Friday, 27 March 2020

The Sadness of a Recurring Theme

Please - if you can spare the time - gaze on the photograph of the little girl in the photograph. She looks such a sweet-natured child, the kind of youngster that any family would be proud of, any school would like as a pupil, any child would want as a friend. With this in mind, it comes as a dreadful shock to learn that this lovely little seven-year-old girl is no longer with us. The shock deepens when we learn of how she died - it brought me close to tears.
For Emily Jones, as she was known, was stabbed to death in a park in Bolton, Greater Manchester, on Sunday, 22nd March. She was murdered by an anonymous mental health patient in what has been described as a random attack. Details are sketchy about the event, but they seem to follow a familiar pattern that I have written about so many times before: savage violence, followed by incarceration of an unspecified length. The BBC says:
"A 30-year-old woman arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder has been detained at a secure facility under the Mental Health Act."
As yet, the attacker has not been named, and we await further disclosures. We do need to know who she is, for future reference. As I have said too many times already, the people who carry out these atrocities may well be incarcerated in secure facilities, but there seems to be nothing to stop them from being released, "cured", in a short time - perhaps to kill again.
However long the murderer spends locked up, the parents and family of Emily Jones face a life sentence of grief and agonising loss. Emily was their only child, and what they are going through now is unimaginable. Indeed, Emily sounds like the type of child she looked to be. Her parents called her "the light of our lives" and said: 
"Emily had such a cheeky smile and was beautiful inside and out. She had a heart as big as her smile."
Emily's murder is a terrible loss to her family, and a sad loss to the world. We needed Emily Jones and we need many more like her. We can only nod in agreement to what her parents said:
"This random act of violence means that we will never get to see our beautiful little girl grow up into the wonderful young lady she was showing such promise of becoming...It is truly heartbreaking to wake up to a world without Emily in it and we cannot comprehend why this has happened".
I would like to thank Rednev for alerting me to this tragedy and I know that I speak for all who read this blog in sending our condolences to the parents and family of Emily; I am only glad to have been able to pay tribute to such an outstanding young lady. May she rest in peace. There will be, I hope, an investigation onto this incident, and we will learn just how and why such a dangerous individual was allowed to be walking freely in a park, armed with a knife, with children around.
I would like to conclude with a note of explanation. Most people, I hope, will understand already why I post so regularly on this subject. Unfortunately, some commentators think I am obsessed; others have accused me of "laying down the law" - whatever that means. 
I write about the danger posed by murderous mental health patients for the very simple reason that anyone could become their victim. Emily, along with all other victims I have written about, was killed in a random attack. Any one of us, and our loved ones, could fall victim to these people. I keep writing about such attacks, because I hope that by alerting people, someone will pressurise the apropriate authorities to bring these atrocities to an end. Hope springs eternal...
There is of course, another reason. Every victim of these crazed individuals had a name, had hopes, dreams and families who loved them. I like to think that by writing of their tragic fates, I can help, somehow, to keep their memory alive. Anyone who doesn't understand that, well, I'm sorry for you.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Nigel Farage and his Racist Followers - a National Disgrace

Mistakenly, I thought I wouldn't be blogging about the Coronavirus crisis. After all, I thought, so much is said on a daily basis that comment from this blog would be superfluous. Well, I got that wrong. Looking on Facebook today, I read of an article in the Nursing Times which can be read in full HERE. The headline: 
"Nurses on coronavirus frontline facing ‘abhorrent’ abuse from public"
shocked me deeply, arousing feelings of anger, shame and outright despair. Ruth May, the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO), said on TV:
“I’ve seen all over Twitter some of our nurses and midwives and care staff being spat at and being abused by members of the public."
Predictably, there is a nasty racist component to all this abuse. A Filipina nurse, Reizel Quiachon, told of how she had been assaulted and racially abused.
“A man elbowed my rib, intentionally pushing me to the side, the female partner then shouted racial abuse. Doctors, nurses and healthcare workers are literally risking their lives on the frontline with limited resources and yet some people feel the need to impose more hatred and fear."
This disgusting attack, which shames us all, points out yet again that we have an unreconstructed racist element in our society that manifested itself as part of the Leave campaign during and after the EU referendum. I have talked of this before, but the beast is roaring again. The people who carry out this abuse and violence are taking their lead from their hero, Nigel Farage, who in turn has taken the lead from his idol, Donald Trump. Farage said, on Twitter:
"It really is about time we all said it. China caused this nightmare. Period."
There is a direct link from this outburst by Farage to the abuse of Reizel Quiachon. The morons who abused Reizel would be unable to distinguish between a Filipina and a Chinese girl - although that would not make their actions any less despicable. This incident is only one of a number of racist incidents against people from the Far East living in the UK. Channel 4 has reported this, and there is a rise in such attacks in the USA.
As for our old pal, Nigel, he has been described as a "hateful, repulsive racist". He will undoubtedly deny it, but will do sweet nothing to condemn or oppose the rise in hate crime. Of course not. Mr Farage knows that would alienate his racist admirers.

As for the abuse of nursing staff and doctors, words fail me. These selfless men and women are working long and hard to combat this 2!st century plague, and deserve our thanks, our praise and support. Mr Farage and his racist followers - an important section of the Leave campaign - make me feel deeply ashamed to be British. Compare the way nurses are being treated here to the way they are being praised and honoured in Europe. In Spain, Italy, Switzerland and even Turkey, they are applauded from balconies.
Well, it's up to the rest of us to condemn these vile attacks upon the brave men and women who have come to this country to care for us when we are sick. They deserve the highest praise that we can give them - and that applies to all NHS staff, wherever they come from. I hope this final image speaks for all of us who contribute to, or read, Rhymes and Routes.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Holocaust Deniers: a Cult Mentality

