Is Labour in Danger of Becoming the New Nasty Party? An Open Letter To Jeremy Corbyn

Dear Jeremy

I was pleased that you came out with such a strong statement on sexual abuse and harassment. It was long overdue. But there is another form of harassment – in fact there are three kinds of harassment – that you have not stood up forcefully against. Allowed to continue, this abuse and harassment will turn your party into a nasty party, and you will not get elected as PM.

But before I list them, let me say that I would like to see you become the next PM. I admire the vision enshrined in your manifesto, which is so attractive, clear and understandable. A government that sets out to achieve even a few of those aspirations would be welcome, since change in our society is sorely needed. I watched your annual conference and found it full of positive spirit and energy. This is because you have given people hope after so many years of fear and anxiety.

But there are problems in your party that you need to deal with now. There is a level of vitriol and abuse emanating from the left wing of the Party which if it is allowed to go unchecked will become a hindrance to your aims, and will create the image of a nasty party which will stop you getting elected.

I base my opinion on a number of incidents from the past year. One is the problems is Anti-Semitism, which has not been dealt with adequately. The second is abuse directed at some of your own women MPs by other Labour members and the third is abuse directed at Tory candidates by Labour supporters. Each one of these shows a clear pattern of unpleasant and uncalled for harassment, which is harmful to your cause, and will repel a great number of voters.

The Anti-Semitism problem was poorly addressed by the Chakrabarti report although at conference the party did adopt a new standard to judge Anti-Semitism. This was a positive move, but the missing ingredient was your failure during your speech to take a strong personal stand against Anti-Semitism, and this showed a lack of leadership. To see real leadership in action, look at the response of the US Air Force Academy leader after five black cadets had “Nigger Go Home” scrawled on their doors.

http://www.npr.org/2017/09/30/554698359/air-force-academy-leader-addresses-racist-writing

He told the perpetrators of these hate crimes to go home if they were not able to accept diversity. Not suspension or a dressing down – just get out. Simple and effective. Instead, the Labour conference once more had a messy fringe event in which Jews again felt unwelcome, where some people called for Jews to be expelled from the party, and another speaker declared that Holocaust denial was a legitimate area of debate. Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if at a Labour event people called for Muslims to be expelled from the party or that denial of slavery was deemed a suitable subject for debate?

Anti-Semitism in the Labour party is not like neo-Nazi right wing race hatred. It is political Anti-Semitism, which emanates from the Israeli-Palestine conflict. The righteous anger that many of your members feel about Israel  can easily morph into an anti-Jewish stance. This is a danger to society as a whole, since anti-semitism is like the canary in the coal mine, it is a precursor to a darker, larger and more pervasive set of hatreds. The only solution to anti-semitism is to fight it decisively and stop it in its tracks.

The second area where there is a toxic atmosphere is the relationship between the wings of your party. In 2016 a number of Labour women MPs wrote you complaining about the abuse levelled at women MPs. Their letter said: “Rape threats, death threats, smashed cars and bricks through windows are disgusting and totally unacceptable in any situation.This is acknowledged by all factions yet the simple words of condemnation offered in response are inadequate. We expect swift and tangible action against those who commit such acts. “

Harassment of Labour MPs, whether female or male, by fellow Labour members is dangerous and divisive. If you want a unified party, you must stop attacks like this.

The third area of concern is electioneering. At the recent general election, a Tory councillor running to be an MP suffered the following abuse from Labour supporters:
She was spat on many times and was abused verbally on the street, called a nazi, scum, and a whore. Her posters were defaced with similar epithets and her campaign headquarters vandalised. Lies about her voting record were published in Labour election literature and had to be withdrawn after breaking electoral law. Canvassers were threatened to the extent that police had to be called out. A canvasser’s car was spray fainted with vile abuse. Momentum members congregated outside the candidates’ home to intimidate her and her family. Voters were afraid to put posters in their windows for fear of retaliation.

These three kinds of harassment in your party are your Achilles Heel. They will cause you to go lame just at the time when you will need all your strength to continue the struggle. You have given people a new sense of hope, and now you must give them a feeling of protection, and by protection I mean security, an essential requirement of a successful state. You need to convince voters that you will fight terrorism, will reduce levels of crime, and create a society that does not live in fear. If your supporters engage in divisive acts of harassment which make people feel a mixture of fear and wariness, you will not succeed. The voters will not trust you; they will be scared.

