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Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, a commentator with CNN and the author/editor of over 30 books.
When you’re in a political hole, it’s generally best to stop digging. Yet Jeremy Corbyn keeps buying new shovels. Nothing can get him out of the hole he has dug for himself on anti-semitism. Every day, it seems, there is a new revelation which demonstrates his attitude to the subject.
And still there are some of his diehard supporters who continue to believe that there’s nothing to see, and we should just move along. The fact that there are dozens to Labour MPs who are horrified by what is happening means little to Corbyn’s true believers. They are blind to any apparent failing their hero has, and instead think that those who call him out should be expelled from the party.
There’s no way back for Corbyn from this sorry debacle. He’s shown himself to be weak, indecisive and the opposite of a leader. Hodge believes Corbyn to actually be anti-semitic himself. I don’t. But I believe that he tolerates anti-semitism, and has no real comprehension of what the word even means.
His hatred of the state of Israel trumps everything. It’s also more proof of the hold Seumas Milne has over him. You just have to read the latter’s rantings in The Guardian over the years to understand where he’s coming from on the subject. I suspect that he drafted Corbyn’s non-apology on Wednesday, which memorably couldn’t even utter the word Israel. Instead, it was called ‘Israel/Palestine’. Criticism of Israel does not mean automatically that someone is anti-semitic, but in context it often does.
Many Corbyn supporters accuse the media of launching a witch-hunt against him. Just by covering the story we are ‘smearing him’. It’s apparently a non-story. They say we should be covering Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.
When that story broke, I did a phone-in on it. If you remember, the self-appointed Muslim Council of Britain alleged there was widespread Islamaphobia in the Tory Party. But they could only produce nine examples over a number of years.
[Update: This article originally stated the Muslim Council of Britain “could only produce nine examples [of Islamophobia] over a number of years.” In fact, these were from a period of weeks not years. The MCB has also since reported further allegations beyond the nine. ConservativeHome is happy to correct this error.]
I have a lot of Muslim listeners, so I decided to test it out. I did an hour-long phone-in, and asked Muslims to phone into the programme if they could cite any examples. Not one could. That’s not to say that it doesn’t exist but, in the two months since then, if it was indeed widespread, you’d think we’d have had a drip-drip of examples.
Unless of course the media wouldn’t print or broadcast them. Don’t make me laugh. I don’t doubt that there are Islamophobes in the the Tory Party. They exist in all political parties and across society. It’s an issue which needs to be addressed.
But let’s not try to conflate a small problem in one party with an endemic problem in another. There are masses of cases of anti-semitism which have been reported to Labour Party HQ, and masses too that have been reported in the media.
And yet there are still people, such as NEC member Peter Willsman, who say they have never seen an example on it. And this man sits on the Labour Party’s National Executive. Not only that, but he sits on their disciplinary panel. Has he been asleep during their meetings?
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My heart aches for Zimbabwe. I’ve never been there, but it’s clear it is the most amazing country, which has been completely ruined by Robert Mugabe and his acolytes. Its GDP per person is now only $2300, lower than that of Yemen. Only six pent of its adults are in full time formal work. Its currency is worthless. I could go on.
When Mugabe was toppled, there was a real hope that things would change. I spoke to a lot of Zimbabwean expats on my radio show, and many of them said that if the new regime proved things would change they would go back to help rebuild their proud nation.
The truth is that little has changed. Emmerson Mnangagwa – known as The Crocodile – has tried to put a new sheen on the Zanu PF government, and declared to the outside world that the country is ‘open for business’, but in reality things haven’t really changed at all.
We saw that in the election on Monday. It’s clear there was widespread electoral fraud and ballot-stuffing. In one town, with a population of 28,000 people, 35,000 ballot papers were counted. Zanu PF won all the seats in Matabeleland – the very area where Mnangagwa is alleged to have led the slaughter of 20,000 people during the 1980s. It hardly seems likely that they would have voted for him.
Meanwhile, it has to be asked what on earth the EU election observers were doing. Their only comment so far has been to regret the delay in announcing the result. What a waste of space they have been.
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On Wednesday, an Appeal Court Judge unwittingly made Tommy Robinson a hero. He was freed on bail over a technicality.
His supporters, who had been accusing the judicial establishment of a plot to lock up their hero, rather had the wind taken out of their sails when the judicial system actually worked as it should. They rather ignored that he hadn’t been found not guilty. A retrial will be held shortly.
But make no mistake, a new far-right hero has been born. The wretched Steve Bannon sees Robinson as someone who can lead a new so-called Alt-Right movement in this country. Ignore the fact that Robinson is a thuggish criminal and an Islamophobic bully. Bannon sees him as articulate, with an eye for catching the media’s attention, and capable of galvanising people.
He’s right in that judgement, and I suspect there will be a lot of American money flowing into the Robinson coffers. His supporters are true believers. They worship at this altar, and see him as their true saviour. UKIP and its current leadership are going along with this. Gerard Batten is obsessed by Islam, to the exclusion of virtually everything else.
He’s made UKIP an irrelevance in the Brexit debate, but instead has gone out of his way to defend Robinson. He’s leading UKIP down a very dangerous path. The only way it can be reversed is if Nigel Farage returns to the political fray. I’m not sure he wants to, but many people are urging him to take up the cudgels again. Time will tell if he’s up for it.