The chickens are truly coming home to roost for Theresa May as she approaches the final hurdle, writes Lindsey German
The words 'strong', 'stable' and 'security' should be a winner for the Tories. The problem they have is that their leader is so dreadfully lacking in ability and positively Baltic, let alone robotic, in her approach to other human beings. Her last fling is to introduce the idea of new legislation, including saying that she will not allow human rights legislation to stand in her way. What on earth is she talking about? There are many laws to arrest, control and organise surveillance on terrorist suspects. There is no evidence that any of the terrible attacks we have seen would have been stopped or altered by the restriction of human rights law.
The only point of her doing this is to appeal to UKIP voters in order to try and revive her appalling campaign. We heard yesterday that the third terrorist was let into Britain from Italy despite being on a watch list. Two of the three were therefore known to the authorities, as were the Manchester and Westminster bombers. The talk of security is pure cynicism and electioneering, where security has become worse on May's watch.
The whole unpleasant series of attacks on Corbyn over alleged support for terrorism should be turned around. Every attack - for example that he voted against anti-terror legislation - can be turned against them, with the revelation that May and Johnson also voted against much anti-terror legislation as well. She talks about changing laws to bring in longer sentences for terrorist offences. But during her period as Home Secretary, it seems that suspects were not even brought in for interview!
It is the politics of the gutter press to make these attacks against people like Corbyn who have done everything that they can to make the world more secure, not less. Those of us who have campaigned against wars have done so precisely because our analysis is that they make the world more dangerous and that they create the sort of society in which it is easier for terrorism to grow.
Any simple look at the levels of terrorism before the war on terror and now can only conclude that the situation in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria has been greatly worsened as a result. The people who voted for these wars, and continue to justify them, have to take some responsibility for this situation, and not keep arguing for more of the same. We should not take lessons from them in anything. And how dare they criticise those of us who have consistently pointed out the error of their ways and consistently been proved right?
Far from being maligned, Jeremy Corbyn should be praised for this. It compares rather favourably with the record of his opponents who have been on the wrong side of history. Why are we constantly berated about Jeremy Corbyn and the IRA in the 1980s while no one talks about Tory attitudes to apartheid South Africa (big supporters) or gay rights (advocates of the repressive Section 28)?
The security question is now big in the last days of the election. Whatever has gone wrong with the London Bridge case, it is part of a pattern, both with recent attacks here and in France and Belgium. Surely there has to be a discussion of why this is, and whether the most effective way of dealing with it is being used? In particular, it seems that neighbours and mosque attendees in Barking had very real concerns about Butt, which they shared. Could it be that part of the problem is the blanket suspicion of the Muslim community, evidenced through widely disseminated Islamophobia and the Prevent programme, which is actually making it harder to identify and prevent terrorism, not easier? Speeches like May's which talk about too much tolerance of extremism don't help the problem at all.
Security can't be divorced from the wider questions of civil liberty. No one wants to be put in danger. I have often walked across London Bridge, shopped in Borough Market and been in pubs or restaurants. One of the victims already announced came from my home borough, Hackney, not far down the road. I drove past the north end of the bridge yesterday. But I also feel fear when I see large numbers of armed police, when I listen to politicians in a bidding war to be tougher on security, and when I see people denounced and ridiculed for looking at different solutions. I feel even more fear when I hear people suggest internment of Muslims without trial, and demands that Muslims change their way of life in order to integrate more. Down these paths lie more racism, more scapegoating and more division in society.
The fears of a clown
Boris Johnson isn't a clown, he's a deeply unpleasant and cynical politician. And he was at it again yesterday. No defence of his own government's policies - because they are all finding it harder and harder to come up with one - but instead a constant series of slurs against Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott. It doesn't seem to occur to these old Etonian Bullingdon Boys that millions of people in this country are fed up with every bit, not just of their policies but of the whole ethos of this neoliberal society which shows zero tolerance for the poor, the sick, and the unemployed, but which also demands that nearly everyone has to work harder and harder in order to ensure the rising profits of the corporations.
Having spent quite a bit of time on the privatised Great Western Railway in recent months, I'm fed up with the lack of investment in trains, signals and stock, fed up with the extortionate fares charged to travel on said decrepit rolling stock, but perhaps even more fed up with the lack of sympathy or compassion with those who lose tickets, get on the wrong train or miss their pre booked one. That's just one example, but one could make the same case for the airline companies, utilities, banks, supermarkets. They mess up all the time but pay very little in compensation. We, on the other hand, must lose billions a year collectively in tickets we pay for but can't use, arbitrary energy price hikes, and hidden admin or service charges.
