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Monday, 26 September 2016

The Calm Before The Storm – As Corbyn Wins the Right Intensifies Its Destabilisation Strategy

It’s not an Olive Branch but the Sword of Deselection that Labour’s Right Requires

Tom Watson - most members would put their trust in a rattle snake first
For the second time in a year, Jeremy Corbyn has been elected by an overwhelming majority of Labour Party members.  Indeed this year, despite the attempts of Tom Watson’s lapdog, General Secretary Iain McNicol to remove Corbyn supporters from those eligible to vote, Corbyn increased his majority from 59% to 62%.
Immediately Jeremy Corbyn sought to put what had happened in the last wasted year behind him and start, in his own words, with a clean slate.  There is nothing wrong with this but only a minority of the Right is going to engage with Corbyn at all meaningfully.  We have to face the fact that the majority of the Right will continue their strategy of tension and destabilisation.
Alan Johnson MP - former Blairite Minister and Nonentity in Chief
Momentum has to accept that appeasement of Progress and its supporters will not work.  Their loyalty is not to Labour or socialism but to capitalism and the system we live in.  Their differences with the Tories are minimal compared to their differences with those who wish to change society.  When a wild animal threatends you it’s best to shoot it not appeal to its better nature.  Momentum needs to be democratised urgently because at the moment it is good at winning elections and lousy at winning the peace.

People like Alan Johnson, the former Blairite Cabinet Minister, have made it clear that they intend to attack Corbyn from the outset.  The Right’s coup has failed, for the time being, but it will be renewed in a different form.

One sign of this was the presentation of a monster constitutional package by Tom Watson at last Tuesday’s NEC, with barely a few hour’s notice.  Even my local union branch demands that resolutions are tabled with a week’s notice but Watson presented the Rights programme to destabilise Corbyn at the last possible moment.
Corbyn, true to form, didn’t oppose the proposals for additional right-wing members from Scotland and Wales (the leaders of the Scottish and Welsh parties, not the members will choose them) thus wiping out his own majority on next year’s NEC instantly.  It was little wonder that arch right-winger Luke Akehurst tweeted that in one stroke control of next year’s NEC had passed to the Right despite the Left having won the election to the 6 NEC seats amongst the constituencies.

Although Corbyn finally woke up today and tried, unsuccessfully, to reverse the decision his inability to understand the forces ranged against him is disconcerting.  Even Jesus Christ, who was quite hot on loving thine enemy, drove the money lenders from the Temple.  A bit of muscular Christianity is what is needed!  Watson is acting not only on behalf of the Labour Right but on behalf of the British state. 

Huffington Post reported on Watson’s Project Anaconda, specifically designed to destroy Corbyn’s leadership by surrounding him with enemies.  ‘HuffPost UK has been passed extracts from internal party emails claiming that the deputy leader has been operating a so-called “Project Anaconda” with Shadow Cabinet reforms and wider NEC proposals.’

Huffington quoted an email from Watson’s team that:  “’Project Anaconda’...will involve isolating and weakening JC and ultimately crushing the life out of his leadership,” “Every concession JC makes will be used to tighten the grip.”   

That is why the Right, which walked out of the Shadow Cabinet, has now decided that they want democratic elections to the body they don’t want to sit in!  Why?  So that they can run an alternative administration.  Corbyn won’t be able to sack them and so it will effectively paralyse him and render him ineffectual. 

Then they will be able to turn around and say he is a weak leader and the polls will naturally reflect this.  What is needed now is determination and ruthlessness.  If the Right or part of them wish to be part of the Shadow Cabinet, then fine.  But only if they wish to work together not against their leader.  That must mean that Corbyn appoints the whole shadow cabinet in these circumstances.  What was good enough for Ed Miliband is good enough for Jeremy Corbyn.

If Corbyn values his leadership he should face down Watson now, when he is strongest after his electoral victory.  Tomorrow it may be too late.  As the article observed ‘Last week the NEC agreed to widen its membership to include Scottish and Welsh Labour reps, a move that could swing the balance of power on the ruling body to an “anti-Corbyn” majority.’

Instead of calling Watson’s bluff, instead of taking to the media to say that there was only one leader and denouncing Watson as the enemy within, Corbyn accepted major planks of his programme, including those denying him a majority.

The obvious thing to do would have been to move ‘next business’ and to make it clear that if necessary he would appeal to Labour Party Conference and the Unions over the heads of the present right-wing NEC.  Instead, once again, Corbyn first accepted and then tried to reverse the proposals once it had eventually sunk in what they involved. [Labour MPs Who ‘Mugged’ Jeremy Corbyn ‘In Cold Blood’ Should Now Back Him, Shami Chakrabarti Warns]

Even more amazingly Corbyn told the NEC that he had never criticised the very Labour Party staff who had spent the summer suspending and expelling members on any and every pretext.  It is one thing to react to a situation where someone is genuinely abused on social media and to call those responsible to account, it is entirely another thing to go and trawl through the social media posts of thousands of people on a fishing expedition in order to try and disqualify the supporters one candidate.

In The numbers Labour did NOT want you to see on TV this morning – and why the following table reveals that of 551,000 members, just 285,000 voted, leaving 266,000 without a vote.  Even leaving aside the 130,000 members who joined after January, this means that another 136,000 didn’t vote.  Of course some may have abstained but we know from reports that thousands, some estimate 60,000 were simply not sent a vote.  Thousands of others were suspended or otherwise denied a vote. 
Clearly Labour Party staff were so busy disqualifying members that they didn’t send out ballot papers to thousands of people because they were seen as hardline Corbyn supporters.  In other words people had their votes held back until they could first be checked in order to find any dirt or pretext on them. 
Of the 181,000 registered supporters, over a third, 62,000 didn’t vote.  Why?  It is highly unlikely that having paid £25 many of these people didn’t bother to vote.  The only answer is that they were disqualified – either because they weren’t on the electoral register (since Labour Party staff insist on working to last year’s one this is not surprising or they were disqualified for being Corbyn supporters).  Even if they weren’t on the electoral register so what?  If they could prove they existed, then given the Tories efforts to remove people from the Electoral Register they should have been given a vote.

