Since Theresa May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty three weeks ago, starting the two-year process of the UK leaving the EU, based on a slim majority in a referendum whose outcome was not legally binding, I have withdrawn into a protective shell, unable to cope with her deluded dictatorial arrogance, the pointlessness of the MPs who have persistently refused to challenge her in any way, the spinelessness or corruption of most of the mainstream media, and the racism and xenophobia and pathetic Little Englander nationalism unleashed by Brexit.
In these three weeks, I’ve been interested to note, I’ve met many other people who have felt the same, and who, like me, are refusing to watch the news any more — not just because it’s depressing to have to keep watching May and her fellow pro-Brexit ministers attempting to justify their idiocy, but also because of the bias of those bringing the news to us — the horribly corrupt BBC above all, with right-wing mouthpieces like the dreadful Laura Kuennsberg pretending to be journalists rather than stenographers for those in power, and with programmes like Question Time persistently giving far too much airtime to right-wing panel members and audiences.
Those of us who are so sickened that we’ve switched off are, of course, all Remainers, and we all know — not believe, know — that Brexit is an unprecedented disaster, that racism and xenophobia are out in the open now, poisoning our streets, and, along with our now-broken reputation for tolerance, we also know that far too many of our fellow citizens are flag-waving fantasists, longing for a golden age that never was, but that, in their minds, actually existed and, crucially, involved no foreigners. We also know that our economy is already in a self-inflicted decline, as the everyday cost of living is already noticeably more expensive than it was last June, a situation that can only get worse. We also despair that May and the Tories are so popular, and despair of the plight that Labour has dug itself into, with an unelectable leader, however worthy he is.
I’ve spent some of the last three weeks wondering if this detachment would lead to new ways of challenging the runaway Juggernaut that is Theresa May and her bloodless zombie enthusiasm for as destructive a break with Europe as is possible, or if we, the 48%, the 16.1 million UK citizens who voted to remain in the EU, would have to end up reluctantly retreating from politics as so many of us did in the 1980s.
I still don’t know the answer to that question, but as I returned from nearly a week away — with friends in Stroud, for 24 hours, and then, for four days, in a cottage in the Brecon Beacons, when the horror of having to look at May’s undead face or to listen to a tide of everyday bigots had been almost completely forgotten — I suddenly discovered that May had now added “total hypocrite” to the long roll-call of her failings, calling a General Election on June 8, even though she has no excuse to do so under the laws her own party brought in after the 2010 election to guarantee fixed five-year terms for parliaments, and even though, since running for leader last June, she has persistently said that she would not call an election.
As the Guardian explained, in a wonderfully hard-hitting editorial:
Britain does not need, and its people are not demanding, this general election. There is no crisis in the government. Mrs May is not losing votes in the Commons. The House of Lords is not defying her. No legislation is at risk. There is no war and no economic crisis. Brexit is two years away. The press are not clamouring for an early election.
And yet, as the Guardian added, it is now happening “solely because Mrs May sees Conservative partisan advantage in making it happen.” As the editorial proceeded to explain, “As U-turns go, it is an absolute screecher. The smell of rubber on the Downing Street black top is acrid and foul. Judgments about Mrs May will never be quite the same, and deservedly so. She has built her authority by being, and by appearing to be, a leader who plays straight, gets on with the job and takes politics seriously … But now there is a new dimension to Mrs May. She is now a party political leader whose words can’t be trusted at face value as much, and for whom politics is, after all, a game. The Tory party may win, if opinion polls can be believed, because Mrs May is trusted far more than Mr Corbyn. But the loss to wider politics ought to be severe. The damage inflicted by the hypocrisy of the apparently sincere is more serious than the damage inflicted by the transparently untrustworthy.”
The Guardian’s editorial added:
Some of Mrs May’s reasons for calling the election are particularly unacceptable. To say, as she did, that a poll is needed because “division at Westminster” is causing “damaging uncertainty and instability” sails troublingly close to being a Thames Valley version of the sort of thing that President Erdoğan might say in Turkey. Division in parliament is necessary and inherent, above all on something as momentous as the Brexit terms. Brexit reflects life-influencing divisions in the country. Mrs May’s decision and language illustrate the damage that referendums do to parliamentary democracy.
The election is also an invitation to voters to buy Mrs May’s Brexit terms sight unseen. She said … that she wants support “for the decisions I must take”. But we do not know what those decisions will be. They depend on negotiations that have barely begun with some EU partners who face elections of their own, as well as on events. All this will involve give and take. Mrs May is seeking a mandate to do something of which not even she knows the main planks, the details and the trade-offs. She wants to get parliament off her back in making the Brexit terms. This election must ensure that this does not happen.
Many things may change over the coming weeks. At this early stage the danger is that the 2017 election may be less a contest about who should govern and more a contest about how much power the voters are willing to entrust to Mrs May. The Tory manifesto will have to be watched like a hawk; it will be an unusually crucial document. This is a premature election which the country does not need, the people do not want and Mrs May does not require in order to do her job effectively. Above all else, this election must not write her a blank cheque over Europe.
