AS we prepare to go to the polls on July 4, we are faced – at the UK level – with the unedifying spectacle of a Conservative Party scrabbling around in the gutter in a desperate effort to prevent the wholesale transfer of sections of its support to the far-right demagoguery of the odious Nigel Farage and the party he quite literally owns, Reform UK.

Meanwhile, under Keir Starmer’s ­increasingly authoritarian leadership, the ­Labour Party have joined the Tories in ­tacking to the right. In addition to his Union Flag-hugging and his market-driven nonsense about ­being both “pro-business” and “pro-worker”, Starmer is trying to out-Tory the Tories on migration.

The mainstream media attempts ­desperately to generate some excitement by ­exaggerating the differences between the two main parties.

However, if the 2024 ­General Election proves anything, it is the wisdom of the great American thinker Noam Chomsky’s description of public debate within modern Western democracies.

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the ­spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views”, wrote Chomsky.

“That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”

Nowhere is that clearer than on the subject of Israel’s war on Gaza. While Rishi Sunak pushes his ­absurd plan for conscription of 18-year-olds and Starmer reassures the ­generals about Labour’s commitment to a nuclear-armed Britain, the immediate catastrophe of Israel’s genocide in Gaza is forced ever-further down the agenda.

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This, in large part, is because there is, effectively, nothing to choose ­between the two main parties on the issue. The Sunak government has backed the Netanyahu administration in Israel – which is a hideous coalition of far-right ­nationalists, religious extremists and out-and-out fascists – to the hilt ever since it began its onslaught on Gaza.

The Tory government has even put the Metropolitan Police under pressure to restrict the civil liberties of supporters of Palestine by preventing them from ­exercising their democratic right to ­protest.

Sunak’s (below) doubling down on support for Israel comes as he looks over his shoulder at Farage – a man who has seen the slaughter in Gaza as little more than an opportunity to whip up Islamophobic hatred, both against Palestinian Muslims and the Muslim population of Britain.

(Image: Victoria Jones/PA)

For his part – lest we forget – Starmer threw his legal reputation in the toilet when he argued back in October that Israel “had the right” to a full blockade of Gaza. In reality, the starving of the ­civilian population of food, water, fuel and medicine – which has largely been ­carried out by Israel – is in ­contravention of a vast array of human rights laws, ­including those forbidding genocide.

Starmer remains more committed to ­silencing left-wing voices for Palestine within the Labour Party than he is to ­saving lives in Gaza.

There is, in this election, a massive ­disconnect between the two major UK parties and the millions of citizens who have marched, protested and signed ­petitions demanding an immediate ­ceasefire.

Little wonder, then, that many people across the UK are considering casting their votes for left-wing Independents like Corbyn or one of the various smaller parties such as George ­Galloway’s Workers Party or the Trade Unionist And Socialist Coalition who are putting Palestine front-and-centre in their election campaigns.

Here in Scotland, things are somewhat different, in the sense that the SNP – under previous leader Humza Yousaf – distinguished themselves from the two main UK parties by calling for a ceasefire in Gaza early in the conflict. In turn, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar (keen not to haemorrhage votes to the SNP) called on Labour MSPs to endorse a ceasefire, which put the party in Scotland at odds with head office in London.

For his part, new SNP leader John ­Swinney (below) has called on the UK ­Government to recognise the state of ­Palestine. However, many in the Palestine solidarity movement in Scotland detect a distinct quietening of the pro-Palestine voice in the SNP since Swinney became leader.

(Image: free)

It was noticeable that former ­leader Yousaf was due to be a speaker at ­yesterday’s Stop the War Coalition rally for Palestine in Glasgow, while Swinney was not. The new SNP leader will no doubt face increasing calls to be more voluble in the Palestinian cause as the election campaign progresses.

The reasons for this are not difficult to see. On Wednesday last week, UN secretary-general António Guterres ­condemned the “level of destruction … and casualties in the Palestinian ­population” in Gaza. The sheer extent of the killing, maiming, destruction of infrastructure and now starvation has been, he said, “unique” in his seven years as secretary-general.

For millions of UK voters – including many here in Scotland – there is something obscene in Sunak and Starmer squabbling over their rival assurances of low taxation while Israel heaps ever greater misery on Gaza. Worse still, despite more than 37,000 Palestinian deaths in Gaza, the ­Tories refuse to end arms export licenses to Israel and Labour will not commit to do so.

The issue of arms sales to Israel should be a huge one in Scottish politics. ­After all, a number of arms manufacturers make weapons for Israel in their ­Scottish ­factories. For example, the Thales ­factory in ­Govan supplies military drone ­technology to the Tel Aviv regime.

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Leonardo in Edinburgh provides laser targeting systems for Israeli fighter jets, while Raytheon in Glenrothes supplies the Israeli “Iron Dome” defence system and has provided the Israeli military with so-called “smart bombs”.

AS the recent, horrifying images of a Palestinian child who died of malnutrition attest, the World Health Organization is not exaggerating when it warns of “famine-like conditions” in Gaza. There can be no humanitarian crisis more in need of emergency action than the ever-deepening catastrophe they are facing.

That action can only start with a ­ceasefire. That’s why – in seeking to make Palestine an issue in the General Election – activists for Palestinian rights are raising the slogan “no ceasefire, no vote!”.

It isn’t always easy to find out a ­candidate’s record where Israel’s war on Gaza is concerned.

If you’re thinking of voting for the ­incumbent MP, the website of the ­London-based Palestine Solidarity ­Campaign (PSC) has a very useful ­database showing every outgoing MP’s ­voting ­record on the Gaza crisis. Simply put your postcode into the database and up comes your former MP’s record.

In addition to running its very useful voting records database, the PSC is encouraging people to ask their candidates for their views on the Gaza crisis. The more people who take that advice, the greater the chance of making a ceasefire and an end to the genocide key issues in many constituencies in the final weeks of the campaign.

Important though this “no ceasefire, no vote!” election strategy is, however, it is even more important that Palestine solidarity activists step up their campaigning activities both before and after polling day.

All the better if that movement has a number of supporters in parliament (whether they be independents like ­Corbyn, Green or SNP MPs, or rogue ­Labourites, like Diane Abbott). However, what the likely next prime minister – the appallingly pro-Israel Keir Starmer – fears most is the kind of movement his pal Tony Blair faced in opposition to his illegal war in Iraq.

The PSC’s Westminster voting record database can be accessed at: