The Home Affairs Select Committee Report on anti-Semitism is notable only for its superficiality and blatant partisanship. Its real agenda is made clear by the fact that the only visible Jewish community in Britain, which has experienced a considerable number of ant-Semitic attacks, the Haredi ultra-Orthodox community, received no mention whatsoever.
Instead Chuka Ummuna and his fellow MPs have concentrated on settling internal Labour Party scores by attacking Jeremy Corbyn and Shami Chakrabarti, all with the help of fellow Conservative MPs.
Its criticism of NUS President Malia Bouattia, a refugee from oppression, is particularly unwarranted. She is accused of anti-Semitism for having described the University of Birmingham as “something of a Zionist outpost in British higher education”. How can this possibly be anti-Semitic unless one is deliberately confusing Zionism and anti-Semitism? ‘Zionist’ is a political not a racial or ethnic category; there are millions of non-Jewish Zionists in the world, mainly fundamentalist Christians, Those who suggest ‘Zionist’ and “Jew” are interchangeable are, in my view, themselves anti-Semitic.
Incidents of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party have been shown to be mainly froth without substance. It is time to end the weaponisation of anti-Semitism. The only people who benefit from this are real anti-Semites. It is the “boy cried wolf” syndrome.
The right-wing of the Labour Party have come up with “Schrödinger's Jeremy Corbyn”, in which their leader can simultaneously be denounced for attending the Stand Up To Racism conference one week and be accused of being “soft” on anti-Semitism the following week. Those who disseminate false accusations of racism to win factional struggles are criminally irresponsible. They undermine and demoralise the fight against racism at a time when it is on the rise. They give encouragement to the genuine racists and anti-Semites.
Edith Lederer's report on the UN being urged to act on the approach of 50 years of Israeli occupation contrasts hugely with the report in another part of the paper on the same day about the report of the Parliamentary Committee on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and attacks on Jeremy Corbyn in particular. I wonder if Jeremy Corbyn's support of the Palestinians against the occupation might be the underlying reason for the constant raising of the accusation of anti-Semitism against him and the Labour Party?
As we all know, Brexit saw a huge increase in racial hate crime within the UK. However what is less reported in the media is that racial prejudice and hate crime have steadily been on the increase for many years. For example, in 2011-12, racial hate crime incidents reported to the police were recorded at 35,816. Last year, this had increased to 49,419. What is also generally hidden in the media is that hate crime towards Muslims, gay people and disabled people have also been increasing. So have incidents of rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence committed towards women.
While there may have been a spike in racial hated after Brexit, together with a recent sharp increase in anti-Semitism, these problems go far deeper than any hostility aroused by the European Referendum itself, or by Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged weakness in tackling anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.
Britain is a deeply divided and unhappy nation full stop, and not just in terms of inequality or access to resources. Now is the time for British people, including its politicians, to decide what sort of society they want to live in. Leaving the EU may rid some people of their obvious and visible anxiety over immigration, but it certainly won’t make them any happier in the long term, nor put bread on the table of most Brits.
Brexit leaves us a dangerously polarised people
Both sides in the EU Referendum campaign lied, distorted and obfuscated, with a cynical disregard for the legitimacy of their respective positions and no respect for validity or truth. A proper debate was sacrificed to a battle of brands wherein a highly complex issue was reduced to patronising, quasi-racist, shallow slogans and sound bites, and a simplistic yes or no vote. The electorate was denied any reliable information about the profoundly important, often contradictory consequences of the decision and no practical preparations were made for the no vote that ensued. We were only offered a referendum to vote to stay.
This disreputable mess continues to rumble on with each side blaming the other for the escalating shambles that threatens business confidence, a proper value of the pound and the long-term success of our economy. Any bad results of the vote to Leave – be it a recession, Scottish independence and or a dangerously polarised people – will be blamed by each side on the other. It’s a disaster that will be no one’s fault except ours.
I have voted in every election for the last 50 years. I refuse to vote again except under a comprehensively reformed electoral system of proper Proportional Representation because politicians of all parties have demonstrated categorically that they lack the competence, social, political and economic to be given the undeserved power our present system grants them.
There must now be a strong legal case for a second vote on Brexit following the known to be misguided information provided to the electorate by Boris Johnson in his Brexit campaign. In particular, his adamant promise that there would be no trade-off between EU immigration and free access to the EU market was a promise that undermined the very principles of the EU charter and lacked credibility. More recently Donald Tusk spelled out the reality: “Britain cannot have its cake and eat it!” He warned of a tough Brexit ahead for Britain.
Kenneth Clarke is right to claim that the government is answerable to the House of Commons in this matter, and by implication it's therefore for the House of Commons to decide whether there needs be a second popular vote for Brexit, based on the facts and not on Boris's imagination, or whether the final decision on Brexit should be taken by a free vote in the House of Commons.
Article 50 states that the Member State which invokes Article 50 “shall” leave two years after invoking Article 50. There is the possibility of extending the two year time period, but Article 50 does not foresee the possibility of a reversal of the exit decision. A referendum on the terms of Britain’s exit has therefore never seemed to me, a dedicated Remainer, to be a realistic prospect.
Theresa May’s Government would have negotiated, for better or worse, certain terms of exit. Under Article 50, remaining in the EU would not be an option which could be put in the referendum – so what possible alternative would there be to accepting the negotiated terms?
