Tag: boris johnson

Fantasy Island

Best Episodes of Fantasy Island | List of Top Fantasy ...

I haven’t written anything on this site for a while now.  It’s actually rather difficult to know what to write when confronted with the astonishing spectacle of national self-destruction that is unfolding in front of our eyes.  Nowadays hardly a day passes without another  reminder that the UK has entered a new political dimension in which delusions of grandeur, magical thinking and ideological fantasy have replaced anything that we once thought had any connection to the real world.

These tendencies reach across the political spectrum.  You can find them in George Galloway, doing the full UKIP/Churchill thing on Arron Banks’s Westmonster website (sorry not linking to this) and reminding Europeans that WE saved them during WWII and that ‘If not for us not a single European politician would hold office anywhere unless as a Quisling collaborator of the German Reich.’  For the Churchillian war-child Galloway this means that ‘ when I hear a “Schnell” or an “Achtung” from the Junkers (sic) of this world I don’t consider it music in my ears.’

Let no one spoil this demagogic rant by telling Galloway that Jean-Claude Juncker comes from Luxembourg not Germany. He already knows that.  But for Galloway, anyone who has anything to do with the EU is close enough to Nazis to make no difference, and anyone who says otherwise, like Churchill’s opponents, belong to what he calls ‘the gang of appeasers and fifth columnists within the British elite.’

Such idiocy, as we have seen for some time now, is not confined to the fringes.  Take Boris Johnson’s latest fatuous suggestion comparing the border between  Northern Ireland and Ireland to a congestion zone between Westminster and Camden.  Never one to resist blowing his own trumpet, Johnson reminded Radio 4 listeners ‘ when I was mayor of London we anesthetically and invisibly took hundreds of millions of pounds from the accounts of people traveling between those two boroughs without any need for border checks.’

Many people have pointed out that it may not be so easy to ‘anesthetically and invisibly’ bypass Irish history or a conflict that cost 3,000 lives.  It’s a bleak testament to the current state of things that such points even need to be made, or that a self-aggrandising buffoon like Johnson has any influence on anything at all.  But his continued presence in the corridors of power is a symptom of a detachment from reality that only seems to grow wider as the Brexit process slouches incoherently  towards political Neverland.

For eighteen months the May government has been asking for things it cannot have, promising things it cannot deliver, bluffing, posturing, and pursuing things that cannot be achieved, even as its own impact assessments predict that the country will be worse off in every single Brexit scenario.   Yet when civil servants point out the potential damage that the country is likely to inflict on itself, they are dismissed as traitors, quislings, closet Eurocrats or members of the ‘pro-European elite’.

Humankind cannot bear very much reality, wrote TS Eliot, and Brexiters cannot bear any reality at all that conflicts with their fantasy of a global buccaneering Britain, freed of EU red tape and the unwanted immigrants that the country depends on, able to smoke in pubs as we surge toward a brave new world that we now know will not be a ‘Mad Max-style’ dystopia.

In fact a country that allows its politics to be driven by ideological fantasies and straw man constructs is likely to find itself inhabiting a reality that is more dystopian than its opposite, and the right aren’t the only dreamers in Brexittown.  On Monday, Jeremy Corbyn once again demonstrated that the left is no less prone to magical thinking than the Rees-Mogg/Nadine Dorries crowd.

Corbyn’s speech was hailed by his fans as a ‘ bold Brexit vision’, because his fan base will never say anything different about anything he says.  But despite – or perhaps because of – its attempt to be everything to everyone, his speech was littered with little reminders of why His Majesty’s Opposition have presented very little opposition whatsoever to the Brexit process,  and has largely fallen over itself in its desire to wave it through.

There was a leftwing version of the ‘£350 million for the NHS’ pledge in Corbyn’s promise to ‘use funds returned from Brussels after Brexit to invest in our public services and the jobs of the future, not tax cuts for the richest.’  While insisting that there should be ‘no scapegoating of migrants’, Corbyn once again promised that ‘Our immigration system will change and freedom of movement will as a statement of fact end when we leave the European Union.’

So migrants won’t be scapegoated, but freedom of movement – one of the great progressive achievements of the European Union – will end  in order ‘ To stop employers being able to import cheap agency labour to undercut existing pay and conditions’.

When Corbyn last mentioned this ‘importation’, it was in relation to the construction industry, which has a skills shortage and where wages are actually rising.   But Corbyn clearly believes that immigration is a ‘bosses club’ ploy and in Brexit Britain believing is everything.   Corbyn won’t accept a ‘ deal that left Britain as a passive recipient of rules decided elsewhere by others’ even though the EU has made it quite clear that it will not accept cherry-picking deals that allow the UK to continue to enjoy a privileged position without any obligations.   Then there is this:

‘There will be some who will tell you that Brexit is a disaster for this country and some who will tell you that Brexit will create a land of milk and honey. The truth is more down to earth and it’s in our hands. Brexit is what we make of it together, the priorities and choices we make in the negotiations.’

Not really.  Because whatever priorities and choices we decide upon, the UK is negotiating within a very limited set of parameters and is almost certain to find itself worse-off than it was before, no matter what is ultimately decided.  The tragedy is that neither the government nor the opposition want to admit this. Mesmerised by their own narrow party or personal interests, wide-eyed and prostrate before ‘the will of the people’, they offer fantasies and pipedreams and demand the impossible in an attempt to square circles that cannot be connected.

Sooner or later the consequences of this political cowardice and dereliction of duty will become impossible to ignore, and when that happens things may get even uglier than many of us imagine.  Because there are historic mistakes that cannot easily be undone, and Brexit is one of them.

For now, it seems, the millions of us who are unwilling passengers on this runaway train can merely sit while it heads towards the buffers, hostages to a political nightmare that we seem incapable of waking up from, shouting out warnings that those who are driving this process seem unable or unwilling to hear, and from the point of view of a writer – and a citizen – that is not a comfortable position to be in at all.

The above article was written by Matt Carr and originally published on his excellent blog, Matt Carr’s Infernal Machine at:

http://www.infernalmachine.co.uk/fantasy-island/

 

Masters of war: How the corporate media deceive the public

By Daniel Margrain

Mainstream <b>Media</b> <b>Lies</b> About Charleston, Guns & Racism With ...

In September, 2016, UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, effectively announced that the British government had channeled £2.3 billion in support of propaganda campaigns in Syria of which charities and NGOs like Hand in Hand, the Syria Campaign and the funding of terrorist mercenary forces, are an integral part.

It has been noted that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), working with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Home Office and the Prime Minister’s Office, formed contracts companies for the express purpose of creating ‘targeted information’.

The means by which this is achieved is through the production of videos, photos, military reports, radio broadcasts, print products and social media posts branded with the logos of fighting groups. One of the most prominent of the groups allegedly overseen by the MoD, are the White Helmets, who Johnson named, and whose members are affiliated to Islamist terrorist groups.

The corporate mainstream media are failing in their duty to reveal what the true foreign policy objectives of Johnson and his government are in Syria and the wider middle east region, nor have elite corporate journalists critically evaluated their own integration within the state apparatus.

By acting as echo chambers for Western imperial power, the role of the said journalists when reporting on foreign affairs is akin to stenography. Examples include the Telegraph’s reaction to the Houla massacre of May 25, 2012 which cast Syria into the ‘civil war’ and the widespread misrepresentation of the UN report into the Ghouta chemical attack of August 21, 2013.

Then there has been the rush to judgement by Guardian and New York Times journalists in relation to the alleged April 4, 2017 sarin attack in the Syrian town of Khan Seikhoun, and the media’s failure to follow-up on allegations made by investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, that the CIA, with the support of M16, was responsible for ensuring the transportation of arms by Islamist groups from Libya to Syria.

The BBC Panorama documentary, Saving Syria’s Children, Channel 4 News, Up Close With the Rebels and the fake The Caesar Torture Photos story,  illustrate the extent to which the media has attempted to disorientate the public. These examples of ‘news’ functioning as propaganda in the service of power in relation to Syria, however, represent the tip of a huge iceberg.

Independent researcher and investigative journalist, Vanessa Beeley, has meticulously documented numerous occasions where the BBC and Channel 4 News have relied solely on unsubstantiated and biased Syrian opposition ‘rebel’ sources for its reports, and where dissenters of the official narrative have been smeared and abused by Guardian journalists simply for asking ‘difficult’ questions.

Moreover, the heavy reliance on what were clearly fake reports by al-Jazeera and CNN,  intended to sway public opinion in support of foreign intervention in Syria, adds fuel to the fire of those who accuse the elite media of being nothing more than conduits for  state power when it comes to their reporting of foreign affairs that involves the interests of the imperialist nations and their proxies.

Recent reports of protests throughout Iran, which investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed stated were fomented by the U.S State Department, are the consequence of harsh U.S economic sanctions of the sort used against Iraq and Syria. But this kind of ’cause and effect’ analysis is totally absent from mainstream news reportage. In short, the inability of elite journalists to report critically on foreign affairs which have the potential to cast the empire in a bad light, is indicative of a democratic deficit.

This is reflected in the highly concentrated nature of media ownership. Writer Tom London points out that almost 48% of the combined print and online press is owned by just two billionaires – Rothermere and Murdoch – and 75.1% is owned by just six billionaires. These media barons have shared economic interests with the military and political establishment that perpetual war helps facilitate. The securing of these narrow interests are antithetical to the notion of a fair, free and open media.

Author Ed Jones points to other factors that are symptomatic of the lack of democracy at the heart of the media system. These include its domination by privately-educated white men, the politicisation of sources and the manipulation of the press by the intelligence services.

The billionaire media barons understand the importance, not only of spending huge amounts of money on advertising and public relations, but also of employing ‘liberal-left’ journalists whose apparent principal role is to function as ‘gate-keepers’ for established power. Indeed, what John Pilger referred to as “counterfeit journalism” in which “the surface of events is not disturbed”, is central to the ability of the media barons to engineer the public’s consent.

As Jones points out, it’s the billionaires who own the press that set the news agenda. The BBC, who are among the forefront of news agenda-setting media in the UK, play a particularly pernicious role in the propaganda process by amplifying it due to their reputation for alleged impartiality.

However, the central role of the British state broadcaster is to spread ‘British values’ to a global market in much the same way the U.S government spends hundreds of millions annually on outfits like RFE/RL in order to spread ‘American values’.

In other words, the default position of the British state broadcaster is their false sense of entitlement to report selectively on international affairs in order to protect perceived “British interests”. Thus, embedded journalism that ignores ‘our’ criminality is deemed to be acceptable based on the flawed premise that elected politicians serve the people, and that it is the task of the BBC to support, not undermine, democracy.

The founder of the BBC, Lord Reith, was more honest in his assessment of the structural bias of the media, the BBCs role within it, and its relationship to the elite political-media class: “[The establishment] know they can trust us not to be really impartial”, he said.

