Category Archives: Media

Shaun Bailey, Guido Fawkes And Faux Outrage: The Anatomy Of A Smear Story

Shaun Bailey: he isn’t what he seems

You can always tell when a narcissist is guilty of a crime or trying to hide something, because they’ll always resort to smears and character assassination in a desperate attempt to escape scrutiny or justice. And so it is with the Grenfell Tower fire and the Tories’ reaction to Emma Dent Coad’s report into the systematic neglect of council tenants by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. For her trouble, Dent Coad was accused of racism for describing Shaun Bailey, now Conservative AM (list) on the London Assembly, as David Cameron’s ‘token ghetto boy’ in a blog she’d written seven years ago (she’d actually quoted someone else who’d used it).  A non-story, you may think, but not as far as Paul ‘Piss’ Staines and his band of bottom feeders at Guido Fawkes were concerned. This was a ‘scoop’. I’ll return to Bailey later.

The BBC went with the story, which it sourced from the aforementioned scandal site (let’s face it, it isn’t a news site), while the other news outlets refused to touch it. Look, if anyone tells you that the BBC is ‘left-wing’ or ‘impartial’, just laugh at them and walk away. Okay? But sourcing a ‘news’ story from Guido Fawkes is a new low. Broadcasting House has become an embarrassment; it’s become a house of ill-repute.

On the face it, it would seem Guido Fawkes has undergone a Damascene conversion to the cause of anti-racism. Not a bit of it. Because if you trawl through their content, you’ll see very little, if any, desire to attack racism. In fact, it engages in sly racism itself, and if it isn’t doing that, it’s using anti-racism as a Trojan horse to attack the Tory Party’s enemies – like it did last week. The Tories have a lot to hide and they don’t like being exposed to scrutiny. By the way, what happened to the police investigation into Damian Green and Charlie Elphicke? How about Christopher Heaton-Harris? It’s gone a bit quiet.

Tories and their right-wing allies will usually get indignant when you call out their racism. Sometimes, their racism is couched in the language of racial pseudo-science to make it appear as ‘common sense’. Toby Young, for instance, will cite Charles Murray, one of the co-authors of The Bell Curve, which claims, among other things, that black people have lower IQs than either white or Asian people.  And you thought that kind of nonsense had been confined to the dustbin of history along with phrenology? If only. Such ideas are now enjoying an undeserved renaissance among right-wing thinkers (sic), who are desperate for any kind of academically plausible narrative to justify the socially-constructed concept of ‘race’, and to counter accusations of racism within their ranks. By the way, the IQ test is no indicator of intelligence or intellect.

During the London Mayoral election campaign of 2008, Bozza was forced to apologize for condoning an article written by notorious racist, Taki, while he was editor of The Spectator. No racism in the Tory Party? Don’t kid yourself.

Now the Tories may point to their four or five black MPs and tell you that they’re not racist. It’s worth pointing out that none of these MPs have been elevated to cabinet rank, and in The Cat’s view, using these black MPs to rebut criticism of Tory racism is nothing less than tokenism. That’s a cue to return to Shaun Bailey, a man so ambitious, he’ll even claim that the use of the word ‘tokenism’ is racist.

Bailey, who was named ‘Big Society ambassador’ by David Cameron, has featured on this blog twice. Both times in connection with his charity, My Generation, which was wound up in 2012. This occurred after Bailey failed to submit accounts for two years running. However, the reason given for the failure of My Generation was ‘funding‘. The Third Sector website says:

The charity, which was established in May 2006 to support young people in deprived communities and had an income of £292,000 in 2009/10, was removed from the register of charities on Monday.

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said in a statement: “The charity’s trustees cited funding problems as the reason for the charity’s dissolution”.

My Generation’s operations were then passed to Only Connect and the now defunct Kids Company, which was run by rather fragrant personality of Camila Batmanghelidjh. Third Sector again:

Bailey said a job club run by the charity, which had 420 members,  would close down but all of the charity’s other services would carry on. Some would be run by Only Connect, a charity running crime-prevention programmes, and others would be run by Kids Company, he said.

Kids Company was wound up in 2015 after it failed to secure funding and later became the subject of an investigation by the Metropolitan Police. Child abuse being among the charges.

In 2010, Bailey was chosen to be the Conservative candidate for Hammersmith in the General Election. Some would say that he was parachuted in. The Tories thought that by selecting Bailey, he would appeal to black working class voters.  In this Guardian article, which includes a now removed video, Dave Hill observed Bailey’s use of language:

“Keeping it real,” with “my boys”? Do such demonstrations of street lingo and savvy really help Bailey’s cause? Did that pronouncement about what black people want and the accusation that Labour thinks it “owns” them endear him to black voters who saw it? After all, there might just be a reason why black Londoners (and black Britons generally) have historically tended to vote Labour, such as a judgment that Labour has always shown more concern for them. Is Bailey suggesting that black voters are daft?

Fawkes’ and Bailey’s agitation over being called a “token ghetto boy” is a classic example of the kind of faux outrage that’s typical of a Tory smear. The Guido article bore the sensational headline “Hate-filled and Racist”. Yeah, whatever.

In the same article, Hill discusses the donations that poured in from wealthy Tory backers:

It is, after all, an unusual kind of social underdog who, at pushing 40, enjoys the financial and campaigning support Bailey’s received. I’ve already mentioned the £15,000 given to Hammersmith Conservatives last autumn by Caroline Nash, wife of the venture capitalist John Nash (himself a major contributor to Tory funds). A longer look at the Electoral Commission’s register of donations shows that Nash also provided the party with £10,000 in September 2008.

Other donors include the City headhunter Julian Sainty (£5,000, also in September 2008) and financier Edmund Lazarus, who had previously given £22,500 to Boris Johnson’s mayoral campaign and was awarded a seat on the board of the London Development Agency by Johnson soon after his election victory. Another interesting contributor to the Bailey cause is Hammersmith and Fulham councillor Greg Smith, who is also the borough’s cabinet member for Crime and Street Scene.

