Lord Levy's 'persecution'

Millions have been spent on chasing e-mails ... but then Lord Levy like Dame Shirley Porter before h

Never underestimate the pressures on a politician's stomach, the higher the greasy pole you climb the higher the calorific content of the diners you are invited to.

So it was that I attended the Annual Dinner of the Board of Deputies of British Jews at the Radisson Portman Hotel.

The great and the good of British Jewry had assembled to hear the next prime minister, Gordon Brown, tell them what a wonderful community they were, how he appreciated their hard work, would fight anti-Semitism and was a life-long friend of Israel. In fact exactly the same things David Cameron told them at last years dinner and the Chief Rabbi duly lead the standing ovation.

There is something incredibly charismatic about Sir Jonathan Sachs, never mind his first rate preaching and common sense contributions to "Thought for the Day" that makes me as a Christian lament the abject failure of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, with his unkempt beard and general wishy-washiness, to provide any spiritual leadership to our Country.

Oh and never underestimate the genuine affection that Lord Levy is held in by the Jewish community.

He sat at the top table with an air of nobility that has nothing to do with his title. Indeed if the organs of the state continue with their current persecution I suspect he will acquire sainthood in the not to distant future.

It seems to me a strange use of police resources that whilst a gang of armed robbers is holding up members of the Orthodox Jewish community in their North London homes, millions have been spent chasing e-mails and other political tittle-tattle: but then Lord Levy like Dame Shirley Porter before him is Jewish.

Whilst the chancellor and his wife stayed to the end of the dinner, the Israeli Ambassador Zvi Hefetz could not get away early enough. To the general relief of British Jewry he is soon returning to Israel with his poor grasp of English, having failed to present Israel's case last summer during the Lebanon war, reluctant as he was to break his holiday in Italy.

A few days later I was in Israel myself as the official report into the failures of the government and armed forces in last summer's Lebanon War was published.

At yet another dinner I sat next to the French wife of the British Ambassador to Israel, Tom Phillips (should British Ambassadors be allowed foreign wives they used not to be allowed foreign cars) and the Ambassador gave Prime Minister Olmert two months but seemed genuinely terrified at the prospect of the return of Benjamin Netanyahu. Having been on the streets of Tel Aviv on the day of the "Olmert must go" rally I can assure the Foreign Office Netanyahu will be back.

Most politicians in Israel are retired military officers, indeed even the Councillor in charge of parking in Tel Aviv is an ex-Major General but Olmert is not: hence a certain prejudice against him.

There is something to be said for the no-nonsense approach of military figures who transfer into politics. If I were Gordon Brown I would be arranging dinner with the chiefs of staff at the Ministry of Defence very soon!

Brian Coleman was first elected to the London Assembly in June 2000. Widely outspoken he is best known for his groundbreaking policy of removing traffic calming measures
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How Donald Trump is slouching towards the Republican nomination

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb.

In America, you can judge a crowd by its merchandise. Outside the Connecticut Convention Centre in Hartford, frail old men and brawny moms are selling “your Trump 45 football jerseys”, “your hats”, “your campaign buttons”. But the hottest item is a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Hillary sucks . . . but not like Monica!” and, on the back: “Trump that bitch!” Inside, beyond the checkpoint manned by the Transportation Security Administration and the secret service (“Good!” the man next to me says, when he sees the agents), is a family whose three kids, two of them girls, are wearing the Monica shirt.

Other people are content with the shirts they arrived in (“Waterboarding – baptising terrorists with freedom” and “If you don’t BLEED red, white and blue, take your bitch ass home!”). There are 80 chairs penned off for the elderly but everyone else is standing: guys in motorcycle and military gear, their arms folded; aspiring deal-makers, suited, on cellphones; giggling high-school fatsos, dressed fresh from the couch, grabbing M&M’s and Doritos from the movie-theatre-style concession stands. So many baseball hats; deep, bellicose chants of “Build the wall!” and “USA!”. (And, to the same rhythm, “Don-ald J!”)

A grizzled man in camouflage pants and combat boots, whose T-shirt – “Connecticut Militia III%” – confirms him as a member of the “patriot” movement, is talking to a zealous young girl in a short skirt, who came in dancing to “Uptown Girl”.

