Stop this abusive Brexit madness

Stop this abusive Brexit madness

Nearly two years after the referendum and only a year before we leave the EU, the most passionate Leavers and Remainers are settling into a war of attrition. The trouble is, we haven’t got years. On this occasion it COULD be all over by Christmas.

I’ve written before about how the Remainers need to play a longish game, but it’s all relative. It’s still all to play for and we do have maybe nine months, but the time has come for winning hearts and minds. If Brexit is to be averted, it will require a massive conversion of those who either voted to leave or who have accepted that Brexit is going to happen now anyway.

But is this happening? Not as far as I can see. All I can see are heels being dug in.

All over Twitter Remainers are sporting their FBPE (Follow Back Pro-EU) hashtags. It seemed like a good idea: build a movement to persuade others to fight Brexit. Instead it seems to have been commandeered by political opponents who are using it to undermine the Labour Party.

One of the major tactics of the #FBPE gang is to persuade other Twitter users not to vote Labour – so this has been hijacked by Lib Dems desperately hoping to boost their flagging electoral support. Not to mention by undercover Tories who believe they can use Brexit to turn young voters away from Labour.

Some #FBPE campaigners genuinely believe that undermining Labour’s vote at the May local elections will somehow magically bring Brexit to a halt. Their naive argument goes that Labour will be so alarmed at the loss of votes to Lib Dems and Greens that the party will suddenly switch from its democratic respecting of the referendum result to adopt a Remain position.

Of course, the local authority election results WILL be closely watched – but only to see how the Tories fare compared to Labour. If Labour’s vote is cut, the message taken from the elections will be that the Tories have done better than expected. And that will be interpreted as an endorsement of Theresa May’s Brexit plans. All systems go.

We’ve heard a lot recently about “Brexit madness” but a lot of this madness is being displayed by those who think a politically naive tactic such as this can be combined with personal abuse to produce a positive outcome.

I’ve tried engaging with #FBPE Twitter users and all I get is abuse. One began by calling me a “prat”, patronised me by calling me “sweet pea” and “petal”, then went on to accuse me of being “thick as two short planks” – and he’s supposed to be on the same side as me!

He also suggested I might be “happier with the #brexitloons”.

I’ve got a question for this comrade, and for his fellow #FBPE campaigners: how are you going to win over enough waverers to stop Brexit when you think it is a good tactic to abuse even those who want the same as you? And here’s another one: how many Leavers are going to be persuaded to switch sides by being called “loons”?

Brexit can still be stopped – but not by abuse. John Major and Michael Heseltine have spelt out what a disaster Brexit is likely to be, but they did it politely and effectively without resorting to abuse. They have provided a template for those of us on the left who want to avert Brexit.

Over the coming months there will be plenty of hard evidence that Brexit will be a disaster – economic slowdown, employers migrating, lack of progress in negotiations – so let’s use that to win the argument. Let’s try to convince as many people as possible that the referendum result was a mistake.

But let’s stop the Brexit madness.

Stop being abusive, because that results only in more entrenched positions.

Stop accusing all Leavers of being racists. Stop telling Leavers that they are stupid.

Stop throwing tantrums and stamping our feet.

Stop sticking our fingers in our ears and hoping this will all go away.

It won’t. Brexit WILL happen unless we can turn the tide of public opinion. If enough people are convinced by the end of the year that the government is on course for disaster, Brexit can be stopped.

It can be stopped by the opposition voting together (and Labour has said it will oppose any deal that fails to meet its own six tests) and winning over enough Tory MPs who are prepared to put their country above their party.

THEN we can stop Brexit. But it won’t happen if we keep fighting among ourselves.

That’s just madness.

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Conservatives – still the same old nasty party

Conservatives – still the same old nasty party

It was Theresa May who first called Conservatives the “Nasty Party”. Now her supporters are working hard to pin that label on Labour.

The Tories are terrified of the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn and they can’t do anything to match the appeal of Labour’s policies.

They have done their damnedest to smear Corbyn, to little avail, and have now run out of mud to fling at him. Instead they are trying to smear the whole Labour Party.

I’ve written before about the way that antisemitism has been weaponised by the party’s opponents, and we saw that again after Holocaust Memorial Day. Corbyn wrote a dignified message in the Holocaust Educational Trust memorial book at Westminster which would have passed unnoticed if his enemies hadn’t highlighted his failure to mention Jews in it.

Attempts to kick up a storm on social media were just gathering pace when it was pointed out that his message in the booklet for the memorial service not only mentioned Jewish people by name – including Anne Frank – but referred to “our Jewish brothers and sisters”.

Then it emerged that May and Vince Cable hadn’t mentioned Jews in the memorial book either. And neither had the chief rabbi – yet nobody was accusing HIM of being antisemitic.

At least the editor of the Jewish Chronicle had the decency to apologise. The trouble is that, as Jonathan Swift wrote in 1710, “falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it”.

Tory election guru Lynton Crosby built a career out of spreading falsehoods and innuendo, understanding only too well that people remember the original smear but not the denial.

National newspaper editors are familiar with that technique too: nobody notices apologies or corrections columns. An original falsehood has become “fact” by the time it is corrected.

 

Sexism and misogyny are also used to mark out Labour as the “nasty party”.

We’ve been hearing a lot recently about “sexist and misogynistic” bullying of Claire Kober, who has been “hounded out” of her role as council leader in Haringey, north London.

The Tory media have been lapping it up, making Kober out to be some sort of victim, rather than the prime mover behind a massively unpopular plan for her council to go into partnership with private company Lendlease.

Clearly, sexist bullying is nasty – so, therefore, the Labour Party is nasty. Except that it seems much of the bullying has been done by Kober and her supporters. Those in the know talk of threats and intimidation to push through the controversial “Haringey Development Vehicle” (HDV) that would have demolished large parts of the borough – including the homes of thousands of residents.

Veteran councillor Stuart McNamara resigned last November in a damning letter (read it here), which accused Kober of incompetence, among many other things. Oddly, Kober claimed that calling her incompetent was sexist on the grounds that a man wouldn’t be accused of it – which would probably surprise Corbyn, whose enemies have accused him many times of just that.

Naturally, Kober – despite being a party member – has become the poster girl for the “Labour is the nasty party” campaign.

Of course, you would expect that in the Daily Mail, but the BBC has been an enthusiastic participant: Kober has appeared on TV so many times that one Twitter joker suggested that she should get her own show.

Who would have thought municipal politics would ever get so much national coverage?

But, of course, the media are interested because it feeds into the “new nasty party” narrative.

BBC presenter Jo Coburn even asked on the Daily Politics show if Labour was “the new nasty party”, further cementing that thought in viewers’ minds.

Meanwhile, George Osborne’s London Evening Standard said in a leader: “Ms Kober is the successful and moderate leader of Haringey council who has been on the receiving end of a campaign by far-Left activist group Momentum that she rightly described as ‘sexist’, ‘bullying’ and ‘undemocratic’.”

Ah yes, Momentum. Or “Momentum thugs”, as it is now apparently compulsory to call them.

But Guardian journalist Aditya Chakrabortty, who grew up in Haringey, said the story was not about Momentum. He wrote: “The death of the HDV is a victory for local people over multinational business, for democracy over machine politics. Most of all, it is an inflection point in one of the great battles of our times: Big Finance versus the rest of us.”

He went on: “The Tory press and the Labour right, however, are already painting Kober as a martyr to the Trotskyites – a band that apparently includes David Lammy MP and the local Lib Dems. They claim her exit is an affront to democracy, when Kober and her enforcers ignored two council scrutiny reports calling for an immediate halt; arranged secret meetings with Lendlease, and disciplined Labour councillors who challenged them in public.”

But what about the “Momentum thugs” who attacked Jacob Rees-Mogg at UWE, Bristol? Surely that is irrefutable evidence of the “nasty” Labour Party?