The sense of all this is one big reason that Jeremy Corbyn and his manifesto are doing so well, especially when our health and education are being opened up to these privatisers and profiteers. The Tory answer to the housing crisis is to subsidise the big builders, who are hoarding land to keep the price up, and greedy private landlords who are creating overcrowding, poverty and homelessness.
The point I was making yesterday is that attitudes to this are changing, and this will continue whatever the outcome of the election. There has to be an upsurge of struggles against all these manifestations of neoliberal misery, and I think there will be. There also has to be a discussion about what sort of society we want, how socialism should not be a dirty word but a better way of organising society for the many, not the few.
London doesn't want you here, Donald Trump
Trump is keeping up his abuse of London mayor Sadiq Khan. Someone should tell him to stop. Maybe the Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary? But they won't because they love Donald Trump, and are terrified of raising a mild criticism of him even when he is attacking the mayor of a city which suffered a major terrorist attack just round the corner from his office. If they think this is winning them any votes or support they can think again.
Even the media seem horrified by this tolerance of racist abuse on the part of Trump. The invitation to him for a state visit should be immediately rescinded. If Jeremy wins, I don't see his visit going ahead. And if May is still prime minister, then it's going to be a very bad day for both of them if he sets foot in London.
The biggest rallies in 70 years, but still Labour's right won't give Corbyn credit
According to Channel 4's Michael Crick, who is a bit of an anorak with all this, Corbyn is attracting crowds bigger than at any time since Winston Churchill. That must be since at least the early 50s. Again, last night, huge crowds heard him live in Birmingham and live streamed to another half dozen cities. Corbyn has, by all accounts - even those of his enemies - carried out a really good campaign. His manifesto has been a hit, he is galvanising young and previously non-voters. He has seen his personal rating rise dramatically. He has won a wide range of celebrity endorsements. But there are still far too many Labour candidates who as trying to distance themselves from Corbyn. Let's be clear. This election advance for Labour is Corbyn’s. It is not the advance of those candidates who refuse to put his name on their material. I know this in Hackney South and Shoreditch, where most people will have seen little or nothing of the MP. They will have seen a lot about Corbyn. And increasingly, people like what they see.
But let's be under no illusion. The right will be on the attack again after the election. They hate the leftward move of Corbyn and want to claim any success is not down to him, while every failing will be blamed on him entirely. There is going to be great turmoil in virtually all the parties after the election, not least in Labour where some of the Blairites resemble nothing more that the French Bourbon monarchy overthrown by the revolution in 1789: they learn nothing and forget nothing.
The onslaught on Diane Abbott continues. She pulled out of a Women's Hour debate yesterday morning citing illness. Fair enough. People get ill (and after all, it has been extremely hard to get Theresa May to have any engagement with the public). But a photo taken by her by one Nick Astaire was circulated on Twitter shortly after the programme started broadcasting. It claimed to show Abbott at Oxford Circus station at 8.40 and not looking sick.
Can this be the same Nick Astaire who is a stockbroker and investment banker for Daedalus Holdings? And is he related to the Nick Astaire of Harcourt Holdings who masterminded a scheme in the north-east of England which was described by MP Margaret Hodge, chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, as fuelling the perception that it was aimed at tax avoidance? She denounced 'greedy individuals' who made a lot out of the scheme, which was in an enterprise zone, and whose investors included Roy Hodgson, Arsene Wenger, Wayne Rooney and comedian Jimmy Carr. The scheme was so good that investors got more back through tax relief than they originally paid in. Astaire claimed they were bringing regeneration to the North East.
Could it be that Nick Astaire - if he is indeed the same one - is fearful that a Labour government will curtail the behaviour of 'greedy individuals' and tax avoidance? That people who work in investment and banking might have to pay a tiny bit more tax? Perhaps he would like to tell us.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
More articles from this author
- The nasty parties unite to stop Corbyn - election briefing 12 November 2019
- The world turned upside down - election briefing 11 November
- Why have the Greens joined an anti-Labour alliance? - election briefing 8 November
- The mask keeps slipping - election briefing 7 November
- Rees-Mogg: the ugly face of class privilege - daily election briefing 6 November
- The battle that will shape a generation – weekly briefing
- Trump’s coming to London during the election