…A decapitated pig’s head.
"An angry masterpiece." Radio Times
…A decapitated pig’s head.
The left prides itself on listening to people. We’re quick to notice men telling women that their experiences aren’t what they say they are. We’re attuned to the Islamophobic conflations that crop up in the media. We’re the first to concede that history often elides the testimonies of witnesses who fall outside the mainstream discourse. We’ve got a vocabulary of victim-blaming, slut-shaming, gaslighting to employ when we see rhetoric and privilege being used to elide people’s experiences.
We pride ourselves on hearing when someone is trying to tell us something.
Except when it comes to Jeremy Corbyn.
When an embattled minority tell us (on the whole) that they feel threatened not only by the people he associates with, but that they fear his leadership might pose an actual threat to their safety, we’re pretty quick to issue a “Calm down, dear,” and move on.
Why? And let’s whisper this: MIght it be… Because they’re Jews?
Not all Jews, of course, (that’s usually our first defensive fallback) but we have to ask how comfortable are avoiding clear concern by pointing at Miriam Margolyes and Michael Rosen and saying “See? See?”
When 67% of Jews are worried about something, it’s no better an argument to point to the 13% who are unconcerned by it than it would be to dismiss the concerns of women fearful of being attacked by pointing out that some women aren’t afraid of it.
And yet we do.
We dismiss the experiences of decent, thoughtful, sensitive people, people we like and respect because they’re Jews. And the left is the champion of the underdog. And Jews no longer fit the underdog narrative.
(It seems redundant to point out here that, of course, Jews never have. That’s how antisemitism works. The basis of antisemitism as far back as we can follow it is always that the Jews are more affluent than others, that they’re disproportionately represented in the media, or in banking, and that you should envy their position. The attack on Jews is always that they’re too powerful…)
At the base of this is a suspicion that antisemitism isn’t a reality in Britain today, or, if it is, it is one so vanishingly small as to make it irrelevant.
So let’s look at some facts:
It’s at this point that someone will point out that there are more Islamophobic hate crimes than there are antisemitic ones (as if that were relevant, as if we only have the mental space to deal with one hatred at a time). That’s true, of course, because the Muslim population is much larger than the Jewish population. Looked at per head, the situation is very different.
Per capita, Jews are the most attacked minority in the country. Underdog enough for you, now?
Be aware of what you’re doing every time your response to having antisemitism pointed out to you is to point out that other kinds of attacks happen, too. You’re the guy arguing against shelters for battered women because there aren’t any shelters for battered men.
That’s the context of people’s worries about Jeremy Corbyn. That’s the context of their fears, and it won’t do to brush them aside.
In fact, let’s concede that the fear that a Corbyn leadership would bring a rise in antisemitism might be something we didn’t notice, even if it were true. Because we’re not noticing it now.
At the same time, let’s ask ourselves how antennae so attuned to picking up dog whistles about Islam are failing so utterly to notice the antisemitism that is growing around us.
It breaks my heart that to find good sources about the incidents above I’ve had to link to The Daily Mail and Breitbart. When the “Hurrah For The Blackshirts,” “stateless Jews pouring in from every port,” Hitler-congratulating Daily Mail is doing better at covering antisemitic attacks prominently and ferociously than other parts of the media, we have to change the way we behave. And quickly.
There are two issues: that of Corbyn’s past associations and what they signify, and that of whether his election will promote antisemitism. I disagree with the ‘concerned’ Jewish community about both of those things. But explaining why is for a different article, one that isn’t about listening to people: Gentilesplaining Corbynmania.
Here’s the thing. If I’m wrong (and they’re right), I won’t be the one who suffers. They will. It’s something I can afford to take a punt on because I’m playing with the house’s money, and shouldering no risk myself.
That’s why it’s incumbent on me, and everyone else who has supported Jeremy Corbyn, to show that antisemitism does concern us, that we are listening, and that we will do whatever we can to combat it.
Yes, it shouldn’t need saying. But it does.
Yes, we shouldn’t have to say it. But primary school children shouldn’t have to go to swastika-daubed schools under armed protection where they will learn to hide under their desks in case of gunfire, at risk simply because of their faith.
We have to say that this cannot be right, that this cannot be the 21st-century, that this cannot be Britain.
We have to write about it, shout about it, and challenge it wherever we see it, and leave no one in any doubt that antisemitism will no more pass unchallenged than racism or sexism or homohpobia.
