H-t: Comrade Dave
From the archives: Galloway’s boot-licking and kow-towing to “strong”, “courageous”, “indefatigable”, bloody butchers.
Matgamna on Galloway, May 2003:
There is a strong case for dismissing the charges made by the Tory Daily Telegraph and others against George Galloway, of having been a bought and paid-for agent of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq – namely, the character and bias of those baying for the blood of an MP who has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the recent US-British war with Iraq.
The Telegraph has published documents which appear to show that Galloway had been taking at least £375,000 a year from Saddam Hussein’s quasi-fascist Ba’ath regime in Iraq.
He is being investigated by the Charities Commission for his use of moneys collected by the “Mariam Appeal”, which he founded.
The putrid Sun has joined in the outcry against Galloway; the News of the World has unearthed a story involving Galloway in sex and conspicuous consumption in Cuba. And so on.
On principle, no-one should trust those who are in full cry against Galloway.
Galloway’s recent associates in the campaign against Blair’s and Bush’s war have defended him. The editor of Tribune, Mark Seddon, wrote in the Times. Tony Benn has indignantly defended Galloway against the charge that he is corrupt and paid by Saddam Hussein.
Socialist Worker has said: “The pro-war press owners are trying to smear George Galloway MP and, through him, the anti-war movement… Even if every word the Telegraph alleges were true it still would not justify the paper’s headline.”
The Stop The War Coalition “publicly expresses its full support for George Galloway and regards the attacks on him – which he has announced he will challenge in the courts – as a politically-inspired witch-hunt”. Tariq Ali, the grizzled but still determinedly, perennially trendy anti-war campaigner, has appeared on TV to defend Galloway.
Yet if Galloway has been a paid agent of the Iraqi regime, it would make political sense out of something that, otherwise, is incomprehensible. How could Galloway, an old-style Scots tankie Stalinist who still mourns the collapse of the USSR, identify with the Saddam regime which, among other things, has repressed and massacred the Communist Party of Iraq?
In political terms it is a sin against nature for someone with Galloway’s background to hold the Saddam regime in anything other than wholehearted loathing. Galloway started out as a Stalinist critic of Ba’athist Iraq. As he sometimes reminds us, he denounced the massacre of Kurds at Halabja in 1988. To oppose the 1991 or 2003 Gulf wars he need not have made any shift to “softness” towards the Iraqi Hitler in Baghdad.
Yet, for a decade now, Galloway has got himself described in Britain as “the MP for Baghdad Central”, or (by a Government minister last year in the House of Commons) as an “apologist and a mouthpiece” for Ba’athist Iraq.
In January 1994, Galloway appeared before the butcher of Iraqis and Kurds, the initiator of the very bloody eight-year war with Iran, the invader of Kuwait, and, his voice and body-language conveying respect and awe, told him: “Sir we salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability… We are with you. Until victory! Until Jerusalem!”
In 2002 he interviewed Saddam Hussein and came out to tell the world (Mail on Sunday, 11 August 2002) that the “shy” dictator with the “gentle handshake” loves British chocolates. In 1998 he told the New Worker, newspaper of the unrepentantly Stalinist New Communist Party, that: “The politicised people – which are quite widespread; the mass organisations and the Ba’ath Party which is extremely well-organised and deeply rooted now in Iraq… [have] high morale. High levels of motivation and mobilisation. A high spirit of resistance. Certainly an acute consciousness of who the real villains of the piece are…”
The situation was spoiled by “the vicious effect of elements of the Iraqi opposition, who should know better. They’ve so poisoned the well of potential good-will to the Iraqi people in this country…
“We have a situation where sections of the Iraqi Communist Party, for entirely understandable reasons – they’ve been subject to massive repression – have allowed themselves to be put into a pro-imperialist position… The Iraqi Communist Party and CARDRI (Campaign Against Repression and for Democratic Rights in Iraq) have ended up defending imperialism”. (8 August 1998).
Galloway has occasionally said that he is against “dictatorships” like Saddam Hussein’s, but it has been something perfunctory, “for the record”, with no consequences for his championing of Saddam’s Iraq.
If Galloway did all that for money, then something otherwise politically incomprehensible makes good, though disgusting, old-fashioned sense. Otherwise, you have to look for an explanation in terms of a peculiarly twisted psychology. You have to speculate about the shifts an old-style Stalinist has been driven to in order to gratify his taste for boot-licking and kow-towing to “strong”, “courageous”, “indefatigable”, powerful, bloody butchers.
Of course we don’t know whether what the Daily Telegraph says about Galloway is true or not. Galloway has, it seems, now accepted that the documents were found in the Baghdad building: he only denies that what they say is true. He has threatened the Daily Telegraph with a libel suit, though so far – and he has been notoriously quick on the draw with libel suits – only threatened.
