Theresa May’s Epic Fail

There are times when you can respect your political enemies and pay tribute to them for fighting for what they believe in, but this is not one of them.   Because the humiliation of Theresa May is the humiliation of a politician who believed in nothing but herself,  and was motivated by nothing but an utterly selfish determination to tighten her grip on power and perpetuate her party’s disastrous rule into the indefinite future regardless of the consequences.

Now the fairweather friends who flocked round her because they thought it would further their own careers are undoubtedly sharpening their knives, and even the Tory tabloid pack of hounds are barking around her tarnished jodhpurs.  Justice has been served, and it has rarely been so richly deserved.  Because ever since May called the election that she had promised seven times that she would never call, she has been grimacing her way across the country, insulting the intelligence of the public with arid meaningless slogans and half-baked platitudes that made a mockery of the English language, not to mention any notion of political transparency or honesty.

It has been disgraceful, shameful, shambolic, contemptuous and contemptible, and now she is reaping the just reward for her epic arrogance and ineptitude.  For once, in these dark dishonest times, a disreputable and dishonest fraud has been comprehensively exposed,  and the satisfaction is only enhanced by the fact that it’s entirely her own fault.

Some might say that  celebrations are premature.  After all, May is still in power and the Tories won the election.  They are about to form a government with (ahem) the DUP. But everything in politics is relative, and the very fact that such an arrangement is even necessary is a testament to May’s failure.   Seven weeks ago, May was twenty points up in the polls.  She had a 17-seat majority.  She was expected to gain some 400-odd seats and put Labour out of power for a generation.   She pretended that she needed a democratic mandate to negotiate when what she really wanted was a huge majority that would have turned parliament into a rubber-stamp machine.

She and all her supporters knew this and expected it.   All this had nothing to do with the national interest,  but only May’s own interests and the interests of the Tory party. On the eve of some of the most crucial negotiations in the history of the country, she chose to take a little time out to play political games and take advantage of the Labour Party’s seeming disarray.

Now she knows what disarray looks like and she knows what it feels like to have your democratic butt comprehensively kicked.  She has no majority and no mandate.  She is diminished domestically and diminished in Europe.  She might continue to babble about stability but she is damaged goods.  Her government is shipping water,  and even though the DUP caulking may enable her to limp into Brussels, it is doubtful that it will bring her back with the deal she supposedly wanted – assuming she ever really knew what she wanted.

Faced with an almost impossible negotiating timetable,  she has shortened it further, and she now enters the negotiations with her credibility in shreds.   This is Mission Impossible with Mrs Doubtfire not Tom Cruise lowering herself into the negotiating chamber.   Yet even now, when that reckless and irresponsible gamble has collapsed, she and her minions are still lying, still trying to act as if none of this has happened, still frantically trying to pretend that somehow this is what they wanted all along.  But as the old saying goes, you can’t fool all the people all the time, and this is one pig that won’t fly.

So all this is worth celebrating, but there is a lot more than mere schadenfreude to shout about.  Against all expectations,  Labour increased its share of the vote to some 43 percent and gained 30-odd seats with the most leftwing manifesto since 1945. Corbyn achieved this despite the opposition of the majority of his own MPs – including the hideous spectacle  that took place after the referendum, when he, not Cameron,  was booed and heckled by his own party.

He achieved it in the face of an unrelenting campaign of vilification, waged with all the lack of scruple for which our press is famous, supported by many of his own MPs. But throughout this assault he never buckled, descended to the depths inhabited by his enemies, or abandoned his basic ideas and principles.  In the last week the Tories and the tabloids have dived even deeper into the gutter and disgracefully used two savage terrorist massacres,  in an attempt to portray him as a terrorist apologist and sympathiser.  

None of this worked.  Millions of people ignored the lies, smears and propaganda and made their own judgments about Corbyn and his politics, and they clearly liked what they saw.  So this is a political and personal triumph and vindication for him that is absolutely deserved.  And it isn’t just a consequence of the catastrophic Tory campaign: it is also a tribute to the great campaign that he and his team fought, and to the movement that believed in him and campaigned for him even when pessimists – including myself- believed that the Corbyn project could not prevail.

There have been some mutterings from the Labour right that Labour would have won if Corbyn had not been the leader, but this is nonsense.  Does anybody seriously believe that Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper or Owen Smith could have done this – let alone done better?    For the first time, a vote for Labour really was a vote against austerity, and millions of voters saw that and took notice, and all this is entirely due to Corbyn and his team.  

