Tag Archives: media bias

Smears, Lies, Social Media And Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis. He don’t ‘alf like a good old smear.

Social media may have its problems but there’s one thing about it that cannot be denied: it has effectively democratized the production and dissemination of information. Until fairly recently, the production of information was tightly controlled by what is often laughingly referred to as the ‘free press’ or ‘free media’, which is mostly controlled and owned by Conservative-supporting proprietors. Cast your minds back to the General Election of 1992 and The S*n’s disgraceful front pages. Cast your minds back to 1996 when Tony Blair, then merely the leader of the Labour Party, had to get on his hands and knees and beg for Rupert Murdoch’s support. I don’t want a return to those days, but the Tories clearly do, and there’s a reason why they complain so bitterly about social media and whine about non-existent online abuse: they resent the fact that people can make their own judgements based on information that wouldn’t have been available to them 10 or 20 years ago. The Tories are also incapable of matching the social media campaigns of groups like Momentum and, by way of reply, end up producing the most laughable efforts, like Activate.

Smear at will, chaps! That ought to convince the voters that we’re the natural party of government!

Last week, Theresa May reshuffled her cabinet and brought in Brandon Lewis, the MP for Great Yarmouth, as chairman of the Conservative Party. His deputy is James (Not So) Cleverly, the MP for Braintree (there’s a joke in there), whose Twitter feed is full to bursting with smears and lies. When I heard about Lewis’s appointment, this is what I tweeted.

The role of the Tory Party chairman, as far as I can see it, is to co-ordinate smear attacks on their enemies. This is how it’s been since the 1920s, when national newspapers like the Daily Mail,  a ‘newspaper’ friendly to the interests of the Tories, could publish forgeries like the Zinoviev Letter to affect the outcome of a general election and, at the same time, undermine the democratic process safe in the knowledge that it enjoyed high level protection.

When Lewis  appeared on today’s Andrew Marr Show, he didn’t disappoint. Immediately afterwards, he tweeted:

My response was brief and to the point.

Later, this was tweeted from the Tories’s official Twitter account:

When Angela Rayner told her Twitter followers how she dealt with online abuse, Lewis saw this as an opportunity to make  dishonest political capital and smear the Labour frontbench at the same time.

Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads was having none of it and reminded Lewis that his “Respect Pledge” was little more than a gimmick.

That reminds me, what happened to the 40 or so Tory MPs that were recently outed as sex pests and worse? It’s all gone rather quiet.

CCHQ quoted Cleverly in the Sunday Express:

Here it is from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

Cleverly has very little room to complain about abuse, yet here he is assuming the moral high ground. When all else fails, pretend your shit doesn’t stink and smear it all over your opponents.

The Tories have been very fond of claiming that Labour and by extension, the Left, has been singularly responsible for online abuse. But this is a topsy-turvy version of reality, because it’s been demonstrated that the abuse comes mainly from the Right and is directed at Labour MPs like Emma Dent Coad, Laura Pidcock and Diane Abbott. The New Statesman tracked 25, 688 abusive tweets and noted that most of them were directed at Diane Abbott.  Tory MPs, by contrast, have been challenged on their lies, which they then wilfully misinterpret as “online abuse”. There’s a reason for this: social media has, for the first time, allowed many people to not only engage with their MPs, but to openly challenge the lies and misinformation produced by Tory MPs and the propagandists at CCHQ. This is anathema to Tories, who may talk a good talk about freedom and democracy, but work tirelessly to stifle those things.

I didn’t see Brandon Lewis on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday morning but I suspect that Marr didn’t once challenge or refute any of his accusations or smears. However, the Marr Show helpfully tweeted this, and what I’ve noticed from this clip is how Lewis, rather than face up to the fact that his party is now, most likely, the third largest party in Britain, smears his way out of an uncomfortable moment. But that’s not all: watch how he squirms when it’s revealed to viewers that the abolition of credit card charges, announced on Saturday, was a European Union directive, and not down to the government, as their Twitter meme mendaciously suggests.

What Lewis is really saying is “We’re are crap at social media and it’s not fair that Labour is better than us”. The logic behind this is that the Tories think that being good at social media means being abusive and making baseless allegations, but this is an obvious psychological projection.

One smear that’s been doing the tours of the radio and television studios is the claim that Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, told an audience that he wanted to “lynch” Esther McVey. McDonnell actually quoted what someone else had said and yet, the Tories, being Tories, attributed the words to him directly. Worse perhaps, the BBC always fails to challenge Tory MPs who reproduce these lies live on air, as Sarah Smith did when the lie was repeated to her by Immigration Minister, Caroline Noakes, on The Sunday Politics. She apologized towards the end of the show.

The Tories are comfortable with racists. That’s not a smear; that’s the truth. For when Boris Johnson makes another racist joke or calls black children “piccaninnies”, nothing happens.  It’s waved away. For example, when Scottish Tory councillors spouted sectarian and racist remarks, Ruth Davidson gave them a quick slap on the wrists and welcomed them back a few weeks later. The official media, for its part, said little if anything at all. Yet, the Tories and their pals on Fleet Street and elsewhere will seize on any opportunity to paint Labour as a uniquely anti-Semitic party, and when their own members are guilty of real anti-Semitism, what happens? Absolutely nothing. Not even the official media are interested.

When Toby Young was appointed to the board of the Office for Students, a quango set up by Bozza’s half-witted and less charismatic sibling, Jo Johnson, people took to social media in their droves to point out Young’s lack of suitability. Central to these claims were Young’s 40,000 or so tweets, many of which expressed crude sexism and homophobia, one even suggested anal rape. But that wasn’t the least of it, his advocacy for what he calls “progressive eugenics” (a bizarre and contradictory construction if ever there was one) was also cited as grounds for his unsuitability. Young was forced to stand down. Predictably, the Tories started complaining about “online lynching” and “trial by Twitter”. Not one of them mentioned eugenics or the important fact that it’s a long discredited pseudo-science, which was central to Hitler’s Final Solution. In their silence, they’ve clearly revealed themselves, not only to be Social Darwinists, but tacit supporters of eugenics.

Thanks to social media many of us are better informed than we once were.  Yes, there is online abuse but most of it comes from the Right and not the Left.  But ordinary citizens are now able to call out politicians on their lies and distortions, so when the Tories claimed they had abolished credit card charges all by themselves, they were immediately met by a barrage of corrections. The Tories hate that. For them, it’s tantamount to abuse and for people that declare themselves tough and in control, they betray themselves as rather thin-skinned and lacking in control. Worse still, the Tories are a party bereft of ideas and haemorrhaging members, and they see smears, lies and abuse as substitutes.

To borrow from the villain’s stock line at the end of an episode of Scooby Doo, Where Are You? “We would have gotten away with it, if it hadn’t been for you pesky kids and your social media”.


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Filed under social media, Tories, Tory press

The Daily Politics

Many of us already know the BBC’s attitude to the reporting of political stories is less than objective. The Daily Politics, the corporation’s flagship politics programme on BBC2 has long been the subject of a great deal of ire. Since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, the overall tone of the programme has been increasingly anti-Labour but more specifically, anti-Corbyn. Any story that can be spun to cast Labour and Corbyn in a bad light is often seized upon with both hands.

Today was no different. The show’s host, Jo Coburn, pursued the Jared O’Mara sexism story not once but twice. First, she asked Nu Labourite, Chris Leslie for his view, then she asked Dawn Butler. Why is that? Because it’s pretty obvious that The Daily Politics, far from being impartial, is at the forefront of a pro-Tory propaganda exercise in which any anti-Labour story, no matter how trivial, is promoted above any other. In this case, to make matters worse, Coburn even cited her source: Guido Fawkes. Really?

One important story The Daily Politics decided to ignore is this one in which Tory MP and whip, Chris Heaton-Harris, had written to university vice chancellors requesting they provide him with details of “the names of professors […] who are involved in the teaching of European affairs, with particular reference to Brexit”.



And yet, a story this important was completely ignored by The Daily Poltics? If a Labour or SNP MP had made a similar request, you can almost guarantee the story would have been covered on the programme.

This isn’t the first time that Heaton-Harris has been involved in controversy. Heaton-Harris, a self-styled ‘Eurosceptic’ was secretly filmed advocating support for James Delingpole’s anti-wind farm candidacy. The story appeared in The Guardian in 2012.

Chris Heaton-Harris, who is campaign manager for the Tories in Corby, was recorded saying he encouraged an anti-wind farm candidate to join the election race against the Tories, adding: “Please don’t tell anybody ever.”

The footage, covertly recorded by the environmental group Greenpeace, captures the MP saying the independent anti-wind farm candidate, James Delingpole, had announced his candidacy as part of a “plan” to “cause some hassle” and drive the wind issue up the political agenda.

He is also filmed claiming he helped Delingpole by providing him with “a handful of people who will sort him out”, including the deputy chairman of his own constituency party, who had stood down and then became the anti-wind candidate’s campaign agent.

Surely offering campaign advice and support for a candidate that isn’t in your party is a cause for having the whip withdrawn? For the Tories, not a bit of it. Delingpole’s views are shared by many Tories.

The Daily Politics, rather than report political news, takes an active role in making the news. Remember Stephen Doughty’s on air resignation?

Then there’s John Mann’s infamous ambushing of Ken Livingstone as he arrived at the BBC’s Westminster studio where The Daily Politics is produced.

The confrontation was repeated on the programme itself.

In August of this year, Open Democracy reported that Tory MP for Moray, Douglas Ross, made racist comments about travelling folk. The story wasn’t covered on the corporation’s television or radio news bulletins and appeared on the website only. Now, maybe that’s because The Daily Politics was off the air for the summer. However, if a Labour or SNP MP had made similar remarks, it would have been covered.

Scottish Tory councillors who made racist and sectarian comments were suspended and then quickly reinstated by the party. Still, not a peep about this from the Tories or the BBC.

The BBC’s website reported that Robert Davies, a Tory councillor on Stirling City Council, had left the party over his racist comments. Again, this wasn’t covered by The Daily Politics.

Robert Davies was one of two Tories who were suspended shortly after being elected to Stirling Council in May.

He had tweeted racist posts from a Twitter account in 2013 which was subsequently deleted.


His colleague Alastair Majury, who was also suspended and then reinstated by the party, remains a Conservative councillor after making an apology to the council.

When Mr Davies and Mr Majury were reinstated by the Scottish Conservatives in August, the party insisted they had both offered “unreserved apologies for any offence caused”.

Contrast this with the calls to have Ken Livingstone expelled from the Labour Party. See the difference? Tories are given a slap on the wrist and then welcomed back with open arms, and their reputations are magically rehabilitated.

When a national broadcaster fails to report the really important stories and concentrates its efforts on smearing an opposition party, it is selling voters short. The Daily Politics is transparently biased in favour of the Tories. The programme’s editors may deny it, but the evidence is there for all to see.

Tim Fenton at Zelo Street has unearthed some interesting information on the Jared O’Mara story. You can read it here.



Filed under BBC, Media, Racism, Television

Oh, What A Night!

I went to bed at 4am this morning and woke up about four hours later. When I went to bed, it was clear that there was going to be a hung parliament. May gambled her government and her reputation (such as it is) and lost. Labour, on the other hand, did much better than expected. But just imagine what could have happened if the Blairites and the PLP plotters hadn’t spent so much time attacking their leader and membership, and had got fully behind Jeremy Corbyn. We could have been looking at a different scenario, one in which Labour won a decent majority.

As I type this, the Tories have 318 seats, which is well short of an outright majority. The Tories are also reported to be talking to the Democratic Unionist Party to come to some kind of arrangement. It is unlikely that the DUP will form a coalition with the Tories. However, the thought of the deeply reactionary DUP aligning themselves with the Tories isn’t a pleasant prospect. That said, such a government is unlikely to last more than 12 months without collapsing. Another General Election could be called as early as October.

Labour lost no seats and gained at the expense of the Tories and UKIP. They won Ipswich from Ben Gummer and took Canterbury from Julian Brazier. Canterbury was a formerly safe seat that had been in Tory hands since 1918. That’s quite an achievement.  This morning all the naysayers and plotters are wiping a great deal of egg off their faces. Speaking of egg (or things that rhyme with egg), Nick Clegg, the former Deputy PM lost his Sheffield Hallam seat to Labour.

As I write this, the BBC’s pundits are in a spin. All their predictions of how Labour would suffer its heaviest loss since 1983 have been dashed. I knew this election was nothing like 1983 because the situation is  vastly different. and the media’s hacks are still stuck in the 1980s.  Now, after all these weeks, they’re talking about February 1974 and Heath’s disastrous gamble, which in some ways, is similar to May’s decision to call a snap election. I could have told them that. Indeed, I told The Guardian’s Michael White the same thing. He scoffed. I wonder what he’s saying this morning?

Other losers in this election are The S*n, the Daily Heil and The Daily Abscess, who spent a great deal of time and effort trying to undermine the democratic process. They must be held to account. We can no longer tolerate a newspaper industry that prints lies, distortions and smears. The BBC also needs to change. For the last several months they, like the rest of the media, have told us that the Tories would win “a landslide” and suggested, in not so many words, that there was no point in voting. How wrong they were.

UPDATE 9 June, 2017 @ 1248

UKIP leader, Paul Nuttall, has resigned.

Labour is poised to take Kensington. Yes, you read that correctly. Kensington.




Filed under General Election 2017

How Much Will It Cost?

“How much will it cost?” is the question many broadcast hacks journalists ask of Labour politicians whenever the subject of spending is raised, yet the same question is rarely, if ever, put to Conservative politicians and there’s a reason for that.  It’s because the mainstream or corporate media has accepted Thatcherite economic orthodoxy and refuses to question it.  Moreover, the question itself is not only loaded, but predicated almost entirely on the Thatcherite logic that national finances are exactly the same as household finances. They are not. And anyone who thinks they are needs to listen to Yanis Varoufakis take down that myth when a member of the BBC Question Time audience repeated it without a moment’s thought.

Thomas G Clark of Another Angry Voice also debunks the myth here.

Television and radio hacks, and their commentator allies have accepted the Thatcherite logic of the market and the domestic finance analogy as fait accompli. For supposedly well-educated people, broadcast journalists have shown that they are neither capable nor willing to ask fundamentally straightforward questions about the Tories’ economic claims, and instead have focussed their attention on Labour’s mythologized economic incompetence.  But the questions they ask are not intelligent questions and behind them is a discourse of mocking and sneering of anything that diverges even slightly from the orthodoxy.

We see this whenever a Tory politician talks about tax cuts, they are never asked “how much will these tax cuts cost”? Instead, their proposals are taken at face value and their tenuous claims to economic competence are accepted as axiomatic. Yet, tax cuts do cost money and the burden will always fall on the shoulders of those who are least equipped to deal with it.  Tories will always claim that they have taken those who earn the least out of taxation altogether.   No questions are asked if the richest will pay more or how libraries, schools and the National Health Service are to be funded when ever-decreasing amounts of tax are being collected by the state.  Of course, Tory politicians know they will never be subjected to the kind of scrutiny reserved for Labour or even Green politicians (Andrew Neil is a possible exception). The deference with which most media journalists treat these puffed up charlatans is more sickening than eating ten Cadbury’s Cream Eggs in a single sitting and it’s getting worse.

This morning, Diane Abbott appeared on Nick Ferrari’s programme on LBC. When Ferrari questioned her about how much will more police officers cost, Abbott got into a muddle. Yet, when Theresa May was asked why nurses were forced to go to foodbanks on The Andrew Marr Show last Sunday, and could only summon up “there are complex reasons” by way of reply, few media commentators batted an eyelid.  Instead, all the outrage was focussed on Abbott’s apparent gaffe. Pathetic.

The level of political debate in the public sphere is shockingly juvenile and is driven by the discourses produced in the mainstream media. It’s no wonder many voters are left ill-informed about their political choices when journalists are only capable of asking stupid questions with the intention of getting a sensational headline.

If our media had any guts, it would have reported on the real story of the day.  Namely, Theresa May going full Erdoğan on pesky local reporters in Cornwall. But they didn’t.




Filed under General Election 2017

How Polling Works

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

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

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



Filed under Journalism, Media, Opinion polls, propaganda