Tag Archives: Gordon Brown

Telling Stories

We all tell stories and the stories we tell each other often go unnoticed. When you pay a visit to your doctor, you may tell her or him a story about how long you’ve had symptoms. Stories are everywhere and they’re told for a variety of reasons, some of which are good and laudable and others not so.

Last year, when Boris Johnson announced the creation of a commission to investigate racial disparities, the words he used were “to change the narrative” with regards to institutional and structural racism. To do this, he insisted that stories of success be created to cancel out demands from Black Lives Matters protesters than structural inequalities be addressed and historic injustices be recognised. Johnson and his government then appointed Munira Mirza, a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, who doesn’t accept the existence of institutional racism, to set up the commission. In turn, she appointed Tony Sewell, who shared her views. Sewell has been known to many of us for decades and not for the right reasons. I have personally seen him as a collaborator, who, like Trevor Phillips, provides racists with ammunition to attack minorities. Racists will say “Look, Tony Sewell says x, y, and z, so it must be true”.

This Tory government isn’t interested in addressing serious structural and institutional injustices. To its defenders who point to several people of colour on the government benches, like Priti Patel or James Cleverly, I say this: these people are actively involved in the maintenance of a system to keep minorities in their place. Thus, they themselves can be considered a enablers of racism, because they use their class privilege to deny the lived experience of those of us who encounter racism on a daily basis.

Stories have their place in our world, but they are often told to avoid facing up to uncomfortable truths and Britain has been telling itself stories for decades. Having lost their empire, the British ruling class were lost and frightened. So, rather that face up to their past, including the multiple atrocities committed in the colonies (and to its own people), they told themselves stories about how “great” they were. Indeed, many of the stories they told themselves were created from fragments of memories, myths and outright lies. Thus, when the report was released yesterday, it came bundled with stories about how Britain was a “beacon for white-majority countries”. But, by whose metric is this country a “beacon”? Why the story-tellers themselves.

Last January, Laurence Fox, scion of the Fox theatrical dynasty, appeared on the BBC’s Question Time and, in response to a point made by an audience member about racism in Britain, replied “Britain is a most lovely country and not at all racist”. That’s a story that he told himself because he cannot accept that racism continues to thrive in Britain. It’s a story that’s rooted in fear: fear of much needed change and fear of people of colour who are smart and who are able to articulate their concerns about racism. This makes bourgeois reactionaries like Fox feel uncomfortable.

The media, too, has played its part in normalising nativist discourses on nationality, citizenship and identity, through the use of storytelling. We saw this during the European Union referendum in 2016 with the constant production of stories around the themes of “independence” and “freedom” and being able to “make our own laws” rather than have “Brussels” impose rules on us. These stories fed into the national mythology of imperial greatness, along with tales about how “we stood alone” and “If it hadn’t been for Churchill, we’d all be speaking German”. Churchill himself actually advocated a United States of Europe, but it was the wrong kind of story because of its inconvenient truth. Instead, Churchill was painted as a staunch Eurosceptic, while his racism and bloodlust were elided.

If we go back further to 2005, the Blair government’s response to Michael Howard’s dog-whistling campaign (Are You Thinking What We’re Thinking) was feeble. In fact, in the remaining years of the last Labour government, we saw an acceleration of nativism under Gordon Brown, who said that he wanted to see Britain emulate the United States and become more “patriotic”. To achieve this, he told several stories about Britain’s “greatness” and even used the far-right’s phrase “British jobs for British workers”. This effectively widened the space opened up by Blair for the circulation of far-right discourses. If you want to know how we ended up with Union flags everywhere and statues of slavers and colonial thugs being given more rights than women who have been raped, then look no further than Brown. The Tories have simply carried on his work.

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Gordon Brown’s Selective Anti-racism

Remember Gordon Brown? Who could forget him? He was dubbed the “Iron Chancellor”, who would “hit the ground running” as soon as he came into government. He was also the man who seemingly channelled every British right-wing politician who ever existed, when he said, without irony, “British jobs for British workers”. This is the same Gordon Brown, who said nothing when Phil Woolas, the former Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, got kicked out the Commons for distributing racist leaflets to his constituents. “Scare the white vote” he was told. Brown was also happy to adopt anti-immigration rhetoric rather than challenge Michael Howard’s dog-whistle racism during the 2005 General Election campaign.

Now he’s back and he wants the world to know it.

In yesterday’s Guardian, Brown wrote:

The Labour party owes the Jewish community an unqualified apology. But that is only a starting point in rebuilding the trust that has been shattered.

