Sister Dorries and the labour camp

Finally is it possible to work out the real agenda of David Cameron's Conservatives?

I commend to you the blog of Tory MP and friend of the Fundies (that's Christian Fundamentalists in case you didn't know) Nadine Dorries.

Have a good read and then contrast and compare the way her party leader, Lexus Dave Cameron, tries to pass himself off. You now know the form: no more laughing at the poor. No more scapegoating the single mothers. The caring wrinkling of the brow to indicate principled stands over the 42 days...

'Ok,' you cry, 'but he's a sort of walking policy vacuum. No-one knows what he might do when in power.' Well I wonder if we can infer the real agenda of the Mod Cons from Sister Dorries's blog.

But more than that it's worth reading for its pure unbridled silliness.

For example on Giles 'whoops a daisy' Chichester MEP - who quit his role as leader of the Tories in Brussels after admitting breaking expenses rules: i.e. paying thousands of pounds in staff allowances to a firm of which he is a paid director.

Here goes our Nadine: "The frenzied attack against Conservative MPs and MEPs, orchestrated by and emanating from the left wing BBC and press has equalled that of an animal in its death throes. The more terminal the position looks for Labour, the more desperate the BBC and the left wing press become."

Hmmm. Tell that to Conservative Central Office hanger on turned BBC political editor Nick Robinson.

But it gets even better.

Here she is on law and order - perhaps not so far in her thinking from David 'death penalty' Davis...

"I believe strongly that we should have County Sheriffs to replace Chief Constables, that they should be voted for and elected by the people, and therefore fully accountable to the people.

Which Sheriff of Bedfordshire would go back to the people for re-election having presided over rising crime?

One sure way to make sure your police force works is to make the top job dependent upon results: a performance related position.

A friend sent me this:

"Sheriff Joe Arpaio created the 'tent city jail' to save Arizona from spending tens of millions of dollars on another expensive prison complex.

He has jail meals down to 20 cents a serving and charges the inmates for them.

He banned smoking and pornographic magazines in the jails, and took away their weightlifting equipment and cut off all but 'G' movies. He says: 'They're in jail to pay a debt to society not to build muscles so they can assault innocent people when the leave.'

He started chain gangs to use the inmates to do free work on county and city projects and save taxpayers' money.

Then he started chain gangs for women so he wouldn't get sued for discrimination.""

She goes on (and on as a matter of fact) quoting about the pink uniforms, the searing heat, the forced viewing of Newt Gingrich's history of America - cruel and unusual punishment in my book and, no doubt, in his.

Of course the soft-heared pro-lifer doesn't agree with all of it - oh no. But then she doesn't say which aspects of this American gulag she would leave out.

Must be lovely to be punctilious in your observance of the law which made me wonder if Sister Dorries has copyright permission to reproduce all those photos of inmates. Perhaps she'll let us know.

Moving on.

I was watching some TV the other day and had the misfortune of happening across my own personal version of hell. You'll be familiar with the fabulous Sartre play No Exit or Huis Clos. People lumped in a room together for eternity - hell is other people and all that.

Well this is mine. Stuck in front of an hour-long edition of Eastenders followed by the Apprentice final.

Ben Davies trained as a journalist after taking most of the 1990s off. Prior to joining the New Statesman he spent five years working as a politics reporter for the BBC News website. He lives in North London.
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In the 1980s, I went to a rally where Labour Party speakers shared the stage with men in balaclavas

The links between the Labour left and Irish republicanism are worth investigating.

A spat between Jeremy Corbyn’s henchfolk and Conor McGinn, the MP for St Helens North, caught my ear the other evening. McGinn was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, and he obligingly revisited the brouhaha for the listeners at home. Apparently, following an interview in May, in which McGinn called for Corbyn to “reach out beyond his comfort zone”, he was first threatened obliquely with the sack, then asked for a retraction (which he refused to give) and finally learned – from someone in the whips’ office – that his party leader was considering phoning up McGinn’s father to whip the errant whipper-in into line. On the programme, McGinn said: “The modus operandi that he [Corbyn] and the people around him were trying to do [sic], involving my family, was to isolate and ostracise me from them and from the community I am very proud to come from – which is an Irish nationalist community in south Armagh.”

Needless to say, the Labour leader’s office has continued to deny any such thing, but while we may nurture some suspicions about his behaviour, McGinn was also indulging in a little airbrushing when he described south Armagh as an “Irish ­nationalist community”. In the most recent elections, Newry and Armagh returned three Sinn Fein members to the Northern Ireland Assembly (as against one Social Democratic and Labour Party member) and one Sinn Fein MP to Westminster. When I last looked, Sinn Fein was still a republican, rather than a nationalist, party – something that McGinn should only be too well aware of, as the paternal hand that was putatively to have been lain on him belongs to Pat McGinn, the former Sinn Fein mayor of Newry and Armagh.

According to the Irish News, a “close friend” of the McGinns poured this cold water on the mini-conflagration: “Anybody who knows the McGinn family knows that Pat is very proud of Conor and that they remain very close.” The friend went on to opine: “He [Pat McGinn] found the whole notion of Corbyn phoning him totally ridiculous – as if Pat is going to criticise his son to save Jeremy Corbyn’s face. They would laugh about it were it not so sinister.”

“Sinister” does seem the mot juste. McGinn, Jr grew up in Bessbrook during the Troubles. I visited the village in the early 1990s on assignment. The skies were full of the chattering of British army Chinooks, and there were fake road signs in the hedgerows bearing pictograms of rifles and captioned: “Sniper at work”. South Armagh had been known for years as “bandit country”. There were army watchtowers standing sentinel in the dinky, green fields and checkpoints everywhere, manned by some of the thousands of the troops who had been deployed to fight what was, in effect, a low-level counter-insurgency war. Nationalist community, my foot.

What lies beneath the Corbyn-McGinn spat is the queered problematics of the ­relationship between the far left wing of the Labour Party and physical-force Irish republicanism. I also recall, during the hunger strikes of the early 1980s, going to a “Smash the H-Blocks” rally in Kilburn, north London, at which Labour Party speakers shared the stage with representatives from Sinn Fein, some of whom wore balaclavas and dark glasses to evade the telephoto lenses of the Met’s anti-terrorist squad.

The shape-shifting relationship between the “political wing” of the IRA and the men with sniper rifles in the south Armagh bocage was always of the essence of the conflict, allowing both sides a convenient fiction around which to posture publicly and privately negotiate. In choosing to appear on platforms with people who might or might not be terrorists, Labour leftists also sprinkled a little of their stardust on themselves: the “stardust” being the implication that they, too, under the right circumstances, might be capable of violence in pursuit of their political ends.

On the far right of British politics, Her Majesty’s Government and its apparatus are referred to derisively as “state”. There were various attempts in the 1970s and 1980s by far-right groupuscules to link up with the Ulster Freedom Fighters and other loyalist paramilitary organisations in their battle against “state”. All foundered on the obvious incompetence of the fascists. The situation on the far left was different. The socialist credentials of Sinn Fein/IRA were too threadbare for genuine expressions of solidarity, but there was a sort of tacit confidence-and-supply arrangement between these factions. The Labour far left provided the republicans with the confidence that, should an appropriately radical government be elected to Westminster, “state” would withdraw from Northern Ireland. What the republicans did for the mainland militants was to cloak them in their penumbra of darkness: without needing to call down on themselves the armed might of “state”, they could imply that they were willing to take it on, should the opportunity arise.

I don’t for a second believe that Corbyn was summoning up these ghosts of the insurrectionary dead when he either did or did not threaten to phone McGinn, Sr. But his supporters need to ask themselves what they’re getting into. Their leader, if he was to have remained true to the positions that he has espoused over many years, should have refused to sit as privy counsellor upon assuming his party office, and refused all the other mummery associated with the monarchical “state”. That he didn’t do so was surely a strategic decision. Such a position would make him utterly unelectable.

The snipers may not be at work in south Armagh just now – but there are rifles out there that could yet be dug up. I wouldn’t be surprised if some in Sinn Fein knew where they are, but one thing’s for certain: Corbyn hasn’t got a clue, bloody or otherwise. 

Will Self is an author and journalist. His books include Umbrella, Shark, The Book of Dave and The Butt. He writes the Madness of Crowds and Real Meals columns for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser