Category Archives: propaganda

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

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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The Class Disgust Of The Blairites

The Blairites only tolerate the working class, but only just. Like Victorian children, they should be seen and not heard. In the past, the working class performed an important function by supplying Labour with votes in the 1997, 2000 and 2005 General Elections. But over the course of 20 years, Labour has been losing working class support in its so-called heartlands. The Blairites’ answer to this is to claim that the party was “too left-wing” and must attract Tory voters to win elections. It’s nonsense. In the entire 13 years they were in power, Nu Labour refused to repeal the most pernicious of Thatcher’s legislation – especially the anti-trade union laws, which directly affect workers.

It’s no secret that the Blairites through their think-tank, Progress, are more interested in chasing billionaires and their money than appealing to working class voters; the same voters the party was founded to represent. If they do speak of the working class, it’s to claim that they’re ignorant, illiterate and racist, while they use them as a justification to out-UKIP UKIP by mimicking their immigration policies. As far as the Blairites are concerned, the working class is more interested in keeping foreigners out than decent homes, jobs, healthcare and educational opportunities.

Now to the point of this blog. I was alerted to this article on the Progress website by this Tweet on their official Twitter account. It speculates on who among Jeremy Corbyn’s close allies will ‘seize the crown’ – so to speak.

It not only repeats the by now familiar line that Corbyn and his supporters are “hard left” and “Trotskyists”, it also adopts a sneering tone towards prominent working class members of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet.

The article’s author, Paul Richards (who’s he?) opens with this paragraph:

One thing you can guarantee, like rain on a bank holiday, is splits on the hard-left. The old Monty Python joke is funny because it is true. For the all the calls for workers’ unity, disunity is the stock-in-trade. The Trotskyist parties are all fragments of one another. The vanity parties such as Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour party, George Galloway’s Respect or Ken Loach’s Left Unity are all the products of splits, which have themselves split.

This, from a party-within-a-party that is so far to the right that it’s perfectly aligned with the socially liberal fractions of the Tory Party and the Lib Dems, who were themselves formed from a merger of the Labour splitters, the SDP and the Liberal Party. This from a faction that’s done more to undermine the party leadership than any left-wingers have done in Labour’s history.  Just to correct Richards, Left Unity wasn’t the product of a split; it was created in response to the lack of a left-wing alternative as well as Labour’s inertia under Ed Miliband. As for “vanity”, Nu Labour could be seen as Blair’s vanity project. He hijacked the party for his own ends and used it as a platform for personal greed once he left Parliament. The party lost thousands of members and 5 million voters but there’s not a peep from the Blairites or Progress about this. Instead, they live in a bubble, isolated from reality with only their delusions and nostaglia for company.

Here Richards  indulges himself in a little intellectual masturbation.

You might think the widening schisms amongst Corbynites are linked to his dismal personal ratings as the most unpopular leader ever, net loss of council seats, inability to appoint a functioning frontbench or the growing Tory lead in the opinion polls.

For Richards and his ilk, the polls are sacrosanct. Yet, as many of us already know, the Blairites brief their pals in the Murdoch press, a negative story is written by someone like Blair’s former speechwriter, Philip Collins, which is then followed by a poll to confirm their biases. Oddly enough, the bookies disagree with the pollsters. How did that happen?

Here, Richards demonstrates a glaring lack of self-awareness:

Remember those posh kids who discover socialism and sell papers outside Tesco? Think Rik Mayall as Rick in the Young Ones. Richard Burgon is that kid. Educated in the leafy suburbs of Harrogate, followed by St John’s College Cambridge, where he studied English Literature, he went on to become a solicitor. Burgon adopted a leftwing persona as a teen, and has never grown out of it.

The not-so-subtle discourse here is that left-wing politics is for teenagers. Grown ups apparently adopt more ‘sensible’ positions: like sneering at working class people and demanding the government step in to crush the guards’  strike on Southern Rail.

The Blairite disdain for protest, which is derided as a student pastime, is itself a notion that swerves around the fact that people of all ages protest. Moreover, protest is a legitimate form of political expression. The Blairites and the Tories seem to believe that the public’s engagement with politics should begin and end at the ballot box.  It’s as if to say “You’ve voted, what more do you want”? Protest for them should be either crushed or ignored – so much for the will of the people, eh? Remember the millions that marched against the Iraq War? That’s how much Blairites regard protests. Making war against weaker nations on the basis of non-existent evidence is supposedly more ‘adult’ than protest.

Once elected in 2015 (following a helpful phonecall from uncle Colin to Ed Miliband ahead of the selection process, denying Leeds a second all-women shortlist), the T-shirt wearing, placard waving student protestor has become a T-shirt wearing, placard waving MP. Feel the Burgon

Richards’s claim that Burgon only became an MP because of his uncle ignores the fact that, in 2015, the so-called ‘red princes’  Euan Blair and Will Straw were being lined up for safe seats.  Only Neil Kinnock’s son, Stephen, was successful in getting  selected and won a nice safe seat. No nepotism there. As you were.

Of Angela Rayner, Richards writes:

Rayner was a direct beneficiary of the Tony Blair-led Labour government, especially sure start, and understands more than most why we need a Labour government. Her thirst for power is political not personal. Oh, and she likes Star Wars.

The subtext of this paragraph is that because Rayner apparently benefited from Sure Start, she should get down on her knees and kiss Blair’s purple buskins. The Star Wars quip is throwaway.

Rebecca Long-Bailey comes in for this sideways sneer.

Her frontbench career was unimpaired by a series of uncertain early performances on television, notably being duffed up by Andrew Neil over Brexit. She learned economics on the job, as shadow chief secretary to the treasury, with the same diligence that earned her her sociology degree from Manchester Polytechnic.

First, Manchester Polytechnic hasn’t existed since 1992 when it became Manchester Metropolitan University. Second, Sociology is a real subject that deals with the politics of everyday life. Richards seems to think that only those educated at Oxbridge and in possession of PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) degrees should be in the shadow cabinet. But Miliband’s shadow cabinet was full of PPE types: Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper and Miliband himself were all Oxford PPE graduates, who had also served as special advisers and researchers. The lack of imagination among them was palpable and the absence of meaningful policies was glaring. Miliband’s Labour was a Cowardly Lion of a party: too afraid to challenge the Tories’ empty claims that “Labour crashed the economy” and “bankrupted the nation”, and too feeble to raise a fist in anger. Instead, it adopted what Miliband called “constructive opposition”.

According to Richards, Clive Lewis has

… a rich back story. Not rich as in wealthy, like Corbyn, but rich as in fascinating. He grew up on a council estate as the son of a single father. As a student unionist he stood against the Labour candidate for National Union of Students president in 1996.

The claim that Corbyn is fabulously wealthy is repeated here. Indeed, the section on Lewis is used as cover to attack Corbyn and repeat the same lies printed in the Tory press. The only word Richards left out when writing about Lewis was ‘exotic’.

Richards saves all his bile for John McDonnell, who is described in the caricature as “The Trotfather”. It’s juvenile stuff from an allegedly adult Blairite.

Even in a roomful of Corbynistas, McDonnell is the most leftwing person in the room. He was sacked by Ken Livingstone as deputy of the Greater London Council in 1985 for wanting London to copy the glorious resistance of Militant-led Liverpool; even Livingstone thought it a bit extreme. In 2003 he praised the ‘bravery’ of the IRA. He then apologised ‘if he had caused offence’.

Notice how Richards recycles the old “McDonnell appeases the IRA” smear. What’s perhaps worse is his repetition of the mainstream media claim that Militant was evil and hellbent on destroying Liverpool. The idea behind this is that the Militant-run council should have submitted fully to the will of Thatcher and her henchmen. Militant improved the lives of thousands of Scousers. It built much-needed homes and fought against a government that was intent on the city’s destruction. The Cat doubts Richards is old enough to remember the 1980s, such is the juvenile tone of this article and its cavalier approach to history.

Labour right-wingers are granted immunity when it comes to smearing members of their own party. They are permitted to indulge in their class disgust. Yet Labour left-wingers are suspended on trumped up charges of anti-Semitism and CLPs are suspended on the basis of lies and baseless allegations of intimidation. Will Iain McNicol take action against Progress? Don’t hold your breath. Not even the mainstream media has reported this story.

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Filed under Government & politics, Ideologies, Labour, Media, propaganda

The Blair-Murdoch Axis And The Lack Of Choice For Voters

We know that the dewy-eyed romantics, collectively known as Blairites (whether they like it or not), will stop at nothing to wrest the leadership of the Labour Party from Jeremy Corbyn and place it in the hands of one their own. They will destroy their party in the misguided belief that they are trying to ‘save’ it.

When Blairites, Jamie Reed and Tristram Hunt resigned, they did so knowing that the seats they occupied were marginal. Thus began the latest attempts to remove Corbyn as party leader. The Blairites and assorted plotters have a good deal of financial and moral support from wealthy individuals and hedge funds to the Murdoch propaganda empire and a compliant BBC.

Since last Thursday’s by-election defeat in Copeland (the count itself was conducted unlawfully according to the Skwawkbox blog), the Blairites had been out in force before, during and after, each of them issuing dark threats and repeating the by now familiar canards and logical fallacies.

Whenever you get into an argument with a Blairite, they never hesitate to repeat the claim that “Tony Blair won three elections in a row”. These words are used to ward off any criticism of Blair, but are also deployed as a discussion-killer whenever a Corbyn supporter reminds them of Nu Labour’s  shortcomings.  These words are also detached from reality and presented free of any association from the Murdoch empire and, indeed, history itself. As I have said in previous blogs, that Nu Labour won three consecutive elections isn’t in doubt, but so what? His government did nothing to address structural issues and kept the Thatcher project alive.

Over the course of 13 years, close to 5 million voters abandoned Labour. These voters either voted for another party or didn’t bother to vote at all. Yet, the Blairites and others insist that the only way for Labour to win a General Election that takes place in three year’s time, is not to reach out to these missing voters but to attract Tory voters instead. However, there is no evidence to suggest that this is a winning strategy. Moreover, it suggests to The Cat that this pathetic strategy is merely another ploy to create a situation in which the choices for voters are limited to various shades of right-wing parties, leading to a de facto one-party state. This must not be allowed to happen. Even Thatcher herself admitted that her “greatest achievement” was “New Labour”. Could there be a more clearer indication of how voters are being stitched up?

It’s useful to look at the socio- political climate before the Nu Labour landslide of 1997.  After 18 years of Tory government, first under Thatcher and then Major, people were so fed up that they would have voted for a pig wearing a red rosette. They didn’t vote because Blair promised them anything; all he did was to offer a fresh appearance. For behind the brightly-coloured shop front laid bare shelves. In the postmodern world of politics, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get.

Let’s remember that in July 1995, Tony Blair flew half way around the world to meet Rupert Murdoch on an island off the east coast of Australia.  What took place in that meeting is open to speculation but it resulted in Murdoch giving Nu Labour his support.

Only a year earlier, Alistair Darling, the Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury, tabled a Commons motion condemning Murdoch’s newspaper price-cutting.

“The newspaper industry is not only an important business but also a vital organ of the democratic process … predatory pricing, with the intention of forcing rivals out of the market, will reduce choice and undermine competition,”

The motion was supported, among others, by Peter Mandelson, then the MP for Hartlepool and a friend of Elisabeth Murdoch, Rupe’s daughter.

If we go back two years earlier to 1992, The S*n produced these front pages.  The one on the left appeared on election day, the one on the right appeared the day after.

The page on the right is supported by the claim in the bottom right-hand corner that the “Truth” had been “hailed by the Tories”.

When Labour lost the 2015 General Election (which is still shrouded in controversy because of the Tory Election Expenses Fraud), the Blairites turned on their leader, Ed Miliband, whom they had been plotting against since he was elected instead of his Blairite brother in 2010. In an article in the Financial Times, George Parker wrote:

Lord Mandelson said Mr Miliband and his supporters had made a “terrible mistake” in abandoning the New Labour centre ground and undertaking “a giant political experiment” that went badly wrong. Asked by the BBC’s John Pienaar what was missing from Mr Miliband’s approach, Lord Mandelson said: “An economic policy.” While many in the Labour party remain stunned by the poll result, Lord Mandelson was one of a number of Blairites who fanned out across the media to try to reclaim the party from the left.

This “centre ground” as the BBC and others like to describe it, is a myth. The centre shifted right under Blair and has continued to do so under successive Tory governments since 2010.  Also quoted in the article is  Blair’s former chief speech writer and now Murdoch hack, Philip Collins.

Philip Collins, a former Blair speech writer and columnist, tweeted that it would take more than five years to repair the damage of the defeat: “That is the price of the Ed vanity project. He lost two elections in one night.”

Collins has also been touring the television and radio studios to issue threats and warnings. The fact that Collins himself shuffled off to join the Murdoch empire so soon after the Blair bandwagon ground to a halt in 2008, speaks volumes and shows us how close the Blairites are to Murdoch.

Yesterday, Collins gleefully tweeted to his followers:

It is partly thanks to the efforts of Murdoch hacks like Collins that Corbyn is 36 points behind May in the personal ratings polls. However, I doubt the people Collins claims are “working class” are anything of the sort.  I mean, how many working class people does he actually know? None, I’d suggest. He’s gaslighting and not for the first time.  Polls are part of a near-perpetual feedback loop that includes negative press coverage. They are a form of confirmation bias that allows Collins and those like him to claim anything he likes.  This, in his mind, is ‘evidence’ that Corbyn must be overthrown.

If today’s coup plotters think that removing Corbyn will magically reverse the party’s poll ratings, then they’re much more naive than they care to admit. If today’s coup plotters think a Blairite or a similar stuffed shirt will make them more ‘electable’, then they are delusional. The fallacious reasoning of the Blairites is only matched by their evident blindness when it comes to the sainted Tony’s failings.

There are times when I think Corbyn and his supporters should split from the rest and form a new Labour Party. This party would be able to move forward, free from the fifth columnists who are more interested in attacking their own party members than the government. Any rump party, regardless of how much money it’s attracted from wealthy donors will soon count for nothing. Why? Because such a party would be deeply unpopular,  and would be forever tainted by its associations with the Iraq War, extraordinary rendition and a disdain for the working class vote that it took for granted for 13 or more years. Corbyn and his team must also embrace proportional representation to give voters a real choice at the ballot box.

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Filed under Government & politics, Labour, Media, propaganda, Tony Blair

Some Thoughts About The Copeland And Stoke Central By-Elections

It’s axiomatic that the Blairites, the media and the Tories hate Jeremy Corbyn and all that he stands for, so when the by-election results came on early Friday morning, it was accompanied by the predictable chorus of “I told you so”.  Yet there are those who are so obviously blind to what’s happening that they refuse to see it for themselves and will believe every lie that comes from the mouths of media commentators and the stuffed Blairite shirts that dominate the television studios.

The Blairites knew that mounting another leadership challenge would end in failure, so they resorted to their other tactic: encourage two of Corbyn’s most prominent critics to resign and force by-elections.  Their latest phase began when Jamie Reed resigned on Christmas Eve (how symbolic) and a couple of weeks later, he was followed by Tristram Hunt. Both MPs were in marginal seats. The timing of their resignations was, just like everything else the Blairites do, blatant. If these were generals on the battlefield, they would be defeated and captured by their enemies. Why do I say that? Because unlike good generals, they telegraph every move in advance.  Let’s face it, these people aren’t chess players. These are poor leaders and equally poor strategists, who have no other interest than to self-aggrandize and grab power for themselves and their class.  Be in no doubt, for all their complaints about Corbyn’s alleged incompetence, they’re not much better and their previous attempts to unseat him are a testament to that. Bereft of real ideas, they can only resort to insults and temper tantrums in the television and radio studios, where they know they won’t be challenged  by supine interviewers, who are in on the game.  It’s a proper little stitch-up, folks.

For many people, the recent attempt to destroy Jeremy Corbyn looked, on the face of it, like a couple of very ordinary resignations by disgruntled MPs,  which had little or no connection with the ongoing Blairite plot to seize control of the leadership. Yet even a cursory examination of recent events reveals that there are coordinated efforts on behalf of the state, the media, the Blairites and the Tories to ensure that a left-wing Labour party is eliminated from mainstream politics. Hence the frequent use of phrases like ‘hard left’ to describe the mild democratic socialism of Corbyn.  Moreover, smear stories don’t appear in the media all by themselves; someone has to plant them there. From the stream of “Labour is anti-Semitic” stories to the fabricated “brick through the Wallasey constituency office window” story, each and every one of these has been fed to the media, which for its part, has failed to verify the claims.  Thus the press has abdicated its first duty to its readers: check and double check the story.