Bailey’s campaign literature is described at its foot as “promoted” by Smith, who defines himself in his register of interests as a “self employed political and marketing consultant.” In his entry Smith also discloses masonic lodge memberships and that he is Director of Campaigns for the Young Britons Foundation, the radical, “Conservative madrasa” whose training programmes for youthful Tory activists have been the subject of coverage by The Guardianrecently. The YBS lists Smith on its website as also being its co-founder.

That’s the same Greg Smith, who succeeded Stephen Greenhalgh as leader of the Conservative group on Hammersmith and Fulham Council. That’s the same Greg Smith, who was a member of the Young Britons’ Foundation. Smith was replaced by Joe Carlebach in June 2017. It was obvious that the Tories thought by selecting Bailey and pumping hundreds of thousands of pounds into his campaign, he could easily win the seat. In the end, he trailed behind Andy Slaughter by a little over 3,000 votes.

Back to Dave Hill’s article. He concludes:

Today’s story in The Times about “a discrepancy in the accounts” of his charity, My Generation, will not be helpful to him in this regard. Slaughter has jibed that Bailey’s cv looks rather thin and journalists have noticed that he’s declined to appear at two hustings that weren’t to his taste (although he’s agreed to attend one on Thursday). There is a perception, fair or otherwise, that he’s being a bit too closely protected. It may be that Bailey will have to tell Hammersmith a little more about himself than he has so far if he’s to do the job his “boy” Dave so urgently requires of him.

Interesting. No?

Here’s a link to a video that was passed to me on Twitter. Note how Bailey claims, in not too many words, that black voters will vote for him because he’s black.

Bailey’s attitude to poor voters was quoted by George Eaton in the New Statesman.

If you have a group of people that think that one government will advocate for them and one won’t, of course they’ll vote that way. And that’s the fight for the Conservatives ‘cos that’s why inner-city seats are so hard to win – because Labour has filled them with poor people.

Yeah, God damn those poor people. They always get in the way.

In this article by Fraser Nelson in The Dictator The Spectator, which cites Sir Norman Bettison, the disgraced former Chief Constable of South Yorkshire, he quotes Bailey at the 2008 Tory Party conference, offering up a common trope about young women getting pregnant to get a council flat:

 “Gals getting knocked up to get housing? It’s a cottage industry where I come from.”

Charming.

Shaun Bailey is little more than a political chancer. He’s taken the well-trodden route from being a charity worker (he claims ‘community activist’) to becoming a (failed) prospective parliamentary candidate to becoming a list Assembly Member for the Greater London Assembly. The latter has been used a stepping stone to the Commons by Tory and Labour politicians alike.

Bailey is more than happy to use his ethnicity for political purposes. Moreover, the Tories were, and still are, quite happy to promote skin (sic) tokens in an effort to deflect criticism of the racists within their party. Indeed, it would be reasonable to argue that the Tory commitment to anti-racism is only skin-deep. In fact, racist Tory politicians are given a quick slap on the wrists and are welcomed back.

When the Tories say they’re tackling racism, don’t believe them. It’s all an illusion.

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Filed under Big Society, Conservative Party, Government & politics, Media, propaganda, smear campaigns

Nothing To See Here. Move Along, Please…

If you only took your news from television, radio or the right-wing press, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Labour Party is uniquely violent, sexist and anti-Semitic, and the Tories are a party of fair-minded individuals, who stand up for the rights of oppressed minorities. That’s not only the image the political hacks want to give us, it’s a narrative that’s pushed out regularly and supported by a conspiracy of silence over the misdeeds of Tory MPs. But every now and again, a story comes along that disrupts that image. Today was one of those days and you could quite literally hear the wagons being hastily circled as the mainstream media outlets desperately attempted a damage limitation exercise on behalf of the Tories.

After the furore over Jared O’Mara’s sexist comments he made 15 years ago, and Clive Lewis’s use of the word ‘bitch’ in a conference event hosted by Novara Media, the Tories were quick out of the traps with their condemnations, with Nusrat Ghani demanding an “urgent debate” on the matter.  Here she is, claiming on Twitter that sexism and misogyny is “systemic” in the Labour Party.

Doesn’t she look the fool? She doesn’t think so, but then Tories have never been self-aware and as for thinking, they just don’t do it. Ghani herself says absolutely nothing about Boris Johnson’s numerous racist outbursts. But when it comes to racists in their own party, Tory MPs like Ghani are noticeably silent. The London-centric media is also silent and yet, the weakest accusations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party are treated with great seriousness.

The BBC for its part, sourced the story from Guido Fawkes, a site with a less than unblemished reputation and whose founder, Paul Staines, a self-styled ‘libertarian’ has a love for tyrants. Indeed, as many people on Twitter pointed out, Guido has used the word ‘bitch’ not once, not twice but several times, and yet, the BBC and their allies in the Tory Party seemed, apparently, to be unaware of this. Can you imagine the BBC sourcing a story from The Canary or Evolve Politics? No, I can’t either.

This morning it was revealed that at least two Tory MPs have been accused of sexual harassment and sexism. But to see the Tories on today’s political programmes, you’d think nothing had happened. Isabel ‘Poison Ivy’ Oakeshott and Julia Hartley-Brewer, who appeared on The Andrew Marr Show and The Sunday Politics respectively, said in not so many words, “nothing to see here” and made excuses and yet, if these had been Labour MPs, they’d have been unrestrained in their condemnation and would have demanded the pair’s immediate dismissal.

Here’s Poison Ivy on Gove.

Here’s Hartley-Brewer attacking Bianca Jagger for daring to suggest that Poison Ivy apologized for “sex pests”.

No, Julia, she (Poison Ivy) didn’t have to directly apologize but she gave the impression, like you, that there was nothing to worry about.

In the tweet below, Hartley-Brewer suggests that stories of Tory sexual predators amounted to a “witch hunt”. Again, if Labour MPs had been involved, the words “witch hunt” wouldn’t appear and it would be taken as fait accompli that the MPs concerned were guilty of sexism and much else besides.

Hartley-Brewer’s position seems a little confused. This should come as no surprise, and if you’ve ever seen her on Question Time, she swings about in the wind, hoping to attract the maximum amount of applause from the audience for her ‘common sense’ views – muddled as they are. Hartley-Brewer only cares about one person: herself.

Changing the subject slightly, Hartley-Brewer, is rather fond of her schoolgirl jibes. For a supposedly ‘serious’ political commentator, she’s comes across as petty and immature. No wonder Westminster politics is in such a terrible mess when we have commentators behaving like school kids and politicians indulging in childish insults, while at the same time, infantilizing the voting public.

Here’s an example of her childish name-calling on today’s edition of The Sunday Politics.

The acrid stench of hypocrisy hangs over the pair of them, and their Tory pals.

We’re being poorly served by a weak government that has no policies, and a commentariat that thinks juvenile name-calling  and piss-poor opinion passes for serious journalism. Oh, how they squeal when those they defend are outed as sex pests.

As Corporal Jones often said in Dad’s Army: “They don’t like it up ’em”.

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Filed under Media, Television

The Daily Politics

Many of us already know the BBC’s attitude to the reporting of political stories is less than objective. The Daily Politics, the corporation’s flagship politics programme on BBC2 has long been the subject of a great deal of ire. Since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, the overall tone of the programme has been increasingly anti-Labour but more specifically, anti-Corbyn. Any story that can be spun to cast Labour and Corbyn in a bad light is often seized upon with both hands.

Today was no different. The show’s host, Jo Coburn, pursued the Jared O’Mara sexism story not once but twice. First, she asked Nu Labourite, Chris Leslie for his view, then she asked Dawn Butler. Why is that? Because it’s pretty obvious that The Daily Politics, far from being impartial, is at the forefront of a pro-Tory propaganda exercise in which any anti-Labour story, no matter how trivial, is promoted above any other. In this case, to make matters worse, Coburn even cited her source: Guido Fawkes. Really?

One important story The Daily Politics decided to ignore is this one in which Tory MP and whip, Chris Heaton-Harris, had written to university vice chancellors requesting they provide him with details of “the names of professors […] who are involved in the teaching of European affairs, with particular reference to Brexit”.

 

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And yet, a story this important was completely ignored by The Daily Poltics? If a Labour or SNP MP had made a similar request, you can almost guarantee the story would have been covered on the programme.

This isn’t the first time that Heaton-Harris has been involved in controversy. Heaton-Harris, a self-styled ‘Eurosceptic’ was secretly filmed advocating support for James Delingpole’s anti-wind farm candidacy. The story appeared in The Guardian in 2012.

Chris Heaton-Harris, who is campaign manager for the Tories in Corby, was recorded saying he encouraged an anti-wind farm candidate to join the election race against the Tories, adding: “Please don’t tell anybody ever.”

The footage, covertly recorded by the environmental group Greenpeace, captures the MP saying the independent anti-wind farm candidate, James Delingpole, had announced his candidacy as part of a “plan” to “cause some hassle” and drive the wind issue up the political agenda.

He is also filmed claiming he helped Delingpole by providing him with “a handful of people who will sort him out”, including the deputy chairman of his own constituency party, who had stood down and then became the anti-wind candidate’s campaign agent.

Surely offering campaign advice and support for a candidate that isn’t in your party is a cause for having the whip withdrawn? For the Tories, not a bit of it. Delingpole’s views are shared by many Tories.

The Daily Politics, rather than report political news, takes an active role in making the news. Remember Stephen Doughty’s on air resignation?

Then there’s John Mann’s infamous ambushing of Ken Livingstone as he arrived at the BBC’s Westminster studio where The Daily Politics is produced.

The confrontation was repeated on the programme itself.

In August of this year, Open Democracy reported that Tory MP for Moray, Douglas Ross, made racist comments about travelling folk. The story wasn’t covered on the corporation’s television or radio news bulletins and appeared on the website only. Now, maybe that’s because The Daily Politics was off the air for the summer. However, if a Labour or SNP MP had made similar remarks, it would have been covered.

Scottish Tory councillors who made racist and sectarian comments were suspended and then quickly reinstated by the party. Still, not a peep about this from the Tories or the BBC.

The BBC’s website reported that Robert Davies, a Tory councillor on Stirling City Council, had left the party over his racist comments. Again, this wasn’t covered by The Daily Politics.

Robert Davies was one of two Tories who were suspended shortly after being elected to Stirling Council in May.

He had tweeted racist posts from a Twitter account in 2013 which was subsequently deleted.

However,

His colleague Alastair Majury, who was also suspended and then reinstated by the party, remains a Conservative councillor after making an apology to the council.

When Mr Davies and Mr Majury were reinstated by the Scottish Conservatives in August, the party insisted they had both offered “unreserved apologies for any offence caused”.

Contrast this with the calls to have Ken Livingstone expelled from the Labour Party. See the difference? Tories are given a slap on the wrist and then welcomed back with open arms, and their reputations are magically rehabilitated.

When a national broadcaster fails to report the really important stories and concentrates its efforts on smearing an opposition party, it is selling voters short. The Daily Politics is transparently biased in favour of the Tories. The programme’s editors may deny it, but the evidence is there for all to see.

Tim Fenton at Zelo Street has unearthed some interesting information on the Jared O’Mara story. You can read it here.

 

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Filed under BBC, Media, Racism, Television

Read The Independent? Don’t Look At The Comments Threads.

Most online versions of British newspapers moderate their comments or will close threads if they know they’re likely to attract bigots. Not so with The Independent, which has now overtaken the old Telegraph blogs comments threads as a magnet for racists, xenophobes and neo-fascists. Only comments that use words like ‘shit’, ‘cunt’ or ‘fuck’ are flagged for moderation and deleted; anything else is ignored and the bigots know this, hence the reason why they flock to The Independent. Therefore, it would seem that comments are not moderated in any meaningful sense and the website uses algorithms to weed out comments that use the aforementioned swear words. If you flag a comment for moderation for its racist content, it is always ignored. This tells me the website doesn’t employ moderators and if it does, they’re not doing their job.

A year ago, I wrote to The Independent to complain at the lack of moderation. I have received no reply and no action has ever been taken.

This article written by Biba Kang about Diane Abbott is typical.  In fact, any article that mentions either her, black people and Muslims attracts swarms of bigots. The article opens with these two short paragraphs.

After today’s Good Morning Britain aired, viewers have been criticising Diane Abbott for her use of the N-word, live on TV.

On Twitter, many have decided it’s their right to chastise the MP, berating her for using such “foul language” on air at 7.20am.

Some viewers were apparently offended by Abbott’s use of the word ‘nigger’ on Good Morning Britain, which was entirely in context with her description of the abuse she has been subjected to on Twitter. Many, if not most, of the comments on this article are from racists, who demand to know why they can’t say the word themselves. It’s a stupid question posed with a sly grin and a knowing wink.

This one couldn’t resist the old “you’re making it up” line that was a favourite of bigots in the 60s and 70s.

2 hours ago
DebG9999
when things go badly for Diane Abbott she always raises the subject of racial discrimination – funny that …..
The contributor below thought if the word was used as the name of Guy Gibson’s dog in The Dambusters, then it’s fine. What’s good for Guy is good for us. Worse still is his claim that it’s only a shade of black. Such notions are disconnected from the reality of history when it was coined by whites to denigrate black people. It acts, therefore, as a linguistic means of oppression.
6 hours ago
dingdong
Restricting the uses of certain words to specific races is in itself racist. I don’t have a problem with the word, or it being used by anyone. It was the name of Guy Gibson’s dog, an Agatha Christie novel and a “shade” of black. A word is a word, you can only be offended by it if you choose to do so !
The Oxford English Dictionary says that it began to be used as a hostile pejorative in the 18th century. To those white bigots who say “well, black people say it to each other, so why can’t I use it?”, I have this to say to you: “why do you want to use it”? Furthermore, not all black people use it. Richard Pryor, for example, used it in his comedy routine, but after a trip to Africa, he stopped using it, because he could see the corrosive effect the word had on others. The white bigots who ask why they can’t say it themselves are most likely already using it.
Like many others, this contributor thought it was all about free speech, which has become the battle cry for racist, sexists and homophobes. I mean, why can’t I just go around insulting people if I feel like it?
10 hours ago
Aykarralyu

Any point of view that states a group of people have no right to their own opinion is inherently wrong.

No one may deny any other person the right to think or the right to speak.

Yes, but “Aykarralyu”, this isn’t about “opinions, this is about ethnic slurs.Perhaps this contributor should go up to a black person and say it, just to see what happens. 
This comment, expressing more faux outrage got 14 up ticks.
SilentScream
Another black writer displaying her contempt for white people and the Indy laps it up

18 hours ago
Traffyman
No one is free in the uk. We are constantly meddled with. Being told you cant say that, kids are not aloud to sing barbar black sheep anymore. How pathetic. It has nothing to do with skin colour. We are constantly being kept in line so we have no fun, just work, sleep eat repeat. That is what they want from us. Oh yeah and die young so we never see our pensions. That is why no one has any respect for the government or takes no notice of them. Politics in the uk is a complete joke now.

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Filed under Media, Racism, Society & culture

Friends Like These…

Jacob Rees Mogg flanked by Jack Buckby (L) and Gregory Lauder-Frost (R).

It’s a sure sign of the Conservative Party’s dearth of talent that Jacob Rees Mogg should be talked up as a possible successor to the hapless and utterly useless Theresa May.  Many people find Moggy endearing. They love his plummy RP accent. They love his double-breasted suit jackets. They love his fustiness. They love his toffee-nosed demeanour and they love his apparently Waugh-esque wit. At Nowhere Towers we take a different view:  we find him tiresome and representative of an ages old problem with Britain. Namely, he reeks of privilege and his accent and ‘eccentric’ charm masks a ruthlessness and cruelty that is common to many members of his class.

When it comes to loving one’s oppressor, the Brits have both rationalized and elevated their oppression a fine art. We love our posh bastards. Don’t we?  Remember how people fawned over Bozza? I haven’t forgotten. Both of them went to Eton and Oxford. Both of them are seen as rather buffoonish, though for very different reasons. And both are seen as thoroughly British eccentrics. But that’s the problem: many people refuse to see through their media-constructed façades and choose to see oh-so-disarming posh twits instead. Please, wake up!

That Moggy should be touted by some Tories as a counterweight to Jeremy Corbyn’s soaring popularity speaks volumes about the parlous condition of his party and the dire health of our media. Take this gushing article from self-styled libertarian Mark Wallace, late of the Crash Bang Wallace blog and now executive editor of Conservative Home:

Moggmentum has gathered online – a fondly satirical Twitter account purporting to be him has 18,000 followers (and is often mistaken for the man himself), supercuts of his best moments attract hundreds of thousands of views on Youtube, and his outings on Question Time attract an enthusiastic following. His Instagram account, accompanying photos of him out and about with his children with dry wit, has a sizeable cult following, and there’s now even an unofficial campaign to elect him Prime Minister.

“Moggmentum”. Geddit?  I’ve seen the Twitter account and it’s genuine. Moggy’s tweeted twice and currently has 25,000 followers. Why?

I’ve read three articles recently that have warned against being taken in by Mogg’s posh charm.  These were, in no particular order, in The Canary  The New Statesman and  The New European. The last one was written by Victor Lewis Smith and was published in February.

