Tag Archives: smear campaigns

Corbyn And The Media (Part 1)

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn announced he was standing as a candidate in last year’s leadership election, the smear stories have been relentless and increasingly shrill in their tone.  This week has seen the absurd ‘List’, which was leaked to The Times and the ratcheting up of a dodgy story about Ian Lavery pocketing loads of union money.  All of this happened, coincidentally, on the back of a good showing in the polls for the Labour Party.

Yet, some of these anti-Corbyn stories are downright hilarious, and others are just plain sloppy. A few days ago, I came across this article in The Independent in which someone called Caitlin Doherty, who says she’s a student, claims to have left the Labour Party because of “Jeremy Corbyn”. Well, that’s what the headline says and who am I to argue? Sod it, I’m going to argue. I’m going to argue that this article is little more than clickbait. Howzat?

I’m a student Labour supporter – but I just quit the party over Jeremy Corbyn

Last summer Young Labour blanketed itself in a sense of euphoria. Yes, our party may have lost the election; our optimism, encouraged by pollsters and the unexpected popularity of the Milifandom, may have been initially destroyed. But it wasn’t the end; it was just the start of a new beginning.

There was a new guy on the Labour scene: a guy who looked oddly like your granddad, wore tweed suits and rode a pushbike through Islington. Jeremy Corbyn was set to change the face of the tired and irrelevant Labour Party, and that hot bed of lefties – the student population of Britain – was understandably excited.

So far, so clichéd.

That euphoria, however, is slowly bringing about the end of the Labour party. According to figures released this week, the tidal wave of support that pushed Corbyn to the opposition front bench is coming to an end. For the first time since the general election of May 2015, more people are leaving the Labour Party than joining. And I am among them.

Caitlin links to this misleading article by Andrew Grice in the same paper (sic) that was published the day before, which makes the bold claim that party membership is “falling”. Predictably, Grice offers no sources for his claim.

The majority of these Labour “deserters” are thought, like me, to be the students that drove him to success: the idealists who were swept up in the hashtags and headlines became quickly bored and have moved on elsewhere, it is said. This sweeping assumption does Labour students a great disservice.

“The majority”? Some numbers would be nice or maybe a link? No chance. “Hashtags and headlines”… don’t you just love alliterations? They’re almost as good as tropes and there’s loads of them in this article.

Students aren’t leaving Labour because it isn’t trendy anymore. Students are leaving Labour because they are fed up. Fed up with the ecstatic reception Corbyn still receives – particularly in UK universities where Labour Societies have become increasingly elite and exclusive to ardent Corbynites, with no room for questioning Our Great Leader – despite very little demonstration of any opposition to the increasingly strident Conservative Government.

Was being a member of the Labour Party ever “trendy”? Notice how she slips in the word “Corbynites” and “Our Great Leader”, the latter of which I often see being used on comments threads beneath pro and anti-Corbyn articles.

Caitlin’s previous effort for The Indy was this article on how to survive ‘A’ Levels.

I traced her to the Huffington Post, which tells us:

Caitlin is a second year English Literature student at the University of East Anglia, the Global Editor of UEA’s ‘Concrete and a writer for several other local and national publications. A passionate writer, committed politics follower, and occasional book reader she can often be found getting very angry about something.

She’s written three articles for them.

However, with a little digging, I discovered that Caitlin also writes for the University of East Anglia’s student rag.  Last September, she wrote this article in which she says:

In a so-called “unity statement” on his campaign website he argues that: “There is no place for personal animosity, negative campaigning, and saying or doing anything now that will damage our ability to work together as one party”. and he urges supporters to add their signatures to this statement of intent. Campaign proclamations aside, whoever finds themselves elected leader in a few weeks’ time will likely have Jeremy Corbyn to thank for an increasingly disunited and fractured Labour Party.

I don’t think she joined Labour because of Corbyn.

I reckon our Caitlin would make a great Progress intern or a Murdoch hack. How about you?

