Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Curiouser and Curiouser (3)

I don't know who is calling the shots over at North Lanarkshire Council 's Freedom of Information (FoI) operation these days, but if you ask me whoever is in charge has taken leave of their senses. 

Because the Council has just refused my FoI request asking for details of the Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) which the Council carried out back in 2006 on the ridiculous grounds that disclosing this information would "prejudice substantially the effective conduct of public affairs".

But I have to ask myself in all seriousness - 'How can it possibly prejudice anything in 2014 to be told who Iris Wylie was talking to in Unison back in 2006 and how can people knowing more about the EIA terms of reference possibly do the Council any harm?"

Unless the Council has something to hide of course which is why I'll be submitting a Review Request pretty damn quick - so watch this space.

Gavin Whitefield
Chief Executive
North Lanarkshire Council

Dear Mr Whitefield

FOISA Request 

I would like to make the following request under the Freedom of Information Scotland Act 2002.
Please provide me with a copy of the e-mail from the Council's Head of Personnel to Unison dated 7 March 2006 which sets out detailed terms of reference for the Equality Impact Assessment conducted by the Council over its plans to implement the 'single status' agreement with effect from 1 April 2006.

I look forward to your reply and would be grateful if you could respond to me by e-mail to: markirvine@compuserve.com
Kind regards

Mark Irvine

Curiouser and Curiouser 2 (18 August 2014)

I wrote recently about the Equality Impact Assessment Impact (EIA) carried out by North Lanarkshire back in 2006, the purpose of which must have been to ensure that the Council's job evaluation scheme (JES) was operating in a non-discriminatory way.

In other words not treating male jobs more favourably than their women colleagues.

Yet that is exactly what appears to have happened in North Lanarkshire, if recent developments at the Employment Tribunal are anything to go by because the Council has been forced to concede that many jobs have been wrongly graded and that the bonus payments of male workers were into account when these jobs were moved over on to new pay structures.

So I was amazed I have to say at the following comments from the EIA report which is marked "Private and Confidential" and is dated 14 March 2006"

"Implementation Strategy"

"While I have not been asked to review the entire implementation proposal I understand that pay equality in the new pay and grading structure is underpinned in the proposed NLC arrangements for:
  • assimilation to the new structure
  • incremental progression
  • improved detriment protection beyond the provisions of the SJC 'single status' agreement
  • addressing pay inequality arising from bonus payments to male manual workers"   
Now I'm almost lost for words at complacency involved because what was the point in asking someone independent of the Council to review the impact of the JES and the pay arrangements that flowed from the JES, if that person did not actually complete the job?

If you ask me that is and was a completely crazy state of affairs which is why I've submitted a further FoI request about the EIA's terms of reference which appear to have been set by Iris Wylie, the Council's head of human resources.   

Curiouser and Curiouser (4 August 2014)

I've had a response to my FoI request to North Lanarkshire Council regarding the Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) carried out by the Council back in 2006 which makes for very interesting reading, I have to say.

Now all the names of people have been removed from the published document, for reasons that make little sense to me, but as I know who all the key players are already this doesn't present any problems.

Here is what the first two paragraphs say: 


In my role as independent consultant to the COSLA Job Evaluation Consortium and the Scottish Joint Council for Local Government Services I have been asked to undertake an equality impact assessment of the grading and pay structure that North Lanarkshire Council has developed in order to implement the 'single status' agreement with effect from 1 April 2006.

Terms of Reference

With the assistance of the North Lanarkshire Council Job Evaluation Project Team I have undertaken a limited statistical analysis of the outcomes of the job evaluation exercise in accordance with the terms reference set out by the Head of Personnel in her e-mail to (NAME DELETED) of Unison dated 7th March 2006.

Now I will have more to say about the substance of the report in due course because I find its comments about the Council's Implementation Strategy really quite shocking, but first of all I think I'm correct in saying that the person who set the EIA's Terms of Reference back in 2006 (as Head of Personnel) is still in that position all these years later in 2014, albeit the post now has the title of Head of Human Resources. 

Which means it must be none other than my old acquaintance, Iris Wylie, who is the former partner of Unison's regional secretary in Scotland, Mike Kirby.

But what exactly were these Terms of Reference and who is the mysterious Unison person whose name has been deleted by the Council in answering my FoI request?

I think we should be told - so watch this space for further news.  

