Why in the world is Labour’s Jim Murphy speaking at the Henry Jackson Society?

10:00 am - February 14th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    

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In a speech today the shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy will admit that Labour’s earlier foreign policy was based on a ‘primitive’ grasp of local conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The speech is nothing to crow about, and doesn’t even go as far as Ed Miliband admitting three years ago that the Iraq war was a mistake.

But worse, Jim Murphy demonstrates he himself hasn’t learnt anything either – the speech is at an event organised by the hard-right group of neo-conservatives from the Henry Jackson Society.

The definitive account of how the Henry Jackson Society lurched from being somewhat centrist to the hard-right is written here by Marko Atilla Hoare– a former senior member.

But I want to focus here on Douglas Murray – an Associate Director listed right under the Executive Director Alan Mendoza.

This is what Douglas Murray said in 2006 in a speech:

Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board: Europe must look like a less attractive proposition. We in Europe owe – after all – no special dues to Islam. We owe them no religious holidays, special rights or privileges. From long before we were first attacked it should have been made plain that people who come into Europe are here under our rules and not theirs.

There is not an inch of ground to give on this one. Where a mosque has become a centre of hate it should be closed and pulled down. If that means that some Muslims don’t have a mosque to go to, then they’ll just have to realise that they aren’t owed one.

If that had been said about Jews there would have been an outcry.

Update: Douglas Murray later wrote he doesn’t believe in the above views any more.

But this is Britain, where such language is becoming worrying acceptable.

Oh but there is more!
On 26 January 2011, Douglas Murray spoke at an event organised by ‘One Law for All’ – at Conway Hall in London. He said (here’s the video, 3m 05s in):

Let me give you an example: the English Defence League: an extraordinary phenomenon that wouldn’t have occurred if the government had got a grip on al-Muhajiroun – only came about because the authorities did not do anything about that particularly thuggish organisation.

These things have consequences. Erm, the EDL when they started protesting had banners saying things like ‘sharia law discriminates against women, ‘shariah law is anti-gay’ – well I’m good with both those sentiments, and I’m sure most people in this room are.

If you’re ever going to have a grassroots response for non-Muslims to Islamism, that would be how you’d want it, surely.

But we know there are awkward things around this. There have been exposed links on the EDL with far-right organisations in individual cases, and maybe others will know more about this wider than that. But you know, for instance, Louis Amis wrote a very interesting piece in Standpoint magazine some months ago after investigation, he said and others have said that as far as they could see within the EDL they have tried to kick out BNP elements. Does that mean that they aren’t racist or they are… I’m not making a definitive point I’m just saying these things are extremely complex and we ought to be extremely careful before dismissing whole swathes of people.

Douglas Murray goes on to praise Robert Spencer, author of Jihad Watch (a highly anti-Muslim website), who Murray says is a brilliant scholar. Just FYI, Robert Spencer was recently raising legal funds for the English Defence League’s leader.

Douglas Murray isn’t loosely affiliated with the Henry Jackson Society – he is a key Associate Director. On the day that Jim Murphy admits Labour didn’t know enough during the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq – this is the organisation he chooses to speak at?

It simply boggles my mind.

Paul Goodman at ConservativeHome earlier wrote about why the Conservative front-bench “broke off relations with Douglas Murray”.

But the Labour front bench are now establishing relations with Douglas Murray and his team! In what parallel universe does this demonstrate that Labour’s foreign policy team are beyond ‘primitive understanding’?

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments

I hear your concerns, Sunny, but I’m wary about the ‘reverse no platform’ policy you seem to be advocating. Perhaps Murphy thinks he can bring round Murray and the Henry Jackson Society? Get them to think again? Surely that’s a possibility?

2. the a&e charge nurse

“In a speech today the shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy will admit that Labour’s earlier foreign policy was based on a ‘primitive’ grasp of local conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq” – oh, what complete and utter bollocks, Blair and Bush obviously had their reasons for these wretched wars, and numerous commentators have been highlighting them ever since.

Is there not one single politician honest enough to admit this covert agenda – at least the fact it has absolutely nothing to do with a humanitarian agenda?

Personally I would like to see the back of Islam, Judaism and Christianity – but being a member of the fluffy liberal tribe makes it rather difficult to interfere with intellectually untenable beliefs about raising the dead, removing foreskins, or riding to heaven on a winged horse?

