Spain

Book Review: The Oxford Handbook of Spanish Politics edited by Diego Muro and Ignacio Lago

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/05/2020 - 9:10pm in

The Oxford Handbook of Spanish Politics, comprising 41 chapters by renowned scholars and edited by Diego Muro and Ignacio Lago, makes a hugely valuable contribution to understandings of the country through its consistent analysis of contemporary Spanish politics and governance in a comparative European context, rather than in isolation. The veritable wealth of excellent material and analysis in the volume makes the handbook the most comprehensive and up-to-date account of Spanish politics available, writes Dr Caroline Gray.

The Oxford Handbook of Spanish Politics. Diego Muro and Ignacio Lago (eds). Oxford University Press. 2020.

Following the transition to democracy of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Spain rapidly established itself as a consolidated democracy, albeit one which has come to face immense challenges, sparking a notable decline in satisfaction with the quality of that democracy amongst Spaniards themselves in recent times. And yet, Spain often still seems to be somewhat neglected in political science as a discipline when it comes to the study of political systems in Europe, reflecting a bygone era when Spain was perceived as notably ‘different’.

In this context, The Oxford Handbook of Spanish Politics, comprising 41 chapters by renowned scholars, makes a hugely valuable contribution to our understanding of the country through its consistent analysis of contemporary Spanish politics and governance in a comparative European context, rather than in isolation. As the editors Diego Muro and Ignacio Lago state in their introduction (Chapter One), ‘through the systematic comparison of Spain with other European countries, the handbook goes beyond black-box explanations that rely on the cultural singularities captured by the idea of “Spanish exceptionalism”.’

One of the handbook’s greatest strengths is precisely that the many authors offer in-depth country knowledge which either contributes to, or is furthered by, a wider understanding of Europe and the world where appropriate, while avoiding superficial cross-national comparisons. In this regard, Chapter Two on ‘Spain in Comparative Perspective: Contributions of the Spanish Case to Comparative Political Analysis’, by Robert M. Fishman, makes a series of observations that encapsulate the ethos reflected throughout the volume overall, and not just those chapters which explicitly make reference to ‘comparative analysis’ in their titles. Fishman persuasively argues that ‘fast-track’ approaches to comparative analysis, which primarily involve observing country-level aggregate values of key political variables, often overlook causal dynamics at play that can only be appreciated when a country case is appropriately contextualised through deep knowledge of its specific features. These include, in Spain’s case, the nature of devolved governance.

The up-to-date nature of the analyses that the contributors offer is another of the handbook’s strengths, enabling the editors to fulfil their stated aim of providing a nuanced view of the strengths and challenges of Spanish democracy. The Great Recession is widely recognised as having posed unprecedented challenges to the political, social and economic model established in Spain throughout the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, which had largely been perceived up until then as a ‘success story’. While some signs of change, such as the revisiting of the ‘pact of forgetting’ agreed by right- and left-wing forces during the transition to democracy, started to emerge under former Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s first mandate in 2004-2008, it was the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis that brought a serious political and institutional crisis.

The contributors to the handbook address these dynamics of change in all their complexity. This includes investigating why some of the factors that were previously deemed to have contributed directly to the Spanish ‘success story’ are now perceived by growing numbers as part of the problem. Thus, for example, both Josep M. Colomer (Chapter Ten, ‘Political Institutions in a Comparative Perspective’) and Josep M. Vallès (Chapter Eleven, ‘The 1978 Spanish Constitutional Design: Assessing its Outcome’) consider, as part of their analyses, how barriers to constitutional reform that were designed during the transition to democracy to avoid the political instability of Spain’s past have ended up contributing to the increasing questioning of Spain’s institutional model in the present.

While all the chapters provide excellent insights into the different authors’ work to date on core aspects of Spanish politics and governance, some also bring new theoretical approaches and/or empirical data. As such, the handbook provides interesting reading not only for those new to Spanish politics, but also for those already very familiar with it. On the theoretical side, for example, Juan Rodríguez Teruel (Chapter Twelve, ‘Executive Politics in Spain’) offers a ‘core executive approach’ as an alternative to the usual institutional approach to explaining the dynamics and results of PM-centred executive politics in Spain. In so doing, he points to ‘a more complex network of overlapping and interconnected actors that exchange resources to make decisions’. Meanwhile, on the empirical side, Sandra León and Ignacio Jurado (Chapter Fourteen, ‘Multilevel Governance in Spain’) bring new data to address how well citizens attribute responsibility to different government levels over time.

In terms of structure, following the editors’ introduction, the handbook is divided into six sections that cover the ‘Past and Present of Spanish Politics’, ‘Institutions’, ‘Parties, Elections, and Voters’, ‘Civil Society’, ‘Public Policy and Policy-Making’ and ‘The International Arena’. At a time when the Catalan independence movement is one of the greatest challenges that Spain faces, some might argue that the book’s structure comes across as perhaps too heavily state-centric, with no direct mention of Catalonia (or any other region) in the table of contents. Reading the volume itself soon dispels that idea – the importance of multilevel governance in Spain, from the local and regional levels to the supranational level of the EU, and its significance for the workings of Spanish democracy, are recurring themes throughout many chapters, not simply the handful that refer explicitly to ‘decentralization’, ‘multilevel governance’ or ‘regional and national identities’ in their titles.

The chapters that do deal explicitly with Spain’s decentralisation model or multilevel governance are focused on all-important, overarching (and often competing) dynamics across Spain’s seventeen ‘autonomous communities’ or regions, while the fullest account specifically of pro-sovereignty politics in the Basque Country and Catalonia comes in Chapter 29 (‘Regional and National Identities in Spain’) of the ‘Civil Society’ section. There, María José Hierro provides insights into how regional and national identities have been shaped primarily by Spain’s internal conflict between the centre and the historic regions, which has reduced in the Basque Country but intensified in Catalonia since 2010.

Finally, a word on the accessibility of the volume. The editors state clearly in their introduction that the handbook ‘has been designed with a wide audience in mind’, and that they hope it will go beyond academia to appeal to policymakers, among others, in keeping with the important public engagement and impact agenda in academia today. The handbook undoubtedly provides a fantastic gateway into Spanish politics for a potentially wide-ranging audience and the chapters are generally written in an easily readable style. Classic examples are the editors’ own superbly succinct introduction, or Chapter Three on ‘Spanish Democratization’ by Ignacio Sánchez-Cuenca, which makes clear his main arguments (three ‘significant corrections’ to the canonical description of the Spanish transition to democracy) from the outset, rather than making the reader wait until the end for his main conclusions. Including the abstracts summarising each chapter’s main conclusions in the hard version, rather than just on the website, might also have been beneficial for busy readers dipping into the handbook. It is just a great shame that the hefty price tag (mirroring that of most volumes sold by academic publishers) will make it unavailable to many potentially interested readers who do not have access via university libraries.

In conclusion, then, this handbook provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date account available of Spanish politics, and there is a veritable wealth of excellent material and analysis therein that should go a long way towards helping to improve understanding of the Spanish case and its wider relevance in academia and beyond.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics.

Image Credit: Close-up photo of the flag of Spain (Contando Estrelas CC BY SA 2.0).

 


Ho Ho! Black Guardian Embarrassed by Her Bookshelf

Sarah Vine plotting the Doctor’s downfall and intergalactic domination.

Here’s a bit of comic relief amidst the continuing grim reality of the Coronavirus crisis. Sarah Vine, Mail columnist and wife of Michael Gove, managed to give the online public a few moments of fun when she gave them a very revealing look at her and her husband’s taste in reading matter.

Vine’s proud of her husband’s membership of Boris’ cabinet, and has taken to giving herself the pretentious internet monicker of @WestminsterWAG, as she clearly regards being the other half of an MP as glamorous as being a footballer’s wife or girlfriend. And to show her and her husband’s astonishing good fortune, she took a picture of Gove taking the daily Downing Street briefing as it appeared on the TV in their home and posted it on Twitter with the caption ‘Surreal’. The TV was underneath a set of bookshelves, and it was their contents which gave such great amusement to those looking at her Tweet. Former New Labour spin doctor Alistair Campbell picked out a few particularly noticeable volumes, and tweeted at her that ‘having Hitler, Rommel and Napoleon next to Maggie is not a good look.’

Now there are a number of ways Vine could have reacted to this gibe. She could have made the obvious comment that reading about notorious people doesn’t mean you want to imitate them. The amount written and published about Hitler and the Nazis is colossal, but mercifully very few people reading about them are murderous racists and anti-Semites. Ditto for Napoleon. The Napoleonic period is fascinating because it is such a critical period in European history, when French armies marched across the Continent with the intention of building an empire. But obviously that doesn’t mean that everyone reading about the Corsican general has similar megalomaniac ambitions. As it was, she simply replied “Don’t be so absurd. They are books. You should try them sometimes – you can learn a lot from them. You will note there is also a Peter Mandelson”. And that’s where she should have left it. Unfortunately, she couldn’t resist posting another Tweet, saying “As a very special treat for my trolls and [Alastair Campbell] here is another bookshelf. There are about 20 more. Enjoy!” And the peeps on Twitter did just that. And it wasn’t pretty.

Owen Jones spotted a copy of The War Path, the prequel by David Irving to his Hitler’s War. That’s the David Irving, who really is an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Mehdi Hasan and another Tweeter noticed that she also had a copy of The Bell Curve, a book arguing that intelligence is linked to race. Jones further remarked commented on her reaction to his criticism about an article in the Spectator by Rod Liddle arguing that there should be more islamophobia in the Tory party. Vine called the article ‘Clever and funny’. Dawn Foster tweeted that she’d read Gove’s ‘virulently islamophobic’ Celsius 7/7 and written about his time as education minister, and it was obvious that The Bell Curve had strongly influenced his thinking. It was, she said, ‘dangerous, racist rubbish’. That’s nearly everyone said about The Bell Curve, including a great many scientists, which is why it’s been torn to pieces by critics. Libcom Dot Org also noticed that Vine and Gove owned a copy of Alan Benoist’s Beyond Human Rights: Defending Freedom, adding the significant information that Benoist’s a central figure in the European New Right and Third Positionist movements. The latter movement is a revisionist strain of White Nationalism that doesn’t want Blacks and Asians to be deported from Britain and Europe. But they do want them to be segregated. Zelo Street in their article about Vine and Gove’s wretchedly poor choice in reading matter added that Benoist also has White Nationalist and Russian Fascist links as well.

Vine then got very huffy about all this criticism, and Tweeted  “Extraordinary how many people on here seem to be so censorious of books and the idea of knowledge. In common with the Nazis, the Spanish Inquisition, Communist Russia – and pretty much every despotic, brutal regime you can think of. Says it all, really”. But political liberalism, in the broad sense of defending and upholding free democratic societies, in which people are not persecuted because of their religion or ethnicity, also means recognising and condemning ideological threats. It’s why Mein Kampf was banned in Germany until a few years ago, and why decent bookshops won’t stock copies of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It’s also somewhat rich for Vine to compare her critics to dictatorships and other savagely repressive movements when the Daily Mail has based much of its sales tactics on stoking similar outrage and demanding anything left-wing or otherwise controversial to be banned.

It also doesn’t change the fact that while the books on Hitler, Rommel and Napoleon don’t mean that Vine and Gove are admirers of right-wing megalomaniacs and dictators, the other books do show that they have a very dangerous taste for the ideas of real racists and Fascists.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/05/sarah-vine-felled-by-falling-bookshelf.html

 

Tony Greenstein on Anti-Semitic and Fascist Support for Zionism

In my last piece, I discussed Tony Greenstein’s examination of the leaked report into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Greenstein shows that report still uncritically accepts the existence of mass Jew hatred in the party, and the necessity of conducting a purge of members accused of it. But he shows that these allegations and the witch-hunt were entirely motivated by a corrupt political establishment, including and especially that of Britain’s Jewish community, which simply wanted to oust Corbyn and protect Israel and its decades-long ethnic cleansing of the country’s indigenous people. His article is an effective expose of the witch-hunt, its smears against decent, anti-racist people, like Tony himself, and the absolute stupidity of Corbyn and his team in complying with the smear merchants’ demands. As part of his case, Tony shows how real anti-Semites, far from fighting Zionism as Zionist propaganda claims, actively supported and promoted it. Tony writes

‘Zionism has never fought anti-Semitism just anti-Zionism 

One thing missing from any discussion of the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign is that Zionism has no interest in opposing anti-Semitism.

 ‘Maybe there was some kind of fiddling of the figures by the oligarchs who ran the TV stations (and who were mainly, as some lost no time in pointing out, of Jewish origin)

The above quote is from Boris Johnson’s book 72 Virgins published in 2004. As The Independent notes it depicted Jews as controlling the media, amidst a torrent of racial slurs and stereotypes. Yet the Board of Deputies and the Zionists said nothing. If their real concerns were about anti-Semitism then they would surely have said something?

Indeed when  Boris Johnson became Prime Minister  they fell over themselves to congratulate him. Johnson’s previous record as a racist, anti-Semitism included, was ignored. He was, after all, a strong supporter of Israel.

Imagine if Corbyn had penned such a book? Corbyn was criticised by the Zionists for not mentioning anti-Semitism when reviewing Imperialism by John Hobson, a standard academic textbook, because he didn’t mention that a few lines out of 334 pages were anti-Semitic. The hypocrisy of the anti-Semitism mongers is breathtaking but the authors of the Report never seemed to notice these double standards.

When Theodor Herzl, the founder of Political Zionism, wanted to hold the First Zionist Congress in 1897 his choice of venue was Munich. The Jewish population promptly rose up in protest and accused the authorities of anti-Semitism. Why? Because the Zionist proposition that Jews formed a separate nation from other Germans meant that they were therefore aliens. This was exactly what the anti-Semites were saying.

Alfred Rosenberg, Minister for Ostland and the Nazi Party’s main theoretician, who was hanged at Nuremburg in 1946, wrote that

 ‘‘Zionism must be vigorously supported in order to encourage a significant number of German Jews to leave for Palestine or other destinations.’[Francis Nicosia, Third Reich and the Palestine Question, p.25]

As author Francis Nicosia noted, Rosenberg

‘intended to use Zionism as a legal justification for depriving German Jews of their civil rights’ and he ‘sanctioned the use of the Zionist movement in the future drive to eliminate Jewish rights, Jewish influence and eventually the Jewish presence in Germany.’ [TRPQ, pp. 25-26]

Francis Nicosia, the Raul Hilberg Professor of Holocaust Studies at Vermont University and himself a Zionist wrote that:

whereas today non-Jewish criticism of Zionism or the State of Israel are often dismissed as motivated by a deeper anti-Semitism, in Herzl’s day an opposite non-Jewish reaction, one of support for the Zionist idea, might have resulted in a similar reaction. [Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany p.7]

When Herzl sought the support of the Grand Duke of Baden, the uncle of Kaiser Wilhelm II, for Zionism the Duke’s

‘chief misgiving was that if he supported the [Zionist] cause, people would misinterpret this as anti-Semitism on his part.’ (Diaries of Herzl]

Zionism was unique as a movement amongst Jews because it accepted that anti-Semitism was the natural biological reaction of non-Jews to the Jews in their midst. As Herzl wrote in his Diaries:

“In Paris… I achieved a freer attitude towards anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, I recognized the emptiness and futility of trying to ‘combat’ anti-Semitism.” [The Diaries of Theodor Herzl, London: Gollancz, 1958, p.6]

This was in the middle of the Dreyfus Affair which culminated in the triumph of Emile Zola and the Republicans and a defeat for the clerical and military caste that wanted to restore the monarchy.

It was the Zionist acceptance of anti-Semitism as something that was natural, which could not be fought and only utilised, that was the basis of the collaboration between the Nazis and the Zionists. When German Jews and world Jewry were aghast at the assumption of power by the Nazis in January 1933 and instituted a boycott, the Zionists only saw a golden opportunity. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister saw Hitler’s rise as:

a rare opportunity to achieve the “Zionist solution”, the only true solution to the problem of the Jewish people.’ [Yechiam Weitz, Jewish Refugees and Zionist Policy during the Holocaust, p.355, Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Volume 30, 1994 – Issue 2]

Dr Noah Lucas, a critical Zionist historian wrote that:

 ‘As the European Holocaust erupted, Ben Gurion saw it as a decisive opportunity for Zionism… Ben Gurion above all others sensed the tremendous possibilities inherent in the dynamic of the chaos and carnage in Europe… In conditions of peace,… Zionism could not move the masses of world Jewry. The forces unleashed by Hitler in all their horror must be harnessed to the advantage of Zionism. … (The Modern History of Israel, pp. 187/8)

Ben Gurion’s deputy, Berl Katznelson was even more explicit. The rise of Hitler was

an opportunity to build and flourish like none we have ever had or ever will have [Nicosia, ZANG, p.91]

Nor was this attitude to anti-Semitism confined to the pre-State days. When there arose in Argentina in 1976 a neo-Nazi Junta, the first in the post-war era, it targeted Jews. The most famous victim was Jacobo Timmerman, Editor of La Opinion. He was released and deported to Israel after having been savagely tortured. With the advent of the Lebanon War, Timmerman fell out of love with Israel.

The Argentina Junta murdered up to 3,000 Jews. According to Juan Pablo Jaroslavsky of the Barcelona-based Commission of Solidarity with Relatives of the Disappeared

“Jews represented more than 12 per cent of the victims of the military regime while constituting under 1 per cent of Argentina’s population,” See Jews targeted in Argentina’s dirty war,

What was Israel’s reaction? There wasn’t one. Instead it took the opportunity of the United States’s decision to cut off arms sales to this vile regime to increase its own arms sales. During the Falklands/ Malvinas war Israel became the Junta’s main arms supplier.

retired Argentine pilots and military figures who testified that in 1982 they secretly flew to Israel, where they met with representatives from the military and defense manufacturers and returned with their plane loaded with light arms, mortars, air-to-air missiles and anti-tank weapons.

Not once did Israel condemn the anti-Semitism of the Junta. Zionist organisations in the United States instead defended the Junta, minimising its atrocities. The Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires refused to help or grant visas to Jews that the Junta declared were subversives. The Knesset refused to discuss what was happening in Argentina during the 7 year life of the Junta.

An article in Ha’aretz, Argentine-Israelis Urge Israel to Disclose Past Junta Ties describes how Wanda Clara and Marcus Weinstein appealed to Israel concerning the arrest and disappearance of their son Mauricio. Weinstein said he felt the Israeli diplomatic representatives

“cared little interest about the disappeared Jews, including his son and a second Israeli citizen.”

This is the bastard ‘Jewish’ state that Lansman and the Momentum authors of this Report defend with the sterile accusation of ‘anti-Semitism’.’

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/04/pt-2-labours-leaked-report-sad-sorry.html

This is a lengthy passage, which I’ve reproduced in full because it is such a comprehensive refutation of a central ultra-Zionist claim. Ken Livingstone was smeared as an anti-Semite and suspended from the party because he correctly stated that Hitler supported Zionism. Which the Fuhrer did, initially, through the Ha’avara agreement. And my brother, Mike, was accused of anti-Semitism in turn because he wrote a piece, The Livingstone Delusion, showing that the Spartacist newt-fancier was correct. Mike is currently suing the party for breach of contract for their treatment of him.

And the Israel lobby and its supporters are still making the grotesque claim that somehow Zionism = Judaism and Zionists are the Jews’ friends. In her response to  the decision of a judge in her ongoing case against Laura Murray that Murray had made a factual statement, which had a tendency to be defamatory – but crucially did not rule that it was – Rachel Riley claimed that he had ruled in her favour. She concluded her tweet by thanking all her supporters, whom she claimed were opponents of anti-Semitism and the friends of Jews.

While Riley has been the target of real anti-Semitic abuse, I believe, many of the people she has accused of anti-Semitism were simply supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. She accused them, and Corbyn himself, of being anti-Semitic, because he was a critic of Israel. And it seems that she also subscribes to the absolutely false belief that Zionism = Judaism, and Zionists are the most ardent defenders of Jews against prejudice and hatred.

But they aren’t. Time and again Zionists have been supported by real, genocidal anti-Semites and Fascists, to the point where they have actively colluded in the murderous persecution and genocide of Jews, so long as Israel’s interests are served.

It has frequently been the case that the Jewish peoples’ real defenders – and their greatest heroes – have been anti-Zionists. And it is these people, that the self-appointed witch-hunters have smeared and libeled, and twisted history through lies and propaganda to misrepresent themselves as the real protectors of the Jews.

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/04/pt-2-labours-leaked-report-sad-sorry.html

Boris Johnson: Britain’s Chairman Mao

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/04/2020 - 1:07am in

Boris Johnson finally returned to work this Monday. As he did so, he gave us the benefit of his thoughts in a speech to the nation. This was at 9 O’clock in the morning, when some people furloughed from work may have been asleep.

Mike was one of those who watched it, and assured those who had slept through it that they weren’t missing much. It was mostly just flannel and platitudes. Johnson did manage to say something sensible. In comparing the current situation to an attack by an assailant, Johnson warned people that although we had got on top of the situation, this was no time to relax the lockdown. Even if you had your attacker on the ground, he was still dangerous and you wouldn’t take your hands off him to allow him back up in case he returned to the attack. It was the same with the lockdown and the virus.

That wasn’t what struck Mike about Johnson’s peroration, however. What he noticed, and which justifiably left Mike outraged, was our clown prime minister’s statement that we were successful in tackling the virus. What? Successful! How? The death toll is at 21,000, excluding those in care homes and at home. We have the worst death toll in Europe, above Italy and Spain, the two countries worse hit. We have our front line medical and care workers dying of this wretched disease because they don’t have the right PPE. They’re going to work in bin bags. And this is because Johnson and his cronies didn’t take the pandemic threat seriously, didn’t want to update the plans and preparations previous administrations had made for such an eventuality, and prioritised Brexit and the economy over actually shutting the country down as soon as possible to save lives. Far more could have been done, especially if Johnson had got off his well-padded, Eton-educated rear end and attended a few more Cobra meetings and actually did some work at weekends.

But the Tories and their fawning media lackeys have been falling over themselves to hail the great man’s return to health and work. Yesterday Zelo Street put up an article comparing this outburst of praise and good wishes for Boris with the official praise and acclamation given by the Chinese to Mao Zedong. Chairman Mao was hailed by his supporters as ‘the great helmsman’, and Johnson too was being lauded by the Tories in similar terms. Zelo Street reproduced a series of Tweets from the Tories stating how wonderful it was to have Boris ‘back at the helm’. Zelo Street did this to make the point that, despite claims to the contrary, this country was capable of a cult of personality similar to Communist dictatorships like North Korea and China.

Precisely, but we’ve seen it before, of course. Thatcher over here and Ronald Reagan in America have cults among their parties which can easily be compared with the Soviet cults of Lenin and Stalin. As for Mao, he was responsible for the Cultural Revolution during which 60 million Chinese died, many of them from famine caused by the party’s failed policies.  In the ten years of their government, the Tories have killed over a hundred thousand people through benefit sanctions and work capability tests, and thrown a quarter of a million people on to food banks to feed themselves. More children are growing up in poverty, homelessness has got worse and a record number of Brits are faced with the choice of whether they eat or heat their homes, ’cause they can’t do both.

And at least 21,000 people have died because of the virus, assisted by Johnson’s mistakes, complacency and sheer, bloody idleness.

So Boris certainly is Britain’s Chairman Mao in cult of personality and in the number of deaths he and his wretched party have caused.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/boris-is-new-mao-zedong.html

This is what Boris Johnson calls winning: the second-worst Covid-19 death rate in the world

 

Sky News Poll Shows Trust in Media at Near Abysmal Levels

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 25/04/2020 - 2:56am in

Zelo Street this afternoon has posted the results of a very interesting poll conducted by Sky News. The channel took a survey of 1,652 Brits, asking them about the lockdown, whether they trusted BoJob and Starmer, and also if they trusted the media, among other questions. Zelo Street’s article concentrates on the results for politicos and the media. Which are, ahem, interesting. And not good news for any parties, but especially not the ladies and gentlemen of the fourth estate.