The Guardian also shone a light on what happened yesterday when MPs voted on May’s decision. Just a third of MPs could have derailed it by voting against it, but in the end only 13 MPs did, with 522 others voting to allow it, including the SNP and the Liberal Democrats, who both hope to gain from it, and probably will (in the former case, strengthening the chances of a second independence referendum, and in the latter, creating the very real possibility that Tory MPs in constituencies that voted Remain will turn to — or revert to — the Lib Dems), and the Labour Party also going along with it, even though it could well be a disaster for them. As the Guardian noted, however, the Labour Party, currently, is too intimidated and fatalistic to have seen the importance of resistance.
What happens next? Well, who knows? I reluctantly sense that I will have to wake up from my slumber and engage, but how, exactly, has yet to become apparent. As Ian Dunt, the author of the very necessary book, Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? has explained, “May has called a referendum on Jeremy Corbyn and is going to pretend the result is a mandate for her Brexit strategy.”
Ian Dunt has also written another useful article, How the general election could go against Theresa May, which I recommend, and Gina Miller, who launched the successful lawsuit last year against Theresa May’s dictatorial insistence that she could trigger Article 50 without Parliament, is crowdfunding funds to launch a new organisation, ‘Best for Britain’, next week, which is planning “the country’s biggest tactical voting drive ever [to] stop Extreme Brexit.” As the funding website states, “We are launching a tactical vote campaign, aiming to ensure the final vote on the Brexit deal is a real one; one that is best for Britain. We need to prevent MPs and the people being forced into an Extreme Brexit that is not in Britain’s best interests. We will support candidates who campaign for a real final vote on Brexit, including rejecting any deal that leaves Britain worse off.”
In addition, a Facebook group has already been set up to encourage tactical voting in the local elections taking place on May 4, which, presumably, will now be expanding its operations to include the General Election on June 8, and I look forward to as much tactical voting as possible to try and damage the Tories as much as possible. I also look forward to significant pro-European Tories — like Lord Heseltine, who regards Brexit as the most idiotic peacetime policy in his lifetime — refusing to be silenced as May attempts to stifle any vestiges of internal dissent — and, as noted above, I look forward to Tory MPs in pro-Remain constituencies losing their seats across the south east and the south west of England if they fail to support their constituents’ wishes.
Mostly, though, this most cynical of elections is in many ways unknown territory, with UKIP, who secured 3.8 million votes in the 2015 General Election, now falling apart as a party, and the probability that the biggest winner this time around will, yet again, be the biggest party of all — the non-voting party, those who, put off by corrupt and/or remote politicians, and by the lack of representation in our ridiculous first-past-the-post system, don’t vote at all. And in 2015, lest we forget, just 66.2% of the 46,354,197 people eligible to vote actually bothered to do so. That’s 15,656,672 people — or, to go by the turnout in the referendum, the 27.8% of registered voters (12,948,018 people), who didn’t vote, making “the will of the people” that Theresa May and her ministers bang on about incessantly, with the full support of the right-wing media, the will of just 37.4% of the electorate. That’s way more than the 2015 General Election, when only 24.9% of registered electors voted for the Tories, who, nevertheless, took 50.9% of the seats, but it falls far short of providing anything like a mandate for all of the horrors that the Tories have been inflicting on us over the last seven years, and that, with Brexit, looks set to damage us permanently unless we can find a way to defeat them, and to discredit their malignant view of what Britain is, and what its place is in the world.
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:
After three weeks in which I’ve been silent on Brexit, because I simply couldn’t cope with the misery of Theresa May having triggered Article 50 – and having done so in such a vile, authoritarian manner – I’m breaking my silence to comment on the hypocrisy of her calling a General Election on June 8, having persistently ruled out doing so. She has no principles. She continues to have no desire to engage with anyone in a meaningful way about anything she wants to do, including her almost homicidal obsession with as savage a break with Europe as possible, and she is, to be blunt, the most nightmarish leader I can recall since the darkest days of Margaret Thatcher.
Breaking news – ‘European parliament president Antonio Tajani said EU departure process could easily be reversed if there is change of UK government’: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/apr/20/european-parliament-will-welcome-britain-back-if-voters-veto-brexit
Unfortunately, just hours before, Jeremy Corbyn said that a public vote on the final Brexit deal will not be in Labour’s manifesto despite “initially refusing to dismiss the idea”, as the Guardian described it: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/apr/20/jeremy-corbyn-john-mcdonnell-speech-establishment-people-brexit
And here’s rising Labour MP Clive Lewis on Theresa May’s hypocrisy: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/20/theresa-may-breaking-promises-politics-conservative-election
And here’s an interesting guide to the election by Ian Dunt’s colleague, Chaminda Jayanetti: http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2017/04/19/election-2017-the-no-nonsense-guide
Adrienne Murphy wrote:
Could also be panic if the alleged 24 tory MPS are charged therefore wiping out our dictator’s parliamentary majority. Does this woman understand the concept of a democracy?
Yes, that’s a very valid point, Adrienne. Article in the Independent here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-general-election-expenses-scandal-distract-schedule-mps-tory-party-paul-nuttall-david-a7690106.html
Anybody else out there with any thoughts about Theresa May’s announcement? Her hypocrisy? Her cowardice in refusing to agree to take part in any live TV debates? Using the election to try and wipe out Labour? To provide a distraction from the election expenses scandal? I’m interested to know what you think. I’ve been watching what Paul Mason has to say about how he thinks she will do nothing but hide or make stage-managed appearances. She apparently wanted the BBC to stage a televised rally for her: https://twitter.com/paulmasonnews/status/854811926446170112
David Knopfler wrote:
In some respects she’s worse than Margaret Thatcher. With Thatcher what she appeared to be was exactly what she was… wife of Denis Thatcher, powellite, mean spirited utilitarian with a splash of Eva Peron. May has all the same values but steals phrases like “social justice” as she sets up her propaganda tanks in the centre ground.