The recent willingness by the BBC to offer an uncritical platform to the head of the CIA is an example of the corporations dual function role as purveyor of state propaganda in which both Westminster and Washington benefit. Apparently, propaganda only becomes a “problem” when Russia’s state broadcaster, Russia Today (RT), are themselves accused of actively promoting it.

As historian Mark Curtis pointed out, the simple truth is elites do not believe the public has a right to know what is being done in their name. The questioning of prevailing narratives leads critics open to smears and abuse. In relation to Syria, Louis Allday posited that to express “even a mildly dissenting opinion … has seen many people ridiculed and attacked [by liberal-left journalists] … These attacks are rarely, if ever, reasoned critiques of opposing views”.

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Why the corporate media continue to obfuscate in relation to Assad sarin attack claims

By Daniel Margrain

“A new report from the UN has found that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are to blame for a deadly chemical attack that killed more than 90 people in a rebel village earlier this year”, proclaimed a recent Independent article.

Contradicting what the paper alluded was a definitive statement of fact, the article continued:

“The investigation from the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), released on Thursday [October 26], said that experts are confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017”.

UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, was quick to emphasize the former interpretation when he stated:

“The independent [OPCW] report from expert investigators reach a clear conclusion: the Assad regime used sarin nerve gas against the people of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria on 4 April with tragic consequences for hundreds of victims.”

However, Russian officials claimed that the reports methodology, that included the sequence and storage of material evidence, the use of fake evidence and biased sources, was flawed.

The Russian claims appear to be credible. Details outlined by Moon of Alabama indicate that the alleged gas attack was used by the US government as their justification to launch an illegal missile strike on Syria’s al-Shayrat airbase on April 7, three days later. The decision to attack the airbase, in other words, had already been made; that it preceded the justification, which was being retrofitted to an act of aggression.

It’s a measure of the extent to which the mass media have become embedded within the deep state of government that president Trump, with near-unanimous journalistic support, was able to launch the April 7 attack on the airbase. Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News (April 10, 2017), for example, stated without evidence to support her assertion, that the US attack was “in retaliation to a sarin gas attack by president Assad”.

We’ve been here before

The release of the latest OPCW-UN report follows on the heels of another similarly flawed August, 2015 OPCW-UN report in connection with Security Council resolution 2235. The report which was aimed at introducing new sanctions against Syria didn’t make the claims subsequently attributed to it by the corporate media, namely that between April, 2014 and August, 2015 the Assad government was definitively responsible for three chemical attacks using chlorine.

Referring to the August, 2015 reports many caveats and reservations, security analyst Charles Shoebridge argued that the evidence “wasn’t sufficiently good to declare that Syria had dropped chlorine to a standard that could be considered “strong”, or “overwhelming”, adding that “investigators were largely reliant on reports from the [pro-rebel terror organisation] the White Helmets.”

Furthermore, independent journalist Gareth Porter inferred that U.N. investigators increasingly make their conclusions fall in line with Western propaganda after he exposed distortions contained in a March 1, 2017 report by the United Nations’ “Independent International Commission of Inquiry which claimed that an airstrike on a humanitarian aid convoy in the west of Aleppo City on September. 19, 2016, was undertaken by Syrian government planes. Porter revealed that the reports findings, also based on White Helmets testimonies, were “full of internal contradictions.”

Purveyor of propaganda

Despite the reservations as to the veracity of previous UN reports outlined, Boris Johnson’s eagerness to uncritically promote the latest OPCW offering is indicative of his role as a purveyor of UK government propaganda.

He has form in this regard. In September last year, for example, Johnson engaged in a piece of foreign office-produced theatre. The UK foreign secretary claimed the government had earmarked £2.3 billion towards supporting human rights organisations in Syria.

The money, however, was almost certainly channeled into promoting sophisticated propaganda campaigns and the funding of mercenary forces. The ultimate objective, as French foreign minister Roland Dumas admitted, is regime change in Syria that the UK government have “prepared, conceived and organised.”

However, impending defeat for the West in Syria prompted rhetorical flourishes from mainstream reporters and politicians alike that have shifted from the surreal to the absurd. Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, for example, described the liberation of Aleppo as a “tragedy”.

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Burying Bad News in the Killing Fields of Yemen

By Daniel Margrain

Philip Hammond and Saudi Arabia's Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud

UNICEF reported at least one child is dying every 10 minutes in Yemen and that there has been a 200 percent increase since 2014 in children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, with almost half a million affected. Nearly 2.2 million are acutely malnourished in need of urgent care. An estimated 21 million people – nearly double the number of people who need aid in Syria – require humanitarian assistance in a country where more than 60 per cent of Yemeni’s, according to the UN, are close to starvation. This comes as the country’s health system is on the verge of collapse, in part due to the ongoing US-UK – backed Saudi bombing of the country which began in March 2015.

During the latest wave of 45 airstrikes across the country that began last Sunday (January 22), a school just outside the capital, Sana’a, was hit and 70 people had reportedly been killed in fresh fighting. According to UN figures reported in Reuters, an estimated 10,000 civilians have so far been killed as a direct result of the Saudi-led coalition bombing. However, as the UK government does not keep a record of Yemen’s ‘unpeople’ killed in airstrikes, nor does it have any record of how many “guided missile kits” it has sold to the Saudi regime, the real figure is likely to be much higher. A UN study found that 60 per cent have died from Saudi-led aerial bombardments in the Houthi-controlled north of the country. Journalist Sharif Abdel Kouddous who was based in this region commented:

“Everything has been hit, from homes to schools, restaurants, bridges, roads, a lot of civilian infrastructure. And with that, of course, comes a lot of the suffering.”