The channel reported that although they were increasingly anxious and sadder, the British public were emphatic that the lockdown should continue. 51 per cent of the public trusted Johnson to tackle the Coronavirus, but 39 per cent don’t. This gave our clown prime minister a score of +12.

Only 25 per cent of those polled trust Starmer, while 34 per cent don’t, meaning that he has a score of -9.

Trust in journalists was very low. Zelo Street began its article by stating that the British press has been at the bottom of the league in Europe in the esteem in which it is held by the public. It’s trusted even less than the press of countries that have, within living memory, been dictatorships, like Spain, Portugal and the eastern European nations. Only 24 per cent trust TV journos, while 64 per cent don’t, giving them a net score of -40. Only 17 per cent responded that they trusted newspaper journalists, compared to 72 per cent who didn’t. They therefore had a score of -55.

Ian Dunt, a broadcast hack, tweeted that it was hard to overstate what a disaster those results were. A tweeter identifying him- or herself as the CEO Antifa answered him with “Remember when Peter Oborne tried to warn you all about this and got blacklisted by most publications?”. Zelo Street reminds us that Oborne, a journo of immense integrity, has warned for some time of the tendency of some in the broadcast media simply to repeat the claims of anonymous government spokespeople. He named Laura Kuenssberg and Robert Peston as two serious offenders. Zelo Street concludes

‘Now has come the public’s verdict. Don’t say you weren’t warned, media people.’

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/media-not-trusted-media-in-denial.html

It’s shocking and dispiriting that just over half of the British public trust Johnson to battle the Coronavirus. This is despite the long list of his failures, beginning with the Tories’ underfunding of the NHS, their refusal to update the plans for a pandemic emergency and take on board the lessons from wargaming such an emergency way back in 2016, to Johnson’s refusal to heed medical advice back in January and impose a lockdown. It ignores the way Johnson, and some in the Tory ranks even now, pushed a pseudo-scientific commitment to herd immunity, which could leave up to 200,000 – 250,000 dead, in favour of the economy. And then there is the continuing failure to order sufficient supplies of PPE for the front line medical and care workers. The FT has now stated that the official figure of 18,000 deaths is an underestimate. It does not include those dying in care homes or at home. The real figure is 41,000. Some of these people could have been saved if Johnson had acted sooner. If he’d actually gotten off his Eton-educated arse and attended the Cobra meetings. If he really had worked all hours round the clock, instead of just having his shills tell us that, while he bunked off at weekends. If he actually took the work of government seriously, instead of simply acting out his power fantasies.

Nevertheless, the stats also show that trust in Johnson is falling. When Hope Not Hate did a similar poll a couple of weeks ago, they put trust in Johnson at 64 per cent. It’s down 13 per cent. No wonder that the Tory spin doctors are putting up fake twitter accounts and Tory front organisations are putting up spurious signs, all telling us how wonderful Johnson is and how the emergency services and NHS staff love him. He and his followers are afraid, because if the trend continues, after a couple of weeks trust in him will be as low as Starmer’s.

As for the public distrust of the Labour leader, some of that is a successful hangover from the vicious media campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. But some of it may well be due to his own background in the Labour far right, his lack of response to Johnson and his failure to act so far against the plotters and intriguers that deliberately sabotaged Labour’s election campaign. As has been pointed out, Starmer was a participant in one of the coups against Corbyn. He managed to score points earlier this week against Dominic Raab at Prime Ministers’ questions, but mostly he’s been quiet. He has taken zero action against the plotters, racists and intriguers named in the leaked report, instead seeming determined to find and punish the whistleblowers. Members are considering suing the party and asking for a return of their subscriptions on grounds of breach of contract because of the antics of the Labour plotters. If enough people did this, it would wreck the party.

Starmer could regain public trust by acting decisively against the plotters in the leaked document. The media now consider it a non-story, because it doesn’t conform to their predetermined desire to paint Corbyn as an anti-Semite. But he could make it the story and, if properly advised, actually do something Corbyn couldn’t do and take control of the narrative. He could also gain more trust by actually increasing his public profile. By taking the lead and publicly criticising Johnson. The way is open for him to succeed and gain the trust of the public.

But I fear he won’t, because that means acting against the very same right-wingers who worked hard to put him, or someone like him, in place as leader of the party.

But the media are in a marginally worse position, as their venality and bias has meant that public confidence in them, and especially after their massively biased reporting of Corbyn and the Labour party, is now at a record low.

If this continues, then, when the lockdown is lifted, the press will still see a collapse in readers because by that time people will have worked out that they’re missing nothing by not buying them and their lies.

Cartoon: The Dead Thatchers – Bedtime for Democracy

Hi, and welcome to another of my cartoons, in which I attempt to lampoon the Tory party and our disgusting Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. This one is another mock poster/ record sleeve for my entirely fictional band, the Dead Thatchers. The name’s modeled on the American ’80s punk band, The Dead Kennedys. One of their satirical attacks on Reagan’s administration was ‘Bedtime for Democracy’, which I’ve used as the title and inspiration of this drawing. It shows Boris Johnson as Mussolini, surrounded by Maggie Thatcher and her bestie, General Pinochet, the Fascist dictator of Chile, as well as Ian McNichol and Emilie Oldknow.

Despite their loud claims to be the defenders of democracy, the Tories have so often been anything but. Churchill was an ardent opponent of Nazism, but it was because he saw them as a threat to British maritime domination of Europe and the North Sea. He was personally authoritarian, and actually like the Spanish dictator, Franco. He did, however, have the decency to describe Mussolini privately as a ‘swine’ when he visited Fascist Italy. In the 1980s sections of the Tory party had a very strong affinity for the Far Right, such as the Union of Conservative Students. Among their antics was calling for the National Front’s doctrine of ‘racial nationalism’ – the idea that only Whites should be considered true Britons – to become official policy. They bitterly hated Nelson Mandela as a terrorist, singing songs about hanging him in response to the pop single demanding freedom for the future leader of a democratic, multiracial South Africa.  Other songs included a parody of ‘We Don’t Want No Education’ from Pink Floyd’s The Wall, ‘We Don’t Want No Blacks or Asians’. There were also Tory demonstrations in support of apartheid South Africa.