For the politics of the affair as they affect the left and the fake left we do not have to wait for a libel court to pronounce. In his public self-defence Galloway has made available facts about his affairs which would shame and embarrass, if they were capable of shame and embarrassment, those who put him up on the platforms of the anti-war movement.
How was the paper East, which Galloway published for a period in the 1990s, financed? By the Pakistani government, for its own political ends, or so several newspapers have reported without Galloway contradicting them.
Were the funds donated to the “Mariam Appeal” – which appealed for funds to provide medical assistance for needy Iraqis like the little girl with leukemia after whom it was named – used to finance Galloway’s globe-trotting? Yes, replies Galloway, most of the funds were used for “political campaigning”, like his trips to Iraq (“maybe 100” of them in 1993-2002, so he told Islamonline.net).
Was the Mariam Appeal used to channel Iraqi-originated money? Galloway has responded by stating that the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and a businessman in Jordan with Iraqi links, provided most of the funds.
Did Galloway, as the Telegraph documents say, meet a junior Iraqi intelligence agent? Why should I do such a thing, responds Galloway, when I had access to the top leaders in Baghdad. He tells us that he spent Christmas Day recently as the guest of Saddam Hussein’s deputy Tariq Aziz. And so on.
Even if there was nothing financially corrupt in Galloway’s relations with the Iraqi regime, even if he was not a venal self-server but only a confused and disoriented Stalinist moron, the story he tells in his defence against the Telegraph’s charges pose a major question for his associates on the left.
What were you doing working with such a man, whose general attitude towards Saddam Hussein’s quasi-fascist Iraqi government you knew perfectly well? Have you forgotten who and what you are in politics – you who call yourselves “Marxists”, “socialists” and “Trotskyists”? Don’t you care? Have you lost your political wits?
Or is it that you think that someone whom junior minister Ben Bradshaw, in the House of Commons, plausibly calls a “mouthpiece” and an “apologist” for the Ba’athist regime is nowadays just one more variety of bona fide left-winger?
For example, who is Tariq Aziz? He has been Saddam’s lieutenant for decades, during which time Saddam Hussein has done far worse things to the peoples of Iraq – in the first place to the Iraqi working class – than Hitler did to Germans, not excluding Jewish Germans, before World War Two. Saddam and Tariq Aziz imposed and maintained a totalitarian regime that systematically deprived the people living under them of all civil rights, uprooted and destroyed the elements of an independent working-class movement, killed hundreds of thousands of Kurds…
Who in Hitler’s entourage would have been the equivalent of Tariq Aziz? Rudolf Hess? Martin Bormann? Josef Goebbels? Hermann Goering? Joachim von Ribbentrop? What would you think of a 1930s socialist – or for that matter a 1930s Liberal or Tory – who would reply to the charge that he had contact with a lowly Nazi agent by boasting that he couldn’t need such contacts because he had been Hess’s, or Bormann’s, or Goebbels’, or Goering’s, or Ribbentrop’s guest over the Christmas of 1938 or 1939? Would you have him on your anti-war platforms?
What would you think if he replied to accusations that he had received money from the Hitler government by saying that his political campaigns had instead been financed by, say, the Japanese government, or Mussolini, or Franco?
We were right to oppose the war. But our opposition should have been – and, so far as we could control it, should have been seen to have been – opposition to our own ruling class on the basis of independent working-class “third camp” rejection of Saddam Hussein no less than of Bush and Blair. “No to war, no to Saddam”.
Put at its weakest, the attitude of those who controlled the anti-war movement has been that it was perfectly all right to associate with the man widely identified as “the MP for Baghdad Central”. They saw nothing wrong in letting the anti-war movement be identified as a pro-Iraq movement, or in making it easy for such as the Daily Telegraph to smear us with George Galloway.
Of course, the same people saw nothing wrong in linking arms with the Islamic fundamentalist organisation, the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), a front for the Muslim Brotherhood.
And it was not just in the anti-war movement. On 10 April the Socialist Alliance trade union committee (members of the SWP and Workers’ Power, and Alan Thornett of the ISG) decided that at trade union conferences this summer the Alliance should focus on getting in on fringe meetings led by Galloway.
There is a mystery in all this – a real and not a rhetorical mystery, that we are at a loss to understand. Why?
Nine years ago (27 January 1994) our predecessor Socialist Organiser carried an editorial entitled “The Old Left Continues To Rot”, in response to two events. One was the crazy suggestion by the black MP, the late Bernie Grant, that black people in Britain should be given money to persuade them to accept voluntary “repatriation”. The other was George Galloway’s appearance before Saddam Hussein – recorded by the BBC – to tell him how admirable he found his “courage”, etc.
Galloway’s performance in the presence of the mass murderer Saddam Hussein seemed to us to be an extreme case of a Stalinoid who had lost even the few political marbles he had had as an admirer of the USSR. We wrote: “Galloway should be thrown out by his local [Labour] party”.
Not quite a decade on, broad swathes of the erstwhile Marxist left have tainted themselves with what was then only the Galloway syndrome.
In the build-up to war, Tony Benn went to Iraq – initially employed by a never-launched TV company in which Galloway was involved – and delivered the sort of innocuous, respectful questions to Saddam Hussein that allowed him to come back to Britain with what was nothing other than a “party political broadcast” for Saddam.
Nobody will be able to accuse Benn of being a hired mouthpiece for Saddam Hussein. We do accuse him of contributing, through political foolishness, to the rot in the left that has progressed astonishingly in the last nine years.
Nine years ago, in political terms, George Galloway was an aberration, a freak. The left did not follow his lead, but tolerated him when it shouldn’t have. We commented: “It is possible for the honest left to get into such a state that nothing creates an impression… Standards collapse. Hopes of anything better go…
“Nobody knows what ‘left’ is any more, so anything goes. Judge not lest ye be judged! Do not react, lest that be ‘witch-hunting’, and lest ye too be witch-hunted….
“With that approach, the regeneration of the left will prove impossible”.
Today the left which then culpably tolerated Galloway is not too far from identifying with him. For example, in response to a protest from Workers’ Liberty against the Socialist Alliance trade union committee’s decision, the committee’s secretary writes: “I completely disagree with your assessment of Galloway’s politics on Iraq. I agree with him considerably more than I agree with your organisation…”
Whatever the jury and judge in an eventual Telegraph libel case may conclude about Galloway’s motivation in championing Saddam’s Iraq, the “left” described here is not bought. It is suicidally confused.
In regard to Iraq, there is an element of inverted chauvinism expressed in the attitude: “This is a Third World country. What else can you expect?” The same attitude finds expression within Britain in a manipulative, superior attitude to the Islamic population here – the view that they can only be approached and mobilised through their own reactionaries, the Muslim Brotherhood. What better can you expect?
We are faced here with a political, moral, and intellectual collapse of the old left, and with the cumulative result that the “left” no longer knows quite what its own identity is. How and why has this happened?
Isn’t it that much of the left, or more accurately the pseudo-left, no longer defines itself positively, in terms of what it is for? No longer measures political organisations, classes and regimes by how they relate to what we ourselves fight for?
Instead, the “left” defines itself negatively, by what it is against. It is against capitalism. Against imperialism. Against America. It is on the side of whomever at any given moment is against them – on the side, even, of those who are worse. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was certainly worse.
Of course socialists could not have had any confidence in, or given support to, the US and Britain. But still less could we give anything like support to the quasi-fascist regime in Baghdad.
Again and again the post-USSR left – the pseudo-left, the fake left – lets itself be pushed by its antagonism to the dominant powers into supporting worse. If going for “the best” can sometimes be the enemy of going for the merely better, here opposition to the bad, to the enemy at home, to the immediate enemy, becomes, again and again, support for the worse overseas!
It happened in the Afghan war of 2001, when in antagonism to the Americans Socialist Worker let itself half-apologise for the Afghan Taliban regime’s treatment of women (6 October 2001).
Most terribly, it happened in 1999 with the Balkans war. Opposition to “imperialism” – to one imperialism – led the fake left to line up with the primitive Serbian imperialism at the point where it was trying to sweep Kosova clean of its Albanian population (90% of Kosovars).
Never mind the unproven charge that George Galloway took money from Saddam Hussein. Socialists, or even half-decent liberals, who do not feel embarrassed by the things George Galloway admits to, who do not feel shame at having had Tariq Aziz’s Christmas house guest on their anti-war platforms – those socialists have lost the plot. To call them socialists without some qualifying adjective like “fake” is now an abuse of language..
Galloway: 18,341; Labour: 8,201
It seems that the loathsome worshipper of tyranny and preening self-publicist Galloway has carpet-bagged his way back into Parliament by playing his usual, communalist and utterly reactionary game. Here’s an example of the literature he put out in Bradford West:
“God KNOWS who is a Muslim. And he KNOWS who is not. Instinctively, so do you.” Not drinking alcohol seems to be the key test here. Now take a look at the kind of material put out by Galloway’s supporters:
The Bradford councillor is Labour’s new hope in the Bradford West seat, being contested by Respect’s powerhouse George Galloway.
A bi-election has been called following the incumbent, Marsh Singh’s announcement that he is to stand down due to health reasons.
If Hussain can’t get his Labour colleagues to help him out canvassing, he might have to rely on his trusted pals John E Walker and Jackie Daniels to give him a hand.
