I’m taking a short break from the second and third posts promised in my most recent one. This is because I simply cannot let pass the gross distortions and character assassination carried out two days ago by the “usual suspects” in the right-wing press. To make matters worse, this was obviously picked up in pale imitation on the BBC’s Newsnight the same evening.
The Offending Front Pages
Jeremy Corbyn made a clear statement in the House of Commons on 14th March in which he supported May’s decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats, but called for tougher action to control the money-laundering by Russian oligarchs, including those close to Vladimir Putin. The Guardian in its fair-minded way reported how some of Labour’s backbenchers supported May’s stance over that of their own leader.
Even the US government under Trump has implemented the so-called Magnitsky Sanctions, named after the late whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky to target “politically significant” Russians. Our Labour Party and the Lib Dems have been pressing for such powers in the UK, but the people affected have been large donors to the Tory Party. Corbyn made this clear in his statement to the Commons on Wednesday. The Tories are now reluctantly bringing forward such powers.
True to form, the Mail and Sun spun this speech to make Corbyn look like a Putin stooge: the evidence you can see for yourselves above. Much more worryingly, BBC Two’s Neswnight (declaration: I’ve only seen the clip, not the programme as broadcast) photoshopped an image of Corbyn to, in effect, follow the Mail’s agenda, albeit in a more subtle way. The indefatigable Owen Jones appeared on the following night’s Newsnight to put in a robust defence of the truth, not the spin.
The Brits Like a War
The problem is that the politics favour the rush to judgement. When an outrage happens that potentially threatens us all, the “something must be done” mentality kicks in big-time. The gross miscarriage of justice of the Birmingham Six at the height of the IRA bombing campaign on the UK mainland is a good example. The Latin phrase for this is casus belli, literally “an excuse for war. European history of the last 500 years or more is littered with examples and the concept was around in classical Greek and Roman times.
The start of World War I is a good example: the counties of Europe just seemed ready for a fight. The assassination of Franz Ferdinand by a non-government agent just seemed to used as an excuse. Patriotism was rife: “It’ll be all over by Christmas!” was the confident cry. Oh dear, it wasn’t. I’ve never really underststood if there was a good reason to start the Great War, other than a bellicose feeling in the air. In my more whimsical moments, I put it all down to it being a fight between Queen Victoria’s grandchildren.
Please don’t understand me: I’m no pacifist: I believe fighting fascism and Nazism in World War II was necessary: a necessary evil. War is always the worst option. In 1939, it was the only options. Thatcher’s decision to re-take the Falkland Islands by force was another good example of the Brits’ keenness for a good punch-up. Thatcher rapidly went from being the least popular Prime Minister (by the opinion polls) to winning a landslide victory in the following General Election.
Opinion polls show May’s stance to be twice as popular as Corbyn’s. It’s no coincidence that the two politicians making the most bellicose speeches were Boris Johnson and Gavin “Spider Man” Williamson. Both have the ambition to be Prime Minister one day; both have ambition far in excess of their talent.
Whilst Johnson is an extreme narcissist, Williamson is simply a twat. Johnson, as Foreign Secretary, is supposed to be the UK’s senior diplomat. His undiplomatic speeches betray a complete misunderstanding of the requirements of his role. That May hasn’t sacked him only shows the extreme weakness of her position, as she delicately tries to balance the number of her more sane Cabinet Ministers and the Leave extremists. Williamson is the more dangerous of the two because the gap between his ambition and his ability and experience is so much wider than Johnson’s. Betraying his inexperience, he sounded like petulant 8 year old schoolboy his “go away and shut up” comment, pre-scripted. Bet that scared Putin!
In truly civilised nations, as I believe the UK should aspire to be at all times, there is such a thing as due process. Giving Russia less than 48 hours to explain it is innocent is assuming that the Russian is guilty without the chance of a proper investigation of its own. May refused to send a sample of the nerve agent to Russia to conduct its own testing. The UK is signatory to international treaties that allow states 10 days to respond to this type of accusation.. Russia claimed it had destroyed all its chemical weapons last year, a claim verified by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons .
And I concede this is a measure of inconsistency in Corbyn’s position as stated to the Commons. His support for the 23 diplomat expulsion is tantamount to saying Putin was lying when he denied Russian state involvement in the attempted murders.
I’m not naïve: it’s highly probable Putin lied and the Russian state is responsible. But the Mail and Sun have agendas. They will grab any opportunity to make Corbyn look bad and Labour inherently incapable of forming a government. Paul Dacre is a hypocrite and true “enemy of the people” who not only benefits, as a major landowner, from EU handouts, but also is comfortable with an economic system that is systematically biased towards the rich. The Mail’s ultimate owner, Lord Rothermere is a UK tax dodger with “non-domiciled” tax status. (This rule appears to be uniquely a UK one – see this rather old Guardian article). Rupert Murdoch clearly believes he can bully and persuade a government led by May more easily than one led by Corbyn.
In a straight fight between the TV station RT (owned and funded by the Russian state) and the BBC, the latter clearly wins hands down. But Blair’s sycophantic (to George W Bush) misleading of Parliament over Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” (the very phrase designed to obfuscate rather than clarify which types of weapon are being referred to) eroded trust in our Government’s statements. Repeated misleading propaganda since 2010 (e.g. on benefit fraud, blaming the poor and disabled for the 2007-8 crash, rather than the City, and that there was no alternative to austerity) has eroded that trust further.
But, coming hot on the heels of the ludicrous “Corbyn Was Czech spy” non-story, which the Telegraph joined in too, The Tories and their cheerleaders are looking increasingly desperate. This clueless government is acting more and more like the Nasty Party. When will the British public, in sufficient numbers, wake up and see this?