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Tuesday 28 May 2024

Diane Abbott And Labour Lying

As dawn broke today, whatever the right-leaning part of our free and fearless press threw at them, Labour were out in the distance, and looking at a majority well into three figures come the General Election. By lunchtime, that same party was in deep doo-doo, and sinking deeper. A week was once a long time in politics; maybe that period is now a little shorter.

What happened can be put directly: long-serving MP Diane Abbott had made an assertion in an article thatJewish, Irish & traveller people undoubtedly experienced prejudice but that they were not subject to racism ‘all their lives’”. There were howls of protest at her remarks, and allegations of anti-Semitism, with Irish and Traveller people not getting a look-in.

Labour launched an investigation into Ms Abbott’s comments. Since then, all enquiries as to whether she would be allowed to stand as an MP at the next General Election have been deflected: there was an investigation, we must wait for it to conclude. Keir Starmer was especially keen to point this out to whoever was asking. And then, today, came inconvenient reality.

The BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire launched the explosive device at 0739 hours: “I can reveal Labour’s investigation into suspended MP Diane Abbott’s racism comments finished 5 months ago. A source says she was given a ‘formal warning’ in Dec ’23. Ms Abbott was required to do an online ‘anti semitism course’ - which she did in Feb”. OH DEAR, KEIR. And there was more.

Yet source says she still hasn’t been told if she can stand as a Labour candidate at election. I understand veteran MP is ‘angry, depressed & worn out’ by way she feels she’s been treated by Labour”. So not only Starmer, but every other Labour figure who echoes the line on the investigation not having concluded, had misled their audience. What was it Gordon Brown said?

His reproach of Damian McBride was short and to the point. “Don’t. It’s the lie that gets you”. Now it has got Starmer. So, having been caught with his pants well and truly alight, what to do? What would a sensible and pragmatic Prime Minister in waiting have done? What would a politician wanting to dispel thoughts of dishonesty have done? What would Nietzsche have done?

Sadly, it seems that the Labour leader’s office does not operate on such a lofty intellectual plane. Having already claimed that Ms Abbott’s suspension had nothing to do with him - restoration of the whip, with the chief whip reporting to him, has everything to do with him - the last thing Starmer needed was evasion, not owning up to having misled the electorate.

Instead, official radio silence has descended. Starmer would have known about the investigation concluding; he lied about that. The impression of forthright dishonesty is now inescapable. Rumours swirl about not making a decision on whether Ms Abbott can stand in time for her to run as an independent, as former leader Jeremy Corbyn has done.

Those rumours are now caught up in further rumours about long-serving Labour MPs being asked to retire, so pro-Starmer favourites from the NEC can be gifted safe seats. And all the while, right-wing newspapers and other media outlets are forming up a damning characterisation of a Prime Minister in waiting as not only dishonest, but evasive, devious and untrustworthy.

Will today’s revelation blow Labour off course? Don’t bet against it.

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Monday 27 May 2024

Carry On Conscription

Your party is more than 20 points adrift in the polls. MPs are in open revolt over your decision to call a General Election without keeping them in the loop. Many of those MPs have decided not to stand at the election. You need to avert an imminent and historic wipeout. What would a sensible and pragmatic leader have done? What would Nietzsche have done?

Sadly for his party, Rishi Sunak does not operate on such a lofty intellectual plateau. And so it came to pass that the amateur Prime Minister, having been ambushed by the media during a pointless visit to Belfast’s Titanic Quarter - the Tories do not field any candidates in Northern Ireland - he doubled down on his not-telling-his-MPs-first with a truly wacko policy proposal.

He would, if the Tories were returned to power, introduce National Service. Not the National Service whose last intake was in 1960, and which was lampooned in the first Carry On film Carry On Sergeant, you understand. This would be different, promoting a “shared sense of purpose among our young people and a renewed sense of pride in our country”. Yeah, right.

So what would Sunak’s plan entail? “The proposed new scheme would not be conscription, where people are legally required to join the armed forces for a period. But it would compel people by law to complete a community programme over a 12-month period, or enrol in a year-long military training scheme, when they turn 18”. And where did this bright idea originate?

It seems to have emerged from another of those alleged “think tanks”, called Onward, whichhas been described as ‘close to Rishi Sunak's Downing Street’. It was founded in 2018 by Will Tanner, Martyn Rose, and Neil O'Brien. The think tank's advisory board is chaired by Daniel Finkelstein. The founders state that Onward would operate in the mainstream of conservative politics, and is a reaction to the ‘lack of energy on the centre right’”.

Sadly, Onward does not appear to have thought through such inconvenient details as how the Tories would pay for this non-starter. As such, they have been ridiculed after it was discovered that the money would have to come from their much-vaunted “levelling up” scheme. And it got worse.

While hapless Home Secretary James Cleverly ruled out criminal sanctions for teenagers who refused to participate in any part of the scheme, saying: "There's no-one going to jail over this", Anne Marie Trevelyan declared that the employment prospects of refuseniks “could be affected”. Cleverly was also asked what kind of community work might be involved.

National Service could be uniformed public services … Special constable … On call fire-fighter … Emergency health responder … Environmental protection … Flood defence work”. In other words, getting actual full-time paid work done on the cheap. Way to shrink the economy, Tories. Worse still, not all Tories are signed up to this scheme. And some are saying so.

Steve Baker, one of those standing and fighting rather than calling it a day, has toldIn that context, before any more policy is announced, I want to be absolutely clear where I stand for the electors of Wycombe: I am for liberty under the rule of law and Parliamentary democracy. History has proven time and time again that liberty under law - not compulsion and planning - is the surest road to peace and prosperity”. Sounds like a No, then.

That’s before the inevitable questions which will come Sunak’s way, like whether his children will be expected to serve. Or maybe he expects to lose and emigrate. Even the slavishly Tory Telegraph has told readers “Young Royals face National Service in Sunak plan”. The press isn’t keen.

And while the Mail has tried to keep up flagging pro-Tory spirits by claiming “Bold scheme will ‘open doors’ for teenagers when applying for jobs and University, says PM”, the Guardian has a message from the military. “Sunak’s National Service plan is ‘bonkers’, says ex-military chief”. The first fruits of his not-really-a-relaunch have already withered and died.