Make no mistake, George Galloway is giving Hussain a real run for his money. Respect and Labour are neck and neck and Respect have the capacity to deliver a historic blow to Labour’s strangle-hold in Bradford. In fact, George could end up giving Imran “both barrels” (but not the barrels Imran was hoping for).
The constituents of Bradford West have a clear choice between the councillor who represents the party that thinks it has a right to rule in the Northern seats, that started the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that brought the economy crashing down around our ears, or the candidate who is a tee-totaller and has consistently shown he has the courage of a lion, who has taken on the Zionist scourge, who and is a defender of Muslims and Bradford West’s last hope.
It has to be said that it would appear that Labour, too, played the communalist card in this sorry by election. But make no mistake: Galloway’s victory is a serious setback for class politics and a major victory for communalism, identity-politics and “personality”-based populism.
This blog has, for some time, been deliberately ignoring the foul creature that is Galloway. It looks like we’ll have to start writing about him again.
More on this result shortly…
One hundred years on from his death, opinion remains sharply divided on the subject of Captain Robert Falcon Scott. But whatever view you take, it’s impossible not to be moved by the thought of the lonely, icy death that befell him and his men. This film gives the the doomed expedition a strangely contemporary feel, and gives us an extraordinary view of that beautiful, terrifying landscape.
Watching a shot of the men marching off into the great white, a hundred years later, it’s impossible to ignore the poignancy of their failure to return.
The Great White Silence serves as the official record of Captain Scott’s 1910 expedition to the South Pole. Herbert Ponting, a photographer and pioneering documentarian, had shot every aspect of the journey south from New Zealand on the Terra Nova, as well as the team’s initial explorations of Ross Island. Ponting returned to the UK in February 1912 in order to piece together a narrative from what he had captured to his nitrate negatives and glass plates, all intended to feed the newsreels and to accompany a subsequent lecture tour. When the expedition ended in tragedy, the footage offered something very different, and altogether more affecting. The British Film Institute (who restored Ponting’s film) described it thus:
The feature wasn’t completed until 1924, Ponting having spent the years following the tragedy touring filmed segments as part of a lecture which he delivered some 2000 times, and that served to cement Scott’s voyage, and the courage of his team, in British cultural memory. Blinded by snow and sun, suffering frostbite and enduring months of darkness as they waited out a winter during which the temperatures plummeted to 50 below, the film offered a portrait of endurance and courage, as the men prepared for their 800-mile march to the Pole. Bleak and touching in equal measure, it played out in a landscape simultaneously frightening in its scale and beautiful in its otherworldly geometry. Watching a shot of the men marching off into the great white, a hundred years later, it’s impossible to ignore the poignancy both of their failure to return, and the understanding that all five men attempted the long walk back to camp with the knowledge that they had been beaten in their task by Roald Amundson’s Norwegian team.
With no dialogue, the film is informed by Ponting’s extensive written notes, and the BFI restoration relies heavily on a score from Simon Fisher-Turner. Best known for his work with Derek Jarman, the composer avoids traditional orchestration in favour of a strange, otherworldly mixture of electronic ambience coupled with foley recordings and what sound designer Walter Murch has referred to as worldized sound – recordings of silence, from appropriate locations. This music supplements the film, without compromising the power of Pointing’s imagery.
Classic, Boy’s Own-style adventure may be hard to come by these days, but The Great White Silence offers a marvellous account of one of the greatest in history.
Minister Francis Maude speaks out over possible tanker drivers’ strike
Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has issued safety advice after a suggestion that people could store petrol.
Cabinet office minister Francis Maude had said: “The greater extent to which people have fuel in their vehicles – maybe a little bit in the garage as well in a jerry can – the longer we can keep things going.”
But the fire service said: “Petroleum Regulations state that it is illegal to store more than two five-litre purpose built plastic containers (total of 10 litres) or more than two 10-litre purpose built metal containers (total of 20 litres) without a licence.
“These maximum amounts of petrol can be stored in your garage. It should not be stored within any living areas of your house. If you intend storing more than this you would require a licence from the Local Authority Petroleum Officer.
“The maximum content of a full ‘jerry can’ is typically 22 litres.”
Businesses would have to revisit fire risk assessment if storing petrol and the fire service said petrol had to be kept in appropriate containers and away from any potential ignition sources.
The AWL’s paper Solidarity recently republished this article from 1991. I’d forgotten all about it, but have to say (with all due modesty) I think it stands up pretty well nearly twenty one years on, and is highly relevant to much of the foolishness of today’s “left” – both “far-left” and “Guardianista“:
Author: Jim Denham
This article from Solidarity’s forerunner, Socialist Organiser (11 June 1991), criticises “political correctness”, focusing on art and culture, from the point of view of the Marxist left, (as opposed to right-wing prejudice). Jim Denham argues here in favour of free speech and objective standards in aesthetics, in a still-pertinent debate.
