Friday, 7 August 2020

Corbyn Accuses Labour Staff of Sabotaging 2017 Campaign

Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, John Trickett, Ian Lavery and 5 senior aides have made a statement to Labour's internal investigation into the leaked report. In their submission, they accuse Labour staff of sabotaging the general election campaign in 2017, suggesting an alleged diversion of party funds could constitute fraud. They claim 860 pages of supporting evidence from the leaked report is overwhelming.

Given the accused staff are currently threatening legal action against Corbyn himself, things could be about to get rather interesting. The Labour staff claim messages in the leaked Labour report were deliberately taken out of context to falsely portray them as bullies and saboteurs. They've already been awarded 6 figure sums in compensation by the Labour Party, relating to antisemitism "whistle blowing". 

Jeremy Corbyn called this a political, rather than a legal decision, and insisted the party's legal advice was Labour would've likely won the court case, had they chosen to defend it. Corbyn clearly remains confident in this position as he is refusing to back down.

The submission states: “We believe that there is clear evidence of factional activity by senior paid employees of the party against the elected leadership of the time.”

And given the 2017 general election was so close, it says: “It’s not impossible that Jeremy Corbyn might now be in his third year as a Labour prime minister were it not for the unauthorised, unilateral action taken by a handful of senior party officials.”

As well as addressing the "toxic culture" in the Labour Party (allegedly demonstrated by leaked WhatsApp messages), the statement references a “shadow operation” - a plot to divert funds from target seats to centrist MPs who opposed Corbyn's leadership. It goes on to suggest the diversion of funds was carried out without official authorisation and may have "constituted fraudulent activity.”

The staff claim the accusations of misdirecting funds are baseless, but this should be easily provable one way or another, as any such spending must be fully accounted for. It's also been claimed the leaked WhatsApp messages were taken out of context, prompting Diane Abbott (an alleged target of abuse) to call for the messages to be published in full. This is a call I would certainly back. Full transparency is needed at this time to assure the Labour membership and public that justice will be served.

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Publish Diane Abbott "Bullying" Messages in Full

Over the past few days, we have seen the claim that leaked messages which show Labour staff allegedly bullying Diane Abbott were deliberately taken out of context and that this was libellous. 

Many people have read these messages and are struggling to see how they could possibly be taken out of context, so the fairest thing all round is to publish the messages in full and let the public see that context. That way we can decide for ourselves.

Diane Abbott posted a Tweet which is currently going viral in which she said the following:

I understand these messages came from a WhatsApp group which was specifically set up for work purposes. I used to work as a complaints manager for a bank and if we received a complaint in which this kind of language was used during work-based communications, then regardless of context, this would have resulted in instant dismissal. 

Indeed I have seen more than one person dismissed simply for using the "F" word in a manner which was not directed at anyone. Yet this language was directed at Diane Abbott and if the messages are genuine (I've certainly heard no-one claim they are fake) then they must surely result in dismissal. Even if they were intended as "banter", it's difficult to see how they can be defended. 

Imagine how you would feel if your colleagues were talking about you in this way. Now imagine you are Diane Abbott who receives more online abuse than all other female MPs combined. Diane was reportedly driven to tears by bullying, hiding in a toilet cubicle while Labour staff mocked her outside. If this story is true, it's utterly horrific.

The Labour Party has rightly pledged a zero tolerance approach to antisemitism. It should equally have a zero tolerance approach to all forms of racism and bullying.

I would like to point out there is more to the above allegations than what I have evidenced in this article. The problem is it's difficult to know where to draw the line on what can and can't be legally published without consulting lawyers, given the claims stem from leaked documents. Clearly, there is public interest in Labour being fully transparent to avoid this problem.

Of course, it's entirely possible I could be missing important context which would change my opinion on the matter. Therefore, in the interests of fairness, I call for the messages to be published in full to let the public see for themselves and decide the full context. It would be completely unacceptable for the matter to be swept under the carpet. If anything, the police should be investigating whether or not hate crimes have taken place.

If the staff are guilty of racist abuse they must be expelled from the Labour Party and if they are innocent, they are owed a huge apology. The Labour membership deserve to know the full truth.

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Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Managing my Post-Covid Symptoms

Like 1 in 10 people who've had Covid-19, I'm still suffering symptoms months after infection. I fell ill with Covid-19 on March 13th and experienced relatively mild symptoms from the initial infection. It was not a pleasant experience by any stretch of the imagination, but I was not close to needing hospital treatment. You would therefore think I would immediately recover and get back to normal, right? Wrong!

