During Corbyn’s leadership, Labour was relentlessly attacked by the Tories, their supporters and cheerleaders in the press for the many failings which, they said, made Labour unfit to run the country. Worth dwelling on the accusations for what they tell us about today’s Tories.
- A sympathiser with IRA terrorism: well-worn, repeated on every possible occasion and, combined with his associations with various dubious Palestinian groups and past statements about the causes of Islamist terrorism, the Tories happily painted a picture of a man who seemed, well, ambivalent about the use of terror against civilians, if it was in support of a cause he supported. A man who, a week after the Brighton bombing, invited the convicted IRA volunteers, Linda Quigley and Gerry MacLochlainn, to the Commons, to the disgust of many in his own party – let alone the Tories. 35 years later Johnson was still berating Corbyn about it.
- Anti–semitism: little more to be said on this, at least until the EHRC report comes out. The damage was caused at least as much by who Corbyn had associated with (those Holocaust deniers would keep on popping up at events where Corbyn was present) as by his own actions. The Tories enthusiastically adopted the maxim that you can judge a man by the company he keeps.
- An unwillingness to stand up to Russia: Corbyn’s response to the Salisbury poisonings was used to show a man who did not take the Russian threat seriously, whether because of ideological sympathy by him or his advisors (Seamus Milne being particularly helpful in this regard) or simple naivety about Russia’s intentions.
- An automatic anti-Western bias: all too easy to present Corbyn’s approach to foreign policy as little more than “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. Any country or cause which criticised the West, no matter how awful themselves, found favour: Iran, the Serbs during Yugoslavia’s bloody civil war, Venezuela. It sometimes seemed that concern for human rights was less about those deprived of them and more about how to use the concept to beat up whoever Corbyn disliked most.
- An obsession with identity politics: as if all politics is not at some level about “identity” (the Brexit campaign waves hello). Still, the accusation went, Labour was unwilling to speak up for white working-class girls in its heartlands for fear of confronting other client groups and/or being accused of racism. It betrayed those suffering from child abuse on the altar of political correctness. Tom Watson’s parti pris accusations against senior Tories must have infuriated those thinking child abuse too vile a crime to be used for political advantage.
- Nepotism and cronyism: Corbyn’s son working for McDonnell, Andrew Murray’s daughter appointed to a plum Labour Party role, McCluskey’s old squeeze to another. All very cosy and incestuous.
So you’d think, wouldn’t you, that the Tories would not fall into the same traps, that they would take care about who they associate with, who they promote, who they praise and elevate? Apparently not, if those nominated by the government to be peers is anything to go by. Deemed suitable to be a member of our legislature are:-
- A woman who has consistently denied the war crimes carried out by the Bosnian Serbs against Bosnian Muslims, who – as publisher (of Living Marxism) – was found by a court to have libelled two ITV journalists who reported the facts about what was happening, who dismissed the court’s decision, after the verdict likening the two journalists to David Irving because they had both brought litigation – ignoring the critical difference between them. (Perhaps the differences between telling the truth and inventing facts might be a worthy topic for a future Moral Maze programme.) Certainly, disregard for facts and dismissal of court rulings is now very a la mode. Ms Fox was simply ahead of her time. If you want an example of the intellectually dishonest reasoning of the founder of The Academy of Ideas on this topic, read here. The inability to understand the difference between the denial of established facts and shutting down unpopular opinions would disgrace an averagely bright A-level student. As Deborah Lipstadt, a woman who knows a thing or two about genocide denial, has put it: everyone is free to have their own opinions; they are not free to invent their own facts.
- Ms Fox did not have much regard then for freedom of speech though, strangely, when it came to child abuse and jihadist videos, her concern was all for freedom of speech including, apparently, the freedom to disseminate films of criminal offences, though she apparently knows (how?) that most child abuse videos are “simulated”. Nor – more grotesquely – has she ever resiled from or apologised for her pro-IRA views and their campaign of violence before 1998, a campaign which killed and injured, not just thousands of innocents in Ireland and Britain, but 3 Tory MPs, their wives and tried to assassinate a PM.
What a forgiving party the current Tory party now is! Poor Jeremy must be wondering why no forgiveness was extended to him. Perhaps it might have been, had he been pro-Brexit. After all, that’s why she has been elevated, isn’t it, pro-Brexit views being the British equivalent of medieval Catholic indulgences wiping away all other sins? But if the quota for pro-Brexit media loudmouths simply had to be filled, couldn’t Daniel Hannan be prevailed upon? Or Ann Widdecombe, in extremis?
- A former editor of the Evening Standard (previously deputy editor of the Daily Telegraph, when Johnson was a columnist there) who strongly supported the PM in his first election for London Mayor 12 years ago. A 2018 CBE for services to the arts since did not suffice apparently.
- The current owner of the Evening Standard, who together with his father, a former KGB agent until 1992, has made oodles of money which he has used to buy his way into the higher echelons of London society, much as described in the ISC’s recent report on Russia (pp.15-17). Look who’s being naïve now.
- The PM’s brother, an MP for 9 years, a junior Minister for 3, mainly known for having resigned twice as a Minister, the second time from his brother’s government, over Brexit. He then chose not to stand again as an MP. However worthy, it’s not exactly a lifetime of public service.
Ambivalence towards violence, naivety about Britain’s enemies, associating with undesirables, cronyism, nepotism, revolting views. We have them all. Johnson has not just adopted Labour’s public spending but their less desirable “values” as well. And added some Grade A hypocrisy into the mix, so that we can enjoy the spectacle of those railing against unelected European bureaucrats appointing unelected legislators that the people can never get rid of or hold accountable.
What have we missed in the meanwhile? Well, the setting up of a panel to come up with curbs on judicial review, led by a QC and former Minister, who in February wrote that the government should limit the courts’ power (impartial tribunals are so passé). Edward Faulks’ other claim to fame was being advisor to Chris Grayling when he was Lord Chancellor and enacted reforms to Legal Aid which have pretty much destroyed it and, in consequence, the ability of anyone other than the wealthy to access justice.
The panel’s terms of reference are here, clause 4(b) being the important one, seeking to remove or limit the “duty of candour” by the government to the court and other parties. In short, if the government does not have to be honest in its explanations (and remember, this was a government which could find no-one willing to swear on oath what the reasons for proroguing Parliament last year were), how can it be effectively scrutinised or challenged? Why should the people know? They exist just to be venerated when it suits the government politically, not to be treated as adults and trusted with information so that they can hold the government properly accountable. Once again, the government gives the impression that its attitude to law is as described by Anarchasis: “Written laws are like spiders’ webs; they catch the weak and poor but are torn in pieces by the rich and powerful.”
There is one thing to be grateful for. We need never again be troubled by Tories railing about Labour’s attitude to terrorist violence or child abuse or fondness for unelected elites or being too pro-Russian or having dodgy friends or being run by cronies. We know now – if we did not before – that such concern is so much cant, useful only as a political weapon. And if they try, we can point at Johnson’s very own “Lavender List”, perfumed with the stink of hypocrisy, nepotism and cronyism, and laugh. Small mercies, these days.