Without Labour having to break sweat. Third party behind the Lib Dems it is.

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Saturday 25 May 2024

Brave Sir Michael Ran Away

As campaigning gets underway in earnest for the General Election, an increasing number of Tory MPs have considered the prospects for their re-election, concluded that they might just get unseated by either Labour or the Lib Dems, and concluded “stuff this for a game of soldiers”. Some who should be returned with comfortable majorities have also joined the exodus.

A talent not to be sniffed at. Allegedly

So it was that the number of those deciding to spend more time counting their piles of money, or take up alternative employment, or merely figure out that they have made so many years’ contributions to their pension and can put their feet up, reached the number who left Parliament in 1997, the last time the Tories experienced a shellacking on the scale expected this time.

However, and here we encounter a seriously sized however, back then, “Shagger” Major had already lost his majority. Today’s exodus was not, as a percentage of Tory MPs, as significant. Until the magic figure of 75 was exceeded, with the addition to the departure list of Michael “Oiky” Gove.

It was Gove, so we were told by the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, who had given Rishi Sunak his rousing support at Cabinet, declaring “Who dares wins. And you have dared, PM, and will win”. Now he’s running away. Along with Andrea Leadsom, who for some reason was considered a legitimate candidate for the Tory leadership after Young Dave bungled the EU referendum and also ran away. Someone else could clear up the mess.

The news did not go down well with right-leaning pundits, not least the terminally useless Tim Montgomerie. Monty’s first effort was simply “F**k”. Then it got worse. “THE TORY CAMPAIGN IS NOW IN COMPLETE AND UTTER MELTDOWN (And, yes, I AM SHOUTING HYSTERICALLY) … + I DID WARN TORY MPs THAT SUNAK WAS USELESS AT POLITICS”.

As Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point. But he wasn’t finished. “Where is Crosby? Where is Fullbrook? The lunatics (and amateurs) have taken over the asylum”. Maybe Gove got a job offer from Creepy Uncle Rupe and thought it more appealing than losing to the Lib Dems.

Meanwhile, ITV Political Editor Robert Peston had more bad news. “Senior Tories expect a significant number of further MP resignations over the weekend, in the wake of Gove’s and Leadsom’s decisions not to fight the election. Quite a number who have been re-approved as candidates have been in two minds, and thought they had till the autumn to decide. The party has more than 150 seats and rising with no candidate.” There was more.

That is a lot of candidates for CCHQ to find before 7 June and a lot of wasted campaigning days. It does rather indicate Sunak called the election before his party was ready”. It’s almost as if Gove throwing in the towel kicked away the supports. In 1997, the Tories held their discipline almost to the end of the campaign. This time, they’ve lost it before they even get started.

Who else is going, rather than become part of multiple Portillo Moments? Sunak seems to have taken the prospect on board, with the Guardian’s Kiran Stacey tellingSunak is going to take a day off the trail tomorrow in a highly unusual move so early in the campaign. He will spend it at home in talks with his senior aides. But the Tories insist this is NOT a campaign relaunch.

With another poll, this time from Techne UK, showing the Tories polling so badly that they would end up with so few seats, the Lib Dems would become the official opposition, many MPs will be asking themselves Harry Callahan’s immortal question: “Do I feel … lucky?” Who will be the next big name to jump? Jacob Rees Mogg? Jeremy Hunt Hunt Hunt Hunt Hunt?

Even the most slavishly Tory supporting papers are getting the jitters, with the Daily Brexit, still called the Express, howlingNOW GOVE QUITS! MINISTER’S SHOCK EXIT ROCKS TORIES”. The Mail has kept “Oiky” off the front page, but has given its main headline to Rachel Reeves, claiming an alleged “exclusive”. The Murdoch Sun has no front page politics at all.

That not-a-relaunch had better be special. Otherwise it’s Tory game over.

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Thursday 23 May 2024

Whingeing In The Rain

The tell-tale signs had been there earlier yesterday, as more than one cabinet minister ducked out of media and other appearances. So when amateur Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stepped out of 10 Downing Street into a torrential downpour - there’s a bad omen if ever one was needed - it was obvious that he was about to do what Denis Healey once called “cut and run”.

Sadly for Sunak, such was his Billy No Mates presence that there was not even someone to hold an umbrella. Nor was his team sensible enough to change the venue to the Downing Street media room. And so it was that the electorate was told that the Tories were out of ideas, and out of time. There would be a General Election on the fourth of July. Independence Day, eh?

That date is also Independence Day in Rwanda. Oh the irony! Such was Sunak’s timing that, together with a Labour commitment to end the farce of deportations to that country, that no deportation flights will happen. Even though Sunak had said they would. Instead, his briefing to the assembled media was turned into a whingefest directed at Keir Starmer.

Not that too many will have remembered that, after someone (wasn’t Steve Bray, was it?) blasted the 1997 New Labour signature anthem “Things Can Only Get Better” from the end of Downing Street. The Guardian’s Pippa Crerar musedInauspicious start to campaign”, while even Laura Kuenssberg had to admit Sunak’s presentation was “not the authority of credibility”.

Meanwhile, after the Tories continued to alienate the media by chucking Sky News out of Downing Street, came Starmer’s response. James Chapman was impressed. “Well that Starmer speech was streets ahead of Sunak's, both in terms of the optics and content, with a compelling change narrative. I suspect Starmer is going to surprise on the upside in a campaign”.

That alienation, as Rachel Cunliffe of the Staggers pointed out, was not trivial: “It's not just journos but MPs, spads, MINISTERS who got the green light from No10 that the summer was safe. That's a lot of ill will to kick off a campaign with. From those on your own side”. Then came a truly wacko intervention by Christopher “No” Hope of GB “News”.

Some furious Conservative MPs are tonight working on a plot to CALL OFF the general election by replacing Rishi Sunak as leader before Parliament is dissolved next Thursday”. But all it tells us is that there are those in the right-leaning media who are prepared to spray their credibility up the wall by recycling anything the Tories tell them. While backing The Blue Team.

Just what that will look like can be seen from this morning’s front pages. The Murdoch Sun brings us the news while avoiding using the photo of Sunak getting drenched outside No 10. Not quite “The Sun backs Blair”, is it? And the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph was also on message.