Oh, and should tell the world, proudly, that we are Zionists.
Bear with me, lefties.
The term ‘Zionism’ has become conflated with expansionist, authoritarian Likudnik policies. This lazy alteration of the meaning of the word has been accepted by the right because it lets them lay claim to a whole movement, and by the left because it burnishes its anti-imperialist credentials.
It’s also become a word in which antisemitism lurks.
We’ve all seen it. We’ve all seen the way that criticism of Israel can drift into unacknowledged antisemitism, usually blanketed by the word ‘Zionist’.
When we let a word which means “the belief that the Jews have a right to a homeland, and that homeland is in Israel” become something else, something vague, we give away the conceptual space inside it, only to find it inhabited now by extremists of all stripes.
We on the left use “anti-Zionist” as an amorphous badge to signify anti-imperialism, a broad critique of Western intervention in the Middle East, support for the human rights of Palestinians or any number of other things depending on what day it is. As such a broad, hazy, umbrella term, it’s unsurprising that such a vague term also includes people who are just “anti-Jew.”
Let’s examine, for a second, what actually being an “anti-Zionist” might mean. It means you don’t accept that the Jewish population of Israel have a right to a state.
In fact it means you’re against their having a state, and you’re against their being in Israel (or whatever you’re intending to call it when Israel isn’t there). The problem with that position, of course, is that Israel is there, and if your future solutions involve it not being there, the implications of that are pretty horrific.
It means you’re aiming to displace 6 million people, almost half of the world’s Jews. Charitably. The other option is that you’re aiming for them to be dead.
If you have no qualms about destroying the lives of 6 million Jews you may not be as un-antisemitic as you’d like to think.
No matter what your opinions on the history of Israel, to be an anti-Zionist now is call for (or, at the very least, express ambivalence to) its non-existence now. That’s what you’re saying about yourself when you adopt the term “anti-Zionist”, and I say this not so much to berate others as clarify thinking I’ve had to do to clarify years of muddiness.
If you support Jeremy Corbyn it’s time to stand up and say you’re a Zionist. Even if you hadn’t realised it.
Zionism, of course, has many strands. It encompasses peace-makers and warmongers, liberals and conservatives, the religious and the secular, Ben-Gurion and Jabotinsky.
It may have become a loaded term, but all of us who wouldn’t countenance a peace process based on Israel’s not existing are Zionists.
Not until we’ve said it can we stand side by side with the Liberal Zionists (who, incidentally, want an end to the settlements, the occupation and a free and sovereign Palestine) as they campaign against discriminatory laws within Israel and work to prevent displaced people being dispossessed of their land.
Not until we’ve said it can we sponge off the stain of years of lazily sharing a term with people devoted to corrupting its meaning.
Not until we’ve said it can we properly understand the range of opinions and experiences and lives that there are in Israel and begin to come to some understanding of what a nuanced, complicated, almost-certainly-unsatisfactory-but-workable peace process would look like.
Not until we’ve said it can we look our friends in the eye, hold their hands and say: “If I’m wrong about this, I’m sorry, and I’ll be right here with you, fighting.”
So I’m a Zionist.
It just took Jeremy Corbyn to make me realise it.
The good thing about UKIP is they’ll talk about the things no other politician will talk about. They’re not afraid to discuss the elephant in the room. Finally, they’ve got the politicians talking about immigration.
In 2002, when David Blunkett called for the Sangatte refugee camp to be closed because of people trying to cross the Channel, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2003, when David Blunkett said our school were being “swamped” with immigrants, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2004, when Jack Straw said he felt uncomfortable when recent immigrants wore the veil to constituency surgeries, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2005, when the Conservative Party had a general election poster that said “It’s not racist to want a cap on immigration”, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2006, when John Reid said the immigration service was not “fit for purpose” we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2008, when Jacqui Smith said that immigrants would have to pass a citizenship test before being allowed to stay, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2009, when Gordon Brown promised “British jobs for British people” we just weren’t talking about immigration.
In 2010, when David Cameron campaigned on the basis of an upper limit to immigration, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
From 2011 to 2015, when Nigel Farage appeared on Question Time 13 times, we just weren’t talking about immigration.
Now – FINALLY – we can at last start talking about immigration. Thanks, UKIP…
Hey, everyone! Remember back in the old days, when I used to write a #bbcqt fact sheet for UsVsTh3m every week?
Well, unfortunately, UsVsTh3m is dead, and its corpse is currently passing painfully through the digestive tracts of vultures and parasites, so that can’t happen any more.
I just do one of my own! So here it is. Your new and improved Question Time Fact Sheet. Keep it to hand as the horror begins…
Mary Creagh (Lab, MP for Wakefield, Shadow Secretary for International Development)
In summary: Unknown quantity, who perhaps deserves to remain such.
What to shout at the telly: “I preferred Ronnie and Reggie,” “velocipede wanker,” “Mary Crain’t, more like.”
Norman Lamb (Lib Dem, MP for North Norfolk)
In summary: Lembit’s sensible twin, cut from his shoulder at birth.
What to shout at the telly: “Fucking quisling Lib Dem bastard,” “Smiling herb-goon,” “North Norfolk Digiturd.”
Justine Greening (Con, MP for Putney, Secretary of State for International Development)
In summary: The daughter of whom Rick Wakeman is most proud.
What to shout at the telly: “Broken Toby jug, full to the brim with mouse corpses,” “Lispy, brittle-eyed gauleiter,” “Scowl owl.”
Jill Kirby (writer, Conservative blogger)
In summary: Like an Eastern European ersatz Melanie Phillips for when their factories couldn’t shurn out enough actual Melanie Phillipses.
What to shout at the telly: “Venomous hell twig,” “the creeping hand of death,” “jill Dando’s ghost.”
Susie Boniface (journalist, Fleet Street Fox)
In summary: Human word-user.
What to shout at the telly: “At least someone’s still getting paid by The Mirror!” (Or maybe that will just be me…)
I’ve always loved woodcuts and linocuts. I love the mixture of the rustic and the elegant, where swooping curves can meet rough lines that feel like they’ve been hewn from the very stuff of the earth (because they have).
I love the huge slabs of light and dark, and the fact that it seems like an art with no messing about. It’s art which is trying to communicate in the most direct way possible, through the most primitive means we have, and yet the results can be unbearably delicate.
I love the fact that children can do it, that you can do it with a potato if you don’t have lino or wood or any cutting tools sharper than a kitchen knife. I love the fact that block printing is probably the first art form you’ll be introduced to after finger painting, and the tactile sensations of squashing ink on something, pressing it on paper, and then peeling the paper off remain as satisfying as they did when you were three.
So, because I love block printing, and because writing often means days of waiting for feedback on a script, and performing often means your days are pretty empty even when your evenings are full, at the end of last year I decided to try linocutting.
The initial kit of plastic cutters and a bit of lino was reasonably inexpensive, and the more I looked at linocuts, and the more I thought about them, the more I thought I could maybe do them. And that that wouldn’t be a terrible thing to do with any free time I had.
After Christmas (where I learned the importance of carving the letters and numbers backwards)…
I eventually made some that I was happy with, and decided to pop them online to see if there was any response. There was.
Now, little more than six months later, I have lots of designs, my cards are selling online (at Linoceros Cards), and you’ll also find them in nine shops around the south-east. I get to spend slightly more time than I’d envisaged covered in ink and looking places to stick cards so that they can dry.
What started as something to do to see if I could has become something that I’ve now got to decide if I want to devote more time and resources to. It’s still telling jokes, but it’s telling them in pictures, now, rather than words.
Anyway, so if I’ve been a little quiet lately (and the infrequent blog updates suggest I have), it’s because I’ve been quietly wasting flooring material, and stabbing myself in the thumbs with tiny V-shaped knives.
And I love that now, too.
(If you’d like a voucher for some of my cards, you can get £5 free here.)
Yesterday, Sir Ian went to the UKIP Carnival. What he found may mean you never taunt racists in the same way again!
I’ve just read all 700 pages of Tony Blair’s autobiography, A Journey. It was quite a transformative experience for me, because I opened it convinced that he was amoral, venal and unprincipled, and one of the worst people we had ever had as Prime Minister, but I came out of it knowing that that’s untrue. He is, in fact, one of the worst people we’ve ever had as a person. He’s just awful.
Here, so that you have to spend none of the few hours you have on this fleeting rock reading it, are the top lessons you can learn from Tony Blair’s A Journey
25. Tony Blair hates democracy – He doesn’t even let you get past the introduction before he really feels that he has to be clear about how terrible democracy is. It really hinders leaders who are just trying to lead, you see.
The challenge of modern democracy is efficacy. Not accountability, transparency or whether it is honest or not, but whether it works to deliver effective change in times that need radical change.
That’s an elected leader saying it’s more important to get things done than to tell the people what you are going to get done, letting them know how it is done, that you don’t lie to them about it, or even that they have an opportunity to get rid of you if they don’t like what you are doing. You know, like in a democracy.
Fortunately, most governments have some sense of checks and balances to stop those who wield executive power abusing it. Unfortunately, Tony finds that really annoying:
Checks and balances are there for very good reasons in most constitutional democracies; but in the modern world they often lead not to consensus for change but to sclerosis or minimal change.
Well, surely he likes people voting, though, right? You know, like vesting more powers in the elected European Parliament, rather than in the not-directly-elected European Council.
So the notion of a steady evolution towards a reduced Council and an enhanced Parliament is based on a fundamental diversion from democratic accountability.
By making it more democratically accountable.
And this is just the Introduction.
24. Telling Lies To Get Elected Is Fine
I voted Labour in 1983. I didn’t really think a Labour victory was the best thing for the country, and I was a Labout candidate.
23. If You Can’t Play Sport (Say, Because You Only Have One Functioning Eye), You Will Be A Terrible Prime Minister.
It was, of course, a monumental risk as it always is when a political leader plays sport in public. No one expects you to be brilliant, but you can’t afford to be absolutely rubbish, otherwise you are plainly not fit to run a nation.
22. It’s Helpful If You Can Get The Right People To Die
Throughout the book, there’s a theme of people dying at times that prove convenient for Tony Blair. John Smith, Princess Diana, R0bin Cook, Mo Mowlam, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Not that I’m suggesting that he arranged their deaths, that would be ridiculous. After all, none of them were Iraqi civilians. But he certainly made use of them all.
However, the first example we get of this theme is the most Blair one. The murder of toddler James Bulger, which he describes like this:
[A]t the time, politically, there was a big impact on my standing, which rose still further.
Thank goodness for that murdered child!
21. Tony Blair May Be Schizophrenic
[O]thers would mutter about it being ‘a score draw’, or some such bull****.
Let’s examine what just happened. A man wrote a sentence, and then censored his own words.
Rather than choosing a diffferent word, or being confident that, as a grownup, he can use the words he wants in his own fucking book, he is using a word, then implying that it’s the sort of word he doesn’t think should be used. As if there’s someone else living inside his skull, crossing bits out as he writes them.
He’s a man with strong enough convictions to use a word, but not strong enough ones to be seen using it.
20. If You Can Combine Satan With Sport, Do It
I was aware we were playing with Faust’s companion, but with him onside, it was just too easy to score.
19. The Irish Peace Process Required Diamond-Shaped Tables
When the DUP insisted on rectangular tables to indicate that they were sitting opposite enemies, and Sinn Fein wanted round tables to suggest that they were now all on side with each other, the situation was only resolved when someone found a diamond-shaped table.
The Irish peace process was also Blair’s finest hour. On reading the book it becaomes clear that only someone so completely free of principles, who has no attachment to values or tradition of any kind, could have steered the Northern Ireland peace process to a successful conclusion.
It’s hard to escape the conclusion that – just as the Second World War demanded someone as racist, vicious, and batshit insane as Winston Churchill – the peace process could only have been guided by someone egotistical enough the be unable to empathise with all sides equally, and unprincipled enough to let nothing stand in their way.
Although you get the feeling that after 9/11, his answer would have been to bomb Ireland with depleted uranium until they took responsibility for the table situation.
18. Nelson Mandela was ‘fly as hell’
[N]ot because he’s a saint, because he isn’t. Or rather he is, but not in the sense that he can’t be fly as hell when the occasion demands. I bet Ghandi was the same.
I’ll take that bet.
17. George Orwell Lives
[I]ndecision is also decision. Inaction is also action.
16. Efficiency In Childbirth Is Achievable
There are times with that woman when I am in awe. She kept working until the last minute. Gave birth on time and to order. Got out that night. And she was forty-five. It was pretty impressive.
15. There’s Nothing You Can’t Legislate
[T]he world had changed and required a different system for enforcing good conduct in the absence of the pressure of tradition and family.
And that system is on-the-spot fines administered by policemen.