“Yeah, we were there for Operation American Spring,” he says. “Louis Farrakhan’s rally of hate . . .”

“And you’re a veteran?” she asks. “Thank you so much!”

Three hours will pass. A retired US marine will take the rostrum to growl, “God bless America – hoo-rah!”; “Uptown Girl” will play many more times (much like his speeches, Donald J’s playlist consists of a few items, repeated endlessly), before Trump finally looms in and asks the crowd: “Is this the greatest place on Earth?”

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb. Only a minority within a minority of Americans, it was assumed, could possibly be stupid enough to think a Trump presidency was a good idea. He won New Hampshire and South Carolina with over 30 per cent of the Republican vote, then took almost 46 per cent in Nevada. When he cleaned up on Super Tuesday in March, he was just shy of 50 per cent in Massachusetts; a week later, he took 47 per cent of the votes in Mississippi.

His rivals, who are useless individually, were meant to co-operate with each other and the national party to deny him the nomination. But Trump won four out of the five key states being contested on “Super-Duper Tuesday” on 15 March. Then, as talk turned to persuading and co-opting his delegates behind the scenes, Trump won New York with 60 per cent.

Now, the campaign is trying to present Trump as more “presidential”. According to his new manager, Paul Manafort, this requires him to appear in “more formal settings” – without, of course, diluting “the unique magic of Trump”. But whether or not he can resist denouncing the GOP and the “corrupt” primary system, and alluding to violence if he is baulked at at the convention, the new Trump will be much the same as the old.

Back in Hartford: “The Republicans wanna play cute with us, right? If I don’t make it, you’re gonna have millions of people that don’t vote for a Republican. They’re not gonna vote at all,” says Trump. “Hopefully that’s all, OK? Hopefully that’s all, but they’re very, very angry.”

This anger, which can supposedly be turned on anyone who gets in the way, has mainly been vented, so far, on the protesters who disrupt Trump’s rallies. “We’re not gonna be the dummies that lose all of our jobs now. We’re gonna be the smart ones. Oh, do you have one over there? There’s one of the dummies . . .”

There is a frenzied fluttering of Trump placards, off to his right. “Get ’em out! . . . Don’t hurt ’em – see how nice I am? . . . They really impede freedom of speech and it’s a disgrace. But the good news is, folks, it won’t be long. We’re just not taking it and it won’t be long.”

It is their removal by police, at Trump’s ostentatious behest, that causes the disruption, rather than the scarcely audible protesters. He seems to realise this, suddenly: “We should just let ’em . . . I’ll talk right over them, there’s no problem!” But it’s impossible to leave the protesters where they are, because it would not be safe. His crowd is too vicious.

Exit Trump, after exactly half an hour, inclusive of the many interruptions. His people seem uplifted but, out on the street, they are ambushed by a large counter-demonstration, with a booming drum and warlike banners and standards (“Black Lives Matter”; an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, holding aloft Trump’s severed head). Here is the rest of the world, the real American world: young people, beautiful people, more female than male, every shade of skin colour. “F*** Donald Trump!” they chant.

After a horrified split-second, the Trump crowd, massively more numerous, rallies with “USA!” and – perplexingly, since one of the main themes of the speech it has just heard was the lack of jobs in Connecticut – “Get a job!” The two sides then mingle, unobstructed by police. Slanging matches break out that seem in every instance to humiliate the Trump supporter. “Go to college!” one demands. “Man, I am in college, I’m doin’ lovely!”

There is no violence, only this: some black boys are dancing, with liquid moves, to the sound of the drum. Four young Trump guys counter by stripping to their waists and jouncing around madly, their skin greenish-yellow under the street lights, screaming about the building of the wall. There was no alcohol inside; they’re drunk on whatever it is – the elixir of fascism, the unique magic of Trump. It’s a hyper but not at all happy drunk.

As with every other moment of the Trump campaign so far, it would have been merely some grade of the cringeworthy – the embarrassing, the revolting, the pitiful – were Trump not slouching closer and closer, with each of these moments, to his nomination. 

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism