Tory Election Fraud: The Clock Is Ticking.

The Cat wonders what’s happening with the investigation into the Tory Party’s fraudulent activities that took place during the 2015 General Election.  It seems to have gone rather quiet, save for the occasional appearance of the hashtag #ToryElectionFraud on Twitter.  Even Channel 4, which has been running with the story has been noticeably quiet recently.  The last entry on their website was back in November 2016 when it announced that the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Nick Timothy, had been drawn into the controversy.  So, what’s going on? It’s anyone’s guess.  The Cat suspects that the Tories will do all they can to obstruct and delay the investigation, meaning that the police forces involved could run out of time.

Prior to the General Election, The Cat was convinced that the only way David Cameron’s deeply unpopular Nouveau Tories could win was to cheat.  They did this in two ways: they under-claimed on their expenses and they scrubbed voters from the electoral registers.  In addition to this, they began the process of gerrymandering constituency boundaries, which they claimed was done out of ‘fairness’ and to supposedly eliminate safe seats.  What wasn’t explained was how the ‘safe seats’ they identified were mainly Labour seats in urban areas. Tory safe seats, such as those occupied by the likes of Matthew Hancock, would remain safe.

Interestingly, the Electoral Commission, the ostensibly  neutral body that redraws electoral boundaries, withdrew its investigation into the Tories last July.  The reason it offered was contained in this paragraph:

The Electoral Commission has today (15 July) announced that as part of its investigation into the Conservative and Unionist Party campaign spending returns it launched on 18 February 2016, it has withdrawn its application to the High Court for an information and document disclosure order. This means that there will be no hearing regarding the order. The Commission has made this decision because since issuing its application to the High Court on 12 May, it has received sufficient  material from the Party to proceed with its investigation.

This means that over 20 police forces up and down the country are now solely responsible for investigating the claims. Many constabularies were granted extra time to conduct their investigations but time is running out.

The Conservatives have already tried twice to stymie the investigation.  Once when Craig Mackinlay, the MP for Thanet South attempted to block it in the courts and again, when they dragged their heels when they were asked to submit  important documents.

The clock is still ticking.

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How Polling Works

Following on from my critique of polls and polling companies, I have produced this flow chart that explains how opinion polling works.  Polls don’t exist to measure public opinion, they exist to shape it.  The media and the polling companies enjoy a symbiotic relationship in which each sustains the other.  One supplies a narrative and the other responds by producing a poll to support that narrative.  The media company then produces a story that reinforces the initial narrative,  which uses the poll as ‘evidence’.  You may need to click on the image to view it properly.

how-polls-workEven when polls are patently nonsensical or illogical,  their ‘findings’ are lauded by commentators and their followers, who cite them as evidence to support one narrative or another.  One such poll is the recent ComRes poll , which claimed that “most people” think the Tories would do a better job at running the National Health Service this winter than Labour.  The same poll also claimed that “most people” thought the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was doing a “poor job”.  Make of that what you will.  In any case, the media’s commentators seized on it and cherry-picked its ‘findings’.  The negative narratives that had already been produced to put the Labour Party in a bad light were thus reinforced by this shoddy poll.

Wash, rinse and repeat: that’s how the process works.

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Mein Drumpf

drumpf

The man, the hand gestures.

In a little under a week’s time, Donald Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States. The property tycoon, reality show host and serial bankrupt (yes) will lead one of the largest and most sophisticated war machines on the planet.  Much has been made of Trump’s lack of a political hinterland by the media.  Indeed, he has no experience of political office and this supposed outsider status, claim his supporters, is what makes him so appealing.   “He’ll shake up the establishment” say his supporters.  Yeah, I guess he will but not in the way you think.

Even Warren G. Harding, to whom I have often compared Trump, had political experience as the Lieutenant Governor of Ohio and as senator for the same state.  Like Trump, his cabinet was stuffed with millionaires.  Yet, even Harding described himself as “unfit for office”, something that Trump is unlikely to do, such is the size of his ego and evident lack of self-awareness.  Harding’s presidency was dogged by scandals and he died in office.  I’ll just leave that there.

Trump has dodged questions about his fitness for office by attacking his opponents.  This is the classic tactic of deflection but it also signals his inability to accept responsibility for his actions and, moreover, the words that come from his mouth.  I know it’s unfair and unreasonable for a lay person like myself to make a remote psychological diagnosis based on a handful of signifiers, but Trump is a rampant narcissist.

On the question of whether or not he’s racist?  Well, Trump has consistently denied it, yet he’s been busily appointing racists to his cabinet and his White House staff.   This appears to encapsulate the contradictory nature of the man himself: he will say one thing and do the complete opposite.  What cannot be denied is the way in which America’s racists, xenophobes and Nazis have been emboldened by Trump’s victory.  His supporters may shrug, roll their eyes and claim “a few Nazis marching doesn’t mean anything” but I don’t recall the same thing happening when Reagan or the Bushes won the presidency. Do you?

Trump’s campaign slogan was the simplistic: “Make America Great Again”. This kind of slogan is reminiscent of Hitler’s and Mussolini’s rhetoric and suggested a return to a mythical past.  During the bruising election campaign, Trump had been compared to both dictators by many commentators.  The Cat once thought a closer comparison could be made to Louis-Napoleon, the future Napoleon III, who spent a great deal of time and effort attracting the votes of the poor.  But that’s where any resemblance ends.   Unlike Louis-Napoleon, Trump has not written a treatise on the elimination of poverty (Trump doesn’t even read books).  In fact, he hasn’t mentioned the issue of poverty at all,  preferring instead to charm the impoverished with magick slogans and by blaming Muslims,  immigrants and foreigners for for their social condition.  One more thing: Napoleon III was a soldier.  Trump dodged the draft.

Trump’s ploy was thus cynical and calculating.  He appealed to the reactionary instincts of many working class whites by pressing their buttons and schmoozing them, while at the same time making moves to consolidate and extend the power of America’s filthy rich – all of which he did in plain sight.  Time will tell if Trump will morph into a latter day Napoleon III, but to do this, he will need to use executive powers to declare a state of emergency and stage a coup against himself as Louis-Napoleon did in 1851.  Let’s hope that idea never pops into his head.

So is Trump a fascist? Fascism in the early 21st centuries doesn’t wear uniforms and smash up printing presses as Mussolini’s Blackshirts had done in the 1920s.  These Third Position fascists have appropriated the language of the Left and consciously adopted a victim mentality.  Their anti-intellectual thinkers (sic) have concocted conspiracy theories, like the Frankfurt School/Cultural Marxism smear, and barely concealed their racism behind the language of classical liberalism.  19th century Liberals like Lord John Russell were quite content to see the Irish starve to death during The Famine, because they saw themselves as superior specimens of humanity.  They were committed social Darwinists.  The fascist is also a social Darwinist at heart.

The so-called ‘alt-right’ are, to be sure, fascists in all but name.  They are mostly male and mainly white.  They think feminism is a ‘cancer’ and loathe equal rights for minority groups.  They bang the drum for nationalism and glorify the military. They also follow Trump.  No doubt some of them may even call themselves ‘libertarians’.  Their freedom is a checklist of textbook freedoms for their fellows.  Third Positionist parties will often use the word ‘freedom’ to deflect attention from their patent opposition to the freedoms of Others .  We can see this in the name of the now defunct British Freedom Party and others on the continent that purport to be the ‘guardians’ of freedom.

Third Positionists have also taken advantage of the confusion generated by mainstream politicians, who have provided them with ideal conditions in which to propagate.  Indeed, the triangulationism of Tony Blair’s Third Way and the nouveau Conservatism of David Cameron, which sought to ape it, must take some responsibility for the rise of far-right in Britain.  One failed to meet dog-whistle racism head on and the other actively employed it.  Both of them were obsessed with superficialities and refused to address real structural problems, and politicians from each party continue to foster division and hatred through their appropriation of the far-right’s rhetoric on immigration.  The extreme centre is no place to be at a time like this!

Trump may have cast himself as an outsider and self-styled opponent on the ‘elite’ but he is one of the elites.  He didn’t start in business by saving up quarters that he earned through bagging groceries at Walmart.  He went to expensive educational institutions and his daddy handed him a few million to get the ball rolling.  Trump is a corporatist and corporatism is central to fascist economic thinking.  Fascism is nothing more than the marriage between the state and corporate power. It only sees the working class as drones, breeding machines or as ‘boots on the ground’.

The overall political, cultural and social orientation of Trump’s administration does not bode well for the working class white people who voted for him, because it is they who will be shafted;  sacrificed on the altar of corporatism. But would Hilary Clinton be any better?  No.  What America really needed was Bernie Sanders and he was stitched up by the Democratic Party establishment.  Now we have a reality TV star and property tycoon as President.  Just think, over 30 years ago a reactionary former actor and state governor became POTUS and some people thought he was ‘great’.

 

 

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The Passion Of Tristram Hunt

So he’s gone. Tristram Julian William Hunt, the MP for his own ego Stoke Central, has resigned his Commons seat.  The passionate Blairite, who crossed an official picket line to deliver a lecture on Friedrich Engels, has left so-called ‘frontline politics’ to become Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum.  It’s a job that pays handsomely too.  How could he pass it up?  Curiously, however, I don’t recall seeing it being advertised in the usual papers or on the artsjobsonline website.  Nevertheless, the Prime Minister herself is said to have “rubber stamped” it.  I guess it helps to have friends in high places to make a little room for you at the top.  No?

Tristy succeeded the previous MP, Mark Fisher,  in controversial circumstances in 2010.  I say “controversial” because he was actually forced down the local party’s throat by the National Executive Committee (it’s also rumoured that the Dark Lord himself intervened on his behalf).  One local Labour member was so incensed that he stood against him as an Independent.  That’s how the Blair-led party operated back then: they pushed right-wingers, some of them Tory defectors, onto Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) as Parliamentary candidates.  They’ll take anyone but socialists.   They even accept former UKIP Parliamentary candidates.

Hunt’s resignation follows on from the Christmas Eve resignation of Jamie Reed, the MP for the nuclear power industry.  Indeed, one could suggest that Reed has ‘returned to the source’, having worked for British Nuclear Fuels at their Sellafield facility before entering Parliament.  The Cat thinks his role at Sellafield will include convincing people that nuclear waste can transform ordinary members of the public into superheroes, meaning everyone can become the equivalent of The Hulk (She Hulk if you’re female) or maybe The Leader if they so choose.  Marvellous.

Tristy claimed that being in Parliament was “rewarding but deeply frustrating”.  I guess it must have been frustrating to see your ambitions as one of many Blair’s successors slip around the U-bend.  But that’s politics.  Right?

Since Jeremy Corbyn became party leader, poor Tristy felt he had to wear his Blairism like a crown of thorns.  Not only did he cross an official University and College Union picket line at Queen Mary University (some historian, huh?),  he believes that museums like the V&A should reintroduce charging visitors. Eh?  But he’s taking a job as a…  never mind.

In an impassioned address to the Cambridge University Labour Club, he said:

“You are the top one per cent. The Labour Party is in the shit. It is your job and your responsibility to take leadership going forward.”

He’s a proper little social Darwinist, isn’t he?

Tristram Hunt: he died for his party’s sins.  Said no one.  Ever.

UKIP thinks it has a chance of winning the Stoke Central seat, but The Cat thinks they’re huffing and puffing.  If the Constituency Labour Party gets its act together and selects a socialist candidate, there’s no reason why they can’t win this seat.

 

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Seasons Greetings!

