Labour Plotters: Stop your Sobbing

I’m sorry to hear that some of the MPs who have turned on Jeremy Corbyn these last few days have been crying.  Angela Eagle looks weepy every time she appears on tele, and now Margaret Beckett has cried on air  It’s sad, but then there has been a lot of sadness and tears these last few days.  Not amongst the Leavers of course, many of whom have been crowing about a victory that I suspect will turn out to turn more bitter than many of them suspected.

As we now know to our horror, some of them have been out in the streets, gleefully terrorizing anyone who doesn’t talk like them or look like them.  Naturally there are no tears or even the slightest sign of remorse from the sinister Bullingdon Club wreckers, who have smashed up the country as comprehensively as they once smashed up pubs and restaurants in their salad days.  This time daddy won’t be able to pay for the damage, but it’s still worth a giggle and a smirk.

The sociopathic monstrosity Boris Johnson can’t stop grinning, like a naughty little boy who’s just burned down the summerhouse and shot one of the servants with daddy’s hunting rifle but knows that mummy loves him anyway and will always pat his tousled hair because hey, it’s just Boris being Boris, right?

And Sarah Vine, Michael Gove’s Lady MacBeth wife, is having a laugh too, telling her husband ‘ you were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off.’  So it’s all a bit of fun really.

And let’s not forget Lord Snooty, the arrogant, cackhanded toff who has turned the country into the Little Shop of Horrors with a casual and feckless disregard for the consequences that will make him an object of absolute contempt and ridicule throughout the annals of political time.  Even His Lordship had time for a chortle at Jeremy Corbyn’s expense when he and his pals came slinking back into their seats in the House of Commons on Monday, when he told Corbyn ‘ I thought I was having a bad day! ‘

What a card, eh?   Real laughter in the dark.  Confronted with such behavior it ought to be clear – though tragically it isn’t – that we are dealing with some of the basest, most useless and most dangerous collection of amoral, decadent incompetents and chancers ever to park their backsides on parliament’s hallowed leather seats.  But they weren’t the only ones who’ve been laughing.  On the same day that His Lordship was mocking Corbyn, dozens of Labour MPs were jeering, mocking and laughing at their own leader at the same time.

With a government on the ropes, staggering into the ring without a clue or a plan, and the country staring into a future that increasingly looks like an abyss,  Labour MPs thought it would be a good idea to attack their own leader.  Instead of rallying to Corbyn’s call for unity, they preferred to turn a national crisis into  a political opportunity.  Instead of assaulting the government that has brought about this disaster, they attacked their own leader like a gang of playground bullies.

In doing so they let Cameron & his cronies entirely off the massive hook that was dangling in front of them, and even recruited Cameron into their sordid campaign,  to the point when this wretched fake could shout out in true Flashmanlike fashion ‘ For Heavens’ sake, man, go!’ when he and his cronies are the ones who should be long gone.   Instead of responding to the national crisis, dozens of Labour MPs deliberately precipitated an internal crisis that will do nothing to help the country and will almost certainly destroy the Labour Party.

That is crass irresponsibility on the same grand scale as their opponents on the other side of the chamber.   Now, after three days of staged and orchestrated resignations -worked out with their many friends in the media – after more stabs in the back than Julius Caesar received, after briefing, leaking, shouting and bullying, they aren’t laughing but  crying – and they even have the temerity to present themselves as heroes.

Well please don’t tell me there is anything noble, heroic or well-meaning about this.    Last summer Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party with a huge majority, that was partly prompted by a surge in new members, many of whom were young, idealistic and hopeful, appalled by Ed Miliband’s feeble campaigning,  and desperate for a new kind of politics that was able to challenge and resist the destructive class war waged by the Tories – with the complicity of a Labour right wing that too often aped and copied them or offered up a softer version of the same thing.

Jeremy Corbyn, for better or worse, became the focus for these new aspirations.   Ever since he has been subjected to a relentless and vicious campaign of defamation, contempt and vilification from within his own party and beyond,   that makes what was done to Michael Foot back in the 80s seem like a children’s game at a soft play centre.

Meanwhile Corbyn was ridiculed, insulted, briefed against and raged at by his own MPs, the government staggered like an Etonian drunk on a pubcrawl from one blunder to the next, until it fell off the edge of the pier and took the country with it.  Throughout this, Corbyn behaved with courage, dignity and principle – qualities that are almost entirely absent amongst the pitchfork mob that now surrounds him.  Personally I think that Corbyn and his team have missed a number of opportunities to deliver some killer blows to this disreputable government.   As a ‘left Remainer’ I think his campaign was ambivalent and lacklustre.