 

Except that it isn’t.

Video evidence clearly shows that Rees-Mogg (who, incidentally, was being followed by a Breitbart camera crew) went to talk to a crowd of protesters – an anti-fascist group, rather than Labour members – who were making a lot of noise but not being violent. Suddenly, a man in a white shirt waded in and hit a woman in the face. The resulting scuffle was to prevent further violence.

The man in the white shirt? A Rees-Mogg supporter and martial arts instructor called Paul Townsley.

Corbyn’s enemies – from all parties – have been trying to demonise Momentum since its formation, making out that its members are violent thugs.

I can’t speak for every other Momentum member, but I joined recently. I am certainly not a young thug. I am a 64-year-old therapist and retired journalist (yes, mainstream media).

The secretary of my local Momentum branch is a retired consultant eye surgeon (though I don’t know him well enough to swear that he is not a thuggish retired consultant eye surgeon).

Most pictures I have seen of Momentum meetings could be confused with get-togethers of retired librarians – and I know one when I see one, as I am married to a retired librarian.

Are Momentum members passionate? Sure. Are they violent thugs? Only in the imaginations of those who fear the popularity of their cause.

Now we have May calling for a law to crack down on the abuse of politicians and other public figures on social media. She says that online “bullying” has become a growing “threat to democracy”.

It all sounds perfectly reasonable until you realise that she is really just blowing hard on the dog whistle. She isn’t so much concerned about the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox or the appalling abuse of Diane Abbott as she is about maintaining the myth of the “Momentum thugs”.

Did you notice the outrage when it was revealed that the Finsbury Park murderer was hoping to kill Corbyn (and Sadiq Khan as a bonus)? No, because there wasn’t any.

It was barely commented on – because it didn’t fit the narrative of lefties bullying “moderates”.

In case you are wondering when the Tories stopped being the Nasty Party, the answer is that they haven’t.

But they and their friends are working hard to deflect attention from their nastiness by painting Labour supporters as thuggish.

Don’t let them bully you into believing it.

The principle reason why Brexit might not happen? Politics

The principle reason why Brexit might not happen? Politics

Something didn’t seem quite right when a friend complained on Facebook about Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of “principles” because he wasn’t taking a stronger stand against Brexit. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was – until it suddenly struck me.

It’s very simple, really: Brexit is not about principles.

Opposing hanging is about principles. Refusing to support war on another country is about principles. But belonging to the EU?

No.

Whether or not the UK should be a member of the EU is not about principles, ethics or morals. It is purely a political calculation.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that sentiment doesn’t come into it. Nearly everyone – in the absence of genuine evidence – voted in the referendum on the basis of sentiment. That goes for leavers AND remainers.

But ultimately this is a purely political calculation.

I was, and am, a keen remainer, but that doesn’t mean I’m unaware of good political arguments for leaving. Many good people, including Tony Benn, have always opposed EU membership.

It’s no secret that Corbyn was an acolyte of Benn’s – or that he has been against the EU in the past.

During the referendum campaign, of course, he campaigned for Remain. Some people were offended at the time when he told a TV interviewer that the strength of his pro-EU feeling stood at about 7.5 out of 10. It was a youth programme and Corbyn was half-joking – but he was being honest.

Quite right too. Even the most ardent supporter of the EU wouldn’t claim it was an institution that was 100% perfect.

A myth has since grown up that Corbyn did nothing during the campaign, but do a Google search for “Corbyn campaigning EU referendum” and click on Images. Now do the same for that great Remain campaigner Theresa May. You won’t find much more than this less-than-enthusiastic endorsement…

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The fact is, Brexit is a mess – and there is only one person responsible. David Cameron called the referendum to see off the Tory MPs once described by John Major as “the bastards”. He complacently believed he would win the referendum and did nothing to set the bar higher than a simple majority or to plan for a possible Leave victory.

Cameron has since vanished. He has left politicians on all sides struggling to deal with his mess – and they are all working on the basis of politics and not “principle”.