Lewis-Smith writes:

Eccentricity is like catnip to television, and all it takes is a bowtie, a twirly moustache, a bouffant hairstyle, a monocle, or merely an upper-class accent to enable shameless privilege to pass itself off as harmless and even amusing oddity.

Lewis -Smith reminds us that Moggy is partly a media construction.  For his part, Moggy plays to television’s and the public’s expectations of a posh oddball, and he’s more than happy to do so. It provides the perfect cover for his reactionary views, which are anything but harmless and amusing.

Posh people have always provided comedy writers with a rich source of amusement. George Leybourne’s Champagne Charlie character is but one example of how the posh were routinely sent up in the music halls. But that’s part of a problem that won’t go away. We can send up the posh,  who are also authority figures, as much as we like but when it comes down to it, they’re still kicking us in the face and laughing while they’re doing it. The Tory cliché of “We’re the natural party of government” is, in reality, an unwitting admission of their arrogance, their conceit and their overweening sense of entitlement.

At the end of his article, Lewis -Smith puts the boot in:

Rees-Mogg is an Edwardian man who still seems to believe Harold Macmillan’s dictum about the US (first uttered in 1943), that “we are Greeks to their Romans”. But Britain couldn’t control America in Macmillan’s day (as we found out to our cost a few years later, over Suez), and we cannot control it now, because the relationship is not between two equals, but between a small country that continually boasts of a “special relationship,” and a large country that barely needs or notices that relationship at all.

Rees-Mogg’s patrician tones and classical references won’t work in Trump’s harsh business world, and we’ll soon find ourselves in the position of a small child in the back seat of the parental car, operating a toy steering wheel and always steering in the same direction as the real driver, just so we can pathetically pretend to ourselves that we still have some control over our own destiny.

Though all three articles mention Moggy’s  filibustering and his less-than-contemporary social attitudes – namely, his opposition to equal marriage and a woman’s right to choose, none of them mentions Moggy’s 2013 appearance at a black tie dinner organized by The Traditional Britain Group (TBG), a hard right pressure group that’s well to the right of the Tory Party. “Traditional”? “Britain”? Those two words are enough to get him tumescent with anticipation.

Rees Mogg was warned of the TBG’s ideological leanings by Searchlight’s Gerry Gable a day before he was due to take part. For reasons best known to himself, Moggy didn’t heed his warnings.  When Liberal Conspiracy revealed his speaking engagement the following day, Moggy claimed he was shocked by the group’s views and distanced himself from them. He dutifully donned sackcloth and ashes and toured the studios to offer his sincerest apologies.

Moggy told The Telegraph’s Matthew Holehouse.

“It’s undoubtedly embarrassing. I feel very silly. This was clearly a mistake,” he said. “I try to accept invitations from most people who ask me to speak. I could limit myself to just speaking to Conservative Associations, which would be safe but politics, is about speaking to a variety of views. But I wouldn’t want to be caught out in this way again.”

Let’s put it this way, if I’m invited to a black tie dinner (no chance) by a group that I know little or nothing about, I’m going to do a little research into them. Could it be… is it possible that the posh accent conceals a fundamental stupidity on Moggy’s part, or is it the case he knew exactly who these people were and merely feigned surprise when he was caught out? We may never know. In any case, it’s highly likely that some of his views and those of his hosts intersected. Why else would he have been accepted the invitation?

TBG has a very interesting backstory that’s firmly rooted in Britain’s far-right landscape and while it may deny that it’s fascist or far-right, the TBG’s position is barely discernible from that of other hard right groups, most notably The Monday Club or even The British National Party (BNP). It came to public attention for its views on Doreen Lawrence’s peerage and although it may claim that it isn’t racist, these are weasel words. As recently as March, the Bow Group, a Tory think-tank that’s on the hard right, invited the TBG to attend a three course dinner. According to the IB Times.

IBTimes UK has obtained an email circulated to members of the far-right Traditional Britain Group, informing them that they have been granted a special concession.

“They [the Bow Group] have kindly extended to Traditional Britain Group members a discount to join either the reception or the reception plus the 3 course dinner,” says the email, signed by Traditional Britain Group vice-president Gregory Lauder-Frost.

And there’s more:

Lauder-Frost was previously chairman of the foreign affairs policy committee of the Monday Club, a pressure group within the Tory party that was later banned by Iain Duncan Smith because of its views on race. He is UK CEO for Arktos Media, which has been described as the publishing wing of the alt-right white nationalist movement.

In 2013 the group’s annual conference was addressed by white nationalist ideologue Richard Spencer, before he was barred from 26 European countries including the UK after being deported from Hungary for holding a far-right conference. The 2013 gathering also hosted Austrian anti-Islam activist Markus Willinger.

Lauder-Frost et al may deny they’re fascists or Nazis but they clearly provide publishing support, if not, succour, for the alt-right, which encompasses all manner of extreme right positions.

Labour’s Louise Haigh, who was successful in getting Britain First proscribed, said:

“Assisted repatriation of anyone in the UK not ‘of European stock’; calling on brilliant, courageous women like Doreen Lawrence to ‘go back to their natural homeland’; these are the views of white nationalists and should never be normalised. Rather than inviting them to their anniversary bash, the Bow Group should treat the people who hold these views with the contempt they deserve.”

How could Moggy not have known what the TBG was about? It’s time to have a closer look at some of the people who are involved with the TBG.

In the image at the top of this article, Rees Mogg is flanked by Jack Buckby on the left and Gregory Lauder-Frost on the right. Buckby is a former member of the BNP and the founder of the “National Culturalists“. He’s also press officer for Liberty GB, a far-right party that opposes, among other things, immigration. He stood as his party’s candidate in the Batley and Spen by-election that was held after the murder of Labour MP, Jo Cox. Nice guy, huh?

Here’s the odious Buckby in action on Channel 4 News.

This is Lauder-Frost being interviewed by Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio London. You will notice how he gets agitated by the idea of a prominent black woman like Doreen Lawrence being elevated to a peerage. Remember that all of Britain’s hereditary peers are white.

