UK politics

Photos and Report: The Ten Coordinated Global Vigils for the Closure of Guantánamo on July 3, 2024

7.7.24

Photos from, and my report about the ten vigils for the closure of Guantánamo that took place across the US and around the world on July 3, 2024, the latest in an ongoing series of monthly coordinated global vigils that began last year. The vigils take place on the first Wednesday of every month, and the next date is August 7.

Despite the Landslide, Labour Have No Vision and Only Won the UK General Election Because the Tories Lost So Spectacularly

5.7.24

My analysis of yesterday’s General Election in the UK, which, after 14 years, swept aside the Tories, and ushered in a Labour government under Keir Starmer, with a huge but disproportionate majority that didn’t reflect the number of votes received (less than Jeremy Corbyn in 2017 and 2019), but rather the collapse of the Tories, finally undone after years of cruelty, incompetence and corruption, and facilitated by the sudden rise of Nigel Farage’s far-right Reform UK Party, which helpfully split the right-wing vote. Wonderful though it is to see the back of the Tories, and also to see noticeable successes for the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats, and a number of independents including Jeremy Corbyn, power is now in the hands of Starmer and his cabinet, including his Chancellor Rachel Reeves, who secured victory despite having almost no policies that distinguish them from the Tories. I discuss my many concerns, criticising Labour’s adherence to neoliberalism, and urging it to be bold on re-nationalisation (especially of water), and expressing my shock that Starmer has so openly declared his opposition to any kind of rapprochement with the EU, even though Brexit has done more to damage the UK than anything else over the last eight years, wrecking trade, and leading to a disgraceful rise in racism, which, in the hands of the Tories’ parade of leaders in the years since, led to a morally repugnant fixation on making it illegal to be a refugee, and seeking to send asylum seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda. I hope this anti-immigrant hostility will be abandoned, and I also hope that other draconian Tory innovations — in particular, an attempt to ban all meaningful protest, through the criminalisation of climate activism — will be ditched, although on this particular point I fear that Starmer, as the former Director of Public Prosecutions, has troubling authoritarian impulses that may not augur well for civil liberties. I also urge boldness — true boldness — on climate collapse, and end by expressing my fears for foreign policy under Starmer, most noticeably because of his uncritical support for Israel and its ongoing and unforgivable genocide in Gaza.

The Limits of Polite Dissent: The Massive But Largely Ignored ‘Restore Nature Now’ March in London, June 22, 2024

1.7.24

My report about ‘Restore Nature Now’, a massive march and rally in London on June 22 calling for the urgent protection of bio-diversity, which was initiated by the beloved environmentalist Chris Packham, but which, because it was family-friendly and non-confrontational, was almost completely ignored by the mainstream media, unlike the global coverage days before, when two Just Stop Oil activists sprayed harmless cornstarch-based orange paint on Stonehenge, and were compared to ISIS. Although catastrophic climate collapse is already happening — and much earlier than the warnings made by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018, when we were warned that we had until 2030 to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 to keep alive the prospect of a liveable planet — climate protest is in a parlous state, either sidelined or ignored when it is peaceful, like ‘Restore Nature Now’, or subject to hysteria and hyperbolic outrage when it involves even the mildest disruptive forms of direct action, along with the almost certain prospect of arrest, and possibly prison sentences, because of draconian laws passed in recent years aimed solely at climate protestors. Reviewing the last three decades of climate protest, I conclude that direct action remains the best way to try to effect change, but I struggle to understand how it can be undertaken when it faces increasingly draconian responses from government, and continued indifference or psychopathic hostility from the media and from the bitter and twisted ‘armchair warriors’ of social media. We truly seem to be living in the most demented end times imaginable, just a few years away from major collapse, and yet still encouraged to consume like never before, not to question the insanity of our leaders’ inaction, nor to question their psychically broken response — not dealing with the threat, but instead transferring all our energies into hideous proxy wars, in Ukraine and in Gaza, while our leaders prop up a neoliberal model that is so broken that ordinary people, confused and angry, are everywhere retreating into the false comforting arms of fascists with their dangerous explanations that the blame lies entirely with “the other”: immigrants, Muslims, and, increasingly I fear, everyone on the left. This is not a comforting time to be alive, and those of us with functioning brains, and with empathy, need to start working together like never before to create genuine solidarity as our civilisations collapse and the far-right become ever more empowered.