Independence Debate

If I had been on the scene when George Galloway was assaulted in London the other day, I would definitely have intervened because I object to violence and bullying of any kind. 

And sometimes that means you've got to step in and come to someone's aid, even if you don't like that person, or their politics.

Which is how I feel about George Galloway because the man's a complete arse, if you ask me. 

Now George proved this himself shortly after the attack, which saw him end up in hospital, but he was well enough to send out this tweet, presumably following his discharge  

“I’m warning Alex Salmond now; I will hold him responsible for any attempt to wreck my Just Say Naw meetings and any physical attack upon me.”

In the past few days it has been reported that Alex Salmond has been the victim of a road rage incident while travelling in his official car and the target of an assassination threat by some sad loser. 

But at no time has the First Minister or the Yes campaign tried to put the blame for these actions on their political opponents - for obvious reasons. 

Fishes and Bicycles (19 May 2014)

I wouldn't cross the road to listen to George Galloway - far less spend £11.

Which only goes to show that there can't be a really serious cost of living crisis in the UK, if lots of people are daft enough to hand over some of their hard earned cash, as reported in this opinion piece by Zoe Williams in The Guardian.

Now the last time George put his politics to the test in Scotland, the down to earth voters of Glasgow were immune to his 'charms' and gave him the cold shoulder, politically speaking 

So why should it be any different when it comes to GG's views on independence?

Likewise with Nigel Farage who is doing rather well across large swathes of England and Wales, but that's really because the Westminster Parliament is held in such poor regard by the voters these days, which is where George has plied his trade for years, of course.

Yet I don't expect UKIP to breakthrough in Scotland during the European elections and they certainly are not having anything like the same impact on politics north of the border, if recent opinion polls are to be believed.

But I do agree with Zoe Williams about the likely turnout in Scotland's independence referendum - people are going to vote in large numbers because there is a real sense that their votes might bring about some real change.

Nigel Farage, George Galloway … why we're queuing up to listen to the mavericks

Lone rangers are popular because they appear to reject the boring Westminster rules

By Zoe Williams - The Guardian

‘Like self-tightening knots, the less they abide by normal standards the more respect they accrue for their authenticity.' Illustration: Belle Mellor

As Nigel Farage puts the wind up English politics, George Galloway is playing to packed houses in Scotland with Just Say Naw: forget everything you know about political rallies. The truly gobsmacking thing about Galloway's appearances is that you have to pay £11 to get in – but relax, I'm not going to make a turgid point about accounts and accountability. Farage is quite a bit cheaper but their price points are none of my business. They can spend it on sweets for all I care.

Nevertheless, this marks a new high point for the lone rangers of British politics. Traditionally, gatherings scheduled to spread some political message are free, to make up for how boring they're likely to be. No, sorry, that's wrong – they're free because they're meant to embody a sense that nobody in the room can do anything without everybody else in the room; the group is more than the sum of its parts, because no one part is greater than any other. This is not just socialist claptrap, I don't think – even rabid, possessive individualists, when they all get together, share the rubric of in-group solidarity.

Evenings spent in the company of a charismatic figure, by contrast, cost money. It's not unprecedented for the two to combine. The Nuremberg rallies were ticketed events, but in fairness to Hitler, they cost a bit to put on. Those flares weren't going to light themselves.

This isn't, for once, about the political message of either man; it's rather the peculiar appeal of the maverick, to which none of us are immune, and which only becomes more pronounced.

Part of this is nothing to do with politics; consensus and cooperation are inherently boring. My mum once bought a Christmas boardgame where players had to collaborate, and my cousin refused to play it on the basis that he had to do that at work, and when he was on holiday he wanted to enjoy himself.

Following someone – anyone – is more interesting than agreeing, because you never know where you're going to end up. Following someone with a messianic belief is even more exciting. If the appeal were simply a quasi-religious energy, we could write that off as something performative, inconsequential, likely to last no longer than the evening itself. We may all yearn, on some level, to be led, but we yearn for all kinds of things – white knights on horses, a room somewhere/ far away from the cold night air. We're also not stupid.

Yet there are other elements, besides the exhilarating, forward-moving certainty of a politician who brooks no complication and accepts no compromise: first, a hope that people who are unmoored from parties might finally tell the truth; second – and related – that they might do something different. All the normal requirements made of politicians are waived for mavericks. They don't have to be consistent and they don't have to make sense. Galloway, a man so individualistic that he can't even be held to a standardised spelling of the word "no", is allowed to argue for togetherness.

Ironically, while they're valued for their honesty, they're rarely asked for an answer specific or precise enough that their honesty could ever be used against them. Farage is a wonderful example. Whenever the conversation within his party comes close to an actual policy, some member inevitably has to be ejected. He is immune to any damage that would cause another leader – the very fact of his ranks being out of control is proof that he's not part of the same stale machine that wants to control everything.

Decency and taste, a shared understanding of what you can and can't use in the scoring of political points – all those bets are off. Boris Johnson claimed this week that we were living in a "Boko Haram" world because Jeremy Clarkson isn't allowed to be a prick, and that, apparently, is (almost) as bad as being kidnapped as a teenager and sold as a slave. The more combustible the remark the better, as far as a lone wolf is concerned – like self-tightening knots, the less they abide by normal standards the more respect they accrue for authenticity.

These assessment criteria are actually pretty weak. Just because somebody habitually says controversial things it doesn't mean they're honest; nor does it mean they're an escape from rule-bound politics. They're just marshalling the rules to their rhetorical advantage and are no more radical than any figure in history who has built a platform on not being that other guy. But it is, inescapably, a reflection on how unpopular the political discourse has become that the rejection of its norms will light up the skies.

To return to Scotland, Alistair Darling, meanwhile, is reported to have been quietly sidelined this week by the No campaign in favour of Gordon Brown, who himself has only appeared on the Better Together platform in the last fortnight. Previously he was pro-union but preferred the lesser-known "United with Labour" campaign, proving the point that just because you can't get on with anyone it doesn't make you a lovable maverick.

Gerry Hassan, author of Caledonian Dreaming, which looks at the Scottish referendum not as seismic contest between yes and no but in the wider context of what it will and won't mean for social democracy, noted that turnout in that election might, ultimately, be more important than the result.

Already polling and focus groups are showing that people who don't bother voting in general elections will vote on this because it might actually change something. Political entrepreneurs, whatever their stripe, are running on the same fuel – the stasis of the conventional debate. Brace yourself for more of these mavericks: people are responding to something deeper than their words.

Come Into My Parlour (25 April 2014)

Labour leader Ed Miliband has raised more than a few eyebrows at Westminster and elsewhere - with the news that he held a private, hour long meeting with George Galloway, the Respect MP.

Now why would Ed do such a thing? - since the news of a 'secret' meeting was bound to leak out - sooner or later - and could only work to the Labour leader's disadvantage.

Because it looks distinctly odd it has to be said - as if Ed Miliband is on the back foot - cast in the role of the fly and not the spider.  

Some of the newspapers say it was to discuss the recent vote boundary change legislation - which sounds bonkers and completely unconvincing, to me at least.

Now I haven't come across George Galloway in the flesh, so to speak, for a very long time - many years ago in the 1980s we went to a football game in London - to White Hart Lane the home of Tottenham Hotspur, if I remember correctly.

But to me George has evolved into the worst kind of politician - a demagogue and a political carpet-bagger, whose giant ego overwhelms everything else including his undoubted talent as a public speaker.

So, no disrespect - but I wouldn't cross the road to see George these days, never mind invite him into my private office for an hour long chat.

What's New Pussycat? (30 March 2012)

The news today that George Galloway has won the Bradford West by-election is a devastating blow to the Labour Party.

Bradford West has been a safe Labour seat since 1974 - one where Labour has actively courted the Muslim vote - but the bottom line is that the voters rejected Labour in favour of a political demagogue.

Now as regular readers will know - George Galloway stood in the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections - and got absolutely nowhere.

My view is that the voters of Glasgow were too canny and wise - to be taken in with his particular blend of bombast - which is designed to appeal to disaffected Muslim voters these days.

Which is not to say that George does not raise some important issues about wars and military intervention in foreign countries - the present conflict in Afghanistan being a case in point.

Because the original mission was to deny a safe haven for the al-Qaeda terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks on New York - yet what purpose we are serving there now seems a mystery to many people - including me.

But George Galloway was against the original military mission - which was fully backed by the United Nations (UN) - it has to be said.