Of course, the EU is and always has been a political project: if governments agree, then rules can be bent (witness, for example, the French breach of budget deficit rules). However, until Friday there was no sign that the EU governments would agree to a reversal of Article 50.
The analysis of Donald Tusk’s speech on Friday has largely interpreted his “hard Brexit or no Brexit” choice as meaning that Britain will leave the EU in a “hard” fashion, given that “No Brexit” is not regarded as an option. However, in his responses to questions after the speech there is something which changes the rules of the game and makes “no Brexit” a possibility.
Tusk said: “If we have a chance to reverse this negative process, we will find allies”. Tusk speaks for the European Council but does not make policy – it is the EU governments who do, so it is difficult to imagine him saying something like this without having had clear signals from EU heads of government that such a reversal would be possible. All of a sudden, a referendum on the terms of Brexit becomes a realistic possibility; there is now an alternative to the negotiated terms of exit.
Theresa May can go to the country and say: “This is the best that I’ve been able to negotiate. Now that we know what Brexit will involve, do you still want to leave?” Will she be brave enough?
Another referendum here, another referendum there. Have we learned nothing? Ed Balls is still jerking away whilst a proper dancer loses out (so they tell me), Honey G is still talking doggerel at the expense of someone who wants to sing (so they tell me) and one can still walk into a bookshop and open 50 Shades of Grey anywhere at random only to find a banal, badly written line
The referendum result was clear – half voted in, and half voted out. So the clear message is that the British people want to be half out: super soft Brexit.
John Rentoul is quite right that Theresa May cannot state her targets for the Brexit negotiations. Having said we are out, she has no negotiating position. Europe would see targets as a cap to what she can get and in the UK she would be criticised for setting them too low.
What she can do is declare that before the two years are up she will call a confirmatory referendum. She can also state that the issue on immigration is the rate of increase in the UK population. Britain cannot build the infrastructure and adapt socially to the year-on-year levels of immigration that has happened with the enlargement of the EU.
These two actions would give a framework for negotiations that would allow a proper exploration of Britain’s relationship with Europe. There is an out, but as an option to be negotiated. A confirmatory referendum can then silence the critics that the last referendum is meaningless, and in two years’ time, out of date.
We are told that under the EU treaty Article 50 gives two years for agreement to be reached. What would be the treaty resolution if the UK and the EU fail to reach agreement?
Sir John Sawers is the former Chief of the MI6 and is an acknowledged expert in international politics. He asserts that the current deterioration of the relationship between the United States and Russia is resulting in an era “more dangerous than the Cold War”. If so, should we be even contemplating our exit from the European Union? Surely there is more safety in belonging to a large bloc of countries than being on one’s own in the very uncertain and hostile world in which we live.
Dream on Roger Chapman (Letters, 16 October). Your punchy quote in today's paper is amusing as it fails to recognise we live now in a different reality; that was a century ago and greatness today is successfully living in the modern global world. Mankind has survived thus far on cooperative efforts, the isolationist bully tactics of power result in oppression and war, and we surely have enough of those already.
As part of the pollution of the English language by the ghastly word “Brexit”, I have seen it used as a noun, a verb and an adjective. I have seen it used to mean the referendum, the result of the referendum, the process of leaving the EU and the final act of leaving among other things. Now, on your letters page, Antony Robson describes himself as a “Brexit Remainer”. What on Earth is that? How does it differ from a Remainer or, in simple English, a Remain voter? When can we expect a return to the days of plain English instead of the Humpty Dumpty world where a word “means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less”?
After the next election please can you stop referring to the US president as “Leader of the Western World”. Do you seriously think Donald Trump could lead a dog? Hillary might just about get it over the road, I admit. But not much further.
In deep water
Linda Marsa's report on the devastating effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on the health of local communities was distressing and draws attention to the risks big business takes with our health and with the environment on a daily basis. Her article also brought to mind the people of Bhopal.
Arise Sir Sing-a-lot
I was amused recently by the sight of Rod Stewart receiving his knighthood from Prince William. He has now joined Elton John and Mick Jagger to become Sir. All three appear to have been awarded for “hedonism beyond the call of duty”. What next? Should all lottery winners be knighted? Knighthoods have lost the kudos they once had and their proliferation has given me an idea: everyone should be made a knight and you should only lose it if you are involved in any treachery, such as criminal activity or tax avoidance.
London Assembly Member Steve O’Connell recently uncovered the abysmally low prosecution rates for petrol theft in the capital (barely 1 per cent) and there is no reason to suppose things are any better elsewhere in the UK. In London alone, these thefts now run at 8,336 a year which (assuming a full tank is taken in most cases) could represent nearly £1m.
Were a genuinely competitive market to operate in petrol retailing, garages would long ago have installed pre-pay pumps such those that operate widely in the US. Their installation costs would soon be recovered in increased margins. But because it’s only motorists, a racket is perpetuated akin to that in motor insurance – now seeing huge hikes because of frauds such as “cash for crash” and personal injury scams not being properly prosecuted either. Honest drivers carry the can.
The police should be able to see how cutting off car crime at source would cut hundreds of other car crimes too. CCTV has become near-useless owing to the scale of false plates, ANPR-defeated coatings, motorised plate covers and “car cloning”, where a vehicle of the same make, model and colour has its plates replicated so that the innocent owner will receive all parking and speeding tickets, together with any action for petrol theft.
Petrol pre-payment wipes out a thousand attendant crimes, including the need for dangerous “hot pursuits” by police. There is a massive social responsibility for the industry to implement it without delay.
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