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The Disappearance of Émile Zola. Love, Literature and the Dreyfus Case. Michael Rosen. Review.

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The Disappearance of Émile Zola. Love, Literature and the Dreyfus Case. Michael Rosen. Faber & Faber 2017.

The Dreyfus Affair, which began in 1894, was the supreme battle against a miscarriage of justice. The anti-Semitism of those who opposed the Dreyfusards is seen as the template for hostility to Jews ever since. The public polemics between defenders and opponents of the Jewish officer’s conviction are credited with the origin of the idea of an intellectual.Theodor Herzl said that the Dreyfus case turned him into a Zionist. For the left it was the moment when human rights, not without resistance and ambiguities, became an important issue within the socialist movement. The Affair continues to make its mark within French politics, on both the open-minded and the less tolerant sides of Republican orthodoxy.

There would appear little new to say about Dreyfus, although Ruth Harris’s The Man on Devil’s Island (2010) offers a fresh look alongside rigorous research. Yet Michael Rosen casts new light on an episode familiar to those acquainted with the history. He begins, “on the evening of Monday, 18 July 1898, Émile Zola disappeared”.

J’accuse.

The publication on the 13th of January 1898, in the daily L’aurore, of J’accuse had inflamed opinion. This immortal defence of Dreyfus was met by riots and attacks on Jewish homes and shops, as nationalists and the Ligue antisémitique railed at its author. The Minister for War, General Billot, brought charges of libel against Zola. In a Court, surrounded by hostile crowds and police, he was convicted to 3 years in gaol, and a 3,000 francs fine. Facing an appeal, which the writer felt was certain to fail, he had fled to London.

Over the pages of Disappearance of Émile Zola the writer’s London exile is brought to life with a fine touch. Zola was bemused and far from at ease in the British capital. He did not speak English. Boiled potatoes failed to work their charm on him. The housing, shops and surroundings in the South London suburbs were uneasily different. The houses lacked shutters, which we still seem to able to do without.

With his translated novels enjoying a mass readership Zola was already a celebrity. But this was infamy as much as fame. While religious figures and organisations such as National Vigilance Association had, a more than a decade previously, been hostile to “his odious indecency”. His translator Henry Vizetelly served time in Pentonville prison for publishing his more explicit works. Unabridged versions of books like Nana (1880), the story of the prostitute offspring of the alcoholic couple in l’Assommoir (1877), with its lesbian and sado-masochistic scenes, were only available, at £25 a copy and marked “For Private Distribution”. Rosen justly remarks, that this was not a simple moral or prudish issue; it was about social order “Those who were opposed to Zola’s fiction felt that he undermined that order”. Readers of Germinal, the epic of working class struggle in the Northern French mines, can only agree.

Zola’s Two Households.

Rosen excels in portraying one of the least appealing sides of Zola’s biography His two households, his wife Alexandrine, and the mother of his two children, Denise and Jacques, Jeanne Rozerot. Their correspondence, presence, and, for the latter, visits to England, are warmly and fully described. For many this set-up, like Dickens’s relationship with the Other Woman, Nelly Turnan, is less than attractive, but Zola’s two hearths dominated his life during the exile as much as the campaign for Dreyfus’s innocence.

The Disappearance of Émile Zola recounts that one of the activists for that cause, the Socialist Jean Jaurès, made the voyage to London to see the writer. In Les Preuves (1898) Jaurès had placed the duty of the working class movement to cast aside the questions about the class background of Dreyfus in the name of “humanity” and to take the side of the victim of injustice. In France’s Parliament the Deputy had defended Zola, and attacked a court case brought to defend the “honour” of the army (Discours du 24 Janvier 1898 devant la Chambre des députés).

Truth Will Prevail. 

Rosen signals that readers of the British The Social Democrat would have been aware of the link between left-wing politics, the Dreyfus case, and Zola’s protests. An interview with the British based German socialist, Max Beer, author of the pioneering A History of British Socialism (1919) illustrates Zola’s take on the left and anti-semitism. Held in Paris before the forced London stay, it was not published until 1902. At the start the novelist remarks that previously he had portrayed “despicable” Jewish characters – something that readers of L’argent (1891) with characters such as the swindling financier Gunderman, and Korb’s nose, “en bec d’aigle” (Eagle beaked) indicating his Jewishness, would not hesitate to endorse. Some socialists, he remarks, reproaching him for backing a “rich Jewish captain”. But, “he is for me only a symbol, a victim of terrible forgeries, a witness of the degradation of our republic, which inscribed on its portals the democratic trinity: Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality. But, after all truth is almighty. It will prevail.”

In Britain, a 120, 000 strong petition on behalf of Dreyfus and a demonstration in Hyde Park on 1899 attracting between 50,000 and 80,000 illustrates that the issue was also of burning concern to those in this country who stood by that “democratic trinity”.