Thatcher also had some sort of beliefs as well, David. She wanted social tenants to be able to be homeowners, and she wanted to liberate bankers to make money, to give just two examples. I didn’t agree with either, but at least it made some sort of sense. Now, however, there is no Tory idealism, however warped, that can be worked towards as in Thatcher’s day, and everything seems much darker. Under Cameron and Osborne it was bad enough, but May just appears to be deranged. And, of course, she campaigned to remain in the EU but has since become the most strident evangelist for leaving. She seems nakedly to be obsessed with being in power, and with the Tories staying in power, without any regard for what that might involve in terms of coherent policies. Here’s that photo:
David Knopfler wrote:
Power corrupts and absolute power etc
That’s definitely what she’s working towards, David, and everyone who believes in the democratic process, however flawed it is, should be profoundly alarmed that she wants to rule without being questioned, either by her fellow MPs, or by the public. However, I believe we got here in the first place not because power corrupts but because power combined with an absence of any progressive concerns for the people as a whole leads to lies and spin masquerading as truth. The rot began under Blair, and continued under Cameron, and now politicians for the most part are completely out of touch with the truth and what it means. And that’s hugely ironic, of course, because that’s what so many Leavers were voting against, and yet now they’ve got the most shocking version of what they supposedly hated in Number 10 and entirely dismissive of whatever they think unless it aligns exactly with her point of view.
the whole thing makes me want to vomit were all sick of the lot of them there like a bunch of bloodsuckers …they wont leave anyone alone…..just let us live leave us all alone …..as for the media reading the headline of the vile daily mail….crush the remoaners crush the sabitours ……..its all so energy zapping
Yes, it’s such a disgrace, isn’t it, Damo? Theresa May the zombie tyrant. She actually looks dead. Is that what so many people want from a leader? And yes, the Daily Mail and Sun headlines were truly shameful, weren’t they? Here’s Steven Poole’s analysis for the Guardian, ‘Crush the saboteurs! How hard-Brexit rhetoric turned Leninist’: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/apr/19/crush-the-saboteurs-how-hard-brexit-rhetoric-turned-leninist
Unfortunately, the rabid, blinkered, anti-immigrant Leavers, at the heart of government, in the right-wing media and in our streets, seem to be making all the noise right now, silencing those of us who voted Remain, and, shockingly, seeking to subvert the entire basis of British politics, using Brexit as an excuse.
All those years of us complaining about our fellow citizens being asleep – and now it’s so much worse than we could have imagined.
Was looking forward to a comment from you, Andy, as I did not even try to analyze this coup.
My first gut reaction was that she cynically assumed it would be a win-win for her either way.
If she wins, her position is even stronger and what’s more, she gains ‘legitimacy’ for actually having been elected by ‘the people’rather than having stumbled into the PM position.
If by chance she loses and the left would win, she’ll spend all her energy to sabotage the new government’s Brexit deal and anything else – for which there will be very little time and energy, so success will not be probable – and then triumphantly blame all the drama’s on the fact that she – The Nation’s Saviour’ – was not at the helm.
As for arrogance, I hesitate whether she should get the first prize or Nicky Haley, the US envoy at the UN. But there is no doubt May deserves the title for hysterical, acidic madness.
What frightens me is that this revival of l’état c’est moi rhetoric all around – Trump, May, Erdogan including our own surviving twin to name just a few – with their loud & clear ‘Blut und Boden’ ranting, does not ring a bell or flash red warning lights with the wider public. Humans have short memories.
Great to hear from you, Anna, but yes, it’s a sadly changed world we’re living in compared to that “war on terror” world and its legacy that we first met because of. Of course, that’s not over, and it’s directly responsible for the refugee crisis that is playing such a major part in turning the populations of EU countries into cold-hearted isolationists, although that’s not the whole story, of course. There’s also the Islamophobia, the War on Terror 2.0 that has been declared in response to the various terrorist attacks in Europe in the last few years, and there’s also more prosaic anti-immigrant sentiment that has been growing steadily in the UK over many years against Eastern European migrants. This, however, is the first time in my lifetime that I recall such a muted backlash against the racists and xenophobes, even though, as you say, we should know that it ends in bloodshed.
So here the idiot Brexiteers are quietly trying to make deals for bits of the UK economy instead of taking a grown-up position and calling the whole thing off, and one of the things they’re having to look at is allowances for some of the foreign workers that are needed if the UK isn’t to grind to a halt – agricultural workers, to quote just one example. However, they should be saying no to the whole stupid notion that we can stop immigration or, indeed, that it is a good idea to do so.
Until the referendum, I fooled myself that people realised that increased immigration is partly a by-product of having successful economies – so that immigration rates were similar throughout the countries of Western Europe – but, of course, people weren’t paying attention to that. They weren’t even paying attention to facts. On one particular alarming occasion before the the 2015 election, I recall, a hapless reporter was speaking to a racist young woman in some coastal town, who, when asked what the percentage of immigrants was, replied that it was 90 percent. The reporter corrected her; it was just 8 percent, but we now live in post-factual times, and people believe what they want to believe, even if it’s a complete fantasy.
