Category Archives: Media

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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Filed under London, Media, Murdoch press, propaganda

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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Filed under BBC, General Election 2017, Media, Yellow journalism

BBC Complaint

The BBC must think we’re all as stupid as their journalists. I recently complained about a puff piece that Newsnight ran on Theresa May a couple of weeks ago, and Laura Kuenssberg’s appallingly biased Tweet. Naturally, the BBC saw nothing wrong with either of them. Here’s their reply to me:

Dear Mr Hell

Reference CAS-4338575-LYC8NX

Thank you for contacting us about BBC News output.

I understand you feel a recent interview with Theresa May in ‘Newsnight’ amounted to a ‘puff piece’ and Laura Kuenssberg’s post on social media regarding Jeremy Corbyn’s campaigning in Scotland and the Prime Minister’s absence in comparison displayed bias against Mr Corbyn.

We were naturally concerned to learn of your unhappiness but we’d explain that all BBC correspondents, reporters, presenters and editors are very well aware of our key commitment to impartial reporting at all times.

All staff are expected to put any political views to one side when carrying out their work for the BBC, and they simply try to provide the information and context on the story or issue using their professional insight to allow our viewers, listeners and web users to make up their own minds.

BBC News aims to show the political reality and provide a forum for discussion on issues, giving full opportunity for all sides of the debate to be heard and explored. Senior editorial staff within BBC News and the BBC Board keep a close watch on programmes to ensure that standards of impartiality are maintained.

The key point is that the BBC as an organisation has no view or position itself on anything we may report upon – our aim is to identify all significant views, and to test them rigorously and fairly on behalf of our audiences.

We always strive to be robust and consistent in our dealings with politicians and figures of public interest. The interviewer’s role is to put the questions that audience members want to know the answers to.

Our journalists seek to hold politicians and public figures to account by asking them pressing questions on a variety of topics, however the nature and tone of these questions may well be different depending on the programme or juncture the interview is broadcast on.

As the BBC’s Political Editor, Laura can’t publish ‘personal’ views on politics. Her role instead brings a professional and informed insight to events, based on her specialist knowledge and experience in the field.

This tweet conveyed the contrast in the two leaders, reflecting the tactics and mindsets in each party’s campaign. Laura was making the point that because of the conflicting positions on Trident within the Labour party, the Conservatives had made a conscious decision not to engage on the issue at that time. Senior staff are engaged in making sure that all BBC News output, including social media, is in line with our editorial guidelines.

Please be assured we do value your feedback about the points raised. All complaints are sent to senior management and in this case the BBC News team every morning, and I included your points in our overnight report of audience feedback.

These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensures that your concerns have been seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future programmes.

Thank you again for contacting us.

Kind regards

Nicholas Bannon

BBC Complaints Team

First, I put it to the BBC that if they were going to run a puff piece on May, were they going to do that same for the other party leaders. The silence, as this reply illustrates, is deafening.

As for Her Ladyship’s tweet, you will notice how Mr Bannon swats away my complaint by telling me she (Kuenssberg) “can’t publish ‘personal’ views on politics”. Oh? So why did she take to Twitter to air them? She certainly wasn’t doing that in a personal capacity.

The BBC’s claims to “impartiality” don’t stand up to scrutiny. Indeed, Mr Bannon’s reply to me amounts to little more than gaslighting.

I will be escalating my complaint to Ofcom.

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Filed under BBC, Media, propaganda

Yvette Cooper Is Shadow Home Secretary? That’s News To Me!

Have a look at this Guardian headline.  Can you see anything wrong with it?

The subtitle says: “Colleagues show support after shadow home secretary criticises Theresa May for breaking snap election promise”. The thing is, Jeremy Corbyn attacked May for the same thing twenty minutes before Cooper rose to her feet. Here, Jessica Elgot,  by not mentioning Corbyn, is claiming that only Cooper “criticised” May (Dennis Skinner also put the boot in). That’s how bias works, folks, and Elgot is nothing if not transparent.

Elgot gushes:

Labour MPs heaped praise on Yvette Cooper’s performance at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, during which the former shadow home secretary attacked Theresa May for breaking her promise not to hold a snap general election.

The whirlwind of supportive comments from Labour colleagues will fuel speculation the MP is already laying the ground for a second leadership bid, given the prevailing feeling in the parliamentary party that Labour should choose a woman as its next leader if Jeremy Corbyn loses on 8 June.

But when was Yvette Cooper appointed Shadow Home Secretary and does Diane Abbott know she’s taken her job?

Given The Guardian’s loathing of Jeremy Corbyn is this a subtle way of telling people who they’d prefer to lead the Labour Party in the event of a defeat?

Remember, in Britain it’s not the voters who decide who leads the Labour Party (or the country). That’s the self-appointed job of the corporate media.

You can read Elgot’s syrupy drivel in full here.

UPDATE 19/4/17 @ 1623

The Guardian have corrected their, erm, error. I have the screengrab and will be keeping an eye on the paper.

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Filed under allegations of bias, Free Press Myth, General Election 2017, Journalism, Media

The S*n And Labour MPs

 

Wes Streeting: his first allegiance is to himself.

So The S*n has suspended their top hack and former editor, Kelvin MacKenzie, after he wrote an article comparing Everton’s Ross Barkley to a gorilla. But he didn’t stop there: a day before the anniversary of Hillsborough, MacKenzie, a man so full of loathing that he hates his Scottish heritage, rehashed his old anti-Scouse tirades.  A backlash followed. Everton FC followed the earlier example of Liverpool FC and duly banned S*n journalists from the club. The paper is already subject to a mass boycott on Merseyside.

The reason for this blog isn’t to discuss MacKenzie or his disgusting rag but to ask questions of Labour MPs who continue to write for The S*n despite knowing the paper’s history and its attacks on working class and minority groups. One such MP is the nominally Labour MP, Wes Streeting, whose allegiance to his political ambition eclipses allegiance to his party and his constituents.

So why is Streeting so eager to write for The S*n? Is it because he holds a misguided view that the paper itself is working class? No. Is it because the paper offers an excellent platform to address burning social issues? No. Like all those Labour MPs who oppose Jeremy Corbyn, he saw an ally in Murdoch, who himself believes he is some kind of kingmaker.  It’s also likely that he saw the big fat pay cheque on offer and thought “I’ll have some of that”.

I found Streeting’s excuses for writing for The S*n rather peculiar. In this Tweet, he offers weasel words in defence.

Three things emerge from this Tweet. The first is Murdoch’s news empire enjoys huge tax breaks here and in the United States, where he is a citizen.  In this, the Cambridge-educated Streeting comes across as a bit dim. The second is that The S*n came to the tax avoidance story rather late in the day, and the third is the weasel words offered to Scousers. Not once does Streeting make an effort to understand the reason for Merseyside’s mass boycott of The S*n.  It’s simply axiomatic and takes place independently of the Hillsborough Disaster, the subsequent cover-ups and the Murdoch press’s continued attacks on Liverpool and its people.

This Twitter thread is most enlightening. When asked why he accepted Murdoch’s dirty money, Streeting’s reply couldn’t be more evasive.

Streeting doesn’t seem terribly bothered about The S*n’s history of antagonism towards the Labour Party, nor does he consider the negative impact of the paper and its stablemates on British democracy.  Instead, the misguided MP seems to think that the lost legions of Labour voters have taken refuge in The S*n. But where does he get this view from?  Nowhere. It’s false consciousness.

Last May, Streeting spoke to The S*n to complain about his party’s refusal to accept McDonald’s sponsorship money for the party conference. The article painted Corbyn as a “veggie snob”, who was more comfortable at “trendy falafel bars”. What the article and Streeting ignored in order to score cheap political points, is that falafels are quite popular in the Ilford North constituency that he represents. Many of his constituents will also be vegetarian.  It would seem he has a problem representing them too.

Yet, two months before Streeting whined to The S*n about Corbyn’s vegetarianism, he called for a investigation into the papers “Queen backs Brexit article”. Of course, he wasn’t the only MP to do so and Nowhere Towers suspects that his opposition to the article is tokenistic and was intended to divert attention away from his willingness to write for and to to speak to, The S*n.

Fast forward to November 2016 and we see Streeting complaining about the attacks on the judiciary mounted by The S*n and other right-wing newspapers.

But you wrote articles for one of those papers!

The Cat believes Streeting is in politics for one reason and one reason only: he craves the attention. The very idea of public service is that last thought on his mind. When he took his seat in 2010, Streeting was still a councillor for the London Borough of Redbridge.  He’s a careerist and like all careerists, Streeting is shallow, vain and concerned only with furthering his ambitions.

John Mann, the thuggish Labour MP for Bassetlaw has also written articles for The S*n.  In this article, he tells the paper’s idiot readers that “It’s time to break free from the EU and take back control of our lives”.  Unlike Streeting, however, Mann doesn’t bother to offer excuses for why he wrote an article for a paper that so despises his party.  If he thinks he’ll get an easy ride from the paper if things go pear-shaped, then he needs to look at the example of Simon Danczuk, who happily wrote many articles for the paper, which then turned on him once the story of his ‘sexting’ a 15 year old emerged.  The S*n also covered Danczuk’s forthcoming third marriage in the House of Commons Crypt (appropriate). The Cat thinks Danczuk is too thick and too much of a narcissist to understand when he’s being used.

Danczuk has had the whip withdrawn and currently sits as an Independent.

When Michael Dugher resigned from the Labour frontbench, many people asked “who is Michael Dugher?” and rightly so. Dugher has also written for The S*n. This article appeared in January 2016 and dovetails into the now familiar anti-Corbyn narrative propagated by the rest of the right-wing press. Dugher writes:

Most people don’t think it is sensible to give up our nuclear deterrent on our
own, especially when you’ve got places like North Korea menacingly
developing their own nuclear programme.

But there are some who still haven’t learnt the lessons of history.

When Labour last wanted to “ban the bomb”, the public rejected us and the
Tories won landslide election victories.

The other thing we’ve learnt this week is Labour risks becoming more isolated
from traditional working-class supporters.

Labour has seen working-class support decline over the years. Many voters have
switched to Ukip, falsely believing the ex-Tory, ex-stockbroker Farage is
somehow the champion of the workers.

In Scotland, voters went to the SNP in their droves. Many now simply stay at
home and don’t bother voting.

Where to begin? Let’s just say, like many of his fellow anti-Corbyn MPs, Dugher appears ignorant of his party’s history.  Labour lost elections in the 1980s, not because of its opposition to nuclear weapons, but for two simple reasons: the SDP split the vote and Neil Kinnock, as party leader, failed to offer any tangible opposition to Thatcher. As for the disappearance of the working class support and Dugher’s lamentations, Nu Labour, under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, abandoned working class communities to suck up to corporations, bankers and, yes, Rupert Murdoch.  Furthermore, Labour’s vote collapsed in Scotland, not for the reason that Dugher suggests, but because Nu Labour took those voters for granted as it had done in England’s former mining areas. Dugher, ever the slackwitted, pins the blame solely on the SNP instead.  This plays well to the fools who take their news from The S*n, who are as unlikely to ask serious questions about political events as Dugher himself.  Thus Dugher clearly “hasn’t learnt the lessons of history” by writing for a paper that treats history in a selectively cavalier fashion.

Last autumn, Tom Watson appointed Dugher to head an inquiry into ‘fake news’. That’s the same Tom Watson who co-wrote Dial M For Murdoch, a book that was critical of the Murdoch press and the phone-hacking scandal. Confused? So is he.

Labour MPs who write for The S*n do so because they see in Murdoch an ally that is sympathetic to their ambitions. Murdoch, on the other hand, sees them as tools to use in the continuing smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and those who support him. By writing for The S*n, they also spit in the faces of Hillsborough’s victims and their families. Streeting, Mann et al are playing a very dangerous game by writing articles for The S*n, for their actions risk destroying the very party that they tell us they’re keen to defend.

UPDATE 17/4/17 @ 1840

The Cat has learned that Neil Coyle, the nominally Labour member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, has been speaking to The S*n about facing disciplinary action for “harassment” (sic). The S*n is quick to give the impression that Jeremy Corbyn himself “ordered” the investigation.  He didn’t; it was a member of his staff who made the complaint to the Whips’ Office.  What about the complaint? Well, apparently Coyle “questioned” (sic) Corbyn’s leadership and the party’s performance. There’s something The S*n and The Daily Mail, which is also carrying the story, aren’t telling us.  Can you see what it is yet?

Coyle is a prominent Progressite and like Streeting, he continues to sit as a local councillor.

 

 

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Filed under Free Press Myth, Ideologies, Labour Party, Media, Murdoch press

Edwina Currie: Just Another Poor Pensioner

The title of this blog isn’t a joke. This was the impression Edwina Currie was trying to give me when I complained that the rise in employment figures, trumpeted by this government today as a deflection from its other problems, was masking the numbers of people on zero hours contracts or fake self-employment.

I took a screengrab of her Tweet in case she was thinking of deleting it.

Eggs McCurrie

She’s on low pay and she receives benefits? I doubt that. As the poster below remarks, she receives a generous final salary pension to which all former MPs are entitled. Although she may not be, in her words “filthy rich”, she has the kind of income that many pensioners can only dream of. Her appearance on I’m A Celebrity netted her a cool £100,000.  As for her appearances on the BBC, let’s put it this way: she won’t be earning peanuts. Currie and her second husband also own two (possibly more) properties.

I’d be very interested in what benefits she’s receiving. One thing is for certain, it isn’t Universal Credit.

Maybe she thought I wasn’t old enough to remember the ‘salmonella in eggs‘ story or her four year affair with John Major. Whatever the case, Ms Currie is playing fast and loose with the facts. Plus ça change, plus la même chose.

If Currie thinks her pension isn’t enough for her to live on, maybe she could get a job at her local supermarket? Just a thought.

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Filed under Media