The libertarian outfit to which Guido Fawkes belonged played host at its annual dinners to politicos from the South African Conservative Party, as well as the leader of one of Rios Montt’s death squads. Montt was the dictator of one of the Central American countries.  Maggie Thatcher’s friendship with Pinochet was for the old monster’s support against Argentina during the Falklands War. But some of it no doubt came from Thatcher’s own very authoritarian personality. She wanted a strong state, which meant the police, armed forces and the intelligence agencies. The Tories also claimed that she was somehow working class. She wasn’t. She was lower middle class, strictly speaking, and despised the people the Victorians called ‘the labouring poor’. She despised the trade unions and regarded the working class as ungrateful and disloyal. Following Enoch Powell, she was a monetarist, as was Pinochet. His regime was supported by Milton Friedman, who went down to Chile to advise Pinochet on its implementation, because he and the rest of the Chicago school and American libertarians because they believed it could only be established by a dictator. The masses were too wedded, they believed, to state intervention and a welfare state for a monetarist government ever to be democratically elected.

And Boris is also extremely authoritarian. He shares the eugenics views of Cummings and Toby Young, as well as previous Tory governments, that the poor, the disabled, the elderly and the long-term unemployed are useless eaters on whom as little money and resources should spent as possible. He and his cronies seem to regard their deaths as simply the inevitable operation of the forces of Natural Selection. His and his advisers were in favour of letting the British people develop ‘herd immunity’ against the Coronavirus, which meant avoiding lockdown and letting the disease take the weakest in order to preserve the economy. When Johnson was finally forced to act, he did so by awarding himself dangerously wide, exceptional powers in order, so he claimed, to be able to deal with the emergency.

These powers could very easily be used to turn him into a dictator.

The Coronavirus bill debated by parliament on 19th March 2020 gave the government sweeping new powers to arrest, detain and surveil for the next two years. It was criticised by Observer journo Carole Cadwalladr, who asked why the bill was supposed to last for two years, when the government did not expect the emergency to last that long. She also asked the pertinent question of what the government would do with all the information it wanted to collect.

Labour’s Chris Bryant also attacked it, stating that current emergency legislation, from the Civil Contingencies Act to various health and disease legislation, also gave the government sufficient powers to deal with the emergency. The Civil Contingencies bill requires renewal every 28 days, and the other laws also contain important safeguards. Commons library clerk Graeme Cowie also stressed how important ‘Sunset Clauses’ are. He explained that they ‘

are an important safeguard against the use of unusually broad or general executive powers. They also take different forms: (a) time limiting provisions in an Act (b) time limiting the power to make regulations or (c) time limiting the effect of regulations”.

Zelo Street, the bill looked like a power grab by Boris, enabled by Tory tribal politics.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/03/coronavirus-bill-warning.html

This is all too credible, given the way BoJob also had the Queen grant him extended powers to try to force Brexit through parliament despite the opposition of many MPs, including those in his own party.

But Boris isn’t the only anti-democrat.

I’ve also included in the cartoon Ian McNichol and Emilie Oldknow, the chairman of the Labour party and the present COO of Unison respectively. Because these two charmers were part of the very real conspiracy within the Labour Party democracy to unseat Jeremy Corbyn by withholding information on the anti-Semitism scandal so as to make him appear incompetent. Other tactics included trying keep Wallasey Labour Party suspended for as long as possible so they wouldn’t deselect the sitting Blairite MP, Angela Eagle, running a parallel election campaign in London intended to ensure that only Blairites would be elected, debating whether they could get Momentum expelled. They also wanted to set up an interim government with Tom Watson as leader after the 2017 election, and intrigued against and vilified other Labour MPs and activists from the left-wing – the real Centre – of the party. All this is described in the Anti-Semitism report, which was suppressed on the advice of the party’s lawyers, and on which Starmer sat for a week before it was leaked. One of the plotters wanted to get an electoral college set up in the party to make sure that a left-wing could never be elected leader.

McNichol, Oldknow and the rest of them are as anti-democratic as Johnson.

They did not work for the good of the party as a whole, but merely their own, narrow factional advantage. And as the behaviour of the Blairites has repeatedly shown, they prefer Tory government to one by a left-wing Labour figure. The report describes how they debated who to vote for if it came to a contest between Corbyn and Tweezer. But their contempt for Labour party democracy has been amply shown over the past four years of Blairite intriguing against Corbyn. And Blair himself was very authoritarian, curtailing party democracy and centralising it around himself. The Blairites themselves are only small minority within the party, but they were able to present themselves as representing mainstream Labour through their monopolization of the party bureaucracy and the connivance of the lamestream media.

Now following the report’s leak, the Socialist Group of Labour MPs have written to Starmer asking very serious questions. Ordinary Labour members, activists and supporters like Mike are also demanding greater disclosure about their activities, as well as their censure and expulsion.

This is absolutely correct, as their contempt for their party’s leadership and members and fervent support of Tory policies shows that they are a threat to democracy like Boris and his mob in government.

Here’s the cartoon. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Scum Admits Today’s Death Toll Worse than Spain and Italy’s Worse Day

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 11/04/2020 - 7:36am in

The Scum has put up this video of Matt Hancock reporting today’s death toll from Coronavirus. He also talks about how Boris Johnson is improving, and thanks his well-wishers. It also shows him stating that his aim is to get the NHS staff the PPE equipment they need, and appealing to people to stay home this Easter. I don’t want to show it on this channel, but if you want to see it, it’s at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5O81ijNfUw

Hancock nowhere mentions it in the video, but the Scum’s blurb for it makes it clear that today’s death toll is greater than that experienced by Spain and Italy on the days they experienced the worst fatalities from the disease. It runs

Britain’s coronavirus death toll has jumped by 980 in the last 24 hours – making it the biggest rise yet and more deadly than Spain’s worst day of their outbreak. The grim figures also reveal the total number of cases has risen to 70,272 – up from 65,077 infections the day prior. During Spain’s worst day of their coronavirus outbreak, 961 people died. The jump in deaths is also higher than virus-ravaged Italy’s worst day when 919 people died. The Health Secretary also announced that care homes and GP surgeries will be able to order masks from an Amazon-style NHS store that will deliver protective kit much faster.