A number of colleges and universities in the US have begun adopting PC codes, supposedly intended to curb behaviour and/or language that might give offence to racial minorities, women, gays and lesbians.
Some of this is quite reasonable and no-one but a bigot could object. But quite a bit is downright silly, and some of it is an affront to any conception of free speech.
The University of Connecticut, for instance, has prohibited “inappropriately directed laughter”. The New York Times has adopted a “style book” that requires the use of the term “adult male” in place of “man”. The word “burly” is also on the PC banned list.
I tried the “burly” on my boss, a committed feminist and anti-racist. What images and implications did the word conjure up? “Male”, “big”, maybe (but not necessarily) “stupid”. The PC movement has banned “burly” because it supposedly gives a negative image of black men.
As my boss pointed out (when I explained the point of the exercise to her), that argument only makes sense if you are pre-disposed to the assumption that all black men (sorry, males) are big and stupid.
But linguistic Stalinism is only one manifestation of the PC: it comes as part of a package deal that involves extending (or rather, reducing) multi-culturalism to an absolute “relativism”. According to this view, there is no such thing as objective “knowledge”, “facts” do not exist; philosophically “reality” is a complete illusion. One culture, philosophy, scientific theory, concept of history, or whatever, is as good as another. It’s all subjective, a matter of opinion.
But here we come to the central contradiction of PC/relativism: instead of applying their own laissez-faire approach to themselves (as well as everyone else) they proclaim it to be the only acceptable point of view, and set about purging reading lists, limiting free speech and hounding “incorrect” academics.
A special target are “DWEMs” — Dead White European Males. These include Plato, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Newton and (presumably) Marx. The object seems to be the complete repudiation of the entire Western cultural tradition (tainted as it is with racism, sexism, etc) in favour of more “Politically Correct” alternatives.
In particular, mighty efforts are being made to “prove” that Western civilisation has its origin not in the Greeks but in black African sources. Similarly the science of Newton (and Einstein) is rejected in favour of “ethno-mathematics” and “feminist science”.
Now, it is certainly not my intention here to deny that mainstream education and culture has always downplayed the contributions of women and black people. In particular, the superiority of early Asian civilisation over European ones has been consistently ignored by most Western historians. And who knows what unrecorded contributions to culture and science were made in Africa over the centuries?
But that cannot detract from the fact (sorry to have to insist on prosaic old “facts”) that the highest achievements of art, literature, science, history and philosophy that we have on record tend to be the work of “DWEM”s. They are (or should be) everyone’s birthright.
To reject mainstream European culture because of racist, sexist societies that produced it, is to deny the working class and the oppressed their opportunity to arm themselves ideologically for the battle for a new, better society.
Ironically, the chief victims of the PC movement are black students. According to the Marxist historian of slavery, Eugene Genovese, “we have transformed our colleges from places of higher learning into places for the technical training of poorly prepared young men and women who need a degree to get a job in a college-crazy society”.
Meanwhile, young black people are ghettoised into Afro-American studies and their educational achievements devalued accordingly.
The PC relativists no doubt disdain such formal categories as “left” and “right” but my guess is that they would not object too strongly to being called “left wing”. In fact they are profoundly reactionary.
The exiled Iraqi architect Samir al-Khalil recently published a book (The Monument) which examines the role of art and architecture in Saddam’s military dictatorship. Khalil is especially scathing about Robert Venturi, the “post-modern” architect presently in the news because of his National Gallery extension.
Venturi was one of many Western architects who tried to make money from Saddam’s huge programme of grotesque public works, climaxing in the infamous “Victory Arch” based on giant replicas of Saddam’s own arms holding sabres. Khalil accuses Venturi of something more than simple greed and opportunism: his artistic prostitution is the direct result of his relativism.
I didn’t follow this line of argument at first, but then it fell into place. For the likes of Venturi, Saddam’s regime and the requirements it places upon arts and culture is just as acceptable as any other commission. You want grotesque, militaristic kitsch? You’ve got it! For Venturi there are no objective standards, either in aesthetics or in politics.
This is a particularly extreme example of “relativism”, and it would obviously be unfair to bracket all the PC movement adherents together with this particular charlatan.
But they are linked by a common philosophical approach, and it’s one that Marxists should fight tooth and nail.
By Cheryl Jenkins (the Daily Squib)
LONDON – England – David Cameron and his wife are to star in a new show dedicated to special guests arriving at Number10 and being wined and dined by the couple.
The new show’s format is set to become a huge ratings winner for ITV1 as it will have the Camerons serving up some lovely dishes to their guests.