Michael Rosen is, I confess, not an author I would have expected to bring new light on one of the important moments in the Dreyfus Affair, or on the life of one of its leading actors. Yet The Disappearance of Émile Zola does exactly that. It does not gloss over the less appealing aspects of Zola’s beliefs – his “natalism”, a wish for the growth of a healthy population, set out in the work he began writing in England, Fécondité, and published in 1899, not to say his fear of ‘hereditary degeneracy’ – once described by Philippe Muray as the idea that the dead are reborn in us. It resists the temptation to make facile comparisons with contemporary politics or 21st Century anti-Semitism. The book covers exactly what the title indicates, “love, literature and the Dreyfus case.” It is is a success and, one hopes, will encourage not just interest in the history but bring new readers to Zola’s path-breaking, and enduring, novels. Congratulations.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 17, 2017 at 11:51 am

The Grenfell Tragedy and Class War.

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https://ichef-1.bbci.co.uk/news/976/cpsprodpb/1267C/production/_96488357_tower_sequence.png

“Our fears over fire were ignored because we are working class.”

The Evening Standard has just reported,

Grenfell Tower estate residents: Our fears over fire were ignored because we are working class.

Distraught residents of the estate where at least 17 people were killed in a horrific tower block blaze have told how they believe safety concerns were ignored because officials “don’t care” about working class people.

Residents living in tower blocks close to Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster West estate said they were now “scared” for their own safety, and that managers and the council had not acted on concerns raised in meetings.

It comes after it emerged a resident of the tower block had written a chilling blog post after a renovation in 2016, saying only a “catastrophe” would lead to changes being made.

…..

Scrawled alongside tributes to victims on a wall outside Latymer Community Centre were messages calling for “justice for Grenfell.”

Another referenced “poor people politics”.

Cye Elliot, 75, a visa adviser who lives close to the estate, said: “It’s just total neglect.

“It’s arrogance, disrespecting people. Because they were working class they can get away with it.

He added: “You see the block where all these people were killed and then you see the people coming along with the kids going to private schools. It’s poignant.”

 

The Grenfell Tragedy is Class War

Writes Phil, A Very Public Sociologist.

The victims of yesterday’s fire at the Grenfell tower in north Kensington are casualties of the class war. There is no other frame, no other explanation that can convincingly thread together the answers to questions about how this unnecessary and entirely avoidable tragedy happened, and why it was allowed to happen.

Shiraz Socialist posts,

Grenfell Action Group: “All our warnings fell on deaf ears”

It is becoming apparent that the residents of Grenfell Tower had made repeated representations to the (Tory) Council and the so-called Tenant Management Committee, about their fears over the safety of the building. But these were poor working class people, isolated within a prosperous borough. They were ignored, as the Grenfell Action Group’s blog demonstrates.

The Guardian carries this story,

Grenfell Tower fire is corporate manslaughter, says Labour MP

David Lammy, whose friend is missing after the blaze, calls for arrests, as confirmed death toll rises to 17.

….

Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, whose friend Khadija Saye and her mother, Mary Mendy, lived on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower and were missing, gave a voice to the growing anger in the community.

“This is the richest borough in our country treating its citizens in this way and we should call it what it is. It is corporate manslaughter. And there should be arrests made; frankly, it is an outrage,” he said.

“Many of us across the country have been caught up in an election knocking on housing estate doors, travelling up to the top floors of tower blocks and we know as politicians that the conditions in this country are unacceptable.”

….

The newly elected Labour MP for the area, Emma Dent Coad, said there was growing fear among residents made homeless by the fire that they would be rehoused outside of the borough, in cheaper housing in places far from London, such as Hastings or Peterborough, where the council has tried to rehouse tenants previously.

“I can’t help thinking that poor quality materials and construction standards may have played a part in this hideous and unforgivable event,” she said.

The Mirror says

Grenfell Tower fire shows that the poor and working class are once again left behind to live in danger

The face of Grenfell is like the face of so many tower blocks across Britain – residents rely on the state to keep them safe and I fear they have been failed

….

There are real questions about the viability of these buildings.

New high rises being built across the capital are largely luxury apartments and pent-houses, and of course they are equipped with sprinkler systems, fire-proof walls and fire escapes.

Yet again we have one rule for the rich and the poor are being left behind and left in danger.

There is also this claim (Vox Political): Outsourcing firm Capita runs ‘catastrophic’ dispatch system that delays firefighters.

The Tories outsourced the fire and rescue service dispatching system to outsourcing profit-maker Capita in 2012. As a result, it doesn’t work.