Obedient pundits were grovelling from the off, with Jeremy Warner declaring “The economic stars are aligned”, and wacko Janet Daley claiming “Starmer will be worrying now”. The Daily Brexit, still called the Express, told its faithful readers “The Prime Minister made a rallying cry for Express readers to get behind him”, and the Mail pontificated “Rishi seizes the initiative”. Like heck he did. Also, the Mail has more inside. Maybe too much more.

Sarah Vine obediently tells “This is about Sunak the man taking control and fighting his case head on”, while deeply unfunny churnalist Richard Littlejohn, live from North Vero Beach in Florida, concludes “Time for Rishi to summon up the blood, go for broke”. Not for nothing did Michael Heseltine decideIt is going to be the most dishonest General Election of my lifetime”.

The Tories are going to get a shellacking. But they might get a worse shellacking later. Hence Sunak deciding he had to turn and face his pursuers, despite teeing off many on his own side. And his media pals will back him to the hilt, despite the UK having been made a laughing stock over the past 14 years of inept and indeed corrupt leadership. That’s who they care about.

Rich people paying the desperate and greedy of the media to support their continued enrichment. This time the voters might just ignore them.

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Tuesday 21 May 2024

ICC - Quiet Part Said Out Loud

I uphold international law. Once we go away from that, we shall not know where we are … if we are not going to live by a system of international law, we are going to live by international anarchy. Then no people anywhere in the world are safe … You cannot be selective in your defence of law - you cannot say ‘I like that law, I will uphold that one, I will not uphold the other’”.

Margaret Thatcher was unequivocal in the matter of international law. Sadly, her successors out there on the right cannot muster even a small fraction of her certainty. Not when the international law delivers a result that is inconvenient to them, as it has with senior figures in the Israeli Government.

As the BBC has reported, “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has angrily condemned the International Criminal Court's prosecutor for seeking arrest warrants for him alongside Hamas's leaders over alleged war crimes in the Gaza conflict … he rejected with disgust that ‘democratic Israel’ had been compared with what he called ‘mass murderers’”. Why seek the warrants?

The chief ICC prosecutor, Karim Khan, said there were reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Netanyahu and his Defence Minister Yoav Gallant bore criminal responsibility for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza … The ICC is also seeking a warrant for Hamas's leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, for war crimes”. Hence Netanyahu imagining the equivalence.

Some commentators have dismissed the ICC move because Israel has not recognised the ICC, and so its remit cannot apply in that country. However, Palestine HAS recognised the body, and unless the Israeli Government is trying to suggest that Gaza is already part of Israel, anything their armed forces get up to there can be legitimately scrutinised by the ICC.

But if the IDF has observed the rules of war, and the various Geneva Conventions, what’s the problem? The investigation runs its course and that’s that. Except some do not want that investigation to proceed further. The vicious hostility, smears, and outright threats against the ICC started up as soon as the news that warrants were being sought emerged.

Still given a berth by the Murdoch Times, Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips had already claimedBuried facts about the Gaza war … Connect the dots: It’s America and Iran against Israel”, and has now gone one better with “Courting infamy … The ICC prosecutor's blood libel is part of the pincer movement for Israel's destruction”. Holding those suspected of enabling mass killing to account is now “blood libel”.

Elsewhere in our free and fearless press, demonising of Palestinians is being ramped up, with over-promoted former Royal hack Camilla Tominey, now at the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, claimingAdmitting Gazan refugees would be proof that Britain has a death wish … We have no idea how many Palestinians support their murdering, raping masters”.

It wasn’t going any better over in DC. Andrew Solender of Axios observed, “Speaker Mike Johnson confirms a vote to sanction the ICC is under consideration over the Netanyahu arrest warrant application. ‘Congress is reviewing all options, including sanctions, to punish the ICC and ensure its leadership faces consequences if they proceed.’”. However.

As Sarah Leah Whitson pointed out, “Efforts to retaliate against the [ICC] are themselves a violation of the Rome Statute (Art 70) for which the prosecutor can bring charges and sentence offenders for up to 5 years, and urge other states to criminally prosecute them”. Johnson is from the Republican right. And he’s done everyone a favour, by saying the quiet part out loud.

Tom London summarised the Oh What A Giveaway moment from those threatening the ICC. “Cynical, arrogant US & Western exceptionalism laid bare … Billions of people live in the Global South and see very clearly the reality of Western ‘law and rules apply for YOU but do not apply for US’”. Not only US, but OUR PALS. Three Hamas leaders are also in the ICC’s sight, but that fact is lost amid the storm at Netanyahu being named.

Accusations of anti-Semitism are also being made. No change there, then.

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Saturday 18 May 2024

Kemi Badenoch Sells The Pass

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch represents the constituency of Saffron Walden, sitting on a majority of more than 27,500. As such, she is one of the few Tories likely to survive even the most serious swing away from her party come the General Election. This means she can afford the occasional lapse into serious stupid territory, such as her latest “Brexit Freedoms” whopper.

Kemi Badenoch

This has come via the obedient recycling of a press release by the inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker, where readers were toldPavement dining to become a 'permanent feature of the high street' as Business secretary Kemi Badenoch announces plans to remove red tape for pubs, restaurants and cafes to make the most of 'Brexit freedoms’”. Ri-i-i-ight. Do go on.

Kemi Badenoch yesterday announced a package of reforms to boost businesses. Plans unveiled by the Business Secretary include proposals to remove regulations that make it hard for pubs, restaurants and cafes to get permission to serve customers outside”. And given the by-line of the Mail’s political editor Jason Groves. Billed as “Brexit freedoms”.

There was more. “Pubs could also be given the automatic right to sell takeaway pints. Temporary allowances were granted during the pandemic but are due to expire next year”. Is this another of those “Brexit freedoms”? Whatever. “Small firms like cafes and corner shops could be permitted to 'self-certify' for some functions, meaning they would not be 'subjected to needless inspections or mandatory training courses' before they can serve customers”. But there is a problem with this meaningless drivel.

Despite quoting Ms Badenoch (or “Mrs” Badenoch in last-Century Mail speak) more or less verbatim, telling “This Government is seizing the benefits of Brexit by reducing burdens on business, pushing down the cost of living, and driving growth in every corner of the economy”, someone doesn’t get it.