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Filed under Free Press Myth, Ideologies, Internet, Media, propaganda, Yellow journalism

The Wintour Of Discontent

In recent years, The Guardian, once presumed to be the paper of choice for Britain’s left, has shown itself to be just as antagonistic to the Labour Party and now, Jeremy Corbyn, as its right-wing counterparts on Fleet Street. Leading The Graun’s anti-Corbyn charge is the paper’s political editor, Patrick Wintour, who has been knocking out daily hatchet pieces since Corbyn announced his candidacy this summer. Wintour’s attacks on Corbyn have been relentless and often based on little more than a fingernail scraping of a story around which he constructs a massive edifice of guff, tittle-tattle and drivel.

Today, Wintour tells his readers:

Corbyn adviser ‘backed non-Labour candidates at least three times’

This headline relates to the ongoing hoo-ha over Corbyn’s appointment of Andrew Fisher as one of his advisers. Apparently, Fisher tweeted support for his local Class War candidate during the General Election rather than Emily Benn, the less-than-left-wing Labour candidate for Croydon South. So what?

Now I don’t know if Fisher was a member of the Labour Party when he sent these tweets, but was he not entitled to register his disgust with a party that was trapped in the misguided belief that emulating the Tories was the best way forward? I certainly did.

Fisher also called for Tony Blair to be tried for war crimes. Good. So do I. The real issue that Fleet Street’s hacks have with the appointment of Fisher and Seumas Milne is that they’re not Blairites or right-wing hacks. They are avowedly left-wing. I mean, was Corbyn supposed to hire Kelvin Mackenzie as his press secretary? Get real.

I spotted this inaccuracy in Wintour’s article.

In 2008, Fisher was reported as attending a Left Unity meeting as a member of the LRC, where he was reported as saying “a growing number of members believed that Labour was now dead”.

Left Unity didn’t exist in 2008 and only became a political party a little under two years ago. How do I know this? I’m a founding member.

Next time, Patrick, check your facts before going off half-cocked..

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Filed under Journalism, Media, The Guardian

The Rank Hypocrisy Of The DUP Must Be Challenged

The stench of hypocrisy coming from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has been overpowering. In the last few weeks, we’ve been treated to Peter Robinson flouncing out of Stormont on the grounds that “the IRA continues to be active”, while Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s leader at Westminster rose to his feet during Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday to accuse John McDonnell of being in league with the IRA. Yesterday, Dodds appeared on The Daily Politics to repeat his smear. Andrew Neil, who had earlier interrupted economist, Richard J Murphy, sat there passively while Dodds came out with smear after smear. Not once did Neil mention Dodds’s appearance at the funeral of John Bingham, a Loyalist thug. Not once did Neil mention Dodds’s leader’s involvement with Ulster Resistance, a Loyalist outfit with links to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the Red Hand Commando (RHC). Not once did Neil challenge the DUP’s credibility. It was as if none of this mattered. This told The Cat that the BBC and the rest of the mainstream media continues to have a blind spot when it comes to links between the DUP and Loyalist paramilitaries. Some of those paramilitary groups, the UVF especially, acted as death squads for the British state.

Since Jeremy Corbyn entered the Labour leadership election, the mainstream media has constantly sought to discredit him. Once he became leader, those efforts have intensified.  Now it’s guilt by association. The recent accusation that Corbyn and McDonnell have accommodated ‘terrorists’ is predicated on two things: first, that talking to the IRA is in itself an indication of support for terrorism and second, the Thatcher government never made any contact with the IRA. Both of these things are untrue. The Thatcher government maintained contacts with the IRA throughout the 1980s. This has been continually overlooked by the likes of Andrew Neil and others.

In 1986, Nigel Dodds attended the funeral of UVF commander, John Bingham. Dodds was quite happy to do this, yet no one at the BBC seems to have spotted it nor brought up the matter in any interviews with him. You can read more about Bingham here (Hat tip to Michael Rosen for the link).

Nigel Dodds was recently pictured with Winston ‘Winkie’ Irvine, a UVF commander and member of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP). Irvine also claims to be a “community leader”. Here’s an expose of him produced by BBC Northern Ireland.

Here’s Dodds with Irvine (left) pictured outside the PSNI Headquarters in Belfast in 2013. Hypocrisy much, Nige?

The DUP’s Peter Robinson on parade with Ulster Resistance. Cat got your tongue, Nige?

