Larry O'Hara 24/10/16
Now the dust has settled from the EU Referendum (albeit those favouring departure have yet to see movement), it is time to look at two different actors in this area. First, a debrief on fascist involvement. Second, the overt and covert influence of the Hope Not Hate organisation (hereafter HNH) is worth study. In that respect this is a companion piece to the article by colleagues Heidi Svenson and Dr Paul Stott in the latest issue (11) of Notes From the Borderland (hereafter NFB) magazine (p.7-18), which explores current HNH strategy, structure, finances and personnel in detail..
FASCISTS AND THE REFERENDUM
Fascists as a whole wanted to exit the EU. The British National Party (BNP) declared after the result they had “achieved one of its founding goals by winning the referendum to take Britain out of the EU…the BNP…helped shift public opinion in favour of getting Britain out of the EU”1. Evidence the BNP won the referendum was not forthcoming. The National Front also wanted to leave, primarily on grounds of opposing immigration2. Even the League of Saint George got in on the act, which was a bit tricky, because back in the day (and even now) they affect belief in Oswald Mosley’s ‘Europe A Nation’ policy. They get round this by claiming ultra-federalists have built an Empire, and in any event “if Britain leaves the EU so could others. Then, together, we can commence the building of, Europe a Nation!”3. Why, exactly, a Europe disintegrating into nation states would harbour enthusiasm for a new European political entity is not explained. It can’t be. Britain First also advocated a Leave referendum vote.
Policy stances taken by obscure (to the general public) fascist groups is one thing; how influential were they on the ground? Before answering it is worthwhile examining just how low the actual membership of fascist groups is today. BNP membership has shrunk so much they now no longer publish membership figures. Last time they did, in 2011, it stood at 7,681, itself down from 10,256 in 20104. In 2011 membership income was £227,813, with 2,709 members paying a reduced rate. Fast-forwarding to the December 2015 accounts , total membership income has now come down to £80,359. This means, other things being equal (and excluding nominal £25,000 life member income), membership can at most be 2,500, and many ‘life members’ have already left. As for the National Front, their December 2015 accounts5 show subscription income as £3,119, meaning a maximum 311 members. The League of Saint George has no actual members as such. The relevance of all this is that the far right have so few activists even should they want to they would not be able to have much effect. The self-declared exception is Britain First, whose leader Paul Golding boasted of mobilising 1.4 million followers when launching their Referendum campaign6. That they have nowhere near this number of followers is indicated by the fact that this Facebook post by Golding had a mere 9 ‘Likes’. He is fooling nobody but himself (perhaps). Britain First’s 2015 Accounts show a maximum membership number of 1,283 (at £30 a throw, total income £38,512).
With too few fascists to make much difference on the ground, there were nonetheless enough to provide fodder for media stories, whether by accident or part-design. The first was the Mail on Sunday’s ‘Far Right in Plot to Hijack Brexit’ 5/6/167. Most prominent here ex-BNP Youth Chairman Mark Collett and his swastika-tattooed girlfriend Eva Van Housen, though ex-BNP veteran Richard Edmonds (now in the National Front) and member Mark Layzell also featured. Collett has a history of shooting in the foot any cause he ostensibly espouses so you cannot entirely rule out his involvement being a ‘put up job’ to discredit the anti-EU cause. The article is significant for the paucity of fascists featured: it was bulked out by English Defence League organiser Andrew Edge, Blood & Honour guitarist Christopher Knight, and the barrel was really scraped by including ex-NF (and Third Way) member Graham Williamson, now an independent councillor in Havering. The only person currently influential within the organised far right mentioned is the veteran Richard Edmonds; all others are either uninfluential or formerly important. The Mail on Sunday carried other articles on fascist involvement too, perhaps part of its vicious war with the pro-Brexit Daily Mail8 . Another key article was the Daily Star the day after Jo Cox was killed: ‘MP Dead After Attack by Brexit Gunman’ (17/6/16) making explicit a tendentious link between the man accused of shooting Cox and Britain First, a phrase one witness seems to think he shouted. Other fascists were involved in the campaign: Jeremy Bedford-Turner of the London Forum, and Alan Harvey of the Springbok Club attended Leave events for example. The question is did fascists hijack or control the campaigns? It does not seem so; no proof of control has ever been offered or indicated. While a woman on the leaked 2006 BNP membership list, Gladys Bramall, gave Vote Leave £600,00010, there is no evidence this bought her any control.
A separate question is whether the vote to leave the EU has led to a rise in ‘hate crime’ and racist incidents (covered below). It is worth remarking that history shows most racist attacks are not carried out by organised fascists. As to whether fascists were influential in getting the Leave vote out and accentuating anti-immigrant feeling, they wished to be, but were too small to have more than a marginal influence. Ironically, their biggest boost came from media stories claiming fascists were already having an impact, which is getting into wilderness of mirrors territory.
Some might say irrespective of influence fascists supporting leaving the EU reflects adversely on that cause. The same might be said of Remain supporter Alan Sugar’s tweet 21/6/16 aimed at redoubtable Labour MP and Leave supporter Gisela Stewart that “I find it strange that Gisela Gschaider a 1974 immigrant from Germany is on the Brexit panel telling us British what we should do”. Indeed, it almost seems a self-evident media truth (trumpeted by Ruth Smeeth MP11 and Nick Cohen12 for example) that Momentum supporters wanting to deselect Labour MPs are anti-Semitic as well as homophobic and misogynist, yet Momentum supporters lined up behind Jeremy Corbyn to support Remain. This characterisation of Momentum supporters is wrong, but I mention it to show alleged racists on both sides. Their presence should not be used to detract from the intrinsic merits of any argument. Furthermore, a small but significant section of Left opinion favoured withdrawal from an anti-racist perspective13.
HOPE NOT HATE AND THE REFERENDUM: OVERT INVOLVEMENT
Any understanding of HNH and the Referendum has to start from HNH Chief Executive Nick Lowles’ track record in this area: issue 4 of NFB magazine showed in great detail how (while working for the Searchlight organisation) he played a key role in encouraging a ‘drip feed’ of pro-EU propaganda into the media, and issue 5 reproduced his memorandum to the European Movement offering that service in full14. The veracity of this document has never been denied, and is the prism through which spurious HNH claims to EU Referendum ‘neutrality’ should be viewed.
HNH claimed ‘Find the Facts’ was a “new neutral mini-site packed with neutrally-sourced information about some of the key topics connected to the EU debate”, to be supplemented “with a series of fun street activities designed to encourage people to think about the issues”15. ‘Find the Facts’ was anything but neutral; the economy section made no mention of the UK’s massive trade deficit with the EU, surely crucial to any tariff negotiations. The section on legislation conveniently states “no-one really has a real figure of how many of our laws are imposed by people in Brussels” and repeats the canard that the EU guarantees paid holidays for workers: yet not only did the UK introduce them in 1937 (!) there are no such guarantees for workers on zero hours contracts. You get the idea: not neutral at all.
What might seem even-handed is not. Take, for instance, massive attempts by HNH to get young voters registered. Would this effort have been made if it were thought young people would vote Leave? I think not: no efforts were made to mobilise older voters in Labour’s heartlands. The organisation assisting HNH, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, has been criticised for building a factory at Be’er Tuvia, adjacent to the town of Kiryat Malachi, located in the former Palestinian village of Qastina, destroyed by Israeli troops in 1948. So much for Ben & Jerry’s ‘non-partisan social mission’16.
On a lighter note, I must mention Anthony Painter, all-round dullard and HNH director17. The day after the referendum, Painter began making a homebrew which he later proudly tweeted a picture of, named ‘Articale 48’ in homage to the 48% of voters on the losing side18. Had Painter any knowledge of European history (or indeed Nazism specifically) he would know the name is uncomfortably close to Article 48 of the Weimar Republic constitution, which paved the way for the Nazis by allowing rule by Presidential Emergency Decree. Still, we should be grateful Remain didn’t get 18% of the votes, or even worse, 88%! Returning to seriousness, given their partisan stance it is absurd of Lowles to state that “facing” Britain’s decision to leave the EU “will require Hope not Hate and every other progressive organisation to step up their game”19. As we have chronicled extensively in NFB, HNH are not progressive, but a cynical top-down attempt to defuse and incorporate/stifle any genuine grass-roots initiatives20.
HOPE NOT HATE & THE REFERENDUM: COVERT INVOLVEMENT
Central to HNH’s false claims about neutrality in the Referendum is a pretence Hope Not Hate Ltd “is the registered company through which we deliver our political activity” as opposed to the Hope Not Hate Charitable Trust21. An illusory distinction. On the individual level, Lowles has revealed he went for a drink with the late Jo Cox MP’s husband Brendan, the day he participated (15/6/16) in the pro-EU Thames flotilla organised by millionaire Bob Geldof22.
The next day (16/6/16) Nigel Farage’s launch of his infamous poster seeking to push immigration concerns to the campaign forefront was disrupted by Laurence Durnan with placards bearing the imprint ‘Best For Our Future Limited’. Raheem Kassam and Liam Deacon (on the Breitbart London web-site 16/6/16) correctly pointed out ‘Best for Our Future’ includes Cormac Hollingsworth (HNH Chair of Trustees) as a director. Though their description of HNH as ‘hard left’ is wide of the mark: and they missed the fact Simon Tuttle, another HNH Trustee, is involved, as too Simon Gallant, of HNH’s lawyers Gallant Maxwell23. Simon Tuttle has an overlapping interest with Will Straw (Remain Campaign ‘Stronger in Europe’ Director) and Laurence Durnan: since 27/3/13 Tuttle has been a Director of Political Pixel, run by Straw and Durnan24. This outfit pretentiously describes itself as a ‘left of centre’ ‘digital publishing co-operative’. The involvement of Will Straw makes the label ‘left’ inappropriate: Straw is on the Labour Right, and (like key HNH supporter Ruth Smeeth MP’s husband Michael) an alumni of the shadowy British American Project, aimed at covertly extending US influence on policy-makers in the UK25. He also co-authored a book aiming to copy the electoral methods (and success) of the Obama campaigns, while excluding “the self-destructive indiscipline of…members more likely to see the world through an ideological prism”26. Would this mean Corbynistas? You bet it would. Another non-radical pretending to be otherwise is merchant banker Simon Tuttle, whose specious self-description in ‘Best for Our Future’ documents is ‘community activist’. Only the naïve would be fooled by this crew’s ersatz radicalism: though there are lots about…
THE JO COX MURDER: A ‘NEW CONTEXT’ INDEED
Returning to Straw: he is now damaged goods having failed to get elected to the Commons in 2015 and failed again with Remain, but we should not underestimate his callous cynicism. Breathtakingly illustrated by a conference call to supporters 19/6/16, three days after Jo Cox’s murder and four days before the Referendum that “it is now time to…call out the other side for what they have done to stir division and resentment in the UK”, her death being “the new context we’re in”27. The irony of pro-EU Quislings like Straw criticising others in this way has subsequently been illustrated (for example) by virtually every Guardian and Observer newspaper post-Referendum whining about the result and looking desperately for any means to overturn it. Should they succeed, I surmise they will find out what resentment and division are really like.
