How to make excuses for your nasty friends

1:09 pm - October 12th 2009

by Paul Sagar    

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So, you’ve gone and formed a new grouping in the European Parliament, forsaking your moderate allies in a desperate attempt to stop haemorrhaging votes to frothing right-wing lunatics in the Home Counties (led by a nonsense-spouting twit).

But there’s a catch! Your new alliance is full of frothing far-right loons, and if this becomes a point of mainstream discussion, people might stop moaning about the guy your grassroots keep smearing as “mental” and start to wonder if they really want you in power after all.

But never fear! There are 5 easy steps that your party can take to make this all go away! Do it right and you’ll be laughing all the way into Downing Street…

1 – Whataboutery: This one is easy. Anyone can do it (but it’s best for derailing threads on enemy blogs). If someone points out that it’s shameful to be in alliance with anti-Semites and homophobes, then you shout “yeah, but whatabout that thing what [insert opposition party here] did!?” Seems crass? Dishonest? Hypocritical (because when Damien McBride got caught, you said there should be no whataboutery)? Who cares!

2 – Gag and Boot: Reserved for Party leadership, the Gag and Boot is exactly what it says: try and gag your errant MEPs, and if they continue to point out what you are doing is wrong, boot them out. (Note: Has potential to back-fire if target starts writing in the Guardian).

3 – Misrepresent the nature of your new alliance: If steps 1 and 2 aren’t working, don’t worry! Here’s a little secret: politics is complicated, and people are forgetful. If somebody starts asking why you’re affiliated with a rump of extremists, just speak solemnly about how “it was necessary to leave the main grouping because of our opposition to the evil Lisbon Treaty”.

Don’t worry, people won’t notice that the leader of your little group actually supports the Lisbon Treaty – that’s complicated stuff, the plebs won’t notice! Try also: “hey, there are crazies in all the EU Parliament groupings!”, shrugging sheepishly with a whatcha-gonna-do grin. People will forget that you created this particular alliance of 55 MEPs (after leaving an alliance of 265) which can only continue to exist thanks to the homophobic, anti-Semitic, Nazi-apologists that you invited.

4 – Misrepresent the activities of your new allies: Very similar to 3. For example, if somebody points out that some of your Latvian friends are in favour of celebrating the Waffen SS, just claim that they are “commemorating their war dead”. Those who pay attention will notice that, actually, there’s a world of difference between commemorating war dead and wanting to rehabilitate fascism in the face of an official ban by the Riga authorities.

They may also notice that although the Latvian SS divisions in question formed a year after the last massacre of Jews in Latvia, the SS in fact started recruiting in Latvia in 1941, and that many of those recruited were instrumental in the murder of 80,000 Latvian Jews. But don’t worry, look how many words that took – and it required reference to boring history and complicated stuff like chronology! No, just ignore it, and keep repeating your line. Nobody will notice.

5 – Play the Man of Honour card: In your supposedly-neutral politics magazine, interview the leading – and potentially most-embarrassing – frothing extremist from your new alliance. Conclude that he is, in fact, not a homophobe at all, but a really nice bloke. Accuse others of nasty smears. Play the Damian McBride card again – that always helps.

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About the author
Paul Sagar is a post-graduate student at the University of London and blogs at Bad Conscience.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Humour ,Media ,Realpolitik ,Westminster

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Reader comments

My personal sense is that these are all desperate smears defence is now played out. If they were smears, the pressure would be on Labour. Increasingly, non-partisan voices think this is getting more worrying for the Tories … Take Bagehot of the Economist blogging that “I think the row over the Tories’ European partners, especially the Poles, deserves to last and probably will”.

I’ve now updated the post I wrote on Friday night to take in the lengthy Observer piece on Sunday …

People do change their views. And so I think it is quite possible that Kaminski may have done so himself since his membership of the far right NOP (dates of membership he gave to the Telegraph have been contradicted); his campaigning against the Jewadbne apology in 2001 (flat denial that he ever did so, now dropped).

What is now undeniably the case is that Kaminski responded this summer to questions with a series of evasions, half-truths and several statements which have turned out to be quite clearly false.

It is possible that he may have been being stupid rather than covering up something sinister, but I think the Conservatives might want to be thinking hard about how to stop digging on this one.

Self-avowed marxists post on this site. I am not sure you people are in a position to lecture anyone on extremist totalitarian politics.

James – your “point” just hit Step 1 right on the nose.

Paul the defence is the exceptionalism of the UK .Nationalism here is not a source of shame as on much of the continent nor is it bound up in the moral catastrophe of Soviet occupied Eastern Europe . It is a source of justifiable pride, as is Parliament and the dislike of unaccountable elites. We do not wish to sacrifice our country to the super statist dreams of the left and this shows the purpose of all the lies over Lisbon was precisely to isolate the views of the British . You might just as well imagine the odd selection of superannuated nutty Communists the British left would be allied with if we joined The USA .You are making an arguments against the EU not against the Latvians.

David Milliband is an intelligent if unscrupulous man. He knows the dangers to his dreams inherent in this line of idiotic attack very well .It really shows the desperation of the Labour Party that he feels he has to should attack the very faults of the institution that he is personally responsible for lying about to a Euro Sceptic. Country.

This is a core vote strategy and a hostage to fortune . I am disappointed to see the generally thoughtful Sunder Katwala whipping up the partisan mob. I thought his claim was that we all had a place in Europe .If only people that agree with him do , then we must leave .



No, I am pointing out that your new friend Mr Kaminski is in favour of the Lisbon Treaty. Which makes the ECR grouping, erm, rather harder to justify.

(Also, maybe have a think about your nom-de-plume: I suspect you were going for the “rank and file soldier” angle. But let’s not forget that Thersites was described by Homer as a common, ugly and insobordinate: Odysseus hits him with a spear, if I remember correctly, for being a cheeky bugger. Lesson in there, perhaps?)

@3: That is because this “blog” is a piece of whatabouterry. Nobody was complaining when the Tories were in league with neo-fascists in the EPP. So why the fuss now?

These smears have been debunked a million times already anyway,

Which neo-fascists in the EPP?

The Italian ones.

I’m no fan of Berlusconi, but suggesting that PdL is a fascist party is going a bit far, no?

You forgot step 6: Point out that the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, a man who by his own account has alway voted Labour, has wriiten an article called “Kaminski is not an antisemite: he’s a friend to Jews”

Incidently, if anti-Semitism is such a big deal to you, you may be interested to hear that when the Guardian recently published a list of everyone who has won the Noble Peace Prize, thay missed off three names. All were Israelis.

@7 and 9

glad to see you putting step 3 into practice, and missing the point rather spectacularly.

Meant 7 and 8

ad – ahhh yes, that old trick – if the Guardian makes a mistake it must be a conspiracy! What a load of crock

No, if the Guardian makes a mistake, it just requires one person to make a mistake, and perhaps one or two people to fail to catch it. I just thought it was an interesting mistake to have made, in the eyes of people who like jumping on mistakes.

If the data had been cut and pasted from the Nobel website, the names should not have been missing. If someone cut something off by accident, the names cut off should not have been widely seperated.

The obvious conclusion is that someone somewhere made an exception for the Israeli names, and that this person was trusted by the Guardian.

At any event, if the Jewish Chronicle does not believe Kaminski to be an anti-semite, I am certainly not going to trust the judgement of a group of political partisans who desperately want him to be. Why should I?

10 – I suspect he’s referring to the Alleanza Nationale, which was routinely described as neo-fascist or post-fascist – and was held up ads an awful warning of what awaited the Tories if they left the EPP. And then they joined the EPP.

PiS do indeed support the Lisbon Treaty. But, unlike the EPP, they don’t insist that every party in the grouping agrees with them.

As Thersites says above, the issue is British political exceptionalism. If it is impossible to find a political party on mainland Europe that is in favour of free trade and an EU based on sovereign states rather than ever closer union, what does that say about British compatibility with Europe, given that that position was overwhelmingly the most popular at the last European elections?

On a broader grubby politics point, I can see why labour and the left are trying to push this as an issue, but I really honestly doubt that it will give you the traction you think it will. And I am shocked, shocked, that there appears to be no mention here of the Prime Minister being compelled to repay his I’ll-gotten expenses…

The troubling thing is that fascism (and its post/quasi variants) simply enjoys a longer half-life in Europe than in the UK and elsewhere. Perhaps that is a good reason to keep at arms length from its institutions, at least until a political culture more amenable to individual liberty has become more widespread out there.

Well, to immediately fall foul of point 1. How many of the MEPs in the group which Labour belong to were in fact functionaries in Communist Governments pre 1989?

No, I don’t know either but any of Ceascescu’s henchmen in there? Jaruzelski’s? Any of those East Germans who werre part of a system that would shoot people just for trying to leave?

Would be interesting to know I’m sure……

18. marie-odile

@17 -Sounds a bit like you’re accusing us “other” europeans of being more facist than the Brits, and not having the same love of individual liberty or freedom. (Or am I completely missing the point and simply a humourless french lefty? apols if so).
the fact that far right political parties are more prominent also has a substantial amount to do with electoral systems. the UK (and France, so fair enough, that’s an exception what with the FN and all) is one of the only systems to be purely majoritarian, and small parties (inc. far right ones) are far more likely to have electoral success (and prominence) in a system which is PR or mixed PR. (n.b I am referring to general elections and political systems as a whole rather than EP elections)

“and not having the same love of individual liberty or freedom. (Or am I completely missing the point and simply a humourless french lefty?…”

I am certainly one who argues (shouts!) that the method by which such liberty is protected in a Common Law system as against a Roman Law system is different, yes.

The Common Law system insists that the State is one of the major enemies of liberty and freedom….other systems, not so much.

20. marie-odile

I still don’t think that makes the rest of Europe’s political culture not ‘amenable’ to individual liberty, or more “prone” to facism.
On another (but related) note – I heard the Tories justified the move from EPP by saying this would give them (and therefore britain) more power in the European Parliament? How was this justified? Although it *might* have given them more power within the european party itself, surely they lost sway by joining one of the less influential parties? (in terms of speaking time, voting weight (assuming the party sometimes vaguely votes as a whole)

21. marie-odile

.. oh and thats only on a theoretical level, without even considering the people they allied themselves with…

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