“Each businessman who attends the special dinner arrives at Number10 with a brown paper bag holding no less than £250,000. He slaps it on the table and Sam Cam gives him a plate of scrummy nosh. Then when the businessman leaves, David comes into the room to write special government legislation for the businessman. Whoever gives the Camerons the biggest envelope stuffed with notes wins the game,” series producer, Rebekah Noosecorr, told Media Week magazine.
Jocky Wilson, dartist: born 22 March 1950; died 24 March 2012
When the sad news came in yesterday, I vowed that Shiraz would pay tribute to Jocky Wilson, working class hero, drinker and sportsman sui generis. I had begun work on a piece when I happened upon a copy of today’s Times in the pub (where else?) and quickly realised that their man Giles Smith’s appreciation couldn’t be bettered. And as it’s shielded by Murdoch’s paywall, I reproduce it here in memory of a true class act:
Fans of the sport will raise a glass in tribute to one of its first superstars, writes Giles Smith:
It’s a little known fact about Jocky Wilson, the former world champion darts player, who has died, aged 62, that he was an accomplished pole-vaulter while at school. In time, a less athletic image of him would come to prevail: dart in the right hand, cigarette in the left, pint of lager on the table, brandy chaser next to it.
During his first years on the professional circuit, Wilson’s weight rose from 12 stone to 16 stone. It could be argued that although he was patently a good thing for darts, darts was not straightforwardly a good thing for him, a notion supported by the deflatingly circular nature of his career — from a council estate in Kirkcaldy, Fife, to two televised World Championships and household name status, and back to the council estate in Kirkcaldy.
Yet, in his pomp in the 1980’s, millions tuned in to catch the sight unimprovably described by Sid Waddell, the darts commentator, as “Jocky on the oche looking cocky”.
He was gruff, short and mop-headed — or in his own description, “fat, boozy and toothless”. Known as “Gumsy” by Bobby George (his more affable and better organised peer, who took him under his wing and led him onto the professional circuit), he was apt to remove his false teeth for comic purposes. Playing snooker, he would occasionaly use his dentures to mark the place of his cue ball while he polished it.
But the skills for which people knew him better included his astonishing consistency of throw, and also his equally rare gifts for intimidation and swearing. He was not above the use of physical threat (today we would call it “mind games”) and several times had occasion to launch himself into an audience to deal with hecklers on a one-to-one basis.
In an era when darts and the consumption of alcohol in heroic quantities were wedded to one another, Wilson celebrated the marriage more earnestly than most.
It is said that he seldom drank at home, but he made up for it professionally. He was once so drunk at the end of a match that he went to shake his opponent’s hand, missed and fell off the stage into a drum kit.
Among his favourite fuels was “Magic Coke” — a litre bottle of Coke with half of the Coke poured away and replaced with vodka. This could be consumed with the appearance of innocence even after alcohol was banished from the oche.
Such purification didn’t much suit Wilson, who seemed to find it harder to be the championship-clinching force he was without drink and nicotine readily to hand. His consequent withdrawal into reclusion in the mid-1990’s only had the effect of burnishing his legend. Darts seemed to have its first tortured genius figure.
There were some prosaic contributing factors, though. Wilson had owed £70,000 following a management dispute and then was hit with a £27,000 tax bill. To pay it off, he undertook a punishing schedule of exhibition matches and tournament appearances around the country — only to be diagnosed in 1992 with diabetes. He appears to have come off the road in order to save himself.
The sport understandably wanted to celebrate him and made efforts on several occasions to lure him out of hiding. All of them, along with most visitors to his one-bedroom council flat, were flatly rebuffed.
When the inaugural Jocky Wilson Cup in his honour was staged in Glasgow, he consented to lend his voice to a brief message of thanks over the phone, but no more. He preferred to live privately with his Argentian-born wife Malvina (who had a tough time of it during the Falklands War), and to leave his legacy intact. And maybe there was some high-mindedness and some courage in that.
Either way, his legacy includes some unrepeatable nights of televised entertainment in the 1980s, a plethora of salty stories, and a handy tip as to the best way to beat Eric “The Crafty Cockney” Bristow: “Hide the bastard’s fags.”
Sid Waddell in the Graun, here.
This really is a very big deal (adapted from the BBC website):
Labour calls for independent inquiry into Cruddas boast
Labour is demanding an independent inquiry into a Tory treasurer’s boast that large donations to the party could secure access to the prime minister.
Peter Cruddas quit as Tory co-treasurer after his claims, filmed by undercover Sunday Times reporters, were published.
David Cameron has pledged to hold a party inquiry into the claims, which he described as “completely unacceptable”.
But Labour leader Ed Miliband said that that was not good enough and a “proper independent investigation” was needed.
Mr Miliband said it would be right for the prime minister to make a statement to Parliament on the issue.
