Politics & Media
May 29, 2024, 06:24AM

Two Cheeks of the Same Backside

There’s no choice in the upcoming UK election.

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I was in Folkestone visiting my son when we heard about the forthcoming General Election. My son’s partner sent him a text. We put on the TV to see Rishi Sunak standing in the rain, his jacket getting increasingly soaked, his voice almost drowned out by a blaring sound system at the gates of Downing Street. They were playing “Things Can Only Get Better” by D:Ream.

Who on earth thought this was a good idea: to come out in the middle of a rainstorm, to announce an election that no one was expecting, while people were gathered at the gates making as much noise as they could? It had all the hallmarks of a hurried decision, taken on the hoof, without having thought out the consequences. The rumor is that there was a move to oust Sunak from the leadership and that he was taking these drastic measures to undermine his opponents: not those in the Labour Party, with whom he shares many values, but those on his own back benches, who were already sharpening their knives for the slaughter.

He cut a strange, lonely figure out there, battling the rain and the sound system, looking slightly startled and bemused, as if he couldn’t quite believe where he was and what he was doing. He had the air of someone who dreams of being exposed in public, who wakes up suddenly to discover that he really is naked: not just in public, but in full view of the world’s press.

The last time we heard that D:Ream number was in 1997, when it was Tony Blair’s campaign song. And things didn’t get better. Blair replaced the corrupt John Major government with a corrupt government of his own. He praised Margaret Thatcher. He replaced the old Clause IV, the Labour Party’s historic commitment to socialism, with a list of inconsequential sound-bites. He kow-towed to the odious Rupert Murdoch and very quickly had us embroiled in a war to break up Yugoslavia, which has set the precedent for humanitarian intervention as a means of subverting international law and the United Nations ever since.

Later he led us into the even more disastrous Iraq war, with all the consequences we live with to this day. After leaving office he made himself incredibly rich. He’s the wealthiest ex-Prime Minister ever. The two are almost certainly connected: his support for imperialist wars of plunder around the globe, and his subsequent amassing of an inconceivable fortune. He has been well-paid for his services.

The use of that song at the gates of Downing Street in 2024 was clearly a sabotage operation by the Opposition, designed both to interrupt Sunak’s speech, as well as a reminder of the Blair years. It was a statement of intent. The dose of mild socialism we were offered by the Labour Party during the Jeremy Corbyn years, from 2015 to 2019, has now been unceremoniously jettisoned by the current leadership, in favour of rampant Blairism. Keir Starmer, too, has praised Margaret Thatcher. He regularly writes for The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s principal mouthpiece in the UK, and he’s backed the genocidal attack upon the people of Gaza, saying, in no uncertain terms, that Israel had the right to cut off fuel and water. As for his Clause IV moment, that came when he refused to allow Corbyn, more than 40 years an MP, to stand as a Labour candidate in the election. Corbyn has announced that he’s standing as an independent, and has since been ejected from the Labour Party. He had been a member since he was 16. Starmer, meanwhile, has only been an MP since 2015.

What this means is that there is no choice in this election. Sunak’s on the way out, and Starmer’s on the way in, but there's no real difference in policy terms. The fact that both parties are fully committed to Israel’s continuing onslaught on Gaza shows how fraudulent our electoral system really is. Over 70 percent of people in the UK want to see a ceasefire, but neither of the two major parties are suggesting that. Both parties are dominated by groups advocating stronger ties with the State of Israel—Labour Friends of Israel and Conservative Friends of Israel—both of whom refuse to reveal the source of their funding. Many people suggest that the Israeli Embassy might have a part to play. If the British Parliament was equally dominated by Friends of Russia, say, who took our MPs on free junkets to the Russian Federation, and paid them vast sums in slush money to support their invasion of Ukraine, the news media would be all over it. They’d characterize it as corruption, but, as it’s only Israel, and it’s what everyone expects, hardly a word is said.

Given that the two main parties are, to use George Galloway’s memorable phrase, “two cheeks of the same backside,” the real battle in the upcoming election will be between the uni-polar Labour-Conservative Party, and the actual opposition, which is the electorate. Parties that oppose the genocide include the Scottish National Party, which only contests seats in Scotland, the Greens, who only have one MP, Plaid Cymru in Wales, Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, who never take their seats, Galloway’s Worker’s Party and one or two independent pro-Palestine candidates who might make a dent in the Labour Party’s majority.

Seats to look out for include Starmer’s own, which is being contested by the admirable Andrew Feinstein. Feinstein’s from South Africa, where he was a member of the National Assembly under Nelson Mandela. He’s the son of a Holocaust survivor and a committed anti-apartheid activist. When Feinstein says that Israel is an apartheid state, you’d better believe him. He’s also a campaigner against the global arms trade and a man of unimpeachable integrity.

This is what Feinstein says about Starmer:

“Keir Starmer is driven primarily by a lust for power. Here is somebody who called Jeremy Corbyn a friend one day, then claimed another day he’d never done anything of the sort. Keir Starmer has supported the cutting off of power and water to the people of Gaza, something he then denied ever having said. This rewriting of history, to fuel and feed a contemporary political position, shows somebody who has no real grounded values, but rather desires power for power’s sake. I am standing against Keir Starmer because he is emblematic of everything that is wrong with our politics.”

You can hear the full speech here.

Other notable seats include Wes Streeting's in Ilford North, which is contested by Leanne Mohamed, a British Palestinian, and Jess Phillips’ in Yardley, Birmingham, which is contested by Jody McIntyre, a disabled Muslim convert. Streeting and Phillips are members of Labour Friends of Israel. The Muslim vote is likely to come out en masse against the Labour Party, following its serial prevarications over Gaza, while tens of thousands of socialist ex-members such as myself, ejected since the Corbyn years, will be equally opposed. Whether we can effectively coordinate our votes in our antiquated first past the post electoral system to make any difference is another matter.

In my own constituency of Canterbury, our sitting Labour MP, Rosie Duffield, is also a member of Labour Friends of Israel. Her ascension to the candidacy was dubious. Our previous candidate, in 2015, was Hugh Lanning, ex-Chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and a committed anti-Zionist. He was a popular local candidate, who increased the party’s share of the vote significantly. Everyone expected him to be the candidate again in 2017, but then something strange happened. Duffield was parachuted into the seat in his place, despite having no experience in politics, lacking poise or self-confidence, and being an embarrassingly awkward public speaker with almost zero stage-presence. How she got picked, and why, was unclear, although she rode in on the back of Corbyn’s popularity at the time, to become the first Labour MP in the Canterbury constituency since its creation in 1295.

It was only after she appeared at a rally in Westminster, purportedly against anti-Semitism, with a number of far-right figures, that it became clear. Duffield and her backers had another agenda. Whether the Israel lobby played a part in her rise to power is a matter of conjecture, but she has pursued a vendetta against local pro-Palestinian Labour Party members ever since.

—Follow Chris Stone on X: @ChrisJamesStone


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