I mean how is any of this sort of stuff different to David Icke’s warnings about ‘reptilian humanoids’ – how is anybody with even a rudimentary grasp of Darwin meant to take such ideas seriously.

3. the a&e charge nurse

By the way, Sunny – I seem to recall you were pro-war when it came to Afghanistan?

You fret about the treatment of muslims in europe yet certain fluffy liberals would have you believe part of the war propaganda was to improve the lot of Afghani women from being persecuted by the taliban?

So are the taliban another muslim group, rather like the saudis who simply do not understand their own religion – or are they right about islam because their big book authorises such a world view, even though this world view may be at odds with the aspirations of fluffy liberals?

Well the EDL is partly responsible for protracted demise of the BNP, though we’ll see how well Andrew Brons new British Democrat Party does with their support.

Since becoming Associate Director of the Henry Jackson Society, Douglas Murray has continued to make statements about the EDL that are (to put it tactfully, given the litigious nature of the gentleman in question) not entirely unambiguously negative.

See Murray’s statement on the EDL on the video attached to this post (and to which Sunny links above):


It is indeed inappropriate that Labour’s shadow defence secretary should be hosted by an organisation whose Associate Director has such views of a far-right organisation like the EDL.

Because fundamentally he’s right-wing; see this on his record in the last govt:


And also not very bright (I say this because he has ‘friends’ regularly quote talking up his abilities despite a complete absence of any evidence to support this, very much the reverse).
The UK still has one of the highest levels of military expenditure in the world. Ed Miliband and his team keep saying there will be very hard choices to make in public expenditure. Slashing military expenditure should be part of this; Murphy is very obviously not the man to do it.

7. the a&e charge nurse

I’m far more worried about politicos who seem unsure why various bloodbaths are deemed necessary, rather than a right winger who says we owe no special dues to islam.

@5 – perhaps you need to consider deeds rather than rhetoric?
Which party took us to war (twice) – which party has spent years sucking up to US neocons?

I think you may be wrong, to me it seems entirely appropriate that a labour minister should be hanging out with his spiritual bed fellows given the highly belligerent nature of his party’s foreign policy.

Maybe some are even willing to buy into the ‘primitive grasp of local conditions’ bullshit trotted out by those still too timid to do the right thing?

Robert: Perhaps Murphy thinks he can bring round Murray and the Henry Jackson Society? Get them to think again?


Let me put it this way: if the Labour party is listening to people associated with the HJS then it is making the same mistakes it did going into Iraq.

“Douglas Murray later wrote that the above views any more.”

Good subbing there Sunny

10. the a&e charge nurse

[8] ‘then it is making the same mistakes it did going into Iraq’ – I think you forgot to mention Afghanistan as well?

obviously the neo cons are trying to get labour ministers to support invading iran. they succeeded at conning previous labour ministers to invade iraq. hopefully they won’t get fooled again. the neocons have already got tory stooges like liam fox in their pocket.

tomothy ?
you really have too much time on your hands

obviously the neo cons are trying to get labour ministers to support invading iran.

By making Labour admit they were mistaken about invading Iraq and Afghanistan?

Sneaky bastards.

I see no cause for surprise, given the list of Labour MPs who serve on the HJS’s Political Council – http://henryjacksonsociety.org/people/council-members/ . They include Margaret Beckett, Ben Bradshaw, and Jim Murphy himself. And weren’t certain prominent Labour MPs involved with the HJS at the very start, helping to co-found it?

I see that my earlier comment (#14) didn’t take into account Sunny’s observation about the rightward shift of HJS. Nevertheless, unless HJS’ website is out of date, Labour has never cut ties with the Society, so in that context we should remain unsurprised – and instead be angry that it hasn’t cut these ties.

Douglas Murray goes on to praise Robert Spencer, author of Jihad Watch (a highly anti-Muslim website), who Murray says is a brilliant scholar

— This is the same Robert Spencer who has been proven to have repeatedly made false statements about Islam and Muslims.

— The same Robert Spencer who is now formally allied with openly racist white supremacists and European neo-Nazis, and has even organised joint public demonstrations with them.

— The same Robert Spencer whose anti-Muslim propaganda has been proven to be identical to the anti-Semitic propaganda of the Third Reich-era Nazi Julius Streicher, a man who made the same disingenuous statements in his own defence but was still prosecuted by the United States at the Nuremburg Trials and ultimately convicted on the charge of crimes against humanity.

See: http://www.loonwatch.com/2012/10/sioasionafdi-jihadwatchs-robert-spencer-exposed-the-facts/

— The same Robert Spencer whose own alma mater, the University of North Carolina, have publicly described Spencer’s writings as “perpetuating a type of bigotry similar to anti-Semitism and racial prejudice. They are to be viewed with great suspicion by anyone who wishes to find reliable and scholarly information on the subject of Islam.”

See: http://spencerwatch.com/what-they-say-about-robert-spencer/

— The same Robert Spencer who has recently been exposed as an ordained Catholic deacon at a church in New Hampshire.

See: http://www.loonwatch.com/2013/02/exclusive-reverend-deacon-robert-spencer-of-our-lady-of-the-cedars-maronite-church/

— The same Robert Spencer who has recently made extremely disparaging statements about the prestigious West Point military institution and has described Far-Right terrorists in the United States as “ordinary Americans who believe in individual rights”.

See: http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/today-in-crazy/0019640

— The same Robert Spencer who heads the “American Freedom Defense Initiative” and “Stop Islamization of America” organisations. The inner circle of these organisations’ leadership includes David Yerushalmi, a man who is on record as explicitly stating that he is “dedicated to the rejection of democracy” in the United States. The same David Yerushalmi who doesn’t even believe American women should have the right to vote.

See: http://www.loonwatch.com/2012/11/david-yerushalmi-pamela-gellers-anti-democracy-lawyer-sion-senior-member-exposed-the-facts/

— The same Robert Spencer whose closest ally is Pamela Geller, now on record as publicly advocating what is effectively a “Final Solution” for British Muslims, including mass murder: http://www.islamophobiatoday.com/2013/02/06/pamela-geller-advocates-banning-islam-demolishing-mosques-deporting-and-killing-muslims/

“Why in the world is Labour’s Jim Murphy speaking at the Henry Jackson Society?”

This was exactly my reaction, and I wonder why any Labour MPs are still linked to the HJS. The results of the invasion of Iraq show why the ideas of the HJS are wrong: military interventions are not the magic bullet to solve the world’s problems. Unless Murphy was going there to tell the HJS that they had got it very wrong, I don’t see the point of Murphy giving a speech there.

From what I have seen from the New Statesman and the Guardian, however, the speech was vey weak and framed the issues so as to avoid all the tough questions.

18. the a&e charge nurse

Looks like Jimbo is a regular with the HJS crew – this is his speech from last year

Murphy says “It is encouraging that there are so many who feel Liberal Democracies have a responsibility not just to self protection and determination, but also to help shape the fortunes of others less able to do so themselves around the world” – perhaps he should have added even if means unleashing a bloodbath, or wars that will drag on for a decade or more (raising a distinct possibility that a US military presence in Afghanistan is the main objective of campaign).

Jimbo adds, “This is important because the values and principles the HJS seeks to promote are those which we all believe should shape our security policy” – security policy shaped by HJS principles, eh? And there was me thinking they were being shaped by shadowy corporate interests who have perfected the art of dressing up their dastardly deeds in high minded rhetoric that might be reduced to ‘west-is-best’?

So we’ve established Murray’s an idiot. Should Labour front benchers only address audiences who agree with them?

OMG @16 – we need to know more.
Like – are these people connected to the stormtroopers of the EDL? Should we be on high alert? Call the police?

21. the a&e charge nurse

[16] ‘This is the same Robert Spencer who has been proven to have repeatedly made false statements about Islam’ – one of the (many) problems with islam is that it does not have a single authority to tell its adherents how the big book should be understood.
So, even if spencer IS guilty of misunderstanding he is no worse or no better than islamic scholars who authorise all manner of disgusting deeds in the name of their god which are often swept under the carpet by inclusive fluffy liberals.

Take ayatollah khomeini’s fatwa on rushdie (for writing a book).
Even cat stevens wanted him dead for that – so has cat made a school boy howler, or does islam demand death for book writers?

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