By Ben Pensant
I’m sure I wasn’t the only Corbynite awoken from their post-Loose Women nap a fortnight ago by a flurry of social media alerts informing me something amazing had happened. As I checked my phone my mind buzzed with intrigue: Was Katie Hopkins dead? Were Chumbawamba reforming? Had PM Corbyn trebled Income Support so I can continue to spend my afternoons watching Loose Women and napping?
Amazingly, something even more brilliant was afoot. Through bleary eyes I read that a Tory MP I’d never heard of had exposed herself as a racist by using the word ‘n****r’ during a meeting at Westminster. Which was somewhat confusing as I’ve since listened to the recording and she quite clearly said ‘nigger’.
Either way, it gave progressives the opportunity to do what we do best and demand somebody lose their job, an opportunity grasped with both impeccably moisturised hands by Owen Jones. And there are few more adept at demanding somebody lose their job than Owen. Indeed, for such a friend of the working man he spends an alarming amount of time trying to get people sacked. But this is only because he cares so much he’s willing to sacrifice his principles to punish the Bad People. And boy, are the Bad People rattled. As one Tory troll put it recently: ‘It’s ironic that Owen Jones is so left-wing ‘cos he’s a right cunt’.
Because Owen’s beliefs are everything, even when he’s contradicting them. Which is why he’d never dream of saying ‘n****r’, let alone ‘nigger’. Indeed, his aversion to the foul racist term is so intense he reportedly purses his lips when singing along to ‘Gold Digger’ and even refers to the star of the Terminator films as Arnold SchwarzenNword.
In fact Owen finds the word so horrifying he believes people should be punished for hearing it, furiously demanding the Tory MPs at the meeting are held to account for ‘not speaking out’. Because it’s not enough to condemn someone for using a racist word. No, everyone in the room has to be penalised too. Though not literally everyone. That nice Huff Po journalist who recorded the meeting avoided Owen’s wrath, presumably because his poor little ears were so shocked he didn’t process how shocked he was until after he’d leaked the recording.
Predictably Owen’s enemies pounced, though not as hard as they have over his defence of the Dear Leader’s Brexit policy, a topic close to my heart as both a die-hard Corbynite and someone who thinks Leave voters are sub-human savages. But it’s refreshing to know that of all the controversial opinions Owen’s aired over the years the most liberal rage he attracts is for having the nerve to respect democracy. Which is ultimately a good thing for modern Labour: we Jezza groupies might not always see eye to eye with our centrist adversaries but at least when it comes to Brexit they can be every bit as intolerant as us.
Fortunately, Owen’s bag of debating tricks contains several effective methods for when he’s on the ropes, most of which involve accusing his opponent of being something they’re not, like the left-wing version of a five-year-old calling another five-year-old a ‘big bit of poo’. So when he’s feeling chipper – say, if he’s just been out on his BMX and pulled off a particularly sick wheelie – he’ll dismiss his opponents as ‘Blairites’ or ‘Tories’, destroying their argument in one move because Blairites and Tories are wrong about everything.
However, when Owen’s in a foul mood – like last week when he allegedly stormed out of the Guardian canteen because Polly put red sauce on his fish-fingers rather than next to them – he’ll go straight to ‘racist’ or ‘far-right’. Which wins the argument hands down as there’s no way someone as principled as Owen would trivialise far-right racism to shut down debate.
He recently varied this tactic to roast Tony Blair for criticising Labour’s Brexit policy by bringing up the former PM’s lucrative career as an advisor to dodgy regimes, enquiring: ‘Why do interviewers never ask him about getting paid millions working for brutal dictators?’. Why indeed, especially as Jezza works for brutal theocrats and only gets paid thousands. Thankfully, Corbyn’s support for dictators is irrelevant as he called one ‘a champion of social justice’ back in November and still hasn’t received a penny for it.
Owen then played the Iraq war trump card with biting sarcasm: ‘I object to the deaths of hundreds and thousands of civilians. Call me pernickety’. Luckily Owen is far from pernickety about supporting the man whose ‘anti-war’ group lauded the brave jihadists and Ba’athists who killed many of those civilians. But it’s a measure of Owen’s moral fibre that he sees no hypocrisy in condemning the murder of civilians while defending a man who praises groups that murder civilians.
And from Castro to the Supreme Leaders of Iran, Owen has shown his dedication to Corbyn by remaining remarkably cool with Jezza’s support for people who persecute homosexuals. At least we think he is: there are certain topics Owen keeps to himself. And what Owen doesn’t say is far more revealing than what he does.
Because there’s rather a lot Owen doesn’t say. His refusal to discuss socialist utopia Venezuela is well-documented, his aversion to acknowledging the country so extreme even hearing its name makes him wince like Harry Radcliffe when someone says ‘Lord Valderama’. But he’s recently been applying the same tactic to the annual celebration of all things anti-Semitic which took place in London last month.
Curiously for someone who spends his life fighting the far-right, Owen had nothing to say about the far-right rally that marched through London on June 18. Some suggested he was all marched-out from his demo the day before about austerity or something. Others pointed out that when Owen attacks the far-right he only means the white far-right, dummy. Either way, he offered not a syllable of condemnation for the march, which may seem odd to those desperate to smear Corbyn supporters as soft on anti-Semitism but makes perfect sense once you learn what this glorious day actually represents.
For the uninitiated, Al Quds Day is a yearly international event, its London celebration regularly seeing thousands of peaceful protesters take to the streets to sing songs about destroying Israel while waving the flags of anti-Semitic terrorist groups. Its ideology is informed by Shia extremism, anti-Western narratives and the popular concept that Zionism is responsible for every bad thing ever. The whole glorious event has been affectionately nicknamed Kill The Jews Day. What’s not to love?
Bravely whitewashed as a ‘pro-Palestine’ rally by The Guardian, it was initiated by legendary Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini after he and his band of zany theocrats seized power in 1979. It’s London leg is organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, a group only slightly less appropriately named than Hope Not Hate, Unite Against Fascism and the Liberal Democrats.
Proudly Khomeinist, the IHRC earned plaudits in 2015 after awarding Islamophobes Of The Year to the Charlie Hebdo staff two months after they were murdered. The genial host for that night’s festivities was Nazim Ali, a proud Islamist who brought the house down by quipping that the deceased French cartoonists ‘couldn’t make it’ to the bash to collect their award.
Ali – an IHRC director – was also filmed at the rally making an angry speech blaming Zionism for Grenfell Tower, exposing the sinister link between Jewish self-determination and cheap flammable cladding. Needless to say, the IHRC are one of those moderate Muslim groups the BBC love inviting onto discussion programmes, the flipside to shameless sell-outs like the Quilliam Foundation. (Or to coin the phrase Mayor Larry Khan famously used for Muslims who campaign against extremism, ‘Uncle Toms’). As you’d expect, Jeremy Corbyn is a huge fan of the IHRC, once gushing that they ‘represent everything good about Islam’.
Predictably, Tory provocateurs staged a counter-protest though Owen, Ellie et al wisely kept their distance, spending the weekend accusing the government of murder instead. Indeed, in the days and weeks following Al Quds Day Owen publicly applauded a number of worthy causes with a fervour completely at odds with his refusal to acknowledge Al Quds Day.
‘Is there anyone around there to do a citizen’s arrest on this murderer?’ he asked the following week as Henry Kissinger gave a talk in London. And I can’t be the only person to agree that the presence of the former Secretary of State on the capital’s streets is far more worthy of condemnation than a march calling for the genocide of Jews.
He also found time to re-tweet claims by Corbyn’s butler Matt Zarb Cousins that revolting Islamophobe Douglas Murray was a ‘hate-preacher’. Understandably, neither Owen nor Matt provided any evidence of this. Nor did they comment on the actual hate preachers marching through London, with MZC going the extra mile and blocking anyone who asked him about it.
Elsewhere, Owen attempted to organise a much needed demonstration against Donald Trump ‘sneaking’ into Britain: ‘RT if you’re willing to commit to protesting this bigot at short notice’ Owen urged, though it must be stressed that Owen usually needs much more notice to organise a protest, especially if the people he’s protesting are waving Hezbollah flags. Unfortunately Trump’s visit is yet to materialise, though hopefully when it does OJ won’t let the lack of support stop him pretending it’s not happening like he did when Kill The Jews rocked up last month.
Indeed, trolls have pondered why someone so appalled by racism would deliberately ignore a celebration of racism. But anyone who asks that question isn’t paying attention. Because there are infinite reasons why Owen might ignore a far-right rally on his doorstep, each one more moral, principled and utterly vacuous than the last.
The most obvious explanation is damage limitation: PM Corbyn appeared at Al Quds Day in 2012, giving an impassioned speech about evil apartheid Israel to a crowd of extremists. If a high-profile Jezza supporter were to condemn Al Quds Day he’d instantly be hit with accusations of hypocrisy from the right and Zio-apologism from the left. Hence Owen’s complete silence; a shining example of loyalty, ethics and unfettered blind devotion.
And this blind devotion allows him to lock away Al Quds Day in the same cyber vault as those gushing articles about Venezuela or that ill-judged 2015 piece which shocked his progressive fans by suggesting leaving the EU might be a good idea. Because of all Jezza’s cheerleaders Owen has been the most stubborn in refusing to entertain his support for extremists, only occasionally acknowledging it with a ‘What about Saudi Arabia?’ here or a ‘But the DUP!’ there.
The other explanation is that Owen agrees with the charming Islamists chanting ‘death to Israel!’ and accusing The Zionists of trying to achieve world domination by burning down English council estates. Or perhaps he once attended Al Quds Day himself? Back in his carefree Oxford days he’d have fit in like a glove: editing the Israel Wiki page, dismissing Hamas suicide bombings as ‘West-centric’ and rubbishing the idea of Jewish ethnicity as a ‘lie’.
Of course, we have no way of knowing if Owen has ever attended the rally. But he wouldn’t be the first brave progressive to flirt with anti-Semitism; from George Galloway and Gerry Downing to Naz Shah and Jackie Walker, the British left have a glorious history of fighting neo-liberalism by showing solidarity with fascists.
Interestingly, both Galloway and Walker have at various times received support from Owen. As, of course, did Roy Bentham, the Liverpudlian Labour campaigner who recently made the news after demanding Luciana Berger apologise for doing what Jezza’s spent his entire career doing and disagreeing with her leader.
Predictably, Owen criticised Bentham’s ‘totally off’ tone but went on to praise the cheeky scouser as a ‘courageous fighter for blacklisted workers who’ve been persecuted’. Wise words and I look forward to Owen lauding Jimmy Savile’s charity work, praising the Kray twins for never ‘urting no-one who didn’t deserve it and eulogising Mussolini’s devotion to ensuring the punctuality of the Italian rail service.
But alas, what Owen really thinks about Jews is destined to remain a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma buried underneath a hysterical strop on Sky News. That he goes to such lengths to avoid condemning Al Quds Day is admirable. So admirable in fact, it’s almost a shame within weeks he’ll be shovelling coal in the Hyde Park gulag, counting down the seconds ’til he walks the green mile to Finsbury Park gallows, wondering why on earth he ever betrayed the Dear Leader.
Let’s hope on the day of execution he gives one last interview to Brother Seumas before his neck is broken. It’d be nice for Owen to go out smiling, content at leaving his fans in no doubt his opinion of anti-Semitic terrorism was every bit as principled as that of the man perched on the Number Ten throne.
Who knows, he might even grow some balls and tell us what the N in NWA stands for too.
(Photo: Sander van der Wel)