Category Archives: Tory press

The Labour Leadership Contest: Who’s Voting? The Party Members Or The Tory Media?

Whose leadership contest is this? The Labour Party’s or the right-wing media? First, the Blairites tell us who they want as leader of the Labour Party (as if we didn’t know already), then the Tory-controlled press pipes up to tell us who should be leader. I always thought the members decided by secret ballot who becomes the next Labour leader. It seems the media gets in on the act too. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard the word ‘modernizer’ prefacing a candidate’s name. For example, James Landale, the BBC’s Old Etonian and contemporary of David Cameron, will claim that “Yvette Cooper is a modernizer” and Chuka Umunna “is known as a modernizer”. It seems to me that the word ‘modernizer’ is a euphemistic way of claiming “this is a candidate who has the approval of Britain’s Tory-dominated media” but which also suggests “they won’t be beholden to the unions”.

The BBC said of Chuka Umunna.

He’s always been seen as smart and ambitious, metropolitan and a moderniser – he appeared alongside Lord Mandelson on Andrew Marr’s sofa on Sunday.

Appearing alongside the undead Mandelson was seen by the BBC as both an anointment of Umunna and a vindication of Blairism. Fuck off.

The British press has been hysterical in its coverage of the leadership election. Take this thinly-disguised hatchet job in the Daily Mail. Or this one that stokes the fires of “Red Len” paranoia.

The hardline Socialist boss of Unite – Labour’s chief paymaster and sponsor of more than 60 per cent of its MPs – has a visceral hatred of Blairite ‘modernisers’, who seek to reconnect the party with aspirational middle England following its humiliation in the general election.

And he’s doing everything in his power to drive them out.

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy – a prominent Blairite – is the latest casualty.

He resigned on Saturday over what he described as the ‘poisonous’ war being waged by Mr McCluskey and his supporters against the modernisers.

It’s almost like reading a Daily Mail article from the 1920s. “The hardline Socialist boss of Unite” it screams hysterically. Notice how the word socialism is emphasized using an upper case ‘S’. Oh, scary. I’d better look under my bed to see if Grigory Zinoviev’s corpse is lying underneath. If you manage to get to the end of the article, there are a few paragraphs about Cameron’s former ‘adviser’, Steve Hilton too.

With the Labour party in deep disarray, Mr Cameron has a chance to lead one of the most reforming – and longstanding – Governments of recent times.

As the Situationist graffiti once said, ” Reform, my ass”. Hilton’s only telling us what we already know. Fuck off.

A day later, a slightly cheerier Mail article breezily declares that “Unions will not get to choose Labour leader”.

Modernisers in the Labour party want to avoid what happened when Ed Miliband beat his brother David for the job with the support of the unions.

It left the Tories able to claim the unions picked the leader, chose the policies and bankrolled the Labour party.

Ah, the damned dissembling Daily Mail, where would we be without your version of the truth? Of course, there’s no mention here of the hedge fund managers and construction companies that bankroll the Conservative Party. Unions are bad, yet JCB is good. Fuck off.

Over at the Daily Telegraph, Dan Hodges thought he knew who should be the next Labour leader, so he picked Dan Jarvis, who ruled himself out. Then Dan plumped for Chuka Umunna (with caveats), who then dropped out of the race last Friday. Poor Hodgie must be in bits. I can’t see any candidate in the race currently who’d appeal to the irredentist former Labourite, well, Blairite. Oh, hang on, there’s always Tristy. He crosses picket lines, so he’s bound to get Hodgie’s support. But then Tristy then ruled himself out of the contest and pledged his support for the Blairite, Liz Kendall while plunging the knife between Andy Burnham’s shoulder blades. Fuck’s sake.

From The [barely] Independent,

Tristram Hunt has decided not to enter the race to replace Ed Miliband as Labour leader and has thrown his support behind fellow moderniser Liz Kendall.

There’s that word “moderniser” again.

Hodges was clearly tearful when arch-Blairite, Jim Murphy sort of announced his resignation as leader of Scottish Labour. He blames Len McCluskey for Murphy’s in-out-shake-it-all-about resignation. Truth be told, rank and file Labourites were fed up with him, because Jim Murphy only cares about one thing: Jim Murphy. He can fuck off.

Hodges claims with a straight face,

For the past week it looked like the wheels were coming off the Labour Party. Right now it looks as if the whole car is about to be dragged to the junk yard and pounded into scrap.

Remember this is the man who has spent the last five years kicking the shit out of the party he claims to support. This is the man who is a friend of Lynton Crosby. If the car is “about to be dragged to the junkyard”, then it’s partly due to hacks like Hodges spending so much time and effort slagging the party off in papers like the Torygraph.  In fact, the day after the election, Dan wasted no time putting the boot into Ed Miliband.

And so Ed Miliband began to grow before our eyes. He was doing all right. Actually, you know what, he was doing quite well. Blimey, he was doing very well. OK, you’re not going to believe this, but Ed Miliband could actually be our prime minister.

When I say “our eyes” I mean the media’s eyes. The eyes of his own activists. The eyes of some his own MPs.

That reminds me, Dan. Have you actually left the Labour party yet? Isn’t it time you fucked off and joined the Tories?

In this article, Hodges borrows his title from the infamous S*n headline of May 1992. He even has a ‘quiz’ that asks the truly daft question:

Quiz: can you tell the Labour manifesto from that of the Communist Party?