14. Anti-Social Behaviour Is Relative
When describing his attitude to law and order, Blair concentrates on the fact that one night he saw a man weeing in a doorway. When he asked him to stop, the man didn’t, and that – to Tony Blair – is symbolic of everything that was wrong with the world. By letting the door-splashers get away, we let the people who shit in hedgerows get away, the people who ejaculate into ornamental fountains get away, and that is the beginning of the end.
Blair believes that every small instance of anti-social behaviour should be immediately punishable by the police without having to go through the process of gathering and presenting evidence. Summary justice, administered against low-level offenders against common decency is the only way forward. Except in one instance,
When his own underage son is arrested for being drunk and disorderly in Leicester Square.
OK, he was drunk and shouldn’t have been, but this all seemed a little excessive – it’s not as if he was a proper criminal or anything.
13. He Doesn’t Care Who Thinks He’s Greedy
Before the famous picture of Blair and Brown together in the 2005 general election was taken with them both holding ice creams, Blair had to go and buy the ice creams. Kate Garvey told him not to get a flake because it would make him look greedy. He got a flake because Fuck That Noise.
12. He Was In Touch With The People
I should have realised that for your ordinary motorist, the rising cost of filling the car was a big, not an insignificant one (after all, the children’s nanny, Jackie, had been complaining about it for weeks.
11. Lying To The Media Doesn’t Count
It seems almost pathetic now when you look back on it. Because a wrong statement had been made to the media, they were able to turn it into a full-blown scandal.
That’s a ‘wrong statement’. Which is – somehow – different to a ‘lie’.
10. Decisions Made In The Heat Of The Moment Are Always Right
The emotional impact is replaced by a sentiment which, because it is more calm, seems more rational. But paradoxically it can be less rational, because the calm is not the product of a changed analysis, but of the effluxion of time.
Yes, it’s the moment when you forget your anger and fear that you start making stupid, irrational decisions because of the effluxion of time.
Which is news to those of us who thought that the effluxion of time was only responsible for the travails of Marty McFly.
9. Playing Into The Hands Of Terrorists Is Exactly What They Don’t Expect. And Therefore Exactly What You Should Do
It was, in a very real sense, a declaration of war. It was calculated to draw us into conflict.
Ha! That showed them! Wait, what?
8. There Are Different Ways Of Not Having WMDs
I shan’t quote this, because it goes on – and ON – but it turns out there are two ways you can not have WMDs. You can not have WMDs strategically – which is what our UN resolutions meant Saddam sould have done – or you can not have WMDs tactically – which is what he had actually done. The distinction is the difference between someone who is complying with a resolution by stopping WMD programmes and someone who is appearing to comply by stopping WMD programmes.
7. Fear Is Not The Same As Terror
And a little bit of fear about what America might do was no bad thing.
I’m sure we have a word for those who try to achieve their political ends by instilling fear – or ‘terror’ – in others. Now, what was it again…
6. War War Can’t Wait For Jaw Jaw
[T]hey had close on 250,000 troops in the region and they couldn’t simply wait until a diplomatic dance, which they had fair evidence for thinking would be interminable, was played out.
5. Protestors Are Hypocritical Bastards
When was there a single protest in any Western nation about such evil [the insurgency in Iraq]? Where was the moral indignation?
Stupid protestors, only protesting about the things their government was doing, rather than just milling around London in a state of permanent outrage.
4. Freedom Of Information Is A Terrible Idea
Blair often separates things he doesn’t like to think of being subsets of other things. So ‘party members’ don’t count in his mind as ‘voters’, and ‘journalists’ aren’t ‘people’. He doesn’t like the fact that the FOI Act is used by journalists and not people. And it’s not used to ‘bestow’ knowledge’ or to satisfy the ‘curious’. Instead “[i]t’s used as a weapon.”
Which, again, should be very separate things.
3. Tony Blair Likes A Good Shit
I am very typically British. I like to have time and comfort in the loo… I couldn’t live in a culture that doesn’t respect it.
2. Tony Blair Is A Typical Lad. Zoo Wouldn’t Have Folded On his Watch
As we sat down to dinner with the Queen, the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi hit on a great line of banter.
Do fuck off.
1. My Marginalia Will Never Be Published
Whilst reading, I often fill the margins of my books up with notes, memoranda, and cross-references. In my mind these will be a treasure trove for whoever looks through my estate and decides they are so full of wisdom and learning that they should be published for all the world to read.
In reality, on reading them back, they consist of things like. “No,” “Twat,” “I refuse,” and “I bet he had a stiffy when he wrote that.”