No wonder the left feels empowered, thrilled and inspired, and those emotions won’t easily be dissipated, especially now that the Corbyn campaign has connected with the young – the young whose future has so cynically and selfishly been taken away from them, who successive governments have saddled with debt, falling real wages, zero hour contracts, internships, tuition fees and the glorious prospect of working till they are 75.  

Yesterday these voters turned out in record numbers to vote Labour.  They discovered that their votes can sometimes make a difference, and it’s difficult to believe this experience will be forgotten. A new political generation has made its voice heard for the first time, and the stale, rancorous reactionary politics of the last few years no longer seem inevitable.  No wonder the tabloids are panicking.  No wonder Nigel Farage is talking of a comeback.   All that is a tribute to Corbyn’s character, his politics and his message, and the movement that he inspired. 

Of course there are issues that have yet to be addressed.  Brexit still hangs over the country like a pall, and it remains to be seen how a Corbyn government – let alone a minority government – would deal with the negotiations, or how it could implement its program when the economy nosedives.  

The Labour right may have suffered a defeat, but some of its members will undoubtedly continue to conspire behind the scenes and undermine the Corbyn project. Labour’s antipathy to  alliances does not bode well, should Corbyn find himself obliged to form a minority government.  It still seems incredible to me that Labour refused to stand down against Zac Goldsmith,even though it had no chance of winning, and allowed yet another Tory charlatan to scrape through by forty-odd votes.

There will probably have to be another election, and even the Tories may learn from their mistakes.  The attempts to destroy Corbyn will be stepped up.  Boris Johnson may become Tory leader.  

All this may happen, and it may or may not go well.   But for now, it is possible to imagine a different future beyond the dread mantra There Is No Alternative, and the country suddenly feels like a better place to live in than it did yesterday, and I can only say, as Margaret Thatcher did many years ago in very different circumstances, rejoice, rejoice.

 

 

 

 

The Terror Election

From a strategic point of view terrorism has a dismal predictability.  Whatever its context or motivation its central objectives are usually the same: a) to provoke a militarily more powerful opponent into an overreaction that will strain its opponent’s resources and draw it into a debilitating confrontation from which the terrorist hopes to gain in the long run b) to re-engineer society so that there are no spaces for moderation or neutrality – only two sides locked into all-out war c) to undermine the political authority of the state by demonstrating that it cannot protect its own people.

Around these central aims other factors may also come into play: simple vengeance for a real or imagined grievance; the desire to demonstrate the power and reach of the terrorist organisation or cause; rage at the real or imagined indifference of the targeted society towards acts of violence and repression for which its government may be responsible.

These components have been replayed again and again in different ways in one terrorist emergency after another, so on one level the horrors that are now unfolding globally are not entirely unprecedented.   What is new is the sustained and calculated barbarity of the attacks that are now unfolding.  In country after country we are witnessing what are essentially crimes against humanity carried out by a variety of ‘jihadist’ groups who have clearly abandoned even paying lip service to rules and customs of war established over thousands of years.

These groups are not constrained by any moral or ethical limits.  Children, women, the elderly, teenage girls at a concert, pregnant women, gays, lesbians, nightclubbers, booksellers, shoppers in markets  – no targets are off-limits.

They call themselves soldiers and walk around in military fatigues but they are more like einsatzgruppen –  petty exterminators drifting out of a druggy haze into the fervor of overnight ‘conversions’ that only seem to have one aim: to give them permission to perpetrate more horrors that disgrace the name of humanity.  They call themselves Muslims, but the only thing that seems to interest them about Islam is its usefulness as a license for violence and killing.

Historically there is nothing uniquely Islamic about such barbarity.  A cursory look back at the conquistadores; the French Wars of Religion; the Thirty Years War; World War II or more recently the wars of the former Yugoslavia should quickly dispel such illusions.   Anders Breivik; the killing of Jo Cox; last month’s murders in Portland – let no one imagine that violence of this kind is due to the special proclivity of any particular race, faith or culture towards cruelty.

But in recent years there has been – and we should not dodge this issue – a proliferation of reactionary, tyrannical and misogynistic groups acting in the name of Islam that are trying to implement the historic strategies of revolutionary terrorism at a global level with exceptional ferocity.  Their essential philosophy was once defined in an epigram in the so-called ‘al-Qaeda training manual’ used by the Afghan mujahideen as they prepared to wage war on the secular tyrannies of the Middle East,  which declared:

‘The confrontation that Islam calls for with these godless and apostate regimes does not know Socratic dialogues, Platonic ideals, nor Aristotelean diplomacy.  But it knows the dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing and destruction, and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine-gun.’

This is morally-speaking, the language of cavemen coupled with the exaltation of violence that you might once have found in Italian futurism or fascism. In the last two weeks British society has been subjected to two utterly horrendous attacks by groups and individuals that subscribe to this philosophy.

There are many reasons why this has happened: the corruption, violence and tyranny of post-colonial regimes in the Middle East (sometimes with Western support and sometimes not); the wars in which successive British governments have recklessly involved themselves for more than fifteen years; the dirty games that elements of the British state have played with some of the same jihadists who are now carrying out attacks here; problems of identity, integration and alienation amongst second and third generation Muslim immigrants that have led some young Muslims to seek some kind of meaning and purpose in wars that have clearly brutalised them and annihilated any capacity for mercy, decency or empathy they may once have had.

Whatever the individual motivations of their perpetrators, the atrocities and crimes that they have carried out have a clear strategic purpose.   They are a form of social engineering, designed to be as disgusting and cruel as possible, in the hope of paving the way for a future of endless violence and heroic war.

The individuals and groups that carry out such attacks want no spectators or bystanders, particularly amongst Muslims.  They want all Muslims to join in the great confrontation that ‘Islam’ calls for – their version of it anyway – and they are prepared to bring down hell on entire communities in order to ensure this result.  Contrary to the endless rhetoric that they simply hate us because of our ‘values’ or are continuing some ancestral war against the ‘West’, they are also prepared to kill Muslims, and have in fact done so in huge numbers.

Despite the anathema that our government pronounces on such groups, Western governments including our own have sometimes used them for their own ends, for example in Afghanistan and Libya, and sometimes they have been used by them. No government will ever admit to this of course, and so tragically, the public is rarely aware of the ‘blowback’ that can sometimes occur as a result of such linkages.

Instead governments prefer to use ill-defined and nebulous notions of ‘extremism’ and ‘radicalisation’ that end up targeting people who may not have done anything wrong or have any intention of carrying a violent act, and which too easily cast suspicion across entire communities.  Or else they invent new legal categories that justify ‘extraordinary rendition’ and indefinite detention that merely bring new recruits driven by bitterness, rancour and revenge.

So we are facing an incredibly dangerous, and in fact critical threat to our ‘way of life’, in terms of its potential longterm political and social consequences.  Not only are these groups a real threat to the ‘soft targets’ who they are using to pursue their objectives, but they have a very real possibility of getting precisely the outcome they are seeking.

However last night’s unholy trio drifted into the moral wasteland in which they found themselves, their actions were ultimately strategic:  they were designed to reach into the fascist underbelly of British society, and promote division, rage and hatred.  These attacks may have been planned long before an election was decided, but it is difficult to believe that two high-profile atrocities were carried out during an election campaign by mere coincidence.

These men know what kind of government they’re dealing with.   They know that UK society is coursing with fear and hatred towards immigrants in general and Muslims in particular.   They want more of it, because hatred and repression to them is the ‘true face’ of the British state and of British society that they want to reveal to their would-be constituency.

And there is no shortage of  hatred about.   Before the blood had even dried last night, social media fora were gushing with hate towards Muslims, Islam, ‘Liberals’,  migrants, Jeremy Corbyn,  Sadiq Khan, ‘political correctness’ or whatever else was supposed to have been responsible for the attacks at London Bridge.  The murderers are dead now, as they no doubt intended to be, but were they alive they would surely have been satisfied to hear the talk of deportations, internment and above all – war, because if there is any one point in which the terrorists and the far-right coincide, it’s in the belief that ‘war’ is some kind of solution or morally-bracing antidote to the flaccid mundanity of peace.

All of which means that we are required once again, to show real resilience in the face of this latest savage provocation.  We should resist talk of internment – a measure which has always acted like pouring oil onto a fire in any previous terrorist emergency – and would certainly have the same effect if it was implemented for this one.  We should not cancel the election.

We should concentrate instead on patient carefully-targeted counterterrorism and law enforcement – a difficult challenge to be sure.  We should expect more attacks, and do what we can to stop them, while knowing that some of them will get through.   We should not allow ourselves to be railroaded or panicked into emergency measures that contradict our best ideals.  We should, as Jeremy Corbyn courageously suggested, look at what there is in our foreign policy that has created the context in which these monstrosities continue to replicate themselves and seek legitimacy, however spurious.

We should mourn together and find ways of working together, with men and women of all faiths and of no faith at all, to face down and marginalise these threats.

Contrary to what some – you know who – have said, that is not weakness, cowardice, surrender or moral decadence, it is simply the only way to avoid giving last night’s murderers what they want, and prevent these dark times from becoming even more catastrophic.

And as bad as things look right now, we should believe that we can get through.  And we should never allow ourselves to descend into the sewer that those who carried out last night’s attacks would like us to sink into.