One problem Groves did not have with his article was finding photos to illustrate the idea of “pavement dining”. Because - especially in big cities, like, er, London, within walking distance of Parliament, and indeed the Mail’s offices, there is rather a lot of “pavement dining”. And it gets worse.

There is also a significant amount of “pavement drinking”, as anyone who has visited places like the Euston Tap will know. This is on account of most drinking space at such places not being inside the building that dispenses the beer. Outside tables, tall ones for standing, and a more normal height for sitting and eating, are an established feature of many outlets.

For starters, that allows those who cannot manage without a smoke to visit and enjoy the food and drink on offer. And the idea that this is a “Brexit freedom” is bunk. From where I live, a trip across the river to Lisbon brings home the reality that in many of the city’s streets, there is so much outside seating that just walking has become a veritable obstacle course.

Indeed, I can think of one craft beer outlet where all the seating is outside on the street (AMO Brewery on the Rua Bernardim Ribeiro, for those asking). One of the most recommendable Bifanas (look it up) in town, from the hole in the wall at Afonso’s just off the Rua Madalena, has to be consumed standing up, or sitting under the big tree nearby. This is not a rarity.

The demand for seating at the legendary A Brasileira café is for the outside kind. Because guidebook and people watching. And seeing how many punters you can cram on to one of those passing trams (officially 58, which is grim enough, but unofficially rather more). Portugal is an EU member state and likely to remain so. This claimed “Brexit freedom” ISN’T.

But such is the grovelling subservience of the Mail, part of its desperation to prop up the rapidly-eroding credibility of the Government, that it is prepared to have its political editor put his name to this slice of baloney, mainly because Ms Badenoch is seen as a rising star of the Tory party. This is thin gruel to put before the readers. Which just enforces the sense of impending wipeout.

The voters know what pavement dining is like. They’ve visited the EU.

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Thursday 16 May 2024

Labour Tells Press - Please Kick Us

Whatever our free and fearless press does, the Labour Party will not lift a finger against it. That’s now their policy. Think about that for a moment: no more the promise that Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry will be given the green light by a future Labour Government, no commitment to press accountability, no regard to all the victims of press misbehaviour. No bugger all.

Can we play nicely, press people?

That less than optimum situation has been spelled out by Professor Brian Cathcart in an article for Byline Times, with the sub-heading giving us the all-important context “Days after four more current national newspaper editors were accused of having acted unlawfully, the party’s media spokesperson rules out future action on press accountability”. There is more.

Four current national newspaper editors are among dozens of journalists named in claims against the Mail papers as having engaged in unlawful information gathering … Tony Gallagher (editor of the Times of London), Ben Taylor (Sunday Times), Victoria Newton (Sun) and David Dillon (Mail on Sunday) stand accused of having broken the law, … by a group of people including Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Sir Simon Hughes, Prince Harry and Elton John”. And the Labour response to this state of affairs?

Thangam Debbonaire, Labour’s shadow culture secretary and thus its spokesperson on media affairs … was asked to confirm that Labour would not ‘seek to revive the second stage of the Leveson Inquiry (which was cancelled by the Tories in 2018 and which was supposed to investigate criminality in the media). And she replied ‘Yes’”. Do go on.

We have to make sure that, no matter what, we do protect our free press. When I say “no matter what’, I don’t mean: they’re not allowed to break the law, they’re not allowed to harass people - that’s already a criminal offence. So there are plenty of things that are covered by criminal law” she claimed.

And that wasn’t all: “There is already media regulation, there is already the criminal and civil law. We don’t have plans to do anything, any new legislation in that area, no.” We know just how effective the current regulatory environment is regarding the press. It isn’t. IPSO is not fit for purpose.

Here's your answer

As Professor Cathcart notes, “the timing is appalling” for Ms Debonnaire. With a General Election only months away, she is telling a press cohort overwhelmingly hostile to Labour that the party all that distance out there in the lead in every opinion poll will not so much as say boo, whatever the press does. Why that is a supremely unwise decision is not difficult to see.

Whatever dirt the right-wing press has on senior Labour figures can be dished with no fear of any comeback. This means that Peter Mandelson, for some reason brought into Keir Starmer’s inner sanctum, will find the guns opening up on him from day one of the campaign, his friendship with the late Jeffrey Epstein likely to be front and centre. And it gets worse.

Remember the pack of lies pushed by the Mail titles about deputy leader Angela Rayner? The claim that she flashed the Tory front bench at PMQs? And the claim that she and Starmer had broken the Covid laws, which was also untrue? All that will be dug up and put out there. Ed Miliband is still a front bench figure. They got away with kicking him last time, and will do again.

The press will howl “Anti-Semitism” while recycling the anti-Semitic smear of Miliband’s late father. Labour won’t lift a finger, so desperate is the party to play nice with the press. Which will get them nowhere, because there is no such thing as playing nice when it comes to the press. The Murdoch and Rothermere press will kick Starmer and his pals black and blue.

Some of the dirt to be thrown at Labour, and plenty already stored up ready for the off, is likely to be the product of unlawful information gathering. But if Labour is to take such a relaxed approach to such mere details, who is going to prosecute the perpetrators? By the time anything happens, the circus will have moved on - even if Labour won. The press would rather they didn’t.

The Red Team now has a sticker on its back. It says KICK ME, PRESS PEOPLE. Unwise doesn’t even begin to cover it.

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Tuesday 14 May 2024

France Has A New Fash Hero

The Right Wing Excuse Me Site otherwise known as UnHerd has ponied up another fash hopeful, this time from France. Cole Strangler (crazy name, crazy guy?!?!?) tells “Can Jordan Bardella seduce France?” followed by the claim “He is detoxifying the Le Pen brand”, which is interesting, as Bardella’s domestic partner is the grand-daughter of, er, Jean-Marie le Pen.

Jordan Bardella, the new fash ...

But let’s hear more of the excuse note. “The MEP and head of the party’s ticket for June’s elections to European Parliament is young and handsome. He hails from an emphatically non-elite background. And most important, perhaps, his surname isn’t Le Pen”. “Non-elite”, in this case, meaning he attended Paris-Sorbonne University, but failed to graduate.