I distinctly remember in the days after I'd "recovered", feeling a sudden and intense burst of energy. I could not sit still so I was out mowing the lawn and doing every job in the house and feeling surprisingly fantastic. I'm back to normal now, I thought. And then the fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks. I spent about two days mostly sleeping. My chest was tightening up and I was feeling strange palpitations which were really unnerving. 

Since then, these symptoms have been a regular occurrence, along with dizziness and drowsiness. I tried a light bit of exercise once and my legs turned to jelly afterwards. My arms were shaking like an old man's. It was really quite pathetic! 

And yet when I was doing nothing, I felt mostly okay. The symptoms would come and go, but they were bearable on the condition I lazed around. Only problem was I was getting seriously restless and desperate to return to normal. Plus, I have 3 kids to look after.

So I began reading up on post-Covid symptoms, on post-viral fatigue, and on research showing some people with an initially mild infection were now suffering inflammation of the heart and lungs, and some even showed signs of permanent damage. These people were an increased heart attack risk and I was exhibiting the same symptoms. Even more worryingly, a friend of mine tragically died of a heart attack at just 37 and we have no way of knowing if it was Covid-related.

Sometimes lying in bed at night, I could feel an aching in my heart and lungs. It was never severe to the point I felt I was having a heart attack, but it was rather unsettling. I didn't know what to do. I did not want to burden the NHS when others needed hospital far more than me. I called the doctor a few times and never got an answer, so I decided to start figuring this out and then something really obvious struck me.

Back in 2011, I suffered a nasty bout of food poisoning and ever since, I've suffered from IBS and a minor sugar intolerance. No one knows the cause for sure, but I've always felt it was an auto-immune response triggered by foods and resulting in inflammation. I wondered if something similar could be happening in my chest and then I started to notice a link.

My IBS has certain trigger foods like chocolate, for example. After 9 years of management, I've realised what doses of these trigger foods are safe to eat before they become problematic. But since Covid, my body appears to have a heightened sensitivity. Eating anything at all is triggering the tightness in my chest, but if I eat even a little junk food, it's five times worse.

I've always had an overactive immune system. I react to pretty much anything and I suspect those 1 in 10 who are suffering long term like me are much the same. I'm now carefully avoiding anything that I might react to, and focusing on relaxing my body, cleaning up my admittedly imperfect diet, reducing my food intake and drinking plenty of water. The result is my chest does not feel quite as tight. The inflammation is generally lower and the fatigue less severe. The symptoms still flare up after eating, but usually not to the same extreme. I feel a little more energetic too, but I'm far from 100%. I'm now utterly convinced my post-Covid symptoms are the result of an overactive immune system.

Post-viral fatigue can typically last for six months and I'm at 4 and a half months. Hopefully, this problem will clear up on its own soon, but given I've suffered IBS problems 9 years after food poisoning, I must consider this may be a life long issue. At least it seems to be one that can be mitigated through healthy living choices though. If anyone is going through this ordeal, I strongly recommend bearing the above in mind and adopting as clean a lifestyle as possible. It really might help you.

From what I've read, the best way to reduce inflammation is to reduce blood sugar, lose weight, keep stress levels low, and avoid inflammatory foods like trans fats. Eat good foods like fresh fruit and vegetables and fish, and drink lots of water. Obviously, many of us can't afford to eat perfectly, but improve your shopping habits where possible and you should see a difference.

One important thing to note: Please do not self-medicate with over the counter anti-inflammatories as these may increase heart attack risk. Please speak to a doctor if your symptoms are getting out of hand.

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Monday, 3 August 2020

Liam Fox was the Numpty Hacked by Russia

It has been alleged Russia hacked former trade secretary Liam Fox in order to release US/UK trade documents which showed the Tory government were prepared to lower food standards and raise drug prices. 

The prevailing media narrative is that by raising concerns over these documents, the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is somehow a Russian stooge. Indeed, Lisa Nandy was keen to point out the new leadership would've done no such thing. Yet those documents are genuine and prove the Tories were lying to the British public and acting against our interests. The Tories were negotiating things no reasonable person would approve of, but the so-called opposition would not have discussed the matter. Just whose side are Labour on here? And who are the real bad guys in this equation?

The US and UK often share intelligence with the world that shows other nations in a bad light. When they do so, they insist they are acting in the interests of those countries, and their people have a right to know what their governments are up to. 

Does this principle not work the other way? Do the British people not have a right to know their chicken is going to be washed in chlorine? Or drug prices are going to be increased dramatically? Do we not have a right to know our government is acting without our consent and lying to us? Because I don't remember any of this on the side of the Brexit bus.
Britain and America have no qualms about interfering in other countries, but get mad when Russia does it to them? The fact remains, if the Tory government were being honest, there would be nothing to reveal.
People are saying Russia tried to influence the outcome of the 2019 general election, but if they really were influencing voters, they were doing so by revealing the truth. Hardly a great scandal, is it? Normally when the truth is revealed to the public, it's called journalism, not espionage. Not that I want Russia to have access to our secrets, of course, I just don't want to be lied to by my government.

My question is, why on Earth were Liam Fox's emails so vulnerable to hacking in the first place? It's rather worrying that our government keeps confidential data in such an insecure manner. 

While the data revealed was in the public interest, who knows what else Russia was able to obtain? We hear repeatedly that Labour would be a threat to national security, but the shambolic Tory Party can't even keep its secrets safe. Does this not make the Tories a threat to national security?

"The government has very robust systems in place to protect the IT systems of officials and staff," a spokesperson said, rather laughably.

Let's not forget that on top of this leak, there is also the concern about the Tory Party being cosy with Russian oligarchs and taking huge donations from them. It would appear Russian influence in our democracy goes further than hacked emails and it's a bit rich of the government to point the finger at Jeremy Corbyn whose only crime was to discuss their wrongdoing.

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Tories Refuse to Suspend Rape Suspect

I've lost count of the number of times a Tory MP or councillor has been guilty of sexual misconduct, had a sleazy affair, snorted cocaine with a prostitute, got gropey with a secretary, or worse. For some reason, grotesque sexual behaviour is a regular occurrence, almost like the Tory Party is a magnetic for sleaze. Just this week, we've seen a Tory councillor found with child porn images, a Tory donor charged with sexual assault, an ex-Tory MP convicted of sexual assault, and now a Tory MP charged with rape after a 4 month investigation.
It would appear this lot don't know how to keep it in their pants.
Now it's important not to speculate on who the rape suspect might be. It would not be right to name the wrong person, but one might reasonably ask the question: Why has this person not officially been named?

I fully understand and respect the principle of innocent until proven guilty, but surely we have a right to know when our elected representatives are suspected of serious crimes. Indeed, when a politician commits a less serious act, say one which results in suspension, the public are immediately told, yet in this case we are not told. Even worse, I understand the suspect has not been suspended from the Tory Party. How is this right?
The Tories expelled Winston Churchill's grandson for opposing hard Brexit, but they can't suspend a rape suspect?
Social media speculation is rife about who the suspect might be so I must emphasise once again, that the speculation could be entirely wrong and the actual suspect could be innocent. However, the best way to end the speculation is to name the suspect officially and suspend them until the matter is resolved in court. What if this MP is found guilty and yet carried on serving in the Tory Party for months while the court case was ongoing? What if the public are currently being represented by someone who is a rapist?

It is surely appropriate to be transparent in this circumstance and wait for justice to be served, one way or the other. The secretive manner in which the whole thing is being carried out hardly instils public confidence in the justice system or the Tory Party. Indeed, someone joked on Twitter he wouldn't be surprised to see the suspect promoted, and although I chuckled, given how many Tories have been guilty of sexual misconduct over the years, it's hardly a laughing matter.

We have a Prime Minister who knocked up his secretary while he wife was undergoing cancer treatment, for God's sake. Nothing illegal about that, of course, but it's still pretty damn sleazy. You could be forgiven for thinking the whole Tory Party is sleazy from top to bottom. It's not just the sexual misconduct either, it's the donations from Russian oligarchs and the secret NHS negotiations with America and the Cambridge Analytica scandal and, well, I could go on, but you get the picture. 

Sleaze and corruption go hand in hand with the Tory Party, yet for some inexplicable reason, a good chunk of the British public love them. What is wrong with these people? Are they in denial or do they simply not care about integrity?

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Sunday, 2 August 2020

Why Antisemitism Weaponisers are Racists

Palestine was never a hill  I chose to die on. For most of my life, it was never an issue I was confronted with. I had my own problems and my politics grew from solving those, but things rapidly changed...

I remember years ago, watching a documentary by Ross Kemp on the Israel/Palestine situation. I can't remember what it was called, but it was one of the most compelling documentaries you will ever see and you really should look it up, if you can.

Ross Kemp first visited Israel, speaking to military figures and ordinary citizens and portraying a harrowing picture of the Jewish situation. Whatever you think of the rights and wrongs of the Israeli occupation, it's absolutely impossible not to feel enormous empathy for those Jews who've lost family in suicide bombings and the holocaust. There is a very real and visible pain that so many Jews in Israel are feeling to this day. Kemp captured this poignantly and highlighted the many good Israelis who just want to live freely alongside the Palestinians. Most of these people are not monstrous occupiers, they are ordinary people who were born in Israel and were never given a choice in the matter. Israel is the only home they've known and I think that needs to be respected, whatever your politics.

What Kemp did next was something I'd never seen before and that is a damning indictment of British journalism. He ventured into Palestine, taking his cameras among the rubble and the bullet-riddled buildings and speaking to ordinary people and even those who are called terrorists. The reality of what the Palestinian people were (and still are) facing truly defied belief - it was like an apocalyptic movie scene. We're taking Israeli soldiers stopping ordinary people at gunpoint, kicking in doors whenever they felt like it, even shooting people dead for no reason. Kemp, visibly shaken, pointed to a man lying in the rubble who was shot by an Israeli sniper, just yards in front of him, while minding his own business. We heard from a bereaved father whose child was killed by the Israeli military and I could not help thinking if I lived in this hell, I would be a terrorist too.

To be clear, I'm not justifying violence against civilians here. Hell no. Terrorism is unquestionably among the worst crimes a person can ever commit. I'm just saying at that moment, I understood how some were driven to commit horrific acts, especially those bereaved fathers.

The Kemp documentary changed my outlook on the Israel/Palestine situation forever. I still felt enormous empathy for the ordinary citizens of Israel who'd suffered unimaginably, but I could not look past the Palestinians who'd also suffered unimaginably, mostly at the hands of Israel.

Since watching that documentary, I've become far more educated on the subject, and the key reason has ironically been the recent efforts to silence Palestinian activists. The constant denouncing of people as antisemites for making a principled stand is what compelled me to dig deeper.

Now I understand the Israeli position, I really do. I understand how they desperately wanted a homeland in order to finally feel safe. I understand why they built a border wall to keep out the relentless suicide bombers. I even understand why they send soldiers into Palestine, even though I disagree with this course of action. I get the fear and suffering.

But here's the thing, Israel will not officially declare its borders. It annexes any part of Palestinian land it wants and acts like it has a right to decide which parts of Palestine the Palestinians can or can't control. The Israeli government only lets Palestinians control tiny slivers of their own land and talks as though they should feel grateful. It refuses to recognise Palestinian statehood. Its soldiers are everywhere, stopping children at gunpoint, throwing five year olds in prison, terrorising old ladies in the middle of the night, shooting pregnant women, bulldozing houses and stealing farmland. It's all real. 
Spend five minutes on Google and prepare to be horrified by the human rights abuses inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians. What you find will change you and probably scar you.
Nobel Peace Laureate and former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu visited Palestine and described the situation as worse than apartheid South Africa. He urged a boycott of apartheid Israel.

"People who are denied their dignity and rights deserve the solidarity of their fellow human beings. Those who turn a blind eye to injustice perpetuate injustice. If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

"I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing in the Holy Land that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under apartheid. I have witnessed the systematic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government.

"We could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through... non-violent means, such as boycotts and disinvestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the apartheid regime," Tutu said.

I hope the above has painted a clear and accurate picture of what we're dealing with here - apartheid. And that's true, whether your sympathies lie more with Israel or Palestine, whether you think the situation is justifiable or not - the situation is an apartheid situation. And it's recognised as such by the United Nations.

Now as I said at the start of the article, Palestine was never the hill I chose to die on, but today I find myself pulled into the conversation, primarily because I've witnessed the targeting of Palestinian activists by the media and politicians. This targeting resulted in people who were not even involved in the conversation like myself being caught in the crossfire and branded antisemites.

The reasons for this targeting seem to be two-fold: firstly, some would prefer public awareness of the apartheid situation remained low and people were kept in the dark as I once was. Secondly, many Palestinian activists are associated with the Labour Party and this presented the opportunity to attack socialism and the pro-Palestine former leader Jeremy Corbyn. This targeting has proven very successful, of course. We now have a situation where the Labour leader and other prominent Labour figures proudly call themselves Zionists and fall silent on the Palestine issue. 

