Tag Archives: Philip Davies

Let’s Talk About: Philip Davies And, Er, Equality?

We’ve had moments like these before, dear reader.  You know the ones. Like the time when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize,  prompting Tom Lehrer to wryly declare satire “obsolete”?  Well, today is one of those of days.  Now take a deep breath.  Are you ready? Philip ‘Dismal’ Davies, the Tory member for Shipley and flatmate of Esther McVey, has been elected unopposed (sic) to the Commons  Committee on Women and Equality.  No, you didn’t misread that. A man who is opposed to equality has been elected unopposed (sic) to a committee on equality.  Is that a postmodern turn or what?

So who is Philip Davies? Well, he’s on the  hard right of the Conservative Party but he’d call himself a ‘libertarian’.  He’s one of those libertarians who denies freedom to others.  A lot of them do it.   Since entering the Commons in 2005, Dismal Davies has  made it his mission to support the interests of the powerful over the weak.  In fact, when it comes to those most in need, you’ll always find Dismal in the Commons filibustering a bill that’s designed to protect them.

As a defender of personal freedoms (freedom from poverty or disease excepted), Dismal was once the Parliamentary spokesman for the equally dismal, but now thankfully defunct, Campaign Against Political Correctness. In this role, he bombarded the Equality and Human Rights Commission with a series of trolling letters asking silly questions on topics like blacking up (sic). The Guardian reported:

Davies regularly addresses Phillips as Sir Trevor, leading the EHRC chair to eventually add a handwritten note to one reply: “Thank you for the ‘knighthood’ but HM has – probably rightly – never extended that honour to me!!”

With an obvious track record in attacking feminism and spitting in the faces of the disadvantaged, The Cat wonders how Dismal’s presence on the committee can be anything but disruptive.  More importantly, how was he elected unopposed in the first place?  That says a lot about our democracy.  Doesn’t it?

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Polling Companies and the Conservative Party

Political parties, especially the Tories,  have a morbid fascination with polls. They see the polls and the companies that produce them as some sort of Delphic Oracle. What interests me isn’t the Tory fascination with polling companies but their involvement in them, since polling companies are always at pains to tell the general public that they are politically neutral. Yet, as any qualitative researcher will tell you, it is not possible to be 100% objective and put one’s ideology or cultural baggage to one side. The researcher must act self-reflexively. Bourdieu and Wacquant discussed this at some length in An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. The researcher must consider their own position. Yet this idea of self-reflexivity appears to have escaped the pollsters. I have discovered that a number of Tory MPs are being paid by polling companies and there is no indication why they are being paid. Polling companies don’t deal in human vagaries: they and those who pay for the polls (usually the press and politicians) are interested in abstract numbers from which they hope to divine the future. That is the nature of quantitative research methodologies. They’re not particularly interested in why a certain number of people feel a certain way, because that’s the business of the qualitative researcher. The questions of what, how and why are of little interest to them. On Sunday I posted the following Tweet.

Andrew Hawkins of ComRes fired back.

My reply was blunt.

I was using my phone, so I didn’t have access to the necessary information to properly rebut his aggressive response. A couple of years ago, I was investigating Priti Patel’s business interests after I’d discovered she had close ties to the United Arab Emirates and to Bahrain, in particular. My research began after Patel had claimed she was a champion of Human Rights. I also knew Patel was involved in the right-wing Free Enterprise Group, which advocates among other things, abolition of the minimum wage to “grow the economy”. So I knew she wasn’t being entirely straight with her interviewer. I started my investigation by looking at the Searchthemoney website, and was astonished to discover that Patel had received £75 on 11 occasions between 2011 and 2013. It wasn’t clear why she was given this money nor was it clear what she’d done to deserve it.

I’d then noticed that many other Conservative MPs had also been paid money by ComRes. You can see the list here. Philip Davies, for example, was paid the same amount of money on more than 18 separate occasions between 2011 and 2014. YouGov is another polling company that’s cited for its supposedly rigorous methods. Yet this company was founded by Tories Stephan Shakespeare and Nadhim Zahawi. The company’s public face is Peter Kellner, who often appears on television to explain how the polls work. However Kellner isn’t as non-partisan as he seems to be. According to Lenin’s Tomb, Kellner intervened in the 2010 Labour leadership contest.

Firstly, Kellner uses figures relating the division of ABC1 and C2DE voters among the electorate to support his point that the number of ‘working class’ voters is declining precipitously. If he is right, then the proportion of ‘working class’ voters dropped from 51% to 43% between 1997 and 2010. That’s a rapid rate of employment change, though – given the way New Labour allowed manufacturing industries to collapse and shed employment – not all that incredible. However, the conception of ‘class’ deployed by Kellner is the old, misleading ‘social class’ model preferred by market researchers. His ‘classes’ (ABC1 = middle class vs C2DE = working class) are based on the National Readership Survey classifications derived from official statistics. As he revealingly puts it, according to his conception the middle class are those who work primarily with their brains, the workers primarily with their hands.