Just as he was against the decision to intervene in the civil war in Yugoslavia - of course - which ended the 'ethnic cleansing' regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

I haven't hear any of George's thoughts about the military intervention in Libya - come to think of it - which finally got rid of Colonel Gaddafi and his murderous crew.

Although I would be surprised if he was anything other than completely opposed to that decision either - which had the support of the UN and Arab League.

To my mind George is against just about everything - except George.

Which is why I think the voters of Glasgow decided he wasn't worthy of a seat in the Scottish Parliament - and sent him packing elsewhere.

As I said at the time Holyrood needed George - in the same way as a fish needs a bicycle.

But I suppose Labour now needs him in Westminster - like the party needs another hole in his head - because how does Ed Miliband explain such a crushing defeat?

George knows - of course.

Apparently God was on his side - which we know because he said so on Twitter - proclaiming his great victory over Labour was 'By the grace of God...'

A dog whistle comment if I ever heard one.

Fishes and Bicycles (6 May 2011)

So George Galloway has failed to win a seat in the Scottish Parliament elections.

Now this comes as no great surprise - here's what I said about the relevance of his campaign for a list seat in the Glasgow region.

Seems like the voters in Glasgow agreed with me - that the former Respect MP had little to offer Holyrood.

Which chimes with my own views - because I didn't vote for him either.

Fishes and Bicycles (2 December 2010)

George Galloway is to politics what Jose Mourinho is to football - though without the evident talent and smouldering good looks.

'Gorgeous' George is a tired old pussycat these days - both vain and vainglorious in equal measure - whose current claim to fame is that he writes a regular column - wait for it - for the Daily Record.

The other day George was rude and condescending about Christopher Hitchens - saying that he would 'pray' for the avowed atheist - who is terminally ill with throat cancer.

George also boasted - as is his wont - about his public debates with Hitchens in 2005 - suggesting that these had been a great success - and that he had come out on top.

So I watched these recordings and other interviews on You Tube and it seemed to me that - as on many other issues - the former MP is simply deluding himself.

The two men clearly detest each other - which makes for great theatre and sparky TV.

Yet for me Hitchens had the measure of his opponent - whom he would probably characterise as a populist demagogue.

Apparently George is interested in standing for the Scottish Parliament in next year's elections - and his penchant for flowery words and phrases would certainly bring some colour to its debates.

But as his political interests have always been dominated by foreign affairs - Holyrood needs George about as much as a fish needs a bicycle.

God's Work

Here's a terrible report from The Sunday Times about a 'death squad' in Iraq whose leader says they were carrying out God's, work but as the murderers lead such busy lives in Bagdhad they had to shoot their victims in the head instead of stoning them to death as required by their holy book, the Quran. 

Now if you ask me, these vile people are responsible for their own actions and whatever the rights and wrongs of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, nothing justifies this kind of behaviour.

‘No time to stone them, so we shot them’

Shi’ite killers: In the first of two dispatches from Baghdad on the brutality gripping Iraq, Miles Amoore recounts the words of a militia leader whose squad killed 28 prostitutes

Miles Amoore, Baghdad - The Sunday Times
Hanna Karim, a veterinary student, was among dozens of victims of an attach by Shi’ite gunmen on a brothel in Baghdad

HANA KARIM’s father found out that his eldest daughter worked as a prostitute only when he saw a photograph of her body flash up on a television screen in Baghdad’s main morgue.

Reeling from the shock, the old man was led downstairs to identify Hana. His daughter’s body, dressed in pyjama bottoms and a skimpy vest, was caked in blood.

She had been shot twice in the head from close range, as had the other 27 prostitutes who lay dead alongside her in the city’s morgue.

“When the doctors told me why she was killed, that she was sleeping with men, I couldn’t believe them,” said Majid, a grey-haired 53-year- old former construction worker with a wrinkled face.

“She was so bright. She’d won a scholarship to study to be a vet. She loved Baghdad. She wanted to be free and wear nice clothes.”

Majid said he at first believed that a Sunni militia had killed his daughter, who came from a poor Shi’ite family in the country’s south.

But Majid was wrong about his daughter’s killers. Last week, The Sunday Times spoke to one of them — a member of a Shi’ite death squad attached to one of the most brutal militias operating in Iraq.
One month before the murders, Abu Abdullah’s men posted a letter and a bullet through the door of the brothel

In recent months, as Sunni extremists from Isis, (also known as Islamic State), seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and marched on Baghdad, Iraq’s American-trained army crumbled.

Thousands of Shi’ite militiamen, heeding calls from senior clerics, were sent to the front to plug the gaps and stall the Isis advance.

Yet, these Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias now defending Baghdad are no less barbaric than the Islamic zealots of Isis, whose desire to impose a Sunni Islamist caliphate in Iraq and Syria they are trying so desperately to thwart.

Dressed in black shoes, black trousers and a black cap, Abu Abdullah’s bulging eyes hardly blinked as he recounted how his squad raided the brothel where Hana and 27 women worked as prostitutes in the upmarket Baghdad neighbourhood of Zayouna.

In justifying the brutal killing of 28 women for the crime of prostitution, Abu Abdullah said: “When we are doing Allah’s work we are never scared. We never regret.”

One month before the murders, Abu Abdullah’s men posted a letter and a bullet through the door of the brothel.

When the prostitutes failed to heed the warning, Abu Abdullah received orders to mobilise his hit squad. The team of 15 assassins slipped through a hole in the corrugated iron fence and into the apartment block’s garden.

Neighbours, who had initially asked the militia to chase the prostitutes from the area, watched from their balconies as the militiamen broke down the front door and rounded up the women.

Some they shot in their beds, alongside male customers. Others they forced onto their knees before shooting them in the heads with silenced pistols, deaf to their cries for mercy.

“Many screamed at us and told us that they would stop their work. We said we have no choice but to finish you now. They didn’t listen to us before. We told them to be quiet and then we shot them,” Abu Abdullah said.

A gaggle of terrified women who had escaped the initial slaughter cowered together in the bathroom. Gunmen walked in and shot them in the head one by one, splattering flecks of blood on the white tiles. The killers found one woman in a cupboard. They dragged her out and shot her in the head.

Within half an hour, 28 women and five men lay dead. Some of the victims lay slumped together in the main living room, their arms and legs entwined. In the moments before their death, one of the men had tried to shield one of the women from the gunfire. His arms were still locked around her.

In the bathroom, curled up among the others, was Karim’s daughter.

Hanahad always wanted to move to Baghdad to escape the strict conservatism of her home town.

“In Baghdad she never had to wear the abaya [the black gown that covers a woman’s body and head].

“She could wear fancy clothes instead. She always sounded like she was happy when we spoke to her on the phone,” said Karim, who lost one of his sons, a doctor, in a suicide bombing in Baghdad three years ago.
The country is caught in a cycle of tit-for-tat sectarian murders that many believe will drag Iraq into civil warHaving finished school with good grades, Hana’s opportunity to leave her home town of Nasiriyah came when she won a scholarship to study veterinary medicine at Baghdad University.

But, at some stage during her three years at university, Hana’s fortunes changed. Her father does not know why she became a prostitute.

“Maybe it was money but she always told us the university paid everything for her,” he whispered. “I will never let my remaining daughters leave the house again.”

Abu Abdullah feels no remorse. “We’re not like Isis,” said the 37-year-old father of two. “We don’t behead people. That’s not in the Koran; it’s for animals. In the holy book it says prostitutes should be stoned to death. We didn’t have time to stone them so we shot them. It’s cleaner this way.”

Abu Abdullah and his men are not only responsible for erasing “unIslamic behaviour” from the streets of Baghdad. Shi’ite militia leaders also use the death squads to hunt down and kill anyone suspected of sympathising with Isis.

On Thursday, Abu Abdullah left Baghdad for Amerli, a town of 15,000 that Isis militants have besieged for more than two months.

UN officials have warned of an impending massacre of the town’s Shi’ite Turkmen population, which Isis considers to be heretical and so worthy of elimination.

The militia Abu Abdullah works for received a tip that two Sunni Turkmen families on the outskirts of the town were helping Isis — one had even given one of their daughters to an Isis commander, Abu Abdullah was told.

On Friday morning, Abu Abdullah’s assassins stormed the two Sunni homes. They rounded up the men, five in total, forced them to kneel on the floor and shot them with pistols.

“We didn’t touch any of the women and children,” said Abu Abdullah. “The men begged for us to spare them. They said their neighbours had told lies about them. We didn’t believe them.”