In Copeland, Labour’s share of the vote had been in steady decline from the heady days of the Nu labour landslide of 1997. The figures below put this into perspective.

2017 37.3%
2015 42.3%
2010 46.0%
2005 50.5%
2001 51.8%
1997 58.2%

As you can see, since Reed’s election in 2005, Labour’s share of the vote went into freefall. The reason for this is obvious: Reed wasn’t popular; Blairism even less so. Yet neither of these things featured in the supposedly expert analysis of the media commentators who painted the loss of Copeland as the fault of Jeremy Corbyn.

For the last couple of years, the Blairites have been openly collaborating with the government and the media in undermining their party leader. Indeed, for all their talk of wanting to “save” the party they apparently care so deeply about, their actions say the opposite. Take Peter Mandelson’s words on last week’s Andrew Marr Show.

“I work every single day to bring forward the end of [Corbyn’s] tenure in office. Every day I try to do something to rescue the Labour Party from his leadership.”

People like Mandelson aren’t interested in governing the country for the benefit of those they claim to represent, because if they did, they wouldn’t spend so much time undermining the party’s leader. They are, for all intents and purposes, little different to those they ostensibly oppose. For the likes of Mandelson, it’s all about power for its own sake. They can talk as much as they like about “needing to be in power to change things” but while they were in power, they did very little beyond producing headline-grabbing gimmicks.

These days, they are little better.  Blairites offer no alternatives to the Tory government and they said as much during the 2015 Labour leadership election, nor do they have any vision. For them, it’s business as usual: more cuts to public services and more foreign wars waged on a false prospectuses. The economic orthodoxy must never be challenged.  In the entire 13 years that Nu Labour was in power, it did nothing to tackle the structural problems facing the country and concerned itself only with superficialities.

During the 2005 General Election, rather than challenge the Tories’ dog-whistle racism campaign head-on, they chimed in with with words of their own. Today, the discourse surrounding issues of immigration and national identity have been colonized by the far-right. The Blairites see nothing wrong with this and have instead engaged in the same kind of anti-immigration rhetoric as UKIP and the Tories.

Worse still, are the legions of fair weather Corbyn supporters who flake off as soon as a negative story appears in the media – planted by the Blairites. This is how the Gramscian (2003) concept of cultural hegemony works:  by getting the public to turn against themselves and join in the condemnations.  Bourdieu and Wacquant (2003), on the other hand, called this “symbolic violence” and it works in much the same way as cultural hegemony. This is “the violence which is exercised upon a social agent with his or her complicity”. Often people don’t realize the existence of this violence or they may collude in it themselves. We can see this at work everyday we turn on our televisions and watch the news, which has become increasingly about creating news rather than reporting it. To this end, the news media actively facilitates the narcissists that want to do us harm.

We can see this in action whenever a Blairite or other Nu Labour drone appears on television or radio. They will talk about how they want to be “a credible opposition”, which is used interchangeably with how “[they] must be in power”. The problem with this line of argument is that the Blairites would oppose precisely nothing. The Tories also claim that they want a “strong opposition”,  but they sound insincere whenever those words tumble from their lips. The last thing the Tories want is a strong opposition, and the Blairites say it because they think it’s good for their public image.  Oh, the Tories may claim that having a weak opposition is “bad for democracy” but their words are as empty as their claim to be the “party that governs for all of Britain”. Why the Blairites and the Tories don’t form a new party between them is down to the size and fragility of their egos rather than anything pragmatic. Token opposition is all the Blairites can offer and even Francoist Spain had token opposition parties to lend a veneer of democracy to the dictatorship.

Remember that in the 13 years Nu Labour was in power, they refused to repeal the anti-trade union legislation enacted by Thatcher in the 1980s. The state and the Tories have never wanted a parliamentary party that represents the working class, let alone a left-wing party that promises to redistribute wealth fairly. This is anathema to the state and the corporatists in the Conservative Party. It also sticks in the craw of the Blairites, who want to crush trade unions for having the temerity to fight for better working conditions.