I saw nothing in the Labour Party manifesto that could vaguely be described as “communist” (sic) . Clearly Hodges is playing to his rabid right-wing readership that views such things as equality and tolerance as ‘communist’. Three days ago, in the same paper, “Telegraph View” claimed:

The Labour Party is in trouble. There is a battle for its heart and soul raging – and it is unclear who will win. On one side stand union leaders and Left-wing activists, who refuse to acknowledge the mistakes of the past. On the other are modernisers with their eyes on a more moderate future. Yesterday afternoon, Jim Murphy, the leader of the Scottish Labour Party, became a casualty in this war.

What exactly is meant by “moderate future”? The one envisaged by the current extreme right-wing government that has Michael Gove as Justice Secretary? Fuck off.

Yesterday, The [Hardly] Independent claimed:

Allies of Ed Miliband accused Britain’s biggest trade union of trying to keep modernisers off the ballot paper in the Labour leadership election amid fears that it could be limited to a two-horse race between Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper.

The bitter row between senior Labour figures and Unite intensified as it was claimed that the union was putting pressure on Labour MPs not to nominate modernisers Liz Kendall, Mary Creagh and Tristram Hunt in the election to choose Mr Miliband’s successor.

The Cat doesn’t recall the British media getting so involved in the Conservative leadership contests, yet the press barons and news editors seem to believe that they have the right to decide the outcome of the Labour leadership election. Free press? In this country? Fuck off.

The insane British media caravan rumbles on. But seriously, it can fuck off.

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Filed under BBC, Free Press Myth, Government & politics, Ideologies, Labour, Labour leadership contest, Media, propaganda, Tory press

Tories And The Hypocrisy Of Anti-Statism

The Tories often claim to be anti-statists and accuse their opponents, usually the Labour Party, of being ‘statists’. This was the same claim that Thatcher made back in 1979 and throughout the 1980s. However, if you look at their record in government since that time, the claim rings hollow.

Thatcher’s anti-state rhetoric  has been assiduously revived under Cameron’s Conservatives. The state, we are told, must be shrunk for our own good and socialism and, by extension, the Labour Party are regarded as obstacles to the freedom (sic) that will apparently flow from a reduction of the size of the state. Yet the Tories claims to anti-statism are made without any apparent sense of self-reflexivity or irony. In his article “Thatcherism – A New Stage?” for Marxism Today, Prof. Stuart Hall (1980) wrote:

In the development of her anti-statist philosophy, Mrs Thatcher has successfully identified this kind of ‘statism’ with Labour — and with socialism. It was then possible to represent the resistance to and disenchantment with this form of ‘statism’ as a resistance, not only to Labour, but more fundamentally to socialism itself. In this way Thatcherism has successfully identified itself with the popular struggle against a bureaucratically centralist form of the capitalist state.

Yet the privatized systems that replaced state bureaucracies were no less ruthless and no less intrusive. Witness the Work Capability Assessments introduced by Nu Labour and expanded under the coalition. Serco and ATOS may be private companies but they act on behalf of the state.

Hall (1979) also observed “The Great Moving Right Show” that Thatcher’s Tories offered what he referred to as “authoritarian populism”. This authoritarian populism or ‘libertarian authoritarianism’ (a true contradiction if ever there was one) is present in Wednesday’s announcement from Cameron in which he claimed,

For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone’,”

Increased surveillance relies on an enlarged state security apparatus to function effectively, and although Tories rail against the state’s expansion when it comes to its social functions, they have no qualms with a bloated secret state. The so-called ‘snoopers charter’ is testament to this. Thus the idea that one has “nothing to fear if they have nothing to hide” is a mantra that appeals to Tories and gullible voters alike. The latter constituency is kept in a constant state of fear by the near-endless production of scare stories in the right-wing media about ‘enemies within’ and without, who seek to “destroy our way of life”  – whatever that may be. While the former accepts it as an article of faith and needs little persuasion.

The expanded security state also relies on a form of nationalized morality. Hall (1979) explains:

But the language of law and order is sustained by moralisms. It is where the great syntax of “good” versus “evil”, of civilized and uncivilized standards, of the choice between anarchy and order constantly divides the world up and classifies into its appointed stations. The play on “values” and on moral issues in this area is what gives to the law and order crusade much of its grasp on popular morality and common sense conscience.

Yet despite this, it touches concretely the experiences of crime and theft, of loss of scarce property and fears of unexpected attack in working class areas and neighbourhoods; and, since it promulgates no other remedies for their underlying causes, it welds people to that “need for authority” which has been so significant for the Right in the construction of consent to its authoritarian programme

Rather than addressing the underlying causes of crime, the Tories’ solution is to treat the symptoms by smashing the perpetrators with an iron fist. Cameron’s entreaty to the British public in 2006 to “hug a hoodie” is now seen by many as an embarrassing episode of juvenile naivete. But his ‘hug the hoodie’ statement was also PR guff designed to make him look more ‘in touch’ with the youth than the Calvinistic and comparatively older Gordon Brown.

The Tories’ small state notion needs a fearful but atomized society that is obsessed with individual needs (me first) over community needs, while also accepting the false need for a suffocating security blanket. The ‘independent’ nuclear ‘deterrent’ is supported by Tory statists who constantly warn of the danger of this external threat or that one. ISIS/ISIL/IS/Da’esh is raised as the all-purpose bogeyman: they are everywhere and nowhere. As Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood pointed out, what good are nuclear weapons against ISIS? Yet the supporters of the expanded security state dismiss this out of hand, and they do so because they stand to make money and win prestige from the uneven nuclear relationship between the United States and HMP United Kingdom.