To say that Lauder-Frost is a Nazi admirer is something of an understatement. A former member of the Monday Club (he chaired their foreign affairs committee), Lauder-Frost is the vice president and treasurer of the TBG.  Prior to this, he was on the steering committee of the Conservative Democratic Alliance (CDA), a forerunner of the TBG. The CDA, for what it’s worth, was formed by disaffected members of the Monday Club.  TBG’s other vice president is Professor John Kersey, who describes himself as an “educationalist, musician and clergyman” (sic).  The site, ‘The Imaginative Conservative’ describes him as:

…an interdisciplinary historian whose scholarly work spans the three principal areas of music, education and traditionalist Catholicism. He currently serves as President, Director of Academic Affairs and David Hume Interdisciplinary Professor at European-American University.

The “European American University” currently appears to operate under the name ‘The Western Orthodox Academy’ and has branches in the Caribbean and West Africa.  Kersey is also rather nostalgic for feudalism.  As Tony the Tiger says: ” the aristocracy is just gggrrreeeeaaattt”!

What’s rather interesting about these TBG types is their connection to self-styled libertarian groups . Indeed, according to their website, Kersey also occupies the role of ‘Director of Cultural Affairs’ for the Libertarian Alliance but don’t be fooled by words like ‘libertarian’ or ‘freedom’. Their idea of freedom is yours and my slavery. When Moggy apologized for attending the TBG’s dinner, the site Libertarian News swung into action and complained that free thought and free speech were being denied. Oh, the drama!

Anti-fascists will be familiar with the name of Stuart Millson, who is also a TBG member and ex-member of the CDA, who, along with Jonathan Bowden (also a TBG member), formed the Revolutionary Conservative Caucus, a small but short-lived far right pressure group.  Millson was also a former member of the BNP and an officer with the semi-fascist outfit Western Goals Institute.  While he was in the RCS, Millson rubbed shoulders with the likes of Mark Cotterill, a former member of the National Front (NF) and a well-known figure on Britain’s far-right. This is not surprising given Millson’s former membership of the BNP, which itself was formed by a split in the NF. Millson was also once a member of the Conservative Party. Well, sort of…

From The Guardian, 27 August, 2001

Stephen Parker, a Tory member in Hertfordshire, wrote to Mr Ancram in 1999 with evidence that a self-declared rightwing extremist had forged a Tory party membership card. But in a letter to Peter Lilley, Mr Parker’s MP, the former chairman said in October 1999: “There is no further need to correspond with Mr Parker on this matter.” Mr Ancram argued that Stuart Millson, a BNP member in his youth, had merely made a copy of a membership card.

Mr Ancram’s refusal to take any action blew up in his face earlier this year when Mr Millson, who once dined in London with the French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, joined the Tonbridge and Malling Conservative association in Kent. He resigned in May this year after he was exposed by the Mirror.

The disclosure that Mr Ancram failed to take action to root out a known racist will confirm the fears of moderate Tories that the party hierarchy has been complacent about the far right’s attempts to infiltrate the party. It will also embarrass Mr Duncan Smith who has won the support of Mr Ancram and whose leadership campaign was rocked last week when a prominent backer in Wales was unmasked as a BNP sympathiser.

The Tories may deny it, but many of their members are sympathetic to groups like the TBG. Indeed, in the 1970s NF members joined local Conservative Clubs and were members of the Monday Club. Others are members of The Freedom Association, the faux libertarian pressure group that talks warmly about their idea of ‘freedom’, while working hard to deny it to others. Tories may complain about ‘entryism’ in the Labour Party, but for decades extreme-right entryists joined the party and they’re still joining.

Moggy’s antiquated views are only matched by his sartorial style. If you find him amusing or endearing, you might want to ask yourself this: what kind of friends are the TBG? Rees Mogg only apologised when he got caught by Liberal Conspiracy. If that had never happened, Moggy would have got away with it. Makes you wonder…

You can read the original Liberal Conspiracy article here.

 

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The Undignifed Response To The Grenfell Tower Fire From Britain’s Right

The terrible fire at Grenfell Tower in Notting Dale last week in which scores, possibly hundreds, of people died, has prompted rather peculiar knee jerk reactions from Britain’s right-wing commentators and their followers. The most popular complaint among them is “the left has politicized this tragedy”. This is an interesting accusation, given the fact housing is a political issue, and for the fact the claim reveals a general ignorance of the word ‘politic(s)’. But the accusation is also indicative of a state of mind that blinds a person to empathy, compassion, sympathy and all the things that make us human; the very things that separate us from the machines. We do not ‘process’ feelings; we reflect, we meditate and we think about them; perhaps we act on them individually and collectively. That’s politics. Individual organs within our bodies (it’s not a ‘wonderful’ machine) may process nutrients but as organisms, we are more than the sum total of our physical processes. A point missed by those, like the Ayn Rand cultists, who would convince us that we are nothing more than robots made of flesh.

Catherine Itzin (1980), in her excellent book about British political theatre, Stages In The Revolution, argued “Everything is political; all life is political”. Second wave feminists always said “The personal is political”. We should also remind ourselves that word ‘politics’ is derived from ‘polis’ the Ancient Greek word for city; a place with a high concentration of citizens . In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle used the word politikos to describe the ‘affairs of the citizens’. In this form it can mean anything from an individual’s preferences and judgements, or the discourses that groups of people create or circulate among themselves.  Politics is not limited to the practices of professional politicians and their associates in the press.

Merriam Webster offers these definitions of the word ‘politics’.

  1. 1a :  the art or science of government b :  the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy c :  the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government

  2. 2:  political actions, practices, or policies

  3. 3a :  political affairs or business; especially :  competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (as in a government)b :  political life especially as a principal activity or profession c :  political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices

  4. 4:  the political opinions or sympathies of a person

  5. 5a :  the total complex of relations between people living in society b :  relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view office politics ethnic politics

Like it or not, housing is a political issue and to accuse a group or a person of “politicizing the tragedy” misses this point – especially when the local authority’s response to the Grenfell blaze was so woeful. This was a preventable tragedy and to voice that fact is political and rightly so.

