Tag Archives: Hillsborough Disaster

The S*n And Labour MPs

 

Wes Streeting: his first allegiance is to himself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But you wrote articles for one of those papers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE 17/4/17 @ 1840

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

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

 

 

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

The BBC and right-wing bias: a very close relationship indeed

The British Gazette: The BBC’s news source during the 1926 General Strike

Many of us on the left have been disgusted at the way in which the BBC treats studio guests who do not conform to the government’s pro-austerity line, while allowing government ministers to speak freely without interruption.  Labour politicians, for example, are routinely interrupted and talked over, while government ministers are fawned over and treated with kid gloves. As far as The Cat is concerned, the worst offenders are Andrew Marr, Jo Coburn, John Humphrys and the various newsreaders on the BBC News Channel who are too numerous to mention.  On the other hand, the Tories and the others on the right will complain that the BBC is “left-wing” yet when you press these people, they’ll splutter something along the lines of “I meant the entertainment not the news”.  What about Upstairs, Downstairs or Parade’s End? Are they left-wing? “It’s the bloody comedy”! What? Like Michael MacIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, you mean?  [the Tory interlocutor then mutters something about immigration and multi-culturalism].

Information was a tightly controlled commodity in the early 20th Century, the property of wealthy Tory-supporting newspaper barons, who offered the public a diet of slanted news and fluff (so nothing’s changed then). Like their American counterparts, they also engaged in a fair amount of red-baiting. But the newspaper printing presses fell silent during the 1926 General Strike, when print workers, along with millions of other workers, walked out on strike for a week to support the miners struggle for better pay and conditions. The BBC (then a private company), which took its news, from a variety of news agencies, found itself without any sources for its bulletins because the journalists had joined the strike.  Winston Churchill, a former journalist who was no friend of the worker, immediately created a government news organ called The British Gazette and it was from this paper that the BBC took all of its news during the strike.

The BBC could argue that it was a young institution, having been founded in 1922 (coincidentally the same year that Mussolini seized power in Italy) and it didn’t know how to “play the game”. But this would be a lie: the BBC was close to the state from day one and this is perhaps best illustrated when its staff and directors attended a dinner party that had been held for Stanley Baldwin in December 1926. The BBC’s licence to operate initially came from the General Post Office and it had no rivals. In this respect it is hegemonic because its dominance over Britain’s cultural production is near supreme. The BBC was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1927 and substituted the word “Corporation” for “Company”.  Officially speaking, the government and the BBC have what is known as an “arms length relationship”. This means that the government is not supposed to interfere with the BBC and use it for political ends. Of course, this is a fiction. The BBC regularly yields to the slightest pressure from government as the example of 1926 shows us. There are other notable examples.

That Was The Week That Was, while not a left-wing programme, was perceived as such by many Conservatives, because it portrayed them in an unflattering light. TW3 mocked all the political parties, because it was tied to a contract of impartiality. It was produced within News and Current Affairs, rather than Light Entertainment  in order to get around the draconian regulations that governed live performances, which by implication meant political satire performed before an audience.

This article from the Daily Telegraph, of all papers, tells us that MacMillan’s Tory government “helped to take TW3 off the air”. Pressure was applied during the first series  by Lord  Aldington, the vice-chairman of the party, who wrote a sternly-worded letter to the BBC Director General, Hugh Carleton-Greene complaining that,

“The Government’s defence policy takes knock after knock from remarks that are only part relevant to the fun of the piece. What is quite defensible if said once or twice becomes objectionable if repeated so as to form a theme of policy or on politics.

“It has begun to look to some – all your friends – as if Frost nurses a hatred of the prime minister which he finds impossible to control.

“This kind of programme can become highly politically charged. If it does then the Conservative Party are bound – indeed ought – to ask for balance.

“Once political targets, policies or persons become discernible we shall all be in trouble and no doubt we shall take up the cudgels.”

“The Government’s defence policy” can be read as a euphemism for the Profumo Affair.  Aldington’s “we shall take up the cudgels”,  can be seen as a not-so-veiled threat. Nonetheless, the BBC commissioned a second series. The complaints from angry Tory-voting viewers continued to pour in. The article tells us that,

Some of the BBC’s most senior figures were among the programme’s detractors. On August 13, 1963, the director of television wrote: “Several powerful establishment friends of the chairman are complaining … Especially about vulgarity and smut. You know what I thought about the programme. We agreed that we really disliked the lack of professionalism in production, the lack of judgment about what is funny and what is not.”

The “lack of professionalism in production” seems to refer to the programme’s deliberate breaking of the fourth wall. However the suggestion that there was a “lack of judgment about what is funny and what is not” reminds us of satire’s historical conflict with state power and offers us a glimpse into how the cultural hegemony operates.  It is the voice of the stern Victorian dad, mutton chops and all, as he shows you the back of his hand. “I shall tell you what is funny, my lad”!

TW3 was cancelled in the middle of its run, ostensibly because 1964 was an “election year”. But with the Profumo Affair still rumbling, the Tories’ electoral chances were in the khazi. Alec Douglas-Home, who succeeded MacMillan, who’d resigned due to ill-health was the caretaker leader of a doomed party.The Tories had only themselves to blame for their loss in the 1964 General Election.

There are plenty of other examples but one caught my eye a couple of weeks ago on the BBC Parliament Channel. It was the coverage of the first 1974 General Election. Held against the background of the miners’ strike, power cuts, the three-day week and the international energy crisis, the petulant PM, Heath threw a strop and demanded to know the answer to the question, “Who Governs Britain”? The BBC evidently agreed it was Heath and pretty much told us so. This was evident  in their questioning of Labour shadow ministers and the general, “Hurrah for Heath” tone of the presenters. The result, as we know, was a hung parliament, with Wilson commanding a sliver of the popular votes over the Tories. The irony here is that under a proportional system, it all would have been much different and Heath would have won with his superior percentage of the vote.