The forgotten war

Despite this humanitarian disaster, Yemen has largely been the mass media’s forgotten war having initially been buried a week after Murtaza Hussain revealed the release of previously suppressed documents contained within a 2002 congressional report that emphasized possible links between high-ranking members of the Saudi royal family and the 9/11 hijackers.

Instead, the focus of the mass media has been their demonization of Russia in relation to the proxy-war being fought in Syria. As terrible as the suffering has been for the Syrian people, the humanitarian situation in Yemen is far worse. Not only is it the poorest country in the Middle East whose people suffered widespread malnutrition before the war, but people have no disposable income in order to be able to pay to get themselves out of the country.

Also, Yemen borders the country that is bombing it which severely hinders the ability of people to flee. Even fishermen have been bombed in their boats off the coasts, which rules out the option of going across the sea to get out of the country. The inability of the people to cope with the restriction on imports, in addition to two years of Saudi-led coalition bombing has culminated in a situation in which 18.8 million people are now in need of some form of humanitarian aid.

Breaking international law

Both the UK and US governments are major backers of Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign. In August last year, the latter approved more than 1bn in military sales to Saudi Arabia, while UK export licenses to the regime were said to be worth more than £1.7 bn up to the first six months of 2015. According to analysis by eminent international law experts commissioned by Amnesty International UK and Saferworld, by continuing to trade with Saudi Arabia in arms in the context of its military intervention and bombing campaign in Yemen, the British government is breaking national, EU and international law.

The lawyers, Professor Philippe Sands QC, Professor Andrew Clapham and Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh of Matrix Chambers, conclude in their comprehensive legal opinion that, on the basis of the information available, the UK Government is acting in breach of its obligations arising under the Arms Trade Treaty, the EU Common Position on Arms Exports and the UK’s Consolidated Criteria on arms exports by continuing to authorise transfers of weapons and related items to Saudi Arabia within the scope of those instruments, capable of being used in Yemen.

They conclude:

“Any authorisation by the UK of the transfer of weapons and related items to Saudi Arabia… in circumstances where such weapons are capable of being used in the conflict in Yemen, including to support its blockade of Yemeni territory, and in circumstances where their end-use is not restricted, would constitute a breach by the UK of its obligations under domestic, European and international law….The UK should halt with immediate effect all authorisations and transfers of relevant weapons pending an inquiry” (emphasis added).

According to Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK:

“This legal opinion confirms our long-held view that the continued sale of arms from the UK to Saudi Arabia is illegal, immoral and indefensible. Thousands of civilians have been killed in Saudi Arabia-led airstrikes, and there’s a real risk that misery was ‘made in Britain’.”

UK complicity & the targeting of civilians

Iona Craig, who won the 2016 Orwell Prize for Journalism, has investigated numerous Saudi-led airstrike sites in Yemen. In an interview on Channel 4 News in December, 2015, Craig asserted that during these strikes, which she said are a regular occurrence, the Saudi’s targeted public buses and a farmers market.

Remnants from a bomb that Craig pulled from a civilian home that killed an eighteen month old baby as well as a four old and their uncle, were American made. Craig at the time stated that she had not personally uncovered evidence of British made weapons but has since corrected this view in the light of subsequent events.

The fact that, as Craig stated, there are twice as many British made aircraft in the Saudi Royal air force than there are in the British Royal air force, and that the British train and supply them with weapons, is by itself, tantamount to the UK government being complicit in the deaths of innocent Yemeni civilians.

Craig emphasized that she has seen evidence which suggests civilian casualties in Yemen are the result of deliberate targeting rather than “collateral damage”. Among the numerous cases the journalist has examined there have been no Houthi positions or military targets in the vicinity – a contention which she claims is supported by the pro-coalition side.

Britain’s active participation in Yemen began in September, 2015 following the bombing by Saudi Arabia of a ceramics factory in Sana’a close to the Yemeni capital which was confirmed as a civilian target. Fragments of a British made missile that had been built by Marconi in the 1990s had been recovered from the scene. With the British providing technical and other support staff to the Saudi-led coalition, the UK government’s role in the conflict is to augment US support as part of a broad-based coalition.

In December, 2015, the US State Department approved a billion-dollar deal to restock Saudi Arabia’s air force arsenal. The sale included thousands of air-to-ground munitions and “general purpose” bombs of the kind that, in October 2015, the Saudi’s used to target an MSF hospital. On the 15 December, 2015, 19 civilians were killed by a Saudi-led coalition raid in Sana’a.

Double-tap strikes

During a recent interview for LBC, Craig said that one of the tactics the Saudi-led coalition have adopted is to strike locations they had previously bombed which invariably kill first responders at the scene of atrocities who are trying their best to rescue the bodies of survivors. The casualties from such attacks outnumber the original bombings. Craig said she has personally witnessed attacks by coalition forces on a civilian market in which twelve people died in the initial attack and a further fifty or more had been killed in the follow-up attack. According to Craig, houses in Sana’a have been hit multiple times, which contradicts the myth that such targets are errors. Airstrikes of this nature are not isolated incidences as the media often portray. As Craig said in the interview:

“They [airstrikes] happen on a regular basis…The Saudi-led coalition have hit 58 hospitals and 39 markets. Routine targets include petrol stations and public markets. …Between March, 2015 when the war started to the end of August, the Yemen Project gathered all of the figures and calculated that there were 8,600 single incidences and amongst that over 3,000 hit civilian sites.”

