An 18th century Scottish expression has a gentler ring to it than its English variant. The Scottish version comes with its explanation: “Give the dog an ill name and he’ll soon be hanged — spoken of those who raise an ill name on purpose to prevent a man’s advancement.”
When I met Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn after the 2016 referendum on Brexit, he shared with me a confidence off the record. His party’s vote was divided between Remainers and Leavers from region to region. His singular failure was his inability to compose the dilemma and provide strong leadership. His dilly-dallying was cunningly crushed by Boris Johnson’s slogan: “Get Brexit Done”. Whether he gets it done or not, is for the future to tell.
This failure was compounded by the establishment’s brazen demonisation of Mr Corbyn’s persona. The trick was simple. Do not indicate that his socialism is the target. Just keep up the chant that Mr Corbyn is unacceptable, that he has horns on his forehead. Even journalists of such standing as Andrew Marr and Andrew Neil would frame the question thus: “To what extent was Corbyn the cause of Labour’s defeat?” It was a disingenuous variation on “Have you stopped beating your wife?” The most sensible suggestion has come from Mr Corbyn’s shadow chancellor of the exchequer John McDonnell, “Let us have a national debate on the media’s role in our politics”. The suggestion should reverberate in India as well.
London remains a cosmopolitan hub, where Boris Johnson has not made much of an impression. Scottish nationalism always had a mellowness of single malt, lilt of the bagpipes and the quaintness of kilts. This nationalism is not claustrophobic because it also reaches out to the EU. In Northern Ireland, Republicanism has gained — so Dublin becomes closer, not farther from Belfast.
The very first to greet Mr Johnson had been Donald Trump, his business cohorts smacking their lips at the prospect of a burgeoning Anglo-Saxon club, particularly now that France’s Emmanuel Macron is thumbing his nose at Mr Trump’s America. And Mr Macron is not alone.
The scale of Boris Johnson’s victory boosts what I call Bannonism sky high. Let me explain. George Soros and Steve Bannon ,who is a friend of Mr Trump and the KKK, have been shuttling around Europe trying to divert popular anger away from socialism, which contemporary capitalism paints in lurid colours. It is McCarthyism to its tips. While Mr Soros, a liberal capitalist, seeks an integrated Europe to thwart “Leftism”, Mr Bannon, Mr Trump’s conscience-keeper, is keen for Italy’s Matteo Salvini, France’s Marine Le Penn, Spain’s Santiago Abascal and Britain’s Nigel Farage to clasp hands and shift Europe so far right as to be teetering on fascism. This school received a boost on Wednesday.
It would be irresponsible to describe Mr Johnson as closet Fascist but his friend Nigel Farage is. If one surveys the rise of anti-migrant, anti-semitic parties from Victor Orban of Hungary to leaders in Austria, Germany, Poland — it is a depressing list. In the presence of US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and others, Israeli foreign minister Yisrael Katz accused the Polish leadership of anti-semitism in almost abusive language: “Poles suckle anti-Semitism from their mother’s milk”. This, from a public platform in Warsaw.
The Warsaw incident came to mind as soon as I saw Tory leader Michael Gove appear behind the microphones at the Tory headquarters to prime up the mood before Mr Johnson made his first appearance after the historic victory. It was the sort of time in the morning when people want bed tea. Suddenly, a stern looking Mr Gove is brought slowly into focus. And, lo and behold, the only community he mentions are Jews. “Through this campaign, our Jewish citizens have been living in fear.” Then a Churchillian pause: “No longer will Jews live in fear,” he thundered. Why this outburst?
There is a background to this inexplicable intervention. Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, former co-chair of the Conservative Party, has been fairly regular in complaining that “anti-Muslim” prejudice had “poisoned” the party. The principal “culprits” in her line of fire were Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Zac Goldsmith. Mr Gove’s generosity of expression in favour of Jews, at the moment of Tory triumph, is designed to send a message to the Warsis in the party: like it or lump it. How can the Tories have forgotten Mr Gove’s brazenly anti-Muslim book Celsius 7/7 published in 2006? Mr Corbyn was battered and bruised not only through this campaign but over the years as a “danger to Britain”, “traitor”, a friend of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and other “devilish” characters. By sheer incantation, some of it sank in. Of course, Mr Johnson’s message was simpler: “Get Brexit Done”.
What the mainstream media will keep mum about: alternatives like the London Economic, a digital newspaper, publishes, and with increasing credibility.
It is universally proclaimed that Mr Johnson lies, fiddles expense accounts, is seen at European airports in a daze after late-night parties but he remains the darling of the electorate, as result 2019 has shown.
Another London Economic analysis shows that people generally have another perspective when presented with policy options but the very same people vote in a completely different direction. Why? Because the media is bombarding the voter with high-level right-wing propaganda.
Lord Rothermere, a billionaire living in France, owns the Daily Mail and the Metro. Rupert Murdoch, billionaire US citizen, owns the Sun, Fox News, BSkyB, News Corp. Alexander Evgeny, ex-KGB Russian billionaire, owns the Independent, Evening Standard. Richard Desmond, a billionaire, did own the Daily Star and if it has passed onto someone else, it certainly is not to the Socialist International. In brief, 80 per cent of the media is owned by billionaires. For those of us grieving in India on this score, is there not a pattern? As the late Bobby Talyarkhan used to sign off his column: “Do you get me, Steve?”