But do go on. “Gone are the references to Frexit or leaving the eurozone. Such promises have been replaced by a string of grievances over the EU’s agricultural and energy policies, framed in terms of restoring French sovereignty”. Like André Ventura in Portugal, who has made leaving the EU subject to so many conditions that he wouldn’t do it, even if he got to power.

There is more: “the credo that unites the delicate cross-class coalition … is a deep hostility to immigration … Invoking the old-time religion, Bardella fired out a list of ills supposedly caused by foreigners: crime, Islamism, terrorism, declining public services and the loss of French identity … ‘This election will also be a great referendum on mass immigration’”. It’s the Forrins’ fault!

What helps Bardella is the rightward lurch of the media. “This is partly thanks to ultra-conservative billionaire Vincent Bolloré who, since 2016, has acquired prominent media outlets and transformed them into vehicles for Right-wing commentary: radio station Europe 1, newspaper Journal du Dimanche, and most famously, TV channel CNews, often likened to Fox News”. Go on.

The network’s most famous pundit, Éric Zemmour, went on to run for president in 2022 and now heads a party even further to the Right of the RN: Reconquête, which polls at around 5% for the European elections and boasts Marine Le Pen’s niece, Marion Maréchal, at the head of its ticket. Compared with figures like these, the RN can come across as somewhat moderate”. Yes, the increasingly alt-right Spectator likes Bardella too.

... not unconnected with the older fash

Despite him saying “he didn’t like the term ‘Great Replacement’ … but nonetheless ‘it points to a reality that’s correct’”. And, oh look, “In 2021, he posted statements of support for Génération Identitaire, a far-right organization that had been dissolved by the French government

Any hate crime in the CV? “After Ali Rabeh, a Muslim, was re-elected as mayor of Trappes in 2021, Bardella described the city as an ‘Islamic republic’ on the radio station Europe 1. He then announced on 2 February 2022, that he was indicted for this statement, saying ‘I am disappointed that the French justice system pursues the same goal today as the Islamists, to silence those who denounce real issues and those who oppose the transformation of countless neighbourhoods in France’”. Europe 1? See above.

But Bardella’s party is, meanwhile, trying to clean up its image in other ways. “Ever sensitive of their image, RN leaders have tossed to the wayside an impressive number of former idols and allies: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are no longer celebrated for obvious reasons”.

Which may look like A Very Good Thing, but this is all with a singular purpose: to achieve power. As with criticism of Germany’s own chapter of the fash, AfD, because the latter is claimed to be too close to Moscow. This enables the RN (the new and cleaner FN, honestly) to appeal to more voters.

But the fash is still the fash, whether it’s the RN, Reform UK, AfD, Vox in Spain, or Chega in Portugal. It claims to be mainstream, in touch with the public mood, listening to the concerns of those that other politicians have allegedly ignored. It arrives as your friend. But in reality, it has no more idea of how to improve the electorate’s lot than anyone else.

So why the media interest? You may ask that. I couldn’t possibly comment.

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Sunday 12 May 2024

Buckland Elphicke Attack BACKFIRES

As if seasoned media watchers needed reminding, the right-leaning part of our free and fearless press shills shamelessly for the Tory Party - no matter how corrupt, inept or dysfunctional it gets - while failing to do its homework, so desperate is it to take its readers for mugs. Today has brought an excellent example from both the Murdoch and Rothermere empires.

Natalie Elphicke has crossed the aisle and joined Labour. Therefore she has become disloyal to the cause, a turncoat. As such, all the dirt the press has accumulated on her can now be dished. This analysis is not supporting her - her views are particularly distasteful - but her attackers are lower still. Worse, they and their main source have missed something rather important.

Still, let’s consider the press offerings, however lame they are. The Sunday Times claims “Elphicke ‘asked lord chancellor for favour over husband’s trial’ … Defector MP wanted case moved to lessen publicity”. Looks like those all-important quotation marks are doing some rather heavy lifting there.

Over at the Mail on Sunday, we get “As Starmer faces backlash over Natalie Elphicke’s defection, another bombshell … TURNCOAT MP ASKED MINISTER TO PULL STRINGS FOR HUSBAND’S SEX ABUSE TRIAL”. TURNCOAT! TRAITAH!! Telling readers what to think once more, and remember, the Mail titles were the ones that refused to be persuaded of New Labour’s case back in 1997. They were Tory then, and will be next time.

So, predictably, we also get “The claims are likely to prove embarrassing for Sir Keir, a former Director of Public Prosecutions”. What the merry fuck has his time as DPP got to do with it? Over to the BBC: “Natalie Elphicke, the new Labour MP for Dover, has been accused of lobbying ministers over her then-husband Charlie's sexual assault case”. Yes? Yes yes? Yes yes yes?

Ms Elphicke is accused of asking Sir Robert Buckland, the then Justice Secretary, to help move the date of the case, apparently to avoid publicity. A spokesman for Ms Elphicke, who defected from the Conservatives last week, said the claims were ‘nonsense’". And then the $64,000 question. “Labour questioned why they were not raised earlier”. I’ll bet they did.

Let’s have a little more detail on that question. “A Labour Party spokesman had said: ‘Natalie Elphicke totally rejects that characterisation of the meeting … If Robert Buckland had any genuine concerns about the meeting, then he should have raised them at the time, rather than making claims to the newspapers now Natalie has chosen to join the Labour Party”. Quite.

Darren Guy was one of those not persuaded by the timing of this allegedly exclusive piece of allegedly investigative journalism. “Its amazing how the tory press ignored her while she was sitting on the ‘correct’ bench but turned on her the minute she was sitting on the ‘wrong’ bench. Makes you wonder what else they have on current tory MPs but are keeping quiet about it”.

Liz Gerard musedBuckland and the Tories now have questions to answer. He may have acted properly, but they shielded her”, and John Crace was on the same page: “Curious that Robert Buckland didn’t remember Natalie Elphicke had lobbied him over her husband’s court case when she was still a Tory MP”. LBC host James O’Brien was yet more unimpressed.

This is an incredible illustration of how completely bent the Tories are & how completely commonplace it is now. Here, they’re saying, is a ‘scandal’ we have kept secret for four years - please use it to attack Labour, who knew absolutely nothing about it”. The potential blowback for Buckland is worse.