In the short term this kind of intimidation may win seats, but its success will inevitably lead to an escalation of these kinds of tactics which will become self-defeating. Don’t allow shock troops to flourish. If you allow your party to become the new nasty party you will not be able to unite the country in the way you desire. There are people who will be attracted to this kind of nasty politics, but are they the people you want to attract?

Your aim is to support the many, not the few. But in order to get power, and to have the chance to really support the many, you have to convince them to support you. As long as you do not crack down on all forms of harassment, and show true strong leadership, you will not convince enough of the many to vote for you, even if they are attracted to your ideas.

Kind Regards

Mark Forstater

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November 9, 2017 at 12:25 pm Leave a comment

THE STORY OF TWO FLAGS – and a message for Mr. Corbyn

I was astounded by two recent flag events. The first one was in June when the Chicago Dyke March banned the Jewish Pride Flag and expelled the Jewish lesbians who held them. The second happened just the other day when neo-Nazis (all male I guess) marched in the peaceful streets of Charlottesville carrying rifles, torches and of course – a swastika flag. Two flag stories, very different in their details but pointing in one direction only- towards hate.

Why astounding? I guess because lesbians have been oppressed for so long, I felt really sad and shocked to see their liberation accompanied by such hatred towards Jewish lesbians. Was I naïve for expecting love and inclusiveness? As for the neo-Nazis, it was not so much astounding as terrifying to see this naked hatred unleashed so openly. They have been encouraged by Trump, who has put a dangerous man in the White House and given him influence. – Stephen Bannon. But it is also Trump himself who encouraged these racists by his election campaigning.

What’s odd about this is that Trump is surrounded by Jews, His lawyer, his senior business employees, his daughter and his son-in-law are all Jewish. He attends their bar and bat mitzvahs and weddings, and makes trips to Israel. In fact, in his personal life he is the most pro-Jewish president ever. So how does he reconcile the rhetoric which has led to this ugly confrontation and the fact that Jews are his friends and relatives?  I think this is really strange and I don’t have an answer for it.

So Chicago’s dykes and neo-Nazi heteros all join together in hating Jews. This is part of a very old story, that dates back 2000 years. But to put it into a British context, there is something here for Jeremy Corbyn to contemplate. History shows that If you don’t stamp down hard on the first stirrings of anti-Semitism, it will pop up soon in ways that get increasingly ugly.  If Labour is truly an anti-racist party, then the leader has to let people know that all  racism will not be tolerated – and anti-semitism is racist. So whenever people spew out hatred due to colour or religion they need to be called up on it, and if they are Labour members then they need to be expelled. Racism, Islamaphobia and Anti-Semitism are equally abhorrent and have no place in a party that calls itself progressive.

August 14, 2017 at 12:14 am Leave a comment

My Swim Gym – Part 2

I belong to a gym, but I can’t face working with the machines- too boring, too repetitive, too mechanical, and too focused on only one part of the body.

Instead, I have spent the past 9 months working on a pool-based regime of overall health, strength and suppleness. This is a gym workout for the pool, which combines swimming and exercise, and can work most parts of the body.

My full regime in the pool area lasts about an hour, starting with a sauna of 10-12 minutes, followed by a mixture of a swim and exercises for 30 minutes. When I get out of the pool, I do 5 minutes of poolside exercises and finish with a 10 minute steam room stint. It’s not necessary to do the sauna and steam parts, although I find both of them valuable for muscle relaxation and skin cleansing. I also use these sessions to massage my neck and upper arms, and to flex and contract my legs. The heat is beneficial for tenderising the flesh.

In the pool I swim for a number of lengths, and then start to do a series of exercises, which I begin by standing in a shallow area (4-5 feet depth). Here I do 20 slow neck rolls in each direction, followed by holding my arms behind my back to hold onto the pool edge while pushing out my chest, which expands it and strengthens the arms and opens the shoulders. After this I stretch my arms behind my back while holding my hands together and walk through the pool, releasing my arms and re-engaging them every 5-10 counts. Next I bend my left leg behind me and grab my ankle, at the same time pulling the heel to my bum. I then bend my body forward to stretch the thigh which forces me to hop through the water, afterwards repeating this action with the right leg. After this, I grab one ankle, and dropping into the water, grab the other ankle and float while revolving my ankles in both directions. I repeat this again, but instead of turning the ankles, I expand my chest and legs by pulling them away from each other. Finally I sink in the water, grab my toes and stretch my legs and upper body as straight as they can go. This always results in a few spinal vertebrae releases. This is so much more effective on water than on land. Then, taking a position in the corner of the pool, I raise one of my legs to the side of my body and raise it as high as possible. I can raise my feet high enough to get the toes over the pool edge and so raise my foot to rest on the pool edge with the other leg dangling in the water. Then I stretch my upper body along the side of the pool to support myself. By turning my body against the leg that is supporting me, I can do a very good side stretch, which also stretches the arm supporting my upper body. I do this on both legs, in different corners of the pool.

If there is enough space in the pool I twirl in the water, spinning my body around and around horizontally so that my waist turns with the spin and my arms extend and help to sweep me around. I do this in both directions for about 20 spins. I then move to the edge of the pool and lift my body by putting my elbows and arms on the tiles and raise myself up. I keep myself elevated for a while. Then I let my body sink down until I am still held by the elbows and arms, but the weight is felt higher up in my shoulders. Lastly I go to the pool steps, hold on the the bars used to leave the pool, and extend my arms fully, placing my feet on the third step from the bottom, thereby stretching my hamstrings, bum and arms. Before leaving the pool, I take a slow swim, turning gently in the water, trying to feel what a dolphin must feel like playing in the water, or an embryo floating in amniotic fluid. We began life in water, and to return to it in this way brings back a peaceful sensation that can remind us of what it might have felt like in the womb.

At poolside I do a forward bend, a squat, a wide leg squat, a back bend and a Taoist exercise which I can’t describe.

When I was young I was afraid of the water, and I’m so glad I enjoy it now.

 

July 23, 2017 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment

My Swim Gym Can Heal your Spine – Part 1

Nine months ago I joined a gym. I didn’t join to use its machines, but mainly to swim, use the sauna and steam room. However the gym also offered yoga classes, so I have returned to a yoga practice that I abandoned about 10 years ago. The results of this regime have been good. I am certainly stronger and more flexible than when I started. Small bodily complaints, like my left thumb feeling painful (from arthritis ?) and an intermittent twinge in my left knee have both mostly gone away. My body shape has also improved, and a friend of my daughter said I looked younger this year than last. I have more energy and my gait (walking) has improved. My heart feels stronger too. All extremely positive.

This must be down to my regime. Looking into my swimming practice I wanted to understand why swimming is so good for me. Firstly I don’t just swim, but also do various exercises in the water,  many derived from yoga. Because my body is supported by the density of the water I am able to move in more weight-free ways than on the yoga floor. I’ll describe these in detail in another post, but today I want to discuss something different.

I knew vaguely that in evolutionary history we emerged from water to become land-based animals. Doing some Googling I discovered that the creatures that emerged were called Tetrapods (4 legged) and these eventually led to all land-based animals. But I also knew that somehow we derived from fish. But what exactly does that mean? What do we have in common with fish? After all. they live in water and we live in air. We die in water and they die in air, so what is it that we share with fish? The answer is that we share our bony structure with them. The fish gave us a skull, a vertebra (spine or back-bone) and ribs. We are all vertebrates.

The fish’s spine is covered with connective tissue, and their muscles are held in place (to the bones) by this tissue. This enables the fish (not all types, but most) to move its body (or dorsal (rear) fin) in a wavy side to side motion, which is how it swims. Now here is the interesting point. The connective tissue which covers the spine of the fish has evolved and moved in humans to the gel-like substance which is found only in the discs which separate our bony vertebrae. When these discs dry out, they cause problems, such as bulging or being compressed. This is what we refer to as slipped discs. Now I can’t tell you how to keep your discs wet, although I suspect that if you eat well, sleep enough and do some regular exercise (like swimming or yoga) you might be able to keep them in a healthy state.

Here’s where my regime comes in. We are two legged animals, and the weight of our upper body is supported by these discs, piled vertically one on top of the other . When we were four legged, the weight was distributed more evenly on our front and back limbs, and the spine didn’t have to work so hard.  Now when we swim, we take on the posture of fish, and our spine is once more held horizontally and not vertically, which gives the spine great relief. And since our weight is supported in the dense water and we float, the spine and discs are free to move as we swim. In the water it is easy to move our upper body and pelvis from side to side and we can also swim down into the water and up again (I see this as dolphin-like), bending the spine and giving it a great deal of exercise. I believe my swimming, which emphasizes these movements, is one of the keys to my current good health.

One other benefit of being in the water which is more spiritual than physical, is the fact that in embryo, we are surrounded by water not air, and I believe when we swim and submerge in water our subconscious mind (which is body-based) remembers that floating sensation in the womb, which must have been a pleasant one.  What is there not to like ?

 

July 23, 2017 at 5:01 pm Leave a comment

How to Combat Terrorism

Three terrorist incidents in a short time has brought out Mrs. May’s  hardline approach : root out Islamic terrorism in the UK . I believe that imams and mosques that are encouraging young Islamic men and women to fight for Isis or to create terror on our streets should be rooted out. But this can’t be the only approach. To put more of a spotlight of media and police pressure on the Islamic community  will only create more inter-communal tensions and may alienate even more of the Islamic young .

To create policy based on fear and anger will only create more fear and anger and will lead to increasing hate attacks on the Islamic community.

What is is needed is a policy that has some hope for the future, and Corbyn has been giving us a vision of that hope in his recent appearances.  If we can create a more equal society, a fairer one and a more caring one, we can then live in a better relationship with our neighbours. If we can create better education, with more skills leading to better paid jobs, then more people can feel a part of this country and not alienated by it .

A society like this would be a great attraction for young Muslims to join and women in particular would appreciate that this kind of open society is one that is better for their children than one that is shut off from the modern world.

It is up to Corbyn to present the voters with his vision of a better society and his belief that a better society would be one in which terrorism would be rooted out not just by outside pressure but by the success of the society that we all share.

June 5, 2017 at 3:54 pm Leave a comment

Where is Labour’s Brexit Team?

I watched the Leaders’ Question Time programme the other night. I thought Mrs May looked a bit rattled, and uncomfortably stiff and grimaced. Corbyn seemed fairly relaxed and looked like he enjoyed getting into it as time went on. Several of the exchanges made an impression on me. The most important was when Mrs. May remarked that the Brexit negotiations were due to start 11 days after the election. That is a short period of time. If I was a wavering Corbyn supporter or one who was thinking about backing him but was on the cusp, this FACT would get me a little worried. It takes time for a new party to move into power. So my questions would be: With these talks about to start so soon, how will they handle it ? Are they ready for this? Who is doing the negotiations? How prepared is he? How able is he?

So If these are real issues, then I think Labour needs to bring out Keil Starmer fast, since he is the person who can answer those questions, and give people the vision of a different Brexit than the one the Tories have been proposing.   Starmer would also show that Corbyn has a team and is backed by people of substance and character. His abilities would be convincing.

The second issue that resonated last night was Corbyn’s Trident problem. When he told a questioner, “I don’t want the deaths of millions on my hands,” and then added “and neither do you,” it struck home. No one wants to be responsible for mass murder, and Corbyn had explained that he wanted to use all the diplomatic ways to get North Korea away from their aggressive stance. But he didn’t give enough specifics –  such as working with China – or give it a sense of urgency that these talks could take place immediately. So faced with the madness of North Korea, people are not convinced about Jeremy’s ability to deliver this non-nuclear world.

 

June 3, 2017 at 6:48 pm Leave a comment

XTRO Re-boot

We – Harry Bromley Davenport and I – are at the start of a plan to make a new version of XTRO. It’s going to be called XTRO -The Big One, and I’ll explain why later. Harry and I made the original XTRO in 1981-2 and it was released in 1983. It was very successful for New Line Cinema, who were in dire need of cash-flow at that time and XTRO kept the company afloat until they found massive success with A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Harry went on to do two sequels to XTRO, neither of which I produced. Two years ago he asked me if I was interested in working with him again on a new version and I thought that was a good idea. Harry introduced me to a writer he wanted to work with- Ken Segall. With Harry and Ken in LA and me in London, we had to use email and skype to send scripts, notes, ideas and comments back and forth. A slightly cumbersome process, but one which seems to have worked. The new script, which has gone through about 6 drafts,  is now in good shape. It’s full of that special blend of XTRO weirdness.

The story of the new film imagines what it would be like if an alien invasion took place during a massive earthquake – hence the title XTRO – The Big One. The new film is certainly not lacking in scope or ambition. We are really pushing the boat out.

So now comes the big problem of all indie producers – raising the money.  How do you raise enough to make an exciting film featuring good actors and with imaginative and striking FX that will stand comparison with other Sci-Fi films?

Easy ? Difficult? Impossible ?

More next time.

January 6, 2017 at 8:19 pm 1 comment

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