Public relations

Facing mounting pressure from human rights groups, last month the Obama administration engaged in what was essentially a public relations exercise by announcing that the US government would halt the sale of precision-guided weapons to the Saudi regime. It’s likely the US government will attempt to get around this by selling them to other members of what is a multinational coalition.

In any case, the US government continues to provide its allies with intelligence and there is no indication that its major US ally, the UK, intends to end its authorization of over £1 billions’ worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia over the course of the war.

But most significantly of all, is that Obama’s announcement will do nothing to prevent the refueling of coalition aircraft. Logistically, without being able to refuel, fighter jets are unable to continue with their sorties. As Craig pointed out, this “would stop the bombing campaign literally tomorrow…If the U.S. government did want to stop the bombing campaign, they could do it…But they’re still heavily involved in the whole campaign carrying on.”

Lying to parliament

Towards the end of July last year, the UK government stood accused of repeatedly misleading parliament about Britain’s role in Yemen – news that was buried until its release in the final hours of the last day of the parliamentary term. Rather than accepting it has contravened International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and as a result says it wants to stop trading in illegal weapons of death with one of the most tyrannical regimes on the planet, the UK governments line has been to assure parliament that assessments into Saudi behaviour have been undertaken and that the country has not been abusing human rights in Yemen.

With talks between the country’s warring factions still deadlocked, the Foreign Office (FO) have retracted a series of statements on the crisis in the country describing them as “an error”, adding that no such assessments of human rights had ever been carried out. However, on July 21 last year, the government admitted misleading parliament on six different occasions telling MPs they had assessed Saudi conduct when they hadn’t, insisting that the Saudi’s weren’t breaking IHL. Amazingly, the UK government is not assessing whether the weapons they sell to the Saudi regime are being used in breach of IHL.

Having previously lied in an attempt to stitch-up Julian Assange in order to please his counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic, the then Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond went a stage further with his piece of mandarin-speak intended to cover-up his misleading of parliament as a justification to sell weapons that are being used to kill innocent men, women and children in Yemen. Hammond’s signing off weapons of death to one of the most brutal regimes on earth without them having been independently assessed beforehand, is indicative of just how detached Hammond is from the plight of his fellow human beings.

The government statement at the time read:

“We have NOT assessed that there has not been a breach of International Humanitarian Law by the coalition”.

This translates as that on no fewer than six occasions the coalition government misled parliament telling MPs that the Saudi’s were not breaching IHL in Yemen. However, they must of known they were. Late on Friday, June 22, 2016, former Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn, MP wrote to then Foreign Secretary, Hammond (now Chancellor):

“I urge Boris Johnson, as the new Foreign Secretary, to ensure that the Government does what you originally said it was doing and immediately assess whether IHL has been breached. A continued failure to undertake such an assessment would be an abdication of responsibility and will serve to further undermine Britain’s standing in the world.”

The jaw-dropping revelations which represent complete u-turns on previous answers that the UK parliament were given, are not just about the correction of six parliamentary answers, but have a direct impact on the people of Yemen and the families of the thousands of civilians who have lost their loved ones in the conflict.

Freedom of information 

The British governments role in the country initially only came to light following a Freedom of Information request that revealed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ (MOU) between the then Home Secretary Theresa May and her Saudi counterpart Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef which was signed secretly during the former’s visit to the Kingdom in 2014. The purpose of the MOU is to ensure that, among other secret deals, the precise details of the arms sales between the two countries is kept under wraps.

Questions about the precise role the UK, US and Saudi Arabia are playing in Yemen, as well as the extent to which UK weapons are implicated in the deaths of civilians, will redouble in the months ahead, particularly after activists won their battle to take the government to court over the affair set for next month (February, 2017). No amount of attempts by the media to bury the Yemen conflict from the headlines will alter that fact.

The government tried to bury some very bad news last July and got found out. As long as there exists alternative media to bring the government to account, they will continue to be exposed for their criminal activities.

COPYRIGHT

All original material created for this site is ©Daniel Margrain. Posts may be shared, provided full attribution is given to Daniel Margrain and Road To Somewhere Else along with a link back to this site. Using any of my writing for a commercial purpose is not permitted without my express permission. Excerpts and links, including paraphrasing, may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Daniel Margrain and Road To Somewhere Else with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Unless otherwise credited, all content is the site author’s. The right of Daniel Margrain to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

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A message to the people of Stoke & Copeland: Let’s propel Nuttall & the UKIP P*ss-taker’s into the dustbin of history

Paulnuttall.jpg

By Daniel Margrain

During his barnstorming speech at the last Labour Party Conference, Jeremy Corbyn said:

“If you believe, like me, it’s a scandal that here in Britain, in the sixth biggest economy in the world, 4 million children are in poverty, 6 million workers are paid less than the living wage. And if, like me, you believe we can do things far better, then help me build support for a genuine alternative that will invest in our future – a more prosperous future – in which the wealth we all create is shared more equally.”

Buoyed by both the electoral success of Trump, and the disorientation of large sections of the Left resulting largely from the growth in right-wing populism throughout Europe, Paul Nuttall will exploit these issues during this coming Thursday’s Stoke and Copeland by-election campaigns by cynically using the kind of socialist language of Corbyn above, in an attempt to steal the Labour vote.

Nuttall, who gained a fraction of the votes secured by Corbyn during their respective leadership campaigns, denies climate change and opposes abortion and gay marriage. He is also in favour of capital punishment, fox hunting, NHS privatization and lied when he claimed to have been “a survivor of the Hillsborough disaster.” The latest scandal emerged on February 18 when a UKIP canvasser was allegedly caught on CCTV urinating on the house of 73-year-old widow Marjorie Pinches, from Northwood in Stoke.