When Jeremy Corbyn told the media that empty homes in the borough should be requisitioned to temporarily house Glenfell survivors, the howls of outrage were as predictable as they were hysterical.  These self-appointed moral guardians would tell us they are educated, but their comprehension of written and spoken English was noticeably lacking in their discourses.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a requisition is a:

NOUN

  • An official order laying claim to the use of property or materials.

    ‘I had to make various requisitions for staff and accommodation’
    1. 1.1 A formal written demand that something should be performed or put into operation.
      ‘requisitions for an Extraordinary General Meeting must state the business to be transacted’
    2. 1.2 Law A demand to the vendor of a property for the official search relating to the title.
    3. 1.3 mass noun The appropriation of goods for military or public use.
      ‘requisition of grain at the point of a gun proved a novel experience for the peasantr

The word that many right-wingers reached for instead of requisition was confiscation: a completely different word, which is defined as:

NOUN

mass noun

  • The action of taking or seizing someone’s property with authority; seizure.

    ‘a court ordered the confiscation of her property’

There it is. It isn’t that they misheard the word. Oh no. They heard what they wanted to hear: “millionaires’ properties should be confiscated to house displaced [but filthy] working class people from our neighbourhood[that we’d rather not see]”.

According to Helmet Head, the oligarchs who have bought properties in Kensington and Chelsea and left them empty, are entitled to special privileges by dint of their bloated bank accounts and their greed (here, the billionaire is revered as a living god). Property ownership is apparently an inalienable ‘human right’ that trumps the right to life, freedom of expression and so on.

Hysteria and hyperbole. First, legislation would have to be introduced for this to occur and second, homes were requisitioned by the government order during the First and Second World Wars. Requisitioning properties in times of emergency is nothing new and the properties are always returned to their owners. This is an emergency.

The Lyin’ King, in his column for CapX, effectively dodges the question of possible corporate manslaughter or managerial incompetence by adopting a morally high, but ultimately questionable, position of disinterest. He opens in his typically dishonest fashion by linking Grenfell Tower to a hoax call. It’s pretty despicable.

Do you remember the tragic story of Jacintha Saldanha? You don’t? It was huge at the time. Jacintha was a nurse at the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to her first child. She got a hoax call from two Australian radio presenters pretending to be the Queen and the Prince of Wales, and put it through to the relevant ward nurse. When the news broke, Jacintha, who had had a history of depression, committed suicide by hanging, leaving two teenage children.

He then links the genuine concerns of the residents and neighbours and the glacially sluggish response from RB Kensington and Chelsea’s leadership to scapegoating  innocent parties. I draw your attention to the final sentence, because it is most revealing.

We are still at that stage in the aftermath of the Grenfell horror. Obviously, we need to find out what went wrong, and assess whether other places are at risk. If there is evidence of criminal negligence, of course that negligence should be punished. But the discussion over the past two days has gone well beyond these things. The country is bellowing for a scapegoat big enough and monstrous enough to bear responsibility for such an outrage. The idea of a tragic accident simply won’t do.

Yes, this is tragic. That’s stating the bleedin’ obvious but an accident? How does Dan, for all his moralizing and expensive education, know this was an “accident”? Moreover, by referring to Grenfell as a “tragic accident”, he is making his own political judgement of the disaster.

But what about the contributing factors?  Has Dan not read the Grenfell Action Group blog?  Does he think that residents shouldn’t have voiced their concerns at the  substandard quality of the £10 million refurbishment, or the mysterious power surges? Does he think that, given their circumstances as renters, they have no right to complain? Those who rent their homes as opposed to those who buy their, are often seen by the property-owning classes, as second class citizens. 

Like our pre-modern ancestors, we have an innate sense that, for such a horrifying event to have happened, there must have been great wickedness at work. Like them, we disagree as to who was responsible for the wickedness. Usually, though, just as they did, we blame whomever we already happened not to like. Glancing at this morning’s newspapers, I see that the Guardian blames inequality, the Mail blames eco-regulations, the Express blames EU rules and the Mirror blames the Tories. Simon Jenkins, that champion of harmonious and well-proportioned architecture, blames tower-blocks. Owen Jones, my favourite radical, blames racketeering landlords. For all I know, one or more of these villains may indeed be at fault; but, for now, it is mainly guesswork.

 A massive point has been missed.

Here, Hannan tells his readers to give money and to sympathize with the victims, while at the same he presumes to speak for the residents and their suffering. Just wow.

The media always follow the same course on these occasions. Having initially blamed their favourite bêtes noires, they will move on to the victims and survivors, asking them what should be done. Which brings me to a very hard thing that needs saying. The victims deserve our utmost sympathy as well as our practical help. Please do give, if you haven’t already, to one of the appeals. But bereaved relatives have no particular authority when it comes to finding the correct prescriptions. We should not expect policy ideas from people in shock, and demanding them is not just a form of journalistic grandstanding; it is also deeply unfair to the victims it purports to elevate.

Emotions are human, and grief and suffering are expressed in individual ways. Money is not the only answer; it is only a sticking plaster. Long term needs must be considered, namely the residents’ right to live in their neighbourhood in safety.

Hannan et al will always deny the central issue of housing provision and potential avoidability of this disaster is political issue, but this view is as absurd as it is dangerous. It smacks of  a wilful disinterest that is wholly based upon class privilege. Their underlying disgust for, not only council tenants, but the working class as a social formation, bobs up from behind the cover of their tiresome and empty platitudes, and is thus visible for all to see. Charity, for them is the answer, not a proposal to deal with the structural inequalities that have blighted this country for generations, but philanthropy and the guiding hand of paternalism is offered to head off any real demands for meaningful social, political, cultural and economic settlement. This is disgust in action.

