When Nick Cohen Makes a Prediction It’s Safe to Assume the Opposite Will Happen!
If there’s one thing that I won’t forgive Nick Cohen for it’s forcing me to defend Jon Lansman, Momentum’s owner and dictator. Yet that is the position that he put me in on 18th August 2018 when The Spectator printed my letter defending Lansman against charges that he hadn’t pursued my expulsion from Momentum!
Two weeks previously, Cohen wrote It’s not easy being a Corbynista Jew – just ask Jon Lansman, subtitled ‘Follow the pathetic example of Jon Lansman’. Nick Cohen is nothing if not subtle. Rapier style wit is not his style. It could be called sledgehammer journalism.
But first let me digress. There was a time, at the beginning of the Blair government, when Nick Cohen was a decent journalist. I even looked forward to reading his column in The Observer. No one was a more indefatiguable defender of asylum seekers from the depredations of a racist New Labour government than Cohen. Cohen was a mainstream Tribune style journalist.
|Letter to the Spectator refuting a few of Nick Cohen's habitual errors|
Then something happened. As with Christopher Hitchens it was 9/11 and then the war with Iraq. From being a left-wing journalist Cohen became transformed into an anti-Muslim bigot. No one, not even David Aaronovitch, banged the war drum more assiduously than Cohen. He did it, he said, in support of his anti-Baathist Iraqi friends, seemingly oblivious to the hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq, the murderous rampages of American troops, the torture centres and the deliberate policy of setting Shi’ites against Sunnis with all the devastatingly sectarian consequences that followed. To Cohen Iraq was a holy war and unlike Aaronovitch he never publicly recanted (Aaro promised to eat his hat, although to my knowledge this never happened).
|Let us just say Cohen lacks a certain self-awareness|
Instead Cohen became one of the authors and founders of the short-lived Euston Manifesto group of neo-cons and imperialists. For him opposition to war meant you were inextricably intertwined with Islamic fundamentalism and inherently anti-Semitic. Naturally when Jeremy Corbyn came along Cohen joined the rest of the chorus at the Guardian/Observer in his ceaseless attacks on Labour’s most radical and left-wing leader ever. Nothing was too dirty or discredited to attack Corbyn with but it is nonetheless worth remembering that once upon a time Nick Cohen was a decent and genuine journalist.
Today Cohen operates under the pseudonym of ratbiter at Private Eye, acting as a conduit for whatever misinformation about the Left that the Right supplies him with. It is an appropriate name as his journalism, if that’s the right word, is certainly verminous. In this capacity he has written a series of attacks on Momentum’s Left in Brighton and in particular on my friend and comrade Greg Hadfield.
His article ‘Meet the New Nasty Party’ in the 20th April edition is replete with mistakes and distortions. Apart from the almost obligatory attack on Greg, who uncovered a £100,000 slush fund run in secret by a right-wing Labour Councillor Leslie Hamilton, which has only just been passed over to the Labour Party, Cohen suggested that I had subjected Cllr. ‘Poison’ Penn to such a severe degree of harassment that she had to call in the Police.
Well it’s true that she made at least two complaints to the Police but it’s also true to say that the Police refused to act on either complaint and made it clear to me that they don’t consider the cut and thrust of political debate as harassment. But for Cohen an allegation is ipso facto a fact. Only the fact that I am already suing the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism for libel and I have the Jewish Chronicle and a certain unnamed councillor in my sights has prevented me adding Lord Gnome to the list of worthy recipients of a libel writ!
As befits a good socialist, not only does Nick Cohen write in Private Eye but he is a columnist at that well known socialist weekly The Spectator. And there it was that he attacked poor Lansman for not doing enough in the fight against ‘anti-Semitism’. Cohen starts off his column with the brainless comment that ‘being a Jew on the Corbyn left is soul crushing.’
One is tempted to ask Cohen how he would know since he is neither a Jew (despite his name) nor on the Left. This is despite two articles, 7 years apart, from Cohen threatening to become one! Hatred is turning me into a Jew, (12.2.09.) Why I’m becoming a Jew and why you should, too (19.3.16.) It’s called doing a Maureen Lipman after the Zionist actress who managed to be converted into a Tory twice in four years.
It would be churlish to explain all Cohen’s lies, errors and and twisting of the truth. For example in his allegation that Christine Shawcroft supported a Labour candidate who posted a Facebook article calling the Holocaust a hoax. In fact Christine, when she supported Alan Bull, was unaware of his comments and although Bull publicised a Holocaust denial article he didn’t personally endorse it.
In a paragraph describing Lansman’s attitude to me Cohen states:
Even when activists are expelled from Labour for their foul conduct, they are not expelled from Momentum. Labour kicked out Tony Greenstein after he called Labour members ‘Zios’, ‘Janus-faced whores’ and supporters of ‘Israeli child abuse’. Lansman wanted to expel Greenstein from Momentum but lacked the political courage to do so. He backed off because Greenstein ‘will make a big deal of’ the process, ‘possibly including lawyers’.