Rarely is the political-media establishment willing to discredit the kind of fascist cult UKIP represents, particularly when faced with the potential threat of a genuine socialist alternative. But to their credit, up until now, they have done a pretty good job of exposing Nuttall for the lying, homophobic, racist and xenophobic thug that he is.

Class consciousness

What would appear to be a growing class consciousness among a significant segment of the population is, I would contend, offset by a large minority of working class voters who are sympathetic to UKIPs right-wing message and who, too often, are persuaded to vote against their own interests. This would explain the reason why the UKIP vote among ordinary people during the forthcoming by-elections are unlikely to be insignificant.

As far back as the 1930s, Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci grasped that when confidence in the working class is high – like it was, for example, during the 1960s – people are less likely to be ‘brainwashed’ by the kind of extreme ruling class ideology represented by groups like UKIP than is the case when confidence in the class is relatively low, as it is now.

These kinds of contradictions help explain how the emergence of an opportunistic right-wing establishment tool like Nuttall is able to exploit the same political space as principled socialists. This is achieved by perpetuating the myth that the party Nuttall leads is in any way able to effectively represent the interests of an angry and disaffected working class, many of whom channel their anger and disaffection towards immigrants. Nuttall will hope to be able to channel this disillusionment at the ballot box in Stoke where anti-EU sentiment is high.

Unfortunately, some unprincipled and careerist Labour politicians like Rachel Reeves are also only too willing to pander to racists in order to grab their votes. For example, during an anti-immigration speech, she sought to ensure potential Labour voters that her party could be just as racist and reactionary as UKIP and the Tories. Similarly, a tweet by a long-standing Labour party member and Brexit-supporter, Scott Nelson, who I responded to in the wake of Nuttall’s victory (see below), illustrates that pandering to racist ideas is not the monopoly of right-wing and faux-left politicians.

Scott Nelson @SocialistVoice

“If Labour doesn’t take immigration seriously then UKIP will take control of the party’s heartlands in the north” 

Daniel Margrain Retweeted Scott Nelson

“No pandering to racists, sorry. If we lose votes, then so be it.”

People voted for Brexit for a multitude of reasons that include anti-establishment sentiments, the democracy argument, to give David Cameron a kick, naive wishful thinkingLexit and because they believed the brazen lies that the hard-right Vote Leave mob told them. However, it’s undeniable that a significant percentage of the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit, did so because they bought into the racist immigration fear-mongering ideas of extreme-right groups like UKIP and Britain First.

Given the level of contradictory working class consciousness outlined above, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that many working class UKIP voters who oppose the socialist principles and values espoused by Corbyn, nevertheless favour issues like taxing the rich and renationalizing the railways.

Deflector shield

It’s this kind of contradiction that underpins the genius of a propaganda system that demonizes political figures the establishment regard as a threat to the status quo. The corporate mainstream media tend to bash socialists like Corbyn while promoting bigots like Farage by giving the latter a media outlet such as a mainstream radio talk show with which to espouse reactionary right-wing views, because his role is akin to that of a deflector shield whose purpose is to conceal the political establishments own ineptitude.

The inability of the media in highlighting, in any fundamental way, the tensions that exist between Theresa May, Boris Johnson and EU ministers over the Brexit debacle is a case in point. Johnson’s contention, for example, that the EUs position amounting to an automatic trade-off between access to the single market and free movement was “complete baloney”, is a total misreading of the Lisbon Treaty that nevertheless went largely unchallenged in the media.

In response to Johnson’s outburst, German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble said in a rather sardonic fashion, If we need to do more, we’ll gladly send her Majesty’s foreign minister a copy of the Lisbon Treaty then he can read that there is a link between the single market and the four core principles in Europe.” The minister continued, “I can also say it in English, so if clarification is necessary, I can pay a visit and explain this to him in good English.”

Johnson’s assertion that the UK should already have triggered Article 50, was subsequently contradicted by May, while the three ministers tasked at extricating the UK from the EU are too busy fighting among themselves. Moreover, Johnson has spent a great deal of his time flying around Europe apologizing to everybody he has insulted. And yet, the media only tend to report on the lack of unity within the Labour ranks with regards to Brexit. Meanwhile, EU leaders continue to harden their stance against the Tories saying that they intend to rule out any cherry-picking in relation to the ability of Britain to access the single market.

Lowest common denominator

By demonizing Corbyn on the one hand, and with their disproportionate coverage of right-wing parties like the Tories and UKIP on the other, the media fail to bring real power to account. There can only be one reason why they have barely mentioned any of the tensions within the ruling class that have arisen over the Brexit debacle, and that’s because they regard Corbyn as the lightening rod for abuse and bad publicity.

The election of Paul Nuttall as leader of UKIP, whose image is more worker and street fighter than cheeky-chappy banker and financier, will not only serve as another establishment deflector shield, but is also intended to split the working class Labour vote by appealing to the lowest of common denominators. Like a journeyman who travels on a road without end in the anticipation that beyond the rainbow lies salvation, Nuttall’s race to the bottom is in reality, a race on a road to nowhere. I am hoping that come the vote on Thursday, the good people of Stoke and Copeland will see sense, and help propel UKIP to the dustbin of history where they belong.