Disgust figures prominently in the tweets of CapX’s  Iain Martin, who subjects last week’s protests outside Kensington Town Hall, to a volley of sneers, paranoia and misinterpretations. In this tweet, he slyly insinuates the residents – who should be meek; content in their social condition – are being led astray by members of the much depleted Socialist Workers’ Party.

But even if left-wing parties are marching in solidarity with the residents and a few SWP placards (which are on every fucking march and demo, by the way.  It doesn’t mean that everyone is a fucking member) are seen, does this necessarily prove anything? Is this necessarily the SWP in another bandwagon-jumping exercise? Not really.  Any human would have been appalled at what happened to those poor unfortunate people. Would this country’s right-wing have taken up the cause of those who lost their homes at Grenfell Tower by marching in solidarity with them? It’s highly unlikely.  Well, no, actually.  They only protest when their idea of freedom is challenged or when it’s otherwise not being met on their terms. Even then, such events are poorly-attended.

In this tweet to Owen Jones, Martin insists that the residents, whom he describes as a “mob”, aren’t capable of spontaneous collective agency but are being led astray by the darkest of forces. Yes, it’s the SWP again, cast here as “tin pot revolutionaries”.

Beneath Martin’s sneers burns a fierce class hatred that is bolstered by his sense of class entitlement, which is common to all free market cultists.  Indeed, it speaks volumes when I say that I have yet to meet a working class right-wing libertarian. I don’t think they exist. Anarchists, yes. Libertarians, no.

Brendan O’Neill claims to be a man of the left, a Marxist even, but this claim has always been empty. He’s a right-wing libertarian-contrarian, who spends his days shouting about the ‘middle class left’ and views the working class as a homogeneous mass that is ignorant, easily led and certainly not left-wing. In his article for Spiked Online, he demands that Labour, the left or whoever, stop “exploiting the dead of Grenfell Tower”. His article ploughs roughly the same furrow as the Lyin’ King’s effort but is no less wilfully ignorant in its tone and manner. We get to his ideological spin at the bottom of the piece:

‘But the Grenfell disaster is political’, the people exploiting it cry, somewhat defensively. And they’re right. It is. Social housing and gentrification and the eco-approved application of cladding to tower blocks are political issues, or at least public issues, and we should talk about them. But these people aren’t treating Grenfell as political; they’re treating it as party political. They’re using it to demean Toryism as evil, and big up Corbyn as the leader Britain needs right now. He cares, you see, unlike them. He is Good, they are Bad. This isn’t politics – this is a culture war, where the horrors experienced by the working classes of North Kensington are used to underpin the binary moralism of a Corbynista worldview of the right as wicked and the left as decent. They are building their political movement on the corpses of the poor, and no amount of radical-sounding lingo can cover up just how cynical, opportunistic and depraved that is.

O’Neill uses the Grenfell Disaster to attack Corbyn. It’s intellectually dishonest and it’s shabby. His screed reveals his rather slippery view of his politics: the right is “wicked” and the left is “decent” he moans. But this is no more than a warped perception of Corbyn’s very human response to the disaster. I don’t recall Bruvver Bren making any demands on behalf of the residents or, indeed, meeting them face-to-face. Can you? O’Neill takes Murdoch’s shilling, so his job is to produce unimaginative crap like this.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Brendan O’Neill.

For the likes of Toby Young, Dan Hannan, and Iain Martin, the working class should simply put up with their condition because, so the neoliberal argument goes, they made ‘poor life choices’. If they burn to death in a ‘tragic accident’ then one must remain calm and accept the fact that politics is something that is practised by, and reserved for, professionals like Hannan, a man who takes a salary from the European Union, but who has worked to destroy the very institution from which he has benefited enormously.

Since the days of Thatcher, right-leaning middle class types have always believed in the notion that the working class can simply ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’ and be like them. The trouble is, the working class cannot be like them because, unlike them, they weren’t born into privilege. They literally cannot afford to be right-wing libertarians or Tories.

Reference/further reading

Bourdieu, P. (2003). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, London: Routledge.

De Certeau, M (1988). The Practice of Everyday Life. London: University of California Press.

Fanon, F. (1986). Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto Press.

Harvey, D. (2007). “Neoliberalism as creative destruction”. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 610(1), pp 21-44.

Itzin, C. (1980). Stages in the revolution: political theatre in Britain since 1968. London: Eyre Metheun.

Rowe, C. J., & Broadie, S. (2002). Nicomachean ethics. Oxford University Press.

 

 

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The ‘Strong Economy’ Soundbite

For the best part of 20 years, soundbites have become the lingua franca of careerist and dishonest politicians. We can see this whenever the subject of the National Health Service or public services is raised in an interview with a Tory minister: they’ll trot out the familiar soundbite of “in order to have a properly funded NHS, we need to have a strong economy”. What this actually means when it’s translated is “we’ll keep running down the NHS, until we get it into such a position that we’ll have to sell it off”. When it’s unpacked, the ‘strong economy’ soundbite is actually an admission that the economy is actually weak and not as “strong” as the Tories suggest. The Tories will then contradict themselves by telling us that the economy is “strong”, even though many of us know this is not the case. Why? Because we can see the evidence of a weak national economy with our own eyes.

If the economy is so “strong”, then why are working people forced to go to foodbanks? If the economy is so strong, then why are public sector workers having their pay effectively cut year on year? If the economy is so “strong”, then why are people put into a position where the only jobs available to them are casual and short term jobs?

So, if  the Tories are to be believed and we have a weak economy, does that mean we can’t have an NHS? Nonsense. After the Second World War, Britain was broke and its economy was weak, yet we still managed to have an NHS.

The mass media – especially the BBC – is failing the public by refusing to challenge Tory politicians on their claims and their meaningless soundbites. They are helping to undermine, not just the democratic process (the election), but our flimsy democracy too.

We deserve better from our politicians and our mass media.

 

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