If Ms Elphicke has broken the law, he has potentially broken it too - for covering up her alleged misbehaviour. And with the Tories 30 points behind Labour in the opinion polls to add to a shockingly bad series of local and Mayoral election results (plus another of those Parliamentary by-election upsets), all that an already weary electorate is going to see is yet more Tory Sleaze. The same thing that did for John Major all those years ago.

Crap politics, meet crap journalism. The electorate has stopped listening.

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Saturday 11 May 2024

Israel - Isolated And Friendless

Tens of thousands of innocent civilians dead, many of them women and children. A healthcare system systematically and gratuitously trashed. Apartment blocks reduced to rubble. Allegations of torture. Signs of some dead having been summarily executed. And not a flicker of regret from those doing the killing, but increasingly angry defiance and smears.

Israel’s conduct in its widespread flattening of Gaza has not merely been exposed as a potential genocide, it has ended the era when the country got a free pass by default. A small and young state, a democracy too, surrounded by so many hostile, and less than democratic neighbours. Whatever happened, Israel was the good guy and all the rest were bad guys.

So when Adolf Eichmann was lifted from his bolthole in South America, yes, that was OK. Hunting down those responsible for the Munich Olympic Games massacre was also nodded through. Those were understandable and arguably justifiable actions. Even the lifting of Mordechai Vanunu, still forbidden from leaving Israel, generated little in the way of complaints.

But the treatment, especially the recent treatment, of the Palestinians, has become a running sore for Israel, one that has progressively tarnished its reputation. Talk of a “two state solution” is meaningless while more and more settlements, in violation of international law, are built on the occupied West Bank, and Gaza has been, for decades now, an open air prison camp.

Worse, the arbitrary arrest of Palestinians across the West Bank, together with allegations of torture, and high rates of death in custody, accompanied by excessive use of force against those not deemed to be yet suitable for arrest, long ago took the shine off the supposedly “most moral army”. So now that free pass is no longer on offer to Israel. Its supporters are not happy.

And so the fight back has gathered momentum, but sadly, has had little success. Smearing peaceful protests as “hate marches” has not worked, nor has any attempt to deflect from the large and growing Jewish contingent within those marches. Recently, a Green Party councillor has been called out for anti-Semitism … for saying Allahu Akhbar. He said God Is Great.

Worse for the complainant, this was someone in the Jewish Labour Movement. I say, Green Party people, pay attention, do as we say, don’t get uppity with us, or else. Someone is displaying their assumed entitlement just a little too obviously. And getting ridiculed for it: Israel and its supporters are increasingly being judged on the merits of their behaviour. Or lack thereof.

We can now see what the Israelis are up to. Like the sickening attempt to stop aid getting through to the Palestinians. Like the deliberate bombing of residential areas, even those where the only protection is a tent. Like the refusal to accept responsibility - any responsibility - for the carnage.

The responses have shown how that free pass is a thing of the past: Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, who you can tell as she’s a doctor, put it directly. “Israel’s persistent, pervasive, cruel, genocidal collective punishment on Palestinians is with deliberate intent and depraved indifference to life & liberty. Israel wants Palestinians completely & utterly destroyed. This is genocide”.

And now has come an intervention from a previously unexpected quarter, Match of the Day lead presenter Gary Lineker, who, in conversation with Mehdi Hasan, has told “The minute you raise your voice against what [the IDF] [are] now doing [in Gaza], you get accused of being a supporter of Hamas … So there is … a lot of heavy lobbying on people to be quiet. So I understand why most people refrain.” And there was more.

But I’m getting on a bit now … I’m fairly secure, and I can’t be silent about what’s happening … I think it’s just so utterly awful. And now they’re talking about ‘Oh, it looks like it’s happening, going into Rafah’, when they’ve sent everybody down there … It’s not anti-Semitic to say that what Israel is doing is wrong”. He is right. And the entitled of the JLM are plain flat wrong.

Plus the UN General Assembly has, despite all that lobbying, voted in favour of granting full membership to Palestine, granting the state new rights and privileges, by 143 votes to 9, with 25 abstentions. The Guardian noted that the vote signalled “Israel’s growing isolation on the world stage”. Many EU member states are moving to recognise an independent Palestine.

Sadly, the leadership of the Labour Party, and in an election year most likely, has been caught out. Excusing the inexcusable shows a lack of empathy from shadow cabinet figures. It drives yet more voters away from the fold. It may not lose the party the General Election, but it will shrink its majority. Over time, this will only go one way. And not the way those heavy lobbyists want.

Israel has lost its free pass. Maybe for ever. Maybe not what they wanted.

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Thursday 9 May 2024

Natalie Elphicke And The Murdoch Goons

As if to underscore their ability to hold politicians, and others, to different standards depending on the political party they support, the inmates of the Baby Shard Bunker have gone after Dover and Deal MP Natalie Elphicke, after she unexpectedly defected to Labour yesterday, which they had somehow managed not to do when she was a Tory.

Natalie Elphicke ...

After Ms Elphicke had made her defection, those parts of our free and fearless press still clinging on to hope that the Tories could do better than be all but wiped out at the next General Election had, by the iron code of the media mafia, to let the world know that she had incurred their displeasure, and, as such, had to be given one of Mr Bridger’s Good Goings Over.

Steven Swinford, political editor of the Murdoch Times, was the first to carry out his instructions. “Natalie Elphicke has never publicly addressed her decision to defend her former husband Charlie Elphicke after he was convicted of two counts of sexual assault … She said in The Sun that he was 'attractive' and 'attracted to' women”. Is there a point to all this? But do go on.

She castigated his victims, saying they were obsessed with him. She said he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice … The Court of Appeal found that he was not and upheld the conviction, describing him as a sexual predator … Elphicke has to this day still [not?] said whether she still thinks her former husband is innocent. Nor has she apologised for her comments or her decision to stand by a convicted sex offender”. But here a problem entered.

Ms Elphicke was elected, under the Tory banner, to Parliament in 2019. The press has therefore had four and a half years to put their questions to her. It has failed to do so. Nor has the Tory Party, and its chairmen, let the world know of its disquiet about her. Until she defected to Labour.

So now she has been forced to offer an apology. “My decision to join the Labour Party is not one I have taken lightly but one I made because I am convinced that this country needs a new government led by Keir Starmer to fix the problems we see from housing to small boats”. Oh aye. Do go on.