Kellner, according to Richard Seymour,  was a member of the Labour Party in the 1970s but soon swung behind Tony Blair in 1997. It’s a position that he’s maintained ever since. He’s also married to Baroness Ashton, a dyed-in-the-wool Blairite. YouGov also bungs money to Tory politicians. Caroline Dineage, for example, has accepted £280.00 from the company, while Philip Davies collected the cool sum of £1,030.00. Ipsos Mori has also slipped Tory MPs money and it seems as though there isn’t a single polling company that doesn’t do this. If there are any Labour MPs being paid by these companies, I haven’t managed to track them down yet.

Many political opinion polls are conducted as part of what is known to market researchers as an ‘omnibus survey’. The polls are often tacked onto the end of some survey about chocolate or soft drinks, or dropped into the middle of the survey on home insulation.

If polling companies want us to take their polls seriously, then perhaps they should tell us why they donate money to Tory MPs. They should also try and behave more self-reflexively. Say what you like, but I know what I’m getting from an Ashcroft poll; he’s a Tory donor and everyone knows it.

The main polling companies are members of the British Polling Council, which oversees standards in the industry. The founding members of this council are YouGov, Mori, NOP and ICM.  The BPC was founded to establish best practice in the industry to ensure validity and reliability. Prior to the formation of the BPC, polling companies did as they pleased and there was little, if any, accountability. Even so, there are questions that need to be answered but will the BPC or the polling companies answer them or will they obfuscate?

When it comes to objectivity I’m with Hunter S Thompson, who wrote the following about ‘objective’ journalism.

“So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here–not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.”

To adapt the Merovingian in The Matrix, objectivity is an illusion created between those with power and those without.

Reference

Bourdieu, P. and Wacquant, L.J.D. (1992). An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

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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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What a dreary little campaign you have there!

Hands up, who’s heard of the Campaign Against Political Correctness? I came across this group a couple of years ago. It’s part of an agenda to roll back the gains made by those of us who have struggled for equality over the decades. For these people, equality and tolerance are seen as bad things; signs of animalistic weakness,  anathema to bullies, misogynists and self-described libertarians everywhere.

The CAPC operates as a flak machine and perhaps one of the most interesting developments in the way in which flak machines operate is how they’ve adopted the language of their ideological ‘enemies’. The Campaign Against Political Correctness  is a group of ‘ like-minded people’ who believe political correctness is destroying British society. On their home page they have appropriated the anti-war slogan ‘Not in my name’ and conscripted it to serve a different and opposing ideological agenda. This extract from their website sets out their ‘principles’:

We strongly believe that political correctness is wrong because:

  • It is causing tension between communities where there need not be any.
  • It is encouraging racism and sexism – especially in the job market – encouraging people to be given jobs based on the colour of their skin or their sex and not on their merit.
  • It tries to protect those identified as “minorities” (also including women!) despite the fact that they very rarely consult these people before they speak on their behalf and more often than not thoroughly insult them by assuming that they are not perfectly capable of defending themselves or asking for help if they want it (see our “Latest News” and “Your Stories” sections for examples of this).
  • Although it is supposed to be around to prevent offence it deems it acceptable to offend the majority of people on a regular basis.

What is noticeable about this set of ‘principles’ is the way it swats away the real issues like some annoying insect. The second and third points are revealing because they tend to make the claim that others are speaking on behalf of minorities and not the minorities themselves. This objection appears to be rooted in the notion that anything that is done in relation to minorities is a form of ‘extreme liberalism’ and that any effort to achieve parity in the workplace or office is indicative of the further erosion of the fabric of society and calls into question of the British idea of ‘fair play’. Ironic, isn’t it?

What is interesting about groups such as CAPC is the way in which they propagate and sustain the myth that anything that does not operate within its ideological contours is foreign or alien to the British ‘way of life’. Sometimes, to hear these people talk, you’d think we were still living in the 1980s.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the CAPC’s spokesman in the Commons is Conservative MP, Philip Davies, who recently failed to declare an interest during a Commons debate on gambling and is to be investigated by the House.

Funnily enough, the CAPC site doesn’t look as though it’s been updated since 2011. It still carries a story about Davies coming under fire for suggesting that disabled people be paid less than the minimum wage for their labour. The reason he gives for this is as specious as his  concern for the disabled. The Guardian also has the story. Here’s what he said:

‘The people who are most disadvantaged by the national minimum wage are the most vulnerable in society.  My concern about it is it prevents those people from being given the opportunity to get the first rung on the employment ladder.  