The last year has been quite horrible in so many ways but I won’t spend time repeating what others have said.  Regular readers will know that my blogging has been patchy over the last 12 months. This is because I needed to concentrate on finishing my thesis, which was submitted at the beginning of November.  I have the viva to come.

The Cat is off on his much-needed holidays and will return in the New Year.  There is an outside chance that I may post an article or two, but my access to the Internet will be restricted and I hate using handheld devices for blogging.   It’s like performing delicate surgery in boxing gloves!

Seasons Greetings to you all!  For those of you who are paranoid about Christians not being allowed to mention or celebrate Xmas (sic):  you need help for your problems.  There are plenty of psychotherapists out there that would be more than happy to help you.

I leave you with this cracking seasonal tune from Poly Styrene, who sadly left us a few years ago.

 

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He Killed His Own People!

The Cat has always been bemused by the claim that so-and-so “has killed his own people”. This line of argument is usually deployed in advance of an invasion, air campaign or the implementation of a ‘no fly zone’. When one unpacks this argument, it is always found wanting and reveals the hypocrisy at the heart of the establishment’s rationale for military adventurism.  Sometimes the phrase “he’s another Hitler” will be added for dramatic effect.

In the run up to Gulf War I, we were told Saddam Hussein had “killed his own people”.  When Gulf War II rolled around, he also become “another Hitler”.  By his “own people”, the warmongers and the news media were referring specifically to the Kurds.  But Saddam Hussein didn’t see the Kurds as “his own people” and he wasn’t alone in this: it is a view that had been consistent in Baghdad throughout the history of Iraq, since it became nominally independent from Britain in 1932.

The Kurds (led by the powerful and corrupt Barzani clan) had constantly been in conflict with Baghdad since independence and had been waging a guerilla war in Northern Iraq for decades.  A full blown war between the Iraqi Kurds and the Iraqi government took place in 1961.  But this isn’t to say that Kurds didn’t participate in Iraqi politics or in government.  They did.  General Bakr Sidqi, for example, was the head of Iraq’s army.  He led the forces that participated in the Simele Massacre of 1933, which saw thousands of Assyrians slaughtered as they fled towards the Syrian border. Sidqi, King Ghazi and the Prime Minister Rashid Ali al-Gaylani, didn’t see the Assyrians as “their people” either.  Al-Gaylani would return as Prime Minister in a coup in 1941 and enter into a short-lived pact with Nazi Germany until he was overthrown by the British in the same year.

Western news media – especially British and American news media – have repeated ad infinitum the claim that Bashar al-Assad has “killed his own people” to rally public support for official military intervention and the eventual toppling of the Syrian president.  That Assad has killed his own people isn’t in doubt, but his forces have also killed people that the West ironically sees as its allies. Fighters from the al-Nusra Front, for example.

Britain and the United States have historically offered much support to national leaders that have “killed their own people”. Many of these leaders were military strongmen that were entertained by British and American governments because of their impeccable anti-communist credentials.  Below is a partial list.

  1. Nursultan Nazarbayev (current president of Kazakhstan)
  2. Islam Karimov (Uzbekistan, 1989 – 2016). His successor, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, is just as if not more violently repressive.
  3. Suharto (Indonesia, 1967 – 1998)
  4. Mobutu Sese Seko (Zaire, 1965 – 1997)
  5. General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (Chile, 1973 – 1989)
  6. Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde (Spain, 1936 – 1975)
  7. The Greek Colonels (1967 – 1974)
  8. Air Chief Marshal Hosni Mubarak (Egypt, 1981 – 2011)
  9. Colonel Anwar Sadat (Egypt, 1970 – 1981)
  10. General Zia al-Haq (Pakistan, 1978 – 1988)
  11. Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo (Dominican Republic, 1942-1952)
  12. Jose Efrain Rios Montt (Guatemala, 1982 – 1983)
  13. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Iran, 1941 – 1979)

The conflict in Syria, like that in Iraq has been subject to the most deceitful, one-sided coverage with the siege and aerial bombardment of Aleppo becoming the focus of some pretty blatant propaganda. In short, we’re getting a raw deal from our news providers. Patrick Cockburn in today’s Independent writes:

The dominance of propaganda over news in coverage of the war in Syria has many negative consequences. It is a genuine civil war and the exclusive focus of on the atrocities committed by the Syrian armed forces on an unarmed civilian population gives a skewed picture of what is happening. These atrocities are often true and the UN says that 82 civilians may have been summarily executed in east Aleppo last month. But, bad though this is, it is a gross exaggeration to compare what has happened in Aleppo to genocide in Rwanda in 1994 or the massacre in Srebrenica the following year.

In the same paper Robert Fisk writes:

But it’s time to tell the other truth: that many of the “rebels” whom we in the West have been supporting – and which our preposterous Prime Minister Theresa May indirectly blessed when she grovelled to the Gulf head-choppers last week – are among the cruellest and most ruthless of fighters in the Middle East. And while we have been tut-tutting at the frightfulness of Isis during the siege of Mosul (an event all too similar to Aleppo, although you wouldn’t think so from reading our narrative of the story), we have been willfully ignoring the behaviour of the rebels of Aleppo.

Our leaders, though they may claim otherwise, have also “killed their own people” and we don’t need to cast our minds back that far.  The brutal regime of cuts to social security by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition (2010-15) drove people to commit suicide, and although these people died by their own hand, it was the government’s policies that were ultimately responsible for their deaths.   Why?  Because this is a feature of what Pierre Bourdieu and Loic Wacquant called “symbolic violence”, which gets the victim to carry out acts of violence against themselves, thus obviating the need for actual physical violence from the state.  It’s a pretty clever trick.  No?

Governments are more than happy to kill their own people, even in so-called ‘democracies’. It isn’t confined solely to certain Middle Eastern countries.

Reference

Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L.J.D. (2003). Symbolic violence. na. Available at: http://cges.umn.edu/docs/Bourdieu_and_Wacquant.Symbolic_Violence.pdf  Accessed 29/2/16

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Filed under Free Press Myth, Ideologies, Iraq, Journalism, Media, Middle East, propaganda, Syria, Yellow journalism

Let’s Talk About: Philip Davies And, Er, Equality?

We’ve had moments like these before, dear reader.  You know the ones. Like the time when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize,  prompting Tom Lehrer to wryly declare satire “obsolete”?  Well, today is one of those of days.  Now take a deep breath.  Are you ready? Philip ‘Dismal’ Davies, the Tory member for Shipley and flatmate of Esther McVey, has been elected unopposed (sic) to the Commons  Committee on Women and Equality.  No, you didn’t misread that. A man who is opposed to equality has been elected unopposed (sic) to a committee on equality.  Is that a postmodern turn or what?

So who is Philip Davies? Well, he’s on the  hard right of the Conservative Party but he’d call himself a ‘libertarian’.  He’s one of those libertarians who denies freedom to others.  A lot of them do it.   Since entering the Commons in 2005, Dismal Davies has  made it his mission to support the interests of the powerful over the weak.  In fact, when it comes to those most in need, you’ll always find Dismal in the Commons filibustering a bill that’s designed to protect them.

As a defender of personal freedoms (freedom from poverty or disease excepted), Dismal was once the Parliamentary spokesman for the equally dismal, but now thankfully defunct, Campaign Against Political Correctness. In this role, he bombarded the Equality and Human Rights Commission with a series of trolling letters asking silly questions on topics like blacking up (sic). The Guardian reported:

Davies regularly addresses Phillips as Sir Trevor, leading the EHRC chair to eventually add a handwritten note to one reply: “Thank you for the ‘knighthood’ but HM has – probably rightly – never extended that honour to me!!”

With an obvious track record in attacking feminism and spitting in the faces of the disadvantaged, The Cat wonders how Dismal’s presence on the committee can be anything but disruptive.  More importantly, how was he elected unopposed in the first place?  That says a lot about our democracy.  Doesn’t it?

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