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LONDON — Simon Lincoln Reader has built quite a following among the Biznews Community through his weekly satirical column focusing on the political scene in his South African homeland and the UK, where he now lives. This well-connected financier with a light pen shares the direct approach commonly found among those raised in the African sun. Which he uses to advantage in helping the rest of us make sense of the deeply codified, often paradoxical machinations in Westminster. On the South African front, SLR taps into a wide contact base at home plus those within London’s powerful Saffer network. And delivers a compelling cocktail. Have a listen to his fresh, forthright perspective on the political events dominating the headlines in our ever changing world. – Alec Hogg
It’s two months since the last episode, and so much has happened. Brexit – let’s start there. We’re are also going to be talking about the SA election a little later but first off with Brexit. Anti-Semitism, Corbyn seeming to lose a little bit of heft. We’ve had a few people walking out of the Labour Party and I think there were three walking out of the Conservative Party. What’s going on?
Well, that’s a good question, Alec. The first deal, if you can recall of November last year was quite rightly regarded as a turd fished out of a tree, and given a bit of a polish. Now, the second deal which Mrs May presented last week and was again funded and was nothing more than the same turd but this time rolled in a little bit of glitter. The deal this week is going to be the same thing. This one is encrusted with rhinestones apparently so, the reason why it is such a shitty deal – there are three parts to it. It’s the backstop, it’s the small prints of the political declaration, and the transition period. Now, you couple those three things together you’ll see that what you end up with is basically a case of Equatorial Guinea applying for EU membership. The EU saying, ‘you know what, we can’t do it because you’re on a different continent but we’ll give you the bits and pieces, but we’ll take everything you’ve got.’ That will be the position UK will be in were Mrs May’s deal to be accepted this week. It’s literally a vassal state.
Is it possible that it will be accepted, i.e. the real political coming to play here?
Let’s go back. Where is the problem here? It’s not in the constituencies and EU Referendum of 2016, 406 versus 242 voted to leave. The same with the voting areas, 263 voted to leave as opposed to 119, and parties too. Labour voted 148 to leave. Tory voted 247 to leave but MPs, this is critical here, 248 MPs voted to leave and 400 voted to remain. That’s where the majority margin exists in the House of Commons and that’s why this is such a difficult thing to fall through. The only thing that is notable this week is that the DUP, which are the Conservative Coalition partners are being offered more money to vote for Mrs May’s deal. Other than that, it’s just the same old story, given a new coat of paint. It’s a bad deal and the people that I know who understand exactly what is happening are rightly supportive of those voting against it.
Now, the latest edition of The Economist has got a fantastic front cover, where it’s got Britannia and it says, ‘Oh, star-star UK.’ If the Economist is saying, come on UK you’ve really messed this up and they ask, ‘What next?’ If most of the people in Parliament are Remainers, as you’ve just explained, and yet those who put them there are leavers – whereto now? Just outline it for us? What’s likely to happen next?
That’s a good question. Look, Alec, I will not try and predict because it’s very clear that no one actually knows what is going on and what is going to happen. I think the question needs to be slightly reframed. How is Britain, whatever the case, if there is an agreement to Mrs May’s deal if there is the submission to WTO trade-turns, which is the default ‘no deal’ position. These things… Some of them can happen. There’s a possibility that we might have a deal and that we might have no deal. How is Britain going to resolve the issue of such a divided political fabric, such a poisonous political environment as a result of that? You know, in the old days you had things like wars and they could sort of serve as some national interest for a sense of unity. Unfortunately, that’s not how things are done today. How is Britain, once something has been reached (whatever it is) how is it going to become unified again? I think that is the critical question that the people should start asking, over and beyond what happens now? I’m sure things will fall into place, whatever the situation but what won’t? What’s not guaranteed to? The division has caused so much upset it’s about ‘anywhere versus somewhere’ – the North versus South. The masses of the unwashed versus the liberal metropolitan elites. These are critical features of society and I have never, ever witnessed such division as you do now.
What about the whole anti-semitism row within the Labour Party?