In their own way, HNH are as cynical as Straw in using her death for their own ends. We have already noted her husband Brendan Cox went drinking with Lowles the day before she died, and was unapologetic about using her death for political purposes, stating a few days later that she died because of her views “and would want to stand up for those in death as much as she did in life”28. Which no doubt explains the shroud-waving Trafalgar Square Jo Cox memorial rally a day before the Referendum vote, clearly intended to influence voters. In this topsy-turvy world, while pro-EU speeches were made from the platform, exception was taken to a plane flying overhead with a ‘Vote Leave’ banner29. Had it been flying a ‘Remain’ banner, then presumably the crowd would have cheered and that would have been alright then? If so, and I am sure that would have been the case, the cynical one-sided nature of this spectacle would have been emphasised rather than merely implicit, as it was.
No surprise, given all the foregoing, that when a crowd-sourcing appeal for funds in memory of Jo Cox was set up 17/6/16 on the site gofundme.com Hope Not Hate were one of three beneficiaries. According to the relevant page30 the fund is not registered as a charity in part because the funds are intended for HNH’s ‘Campaigning Arm’. Truly fortuitous for HNH, because as we have shown in NFB issues 10 and 11, HNH seem to routinely flout rules on political campaigning by charities, indeed the stated purposes monies are given for by such bodies as the Sigrid Rausing Trust seems to bear little relation to how money is actually spent. Within hours of being established the fund raised £210,00031, as of 24/10/16 the figure stands at £1,900,130, of which HNH get a third. Who says mendacity never prospers?
BRENDAN COX: A KNIGHT IN TARNISHED ARMOUR?
While it might seem tasteless to examine the politics and alleged personal behaviour of Jo Cox’s husband, it is justified for three reasons.
First, he has chosen that HNH receive the crowd-funded money mentioned above, so must take responsibility for that.
Second, the media circus surrounding Jo Cox has produced a situation where death is somehow presented as legitimising her politics; indeed some interventions in the parliamentary debate on Syria (11/10/16) retrospectively treated her views as almost unchallengeable. Yet surely death, however brutal, cannot legitimise views that may be wrong: if it did we might treat Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini as if they had anything useful to say. They didn’t!
Third, the beatification of Jo Cox (and by extension her surviving husband) is part of a worrying trend whereby politics are treated in an emotional and saccharine way as though the most important thing is personalities: in contrast I see issues as most vital. I do not remember Tories doing this when Ian Gow and Airey Neave were assassinated by the IRA/INLA respectively. And, to be frank, unlike Jo Cox these (especially Neave) were MPs many in the public had actually heard of before, rather than after, their death.
Brendan Cox is a political animal, sharing his late wife’s naïve optimism. A May 2016 article on refugee policy drew comfort from the fact that “demographic trends are on our side. In almost all countries, young people are more progressive than older people”32. Might I remind him young people (mostly) grow up, and may become reactionary. Sad but true. His politics are as vacuous as HNH, probably why he favours them. Try this for size: “The fight against hatred and division is a defining issue of our time…Activists need to work more effectively—whether with labour unions or the big businesses, religious groups or sports people—to unite institutions that stand for tolerance and diversity into a cohesive block”33. Missing here is any genuine radical project, certainly one that is anti-capitalist or anti-state. Forming a ‘cohesive block’ means foregoing political criticism: a revival for our times of the bankrupt popular frontist politics of the 1930s. Thankfully, the voters of Batley and Spen (Jo Cox’s constituency) did indeed reject the politics of division and hatred that are core to the EU project: the district of Kirklees overall voted 55% to 45% to leave the EU, a higher % than the national 52/48% split. Which shows how out of tune with voters Jo Cox was on this issue (like Labour generally with a few honourable exceptions).
Indefatigable blogger ex-diplomat Craig Murray has drawn attention to Brendan Cox's salary at Save the Children, which on 26/11/14 stood at £106,029. More recently (19/9/16), Murray flagged up a 2015 Mail on Sunday article reporting Cox resigned from Save The Children in September 2015 due to “complaints about him by women members of staff”. According to the article, “Cox strenuously denied any wrongdoing but agreed to leave his post”. Is it routine to resign from such a well-paid post if you see yourself as entirely blameless? The article goes on to quote an ‘insider’ as saying “some people were unhappy there was no proper internal investigation into the allegations. Brendan packed his bags and left suddenly”. Is this what you would expect from an innocent supporter of ‘diversity’? Another individual is quoted as saying “several of the women complained about inappropriate behaviour by Brendan. When the charity did nothing about it they threatened to make a huge fuss. Shortly afterwards it was announced that Brendan was leaving”34. Asked about this article, and the allegations, Save the Children declined to comment35. There may well be nothing untoward here: or there may be. At the very least it is reasonable to surmise the allegations were not investigated (or if they were details have not been revealed), but Cox nonetheless got a lucrative severance package. The thought occurs that were Cox a lower menial employee, his case would have been formally investigated at the very least, with a public outcome. Indeed, from his point of view, if Cox is innocent (and he may well be) you would surely think he might want to remove this cloud of rumour and suspicion hanging over him from this period, would you not? Sadly, we can never know publicly what Jo Cox, who previously worked at Save the Children herself, thought of the allegations.
This affair provides useful ‘context’ (borrowing from Will Straw) to Cox’s response when asked whether he would stand in the by-election triggered by his wife’s death. He touchingly said “No, my only priority at the moment is how I make sure that I protect my family and my kids through this”36. Commendable sentiments, at face value, as too his comment that electing another woman MP would make “beautiful symbolism”. Mystical powers aren’t needed to speculate that maybe the reluctance of this highly political animal to stand might signify a concern that women who (reportedly) complained about “inappropriate behaviour” could surface during the by-election. How beautifully symbolic that might have been…Perhaps fittingly, Labour chose former actress Tracy Brabin to stand, and while she duly won the seat with 86% of the votes on 20/10/16, the turnout, 25.8% was one of the lowest since the Second World War. While not too much should be read into votes for far right candidates (English Democrats 4.8%, BNP 2.7%, NF 0.4%), as no other ‘mainstream' parties were standing, we can at least infer two things from this turnout and voting pattern. One, there are indeed some racists in the constituency. Two, the Jo Cox legacy has not necessarily permeated to her former constituents to the degree it has the Westminster/media bubble.
IF YOU KNOW YOUR HISTORY: THE HOPE NOT HATE BACKGROUND
Inasmuch as #MoreInCommon (hereafter MIC) is no stand-alone organisation but in fact a recruiting drive for Hope Not Hate, some understanding of the latter’s gestation will hopefully illuminate the MIC phenomenon. HNH started in 2004 as a campaign name for the Searchlight organisation, and the HNH web-site was only registered in 200737. As late as 2009 the HNH brand was still firmly under Searchlight control38, before the March 2011 split between Searchlight and what is now Hope Not Hate. This pre-history is relevant because it indicates that there has never been any member control of HNH, as for MIC: it has always been a choreographed top-down initiative. HNH has always reduced internet ‘supporters’ (clicktivists) to what Slovenian Marxist Slavoj Zizek calls ‘interpassive subjects’, carrying out pre-ordained actions (Twittering, uploading photos, ‘sharing’ on Facebook, e-petitions etc.)39. This conceptualisation, seeing apparently active supporters as fundamentally passive can explain the paradox of, for example, the Obama Presidency and preceding campaign. Constructed in large part by Blue State Digital (who have advised HNH from the start40) the campaign mobilised lots of supporters, and raked in lots of cash, but in the end changed very little. Nor was it intended to: the aim was not social transformation, but to get Obama elected and re-elected. That the next US Presidential Election is to be contested between a deeply misogynistic and Neanderthal demagogue like Trump and an equally boorish and foul-mouthed opponent (Clinton) in hock to Wall Street and other interest groups, not to mention a shady past (White water anybody?) proves the political bankruptcy of the whole clicktivist model. As for HNH, immediately preceding its launch they were supposedly in the midst of a ‘Together’ campaign, for which (as analysed in NFB 1141) significant funding had been obtained, with very little to show for it. That the sudden influx of funds used to start up #MIC led to the ‘Together’ campaign sinking immediately without trace tells you what variety of snake oil salesmen (and women) HNH are.
WHY #MORE IN COMMON WAS SET UP
Which brings us to MIC, an apparent attempt to transcend a key HNH weakness: a lack of sustained off-line influence in the ‘real world’ people live in. There are three reasons for the launch of MIC.
The first reason, or perhaps we should call it pretext, is the late Jo Cox MP’s political philosophy. In her 3/6/15 maiden Commons speech, Cox stated her constituents “are far more united and have more in common with each other than things that divide us”. An unexceptional truism: unfortunately in this shallow sound-byte age where Twitter is seen by many as a serious form of communication the slogan complete with hash-tag ‘#MoreInCommon’ has become the name and ostensible founding sentiment of a HNH campaign. At first sight unexceptional, the slogan raises more problems than it resolves. If people already have lots in common, why do you need a campaign? Even conceding people do, should what people have in common be a means of bringing them together? Do not billionaires and refugees have certain basic needs (reference Maslow) in common? So what? Do not people being bombed in Aleppo and elsewhere have lots in common with those bombing them? How helpful is it to stress that to victims? In itself, a slogan like MIC can never be enough to organise a campaign of any salience around, and of course it isn’t: merely a hook to draw people in.
The second reason behind setting up MIC is more parochial, to do with HNH themselves. It is my understanding the Jo Cox appeal money came at just the right time for HNH, concerned about possible investigation by the Charity Commission for contravening rules on political campaigning. Which is why they increasingly stress the difference between Hope Not Hate Limited and the Hope Not Hate Charitable Trust. Despite the fact they are run from the same address in a leafy London suburb, mail goes to the same office, and their activities are barely differentiated, the fiction is that the two are separate. HNH hope the Cox money will muddy the waters here, though as we have mentioned before and continue so to do42 virtually all HNH’s interventions are political. Because they are no threat to the system, they have hitherto been allowed to get away with it. Others are not so fortunate: the Badger Trust for instance (and the RSPCA for supporting them) has been relentlessly pursued (one might even say hunted) by the Charity Commission43. Clearly Badgers matter less as endangered species than serial grant-applicators.
The third ostensible reason for MIC being founded is as an attempt to come to terms with the 23/6/16 Brexit Referendum victory aftermath. I say victory, but we have already seen that for Lowles and Hollingsworth/Tuttle the result was a defeat. The magazine given to MIC supporters states “after this year’s EU referendum we have launched our new #MoreInCommon campaign to unite our divided communities. The Brexit vote has divided families and communities as never before and the result was seen, by a small minority, as a green light for racist abuse and violence”44. Accepting, for the sake of argument, there has been such abuse, this second justification for setting up MIC shows HNH as clearly in the camp of disappointed losers (of the Referendum), stating “however divided Britain might appear now things could get a lot worse as the country negotiates its split from the EU”45. Not only is this straying into politically contested and controversial territory, such doom-mongering markedly contrasts with HNH’s habitual manic positivity.
This point is worth dwelling on. HNH surveys have noted that a lot of working class people who voted for Brexit think that it will lead to an improvement in the UKs economic prospects. To use HNH’s perjorative terminology, 55% of ‘Latent Hostiles’ think this, and 49% of the Active Enmity Group46. At this point, HNH’s partisan prejudice over the EU kicks in: Lowles and HNH generally have deliberately ignored, or misrepresented, the intentions of Leave voters.
For a start, they do not mention the poll conducted on the day of the Referendum by Lord Ashcroft canvassing the views of 12,369 voters, more than three times as many as HNH questioned. Ashcroft found that the largest group (49%) voted Leave over issues of national sovereignty, indeed a further 13% voted Leave because of fear that remaining would lead to the UK being unable to limit further EU expansion, including of its powers. Aside from 6% who believed the UK would benefit economically, this leaves 33% who voted Leave to regain control over immigration and our national borders47. While some will undoubtedly be racist, inasmuch as many countries (Russia/China/Australia for example) have immigration controls that aren’t necessarily racist, the exact percentage is difficult to determine.
HNH’s own poll was carried out by Populus in the week after the Referendum, with 4,035 people in England surveyed. Lowles tells us “people who voted to Remain in the EU overwhelmingly believed the Leave campaign ran a racist and anti-immigrant campaign. Leave voters unsurprisingly had the opposite view”48. Yet perhaps Leave voters motivated primarily by racism might welcome the description of themselves as anti-immigrant? The problem for Lowles is that his own survey shows motivations close to the Ashcroft poll results: 45% voting Leave because they want sovereignty over decision making, and 35% citing “controlling immigration”. His explanation is ingenious, relating it to the Jo Cox murder: “perhaps, our pollsters have argued, it suddenly became unacceptable…to publicly articulate views that might have motivated Jo Cox’s killer”. So there you have it: respondents who didn’t cite immigration (even less race) as motivations were “perhaps” concealing their real views. One certainty, no ‘perhaps’ about it, is that HNH/Lowles concealed their real views by presenting themselves as honest brokers.
THE HATE-CRIME ISSUE
The HNH survey has 62% of people saying there is rising tension as a result of the Referendum, and there may be. But we need to stop and reflect here: an incessant post-Referendum barrage by sore losers like the BBC/Guardian/Channel 4/most MPs has argued that divisions have increased, along with racist attacks. Any fule knows that the minute the media start reporting something the apparent incidence goes up: what sociologists call a ‘moral panic’. While there may be increased divisions, they either might not be the kind of division HNH acknowledge, or be divisions that people think are happening because the media tell them it is. In this respect, the media scouring the country for racist incidents (and there have obviously been some) may well have magnified the problem by reporting on it, indeed emboldened racists to act.
Immediately after the referendum (29/6/16) the police had a big push to increase reporting of ‘hate crimes’ to either 101 or their True Vision web-site49. This followed an earlier (pre-referendum) initiative from the EU’s ‘Fundamental Rights Agency’ 28/4/16. The relevant minister in charge of ‘hate crime’ matters around the referendum period was Karen Bradley, who explicitly declared in a Commons statement a “desire to increase the reporting of hate incidents and crimes”, echoing then-PM David Cameron’s wish to “boost reporting of hate crime”50. As we all know (or should) increased reporting of a crime does not necessarily mean an increased incidence of such, but merely…increased reporting. Of interest on the True Vision web-site (report-it.org.uk) is that those reporting incidents do not have to give their details: in which case there is no check at all on bogus reporting. Another anomaly is that a racist attack by say an East European, or an ethnic minority member on anybody, will show up in the overall statistics, allowing those with a media/political axe to grind to add them to a litany of pro-Brexit hate crime. Furthermore, the site speaks of both hate crimes and ‘incidents’, with people encouraged to report both. Fair enough in a way, but all this does not produce an established factual basis for informed public debate.
Another way of unpicking this is to look at the Dispatches programme ‘Racist Britain’ screened 11/7/1651. This programme did not seem to distinguish properly between crimes and incidents, arguing there had been a 400% rise in hate crime reporting in the week following the referendum. Which is rather intriguing: because official police data for that period now available (and True Vision was featured favourably in the documentary so the programme-makers cannot claim ignorance) showed only week on week rises (comparing year to year) of 46% in week 1, 27% in week 2 and 35% in week 352. With such an unpromising start statistically, the programme continued in a similar misleading vein, referring to (and showing footage of) racist incidents such as a mosque attack or abuse on a train that had nothing to do with the Referendum. To try and give themselves some gravitas, the show used Carl Miller of Demos who argued that in the week post-Referendum there were “more than 13,000 tweets that used terms that could be seen as xenophobic and racist”. Leaving to one side the hesitant words ‘could be’, and even accepting this was true (which it may be), how does this measure up to the fact that (according to Demos themselves) in the week following the (March 2016) Brussels bomb attacks “Demos identified and captured almost 60,000 tweets from people in Britain using words that could be seen as Islamophobic”. Again leaving aside the phrase ‘could be’, this tells us that using their own criteria the Brussels attacks generated over four and a half times more nasty tweets than the referendum. As it happens, Nazir Afsal (till recently a CPS Chief Prosecutor) rather deviated from the script when he said that many of the 13,000 post-referendum tweets may have been nasty, but were not criminal. Or maybe he didn’t: I imagine the programme-makers favour a massive extension of what is defined as ‘criminal’. They could then do follow up documentaries on prisons full of racists..
In any event there is a post-script to all this, that you will not hear from media Bremoaners, including Hope Not Hate. On 13/10/16 the National Police Chief’s Council released data for the period June-August 2016, and Hate Crime lead, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, said “we have seen continued decreases in reports of hate crimes to forces and these reports have now returned to formerly seen levels for 2016”. Not 2015, note: because between 2015 and 2016 there has been (irrespective of the Referendum) an increase in reporting of all hate crimes: consistent with ongoing changes to encourage reporting as discussed.
The foregoing should not be taken to mean I deny the importance of racism and other kinds of prejudice: which is exactly the point. Racism, misogyny homophobia and such-like pre-existed the EU Referendum, have not been caused by the result, and in some cases (e.g. homophobia) it is difficult to find any conceivable connection. Certainly, enduring means need to be found to tackle these prejudices: suffice to say they do not include scenarios painting all working class Brexit supporters as racist. In that respect I have sympathy with the stinging article by Brendan O’Neill stating recently that “the true story here is not that Britain became more hateful post-referendum, but that officialdom, aided by spectacularly uncritical commentators, has developed new ways of cynically constructing crime epidemics”53. If you think that overstated, consider this story that few of you will have heard of, but surely would had the political affiliations been reversed. “Brexiter Duncan Keating, 58, was hit with a parasol, thumped repeatedly, and threatened he would be set alight in an attack at a retirement complex just days after the result. Six hours after being beaten up by neighbour and Remain supporter Graham Dunn in their communal garden, Leave voter Mr Keating was found dead in his room….the cause of death was given as positional asphyxiation”54. Certainly, the victim had been drinking and taking drugs, but hand on heart: do you not think if the victim had been a Remain supporter he would now (like Jo Cox) be a household name, his sad death yet another example of Brexiter prejudice?
There is of course a division, we might say chasm, the Referendum has revealed; between many MPs and those they supposedly represent. This division HNH doesn’t want to acknowledge, indeed to divert our attention from, but the rest of us need not be so coy.
WHAT #MIC IS REALLY ABOUT
Leaving aside my caveats about ‘divisions’ even if you accept there are divisions it might be useful to bridge (such as between ethnic groups and communities) MIC is far more than that: it is a targeted campaign aimed at politically neutralising and suppressing mainly working class voters who want to leave the EU. I say this with confidence based on two things: MICs operating assumptions, and its actual methodology.
Operating Assumption 1
HNH treat it as fact that Brexit will lead to economic problems. As Lowles put it “a hard Brexit, curtailing access to the Single Market, will have a disastrous impact on the local economies in many working class communities that are reliant on trade with the EU”55. Again leaving aside the UK trade deficit with the EU, this perspective also assumes there is no direct state intervention to rebuild local economies. That may not be the Tory aim (it certainly isn't), but those on the Left supporting Brexit see this as a more worthwhile goal than doom-mongering. In other words, what HNH/MIC see as a problem, others see as an opportunity. Yet they are so little interested in the positive that they ignore this. The point isn't, actually, just whether the prediction is correct--it is that it is a politically partisan one, animated by an ideological position on the EU, which is not admitted up-front. My own views are clear: but then I'm not running a scam pretending neutrality, like HNH.
Operating Assumption 2
Not content with a garbled foray into economic theory, HNH have a negative prognosis of future changes in attitudes. Lowles claims that while 55% of the ‘Latent Hostiles’ and 49% of the ‘Active Enmity’ tribe are optimistic about the economy post-Brexit, their optimism is misplaced (Operating Assumption 1). In that respect MIC is a pre-emptive strategy to contain future pessimism by such groups. As he put it, when economic fortunes don’t improve “these voters will be very angry and let down and they will be looking for someone to blame. So we must be ready and our #MoreInCommon campaign is the perfect way to start”56.
Again we see not only do HNH have a highly negative view of Leave voters, assuming they will scapegoat others (rather than focus on those really responsible), there is no consideration that should things not work out that may be due to politicians, multinationals, sabotage by civil servants and so on. Again, HNH do not want to draw attention to these fault-lines, as this undermines their whole political project of pacification.
Getting down to brass tacks, far from being a positive campaign of hope, HNH/MIC are instead a controlling campaign based on highly demeaning stereotypes regarding working class Leave voters. What terrifies HNH is such communities attempting to take control of their lives in a way that might undermine the local state and political establishment.
(1) Preventing demonstrations
Traditionally, anti-fascists have taken on fascists physically, most notably at Cable Street in 1936 but also Lewisham in 1977 for example. In both cases, police were (legitimately) in the firing line. Outrageously, HNH seek to present themselves as within this tradition. A pamphlet co-written by Steven Silver and David Emmett claims “today, HNH draws from the anti-fascist lineage of Cable Street and seeks to unite all those opposed to the politics of hate”57. An allied blog stated “today the barricades of Cable Street have become icons of communal resistance in defiance of fascist provocation”58. How can this attempt to recuperate the history of physical force anti-fascism be reconciled with this MIC claim that “faced with threats from the English Defence League (EDL) and other far-right demonstrations…preferring positive and peaceful community engagement to counter-demonstrations, we have sought to unite people around what they have in common and have used the threat of extremist demonstrations to get people to think about the type of community that they want to live in”59. The short answer is it cannot. But we can see the HNH/MIC method: diverting communities from defending themselves (as at Cable Street), and of course if people aren’t defending themselves then they must rely on the police. Which assumes that the police are neutral and not part of the problem (as they can be).
(2) De-mobilising political opposition
Not content with preventing community self-defence, the HNH/MIC ‘pacification programme’ is at times blatant. Politics is replaced by a kind of controlled therapeutic intervention designed to change individual attitudes not power structures. Speaking of the September 2016 Hope camp, trainer John Page referred to “an approach we explored…a combination of listening carefully to find what the real underlying concerns are and exploring with people their different views to encourage re-evaluation”60. In other words, re-programming: elsewhere Page revealingly talked of a mixture of “empathetic listening and Socratic questioning”61. Socratic questioning is actually a false stilted dialogue, whereby the questioner draws their companion into agreeing to certain propositions without any genuine (contested) communication.
In case you think this allegation of political demobilisation exaggerated, consider this aspiration for target areas adumbrated by Page: “our aim is that in a year or two in these areas while people will still say they are angry about their children’s often substandard education, the pressures on the NHS, the lack of proper jobs, poor housing conditions etc., rather than blaming scapegoats they will be saying ‘we need to bring our whole community together and convince those with power that they need to say ‘yes’ to measures improving our communities even when they would prefer to say no”62. Why should people have to wait one or two years? It is ludicrous to imply that blaming scapegoats is the only alternative to such quietism—which can truly be described as ‘participation without politics’. What about direct action against the powers-that-be? Not in HNH's playbook, that would be 'extremist'.
Sadly, such demobilisation is not unique today: for example veteran Momentum activist Tony Greenstein has said “it is a phone bank organisation that organises large rallies…at the moment, Momentum sees its role as holding the Left back not mobilising it. It acts as Corbyn’s cheerleader, fostering a cult of personality”63. HNH is no copy of that, merely similar in terms of no democracy. Also Nick Lowles would need to develop a personality first…
An important selling-point for HNH is its ‘anti-extremism’ and of course properly considered, within that anything that mobilises communities against the state and capital is ‘extremist’.
Thankfully, the whole HNH incorporationist project does not in any fundamental and enduring sense capture the imagination. For example, while well able to galvanise numbers for one-off events, they have never sunk real roots, despite the appearance of doing so. Their very strength, the accumulation of clicktivists, is also a weakness. In 2011 for example, HNH claimed to have “an activist base of 4,000 people”64. Yet as we have shown in NFB through detailed analysis, their activity on the ground has been paltry. At best, the adherence they secure is episodic, transient and demanding little. Graphically (if unintentionally) illustrated by Jemma Levene’s account of the Manchester MIC launch meeting posted 13/7/16: “almost 40 people attended a lively meeting…All but two of those attending were new to HNH”. Yet this, remember, is in the third largest city in England: a mere two people were (at best) remaining locally from what should surely have been a good segment of the supposed phalanx of 4,000 dating back to 2011. Looking at the various MIC reports on the Hope Not Hate web-site, as of 24/10/16 the most recent is 6/8/16. Reading through them all, lots of ‘soft’ initiatives like picnics/stalls/music and so on, but little to fire the imagination. And nothing at all indicating positive strategic community engagement with Brexit opportunities. No surprise there then. That said, HNH are good at monetising everything, seeking more funds for themselves. Not surprising given they have no transformative political project. This was noticed by one Hackney resident (Moritz Steiger) who commented of an August street party in Well Street (where they got 50% of cash collected that day of course) that it “in the final analysis was for the benefit of the new bars and cafes on the street”. He contrasted this with no mention being made of a local bike workshop servicing kid’s bikes for free that the council had shut down65.
As stated, the above is a companion piece to the more detailed analyses in NFB issues 10 and 11 (and the prehistory outlined in issue 9). Those interested should visit our shop and purchase them, if you want to see some points merely alluded to above fleshed out in substantial (and as yet unanswered) detail. Some extracts and further information are elsewhere on this site, but we do not believe the internet can (or should) entirely replace the written word..
We are now though, nonetheless, in a position to enumerate what is wrong with MIC/HNH
1) It is fundamentally undemocratic, based not on sovereign member participation but the ‘franchise’ model of politics
2) The activities urged are choreographed and no challenge to the existing order: indeed they are not intended to be.
3) The ‘anti-extremist’ basis of the model is politically and philosophically bankrupt.
4) #MIC is at best an attempt to undermine the Brexit vote result by stressing the negative aspects
5) There is at root a deeply patronising and dismissive attitude towards working class voters who in the Referendum told both the EU and established leaders (especially Labour) to ‘do one’.
6) Residents who get involved in HNH/#MIC will find themselves getting drawn away from fighting for their rights, and drawn into endless consultations with those who want to incorporate them into the local political system and thereby pacify them.
7) Fundamentally, HNH/#MIC is a money-making scam for those involved, and a diversion from genuinely autonomous street-oriented class politics. Which is no surprise as that is what it has always been from the start.
1) British Nationalist (BNP) September 2016 p.1-2
2) The Flame (National Front) issue 45 May/June 2016 p.4
3) Special Supplement to League Sentinel issue 106 Spring 2016 p.2, League Sentinel 107 Summer 2016 p.3 has more in the same vein.
4) Information from electoralcommission.org web-site
5) Published 3/8/16, submitted 7/7/16
6) ‘Britain First Launches EU Referendum Campaign’ 23/5/16 britainfirst.org
7) Simon Walters/Glen Owen/Paul Cahalan, see follow-up on Van Housen by Simon Walters 19/6/16
8) Simon Walters/Glen Owen/Jaber Mohamed ‘Brexit link to Mair racists’ Mail on Sunday 19/6/16
9) Searchlight 466 Autumn 2016 p.14-15
10) The Times 22/6/16 (Henry Zeffman)
11) Interviewed in London Evening Standard 20/9/16
12) The Observer 2/10/16
13) See http://leftleave.org and also Joseph Choonara ‘The EU: A left case for exit’ (Socialist Worker pamphlet 2016), ‘EU Referendum: The socialist case for exit’ (Socialist Party 2016)
14) Notes From the Borderland issue 4 p.11-13/16-21 especially, and NFB issue 5 p.53-54 reproduces the Lowles Memorandum
15) #MoreInCommon Meeting Update on Hope Not Hate web-site 10/6/16 (Jemma Levene)
16) Palestine News (Palestine Solidarity Campaign) Spring 2013 p.25
17) See Notes From the Borderland issue 10 p.44-46 for details, also NFB 11 p.7-8 for an update.
18) anthonypainter on twitter.com 10/7/16
19) Hope Not Hate May/August 2016 p.3
20) Notes From the Borderland issue 9 p.9/11 outlines the de-radicalising franchise model copied from the Obama campaign, NFB issue 10 p.54-55/62-3 develops the critique, also see NFB 11 p.10-11
21) Quote from Hope Not Hate general leaflet, distributed July 2016
22) ‘The Language of Hate Has No Place In Politics’ (Nick Lowles) Opinion Piece Newsweek Europe 17/6/16
23) Companies House Director information regarding ‘Best For Our Future Ltd’ Company number 10164553, accessed 25/8/16.
24) Companies House Director Information accessed 1/8/16.
25) See Tom Easton ‘The British American Project for the Successor Generation’ Lobster 33 Summer 1997 p.10-14, ‘Friends in High Places’ The Guardian 6/11/04 (Andy Beckett). On Smeeth see NFB issue 10 p.38-39, issue 11 p.8-9
26) ‘The Change We Need’ (co-authored with Nick Anstead) Fabian Society 2009 p.96/98
27) Referenced in order-order.com 20/6/16, which refers to a tape-recording of the relevant conference call by Straw. In the London Evening Standard (22/6/16 Richard Godwin) Straw flatly denied he had made this connection, and the reporter (a friend) didn’t probe him further. He should have. Suspicion Straw has something to hide here is fuelled by the diary account of Cameron’s spin doctor Craig Oliver (‘Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit’ Hodder & Stoughton 2016), who admits to discussing the death with Straw, but then claims “the overwhelming sense is that we must not allow anyone to politicise her death” (p.332). After then recounting how he and Cameron in effect sought to do precisely that (p.333-39), the dog that didn’t bark is Oliver’s detailed account makes no mention whatsoever of the Trafalgar Square rally, at which Brendan Cox spoke.
28) Quoted in the Independent on-line 21/6/16 (Adam Withnall)
29) Independent on-line 22/6/16 (Lizzie Dearden)
31) The Times 18/6/16 (Nicola Woodcock)
32) ‘Why the Populist right is winning the refugee debate’ World Economic Forum paper 20/5/16
33) New York Times op-ed piece Brendan Cox 23/9/16
34) Mail On Sunday 1/11/15 (Simon Walters)
35) Thirdsector.co.uk 2/11/15 (Andy Ricketts)
36) Independent on-line 21/6/16 (Adam Withnall)
37) See NFB 9 p.8 on this
38) See NFB 10 p.34-80 on all of this, and time-line on this site: put Hope Not Hate vs Searchlight timeline’ in the internal search engine.
39) Slavoj Zizek ‘The Interpassive Subject’ theenlightenedworld.org 25/6/09
40) NFB 10 p.64 gives details, NFB 11 p.8 updates
41) NFB 11 p.14-15
42) NFB 11 p.14-15
43) Dominic Dyer ‘Badgered to Death’ Canbury Press 2016 p.14/16/101-2
44) #MoreInCommon magazine Summer 2016 p.5
45) #MoreInCommon magazine Summer 2016 p.5
46) Hope Not Hate September/October 2016 p.13 (Nick Lowles)
47) See lordashcroftpolls.com 24/6/16 on the EU Referendum
48) ‘Fear and Hope Three’ (Nick Lowles) hopenothate.org.uk
49) National Police Chief’s blog 27/6/16
50) Both quoted in ‘Government unveils new ‘action plan’ to stamp out hate crime’ politics home.com 29/6/16 (Josh May)
51) Producer Bushra Siddiq, Reporter Seyi Rhodes, Director Ben Ryder, Executive Producer Lucie Kon, for a lot of detail see News Release on channel4.com 11/7/16
52) Hate Crime data for July-August 2016 available from report-it.org.uk
53) ‘It’s time to shoot down the post-Brexit hate-crime hysteria’ spiked.com 14/10/16 (Brendan O’Neill)
54) Manchester Evening News 14/10/16 (Chris Osuh)
55) Hope Not Hate September/October 2016 p.13 (Nick Lowles)
56) ‘How the EU Referendum has divided Britain’ HNH email to supporters 19/7/16
57) cablestreet.co.uk on-line 4/10/16
58) Hopenothate.org.uk blog-post by David Emmett 4/10/16
59) #MoreInCommon Summer 2016 p.4
60) Hope Not Hate September/October 2016 p.6 (John Page)
61) Quoted in ‘Labour Conference: how to win back UKIP voters?’ BBC on-line 26/9/16 (Gavin Stamp)
62) Hope Not Hate September/October 2016 p.15 (John Page)
63) ‘Winning the Battle But Losing the War’ 30/8/16 (Tony Greenstein) azvas.blogspot.co.uk
64) The Great British Party briefing paper 2011 p.3
65) Hackney Gazette letter 11/8/16