In today’s Guardian, political editor Toby Helm anticipates the replacement of Hilary Benn and Maria Eagle in an imminent reshuffle by Jeremy Corbyn. Such a reshuffle, Helm tells us, would be “high risk”; one likely outcome being the resignation of twin sister Angela, another that it would “be seen by detractors in the PLP and shadow cabinet as a declaration of war”. Scary or what? Like advising Churchill in 1943, such analogies being all the rage right now, to think long and hard before bombing the Ruhr, lest Hitler take it as a sign of unfriendly intent.
Fact is, Eagle minor (by 15 minutes) and the lesser Benn declared war long ago, leaving Corbyn with little to lose and everything to gain by their removal. Me, I’d want them kicked right out but with luck they’d decline other posts anyway. With all the media hype, Benn may now see in his own good self a towering figure on the world’s stage. It’s Shadow Foreign or nowt, Jez. But if it’s nowt, well, I’ll just park my arse on some comfy back bench till your job falls into my lap.
(Never underestimate the power of flattery to turn heads otherwise healthily cognisant of their owners’ limitations.)
Meanwhile in one of those increasingly rare forays the Grauniad makes into apposite comment, John Harris hit nail firmly on New Years Day head. Having sketched out the predicament of “the self-styled moderates – many of whom, it has to be said, are not moderate at all”, he says this:
I am not exactly what some people call a Corbynista, but … whatever his suitability for the job, Corbyn is where he is for one reason above all others: the fact that Britain’s post-1979 journey into a new reality of a shrunken welfare state, marketised public services, rising inequality and an impossible job market had reached a watershed with the deepening of austerity, and there was a need for a clear moral response, without which Labour was in danger of shrinking into meaninglessness. On that score, over the summer of 2015, the heirs to the New Labour project were found wanting; indeed, their very philosophy was fatally exposed.
As a critical supporter of Corbyn, one fearing for his ability – ten percent personal and ninety systemic – to deliver, I agree. But while such bursts of plain truth keep me from deserting the Graun altogether, for real information and serious analysis I look elsewhere. For instance …
- CounterPunch: a daily selection of highly topical essays, many of them superb. For analysis this is the best source on my list.
- Al-Jazeera: a good source of views and reportage on matters not pertaining to Gulf State interests. And on matters that do? Silence or utter tosh.
- Al-Monitor: its editorial centrism is clear but for me that’s no problem. My gripe with our liberal media is not their own extreme centrism, passively respondent to a ‘moderate consensus’ moulded or pulled to the right by Rothermere, Murdoch and the Barclay Brothers. I can allow for that and its concomitant toxicity. Nor do I think the liberal media go in for outright lies. No, my beef is with what they don’t cover, especially overseas. Al-Monitor, Al-Jazeera and (below) Russia Today help plug the gaps, provided we stay mindful that those media also have their agendas.
- Russia Today: the vilification, provocation and breathtaking inversion of reality in the narrative on Russia insult our intelligence but most of us are too lazy to see it, or even – since Russia is not to be bullied – recognise how dangerous the USA has become. Is Russia Today biased? Of course! Does it offer a vital perspective on global events? Same answer. (Worth noting is the way a centrist Labour MP like James Bloodworthy lambasts RT propaganda while swallowing hook, line and sinker NATO newSpeak on Russian aggression. Er, how many countries has Russia invaded or bombed since 1990? And the USA? Also worth noting is that, in an attack on Corbyn last August, at the height of the leadership race, Bloodworthy referred to Putin’s gay-bashing, Chavez’s autocracy and Castro’s dictatorship. All true, but does this lightweight offer alternative routes Castro and Chavez* could have taken without abject surrender to Washington, IMF brokered and measurable in plunging literacy and soaring infant mortality? No, though such routes – albeit not ones he would care for – did exist. And does he suppose NATO’s aggressively eastward thrusts** are driven by outrage over Putin’s homophobia? Lenin was not alone in valuing useful idiots. How the right must love Bloodworthy! With enemies like that, you don’t need friends.)
* An excellently fair minded appraisal of Chavez’s strengths and weaknesses can be found in Commandante (2013) by Guardian columnist Rory Carroll
** East Germany’s auto-entry to NATO in the wake of reunification brought no objection from a dying USSR. The Soviets were led to believe, however, that no further expansion would take place. And since then? Poland, Hungary & Czech Republic in 1999; Bulgaria, Romania, the three Baltic States & Slovakia in 2004; Albania & Croatia in 2009. The Ukraine Crisis – and by implication the 2009 Georgia Crisis (the one country Russia did, for nine days, invade and occupy) – are contextualised here.
The Saudi Executions
What in the name of Satan is Riyadh playing at? So far, Al-Jazeera coverage is confined to the perfunctorily factual and in any case (see above) who’d trust its ability to speak in good faith on such as this? Al-Monitor has yet to comment, while a CounterPunch analysis may take days.
A Guardian analysis by Simon Tisdall, predictably superficial, fails to consider implications for the so-called war on terror, beyond concluding that “If [Iran’s] hardliners succeed in portraying Nimr’s execution as a deliberate, national provocation … hopes of Syrian peace this year could be seriously damaged.”
Yes. And? Tisdall says nothing of the west’s pact with Saudi Arabia other than that it won’t be changed for one beheaded cleric. No, but any analysis worthy of the name of Riyadh’s latest move would be obliged to explore the structure and realpolitik of that pact. Small wonder so many progressives are turning their backs on the Graun.
Postscript January 4, 11:20. CounterPunch has posted a shortish Robert Fisk piece. While far from in-depth, it does offer this:
“… the question will be asked in both Washington and European capitals: are the Saudis trying to destroy the Iranian nuclear agreement by forcing their Western allies to support even these latest outrages? In the obtuse world in which they live – in which the youthful defence minister who invaded Yemen intensely dislikes the interior minister – the Saudis are still glorying in the ‘anti-terror’ coalition of 34 largely Sunni nations …”
Postscript January 15. Appraisal of the House of Saud’s declining fortunes here. Too many adjectives, but Ismael Hossain-Zadeh is not writing in his own language. In any case this is well worth a read.
Splendid chap. I won’t hear a word against him.
New Years Resolution
I quit smoking eleven years and three days ago so that won’t fly. A more disciplined approach to writing (and less lazy approach to photography) are my latest solemn vows …
… starting with delivery – “soon” – on my promise of the remaining three essays of my quartet on the 2008 crash.