May chose to adopt a hardline “Brexit means Brexit” position, presumably calculating that Leavers make more noise than Remainers.

Corbyn and Labour have taken up a more flexible position, which they can do as they are not in government. Many have criticised them for this, believing it would drive away the party’s younger supporters.

It seems to have done the opposite.

The Lib Dems made opposition to Brexit their USP at this year’s general election and many predicted a strong recovery. Instead, Labour’s vote went up by 3.5 million, while the Lib Dems lost votes.

Labour were criticised by many Remainers for not opposing the triggering of Article 50, but at the time they were politically obliged to support what was widely (if erroneously) regarded as the “will of the people”.

At the time, I argued that it was important to play a long game. There seemed little point in Labour digging in their heels and voting against – and losing – every vote on every minor amendment.

In the year after the referendum there was no widespread sign of a change of heart, let alone a desire for yet another referendum. But things can change – and there are signs that they are now changing.

The last few months have shown us how utterly unprepared the Leave fanatics were for the realities of uncoupling from an institution with which we have 44 years of shared experience.

They have shown us how little those hardliners understood about the complexities of unravelling such a close political relationship.

And they have shown us how empty was the boast that Brexit negotiations “should be one of the easiest in human history”, as David Davis once said.

Who knows how things might look in a year’s time when that claim has been revealed to be one of the political howlers of our age?

Maybe by then public opinion will have changed decisively as the people of the UK come to understand the bleakness of our future.

Michael Heseltine seems to share my view.

He suggested this week that Labour might ultimately gain politically by following public opinion and moving to a position of opposing Brexit.

He said in an interview: “If you look at the polls, there is probably a bigger majority against Brexit than the referendum secured but that, I think, will continue to happen and it will become more and more unpopular as people realise what it’s all about.

“When that happens, the Labour Party will move, and the present government will be left holding the baby.”

Heseltine knows a thing or two about practical politics – and he understands that this is what it’s all about. Politics.

Otto von Bismarck, another cunning old politician, once said: “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.”

Outright opposition to Brexit was impossible in the aftermath of the referendum. In a year’s time, the situation could look very different indeed.

And if that turns out to be the case, we might not even have to settle for “the next best”.

Labour’s lead matches 1997 – but the fight must go on

Labour’s lead matches 1997 – but the fight must go on

Did you know that the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn is now as popular as it was when Tony Blair won the 1997 landslide election? Probably not.

The Observer’s Opinium poll has Labour two points ahead of the Tories, by 42% to 40%. YouGov earlier this month had Labour three points clear, 43% to 40% (remember that number: 43%).

It is not enough for Blair, who told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I still say come on, guys, we should be 15, 20 points ahead at this stage.”

This from the man who predicted electoral oblivion for Labour under Jeremy Corbyn. If Blair’s crystal ball had told the truth, Labour would have been wiped out after the June election. Instead of that, he complains that Labour is only three points ahead of the Tories!

I challenged someone on Twitter whose response to the YouGov poll was: “Not good news for Labour. In any normal parliamentary cycle they should be further ahead.”

I asked him which “normal parliamentary cycle” he was referring to. I don’t remember the Tories taking a lead after their defeats in 1997, 2001 or 2005. Labour barely got above a three-point lead during the entire coalition government of 2010 (and even then its lead turned out to be exaggerated by pollsters). When WAS this mythical “normal parliamentary cycle”? I got no response.

Corbyn’s opponents from both sides of the parliamentary divide are keen to talk down his achievements by belittling them. But let’s look at some figures.

Remember that one I quoted above – 43%?

Blair might have forgotten this, but that is the share of the vote that he won as Labour leader in 1997 – the vote that led to a massive 179 majority. That is where Labour now stands in the polls.

Put like that, 43% doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

So why doesn’t Labour now hold a commanding lead? The answer is simple.

Britain has moved back towards a two-party state in recent years, largely as a result of the coalition and then the collapse of Ukip. Whether you think this loss of diversity is good or bad, it has had one major result: it has propped up the Tories.