After the horrific scenes we witnessed there is great sadness and great anger across the country. There is little doubt that nobody is going to stop talking about the class issues involved; the simple reason is that it the contrast with the Tower bloc’s neighbours is so stark, as anybody who has visited the borough can see, feel and touch. The image of the burning building is imprinted in millions of minds. A kind of whirling machine of faults that surrounds the origins and response to the tragedy, and the response to it, incarnated in the gruesome figure of Theresa May, the Council and its outsourced companies.

More than anything, it’s that the residents will not keep  their rage to themselves.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 15, 2017 at 2:33 pm

Anti-Semitism in Europe Documentary Ditched Amidst Accusations of Censorship.

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Arte und WDR: Senden Sie die Dokumentation!

A comrade in Germany has told us that the controversy over the censorship of a documentary on anti-Semitism in Europe, Auserwählt und Ausgegrenzt. Der Hass auf Juden in Europa (« Un peuple élu et mis à part : l’antisémitisme en Europe » Le Monde), (Zensur einer Antisemitismus-Doku. Taz)   has not stopped growing.

It was due to be shown on the German-French channel, Arte.

Then it was withdrawn.

He comments, “WDR won’t let Arte send it because it is “anti protestant, and islamophobe” apparently “anti protestant” being the main problem, I presume i.e. they interviewed people at the “Kirchentag” (like the churches version of “Marxism 2017″ but much larger and funded almost completely by the German state) and they were clearly anti-semites.”

A French journalist, one of the authors of the film, considers however that Arte was embarrassed by the way the director tried to show a link between historic European anti-semitism, more recent anti-semitism amongst Islamists,  and the connection between anti-semitism  and anti-Zionism. Bringing in radical Islam was unacceptable for some at Arte, because they consider that this would feed hatred of Muslims. (Europe 24)

“”Ce qui gêne je pense, c’est que le réalisateur tente de montrer un lien entre l’antisémitisme d’antan et l’antisémitisme islamiste plus récent, et il fait aussi le lien entre l’antisémitisme et l’antisionisme”, ce qui n’est pas acceptable pour une partie des gens d’Arte, car ils considèrent que cela alimente la haine des Musulmans, explique la journaliste.

The controversy already has its own – German language – Wikipedia page: Auserwählt und ausgegrenzt – Der Hass auf Juden in Europa

Arte defends decision on European anti-Semitism documentary

The Franco-German TV channel’s director has denied charges of censorship and anti-Semitism lobbied at the broadcaster. His defence also hinted at tensions between German broadcasters.

Arte Program Director Alain le Diberder  on Thursday defended his broadcaster’s decision to pull the documentary entitled “Chosen and Excluded – The Hate for Jews in Europe” from its planned Arte airtime because the film did not meet approved project requirements.

He laid out the reasons for Arte’s cancellation in a letter to Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, who had previously criticised the broadcaster’s decision in his own letter to Arte and German public broadcasters WDR and ZDF. Schuster had asked the Arte to reconsider the decision, saying he could not understand why formalistic considerations would derail a broadcast of the documentary.

In his response to Schuster, Diberder said he was deeply affected by accusations of censorship, although he could understand why the Jewish leader was perplexed by the decision. The Arte head reiterated that “honourable and good reasons” had formed the basis of the channel’s decision to pull the plug on the documentary’s broadcast.

RT continues,

RTE, a Franco-German public TV station, has been accused of censorship over its decision to remove a 90-minute documentary titled ‘Chosen and Excluded – The Hate for Jews in Europe’ from its planned broadcasting schedule, saying the film lacks “balance.”

ARTE’s program director, Alain Le Diberder, said in a press statement that the film’s producers, Joachim Schroeder and Sophie Hafner, failed to make a documentary about anti-Semitism in Europe because they used too much footage from Israel and too little from European countries.

Schroeder told the Jerusalem Post on Saturday that “it is impossible to make a film [in Europe] today about anti-Semitism that shows a pro-Jewish perspective.”

Michaela Engelmeier, a Social Democratic deputy in the German parliament (Bundestag), said in a written statement to the Times of Israel that “a documentary that aims to present the problem of anti-Semitism in a reflected manner has to consider the relationship between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel. In order to do so it is necessary to refer to the situation in the Middle East.”

She said the public tax-funded German TV networks ARTE and its sister outlet in Germany, WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk), “increasingly promote anti-Israeli narratives, while at the same time refusing to show a documentary on anti-Semitism that has been hailed by experts.” Volker Beck, a German Green Party lawmaker and president of the German-Israeli Parliamentary Friendship Group of the Bundestag, said the decision not to show the documentary “is even more disturbing when considering that ARTE and WDR have shown programs which could be seen as criticizing Israel one-sidedly.”

Josef Schuster, the head of the Central Council of German Jews, urged Le Diberder, who previously rejected the film because it lacked “balance,”  to reconsider the decision, noting that the film is “highly relevant.”