Here’s Robinson denying the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) are terrorists. Instead he describes them as “counter terrorists”.

Last year, the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson, a former member of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) appeared to speak on behalf of Loyalist paramilitaries. This BBC article says that Donaldson claimed that Loyalists “will take a peaceful approach” when protesting about planned parade restrictions.

Then there are the links between Loyalist paramilitaries and far-right parties like the British National Party and National Front. Britain First was not only inspired by Ulster Loyalism, it is an outgrowth of it.  Founded by Jim Dowson, a Christian fundamentalist and Loyalist who ran the BNP’s call centre in Dundonald, Britain First has adopted the motifs of Ulster Loyalism right down to its use of military style uniforms and its logo.

If the IRA is still operational as the DUP claims, then so too are the various Loyalist outfits. There’s an old saying where I come from. “People in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones”. Nigel Dodds, Peter Robinson and Jeffrey Donaldson would do well to learn and remember that.

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Filed under Northern Ireland

United In Loathing

The Labour right is in a spin (in more ways than one) and can’t for the life of them fathom Jeremy Corbyn’s growing popularity. In the eyes of these Blairite fossils and their allies in the Simulated Thatcher Government, Corbyn is a “dinosaur” ; a “relic from the past”. These tropes are based entirely on the arrogant assumption that the political positions espoused by the Tories and Blairite ‘modernizers’ are modern and fresh. They’re not. These people manage the circulation and recirculation of stale ideas. That is all they do.

At a time when fresh ideas are called for, the ‘modernizers’ are indulging themselves in a great deal of self-flagellation and name-calling. Having lost the election in May, the party’s ‘modernizers’ are incapable of understanding why they lost so heavily in Scotland and continue to blame the SNP for their failure to win seats that they’d once taken for granted. Entitlement, eh? It’s a bitch. But nothing compares to the nastiness dished out to Jeremy Corbyn by members of his own party for having the temerity to be more popular than the three ‘modernizers’.

Today, one of those ‘modernizers’, Tristram Hunt, claimed that Corbyn was “politically and economically bankrupt”. This coming from a man who willingly crossed a picket line to give a lecture on Karl Marx! This is a measure of how far to the Right the Labour Party has moved over the last 30 years. Constantly in denial, they complain bitterly that they’re described by their critics as “Tory-lite”. Here’s a tip, Labour: change your ways.

A big deal was made of Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s interview with Corbyn on Channel 4 News on Monday, which was described by the doom-mongers as a “meltdown”. KGM demanded to know what he meant when he used the word “friends” when he referred to Hamas and Hizb’ullah, who had been invited by Corbyn to a meeting at the Palace of Westminster. The Cat thinks KGM’s “do you still beat your wife” style of questioning was tediously sensationalistic but Corbyn asserted himself. He’s not media trained like some PR bloke. He’s human. How would Cameron respond? Well, he’d lie of course.

Nonetheless this interview prompted the inevitable yelps and squeals from Corbyn’s detractors. “He’s an anti-Semite” screamed Nick Cohen. Others harked further back to the 1980s, “Look, I told you, he supports terrorists! Did you hear  he invited Sinn Fein to the House of Parliament”? Sinn Fein are now in a power-sharing government at Stormont. I suppose Corbyn should have referred to these elected representatives as “enemies” and “scum” instead just to please BICOM or the Tory-supporting press? Unsurprisingly, nothing was mentioned of Labour Friends of Israel’s continued and unqualified support for the current Israeli government, which includes racists like  Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. Hypocrisy much?

Speaking of Labour Friends of Israel, Luke Akehurst, the little big wheel in Labour First, a Blairite ‘pressure’ group (party within a party, actually), yesterday urged party members to give their second and third preference votes to anyone but Corbyn. This article on the BBC website says:

Group secretary Luke Akehurst said: “We clearly do not share Jeremy Corbyn’s politics and believe these would destroy Labour’s chances of electability.

“We would therefore encourage supporters of Andy, Yvette and Liz to transfer votes to each other at CLP nomination meetings so that as few CLPs as possible make supporting nominations for Jeremy.”

As well as being a former  local councillor and an unreconstructed Blairite, Akehurst also works, rather unsurprisingly, for BICOM, whose website tells us:

Luke, who has just stood down after 12 years as a Labour councillor in Hackney, spent 11 years as a lobbyist for a PR company and worked with Weber Shandwick, largely for the defence industry, as well as for property companies and local authorities.

Akehurst (or Lukehurst) is another reason why people have been turning their back on the Labour Party. Here’s a Powerbase article on Weber Shandwick.

The attacks on Corbyn from the Labour Right are practically indistinguishable from those coming from the Tories and other right-wingers. First, the Tories considered registering as Labour supporters to vote for Corbyn, then they realized that wasn’t working and have now decided to join the Nu Labourites in a chorus of condemnation of the man whom they describe as an “extreme left-winger”. Pish and vinegar.

At the New Statesman (don’t get excited, it’s pretty right-wing these days), Stephen Bush cites a recently conducted private poll of rank and file Labour members, which has Corbyn apparently leading the race, much to the chagrin of the naysayers and doom-mongers in the Westminster bubble. Commenting on the poll, CapX editor , Iain Martin, advises his readers:

Now, private polling must be treated with some scepticism but there is no doubt that sensible Labour types are deeply worried.

What? Just private polling? He closes the paragraph with this by now familiar claim:

If Corbyn wins it will be the equivalent for the Tories of winning the Wold (sic) Cup three times. They will get to keep Downing Street for ever

Martin continues:

Splendid, say the Tories, who seem to be joining Labour in huge numbers just to vote for the fanatical Corbyn.

I heard Labour was weeding out suspicious applications, Iain. Didn’t you get the memo? Your mate,Tobes, recently got rumbled and threatened legal action because Labour refused to return his three quid.

Daft git… and I’m being unusually generous today.

This article in the Dictator Spectator claims:

By contrast, the Tories are trying to win over new voters. They have moved to the political centre, as the announcement of the national living wage made clear, and this week David Cameron announced a campaign to close the gender pay gap. The Tory plan is clear: occupy the centre ground and force Labour to the political extremes.

Delusional tripe. The Tories do not, and have not, occupied the mythical centre ground since the days of Heath. And the much fussed about “national living wage”? It’s just the national minimum wage rebranded. But that’s what postmodern politics is all about: image, branding, straplines and the right amount of lighting. It’s a former PR man’s dream career should they ever fancy a change of job.

But voters are sick and tired of politicians who behave like sloganizing PR types (cabinet) and salespeople (junior ministers) selling knock-off designer labels in a dodgy pub. Voters have responded well to Jeremy  Corbyn and the 56 SNP MPs because they look and sound like real politicians who believe in something. The same cannot be said of Tristram Hunt or Chuka Umunna.

Regular readers will know The Cat is not a member of the Labour Party and has no intention of registering to become a supporter just because he prefers Corbyn to the three automatons.  He wishes him luck because he’ll need it. Should he win, then the Akehursts, Hunts, Perkinses and Kendalls will demand a recount.  They’ll complain that the Tories and Trotskyists had formed an unholy alliance to “destroy” the Labour Party, when it was their own members and their new electoral system that worked against them.

The Tories, on the other hand, may tell you that Corbyn will make Labour unelectable and how they “fear” a Kendall leadership. But this is entry level reverse psychology. It’s the basic stuff of PR campaigns and black propaganda. Do you ever get the feeling you’re being manipulated? Secretly, the Tories and the Labour ‘modernizers’ don’t want popular discussions of economic policies and political transformation. The very idea of a politically conscious electorate frightens the ever lovin’ shit out of them.

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Filed under Labour leadership election 2015, Media, propaganda, Tory press

Smears and Scare Tactics: That’s the Tory Campaign

I bet you feel like a right mug

I wrote this blog during the General Election and didn’t get around to finishing it. The Tories didn’t run a good election campaign. if there were prizes handed out for the best campaign, the Tories would have lost. There, I said it. There was nothing substantive: just the usual half-arsed crap that they tend to write on a hooker’s backside during one of their cocaine binges. Flog off this or that asset (even if it doesn’t belong to the state), and keep beating up the poor and the weak. The public want more of that shit! Yeah! *Sniffs* *Twitches*

Labour’s campaign wasn’t great either. There was the embarrassing immigration mug and the cringe-inducing pink ladies’ (sic) battle bus. But it wasn’t as bad as the Conservative Party’s campaign, which was a dismally negative affair, full of lies, smears and good old fashioned scaremongering. Labour had some mildly social democratic policies like some form of rent control, but the party seemed to suffer from an inferiority complex. This was evident in the way they failed to counter the Tories’ constant lie that they “crashed the economy” and “bankrupted” country.

David Cameron was just as gutless and like all good bullies, he got his friends to do his dirty work. He refused to debate Ed Miliband in a head-to-head interview and it’s no secret that the former was shit scared at the prospect of being found out as a phony and wriggled his way out. The SNP ran a good campaign and their leader Nicola Sturgeon put the three unionists in the shade during the Leaders Debates. Such was Sturgeon’s popularity that many English voters wanted to vote for her as Prime Minister… not realizing, of course, that we don’t have a presidential system. As for the Lib Dems, we never really heard from them much until the final week. UKIP spouted the usual rubbish about immigrants and the Greens ran the kind of campaign that Labour should have been running. That’s pretty much it.

Although it is unfinished, the blog below gives a snapshot of the third week of the election. It’s mainly about the Gruesome Twosome: Michael Gove and Sarah Vine.

Scaremongering. That’s what this election is all about. Forget the policies. Just be afraid. Be afraid of the big bad SNP and Labour walking together through the aye lobby. The Tories and their preferred coalition partners, UKIP, have resorted to scare tactics to win over voters.  The former uses the spectre of communism, while the latter relies on the fear of the Other. The Tories are past masters of the scare tactic and they have access to the best practitioners of political skulduggery. Indeed, they employ people whose job it is to smear their opponents and plant the seeds of fear in people’s minds. The Conservative Research Department (CRD), for example, is well known for its smear tactics, espionage and dirty tricks.

When Michael Gove was moved to the whip’s office in the last cabinet reshuffle, he was apparently given the extra role of chief propagandist. Since the election was announced, Gove has popped up in television and radio studios to smear the Labour Party. He paints nightmarish images of a Labour minority government supported by the SNP that are worthy of Hieronymus Bosch. Gove and wife, Sarah Vine, are a sort of husband and wife smear team. He spreads poison on the airwaves, she spreads poison in the print media and online. Vine recently claimed, with unintentional hilarity, that Britain would become a “communist dictatorship under Labour and the SNP“. But she went further and insulted northerners and Scots too. Her husband’s a Scot, but he’s one of those Scots who’s mair Sassenach than Scottish. Great way to win over voters in the, er, ‘Northern Power House’ too, eh Sarah? How about sticking to what you’re good at? Like accusing the Director of Public Prosecution, Alison Saunders, of being “politically correct”.

In August last year, Judge Mary Jane Mowat, who spent 18 years on the bench in Oxford before retiring, claimed the rape conviction rate would not improve until women stopped drinking so heavily.

 ‘I’m not saying it’s right to rape a drunken women,’ she added. ‘I’m not saying that it’s allowable to take advantage of a drunken woman.’

She simply explained that a jury in a case where a woman can’t remember what she was doing ‘because she was off her head’ is less likely to convict.

She was speaking a basic truth. For her trouble she was vilified by the feministas.

Vine is no friend of feminists either, here referring to them as “feministas”. Fuck the sisterhood, eh Sarah?

Then there were the snide jibes about the Milibands’ kitchens (sic).

Not much prospect of a decent meal emanating from that mean, sterile, little box. No succulent joints of beef dripping in juices, no half-drunk bottles of red wine and mountain of fluffy white roast potatoes. It’ll be a quinoa salad with a side of shaved fennel, if you’re lucky. Let’s hope there’s a decent kebab shop around the corner

How petty.

Gove’s appearances on television have been nothing short of cringeworthy. Here he is attempting to explain his party’s manifesto commitment to extend Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants. He and his fellow ministers failed to tell the voracious Housing Association chief executives, who each draw down six-figure salaries about this, er, plan.

The plan… yes, that’s it. The Tories have a plan. So we’re told. It’s been given a name too. It’s the ‘Long Term Economic Plan’ or LTEP. Really trips off the tongue, doesn’t it? But it’s not a plan; it’s a slogan. Nothing more. Nothing less. It was coined to give the impression the Tories actually have something worth voting for. They don’t. They’re still recycling what’s left of Thatcher’s policies. Do you really want to go back to the 1980s? I know I don’t.

The Tories are hoping that many voters will internalise their scaremongering and lies. I watched a segment on Wednesday’s edition of The Daily Politics which had Giles Dilnot interview three workers in a Northamptonshire shoe factory. Two of them claimed they weren’t going to vote Labour, having voted for them in the past. Like an ‘I speak your weight’ machine (ask your grandparents), one said, bang on cue “I don’t have any faith in Miliband”, the other repeated the silly sub-Cain and Abel story, “He stabbed his brother in the back”. The former Labour voters told Dilnot they were going to vote UKIP, while the other claimed he was going to vote Tory. Gove was probably rubbing his hands with glee when he heard that. But these three workers (if indeed they were workers rather than managers) were not a representative sample of the nation’s voters and seemed to have been chosen for the purpose of claiming Labour’s fortunes were in the toilet and the Tories were now going to cruise home to victory.

Back to Gove. Yesterday, he told The Scotsman that his party was “closing the gap on Labour” and claimed that the Tories would win “three seats” in Scotland. What’s he smoking? Let me tell you something: it ain’t crack.

Here’s Gove talking up his party’s chances in Scotland last week on Newsnight. He also gets a chance to do some scaremongering. Gove repeats the “coalition of chaos” slogan while, at the same time, ignoring his own government’s chaos. The so-called “Omnishambles” budget, anyone?

There’s clearly too much of Gove on Newsnight. Gove is a dismal, unpleasant, obsequious, slimy, spiteful, repellent little creep twerp man, not content with smashing up our education system, he has been unleashed on the nation’s viewers and listeners as the Tories’ number one attack dog.

After the Leaders Debate a couple of weeks ago, Gove appeared on Question Time claiming Nicola Sturgeon would “hold the whip hand” over Ed Miliband and then repeated the lie that the last Labour government “bankrupted the country”. He wasn’t challenged by Andy Burnham. Huh? Then Gove tangled with Parker lookalike Peter Hitchens. The man in the audience who claimed Farage was “having a proper conversation” with the nation had clearly internalized the crap he’d read, seen or heard in the media. At one point he enters into a dialogue with Hitchens and claims that Farage “looked real”. I thought he looked sweaty and spoke a load of nonsense. What do I know? When pressed on a possible deal with UKIP, Gove squirmed, wriggled and fudged his reply. When the man in the orange shirt tackles Gove on his lies about the country “being close to Greece economically”, he squirms again. Then Hitchens, who’s no left-winger by any stretch of the imagination, steps in and finishes the job… and then goes on to claim the UK “encourages mass (sic) immigration”. Sigh.

So there it is: the third week of the nastiest general election since 1992, which ended much the same way as that election. Anyone would think…

This isn’t the end of the matter. There’s more to come.

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Filed under General Election 2015

Pusillanimous: Labour’s Opposition Style For The Last Five Years

Pusillanimous is a good word and it’s a useful word. It sums up Labour’s last five years in opposition. The definition of pusillanimous is:

showing a lack of courage or determination; timid

Either through cowardice or weakness, the Labour Party failed to counter the absurd allegations made by the Tories that they had created the recession and had driven the country to bankruptcy, because they “crashed the economy”. One ridiculous statement put forward by the Tories and the Lib Dems claimed the United Kingdom was in a similar situation to Greece. Not a single Labour politician that I saw on television or heard on the radio bothered to counter these accusations. Instead, they rolled over and let the Tories get away with murder.

Governments don’t create or cause recessions: these happen because of external factors, like banking collapses and stock market crashes. The current recession (What? You think it’s over?) was caused by a combination of factors, the most notable of which was the subprime mortgage crisis, which was triggered by the collapse in house prices and an increase in mortgage foreclosures. Mortgage companies lent money to people who didn’t have the means to repay the loan. Household debts like these were bought by unscrupulous companies hoping to capitalize on debts. Unfortunately the high rate of default meant that these debts were ‘toxic’.

The other factor in the recession story was the banking crisis, which was caused by the light touch regulation of the financial sector that has its origins in the 1980s under Thatcher and Reagan, and was continued under Blair and Clinton. The banking crisis and the subprime mortgage crisis are interlinked. Both crises were created by unabashed greed and a lack of regulation; the very cornerstones of neoliberalism.

Governments may not cause recessions, but they can make them worse through inertia, complacency and sheer incompetence. The latter includes handing out tax cuts to the rich; attempting to stimulate a property boom and basing a notional economic recovery on inflated house prices. All of these things happened under the Coalition government and look set to continue under the Cameron regime. Labour did little to challenge these things.

One more thing: the country wasn’t and isn’t “bankrupt” as the Tories and their erstwhile partners, the Lib Dems, have claimed. If the country was “bankrupt” it would not have been able to pay its civil servants or even its MPs. If the country was “bankrupt” it would not have been able to borrow money at preferential rates of interest on the international bond markets. Another Angry Voice comprehensively debunks these myths and others.

Instead of opposing the coalition’s fiscal imprudence, Labour actually walked through the Aye lobby with the Tories and Lib Dems and condemned the nation to more austerity by committing themselves to Osborne’s spending plans.

This is from the Morning Star,

LABOUR MP Diane Abbott accused her party’s leaders yesterday of doing working people a “great disservice” by backing Tory plans for permanent austerity.

The London mayoral hopeful was among five Labour MPs who defied their whips to vote against the Con-Dems’ budget responsibility charter.

Katy Clark, Dennis Skinner, Austin Mitchell and Roger Godsiff also opposed the charter alongside 13 MPs from other parties.

But support from shadow chancellor Ed Balls saw the charter, which includes plans to slash public spending by a further £30 billion, passed by a whopping 515 votes to 18.

The Star reported that Green MP Caroline Lucas called his position “feeble and inconsistent” during Tuesday’s debate.

It’s little wonder those who would have ordinarily voted Labour decided to give their vote to another party or stay at home. I mean, why vote for a party that’s going to do exactly the same thing as the party in power? It doesn’t make sense.

And Ms Abbott yesterday revealed her dismay at watching fellow Labour MPs ordered to troop through the lobbies with Tories and Lib Dems.

“I was hugely disappointed yesterday to see the Labour Party vote in favour of further austerity and in doing so we have done hardworking people a great disservice,” she told the Morning Star.

“Instead of simply mimicking current practices we should be offering a solid alternative through investment in public services to create real and sustainable growth.”

Yet Labour apparatchiks denied this ever took place and here’s an MP saying that it had. Only 13 Labour MPs could be bothered to vote against Tory spending cuts. That’s pretty sad, but it’s also a disgrace. It’s as if Labour actually wanted to lose the election.

Whatever you think of George Galloway, he’s got the two main parties bang to rights. They are indeed “two cheeks of the same backside”.

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Filed under Conservative Party, General Election 2015, Government & politics, Labour

Spies, Lies and Smears: The Conservative Party, The Secret State And The Undermining Of Democracy

The Zinoviev Letter was a forgery that helped to win the election for Stanley Baldwin’s Conservative Party in 1924

The Tories: they truly are a nasty party. The gutter mentality; the venality, the cruelty and the underhanded tactics have been the hallmarks of the Conservative Party’s strategies for nearly a century. Tories consider themselves divinely ordained to ‘lead’ the country. But it wasn’t always thus. The 19th century was dominated by the Liberal Party. For those of you reading this from a country outside the UK, as well as some of you in it, the Liberals weren’t social liberals; they were economic liberals. Remember this is the party that turned its back on the Irish people during the famine, believing the Invisible Hand of the Market would magically intervene in the tragedy. The Hand is, for all intents and purposes, a transmutation of God employed as a means of rationalizing non-intervention. Markets must not be interfered with. If any of this sounds familiar, it should. This is the origin of neoliberal economic theory. It’s the touchstone of neoliberals like Dan Hannan, who variously describes himself as a Whig and a classic liberal.

