26 April 2007

EVEN IF ROYAL LOSES, SANITY HAS WON

Paul Anderson, Tribune column, 27 April 2007

Small things can cheer you up sometimes, and this week’s small thing for me was that Segolene Royal came second in the first round of the French presidential election. I spent Sunday night feeling pleased.

I’m not entirely sure why it did the trick. It was only the first round, for heaven’s sake, and she has a lot to do to win. She won only 26 per cent of the vote, and only 11 per cent of voters chose far-left no-hopers in the first round and have nowhere else to go. (Note in passing here the pathetic showing by the candidate of the once mighty French Communist Party, who took less than 2 per cent of the vote.)

After that, it’s grim. Royal desperately needs suport from people who backed the centrist Francois Bayrou in the first round — 19 per cent of the extraordinary 85 per cent of voters who turned out — and from supporters of the fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen (11 per cent). She’ll get few of the latter (though more than many expect) but her real problem is the people who voted for Bayrou. The opinion polls suggest that more than half of them will vote for the scary Nicolas Sarkocy, the right-wing candidate Royal has to beat in the second round, who got 31 per cent last weekend. As I write, Royal’s plea to Bayrou for a second-round alliance — a daring but desperate move — has not been answered.

At least, though, it isn’t a repeat of 2002, when self-indulgent leftists voting Trot, Stalinist and Green denied the Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin a place in the second round, leaving Jacques Chirac to fight it out with Le Pen — with no choice for anyone decent but voting for Chirac as the lesser of two evils. Even if it looks as if Royal has too much ground to make up before the second round, she does have an outside chance, and that in itself is progress on five years ago.

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On another subject entirely, I was shocked and surprised by the news last week that the annual delegate meeting of the National Union of Journalists, of which I have been a member for nearly 25 years, has voted to boycott Israeli products.

I can see the rationale for the boycott: I’m no fan of the current Israeli administration, which has done nothing to promote a lasting peace deal with the Palestinians and a lot to reduce the likelihood of such a deal. And I think that it’s perfectly legitimate for the west to put pressure on Israel to return to the negotiating table, give up the West Bank settlements, tear down the wall and so on.

My problem is that I don’t think that the NUJ boycotting Israeli goods is a very clever way of putting pressure on the Israeli government to do these things. The NUJ is tiny, so there is no way that the boycott, even if observed by every one of its members, could have any significant impact on the Israeli economy. Politically, however, the boycott has a much greater impact — and it is entirely counterproductive if the goal is to get the Israeli government back to the negotiating table to talk about a workable two-state solution in Israel/Palestine.

If NUJ members (or indeed anyone else outside Israel/Palestine) are serious about doing their bit to facilitate a lasting peace deal, they should be encouraging dialogue and compromise between Israelis and Palestinians and discouraging confrontation. Boycotting Israeli goods can only do the opposite. On one hand, it gives succour — if only a thimbleful — to Hamas, Hizbullah and all the others who would like to see Israel destroyed and reject all compromise with “the Zionist entity”. On the other, it reinforces (if only a little) the defensive mindset of the Israeli diehards who see nothing but enemies in the outside world.

In my view, rather than boycotting Israel, we should be doing precisely the opposite: arguing for more trade with both Israel and the Occupied Territories, more cultural and educational exchanges, more tourism and so on.

So, much as I respect the role of the NUJ’s ADM in setting union policy, I have no intention of observing the boycott. Indeed, as I write I have a friend searching out a selection of kosher delicacies in Israel that I hope she will deliver when she gets back to Britain next week. I invite the NUJ executive to discipline me for my flagrant and wilful breach of union policy.

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The current London Review of Books is a very good one, with half-a-dozen must-read articles — one of them an elegaic review of recent books about the Communist Party of Great Britain by the eminent Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, the only prominent intellectual who stuck with the CPGB to the bitter end.

It is a fascinating piece, nowhere more so than when Hobsbawm claims that during the second world war, British communists “would have gone underground if they had had to, as they did on the Continent ..., and organised resistance to the German occupation”. Not in 1940 they wouldn’t, comrade. That was when the Hitler-Stalin pact was in operation. Remember?

22 April 2007

VOTEZ SEGO! - 2

Well, the extremely good news from the exit polls from the first round of the French presidential election is that Segolene Royal appears to have made it through to fight the second round against Nicolas Sarkozy — and that now it's all up for grabs.

According to the exit polls, she got something like 25 per cent of the vote, behind Sarkozy on 31 per cent but ahead of the centrist Francois Bayrou on 18 per cent and the fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen on 11 per cent. Royal can probably rely on second-round backing from most of the 11 per cent of voters who supported one of the far-left candidates, the Green or the anti-globalisation farmer Jose Bove; and Sarkozy can do the same with the 4 per cent or so who voted for minor right-wing candidates.

But this still leaves a big question mark over which way supporters of Bayrou and Le Pen vote in the second round. Hunch tells me it's going to be very close — but we shall see.

20 April 2007

VOTEZ SEGO! - 1

The latest polls show Jean-Marie Le Pen now in third place in the French presidential race. If on Sunday the self-indulgent imbeciles of the French left do as they did five years ago and vote "on principle" for various Trots, the Stalinist or that fat peasant who doesn't like MacDonalds, there's now a real danger France will end up again with a run-off between a disgusting Gaullist opportunist and a fascist creep. There's only one honourable way to vote on Sunday: Segolene Royal.

SIGN UP AGAINST THE NUJ BOYCOTT OF ISRAEL

Becasue I teach journalism at a university and work as a journalist, I'm a member of two trade unions, the University and College Union and the National Union of Journalists. The former, or rather the previous incarnation of part of it, the Association of University Teachers, voted at an annual conference for an academic boycott of Israel almost exactly a couple of years back – and the decision was overturned by members. Last weekend, the NUJ's annual delegate meeting voted for a journalistic boycott of Israel, a meaningless and self-defeating gesture that will do nothing to promote the interests of either peace or the Palestinians. There's a campaign to overturn the decision starting here. If you're a hack, sign up. I'm with Jonathan Freedland and the Guardian on this.

14 April 2007

RIGHT: NOW LET'S GET SERIOUS

It's Derby at home this afternoon, and I need some serious beautiful fitba — and victory — to persuade me to renew the season ticket. A propos of which, I ran into Alan Brazil getting off the train home yesterday: "I hate those Norwich fuckers, make no mishtake about it," he told me as we walked over the footbridge at Ipswich station. "I just hope we fuck them next weekend." What a mensch!

12 April 2007

IF I WERE TONY BLAIR...

Speculation is rife over when Blair will resign. I have no inside info on this (and nor, I suspect, has anyone else who is writing about it). But what if, instead of seeing out the almost inevitable humiliations of the May local government, Scottish and Welsh elections, he quit two days before polling day? That would blow the Labour meltdown off the front pages and confuse everyone about the reasons for it — and it might even bring Labour some electoral advantage. If I were Blair, I'd do it.

7 April 2007

4 April 2007

CONTINUONS LE COMBAT!

Dig this: special TGV beats the world rail speed record. It's not as sexy as Mallard but I'm sick to death of crap Brit trains. With this one, I'd get to work in half-an-hour...