Theresa May’s party – despite the scandals, crises and incompetence  –  is consistently polling around 40%.

Not only has she gained the votes of disenchanted Ukip supporters, but she has benefited from the collapse of the Lib Dems. In 1997 the Lib Dems won 17% of the vote, rising with each election to 23% in 2010.

Now the Lib Dems are polling at just six per cent – a disastrous collapse, but great news for May.

Some believed that “progressive” Lib Dem voters would desert to Labour after the coalition, but that didn’t happen. In my Calder Valley constituency, for example, they moved pretty much en bloc to the Tories.

So what next?

I was asked in June if I thought the general election had been a “high water mark” for Labour under Corbyn. At the time I wasn’t sure but I’m now convinced that Corbyn’s Labour CAN go higher. Higher, that is, than the party ever did under Blair.

The irony is that Labour’s chances will to some extent depend on a comeback by the Lib Dems (and Ukip, though that seems unlikely).

There is a large section of the public that will never, ever vote Labour. It’s in Labour’s interests that those people are turned off by May.

In the meantime, there is much work to be done as the battle isn’t over yet. Labour supporters must not become complacent and think the next election – whenever it comes – is a foregone conclusion. The Tories haven’t got where they are today by giving up easily or without a (dirty) fight.

Things can change, and they can change fast. Earlier this year I was still saying that Corbyn was unlikely to win the next election which, at that time, was expected in 2020. Not because of him, but because ANY leader of ANY opposition party is unlikely these days to overturn a majority in just one parliament. That’s what modern political history has taught us. But I did add a caveat: that applies unless something extraordinary happens.

Happily, something extraordinary did happen. One morning, the Prime Minister looked into her mirror – provided by her right-wing media friends – and it told her she was the fairest, and the strongest, and the most stable of all. So she called an election – and we all know what happened. That mirror had lied to her.

When will the next election be? Shadow chancellor John McDonnell believes it will be soon, and the Labour Party is much better prepared this time.

A poll lead of two or three points might not seem that impressive, but think back to when the election was called in April. Some polls had Labour 20 points behind at the start of that campaign. I’ll settle for three points ahead at this stage of the game – but I’ll be fighting to increase it.

Lies, damned lies – and no statistics

Lies, damned lies – and no statistics

Once upon a time the Tories were so complacent that they just mocked Jeremy Corbyn. Now they are in such a panic that all they do is tell lies about him.

The Conservative general election campaign was one long “Project Fear” attack on Corbyn. It didn’t work.

As he pointed out in his speech to the Labour conference: “The day before the election, one paper devoted 14 pages to attacking the Labour Party. And our vote went up nearly 10%… The British people saw right through it. So this is a message to the Daily Mail’s editor: next time, please could you make it 28 pages?”

It seems the Tories never learn. Everyone has heard that old definition of insanity: continuing to do the same thing but expecting a different result. Everyone, it seems, except the Tories.

This week at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester we have been hearing all the old lies, all the old personal attacks.

On Sunday, Theresa May told Andrew Marr’s show on the BBC that “at the Labour Party conference, the Labour Party themselves recognised that they would wreck our economy. They can’t deliver.”

Marr said: “I don’t remember that speech.”

She replied: “Run on the pound? Run on the pound from Labour? That’s what they said a Labour Party would mean in this country.”

 

Except, of course, they didn’t.

John McDonnell told a meeting that Labour was planning for government and, sensibly, was planning for all eventualities – including a run on the pound (let’s leave aside for now that May didn’t seem to understand the difference between a run on the pound and a run on the banks).

It’s the sort of planning all sensible businesses do: plan for the worst possibilities to be prepared for anything.

It’s the sort of planning David Cameron should have done ahead of the EU referendum last year. Instead he was asleep at the wheel. Have the Tories learnt anything? It would appear not.

Michael Fallon repeated the biggest lie on BBC’s Daily Politics (though he is not the only one to do so) when he claimed that Corbyn promised during the election campaign to wipe out student debt.