Nevertheless, to blame Corbyn for the referendum defeat is at best a huge distraction, and at worse a willful distortion that owes more to the priorities of the Blairite right than it does to any honest assessment of the long-term factors that brought about this self-inflicted catastrophe.

Labour was bleeding members and working-class votes for years before Corbyn was elected.  The attitudes and ideas that made so many voters regard the referendum as a referendum on immigration were already deeply entrenched in British society.  Do Corbyn’s enemies seriously believe that Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper or some polished smoothie like Chuka Umunna could have had an impact on them – or that it would have helped if Corbyn had appeared on a platform with Cameron and Alan I-used-to-be-a-postman Johnson?

Where was the rage of these Labour MPs when the politician they admired so much catapulted the country into a catastrophic war on false pretenses and went on to become a millionaire?  Why didn’t they turn their anger and indignation on the government that has forced the sick and dying to work?  Why didn’t they open their mouths to condemn Theresa May’s viciously discriminatory Immigration Act?   Why did 184 of them refuse to vote against the Tories‘ Welfare Reform and Work Bill?

Too many of them did not oppose these things because they were too frightened and too concerned for their jobs and careers, or too ideologically-wedded to the essential premises of neoliberal austerity, to stand up and oppose them.   Rather than find ways to respond to the leftist upsurge behind Corbynism possible and try and use that energy to turn the country round, they did everything they could to snuff it out, and turned their rage on Corbyn.

Now the battle is out in the open, and many people, including myself,  have joined the Labour Party, not because we necessarily have complete faith in it or even in the Corbyn project, but because we are appalled and disgusted by what has been done to him, and because it is quite clear that the Labour right wing’s refusal to respond positively to the most promising leftwing movement in mainstream British politics in many years is part of a wider determination that goes beyond the Labour Party, to destroy and marginalize the left for years to come.

Personally, I doubt that the Labour Party can survive this  If it splits then Corbyn will be blamed, regardless of whether the current divisions are a product of a longer-term collapse of Labourism, and the get-rich-quick politicians who have done so well from Blairism.

Somehow I doubt that Angela Eagle, Dan Jarvis, Simon Danczuk or whatever candidate they conjure up can change this.  In a leadership contest, Corbyn will almost certainly win again, and the Labour Party will probably split.  When that happens, perhaps a new progressive politics can emerge that can offer some real hope in these dark times.

God knows we need that.   But in the short term, only the Tories will be laughing, thanks to the MPs on the other side of the chamber who were jeering and howling on Monday. Some of them might be crying now, but as Bob Dylan once sang, now ain’t the time for your tears.

Interview with Jackie Walker

Few people who pay attention to such things will have failed to notice the stridently McCarthyite atmosphere that has descended on British politics since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party last year.  Needless to say, these developments did not originate from Corbyn himself.   A spectrum of opinion that includes the Tory Party, rightwing Labour MPs, liberal newspaper columnists and pretty much the totality of the British media do not like Corbyn, and they like the left-wing constituency that voted for him  even less.

For the past eight months they have been trying actively to dam these waters, or at least to poison them so that no one will want to swim in them.  Anything will do.   One word or sentence out of place; one randomly-plucked screenshot, and you’re likely to be hauled up as a supporter of Daesh, a terrorist apologist,  or part of the dastardly leftist/jihadist alliance.

Now – aided and abetted by Israel firsters who claim to be supporting Israel even as they assist it down the giddy road to fascistic self-immolation – Corbyn’s enemies have discovered that the left is infected with the ‘virus’ of antisemitism.  Nowadays, no one actually has to ‘prove’ that you’re antisemitic – in the old sense of the term as someone who hates Jews and wants to harm them.  They just have look through your Facebook posts or Twitter posts.  A careless or loose word in the heat of an argument; something you thought was a joke and – gotcha! – you are guilty, and Corbyn is guilty too.

And it doesn’t matter, by the way, if you don’t think you’re antisemitic; your accusers know it when they see it – and even when they don’t see it.  Experts in meta-textual analysis, all they have to do is extrapolate from what you has said; or quote what someone else has said that you’ve said, and they’re ready to tell the world what you really thought and meant regardless of whether you thought or meant it.