A few months ago, I joined hundreds of other non-Jewish Labour party members in signing up as an affiliated member of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). Instead of Jewish members leaving Labour, Labour members joined the Jewish community.

That’s the same Jewish Labour Movement that accepts non-Jews into its ranks and which has spent the last four years smearing left-wing Jews and the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as “anti-Semitic”. Notice also Brown’s suggestion that the JLM and the organizations which share their ideology and loathing for anything left-wing, is definitively representative of a homogenized, Jewish community (sic). But he goes further, even misrepresenting the words of Chris Williamson, who was farcically suspended again after having the whip restored less than 48 hours earlier.

For somewhere along the way it became possible for a Labour MP, close to the leader, to suggest that in dealing with antisemitism we were being “too apologetic”. 

Counterfire provides the context to Williamson’s speech here.

In an effort to show that he’s being even-handed when it comes to racism, Brown adds:

Of course, this poison is not restricted to the Jewish community or to Labour. Islamophobes who use social media to condemn all Muslims also exhibit a racism that disfigures more and more of our society – especially now that a populist nationalism, which needs enemies, is on the rise.

All well and good, but there’s not a single mention of people of colour, who have seen the biggest rise in hate crimes against them, nor is there, predictably, any mention of the racism experienced by Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. It’s as if, by our very visibility, we’ve become somehow invisible to Brown’s one good eye. He flourishes his credentials, which are, to adapt Baudrillard, a flaunting of his collection of signs.

And while I gave the go-ahead under the last Labour government for the establishment of a post-Holocaust envoy, it is now clear we need to go much further. The next Labour government should announce it will appoint a designated minister, backed up by an ambassador. This role should be to combat antisemitism – by monitoring and reporting on its evil presence and pressurising governments everywhere to eradicate it.

Hundreds of thousands, around 25% of Europe’s Roma and Sinti population were exterminated in the Nazi death camps, but Brown doesn’t see them, let alone even mention them. The use of the word ‘Holocaust’ suggests that it was only Jews who were killed by the Nazis and the reader is left to assume that’s what Brown means. A proper history lesson for Gord wouldn’t go amiss.

More lip service is paid to anti-racism as a sign in the following paragraph:

When, in 2016, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission reviewed 50 years of anti-racist legislation and enforcement, it called on the government to formulate a comprehensive anti-racism strategy fit for new times. The need is more urgent now and, in preparation for the next Labour government, we should consult on a new and broader strategy that begins with better education in our schools – for example, we should do more to support the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust – and include stronger laws against racism in all its forms.

There is a hierarchy of racism (and race) in the United Kingdom and Brown and the others have either consciously or unconsciously accepted it as fait accompli in their speech and in their actions – though they would deny it. If you’re Black, for example, the racism that you experience comes a distant second, third or fourth place behind the smears. Even genuine cases of anti-Semitism come a long way behind the confected accusations. For example, while the following story may appear on news websites, it wasn’t mentioned on any of the national television or radio news bulletins that I watched or listened to yesterday.

Far-right extremist Tristan Morgan, who set fire to a synagogue on a day commemorating the Holocaust, has been locked up in hospital indefinitely.

He laughed after he set fire to the synagogue in Exeter, Devon, the Old Bailey heard.

Morgan, from the city, was set on fire by the blast after he poured petrol into a window of the 18th Century building on 21 July 2018.

He had previously admitted arson and two terrorism-related charges.

A genuine case of anti-Semitism, you would think and one which certainly deserved more attention than it actually received. You’d be right.

I’m not racist, but…

In the aftermath of the 2010 General Election, the Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, was found to have deliberately lied about his opponent in some racist leaflets he’d sent to his constituents in order to “galvanize the white S*n vote”. Gordon Brown and no less a figure than Cherie Blair came to his defence, as did his close friend, John Mann.

For those who say, in the words of Howard and Crosby’s 2005 dog-whistle posters that “it isn’t racist to be concerned about immigration”, I would argue that may or may not be the case, in and of itself, but behind such concerns often lurk the unpleasant discourses of racism, xenophobia and eugenics. Opposition to immigration provides a useful rallying point that also provides cover to deeply-bigoted sentiments.

Just over a year ago, Brown made speech in which he oversimplified the reasons that impelled many voters to use the EU referendum to send a message to Westminster. True to form, he reduced those reasons into a single anti-immigration discourse. The Guardian’s Larry Elliott wrote:

Brown presented a six-point plan for dealing with concerns about migration: no undercutting of wages by migrants; registration of jobs to give local people a chance to apply; registration of migrants on arrival in the UK; possible removal of migrants if they failed to find a job within nine months; a ban on employment agencies advertising jobs abroad that had not been advertised in the UK; and a bigger fund to help mitigate the impact of migration on local communities.

