Saturday 24 September 2016

A man of principles and honour

I don't watch Question Time these days because I always seem to be asleep by 10:45.
Of course I could catch up next day.  I did so yesterday out of mild curiosity after noticing that Question Time was to have an unusually balanced panel. (Having dropped a controversial guest at the last minute and brought in Caroline Lucas instead.) 

The only thing I've got to say about it is that there was strange and wonderful diversity-of-audience as well. A genuine mixture. It was heartwarming to see Caroline Lucas getting a cool response and Jacob Rees-Mogg a comparatively warm one. He’s a bit of a pin-up these days, in a retro, shabby chic, kitsch, ironic kind of way.

Dimbles (D) said next time they'd be in Boston, 'A strongly Leave' area. (I must say the people who decided to separate voter trends by area have a lot to answer for. I thought it was supposed to be a yes/no referendum, not a rerun of the G.E.) If everyone had just accepted the result in the proper spirit of referendums and left it at that we wouldn't have to go through all this "We Londoners/Scots/ Educated People voted Remain so we should be allowed to remain" malarkey.

Anyway, this all pales into insignificance in the light of today’s historic vote for Jeremy Corbyn as Labour’s forever leader, and I must say my heart is still sinking. As I said to Craig, my trepidation about Brexit is down to a deep concern over the exact nature of the “we” who will be taking back control of ‘our country’. 
Don’t forget, they all laughed when Hitler first reared his unelectable little head, and I know, I know, gratuitously mentioning Hitler immediately turns one into Ken Livingstone.

Anyway, despite this I listened to Any Questions last evening, which will by now have gone out on its Saturday slot and anyone listening to Radio 4 will know that there won’t be the usual Any Answers this week because of the aforementioned cataclysmic event. 

Before I start on Any Questions, let’s just mention that Shami Chakrabarti appeared on last night’s BBC News with her colours firmly nailed to the mast. She hoped and believed that “Jeremy” will win, and then she said something about ‘mugging a decent 67 year-old man in cold blood’. You couldn’t make it up.

Well, I transcribed the whole A.Q. section devoted to antisemitism, apart from the last bit which got awfully long-winded and I feared I had bitten off more that I could chew -  so I skipped the dullest bits.

Jonathan Dimbles began by asking:
“Do you like being called Baroness Chakrabarti of Kennington?”
“No” replied Shami in a very sullen voice.

Here is the question:
"Andrew McMillan: Is it right that Jeremy Corbyn, supposedly a man of principles and honour should preside over a party where a Jewish Labour MP feels the need for personal protection when she attends her party’s own conference?"

Tim Farron was given the first shot at this question. You’d need to read the transcript to get the full effect, but do bear in mind that the Lib Dems are the party of David Ward and Jenny Tonge. Predictably, Mr. Farron (or Gollum as he is affectionately known) banged on about racism of all kinds.

Next in line was a young Sikh lady called Harsimrat Kaur (me neither) who wears a very tall turban, beehive style, oddly reminiscent of the ‘Bomb’ in that oh so provocative Mohammed PBUH cartoon.  She has experienced racism too, particularly on social media, and she criticised the leader of the party for not standing up for Ruth Smeeth.

Jonathan turned to the good Baroness:
"Shami Chakrabarti of course, many of you will know that you produced - wrote a report for Jeremy Corbyn the issue of allegations of antisemitism within the party."

“So I’ve had a pretty miserable summer looking into this pretty awful subject” 
she began, evidently feeling sorry for herself. Poor her. Oh, not for the opprobrium she got for her whitewash, as one might assume. No, it’s antisemitism (and all other forms of racism) that has made her miserable. 

“There is some antisemitism, no question, and there is also incivility and toxicity and misogyny and all the things we talked about, and it’s not unique to any one party, but my view is that we don’t have a competition about this” 
she continued, now well into her stride. Hang on, it wasn’t a competition till Shami and her cohorts brought Islamophobia into it. 

Throughout this and all her other answers, she does her best to herd the conversation away from antisemitism and towards anything else she can think of, which clearly demonstrates that she really doesn’t get it.  Doesn’t even want to. 

Now we know that she’s a devoted, nay besotted Corbynista, out and proud, how can anyone take her ‘report’ seriously

Full (ish) transcript over the page:

Andrew McMillan: Is it right that Jeremy Corbyn, supposedly a man of principles and honour should preside over a party where a Jewish Labour MP feels the need for personal protection when she attends her party’s own conference

Tim Farron:
I mean it’s an appalling situation that Ruth Smeeth has found herself subject to continuous attacks of antisemitism, and we must be very careful, not in pointing fingers at one particular political party not to realise that the spectre of antisemitism, racism of all kinds can appear in all sorts of places and the danger is that politicians end up feeling very gleeful when they see something like this happening in other parties, and they need to make sure that they keep their own house in order. But I do see, in the hard left - I don’t mean in the Labour Party as a whole, but in the hard Left there is a particular problem with both misogyny and antisemitism. People who I know, very good friends of mine, I was talking to one last night, had been in the labour Party over 30 years, she is of the view that if you toe the line and you say the things that Momentum want you to say, then nobody questions your gender or your race to anything of the sort, but the moment you step out of line, then they do and it’s pretty brutal, and people who were involved in the Labour Party in the 80s and saw what Militant did in certain cities like Liverpool will find this familiar as well.

But the  thing is this, the debate about Israel Palestine is hugely important and justice is right to be fought for, but whatever you think about the Israeli government, and it’s right to criticise and hold to account the Israeli government, the minute you get into the territory where you start questioning not just the State of Israel, but the people of Israel and the Jewish people wherever they live, you have stepped over the boundary and party leaders should take action and stand on the side of the Jewish people of this country.

Harsimrat Kaur
Well I think there’s no place in society for antisemitism, racial abuse or anything, so as a baptised Sikh unfortunately just living in Britain, every single moment of my day, it’s always there. You get names, you get - unfortunately, social media, you get people tweeting you, you get Facebook comments and it’s wrong and actually it doesn’t matter if you’re a politician or someone on the ground, we have to stand up, every single individual, and if there is someone who does not stand up and speak up against all of this, I’m sorry but they’re just as bad, and we’ve got to work together to do that.
My biggest concern with this issue was finding the leader of the party didn’t stand up and in my opinion that was wrong, but who else stood by her? Who else stood up and said this is wrong, I’m going to take a stand? No-one did and we need to change that culture.

Jonathan Dimbleby:
Shami Chakrabarti of course, many of you will know that you produced - wrote a report for Jeremy Corbyn the issue of allegations of antisemitism within the party.

Shami Chakrabarti:
So I’ve had a pretty miserable summer looking into this pretty awful subject. In my opinion it’s not just in the Labour Party, though it is in the Labour Party, it’s in the county in general. There is some antisemitism, no question, and there is also incivility and toxicity and misogyny and all the things we talked about, and it’s not unique to any one party, but my view is that we don’t have a competition about this. You know, I’m a recent recruit to the Labour Party, it is the party that produced every piece of equality legislation that tis country has ever known and it needs to step up - if one person feels unwelcome on the grounds of their race, or their faith, or their sex, or their sexuality in y party that’s one person too many, and Jeremy Corbyn agrees with me and my report is in the process of implementation, I’m told that on of there 24 hour NEC meetings, you know, the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party’s become really famous because there’s like these 24 hour meetings and there’s like lots of sandwiches and stuff, and there’s one thing that, you know, despite the Game of Thrones, and the press love all of this, the one thing they have agreed on is that my report needs to be implemented, and the party…

Is Jeremy Corbyn himself, in your view, doing enough as leader to combat what you’ve just described?

I think that he has listened, and I think that he is stepping up, and I’ll say this as well. Tim has talked about Momentum and I don’t think Momentum should be demonised either, and i want to say this on the record because I met lots of Jewish members of Momentum and they are entitled not to be demonised in their political home either and those young people - I mean you know Momentum is chaired by a Jewish person so please can we not demonise a grass-roots movement  of any party - I don’t demonise people who voted for brexit and say they’re all racists, please don’t demonise every member of Momentum and call them antisemitic.