That’s what political debate has become in the UK these days.   And when it comes to Israel, boy you better watch out – at least if you’re on the left, because increasingly anti-Zionism is accepted as synonymous with antisemitism not only by Israel and its supporters, but by an ignorant and lazy media that can’t be bothered to find out the difference, and by rightwing Labour MPs who really don’t give a damn, as long as  they can use such claims to suggest that Jeremy Corbyn has ‘tolerated’ hatred of Jews within the Labour Party.

Such claims may be nonsensical, but nowadays in British politics, nonsense can take you a long way, and there is no more  egregious example of how cynical and downright dangerous this dynamic has become than the suspension of Jacqueline Walker from the Labour Party, following accusations of antisemitism.

For those who don’t know, Walker  is a woman of African-Jewish descent, who suffered vicious racism while growing up in care homes and foster homes in the UK.    She is also a writer, an activist, and a steely and indefatigable antiracist campaigner, and the founder of Kent Anti-Racist Network (KARN).

Walker is also the vice-cheer of the steering committee of Momentum, and a strong pro-Palestinian campaigner.    Her suspension follows two comments on Facebook that were leaked to the Jewish Chronicle earlier this month.   Readers can read them in full here.   Some readers may disagree with what she said, or quibble about her historical claims or her  wording, but I cannot see how these comments amount to antisemitism – except in the minds of people predisposed to believe it.

Astonishingly, Walker has also been suspended for using the words ‘historic homeland’ in scaremarks to refer to the state of Israel.  This is not pedantry or even stupidity.  Most anti-Zionists would use exactly the same punctuation: to do otherwise would be to accept uncritically Israel’s own definition of itself.  So accusing Walker of antisemitism for doing this is effectively demanding that she stop calling that definition into question.

All these developments clearly have ramifications far beyond the smouldering civil war within the Labour Party.  I spoke to Walker on Facetime this week about her predicament. She looked tired, and described herself as ‘very stressed’ by the accusations thrown at her, and by the negative fallout that has resulted from them.. This isn’t just the usual Twitter pitchfork mob and Facebook abusers, or the newspapers that have been holding her name up like a sinner from a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel.

Walker’s partner Graham Bash is Jewish, and his family has not spoken to him since her suspension.  She also has family in Israel, the Caribbean and the United States, and she has received criticism from these countries as well.  ‘ It’s gone kind of mega-global,’ she says, ‘  and the context of that is that there are all sorts of people who think they know me and know what I’m like who are now feeling totally free to make all sorts of comments about me.’

These accusers include that well-known anti-fascist newspaper the Daily Mail, which ran the kind of piece you would expect the Daily Mail to run about her. Why did she think she had been singled out for such treatment?

‘Oh, I think without doubt because I’m the vice-chair of Momentum.  You know, if you look at it in terms of the antisemitic paltriness of the claims against what I’ve said, I mean they’re really scraping the barrel….I’m sure that what they did was think about who they could look at, who’s on the left, and who would make a good target, and then they targeted my Facebook.’

Walker’s record as a campaigner for Palestinian rights also added to her target appeal. The Facebook comments that resulted in her suspension were given to the Jewish Chronicle by an  organization called the Israel Advocacy Movement (IAM), a seemingly two-man operation whose website describes its mission to counter ‘  the increasing hostility Israel suffers at the hands of the British public, caused by huge volumes disinformation [sic] circulated by Israel’s enemies.’

These enemies include the anti-poverty charity War on Want, which the IAM claims was ‘one of the driving forces behind boycotting and demonising Israel in the UK. They spend a huge amount of their resources attacking the Israel, [sic] while paying little attention to the most impoverished nations in the world.’

Such is the organization that the Jewish Chronicle and the Daily Mail took its sources from and no wonder, since the IAM has a stated strategy of ‘providing Israeli advocates with free or cheap materials to promote the cause’.

You don’t get much cheaper materials than those used against Walker, and no one would expect the Great British Press to question the legitimacy of such sources.  The Labour Party Compliance Unit also seems to have rushed to judgement, as it has done in most of the antisemitism accusations of recent weeks.   No one seems to have considered what Walker  actually meant or the context in which it was said – and until last week she wasn’t even told  what she has been accused of.

