Do Not Despair of UK Election

Compared to the unmitigated vilification by normal media, the chance for both Corbyn and Sturgeon to be seen directly by viewers in election coverage will improve the standing of both, writes Craig Murray.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn during ITV debate. (Screenshot)

By Craig Murray

I have had moments in the last few days which led me to feel pretty hopeless. Perhaps the worst was in the ITV debate when Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn was roundly jeered by a substantial section of the audience for stating that climate change impacted hardest on the poorest people in the poorest countries.

That encapsulated for me the current far right political climate in England, dominated by boorish, selfish stupidity. I do not come from a left-wing political background and I have never subscribed to the romanticization of “the people.” Years living in the UKIP heartland of Ramsgate made me realize that “the people” en masse can be very unpleasant and racist indeed. I have always for that reason eschewed direct democracy and subscribed to a very Burkean view. That however falls down when, as now, you have a political class who are becoming even more base and vicious than the most unpleasant mob. But the growl of that studio audience, infuriated that Corbyn cared about the foreign poor, is a warning klaxon of the state of English society.

Jo Swinson in 2017. (Keith Edkins, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

A close second despair-inducing moment was Jo Swinson’s interview following the debate when, asked if she would press the nuclear button, the leader of the Liberal Democrats replied without a millisecond of hesitation: “yes.” As I reported last week, when asked at the Lib Dem campaign launch why she would not put Corbyn into Downing Street in any circumstances, she had instantly replied that he would not be prepared to instruct submarine commanders to fire nuclear weapons.

The woman is deranged.

I come from a Liberal tradition. Probably the two books which most influence my thinking are “On Liberty,” by John Stuart Mill and “Imperialism, A Study,”  by J. A. Hobson. The line of British liberal thinking that comes down through writers including Hazlitt, Shelley, Byron, Carlyle, Mill, Hobson, Russell and Keynes is a tradition which looks set to disappear from British political thought.

That makes me horribly sad. One thing I am sure of is that Swinson has read none of them. That the Lib Dems had moved economically so far to the right was already worrying me. Their completely illiberal opposition to Scottish independence upset me still further. But that the party to which I belonged for 30 years and which was once led by my friend, the gentle and wise Charlie Kennedy, could now be led by an arm whirling, narcissistic, female version of Dr. Strangelove, is beyond my wildest nightmares.

Back to the ITV Debate

Let me go back to that ITV Debate. It was enormously dispiriting that of a 50-minute debate, 25 minutes were devoted to the subject of Brexit, compared to just one minute on the question of climate change. The Brexit discussion was completely unenlightening, with Prime Minister Borsi Johnson booming out “Get Brexit Done” at every opportunity, and even when there was no rational opportunity after the discussion had finally been moved on to other subjects.

I thought Jeremy was slightly under par. There was one point where I think he made a definite mistake. When Johnson claimed the last Labour government bankrupted the country’s finances, Corbyn failed to come back and say that it was the bankers who bankrupted the country’s finances. He could have gone on to add that banking deregulation had been the cause of a decade of global misery and Boris Johnson’s plans for Singapore on Thames would be banking deregulation on steroids.

It is not the first time this election that Labour have failed to point out it was the bankers who crashed the economy. I am not sure why. It may be a desire to seem City-friendly. Corbyn may be held back because, like me, he believes Brown was completely wrong to bail out the bankers with taxpayers’ money, and Corbyn therefore thinks it best to avoid the whole topic for the sake of party unity. Either way, to let Johnson say that Labour spending ruined the economy is to miss an open goal – the bankers are still massively unpopular.

The other point is one where Jeremy actually annoyed me. I cannot tell you how infuriating it was, as a Scot, to see Johnson repeatedly stating that Scotland would not be allowed an Independence referendum, and Corbyn making no effort at all to stand up for the Scottish right of self-determination. Given SNP exclusion from the debate, it was demeaning to see our masters discussing our future with no pretense of giving a hearing to the Scottish point of view.

Corbyn has to tackle this. The Johnson “Labour will give you two referendums” attack line is not being sufficiently countered. For Corbyn to ask Johnson whether he accepts that the Scottish people have the right of self-determination would be a killer question, and Jeremy could ask it quietly and effectively. A large majority of English people are actually perfectly happy for Scotland to have an Independence referendum.