Many blame extrajudicial killings like these for driving Iraqi Sunnis into the arms of Isis. Hardline Shi’ite Islamists such as Abu Abdullah say the killings his group carries out are justified because “most Sunnis” support Isis.

Some Iraqi politicians have insisted that if Shi’ite militias continue to operate with impunity then Isis will continue to find easy recruits among Iraq’s Sunni minority.

Blamed for a string of attacks, including the murder of Sunni worshippers in a mosque last week, the militias are also hindering efforts by Iraq’s new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, to form a more inclusive government.

Yet Shi’ite militia leaders such as Qais al-Khazali, who commands the Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous) militia, insist that Isis will never be defeated without his men.

Backed by Iran with weapons, money and expertise, the league is Iraq’s largest paramilitary force.

Its men are battle-hardened, fighting with devastating effect against the American occupation of Iraq and, lately, in Syria on the side of President Bashar al-Assad.

Coupled with widespread allegations of human rights abuses, the militia’s anti-American roots and Iranian ties make it an uneasy ally for western leaders as they scramble to find a way to cope with the rising threat of Isis.

Instead, the country is caught in a cycle of tit-for-tat sectarian murders that many believe will drag Iraq into civil war.

“Iraq will not be at peace for a very long time. It will be Sunni against Shi’ite to the end,” said Abu Abdullah in a terrifying portent of the bloodshed that many fear is yet to come.

Isis ethnic cleansers leave city morgue overflowing

Stop the STWC

I published a post about the ridiculous antics of the Stop the War Coalition (STWC) the other day and then I came across this opinion piece by Rob Marchant in The Independent.

Now I don't follow developments in STWC that closely because I think they are motivated by a nasty brand of anti-western politics, but I agree with Rob Marchant that the organisation is now really against 'war' or 'wars' - they just want to pick and choose which ones they support.

So maybe the time has finally come to set up STSTWC - Stop the Stop the War Coalition.  

The Stop the War Coalition should do us all a favour and disband

Its original aims might have been noble, but it no longer represents mainstream opinion, and has been hijacked by the far-left

By ROB MARCHANT - The Independent

Earlier this month, Stop the War Coalition’s (StWC) website published an article explaining why fears of ISIS massacre were a deliberate exaggeration, worked up by Western governments in order to drag us into another war in Iraq: “a false story of a massive Yazidi crisis”.

But, of course, it wasn’t. Soon afterwards, there were real, brutal attacks on the Yazidis which sacked the village of Kojo, killing and abducting its inhabitants. Not thinking that anyone might have saved the original wording of the article, this claim about there not being a Yazidi crisis mysteriously disappeared without remark.

We could be generous, and conclude that this was merely a very poor analysis of the situation, rather than a desperate attempt to make it fit the desired narrative, and one which Isis would naturally have delighted in. Let us also leave to one side for the moment the risible idea that Western governments are somehow dying to get into another war in the Middle East, when the reverse is clearly true. It is difficult to remember a period of post-war history in which world leaders were less interested in intervening anywhere. Just this weekend Obama said he had no strategy for Isis in Syria, while Ed Miliband has tip-toed around the prospect of intervention in an op-ed for The Independent this weekend.

But the remarkable thing about the story is that it reveals the logical contortions which StWC has been reduced to. In 2003, the argument was simple: the West should get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a legitimate view, whether or not you agreed. Many who did not share the Stoppers’ far-left or pacifist leanings showed sympathy, and a highly successful rally was held in London which was attended by a broad range of politicians and public.

Then came 7/7. StWC condemned the bombings, but – and there was invariably a “but” which followed condemnation of a terrorist act – “The only way to end the bombings is to withdraw from Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine”.

But the terrorism predates both Afghanistan and Iraq; today, the West has withdrawn from both countries. And yet, this week, an American journalist was brutally beheaded in Iraq. If there is one thing which is abundantly clear, it is that terrorist acts will not end through the “right” actions by the West. And so the slide began.

Later came Syria, which tied them up in knots: the aggressor, Bashar al-Assad, was clearly committing genocide against his own people, but he was also someone with whom some of StWC’s members had expressed sympathy. For example, at one of its meetings last year it gave a platform to Assad cheerleader Issa Chaer.

The Stop the War Coalition of today does not represent mainstream or even consistent opinion, if it ever did. Its leaders are hardly mainstream: its former chair, Andrew Murray, is still a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain; there are long-standing historic links to the Socialist Workers’ Party; and vice-president Kamal Majid is a founding member of the Stalin Society. Uncle Joe, you may remember, was not a great valuer of human life, although I am sure Mr Majid would disagree.