Alarmingly however, none of those fantasies are left-wing. Like so much happening now, they all logically lead to the gates of Auschwitz, or, at least, to the return of war that the EU has largely prevented since the 1950s, but we have no media prepared to stand up and resist “the will of the people”, and in the UK the most influential paper, the Daily Mail, supported Hitler in the 1930s.
Very alarming times. I hope somehow we can pull the plug on this Brexit nonsense before it destroys us, but I fear that we are back in the grip of the Tories as we were for the 18 years from 1979 to 1997, but that this time their blindness and stupidity will damn us all to economic collapse.
After Gareth Newnham liked this on Facebook, I wrote:
Thanks for liking this, Gareth. I find the general lack of interest really rather troubling, although, as I noted at the start of my article, since Theresa May triggered Article 50, many people I’ve spoken to and communicate with have been telling me that they’ve switched off from the media because they simply can’t take the pro-Brexit crap anymore, or the complacent faux-objectivity of other media outlets. It feels rather like a coup, in which the Tories – themselves a very clear part of the elite – are hoping they can silence other parts of the elite, including many of their own voters, pro-European people with assets, living in affluent parts of the south, bankers, business leaders and other pillars of the establishment, as well as continuing to silence all the Labour voters, Lib Dem voters, SNP voters, and all the rest of the 16.1 million of us who voted to stay in Europe, in their absolutely evangelical and misplaced pursuit of our economic suicide, our profound isolation, and the inevitable selling-off of what’s left of our poor country to the highest bidder amongst numerous disreputable countries worldwide, including Trump’s America, China, Gulf tyrants etc.
Theresa May’s contempt for us all is absolutely shocking, and my hatred for her will not diminish until, some day, she is defeated. I only hope that is not after she has led us to economic ruin and her own people finally turn on her along with the rest of us.
Gareth Newnham wrote:
The lack of interest is extremely peculiar because you’ve produced a spot-on reaction and summation. 5000 ‘friends’ and almost 3000 ‘followers’ yet this piece has only a couple of ‘likes’…Makes no sense. Re: switching off: i live in the US now but among my UK-based friends i have noticed an escalation of interest and activity in recent days following this election news, at least on fb anyway.
And i agree, it does feel like a coup, a coup aided by the corporate media.
Who knows, Gareth? I know that many of my “friends” and followers are not British, and are generally interested in Guantanamo rather than the demise of the UK, but it also troubles me that most of the “old left” in Britain – traditionally opponents of US militarism and overreach, and therefore supporters of my Guantanamo work – also supports leaving the EU, and are therefore not interested – or are actively opposed to – my writing on Brexit. Then there’s Facebook’s algorithms. Perhaps my work’s just not being seen as much as it used to be.
Brian Wilkes wrote:
Even with a complicit MSM propping this despicable and murderous Tory government up, it is still a huge gamble.
I expect they knew election fraud cases would end their majority and possibly worse, so a gamble worthwhile for them.
I hope people see through the Tory and media bias and lies and kick them out with their forked tails between their legs.
Yes, the election fraud story seems particularly significant, Brian. I do hope, however, that, outside the 25% (or thereabouts) of the electorate who generally vote Tory, people will see them for what they truly are, and will get rid of them. Seven years of Tory rule is more than anyone should have to bear!
Melani Finn wrote:
Thanks Andy for articulating your anger so well, as you always do. But I don’t think people are seeing them for what they are. I do wish I could hold on to that possibility, but I fear it is much much worse than that. This godawful Brexit has been an absolute boon for the Tories and their power grab. It’s frightful. I don’t advise it but if you have a strong stomach you might look at some pro-Brexit pages and it is an absolutely horrific fever of Labour, UKIP and Tory voters all proclaiming they will vote Tory to protect Brexit. It makes me feel ill.
I worry not just for the outcome of leaving the EU (still hard to say it) but for our social provisions and importantly the NHS. I weep for the world my children are presented with right now.
Despite my moments of positivity, Melani, like the comment above, I’m actually much more inclined towards your pessimism. I can’t bear to read any pro-Brexit pages, websites or comments, just as I continue to boycott the news, and may, I think, never actually watch the news again, until some channel or other is actually taken over by the resistance. The whole pro-Brexit enthusiasm is more thoroughly depressing than almost anything I can recall happening politically in my lifetime, as it is so clearly not fundamentally about Brexit and the EU but about a host of other malignant reasons projected onto our 44-year EU membership – racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, contempt for refugees, blinkered nationalism, isolationism, foolish, deluded, wishful thinking, a hankering for a golden age that never even remotely existed. It seems that I share not one single iota of my Britishness with all of these flag-waving Brexit crusaders, who have never provided a single compelling reason to explain why it is so urgent for us to leave the EU, and yet here we and millions of others are, sidelined, silenced and apparently entirely powerless.
Neil McKenna wrote:
Do you not reflect on the plight of Greece, Andy? I agree with you that Brexit as practised is retrograde. but there really is more to it than that.