He, of course, did nothing of the sort.

Iain Dale of LBC had wrongly claimed on the Marr programme that Corbyn raised the issue of wiping out student debt, but he didn’t. NME did, in its interview with him.

May would no doubt have responded – if NME had interviewed her – by laughing mirthlessly, saying “I’ve been very clear” and then going on to avoid the question. Instead Corbyn gave an honest reply, admitting that he didn’t have a simple answer but he would look at ways of helping those who were burdened excessively. He did NOT say he would write off the debt.

So just remember that next time you hear anyone repeat that lie. In fact, you can quote his full reply:

 

JCstudentdebt

 

There’s another laughable lie going round at the Tory conference and it is this: Britain under a Labour government would become a Marxist state. It’s odd, because all these Tory ministers have been expensively educated – many with philosophy, politics and economics degrees from Oxford – so you’d think they might understand the difference between a Marxist economy and a social democratic one.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said: “It cannot be left to one political party to make the case for the market economy.”

We’ve heard a lot this week about “the market”. But what market is there without a fully-functioning state infrastructure and citizens with money to spend?

More sinisterly, Hammond reportedly told a £400-a-head dinner: “You have to decide to combat this menace (Labour) or collaborate with it and let it get into power.”

Collaborate? Is he comparing Labour to the Nazis now? How desperate ARE these Tories?

In his conference speech, Hammond referred to the 1970s – a tired old trope about Labour being stuck in the past.

But some of us remember the 1970s. We remember when people had jobs, proper jobs with security and pensions. When a single-income family could afford to buy a home. When students graduated without debt. And when inequality in this country was at a historic low.

“Ah, but what about the uncollected rubbish and the power cuts?” is the inevitable response, usually from those who weren’t even alive then.

Yes, there was a bin strike in early 1979, and it lasted for a month. But the power cuts happened during the 1970-74 Ted Heath Tory government. It was Heath who put the country on a three-day week to save power.

Boris Johnson picked up the theme of the 1970s in his conference speech and walked into a trap he had set himself: “We must accept that when we talk about the 1970s we imagine people instantly understand about power cuts, the three-day week, union bosses back in Downing Street, state-made British Rail sandwiches.

“We think they get the reference but unfortunately going back to the 1970s sounds to too many people like a massive joint revival concert by David Bowie, Led Zep and the Rolling Stones.”

 

Yes, good point, Boris.

There was some pretty good music in the 70s too, but it was YOUR party that was responsible for the three-day week and the power cuts.

More seriously, Johnson said: “If you listen to the aspirations of the young people I meet around the world, you will find there is not a single successful global economy that would dream of implementing the semi-Marxist agenda of McDonnell and Corbyn of nationalisation and state control.”

Trouble is, all over Europe, let alone the world, there are countries implementing exactly that agenda, except they don’t see it as “semi-Marxist”.

Other countries, for example, still own their railways – and now they own ours too. So our fares, the most expensive in Europe, are subsidising rail travellers in France, Germany and Holland.

Many of Labour policies, far from being “hard left”, are regarded as mainstream in other European social democratic countries.

Labour’s position is looking more and more mainstream by the day – and the Conservatives are getting increasingly desperate.

Never mind the 1970s, it’s time to leave behind the tired old politics of the 1980s and 1990s. More and more of us are realising that those politics were built on the biggest lie of all: letting the rich get richer would make us all better off.

We won’t get fooled again.

Don’t let Israel weaponise antisemitism smears

Don’t let Israel weaponise antisemitism smears

We need to talk about Israel. No, we really do need to be able to talk about Israel, even though the Israeli government would rather we didn’t.

In particular, we need to be talking about the way the Labour Party is being smeared with accusations of “antisemitism” – one of the most poisonous slurs that can be pinned on anyone in post-1945 society.

It’s a nonsense, of course.

I guess it’s possible that in any organisation of more than half a million people you might find someone with suspect views, but the idea that the Labour Party in some way condones antisemitism is as outrageous as it is laughable.