However noble the aims which some supporters of Stop the War may have once attributed to it, it is nowadays little more than a pressure group of the far-left, with some highly dubious, inconsistent and sometimes borderline-deranged views.

On Syria and again on Isis, StWC have shown they don’t really want to “stop the war” at all; just the cherry-picked wars they disagree with (normally those which involve the US or Israel). In the meantime, they are prepared for genocide to continue, as long as it's Arabs killing other Arabs.

If StWC really wants to help the inhabitants of the Middle East as much as it purports to, it needs to get its priorities straight. Better still, it could just disband altogether.

Medicine for the Dead (22 August 2014)

Here's an excellent article by James Bloodworth writing in The Independent which just goes to show that not everyone on the left of politics is an apologist for the increasingly ridiculous arguments of the Stop the War Coalition (STWC).

Today Isis is attacking the Middle East. Tomorrow it’ll be the West

Those who have spent the past 10 years warning against intervention need to wake up

By JAMES BLOODWORTH - The Independent

The reported murder of the American journalist James Foley is further proof that Western countries must not be squeamish when it comes to helping the Iraqis and the Kurds to defeat Isis.

Liberals are very good at calling for the bombs to stop, but now is the time for anyone of a remotely progressive temperament to call for an intensification of the military campaign against Isis. Indeed, let more bombs fall on those who behead journalists and enslave Kurdish and Iraqi women.

The latest atrocity by Isis ought to drive home the point that those committing such crimes are not misunderstood men who have been "radicalised" by Western imperialism, but rather are attempting to use our concern for human suffering against us by proudly brandishing their own disregard for it — all to create a hellish and totalitarian Caliphate that would make death feel like a deliverance.

Indeed it bears repeating: the existence of Isis (as opposed to the group’s growth) is in no sense "our" fault. The old communist turned anti-communist Arthur Koestler once said that the difference between a person of a liberal and absolutist mentality was that the absolutist viewed wrong ideas as crimes committed against future generations.

It followed that wrong ideas must be punished in a similar way to other crimes. In the case of Isis this involves taking women and girls as slaves and murdering men who fail to convert to their particular noxious strand of Islam. If you believe that you are creating heaven on earth then anything and anyone that stands in your way must be squashed underfoot like a rotten apple.

Those who have spent the past 10 years trying to neuter Britain and the United States into international passivity need now to wake up. It seems clear that if the gung-ho 2000s showed the consequences of Western military adventurism, then recent events have demonstrated the limits of trying to stop the world on its axis and climb off.

Isis have germinated so rapidly not because of George Bush and Tony Blair, but because Western governments decided at some point that it would be acceptable for Bashar al-Assad to drop explosives on the Syrian people in order to keep power. It may come as a surprise to those MPs who whooped and hollered when the Commons voted against military intervention in Syria last year to learn that they did not "stop the war".

Judging by the macabre video which appeared on YouTube yesterday evening, James Foley's murderer appeared to have a British accent. We demand that our politicians do not put British "boots on the ground" in the Middle East yet it is our society which appears to be incubating at least some of the fighters currently chopping off heads in Iraq and Syria. When you live in a country that is failing to prevent at least some members of its own society from travelling to destroy somebody else’s, all talk of "keeping out" is little more than sanctimonious rubbish.

Either way, if you believe that, for whatever reason, Britain is at fault for the rise of Isis you should invariably want Britain to make amends by helping the Kurds and Iraqis to defeat it. Similarly, if you claim to be an anti-fascist you should waste no time in calling for a recognisably anti-fascist policy from the government – the bombing of Isis positions, for example. Indeed, for any genuine internationalist the next course of action is a straightforward one: to help the Iraqis and Kurds to kill those that will otherwise kill them.

For those that are inclined to bury their head in the sand a warning is probably more appropriate; in which case I will quote something a Kurdish friend told me on a recent anti-Isis demonstration in London. "Today they are attacking the Middle East; tomorrow it’ll be the West". In other words, just as you cannot ignore climate change because you do not live on a melting ice cap, Syria and Iraq are not someone else's problem because you have a mortgage and a credit card and live in a prosperous liberal democracy.