Oh, I have no love for how the Euro project has been used to crush Greece, Neil – nor, indeed, for other neo-liberal aspects of the EU project – but us leaving the EU isn’t going to help Greece or bring down neo-liberalism. I’m with Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s former finance minister, who is passionate and articulate about the need to reform the EU from within, as he explained here, two months before our referendum: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/05/yanis-varoufakis-why-we-must-save-the-eu
Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:
Scary times are getting scarier
Sadly, yes, Tashi. I only hope that other countries in Europe don’t follow Britain’s lead, and that Trump continues to demonstrate that corrupt populist buffoons can’t run governments. That said, we desperately need new, young, charismatic left-wingers to frame new visions of a world that isn’t just about further enriching the rich and further impoverishing the poor. it seems to be hard work, however, because self-interest is now so deeply entrenched after 30 years of politicians and the media encouraging people to think only of themselves.
Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:
Trump has proved that he can say anything at all, with any meaning (hidden or apparent) and people will cheer.
May is proving that her country cares more about the “pure race” and Imperialism 2.0 more than any other issue and despite the destitution of the populace.
Just waiting for France to sink down the tubes next.
It’s like a domino effect.
I hope not, Tashi. All eyes are certainly on France right now: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/20/how-france-presidential-election-could-break-or-make-the-eu
Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:
I know you’re not a proponent of the false flag, Andy. But this just has the stench of one to me…
France goes to the polls on Sunday with terrorist violence casting a long shadow over its fraught presidential election, after the shooting of a policeman on the Champs Élysées deepened already bitter political divisions.
Candidates with radically opposing visions for the country’s future clashed openly over the response to the killing, claimed by Islamic State less than 72 hours before polling stations open.
One never knows if someone somewhere in the apparatus of government deliberately ignores warnings about potential terrorist events, Tashi, but generally I think incompetence should be the first thing to consider – essentially, someone somewhere with responsibility for intelligence failed to join the dots. Annoyingly, the terrorists want to destabilise us, and our response, every time, confirms that everything they’re doing is working.
Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:
That’s an alternate way of looking at it.
It’s what the terrorists have wanted since 9/11, Tashi, and we’ve played into their hands every time. The mature way of dealing with terrorism is to downplay smaller events as much as possible, to always ignore all mention of all failed plots, and to deal with large events – like 9/11 itself, and the Paris massacre, for example – with a dignified response, and a refusal to engage in hysteria. But we have not only stirred up or given in to hysteria, up to the highest levels of government, we have also curtailed our own liberties, spread a 24/7 message of fear, and, often, have also done damage to our own economies – everything that those seeking to destabilise us want.
Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:
And, the question is, who wants to destabilize us?
Those who want our corrupt and violent regimes to collapse, Tashi. Ironically, these people may, at various times, have actually been supported by us – see the case of the mujahideen in Afghanistan, for example, in the 80s, and of some of the factions in Syria’s civil war, but essentially I do believe that there are players in the terrorism scenario who just wants out of their countries, and who seek to precipitate our fall from military and economic superiority.
So tactical voting is obviously going to be essential in this election, and here’s a good article by retired diplomat Oliver Miles: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/22/how-vote-tactically-remainer-any-candidate-against-brexit
You see Andy, it was good to leave your Brexit shell :-), the response is huge.
RE 23 and Greece, I agree with Varoufakis’ take & recently AlJazeeraEnglish repeated an excellent documentary which showed how their revolution never stood an honest chance, whether politically in the EU or financially with big banks and financial institutions precipitating its downfall. Unfortunately it is not featured among their off-line documentaries but it no doubt will return and there are several enlightening shorter documents on this subject on their website.
As for terrorists and potential false flags, much damage is actually done by mainstream press and politicians who immediately jump to conclusions about the motives of the attackers.
Once the ‘terrorist’ label has been attached to someone, it’s virtually impossible to undo it. Yet many if not most of the attackers in Europe, were not so much political ‘terrorists’ as disgruntled and possibly even mentally disturbed persons, ordinary criminals. The football one in German attacked for financial gains (kudo’s to the German authorities who were very careful to add caveats to the original ‘terrorist’ narrative), the one in Paris a well-known common criminal with a deadly grudge against police officers (who apparently tend to be less-than-fairhanded with non-white French, but Hollande immediately called this a ‘terrorist’ attack, supposedly based on the perpetrator’s name?), the ones in London and Nice also mentally disgruntled persons. No refugees.
The same media have less problems with white mass murderers such as Breivik or the desperate German pilot who took a plane-load of passengers with him into his suicide.
And let’s never forget, that the Holocaust started by governments and press indiscriminatingly blaming Jews for any crimes committed including imaginary ones – and society at large turning a blind eye.
Without peddling false flag stories, when in doubt who benefits from what we are discussing here, we can safely start with the political-military-industrial complex which is making trillions for its CEO’s and shareholders …
A mere 10% of the US military spending INCREASE in the forthcoming budget, could finance the rescue of the 20 million people who are about to starve to death. So could a combined effort of a few of the high-profile multi-billionaires who claim to have social agenda’s.
No one seems to care.
Thanks, Anna. Good points about the false reporting of crimes committed by terrorists, when they were actually mentally ill, your observations about white terrorists not generally being regarded as terorists, and your chilling reminder that “the Holocaust started by governments and press indiscriminatingly blaming Jews for any crimes committed including imaginary ones – and society at large turning a blind eye.”
You also make an important point about following the money, but as you say, “No one seems to care.” However, those of us who do care are at least trying to work out how to change the agenda from the super-rich service industry that our current media and political leaders are wedded to.