This is an indictment of Johnson’s and the Tories’ complacency. Johnson, Cummings and the rest dragged their feet until the very last minute, spouting nonsense about herd immunity and trying to get away with doing the bare minimum until this became absolutely impossible. They were hoping they could let the disease take its course, killing the old, weak, poor and disabled, so that they wouldn’t have to worry about the economy, and could continue making the rich – including themselves – get richer. And according to Mike, they may still be doing this. He put up a post today reporting an article in Byline Times that states that the Tory plan may be too flatten the curve of deaths, but not stop it, so that the disease may eventually kill over a quarter of a million people.

If that’s true, Johnson and his cronies deserve to be tried and condemned as mass murderers.

Meanwhile, I find it remarkable that an arch-Tory paper like the Scum has reported this death toll and made comparison with the two European countries worst hit. And I wonder how long it will stay up. Because I think I saw a similar article yesterday on YouTube, at the moment it disappeared and replaced by something less damning.

See also: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/04/10/coronavirus-have-the-tories-told-a-big-lie-do-they-expect-hundreds-of-thousands-of-deaths/

Tories Have Fiddled the Statistics on Coronavirus Deaths – Is Anyone Surprised?

Last Tuesday, 31st March 2020, Mike put up a piece reporting how the Office for National Statistics had caught the Tories fiddling the figures for the numbers of deaths from the Coronavirus to date. According to the government’s figures, the number of dead up to March 20th, the cut off date for the ONS figures, stood at 120. However, they achieved this figure by only counting deaths in hospitals. When the ONS factored these in, the real number of fatalities increased by 23.5 per cent or more, rising to 210. The official death toll at the time Mike put up his article was 1,408. But if the ONS’ estimation of the real figures is correct, then the real number of deaths was 1,739. This assumes that the proportion of deaths in hospitals has remained constant, but as Mike pointed out, it could be much higher.

Mike pointed out in his article that these stats are important, as they show that the government’s figures cannot be trusted. It also means that the government cannot be trusted when it claims that the spread of the virus is slowing. He was concerned that the government would be tempted to lift the lockdown prematurely, which would allow the virus a whole new lease of life.

Coronavirus: UK government death figures are FALSE

Mike wasn’t the only person smelling a rat with the government’s official Coronavirus stats. The previous Thursday, March 26th, Zelo Street put up a piece about how the government’s statistics had mysteriously changed as they altered the rules regarding how the deaths were counted. That Tuesday, the Department for Health and Social Care declared at 15.51 on Twitter that the number of people, who had tested positive for the virus, stood at 8,077 and 422 had died. But on Wednesday the situation appeared to change. At just past a quarter past two, the Department’s Twitter feed announced that the figures would be announced later that afternoon, but reassured readers that they were working hard to compile them. However, the figures were only released on Twitter at 2300 hours, after they had been given to the media. The number of people, who had tested positive was now 9,529, but there had been only 463 deaths in total.

Sienna Rogers of LabourList reported that it had been claimed that the government was changing the way it was releasing the death figures. The numbers of deaths reported may not be the same as the number of deaths that had occurred in the previous 24 hours, as family consent was now required to release the figures. Luke Cooper of the LSE called it what it looks like. He said that family consent was not required if the information was anonymised. This looked like the Tories were fiddling the stats. Chris Smyth of the Times then added that the low figure of the 28 new deaths that had been recorded wasn’t a piece of good news, but the opposite. There were now so many new deaths that the government had changed the cutoff time from 1 pm to 7.30 am. This was supposedly to give the government more time to inform the families and get the details on the locations of the deaths before releasing them. Zelo Street contrasted this with the situation in Italy and Spain, the two countries worst affected, where the hundreds of new deaths are freely reported to the media. The Street concluded that

‘We are told that there is bad news coming down the track; a new NHS facility is being built at the ExCeL centre in London’s Docklands; that facility, NHS Nightingale, has provision for thousands of beds and two morgues; individual reports of deaths are everywhere; TfL staff report scores of their colleagues falling ill from the virus; and the numbers dry up.

This is the stuff from which conspiracy theories spring. Government must come clean.’

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/03/virus-stats-is-government-being-honest.html

This, alas, is too much to hope for. The Tories are a party of liars – always have been, always will be. Their record on the unemployment stats abundantly testifies to that. When unemployment under Maggie Thatcher shot up to over 3 million – an unheard of record at that time, the Tories immediately changed the way the unemployment figures were counted in order to make it smaller. And they’ve kept doing it. A few years ago, when Dave Cameron was the latest malign presence squatting in No. 10, it was revealed that they’d changed the way the stats were collected once again. The unemployment figures were based only on those currently claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance. Which meant that the peeps, who were unemployed but ineligible to sign on, or who had refused to do so because of the humiliating way they were treated by the staff and the infamous ‘work coaches’, who ring you up at home to harangue you into getting work, weren’t included.

This is a government that prefers to hide embarrassing statistics. The DWP under another malign presence, the utterly vile Iain Duncan Smith, fought tooth and nail to stop Mike and the other great disability bloggers from getting the statistics for the number of people, who had died after being declared ‘fit for work’ by the government assessor, outsourcing company Atos. They stonewalled, tried to claim that Mike’s request was vexatious, appealed against the Information Commissioner’s ruling when he ruled in favour of Mike, and, when they finally had no choice but to release the stats, interpreted Mike’s request to give him a slightly different set of figures than those he requested. But these were damning enough, even so.

And the subsequent Tory leaders, Tweezer and now Boris, really don’t like meeting the public. They run away and hide from unexpected meetings and questions from the media. Tweezer’s appearances on the campaign trail were carefully choreographed with selected groups and closed to the general public. So were Johnson’s, who fled when confronted by someone he didn’t expect. Remember how he disappeared into a fridge when he was visiting a dairy in order to escape questions from a TV journo? And then we had the unedifying spectacle a few months ago of Boris and Cummings trying to divide the media lobby into inner and outer groups. The inner – who were all their loyal supporters – were to be rewarded by being invited to a press conference on Brexit at No. 10. That attempt to control the media didn’t work, as all the media, even those that staunchly support the Tories, immediately balked at such overt, cynical manipulation and walked out in protest.