The Miners’ Strike of 1984-85 again revealed the BBC’s right-wing bias when, during the Battle of Ogreave, it decided to take the side of Thatcher’s semi-private gendarmerie the police by selectively editing the footage to suggest that it was the miners who had charged the police and not the other way around. The BBC was more than happy to paint the miners as thugs, because this fitted in with  the government’s view of the worker; the enemy within. In the aftermath of Orgreave, the South Yorkshire Police (SYP) fitted up 95 miners whom it accused of being involved in violent affray. Thanks to the work of the Glasgow Media Unit, the truth was revealed and the SYP force was exposed as corrupt. Fast forward to 1989 and we see the same police force involved in the Hillsborough Disaster cover-up with the BBC taking its line directly from the mouths of the cops and the government.

More recently, the BBC has worked hard to shut anyone up who questions the government’s austerity measures. In many instances the BBC news editors will have a panel that is entirely composed of people from the pro-austerity side of the debate. Representatives from the CBI, the IEA, Taxpayers Alliance, Policy Exchange and others all get airtime, while the UK Uncut, the Real Taxpayers Alliance and so forth will either get shouted down by right-wing studio guests or attacked by the interviewer, who will offer “Well, what would you cut” as the only form of counter-argument to the interlocutor’s discourse. There have been instances where I have seen the BBC invite someone like Dominic Raab on to talk about his latest book but offer no balance to counteract his lies and shoddy theses.

This site claims to “expose” BBC bias but it’s a right-wing site that plays a familiar tune on a broken violin. Unhappy with the less than total control of popular discourse, the Right wants all broadcasters to pay deference to their notional ‘superiority’. The charge that the BBC is “left-wing” has been refuted time and time again, yet they persist with this nonsense. The BBC is cheerfully dancing to the austerity tune that is being played by this government. The idea that the BBC has an arm’s length relationship to the government is beginning to look like more and more like a warm embrace of like minds.

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Filed under allegations of bias, BBC, History & Memory, Ideologies, Journalism, Media, Television, Tory press

Hillsborough: the truth at last

Liverpool is a unique city in many ways. It is a city that is divided by football but also united by it. My family is like a lot of Scouse families: we’re split between the red and the blue halves of the city’s footballing divide. I’m a Liverpool supporter, so was my grandfather, my mum and one of my aunts who’d married a Kopite. The others, my uncles (one of whom played for Tranmere) and aunt, are/were Toffees.  You’d always find Blues and Reds at Prenton Park on Friday nights to watch Tranmere Rovers before going to their respective side’s matches the following day. What other city would you find supporters from rival sides getting on so well? Only in Liverpool. Hillsborough affected not just the city of Liverpool but the rest of Merseyside.

It was 1989 and I was in the final year of my undergraduate degree at Newcastle Poly. I’d gone to the Student Union bar with some of my friends with the intention of watching a cracking tie. Within minutes of the kick-off it was obvious that something wasn’t right, the camera had panned to the Leppings Lane stand and we could see people clambering over the bars at that end of the ground. After a lot of end-to-end action, police and officials appeared on the pitch and the match was stopped. Within minutes we got the news that people were being crushed to death. I started sobbing; it was uncontrolled sobbing. I told my mates that I could have been there. I could have been one of those supporters who’d been crushed. I felt the unfolding tragedy. I can still feel it today.

In the days that followed, stories emerged in the press that pointed the finger of blame, not at the police’s lack of crowd management skills, but at the fans. The Sun, as we know, was the worst of the lot, with its editor, Kelvin Mackenzie, standing by its front page splash.

Mackenzie was unrepentant. In the years following Hillsborough and the subsequent Taylor Report, he repeated his  version of the ‘truth’ on each and every occasion when he has been asked to retract his lies. To this day, no one on Merseyside buys The Sun. Mackenzie has apologized but it’s 23 years too late. We don’t want his apology. He can go to hell.

Today, the truth behind that tragic day has been revealed when documents were released which includes letters of complaint to the Press Council , the local press agency story from which The Sun’s ‘truth’ was derived (Tory MP Irvine Patnick was also a source), the coroner’s reports and the shocking revelations that 41 of the 96 victims could have survived and the 3.15pm inquest cut off point that sealed the fate of the unfortunates.

Thatcher also believed the lies told her by a senior office of the Merseyside Constabulary.  Many documents and CCTV footage have mysteriously disappeared leaving plenty of unanswered questions. What was Bernard Ingham’s role in all of this? As Thatcher’s press secretary, Ingham was a master practitioner of journalism’s dark arts. He accepted the police’s version of events and went on record as saying,

“You can’t get away from what you were told,” Ingham said. “We talked to a lot of people; I am not sure if it was the chief constable. That was the impression I gathered: there were a lot of tanked-up people outside.”

Ingham was asked about the Taylor report and said rather tellingly,

“I think the police are a very easy target.”

We now have the truth about what happened on 15 April, 1989. What we now need is for those responsible, and I include The Sun and Kelvin Mackenzie for their smear campaign, to face justice. The liar Patnick should also be stripped of his knighthood.

Then perhaps we can get some proper closure.

Justice for the 96!

Don’t buy The Sun!

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Filed under Football, Media, News Corporation, Society & culture, Tory press, Yellow journalism