40 Years of the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge: From Anarchy to State Repression to ‘Managed Open Access’

21.6.24

To mark the summer solstice at Stonehenge, I recollect my experiences at the last Stonehenge Free Festival, before its violent suppression at the Battle of the Beanfield in 1985, when I visited the stones after staying up all night. My experiences of the festival and the stones left a deep impression on me, which, in the ’90s, encouraged me to undertake several long-distance walks through southern England’s ancient landscape, for a book that, eventually, materialised instead as ’Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion’, my unique social history of Stonehenge, published 20 years ago, and still in print. I also reflect on the militarised exclusion zone that existed on the summer solstice at Stonehenge until 2000, when a court ruling led to the reopening of the stones for what is unromantically called ‘Managed Open Access’, when crowds are allowed in for 12 hours, and I also reflect on the latest example of conflict at Stonehenge: a truly absurd comparison between Just Stop Oil and ISIS, after JSO activists sprayed harmless cornstarch-based paint on the stones two days ago.

General Election 2024: The Labour MPs Who Oppose Israel’s Genocide in Gaza, and Those Who Support It

19.6.24

My thoughts on Israel’s genocide in Gaza, the Labour Party and the forthcoming General Election in the UK, in response to some commentators stating that Labour should be boycotted in its entirety, because of the unconditional support for Israel demonstrated by Keir Starmer and other members of the shadow cabinet. In response, I’ve compiled a list of around 60 Labour MPs who are worth voting for, based largely on the rebels who defied the whip and voted for an SNP amendment in November calling for an immediate ceasefire, and who include all of the remaining left wingers in Starmer’s centre-right pro-Israel Party. I’ve also compiled a second list of around 60 MPs who don’t deserve your vote. These include Starmer himself and, mostly, members of the shadow cabinet, shadow junior ministers, whips and other members of the Party machinery who are all members of Labour Friends of Israel, and who have not shown any signs of dissent from the Party’s overall support for Israel, despite the International Court of Justice, in January, issuing “provisional measures” against the State of Israel on the basis that it was engaged in a “plausible genocide”, and, more recently, Karim Khan KC, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, announcing his intention to seek arrest warrants — for war crimes and crimes against humanity — for Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant, and three Hamas leaders.

Britain’s 9/11 and Cannibalistic Capitalism: The Grenfell Tower Fire, Seven Years On

14.6.24

Marking seven years since the Grenfell Tower fire in west London, in which 72 residents of a tower block of social housing died because of cost-cutting and profiteering, facilitated by central government and the local council, and in which almost the entire building industry — and especially the manufacturers of insanely flammable cladding materials — were complicit, I invite you to reflect on my conclusions seven years down the line, as, still, no one with responsibility for the safety of tenants has been held accountable for their deaths, that it represents a prime example of what I call cannibalistic capitalism, or economic terrorism, whereby our lives are, at best, secondary, and, at worst, irrelevant, to the all-consuming greed for profits of the corporations and the politicians who ought to be responsible for our safety. Examining the housing crisis in its entirety, I note how this cannibalistic capitalism is so rapacious that it also includes those who have bought into the notion of a property-owning democracy, as the cladding scandal also involves numerous private new-build projects, and I point out how it also extends to the privatised water industry, and to the greatest crisis facing all of us: the runaway climate collapse that is already happening, but which those wedded to cannibalistic capitalism (the politicians, the corporations and, for the most part, a servile media) are doing all they can to ignore or to sideline. I conclude by asking how, with a General Election just weeks away, in a broken system that can only enshrine a corrupted party in power, anyone with any sense cannot conclude that what is actually needed is a revolution.