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Enemies of the people, friends of democracy

By Daniel Margrain

The ruling last Thursday (November 3) by three High Court judges to allow MPs the right to a vote over the decision to Brexit was welcomed by this writer. Campaigners won their battle to defeat Theresa May’s attempt to use the Royal prerogative as a means of overriding parliamentary sovereignty. The decision of the judges to apply what is a matter of constitutional law, means that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without a vote in parliament. Below is the 2015 Referendum Bill Briefing Paper which appears to be consistent with assertions in the liberal media that the referendum result is advisory, not mandatory:

To reiterate:

“The UK does not have constitutional provisions which would require the results of a referendum to be implemented.”

Following the judges decision, and despite the legal clarity, some of the tabloid printed media ran with inflammatory headlines. The Daily Mail – the paper that in the 1930s supported Hitler fascism, for example (see graphic above) – referred to the judges responsible for upholding the rule of law, as “enemies of the people”. Even some Tory politicians got in on the act. Sajid Javid, for instance, described the decision as “an attempt to frustrate the will of the British people.”

What Javid appears to be unaware of, is that in British law it is not the role of an independent judiciary to uphold and implement the will of the people but to uphold the law. Parliament and elected MPs are subject to the will of the people, not judges.

Javid’s stigmatizing language undermines the important role played by an independent judiciary in terms of its ability to curtail crude populism. The undermining of the independence of the judiciary and the promotion and normalization of referenda, is concomitant to the prevailing hate-driven agendas of the tabloids. But this also fits into a wider right-wing political narrative in which simplistic binary approaches to often complex problems are preferred to process and nuance.

For example, in order to garner the support of right-wing  fringe elements, the former PM, David Cameron, stated that Article 50 would be triggered automatically following any vote to leave. This modus operandi has continued under Cameron’s successor, Theresa May, who continues to argue for a “hard Brexit” claiming that Article 50 should be invoked immediately without any parliamentary scrutiny or oversight.

These kinds of inferences to fascist ‘mob rule’ was effectively what the Conservative MP David Davies was arguing for when, on Twitter, he stated the following:

Nov 3

“Unelected judges calling the shots. This is precisely why we voted out. Power to the people!”

Here Davies is calling for a non-independent judiciary. The one word for a country where the judiciary is not independent, and where the law is expected to reflect the temporary feelings and emotions of the public – often built upon superstitions, lies and exaggerations – is “dictatorship”. The German constitution banned referenda precisely because they know how fascists came to power.

Modern, secular based constitutions that separate the judiciary from parliament exist in order to prevent the drift towards fascism. In order to prevent this from happening, it’s the job of the Conservative Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss MP, to defend the independence of the British judiciary. But instead of coming to their defense by publicly criticising Javid’s or Davies’s comments, or reprimanding the editors of the Daily Mail, she has remained almost silent.

By arguing against the decision of the High Court judges, Javid and Davies are, in effect, arguing against the legitimate right of British judges to enact British law in the context of the British sovereign parliament. From the perspective of the ‘leavers’ this would seem ironical since they were the people who were most anxious to press the point about the need to ensure Britain maintained its sovereign parliamentary status.

In the avoidance of confusion, parliament (legislature) makes laws and the government (executive) implements them. The role of the judiciary is to check the legality of those laws. The separation of these powers is an integral part of the proper functioning of the state. In ‘An Introduction to the Law of the Constitution (1915, 8th edition, p.38), Professor A.V. Dicey explains the precedent by which the principle underpinning British parliamentary sovereignty is set and, consequently, on what basis the Referendum Bill above was formulated.

Professor A.V Dicey’s century-old legal precedent states, “No person or body is recognized by the law as having a right to override or set aside the legislature of parliament” which “has the right to make or unmake any law whatever.” This simple precedent means “that it cannot be said that a law is invalid as opposed to the opinion of the electorate.” 

In this context, referenda are irrelevant because “the judges know nothing about any will of the people except insofar as that will is expressed by an act of parliament.” The point about the separation of powers is that the legislature and the judiciary protect the public from the possibility that the executive will act against the interests of society of which an all-powerful unchecked state is emblematic. But it also exists to protect the public from itself.

How does this play out in terms of the referendum?

Parliament not only has a responsibility to the 17.5 million British people who voted for Brexit, but it is also responsible to the 29 million people who didn’t (see graphic below).

The role of MPs, in which parliament is sovereign, is not to represent the wishes of the public (a common misconception), but rather to represent the interests of the public in their totality. In this sense, therefore, the interests of 29 million people override the wishes of 17 million people. The interests of the people in the country as a whole, in other words, are not served by committing economic suicide.

As almost the entire professional career of elected politicians is based on them scrutinizing legislation, it follows that what they regard as being in the best interests of the public carries more weight in the decision-making process than people who voted in the referendum on the basis of what they read in the Daily Mail or as a result of the lies uttered by politicians like Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson.

The fundamental nature of British representative parliamentary democracy is that the public elect a representative not a delegate. The sovereign and inviolate aspect of the system, in other words, means that British constituents elect MPs who they think will exercise their best judgement by voting – Whips notwithstanding – on issues that reflect their best interests.

As the majority of MPs supported remain, and the majority of constituents voted to leave, adopting the rationale described means that, logically, the latter voted against their own interests. Ensuring MPs vote in the best interests of their constituents is what parliamentary sovereignty means. In this regard, all of the pro-leave MPs who said the result of the referendum was a reflection of parliamentary sovereignty, were lying.

It is clear that the Tories wanted to by-pass the law in order to initiate a ‘hard Brexit’ without laying out the terms of such a strategy. The fact that the judges have forced a parliamentary vote – barring any successful appeal to the Supreme Court – means there now has to be proper scrutiny of its terms in advance of the vote. This is in sharp contrast to the continuation of the empty and meaningless “Brexit means Brexit” platitude uttered constantly by Theresa May.

David Cameron, called the referendum, clearly in the anticipation that his side would win. He also must of been aware that a victory for leave would not have been triggered automatically as the information contained in the leaflets sent to all households stated. In any event, the former PM resigned following the result of the referendum precisely because he knew he couldn’t fulfill the promise he had made to the electorate prior to the vote. Cameron’s unelected successor, is therefore tasked with clearing up a mess set in motion by the incompetency of her predecessor.

During the previous election campaign, the Tories manifesto promise was to remain in the single-market. Having so far failed to call an election over the debacle, May’s authority is highly questionable. She didn’t have a mandate before the judgement and she has even less of one now. My advise to Jeremy Corbyn and his team is to prepare for an early election.

The Tories Brexit debacle

By Daniel Margrain

 

Theresa May’s announcement that the decision to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty at the end of March at the latest, by-passing parliamentary debate, is a kick in the teeth for all those campaigners who argued that to do so would undermine due legal process in the wake of the passing of the 2015 Referendum Act. As I stated previously, in legal terms, the referendum decision to leave the EU was advisory not mandatory. What happened following the vote was therefore a matter of politics, not law.

However, the governments formal position was that it had no legal obligation to consult parliament on invoking Article 50 which gives Britain a two year period to negotiate the terms of its departure and insisted that every word of its defense had to be kept secret. But on September 23, crowdfunded group People’s Challenge lodged a court application to allow it to publish the governments argument. Six days later, the court ruled that the government must disclose the legal arguments on the procedure of Article 50.

The governments announcement to definitively invoke Article 50 while ignoring the rest of the process that Parliament set in train when it passed the 2015 Referendum Act, seems to be predicated on its ancient (archaic) use of the Royal Prerogative to trigger the process of the UK leaving the EU in the interest of the Government’s sectional and party political interest.

Indeed,  Teaching Fellow in Public Law and Jurisprudence at University College London, Thomas Fairclough concluded“it will be the Government, using the Royal Prerogative, who will decide if/when to trigger the Article 50 mechanism and take the United Kingdom out of the European Union.” By using the Royal Prerogative to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon this Government will be sweeping away rights at a stroke of a pen without the proper scrutiny of and a final decision being made by our Sovereign Parliament.

In announcing her proposed deadline for the triggering of Article 50 now, PM Theresa May said there will be time for preparatory work from all parties involved, which she hopes would lead to a “smoother process of negotiation”. May said that while she was willing to announce key landmarks in the Brexit timeline, she did not plan to continue sharing details during the negotiation process.“There’s a difference between not giving any commentary and giving a running commentary,” she said.

The lack of government transparency is bound to have implications in terms of whether foreign companies decide to invest in the UK. It’s incumbent on the government to be as open and transparent as possible in order to create the necessary conditions to allow companies to make an informed choice as to whether or not to invest in the UK.

According to the Telegraph, bosses of several of America’s banks and corporations have warned May that they will shift operations into Europe unless she can provide early clarity on the future shape of UK-EU relations. If the banks go, there will be virtually nothing left that the UK specializes in other than selling WMDs to whoever is prepared to meet the governments asking price, or making cars to sell to the Germans, Indians and Japanese.

The bad news was delivered to May in New York in a meeting with US investors, presumably intended to calm their nerves. According to an account by the Telegraph, May declined to provide information about how the UK government would approach the Brexit negotiations never mind when they would start. Neither May nor the government appear to have any idea about where the country is going or how long it will take to get their.

Try putting yourself, dear reader, into the shoes of the investors. If you had the best financial interests of your company and shareholders at heart, would you invest in a country that appeared to have no idea where it is going?

Estimates for job losses resulting from a “hard Brexit” range from 40,000 to 80,000 over the next decade. Furthermore, Chancellor, Philip Hammond has said that the retention of passport rights of bankers is highly unlikely given the constant calls from mainly Tory constituents demanding that immigration be curbed at any cost. As financial services are said to generate more than £66bn in tax in the UK, the consequences for society are potentially serious.

Meanwhile, EU leaders continue to harden their stance against the UK saying they will rule out any cherry-picking in relation to accessing the single-market. The negative consequences resulting from the UKs uncertainty surrounding Brexit is already happening. Job vacancies in the UKs financial sector have suffered a sharp decline since Brexit.

According to the Institute of Public Policy Research, for example, job openings in the financial sector have plunged 10 per cent across England, falling in every region during July and August. They attributed the decline to concerns whether the UK will retain its passport rights. London recorded a 13 per cent drop in job adverts.

Investment in infrastructure has also received a set back according to Standard and Poor, the ratings agency. In a note to clients, the agency said that private investment in infrastructural projects was under threat: “The biggest risks for infrastructural companies could be from an extended period potentially running for many years during which the terms of exit and replacement trade treaties with the UKs partners are renegotiated”, they said.

In other words, nobody wants to spend any money in a country where they don’t know where it’s going or how long it takes to get there. On the other hand, infrastructural assets might become cheaper as the pound sterling devalues. So we ought not be surprised if the Tories sell off what little infrastructure we have remaining to the Chinese and Saudi’s for short-term profitable gain.

The incompetence of people like Boris Johnson who led us into this mess and the mainstream media who failed to challenge him, have instead focused their ire on attacking Jeremy Corbyn, who argued in favour of the Remain position. How much longer Theresa May and her Tory government can insulate themselves from media criticism over the Brexit debacle, remains to be seen.