Monthly Archives: June 2016

The Battle Of The Somme And ‘An Englishman’s Betrayal’….

As most readers of this blog will know, tomorrow, July 1st, is the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, perhaps the bloodiest and most pointless occasion of slaughter during the First World War.

For the North’s Loyalist community, this date is on a par with the Nationalist celebration of the Easter Rising, to be celebrated with pride and militaristic manifestations. July 1st, known in Belfast as ‘the Wee Twelfth’, regularly witnesses some of the most rumbustious Orange parades of the marching season.

The months-long Somme ‘battle’ saw the wholesale butchery of some one million British, French and German troops and on the first day of conflict, July 1st, nearly 5,000 were killed, mostly members of the 36th Ulster Division.

The 36th Division was, of course, Carson’s Ulster Volunteer Force by another name, whose formation to oppose Irish Home Rule in 1912 – and gun-running – caused Nationalists to organise the Irish Volunteers in imitation, a precursor, arguably, of the IRA.

Formed to oppose Home Rule with force of arms, the UVF was ‘volunteered’ by its leaders to fight on Britain’s side when World War I broke out in August 1914.

Swathes of working class Loyalist Belfast families were plunged into mourning when the news of the carnage at the Somme filtered home from the front. Fathers, sons and brothers were lost.

A terrible price had been paid for this loyalty.

But loyalty is a tricky word to use when discussing the world of Loyalism and it is really impossible to understand Loyalism without also grasping the simple reality that Northern Protestant loyalty to Britain is far from being unconditional. In fact it is entirely conditional on Britain being loyal to Protestants.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that deep inside the breast of every Orangeman beats the heart of a nascent Irish republican. It just means Loyalism is a complex phenomenon.

I came across a compelling, and to me entirely novel example of this conditional loyalty while reading a preview of Gareth Mulvenna’s fascinating exploration of early 1970’s Loyalism, ‘Tartan Gangs and Paramilitaries: The Loyalist Backlash’, which will be published this September.

Mulvenna refers to the sense of betrayal at the hands of the British felt by returning UVF soldiers in 1919 and 1920 when they discovered that as a consequence of the political deals done with their leaders by Lloyd George, three counties of the historic province of Ulster – Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal – were to be ceded to the new, ‘independent’ Irish state.

An angry song was written about all this and I was able to find it on YouTube (below). Listen carefully, dear reader, to the words. Especially the last verse. Enjoy:

So, come gather round my comrades all, this First of July morn,

When Ulstermen are proud and glad of the land where they were born,

And we’ll never more be led away for to fight in a foreign land,

Or to die for someone else’s cause, at an Englishman’s command.

Or to die for someone else’s cause, at an Englishman’s command.

‘Getting Rid Of Corbyn’ – The BBC Coverage Dissected By Media Lens

Fascinating and disturbing piece in Media Lens on the Blairite push against Corbyn. Enjoy:

Killing Corbyn

The ‘Brexit’ referendum vote, split 52% to 48% in favour of leaving the European Union, has been exploited by the ‘mainstream’ media to launch yet another assault on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. ‘Impartial’ BBC News, directed by former Murdoch editor James Harding, has been one of the worst culprits.

Consider the wave of resignations of Labour shadow ministers which was heavily promoted in advance on the front page of the BBC News website: ‘ “Half” of Labour top team set to resign…the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg understands’. When the Labour resignations started to roll in, Kuenssberg could be heard virtually gloating over Corbyn’s predicament:

‘A bad day at the office. A very bad day.’ (BBC Weekend News, BBC1, June 26, 2016)

She wrote on the BBC website:

There have been concerns about Jeremy Corbyn’s performance for months and months. But it was his role, or lack of role, in the campaign to keep the UK in the EU, and his sacking of Hilary Benn in the middle of the night, that has given members of the shadow cabinet the final reasons to quit.’

The laughably biased reference to ‘months and months’ and ‘final reasons to quit’ were intended to portray Labour MPs as exasperated and understandably at the end of their tether. Clearly reaching for some kind of ‘smoking gun’ to finish Corbyn, Kuenssberg added:

‘documents passed to the BBC suggest Jeremy Corbyn’s office sought to delay and water down the Labour Remain campaign. Sources suggest that they are evidence of “deliberate sabotage”.’

But, as Carlyn Harvey wrote on The Canary website, the ‘evidence’ – a sparse selection of leaked emails that the BBC deigned not to show to the public – was bogus:

‘The emails themselves are not sent from Corbyn’s office and are not published in the BBC article. The broadcaster merely handpicks a few select quotes from them, and allows Kuenssberg to let rip in her analysis of the cache.’

Harvey summarised: ‘Is this the level of analysis we should tolerate from the BBC?’

Kuenssberg concluded her attempted hit piece by observing that Corbyn ‘has had persuasive and vehement backing from the party’s members’:

‘But as the Labour Party reels from Thursday’s result, it is not clear that support will be as solid as it was. MPs report that some of their members are contacting them to say they’ve changed their minds about Mr Corbyn. We’ll see. It’s possible that within days, both of our two main political parties will be looking for a new leader.’

These anonymous ‘MPs’ were the same Blairite coup plotters, of course. No balance was included in the original article, no response to the damning allegations, no recognition that these were indeed cynical Blairite plotters seeking any excuse to be rid of Corbyn. Indeed the word ‘Blairite’ does not appear in Kuenssberg’s piece, just as it didn’t in a supposedly impartial Observer analysis. Honest commentators, of course, understand that the word ‘Blairite’ is crucial for anyone trying to make sense of the relentless attacks on Corbyn. Thus, former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook:

‘Corbyn and his supporters want to revive Labour as a party of social justice… This is nothing more than a class war to pave the way for a return of the Blairites to lead Labour.’

The BBC later added balancing comments, after receiving complaints.

The following morning, BBC News misinformed the public that Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party, had told Corbyn that he must resign. This was false. BBC News quietly retracted the claim without admitting their error. Indeed, as captured by a Labour activist, BBC News had three significantly different headlines in just twenty minutes.

‘Labour’s Watson tells Corbyn to quit’


‘Tom Watson tells Jeremy Corbyn to consider his position’

which became:

‘Tom Watson tells Jeremy Corbyn he faces leadership challenge’

It looked as though the BBC’s desire to be rid of Corbyn had raced ahead of the facts.

A couple of days earlier, in common with other corporate news media, the BBC pushed a manufactured story about Corbyn being heckled at Gay Pride. The staged incident was also given significant coverage on ITN and Sky News, and even front-page treatment in the Guardian. In fact, as Craig Murray observed, the ‘heckler’ turned out to be Tom Mauchline who works for the public relations firm Portland Communications. Mauchline had also previously worked on the Liz Kendall campaign for the Labour leadership. Portland’s ‘strategic counsel’ is the notorious Alastair Campbell, Blair’s former media chief who helped to sell the illegal invasion-occupation of Iraq. None of this was spelled out in the Guardian report by Heather Stewart, the paper’s political editor. Instead, there was a single cryptic line that concealed more than it delivered:

‘Allies of the Labour leader said the confrontation at Pride had been staged by anti-Corbyn activists who were attempting to undermine the leader’s position’.

There was no further explanation or context. When challenged on Twitter, Stewart responded:

‘Story makes clear it was regarded as staged by Corbyn backers; but if part of plot to destabilise him it’s news.’

This was a facile reply. Craig Murray himself then asked her:

‘1) why does it not make clear that Mauchline is a PR man for Portland Comms? 2) How did you become aware of the story?’

As far as we can see, the Guardian‘s political editor simply ignored the awkward questions.

Meanwhile, BBC News ran a live feed on their home page with the headline, ‘Corbyn crisis and Brexit’. Brexit was almost an afterthought; it certainly seemed to be playing second fiddle to the ‘Corbyn crisis’. Anyone seeing this could be forgiven for asking about the BBC News editorial agenda and its setting of priorities. It was as though we were to forget that Prime Minister David Cameron had announced his resignation three days earlier; and that Cameron and the Tory party had led the country into a referendum that had resulted in the FTSE 100 index falling more than 8%, and the pound falling against the dollar by 10%; and that a number of Tories were scrambling to become the new leader, including the warmongering, climate-denying Boris Johnson. But, true to form, BBC News was happy to hammer on about the ‘Corbyn crisis’; this despite the fact that ‘Labour persuaded two-thirds of its supporters to vote remain’.