To aid the efforts in shrinking the social functions of the state, the British people are distracted by the constant bombardment of the government’s advertising messages declaring that the ideal lifestyle is just within reach if you work your fingers to the bone to achieve it. Those who buy into this notion of ‘advancement through hard work’ (which sounds uncomfortably close to the Nazi’s ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ slogan) are encouraged to resent those on benefits because they are told that these people are ‘undeserving’, feckless and inherently lazy. Such people need to be stigmatized by an overbearing Tory government that’s hell-bent on enriching itself and its allies. The state, in this case, is supposedly entitled to poke its nose into the lives of benefit claimants and has the support of the S*n reading public, whose consent it has manufactured. All benefit claimants are leeches, all council estates are dumps and flotillas of immigrants will wash up on our shores to steal your jobs – so the stories go. The Tory-controlled media thus provides both a modern day version of the village stocks, while, at the same time, dispensing scare stories of dangerous elements in our society to keep people in line.

The aim of the Tories’ anti-statism is to return to country to the supposed ‘golden age’ of the 19th century with its yawning gaps between rich and poor; its rampant poverty, high child mortality rates and widespread ignorance. At the same time, it retains the state’s repressive functions to crush dissent and opposition – just as it did in the 19th century. And this is what people voted for? Your freedom is an illusion and even that illusion may be snatched away from you before long.

References

Debord, G. (2005). Society of the Spectacle, Detroit: Black and Red.

Foucault, M (1977). Discipline and Punish. London: Penguin

Herman, E. S. & Chomsky, N. (1994) Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, London: Vintage Books.

Hall, S. (1979). “The Great Moving Right Show” in Marxism Today, January 1979: pp 16-23

Hall, S. (1980). “Thatcherism – A New Stage”? in Marxism Today, February, 1980: pp 26-28

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Filed under Conservative Party, Free Press Myth, Government & politics, Ideologies, Media, propaganda, Tory press

Let’s Talk About: Legitimacy (of the parliamentary kind)

The Tories and their allies in the press seem to believe that the party with the most seats in the event of a hung parliament should have the automatic right to form a government. They also claim that should Labour get fewer seats than the Tories and if they form a minority government with the support of smaller parties, then this government would be illegitimate. This has been comprehensively debunked time and time again. Yet the Tories and Nick Clegg continue to lie about this, relying on widespread ignorance of how parliament and governments function.

There is a historical precedent that has never once been mentioned during this election campaign by those commentators whose job it is to ‘explain’ the political system to the voters. The General Election of 6 December 1923, which Stanley Baldwin had called over tariff reform (which meant very little to many working class voters), produced a situation similar to the one commentators claim will happen this Friday. Baldwin hoped that he could cement his authority after succeeding Andrew Bonar Law as party leader and Prime Minister, and he was eager to make his mark.

But Baldwin’s plan to increase his party’s already large majority backfired. Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour Party came second with 191 seats. Herbert Asquith’s Liberals came third with 158 seats (the Liberals were split). Baldwin’s Tories came first with 251 seats . When added together, the combined anti-Tory seats outweighed the Conservatives’ numbers. However, things were not straightforward:  Baldwin claimed legitimacy and appeared before the Commons, but was defeated on 21 January by a no confidence motion tabled by former Labour leader, J.R. Clynes. George V had no choice but to appoint MacDonald as Prime Minister. Labour then formed a minority government with the support of the Liberals on 22 January, 1924. There was no question of Labour’s legitimacy to form a government on that occasion, because everyone knew  how the game was played. Today, the Tories and their media chums continue claim that should Labour come second, they will lack legitimacy. The front page of today’s edition of the Murdoch-owned Times has printed a variation on the lie.the_times front page

However, the role of the Liberals in 1924 should not be read as the facilitation of a Labour government but as part of a plan to secure more power for themselves, should the government fall. Indeed, the Daily Mail begged Asquith to form a coalition with the Tories to keep Labour out. Asquith hoped that the voters would see Labour as incompetent. What the voters actually saw were squabbling, power hungry politicians knifing each other in the back. Even so, MacDonald’s government was weak and unstable and suffered its first defeat in March. By October, it would be voted out of office thanks to the Zioniev Letter.

The Liberals paid for their treachery and they were reduced to 40 seats. Asquith lost his seat, was kicked upstairs and died four years later. Even though Baldwin secured a massive majority, he would again lose out  to Labour in the so-called ‘Flapper Election’ of 1929, which resulted in another hung parliament. MacDonald relied on the support of Lloyd George’s 58 Liberal MPs. But this government wouldn’t last long and in 1931 another election was called. Again, this produced a hung parliament and the notorious National Government was eventually formed with Baldwin pulling the strings.

In February 1974, Edward Heath’s Tories came second and Labour came first. Heath remained in Downing Street as  the caretaker Prime Minister and attempted to form a coalition with Jeremy Thorpe’s Liberals. But Thorpe rejected the Tories’ coalition proposals on the basis that Proportional Representation wasn’t offered as part of the deal. Harold Wilson was invited to form a minority government with the support of the smaller parties. Again, there was no question of legitimacy.  This government lasted until October, when Wilson called another election and won a wafer-thin majority. By 1976, Wilson was gone and replaced by’ Sunny’ Jim Callaghan, whose majority began to evaporate due to by-election losses and defections. Callaghan was forced to enter into a pact with the Liberals (the Lib-Lab pact) in 1977. This lasted until the end of 1978 and the rest, as they say, is history.