I asked that question specifically in answer to Andrew McMillan’s question because there was a video made very recently in which supporters of Labour Party - activists - were filmed saying they were fed up with being constantly asked questions about antisemitism; it was tweeted by Jeremy Corbyn, there were protests  not least I think from the Board of Deputies of the Jewish Labour movement and since that it has been withdrawn and apologies have been made. Shouldn’t Jeremy Corbyn, if he’s as alert as you’ve described him as being, be very careful not to tweet that film which would be open to that interpretation so easily?

It’s very very difficult, isn’t it, when you’re in a period of civil war in a party, it’s very very difficult to be your better self. I engaged in this work because I wanted my colleagues to be their better selves, but when people are all throwing stones at each other it’s very very difficult to civilise the discourse. I hope that this ends tomorrow, and the party will unite around its values of race equality more than anything else.

Brandon Lewis:
Well I think there’s effectively two levels to the question, going back to the very direct point of the question and the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn and Shami, the fact that she just used the phrase civil war, and Jeremy’s been leader for a year, I know that and this being the anniversary of that vote last year and have not yet got to grip with the problem , that has got to the stage where the Labour Party, the Labour MPs feel that kind of pressure, if we believe what we’ve read this week they’ve had to warn their staff to look at how they are protected, at their own party conference, that is a disgraceful situation for a political organisation in this country to find itself in. [..] we have, actually got to a position where as a society we’ve come through hundreds and hundreds of years where as a successful nation we are a tolerant society, and actually one of the dangers of how people interact with each other particularly today with social media where people become desensitised because they think at arms length they can say things to each other they could never say to each other’s faces….we’re a tolerant society….. (I’m skipping chunks of this from now on)

Is there something, deep down, that we don’t want to talk about that is is very very nasty?

Because we’re in the public eye people look at how we act, and I’m afraid that I do think that Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to deal with this in the Labour Party does have an ability to look to many of the people who are involved in this…..

No, that’s not fair….

To actually look like - not necessarily that he’s condoning it, but it’s not bad enough to have dealt with it, and a year on they’re…

I want to give you credit…

Otherwise you would not need to have the Labour Party having to tell its own staff to look for protection to go to their own…..

(Shami trying to interrupt and Brandon Lewis talking at the same time)

But that’s not answering the underlying point, is it?

S.C. (in a particularly whiney voice)
But what about our foreign secretary that cast aspersions on President Obama because of his Kenyan heritage, right? (applause) Can we just all look at ourselves in the mirror and not play party politics with it. You know, the referendum debate, and I respect Harsimrat and others who took their positions, not my position, you know, there are all sorts of people who related to me I voted Remain for different reasons, but some of the stuff that came from, I’m sorry, but from people in the Conservative party and in Ukip from that debate were downright racist, you know, epithets and they need to be looked at too. (Applause)

Do you accept that point, that some people were explicitly, or implicitly racist and others rode the tiger of that racism by not denouncing it?

No I don’t actually. I do know Boris, and he’s not anything like that at all, and I’ll be very clear about this, you know, as somebody who actually voted and was out there  in the public domain making the case for remain, we’ve also got to be very clear [….] There is an issue about how the Labour Party is managing itself [..] and we should not let the referendum be any excuse for any kind of hate crime. It happened before the referendum and in some cases it happened since as well and it’s not acceptable and we should be doing everything we can to stamp that kind of behaviour out and to show we do not tolerate it at any level.


1 comment:

  1. The referendum vote was over three months ago. It's done, no Lisbonesque second chances. So what's the point of mentioning that Boston was a Leave area? Unless the BBC's agenda is still to question the result and agitate for a do-over.

    My takeaway from your Any Questions transcription is that Baroness Shami of Whitewash specifically joined the Labour party to help defend it from the accusations of widespread anti-Semitism. Every answer here was geared towards that end. She even reflexively watered the whole thing to down to the obligatory 'anti-Semitism is everywhere, can't single out Labour, and it's really about 'all forms of racism' and threw in misogyny as well.

    As for Dimbleby pointing out the video showing Labour members saying they're "fed up" with being accused of anti-Semitism, I don't remember him ever saying the equivalent for UKIP members being fed up with accusations of racism. The man puzzles me, he really does.


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