There’s been a niggling question in the background at Brighton; call it the Ben Okri question. Jeremy Corbyn quoted the novelist and poet (along with Maya Angelou) and the audience loved it; one fan told me how blissful it was to be led by someone who loved writers like that too. Then an MP told me the response in their constituency would be “who the fuck is Ben Okri?”.Continue reading...
Labour leader’s somewhat meandering address delights delegates with promise to change politics – even similarities with a blogger’s text couldn’t dampen spirits
He came to toast a remarkable victory, to celebrate an extraordinary electoral success. In his debut address, Labour’s leader referred to it often, speaking of the mandate he’d won – its sheer scale, finding new ways to count the colossal votes he’d racked up. This was a triumph to savour, one that heralded a new politics.
The election result Jeremy Corbyn had in mind was, of course, the one that had made him his party’s unexpected leader. Of an earlier ballot, the small matter of the general election that handed David Cameron his first overall majority, there was no mention. For a glorious hour, 7 May was erased from history, its place overwritten by 12 September.Continue reading...
Remind me who’s the prime minister again? To judge from the speeches and fringe talk in Brighton, you’d think David Cameron retired long ago. His name is barely mentioned. Instead Labour speaker after Labour speaker concentrates their fire on George Osborne. The chancellor is the target of every jibe, the hate figure offered up for the audience’s guaranteed disapproval.Continue reading...
I blame the Book of Mormon. Not the actual book, but the show. A couple of hours in the theatre with Elder Price, Elder Cunningham and the gang and it’s hard to take any kind of religious ritual seriously. Not after you’ve spent an evening giggling at the poor saps idiotic enough to venerate nothing more than a book.
Most believers in science took it that we would put aside such fairytales as we reached a higher stage of evolutionContinue reading...
After the national anthem debacle, the new leader must reach out to the country or his agenda will never get a hearing
Team Corbyn won’t have had a “grid” for the new leader’s first week in office. Such a thing – a media plan, deciding which messages are aired when, and by whom – would have smacked of the careerist, professional Westminster elite, the harbinger of new politics so spectacularly toppled last Saturday.
But if the Corbyn team did have a grid, chances are they wouldn’t have set aside several days for a debate over whether the leader of the Labour party should sing the national anthem, before closing out the week with a reminder that the new shadow chancellor once praised the IRA for its “bravery”.
Patriotism has always had a certain kind of leftist staring at his feet in embarrassmentContinue reading...
Lots is uncertain in British politics just now, but here's one prediction you can bet on: if Labour goes into the next general election led by Jeremy Corbyn, the party will receive the lowest Jewish vote in its history.
Part of the explanation predates the new leader. Jewish affection for Labour, high during the Blair era, nudged downward under Gordon Brown and fell more steeply under Ed Miliband. But that downward trend will accelerate under Jeremy Corbyn. The most obvious cause is his position on the Middle East. Devoted supporters of Israel will take one look at his long record of vocal opposition to the country and decide he's no friend of theirs.
Still, that won't be the whole story. As we know, it's a minority of Jews in Britain (or the US for that matter) who cast their vote on the basis of policy towards Israel. No, what will push Jewish voters away is something more nebulous. At its simplest, it's the company the new leader keeps. Perhaps British Jews could overlook that one of his closest backers is Ken Livingstone or that George Galloway has vowed to rejoin a Corbyn-led Labour party - two men about whom the mainstream Jewish community made up its collective mind long ago.
Harder to dispel will be unease that the new leader of the opposition hosted representatives of Hamas and Hizbollah and greeted both as "friends". That he wrote a letter defending the notorious Rev Stephen Sizer, disciplined by the Church for spreading "clearly antisemitic material" online, including the claim that 9/11 was a Jewish conspiracy. That the self-described Holocaust denier Paul Eisen describes Corbyn as a constant and loyal ally, one who opened his cheque-book to back Eisen's Deir Yassin Remembered group. (A quick look at Eisen's website confirms its toxicity: there are musings on the supposed physical ugliness of ultra-Orthodox Jews and on whether the key political dividing line is not between left and right but between "Jew and gentile".)