Schuster’s request fell on deaf ears, however, with Le Diberder saying that ARTE has “like almost no other outlet in Europe, committed itself to education about the fight against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism” and that “the decision-making process was so as to ensure editorial quality and responsibility.

Diberder went on to stress in a statement to Deutsche Welle that ARTE had “good reasons” for its decision not to air the film. He said the documentary was a WDR production, approved by ARTE back in 2015. It was designed to focus on rising anti-Semitism across Europe, namely in Norway, Sweden, the UK, Hungary and Greece. But in late 2016, ARTE realized that the film “did not correspond to the proposal which had been submitted: it concentrates primarily on the Middle East and does not address the five designated countries in any way.”

This explanation did not satisfy Charlotte Knobloch, the head of the Munich Jewish community and a Holocaust survivor, who said that ARTE is on a “dangerous path.

German dailies Focus and and Der Tagesspiegel asked whether it was a case of censorship.

In the letter to the Franco-German public broadcaster, seen by the Jerusalem Post, Knobloch described the documentary as an “honest” presentation of anti-Semitism in Europe, saying that ARTE owes it to its viewers, who pay a fee for public programs, to show ‘Chosen and Excluded’ because it fulfills the outlet’s educational mission to “fight anti-Semitism.”

Historian Michael Wolffsohn told German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung last week that the feature is “the by far best, smartest and historically deepest documentary on this topic, while at the same time being very much up to date and true.”

The Jewish Chronicle:

Alain le Diberder, Arte’s director, said that “honourable and good reasons” had informed the network’s decision not to broadcast the documentary. He claimed the network had taken a “necessary procedural decision taken to ensure editorial responsibility and quality,”

According to the network, the documentary had been commissioned to focus on antisemitism in five countries – Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Hungary and Greece. Arte claimed the documentary “concentrates primarily on the Middle East and does not address the five designated countries in any way.”

However, the documentary did look at antisemitism in Belgium, France and Germany.

It included an interview with François Pupponi, the Socialist mayor of Sarcelles, a northern suburb of Paris which has been a flashpoint for antisemitic incidents.

Mr Pupponi said that “French Jews think they have no future in France, that they have to leave the country to live in security and peace.”

He also said that hatred of Israel, encouraged by Pro-Palestinian groups, had led to some of the problems.

“For a certain number of young people ‘Jew’ and ‘Israel’ are one and the same so if you’re against Israel, you’re also against synagogues,” he said.

Here is the film:

Written by Andrew Coates

June 13, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Mélenchon on ‘Cloud Nine’ as Left Faces Near Wipeout in French Legislative Elections.

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Projected Seats: French Left Reduced to a Rump. 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon  is apparently, on cloud nine: Jean-Luc Mélenchon sur un nuage

Malgré un nombre réduit de sièges potentiels, La France insoumise devance à nouveau le Parti socialiste dans les urnes.

Reports Le Monde. 

His Movement La France Insoumise (LFI) won 11% of the national vote in Sunday’s first round of the French legislative election, ahead of the Parti Socialiste and allies’ 9,5% and the PCF, which was reduced to 2,7%.

If you add these percentages up, drink five swift glasses of pastis in a row, put on rose-tinted spectacles, burn a scented candle and play the Marseillaise, you can feel great that the total left support, at 22.2% is greater than the Front National’s 13,2% vote.

That is even  if La France Insoumise lost 8 points compared with the Presidential support for the  populist leader of the French People.

The 51,29% who could not be bothered to vote weren’t attracted to his movement either.

Meanwhile in less cloudy territory:

France 24,

President Emmanuel Macron continued bulldozing France’s political establishment as his upstart La République en Marche! (LREM) party topped Sunday’s first-round legislative vote and appeared poised to claim a historic majority in parliament.

Based on the first-round results, candidates from Macron’s LREM, a political party that barely existed one year ago, were projected to take between 415 and 445 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly next week. It would represent the largest parliamentary majority for a single party in France since the end of World War II.

The LREM party won 32.32 percent of all votes, according to official final results published by the French Interior Ministry, in an election that was also marked by a record-high abstention of 51.29 percent. The mainstream conservative Les Républicains party finished the night in second place with 21.56 percent support. They were projected to win between 70 and 110 seats in the next Assembly according to a projection by Ipsos for FRANCE 24.

The Communist Party, which has lost its Parliamentary Group, and faces near extinction, diplomatically blames divisions on the left for its poor result: Législatives. Les communistes pâtissent des divisions à gauche.

