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This all feels a little redundant now.

I was going to say this felt like a pretty simple choice between principles and practicalities.

I was going to say that the principle of less-opaque government, closer and more responsive to the people it serves was a good one, and an important one.

I was going to say that when a decision will have a material impact on your quality of life, it’s entirely valid to choose to vote based on that rather than on principle.

I was going to ask how the people who boasted of watching Suffragette with their daughters were going to explain the fact that they were trying to make sure that the votes the Pankhursts fought for meant less and less.

I was going to ask the warriors for freedom from the tyranny of the state how they could justify leaving the only organisation that guarantees the free movement of people and things across state borders,without state interference.

I was going to point out that small businesses producing ebooks and digital products – the sort of low-overhead businesses of innovation we should be encouraging – were being killed by the VATMOSS rules, which lowered the VAT threshold to, effectively, zero for anyone selling  a PDF of their self-published novel within the EU.

I was going to point out that a couple of weeks of Brexit speculation had wiped more off the FTSE than years of EU membership would have cost.

I was going to cast a disparaging side-eye over intelligent people who claimed there was no difference in how democratic the EU is compared to how democratic the United Kingdom is.

I was going to cast a disparaging side-eye over people complaining about a ‘democratic deficit’ who have never once complained about the House of Lords or a monarch who vetoes bills she doesn’t like before they even get to the House of Commons.

I was going to point out that you’re not reclaiming your sovereignty when you intend on giving it straight to an actual sovereign.

I was going to explain that a bigger constituency means that your vote is worth less (something the same people I’d have explained it to seemed to understand when the Tories were planning on ditching 50 MPs and making each constituency bigger).

I was going to explain that I’d never really found any compelling argument that Britain was the ideal-sized unit in which democracy should reside.

I was going to bemoan the fact that the RemaIN side seemed dull and technocratic and seemed to accept the EU as a necessary evil rather than making a positive, European case for a more-hopeful future.

I was going to bemoan the fact that the Brexit camp had the inescapable whiff of a mid-life crisis, its rhetoric a tubby husband who resents having to go to work all day whilst living with a wife who’s gone off him and children who barely notice him. A man who, holding his stomach in in the mirror, remembers when he had a full head of hair and there was that girl at that party and once he spent a whole weekend smoking weed and listening to Derek and Clive and he’s sure he could have all that again. A man who believes that moving out and finding himself a flat and making a new start and really having a proper conversation with the girl in the sandwich shop will sort his life out once and for all.

I was going to make the case that no one has mentioned the fact that British foreign policy was, for hundreds of years, the maintenance of a balance of power in Europe. We meddled, we made alliances, we got involved in wars, just to make sure that the French and the Germans never made an alliance of which we weren’t part. We recognised – Wellington recognised, Churchill recognised, every statesman for centuries recognised –  that a united Europe, with Britain on the outside is the most grave threat to its existence. And we are preparing to give up our foremost foreign policy aim for no distinguishable benefit. Not only that, we’re doing it because we’re afraid there will be more integration, a common foreign policy, a common defense policy, the very situation we could both prevent and ameliorate the worst effects of if we were in the EU. To give away a United States of Europe of which the UK isn’t a part seems foolish, short-sighted and potentially suicidal.

I was going to point out that Tony Benn and Bob Crow all made solid, left-wing arguments for leaving the EU.

I was going to point out that they were both dead, and instead we had Farage and Johnson and Gove.

I was going to say that pointing to all the good things the EU has done for us which we wouldn’t have had otherwise is implicitly mistrustful of democracy and your fellow citizens. It is a failure of the left that they have not made the case compellingly enough that the people of Britain haven’t demanded them at the ballot box.

I was going to say that pointing to the pressure on public services and blaming it on immigration was simply a canard, and a dangerous one. The provision of infrastructure is the job of government and if there aren’t enough hospitals or schools it’s not the fault of the people in the hospitals or schools, it’s the fault of a government that prioritises reducing inheritance tax over building schools, and building HS2 over building hospitals.

I was going to say that the example of the Lisbon Treaty, whipped up to avoid referendums on a new constitution after France and Ireland rejected a new constitution, but consisting of most of the same things a new constitution would,  showed how resistant it was to reform.

I was going to say that given the structure of Article 50, which will make the two-year negotiation process as difficult as possible for any country that wants to leave, and before the conclusion of which no trade agreements can be negotiated, reforming the EU from within and exacting concessions from within (Thatcher’s rebate, Major’s EU opt-out, Blair’s Schengen exemption, Cameron’s rejection of “ever-closer union”) is much more likely to succeed than attempting an amicable separation.

I was going to note the irony of being suddenly lectured by those who had previously been fiscal conservatives on a trade deficit being a good thing because “they want to sell things to us.”

I was going to say that this wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as evidenced by the fact that – for many people – it’s the second time in their life they’re getting to make this decision.

I was going to say that question is not “Is the EU in its current form a good organisation?” but “Do you – right now and under these circumstances, on a fixed timetable – think Britain should invoke Article 50 and start the process of leaving the EU?”

I was going to say that you have to vote for the campaign you get, not the one you wish you’d had, and a vote for something carries an implicit approval of its campaign.

I was going to point out that the Vote Leave posters had finally shoved me firmly into the RemaIN camp. The nudges and winks and sly undertones of arguments and posters about Turks were appealing to the worst in human nature, a campaign of undisguised race-baiting and division, and one in which I – in good conscience – could not reward with my vote.

I was going to point out that saying you wanted to leave the EU because we didn’t want “our noses rubbed in diversity”, the fact that the background for the Vote Leave website’s header is MIGRATION in tabloid type, and the outright lies told about the proportion of migration that is from within the EU (more than half is from outside) was turning this from a campaign about the way in which we’re governed into a nasty, septic flirtation with nationalism.

And then yesterday happened.

So I think we have to face up to what the practical implications of a Brexit vote are.

Very simply, if we vote to leave, that will have immediate, practical consequences, and to pretend they will not happen or do not matter is to wash our hands one too many times in my view.

Simply, a victory for the Leave campaign with strengthen the in-party positions of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.

Both Johnson and Farage are in the middle on an inter-party struggle for power.

Farage is desperate to keep control of the party, away from the more libertarian positions of the Carswells. He is unashamed about stoking racial tensions to cement his position (he doesn’t like hearing foreign languages on the train, he doesn’t want his nose rubbed in diversity, and he doesn’t want Romanians moving in next door), to the point where he will happily stand in front of a poster that recreates Nazi propaganda to stoke fear about refugees. He’s had to fight off challenges from within the party (and demoted Suzanne Evans because he disagreed with her), but a vote for Leave will cement his position atop the UKIP dunghill for the foreseeable future.

(Here’s a quick reminder: UKIP Welsh Assembly Member Neil Hamilton walked around the Reichstag giving Hitler salutes when he visited as an MP and also gave speeches to Italian neo-fascists in the late 1960s.)

Whether or not Boris “grinning piccaninnies with watermelon smiles” Johnson would make it to the party membership vote for party leader we don’t know, but we do know that his position has been immensely strengthened with them by his visible leadership of the Leave campaign.

We also know that he doesn’t mean what he says. His own great-grandfather was Turkish and he made a very effective documentary about Turkey’s role in developing the idea of civilisation and why it should be allowed into the EU.

Now he rails against the swarthy Turk, beefing over here with his hairy forearms to do unmentionable things to our green sward. And being a venal and empty spouter of whatever’s convenient isn’t perhaps the worst thing in the world, except that in this case he’s deliberately stoking the most dangerous of tensions (without any belief in their truth)  for political gain.

And, of course, on day after the referendum, Donald Trump will arrive in Britain. If we’ve voted to leave he will claim it as a great personal victory: “It was always my opinion. I have some great opinions. Let me tell you, opinion-wise I’m a very wise man. I know all the opinions. Huge opinions.”

This referendum has been characterised, on the whole, by the things we don’t know: the economic effect of leaving, how EU citizens living here now would be affected, what the process would be.

But we do know this:

A vote to leave will have the immediate, practical effect of putting two of Britain’s political parties, and a great round of coverage on American television networks, into the hands of men who are unafraid to flirt with fascism, nationalism, and racism.

So I’m voting to remain. And I hope you will, too.

 

 

In the intro to this, Ian McMillan says: “In ten years’ time we’ll remember this play.”

I’d forgotten about it until I turned up an old CD when clearing out the shed. So, for Natt completists, here it is…

 

Sir Ian Bowler revealed his position on EU membership today. Here’s the startling video. https://youtu.be/v5CKyzOJJAo

Made a quick reponse to George Osborne’s saying that Syrian airstrikes meant Brtiain had got its mojo back. It’s bound to be taken down by all reputable sharing sites soon (Facebook has already rejected it) because I don’t properly understand the concept of fair use.

See it while you can!

Syrian Mojo from Nathaniel Tapley on Vimeo.

legacy technology

Bert signed up on his birthday. He was sick and tired of the looks people gave him, the whispered comments, the shopkeeper’s glare.

So he signed up as soon as he could.

And they marched a lot, and they scrubbed a lot, and there was shouting and six months later he found himself shipping out for France.

For a few weeks, they were behind the lines, billetted in a chateau, but soon enough the message came, as the days lengthened.

And then it was trench rations, and billy cans, and snobbing boots and waiting.

And then, one morning, there was no more waiting to be done. And the order came. And over they went.

And a few minutes later, Bert was staring at the sky and thinking.

He could see a lot of mud, splashes of mangled barbed wire with what he hoped was cloth hanging off. There were people, too, or bits of people, groans and the sound of mud bubbles being blown.

And Bert thought of his mum, as he try to hold his insides inside. Stuck in a crater, leaking from his middle, he thought of his mum and his sisters and of his uncles. And the shopkeeper. And all the hands he hadn’t held. And he hoped they’d remember.

He hoped they’d think of him in time to come. Hoped they’d remember him, laughing, brave, remember what he’d given. He hoped they’d take a moment every now and then to think of him.

He hoped, most of all, that they’d remember him by having a self-aggrandising oaf get photos of himself taken while playing tug-of-war, so that he could become prime minister one day.

Yes, he hoped that most of all.

And then Bert died.

http://www.standard.co.uk/…/boris-johnson-takes-a-tumble-at…

…A decapitated pig’s head.

Holocaust-Memorial-Day-po-009

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.

If you are a Jew you are six times more likely to be the victim of a hate crime than if you are a Muslim

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.

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