Corbyn's backers have two lines of defence. The first is to brand his accusers McCarthyites, smearing him through guilt by association: surely a busy, campaigning MP cannot be held responsible for all the people he happens to have sat next to at public events. But Corbyn didn't just end up on a platform with these characters. Often he was hosting these meetings himself, inviting the guests. The letter defending Sizer was no accident: the words were Corbyn's and carefully chosen. As for Eisen, there has been no denial that Corbyn wrote a cheque; and there are photographs to prove he kept turning up at Eisen's events.
The second defence says yes, Corbyn met all kinds of extremists but he did so only in the cause of Middle East peace - out of the sincere belief that any resolution will depend on the participation of hardliners as well as moderates. That sounds like a legitimate line of argument - and for a diplomat or peace negotiator, it is. Except that's not the business Corbyn was in. The purpose of those Westminster meetings was not conducting diplomacy, but expressing solidarity. If Corbyn were truly a peacemaker, anxious to bring all sides into the process, he'd have regularly invited the militant Jewish settlers of the West Bank to meet him in the Commons - always greeting them as "friends." Yet, funnily enough, that never seems to have happened.
No one is suggesting Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite. But his challenge now is to demonstrate that he's not alarmingly comfortable with those who are.
• To read this article in English, click here
Es gab einmal eine Zeit, noch immer lebendiger Erinnerung, in der Flüchtlinge verzweifelt versuchten, per Eisenbahn aus Deutschland zu entkommen. Heute sehnen sie sich danach, per Zug einzureisen. „Wir wollen nach Deutschland, weil wir dort unsere Rechte bekommen, dort sind wir willkommen“, sagte ein Flüchtling zu Guardian-Mitarbeiter John Domokos, der sich einer Gruppe angeschlossen hatte, die zu Fuß durch Ungarn marschierte – auf dem Weg in das Land, das die Fliehenden als ultimativen Zufluchtsort sahen: das gelobte Deutschland.
Die syrischen Flüchtlinge, die dicht gedrängt am Budapester Bahnhof warteten, riefen immer wieder das Wort „Deutschland“. Andere sprechen von der deutschen Kanzlerin als „Mama Merkel“. Eine Flüchtlingsfrau hat ihre kleine Tochter Angela Merkel Ade getauft.Continue reading...
The nation is dramatically changing its reputation, but idealistic rhetoric can also mask self-interested motives
There was a time, in living memory, when refugees clamoured to board trains to get out of Germany. Today they yearn to board trains going in. “We want to go to Germany because we will get our rights, we are welcome there,” one refugee told the Guardian’s John Domokos, as he walked alongside a group making the journey on foot through Hungary, en route to what they saw as the ultimate place of sanctuary: the promised Deutschland.
The Syrian refugees massed at Budapest station chanted the word “Germany” over and over. Others speak of the German chancellor as Mama Merkel. One refugee has named her baby Angela Merkel Ade.Continue reading...
What we learned about ourselves anew this week was something that, in truth, we knew already. We rediscovered a simple, human weakness: that we cannot conceive of an abstract problem, or even a concrete problem involving huge numbers, except through one individual. The old Stalinist maxim about a million deaths being a statistic, a single death a tragedy, was demons trated afresh.
The lesson was taught by a silent toddler washed ashore on a beach, his face down. Aylan Kurdi did not reveal a new horror. People in desperate search of European refuge have been drowning at sea for many months. The civilians of Syria, including children, have been dying in their hundreds of thousands for more than four years. So we can’t pretend we didn’t know. But somehow, it seems, we needed to see those little shoes and bare legs to absorb the knowledge, to let it penetrate our heads and hearts.
There’s always been the alibi: there’s no room, no one wants them. But if councils step forwardContinue reading...