Despite these these murky procedures, Walker  refuses to criticize the Labour party leadership:  .

‘ I don’t know about the actual workings of what’s happened between the leadership, the Compliance Unit, Iain McNicol and everybody else.  I haven’t got a clue about that, but what I know is that I am absolutely resolved and happy to support the actual leadership of the Labour Party.  It hasn’t shaken me from that at all.  In fact, if anything it’s made me feel it’s even more important that we change how the Labour Party works.’

Despite Walker’s loyalty to the leadership, she has no illusions about her political enemies:

‘ Are we seriously saying my accusers in the IAM are actually concerned about anti-racism. and equality for all people? … I haven’t seen any of them on anti-racist rallies or supporting anti-racist actions. I would very much take them more seriously had they had anything matching, for example, my record with a commitment to antiracism. I mean, if you feel seriously about antiracism, it’s not just about who you are. So I don’t just care about Jews and people of African descent, I care about everybody. That’s what being an antiracist is.’

This is not the kind of definition to find much favour amongst Labour’s finger-pointing witchhunters – let alone David ‘ a bunch of migrants’ Cameron, because it isn’t politically useful.   Walker, like Norman Finkelstein, is shocked and disgusted by the instrumentalisation of antisemitism for purely political purposes:.

‘ It’s a disgrace, the media is against the left. Where is their interest in the people who are doing Hitler salutes down in Dover, marching on the streets of Dover once a month, the group that call themselves Hitler Was Right? Let’s see some of these great campaigners who are against antisemitism, let’s see them on the streets of Dover and actually talking about the real antisemitism that’s happening in this country.’

Wasn’t there a danger that the deliberate conflation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism, coupled with the attempts to use antisemitism to shut down critical voices like hers,  ran the risk of inadvertently fueling antisemitism by making it impossible to criticize Israel openly?

‘Exactly.  But you see I think there’s also a section of people who in a way, want to stoke that fire. Because they want to give European Jews a sense of terror, so they want to make them have a sense that they are not safe.  It doesn’t matter where they look – even on the left, in the Labour Party, you know, there’s antisemitism, and the only way to get away from it is to go back, using that term ‘going back’ to a country most of us have never been born in and have no real association with. and we see that in operation, don’t we?’ 

We do, not least from Binyamin Netanyahu himself, last year, and now Walker, to her own incredulity and dismay,  has become another useful instrument in this morbid process.   That doesn’t mean she is accepting her role of victim passively.  On the contrary, she has been attending public meetings and vigorously defending herself whenever she can, but the experience of public vilification and the suspension from her political home have clearly taken their toll: :

‘It depends what time of day you get me, and how much sleep I’ve had, and often what the last conversation has been.   At the moment I’m getting massive amounts of support and very little sleep, so there’s a contradictory relationship, and I think that’s pretty much going to carry on for the next few months really.  It’s not the way I want to live my life and I really do find it an invasion of my privacy and an invasion of my life as a victim of racism all my life and as an antiracist campaigner, not just personally but professionally to be put into this position.   I think whoever has done this to me should really, really feel ashamed of themselves.’

They should, but then if they could feel shame they would not have done this in the first place.   Last week, Walker  spoke at a public meeting in Kent, where members of the fascist ‘English Patriots’ group heckled her outside and called her a ‘hypocrite’ and a ‘racist’ and jeered that ‘ Labour sacked you.’

This is where the ‘left antisemitism’ fraud has brought us: to a situation when principled and passionate antiracists are called racists by fascists.    And despite Walker’s  loyalty, I can’t help feeling that a party that treats activists like her in this way, and that can’t find the courage to stand up against the vicious, bargain-basement witchhunt that is now unfolding,  will never be able to fight the even bigger fights that lie ahead, and perhaps doesn’t deserve to win them.

But regardless of what you think of that,  this is about much more than the Labour Party itself.    And that is why I urge you to support her. She is fighting back and we should join her in that fight.  Sign the petition demanding her reinstatement here.  Hear her speak. Like her Facebook page.

And let us all do what we can to bring these witch-hunts to an end.  McCarthy got away with what he did because too many people simply didn’t have the small courage to say no – and call him out  for the liar and the bully he was.

We need to do the same to the liars, bullies, opportunists – and Zionists, who are so grossly manipulating antisemitism for their own political purposes,  and we need to start now.