PCF leader Pierre Laurent announced, Elections législatives 1er tour: Déclaration de Pierre Laurent

La division des forces de gauche se paie en effet très cher. Les forces qui ont soutenu Jean-Luc Mélenchon, se sont retrouvées en concurrence suite aux décisions de la direction de la France insoumise. Elles en subissent toutes ce soir les conséquences. C’est aussi le cas du Parti communiste dont le résultat national est très bas.

A heavy price has been paid for the division of the left. The forces which have supported Jean-Luc Mélenchon found themselves competing against each other, following the decisions of the leadership of la France insoumise. All of them have suffered the consequences this evening. This is also the case for the Communist Party whose national score is very low.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon looks likely to win a seat in Marseilles, with  34,31 %, in front of Macron supporter Corinne Versini  at22,66 %).

Although it is easy to see why he is overjoyed at what counts most, his future as a Tribune of the People in the National Assembly, there are other factors at work that explain his good mood.

For those wishing to understand why Mélenchon is happy that the French left is reduced to political irrelevance this gives some indications, and develops many of the themes discussed on this Blog.

Quelques réflexions sur la «France insoumise»  VINCENT PRÉSUMEY.

Présumey outlines the ideological core of Mélenchon’s La France insoumise (LFI).  The movement does not talk of class struggle, even social classes. They  oppose “le peuple ” (also called the  99% ) to the « l’oligarchie » also called « la caste ». The ‘People’ exists as a  Nation, France, with its national symbols, the Tricolor, and its hymn, the Marseille. To make this into a political force, to ‘construct’ the People from the material of  “individus-citoyens”,  is the objective of LFI.

For the origin of these ideas author notes the debt Mélenchon and his immediate team owe to the “post-Marxists” Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe which they have simplified and made into a kind of political tool-kit.

From the former comes the ‘populist’ idea of the People uniting around a Leader , like Argentina’s Peron. LFI denies any such thing, that their Leader is only the “l’incarnation vivante du « programme » que nous avons collectivement produit”, the living incarnation of a programme that we have collectively drawn up. Nobody else is in any doubt that Mélenchon, and his tight band of advisers, are La France insoumise and that he is the – would-be – charismatic chief.

Apparently not charismatic enough to hold into the 8% of the electorate he has lost in a few weeks. Or self-controlled enough to avoid descending   from the hypnotic lyricism of his Presidential speeches to – in the run up to the legislative elections – the more familiar sounds of a barking yap-dog.

Yet….the problems  with La France insoumise are deeper than Mélenchon’s personality.

As Présumey observes LFI rests on a denial of pluralism on the left. Its leader candidacy was the not the result of anybody’s decision but his own. As these elections approached it swiftly dropped the left bloc the Front de Gauche (FdG). It says: come to us, we will lead the ‘citizens’ insurrection’.

But beneath this rhetorical claim the focus is on political representation. There is no sense of a movement that has emerged from working class and social movement self-organisation. Its ‘mass action’ can be reduced to stage-managed demonstrations (as earlier this year on the anniversary of the Commune), social media (chat without decision making power) and, campaigning for electoral contests.

The movement (parties are old hat) claims 500,000 supporters, something you can become, for free, at the click of a button in the Web. Beneath a veneer of ‘horizontal’ organisation, LFI  is  vertically structured around the commands of the leadership. LFI has joined French social movements, such as the protests against the reform of the labour law, were the occasion not to engage in the fight but to publicise their presidential bid, with stickers reading, ” JLM 2017″.

The article notes another contribution of Mouffe. The focus on the division friend/enemy, taken from Carl Schmitt. This  does not only refer to the People against the Oligarchy. It means that LFI considers everybody else on the left as a foe, potential or actual, from the Socialists to the Communists and the rest of the Green and radical parties. They have poured bile on personalities, from the Socialist  Benoît Hamon, to respected radical left-wing Socialist labour law expert, Gérard Filoche – some names that stick out from a very very long list.

With the perspective of the dissolution of the French left à la Italienne, into a centrist ‘progressive’  Parliamentary bloc, what is their response? Mélenchon’s strategy rests on the “la liquidation des courants politiques issus du mouvement ouvrier”, the liqudation of currents which have come from the workers’ movement.

Noting that inner core of LFI itself is ‘petty bourgeois’, he sums up their ideology as a mixture of populism, and stalinism.

The former is a banner held with pride. The second is less clear. That their culture and policies reflect something of the pre-1991 PCF’s belief in French ‘national independence’ and fondness for an independent nuclear deterrent, or indeed the Communists’ evocation for French national traditions is hard to contest. But, as Présumey also states, Mélenchon  comes from the equally patroitic tradition of the ‘Trotksyist’ faction known as Lambertism, and loses little time in expressing his admiration for the glory of the very anti-Communist President François Mitterrand.