We also have a situation where anti-Zionism is conflated with antisemitism. This ironically is antisemitic in itself because it supposes all Jews are Zionists which is patently not the case. Zionism is a political ideology which, whatever its founding ideals, has led to the current apartheid situation and can therefore be legitimately opposed. It's surely insensitive to Palestinians for non-Jews to describe themselves as proud Zionists, given how the Palestinians are suffering. 

I'm not even saying people should be anti-Zionists. I'm not sure I would describe myself as anti-Zionist. I did once in a conversation with a Zionist who politely explained he did not consider me anti-Zionist because I believe in a two-state solution. He explained I was simply anti-expansionist and that might be a more accurate term. But what I cannot and will not tolerate is anti-Zionists being denounced as antisemitic, as racist, when their position is clearly the opposite.

Zionism is a political ideology, just like conservatism or socialism or communism or any other political ideology, and all political ideologies must be subjected to criticism. Yet we see constant smears, false accusations of antisemitism, against anyone who is either anti-Zionist or simply anti-expansionist like myself. And let's be clear: those attacks are racist. 
Anti-Zionism is not racism. Anti-Palestinianism is racism.
If, for example, you tell a Palestinian they cannot be anti-Zionist, you are being racist. You are erasing their suffering and their right to oppose their subjugators. 

If you tell a pro-Palestinian activist they are "obsessed" with the Israel/Palestine issue, you are being racist. You are belittling support for Palestine.

If you distort every word of support for Palestine into an "antisemitic conspiracy theory," rather than a call for freedom, you are being racist. You are weaponising antisemitism.

Political discourse has taken a very sinister turn in recent years to the point where only those who are proudly Zionist can be portrayed as the good guys. Where the plight of the Palestinians is minimised or erased. Where anti-racists are terrified of speaking out for fear of being branded racist. 

And branding anti-racism as racism to minimise the suffering of apartheid is unquestionably one of the most racist things you can do.

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Saturday, 1 August 2020

What if Prince Andrew is Guilty?

Prince Andrew has been named in US court documents which allege an underage girl was forced to have sex with him. Let's rephrase that: which allege Andrew raped an underage girl.

This is a man we call Prince. A man who lives in extraordinary luxury in palaces owned by the tax payer. A man who no sensible person expects will be extradited to stand trial in America. And yet if he was an ordinary person, he would already be gone and facing the possibility of years behind bars.

Contrast this with the horrific treatment of Julian Assange who is currently imprisoned in the UK and facing the threat of extradition to the US for the crime of journalism. Julian Assange exposed human rights abuses by the state, and now his human rights are being abused as punishment, while a prince stands above the law.

Why are we accepting this? And why are we still calling Andrew, Prince? Indeed, why are we bestowing such outdated titles upon anyone? Britain is a country that gave a knighthood to paedophile rapist Jimmy Saville and calls someone "Prince" who might also be a paedophile rapist. Horrifying.

Now I don't know if Andrew is guilty, of course. I can't know. But here's what I do know:

Andrew was photographed at the door of a mansion belonging to Jeffrey Epstein - the paedophile sex trafficker who either committed suicide in a cell or was "suicided" by the authorities or was broken out and flown to a tropical island to live out his days. Let's be honest, none of us have a clue what really happened to Epstein, but we do know he was (is?) one of the very worst people on this Earth. And Prince Andrew called him friend for years.

Epstein's little black book contains an alarming list of celebrities and politicians, many of who he was known to associate with. It really does appear Epstein was inviting rich and powerful people to his mansion to have sex parties with underage girls who were groomed by his ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell - another of Andrew's friends. 

At least one of Epstein's victims has officially named Andrew as a rapist and her claim should be taken very seriously indeed. The woman alleges she was raped by Andrew in an island orgy, in Maxwell's London flat and in New York between 1999 and 2002 and was kept as Jeffrey Epstein's slave from 15 years old.

Documents also allege Prince Andrew attempted to lobby the US on behalf of Epstein to secure a favourable plea arrangement. In other words, Andrew allegedly tried to get a paedophile sex trafficker off lightly. These documents were released after a judge refused Maxwell's request to keep them secret.

If we do not extradite Andrew to the US, which we won't, then even if Andrew is innocent, we are still saying it's fine for a prince to commit acts of paedophilia. This is because Andrew does not have to pretend to be answerable to the courts, even in the most serious of circumstances. A prince is above the law and if he wants to target your daughter or any other innocent child, he is allowed to. And that is utterly chilling.

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