It was actually surreal to read a post-Brexit BBC article on June 28, ‘Conservative leader: Who might succeed David Cameron?’, reminding readers of Johnson’s ‘unique brand of charisma making him a household name… he is regarded as being an electoral asset’, while Michael Gove was ‘reforming, if controversial’ and ‘is still respected on both the Remain and Leave wings of the party’. No serious criticism of either politician was included, despite their deep responsibility for the Brexit crisis. By contrast, as we saw above, the BBC was only too happy to include damning judgements of Corbyn.

Perhaps the worst example of an anti-Corbyn attack, post-Brexit, was in the Mail on Sunday. A piece by Dan Hodges was illustrated by a Photoshopped image of a malevolent vampiric Corbyn in a coffin with the despicable headline, ‘Labour MUST kill vampire Jezza’. That this should appear just ten days after Labour MP Jo Cox was brutally murdered is almost beyond belief.

When challenged by readers, Hodges responded with the standard cop-out:

‘Sorry, but I don’t write the headlines.’

It is true that sub-editors write newspaper headlines. But Hodges could still have indicated that he recognised the callousness and irresponsibility of the headline and photo.

One reader fired off this rational follow-up challenge:

‘But are you condoning the headline? Do you agree with it? Or is just no comment from you?’

Hodges did not reply; understandably enough. In March, a tragi-comic announcement was issued: ‘Britain’s best political columnist DAN HODGES joins the Mail on Sunday.’ A lucrative contract for Hodges, to be sure, and one he would be reluctant to jeopardise by criticising his paymasters. ‘It’s hard to make the sums add up when you are kicking the people who write the cheques’, as the BBC’s Andrew Marr once observed. (Andrew Marr, ‘My Trade – A Short History Of British Journalism’, Macmillan, 2004, p.112)

In a blog piece, Craig Murray rightly noted:

‘The demonstrable public contempt of the public for the political class has been mirrored these last few days by the demonstrable contempt of the political class for the public. This has been obvious in the response to the Brexit vote, and in the Labour parliamentary party’s move against Corbyn. Both are evidence that the political class feel that they should not be directed by a wider public.’

This explains why the corporate media have avoided mentioning that Corbyn won last year’s leadership election by a ‘landslide’, winning 60% of the vote, more than all the rest of the candidates combined. Despite noting that Angela Eagle is the likely leadership contender, the media have also ignored a February YouGov poll that found that 60% of Labour members would vote for Corbyn in a new leadership race, with 15% supporting Hilary Benn and just 6% supporting Angela Eagle.

Murray continued:

‘Everybody knows that the Labour parliamentary party is well to the right of both the membership and the trade unions, and has been itching to get rid of Corbyn from day one. For those who have constantly stabbed him in the back for a year to criticise his effectiveness in fighting their opponents is ridiculous.’

Investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed points out that:

‘The latest coup attempt against Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour Party is being led by an elitist Blairite network who have always seen his sudden rise to leadership as a threat to their waning control of the party.’

Attempts to unseat Corbyn have been supported by Left Foot Forward Ltd, a company set up by Will Straw, which runs the country’s ‘No. 1 left-wing blog’ of the same name. Straw is the son of Jack Straw who served as Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary under Tony Blair. Ahmed notes that Will Straw is:

‘among a network of longtime Blairite stalwarts trying to “re-found” the Labour Party – a project demolished by Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide victory in the Labour leadership elections in September 2015.’

The independent journalist Steve Topple highlights the links between coordinated attacks on Corbyn and a network of Labour figures with direct links to the PR company, Portland Communications (mentioned above). The PR firm was set up in 2001 by a former adviser to Blair. Its clients include the World Economic Forum, the EU, the UK government, Barclays Bank and large companies, including Morrisons and Nestle.