Wherever their original inheritance many of LFI’s activists  share the cast of mind of the “anti-imperialism of fools’. They are, he indicates  at length, recycle the teaming conspiracy theories that have thriven in recent years.  The illusion that they would get into the second round of the Presidential election, when shattered, was met with many a ‘theory’ explaining how ‘they’ has thwarted JLM.

Perhaps, in view of its supporters’ penchant for such conspiracy theories, its links with Vladimir Putin, and its barely concealed support for Assad in Syria, the word confusionisme suits them better.

It is, it goes without saying, immensely saddening that these confusionists will be the largest Parliamentary force to the left of the French Socialists.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Did Tory Ben Gummer Lose Ipswich to Labour’s Sandy Martin?

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Image result for ben in the pub ipswich

‘Mr Ipswich’ Off to Spend More Time in the Pub.

“Just 48 hours ago he was one of the most powerful men in the British government. Now Ben Gummer’s parliamentary career has come to an abrupt end – whether temporarily or permanently. Why did he lose?”

Writes the ‘Big Fella’ Paul Geater in the Ipswich Star.

During the campaign Ben Gummer always seemed supremely confident, talking confidently about Labour voters switching to him because they didn’t like Jeremy Corbyn. If this was all spin then he and his team were acting very well when they spoke to me!

Even after our survey suggested Sandy Martin was in the lead, they insisted all was well – but clearly things were not going as well as he hoped. Why?

Firstly many people voted for the first time. Turnout was significantly up and many of these appeared to be young people.

They were motivated to vote Labour because they liked Jeremy Corbyn’s radical plans, especially abolishing university tuition fees, and were determined to make their voice heard.

The number of people voting Conservative in Ipswich actually went up between 2015 and 2017 by about 1,600 – but Labour’s vote increased by more than 6,000 votes. The UKIP vote fell by 4,000 – but these votes appear to have been split evenly.

Some policies were not popular: workers said the confusion and mixed messages over pension reform and social care payments had worried some voters.

The lack of attention from big-name visitors also gave the impression that Tory High Command took Ipswich for granted. They seemed to think that a Cabinet minister with a 3,733 majority couldn’t need help.

Some voters appeared to feel that Mr Gummer’s focus was no longer on the town with his new ministerial role – and the fact that he did not have a home in Ipswich at the time of the election did not help.

Given his work in the town, this was probably unfair – but it created an impression his opponents could exploit by emphasising that Mr Martin had lived in Ipswich for decades.

And a number of small policy statements caused real problems – one of the most irritating for workers was the suggestion that the government could repeal hunting legislation. One of his team said to me: “Why couldn’t she (Theresa May) just shut up about that. It’s not a big issue but it could cost us a few hundred votes!”

Another series of explanations:

  • The Labour vote, as Geater notes, grew amongst young people. As he says, particularly of first-time voters, “They were motivated to vote Labour because they liked Jeremy Corbyn’s radical plans, especially abolishing university tuition fees, and were determined to make their voice heard.” This is a national trend. Most studies of voting behaviour in the UK underline that most people cast their ballot in line with countrywide trends. This would equally apply to people’s concern with “confusion and mixed messages over pension reform and social care payments”, a worry that  was reflected all over Britain. The Star and EADT’s political columnist could have added that young people’s interest in the issue of tuition fees was not just something ‘out there’. It was very evident on the ground. In my own street when delivering Labour leaflets a young bloke saw the Party sign and raised a clenched fist while saying “Up the Labour! I want Corbyn to sort out my tuition fees”. Others can confirm that this was very far from a one off incident.
  • If the Tory High Command “took Ipswich for granted” this was hardly the case for Ben’s own team. They have worked hard over the years to build up an image of the Conservative MP as Mr Ipswich, even putting on their web site a map of the town which you could click on to find what “Ben had done” to help, street by street.  When this Blog pointed out, in a kindly way,  that this may be seen as arrogant, the chart disappeared. But similar bold claims about the candidate’s actions “for Ipswich” continued.
  • The “focus on the town” is, as a result, a more complex issue than Geater’s comments reveals.  Ben’s constant efforts to portray himself as the Minister for Ipswich, and the Best Friend Ipswich has ever had, were not universally appreciated whatever the merits of the former MP’s efforts.  I could cite the the freebie Waterfront Life, which those of us who leave not far from the old Docks, receive. He gave – in two pieces, The Winerack and Non-Political Question Time  – the impression that it was the Right Hon. Gummer who was Ipswich Borough Council, The Right Hon who was the man pioneering the Town’s future. Those who know that the hard working Labour councillors who run Ipswich Borough were not impressed.  Nor were his ‘matey’ evenings, Ben in the Pub, appealing to everybody. Some would have welcomed his focus elsewhere, especially, as many remarked, as  Gummer does not live in Ipswich.
  • It was not just the Conservative Manifesto’s promises for future policies, such as bringing back hunting, but present ones that were unpopular. Locally voters would see that austerity affects their lives directly. Suffolk County Council is at present Tory run. It has ruthlessly cut services, including social care, and outsourced many of their activities. They are in a sorry state. To take one example, the massive cuts in provision for young people, particularity the disadvantaged, is storing up social problems.  To this one could add long-standing problems about the County Council. Many voters are aware of the mess their contracted out Highway Services  is in: the state of the roads in Suffolk is a standing joke.
  • Ben Gummer made much of his commitment to improved rail services. Those who use the trains to get to London will have noticed that his efforts have not affected the steadily deteriorating rail links, and the sky high ticket prices that privatisation has brought. Many will perhaps considered that Gummer’s claims, made since 2010 with no visible result,  are rubbing salt in open wounds. These are just some hard-to-ignore  examples of how Conservative rule has made people’s lives worse and have surely undermined the former MP’s support.
  • If there was one thing which sums up the results of Conservative government cuts, and mean-spirited welfare system, it is the constant presence of street-begging and rough sleepers in Ipswich. People in the town feel shame that in a wealthy country we have the homeless and destitute left to ask for money in the streets.