Mr Cruddas was secretly filmed saying that a donation of £250,000 gave “premier league” access to party leaders, including private dinners with Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, and with any feedback on policy shared with Downing Street staff.
Party funding and lobbying can be two of the most toxic areas of modern politics. But when they combine (as in the case of the Cruddas episode) the results can be even more poisonous.
That’s why Cruddas resigned so quickly and politicians on all sides have issued swift and strong condemnation. David Cameron is stamping on any suggestion that the party’s rich friends in finance can buy influence or shape policy.
But it’ll be hard to draw a line under this affair. Labour says questions remain. How many donors have been invited to cosy dinners or drinks in Downing Street and Chequers? Did any of them happen to mention their views on big policy decisions – like the reduction in the 50p tax rate?
A trawl begins today for any evidence that donors shaped policy, and the can of worms that is party funding reform will be opened once again.
He was heard initially saying that it was not possible to buy access to the prime minister.
But he then went on to discuss what access different size donations would get.
He was speaking to the reporters posing as staff from a fake wealth fund based in Liechtenstein who were interested in doing business in the UK.
He told them: “Two hundred grand to 250 is premier league… what you would get is, when we talk about your donations the first thing we want to do is get you at the Cameron/Osborne dinners.”
He said they would be able to ask Mr Cameron “practically any question you want”.
“If you’re unhappy about something, we will listen to you and put it into the policy committee at number 10 – we feed all feedback to the policy committee.”
Mr Miliband told the BBC that the claims were “very disturbing”.
“These allegations can’t be swept under the carpet – there needs to be a proper independent investigation into what influence was sought, what influence was gained and what impact it had,” he said.
“We need to know what happened, who paid money, what interaction there was between the prime minister and the chancellor and the people who paid money.”
“I think people are bound to ask questions about whether policy is being made in the national interest or in relation to the Conservative Party interest,” he said.
Mr Cameron said the incident should not have taken place.
“This is not the way we raise money in the Conservative Party. It shouldn’t have happened.
“It’s quite right that Peter Cruddas has resigned. I will make sure there is a proper party inquiry to make sure this can’t happen again.”
‘Impression of impropriety’
In his resignation statement, Mr Cruddas said: “I deeply regret any impression of impropriety arising from my bluster in that conversation.
“Clearly there is no question of donors being able to influence policy or gain undue access to politicians.
“Specifically, it was categorically not the case that I could offer, or that David Cameron would consider, any access as a result of a donation. Similarly, I have never knowingly even met anyone from the Number 10 policy unit.”
The Conservative Party currently has several levels of donation, with the top one being the Leader’s Group, where for an annual donation of £50,000 donors can be invited to join Mr Cameron and other senior figures from the Conservative Party at dinners, post-Prime Minister’s Questions lunches, drinks receptions, election result events and important campaign launches.
Transparency is, the prime minister once said, the best disinfectant. ”
Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said “reform” of funding system was necessary.
He said there was a “perception that people who make large donations – be they wealthy people from the city or trade unions – have influence. They should not have that influence, nor the perception of that influence.”
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said the Conservative Party would continue to make clear to donors that there was “no question of people being able to influence policy through making donations”.
Mr Cruddas had been involved in fundraising for the Conservative Party since June last year, and took over as the party’s principal fundraiser earlier this month.
Lord Fink will now return as principal treasurer, the party announced on Sunday morning, with Michael Farmer acting as co-treasurer
Above: Anders Breivik, who killed 77 at a Norwegian Social Democrat youth camp last year.
It’s always unwise and often downright irresponsible to jump to conclusions about the motives and political profile of terrorists. When 77 people were picked off at a social democratic youth camp in Norway last year, there was a widespread assumption that this was the work of Islamists. It turned out, of course, that Anders Behring Breivik was a far-right anti-Muslim, probably acting alone. Exactly the opposite mistake has now been made by mainstream and left-wing commentators on the tragic events in Toulouse. Fiachra Gibbons wrote a piece in the Guardian that managed to get just about everything not just wrong, but wrong by 180 degrees:
Police are a long way yet from catching, never mind understanding, what was going through the head of someone who could catch a little girl by the hair so he wouldn’t have to waste a second bullet on her. But some things are already becoming clear. He shouted no jihadist or anti-Semitic slogans, going about his grisly business in the cold, military manner oddly similar to Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian gunman who massacred 77 people at a social democrats summer camp last summer.
As with Breivik, politicians will be quick to the thesis of the lone madman. Another lone madman influenced by nothing but his own distorted mind, like the lone gang of neo-Nazis who had been quietly killing Turks and Greeks in Germany for years unbothered by the police, who preferred to put the murders down to feuds or honour killings.
What could be the link, they ask, between Jewish children and French military personnel? The link is they are both seen – and not just by a far-right fringe – as symbols of all that has sabotaged la France forte, to borrow Sarkozy’s election slogan. Confessional schools, be they Jewish or an informal weekend madrassa, are seen as actively undermining the secular Republic by activists of groups like the Bloc Identitaire and the Front National, as well as some members of Sarkozy’s UMP, and even some on the left.
Now, I have no idea who Mr Gibbons is, and he is certainly not the only commentator to get this incident badly wrong, but I’ll bet you that he is on the “multicultural”/liberal/”left” and so predisposed to assume that the killings were the work of the white European far-right. His easy dismissal of the possibility that the killer might have been an Islamist jihadist (“He shouted no jihadist or anti-Semitic slogans“) suggests a predetermined inability to even entertain such a possibility (the article was published on 20 March, one day before the identity of the killer became known).
And that possibility was always there and fairly obvious. Just because the killer had struck at Muslim servicemen did not make it impossible that he was himself a Muslim, as anyone who has studied the form should know. As Nick Cohen notes in today’s Observer:
Breivik’s [and, as it turns out, Mehrah’s – JD] mentality matched that of Parviz Khan, a bloodthirsty fanatic from Birmingham. At his trial in 2008, the police provided tapes of Khan saying that he would behead a British Muslim soldier like “you cut a pig”. Then he would “put it on a stick and say, this is to all Muslims, [you] want to join the kuffar army, this is what will happen to you”. In his study of the case, Shiraz Maher of King’s College London said that most terrorists spread fear indiscriminately. Khan and his fellow plotters were different. They aimed to terrify Muslims who choose to integrate, identify themselves as British and serve British institutions; to let them know that it was an act of “betrayal” to support their own country.
The first lesson from all of this is not to jump to conclusions before sufficient facts are known. The second is that it is not just unwise and distasteful, but also irresponsible, to seek to use tragedies like this to bolster your own political preconceptions. The third is that vulnerable minorities (Muslims in Europe, especially) are now at greater risk than ever, and we must all weigh our words carefully.
Just because it turns out that the killer was not a member of the far-right (actually, I’d argue that he was, but that’s another matter) does not make the nationalist racism of Sarkozy, as he attempts to steal votes from the fascist Front National, any less criminal. It just means that the simple cause-and-effect link to the killings that we on the left wanted to prove, has not been the case. That fact should not be a cause of pleasure or satisfaction to anyone, and it doesn’t invalidate our condemnations of Sarkozy. But, undoubtably the electoral gainers will be the Front National (who are, predicatably, cashing in already) and Sarkozy himself.
But we on the left – and, especially, that section of the left that was inclined to put the killings down to the “political context” – now have some explaining to do. As the simplistic “It is no coincidence that Sarkozy’s racism has been followed by one of the worst racist attacks in France in a generation” explanation has been blown out of the water, we are now obliged to offer our more considered analysis and explanation, in the light of what we now know.
I am not the first to note that when a terrorist is a white neo-Nazi, the liberal-left will focus on his ideology, beliefs and any evidence of a supportive mainstream discourse. However if a terrorist is an Islamist, the same people focus exclusively on his grievances and deprivations. Here’s a particularly crass example, all the more unpleasant because it doesn’t even mention antisemitism as a factor in the equation. Note, also, that the (non) “explanation” given in this dreadful little piece of hackery and insult-to-the-intelligence, could have been wheeled out just as well, had the perpetrator been a member of the white far-right.
The problem with much of the “left”, when it comes to Islamist terrorism, is that they (the “left”) deny any autonomy to the perpetrators. Unlike white far-right terrorists, Islamists are not (it would seem) thinking individuals, autonomous actors, motivated by any coherent ideology. They’re merely victims who react to external forces – racism, “islamophobia,” alienation, poverty, imperialism, etc, etc. The “left” (or at least, a large part of it) effectively infantilises these people, denying them even the perverse dignity of being responsible for their own actions, and of having their own internally coherent political agenda. And that is, ultimately, a form of racism in itself.
I’ll leave the last words to Nick Cohen, who in today’s Observer nailed down many of the points I was mulling over prior to posting this piece:
For conservatives, opposition to radical Islam and indulgence of the white far right allows them to ignore the persistence of racism, most notably in France. They want to comfort their voters by telling them that whatever charges their critics throw at them, they are not as misogynist, homophobic or anti-Semitic as their Islamist enemies are. For leftists, opposition to the white far right and indulgence of radical Islam allows them to hide the descent of their programme of identity politics into squalor and shame, most notably in Britain. As long as they have the British National Party and English Defence League to fight, leftists can forget about their failures to help liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims in their struggles against theocratic power.
Many on both sides will not admit that the motives and targets of totalitarian movements are often identical. After what Europe went through in the 20th century, their ignorance is beyond disgraceful. It is astonishing.