About four or five days ago, I re-posted an article on Facebook about the lady seen in the photo above: Dita Kraus. She has recently published a book titled "A Delayed Life", about her experiences as a Jewish girl in the Nazi concentration camp system. During the article in "The Journal", she comments poignantly about Holocaust denial: 
" I have still a number on my arm from Auschwitz – and people say it never happened? I just don’t know what to do because it is more than one can believe. I am lost when I am confronted with somebody’s denial of the Holocaust.”
My reposting drew two highly pertinent comments from Ian Hill and Neville Grundy (Rednev) that are well worth repeating here. Ian Hill told of his wife's stepfather who entered a concentration camp in WW2:
"...he was in the Signals Corp and he was one of the first people to enter Belsen having been sent in to restore electricity and sanitation. He and his colleagues were horrified by the state of the people who had been held there and did everything they could to help them."
Neville makes the irrefutably valid point that it would have been impossible to fake the concentration camp photos taken in 1945:
" If you look at science fiction films up until the 1960s, and TV science fiction even later, you'll realise how primitive special effects would have been in the 1940s: there is no way the convincing-looking footage that we have seen could have been produced, especially in a war zone".
Well said, all three! I thank Ian and Neville for giving me permission to quote their comments, as they provide us with three key elements to employ against holocaust deniers: victim testimony, witness testimony and logical refutation. Now, all these elements exist in abundance, and have been employed against David Irving, Dermot Mulqueen, Richard Verrall and their dreary tribe for decades. And yet, despite victim and witness testimony and convincing refutation in print and in court, the holocaust deniers continue to maintain their drivel, mostly online and, all too often, unchallenged.
So why do they do it, and what drives them? Neville Grundy points to a possible answer:
"Holocaust deniers either have a nasty political agenda or are stupid - there are no other possibilities".
Well, I agree about the political agenda. As said previously, only the neo-Nazis stand to gain politically from holocaust denial, which is why their reading lists are filled with titles by David Irving and others. How far each neo-Nazi believes in holocaust denial is difficult to assess - I am sure that some know it to be false, but find it a useful tool to mobilise less intelligent fascists. There might be people who believe the Holocaust never happened, but deny being Nazis (really?). What is of interest here is the obvious fact that, despite an abundance of proof that holocaust denial is rubbish, these people carry on believing in it anyway. (6% of British people are said to believe in holocaust denial). Stupidity, mental illness, might be factors, but there might be something else in play here.
In 1981, the late Professor Paul Wilkinson wrote "The New Fascists", in which he cast a baleful and perceptive eye over the new fascist groups emerging post-WW2 (some are still with us). I gave my copy to charity years ago, regrettably, but remember the valid point he made about these far right groups. Instead of regarding them as rational means-to-an-end  political organisations, we should think of them as  politico-religious cults. Instead of having achievable objectives, their "programmes", such as they are, are actually statements of faith, rather than fact. Apply this to holocaust deniers, and this fits like a glove. Of course they cannot admit that their beliefs are irrational - those beliefs are somehow sacrosanct to them -  anything else would be a denial of their faith.
This can be borne out by a comparison with other cults, one example of which can be found in the failed prophecies of the Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs). I am not implying that the JWs have anything doctrinally in common with the neo-Nazis; the JWs suffered terribly in Germany under the Nazis. However, when you read the list of prophecies made, and unfulfilled, you can only attribute the fact that the JWs continue to flourish and recruit, to unquestioning, unreasoning, faith. Holocaust deniers are much the same, holding fast to their irrational beliefs in the face of overwhelmingly contrary evidence.
Were all cults as peaceful and quiescent as the JWs, we would have nothing to be overly concerned about. Unfortunately, many such cults are capable of terrible violence. If we regard the Nazis as a cult, this is undeniable, but not exclusive to them. There was, for instance, the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult which carried out the horrific sarin gas attack on the Tokyo underground railway system in 1995. which killed 13 people and injured many more. According to the BBC, the cult leader, Shoko Asahara, said the attack was:
 "a holy attempt to elevate the doomed souls of this world to a higher spiritual stage".
Fascist justifications for violence sound much like this, and are about as rational.
All other assessments of holocaust denial are admirable, and I have no criticism of them, but, if we include the fanaticism of cultish belief, I think we can develop a more comprehensive strategy for dealing with this contemptible rubbish that exists only to advance the cause of neo-Nazism and incite anti-Semitism. The better we know our enemy, the better our chance of defeating him.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Universal Credit = social control

I joined the DHSS in July 1980, just over a year after Thatcher had won her first general election. Her onslaught upon the welfare state and her tearing up of the post-war consensus had yet to begin, so the benefits system I initially worked within was the one developed over the 1960s and 1970s.

I was assigned to work on Supplementary Benefit, a means-tested benefit that to some extent could be tailored to suit a claimant's individual circumstances. One feature was that Supp Ben, as we called it, was paid in advance. For example, if you were finished from work with, say, two weeks pay, you would receive your first payment on the 15th day. If there was no final income whatsoever that needed to be taken into account, the first payment was due on the actual day the claim was made without any waiting period at all. Approximately 90% of new and repeat claims were assessed on the day they were received in our office and appropriate payments authorised.

This was the system in operation at the time of the TV series 'Boys From The Blackstuff', not noted for depicting the DHSS in a positive light, and subsequently during the 1980s the benefit system was increasingly characterised as a heartless and bureaucratic branch of an oppressive welfare state to the extent that some staff were reluctant to tell outsiders where they worked. The irony is that the benefit system of that time seems almost benevolent when compared to the current one.

Things became worse when the Thatcher regime turned its 'reforming' zeal towards benefits, replacing Supp Ben by Income Support which did not include any of the old special additions, and which was paid in arrears. Grants for essential household equipment were replaced by budgeting loans, and if there was a gap between your final income and your first benefit payment, and there usually was, you could claim a crisis loan. All such loans were subsequently deducted in instalments from your benefit.

That system, introduced by a Tory government, is the one now being dismantled by another Tory government with the introduction of Universal Credit. One feature of UC is that you can claim it whether you are in or out of work with your benefit progressively reducing the more hours you work and money you earn - for every extra £1 you earn after tax, you will lose 63p in benefits. In theory this is an improvement on previous rigid earnings rules that had meant that your means-tested benefits would be stopped completely if you worked for 16 hours or more.

However cuts to UC have made it significantly less generous. To give one example: the work allowance has been cut so your benefit begins to reduce after you have earned a smaller amount of money. Another feature is that UC is paid in arrears and you have wait five weeks before you receive your first payment. The official excuse for this is that the world of benefits should as far as possible mirror the world of employment. You can claim an advance to cover those five weeks but it is then deducted from your money over the following year, thus leaving you with even less to live on.

Switching from the old benefits to UC has both winners and losers, with those on the lowest incomes standing to lose the most. Transitional arrangements were put in place to ensure no one lost out during the switchover, but this protection doesn't cover either new claimants or people who come off UC and then reapply.

There are also various tripwires that make it incredibly easy to be sanctioned, thus causing UC to be stopped, for failing to comply with the stringent conditions. Appeals against decisions can take months – one example I heard of was 50 weeks – during which you have no money. People can end up with huge debts, and the number of evictions of people on UC is significantly higher than for those on the old benefits. Food bank usage also escalates in areas when UC is rolled out.

UC is a benefit that has changed the purpose of the benefits system from providing support to coercing people into minimum wage, or even zero hours, employment. It is easy to see how a system that produces large numbers of demoralised workers who are obliged to accept poorly-paid, often unsuitable, jobs would appeal to a government consisting of extremely wealthy business people.

Nothing I have written here should be interpreted as an attack on the hard-pressed staff who have to deliver the system as instructed. Calls for staff to be more flexible miss the point that in the civil service you have to do the job as you are told, or you will be in trouble.

I can give an example of this from my own time. One DSS job I had for a while was on the now-scrapped system of crisis loans. I was explaining how they worked to a social worker friend, who simply stated, “Well, I'd pay them all”. I told her that she wouldn't because the monthly budget was strictly limited and if it was all spent too soon, everyone would have to be refused for the rest of the month, irrespective of circumstances. If you persistently blew the budget, you'd be done for inefficiency and in the long run could be dismissed. I expect that UC staff today are under even more stringent restrictions; there is virtually no room in the system for them to manoeuvre.

Indeed, anyone who has watched the recent BBC programmes, 'Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State' (currently available on iPlayer) will have heard a DWP staff member point out that some of her colleagues are on UC. Such staff will have been subjected to precisely the same UC regime as the claimants that they deal with in the course of their duties. This refutes the perception that I sometimes used to come across that DWP staff are well-paid and consequently cannot empathise with their public; to put it bluntly, they are not paid to empathise, but to administer the system according to instructions that are based in law, often with inadequate staffing levels and sometimes on low pay themselves.

My opinion is that UC has been designed by very wealthy politicians who are utterly incapable of comprehending that some people can be in situations in which they have absolutely no money or resources to fall back on and nowhere to turn to for help. This complete failure of empathy by ministers for the financially more vulnerable members of our society provides a revealing view of the dysfunctional mindset of many of those at the highest levels of government.

But what else could we expect from a government that deliberately developed a hostile environment for migrants and who treated the Windrush generation with such uncaring contempt? I'm just glad I got out of the DWP before the UC rollout had begun.

Supporting David Baddiel: Holocaust Denial and Other Myths

Last night's documentary by David Baddiel - "Confronting Holocaust Denial" - divided opinion before and after its screening. Given the fact that any sane person knows that Holocaust Denial is ridiculous, it might be thought such a confrontation superfluous. Certainly, many influential voices questioned the purpose of it. As The Guardian says:
 " Anthony Julius, who successfully defended the American historian Deborah Lipstadt in a libel suit brought by the Holocaust denier David Irving, told Baddiel: “You don’t need to give these people airtime – so don’t.”
Baddiel correctly pointed out that the situation has changed since the David Irving libel trial in 1996. Since then, social media has become a platform for the extreme right and Holocaust Deniers, giving them the airtime they craved back in the 80s and 90s.. Baddiel commented after the programme:
“Our culture is being shaped by trolls and the Holocaust deniers are a very extreme example of the trolls. Ignoring them has not worked. It doesn’t mean that confronting them will work completely but I think it’s a debate we have to have."
The only direct confrontation Baddiel had was with the Irish Holocaust denier seen above: Dermot Mulqueen. Mulqueen would once have been dismissed as a harmless nutcase and his statements in his "discussion" with Baddiel are proof of some mental derangement. According to Mulqueen, the fact that Jews buy German cars proves that the Holocaust didn't happen (!!!). He also sang a bizarre song in which he rhymed "Mercs" with Auschwitz perks - it should be seen to be believed.
Rupert Hawksley, in The Independent, commented:
"The pair had an unproductive, ill-tempered discussion. And it’s that word, “discussion”, which is so problematic. It indicates legitimacy on both sides, something which Holocaust deniers do not deserve. By arguing with Mulqueen, Baddiel unwittingly acknowledged that there was an argument to be had – when there isn’t."
Maybe, maybe not. After years of keeping a weather eye on the far Right, my only criticism is that Baddiel, who lost many relatives in the Holocaust, tried to engage meaningfully with an obvious idiot. The more intelligent - and thus more sinister - Holocaust deniers, such as David Irving and Richard Verrall, would have been better opponents to challenge, as they have a veneer of intellectual credibility. Defeating them in a debate would have achieved something positive, as was proven when David Irving failed in his 1996 libel action against Deborah Lipstadt. The film "Denial" recreates this event, and is of itself a convincing refutation of Holocaust denial.
Baddiel might have had some fun in confronting the Holocaust denier above - Richard Verrall, who wrote a notorious pamphlet published in the 1970s: "Did Six Million Really Die?". Verrall wrote this poisonous tract under the pseudonym "Richard E. Harwood". At the time, he was a senior member of the National Front, and the NF for years denied that the true author was Verrall. In 1983, the Canadian Criminal Court prosecuted the book's publisher, Ernst Zundel (another Holocaust denier), saying:
"The pamphlet Did Six Million Really Die? does not fit with received views of reality because it is not part of reality".
Indeed not, and Baddiel acknowledged that there have been successful legal actions against Holocaust deniers, but, as he explained to Anthony Julius and Deborah Lipstadt in the programme, since those two main court cases, the Holocaust deniers have gained a wider audience on social media. David Irving, in particular, boasts of his following on YouTube. I believe Baddiel to have been right in his attempt to expose the disturbing amount of online neo-Nazi propaganda, most of which is unutterably vile, and he had an interesting exchange on this issue with Richard Allan, Facebook's director of policy in Europe. From The Guardian again:
"Allan told Baddiel: “We have a policy on hate speech so direct attacks on Jewish people will come off the platform. But to make the wrong statement about the facts of the Holocaust – ‘I do not think the Holocaust happened’, or ‘I think the Holocaust happened with this number of people dead or that number of people dead’ – may be permitted on the platform.”In response, Baddiel said Holocaust denial was “a direct way of saying Jews are liars, Jews have tricked the world for their own gain, Jews are the most evil, pernicious race that exist. It is hate speech. There’s no other conclusion.”
Baddiel examined a league table for Holocaust denial which showed that while 6% of Britons think the Holocaust never happened, the figure rises to 82% in the Palestinian territories that border Israel. A London-based academic attributed this to a reaction to repression of the Palestinians by Israel. I demurred at this, as, while acknowledging that the Palestinians have a case, a lie is a lie, and Holocaust denial is just that.
The most affecting ( and effective) moment in the programme was Baddiel's meeting with a Holocaust survivor, Rachel Levy. This dignified lady, well into her 80s, spoke movingly about how she was separated from her mother and her siblings upon arrival at Auschwitz; she never saw them again. Transferred to Belsen, a girl of 14, she saw her last remaining relative die and survived herself only by a miracle. The stories of actual survivors, such as this, have a greater impact rather than attempts at dialogue with warped individuals like Mulqueen. People such as Mulqueen, Verrall, etc, are not rational people, and even when their silly beliefs are refuted, they carry on believing them anyway.
This is not to say that I think Baddiel to have been wrong in what he set out to do; I just think that he should have kept his temper when talking with Mulqueen (to be fair, he acknowledged this). Quoted in the Daily Mail, Baddiel says:
." I think it's important to understand however mad Dermot seems, we're not shooting fish in a barrel here, people believe this s***." 
There, I think, we can discern a more effective way that Mulqueen could have been tackled. Baddiel, understandably enough, given his feelings,  did not employ the most potent weapon in his rhetorical armoury: his gift for satire and comedy. Instead of trying to engage this lunatic in rational discussion, he could have held him up to ridicule, exposing Mulqueen as the contemptible buffoon that he is. 
To conclude, I refer you to the title of this post. The "other myths" referred to are the ones I wrote about on January 30th: the "Bible Burning myth" and the "We Knew Nothing myth". In our final assessment of these two delusions, and Holocaust denial, we should ask: who benefits from the myths? And the answers, I believe, are easy to locate. Briefly, the Bible Burning myth implied that the Nazis were anti-Christian and were opposed by the organised German Christian faith groups. Nothing could be further from the truth, but this is not the place to discuss it. "We Knew Nothing" lets all the WW2 German population off the hook for Nazi war crimes. Again, this is nonsense: the Nazis had widespread popular support - not total support but a majority large enough to intimidate the active German opponents of Hitler and drive them underground.
Lastly, who benefits from Holocaust denial? Who profits from the activities of Dermot Mulqueen, David Irving, Richard Verrall, Ernst Zundel and all the other self-styled "revisionist" lying deniers of the Holocaust? We could say anti-Semites, but they are like that anyway. We could point the finger at the Palestinians, but, I believe a fair and just settlement of their grievances would see a drop in their Holocaust denying. No, the only beneficiaries of Holocaust denial are the neo-Nazis, who are rising from the deep all over Europe - even in countries such as Poland, which suffered so much from Nazi occupation in WW2. We must not take our eye off the ball here. Baddiel made mistakes in his programme, but it was still an important documentary that we should all watch. Holocaust deniers are propagandists for the Nazi revival. We must recognise this, and be vigilant. "First they came for the Jews…" 

Friday, 7 February 2020

Jonty Bravery and a Recurring Theme

Readers of this blog, occasional or regular, will look at the title of this item and say:
 "Oh, no, he's at it again - banging on about violent mental health patients!". 
Indeed I am, and make no apology for doing so. The need to comment on this issue remains as strong as ever, even though I have made an effort over the last year or so to avoid the subject. The man in the picture above - Jonty Bravery - has brought home once again the need to return to the problem of violent psychiatric patients. Whatever his mental health problems may be, I shall stop naming him by his full name; there was no bravery in this youth's vile crime, so I shall refer to him as "JB".
As we know only too well, JB committed the heinous crime of tearing a six-year old French boy from his mother's arms and throwing him from the 10th floor of the Tate Modern on the 4th of August last year. After his arrest, said the BBC in December, he told the police: 
"I wanted to be on the news, who I am and why I did it, so when it is official no-one can say anything else."
It is nothing short of a miracle that JB's victim survived, albeit with life-changing injuries. He is still unable to stand, says the BBC now, but can open his left hand, and is saying his words one syllable at a time. We can only hope that he makes the best recovery possible. There is a Go Fund Me page to raise money for his family, found at:

When I have written about this issue previously, the cases examined have followed a similar pattern: a mental health patient has been released into the community to kill for the first, or even the second time. The mental health mandarins have expressed perfunctory condolences, "lessons have been learned" (we are told) and the victim's families are left to mourn the deaths of their loved ones. Then it happens again, somewhere else. This case has been different in that, thankfully, the victim has survived and that media scrutiny has been intense upon the care system that was supposedly looking after JB.
 We have seen, for the first time since I became interested in this matter, a whistleblower come forward to expose alleged deficiencies in the system that cares for these dangerous individuals.
For, if the whistleblowers are correct, JB was a very dangerous individual indeed. Incredibly, he lived in a flat in Northolt with a team of six carers, who were with him, in paired rotation, round the clock. His whistleblower carers have told the press that he was manipulative and violent; they were instructed not to say no to him in case he became aggressive. It is reported that his carers were unable to stop him from shoplifting when out on accompanied visits, and that he was already on bail for two previous assaults. It beggars belief that he was still being allowed out on unaccompanied trips.
I actually feel some sympathy for the carers, who were faced with the daily risk of assault from this unpredictable individual. I am amazed that JB was not confined to somewhere like Broadmoor anyway, as he was clearly capable of serious violence. And was it right that so many staff were tied up to cater for one patient? Had he been incarcerated, they could have been better deployed elsewhere.
Most concerning of all, as we know, is the fact that JB had spoken a year before about his plan to push someone - even a friend, if possible - from a high building. The whistleblower, "Ollie", as reported, made a tape of JB's plan. It is a chilling experience to listen to this tape; even more chilling to think that "Ollie" claims to have informed his supervisors of JB's plan, but that his employers, Spencer and Arlington, now claim to have no knowledge of any such report. 
Something went wrong somewhere, and, as Alison Holt says:
"A terrible sign of a broken system is how some experts will see the claims that Jonty Bravery's warning that he wanted to kill, went unheeded... His is a rare case, but some point to the wider pressures on the system that supports people with mental health issues, autism and learning disabilities in the community. "
Quite right - but we are left wondering: how many other JBs are there out there? Again, I have written about such people before, and I never cease to be amazed at how often they are not detected or worse before they kill or attack innocent members of the public.
"Worse", in this context, means that sometimes these murderous mental health patients are released into the community and kill again. Nicola Edgington is the prime example. If JB is so "difficult" and manipulative, he may well be pronounced "cured" one day and set free - perhaps to attack again.
For me, this case will resonate for a long time. The Tate Modern is one of my favourite places to visit in London, but, from now on, I will never be able to visit without thinking of one deranged individual, a falling child and a mother's primal scream.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Remaining Thoughts of a Remainer

Back in the 60s, Roger McGough wrote a poem titled "Why Patriots are a Bit Nuts in the Head". It begins with these lines:

"Patriots are a bit nuts in the head
because they wear
red white and blue tinted spectacles
(red for blood,
white for glory
and blue ... for a boy)"

The scenes of nationalistic celebration seen as the clocks chimed at 11 o' clock last night to mark our exodus from the EU reminded me of this poem and caused me to endorse its sentiment. I didn't stay up to watch the gloatfest of Farage and his acolytes in Parliament Square. I went to bed feeling sad, and woke to more of the same. Not for the first time, I have found myself wondering: "How did we get into this mess?". Not for the first time, I thought about David Cameron's fateful decision to hold that stupid referendum in 2016. It brought him personal disaster, losing his post as PM after the referendum and earning opprobrium from most Remainers - best expressed most famously by Danny Dyer. My only observation is that Cameron did not have to call the referendum, and I often wonder what life would be like for us now, had it not taken place.
Nigel Farage and other Brexiteer pundits delight in ridiculing what they describe as "Project Fear" - i.e. the warnings of the dire consequences of Brexit. That paragon of compassion, Ian Duncan Smith, is one example. In The Telegraph in 2018, he thundered:
" Hardly a day goes by without another scare story about the UK failing to get medical isotopes, facing a shortage of medicines, or British aircraft not being allowed to land in the EU"
IDS didn't mention that the Leave campaign had its own "Project Fear" - mostly about EU migrants. The rise in hate crime after the Referendum was not a scare story - it happened (and is growing). It's not a scare story that many EU nationals in the UK are worried about their status - they are.The two violent deaths that happened after the referendum campaign began - Jo Cox, M.P, and Duncan Keating - were not a scare story - they happened. The deep divisions in UK society, between families and friends, within workplaces and political parties, were not part of a scare story either - they happened. The Independent commented on this issue:
"More than one in 20 Britons (6 per cent) say they have fallen out with or stopped speaking to a family member and almost one in 12 (8 per cent) with a friend because of rows over Brexit, according to a new survey".
To me, the consequences of the Brexit fiasco are already disastrous, and I see no reason not to expect things to get worse. I can only shake my head in bewilderment at the way IDS, Farage, Johnson, et al, ignore these factors - perhaps they just regard hate, death and division as collateral damage.
One Brexiteer who I find especially irritating is the oleaginous Mark Francois, M.P. seen above. He is the darling of the Daily Express and delights in rubbing into Remainers that we have lost. I watched as much as I could endure of his performance on Channel Five's Jeremy Vine Show yesterday. In a heated exchange with Remainer Femi Oluwole, he said:
"They (the public) told us to leave and that's what we're going to do. It's called democracy"
Showing my age here, I can attest that when a politician like Mr Francois talks about democracy, the will of the people, etc, he means when the result of a vote is acceptable to him. We can only wonder what Mr Francois, IDS and Nigel Farage, etc, would have been up to now, had the referendum vote gone against them. What they really mean by quoting the results of the referendum and the election is this: "You lost, we won - now shut up!". We Remainers owe it to ourselves not to shut up, but to continue scrutinising the consequences of Brexit. 
For the results of the Referendum and election are not a victory for democracy - they are a victory for the populist Right. The extreme right are already growing in confidence, and we can expect increased activity of all kinds from them, now we have left the EU.
Other particularly nauseating items that Brexiteers constantly call for are "unity ", "healing wounds" and "stretching out their arms" to people who disagree with them - such as myself and all Remainers. Speaking for myself, I shall rebuff all such approaches. The thought of being in a hug with Farage, Francois, IDS or Anne Widdecombe is sickening to me - but that's just my opinion. No, the Brexit divisions have gone too deep to be healed, and will continue in one form or another. The majority of younger voters voted Remain and, perhaps at some time in the future, will reopen the debate about EU membership.
As for fellow Remainers, I can understand why you may be downcast at the present time, but I see a light shining towards us, and it comes all the way from Switzerland. 
I actually opposed (no-one noticed) the EU Referendum because referendums are not always progressive or beneficial to humanity. The prime example of this is shown in Switzerland, where they have a number of referendums every year. Until 1971, all-male referendum voters denied women the vote. Then:
"On 7 February 1971, 65.7% of male voters across the nation agreed women should be allowed to vote in federal elections, 78 years after New Zealand (the 1st), 53 years after Germany, 27 years after France and 26 after Italy. That same day, the four cantons of Aargau, Fribourg, Schaffhausen and Zug fell into line, giving women there the vote at a cantonal level." (Swissfact)
This vote had gone against the women of Switzerland numerous times before. I have no doubt that an unctuous Swiss equivalent of Mark Francois, after each defeat, taunted them by saying:
"Calm down, dears! That's democracy.  The (male) people have spoken, you lost, get over it!".
To their immense credit, Swiss women did not give up, but kept on fighting. Some of these redoubtable ladies, now grannies, can be seen in the picture below. I find them inspirational, and don't intend to give up criticising Brexit, Farage, and the far right. As Ziglar said: "If you learn from defeat, you haven't really lost".
Some inspirational ladies of Switzerland, who campaigned for the right to vote.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