Then there is his opponent, Sandy Martin who ran an enthusiastic campaign, backed by an energetic team that included many young people.

  • Sandy Martin by  is known across the town as a man whose tireless work, not constantly flagged up as the acts of Mr Ipswich, have made a real difference. From case-work as a Town (until not that long ago) and (now) County Councillor, Sandy has built up a solid reputation as a reliable and likeable local figure. A broad constituency, from ordinary town residents, campaigners on a wider variety of issues,and labour movement activists know that Sandy is somebody who has stood on their side and contributed to their work.
  • Ipswich Labour Party has a well-organised network of supporters, from every walk of life, prepared to talk to and listen to Ipswich people. Sanday’s campaign reflected this. It was very obvious during the campaign that the party is deeply rooted in Ipswich. With a good candidate, the local party backing, the radical and democratic politics in Labour’s Manifesto  found an audience.

Finally,….

Not everybody likes ‘Ben’s Bridge’ either,

General election 2017: New Ipswich MP Sandy Martin to ask for rethink on Orwell Crossing link

New Ipswich MP Sandy Martin is to ask the Department for Transport to look again at the proposals for a large new bridge between Wherstead Road and Cliff Quay.

He is to ask the government to look at diverting the money to help fund the £100m project to a northern by-pass for the town.

It was one of his pledges during the election campaign, and he is planning to take up the issue when he travels to Westminster next week.

He said: “There are three bridges proposed as part of the Upper Orwell Crossing. Two of them – the road bridge to the island site and the footbridge over the lock gates – I wholeheartedly support.

“But the largest bridge does not have public support and I shall be speaking to the department to see if the funds can go to a more important strategic route, the northern by-pass.”

The crossings were strongly backed by former MP Ben Gummer – and are now a formal county council-managed project. The government funding is due to come through when work is about to start.

County council cabinet member for Ipswich Paul West said it would be pressing ahead with the project. He said: “This is a full project, you can’t plan to have one or two of the bridges.

“And it isn’t possible to move the money from one Ipswich project to another in the town – if it is taken away from this then it would go to another part of the country.”

The crossing is also backed by the business community in Ipswich.

Catherine Johnson, chair of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce in Greater Ipswich said: “Firstly, on behalf of the Chamber we’d like to congratulate Sandy on being elected as Ipswich’s MP.

“Secondly, as with the other six Suffolk MPs, we are looking forward to working with him on a range of issues of interest and concern to the business community.

“We note his comments about diverting funds from the Upper Orwell Crossings scheme to that of the northern bypass. We hope to listen in more detail to his thinking on this particular issue.

“We also look forward to a productive dialogue on the overall need for Ipswich to have a modern infrastructure that allows a much freer and more efficient flow of goods and people both within and to and from the town.”

Written by Andrew Coates

June 10, 2017 at 12:27 pm

George Galloway Fails to Turn up to Election Count as he’s crushed in Manchester Gorton.

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“I used to be George Galloway”. 

The victory of Sandy Martin and the defeat of ‘Mr Ipswich’ and a key author of the Conservative Manifesto (Headline in Le Monde, “Défait de ‘l’homme de l’ombre de Theresa May) , Ben Gummer in the Suffolk County Town, has meant that  we are only just now catching up with the results elsewhere.

Our old friend George Galloway is down in the dumps – 5,7% of the vote.

Labour kept hold of Manchester Gorton following the death of veteran MP Sir Gerald Kaufman after the by-election was overtaken by Theresa May’s snap election.

Afzal Khan romped home to victory with a majority of 31,730 – comfortably defeating a challenge by George Galloway.

The seat had been up for grabs before the General Election following the death of Sir Gerald, the party’s longest serving MP secured 67pc of the vote and a 24,079-strong majority in 2015.

Former Labour MP and Respect Party leader George Galloway had tried to win back his Westminster pass by standing as an independent in Gorton this time around.

Despite a flurry of hype when he announced his candidacy, he failed to turn up on the night. Labour activists shouted ‘where’s George?’ as the candidates took the stage for the result.

Mr Galloway came third.

Instead the seat went to former police constable, solicitor and Manchester councillor Mr Khan elected as an MEP for the north west in 2014, romped home to victory with 35,085 votes – on a turnout of 61pc.

Manchester Evening News.

The detailed result should be available (but is not yet when I checked) on the BBC site here. Manchester Gorton. Parliamentary constituency

Update: Galloway 5.7% , 2,615.

2,615 _vote_share

There is also this, (Yorkshire Post)

Labour MP Naz Shah increased her vote by just under 10,000 votes after a bruising campaign in Bradford West she said was worse than the one she fought against George Galloway two years ago.

Ms Shah polled 2,944 votes compared with 19,977 in 2015 in one of the largest increased majorities seen so far in this election.

Ms Shah told The Yorkshire Post: “The level of misogyny I received in this election was incredible, I didn’t think there was anything that could have topped Galloway. “But here we are. “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. “The people of Bradford West were very clear about what they wanted to see. They chose hope over division. “Bradford West is one of the poorest constituencies in the country, that is not the sign of a prosperous nation.

George Grant, Conservative candidate, came second to Ms Shah and ahead of the independent candidate Salma Yaqoob who polled 6,345. Mr Grant said he was proud of the clean campaign he had ran but said the “personality-based” campaign had been as bad as 2015.

He also declined to criticise Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election.
“The time frame of the snap election meant we had very limited resources and very little time to build a team. And not having a network of local councillors on the ground makes for a tough time. But we have had a positive impact and pushed the Respect candidate into third place.”

The seat of Bradford West has been one of the most hotly-contested and controversial in modern political history. A solid Labour seat from the early 1980s, it was the location of the so-called ‘Bradford Spring’, in which Respect candidate and former Labour MP Galloway won an unexpected by-election in 2012 caused by the resignation of former Labour MP Marsha Singh.

Mr Galloway’s party went on to gain seats on the council, including that of Labour leader Ian Greenwood. However infighting among Respect candidates quickly set in and Mr Galloway was defeated in 2015 when Ms Shah won just shy of 50 per cent of the vote in a contest that was mired in acrimony. Mr Galloway made accusations regarding Ms Shah’s forced marriage in which she disputed her version of events. He also found himself in hot water for tweeting the results of an early exit poll, prohibited under the Representation of the People Act.
Despite the crushing defeat inflicted upon him by Ms Shah which saw him lose 34.7 per cent of the vote, he indicated his willingness to contest the result. However he would fail to file the relevant papers within the three-week window required of candidates to contest results.

Naz Shah (Labour) 29,744

George Grant (Conservatives) 7,542 

Alun Griffiths (Lib Dem) 712

Celia Hickson (Green Party) 481

Muhammad Hijazi (Independent) 54

Derrick Hodgson (UKIP) 885 

Khadim Hussain (independent) 65

Salma Yaqoob (independent) 6345

Written by Andrew Coates

June 9, 2017 at 4:38 pm

Vote Labour, Vote on Thursday for Sandy Martin for Ipswich.

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Sandy Martin: Tireless Campaigner.

Labour’s candidate for Ipswich, Sandy Martin, is an outstanding campaigner.

With support far broader than the left and the Labour Party, Sandy has promoted Green issues for many decades, and, as a Labour and Co-operative County Councillor for St John’s, Ipswich he is widely recognised in his ward as a tireless representative for his constituents’ interests.

As leader of the Labour Group on Suffolk Sandy has opposed the Conservative led body austerity and ‘outsourcing’ – privatisation – policies.

An active member of the UNITE and a supporter of labour movement causes, Sandy is always willing to give his backing, and attend, union events and protests. From protests against Benefit sanctions and ATOS, to, earlier this year, the April “All Together for the NHS” march in London.

A democratic socialist and one of the  East of England Constituency Party representatives on the National Policy Forum, serving on the Transport Commission Labour’s candidate is committed  to making a real difference to people’s lives.

His campaign in Ipswich has been backed with real enthusiasm, particularly by young people.

Sandy is simply one of the best people in the labour movement and we are proud to have such a candidate.

This is the solution his so-called opponent, Ben Gummer, gives to Britain’s social problems.

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Written by Andrew Coates

June 7, 2017 at 10:53 am