... being given her BA cabin crew Employee of the Month award

I always knew that this decision would put a spotlight on the prosecution of my ex-husband and I want to address some of the commentary around this head on … The period of 2017-2020 was an incredibly stressful and difficult one for me as I learned more about the person I thought I knew. I know it was far harder for the women who had to relive their experiences and give evidence against him”. And there was more. Rather a lot more.

I have previously, and do, condemn his behaviour towards other women and towards me. It was right that he was prosecuted and I'm sorry for the comments that I made about his victims … It is vital that women can have confidence in the criminal justice system and our rates of prosecution and conviction are far too low as a country”. The Murdoch goons approved.

Gabriel Pogrund, Whitehall Editor for the Murdoch Sunday Times, clearly approved of Ms Elphicke’s display of contrition. His Tweet/X/Whatever was Retweeted/Reposted/Whatevered by the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, still pretending to be a real journalist by succeeding the non-bullying Tom Newton Dunn as political editor of the Murdoch Sun.

None of this is offered in approval of Ms Elphicke, who has supported a whole series of cruel and callous policies in her time as a Tory MP, and whose arrival on the Labour benches merely confirms that Team Starmer is playing the same kind of cynical Westminster Village game as the Tories, and indeed the deeply unpleasant convocation of Leave campaigners.

What it is about is the press’ ability to go after politicians of whose actions they disapprove, force them to repent, remind them that they have dirt on those politicians, kick those defecting for not giving said press an exclusive, and to deflect from bad behaviour not by politicians, but that same press - including phone hacking and other illegal acts happening well after it was claimed they had stopped. Ms Elphicke will not be standing for election again.

Had she been so inclined, the punishment would have been rather harsher.

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Tuesday 7 May 2024

Hung Parliament - My Arse

The combination of wanting the Tories to remain in power - goodness knows why - and the waning ability to interrogate sources, meaning Government lines to take get recycled as if they were fact, has caused our free and fearless press to move effortlessly from one unconvincing dead cat to another, but convince no-one with brain plugged in and a hole in their arse.

Last week, we were treated to the farcical claim that London Mayor Sadiq Khan could be beaten by the Tories’ latest challenger Susan Hall. The batshit Ms Hall, who had taken a favourable stance on Combover Crybaby Donald Trump, and indeed on the memory of John Enoch Powell, was never going to get within striking range of Khan, who won by more than 11%.

Where the claim originated cannot be told with complete certainty, but it is most likely that the idea of a race too close to call was to distract Tories from inconvenient ideas like changing leader yet again. That means someone not unadjacent to Rishi Sunak pitched the dead cat as a means of giving him another couple of days free of speculation and other turbulence.

That the right-leaning press, and to her shame Laura Kuenssberg of the BBC, ended up looking mightily foolish for being taken in by this drivel, should have caused them to stop and think when the next amateurishly concocted Look Over There was, with the certainty of night following day, waved before the assembled hacks and pundits. But that is to reckon without the desperation.

Here we encounter not just the desperate wanting for the Tories to be doing better - as if - but also the hollowing out of journalistic resources over the years. Investigative journalism is mostly out of the question; shovelling it on is the name of the game. Even the Mail titles, best resourced of all, only do the investigative stuff when it wants to dig up dirt on its current targets.

And so it came to pass yesterday that the Murdoch Times slung the next in what is going to be a long and tedious procession of dead cats on the table. “UK heading for a hung Parliament, says Sunak … PM warns Starmer would be ‘propped up’ in No10”. Ah, the old “frighten voters shitless with the spectre of the SNP” ploy. This is, to no surprise, total tosh.

But do go on. “Sunak seized on a projection by the elections expert Michael Thrasher that suggested if Thursday’s results were replicated in a General Election, Labour would fall short of enough seats to win power”. Two things here. One, it will not be a local election that bins the Tories. And Two, one result from Thursday suggests that the Hung Parliament claim is still tosh.

But for the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, this is a credible line to take. Hence today’s paper telling readers “Sunak: Election race is closer than polls show” (you don’t capitalise after a colon, Tel people. That howler wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t binned all those subs).

But enough. The one result that shows this dead cat is another dud is the by-election in Blackpool South. Labour did not only win the seat from the Tories, they achieved a swing of over 26%. This is not just up there with the kinds of swings achieved by Labour in the run-up to the 1997 General Election, but beyond them. And we know what happened to the Tories in 1997.

Another recent by-election that shows the Hung Parliament dead cat to be a phoney is that in Mid Bedfordshire, where (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries scored a majority of over 24,500 in 2019, only for it to be overturned by Labour. This was a solidly safe Tory seat. It had returned a Tory MP since Alan Lennox-Boyd took it from the old Liberal Party in 1931.

The whole idea of trying to extrapolate from local election results to predict a General Election outcome is what Sir Humphrey would have called “brave”. It might also be termed “unwise”. Add to that the potential for tactical voting against the Tories from an electorate that knows it’s been screwed, and you get results like Tiverton and Honiton, where the Lib Dems achieved a swing of almost 30% to take the seat. The Tories are facing wipeout.

And that will happen no matter how many dead cats are deployed. That is all.

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Sunday 5 May 2024

Tory Losses - Media In Denial

They lost 472 council seats. All bar one of the elected Mayoral elections were lost: despite the presence of an independent candidate in the West Midlands, who took votes from Labour, the Tories still lost the Mayoral poll, and in London, Sadiq Khan recorded his largest winning margin in the teeth of a hostile right-wing press. There was also a Parliamentary by-election loss.

Even with the host of negatives facing Labour - hostility among Muslim voters to the party leadership’s stance on Gaza, Keir Starmer’s flip-flopping in the face of press hostility, the welter of bad faith knocking copy aimed at deputy leader Angela Rayner, and fiddling of electoral system in a vain attempt to hobble Khan - the Tories were trounced across the country.

In London, a last-minute attempt to sow doubt among the public, claiming that polls were tighter than predicted, and some even claiming that Tory Susan Hall might even win, was exposed as a sham. The worse news is that a supposedly senior BBC figure - Laura Kuenssberg no less - had joined in this momentary voyage down the rabbit hole. That was bang out of order.