The Holocaust, Germany and a Cosy Myth

Now Holocaust Day is over, it's worth looking at how much British people actually know of this horrible event that we must never forget. It comes as a shock to learn that one in twenty people interviewed for a poll organised by the Holocaust Memorial Trust do not believe the Holocaust happened at all; 8% believe the scale of the slaughter was exaggerated. The Guardian comments:
"Almost half of those questioned said they did not know how many Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, and one in five grossly underestimated the number, saying that fewer than two million were killed".
This is understandably blamed upon lack of education about WW2, but I know personally that such ignorance occurred among older generations.
In the 60s, I remember a talk given at a church youth club given by a man who'd served in the Army during WW2. He introduced his talk by telling us that when the Nazi Party (he pronounced it "Nazzy") came to power in Germany, Nazi stormtroopers collected Bibles from local churches and publicly burned them, as seen in the picture above. He was not alone in this; I knew other people of his generation who believed the same.
Only one problem: this is simply not true. The truth, which can be found in any textbook, documentary or reputable internet source that covers the period, is that the SA, (Sturmabteilung) following the Nazi takeover, burned books taken from university and public libraries written by left-wing, liberal and Jewish authors. Disgustingly, these book burnings happened with the active support of the vast majority of German students and academics. The wife of the British Ambassador, who witnessed the burnings, asked why, if the Nazis were burning Jewish books, were they not burning Bibles? The Bible-burning myth seems to have persisted among the WW2 generation, despite an abundance of contrary evidence.
Another myth about Germany and the Nazis was expressed to me repeatedly by a friend who died recently. He asserted:
"I don't believe the German people knew about the Holocaust".
He never offered any evidence for this belief; he simply repeated his unsubstantiated opinion. Like many people of this type, he expressed this opinion so often, it seemed to become an established fact for him. To be fair, a lot of German people who lived through the war said this too - "Davon haben wir nicht gewusst!"  (We didn't know anything about it). Germany, in the immediate post-war years, resembled post-Apartheid South Africa (SA) now. As you can't find anyone in SA now who supported Apartheid, you couldn't find anyone in Germany, barring war criminals, who'd supported the Nazi regime or endorsed their policies. Either they had "been misled" or (hello!) "only obeying orders". I regard this as a "cosy myth" (my invented term), which I will discuss below.
Now, it's very difficult, after many intervening decades, to establish what 78 million people - the population of Germany in WW2 - knew or didn't know. And I am well aware that supporters of this view will simply respond to their lack of evidence for letting the German population off the hook by asking: what evidence is there to show that they did know?
Well, there might be no absolute proof that Germans knew in detail of the Holocaust, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest they had at least some knowledge. First - what did they know already? 
They knew the Nazis were anti-Semitic from the founding of the Nazi Party in 1920, with an openly anti-Jewish element to the party's programme.
Adolf Hitler made clear his views of, and intentions towards, Jews in his book "Mein Kampf" (1925).
They knew of anti-Semitic legislation passed against Jews, culminating in the Nuremburg Laws of 1935. 
In 1933, following the Nazi takeover, they saw how Jewish professionals ( judges, teachers, lawyers and army officers) were forced out of their jobs. That same year, they saw the boycott of Jewish businesses, orchestrated by the S.A.
The Nazi-controlled press waged a vicious anti-Semitic campaign from 1933-45.
German children in school were indoctrinated with anti-Semitic educational material throughout their school career.
Germans in rural areas knew that their Jewish neighbours were forced out by Nazi activity.
All Germans undeniably knew of Kristallnacht, and the accompanying outrages against the German Jewish community, in 1938.
We are sometimes told that the crimes of the Third Reich were "all the fault of the Nazis" and the mass of ordinary Germans were not involved. This cosy myth is exploded by the fact the Nazi Party had 8 500 000 members by 1945. Two million of these were members of the SA, and millions of Germans (33% of the electorate) voted for Hitler in 1933. Jon Greenberg comments, in a parting shot for the myth:
" ignores the Nazis’ electoral domination in 1932 and the popularity that came after the first military victories in 1939. The vote results and the assessment of the experts we reached point to a much larger figure (i.e. of Nazis, including non-party members - Blogmeister) in the range of 35 percent."
Since most anti-Nazi Germans (Socialists, Communists and others) were either murdered, intimidated, exlied or incarcerated, and in the absence of mass popular opposition to the Nazis, all this calls into question the idea that the German supposed lack of knowledge of the Holocaust is even relevant. If the Germans could not prevent what happened before 1939 (assuming they wanted to), what could they have achieved during the war years?
As for knowledge of the Holocaust in operation, it is undeniable that the regime made strenuous efforts to conceal their mass murders. This is an area worthy of study in itself. As for "ordinary" Germans, Nazis or not, they were, for the most part, secretly listening to Allied radio broadcasts during the war which detailed the atrocities. Besides this, the perpetrators of the Holocaust were writing home describing the mass murders they had seen, even enclosing photographs. One such is the famous image seen below:
Again, during the mass shootings carried out by the Einsatzgruppen behind the German lines in Russia, many "ordinary" Wehrmacht soldiers turned out to watch the spectacle, until forbidden by superior officers. The perpetrators also talked of the killings when they went home on leave; Otto Frank, father of Ann, took his family into hiding after being told of the atrocities against Jews in the Baltic States by a Dutch SS man home from the Russian Front. As for concentration camps of all types, there were hundreds on German soil - according to Goldhagen, 606 in the state of Hessen alone. If ordinary Germans knew nothing of such places, then why did they fear being sent there? The extermination camps ("Vernichtungslager"), including Auschwitz, were situated in other countries where the local population knew of what was occurring behind the barbed wire fences. It seems strange that Polish partisan groups knew of what was happening in Auschwitz, and yet "ordinary" German soldiers said they knew nothing. Another disturbing detail that destroys this myth is the fact that escapees from the Berlin-Auschwitz transports recall that "ordinary" German railway workers taunted them about their eventual fate in the Auschwitz gas chambers. So much for the cosy myth.
It might be thought that I am taking the Patrick Moore view of the German people, past and present: "The only good Kraut is a dead Kraut". Or that I am simply endorsing the view expounded by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen in "Hitler's Willing Executioners". This was a book which raised some interesting questions, as Wikipedia says:
"The book challenges several common ideas about the Holocaust that Goldhagen believes to be myths. These "myths" include the idea that most Germans did not know about the Holocaust; that only the SS, and not average members of the Wehrmacht, participated in murdering Jews; and that genocidal antisemitism was a uniquely Nazi ideology without historical antecedents".
In that, Goldhagen does truth a service, but if everyone is guilty, then no-one is guilty. My own view is, hopefully, less simplistic than either the "We didn't know" or the Moore/Goldhagen view.
My view is this: Firstly, as has been said, the first victims of Nazism were Germans, the first to fight against Nazism were Germans and the longest-serving resistance fighters against Nazism were Germans. Again, as has been said, there was another Germany. BUT - and I can't stress this enough - while there were millions of anti-Nazi Germans, there were still many more millions of Germans who supported Hitler, and endorsed violence against Jews (and many others). No totalitarian regime can survive by terror alone, without widespread popular support.To assert otherwise is an exercise in absurdity. Between these two poles of opinion - total innocence or guilt - there would have been many shades of willingness and opposition (if at all). Complex historical events cannot be reduced to simple-minded, dismissive, pseudo-explanations.
To conclude: I believe the "did they know?" controversy to be founded on a false premise - that had the German people known what was happening, they could, or would, have stopped the Holocaust. This "view" ignores the fact that the Third Reich was a highly efficient repressive state, which would have clamped down severely on any such dissent (and did). The "active arm" of the anti-Nazi opposition - socialists, communists and a few others - was crushed after Hitler's election triumph in 1933. After that, terror reigned. To use a more up-to-date example, if you know that your neighbour is a drug dealer, but, at the same time, you know that reporting him to the police will bring retaliation against you and/or your family, you have a powerful incentive to say nothing. And, as I hope I have shown, many Germans knew, and either approved or condoned the Holocaust anyway.
Cosy Myth: Some people in German uniform who didn't know what they were doing and were only obeying orders pointing guns at some people who we don't know.
Fact: Einsatzgruppe members, fanatical anti-Semites to a man, about to murder a few of many such innocent Eastern European Jews.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Harry, Meghan and the Racist Mindset