Melani Finn wrote, in response to 22, above:
There are huge forces at work in social media that have a lot of power, and sadly they are not restricted to people with good intentions. That may be nothing new but the scale and access they have is. Did you come across the articles about the firm Cambridge Analytica and their relationship to the Trump and Brexit campaigns? They ran mega data statistical analysis on social media and by doing so were able to select their targets very efficiently, and tailor the language and tilt of the ‘opinions’ to match the target groups. Of course it pays to be an unfeeling so-called pragmatic right wing agent of change, because conscience doesn’t come into it in the pursuit of rampant authoritarian and free-market ideology.
But we are facing astro-turfing on social media like never before. I’d wager that a good proportion of the ‘Labour voters preparing to vote Tory’ on these forums are paid to target groups that have already been heavily manipulated – and it’s terrifying. We have a herd mentality that has unleashed something really ugly, but I’m positive there’s an even uglier mastermind at the helm. What could be more cost effective?
You make very good points, Melani, and it is indeed very troubling. I’ve seen quite a bit about Cambridge Analytica, like this from the Observer – https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/mar/04/nigel-oakes-cambridge-analytica-what-role-brexit-trump – but while it appears to be inconclusive as to exactly how influential they have been, I think you’re undoubtedly correct to flag up and to fear how the world of social media is being manipulated by dark forces.
I wonder if we should engage more, and try to get differing opinions onto right-wing sites and pages? But I confess that even the thought of that gives me a headache, as it’s so exhausting trying to engage with people who don’t think and don’t want to think.
David Knopfler wrote:
Even though Jeremy Corbyn dropped the golden ticket (and his principles) by not sticking with his Remain campaign, after he persuaded over 2/3rds of Labour voters to vote Remain, and Brexit is vitally important, so too is trying to create a majority left-coalition. It seems to me that unless you are a fan of Theresa May that you vote in your area for the candidate most likely to help see her leave Ten Downing Street. There are websites to help you make that calculation…
Excellent. Thanks, David. I agree. It’s hugely important for everyone opposed to Theresa May and the Tories to do all they can to work out how to maximise opposition to them.
Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote, following the discussion leading up to 34, above:
But he [French Presidential centre-right candidate François Fillon] promised to tackle extremism with an “iron hand” if elected.
“We are engaged in a long-term war,” he said. “The enemy is powerful, its resources are numerous and its accomplices live among us, by our side.”
At the other end of the political spectrum, the far-left fringe candidate Philippe Poutou blamed French politics for the Paris attack on police. France bore its share of responsibility by discriminating against people living in poor suburbs because of “their skin colour or origins,” taking military action in Africa and the Middle East and selling arms to dictatorships, he said.
Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:
Sorry to have taken you off track from your article on the British election and Theresa May (could not agree more about her behaving as a total hypocrite) but I just see similarities between the these elections and these strange “leaders” of ours on the planet.
Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:
What is it that they build upon? Fear, hatred, convicting/condemning those less fortunate — all the while, protecting those who profit off our strange worldly financial structures (off shores, tax havens, wall street, hedge funds, world banks, loans, debt creation, pay-day lenders, real estate tycoons, factory owners, stock brokers, lobbyists, multi-national corporations, arms manufacturers and vendors, etc.)
Who is profiting off of destabilizing us? They are.
And they skip along hand in hand with our politicians towards our doom.
Whether they created terrorism or are the terrorists is debatable. I think they are both. And I think we’ve been duped — and continue to be duped.
Hard to argue with that analysis, Tashi. What a mess we’re in.
I don’t think May’s move is comparable to Erdogan… it brings together The Party (ha!), and gives Britain a strong hand when it comes to negotiating with our European counterparts… as a Remainer she just sees tactical advantage rather than steering us masochistically towards the exit. Having said that, there’s a lot to be scared about these days. I’m researching the discourse of ‘radicalization’, it’s a terrifyingly oppressive notion and leads to the sorts of disasters like Guantanamo that crush whole sectors of our societies into silence and fear. And a larger Tory majority will only prevent proper discussion on these topics that make others’ lives almost literally hellish. 1984 here we come indeed
Great to hear from you, and thanks for your analysis of the situation.
I have written a lot over the years about Britain’s response to terrorism in the wake of the 9/11 attacks; specifically, the imprisonment on the basis of secret evidence of foreign nationals without charge or trial – and without even being asked a single question – and the internal exile and house arrest of others, including British citizens. This remains an under-reported story that most British people know nothing about – except when Abu Qatada was mentioned hysterically by the tabloid media – and Theresa May as home secretary.
I’m presuming your work is more to do with what has emerged in recent years, and specifically the Prevent program, which is causing massive consternation in the Muslim community. I also imagine you’re looking at disproportionate sentencing for thought crimes, i.e. for “plots” that haven’t come into existence, and therefore might never have done, which is also widespread when it comes to prison sentences for Muslims.
I’d be very interested in hearing more about what you’re doing that has led to you reaching your powerful and worrying conclusions.