The offending entry on Twitter, X, or whatever Muskrat’s calling it this week, is still there: “What's going on in the London Mayoral race? No votes have been counted yet, so hold on to your hats.. but it is clear tonight that the race is much much closer than some polls had suggested”. No votes have been counted, but “it is clear … that the race is much much closer”.

That’s what you get by promoting someone who appears to prioritise getting sources to actual analysis, to filter out the wacko crap. Ms Kuenssberg continues to, as Peter Oborne put it, “just shovel it on”. But there will be no carpeting from Robbie Gibb, oh no. That’s just a bit more “both-sidesing”.

Also not getting carpeted is political editor of the Murdoch Sun on Sunday, Kate Ferguson, putting out prejudicial crap like “Sadiq Khan has had a strong showing in the postal votes in London....sources say”, having claimedSounds like Tory Susan Hall is ahead in the voting in Camden / Barnet patch” when counting had not started, and the pricelessSenior Tory sources saying it’s looking good for Andy Street in West Mids”. Street lost.

Over at Gammon Broadcasting™ News (“Bacon’s News Channel”), an idiot called Ben Leo musedIs today when Sadiq Khan is finally toppled in London? Are the whispers, the rumours, the sources correct that the Labour man has been run to the wire by Susan Hall? Is this the day England reclaims its capital city from Net Zero chief zealot mayor Khan? Let’s see”. Let’s not.

There was much talking up of Reform UK, who scored, er, two council seats. As opposed to the Greens, who gained 73 seats to leave then with a mere 179. Or the Lib Dems, whose gains totalled 105 seats, to give a total of 520 councillors, more than the Tories - for the first time since 1996. And we know what happened at the General Election after that.

Still the media is obsessing about the Tories, and looking even further right to speculate whether con-man and congenital liar Nigel “Thirsty” Farage will return to become Reform UK Oberscheissenführer. The BBC is once again not covering itself with glory, as Ms Kuenssberg persisted in asking Labour’s Pat McFadden about the party’s problem with the Muslim vote.

While she allowed the appallingly wacko Suella Braverman to smear Labour as “hard-left maniacs” who would “open our borders” and “indoctrinate our institutions and schools with PC madness”. Meanwhile, losing West Midlands Mayoral candidate Andy Street has reminded anyone listening that the way for the Tories to win is from the centre ground (now occupied by Labour).

Our free and fearless press, and too many in the broadcast media, are yet to understand one very straightforward fact: the wider electorate is not listening to them. They’re sick of being told how wonderful everything is, how the Tories’ cunning plan is working, and how all will be well as soon as a few of those horrible brown people are dispatched to Rwanda.

What was it that LBJ said “seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else”? That was Pissing Down Your Leg. Hello media people.

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Saturday 4 May 2024

Laurence Fox - A Complete Shit

Was he, one wondered, just an amiable eccentric who wasn’t really a racist bigot, but merely misunderstood? Former minor thesp, didn’t-even-get-started musician, multiple failed litigant - as in loser of lawsuits - and appallingly bad at politics politician Laurence Fox has now provided the answer in no style at all. There is nothing amiable or merely eccentric about him.

Dear Larry. Dear Dear Larry. Dear hopefully nicked Larry

The Great Man got himself into an argument with broadcaster Narinder Kaur. Sadly for Dear Dear Larry, he couldn’t just leave it at the stage of agreeing to disagree, and posted an explicit upskirt photo of her on Twitter, X, or whatever Muskrat’s calling it this week. He shouldn’t have posted it, and the platform should have taken it down sharpish. Neither event happened.

Which means that both Fox and Twitter could be in serious trouble: as Ms Kaur has now told, “Police are involved now”. Posting material like that is potentially illegal, and potentially punishable by a custodial sentence. Fox’s recent conduct makes him eminently well-qualified for being banged up for a few weeks down The Scrubs. Even the right-wing press is unimpressed.

So it was that the Mail told readersBroadcaster Narinder Kaur has thanked people for their support amid the ongoing police probe into Laurence Fox over an 'upskirt photo' he shared of her online … Former actor Laurence Fox posted the explicit image of Ms Kaur on X, formerly Twitter, without her consent on Wednesday evening amid a spat about their political views”.

What say the Rozzers? “A spokesperson for the Met Police told MailOnline: 'We have been made aware of a post on social media regarding an up-skirting offence and we are currently investigating the circumstances.’” Also, “There was outrage after Mr Fox posted the photo, which was taken and shared online without the consent of Good Morning Britain contributor Ms Kaur, to X. He has since deleted the post”. Mighty courageous of him.

And the potential offence? “The Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019 applies to anyone operating equipment or records an image under another person's clothing without reasonable belief of their consent, to view their genitals or buttocks. It is a criminal offence where the purpose is to obtain sexual gratification or to cause humiliation, distress or alarm. The maximum sentence if found guilty is two years in prison”. And there is more.

His next hotel stay?

'Revenge porn', the sharing private, sexual photos or videos of another person without their consent with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress, is a sexual offence under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015”.

Larry having to sign the Sex Offenders Register? So did those possibilities make him stop and think? Sadly, neither event occurred. Instead, Dear Dear Larry has since issued a rambling non-apologia. He’s honestly very very sorry. But he isn’t actually sorry at all. Because he’s a total shit.

Here’s his schtick. “I would like to apologise to [Narinder Kaur]. Although it’s not my fault she forgot to wear any pants with a load of paps about, I shouldn’t have sunk to her level. She doesn’t deserve mockery for being a nice woman seeking fame. And she is just that. A nice woman. Seeking fame … She gets away with it because she is a woman and she is brown. Those are the woke rules; that if you are brown or a woman, you can do no wrong”.

How very North Minehead By-Election of him: “I am not a racialist but, and this is a big but …”. On he rambled. “Her motivation seems to me to always try to say anything which will get her some attention and approval. As you may have noticed, I’m not here to seek approval or to make friends. I’m here to expose the terrible ideas and virulent hypocrisy which are wrecking the social fabric”. Disagreement is now “wrecking the social fabric”.

But enough already. At the very minimum, Fox should be given a Police Caution for what he’s done, and thereby become the owner of a criminal record. Or maybe a couple of months’ porridge. Especially as he’s signed off with the creepy suggestion that he and Ms Kaur meet for a coffee.

The time of Laurence Fox was for a time, but not for all time. Just rejoice at that news.

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