Well, they're going their own way, and who can blame them? The incorporation of Meghan Markle into our royals was never given much of a chance after their fairy tale wedding. From the outset, she was the target of a hostile tabloid press. Foremost among the hostile critics was our old pal, Nigel Farage, who, in Melbourne last August, lamented the fact that Harry was once:
"... a brave British officer who did his bit in Afghanistan... the most popular royal of a younger generation... then he met Meghan Markle, and it's fallen off a cliff."
It seemed as if Meghan could do nothing right, if our tabloids were to be believed. As Amna Saleem said in yesterday's Guardian: 
"She couldn’t even enjoy avocados without being framed as a drought- and murder-fuelling traitor, set on bringing down the monarchy. Harry, to his credit, has been by her side every step of the way, challenging traditions by demanding an end to the tabloids’ abuse of her, which sadly had little impact."    
Sad indeed, as we are set to lose our most progressive pair of royals since er...when? I didn't listen to Nigel Farage on LBC this morning - never do - but I bet he's smirking like a well-fed mongoose.
What has not been mentioned so far is the fact that Harry and Meghan's wedding came after the EU Referendum when hate crime against religious and ethnic minorities was increasing. This xenophobic tide, which Farage and others ride so skilfully, clearly influenced the tabloid press and made hostility to Meghan far worse than it would have been, say, ten years ago.
I don't believe that racism was the sole cause of the hostility. As said before, old fashioned upper-crust snobbery against a divorced, mixed race, American commoner would have played its part. Resurgent racism, though, was undeniably a major factor, and I think it needs looking at more closely.
So - what makes a racist, or, which is perhaps a better question, what is the racist mindset? It is difficult to answer this, as racism is an irrational attitude, best examined by social psychologists. However, I think that by providing insights from my own experience (and thus admittedly anecdotal) I can point to certain racist characteristics.
One such is the fact that racists rarely think clearly or logically. In the 1970s, I worked for Southport Parks Department. One of the foremen was a rabid racist. He'd served in the army in Palestine during the Jewish uprising in 1948 and was virulently anti-Semitic. For no apparent reason, he hated black people as well. One of his first questions to newcomers was: "Are n-----s human?". If you replied in the negative, that was fine; if you said "yes" you were no friend of his. When I asked him what he meant by human, he displayed his intellectual capacity by replying "Well...white". This overt racism would never be tolerated in any workplace nowadays (I hope), but at that time, his racism was well known to management - and tolerated.
One day, he was vehemently blaming coloured immigrants for lengthening queues in hospital A&E; the fact that there were hardly any black families in Southport did not occur to him. In fact, there were more people of colour working in the local hospital on any given day than were attending as patients. Pointing this out to him would have  had no effect. Racists, you see, start with their racism and look round for reasons to justify it. Even when their absurd anti-immigrant tropes are exposed as false, they simply look round for other reasons to be racist - rationalisations. 
Another was a man who'd lived in Yorkshire in what he described as "a good area". It seems that a black couple moved into one house and opened a brothel. "That's why I hate them!", he said - i.e. all black people. Very logical - I don't think. Both of these parks men were Conservative voters.
Racists often speak of their admiration for the late Enoch Powell whom, as we know, is deeply admired by Nigel Farage. Interestingly though, when you ask them "Well, what did Powell say that you agree with?", they are usually unable to give a coherent answer. Most appear to think he advocated compulsory repatriation, but he did not. In fact, the closer you question them about Powell, the vaguer they get. And this points to another racist feature - the incoherent understanding of Populist politicians like Farage and Powell and, it seems, politics in general. The classic example of this was the man interviewed on Channel 4 the day after the EU Referendum. This man had somehow acquired the belief - perhaps by osmosis? - that as of the next day, all Muslims were going to leave Britain. 
Sadly, racist views can be found among more intelligent whites also. Again, a Southport racist I knew in the 70s, who prided himself on his IQ, among other things, held a senior position in a Southport hospital. Interestingly, he never expressed racist views in the hospital. His ethnic minority colleagues - doctors, nurses and others - never knew that he referred to them as "wogs" out of their hearing. Still less did he tell of how he had once actively considered joining the National Front, but he was at least more honest than the others when asked why he was a racist. No rationalisations from him. He confessed: "I don't know - I just don't like them!" ("them" being black people). Racists of this type were given encouragement by the rise of the National Front, and statements such as that made by Margaret Thatcher in 1978:
"People [in Britain] are rather afraid that this country might be swamped by people with a different culture".
Yes, it wasn't easy, opposing racism in the 1970s. I'd hoped that the intervening decades had put paid to such bigotry, but events are proving me wrong. I can only hope that those of us who believe in a tolerant, enlightened, multi-racial Britain can again successfully combat these prejudices, and perhaps restore a society in which Meghan, Harry, their son and all of us can live in peace.

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Assassinating Sulemani : A Pragmatist View

Regular readers of this blog, and those who glance at it from time to time, will know that I am not a great fan of the regime in Iran. I have highlighted the human rights violations of this state against its own people and  others for a number of years. I shall shed no tears over the liquidation of Qassem Soleimani, who was a key figure in the Iranian leadership and both a supporter and initiator of its repressive policies at home, and aggressive policies abroad. As The Guardian says:
"Suleimani, 62, oversaw the external operations of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and was the architect of an expansion of Iranian influence across the Middle East in recent decades, controlling politicians and proxy militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen among other places."
Nor do I deny the right of the USA to take action to defend its citizens anywhere in the world. The Pentagon claims that militants under his command had killed and wounded hundreds of US servicemen and were planning to kill more. Sulemani appears to have been involved in such activities since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 where, under the subsequent occupation, Shia militants under Iranian direction attacked both US and British troops with Iranian-supplied equipment. Sulemani's demise has been welcomed in parts of Syria and Iraq; Iranian exiles in the UK have been phoning talk radio programmes to express jubilation at his death.
So, do I share in this jubilation? Not really. To quote the same Guardian article:
" His killing triggered rejoicing in parts of Iraq and Syria, where he was implicated in tens of thousands of civilian deaths, but the general reaction in world capitals was one of apprehension."
Many people in the UK have criticised the killing, in particular Jeremy Corbyn, questioning the legality of the killing and the lack of notice to America's allies.  These issues will doubtless be discussed again and again in the coming weeks, but I would like to express my concern on pragmatic grounds.
Firstly, there is the small matter of ISIS. This group has taken a severe drubbing in recent months but is not totally defeated, and is trying to reorganise on the ground. Like it or not, Sulemani's fighters are a vital part of the struggle against ISIS and this is hardly the time to deprive them of their leader and thus to alienate them. It's rather like Churchill and Roosevelt assassinating Stalin in 1944, before the final German defeat. Unless they're stupid, ISIS will see an opportunity to strike a deal with the Shia militias.
Secondly, the timing of the attack was potentially dangerous to US and western expat workers in Iraq and Iran. The US government has advised its nationals to leave Iraq, but they would have become vulnerable to reprisal attack from the very moment of the assassination. Even if every US expat escapes safely, there will be plenty of other western nationals left behind to be attacked or held hostage. And, as we know, the Iranians already have a number of hostages in custody, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Their position must now rank as downright perilous.
Next, President Trump is convinced that by threatening attacks upon Iran, he will deter any future hostile activity. As the BBC comments:
"President Trump, who authorised the attack on Soleimani on Friday - an option refused by both Presidents Bush and Obama as too risky - said on Saturday the US was ready to strike 52 sites "important to Iran & the Iranian culture"."
A more pragmatic approach would be to learn from three historical case examples of what happens when aerial bombing is used to try and subdue a civilian population: Britain 1940-41; Germany, 1942-45; North Viet-Nam, 1964-73. All these bombing offensives failed to break civilian morale, and only served to unite the native populations behind their leadership. There already seems to be some sign of this happening in Iran.
This "big stick" operation will not succeed in its main aim. Like it or not (and I don't), the Iranian regime has many supporters and Sulemani will be replaced, hydra-like, by someone perhaps even more militant, determined upon revenge. At the very least, I would expect the attacks on US installations in Iraq to continue and possibly increase.
While there are no good pragmatic results likely to flow from this situation, one positive result could be the beginning of the end for Populism worldwide. Complex political problems cannot be solved by simple actions. We have seen this with the trauma of Brexit, the comedy of the Mexican border wall, and I expect this crisis will be no different - apart from the fact that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people will be killed and injured.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

The Rhymes and Routes Christmas Message, 2019

The Rhymes and Routes Christmas Message for 2019 comes from Ann Widdecombe, MEP and lead contralto for the Brexit Party Choir, seen in the photograph. The Blogmeister comments at the end of the message.