There are more errors than sentences:
i. I called Zionists ‘zios’ not Labour members, ‘Zio’ being short for Zionist like Commie is short for Communist.
ii. I didn’t call Labour members ‘Janus faced whores’ but I quoted another member who called Owen Jones a ‘Janus faced whore who bore the impression of the last person who sat on him’! Perfectly accurate!
iii. Nor did I call Labour members supporters of ‘Israeli child abuse’ I called one Labour member, Louise Ellman MP this because she defended the well documented Israeli military’s treatment of children in a parliamentary debate on child prisoners on 6th January 2016.
What is completely untrue is Cohen’s assertion that Lansman lacked the ‘political courage’ to expel me from Momentum because of the threat I would resort to law. In fact, as the email I reproduce here shows, Lansman was intent on expelling me but was worried about legal action which was why he was forced to grant me a hearing (which he had initially opposed). Lansman said:
We do have to get rid of Greenstein but I am a bit concerned by the process which he will make a big deal out of possibly including lawyers
In other words it was a straightforward lie by Cohen to say that Lansman lacked the ‘political courage’ to expel me. Indeed I was expelled by a panel which included Socialist Action’s Carole Turner and Sam Tarry of the TSSA.
I was forced therefore , against my better judgement, into having to defend Momentum’s fuhrer Jon Lansman from his even more right-wing detractor, Nick Cohen!
|Given articles as disastrous as the one above it is difficult to know what the Guardian/Observer sees in Cohen apart from his venomous anti-Corbynism|
However this was not the only instance of Cohen getting anything wrong. His article on March 19th 2017, just before last year’s General Election, Don’t tell me you weren’t warned about Corbyn stands as a monument not only to Nick Cohen’s lethal combination of stupidity, arrogance and malevolence but to the Guardian’s vitriolic campaign against Corbyn. Cohen wrote:
On current polling, Labour will get around a quarter of the vote. Imagine, though, how the Labour party will fare in an election campaign when its leaders are Corbyn, John McDonnell, Emily Thornberry and Diane Abbott, and its second XI consists of Clive Lewis, Angela Rayner, Richard Burgon and Rebecca Long-Bailey. The Tories have gone easy on Corbyn and his comrades to date for the transparently obvious reason that they want to keep them in charge of Labour.
In an election, they would tear them to pieces. They will expose the far left’s record of excusing the imperialism of Vladimir Putin’s gangster state , the oppressors of women and murderers of gays in Iran, the IRA, and every variety of inquisitorial and homicidal Islamist movement, while presenting itself with hypocritical piety as a moral force. Will there be 150, 125, 100 Labour MPs by the end of the flaying? My advice is to think of a number then halve it.
The Guardian has literally run hundreds of articles from its vacuous pundits attacking Corbyn. See my A Friendly Question or Two to Jonathan Freedland - Does the Guardian have a Death Wish?
Contrast Cohen’s forecasts with those of this blog. Almost alone amongst the political commentators I predicted that Corbyn would defy the pundits in Labour Can Win if Corbyn is Bold . On April 20 2017, I wrote, with the polls showing the Tories lead as over 20%
… it was Harold Wilson who said that a week is a long time in politics. Seven weeks is a political eternity. Theresa May has taken a gamble that her 21% lead will hold. It is a gamble that she may yet come to regret.
There is only one direction that her lead can go, and that is down. Once her lead falls, then a snowball effect can take over. What is essential is that Labour marks out the key areas on which it is going to base its appeal. The danger is that Corbyn is going to continue with his ‘strategy’ of appeasing the right and appealing to all good men and women. If so that will be a recipe for disaster ...
Theresa May is a cautious conservative. She is literally the product of her background - a conservative vicar’s daughter. Reactionary, parochial and small-minded, she is a bigot for all seasons. What doesn’t help is that she is both wooden and unoriginal. The danger is that Corbyn tries to emulate her.
On June 3, five days before the election, when all the polls were predicting that May’s lead was widening, I wrote another post, General Election - Is Labour on the threshold of victory?
My initial predictions, that there would or could be a hung parliament were based on my assessment of the situation. This is still quite possible, as the Tories are widely detested for their attacks on the working poor, people on benefits and the continuous privatisation of the NHS. They are seen as the party of a vicious class rule, which is what austerity is about.
That does not, however, mean that the Tories will necessarily be defeated. People do not vote in line with their class interests. The whole purpose of the patriotic card, used by a succession of ruling class scoundrels from Pitt to May, is to blind people to their real interests ... The Tory press, of course, is doing its best to foster illusions in Strong and Stable.
.... The Lib Dems are not going to gain enough seats to prop up another Tory coalition ... By ruling out any form of pact with Labour under Corbyn, the Lib Dems have guaranteed their own irrelevance.
We could be in for a period of political instability such as we have not known for 40 years ... A Tory government is still possible if it cobbles together a coalition of the Lib Dems and the Ulster Unionists-DUP. Even a majority Tory government cannot be ruled out.
In the wake of this I made an offer to the Guardian. I would replace Nick Cohen and Owen Jones for only half their salary. Surprisingly my offer was rejected!