Naturally, Davies complained that anyone who criticized his ‘ideas’ were spreading “leftwing hysteria”.

Horrible little man. Horrible little group. Horrible little site.

Here’s a taste of the kind of comments people leave on the site.

Political correctness is not free living, its people interfering in things where they’re not wanted!!!

What does “free living” mean? Here’s another.

Political Correctness and Human Rights laws are ruining this once great nation. A stand must be made and something must be done!

Yeah, damn and blast those human rights! Let’s bring back the rack and the ducking stool!

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Thatcher, trolls, hypocrisy and faux outrage: the world of Louise Mensch

I have no time at all for Louise Mensch, the author of rubbish ‘chick lit’ novels, Tory MP for Corby and apologist for Murdoch. Her only skill seems to be getting things badly wrong. Recently she has taken to Twitter to complain about people, some of whom describe themselves as Labour supporters, who have openly tweeted that they will celebrate once Thatcher finally dies.  Others have been more forthright about the Auld Witch.

The Telegraph, naturally, has the story. Here’s a taste,

Last night, Louise Mensch, the backbench Conservative MP, called on Labour to respond after being sent a message by a follower who claimed to have worked for the Party inviting her to a party following Lady Thatcher’s death.

Her message triggered a Twitter storm, with other critics of Lady Thatcher sending abusive messages about the former prime minister, calling her a s— and other crude names.

However, other Labour supporters told Mrs Mensch that they deplored the remarks, and insisted that the Tweets did not represent the views of most party members.

I saw some of those tweets, so what’s the problem? Don’t Tory supporters and other right-wing loons say pretty much the same thing about Labour MPs? Well, they do. Have a look at some of the comments left on Telegraph blogs if you’re in any doubt.

Here’s a sample of some of the tweets that have upset dear, sweet Lou,

One critic of Lady Thatcher, John Bradley, said: “Silly isn’t it, when she dies there will be so many parties you won’t need an invite.”

David Blessing ‏added: “It’s not like anyone’s planning a murder. Just poised with balloons, streamers and a conga is forming right now.”

Chris Castle said: “She wished me unemployed, powerless and subservient. why shld I show any compassion to her?”

And Simon Gardner said: “There’s going to be the mother of all parties when Margaret Thatcher dies.”

Hmm, doubtless many Tories raised a glass of champagne when Attlee died (his grandson is a Tory peer by the way). The one thing that escapes Tories like Mensch is the devastation that was wrought on this country in the 1980s by the mass redundancies and the closure of the pits. When Thatcher dies, they will have a right to feel relieved and celebrate the end of a truly terrible era. But the Tories, like Mensch, are in denial. They believe the destruction of Britain’s industries was necessary for the country to move forward. The country didn’t move forward and now we have the most draconian anti-union laws anywhere in Europe with certain members of the party calling for even tougher anti-union laws.

Fellow Tory backbencher Philip Davies commented: “These are the same people who try to claim to have a monopoly in compassion. At least everyone can now see how vile they are.”

Incidentally, this is the same Tory who said that the disabled should work for less pay. It shouldn’t surprise you that he is also the Parliamentary spokesman for the dismal Campaign Against Political Correctness.

Mrs Mensch said: “Right. Enough of this. Sunny day, extreme left embarrassing themselves all over my @ stream. Lady T worth millions of any of these trolls.

No she isn’t. Enough of the hero-worship already.

Really encouraging to see all, including those on the left, repudiate the celebrants of an old woman’s death. Will @UKLabour do likewise?

You can see what Mensch is trying to do here: she’s using the tweets of a few individuals to suggest that this was Labour Party policy. It’s low but then she’s an admirer of Thatcher. She reiterates,

What we want is a simple statement that rejoicing in anyone’s death is, like racism, cause for expulsion.

Here she tries the same line as the Lyin’ King by feebly joining the dots.  “It’s like racism” she cries, while everyone else laughs. Here’s something that should make you laugh, dear readers, it’s a tweet that Mensch sent last Friday.

@LouiseMensch best bit of the opening ceremony was the tribute to the NHS says so much about PM that he protected & increased its budget

Is she serious? Yes, she is. This leaves us with one question: do you have to be smart to be an MP? No, all it takes is the right amount of social capital and Mensch has plenty of that.

Here are a few of the replies to Mensch’s outburst.

We are often told that this is a ‘free country’, so if someone wants to rejoice in the death of someone who killed thousands of people through her policies, then surely that is their right? In fact, when she dies, I’ll be celebrating too. Will she call for me to be arrested? I’d like to see her try.

Finally,  The Daily Shame does a great take on this. Enjoy!

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