If it’s of interest, my 11-page archive of article about British counter-terrorism is here: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/category/belmarsh-control-orders-deportation-and-extradition/
My specific concerns about Theresa May are here: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2016/07/14/as-theresa-may-becomes-prime-minister-a-look-back-at-her-authoritarianism-islamophobia-and-harshness-on-immigration/
And here are a couple additional articles about the Tories’ specific assaults on human rights:
Thanks for your thoughts. You’re spot on, it’s about how we deal with ‘pre-crimes’, and yes part of what I’m looking into is the oppression of Muslim communities based on this. Monitoring, surveilling, informing etc etc which makes discussion and criticism of the War on Terror / drone warfare / Western foreign policy in general a fairly risky strategy for Muslims, which is not how liberal democracies should run – but it’s an idea that’s been taken up by society without question to a point where ‘NotInMyName’ became a desirable outcome. Essentially the ‘theory of radicalization’ discourse that we (US/UK)’ve promoted removes politics from how we understand individuals engage in extremism. Media coverage is largely all about their fanatically religious ideology, their failed social lives, or crimes they’ve committed in the past, rather than Western atrocities, Guantanamo, drone strikes and other political motivations that they all seem to emphasize.
RE the hysterical fear you mention – I saw a WSJ poll the other day from just after 9/11, where 45% (!!!!!!!!!!) of Americans were worried they or a family member were going to be a target of terrorism. Based on statistics alone, there are hundreds, probably thousands of other things to be much more worried about.
I’m in the first year of my PhD, but I’m travelling to Northern Ireland, Germany and the US to carry out field work exploring the differences between how former militants express their (presumably political) motives for involvement, and how ‘de-radicalization’ practices are outworked.
Thanks for the links, I’ll be having a look at them this week, and I will be here too, very happy to have found these pages!
One thing that strikes me about this? How in many ways May seems like a meaner version of Thatcher (if that’s possible). I was living in London when she was PM, and remember a lot of her policies. Now, May will never publically admit this. But (in her mind) one reason for an election is to finish off Corbyn. Then that will prove once and for all that she does have a public mandate to continue with Brexit. Sometimes I’ll listen to right wingers on talk radio having a go at Corbyn. He’s just like “Red Ken” Livingstone. He’s so out of touch. Blah blah blah. Hang on a minute. He’s trying in many ways to make society better and fairer to everybody. Why is that so horrible? A lot of the old Labour guard is scared that anything other than Tory Lite is the kiss of death. And that’s just sad.
Another thing that bothers me about May is her arrogance. She calls for an election. Then she can’t be bothered to debate. How could anyone possibly justify this? At most, if the public disgust with this builds up enough, negotiations will commence. We don’t want a debate. Oh all right, not a debate, but each candidate in seperate interviews. We want advance approval of all questions. And so on.
Yes, exactly, Tom. The Blairites’ opposition to Corbyn – based on their long memory of failing to take power from the Tories from 1979 to 1997, until they became Tory-lite, as you note – means that they have moved beyond understanding how values should be more important than perceptions of electability. To my mind, Labour should stand on a box every day and shout about how crap the Tories are, and do it until voters get the message. And if the voters don’t get the message, they at least tried.
As for May, yes, she is a meaner, colder version of Thatcher (how is that possible?), and she also obviously wants (a) a mandate to proceed with Brexit, and (b) to destroy Labour. Terrifyingly, however, she already shows no desire to engage in any debate with anyone about Brexit (or anything much else, for that matter), so if the Tories win the election it seems fair to assume that she’ll just raise the drawbridge and not speak to anyone again unless they come crawling to her and agree with her every utterance. I wish people would see the difference between May, the ice queen, and Thatcher, who wasn’t scared to meet people, to talk, to put her point of view across, however wrong she might have been. I genuinely can’t conceive of a worse leader at this deadliest time, when we desperately need grown-up debate about what Brexit means – or even, still, if something so suicidal should be feasible – but what we get instead is a government that sides with the tabloids in calling senior judges unpatriotic, an undemocratic horror worthy of Donald Trump.
Yes, I hope Theresa May loses votes because of her contempt for the public, Tom. She certainly deserves to. Her disdain for voters is astounding. Of course, another way of looking at it is that she doesn’t want to be challenged at all on Brexit, and is desperate not to be questioned in and way that will reveal how flimsy the entire premise of leaving the EU is, but if that’s the case – and I think it’s indisputable that it is – then people need to know, so they can see it for themselves.
Excellent, Tom. It sounds like fascinating and necessary work that you’re involved in, and do feel free to stay in touch with me if I can be of any assistance. I often feel that – beyond the necessary work I do on Guantanamo – I’m not actively engaged enough in challenging the misplaced assumptions that are manufacturing a clash of civilisations when no such thing exists. I’m particularly worried that, just when the “war on terror” should have been over, when Obama became president, and when Britain’s counter-terrorism policies started to look alarmingly punitive, it got a new lease of life, entirely manufactured by politicians and the media and those well-funded right-wing think-tanks (propaganda outfits) that are given far too much airtime.
Just for the record, it seems to me that what happened after people had been held for 10+ years based on secret evidence without being charged, in both the US and the UK, was that perceptive people started to realise that never even charging people described as dangerous based on secret evidence has the peculiar and horribly unjust outcome of freezing them in time as permanently dangerous, rather than involving punishment, if they were to be found guilty of a crime, and freedom at the end of a sentence when they are judged to have repaid their debt to society.
Thanks Andy, I will do indeed! I can totally see your point on the dangers of the timeless aspect of not charging people – a great example is obviously Begg… such horror of the internment followed by what’ll probably be lifelong rejection by people who don’t think properly, and/or are blinkered by the crazy fear we’ve all got, but who essentially run the show.
To Tom’s comments – we need a system other than FPTP, until that hurdle’s jumped we’ll be stuck I think. LDs should have pushed for full-on PR back in 2011 or whenever the AV referendum was!!
