My Friend The Extremist

jackie walker subtle


What do you think of when you hear someone called an extremist?

Starey eyes, smoking bomb in hand, someone with ridiculously strong views about pot holes?

How about a five foot grandma with a taste for yoga weekends?

Well that’s my friend Jackie who’s just been accused of being an extremist.

Now mostly my friends are very ordinary, timid people who don’t believe in violence, and whose idea of expressing their political anger is to shout at Question Time on the telly.

So hearing that Jackie’s been labelled as an extremist by some right wing think tank called the Henry Jackson Society has come as a bit of a shock.

I may not be able to trust her with my bread knife again!

(What do people in “think tanks” do, I wonder – swim around, blinking their eyes looking brainy and waiting for fish flakes?)

What this think tank thinks, apparently, is that Jackie shouldn’t be allowed to speak at universities.

It’s drawn up a list of universities and events that it thinks go against government policy on discouraging extremism.

These include “appearances by the far-right extremist Tommy Robinson and noted anti-Semites including Jackie Walker, the former Vice-Chair of Momentum.

My friend Jackie! On a par with Tommy Robinson of the English Defence League!

What could they have in common?

She certainly isn’t dangerous.

Not sure about him – but he’s definitely not my friend.

I’ve stood next to Jackie on demonstrations in Dover where self proclaimed Nazis were marching against refugees, chucking bricks and hurling abuse at anyone who wasn’t white.

I think most people would say they were the “extremists”, not Jackie.

And she’s definitely not an antisemite.

Her father was Jewish, her mother had Jewish ancestry, and I’ve heard her publicly denounce all forms of racism including antisemitism more times than I can count.

She even performs a one woman show called the Lynching in which she explains all this stuff to anyone who wants to come along.

Now she may be just pretending, but you’ve got to admit it, this would be a very strange way for an antisemite to carry on.

In fact, until she got suspended by the Labour Party on the basis of a media stitch up, nobody would have called Jackie an extremist.

Until then she was a person who sat through a million boring meetings, cheering for anyone who she thought might change the world for the better and booing anyone who she thought wouldn’t.

Her problem is that one of the people she cheered was Jeremy Corbyn and when the knives came out for Jeremy (another noted “extremist”) they came out for her, too.

Someone’s now made a film about all these shenanigans called “Witch Hunt” and it’s having its first showing in Broadstairs on Sunday.

If you want to know why I’m not scared of Jackie Walker holding my bread knife, come to the film. Decide for yourself whether she’s an extremist.

Witch Hunt” is on at the Palace Cinema, Broadstairs, at 4.30pm on Sunday 3 February.

The Message Of Hanukkah


This week, Jewish communities around the world are celebrating Hanukkah (pronounced kha-nu-kah). This eight-day festival of lights commemorates victory over a powerful empire.

In 164BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by Syrian Greeks, who tried to force the people of Israel to accept theirculture and beliefs. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove out the Greeks, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of God.

Upon entering the temple, theMaccabees tried to light the Menorah – a candelabra with eight branches – and discovered that only one day’s supply of olive oil had been left uncontaminated by the Greeks. Miraculously, the oil burnt for eight days until new oil could be purified.

During the festival of Hanukkah, one candle of the Menorah is lit every night until all eight branches are kindled. This is typically accompanied by prayers and food prepared with olive oil.

Rabbi Cliff Cohen of Thanet District Reform Synagogue identifies that the key to peaceful coexistence is learning to respect each other’s traditions. ‘Hanukkah is a festival proclaiming the right to religious and cultural freedom. In today’s world, this cannot be restricted to Jews wanting to practice their Judaism. The events of 164BCE demand that we examine our attitudes to diversity and learn to welcome variety within our society.’

Rabbi Cohen describes how he and his family celebrates Hanukkah as part of the wider community: ‘This year, as usual, we shall take our Menorah to the home of some non-Jewish friends, and they will join us in the celebration of Hanukkah before we join them in their Christmas carol singing.’

As Rabbi Cohen explains, this kind of exchange is crucial to building understanding and mutual respect: ‘For my family, the Hanukkah message is very clear – whenever we demand that others think or feel as we do, we open the door to prejudice, division and damage. We cannot believe that intolerance is what God wants from us.’

At a time of heightened intolerance and unrest, it is important that we educate ourselves about the diverse traditions that exist within our community so that we can live together without fear or prejudice.

Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt is the Labour Party’s parliamentary candidate for South Thanet.


Thanet resident Jason Tipple explains why he thinks they shouldn’t close the stroke unit in  Margate hospital. There’s a march to save the stroke unit on Sat 24 February assembling at 12 noon at the main entrance to the hospital in Ramsgate Rd. The march is organised by the Save Our NHS in Kent group.


SAT 3 FEB: People gather outside Margate’s QEQM hospital to protest against cuts in the NHS. Proposals have been made which will mean the closure of the stroke unit in Margate forcing stroke patients to travel to Ashford well over an hour away and over the distance judged safe for their survival. Today’s protest was called by the Save Our NHS in Kent group who are now planning a march from Margate hospital on Saturday 24 February.


REBECCA GORDON-NESBITT reports from the Defend The NHS conference in Broadstairs, held on Saturday 27 January.  Hundreds of people from across east Kent came to the conference to listen to doctors and politicians explain the crisis in the NHS and highlight the need for urgent action. Rebecca is a parliamentary researcher and writer based in Ramsgate.


By Norman Thomas

It costs £150 to get a cab from St Thomas’s Hospital, London, to Broadstairs, east Kent where I live.

I had to get one after my recent heart attack.

My partner and I eventually got home at half hour past midnight driven by an ex-boxer with a dodgy hip who distracted himself by occasionally stopping and strolling along the hard shoulder in the pouring rain.

Time was the hospital might have sent us home in an ambulance or car especially for patients.

Now this service is run by G4S, the world’s largest security company, and purveyor of private soldiers.

Our car was delayed for hours, then mysteriously cancelled, then broke down.

You won’t be surprised to find out that G4S, who also runs private prisons, received over 1500 complaints in just a year of running patient transport in west Kent.

Don’t get me wrong. St Thomas’s hospital performed a miracle in saving my life — for which I will be forever grateful.

But is having to travel almost a hundred miles from your home into one of the most congested cities in the world the best option for your treatment?

I don’t think it is — not for a pile of reasons.

And I don’t think it has to be like that.

I remember what a bunch of enthusiastic people at a health service “listening event”were chorusing to me.

They were saying: “Do you want the best service possible?”

I didn’t quite get it to begin with.

Of course I want the best service possible.

Who wouldn’t?

Then the penny dropped.

They meant — do you want your health service either as NEAR to you as possible —or as GOOD as possible?

Which is when the con in this consultation sinks it

They want, of course, for you to say you want the best possible — and that’s because they have a very obvious agenda which, as it happens, fits snugly with the government agenda.

And that’s to have fewer hospitals, fewer facililities, more centralisation, more specialisation.

This, too, is what’s at the heart of the much hyped “sustainable transformation partnerships” being entered into by health and local authorities, gps and assorted medicos across the country.

Strip everything back to the mininumum, merge what you can and privatise what you can’t.

You’ll get the best service money can buy, the experts reckon.

You (and your visitors) will just have to travel further and further to get to it.



But what I believe is rather than fewer hospitals we need MORE.

And many of our existing hospitals, like Thanet, need to be be bigger and better.

Of course, there’s always going to be a place for specialisation — but there has to be a balance, too.

After all, the way the NHS works now is that hospital staff are constantly learning from other staff. I saw it all around me.

They eagerly watch pieces of technology being used in the white heat of Ward emergencies, working out to solve vital problems on the job. From beginner nurses to the most advanced surgeons, they’re all always learning, growing, absorbing every bit of experience that comes their way.

Rob a hospital of too much of that experience, of that variety of work and you increasingly rob staff of the goldust they need to grow.

Of course, say this kind of thing too loudly and someone will almost certainly hit you with the “bottomless pit argument” — as in “we haven’t got a bottomless pit you know.”

But a hospital isn’t a bottomless pit.

On the contrary, a hospital is probably the most important thing a community can invest in.

But we have to invest in the right KIND of hospital.

Not just the kind of hospital that can perform the kinds of life saving miracles like St Thomas’s performed on me.

But the kind that will form a health service dedicated to stopping us getting sick in the first place.

It’s like what they set out to do in Cuba.

You take your medicine to the people.

You make people’s well-being your number one priority.

You build up unparalleled medical skills, the envy of much of the world.

But you also end up with a population whose standard of health so high that they need far less treatment.

It’s what we really need — a true national health service instead of what it’s fast becoming — a national sickness service.

And a hospital down the road, maybe, rather than a 200 mile round drive away.