What these elections reveal to us are the flaws inherent in the First Past The Post voting system. Whichever party forms the government after tomorrow’s election, we must take to the streets to demand electoral and constitutional reform.  There must be no let up.

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Filed under 20th century, General Election 2015, History, History & Memory, Media, Tory press, Yellow journalism

Spies, Lies and Smears: The Conservative Party, The Secret State And The Undermining Of Democracy

The Zinoviev Letter was a forgery that helped to win the election for Stanley Baldwin’s Conservative Party in 1924

The Tories: they truly are a nasty party. The gutter mentality; the venality, the cruelty and the underhanded tactics have been the hallmarks of the Conservative Party’s strategies for nearly a century. Tories consider themselves divinely ordained to ‘lead’ the country. But it wasn’t always thus. The 19th century was dominated by the Liberal Party. For those of you reading this from a country outside the UK, as well as some of you in it, the Liberals weren’t social liberals; they were economic liberals. Remember this is the party that turned its back on the Irish people during the famine, believing the Invisible Hand of the Market would magically intervene in the tragedy. The Hand is, for all intents and purposes, a transmutation of God employed as a means of rationalizing non-intervention. Markets must not be interfered with. If any of this sounds familiar, it should. This is the origin of neoliberal economic theory. It’s the touchstone of neoliberals like Dan Hannan, who variously describes himself as a Whig and a classic liberal.

The Liberal Party was formed from a coalition of Whigs and free trade Tory followers of Robert Peel as well as free trade radicals. If we look at the Orange Book tendency of the Liberal Democrats, we can see there is little difference between them and the Tories. They are mutually attracted to each other because they share common origins. Thus the coalition government was an incestuous marriage. Nick Clegg may claim there is clear orange water between his party and the Tories, but he would be lying. The differences between the Whigs and the Tories were slight: support for the Corn Laws versus repeal of the same, and free trade versus protectionism. That’s it. Karl Marx had plenty to say about them.

Irish Home Rule in the late 1800s badly wounded the Liberals, when the Unionist faction defected to the Tories giving them the name they use to this day: The Conservative and Unionist Party. Then as now with Scottish Independence, the arguments against Irish Home Rule were predicated on fear. From this moment on, the Tories dominated government, even propping up the Liberal Lloyd George during the First World War. The so-called ‘Coalition coupon’ of 1918 finished the Liberals as a dominant force since only those few Liberals who possessed the coalition coupon were elected. Labour was now on the rise as the opposition party, even though Sinn Féin came third (they declined to take their seats).

With Labour now the official opposition, the Tories’ propaganda machine went into overdrive. Have a look at this poster.

Here, the Labour Party and socialists generally are depicted as a demon throttling the virginal form of a powerless Britannia, her trident apparently of no use to ward off the threat.

This poster claims Labour will send inspectors around to look into your souls. This desperate specimen is playing to householders rather than people renting from unscrupulous landlords or living hand-to-mouth existences.

When the propaganda failed to work, they used other means like espionage and sabotage. The Tories resented the first Labour government of 1924. Ramsay MacDonald’s government had neither a majority nor a mandate and relied on the support of the Liberals. In October 1924, MacDonald was forced to go to the country after a vote of no confidence. Four days before the General Election, the Zinoviev Letter was published in the Daily Mail. Labour lost the election and Stanley Baldwin’s Tories won a landslide.

The Tories were determined to ensure they held power no matter the cost. This meant having a dedicated department within Conservative Central Office that could produce propaganda and coordinate espionage activities. The Conservative Research Department was created in 1929 with the ostensible purpose of conducting detailed policy work. It’s real task, however, was to cook up dirty tricks to smear their opponents, the Labour Party and the Liberal Party – a lesson they had learned well in 1924.

Major Joseph Ball, the author of the Zinoviev Letter was appointed director of the CRD and given a knighthood. This  cemented the link between the Conservative Party and security services. Joseph Ball also ran a right-wing journal called Truth, which pandered to anti-Semites . It should be recalled that the Tories were openly anti-Semitic and saw Jews and Bolsheviks as the same thing. Ball also sent spies into Labour and the Liberals. Ball had pro-Nazi sympathies and was a close confidante of Neville Chamberlain.

The 1929 General Election resulted in a hung parliament and Labour formed a minority administration. MacDonald was forced to call an election for 1931, which the Tories won by a landslide… by stirring up xenophobia. A national government was formed with a much diminished MacDonald as figurehead Prime Minister, leading a splinter faction that had been expelled from the Labour Party. In 1935, the pretence was over and the national government, now headed by political  puppet-master, Stanley Baldwin, won the general election. The government was Tory in all but name and included MacDonald’s National Labour Party and John Simon’s Liberal National Party (the Liberals had actually split into three parties!). Baldwin was depicted in Tory propaganda as the face of progress and prosperity but he was getting old. MacDonald had been broken by illness and died two years later. In 1937, Neville Chamberlain, who was also chairman of the CRD, became Tory leader and Prime Minister. There would be no General Election until 1945 when Labour won its famous landslide. Ball was eventually sacked in 1942. Jonathan Pile writes:

Ball in 1940 ought to have been interned with Sir Oswald Mosley , Archibald Ramsay and Admiral Sir Barry Domvile for their treasonous views and activities under Defence Regulation 18B. Instead he was appointed by Chamberlain over Churchill’s as head of the Security Intelligence Centre , an ultra secret part of the anti-fifth column organisation, the Home Defence Security Executive which had precedence over MI6 and MI5.

As a “poacher turned game keeper” he continued to secretly control the anti-war, anti-government weekly magazine Truth, and there is some evidence of a covert involvement in the peace mission conspiracy of the Rudolf Hess flight of May 1941.

Ball was finally expelled from the corridors of power in 1942, and used his extensive old boy network of appeasement contacts to build up the multinational empire of Lonrho which he sold on to the controversial German “one-time Hitler youth” Tiny Rowlands (sic).

The Tories, for the most part, accepted the National Health Service and nationalizations (after voting against both). Labour lost the elections of 1951, 1955 and 1959 due to infighting. It seemed the Tories could do no wrong. By 1963, however, the Profumo Scandal tarnished the image of the party and in the 1964 General Election, Harold Wilson’s Labour Party won by a slender margin. Wilson called a snap election in 1966 to increase his majority, while the Tories chose Edward Heath to lead the party in an attempt to distance itself from aristocratic past and appear more modern. Labour won the election and embarked on a series of social reforms to the consternation of the Tories.

Many Conservatives turned to the Republican Party in the United States for ideas, while a whispering campaign was initiated against Wilson, who was accused of being Soviet agent. This was due to two things: the work of the CRD and hardline military men who had Tory sympathies. In 1968, Cecil King the proprietor of the Daily Mirror and scion of the Rothermere/Harmsworth family suggested overthrowing Wilson in a coup and installing Lord Mountbatten as Prime Minister. King even went as far a meeting Mountbatten himself. This plan would be resurrected in 1974 with the appearance of Colonel David Stirling’s GB75 and General Walter Walker’s Civil Assistance. Central to this plot and others like it was Brian Crozier, who is listed as a “historian, journalist and strategist” in his Wikipedia entry. Crozier had been active in a variety of shadowy right-wing groups that had links to the Central Intelligence Agency. One of these was the Congress for Cultural Freedom, for whom he worked from 1966

Now you may say “Well, all parties use dirty tricks”. That may well be true, but the Tories take it much further. The 1976 Reg Prentice affair is a case in point. Julian Lewis infiltrated the Newham North East Labour Party and stood as a ‘moderate’ candidate (with financial backing from the right-wing Freedom Association) in an effort to steer the constituency party to the right. It failed and Lewis had a brief spell in the Navy before officially joining the Conservatives. Lewis, now armed with a doctorate in Strategic Studies from Oxford University, helped to found the Orwellian Coalition for Peace Through Security alongside Crozier, Tony Kerpel and fervent Thatcherite, Edward Leigh, MP.

The CPS’s primary mission was to destroy the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Labour Party, which largely supported nuclear disarmament, by using the courts. It was hoped that this strategy would bankrupt both CND and the Labour Party, thus ushering in the kind of political system that was acceptable to the right. Namely, one in which the political right prevailed and the Labour Party would be made to resemble the corporate-friendly Democratic Party of the United States. Tellingly, the CPS’s office was on Whitehall and was financed by a variety of right-wing groups in the United States and Britain. One of these groups was the Heritage Foundation. In November 1983, Labour had begun its march to the right by electing Neil Kinnock as leader. Coincidentally, Tony Blair had also been elected as MP for Sedgefield in June’s General Election. His rise through the party ranks would be rapid. Shortly thereafter, the party gradually modified its position to unilateral disarmament to the point that it was rarely mentioned, if at all, during the Blair years. These days, it’s disappeared completely.

In 1985, Lewis and Kerpel set up Policy Research Associates, which included the Media Monitoring Unit. The latter was established to counter perceived left-wing bias in the media. One intention was to create a media that was compliant, supine and overwhelmingly supportive of Thatcherism. The other intention was to narrow the range of acceptable political and economic discourses in the public sphere. We continue to live with the consequences to this day.

Lewis became Deputy Director of the CRD in 1990 and held that position until 1996, a year before he was elected to the Commons as MP for the New Forest. If you look at his Wikipedia entry, most of the references come from his website.  If you look at his record at his speeches, the vast majority of them are related to defence and security. Yet, very little is known about the man himself. We do know that he was a ‘go to man’ for dirty tricks and he didn’t take kindly to journalists making enquiries into the shadowy nature of CRD’s work. This came to the fore in 1993 when Scallywag printed a series of stories implicating a number of high-ranking Conservatives in a paedophile scandal at Bryn Estyn and Dolphin Square. The magazine also alleged that John Major and a Downing Street caterer were having an affair but they were set up. Major was having and affair with Edwina Currie, the Health Secretary. Major successfully sued. Scallywag continued but was eventually driven out of business by Lewis when they threatened to print a story about him. Lewis bought the contents of their office.

Labour won by a landslide in 1997 and it seemed as though the Tories had been put on the back foot. Blair had stolen their clothes by keeping Thatcher’s anti-union legislation in place and by retaining Right to Buy. Here was a ‘new’ party that was just as friendly as Thatcher towards big business and the financial sector. The political and economic discourse had been limited to variations on a neoliberal theme. Nu Labour’s version of neoliberalism had a pale social democratic gloss to it. It was packaging that barely concealed a mish-mash of free market capitalism, liberal interventionism and managerialist politics. Even if some Tories believed it to be socialism, it wasn’t. It was  knock-off Thatcherism with added pizzazz. Politically, the field had been skewed rightward, leaving the Labour Left marginalized.

This brings us to the early 21st Century: the Conservatives had been out of power for 13 years, their longest spell in opposition since the 19th Century. The election of 2010 resulted in a hung parliament and the Tories formed a coalition with their erstwhile enemies and partners, the Liberal Democrats. Given their historical origins, this relationship was more of a death embrace than a working partnership. Even their apparent mutual antipathy was little more than sibling rivalry. Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander and David Laws are Tories in all but name.

The Tories’ election campaign uses all the dirty tricks imaginable. Their allies in the press continue to produce smear stories on their behalf as they have done for nearly a century. Two years ago, the Daily Mail, believing the year was 1924 printed an outrageous smear about Ralph Miliband.  On Sunday, the Daily Telegraph claimed to have a letter written by a 5,000 small businesses allegedly supported Cameron, claiming a Labour government would be “bad for small business”. Within 24 hours it was exposed as bogus; the metadata on the letter revealed that it had been written by someone in Conservative Central Office.

Compared to the dirty tricks campaigns of the past, these recent smear attacks look amateurish and sloppy. The supposedly earth-shattering letters and ‘leaked’ memos are bad copies of past forgeries. It’s as if the Tory strategists don’t really care if you think their lies are lousy or not. This is due, in part, to an arrogance that stems from their sense of entitlement and this blinds them to their own failings.

The other strategy of this election campaign is its use of attrition on the public mind. Tories want people to feel fed up with all politicians: this has the effect of turning off those voters who would otherwise vote for a left-wing or progressive party. Thus the only people to come out and vote are the Tories. If the Tories get a majority or form the next government it will be because they have lied and cheated their way into office.

Edited to add:

Cameron, Osborne, Letwin and Lansley also worked for the CRD as ‘advisers’.  Enoch Powell also went through the CRD.

Further reading

“Wilson, MI5 and the Rise of Thatcher” in Lobster, No. 11 Available at: http://www.8bitmode.com/rogerdog/lobster/lobster11.pdf

Pink Industry blog on Reg Prentice

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Filed under Conservative Party, Free Press Myth, Government & politics, Media, Political parties, propaganda, Society & culture, Tories, Tory press

Let’s Talk About: Economic Growth

Images like this mean nothing to Dan Hannan. who prefers to deal with fictional characters than real people and their complicated lives.

Economic growth or just ‘growth’ is the holy grail of career politicians, neoliberal economists and their hangers on in the media. We’re often told how important it is to have ‘growth’ in our economy and it is only then that everyone will see the benefit. The trouble with this notion is that those who continually spout this rubbish aren’t the ones who need to worry. They’re already comfortable. The ones for whom these pronouncements mean little, if nothing at all, are the poor and the low waged. They continue to see their income squeezed, while the cost of living continues to rise. But the media and the government will have none of it.

A few weeks ago, the BBC’s economic editor, Robert Peston, was crowing over low oil prices. He told the nation’s viewers that “everyone” would now feel “richer” because of the continued fall in petrol prices. This is not only misleading; it’s also dishonest. The only people who can feel “richer”, by definition, are the rich themselves. If you are poor, you cannot be “rich”, it’s an absurdity. Yet this does not stop the likes of Daniel Hannan repeating this meaningless tosh. In Thursday’s blog for CapX, he repeated Peston’s bogus claim that “The rich are getting richer and the poor are… getting richer”. This is a measure of how out-of-touch our media and politicians are in relation to the people they purport to serve. We can also draw the conclusion that the mainstream media, the Westminster politicians and economic cults like the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute for Economic Affairs are in a cosy conspiratorial relationship with one another. The relationship between these institutions and ordinary people themselves is one of power. They consider themselves to be the voices of authority and we must listen and obey… or so they think. So when they tell us that “things are getting better” we are expected to believe them. But I no more believe them than I believe in the existence of God, the tooth fairy or Father Christmas. I see no improvement and neither do millions of other people.

The problem with those who constantly talk about ‘growth’ is that they can only speak the language of statistics and mathematics, and can only view the world through the lens of their social status. They are incapable of relating their nutty ideas about economics to the average person because what they’re saying bears no relation to everyday life. Trickle down, for example, is one economic fallacy that is repeated ad infinitum by economic cultists and held up as a model for ‘growth’ and economic well-being. But not even right-wingers like George HW Bush believed it and derided trickle down as “voodoo economics”. Yet the Hannans and Osbornes of this world cleave so tightly to it like men at sea clinging to any bit of flotsam that comes their way.

A couple of months ago, the Labour leadership claimed that if the Tories were re-elected, they would take public spending back to the levels of the 1930s. This was enough to get all manner of right-wing economic cultists into a lather. Hannan was one of those. In this blog, he does his best to claim how the 1930s was a “time of growth”. It’s a risible misrepresentation of a decade that’s become synonymous with economic hardship.

Well, here’s a fact that may surprise you. The 1930s saw more economic growth than any other decade in British history. It’s true that there were patches of deprivation. As in all times of economic transition, some industries declined while others rose. The poverty of the Jarrow Marchers was genuine: theirs had been a ship-building town, devastated by the collapse of international orders.

Sophistry, damned sophistry. For the millions of working class people who struggled to survive the decade, this is an insult to their memory. My mum’s family was Liverpool working class and I can remember her telling me what life was like in the Thirties: if you were poor or low-waged, you had no access to affordable or decent healthcare, because there was no National Health Service (the Tories will abolish it if they are re-elected). There was very little work on Merseyside in the 1930s, so people lived a hand-to-mouth existence.

Hannan continues his fantasy tour of his romanticized past:

Yet these were golden years for new industries such as electrical appliances and aviation and cars, the years when Morris, Humber and Austin became household names. The 1930s also saw an unprecedented boom in construction, as the comfortable suburbs of Betjeman’s Metroland spread across England. The Battersea Power Station raised its minarets over the capital, a symbol of self-confidence in architecture.

Here, Hannan waxes floridly about a world that only those with the economic means could take part. The appliances and cars that he talks about were beyond the means of my family and many others. No working class people owned cars, let alone possessed household appliances. My grandmother was still using a boiler and a mangle well into the 1970s. As for Metroland, the houses that were built there were for sale. Only those with nice, middle class incomes could afford a mortgage.

Here, Hannan slaps more gloss onto his fantasy.

 Britain responded to the 1929 crash by cutting spending drastically and, in consequence, soon saw a return to growth. The United States, by contrast, expanded government activity unprecedentedly under the New Deal, and so prolonged the recession by seven years. Yes, seven years. Here is the conclusion of a major study published in 2004 by two economists at the UCLA, Harold L Cole and Lee A Ohanian:

Cole and Ohanian are comprehensively defenestrated in this blog. Hannan isn’t interested in reality and like all right-wingers of his ilk, he exists in the hermetically-sealed space of privilege. The material of history is bent and twisted to shrink-fit a weak narrative. Like many of his fellow Tea Partiers, he makes the same feeble argument for cuts.

Contrasting the American and British experiences, we are left with an inescapable conclusion. Cuts work, and trying to spend your way out of recession doesn’t.

Let’s put it this way, if a company doesn’t borrow or spend money to invest when it is doing badly, it will go under. Cuts only work for the already wealthy. They are also a means by which the powerful punish the poor for being poor. Hannan makes clear his hatred of FDR and the New Deal. This is the same position held by the economic cultists at the Ludwig von Mises Institute as well as his fellow Randists.

This is perhaps the greatest fallacy of all:

Still, if only for the record, let me set down the real lesson of the 1930. The best way to recover from a crash, not least for low earners, is to bring spending back under control. Growth follows, jobs are created, and the people taking those jobs thereby gain the most secure route out of poverty.

It’s easy for those who have never personally experienced poverty to claim that “the most secure route out of  poverty” is work. Low-paid and zero hours contract jobs actually lock people into poverty. Hannan is not only a fool, he’s a dangerous fool. Leaving people to fend for themselves without a safety net will lead to greater social problems. Hannan is unmoved by such concerns. Yet he would be the first to complain that shanty towns are an “eyesore”. This is the man who calls himself a “Whig”.

Talking about economic growth when people are struggling to survive is deeply offensive. Talking about GDP is meaningless because not only is it a poor way of measuring economic performance, it means nothing to ordinary people. For all his claims of how cutting public spending will improve economic performance, Hannan has never had to suffer the privations of working in a low-paid job. Like all of his pals in Westminster and beyond, he is a bully, who talks a good talk but when his words are unpacked, they reveal the true horrors of the current political system.

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Telegraph Blogs Is No More

Telegraph blogs has been quiet for the last month or so and the silence has been eerie. For the last few weeks, the only blogs on the site were written by Dan Hannan, Judith Potts and Pete Wedderburn.  According to Hannan, Telegraph blogs will cease to exist. The blog site, which has become something of a magnet for racists, Kippers and assorted ethno-nationalists is moving to the paper’s comments section. The reason for the change isn’t clear. It would be tempting to suggest it’s because the blogs have acquired a reputation for being a toilet bear pit and the paper is embarrassed by the numbers of racists it attracts. However, the Cat thinks the reason is more pragmatic.

The Telegraph has been charging people to view its content for some time now and if you look at more than 20 articles a month, you have to pay for them. The Cat suspects that once the bloggers have moved over to the comments section, you will have to pay to read their drivel. The comments section tells us:

The best comment, analysis and blogs from The Telegraph including Charles Moore, Peter Oborne, Boris Johnson, Dan Hodges, Fraser Nelson and Janet Daley

The “best comment and analysis”? Is that what one expects from Hatchet-job Hodges and Janet Daley? Is this some kind of a joke?

As for Hannan, he’s moving to a site called CapX, which proclaims on its homepage that it stands “for popular capitalism”… whatever that is. He’s also going to be writing for The Washington Examiner, a sister organ to the  Weekly Standard, which is edited by neo-con darling and warmonger, William Kristol. Kristol was the co-founder of the Project for the New American Century. Hannan will be in good company.

For six months, I kept track of comments on Telegraph blogs but gave up after I began to worry about its effect on my mental health.

Here’s the final Telegraph Comment of the Week .

 

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Life on Hannan World (Part 14)

A week or so ago, I was reading a comments thread on Facebook that someone had started in response to a statement that Daniel Hannan had made on a subject on which he knows little (let me tell you, there are many of them). On that thread, someone asked “Why doesn’t he join UKIP”? The answer to that question is simple: he’s comfortable where he is. However, today, he offers a long-winded explanation for his reluctance to join a party with which he clearly has a great deal in common. For example, they both share a love of Enoch Powell. Need I say more? Well, to employ a useful analogy, it’s impossible to separate the art of the Italian Futurists from their evident love of fascism, love of war and hatred of women. Powell poses a similar conundrum. Yet Hannan and the Kippers will gleefully elide Powell’s racism to focus on his free market economic views. But then racism is more than just a simple matter of bigotry, it’s also exercised economically.

The title of today’s blog is:

So why don’t you join Ukip, Hannan?

What follows this title is worth a laugh or two.

The question is put to me, with varying degrees of politeness, 20 times a day – on Twitter, at public meetings and, not least, in the comment threads that follow these blogs. Well, chaps, here’s a collective answer.

Generally, most people who leave comments on his anti-EU blogs are either Kippers or ethno-nationalists of some description. Today, the Kippers are slugging it out with the Tories and it’s quite a spectacle. The phrase “two bald men fighting over a comb” springs to mind. He continues.

I have many friends in Ukip. You won’t find kinder, braver, more generous men in public life than Stuart Wheeler or Malcolm Pearson. Many of the finest Conservative activists from my region have moved to that party. As for Nigel Farage, he is in politics from decent and patriotic motives and, in the 15 years that we’ve represented the same patch, I’ve always found him gentlemanly and pleasant to deal with.

You may recall that when Pearson stepped down as leader of UKIP, the Lyin’ King offered his gushing praise.  Pearson is an “honourable and decent man” he opined. He’s also chummy with Geert Wilders, whose idea of ‘freedom’ is, well, unfreedom. Like Pearson, Stuart Wheeler is an Old Etonian and spread-betting mogul, who once claimed that “women aren’t as good as men” at things like chess. Really? Sexist much? Like Pearson, Wheeler is a former Tory and this is the thing about UKIP: most of the party’s leadership is drawn from a cadre of disgruntled Tories.

I found this passage particularly amusing.

It’s true that Ukip has its share of eccentrics, as every party has. It’s also true that Ukip has more extremists than the older parties. This is an unavoidable side-effect of being an anti-Establishment movement.

“Eccentrics” is a rather euphemistic way of describing the membership of UKIP, but “anti-establishment” is something the party is not. UKIP is deeply rooted in the establishment as I pointed out in this blog.

Here, Hannan gives the image of UKIP an airbrushing.

Ukip has been pretty good at expelling racists while respecting the presumption of innocence. The presumption of innocence matters, by the way, in a climate where a photograph which is very obviously of a man trying to grab the camera can appear on a tabloid front page as a Ukip candidate “giving a Nazi salute”.

UKIP is so good at “expelling racists” that there are still plenty of them in the party.  Janice Atkinson, the party’s MEP for the South East (the same constituency as Hannan) referred to Thai people as “ting tongs”. What a charmer.

So why won’t he jump ship?

I share Ukip’s view that Britain would be better off outside the EU. As far as its other policies go, I agree with most rather than all of them – which is exactly my position vis-à-vis the Conservative Party.

I’m still none the wiser, but please do continue…

For most of its existence, this was also Ukip’s overriding goal. But now the party has adopted a spread of domestic policies aimed at picking up disillusioned voters. It has every right to campaign on whatever issues it wants, obviously. But it is no longer focused on getting out of the EU and, in consequence, is prepared to subordinate that goal to its wider electoral interests.

Yet, in this paragraph, he doesn’t really offer any real explanation for why he won’t join a party to which he is clearly well suited (and booted). It’s obfuscatory mush.

This represents a shift. The Ukip of ten years ago, or five years ago, would gladly have thrown its weight behind whichever of the main parties offered an In/Out referendum. Its activists used to boast that this is what made them different: unlike all the other politicians, they said, their aim was to get Britain out and then quit politics. Now, though, they would rather maximise their vote than ensure a pro-referendum majority in the Commons. To adopt one of their own favourite phrases, they are “putting party before country”.

UKIP of “ten years ago, or five years ago” was still whining about immigrants and offering more or less the same hysterical drivel about how they “wanted their country back”, a line that came straight from the mouths of John Tyndall and the National Front. So are UKIP’s domestic policies (such as they are) not to his liking? He doesn’t really say. Guts? I’ve seen more guts on a set of violin strings.

So what about the electoral pact Hannan was proposing alongside his stablemate, Tobes? Well, it seems he’s had a change of heart… well, sort of…

I’ve almost given up arguing for a Tory-Ukip pact. Though the electoral logic is irresistible, there are evidently too many objections on both sides.

Crumbs! Why?

It’ll happen eventually – the first-past-the-post system more or less demands it – but it may, as in Canada, take a decade.

He still isn’t clear, but this idea that the two parties will merge at some point in the future reads, not like a fantasy, but something from a dystopian nightmare. Tories are good at dystopias and nightmares.

A decade of Ed Balls and Ed Miliband. A decade of Labour’s wastrel incontinence.

So that’s unlike the “wastrel incontinence”, not to say, the economic illiteracy of the Tory Party in government? Hilarious.

A decade of deeper European integration. And, when it eventually happens, we’ll ask ruefully, as Canadian Conservatives do today, why we let it take so long.

Curiously, there’s no mention of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in his piece, though one suspects he (and the Kippers) regards it as “socialist”.

By the way, Hannan has a book out at the moment titled How we Invented Freedom and Why it Matters. You can guess who the “we’ is in the title, but let’s just say that no one can invent an abstract noun.

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