Two weeks ago, the Daily Telegraph reported that:

‘Labour rebels hope to topple Jeremy Corbyn in 24-hour blitz after EU referendum’.

The article continued:

‘By fanning the flames with front bench resignations and public criticism they think the signatures needed to trigger a leadership race can be gathered within a day.’

BBC News – in particular, its political editor Laura Kuenssberg – continues to play a disreputable role in fanning these flames. In a BBC News article on Tuesday, Kuenssberg pointed to two more Labour figures who have called on Corbyn to resign as ‘signs that his backing away from Parliament could be starting to fray.’ Extrapolating wildly, she concluded:

‘The wave of enthusiasm he built outside Parliament may be starting to recede.’

This is all part of a bigger picture of how the BBC has put ‘its full weight behind the Corbyn coup’, as Carlyn Harvey notes. Readers may recall that Kuenssberg helped to orchestrate the on-air resignation of a shadow Labour minister earlier this year: another attempt to undermine Corbyn’s leadership.

The ‘Guardian view’ is that the ‘Corbyn experiment is effectively over at Westminster’. This casual dismissal comes from the ‘liberal’ paper which opposed Corbyn from the start, and which makes no mention of the relentless media wrecking campaign against him, including its own ugly role. The ‘Corbyn experiment’ is an experiment in real democracy; something which the Guardian has sought to destroy. A responsible newspaper would relentlessly expose the truth about society; namely, that ‘politics is the shadow cast on society by big business’, as the American philosopher John Dewey said.

Nobody should be surprised at the shameful performance of the corporate media, especially BBC News. Any threat to the ‘natural order’ of power brings the schism between private interests and public interests into sharp focus. The heightened, almost farcical, attacks on Corbyn are thus entirely predictable. Rather than feeling anguished at this state of affairs, we can regard it is a sign of how nervous and vulnerable the establishment is when an awakened public challenges elite power.


Martin McGuinness And The Queen

Watch this video, courtesy of The Daily Telegraph, the morning newspaper read by the British Army officer class, and if you have to pinch yourself my guess is you would not be alone…….I have written a whole book trying to explain how and why the guy who features in the second video below became the guy in the Telegraph video above, and I think I understand it but it still blows my mind away….


Out Of Europe, Out of Euro 2016!

Hi ‘Woy’, meet your political equivalent, ‘Boris’.


Move Against Corbyn ‘All About Chilcot Report’

It’s Still the Iraq War, Stupid.

by C

No rational person could blame Jeremy Corbyn for Brexit. So why are the Blairites moving against Corbyn now, with such precipitate haste?

The answer is the Chilcot Report. It is only a fortnight away, and though its form will be concealed by thick layers of establishment whitewash, the basic contours of Blair’s lies will still be visible beneath. Corbyn had deferred to Blairite pressure not to apologise on behalf of the Labour Party for the Iraq War until Chilcot is published.

For the Labour Right, the moment when Corbyn as Labour leader stands up in parliament and condemns Blair over Iraq, is going to be as traumatic as it was for the hardliners of the Soviet Communist Party when Khruschev denounced the crimes of Stalin. It would also destroy Blair’s carefully planned post-Chilcot PR strategy. It is essential to the Blairites that when Chilcot is debated in parliament in two weeks time, Jeremy Corbyn is not in place as Labour leader to speak in the debate. The Blairite plan is therefore for the parliamentary party to depose him as parliamentary leader and get speaker John Bercow to acknowledge someone else in that fictional position in time for the Chilcot debate, with Corbyn remaining leader in the country but with no parliamentary status.

Yes, they are that nuts.

If the fault line for the Tories is Europe, for Labour it is the Middle East. Those opposing Corbyn are defined by their enthusiasm for bombing campaigns that kill Muslim children. And not only by the UK. Both of the first two to go, Hilary Benn and Heidi Alexander, are hardline supporters of Israel.

This was Benn the week before his celebrated advocacy of bombing Syria:

Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn told a Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) lunch yesterday that relations with Israel must be based on cooperation and rejected attempts to isolate the country.

Addressing senior party figures in Westminster, Benn praised Israel for its “progressive spirit, vibrant democracy, strong welfare state, thriving free press and independent judiciary.” He also called Israel “an economic giant, a high-tech centre, second only to the United States. A land of innovation and entrepreneurship, venture capital and graduates, private and public enterprise.”

Consequently, said Benn, “Our future relations must be built on cooperation and engagement, not isolation of Israel. We must take on those who seek to delegitimise the state of Israel or question its right to exist.”

Heidi Alexander actually signed, as a 2015 parliamentary candidate, the “We Believe in Israel” charter, the provisions of which state there must be no boycotts of Israel, and Israel must not be described as an apartheid state.

This fault line is very well defined. The manufactured row about “anti-Semitism” in the Labour Party shows exactly the same split. In my researches, 100% of those who have promoted accusations of anti-Semitism were supporters of the Iraq War and/or had demonstrable links to professional pro-Israel lobby groups. 100% of those accused of anti-Semitism were active opponents of the Iraq War. Never underestimate the Blairite fury at being shown not just to be liars but to be wrong. Iraq is their Achilles heel and they are extremely touchy about it.

No rational person would believe Brexit was Jeremy Corbyn’s fault. No rational person would believe that now is a good moment for the Labour Party to tear itself apart. Extraordinarily, the timing is determined by Chilcot.

Why Brexit Will Not Damage The Peace Process

In the wake of the Brexit vote a number of prominent observers have rushed to print with dire predictions of the consequences of the referendum, while Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has demanded an all-Ireland Border poll on the grounds that the North, like Scotland, voted for ‘Remain’ while the English & Welsh plumped for ‘Leave’.

I can understand McGuinness’ call more so than the journalistic Cassandras. It was a clever piece of opportunism, jumping on the Scots’ bandwagon to independence but Martin’s little ruse also smacked more than a little of someone making an unreasonable demand confident in the knowledge that it was never going to be granted.

First there was no way Enda Kenny’s ‘coalition-government-with-FF-in-all-but-name’ was going to agree to such a thing. The Good Friday Agreement is where Dublin politicians of all stripes wish to see the North parked for the foreseeable future and beyond, and they will do nothing to endanger it.

Which leaves a Northern Ireland-only Border poll which Martin McGuinness knows full well a) would not be granted by Cruella or whoever succeeds her in Stormont House and b) would be won by the Unionists, probably handily – and does he really want to see that happen? I think not.

But as meaningless ploys go it was a successful p.r. exercise. Even The New York Times and The New Yorker picked it up.

Which leaves the journalistic prophets of doom. Prime amongst them was Fintan O’Toole who in this piece, provocatively headlined, ‘The English have placed a bomb under the Irish peace process’, published first in The Guardian and then in his own Irish Times, argued, as a sub-heading put it:

‘Brexit unthinkingly jeopardises the Good Friday Agreement, the greatest modern achievement of British diplomacy (and is) an insult to Ireland.’

Prime amongst the dire consequences of Brexit – and threats to the peace process – in O’Toole’s mind was that the old Border will come back, which would be primarily an immigration border which would have to be policed.

Perhaps, but what this argument, the central plank of his case, rests upon turns out to be, after a moment or two’s reflection, a foundation full of nothingness.

Not only was the old Border as porous as a kitchen colander but O’Toole’s implied assumption that the Troubles in the North were about the Border, that, to borrow his own example, the IRA drew angry recruits from the Catholic community because the Dublin-Belfast train stopped at Newry for passport controls, is fundamentally flawed.

The reason for the Troubles had nothing to do with the Border but everything to do with Catholics’ very real sense of injustice in the North – and because of Unionism’s obdurate refusal to ameliorate their anger, the consequent Nationalist conviction that if the Northern Ireland State was irreformable then it had to be brought down, by force of arms if necessary.

The Troubles were, to quote a sage of my acquaintance, a civil rights struggle that got out of control. But they were not about removing the Border or even softening it.