Indeed, last month, in his speech to an event organized by the Fabian Society and Hope Not Hate, the latter of which pretends to be an all-encompassing anti-racism campaign group, but which in reality, has become little more than a vehicle for anti-Semitism witch hunters like Ruth Smeeth, Brown suggested that in order to combat the far-right, one needed to adopt their positions or, at least, listen to them more. Isn’t that what got us here in the first place?

The ‘Go Home’ vans, Hostile Environment and the Windrush Scandal didn’t appear from nowhere, they are ontologically related and have their roots in Nu Labour’s 2005 anti-immigration discourses. Gordon Brown would have you believe he’s on the side of the anti-racists. He isn’t. He’s part of the problem.

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Filed under Government & politics, Labour, Media, propaganda, Racism, smear campaigns

Gordon Brown’s Lies about Labour and the NHS in Scotland

Gordon Brown and the rest of the Labour Party like to tell us how it was their party that created the National Health Service. That’s true. But what is equally true is the way the Blair and then Brown governments handed over millions of pounds worth of contracts to private companies under the Private Finance Initiative or PFI. Brown, who has recently been seen in Scotland in a desperate bid to save the Better Together campaign, is damaged goods. No one will ever trust him or his party again and it’s his and Blair’s fault. The Scottish Labour Party, too, is guilty because they refused to make a clean break with their English cousins. Johann Lamont, the party leader, has hopelessly tied herself to the same rotten neoliberal economic policies as Blair and Brown.

A Yes vote is not only good for Scotland, it’s also good for British politics. Saor Alba! Bon Accord! Vive la revolution!

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Dirty Tricks and British Politics: something and nothing

Damian McBride: he likes a drink. Can’t you tell?

The Damian McBride story has landed into the laps of the Tories at just the right time. For the Labour party it’s the wrong time. But do the Tories really have anything to crow about? Not really.

The Tories use dirty tricks all the time and the press says nothing. Dr Julian Lewis infiltrated the Labour Party in 1976 and spent years taking CND to court in a bid to prove that it was being funded by the USSR. Lewis wrote the following in a letter to the editor of The Times in 1983:

You are quite correct, however, to challenge CND claims of non-partisanship. Last year’s political complexion of what you term to be “clearly a left-wing front” was mild compared to the new team of 26 officers and national council members just elected at Sheffield.

How strange that The Freedom Association (which bankrolled Lewis’s effort to infiltrate Labour), for instance, should describe itself as “non-partisan” yet have such close relations with the Conservative Party, UKIP the Libertarian Alliance, the Taxpayers’ Alliance and even the United Kingdom’s security services. The stench of hypocrisy is overpowering.

Back to McBride. He is certainly a nasty piece of work. But The Cat wonders if McBride wasn’t encouraged to release his book in time for the annual Labour Party  conference this week by certain people. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.

The right-wing press is cock-a-hoop. Here’s what the Telegraph said:

Mr McBride’s book has awakened the party’s painful memory of the rift between disciples of Mr Brown and those MPs and activists who were loyal to Mr Blair. Mr McBride was a fanatically loyal supporter of Mr Brown, a man whom he says in some ways he “loved”.

Mr McBride left the government in disgrace in 2009 when it emerged that he sent a Labour colleague emails containing unfounded smears about Tory MPs for a website called Red Rag.

He now claims that this colleague, Derek Draper, has suggested that Mr Miliband may also have sent compromising emails and would “have problems” if they ever came to light.

The article then adds:

He now claims that this colleague, Derek Draper, has suggested that Mr Miliband may also have sent compromising emails and would “have problems” if they ever came to light.

Mr Draper was not available for comment on Saturday night.

However, a Labour source who knew both men said: “You can criticise Ed Miliband for many things but running a Damian McBride-style smear operation isn’t one of them.”

Derek Draper: he’s the one who looks as though he sleeps in a hedgerow and who’s married to Daybreak’s Kate Garraway. He was also involved in “Lobbygate” and “Smeargate“.  The latter, Smeargate, was  an attempt to smear senior members of the Tory party and can be seen as Labour’s attempt use the same Tory tactics that their auld enemy has used against them on numerous occasions. It didn’t work, but it’s an indication of the rottenness of the British political system and how deeply embedded into the system the practice of skulduggery is rooted.

The Daily Mail’s approach is more in line with one of its ‘kiss and tell’ celebrity stories. This is a description of an  interview that Nick Robinson, the former president of the Young Conservatives and the BBC’s present political editor apparently had with Gordon Brown:

The trouble started when BBC political editor Nick Robinson asked Gordon an apparently innocent question.

Assuming we won a joint bid with Scotland to stage the World Cup, whom would he support — England or Scotland?

Gordon gave the ‘clever’ answer he’d prepared: ‘I’ll be supporting the hosts!’ Nick shot back: ‘Even if they play Scotland?’ Gordon smiled and said: ‘Scotland will do very well.’

This interview took place in India in 2007, and Gordon thought it had gone well. I knew otherwise. Sure enough, as we crawled through the Mumbai traffic back to our hotel, one of our press officers rang me to say the Scottish papers were very excited and we had a major problem.

‘OK, mate,’ I replied calmly, holding the phone as far away from Gordon as I could, ‘take it easy and keep me posted’, as if he was telling me the cricket score.

‘What’s the problem?’ Gordon said. ‘Nothing,’ I lied.

‘I heard someone say “problem” — what’s the problem?’ he said, getting slightly irate.

I sighed. ‘OK, now don’t go mad. We’ll just need to clarify that interview so it doesn’t sound like you’d support England over Scotland.’

Yawn. This has the feel of stale bread… the taste of cold tea that’s been left on someone’s desk overnight. If you really want to read the rest of the article, click on this link.

Sure the dirty tricks were conducted inside the Labour Party, but this kind of thing happens in all political parties. I mean, how do you think Nick Clegg became leader of the Liberal Democrats? Through honest, upfront means? Get real. Then there was the knifing of Thatcher by her colleagues. What do you mean you haven’t heard about  it?

The dirty tricks that we should be concerned about are ignored by the mainstream media. When Julian Lewis’s involvement in the Reg Prentice case emerged, the press nary batted an eyelid and focussed on Prentice’s defection from Labour to the Tories in 1977 instead.

As the Leveson Report has shown us, even the British press can’t be trusted to report on the things that really matter. Why? Because most of the press is in the pocket of Tory party.

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Filed under Conservative Party, Journalism, Labour, Labour Party conference 2013, Media, Tory press

Hard-working families…

If there is one phrase that sums up this government’s belief in the power of the sign over all else, it’s “Hard-working families”.  To this phrase are added the clauses “who want to get on in life…”, “who pay their taxes” and “who want to do the right thing”.  Sometimes they appear altogether, sometimes one or two of them are coupled to the phrase, often it’s just “hard-working families” on its own. Whatever the case, it’s quite possibly the dullest PR campaign on the planet.

This wasn’t the first government to employ the words “Hard-working families”. Oh no. That Marxist-Leninist (sarcasm), Gordon Brown, also used the same line in 2005.  It was dull then and it’s dull now.

A BBC article from 2005 says:

It is rapidly becoming the most over-used phrase of the 2005 election.

No policy announcement, whether on crime, immigration, the economy, health or education, is complete without it.

But who exactly are “Britain’s hard-working families”? And why are politicians so obsessed with them?

But tellingly,

“It has always been a Tory message,” says Times columnist and former Conservative MP Matthew Parris.

Ah, so it’s “always been a Tory message”? That says a lot about Nu Labour.

What exactly does this phrase “hard-working families” mean? Well, if one takes it literally, the connotations are rather disturbing. A family is a social unit that includes children and adults. Are you with me so far? Good.  That means that, presumably, a hard-working family will include working children too? There are laws on the statute book that limit the hours that children can work but is the current government seriously suggesting that all kids be made to work? Well, not quite but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone like Philip Davies or Priti Patel made the crass suggestion that children under the age of 13 be employed to de-fluff the tunnels of the London Underground, for example. Such is the Tories’ fetish for all things 19th century that I sometimes think they’d gladly welcome the return of typhoid and cholera epidemics for a little icing on the cake.

What about those family members who are too old or infirm to carry on working? For this Tory-led government, being old is no excuse and as we already know, you can now work until your drop. Happy with that?

Even those people who are seriously, in some cases, terminally ill, have also been forced into work or onto workfare, only to die a short time later. For those who really cannot work, their benefits are stopped. Then they die. But then death is probably no excuse for not working either.

Linda Wooton was lying in a hospital bed when she was informed that her benefits had been stopped. She died 9 days later.

Let’s be clear, the Tories and Nu Labour aren’t that interested in families, if they were, then they wouldn’t be doing so much to destroy them.  On the one hand Westminster politicians complain about the break-up of the family and on the other, they conspire in its demise. Can’t these people make their minds up?

I was watching The Sunday Politics on BBC1 a few weeks ago when I cauth Andrew Neil  interviewing Michael Green Grant Shapps. During the course of this 5 minute interview, Shapps used the words “hard-working families” about 12 times.  How’s that for dull?  Repeating this sentence ad nauseum/ad tedium convinces no one but the politicians themselves. In short, their catchphrases are as clapped out as their ideas…er, what ideas?

The father of public relations, Edward Bernays, would have approved of the repetitive use of this tired old phrase. Goebbels would have too.  Sorry, did I just break Godwin’s Law there? I hope not.

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So what’s Miliband got to say?

Clueless Mr. Ed

Hey dude, where’s my vision?

In a nutshell? Not a lot. Well, nothing that anyone on the left wants to hear. I found this blog in today’s New Statesman, in which Mr. Ed is quoted as saying,

The Government’s economic failure means that whoever wins the next election will still face a deficit that needs to be reduced. The redistribution of the last Labour government relied on revenue which the next Labour government will not enjoy. The option of simply increasing tax credits in the way we did before will not be open to us.

We need to care more about predistribution.  Centre-left governments of the past tried to make work pay better by spending more on transfer payments.  Centre-left governments of the future will have to make work pay better by doing more to make work itself pay.  That is how we are going to build growth based not just on credit, but on real demand.

I think this is a centre-left moment. Why might you think it’s a centre-right moment? Well, because of issues of fiscal responsibility, which is why we must be strong on that. But for me it’s a centre-left moment because people think there’s something unfair and unjust about our society. You’ve got to bring the vested interest to heel; you’ve got to change the way the economy works. That’s our opportunity.

Straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. So if Labour gets into power at the next General Election, we can expect to hear things like, “the country is broke” and “tough choices have to be made” repeated at every opportunity. But what is this “predistribution” idea? It’s a non-word that PPE types love to coin in the absence of real ideas.  If Mr. Ed is serious about “making work pay” then everyone needs to be paid a living wage. I’ve heard little from him about that. What he seems content to do is carry on with the bankrupt idea of negative income tax  Friedmanite bollocks tax credits.

The rest of the interview carries on in a similar vein. Lots of platitudes, loads of “I feel your pain” type stuff.  We also find out what books he took with him on holiday [sighs].

If you were any doubt that Mr. Ed’s Labour Party is a different beast to Lord Snooty’s Tories, think again. This is the same beast but it speaks in warm words and wears a sickly smile. It still has its neoliberal claws and fangs, they’re sheathed… for now. Here’s another snippet,

On welfare and benefits, the Labour leader insists that some form of contribution from the recipients of welfare must replace what Liam Byrne, former head of the Labour policy review, called “unearned support”.

“I do think we need a society where people make a contribution,” Miliband says. “You build a successful society out of people showing responsibility. That’s an important principle at the top, it’s an important principle elsewhere. But people at the top have a particular responsibility because they help define the ethic of the country.”

These words could have been said by Cameron, the only real difference here is the tone. The word “responsibility” is deployed as a buzzword.  It’s one that makes disciplinarian ex-bankers like Liam Byrne drool with uncontrolled anticipation.

But how does Miliband intend to make people more responsible? If making people work for their benefits is considered to be a mark of their “responsibility”, then he has some serious moral and ethical questions to answer. What about dignity and respect?  In effect, Labour’s support of workfare would be tantamount to giving a nod and a wink to the further erosion of worker’s wages, which have declined in real terms for the last 20 years.  My, wouldn’t Gaitskell be proud of this lot? Ramsay MacDonald too. In fact, this is a party in which even Twinkletoes Cable would feel at home these days.  Maybe that’s the point: to appeal to the SDP lot in the Lib Dems should the coalition fall. Then again, maybe it isn’t. In fact, I think I’m being too generous on Mr. Ed and his crew of weak-willed snivellers. In truth, they haven’t got the guts to offer hope to a nation that’s crying out for it. Instead of doing anything that could be described as visionary, the former party of labour takes another sharp right-hand turn into a ditch.

UPDATE 6/9/12 @ 1758

Mr. Ed fleshed out the “predistribution” idea that I mentioned earlier in a speech to The Policy Network.

The BBC has the story,

“Predistribution is about saying, ‘We cannot allow ourselves to be stuck with permanently being a low-wage economy and hope that through taxes and benefits we can make up the shortfall.’

“It’s not just, nor does it enable us to pay our way in the world.

“Our aim must be to transform our economy so it is a much higher skill, much higher wage economy.

“Think about somebody working in a call centre, a supermarket, or in an old peoples’ home.

“Redistribution offers a top-up to their wages. Predistribution seeks to go further – higher skills with higher wages.

Yay! Higher wages! How? Anyway, it seems I got it wrong vis a vis the tax credits. That was one of Gord’s ideas… well not really, it originally came from Milton Friedman, who was neither a socialist or a social democrat.

The BBC article also notes that Miliband is having text with Twinkletoes (what did I say?).

The FT has this rather interesting story here.  Here’s a snippet,

Mr Cable told the Financial Times in July he did not “exclude” a run for the party leadership and polls suggest the business secretary, who is a former Labour councillor, is more popular than Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister.

But behind the mischief, Mr Miliband is making another calculation: that Labour may need to work with the Lib Dems in the event of a hung parliament in 2015 and that Mr Cable may hold the key to a Lib-Lab deal.

How’s life in that ditch, Ed?

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Murdoch: hoist by his own petard or playing a long game?

My work took me much longer to finish than I expected, hence the long gap between blogs. A lot has happened over the last couple of weeks. Events in the phone hacking scandal have moved very quickly: no sooner than we hear of one revelation, another comes along within hours to take its place. Needless to say, Murdoch’s minions have overstepped the mark and acted criminally. Phone taps normally require a court order. The News of the World thought that it was above the law. It wasn’t.  Now the rest of News International and its parent company, News Corporation are under suspicion. The Sun and The Times have both been accused of phone hacking and in the US, it was believed that one of the News Corp companies hacked into the phones of those killed in the Twin Towers attack of September 11, 2001.

The News of the World is no more. No doubt it will be replaced by something just as vile. In many respects The Sun and the News of the World are the same paper. They both print the same kind of gossip and sleazy scandal and both papers believe that they have the right to intrude into people’s private lives.

I had originally begun drafting a blog a couple of weeks ago. My angle on this was the city of Liverpool and how The Sun and NotW had been boycotted by Scousers. The people of Liverpool have known for a long time what News International is capable of doing.  In the aftermath of the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989, The Sun made up a story about Liverpool supporters urinating on the dead. Kelvin MacKenzie, then editor of the paper, refused to apologize and even went so far as to rub more salt into the wound by standing by the ‘story’. To this day, the sales of The Sun and The News of the World on Merseyside are the lowest anywhere in the country. No self-respecting Scouser, red or blue, would contemplate buying such a vile rag.

Many of us have known for some time that Murdoch media and the government enjoy a close relationship. When Cameron hired Andy Coulson as his press secretary, Coulson was already up to his neck in shit.  But what we have seen is that the relationship between the Tories and the Murdoch media is somewhat closer than a mere business arrangement; these people meet socially. Cameron, Rebekah Brooks and Coulson have  broken bread together. Indeed Cameron, Coulson and Brooks live rather close to each other.  They are even referred to as the “Chipping Norton Set”.

The Murdoch press may not be able to inject its views into the heads of its readers but it is an opinion former and its views are taken seriously by many people. British politicians work to please the Murdoch press and will do their utmost to avoid upsetting papers like the The Sun, a paper that can ruin lives and careers at the drop of a hat.

In 1992, The Sun claimed to have won the general election for John Major’s Tories. The day before the polls opened, the Scum ran a front page that said “If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave in Britain turn off the lights”. Labour lost the election but in the years that followed the Tories were battling allegations of sleaze.

Before the 1997 General Election, Tony Blair met with executives from News International. He understood that he needed to get the Murdoch media on his side in order to win. But it was a poisoned chalice, the Blair and the Brown governments found themselves dancing to Murdoch’s tune.

Yesterday, Murdoch had full page apologies printed in his papers and those of his rivals.  He’s done it again today. I suspect that his lawyers have advised him to do this, so that he can come back in a year’s time with a renewed bid for BSkyB. All he’s doing is trying to remake his image and that of his papers. As far as out politicians are concerned, they talk a good talk but they’re scared of Murdoch. They’ve done just enough to give the impression that they’re reining him in. Ed Miliband has called for a ban on multi-media ownership by a single person or group. This would be welcome. But the press cannot regulate itself properly. The Press Complaints Commission is run by the newspaper industry and membership  is not compulsory. The PCC does not have the power to sanction errant newspapers nor can it impose fines. All it can do is get the paper in question to print an apology, which is, more often than not, a single paragraph buried inside the newspaper.

I’ll leave you with this mindless drivel from LMer and professional shit-stirrer, Brendan O’Neill who blames the NotW’s demise on a “dictatorship of do-gooders”.

When small groups of professional activists help to shut down a newspaper read by millions of everyday Brits, that is not “people power”. When celebrities and well-to-do commentators help to deprive 7.5 million people of their Sunday read – and what’s more, claim to be doing it in order to save those 7.5 million people from being morally corrupted – that is not a “democratic moment”. It is more like a dictatorship of do-gooders.

Lest we forget that O’Neill’s former magazine, LM was shut down because it lost a libel case against ITN whom LM had accused of misrepresenting the Bosnian Civil War.   A “dictatorship of do-gooders” had nothing to do with the NotW’s demise; its death was caused by slipshod journalistic standards and blatant lawbreaking. I, for one, am glad it’s gone. I think that I should point out that O’Neill also writes for the Australian, a title owned by guess who?

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Filed under Ideologies, Journalism, Media, News Corporation, Tory press, Yellow journalism

If you’re looking for leadership, look away from the Labour Party

Some people say that the post war consensus ended in the 1980’s with the election of the Thatcher government. I’d agree with that. The Labour Party in the 1980’s under Neil Kinnock was a pale shadow of its former self. Kinnock as Labour leader sought to make the party electable by expelling from it the dissenters and the socialists. It first witch-hunted and then expelled members of the Militant Tendency from its ranks at the behest of Thatcher and the Tory-supporting press. Then it embarked on a period of internal ‘reforms’ to make it less social democratic and more business-friendly.

By 1997, the party had done a complete volte-face. Now it welcomed big business. Now it adopted corporate-speak as its new tongue. Now it cut its own heart out in order to please Murdoch and the rest of the Tory press. It became a new party. It joined the new neoliberal consensus. As Labour leader, Tony Blair told us how he was “beyond ideology”. Often when people say this sort of thing, they are making an effort to conceal their true right wing selves.

What Blair offered the country was a weak compromise between social democracy and neoliberalism. The two were and are mutually incompatible. First the Public Private Partnership (PPP) was introduced as Nu Labour’s concession to neoliberalism. Then came the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) which was introduced to provide a means for investing in hospital improvements. It too was a concession to neoliberalism.

By the time Brown came to power, the Labour Party looked like it had run out of ideas. It looked like a party marking time. It could offer nothing of substance to its core supporters who were deserting the party in their droves. Whilst in power the party had failed to reverse Thatcher’s anti-union laws. It also failed to build new council homes and continued with the disastrous Right to Buy scheme. It did the spade work for any future Tory administration.

Brown lost the election and the party took months to elect a replacement leader. When it eventually elected Ed Miliband, some thought that the party would change direction and draw a line between itself and the New Labour years. Even Miliband told us this. But he was just saying that for the press. A couple of months as leader and he sounds just like his mentor, Neil Kinnock.

Miliband has failed to offer real support the student protests though he said “I was tempted”. So what stopped him?  Three words: the Tory press. He was afraid of how the papers would portray him. Most of the mainstream media have been against the student protests, many of them concoct scare stories about “dangerous anarchist groups”. Some even went as far as to accuse a wheelchair-bound student, Jody McIntyre of using his wheelchair to attack the police. While the BBC and others reported on Prince Charles and Camilla’s car being attacked by protesters for days after the event; Aflie Meadows lay in hospital with bleeding on his brain, after being hit by a police truncheon. The journalists were unmoved and unconcerned. The opposition Labour Party said nothing about Alfie meadows or Jody McIntyre.

When Miliband gave his speech to conference in September, he said,

So they looked to their union to help them. They weren’t interested in going on strike, they loved the kids the worked with, they loved their schools. But they wanted someone to help them get basic standards of decency and fairness.

Responsible trade unions are part of a civilised society, every democratic country recognises that.

But all of us in this movement bear a heavy responsibility. We want to win an argument about the danger this coalition government poses to our economy and our society.

To do so we must understand the lessons of our own history too.

We need to win the public to our cause and what we must avoid at all costs is alienating them and adding to the book of historic union failures.

That is why I have no truck, and you should have no truck, with overblown rhetoric about waves of irresponsible strikes.

The public won’t support them. I won’t support them. And you shouldn’t support them either.

But it is not just from trade unions that I want to see responsibility.

We’ll take the last paragraph first, what does Miliband mean by “responsibility”? Caving in to pressure from the tabloid press? But what did he mean when he talked about “irresponsible strikes”? I would like to know what an “irresponsible strike” is. This section of the speech was intended to placate the rabid journos of the Telegraph, The Sun and The Daily Mail. What Miliband has done here is to play to the right wing press by agreeing that unions go on strike because they’re “irresponsible” and enjoy inconveniencing people. Unions go on strike because it is the last resort. In fact, it is harder to go on strike because of the laws that were left in place by Blair and Brown.

The Labour Party has been tepid in its support for the anti-cuts movement. It has offered no leadership at all. The NUS President, Aaron Porter also provided no leadership. His candlelit vigil on the Embankment became an even more laughable glowstick vigil (sic). He condemned some protesters as “a hardcore of activists” and played directly into the hands of the media.  Porter then backtracked after, it appears, he had taken advice from Labour Party Hq. His leadership remains weak and there are calls for him to be removed from office.

History has shown us that when leadership is required, the Labour Party is nowhere to be seen. It’s more concerned in maintaining its profile in the Tory press. Too cowardly to rock the boat, the Labour Party will always abandon those in real need. It even supports some of the government’s welfare reforms. In fact, when it was in power, it advocated pretty much the same reforms.

If you’re looking for real opposition to the cuts, don’t bother with Labour. They’ll only cut your throat and leave you in the ditch to die.

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Filed under Comprehensive Spending Review, Conservative Party, Education, Education, London, Society & culture, Student protests

The view from Planet Blair

I’ve always thought that Tony Blair lived in a world of his own. He is an attention-seeker; a narcissist whose own ego is so large it may as well have its own MEP. So convinced was he of the need to overthrow Saddam Hussein that he lied to the country and lied to Parliament about the alleged stockpiles of WMD that Saddam had supposedly been building up over the years. In reality he only wanted one thing: to make his mark on history. Pure ego-driven stuff

In his book titled Journey, Blair has claimed that Labour lost the election because Brown had abandoned his Nu Labour policies. But such a monstrous ego refuses to recognize the glaringly obvious: Brown lost because he dithered over whether or not to hold a snap election in October 2007.  In the meantime, the Tories seized on Brown’s indecision and made hay while the sun shone. From that moment on he was a weakened figure. So no, it had nothing to do with you or your massive ego.

As for Brown abandoning Nu Labour policies, that is a figment. As this blog notes, the 2010 election campaign was fought on the same, tired old Nu Labour ideas that the 3  previous elections had been fought on.

I spoke to Patrick Diamond, who worked for Blair and Brown in Downing Street, when writing about the election debate. Diamond says “we very quickly reverted to a New Labour formula”. Despite an awareness that Labour had to contest the argument on “change versus change”, the argument became about the risk of the Tories.

Tony Blair has blood on his hands and so too does his anointed leadership candidate, David Miliband who covered up the fact that Britain outsources torture to other countries in order to avoid being directly implicated in torture and human rights abuses. It’s as if to say “We don’t torture but those savages do. We’re not savages. Let them do the job for us”.

Since leaving office, Blair has made millions from a variety of revenue streams which includes working in a senior capacity for investment bank JP Morgan, who have made a fortune from the Iraq War. This reminds us the reason why wars are often fought in the first place; wars represent a gravy train in which all kinds of businesses from investment banks to construction companies can make a killing. Blair was given his reward for helping JP Morgan to realize their dreams in Iraq.

Most of Nu Labour’s period in office was marked by the running Blair-Brown soap opera; it was a sideshow and it often diverted attention from elsewhere. In his book Blair accuses Brown of lacking emotional intelligence.

Many will point to Blair’s ‘achievements’ in Northern Ireland but I was never convinced by his handling of the talks and suspected that the Good Friday Agreement had been cobbled together and rushed through in order to enhance Blair’s reputation as ‘statesman’. This article from UTV suggest that he may have “bent the truth”. Unfortunately the story doesn’t give away too much detail and leaves much to the imagination.

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Filed under Government & politics, Labour

Talkin’ bout a coalition?

…to borrow Tracy Chapman’s song title. First, there was much talk about a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition; then there was talk of a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement between Tories and Lib Dems. Then Brown threw a spanner into the works by announcing his intention to resign, which was seen as a ‘sign’ of Labour’s willingness to enter into a coalition with Clegg and co…now, it seems the LD’s like the size of Cameron’s modest majority and are about to hop into bed with the Tories.

It will all end in tears.

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Filed under General Election 2010