The Blairites were hoping that Labour would lose both by-elections. In the end, the party only lost Copeland. That doesn’t say much for the Blairites’ organizing skills. Copeland remains a marginal seat. The new Tory MP has a similarly small majority to the last MP. This can easily be overturned in a General Election.

If Corbyn is removed as leader and the party is returned to the hands of the Blairites, it will lose hundreds of thousands of members overnight and its electoral chances will be ruined forever. So what is the solution? Clearly, there is no chance of Labour disciplining the saboteurs because the mechanisms that control internal party discipline are in the hands of the Blairites. So what is left? I wish I had an answer. If I were Labour leader, I’d be exploring ways to rid the party of its fifth columnists or bringing them to heel.

Today, David Miliband, the failed candidate in the 2010 Labour leadership election chipped in with his tuppence worth.  The extreme centrism espoused by the likes of the senior Miliband the the media is essentially right-wing and all the talk about the voters not being concerned with what’s right or left is wishful thinking. These Blairites are as predictable as clockwork. Tomorrow on the Andrew Marr Show and The Sunday Politics, we can expect more sound and fury from the Blairites and their Tory handlers.

Finally, if May and her Tories thought the Labour Party was really so weak, why are they so reluctant to call a General Election? Instead they make excuse after excuse and all the while the media refuses to interrogate them on their apparent disinclination to put their money where their mouths are. Perhaps they’re waiting for the gerrymandered constituency boundaries to take effect?

Actions always speak louder than words.

References

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

Gramsci, A. (ed.) (2003). Selections From The Prison Notebooks, London: Lawrence & Wishart.

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Filed under BBC, Conservative Party, Government & politics, Labour, Media, propaganda, Society & culture

The Crazy Upside Down World Of Helen Lewis

Helen Lewis is the deputy editor of the notionally left-wing journal The New Statesman.  Her views on Jeremy Corbyn are well known and she’s a regular on the BBC’s Sunday Politics.  Today, while Harriet Harman, Labour’s former interim leader appeared on the Andrew Marr Show, she issued this Tweet to her followers.

Come again? Harriet Harman did what?  Lewis has got this arse about face. Harman has stood up for the establishment, not “stood up against it” as she claims.  Indeed, she even ordered Labour MPs to vote for the government’s damaging Welfare Bill.  Weeks later, Harman changed her mind and told Southwark News that she’d “oppose it” – that’s after she ordered Labour MPs to vote for it.  And she’s thought of as leadership material?

In the last few weeks, the media has paraded a series of Orwellian neologisms like “post truth politics” before us.  Can we therefore regard Lewis’s Tweet as “post-reality”?  Let’s remember that Lewis herself comes from a privileged background and is, for all intents and purposes, like Harman, a member of the establishment.  So it’s unlikely that she possesses the ability to identify anti-establishmentarianism and is more likely to characterize it as something else.

Later on, and perhaps spurred on by the appearance of Harman,  Lewis went a little further and began banging the drum for Corbyn to quit.

So what was the reason for this?  Corbyn has ordered a three-line whip on the vote for Article 50, which triggers the Brexit process.  What hacks like Lewis and her colleagues in the anti-Corbyn media fail to understand (frankly odd for a political journalist) is that Article 50 is merely a Parliamentary mechanism.  The actual debate on the precise nature of Brexit takes place later.  Instead, the mass media has been misleading the public with the notion that Article 50 is the final stage in the process, thus they rely on the general public’s ignorance of Parliamentary procedures.  This is the same ignorance that was exploited during the referendum campaign itself.  It’s yet the latest stage in an ongoing attempt to remove Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, and the likes of Lewis won’t rest until they see someone picked by them in the role.  That, friends, is not only contempt for the democratic process that elected Corbyn, but it is also contempt for ordinary party members.

Fake news?  You’ll get loads of it from Lewis and her fellow hacks.

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Filed under Free Press Myth, Journalism, Media, propaganda, Yellow journalism

How Polling Works

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

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

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

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Filed under Journalism, Media, Opinion polls, propaganda