Lindsey German on the first broadcast debate, the super-rich, our ruling class, and Palestine
You can tell a lot from debates, not just from the answers but from the behaviour of the participants. In nearly every instance Boris Johnson bulldozed his way through every question, going over time and ignoring the chair. What a bully he is. Compare him with Jeremy Corbyn, who was calm, informed and disciplined. Johnson is a liar and blusterer. I’m afraid Julie Etchingham let him rant on for far too long.
How did the debate go? Johnson banged on about Brexit – and Corbyn needs to have a better answer about what he would do in the event of another referendum. He could say, I can’t give you an answer because we don’t have a deal yet but I promise to do something better than the warmed-over Theresa May deal Johnson has come up with. So it didn’t begin well, although it was ok. But when it moved on to other topics, Corbyn came across much better. The truth is that anti-austerity policies are very popular – to the extent that Johnson has to attempt to steal the policies and deceive about what he would really do.
I also think that Johnson really overplayed his 'get Brexit done' and scaremongering over Nicola Sturgeon line – to the extent that he was laughed and groaned at by the audience as the debate went on. Jeremy Corbyn was very good on the monarchy and Prince Andrew’s victims, and the other quick-fire questions. Johnson less so – and I think people are fed up with him ignoring other issues. On antisemitism Corbyn was good but should have landed a blow about Tory racism.
Overall, positive for our side but perhaps the best effect is that Jeremy came across as a serious, intelligent and warm person – the same can’t be said for his opponent.
Who wants to be a billionaire?
The row over taxing billionaires is quite extraordinary. These people are worth at least one thousand million pounds each. That’s £1,000,000,000. Just imagine what that must look like. Except you can’t. Even less can you imagine how you would spend it, because it is near impossible to spend. How many luxury houses can you buy, how many cars, how many paintings by famous artists which you hide away in your luxury homes?
And what would be the point? So that you could say you were one of the richest people in the world, and threaten to leave the country if there’s a Labour government that wants to make you pay even a thousandth of your income in taxes.
The charity Oxfam calculated earlier this year that the richest 26 people in the world (all billionaires) held wealth equivalent to the poorer half of the planet. So that’s 26=3.8 billion people. How can anyone possibly justify any of this, when poverty levels around the world mean that many people lack enough food, water, permanent housing? Here, in one of the richest countries in the world, we have record numbers of food banks, children going to school hungry, homeless people dying because of living on the streets.
But don’t worry, there are always people willing to come to their defence. Take Justin Webb, from the BBC Today programme, who seems genuinely affronted at the idea of criticising these creatures, citing issues of ‘aspiration’ and ‘wealth creation’. Given that most of them live in numerous locations outside Britain, he is also remarkably worried about them leaving a country in which they are rarely present.
Yet their obscene wealth is not their own creation but something they have stolen from the rest of us. And they have become ever more adept at taking larger shares of the wealth we produce from us. Taking even a small amount of it back – which is all that Labour proposes, unfortunately – could help to create a society where more is spent on those without housing or food, and where we have decent public services for all. That really would be something to aspire to.
The ugly prince of privilege
It’s hard amid all the very funny memes, jokes, tweets, about Prince Andrew to add anything new. But a few things struck me about the interview (sorry I’ve only seen the extracts). The attitudes he expressed and the arrogance he showed are typical of someone who has lived a life of pomp in isolation from ordinary people and without ever having to worry about work, money, or the other things the rest of us have to deal with. The royals are amazingly out of touch with ordinary sentiment – which is one reason the interview was such a disaster.
In particular the subsequent revelations about his use of the n word and the expression ‘play the white man’ demonstrate a mindset which has barely come to terms with the 20th century and the loss of empire, let alone the 21st. I remember the term from growing up in the 50s and 60s. It meant being fair or honest – an implication obviously that no non-white person could be fair or honest. But that term died out decades ago, and Prince Andrew is a good bit younger than me. Where did he pick it up – at the palace, in public school, in the navy? It would be good to know.
He should be a complete pariah now but will be protected by his family wealth and privilege. I’ve never seen a case for this unelected and unprepossessing lot to rule over us, but he’s just made the case against them a lot stronger.
Time for solidarity as Trump supports illegal settlements
Donald Trump arrives here in two weeks for the Nato summit to be feted once again by his friend Johnson and the queen. As an early sign of what we can expect, he announced this week that the US would no longer regard Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land as illegal. His secretary of state Mike Pompeo has said the West Bank settlements are now simply a matter for negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians.
That would be the kind of negotiations which sees bombardment and siege in Gaza, the apartheid wall and destruction of Palestinian houses and land in the West Bank, and the gradual encroachment on more and more land, leading to its annexation by Israel. The move further weakens any sort of two state solution for the Palestinians, as Trump and Netanyahu want.
The row over antisemitism in Labour and the adoption of the IHRA definition which precludes criticism of Israel has made some people wary of speaking out. But we know from the relentless drive to establish illegal settlements (as they still are), and the recent attacks on Gaza, that solidarity with the Palestinians is more needed than ever.
The demonstration against Trump assembles at Trafalgar Square at 5pm on Tuesday 3rd December
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
- Born to rule over us? – weekly briefing
- Lip service to the left, but moves to the right - weekly briefing
- Do not be fooled: Trump is the problem
- Soleimani assassination is an act of war
- Past mistakes, future opportunities - weekly briefing
- What we should take from the election and what we do next
- Where do we go from here? – election briefing 13 December