Photos and Report: Ten Close Guantánamo Monthly Global Vigils on June 5, 2024 Condemn Lawless and Unending Imprisonment

7.6.24

Photos from, and my report about the ten vigils for the closure of Guantánamo that took place across the US and around the world on June 5, 2024, the latest in an ongoing series of monthly coordinated global vigils that began last year. The vigils take place on the first Wednesday of every month, and the next date is July 3.

Joys and Agonies Past: 40 Years Since the Last Stonehenge Free Festival; 39 Years Since the Battle of the Beanfield

1.6.24

My annual article marking the anniversary of the Battle of the Beanfield, 39 years ago today, when 1,400 police violently attacked and “decommissioned” a convoy of travellers heading to Stonehenge to establish what would have been the 12th annual Stonehenge Free Festival. Lamenting the demise of the festival as the last great, weeks-long unlicensed autonomous gathering in the UK, and the violence of Beanfield as a significant marker in the ongoing assault on civil liberties in the UK, I also include my memories of the festival, an account of the various forms of dissent that have continued ever since, and the various ways in which successive governments have sought to suppress that dissent, and I end by noting how, despite all these efforts, dissent cannot be eliminated, especially as so many horrors currently exist that must be fought against with all our might, most noticeably, right now, Israel’s western-backed genocide in Gaza, and, of course, the unparalleled threat posed by accelerating climate collapse.

Ending Israel’s Impunity for Genocide in Gaza, and the Threat to Those, Like Joe Biden, Who Are Most Complicit

27.5.24

My latest long read about Israel’s seemingly unstoppable genocide in Gaza, as displaced civilians are bombed and burnt alive in makeshift tents in Rafah, in an area they were told was a “safe zone,” in which I revisit the lies told by Israel and its western backers in an attempt to justify its actions, and provide a summary of the almost innumerable ways in which, in contrast, Israel, with western support, has, completely unjustifiably, murdered 40,000 civilians and destroyed almost the whole of the Gaza Strip. I also examine the efforts to hold Israel accountable through the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which, on May 24, delivered its third, and most strongly worded ruling this year, but I note how the UN is hobbled by the veto wielded by the five permanent members of the Security Council, including, most notably, the US, and how, problematically, the court has no enforcement mechanism. I also examine the recent, and unexpected announcement by Karim Khan, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), that he intends to issue arrest warrants for Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant, as well as three Hamas leaders, and conclude that international humanitarian law, established after the Second World War, is now being tested as never before, as those who set it up, and, crucially, included Israel in its group of ‘western’ countries who never thought that the rules would apply to them, are now exposing their colonial supremacist mindset more shockingly than ever before, defending and supporting the most barbaric and inexcusable genocide on behalf of another country, which, they believe, should be above the law. My hope, in conclusion, is that, because so many people are so implacably opposed to allowing Israel’s crimes to go unpunished, Israel itself, and the countries that support it, led by the US, can no longer get away with putting Israel’s demands — reinforced through powerful lobbying groups — before their own citizens’ wishes, and that meaningful change, via the collapse of Zionism, the liberation of Palestine, and the collapse of the western power structures that prioritize Israel over themselves, will have to prevail.

Julian Assange Wins A Major Battle in His Long War Against Punitive US Overreach

20.5.24

My response to today’s major victory for Julian Assange in his five-year struggle to prevent his extradition to the US to face espionage charges relating to the publication by WikiLeaks, in 2010 and 2011, of classified US files leaked by Chelsea Manning. In the UK High Court, judges allowed him to appeal on the basis of his right not to be prejudiced against because of his nationality (he is an Australian citizen), and his entitlement to the protections of the US First Amendment. On this latter point, the US government refused to provide adequate assurances that he would be entitled to First Amendment Rights, even though they guarantee freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The decision highlights the US government’s shameful efforts to portray Assange as someone other than a journalist and publisher whose publication of files leaked by Chelsea Manning took place alongside some of the world’s most significant newspapers. It is shameful that only Julian Assange has been singled out for punishment, and even more shameful that the Biden administration failed to drop the extradition request, initiated by Donald Trump, despite its devious and unacceptable efforts not only to prevent Assange from having the protection of the First Amendment, but also to portray him as some kind of terrorist.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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