Yes, that whole nonsense with Moazzam was particularly horrible, I thought, Tom. He’s one of the highest profile Muslims in the country, so it was ridiculous to think he’d anything untoward, plus he had clearly had the intelligence services talking to him in relation to his travels, and yet he ended up being put through a seven-month ordeal in prison – plus the black mark that leaves on his name for those not paying attention – simply so the government could have a high-profile sacrifice to try to prevent young Muslim men from going off to Syria to get killed.
As for first past the post, i.e. winner takes it all, yes, what a ridiculous, outmoded system. The Lib Dems certainly lost massively with their pathetic pitch for PR, but I don’t see how we get rid of FPTP unless people stop voting in such significant numbers that the entire legitimacy of the system is seriously called into doubt. Perhaps this election will be a step towards it. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see some historically low turnouts, but what do I know? Theresa May is currently unfeasibly popular for someone so seemingly like the undead, and so horribly uncommunicative.
‘Anti-terrorism’ lawless legislation based on secret ‘evidence’ aimed at people from the greater Middle East, muslims and whoever else, which is thrown into one ‘terrorist’ bag, is spreading even to countries like Poland in which there hardly are any such persons. We have just witnessed a series of extraditions of persons whose asylum applications were still being processed, including a 22 yrs old Chechen woman with two toddlers who at 03:00 hrs AM were forcibly removed from the detention centre were they were held and sent off to Moscow.
In my hometown we had already the third case of a foreigner from a predominantly muslim country being expelled for having refused to act as an informer with our ‘national security’ outfit. The latest case gained publicity as it concerns a Kurdish/Iraqi PhD student with all papers perfectly in order and with a Polish government grant …
First he was locked up for six months on the basis of ‘secret evidence’ which supposedly made him a ‘national security threat’. When finally a court got to see this ‘evidence’, it ruled that it was of no value, that there was no reason to detain him and ordered his release. However, a couple of hours BEFORE that verdict he was kidnapped from the detention centre by border guards, beaten up, sedated and put on a plane to Turkey and onwards to Baghdad. His lawyer was not even informed. All this is illegal according to EU law and our own constitution, except that we now have this ‘anti terror’ legislation which apparently trumps (no pun intended) all civilised laws.
He now will not be able to continue his studies, as no country will accept him with such a label. First we helped to ruin his country and now, instead of apologising for the ‘mistake’ and educating young, talented Iraqis so that one day they can help to rebuild their massacred country, we continue the carnage!
His FB support page has morphed into one for all foreigners threatened by deportation.
So sorry to hear this, Anna, but unfortunately it’s no great surprise, as EU countries – and Western countries in general – seem to be very good at sharing information with each other about bad policy decisions (though rarely about the good news), and on immigration, of course, there’s now a race to the bottom – or, as it is also known, the far right.
As for people – like Ameer Alkhawlany – being deported for refusing to be recruited as informers, that’s a particular form of terrorism-related injustice that also seems widespread here in the UK.
I’m finding myself increasingly troubled, as Brexit signals a rightward shift in Britain’s already dangerously right-wing political situation, about those in the grey areas of the nationality debate – not just the indifference or hostility towards refugees, who are barely mentioned in the UK media anymore despite the crisis not having gone away, but the asylum seekers and the put-upon economic migrants (who are regarded as somehow criminal for wanting to find work in another country), who will surely only find that their underreported and chronically unjust treatment is only going to get worse in the years to come.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The spreadsheet for tactical voting against the Tories has now been turned into a website, here: https://www.tactical2017.com
The Independent’s article about it is here: https://www.indy100.com/article/spreadsheet-strategic-voting-labour-conservative-lib-dem-general-election-2017-latest-7697431
I think that point’s really interesting Andy. I’ve always been a tactical voter – but this thought crossed my mind yesterday: what do you think about the idea that tactical voting only maintains the fairly rigid two-party system, and therefore FPTP? So the more wasted votes there are, the less ground FPTP has to stand on… It came up as an issue with UKIP / Green votes last time, with 5 million wasted votes minus the two seats they won. How many would there have to be?! How can we as a society talk seriously about the electoral system (which maintains the status quo, and allows SO much to go unquestioned) otherwise? Do you have thoughts about that? This is the first election when I’ve considered not voting, but I can’t bring myself not to do it!!
The most distressing thing about “first past the post” as it relates to politics now, Tom, is how it so massively discourages so many people from taking part in the electoral process. Why bother, if you’re lukewarm about politicians’ integrity in the first place, take part in a “winner takers it all” system where most votes are simply wasted?
I live in one of Lewisham’s three boroughs – all so solidly Labour that it’s impossible to imagine anyone else ever winning – and so my friends and I, every election, discuss whether to nominally support Labour by voting for the sitting MP or whether to nominally register a protest by, say, voting Green, and this farcical situation is repeated up and down the country – everywhere, in fact, except the relative handful of marginal constituencies where the real power shifts are decided. How can anyone who supports FPTP genuinely encourage anyone to turn out to vote when so many votes are so completely worthless, whereas, under a PR system, every 50,000 votes cast (or thereabouts) would get an MP elected? I wrote about that after the 2015 General Election, when UKIP and the Greens should have had many dozens of MPs: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2015/05/09/uk-election-tory-victory-a-disaster-for-the-people-of-britain-and-the-democratic-process/
Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
Email Andy Worthington
Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist: