As Rishi Sunak, fresh from the news that the Conservatives now have the worst polling figures since 1832, sacked his infantile, right-wing Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, his plans to emulate her prejudice became clearer.
In a briefing of tabloid newspapers, Sunak told The Sun that he was planning to clamp down on protesters arguing for a ceasefire in Gaza. He, like the hapless Braverman, seems determined to provoke violence on the streets by encouraging the police to arrest people who:
- climb on statues, scaffolding and bus stops;
- let off fireworks, smoke bombs and flares;
- glorify terrorists;
- or chant “from the river to the sea”.
He is also planning to make it easier for the police to ban marches he does not agree with.
It is not clear from the briefing whether the intention is to create legislation that only applies to those marching for peace, or whether these restrictions will also apply to the drunken far right thugs who turned the Cenotaph into a minor battle ground on Saturday.
Whether this briefing was simply meant to win-over the right wing press or is a serious attempt to influence public opinion only, Sunak and his team of advisors will know. Either way, pandering to right-wing populism certainly never left in the rubbish bag containing Braverman’s career.
The people I have seen climbing on bus stops and scaffolding have tended to be photographers trying to get a better picture of events. Is this now to be illegal? One has to ask what harm are they doing?
As for letting off fireworks, they are currently on general sale. Are we now to have a situation where people face arrest for having a private fireworks party? What kind of country are we becoming?
The chant “from the river to the sea” is used extensively by the Likud Party — can we expect to see synagogues being raided to see if anybody is hiding a copy of their founding charter? I rather suspect not. Bad laws are often made in response to specific events that groups of lawmakers are exercised by. There was a time when opposition parties would vigorously oppose such measures — such is the state of our political system that not only will they not oppose them, but they are unlikely to repeal them should they become the government.
What seems clear is that we are entering a new phase in the propaganda war. The fact that the establishment is out of touch with public opinion is being dealt with, not by adapting their view but by blaming those who have the audacity not only to disagree with them but also to have the support of most of the rest of the country.
Of course, none of this has anything to do with defending Israel or preventing the slaughter of thousands of women and children. We are now in the midst of a Tory leadership campaign.
Whatever Sunak may privately think about protesters (no doubt he hates them because when you are a multi-millionaire you really don’t need to protest to get what you want), he now has to appeal to the Tory faithful. These, you will recall, are the flag huggers who gave us Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, the most incompetent Prime Ministers since – well probably all time, who presided over the destruction of the British economy and, in Johnson’s case, the normalisation of corruption at ministerial level.
The problem for Sunak is that he has now sent a Tory favourite to the backbenches, so the only way he keeps his job is to win the next General Election and avoid a leadership contest. But it is not just the rabid Tory membership who dislikes him, he is not popular with the Tory voter base either. Let’s be honest, when you are leading a party that has made racism its raison d’être and you have brown skin, you are not going to be invited to many dinner parties, and you certainly won’t enthuse people who think you should be sent back to wherever you came from.
At the moment, the Tories are polling around 23-28% and are on-course for a massive loss at the ballot box. Sunak has the unenviable task, if you actually care who is PM, of overcoming a Labour Party currently polling around 44%. The clever move would have been to let Starmer get in a spin over Gaza and then back a ceasefire whilst condemning Hamas, showing himself to be a humanitarian but still asserting the right of Israel to defend itself — but Sunak is a British politician and they just don’t do clever.
But all of this, of course, is a total distraction from the real story. As we have already pointed out, one million people marched peacefully through London; but the media are only interested in the drunken antics of a couple of hundred hooligans. The success of the anti-war movement has nothing to do with ‘hate’, Hamas, or antisemitism, and everything to do with the fact that most normal people (i.e. not the establishment) have a visceral dislike of seeing innocent children murdered on their TVs every night. No doubt the media, who are not covering themselves in glory with their coverage of this genocide, will realise that showing the reality of war does nothing to encourage the bloodlust that their paymasters demand.
Of course, some sections of the media have excelled themselves with their ability to manipulate public opinion. Special mention must go to the state broadcaster, the BBC, who manage to mention that Hamas are terrorists even when showing that, whatever the truth of that claim, the terror being unleashed at the moment is all coming from Israel.
The tabloids too have excelled themselves — repeating Israeli propaganda without bothering to investigate whether there is any independent verification, and ignoring all the inconvenient truths that what Israel is doing is contrary to international law. The BBC, the tabloids, and so-called serious newspapers such as the Telegraph, repeated the lie that Hamas had beheaded babies on 7th October. There was never any evidence for this at all, but the story seemed to be in the same bracket of reporting as that which had Iraqi soldiers bayoneting babies as the Americans rampaged through their country.
The attack on Al-Ahli hospital on 19th October was ‘proved’ by the BBC to be the work of Hamas. According to their ‘analysis’, a Hamas missile misfired and hit the hospital. That conclusion is still to be found on the BBC website; however, both the New York Times and Channel 4 News carried out investigations which showed that the main evidence for this theory did not hold up to scrutiny. The explosion in the sky was not directly over the hospital, as the BBC claimed, but some distance from it. The damage was not consistent with any weapons Hamas was known to possess. The Israelis had, prior to this attack, warned those in the hospital to get out.
Israel is now targeting hospitals to the extent that, as Critical Mass has reported, the health system in Gaza is virtually non-existent. Nobody at the BBC seems to think it important that, according to international law, hospitals should not be targeted. Israel claims, without having to provide any evidence, that Hamas is using the hospitals as a military base and therefore it is okay to bomb premature babies. International law is clear. It is not okay to target civilians no matter what the alleged provocation for doing so.
There is little doubt that the establishment — in government (and opposition), in the media, and now through the police — have lost touch, not just with the British public, but with any sense of morality they may once have held. Whatever justification Israel may have for eradicating Hamas, they have none whatsoever for targeting civilians, particularly children; but, rather than use their influence to try to rein-in the ultra-right government of Israel, the establishment in the UK, and most of the west, has sought to turn people’s disgust at a genocide into antisemitism. As if the only reason anybody would want to stop the death of new born Palestinian babies is because they hate the Jewish soldiers that are determined to kill them for being Jewish rather than being baby killers.
Every politician who kowtows to the pressure to support Israel is not supporting the right of Israel to defend itself, nor attacking the ‘extremists’ of Hamas, they are colluding in a genocide. Because they control the offices of government, the judiciary, the media, and the police, they seem to think that their immoral support of a regime that is determined to wipe out or clear out the Palestinian people is right — but these are the same people who defended South African apartheid, who welcomed with open arms dictators such as Pinochet, and who told lies to allow illegal wars in Iraq and Libya. History has judged them to be wrong in all those cases. History will judge them to be wrong in this case. And yet again it is ordinary people, who march, who chant and who organise, who will be proved to be on the right side.
Socialist of many years. Former Labour member. Currently presenter of The Socialist Hour.