We want answers about the corrupt electoral practices of Crooked McNicol.  Instead of backing him up,  Corbyn should be demanding his head.  It is absolutely essential that Corbyn ensures the loyalty of Labour’s civil service.  At the very least the Compliance Unit and McNicol should go and every single suspended and expelled person should be reinstated, with the exception of Daily Mail guest columnist Mike Foster.  Parties such as Brighton and Hove and Wallasey should also be reinstated.

Jeremy Corbyn was Tony Benn’s closest comrade.  He should remember Benn’s sage advice that when he was a Cabinet Minister, his first act was to secure the loyalty of his civil servants.  It is a lesson that Corbyn should take to heart.

It is also essential that Momentum now democratises.  There is a battle ahead.  Corbyn won’t be able to repeat today’s victory indefinitely.  People will become demoralised.  The Right has to be tackled from the start if they refuse to accept Corbyn’s victory as leader.  That means, as a minimum that it is Jeremy Corbyn who appoints a Shadow Cabinet.  If the Right don’t want to serve, then so be it.  Labour Party members will no doubt take this into account when MPs stand for reselection!
Further there should be a review of the composition of the NEC.  Tom Watson is right, but for the wrong reasons.  At present Scottish and Welsh members can stand and Rhea Wolfson from Glasgow won a seat.  The best solution would be to increase the CLP section from 6 to 12 and to reduce seats for MEPs and councillors.  There is also no reason why the Deputy Leader should be a member of the NEC.

Rule changes for next year should include a proposal that the number of MPs needed to stand for Leader or Deputy Leader be reduced from 20% or 15% to 5%. 

The time for turning one’s cheek is gone.  If the Labour Right refuses to accept the decision of Labour Party members as to who is Leader they should be shown the door.  Labour MPs might claim they have a greater mandate because they are elected by the electorate but history shows that MPs are elected, not because of their inflated sense of their self-importance, because of their party allegiance.  If they wish to stand as independents no one is stopping them, however very few (6) of the 26 Labour MPs who broke from the Labour Party in the early 1980’s to join the SDP were re-elected at the 1983 General Election.  Hilary Benn and John Mann are welcome to stand as independents.  Indeed they should be encouraged to do so!

Tony Greenstein 

Friday, 23 September 2016

The Noble Sayings of Lord Bassam & The Mask of Castleraigh

From Squatter to Hired Lackey 
Career Without Principle
A Political Sketch by Tony Greenstein
£300 a day attendance allowance proved too attractive as the fiercely hostile Republican took his seat in the Lords
Nearly 20 years ago I penned a satirical pamphlet on someone who, at that time, personified the Labour Right in Brighton.  Today he has handed on the Right's crooked baton to people like the Leader of the Progress Party on the Council, Warren Morgan, a man who, if he had a personality could be dangerous.  Other luminaries include Peter Kyle MP for Hove about whom I remarked, when he won Hove from the Tories, that the most right-wing candidate had won!
I mention all this because when the Left won the elections at Brighton and Hove Labour Party AGM on July 2nd, they were promptly annulled and the party itself suspended.  It was a rerun of what happened in 1992 except that then the Party was suspended first and I and 30 others were suspended or expelled afterwards.
Bassam's cynical strategy  memo for the directly elected mayor campaign - spin fell flat in the face of a widespread community campaign despite the support of the local Argus and Tory businessmen
I was suspended in March and the Party was suspended nearly 4 months later.  The reasons for the suspension were that the Left had won out over the Right.  The pretexts for the suspension were allegations of intimidation etc.  The usual lies and deceptions from the Right.  One particular incident came to symbolise the lies of the Right - that a member of staff at City College, where the AGM was held, was spat and sworn at by the left-wing thugs who had attended the meeting.  Our brilliant elected Secretary, Greg Hadfield did an amazing job in taking witness statements from people directly countering these allegations. He even managed to get hold of a CCTV video of the alleged incident.  It showed that nothing whatsoever happened.  
Greg Hadfield -  former Fleet Street journalist was elected on July 2nd as Secretary and was deposed in a coup 3 days later.  Hadfield has led campaign to uncover the truth of what happened.
Karen Buckingham, the Labour Party apparatchik conducting the 'inquiry' into what happened (first they suspend B&H LP and then they annul the elections and finally they hold an inquiry) has refused to even look at the video which shows Cllr. Warren Morgan out to be a liar and Cllr. Emma Daniels, who also testified to spitting, to be an accomplice liar.
Katherine Buckingham, LP apparatchik's invitation to a fake inquiry
Why do I mention all of this?  Because I was outside the Brighton LP AGM on July 2nd. Being suspended I could not attend but I met my family who were attending so that I could take charge of one my children.  And who should I meet but the Leader of Labour in the House of Lords, Lord Bassam.  Labour peers have virtually declared independence refusing to accept the authority of the Leader, Jeremy Corbyn.  Bassam was appointed to the peerage under Tony Blair and has done his master's bidding faithfully.  
Katherine Buckingham's redacted memo which I obtained under a Subject Access Request - she is in the thick of the witch hunt
When he saw me, Lord Bassam looked as if had seen Banquo's Ghost as he turned a paler shade of white.  It was as if the guilt of Brighton's Macbeth had returned as some form of apparition. No doubt Bassam was answering the call of his Progress friends to help save their bacon. For my part, when I saw Bassam I recalled Shelley's Mask of Anarchy, written in response to the massacre  of Peterloo.

I met Murder on the way -
He had a mask like Castlereagh -
Very smooth he looked, yet grim;
Seven blood-hounds followed him:

This is the pamphlet I wrote circa 1997 which had a wide circulation at the time, including a caustic review by Adam Trimmingham in the local Argus.  I cannot help but feel it would be helpful!

Tony Greenstein
I attacked Bassam many years ago, as Secretary of the local Unemployed Centre, for his role as a consultant to a company which had contracts with the Council of which he was leader

The idea for writing this pamphlet came after reading about the new Blair supporters club, Members’ First.  Its spokesperson was none other than that well-known grassroots activist, his Gracious and Noble Lord Bassam.  This couldn’t be the Steven Bassam who I stood shoulder to shoulder with, as the Police battered their way into our squat at Temple Gardens in 1975, or who – a decade later - was a founder member of National Labour Briefing?  Was this the same Steve Bassam whose commitment to members first was such that he single-handedly arranged, in the early 1990s, that 26 of us should be suspended or expelled from Brighton Labour Party for exercising our rights as members to challenge his leadership of the Council?
The newly re-established Brighton Unemployed Centre (which Bassam had done his best to close) led the campaign against a directly-elected Mayor
I have known Steve (sorry my noble Lord) Bassam since I came to Brighton as a student in the autumn of 1974.   Since then I have been mercilessly teased, by miscreants such as Andy Ward, about “your old squatting mate Steve Bassam”.  Having selflessly borne such taunts for years, and having refused on principle to disavow an old comrade because he entered the Lords in the line of duty, I feel entitled to put pen to paper in order that a little light is shed about our gracious Baron Bassam.
It is true that we squatted together, or rather we were part of Brighton Squatters’ Union.  But even in our earlier days, our noble Lord was apt to compromise, to look for the least line of resistance, despite his avowed anarchist politics.  A graduate from the Sussex University school of anarchism, if his actions were somewhat less than revolutionary then his rhetoric was always fiery and radical.  Many people are puzzled that ex-squatter Lord Bassam, who once turned a flashing red nose to that caricature of a reactionary judge, His Honour Justice Grant, has now made it into the citadel of hereditary privilege that he once decried.  How is it that someone who once told me – after we had given a talk to the Labour Party in the mid-1970’s – that he could never join the Labour Party, it was far too right-wing for him, could turn out to be the most sycophantic, on-message cipher for all that New Labour represents?  Someone whose first vote in the Lords was in support of Rupert Murdoch!!

The purpose of this pamphlet isn’t simply to single out one particular individual who tailored his political views to the needs of his political career.  Nor is it an excoriation of all that New Labour’s sharp-suited clones stand for.  Rather it is to use Lord Bassam as an example of the corruption at the heart of New Labour.  It is a corruption that isn’t merely financial, though there is plenty of that (Bernie Ecclestone, Draper, Liddle et al.) but a corruption of the political process itself, which hides behind the soundbite and verbal chaff.  It is a corruption which seduces perfectly decent people into trading political integrity for personal advancement.  It is this that Lord Bassam represents so clearly.
My response in the local Argus to Bassam's elevation to the House of Lords
Lord Bassam has made the transition from radical politics to New Labour clone effortlessly.  His ideas and beliefs are as durable as the message on the mandatory New Labour pager.  New Labour may, in many ways, be the logical culmination of Old Labour, with its class collaborationism, but it is also a break with old Labour.  In particular it reviles the organisations that the working class threw up, the Trade Unions and Friendly Societies.  Socialism and class-solidarity are part of the dark past.  The market, globalism, cheap and flexible labour are the new gods.  The political lobbyist – Ben Lucas & co. – are the real practitioners of the art of politics.  The role of New Labour is not merely to destroy the Left, but to remould that Left by reuniting the Liberal and Labour traditions.  Blairism, despite its toying with a 'third way', 'stakeholding' and much other verbal nonsense, struggles for anything new to say.  Its goal is to reverse the tide of history and go back to the golden age of Gladstone and the Midlothian campaign.
My letter to the Argus in response to a Review by New Labour supporting   columnist Adam Trimmingham

Blairism first learnt its lessons at the feet of Bill Clinton and the New Democrats.  It seeks to remodel British politics accordingly.  Its goal is the destruction of socialist politics, the idea that there is any alternative to the present way of organising society.  It seeks instead to replace the present party political system with two openly capitalist parties – Tory and New Labour/Liberal Democrat – each seeking to outbid the other in their attacks on welfare and the poor.  When political differences between parties disappear, then it is inevitable that personal advancement and corruption follow in their wake.  It is no accident that the sleaze of the latter years of the Tory Government has appeared within the first year of New Labour.  Bassam's appointment as 'consultant'  to KPMG is merely a local manifestation of the Draper, Robinson phenomenon.

New Labour’s greatest strength is its opponents' weaknesses.  Not only the weakness of the Left and the organised working class but the divisions in the Tory Party over Europe.  It was the self-destruction of the traditional party of the British Establishment that gave, and gives, Blairism its seeming strength.   The ranks of New Labour, and Lord Bassam is as good an example as any, are teeming with the superficial and mediocre, distinguished only by the extent of their ambition.  But those who live by spin and the sound-bite will also die by them.  Historically New Labour is a passing and temporary phenomenon with as much significance as the opposition of the Duke of Wellington to the Great Reform Bill.  The greater the heights of New Labour’s popularity today, the greater will be the depths of its unpopularity tomorrow.

We are all entitled to amuse ourselves at the verbal indiscretions of our rulers, their foibles and pretensions.  It needs no Oscar Wilde to point to the absurdities of ruling class speech and manners when we have the clichés of Bassam past.  Of course it is easy to quote back what people have said in different circumstances and different times.  Most peoples’ views don’t remain static.  There are those, Tony Benn for example, who have moved to the Left with age.  There are others, such as Roy Hattersley, who have travelled to the left merely by standing still, as everybody around changed.  Our noble Lord is the perfect example of the political chameleon, whose views change in perfect harmony with his surroundings.  Political principle is not only completely absent from Lord Bassam’s career, it is a concept that he would have genuine difficulty understanding.  I therefore offer, with as little comment as possible, some of the choicest sayings of the Noble and Gracious Lord Bassam, from his many interviews and recordings, and leave it to others to judge the mettle of the man.   If it takes a long spoon to sup with the devil then Lord Bassam can truly be said to be a man of many spoons.

A little background information may be useful to the reader.  In 1987, when our noble Lord became Leader of the Labour Group on Brighton Council, there was a rule that nobody could be leader for more than 3 years.  His predecessor, Dave Leppar (now MP for Brighton Pavilion) had abided by this rule but Bassam made it his first objective to overturn this particular encumbrance on his career.  In this he was successful as he carved a thin majority among his Council colleagues by promising positions and sinecures to those who proved malleable.   Those Councillors who refused to support him or his policies were subject to various levels of vendetta.  Six councillors had the whip withdrawn in 1991 because they refused to support prosecuting those who refused to pay their Poll Tax.  Others who were in the ‘soft-left’ also fell out of favour.  One particular example of personal vindictiveness that remains etched in my memory is the treatment of long-standing Councillor Joyce Edmond-Smith.  The position of mayor had always gone to the longest-serving councillor, alternating between male and female.  When it came to Joyce, the majority of the Group, after Bassam had done his usual fixing, voted not to support Joyce as mayor.  Others Councillors were simply whispered against and maligned and deprived of seats on Council committees.

Our Steve started his life strong on civil liberties, squatting, opposition to state abuse of power.  He used to sell Statewatch magazine and was active in a local radical paper, Brighton Voice (indeed he was its Treasurer for a long time).  At the GLC he worked hard in the Police Committee exposing the racism and thuggery of the Metropolitan Police.  Today, as Jack Straw reduces the right to trial by jury and gives immigration officers the right to enter any home without warrant, Baron Bassam remains silent and supportive of all that New Labour does.  Today Lord Bassam is a ‘consultant’ to Accountancy firm KPMG.  KPMG are, of course, ‘experts’ on the privatisation of Council Services, and who better as an adviser than a noble Lord who just happens to be leader of the Council.  Of course, none of this is corruption and, as Mark Anthony noted, he is an honourable man.  Of one thing we can be certain.  Lord Bassam has certainly earned his place in a future government reshuffle. 

With a glittering future ahead of him, Lord Brownnose – as he is known to his colleagues – certainly deserves greater recognition for his past.  The erudite philosophy that he espoused, the thoughtful answers,  the dedicated commitment that he showed, all of these demand a wider audience.  Perish the thought that my intention is to steal a cheap laugh at Lord Bassam’s expense.  There may come a time, when New Labour is just a bad memory, when our noble Lord will rediscover his roots, and the word ‘socialist’ will once again grace his most noble of lips.  What could be more useful than a compendium of his noble Lord’s sayings?

In His Own Words
The  Wit & Wisdom of Baron Bassam

The Role of a Labour Council

Q:        What  do you think will happen if Labour finally gains control of Brighton Council?
Bassam:        "We will start implementing a radical left-wing socialist programme."

Q:        "Surely that will lead to… conflict with the government over ratecapping?"
Bassam:        "Conflict will be of the Government's making, not Brighton Labour Party's.  If there is a conflict then I'm sure Brighton Labour Party and members of the Labour Group  will take up the issue and fight a campaign to ensure Brighton's services are maintained."

Question concerning the "failure" of the last Labour Government and a future Labour government.
Bassam:        "I hope we can make the PLP much more accountable to Conference decisions.  We must ensure that we have a decent minimum wage….I shall not be part of a Government that urges wage restraint and holds  back the demands of working people."  [Bassam at this time was Labour PPC for Brighton Kemptown]  "I think the Campaign Group has provided a very useful focus in Parliament fore the activism in the Labour Movement."  [Interview in Brighton Labour Briefing, June 1985]

In another interview which I conducted shortly after Steve Bassam was selected as Labour’s PPC he made it clear that “I am committed to fundamental socialist change, … giving workers a controlling stake in all sections of the economy…We do have to have massive wholesale nationalisation which will mean rolling back the denationalisation process… and no compensation except in cases of proven hardship.”   

Accused of being “an old-fashioned Tribunite” our future Lord reminded us that “You cannot correct the problems of capitalism by taking hold of the capitalist structure and reforming it.”  
On the Militant Tendency (now the Socialist Party) Steven was warmly appreciative: “I recognise that they work very hard in local govt. and in Liverpool Militant comrades have taken a decisive role in campaigning and have undoubtedly mobilised large sections of the working class behind a very strong defence of local government democracy.”  

When Leader of the Council he launched on a purge of  Militant Councillors and supporters.  

Asked about his attitude to Sinn Fein he was equally effusive.  “Sections of the Party will react with undeniable indignation when they talk about not having SFG coming to the GLC or House of Commons.  That is a lot of nonsense.  I agree elements of SFG policy would form part of a socialist programme and its vital that we develop some of those links, particularly since there is an electoral force now developing within SFG capable of commanding broad based support among working class catholics.” [BLC May-June 1985]

In May 1986, in a front page article our Steve was quite explicit about the task ahead.  “The challenge for the party is then to sustain the Labour Group as it battles with a largely conservative bureaucracy to implement its programme… and how to mobilise public support for policies which means a profound shift of power away from vested interest groups of estate agents, hoteliers and the business elite that have run Brighton Council for decades, to working people.”  

Expanding on his themes of empowerment, Steven explained that “Tackling discrimination within the Council’s service for oppressed groups and opening up council services to those excluded because of disability or sexual preference is vital if the Party’s manifesto commitments are to mean anything.”  Quite, and no doubt the hounding from pillar to post of travellers was uppermost in the mind of the yet-to-be enobled Bassam as he warmed to his theme.  Nobody  can accuse him of underestimating the task ahead.  

“One of the important lessons of the demise of the GLC was the failure of the Labour administration to develop a soundly based working strategy with unions to oppose abolition.  Trade Union activity in the Council must be taken seriously by encouraging time off for TU work and participation in vital decision committees.”  

He also recognised that “At some point, a degree of conflict with central government is likely….We will need a campaign unit within the Council… in order to implement the programme.  A Programme Officer will be needed to ensure the even moving into place of key parts of the manifesto.”  Does anybody know the name of this person?  All of this would, of course, require “a more open and democratic relationship with the Labour Party… to project socialism by the sea an exciting experience worth being part of.”  

Socialism by the sea became transformed into the City by the Sea. [Brighton Briefing, May 1986, ‘Brighton’s Going Labour’]

Seeking Selection as Parliamentary Candidate

In February 1996, in an article for Brighton Briefing, Steve Bassam found himself up against a fellow Cllr. Richard Stanton (who later had the whip withdrawn by Bassam’s administration).  Steven waxed lyrical about the “cosmetic electoralism” of the Labour Party, and the “Labour’s shabby electoralism was such that it failed to set the political agenda.” 

On Privatisation the future consultant for KPMG wrote that “…when the profit motive is introduced” wrote, “the standard of services declines.  We must highlight the need to take control of the industries de-nationalised (without compensation).”  [BLB 2/96] 

“So far the Labour Group has used its strength to successfully resist the privatising of council services.  The logic of central government moves against local government spending make it inevitable that further efforts will be made to drive council services further into the hands of the privateers."  Clearly the ‘logic’ of the situation demanded that we would have to wait for a Labour majority before services could be effectively privatised! [BLB October 1984]

And Bassam railed against “Arch privateers Price Waterhouse [who] have got their hands on Brighton Council.  They are proposing a Council reorganisation package which has as its main objectives cuts in services, redundancies and a running down of the local democratic process.”  Clearly what the then Deputy Leader of the Labour Group objected to was the fact that it wasn’t KPMG, with him at the helm, who were making the proposals.  

And what were these rascally accountants proposing?  “…to reduce the number of Departments from 14 to 10.  They would like to reduce them still further to 4 but realise that Labour Opposition will prevent them going that far.  If approved there would be less democratic control over the activities of Chief Officers.”    

Unlike today of course when there are even fewer departments and Glynn Jones is an island unto himself.   And in case we didn’t get the message, Bassam explained that if PW got their way then “Power would rest in the hands of a special Chief Executive Dept. team of officers, with an elite of 7-8 making policy decisions and recommendations.”  Err, isn’t that what happens now?  “The town hall trade unions are all against the amalgamations, job cuts and threats to democratic accountability contained in these proposals…. We must take up the challenge and campaign to force out PW – the sequestrators.”  (referring to their role vs the NUM).  [Brighton Labour Campaigner, March-April 1995]

In a section entitled Taking on the Strong State he noted that “The miners strike has brought the reality of the 6 counties of N. Ireland into our pit villages and shown us in the long term effects of militarised policing and repressive legislation.”  Speaking of “the dangers inherent in the Police Act 1984” he wrote that Labour must “avoid out-torying the Tories as previously Labour governments have done on prison and policing policies.”  And on Ireland Steven was equally forthright:  “To end the political veto of the unionists, the case for troops out and the disarming of the RUC remain convincing.”   It was all heady stuff, though it is doubtful if he meant a word of it. [BLB February 1985]

In 1993 Steve Bassam was instrumental in cutting of the grant of the Unemployed Centre for running political campaigns.  In the previous year Brighton Law Centre had closed when its grant was removed and partially reallocated to Brighton Rights Advice Centre.  BRAC too lost its grant and closed a year later.  In 1987 Council intervention, and a further freezing of funds, caused the Unemployed Centre to abandon any thought of future political campaigning.  All of this would not be worth mentioning except for an interesting article entitled ‘Benefit Take Up Campaign Takes Off” where our Steve states that “Most of all this is a POLITICAL CAMPAIGN, any criticism of the present inadequate benefit system must be.”  [Brighton Labour Briefing, May 1982]

Civil Liberties

In the course of a long, two-part article ‘Policing by Coercion’ Steve Bassam waxed lyrical about the attack on civil liberties that the Police Act 1984 represented.  “We urgently need a local campaign to highlight the Bill’s potential impact, we could do worse than create a Labour Party civil liberties group to give the issues of civil liberties and freedom from oppression a higher profile in our political work.”  [BLB March 1984]  

In the first part of the article he explained that “The Bill deserves to be a political priority this session because of its significance for civil liberties and organised opposition to Thatcherite policies…. Put simply, the Bill must be seen as part of the Thatcher strategy of disciplining the labour force… In short blacks, CND activists, trades unionists on picket lines, squatters, and those involved in the struggle for a united Ireland have experienced coercive policing for years.”  It was all heady stuff.

Election Results

In his role as Election Co-ordinator in 1984 Steve Bassam, noted that “hard –work around a radical socialist programme can work wonders for party unity and party morale.”  A few years later he would be singing a different song. [BLB, June 1984]

Defying The Government

In an article ‘Council Under Fire’ Bassam was withering in his criticism of the latest cuts from Patrick Jenkin, then Environment Minister.  “New public toilets… would stop.”  Unlike the later Bassam administration which introduced Shirley Porter super-loos and closed most of Brighton’s free public toilets (are there any left?!)  Roused to indignation, Bassam demanded that “Labour must confront the government and local Tories with a policy of non-compliance.”  Of course Steve could be excused the heady rhetoric, as the Miners’ Strike was still on.  “opposition must be built into our County Council manifesto and our alternative budget strategy.”  [BLB, September 1984] 


“Bad housing debilitates and depresses whole generations.”  wrote Steve.  “In Brighton we must work in the communities, the Town Hall, with the Unions, particularly UCATT and NALGO to get the message over – Brighton demands its right to good housing for all.”  (there was no caveat for the single homeless, travellers or other minorities that upset the good Lord) [BLB March 1985]  

Those with long memories will remember the eagerness with which the new Labour administration in 1987 moved to increase rents.  At one Labour General Committee, the then Mr Bassam seriously suggested that it was the tenants themselves who were demanding their rents be increased!!  It is amusing to note that prior to gaining power Bassam boasted of how “Labour Councillors successfully led opposition to the Tory’s 20% rent rise proposal at the last council meeting… Brighton’s case for cheaper rents is beyond question…  It matters not to most tenants whether the rise is £3 or £2 a week a rise at all will hurt most of the 8 000 tenants who pay all or part of their rents…”  

Alongside his Council Report was ‘Campaign Notes for Your Branch’ which called on members to distribute the NO RENT RISE poster door to door on estates. [BLB December 1984]  The previous month Bassam had written an article ‘Freeze Council Rents!’ “Brighton Labour Party can see no justification for the massive rent rises which have taken place… They represent part of the Tory offensive designed to make low income families pay more for their housing…”  except presumably when levied by Labour Council’s under Lord Bassam!! –BLB 11/94]

Looking back its clear that the future Lord Bassam was given an easy ride by the Left.  His clichés and waffling were rarely challenged (the interview in Brighton Labour Campaigner May-June 1985 was the exception).  It was also clear to some of us, even then, that the main interest of Steve Bassam was in fulfilling his political ambitions by paying lip-service to the current political fashions rather than using the achievement of office to achieve prior political aims.  I am left with only one question.  What would Steve Bassam circa 1985 would have made of the future Lord Bassam?

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Corbyn Abandons 30 Years of Support for Palestine - But Despite Grovelling He Was Still Booed

The Answers that Corbyn Should Have Given to the Question What He Most Admired about Israel

At the JW3 ‘debate’ earlier this week, Jeremy Corbyn was asked what he most admired in Israel. This was an ideal opportunity to tell the audience and the questioner some home truths about both the Occupied Territories and Israel itself.
The surrender of Jeremy Corbyn is complete on Israel
He could have told them that Israel today is an Apartheid Society.  Of the approximately 6 million Palestinians it rules over, just 1.5 million have a vote and that is increasingly circumscribed with the Arab parties in Israel under increasing attack. Balad arrests won't be the last in Israel's ethnocracy

Unfortunately Jeremy, felt the need to fawn and flatter his audience rather than telling them some home truths.  Some people will say ‘what does it matter’.  I suggest this is why.  In the event Corbyn becomes Prime Minister he would, on this evidence, bow and buckle to the much greater pressure of the City of London and industrialists.  But also because a strategy based on appeasement is destined to failure.  You stand up to your foes you don’t hand them olive branches to hit you in the face with.  This is not just true of the Zionists.  It is equally applicable to his MPs.  Those who refuse to accept the legitimacy of his election should be told to depart or they will be deselected and have the whip withdrawn. 
Jeremy Corbyn now competes with Smith  to see who is the most pro-Zionist
I have therefore taken the liberty of drafting the answers to the question that Corbyn was asked which he should have given!  It is in the hope that next time he will have the courage of his convictions.

Q:        Jeremy & Owen – I wanted to find out from you what aspects of Israel & its achievements do you most admire
Jeremy Corbyn:        Thank you for a most interesting questions. The things I admire most about Israel include: 

i.           Its no nonsense arrest of Palestinian children as young as 12 and their shackling in chains.  In particular Israel’s willingness to assault and even torture them if necessary, as articulated by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel.  It really takes some nerve to do this and claim you are still a democracy.  You can’t help admiring Israel for this.  I have to say I particularly like the Military's practice of getting the children to sign confessions in a language they don't understand (Hebrew).  Serves the blighters right.  It's downright anti-Semitism refusing to learn the language of the occupying power.  It is pleasing to note that the Military Courts under which these brats sorry children are charged have a 99.7% conviction rate.  That might seem rather high but on the other hand it does demonstrate that it is possible to obtain a conviction but  given the genius of the Israeli military it's not surprising that they only get it wrong about once every 300 times.  

          It really is irrelevant that Jewish children in the same territories are entitled to things like a responsible adult attending an interview, social workers, nice warm offices and of course that they can't be tried if they are under 14.  We really must understand that there is no comparison between Palestinian and Israeli Jewish children.  Those who take umbrage at this are, as my friend Jeremy Newmarks says, out and out anti-Semites and Janet Royall has already had harsh words for those who alleged Apartheid at Oxford University Labour Club.

ii.          I particularly admire the annual Jerusalem day demonstration where thousands of settler youth express their tender and loving feelings towards Jerusalem’s Arabs by shoutingDeath to the Arabs’.  You have to admire Israel’s ability to get away with this and in particular the actions of Israel’s police in arresting any anti-racist protesters out to cause trouble.  I understand that this year, the slogans were more varied and included the quite novel one, 'A Jew is a soul, an Arab is a son of a whore.'  You have to give it to Israel's democracy, it is most inventive.

iii.         I also admire the determination of Israel to ‘cleanse’ the Negev (southern desert area) of Israel of Bedouin villages such as Al Arakabh which get in the way of those nice, Jewish towns.  This process of Judaisation might upset people but we must remember this is a Jewish state.

iv.         Of course I deprecate the repeated vandalism and arson at the Hand to Hand school, one of the few mixed Jewish-Arab schools in Israel.  However Israel is a Jewish state and it is understandable that State schools in Israel are segregated.  It is anti-Semitic to compare this with similar schools in Apartheid South Africa.  Israel is a Jewish state.  South Africa was a White Apartheid state.  Anyway if do gooders insist on setting up private mixed schools which encourage Jewish and Arab children to mix,  thus encouraging the possibility of sinful Jewish-Arab relationships, is it any wonder that religious Jews take offence?

         I personally applaud the efforts of the Israeli government to discourage miscegenation.  Tzipi Hotoveli, Israel's religious nut of a Deputy Foreign Minister was quite correct, when she said that it was "important to examine procedures for preventing mixed marriages, and Lehava members are the right people for that,"   It's true that Lehava is technically a fascist organisation that hates gays, beats up Arabs and sets fire to Churches and Mosques, but it is doing important work to preserve the Jewishness of the Jewish state.  Those who oppose this work are, Mr McNicol informs me, anti-Semitic and will be suspended forthwith from the LP.
Title of Time Out film
v.         I particularly applaud the bold and courageous decision of the Education Ministry to ban that disgraceful book Borderland by Dorit Rabinyan. [Israeli-Palestinian love story omitted from curriculum tops bestseller lists].  This book portrayed as normal relationships between Arab and Jewish teens.  In a Jewish state this is likely to undermine the purity of the ruling race, I mean group and as such is something only terrorists would support.  As Dalia Fenig, an Education Ministry spokesperson explained:

             ‘“Adolescent youth tend to romanticise and don’t have, in many cases, the systematic point of             view that includes considerations about preserving the identity of the nation and the                              significance of assimilation,”
Israeli Jews who were not racists took part in a kissathon with Arabs to demonstrate they reject 'racial purity' demands - Israeli Labour support the demand to discourage 'miscegenation'
        As you will see it was a question of protecting Israel’s national identity, that is Israel's ‘Jewish national identity.’  I think this is a particularly brave decision as otherwise Jewish children would grow up with the idea that an Arab girl or boy friend was a normal choice to make.
We don't support the few anti-racists in Israel's population by bowing to the demands of racist Israeli Labour
vi.        As you may know, the practice of the Jewish National Fund, which controls 93% of Israeli land, was to forbid Arabs to rent or lease Jewish national land.  Unfortunately when Adalah, a trouble making NGO and a Mr Kadan, a trouble-making Arab, went to the High Court the Judges could not find a legal reason to forbid Arabs from renting 'national' land.  Attorney General Mazuz then issued a ruling barring such practices.
This law allows Jewish residents to  veto Arab inhabitants thus maintaining the apartheid settlement inside Israel.  In Afula recently, Jewish residents successfully objected to 'terrorist' Israeli Palestinians living in their city.
          This is of course disgraceful.  The Israeli Labour Party, those good friends of that nice Mr Jeremy Newmark, were outrage and quite rightly so.  Didn't the judges understand that Israel is a Jewish state?  The JNF has been in existence since 1901 buying up land for Jewish use.  To call it racist is in itself a form of anti-Semitism.  Just because Jews can only access the land it doesn't mean that Arabs suffer anything.  As the JNF said, it is Jewish Peoples Land and Arabs should recognise they are in the Jewish state as guests, on sufferance.  Fortunately the Knesset, which as you all know is Israel’s democratic parliament,  stepped in to pass the Acceptance to Communities Law.  This will help keep Arabs out of Jewish towns as they will have to ‘fit in’ and existing (Jewish) residents will have the final say on who is accepted into the community.
It is touching to know that Jewish women don't have to suffer the presence of Arab mothers giving birth to their 'little snakes'
vii.       I particularly respect the practice that has grown up in Israel’s hospitals that a Jewish woman is offered the choice of not having to share a maternity ward with an Arab.  As the American Jewish magazine says, Maternity Ward Segregation (is) Just Tip of the Iceberg in Israel.  When having a Jewish baby it is totally wrong to have an Arab in the next bed.

viii.      As we all know, Jewish students suffer terribly from anti-Semitism these days.  I can only applaud Israel’s Technion University amongst other Israeli Universities, which offer Jewish students a choice of not having to share accommodation with Arabs.  As you know Arabs do not share the same standards as Jews and this is not racism but a question of hygiene and culture.  Also of course they are anti-Semites.  [Arab and Jewish students live in separate housing at the Technion].  I know there are some anti-Semites who will raise objections, but I hope people will understand that Jews are at a higher level of civilisation than Arabs.

ix.        I applaud the crackdown on left-wing Israeli human rights organisations and NGOs.  Organisations such as Breaking the Silence which distributes the testimony of former soldiers about so-called human rights crimes, are doing the work of terrorists.  These allegations are undermining Israel’s reputation as a democracy and the Occupation which we know is the most benign in history.  Israel’s new Transparency Law will therefore require all NGOs to disclose any foreign funding in order that these NGOs can be vilified as the unpatriotic, terrorist supporters that they are.  

         Some of these so-called human rights organisations, such as Btselem, actually provide these Arabs with cameras to catch our brave troops off guard in the West Bank.  Recently one soldier who lost it with an 8 year old Palestinian girl, who was doing her best to be annoying, was caught on camera destroying her bike.  Clearly this was a case of entrapment.  They teach their children young, being anti-Semites, and the poor soldier was pilloried as a result of Btselem's irresponsibility.  Of course right-wing NGOs and politicians like Netanyahu who receive private as opposed to public funding from abroad will be able to preserve their privacy.  That is how it should be.  Private funding of Im Tirzu and similar fascist NGOs should not be inhibited by unwelcome publicity to donors such as the American billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

x.         I have to confess that as a budding Prime Minister I particularly admire Prime Minister Netanyahu's video on Facebook for encouraging Jewish voters to get out and vote by warning that ‘droves’ of Arabs were coming out to vote.  Of course this is not racism it is merely encouraging Jewish voters to turn out at the voting booths.  

xi.        I also warmly appreciate the honesty of Deputy Defence Minister Rabbi Eli Dahan that ‘even gay Jews have higher souls than all non-Jews, gay or straight“.  Of course the learned Rabbi explained that he didn’t therefore support gays, it was just that Arabs were even lower in the human racial hierarchy than gay Jews.  Indeed he later clarified that Palestinians are like animals, they aren’t human.  At a time of political correctness, such honesty is breathtaking.  Of course there are some misguided people who don’t understand that Israel is a democracy, a live one, with verve and spirit.  Why Prime Minister Netanyahu explained that Israel needed a fence around it to protect it from 'wild beasts' [there are non in the Middle East - he meant the local Arabs]

xii.       I guess what particularly pleases me and I’m sure little Owen Smith would agree, is the democracy that Israel embodies.  In a region known for dictatorship, Israel is a beacon of light.  I was particularly interested in the recent Pew Research Centre’s Survey on Israel’s Religious Divided Society.  I know Owen will join me on this.  When a plurality of Israel’s Jewish population (48%-46%) says that Israel’s Palestinian population should be expelled and when Israel’s fascist foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman recently reiterated this as good democrats we should tell Israel’s Arabs that they must go.  As even the leader of Israel’s Labour Party Isaac Herzog said, Labour is not an ‘Arab lovers’ party.  It is good to hear such frank comments from the Jewish Labour Movement’s sister party in Israel.  I'm sure that wonderful man, Jeremy Newmark, was happy to hear that Israeli Labour are no slouch when it comes to Arabs.

xiii.      I was also interested that in the same survey, 79% of Jewish respondents said that Jewish citizens of Israel should have preferential treatment.  Is there anyone who seriously doubts this should happen in a Jewish state?  I hope not.

xiv.     Israel’s vibrant democracy is an example to all.  I only learnt recently of the new law that will enable the majority of Israel’s Knesset (parliament) to expel troublemakers from its ranks.  Israel's Knesset passes law that allows expulsion of lawmakers Although neutrally worded, everyone knows that it is aimed at a few Israeli Palestinian trouble makers from the Balad party.  Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to stop them standing, they have been allowed to do so by our High Court and these misguided Arabs keep voting for them.  I understand that Ayelet Shaked Israel’s Justice Minister is determined to reform the Court.  I know that some people pillory Ayelet and even accuse her of supporting genocide.   This is most unfair, she was only saying that Palestinian mothers give birth to little Palestinian snakes whose sole desire in life is to blow Jews up.

         In future when someone like Haneen Zoabi, a particular reprehensible anti-Semite who called Israel’s soldiers murderers, for having executed (I mean killed) 10 people on board the Marva Marmara, which was breaching Israel’s unlawful blockade of Gaza, behaves in this way, then we will be able to expel them from the Knesset.  It is unfortunately a loophole in Israel’s democracy that people who don’t support a Jewish state (like Arabs) are able to take advantage of our democracy in order to subvert it.  This is only to be admired.  There are a few MPs like  Hilary Benn  I would like expel from our Parliament so I believe that this should be welcomed.

xv.        Can I just add a word of praise for Israel’s healthy and democratic foreign policy.  When all around were boycotting it, Israel was Apartheid South Africa’s best friend.  Brothers in arms - Israel's secret pact with Pretoria.  This takes real courage comrades.  In particular, when the United States cowardly cut off arms supplies and weapons supplies to regimes such as Pinochet and the Argentinian generals, Israel was always prepared to step into the breach.  I think we should be deeply appreciative of Israel’s support for democracy in Central and South America.  Mothers of the disappeared in Latin America feel Gaza’s pain

Comrades and friends, Israel is a vibrant and thriving racial democracy.  It ill  behoves us to criticise it for what we perceive as its failings when it is one of the world’s strongest states and our ally against enemies of the West.’

A Sad Reflection of Corbyn's Political Drift
The above is, of course, not the answer Corbyn gave but it is the answer he should have given.  I knew Jeremy Corbyn over 30 years ago, even before he became an MP.  There was no stronger supporter of the Palestinians.  He has been to Palestine at least 6 times and every year without fail, Jeremy Corbyn turned up at Palestine Solidarity Conference.  Today he seems to have forgotten what Israel's behaviour is like.  He has been so tranfixed by the 'anti-Semitism' allegations that he no longer knows what to believe in.

No one is more aware than Corbyn of the horrors of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.  Yet at the JW3 ‘debate’ earlier this week he grovelled and flattered the supporters of Israel.  When asked what he admired about Israel (see transcript below) he said ‘Its verve and spirit’.  That is, of course, one way of putting it.

The madness of this type of behaviour is illustrated by the fact that the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement voted by 92% to 4% to support Owen Smith.  Corbyn will not gain the support of the Zionists and racists of the Israel lobby.  If he had been better advised he would have left Owen Smith to speak alone to JW3 whilst he spoke to his supporters.

Yet this is not just the failure of one man. It is testimony to the unremitting ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign, with its wall to wall media coverage, that has created the appearance of an all pervasive anti-Semitism and the accompanying headlines out of absolutely nothing.  Ask someone to name any specific anti-Semitic incident or comment and they would be hard pressed to do so.  To this day no one has refuted Asa Winstanley’s exposure of the bogus and crooked allegations that led up to the Oxford University Labour Club accusations. [How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis]

Ruth Smeeth, the false victim of ‘anti-Semitism’ at the Chakrabarti press conference talks of 25,000 ‘abusive’ tweets.  I suspect that there were thousands of messages, not least from me, attacking her for being a Drama Queen, a fake and a phony but I doubt there were many anti-Semitic posts.  If there were any genuinely anti-Semitic posts they would have come from fascists not from people in the Labour Party.

Corbyn’s experiences over the past year are a sombre warning to all those who believe it is possible to support the Palestinians on the basis of Israel’s human rights violations without understanding that the latter are a result of the Jewish nature of the Israeli state.  It is Zionist settler colonialism, its search for an ethnically pure state, its constant desire to effect ethnic cleansing at the same time as it colonises and consolidates its occupation, which leads to the human rights violations.

It is a lesson that  Palestine Solidarity Campaign has yet to learn.  You cannot support the Palestinians unless you reject Zionism.  Two statism, support for a Jewish  state, is incompatible with self-determination and justice for the Palestinians.
Corbyn as the Black Knight in Monty Python's sketch

When I think of Corbyn’s behaviour in feeding the hand that keeps smacking him in the face I recall one of David Cameron’s better jokes.  Towards the end of his premiership Cameron told Corbyn that he admired the Labour leader’s “tenacity” in clinging on to power despite attempts by MPs to oust him. “He has reminded me of the Black Knight in Monty Python’s ‘Holy Grail’. He has been kicked so many times but he says, ‘keep going, it’s only a flesh wound’.”
In the fictional sketch, the Black Knight loses all his limbs but still fights on regardless
It is a joke but it contains a kernel of reality.  Instead of constantly trying to appease the unappeasable Corbyn should have said at the outset to the Jewish Labour Movement and their friends that yes he condemns anti-Semitism but he also condemns attempts to use anti-Semitism as a weapon against supporters of Palestine.

The reality in the last year is that Corbyn has denied, until he is blue in the face, that he is an anti-Semite.  This has had no effect on his critics because what they mean by anti-Semitism is not the traditional Jew hatred, which is non-existent in the Labour Party but the so called ‘New anti-Semitism’ which defines opposition to Israel as a Jewish state as anti-Semitism.  It is new because it is opposition to a state rather than Jews as individuals or a group.

The level of debate amongst both politicians and the mass media is abysmal.  It appeals to the lowest common denominator.  It deliberately obfuscates and confuses categories.  You don’t have to be particularly intelligent to understand that racism can only be directed at people.  You can’t be racist against a state.  A state is an inanimate structure or in Marx’s words, a body of armed men.  Leaving aside the absurdity of the Zionist claim that people campaign against Israel because it is Jewish.

I have provided an alternative transcript.  It is the one that Jeremy Corbyn could, if he had had the backbone and verve, to use his word, to use.  It is the one he would have used 3 years ago.
Debate Between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith at the JW3 September 18th
Q:        Jeremy Corbyn Will you support that – the Jewish Labour Movement rule change?
Yes it will be going to Conference & it follows on from the general anti-racist statement that I’ve proposed to the National Executive some months ago which was actually unanimously agreed by the NEC as a prelude to putting forward a rule change at this years Conference.  There something really sad that we are the only political party that has ever had a general statement of anti-racism in its… so thank you very much for your Question and good luck on the NCC.

[the Jewish Labour Movement Rule Change will make anti-Semitic ‘beliefs’ not just their expression an offence.  The     explanatory wording states that Zionism should not be a term of ‘abuse’ even though this racist ideology and movement is by definition abusive – the Rule Change also says that the ‘victim’ of an anti-Semitic should be taken at their word and that there should be an overwhelming presumption of guilt against someone accused.  So if a Zionist accuses a supporter of Palestine of being anti-Semitic then that accusation must be accepted.  To his shame Corbyn has accepted this lock, stock and barrel.]

Q:        Jeremy & Owen – I wanted to find out from you what aspects of Israel & its achievements do you most admire

Compere:  Mr Corbyn what do you most admire about Israel and its achievements?

Jeremy Corbyn – I admire the verve and spirit of the towns and cities in Israel – the life and the way people conduct themselves, I admire the separation of legal and political powers and the system of democratic government that is there and I admire many of the technical and industrial achievements that Israel has made and its very advanced technology in so many way that it has developed in medical and telecommunications technology. 

Owen Smith – I admire the incredible strength….