adviser Adam Werrity. In 2017, Priti Patel was forced to resign as international development secretary following a conflict of interest arising from secret meetings with the Israeli government. Patel was brought back into government in July when Johnson appointed her as home secretary.

eat your heart out, barthes

What the uncanceling of Pepe the Frog, but just for HK protests, tells us about Pindo media
Igor Ogorodnev, RT.com, Sep 21 2019

Pepe flies high at a rally in HK. Photo: Miguel Candela/Anadolu

Having written hundreds of articles demonizing the amphibian meme as inherently sinister, news outlets have had to perform a quick 180 now that he has been adopted as the mascot of the Hong Kong protest movement. Pepe the Frog has been everywhere during the past six months of anti-government demonstrations in the Chinese city, as a flash graffiti drawn on and washed off walls, a doll holding placards with political slogans and calling for political changes from custom-made t-shirts, in user-made pictures and cartoons circulated on social media and in organizers’ WhatsApp and Telegram groups.

For the Western media slavishly dedicated to covering the demonstrations from the protesters’ perspective, this has been awkward, yet impossible to ignore. Is this not the same Pepe whose alternately self-satisfied and downbeat visage was used as a vehicle for alt-right talking points prior to the 2016 election? The one that candidate Hillary Clinton dedicated a special warning to on her website, saying he had been “almost entirely co-opted by white supremacists”? The one that the ADL still considers a hate symbol even in its unaltered form? The simplest route has been to wave this away as a coincidence, with almost every mainstream media article at pains to emphasize that the Hong Kong protesters are not alt-right, and were entirely unaware of the connotations of the cartoon frog, which do not apply outside Pindostan. More sophisticated explanations have celebrated “reclaiming” Pepe, recalling that he had begun his life as a stoner joke for a minutiae-obsessed apolitical web cartoon by artist Matt Furie back in 2005, three years before “alt-right” was even a word. All that might be correct if not for the glaring similarities between how Pepe was used three years ago and now that make it hard to believe that the current green frog had no lineage.

A MAGA protester in Berkeley, California, 2017. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP

In both cases the cartoon gave a chance for protest movements to challenge the establishment through his sly subversion. Is Pepe trolling you or is he being serious? When he cries is that just a cheap joke, or a comment about grave imbalances of power? Using him as a truth-sayer figure couched in levels of irony, disarms, gives plausible deniability, and most of all, reflects the young, media-savvy culture that permeates both the Hong Kong movement squaring up to the might of Beijing, and the 4Chan provocateurs who helped Donald Trump get elected against the prevailing cultural winds. After all the slogan of the Hong Kong crowds is a Bruce Lee quote: “be water.” Once again, it plays up the amorphousness and flexibility, the anonymity and persistence of the crowd, whether mass-posting online or occupying a public space, trying to shake up the monolithic structures of the ruling elite. Yet the difference in the coverage, depending on the narrative, is stunning. A satirical cartoon can become the new swastika, and the new swastika can become a symbol of freedom, all without changing. These biases can be seen through the contrasting coverage of, say, the Yellow Vests and Black Lives Matters or the Maidan protests, but here is a rare test case. Certainly, the protesters in Hong Kong aren’t drawing up Hitler mustaches on their Pepes, or making them gloat outside of gas chambers. But frankly, neither did most of the images that circulated through the image boards and continue to crop up in Twitter discussions today. The vilification was largely intellectually dishonest, and relied on picking unrepresentative examples to marginalize what is already a  minority hidden on the outskirts of polite internet discourse.

Clown Pepe

It was also ineffective. Just as Pepe did not die, but returned through ever more postmodernist reincarnations, including the anarchic and popular Clown Pepe who comments on the absurdities of political correctness or the latest big tech censorship, and now again, half-a-world away. There is a lesson here: you can call Pepe far-right, and equate the OK gesture to “Heil Hitler!” But if any dissenters remain, and you are suppressing their ideas, not debating them, the internet will find a way. And for all your billions, armies, and news channels you will be the ones forced to spend your time mass-deleting pictures of memes off the internet to keep your grasp on power.

odd tweets

going underground

Going Underground
Afshan Rattansi, RT.com, Sep 21 2019

On this episode of Going Underground, we speak to Jerusalem Post’s Editor in Chief Yaakov Katz about the results of the Israeli elections, how Netanyahu’s plan to lower Arab voter turnout backfired, the ostracizing of certain groups during the Israeli elections, the success of the Arab parties, the war-like situation between Iran and Israel, the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn coming to power in the UK and more! Next we speak to Kristinn Hraffnson, Editor in Chief of Wikileaks about the latest reports regarding Julian Assange including his controlled moves around Belmarsh his lack of access to lawyers and his health condition. Finally we speak to Leana Hosea on her film ‘Thirst for Justice’ showing at the Raindance Film Festival which highlights the amount of covered-up nuclear disasters in the US and how millions of Americans are drinking unsafe water.

this is what all the australian leaks were about

Australian Commandos tell of war crimes
Nick McKenzie, Chris Masters, SMH, Sep 20 2019

Anguished Australian special forces soldiers have confessed to murdering and brutalising detainees in Afghanistan in incidents that colleagues insist cannot be written off as occurring in the “fog of war.” Members of both of Australia’s special forces regiments, the Commandos and the Special Air Service Regiment, have given evidence to the army’s war crimes inquiry about the summary execution of at least four prisoners, in breach of the Geneva conventions. Multiple defence sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, have confirmed that compelling evidence exists of Australian soldiers assaulting or murdering in cold blood unarmed or handcuffed detainees in Afghanistan between Jun-Nov 2012. More than a dozen serving and former special forces members, including high-ranking officers, stress that it was soldiers themselves who had brought the conduct to light. The war crimes inquiry was ordered in 2016 by the Chief of the Defence Force, Angus Campbell, and is being undertaken by Supreme Court of Appeal Justice Major General Paul Brereton. Military top brass are aware of the evidence, the sources say, the most powerful of which involves recorded confessions from anguished soldiers to colleagues or supporters. It is illegal under the laws of war to murder or brutalise a prisoner or a civilian who is posing no risk. One summary execution being investigated by the Brereton inquiry was carried out by a member of the Commandos November platoon during an operation in southern Afghanistan on Oct 3 2012. The commando has confessed that he shot a detained Afghan man in the back of the head, according to documents detailing his admissions. The confession suggests that other detainees were killed in the same manner and that other commandos had participated in a summary execution. one document outlining the confession, which has been filed with lawyers:

Various members also carried out orders to get rid of the prisoners by shooting them.

The soldier who unlawfully killed a detainee on Oct 3 2012 also disclosed a more senior commando directed him to “take the prisoner and get rid of them” in a discreet location. The commando said “he was told it was OK because he was a bad guy.” The commando has confessed that he subsequently “executed with his pistol” the prisoner, whom he describes as an “innocent man.” Many of the most serious acts detailed in confessions or direct witness testimony, which The Age, The Herald and 60 Minutes have uncovered and confirmed using multiple sources, occurred in 2012, during the 18th deployment of special forces to Afghanistan. Defence sources said all incidents are under investigation by the Brereton inquiry. As in the case of a royal commission, soldiers who confess or honestly testify about a war crime before an Inspector-General’s Inquiry can not have their admissions used against them in a criminal prosecution. Those that lie, however, or who are the subject of corroborated adverse allegations made by others can be referred to the military or civilian justice system for investigation or possible prosecution. If a war crime is proven, sanctions could range from demotion or discharge to a jail sentence. However, the Inspector-General may also release a royal commission-style public report that makes findings of fact and recommendations. The defence department declined to respond to questions about the inquiry.