Ding-dong merrily on high! That's the wonderful old carol we are singing in the photo, and it sums up the way that I am feeling today! At last, after three years and after all the wrangling over Brexit, Boris Johnson has brought deliverance from a foreign yoke and set us free! I have longed for this day and I am absolutely brexcited about the wonderful future that stretches out before us. I am floating on clouds of ecstasy! This is a truly brexciting Christmas season!
As for Christmas itself, I think we should return to the Bible to see what it has to teach us about the present time. There is, of course, the wonderful Christmas story which tells of the birth of Our Lord, but, in the Old Testament, I think we can see the first Brexit - if under another name. I refer, of course to the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land. I thrill with excitement when I read the Book of Exodus; the Children of Israel must have felt, during their Exodus, that marvellous sense of deliverance as we in the Brexit Party are feeling now. Another wonderful parallel between the Exodus Story and the present time is that both escapes from slavery were led by a divinely inspired prophet. The Israelites were led by Moses; we have been inspired in our exodus by my esteemed colleague, Nigel Farage - a true leader of his people and - dare I say it? - a charismatic prophet like Moses.
Nigel is now being dismissed as a newly-irrelevant politician , but I believe him to be worthy of the highest honour. I hope to see him knighted at some time in the future. As to what happens to us Brexit Party MEPs and members now, I think we have a new role in returning to our old political parties and powering them on to our bright new future. But, this is still to be decided. I never liked travelling to the EU Parliament anyway - the rain in Europe isn't as nice as our bracing British rain. As far as I'm concerned, if Bonny Boris makes me an offer, I might well be returning to the Conservative fold.
Returning to the Bible and the Christmas Story, I would never be remotely prepared to suggest that Our Lord would have voted for Brexit. That would be brash, boorish and blasphemous. However, I do believe we can see a lesson for EU nationals living in Britain in the story of the Three Kings. who journeyed to Bethlehem to visit the infant Jesus. Read this extract from St Matthew's Gospel, Chapter 2, verses 10 - 12: 
"When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route."
The last verse, I believe, is of great significance. The kings came to another country, fulfilled their purpose and then returned to their country. I hope all EU nationals living in the UK will learn from this example.
Christmas is a time for reconciliation and forgiveness, and I would like to say to all Remainers who read this: I forgive you! Even though you are all traitors and bolshies, we of the victorious Leave camp want to be reconciled to you, and stretch out our arms to you at Christmas. That goes for me, Bonny Boris, Nigel Farage and all who battled against your treachery. 
In conclusion, I wish all Rhymes and Routes readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - even the traitorous Blogmeister and Rednev. By way of beginning the healing of divisions, I shall pray for you deluded renegades to come to your senses - if you have any. 
Season's Greetings!
Ann Widdecombe.
The Blogmeister comments:
I hate to sound like Ebenezer Scrooge, but the words "Christmas" and "Humbug" spring to mind here. Quite what Christians will make of Ms Widdecombe's interpretation of the Bible is beyond imagining. All I wll say is that if you, Ann, are floating on clouds of Ecstasy, then you have been taking the wrong tablets. The thought of you, Nigel Farage and Boris stretching out your arms to me makes me feel physically ill, and I'm sure many Remainers feel the same. Bah!

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Dodgy New Tory MPs - Two Case Studies

In yesterday's Guardian, there was an illuminating article by Rajeev Syal and Rowena Mason: "Who are the Conservatives Most Controversial New M.P.s?". It is a very interesting piece, which I recommend to everyone who cares - here is the link. The article names five new Tory MPs (there could well be more) with what can only be described as dodgy credentials. These MPs do not like being scrutinised. One of them, Stuart Anderson MP, told his local paper that The Guardian had not told the whole truth about him. Mr Anderson and his colleagues should remember that the right-wing press are forever "exposing" the far Left pasts of Labour MPs. They deserve the same treatment, where appropriate, and in the case of the five MPs featured in the article, it is certainly appropriate. With all due respect to the Guardian article, I think that a closer look at two of these MPs, and a glance at another, could be productive. The two selected for closer scrutiny are Sally-Ann Hart, pictured above, MP for Hastings and Rye, and Brendan Clarke-Smith, MP for Bassetlaw.
As a manic Leave campaigner, Sally-Ann Hart, says The Guardian: 
"The new MP for the Tory marginal seat of Hastings shared a video with an image implying that Soros, who is Jewish, controls the EU. She also liked a Nazi slogan on Facebook.".
"Soros", is the Hungarian billionaire, George Soros, about whom I have written before, and is a hate figure for the far right. Our dear old pal, Nigel Farage, shares this antipathy and has accused Soros of being the mastermind behind the EU. Even Michael Gove has expressed concern over Mrs Hart's utterances, telling the Jewish Chronicle that they were "a cause for concern".
A further cause for concern is the fact that she has made some dubious comments about how disabled people with learning difficulties "don't understand about money". The Hastings paper, The Argus, comments:
"Martyn Ellacott, 63, head of the Phoenix Disability help group in London, said her comments were “disgraceful” and amounted to discrimination".
Mr Ellacott and others have said that Mrs Hart should stand down. Nice thought, Martin, but don't hold your breath.
Mr Clarke-Smith has roots in the teaching profession, as have I. According to NottinghamshireLive, he was once a head teacher in Transylvania, but I will resist the temptation to make vampire jokes. Instead, I shall quote The Independent
"Mr Clarke-Smith faced shouts of "shame on you" during an election hustings after he said food banks were a "political weapon" and it was "simply not true" that "people can't afford to buy food on a regular basis"
This would presumably put Clarke-Smith at odds with another of the MPs named in the Guardian article: Stuart Anderson, newly-elected MP for Wolverhampton South-West. Mr Anderson appears to have had a chequered career before he entered Parliament. As the article says:
"... five years ago, he received an illegal dividend from a security firm which went into administration owing £271,000 in tax".
Mr Anderson, a former soldier, understandably rejects this accusation, as well he might. What is of interest here is that he claims to have been bankrupted, lost his house and reduced to penury. Then, as the Express and Star says: 
"...he ended up using a food bank after losing “everything” when his first business went bust."
Now, there's an irony. Had Mr Clarke-Smith encountered him at that time, we can only guess at the comments he would have made - or what Mr Anderson might have said in reply.
These two examples, however much the Conservatives might seek to explain them away, are indicative of the new Conservative mind set. Tory pundits have told us that Boris will seek to re-establish "One Nation" Toryism. These new Tory MPs, and a number of others, would seem to heading in a different direction. As the twig is bent, so is the tree inclined. The rocky ride has begun.