 

Yet the mud is clearly sticking.

A BBC Radio 5 presenter read out a couple of messages about the Labour Party conference in Brighton and one listener said he or she could not vote Labour while Jeremy Corbyn was “soft” on antisemitism and condoned Holocaust deniers.

Even though the presenter added a disclaimer, making clear that Corbyn was not involved in Holocaust denial, it is hard to understand why the programme’s editors would have chosen to broadcast such an inaccurate and inflammatory message.

Let’s get one thing absolutely straight: I am not antisemitic. To use an old cliché, many of my best friends are Jewish. Members of my family are Jewish. I have always been passionately anti-racist.

Neither do I hate Israel. I have been there twice and find much to admire about the country.

But I do not like what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, and neither do many people in the Labour Party, including Corbyn. That is the problem.

Defenders of Israel usually make a big thing of telling everyone it is legitimate to criticise Israel without being antisemitic – but then they rush to label anyone who actually does this as antisemitic. They know exactly how toxic that accusation is.

So what was this “antisemitism row” that reportedly “hit” the otherwise hugely successful Labour conference?

A speaker at a fringe event – not part of the official conference – is reported to have said: “This is about free speech, the freedom to criticise and to discuss every issue, whether it’s the Holocaust: yes or no, Palestine, the liberation, the whole spectrum. There should be no limits on the discussion.”

Miko Peled was talking about free speech and its limits. He was not saying he was a Holocaust denier because he isn’t – though that wasn’t clear from many reports.

There are some things it is important to know about Peled, things that were entirely omitted from some accounts of this meeting.

He is not a Labour member – but he is a Jew, born in Jerusalem, a former member of the Israeli special forces, the son of an Israeli general and the grandson of a prominent Zionist.

Perhaps more importantly, from an Israeli point of view, he is an outspoken critic of his native country’s policies on Palestinians. Israel does not like being referred to as an apartheid state, which is Peled’s description of it.

 

That makes him a target for Israeli propaganda services.

We saw earlier this year what those services are capable of when an Israeli agent was caught on camera talking about “taking down” British MPs judged to be hostile to his country.

During the Labour conference, the Times tried to beat up another antisemitism row in connection with a group called Labour Party Marxists, an organisation unaffiliated to the party.

The Times story was based on an article written, the paper revealed in the final paragraph, by someone called Moshe Machover.

Machover, like Peled, is an Israeli Jew. Which raises an interesting question: if antisemitism is hatred of Jews, is it possible for an Israeli Jew to be antisemitic?

Speaking as a therapist, I’d say that would reveal an extraordinary and unlikely level of self-loathing.

Here are a few more questions.

Why did several of the papers reporting the so-called antisemitism row fail to make Peled’s background clear? Were they afraid the truth might undermine their “story”?

And what were the motives of certain Labour MPs who rushed to judgment?

Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North, said: “Anyone who says Labour doesn’t have a problem with antisemitism is in cloud cuckoo land.”

John Mann, MP for Bassetlaw and the man who aggressively abused Ken Livingstone in public last year, said: “The Labour Party Marxists should all be thrown out of the party, every single one of them. We want them investigated and then thrown out.”

We can only wonder why the party would bother holding an investigation when Mann has already judged them guilty.

We also have to ask WHEN this alleged antisemitism problem occurred in the Labour Party. Is it a coincidence that Mann and Streeting have been two of the most outspoken critics of Corbyn? Are they trying to suggest that the “problem” started two years ago when Corbyn became leader?

That seems unlikely as the most famous allegation of antisemitism – the one that resulted in MP Naz Shah being suspended by the party after she tweeted an old joke about Israel being like a state of the US – happened under Ed Miliband’s leadership.

 

Is anyone suggesting that Miliband, a Jew with relatives in Israel, is antisemitic too?

As it happens, conference passed a rule change – despite cautions from some Jewish Labour members – that will surely give it the most robust rules on antisemitism of any European political party outside Germany.

I still reckon you would probably find more antisemitism in your average Conservative club than in the entire Labour Party, but I doubt anyone from the media will be actively seeking out examples of antisemitism at the Tory conference.

And don’t for a moment fall for the idea that all those who claim to speak for British Jews are in any way apolitical. Many are quite clearly agitating against Labour both for their own party political reasons and to come to the aid of the Israeli government.

You might not know this, but Theresa May was a dinner guest of the chief rabbi on the night before she became prime minister. Now, it’s possible that Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has also had Corbyn round to dinner at his home, but if he has, I haven’t heard about it.

During the 2015 general election, even Miliband came under attack by the Jewish press in an attempt to turn Jewish voters against Labour.

Israel is prepared to fight dirty to prevent close scrutiny of its actions.

So it is important that we don’t let shouts of “antisemitism” stop valid criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

When there is injustice in the world, we mustn’t be intimidated by bullies who know they can weaponise those smears to shut down debate.

Weak May on the way out – and Brexiteers are getting desperate

Weak May on the way out – and Brexiteers are getting desperate

Right-wing Tories are in a panic. Why? Because they know that time is running out on their plan to destroy Britain.

They are desperate to get us out of the EU in the most brutal and catastrophic way. They want to sneak through “reforms” that weren’t in the election manifesto. They want to reduce the state still further until it is barely functioning.

And they want to do it quickly because they are terrified that they have very little time left in government.

Look at them – Boris Johnson, David Davis, Michael Gove, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Peter Bone, and the rest of their unpleasant crew – all pushing hard to avoid any compromise that might salvage something from the Brexit disaster.

And the irony is that the harder they push, the less chance there is of them getting their way because their infighting is making Theresa May’s government weaker by the day.

Former foreign secretary William Hague wrote in the Daily Telegraph that if the Cabinet doesn’t get behind May after her Brexit speech in Florence “there will be no point Conservatives discussing who is going to be the Foreign Secretary, Chancellor or Prime Minister in the coming years, because Jeremy Corbyn will be Prime Minister”.

We can only hope he is right.

But in the meantime every new day means we are 24 hours closer to our departure from the EU and the government still has no coherent plan or agreed position on the biggest economic threat to our country for decades.

As Rachel Sylvester – the respected Tory columnist who recently revealed that Johnson is regarded as a joke in international diplomatic circles – wrote in the Times: “In her speech in Florence on Friday, the prime minister is supposed to be unveiling her route map but even now, Whitehall sources say, the text is being rewritten and recalibrated as a weak and incompetent leader tries to balance the competing forces around her.

“Although she is said to be finally consulting colleagues, if it feels like anarchy it’s because there is no agreement…

“Crucially, and potentially catastrophically for the prime minister, the government’s position on Brexit has still not been agreed by senior ministers. In fact, there has been no substantive cabinet discussion on our future relationship with the EU, nor any agreement around the top table about the trade-offs that should be made between access to the single market and immigration controls.

“That is not only astonishing but outrageous.”

“Outrageous” – that’s the verdict of a serious political columnist working for Rupert Murdoch’s Times. Note too her description of May: “a weak and incompetent leader”.

May’s “government” is collapsing even as I write.

You know a government is in trouble when the prime minister and the foreign secretary are staying in the same hotel in New York but aren’t speaking to each other.

And that collapse cannot come too soon for, be in no doubt, the right-wingers of her party want to do as much damage to this country as they can while they still have the chance.

Now they see their window of opportunity shrinking, alarmed Tories who arrogantly saw it as their right to govern in perpetuity are ripping themselves apart.

Actually, I cut Hague’s quote short above. His paragraph on Corbyn being prime minister ended with the words “completely ruining this country”.

But more and more people are now realising that our country is already being ruined, and it isn’t by Corbyn.

It is being ruined by the feebleness of a government led by “weak and incompetent” May that is being pushed around by any rebellious Tory who thinks he can advance his own self-interest.

The sooner we get them all out and bring in a Labour government that represents the interests of the British people, the better.