The Age, the Herald and 60 Minutes are revealing over the weekend new details of the war crimes allegations involving Australian special forces. Many of the war crimes allegations previously reported by The Age and The Herald have related to the Perth-based SAS Regiment. This is the first time the Sydney-based Commandos, another wing of Australia’s special forces, has been implicated. Members of the SAS have also confessed to more senior soldiers that they either participated in or witnessed the execution or brutalisation of prisoners. One prisoner assault and death occurred on Sep 11 2012 and was directly witnessed by several people, including two working with the SAS. They subsequently made disclosures to military superiors. It involved a detainee, Ali Jan, being kicked off a small cliff after being taken prisoner by the SAS in the village of Darwan. He was then shot and killed. The soldier accused of kicking Ali Jan off the cliff has vigorously denied this allegation. The incident is being separately investigated by the AFP, as revealed previously in The Age and Herald. 60 Minutes will reveal more about the death of Ali Jan, including interviews gathered in Afghanistan. A mid-2012 incident, also to be detailed on 60 Minutes, involves the suspected summary execution of a wounded Afghan in the care of Australian soldiers. Watch Nick McKenzie’s full report on 60 Minutes on Sunday night. Know more? Contact Nick McKenzie securely on the encrypted JournoTips platform.

kill your controllers

Pindostan Defends Your Freedom By Using Troops As Oil Security Guards
Caitlin Johnstone, Sep 22 2019

If you’ve been lying awake at night terrified that the Pentagon might not send additional troops and armaments to defend oil corporations in Toad Arabia and the UAE, I’ve got some great news for you. In response to an attack on Saudi Aramco oil infrastructure for which Houthi rebels in Yemen have taken credit, the Pindo government has responded in the only possible rational way: by blaming Iran and deploying troops to act as security guards for Middle Eastern oil companies. Sec Def Esper informed the press yesterday:

So you can breathe easy, my friend. Freedom and democracy are safe once more. A lot of delusional, unpatriotic democracy haters like to argue that the Pindo military doesn’t actually defend the freedom of the Pindo sheeple, and that it isn’t really used to defend freedom at all, and that it isn’t even really used to defend any rules-based international order as sometimes claimed, and that even to use the word “defend” to describe anything the Pindo military does is inaccurate since it is consistently on the attacking and aggressing side of any given conflict, and that actually the Pindo military functions as nothing other than a blunt object wielded by the rich and powerful for the advancement of plutocratic interests and the geostrategic dominance of opaque and unaccountable government agencies, and that it can in fact be accurately said that the only difference between the Pindo military and any other band of armed thugs is funding … I forget where I was going with this. Ah, yes. Defending your freedoms. If sending a platoon of Paul Blarts to act as mall security for foreign oil corporations isn’t enough to get you saluting every Pindo flag flying over every McDonald’s you see, then you should know that the Pindo military’s freedom fighting doesn’t end at mere corporate asset protection. They’re also defending your freedom by killing Afghan farmers in their sleep.

Why did the armed forces of Pindostan kill dozens of civilian farmers in Afghanistan while they rested in the field after a hard day’s work? That’s a good question. But an even better question is, what were those Afghan farmers doing lying on top of your freedom? Obviously the compassionate Pindo military would never dream of killing non-combatants under any circumstances whatsoever, but the unfortunate fact of the matter is that you can’t make an omelet without cracking a few civilians. Those dead farmers were collateral damage, caught in the crossfire of a a life-or-death struggle for freedom and democracy in a nation that surely has something to do with defending those things somehow. It is certainly a loss that civilians perish in this way on a regular basis in Afghanistan, but that’s a small price to pay for everything we’ve gained as a result of that eighteen-year occupation, such as [research what’s been gained and put here in second draft]. Yes, whether they’re defending Toad Aramco profit margins, bombing field laborers, encircling the planet with hundreds of military bases, stockpiling nuclear weapons, funneling weapons to extremist militias, toppling governments, destabilizing large regions, inflicting siege warfare upon civilians via starvation sanctions, or just generally dominating the entire world using the carrot of military alliance and the stick of military retribution, you can rest assured that the Pindo military is giving your freedoms the best protection that petrodollars and war profiteering can buy.

why corbyn is becoming a pest

Corbyn allies believe Watson is using the issue of Brexit to drive a wedge between the Labour leader and the party’s overwhelmingly pro-Remain activists. In his speech earlier this month, Watson said his party must “unambiguously and unequivocally back Remain,” something Corbyn has reiterated in recent days he believes is the wrong approach. As well as irritating the leadership, Watson has had a long-running feud with Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, Labour’s biggest donor. The pair were once close friends, but have clashed over Corbyn’s leadership and Brexit. Len McCluskey insists that advocating an unequivocally anti-Brexit stance at the election will be toxic among Labour Leave voters. In May, as Watson became increasingly vocal about the party’s Brexit policy, McCluskey said:

Tom Watson’s already out, surprise surprise, trying to take on the role of Prince Machiavelli, but I’ve got news for Tom: Machiavelli was effective. He’s a poor imitation of that. If he’s trying to turn Labour members against Corbyn and in his favour, then he’s going to lose disastrously. And there will be others in the coming days who try and do the same. Now is the time to hold your nerve, because a general election, which is the only thing that will resolve this situation, is closer now than anything.

The failed Watson plot exposes what really scares Corbyn and his coterie
Andrew Rawnsley, Groon, Sep 22 2019

On the eve of the Labour conference, a poll was published that gave Jeremy Corbyn a negative personal approval rating of minus 60 points. Yes, you read that right, minus 60 points. These are depths of unpopularity never plumbed by any opposition leader in the more than 40 years that pollsters have been recording this figure. Even Michael Foot wasn’t that disliked by the British public in the run-up to Labour’s landslide defeat at the hands of Margaret Thatcher in 1983. To have a candidate for prime minister who is that repellent to the country is a problem for Labour, especially when it is facing a general election. To Mr Corbyn’s allies, the answer is obvious: the deputy’s head must roll. The plot to oust Tom Watson by abolishing his post ought to be shocking and yet it is not that surprising to anyone who has been paying attention to the Labour party since it came under the control of Mr Corbyn and his friends. The stakes at this conference season are extraordinarily high. The Brexit crisis is coming to some kind of climax and nearly everyone assumes that an election will soon be upon us. The Lib Dems, who are pushing Labour into third place in some polls, put on a show of celebration of their recent successes at their Bournemouth conference. The Tories will strive to seem confidently together when they meet in Manchester next week.

Labour was already facing a struggle to mask its divisions during its week in Brighton, not least because the party’s splits about Brexit have not been resolved by the latest tortuous iteration of its policy. Labour’s difficulties in that regard gave the party even more of an incentive, or so you might have thought, to do its best to put on a united face about everything else. The conference ought to be an opportunity to showcase Labour’s programme, present the party as fit to fight that looming election and project themselves as ready for government. Even dissident Labour MPs had decided to be co-operative. Many are staying away from Brighton. Most who have made the trip to the Sussex coast went with the intention of not rocking the boat. And yet Mr Corbyn’s allies chose this moment, the last Labour conference before an election, to dynamite any pretence of unity and reignite the party’s civil war by conspiring to overthrow Mr Watson. They went about it in the most underhand and yet also clumsy way conceivable. The position of deputy leader, a fixture of Labour’s constitution for many decades, is directly elected by the members. Mr Watson secured the role in 2015 by winning a vote. If they wanted rid of him, there was a democratic way to go about it. That would have been to put up a challenger. He told the Today programme on Saturday:

If people want to remove me, let the members remove me.

Trying to take him out the democratic way has been discussed in Corbynista circles in the past. Deciding it was too difficult to pull off, they instead tried to “disappear” him in a way that recalled how Stalin’s henchmen would have politburo members who had incurred the displeasure of the Soviet dictator airbrushed from photographs. The move to abolish the deputy leadership was made with no advanced discussion or even notice. Nor was there any pretence that this was motivated by anything other than a desire to evaporate someone for expressing opinions Mr Corbyn doesn’t like. It was not on the agenda of the meeting of the national executive committee on Friday night, but sprung on the party’s governing body at the last minute. Mr Watson was not present. The first warning he received was via a text message while he was having dinner with his son at a Chinese restaurant in Manchester. In the wake of the conspiracy’s failure, the Labour leader’s spinners are briefing that Mr Corbyn himself did not know that his own capos were going to attempt a drive-by shooting of his deputy. I am struggling to type this without fainting in disbelief. The plot was undone by the scale of the backlash from MPs, shadow cabinet members, senior trade unionists and former Labour leaders. Even some Corbyn loyalists on the frontbench thought it madness and told him so. This ultimately impelled him to tell his gang to holster their weapons. There will instead be “a review” of the role of deputy; they still want his scalp.

Mr Watson broadly speaks for the centre-left Labour tradition that was dominant in the party’s history until the Corbynite takeover and that’s one of the things they can’t stand about him. They were paranoically angry when he set up an internal party group, Future Britain, to gather together non-Corbynite Labour people. He did that after a series of defections by Labour MPs and saw it as a way to stem further losses by offering a safe place for social democrats within the party; Corbynite zealots viewed it as treachery to the Dear Leader. The deputy leader has been increasingly bold in demanding that Labour adopts a much more robust stance on Brexit, expressing a view widely supported by Labour MPs, many of whom share his fear that the party will be severely punished at the election if it remains equivocal on the defining issue of our time. The leader and his coterie hate Mr Watson not so much for what he says but because he is a lot more representative of the anti-Brexit views of the majority of Labour supporters than is Mr Corbyn. No one is allowed to get between the leader and the adoration of the members by expressing a view that is more popular with them. To compound the Corbynite charge sheet of heresy and deviancy, Mr Watson has taken a vigorous stand about the party’s failure to deal with anti-Semitism in its ranks.

It’s not just business. It’s also personal. A key player in the scheme was Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, whose clout flows from the fact that his union is the party’s largest donor and the leader’s coterie is populated with his close associates. Once such good friends that they shared a flat together, he and Mr Watson have long been locked in a bitter feud. There’s no loathing so deep as that between former flatmates who have fallen out. There are also some less obvious dimensions to the anti-Watson plot, the public face of which was Jon Lansman, the chairman of Momentum. I think it is also an expression of a furious frustration that other schemes to eliminate critics, purge dissent and tighten their control of the party have not been going entirely to plan. Non-Corbynite Labour MPs are being exposed to a leadership-sanctioned and Momentum-organised effort to have them deselected and replaced with more compliant candidates for the election. This began at the beginning of September and the results are starting to come through. In much greater numbers than was anticipated, Labour MPs, including astringent critics of Mr Corbyn’s leadership, have been defeating attempts to evict them from their seats. Some have been reconfirmed as candidates by substantial margins, worrying the Corbynites that their control over the party membership is weakening.

If Labour is again rejected by the country, it is almost certain that Corbyn, who will then be a two-time election loser, will have to go. Even some of his most fervent admirers will conclude that he cannot carry on as leader. His departure will trigger a titanic struggle for the soul of the party. So another, and I think correct, way of reading the failed anti-Watson plot is as a sign of how much they fear losing control. When you might expect all the focus to be on winning the election, the Corbynite left are desperate to tighten their grip on the party for fear it will be broken by another election defeat. Authoritarian attempts to stifle dissent, ferocious sectarianism and heavy-booted stamping on the tolerant traditions of our democracy are not confined to Labour. Over in the increasingly noxious Tory party, MPs are being deselected by Brexit ultras in their constituencies, and Boris Johnson purged 21 Conservative MPs, including several former cabinet ministers, for opposing a crash-out Brexit. His enforcer, Dominic Cummings, summarily sacked an aide to the chancellor for “disloyalty” and then had her marched out of No 10 by an armed copper. This is a big and poisonous change in the culture of British politics. Both the Conservatives and Labour used to be proud to call themselves broad churches, capable of encompassing and speaking for many strands of opinion and they made that central to their appeal to the electorate. Now both are behaving like viciously intolerant sects.

Brexit divisions threaten to plunge Labour party conference into chaos
Toby Helm, Michael Savage, Groon, Sep 21 2019

Jeremy Corbyn was struggling to contain an open revolt by some of his most senior shadow ministers, MPs and party activists last night as anger over his refusal to back a policy of remaining in the EU threatened to wreck the Labour conference. With delegates already reeling from a failed attempt by Corbyn supporters to oust Tom Watson and abolish his role as deputy leader, anger erupted amid accusations that the leadership was trying to block democratic debate and fudge a decision about where Labour stands on the issue of leaving the EU. What was supposed to be a conference to showcase a party united behind new policies on education and health before a likely general election instead opened amid bitterness and acrimony, with a defiant Watson still in place, and Emily Thornberry, Keir Starmer and Clive Lewis, the shadow foreign secretary, Brexit secretary and Treasury minister, publicly defying Corbyn by backing Remain. Leading a march through the streets of Brighton in favour of a people’s vote yesterday, hours after Corbyn had tabled a motion to the national executive committee (NEC) in favour of delaying a decision on whether to back Remain or Leave, Thornberry said:

We have got to campaign to remain. We have got to stop messing around.

At the same event Starmer insisted that he would back Remain because “it’s about what sort of country you want to be,” while Lewis accused Corbyn of trying to use union block votes to stifle the views of the mass membership which had propelled him to the leadership in the first place. Their defiance came as news emerged that Labour’s head of policy, Andrew Fisher, a key Corbyn aide who masterminded the 2017 election campaign, had resigned, reportedly telling colleagues he did not believe the party could win a general election. In a memo to colleagues, Fisher is said to have accused Corbyn’s team of a “lack of professionalism, competence and human decency.” A leading leftwing activist, Michael Chessum, who has coordinated local party efforts to push a pro-Remain motion through conference, told the Observer that patience among delegates was running out as the leadership appeared intent on defying ordinary members and imposing central control. He said:

There is a really surreal edge to the atmosphere, partly exacerbated by attempts to delete Tom Watson, but also on Brexit. We have a party that wants Remain, voters overwhelmingly wanting clarity, MPs that want Remain and a front bench that wants Remain, and yet a ludicrous insistence that the party machine might not back them.

The conference is now heading for a series of flashpoint moments. On Sunday there will be key discussions on what Brexit motion goes forward for debate and a vote on the conference floor on Monday. Then on Tuesday Watson is planning to make his own call for unity in his deputy leader’s speech, before Corbyn’s keynote address on Wednesday. Our poll today shows Labour on 22%, Tories on 37%, Lib Dems on 17% and Brexit Party on 12%. Alarmingly for Labour, 58% of those polled now think the Tories have a clear policy on Brexit, against just 31% of voters who say Labour’s approach is clear. 33% of Remain voters now plan to vote for the Lib Dems, and the same number for Labour. In April, only around 10% of Remain voters planned to vote for the Lib Dems and nearer 50% planned to vote Labour. Yesterday’s ructions over Brexit broke out after it emerged that Corbyn had tabled a statement to the NEC saying that, while the party backed a referendum and would offer the options of a credible Brexit deal or Remain to voters, a decision on how it would campaign in a second public vote would be left until after a general election. Pro-Remain activists and senior party figures who have campaigned for months to shift policy were outraged. They saw the move as an attempt to kill off debate and block a conference vote on their own pro-Remain motion. Last night, however, the leader’s office appeared to back off. It told delegates that the pro-Remain motion would not be superseded by the NEC statement, and would still be debated. It now appears that two competing votes, one on the NEC statement, and the other explicitly backing Remain, could be debated and voted on on Tuesday. Asked yesterday if he had known about the plan to oust Watson, put forward to the NEC on Friday by Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, Corbyn swerved the question. Then after an outcry, and protests from senior figures including the former party leaders Tony Blair and Ed Miliband, Corbyn said that the plan would not proceed and would be replaced by a review into the role of the deputy leader. Watson, who is understood to think Corbyn was fully aware, described the attempt to oust him as a “drive-by shooting”, adding in a BBC interview:

I got a text message in a Chinese restaurant in Manchester to say that they were abolishing me. It’s a straight sectarian attack on a broad-church party and it’s moving us into a different kind of institution where pluralism isn’t tolerated, where factional observance has to be adhered to completely and it kind of completely goes against the sort of traditions that the Labour party has had for 100 years.