The Tories are congenital, irremediable liars. No-one should be surprised that they fiddled the stats. They tried to hide the number of deaths of disabled people, who had been falsely declared fit for work. They’ve falsified the unemployment figures. It should come as no surprise that, as they have shown themselves incompetent and out of their depth at handling the Coronavirus crisis, they should be fiddling those statistics too.

And Mike is right. They are a menace. Boris dithered and tried everything possible to delay imposing a lockdown until it was too late, because he was too worried about the economy at the expense of people’s lives. And a sizable proportion of the Tory party and their supporters, like the noxious Brendan O’Neil of Spiked, Toby Young of the Spectator, Trevor Kavanagh of the Scum, still believe that people should sacrificed for the sake of the economy.

There is therefore a very real danger that the Tories will use the falsified stats to justify lifting the lockdown prematurely, and so starting off a new wave of illness and deaths.

Coronavirus Fact-Check #1: “Covid19 is having an unprecedented impact on ICUs”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/04/2020 - 8:00am in

Tags 

Healthcare, Italy, NHS, Spain, UK, USA

This the first of a new on-going series of micro-articles tackling the prevailing, media-generated talking points of on Sars-Cov2 and Covid19. Those of you who have spent any time debating or discussing the current coronavirus “pandemic” on social media will almost certainly have encountered an argument that goes something like this: “Coronavirus is nothing like …

Viktor Orban Uses Pandemic to Become Dictator of Hungary

The onward march of the extreme right in eastern Europe takes another fateful goosestep. Viktor Orban, the already very authoritarian president of Hungary, has used the Coronavirus crisis as the pretext to pass legislation destroying the last vestiges of the democracy there, establishing him as the country’s virtual dictator.

On Monday, Zelo Street posted a piece based on an article in the Groaniad, reporting that Hungary’s parliament, dominated by his xenophobic Fidesz Party, was expected to grant him sweeping powers. These will give Orban the ability to rule by decree. Elections will be banned. The speaker of the Hungarian parliament and parliamentary groups will be informed of the government’s actions. However, spreading false information will become a criminal offence punishable by a long prison sentence. It will be prerogative of Orban’s Fidesz MPs to decide when the emergency is over. Orban has said that when it is, he will surrender all his powers without exception. However, there’s absolutely no guarantee of this, as the laws he passed in 2016 against asylum seekers, which were also supposed to be temporary, are still in place. It’s therefore possible that a compliant parliament will allow Orban to hang on to some or all of them.

Zelo Street stated unequivocally that the EU should expel Hungary because of this seizure of power. The Sage of Crewe pointed out that when the EU was the EEC, and only consisted of France, West Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries – Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, the dictatorships to the east and west of the bloc stood absolutely no chance of getting. This meant the Fascist dictatorships of Portugal and Spain, Greece under the military rule of the colonels, Ceausescu’s Romania and the DDR (East Germany) under Erich Honecker. He remarks that Hungary’s continued membership of the EU has been a test for its remaining member states, one that they have so far failed to tackle. He concludes

‘Viktor Orbán may be more Chaplin than Hitler. But if the values of the EU are to mean anything, the Union cannot permit a dictatorship within its club. So expel the SOB.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/03/eu-must-now-expel-hungary.html

Zelo Street describes this legislation as an ‘enabling law’. The reference is to the Enabling Act which formally made Adolf Hitler dictator of Germany and suspended parliamentary democracy. And the Nazis, and the Italian Fascists before them, also seized power in response to a crisis. Fascist governments are crisis regimes. In the case of Italy and Germany, the crisis was first of all the breakdown in parliamentary democracy, as the pillars of the liberal regime in those nations stopped cooperating. In Germany this led to the president, Hindenburg, ruling by decree. This was succeeded by the recession caused by the Wall Street Crash and the massive uncontrolled inflation that saw the Mark as worth far less than the paper it was printed on. This discredited capitalism for millions of Germans, leading to a surge in votes for the Nazis and the Communists. And finally there was the Reichstag fire, which allowed the Nazis to declare a state of emergency and begin rounding up subversives. Which meant anybody who didn’t cede power to Hitler, and particularly Communists and the democratic socialists of the SPD.

Fidesz is extremely xenophobic and, like many political parties in the former eastern bloc, in particular anti-Semitic and islamophobic. I’ve no doubt Orban would be overjoyed if he could somehow blame the pandemic on Gypsies, Jews, homosexuals and Muslims. And I’m afraid that where Orban’s gone, other countries will follow, such as Poland under the Law and Justice Party. Or even Britain, where Boris has also passed legislation granting him extraordinary sweeping powers to deal with the pandemic emergency.

The EU’s failure to do so is an indictment of the hypocrisy of its leading politicos. Years ago Private Eye published an account of the EU’s dictatorial attitude towards the states then seeking membership in its ‘Brussels Sprouts’ column. The terms and conditions were very detailed and were not open to negotiation. Or at least, not very much. One of the countries joining was the Czech Republic. It’s president, Vaclav Klaus, was so outraged by his country’s dictatorial treatment, and told the EU negotiating team that his country had not suffered such treatment for nearly 30 years. This was in the late ’90s – early 2000s, so he was probably referring to the Russian invasion which ended the Prague Spring, the attempt by Czech premier Anton Dubcek to make Communism popular and democratic. This infuriated two of the EU’s team, the French former radical, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, and a German MEP. They immediately climbed on their high horses and started angrily shouting about how the EU was the opposite, and was the champion of democracy. And I can remember how, about ten years ago, the EU managed to leave many people highly unimpressed when it sanctimoniously awarded a peace prize to itself, claiming that it had successfully kept the peace in Europe. Well, possibly. But I also think NATO and a general fear across the continent of another war had played a major party. If the EU is unable, or unwilling, to do anything about Orban’s seizure of power, then all the verbiage about defending democracy is simply empty, vacuous nonsense. As readers of this blog will know, I am absolutely no supporter of Brexit. But it is true that EU is an immensely flawed institution.

It’s too much to claim that the EU is some kind of authoritarian superstate, an EUSSR, as the Kippers and Brexiteers liked to describe it, or some kind of successor to the Third Reich or Napoleon’s empire. But with Orban seizing dictatorial power, it is true to say now that the EU is no bulwark of democracy either.

 

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