 

 

Labour’s Zionism Problem

The idea that opposition to Israeli settler-colonialism or the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people is anti-Semitic is a well-established propaganda weapon, which Israel and its supporters have wielded to great effect for many years.  In recent weeks a number of Labour MPs and Labour supporters have picked it up once again to argue that the Labour Party is riddled with anti-Semitism and that Jeremy Corbyn is tacitly supporting or turning a  blind eye to it.

The incident which triggered the latest outburst seems to have stemmed from a decision last month by the Oxford University Labour Club to support Israeli Apartheid Week, in order to demonstrate its opposition to what it called Israel’s ‘ongoing settler-colonial project and apartheid policies over the Palestinian people’.    In response, OULC’s co-chairman Alex Chalmers resigned, claiming that many of its members had ‘some kind of problem with Jews.’

Chalmers did not make clear what that problem was, beyond condemning his club’s decision ‘ to  endorse a movement with a history of targeting and harassing Jewish students and inviting antisemitic speakers to campuses, despite the concerns of Jewish students.’

As scandals go, this is pretty thin gruel, yet a number of Labour MPs reacted as though OULC members had been handing out copies of the Elders of Zion in the Cornmarket, and called on Jeremy Corbyn to carry out an investigation into Chalmers’s allegations.

No one will be surprised that this chorus of outrage included MPs like Louise Ellman, a member of the Labour Friends of Israel, who accused Corbyn of not doing enough to stop the spread of anti-Semitism  Or John Mann, an MP who loathes Corbyn and has been trying to undermine him in various ways ever since he won the Labour leadership contest last summer.

By the end of the month, such accusations had transformed OULC’s ‘Jewish problem’ into a ‘Labour Party problem’, or more specifically ‘Corbyn’s Labour Party problem. ‘  Thus Blair’s former bagman Lord Levy joined in,  threatening to leave the party if Corbyn didn’t get to grips with the problem of anti-Semitism within the party.  Levy declared himself ‘ horrified and disgusted’ by the comments of two Labour Party members who had been excluded and suspended even before he made his threat.

The fact that these two members had been excluded and suspended might suggest that the Labour Party was not as passive as Levy suggested, but the ‘Corbyn tolerates anti-Semitism’ singalong was only just getting started.  Naturally there was a classic smear piece by the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland, suggesting that Corbyn was not anti-Semtic but….

Then there was  Tom Harris, another Corbyn critic and member of Labour Friends of Israel, writing in that well-known Labour outlet the Telegraph that ‘ hatred of Israel – real, blind, vicious, hatred – is felt most keenly and most loudly by those on the extreme Left, many of them Trotskyites.’

Shock horror indeed.   Then Ellman threw another ingredient into the mix, claiming that Labour Party members and supporters ‘are being allowed to get away with posting anti-Semitic comments in their tweets and on their website.’   And now Sadiq Khan, a hollow careerist politician who will say whatever he thinks he needs to say to get himself elected, has declared himself ‘ embarrassed, I’m sorrowful about anti-Semitism in my party’ and claimed that Jeremy Corbyn needs to be ‘trained about what anti-Semtism is.’

Not from a miserable jerk like Khan he doesn’t.  .And I hope Corbyn won’t take any lessons from Jonathan Arkush, president of the Jewish Board of Deputies who has denounced ‘ a stream of clear cut cases of antisemitism in the Labour party, which can’t just be fobbed off as differences over Israel’ and claimed that ‘ Most of the Jewish community, numerous Labour MPs, Labour peers, and Labour’s London mayoral candidate are crying out for the leader to take action on antisemitism.’

Arkush is particularly concerned by Corbyn’s response to the following tweet from his brother, Piers Corbyn on Louise Ellman’s accusations:

“All #Corbyns are committed #AntiNazi. #Zionists cant cope with anyone supporting rights for #Palestine”

Jeremy Corbyn said his brother was “not wrong” and that “My brother has his point of view, I have mine and we actually fundamentally agree – we are a family that were brought up fighting racism from the day we were born.’  Personally,  I don’t anything wrong with either the tweet or Corbyn’s response, nevertheless Arkush insists that ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s defence of his brother’s belittling of the problem of antisemitism is deeply disturbing.’