In that sense the Provisional IRA’s campaign was a bit of a con trick. It was fought nominally to get rid of the Border but was really an expression of Nationalist anger and frustration that the Unionists wouldn’t allow the Catholic community a fair and rightful swig of the jug.

This explains why, except for a few ideological Republicans, the Sinn Fein leadership was so easily able to bring its base along the journey to the Good Friday Agreement, an accord which embraced accepting the consent principle and the destruction of the IRA armoury.

And if the consent principle was not about accepting the Border, then I do not know what it was about. Decommissioning the IRA’s guns, meanwhile, was a statement saying that if Nationalists got their slice of the cake they would no longer be needed.

The conclusion of all this is simple. As long as the post-Brexit arrangements leave in place the defining features of the Good Friday Agreement, which are primarily about according Northern Catholics their political place in the sun, then the recent EU referendum will not fundamentally challenge the post-1998 peace. No matter what greets the traveler as he or she reaches the Irish Border.

A Long Game of Blindfolded Darts – The PSNI and Boston College

Chris Bray takes a caustic look at the latest extraordinary turns in the Boston College case:

I’ve been arguing for years that the Belfast Project subpoenas aren’t an example of a police investigation, but rather offer proof that police in Northern Ireland are engaged in a theatrical performance and refusing to perform real detective work. Events in Belfast courts this week prove the point.

First, in a hearing regarding an American subpoena requested by the PSNI for Belfast Project interviews conducted with Anthony McIntyre, lawyers for McIntyre argued that the International Letter of Request (ILOR) sent by the British government to the U.S. government was “replete with errors, and that’s putting it mildly.” Among the errors alleged by McIntyre’s lawyers were claims made in the ILOR that McIntyre had previously been convicted for offenses for which he had actually been acquitted or never charged.

You can read the rest of Chris Bray’s post here.

When Sinn Fein Were Sinn Fein On Europe

Remember this?


Meet Boris Johnson, Your Worst Ever Nightmare

Upper class clown Boris Johnson is well placed to succeed David Cameron as British prime minister. The two first met at Oxford where they were members of the loutish Bullingdon Society, a group which invited only the scions of the very wealthy as members and which delighted in trashing restaurants.

Here they are pictured with other hooligan toffs:



Cameron is standing, second from left; Jonhson is seated, far right (appropriately)

Below is an entertaining film about Johnson and Cameron’s days at Oxford, ‘When Boris met Dave’. Enjoy:

<p><a href=”″>When Boris met Dave</a> from <a href=”″>Home Editing</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Brexit Vote A Triumph For Racism

The British, or rather the English, voted for Brexit not because of over-regulation or dissatisfaction with the economy or because European bankers screwed Greece and Ireland and would do the same to the Brits, but because they hate foreigners and believe they are superior to continental Europeans.

Not all of them mind you but an awful lot, some 17 million of them who plumped for the Leave campaign in the referendum. (It would be interesting to see just how the English vote went but I’d bet the Brexit margin was a good deal larger than the overall result)

That they loathe the French, Germans and Italians and look down on the minor European countries, when they bother even to notice them, has been a feature of  English culture – frequently expressed in TV comedies, invariably set during World War II and full of excruciating racial sterotypes – all my life.

That racism is, of course, not confined to the European continent. Ask the Irish, Scots and even the Welsh about that. But at least they are white and, more or less, speak the same language.

But what sharpened all those horrible emotions was the influx of stranger Europeans, like Poles and Romanians whose language, food and culture was, to the English, utterly alien.

And I suspect the promised/threatened influx of Turks tipped the balance in Thursday’s vote.

The idea that much of English economic life would be decided in part by Germans and French was bad enough but having to share their cities and towns with Turks, Poles and Romanians was too much for the English to bear.

When the Leave campaign complained about immigration it was to this base and reactionary emotion they were appealing to. The execrable Nigel Farage – surely Denis Thatcher reborn – is their leader. Meanwhile in France, English soccer fans gave all this an uglier but in its way more honest shape.

None, or very little of this, will feature in the Brexit post-mortems. That’s a pity, not least for those remaining in the EU. They might conclude that Europe is better off without such people in their midst.