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Stella Creasy, An Indie Band And A Lazy Hack

I don’t often mention Stella Creasy, because I usually have no reason to do so. I’m aware, however, that she used to work in public relations, an industry that tells lies for money – and she’s lost none of the talents she employed in her previous occupation. Creasy has recently been the focus of the Twitter furore for attending a gig with Tory MP, Thérèse Coffey. Her complaint? She’s the victim of “sinister bullying”. By implication, she means the so-called “hard left” are the bullies in question.

Earlier today, I took a swipe at Creasy, whom I call ‘Greasy’ for fairly obvious reasons.

It is most revealing that many current MPs on both sides of the House of Commons have either worked for the PR industry or as lobbyists before entering Parliament. Worryingly, the fields of politics and PR have overlapped to such an extent that it is scarcely possible to separate the two. Perhaps this was always inevitable.

Edward Bernays is considered by many to be the ‘father’ of the PR industry, and this quote illuminates the close relationship between political power and the mass media.

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

So there it is. Manipulation and mass deception are crucial functions of the PR industry, on which their paymasters in the political parties rely so heavily to achieve power for no other purpose than power itself. Therefore, the idealized notion of the “smoothly functioning society” that Bernays articulates is completely undermined by the objectives of PR companies and political leaders. Yet, it is also easy to see that the “small number of persons”; the political leaders, of whom he talks, do not, as he claims, necessarily “understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses”, for if they did, they would not need to herd them with dog-whistle racism and the production of empty signs in lieu of actual ideas. Such impulses are cynical in the extreme, and narcissistic political careerists, who have worked as PR consultants or lobbyists, know how to manipulate situations. But they don’t act alone: they have contacts within the official media to help them disseminate their lies, half-truths and smears.

Over the course of the last week, I have seen many complaints on my Twitter timeline about Creasy attending a gig of the band Shed Seven with Tory MP, Thérèse Coffey (more about her later) and Michael Dugher, former Labour MP, ex-corporate lobbyist and now Chief Executive of UK Music . The Skwawkbox asked her (Creasy) a perfectly straightforward question about her choice of gig companions. Creasy, being formerly associated with PR, took the opportunity to spin this into a somewhat spiteful tale of ‘hard left bullying’ and ‘misogyny’. Her tale of woe was then picked up by Chris York of the Huffington Post, who chose to side with Creasy and produced a piece of one-sided copy designed to appeal to the confirmation biases of the Labour Right and the Tories. York also used his piece to launch an unwise attack on Skwawkbox.

Skwawkbox Accused Of ‘Deeply Sinister Bullying’ Of Stella Creasy Over Shed Seven Gig

‘What a sad bastard Steve from ‘Skwawkbox’ is.’

“Deeply sinister bullying”? How about hyperbole and guff? Now York may claim that he doesn’t write the headlines, but the opening paragraph tells the same story.

A popular pro-Corbyn blog has been accused of the “deeply sinister bullying” of a female Labour MP after it criticised her for attending a gig with a Conservative counterpart.

Stella Creasy watched indie band Shed Seven at Brixton Academy earlier this month alongside Tory MP, Therese Coffey, and former-Labour MP turned music rep, Michael Dugher, who tweeted his excitement at the prospect.

Aw, isn’t that nice? However, Dugher, as I pointed out, is not a “music rep” but a Chief Executive.  A “rep” or representative is a person who acts on another’s behalf. It’s a totally different kind of job in terms of remuneration and responsibilities. But further down, he says:

Dugher is the Chief Executive of lobbying group UK Music.

Make up your mind, Chris.

York’s piece includes Twitter links to voices sympathetic to Creasy, none of which I will post here.

He then ends his article with the suggestion that Creasy has a majority of decent-thinking folk on her side.

But a small group of vocal Labour supporters and one Labour MP pounced on the story as evidence of something else.

York took exception to my tweet about him and HuffPo “working for the Tories, whether they want to admit it or not”.

Ouch! So I quoted him back.

He later replied:

You”ll notice that he chose to reply to my additional response rather than the quoted tweet. But “no bearing on the thrust of the article”? Au contraire, I’ve nailed it in the article you’re currently reading. So allow me to repeat and rephrase the point I made in my tweet: this article was produced to appeal to the confirmation biases of the Tories and Labour’s self-styled ‘moderates’, and therefore feeds into the continuing anti-Corbyn and, more specifically, anti-Left narrative that dominates the official media’s political reportage. York therefore is, by proxy, working on behalf of the Tories and the Labour Right.

Creasy has some previous form when it comes to manufacturing stories of bullying.  In December 2015, Creasy complained that she was being “intimidated by the hard left”. Creasy was later forced to row back on her claims.

Back to Creasy, Coffey,  Dugher and their pre-Xmas outing. The Cat has no problem with MPs going to see their favourite band, and it’s likely the ticket was complimentary having been provided by Dugher as one of the perks of his job. What the Cat has a problem with are hypocritical Labour MPs that fail to defend their fellow MPs from being monstered by the right-wing press and the Tory Party for refusing to fraternize with their opposite number. So it comes as no surprise that Creasy has refused to defend Laura Pidcock, who famously refuses to ‘hang out’ with Tories. Frankly, I don’t blame her. I wouldn’t either. Indeed, there is no compulsion for Labour MPs to socialize with Tories, even though the right-wing press and les certains in the Labour party deliberately conflate socialization with cross-party work in order to smear Pidcock for her forthright attacks against the socio-economic orthodoxy.

As for Thérèse Coffey, she’s not only a Tory, she’s also a member of the Free Enterprise Group, which was featured on this blog in November. So it’s no surprise that she’s consistently voted to reduce benefits, thereby forcing many people into financial hardship. Coffey’s ignominious voting record can be seen here.

Creasy, for her part, said of David Cameron in 2009, “You can judge Cameron by the company he keeps… and the nature of his party is resolutely right-wing”.  Thus, it is only fair that Creasy be judged by the company she keeps.

The first rule of journalism is to check your sources and then check them again. Just because someone is an MP, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they’re a reliable source of information. In his article, Chris York has failed in his duty to his readers. By leaving out key details and through his use of language, he gave readers the impression that Creasy was being bullied for simply having a good night out with friends… friends who vote against measures intended to ameliorate the dire circumstances of many of the constituents that Creasy represents. York’s article could either be written off as a classic case of journalistic laziness or active bias, maybe both. I’ll let you decide.

Further reading/viewing

Baudrillard, J. (1994). Simulacra and simulation. University of Michigan press.

Bourdieu, P. (1991). Language and symbolic power. Harvard University Press.

Curtis, A. (2002) The Century of the Self. Broadcast 17/3/2002. BBC2

Herman, E. S., & Chomsky, N. (2010). Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media. Random House.

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Let’s Talk About: The Free Enterprise Group

When Priti Patel was forced to resign last Thursday for meeting Israeli government officials without prior authorization, you may have noticed the two faces that kept appearing on television to defend her. One was Nadhim Zahawi and the other was Jacob Rees Mogg. What you may not realize is that both belong to the Free Enterprise Group, to which Patel also belongs. Prominent members of this group published a book in 2010 called Britannia Unchained, which claimed that “Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world”, and add “We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor.” There is a wealth of evidence to debunk these beliefs, for beliefs are what they are. These views are not supported by evidence or anything like it.

Patel, along with Elizabeth Truss, Chris Skidmore, Kwasi Kwarteng and Dominic Raab were the book’s co-authors, and for them, poor productivity is laid at the door of the workers, not the bosses, directors and shareholders, but the workers. For these hardened free market cultists, British workers are simply too lazy and are rewarded far too readily for their indolence. This is all myth. British workers’ wages have traditionally been lower than those of their continental counterparts. Britons also work longer hours than workers in other European countries.

First, lets’ take a look at their website. You may recognize a few familiar faces.

On their ‘About’ page, we’re told that the FEG was founded in 2010 by Liz Truss, a name more associated with ‘pork markets’ than critical thinking. She’s also one of the least competent ministers in the current cabinet. That’s quite an achievement.

The Free Enterprise Group is a leading association of free-market orientated Conservative Members of Parliament. Convened by James Cleverly MP, FEG seeks to restate the importance of liberal and practical free enterprise values against the backdrop of a significant loss of confidence in free market economics following the banking failures of the late 2000s. Founded by the Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, now Secretary of State for Justice, FEG is supported by over 40 MPs who want to put free enterprise at the heart of the Conservative Party.

We can therefore assume that the FEG wants a return to what they see as the ‘golden age’ of capitalism: the 19th century. Nostalgia is clearly in the driving seat.

According to capitalist rag, City AM, The FEG is “highly influential” and was “relaunched” in 2015. It is led by James Cleverly, the MP for Braintree, and has a membership of 40 MPs. Some of these MPs would claim to be successful in business, but these are rentiers, who make nothing and grow wealthy from shares and dividends. Some of them, like Chris Philp, who likes to lecture people on economic matters, is a failed businessman and a tax dodger.

While many people have tipped Rees Mogg to replace Theresa May as party leader, one must not rule out Raab,  a self-confessed Thatcherite, who has positioned himself as a dark horse candidate. I have already written about Raab on this blog. In this Guardian article from 2012, he says “The talented and hard-working have nothing to fear”. These words remind The Cat of the claims made in support of greater surveillance: if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear. Raab assumes that those he represents, the rentier capitalists of the Surrey stockbroker belt, have worked hard for their wealth. No capitalist ever worked hard: they acquired their wealth on the back of workers who worked hard for them, or it was handed to them by their rich parents via a trust fund. The same article tips Priti Patel as a future PM. The horror.

Here’s Raab being caught out in a lie about foodbanks on BBC2’s Victoria Live show. Apparently, foodbank users have a “cashflow problem”.

Raab is the MP for Esher and Walton, one of the richest constituencies in the country. He is unlikely to have met any poor people or benefits claimants. Lying is second nature to Raab and if he isn’t lying, then he’s engaging in baseless smears. Politicore spotted a typical Tory smear about Jeremy Corbyn “supporting terrorists” on the same show.

Here’s Raab advocating the privatization of the National Health Service on The Daily Politics. He’s also lying.

Raab was recently included on a list of 40 Tory MPs, who have been involved in the sexual abuse scandal. The Guardian reports:

Raab, a junior justice minister tipped by some as a future Tory leader, revealed he was named on the widely-circulated list as having been subject to an injunction over “inappropriate behaviour with a woman”.

In a statement on his website Raab warned that while it was vital to investigate cases of abuse and harassment, he feared a “media feeding frenzy” from the widely shared list, which names 40 MPs and ministers.

Any claims he had harassed anyone or engaged in sexually abusive or lewd behaviour “is false and malicious”, Raab said, adding that he had taken legal advice.

Readers may have noticed how quiet this scandal has gone since the list was published two weeks ago.

The unstated aim of the FEG is to create a sweatshop economy in which regulations are torn up because they, apparently, impact adversely on profits. One can easily see where this is going: if the FEG ever takes control of the Tory Party and finds itself in government, workers will have no rights or protections guaranteed by statute. Freedom, as articulated by the FEG is freedom for bosses to exploit workers and make themselves ever-richer on the back of labour.

Members of the FEG voted unanimously for Brexit.  According to a report called ‘Reconnecting with the Commonwealth’, co-authored by Cleverly, they want to “reconnect with the Commonwealth”. In other words, they want to relaunch the Empire as a trading bloc. The Financial Times points out this is a flawed idea and I would add that it is steeped in nostalgia. James Blitz writes:

Conservative rightwingers may feel nostalgic about a return to “imperial preference”. But until the UK signs new FTAs with the nations of the Commonwealth, Britain will be in the odd position of having worse trading terms with these countries than Brussels does. And, as Sir Simon Fraser, the former head of the UK foreign office noted recently, the damage goes beyond that. “Those EU trade agreements are vital for [Commonwealth states’] development goals,” he said. “The UK will no longer be able to champion their access to the EU market as we have in the past.

The first two paragraphs of the report’s foreword, written by disgraced former Australian PM, Tony Abbott, is also soaked in nostalgia:

Brexit means that Britain is back. The country that gave the world the
English language, common law and the Mother of Parliaments is once more
to seize its destiny as a global leader. This is an exciting time for Britain
and an exhilarating one for the countless millions elsewhere who appreciate
Britain’s unique contribution to western civilisation.

It’s good that Britain will no longer be constrained by the statism and
bureaucracy of Brussels. It’s also good that the remaining members of the
European Union will now have to rethink how much of their sovereignty they
wish to surrender.

All that’s missing from this romantic paean to free market capitalism is the call to bomb the enemy to dust.

The FEG gets its administrative support from the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA),  a notorious free market think-tank, whose director is Mark Littlewood, a hardline laissez-faire economist who used to work for the Lib Dems. In this Guardian article, he hints at abolishing the minimum wage:

Anything that looks like a return to the Dickensian workhouse raises hackles. But I don’t want people working in sweatshops at 5p an hour. You should sell abolishing the minimum wage in positive terms, as providing young people with a first step on the jobs ladder, as a ‘jobs for all’ scheme.

Littlewood may not want people to work for 5p an hour, but like his friends in the FEG, he’d happily see them working for £2.50 an hour. For free marketeers, cutting wages, while forcing people to work longer hours, is the key to greater productivity. Nowhere in the FEG’s or IEA’s literature is there any mention of bosses and shareholders who pay themselves bigger dividends, while at the same time, refusing to reinvest profits in their businesses. The blame for poor productivity is always laid at the doors of the workers.

The FEG is also closely connected to the tobacco industry and Patel, who once worked for public relations outfit, Weber-Shandwick, lobbied on behalf of British American Tobacco (BAT) before entering the Commons.

BAT, a multi-million dollar business, paid its workers in Myanmar as little as £15 a month.

BAT’s position in Burma at the turn of the millennium was hugely controversial. “BAT’s factory in Burma was jointly owned with the military dictatorship and so helped fund one of the most brutal military dictatorships in the world,” said Anna Roberts, executive director at Burma Campaign UK. “BAT refused to admit how much money it gave to the dictatorship, but Burma Campaign UK estimated that BAT paid the generals $16m (£10m) in taxes alone between 1999 and 2002. In contrast, BAT paid its factory workers in Burma just £15 a month. The dictatorship spent 40% of its budget on the military.”

Patel has a history of working closely with dictatorships and other unsavoury regimes. This is part of a familiar pattern with the Tories: while they are happy to denounce Jeremy Corbyn’s apparent admiration for Hugo Chavez, they are themselves rather comfortable with right-wing and military dictatorships, which are given plenty of latitude, if not outright support. Pinochet’s Chile is but one example of the Tories fraternal ties to unspeakably brutal regimes around the world. Indeed, recently, some Tories, like the disgraced former Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, expressed his admiration for President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, whose involvement in the Davao death squads to kill those he sees as ‘drug dealers’ as well as political opponents, has been widely reported.

After this year’s general election saw the government lose its Commons majority, the Tories entered into a confidence and supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party, which has ties to Loyalist paramilitary death squads. It would appear that, for all their talk of Corbyn’s ‘support for terrorists’, the Tories are monumental hypocrites and appear to have a sneaking admiration for extra-judicial murder. I put this to Cleverly, after he’d launched another smear attack on Corbyn. I have yet to receive a reply.

The Cat suspects the FEG is manoeuvring itself to put forward one of their own as a candidate for the party’s leadership, and to ultimately take control of the Tory Party. Given the weakness of the current government and of Theresa May herself, there is every chance that they may succeed. Their romantic vision of a free market future is linked to imperial ambition and a hatred of ordinary workers, whom they blame for low productivity. We cannot let these people drag us back a century and a half on the basis of an idealized notion of a brighter past.

 

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The Cat’s Preview of the Tory Party Conference

The Tory Party conference begins on Sunday and the Cat expects to hears the following words:

  • It’s Labour’s fault
  • We’re cleaning up the mess the Labour government left us
  • The Conservative Party stands up for hardworking families/taxpayers who do the right thing and who want to get on in life.

The last one is quite important to the Tories because, in their eyes, this slogan works as a substitute for real ideas and acts as a means to divide people along the usual lines of public/private, young/old, able-bodied/disabled, waged/unwaged and so on.

Patrick Wintour in The Guardian tells us that the Conservatives have produced a “6 point pledge card to win back working class voters”.

The card is due to be launched next Monday in a Manchester pub, and the idea likely to be examined carefully as Tories seek to fend off claims that their party is for the rich, or has become insensitive to the crisis in living standards. The Conservatives do not have a single councillor in Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield or Liverpool.

The pledge card, which mirrors New Labour’s initiative in 1997, will promise free party membership for trade unionists, the building of 1m new homes over the course of a parliament, an increase in the minimum wage funded by a cut in employers’ national insurance, a cost-of-living test for every policy item and a cabinet minister to “take action for the consumer against rip-off companies”.

The sense of desperation is palpable. But it should come as no surprise to readers that Policy Exchange was involved in this ruse. Remember them? They’re the ‘non-partisan’ think-tank that proposed the North of England should be abandoned and its denizens live in leafy Oxfordshire instead.

It has been founded by David Skelton, a former deputy director of the thinktank Policy Exchange. Born in Consett, Co Durham, he is a rare northern voice in the party and stood for North Durham at the last election.

Skelton believes the Conservatives can win in the long term as the new workers’ party. He said there were four overlapping groups to which the Tories have failed to appeal: working class voters, northern urban voters, ethnic minority voters and people outside the Tory heartlands

Excuse me while I split my sides. One of those who supports this idea is Matthew Hancock, who’s on TURC’s parliamentary council. Another supporter is Laura Sandys, daughter of Duncan Sandys, a former defence secretary and member of the Monday Club. Ms Sandys is a member of the Free Enterprise Group, which includes fellow headbangers, Dominic Raabid and Kwasi Kwarteng, whose views on British workers are well known.

Another laughable idea is Eric ‘Pie Man’ Pickles’s wonderfully barking idea of letting people park on double yellow lines. It hasn’t occurred to the Sontaran that double yellow lines are there for safety reasons.

The Tory Party conference, which is being held in the very northern city of Manchester, will be met by a massive protest of health service workers, the Socialist Party, the People’s Assembly, Left Unity, Unite the Union, the TUC and many more besides. If you’re in Manchester this weekend, give the chinless bastards hell from me.

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Dominic Raab and the Sweatshop Charter

Raabid politician in sweatshop economy shocker!

Here’s an interesting article from last Wednesday’s Guardian. It tells of a book, Britannia Unchanged, which advocates, (surprise, surprise) policies that are even further to the right of the current right-wing government. The book is due to be published before the Tory Party conference in the autumn. Here’s the article’s opening paragraph,

‘The talented and hard-working have nothing to fear,” says Dominic Raab, Conservative MP for Esher and Walton, with just the faintest hint of menace. It is an airless, lazy day in mid-August. The House of Commons cafe is half-deserted. But Raab, firm-jawed, slightly gaunt and a rising star of the Tory right, is spending the parliamentary recess in the traditional manner of ambitious politicians: using the Westminster news vacuum to attract attention to himself and his ideas.

Dominic Raab is a familiar name to Nowhere Towers, not only because he’s on TURC’s parliamentary council but also because he believes “feminists” are oppressing men. In other words, like so many Tories, he’s a dimwit who is over-confident about his limited intellectual capacity. So limited is his intellect, that he inverts reality to suit his narrative. Given half the chance, Raab would transform Britain into a sweatshop economy overnight.

Wearing jeans, the 38-year-old backbencher is talking – warily – about transforming the British workplace. He thinks current employment law offers “excessive protections” to workers. “People who are coasting – it should be easier to let them go, to give the unemployed a chance. It is a delicate balancing act, but it should be decided in favour of the latter.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if the jeans that he was wearing were produced by sweatshop labour. The book follows on, as The Guardian reminds us, from a deeply-insulting statement made a couple of weeks ago by the book’s authors that Britain is a nation of “idlers”.

When Raab isn’t involved in TURC he also writes pamphlets for the Thatcherite Centre for Policy Studies. This one is called “Escaping the Straightjacket: Ten Regulatory Reforms to Create Jobs”. Here’s an excerpt,

More radical change has been suggested. In a leaked report in October 2011, venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft called for the
abolition of unfair dismissal and the introduction of “Compensated No Fault Dismissal”, where employers would be allowed to sack unproductive staff with basic redundancy pay and notice.

What Raab is doing here is repeating what the Beecroft Report proposed. It isn’t original and it points to one thing: no workplace security for workers.

The theory is simple. If employers have clearer powers to dismiss underperforming or uncommitted workers, more of them would
take a chance on hiring more staff. As Beecroft argues, the change would “lead to greater competitiveness, growth and employment”.
Employees would have the chance of a fresh start, without reputational damage. They would also benefit from the more flexible labour market that would result.

This is dishonest stuff. The only people who benefit from the so-called “flexible labour market” are the employers who pay a lower rate of National Insurance contribution and who don’t have to pay holiday or sick pay to their workers. Furthermore, the “theory” isn’t actually a theory in the true sense of the word, it is an assertion that is based upon fundamental Tory principle: the subaltern classes are there to be exploited. Denying them rights is part of the process to ensure the middle and upper classes continue to enjoy their disproportionate privileges and rights and the expense of those who graft in their factories, call-centres and workshops for a pittance.

By the time we get to page 10 of his ‘report’, it’s apparent that he cannot contain his excitement any longer,

Trade unions might seem a diminishing threat to business. Their membership has halved since 1979, and today only 15% of private sector employees belong to one.65 But this underestimates the extent of strike action in the public sector, where union membership is concentrated. The consequences spill over into the wider economy. According to the London Chamber of Commerce, each day of tube closures costs the capital’s economy £48 million. Similarly, if schools are shut, working parents may struggle to find childcare.

Four days of industrial action will not destroy an economy. Notice how Raab falls back on Francis Maude’s lie about last year’s teachers strike. He then proceeds to repeat the same hoary auld canard about minimum thresholds for strike votes while ignoring the fact that his party often wins elections on a lower share of the vote. Many local councils are also elected on turnouts of less than 25% but he doesn’t call for those elections to be declared null and void.

Raab is joined in this venture by Priti Patel, Kwasi Kwarteng, Chris Skidmore (we’ve got a nickname for him, don’t you worry!) and Elizabeth Truss, four darlings of the Tory rabid right, who are, along with Raabid, members of the Free Enterprise Group (FEG).

Founded in October 2011, the group lists 38 supporting MPs on its website. The membership is youngish, more female and less white than the Conservative parliamentary party as a whole. It includes many of the new MPs currently identified by Tory-watchers as potential party leaders.

So confident is the FEG that they’ve published a book titled After the Coalition. It’s wishful thinking because it is unlikely that the Conservatives will win an overall majority and may even suffer heavy losses. The only way the party can win the next election is to cheat... which is par for the course for a party that despises workers, the disabled, the poor, the elderly, the youth, mature students, women, Roma, Irish Travellers …

I’ve just had a look at the FEG website and wasn’t surprised to discover that there is some crossover between the FEG and TURC.

Raabid and his colleagues have never had to work in appalling conditions for little pay yet this is what they would force British workers to do. Their contempt for workers comes as naturally to them as breathing.

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