Not half as disturbing as the vicious racism that is openly coursing through Israeli society nowadays.   Like justice minister Ayelet Shaked’s Facebook call for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to ‘little snakes.’  Or Habayit Hayehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich.tweets on his pregnant wife’s reluctance to share a hospital with Arabs on the grounds that:

My wife isn’t a racist, but after giving birth, she wanted rest, not the mass haflot that are common among the families of Arab women who give birth

And:

It’s natural that my wife wouldn’t want to lie next to someone who just gave birth to a baby who might want to murder her baby in another 20 years”

A recent poll by an Israeli tv station found that more than half of Israelis supported the soldier who shot dead a wounded Palestinian in Hebron last month who had tried and failed to carry out a knife attack.   Haaretz’s Gideon Levy, one of the most courageous voices in Israel, lamented his country’s transformation  into a ‘  monster – and no one is going to stop it.’

As Levy observed:

‘There are toxic seeds which, once planted, cannot be stopped from sprouting. There are plagues that cannot be stopped from spreading. We are there. When the execution of a wounded Palestinian becomes a value, all other values and hopes disappear. A new people has been created, between the ultranationalist and religious right on one side and the apathetic majority on the other.’

Too right. But the likes of Levy, Mann, and Ellman aren’t interested in any of this, and if they are disturbed by these developments, they haven’t said.   Are there anti-Semites within the Labour Party? Certainly, and when they raise their heads above the parapet they need to be rooted out.   But these are marginal figures, compared with the far more powerful historic influence of Zionism within the party.

Some of those who have attacked Corbyn in recent weeks belong to this tradition. For these Labour friends of Israel, ‘friendship’ requires uncritically following every propaganda talking point laid down by the Israeli state in response to the increasing success of the BDS movement.

Others are clearly combining this agenda with their opposition to Corbynism, and are willing to say and do anything  to undermine and discredit Corbyn. Smearing him with spurious accusations of tolerating anti-Semitism is just one more tool in the toolbox.  There are also those, like Tom Harris, who combine support for Israel and anti-Cobynism with opposition to the left in general.

Such hostility undoubtedly explains why a lifelong anti-racist, socialist and anti-Zionist like Tony Greenstein has been suspended from the party for supposedly anti-Semitic comments – a grotesque suggestion to anyone familiar with Greenstein’s principled activism.

Last but not least, there is Sadiq Khan, who just wants to be mayor of London and perhaps something even more than that in the future.

So there is really nothing very noble or decent or well-meaning about this at all, and whatever problem the Labour Party may have with anti-Semitism, it is nothing compared to Labour’s Zionism problem, which has too often led Israel’s ‘friends’ within the PLP to remain silent about the ongoing oppression and dispossession of the Palestinians, and Israel’s own headlong descent into the racist vortex.

A Bunch of Migrants

No one should be surprised that our prime minister should have marked Holocaust Day to regale the nation with a contemptuous joke about how Jeremy Corbyn met with a ‘bunch of migrants in Calais’ and ‘told them that they could all come to Britain..  Contrary to Jonathan Freedland’s schoolmasterish suggestion that this jocularity was ‘beneath him’, Cameron’s remark was in fact perfectly in character  and pitched at exactly the level – somewhere in the lower levels of the political and moral gutter – that he and his government naturally inhabit.

After all, we are talking about  a politician who has long since shed the flimsy veneer of compassionate conservative/green bicycle man that the Tory PR department invented for him, back in the days when it was politically convenient to do so.  In power, Cameron has shown exactly what kind of man he is and what kind of politician he is.  He has rarely missed an opportunity to portray immigrants as parasitic and dangerous intruders and enemies of the taxpayer whether they come from Eastern Europe or from outside it.

So it is entirely natural  that he would say something like this in parliament, and that he would think that in doing so he was being funny and hilarious in a blokish Mock the Week/Jeremy Clarkson kind of way, and those who have accused him of demeaning his office or failing to pay due spirit to Holocaust Day are trying to give this hollow chancer a gravitas and integrity that he just doesn’t have.

Some of Cameron’s critics have highlighted the callousness of his ‘bunch of migrants’ remark; others have criticized him for diminishing and dehumanising the men, women and children it refers to.   Both accusations are entirely correct, but there is another dimension to Cameron’s jocular banter that goes beyond the question of character or the suggestion of bad taste.

His choice of words wasn’t just intended to get his own backbenchers rolling in the aisles, it was aimed at a wider gallery that already shares the same contempt and loathing that his formulation expressed so glibly.  The Oxford Dictionary contains the following definition of ‘migrant’:

  1. A person who moves from one place to another in order to find work or better living conditions.
  2. An animal that migrates.

The dictionary also defines the adjective ‘migrant’ as ‘tending to migrate or having migrated: “migrant birds”.’  Merriam Webster echoes the same definition, though it also has an older and more specific variant of migrant as ‘a person who moves regularly in order to find work especially in harvesting crops.’

In both dictionaries ‘migrant’ is distinct from ‘immigrant’, which the Oxford Dictionary describes as ‘ A person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country. ‘ Merriam-Webster also refers to ‘a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence.’

It’s worth revisiting these definitions in order to see how far we have moved from them, and how Cameron’s remark yesterday was removed from them.  In British political culture the word ‘migrant’ has become an almost entirely pejorative term.  If we applied its strict dictionary meanings, we would find that many of the people who have come to the UK are both ‘migrants’ and ‘immigrants’ rather than one or the other.  We would also have to refer to British citizens who live abroad as migrants and immigrants or both.

But these definitions don’t even begin to encapsulate the meanings that the word ‘migrant’ has acquired through decades of relentless misuse by politicians and newspapers.  Like ‘asylum seeker’, ‘migrant’ has become a word that automatically dehumanizes and demeans the people it refers to.

Both terms have acquired various sub-meanings that are automatically understood by those who use them and those who hear them.   Today ‘migrant’ has become a code word in British tabloidspeak which is synonymous with ‘invader’, ‘intruder’, ‘alien’, ‘parasite’, ‘criminal’, ‘job thief’, ‘fraud’ and a host of other assumptions.

These imagined and assumed characteristics routinely invite and enable the British public to freely fear and despise the men and women who come this country whether to ‘find work or better living conditions’ or in order to seek sanctuary and protection from war and persecution, without every having to express their xenophobic or racist sub-texts outright.

Let’s not pretend there are any other sentiments behind headlines like ‘Migrants take over idyllic British tourist hamlet’ (Daily Express), ‘ Migrants take our jobs’ (Daily Express again), ‘Migrant rape fears spread across Europe.’ (Daily Mail)

There is a lot more where this came from, and we have been digesting it for years.  Within this more general framework of fear and loathing there is always room for specific variants, whether it’s Poles who come here to take our benefits; Bulgarian or Romanian criminals; or the shadowy hooknosed invaders in the Daily Mail’s ‘rats’ cartoon, walking into Britain with rats scuttling around their sandalled feet.

The goalposts can also shift according to necessity.  When the Daily Mail claimed three days ago that ‘David Cameron rejects calls to take 3,000 migrant children’, it ignored the fact that most of these ‘migrant children’ in Calais are too young to be seeking work and are in fact seeking asylum, so they aren’t technically migrants at all.

But the purpose of this headline was the same as so many others: to fuel the bitterness, hatred and resentment that is steadily corroding British society, and present migrants of whatever age and origin as a threat to our jobs, security, culture and way of life.

Cameron’s ‘bunch of migrants’ joke yesterday was intended to have exactly the same effect.  Last year, Cameron – or one of his ghostwriters – wrote an introduction to a report on Holocaust remembrance,which pointed out ‘…The poisonous words and passive acceptance of discrimination which marked the beginning of the Holocaust can clearly be found in the ideology of extremism or in the hatred that underpins antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism and homophobia today.’

Yesterday Cameron delivered more ‘poisonous words’ with the casual insouciance that you would expect from Jeremy Clarkson.  He did so in the course of a debate about corporate tax avoidance,  in which he  variously depicted Corbyn as a defender of Argentinian claims to the Falklands, and a supporter of trade union rights – all of which supposedly defined  the Labour leader and his party as enemies of the ‘British people and the hard-working taxpayer’.

So let’s not pretend that it was a mistake or a throwaway remark.  Cameron knew exactly what he was doing and exactly which audience he wanted to reach.  It is certainly true, as so many of his critics have pointed out,  that language like this  ‘demeans his office’, but it is also extremely useful to his government that his audience should think about migrants and migration as a threat.

Cameron’s intervention was partly a cynical distraction.  But it was also a massive flashing green light to those who already see the ‘bunch of migrants’ in exactly the same way as he does, to continue what they are doing and thinking, which makes his remarks not only contemptible, but dangerous.