This is something that I’ve been studying since last year when a very popular former Labour MP called Luciana Berger arrived at the Autumn Labour Conference surrounded by bodyguards. Now, anti-semitism had been a feature but it was one of these issues that had been slightly concealed by the emphasis upon Brexit. Now, Luciana is a very popular Liverpool Wavertree, she’s personable and she’s very proud of her religion and she’s very proud of her community. The fact that she had to arrive with bodyguards, people started looking up and going, ‘hang on a second’ and subsequently, they went deeper into, and specifically Jeremy Corbyn’s history to find instances where he had voiced support for groups that do not believe Israel has a right to exist and that has accelerated somewhat and we’ve seen some horrendous exposure as to those close to Jeremy Corbyn and his grassroots support in Labour, which is this group Momentum. It was obviously one of the reasons why Luciana Berger decided to quit the Labour Party and stand with the Independent Group a few weeks ago. I have spoken to a number of Jewish people – I live in a partially Jewish area of North London and there are bigger concentrations neighbouring us but in my area a lot of the Jewish members of the community have said to me this whole movement within Labour, this whole anti-semitism, and the people who are supporting the case for Israel to be destroyed or not to exist. It has very strong roots in an event that occurred in SA in 2001, which was the awful UN Conference and racism. I don’t know if you’d recall, it was held in Durban, and the USA and Israel both got up and stormed out because they wanted to describe Zionism as a racism worse than the apartheid on black people in SA. Now, accompanying this conference you saw peripheral marches through the streets in which banners were displayed with the words, ‘Death to Israel’ written on them. The Jewish people I’ve spoken to in North London tell me that that was the first time that they saw such brazen hatred, and such brazen anti-semitism since the Holocaust allowed to flourish unpoliced.
But Simon, sorry, just as an aside. There’s been quite a lot of kickback on this and saying, being anti-Israel doesn’t mean being an anti-semite. How do you read that?
No, that’s nonsense. That’s absolute nonsense. Those same people are the same people who are trying to draw this false equivalence between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is a hatred of Israel and a hatred of Jews. Islamophobia can mean anything you want it to mean. The same people that say that we are standing up for the rights of Palestinians is not the same as hating Jewish people. It’s a very cunning trick but I assure you Alec that if you look into the advocates of that theory, you’ll see all sorts of funny little pieces. The worst example is Chris Williamson who’s the Labour MP for Derby who’s recently been suspended from the party. He’s a big one on that ‘oh, it doesn’t necessarily mean anti-Semitism when we say, Israel doesn’t respect the rights of Palestinians.’ It’s a false flag and I would warn anyone who is partial to that. It’s actually very mischievous.
So, where’s Jeremy Corbyn on all of this?
Probably watering his allotment. It’s an amazing thing Alec, that such a peculiar position that he’s taken he can only be four-points behind, and that’s a poor indictment on the Conservative Party. Corbyn is now vacillating between a second referendum, despite his documented suspicion and frankly, loathing of Brussels – he’s doing anything. He’s kind of coming across as being this reasonable statesman, willing to… The fact is, Jeremy Corbyn has sided with the group such as Hamas and Hezbollah. He has a visceral loathing for everything British, it’s colonial past, which I suppose is understandable. He’s got a visceral loathing for the city and capitalism, and anyone who is thinking well, he’s appearing slightly reasonable through this Brexit uncertainty, is making a very dangerous mistake. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, and their supporters, including Diane Abbot in the Labour Party. They have declared in the past that were they to come to power they would create an irreversible climate in Britain that goes against everything people assume Britain stands for. All it’s accomplishments, and its national identity, ranging from immigration, ranging from the state ownership – I would be very careful in taking Jeremy Corbyn seriously, as tempting as it must be given the uncertainty and the, quite frankly, pathetic performance from the Conservatives.
So, lots of fractures in the British society. What about SA, going back home now, where the ANC have got some very dubious fellows and ladies on their list to go to Parliament. The elders of the ANC have come out to say, these individuals, Malusi Gigaba, David Mahlobo, Mokonyane and so on, should be taking their own consciousnesses into account because they will surely, they would be harming the party if they remain on the list.
Yes, it’s always a very depressing act before the ANC announces its election list because it always happens, doesn’t it? It’s always the same excuse. They claim that the grassroots have chosen these candidates. They came from branches and so on. I would like to know what goes on in these branches that sort of inspires someone to choose Faith Mathumbi as a candidate. You couldn’t be more checkered. You could not be more bent and yet she finds herself on this list. That’s one aspect of it but secondly, Alec, is the dismissive confrontational tone that Ace Magashule takes to the media when he tries to explain this and he falls back upon the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ which is very standard in the ANC and all very well when you know how to take some advantage of a somewhat laborious judicial system.
Do you think this could be a blunder that causes many who would have voted for them, to not and hence the ANC perhaps only scraping in with a small majority over 50%, or perhaps not even?
Yes, I would hope so, Alec. At some point something has to give. The ANC has always been incredibly poor to discipline itself. It’s never believed in self-discipline, as it claims to, and I hope it’s this time, I really do. I probably wouldn’t have said that if you had more candidates with the qualities of someone like Mavuso Msimang but they’re very few and far between in today’s ANC. But you’ve asked the question – absolutely. I hope that they are severely punished for this extremely poor demonstration of judgement.
It does seem strange. If you are leading then you have to have principles, and apply those principles and not say, well, certain people in the branches, despite all the evidence are still wanting to elect people who’ve been named in various of the Commissions of Enquiry as lying under oath, as a starting point and being named as being corrupted. The whole thing sounds really strange. Do you think the ANC elders though by coming out with a strong statement as they have, to suggest to those people that they step-back in the interest of the party? Do you think they’re going to be heard?
Well, that’s an interesting question but I fear it’s more of the same. If the ANC elders were considerably more vocal towards the end of Jacob Zuma and let’s face it, and you have to be honest when you’re faced with a list like this. The majority of people that we find abhorrent on that list, all share Jacob Zuma’s worldview and it is a very strange, slightly a-historical, a little bit entitled. We’re doing things differently and they might be illegal sometimes because it’s all in the name of liberation, economic liberation. I would have hoped that in the time up until now that Cyril Ramaphosa has been at the head of the administration – he would have done more to rubbish those theories that were so popular in the Zuma-era. But I don’t think he’s done enough and that’s why they are there. There hasn’t been enough emphasis upon the behaviour of people like Faith Mathumbi, the behaviour of people like David Mahlobo and Malusi Gigaba, and Nomvula Mokonyane. They have, despite a few revelations during the Zondo Commission, they have largely escaped any sanction, up until now. Had Cyril Ramaphosa been more forthright when he assumed the Presidency – had he stood up and said, well actually, I know a hell of a lot of MPs and Cabinet Ministers that have demonstrated some really quite criminal judgement and I want nothing to do with them. That, I think, would have made more of an impact but maybe it happens after the election – I don’t know. All I do know is that it’s a really terrifying prospect for SA’s leading party to forward candidates of such moral questionability.
And a brand-new party has been launched – the Capitalist Party of SA. It was launched at the Rand Club yesterday. Kanthan Pillay, one of the co-founders, said they did it at the Rand Club because the Rand Club wouldn’t have allowed any of them or many of them to go into it in the past. Very strong opinions. They’ve got a purple cow as their logo. Do you think they’ve got any chance of getting people into Parliament?
Is that the same Kanthan Pillay from eTV?
It’s the very same, yes, Princeton University educated.
Yes, I think that there’s some… I wouldn’t give it much time. Agang remember in 2014, was the last of these sorts of newcomers launched early towards the election and that got less seats than you could fill in a stadium, less seats than you could fill in Newlands Stadium so, you must be careful with these things. I don’t know why they do this to be honest with you, Alec, because I suppose I do but the leaders of the smaller parties are so unreasonable and there’s no cohesion. What the ANC needs more than anything else is a unified opposition, a coalition of parties willing to tackle the issue, such as those on the candidate sheet but I don’t know. When you said you that to me, I think about this other little party, this sweet little party in CT, which is the… His name is King Cornelius. I’m not sure what they call the party itself. It’s like the Khoi-San party and they are basically going ‘we are the rightful owners of the Western Cape, we want it removed from the rest of the country.’ So, every single member of parliament had 48 hours to leave, and if they want to stay longer, they can apply. I would support him more than I would support any new sort of other party, because I think that’s a little bit funny, that’s just something new, you know.
Well, it is election time. My sense of this is if you want to retain your sanity is just to stay away from anything to do with politics but it’s a highly politicised society. I was in SA the last four days and wow, it has been, with the loadshedding on top of it and the election coming – everybody is talking and everyone has got an opinion but I think the big story there is the outrage from Faith Mazibuko.
Maybe we should just ban all women named Faith from joining the ANC or subject them to some psychoanalytical test.
Must listen: Faith Mazibuko’s tantrum, a major ANC headache
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.