Corbyn has tied himself in knots to accommodate the bitter cabal of Blairites and Orangemen that constitute the majority of the rump Scottish Labour Party, while its membership and voters have defected en masse to the SNP. Forty percent of the remaining Labour voters support Independence anyway. Rather than put himself in a false position for the sake of hopeless colleagues who have crashed Scottish Labour from domination to 12 percent of the vote, Corbyn should state his support for the right of the Scottish people to decide – something which I have no doubt he personally believes in, deeply.

The good news is that Johnson made an ass of himself in the debate, constantly repeating “Get Brexit Done,” and Corbyn’s insistence on discussing more important issues than Brexit cut through. YouGov’s verdict of a 51-to-49 victory for Johnson was very dubious indeed. But even that would be a major advance for Corbyn given the constant barrage of unfair media demonization to which he has been subjected in the last five years. Almost 7 million people watched the event live, a significant audience. Parity with that audience is a very good start for Labour. I suspect it really went better than that. YouGove have a long and dishonorable history as Tory push pollsters.

There are similarities here to the 2017 election. The chance for both Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, to be seen in election coverage directly by viewers, each arguing their own case, will improve the standing of both with the electors, compared to the unmitigated vilification of normal media. (Sturgeon is being unfairly excluded from key debates but her Dundee speech today was extensively covered).

The Tory campaign of closed workplace addresses, artificial set-up encounters and a constant simple soundbite slogan is repeating the formula that failed so spectacularly in 2017. “Get Brexit Done” is going to annoy voters as much as “Strong and Stable” did, especially if Johnson continues to deploy it whatever the question asked.

I strongly expect we will see the first signs of the opinion polls starting to tighten shortly. I am half-English myself and have no desire to see Johnson inflicted on the population of Newcastle or Liverpool. But I confess I am also comfortable in the certainty that should Johnson win the election, it will precipitate Scottish Independence very soon. Nobody should despair yet. But it is certainly more comfortable to watch this from Edinburgh than from Manchester.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010.

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8 comments for “Do Not Despair of UK Election

  1. Super LJ
    November 24, 2019 at 16:46

    Boris was a complete ass. Why you would want to be complicit and get in bed with such an anemic punk is beyond way reason. Go Eton, We’ll smash ’em this time, Even is they clean slate us 9-0, we will get even later. We will still emerge victorious. The best thing about this election, a Johnson victory and Scottish secession or Corbyn and Sturgeon tax the rich, Boris and his ilk lose and Britannia spirals down like the Titanic. Pathetic. Weak as water. He made an ass out of himself and Corbyn was dignified as the author of the article stated. Now go eat your Bentos Pie and take some liver salts. Immediately while there is still time. I pity the fool.

  2. Robert
    November 24, 2019 at 10:48

    The jeers for the poor of other countries are because the poor in the UK are not being looked after. Zero hour contracts and food banks. Both labour AND conservative are now middle-class parties, mostly university educated. In other words we now have a well-off political class. Labour no longer represents or reflects the ‘working class’ and can easily seem hypocritical.

  3. Sam F
    November 23, 2019 at 18:52

    Thank you Craig Murray for these insights into UK politics. I confess that at the distance of the US it is difficult to really feel the motivation for Brexit or Scottish independence without a history of ongoing abuses or disadvantages of federalism, and must sympathize in the abstract. It would be interesting to read of the causes, perhaps the corruption of broader democracy by an imperialist oligarchy. Could separatist demands be used to force legislation to properly isolate political institutions from economic power, and would this reduce the motivation for independence?

  4. elmerfudzie
    November 23, 2019 at 15:45

    First, allow me congratulate Craig Murray, definitely a man’s man. I can almost here the old American western tune, brave, courageous and bold long live his name…with I might add, a very special brand of bullets.

    The Murray repertoire is well known to followers of CONSORTIUMNEWS; MP expense scandals, MP’s only out for themselves to get re elected, privatization of public services, government control of the internet, Murrays’ name on the “hit” watch list 3B violation status as a potential terrorist ugh…what? Craig Murray was the first to come forward making citizens everywhere, aware of something called extraordinary rendition. Indeed, the list of his accomplishments goes on and on.

    Now we come to commercial interests, Intel Agencies and those international corporations who dominate individual countries, their governments and provide direction and control over deep state policies. This corporatism phenomena prevalent in both the first and second worlds. What is the scope of national interest? surely not just a strategy of maintaining ever higher educational goals, military and industrial might or conspiring to plunder foreign lands and peoples for financial gain? For example, the worlds largest concentration of the metallic substance lithium, central to battery manufacturing also defined as a finite resource now directly linked to the Bolivian crisis. The proper allocation of this precious resource has become a head on collision between their people and the North. It’s an old story, stealing not only resources but land as well.

    ASIDE: It’s important to note Craig Murrys oratories drawing comparisons between the white skinned conquistadors of the eighteenth century arriving in the Americas, eventually trouncing the red and brown races, stealing their land and other natural resources now encouraging if not instructing Israeli’s to do the same. In short, to take what is clearly not theirs to take has many a documented, historical precedent.

    Permit me to draw a few historical comparisons of my own. The caveat to mention is I’m not deliberately trying to be obtuse or in any way, condescending. That said, let’s go back in time approximately thirty years ago when the U.S.S.R. vanished leaving unguarded roughly three thousand strategic nuclear warheads in their silos scattered in Kazakhstan, and Belarus, most of them ICBMs armed with nuclear warheads. This almost unbelievable situation begged a question, how could such low tech countries, whose greatest achievement(s) were constructing a system of railroads and or manufacturing tractors find themselves taking possession of the most dangerous weapons on earth with unpredictable consequences?

    It doesn’t take any stretch of the imagination to perform a cut and paste here by replacing ICBM’s with the element lithium. At the same time let’s not forget, in a country possessing over eighty percent of the worlds known reserves. Bluntly put, China must never be allowed to corner the market for lithium in Bolivia, fair competition or not. The USA will never allow a Chinese Air Force base in Bolivia! Every consideration will be given to their indigenous peoples, regardless of the government representing them however Bolivians must come to acknowledge those grave concerns and predicaments that now beset Western Occident nations. This situation goes beyond traditional beliefs in sovereign right, particularly where world peace is at stake. Yes, known reserves has popped up again. Where have we all heard that phrase before? Oil of course and who gets to extract, sell and distribute it. This stratagem was gradually developed so as not to have an oil glut on the world market, to preserve the USD as a reserve currency and exchange mechanism for trading commodities. Now folks as Obama would say, we come to the crux of the matter, again nothing short of global peace. Oddly the Bolivian indigenous can play a central role in securing ASEAN rights to both minerals and oil extraction under the South China Sea by carefully negotiating necessary and critical shipments of lithium to the China in exchange for compensatory treaties with several small Asian countries along the Pacific rim. This politic may extend toward offering or devising strategies, motivating the CCP to squeeze Kim Jong Un and his government out of North Korean politics. The USA was, is and will remain the mediator between China and Bolivia. The only option left outside the new arrangement is war with North Korea and possibly China. This time, we’ve got something to bargain with, other than missiles, so lets not miss this opportunity to use lithium for more than just car batteries.

  5. Super LJ
    November 23, 2019 at 15:16

    If this was an actual debate, governed by elementary rules of debate, Johnson would have been disqualified for refusing to answer direct questions and over talking his time limits and stealing Corbyn’s time. . He was absolutely horrible. horrible as a Brit might say, if they were honest.. The polls cannot be trusted nor can England’s News Services. It is a toss up and the media says Tories have over a 10% lead in an effort to keep voter turnout down. Corbyn is measured in his responses, stays on point and answers questions. The audience was stacked in the favor of Johnson quite obviously. I will admit that he has performed far better than expected but I still say he is a buffoon..

  6. Jeff Harrison
    November 22, 2019 at 15:44

    What kills me is that the leaders of all the major countries which have become accustomed over the last century or so to being able to do whatever they wanted without worrying about consequences to their countries. 9/11 should have dispelled that quaint notion. bin Laden demonstrated that if you piss people off enough, they can come and cause you real pain even if they are not a nation state and even if they have no standing army.

    • November 23, 2019 at 06:47

      Just a superbly-written little piece by Craig Murray.

    • Tiu
      November 23, 2019 at 17:02

      Colonel Osman of the CIA (bin Laden) didn’t demonstrate anything. The media fed the story to the sheeple, and the less discerning sheeple swallowed the lies because it was too uncomfortable for them not to.
      As for Corbyn’s concern for the poor people being affected by climate change, he might get more traction showing concern for poor people in the UK who can’t afford housing or have to survive in the gig-economy on zero-hour contracts.
      Tony Blair of the Labour Party was the person who led the banking deregulation, in collaboration with his “advisors” and with scant if any debate in parliament.
      A very disappointing Craig Murray article, although I can sympathise with the overall contention that “politics” in the west has gone down the toilet.

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