The Liberal Party was formed from a coalition of Whigs and free trade Tory followers of Robert Peel as well as free trade radicals. If we look at the Orange Book tendency of the Liberal Democrats, we can see there is little difference between them and the Tories. They are mutually attracted to each other because they share common origins. Thus the coalition government was an incestuous marriage. Nick Clegg may claim there is clear orange water between his party and the Tories, but he would be lying. The differences between the Whigs and the Tories were slight: support for the Corn Laws versus repeal of the same, and free trade versus protectionism. That’s it. Karl Marx had plenty to say about them.

Irish Home Rule in the late 1800s badly wounded the Liberals, when the Unionist faction defected to the Tories giving them the name they use to this day: The Conservative and Unionist Party. Then as now with Scottish Independence, the arguments against Irish Home Rule were predicated on fear. From this moment on, the Tories dominated government, even propping up the Liberal Lloyd George during the First World War. The so-called ‘Coalition coupon’ of 1918 finished the Liberals as a dominant force since only those few Liberals who possessed the coalition coupon were elected. Labour was now on the rise as the opposition party, even though Sinn Féin came third (they declined to take their seats).

With Labour now the official opposition, the Tories’ propaganda machine went into overdrive. Have a look at this poster.

Here, the Labour Party and socialists generally are depicted as a demon throttling the virginal form of a powerless Britannia, her trident apparently of no use to ward off the threat.

This poster claims Labour will send inspectors around to look into your souls. This desperate specimen is playing to householders rather than people renting from unscrupulous landlords or living hand-to-mouth existences.

When the propaganda failed to work, they used other means like espionage and sabotage. The Tories resented the first Labour government of 1924. Ramsay MacDonald’s government had neither a majority nor a mandate and relied on the support of the Liberals. In October 1924, MacDonald was forced to go to the country after a vote of no confidence. Four days before the General Election, the Zinoviev Letter was published in the Daily Mail. Labour lost the election and Stanley Baldwin’s Tories won a landslide.

The Tories were determined to ensure they held power no matter the cost. This meant having a dedicated department within Conservative Central Office that could produce propaganda and coordinate espionage activities. The Conservative Research Department was created in 1929 with the ostensible purpose of conducting detailed policy work. It’s real task, however, was to cook up dirty tricks to smear their opponents, the Labour Party and the Liberal Party – a lesson they had learned well in 1924.

Major Joseph Ball, the author of the Zinoviev Letter was appointed director of the CRD and given a knighthood. This  cemented the link between the Conservative Party and security services. Joseph Ball also ran a right-wing journal called Truth, which pandered to anti-Semites . It should be recalled that the Tories were openly anti-Semitic and saw Jews and Bolsheviks as the same thing. Ball also sent spies into Labour and the Liberals. Ball had pro-Nazi sympathies and was a close confidante of Neville Chamberlain.

The 1929 General Election resulted in a hung parliament and Labour formed a minority administration. MacDonald was forced to call an election for 1931, which the Tories won by a landslide… by stirring up xenophobia. A national government was formed with a much diminished MacDonald as figurehead Prime Minister, leading a splinter faction that had been expelled from the Labour Party. In 1935, the pretence was over and the national government, now headed by political  puppet-master, Stanley Baldwin, won the general election. The government was Tory in all but name and included MacDonald’s National Labour Party and John Simon’s Liberal National Party (the Liberals had actually split into three parties!). Baldwin was depicted in Tory propaganda as the face of progress and prosperity but he was getting old. MacDonald had been broken by illness and died two years later. In 1937, Neville Chamberlain, who was also chairman of the CRD, became Tory leader and Prime Minister. There would be no General Election until 1945 when Labour won its famous landslide. Ball was eventually sacked in 1942. Jonathan Pile writes:

Ball in 1940 ought to have been interned with Sir Oswald Mosley , Archibald Ramsay and Admiral Sir Barry Domvile for their treasonous views and activities under Defence Regulation 18B. Instead he was appointed by Chamberlain over Churchill’s as head of the Security Intelligence Centre , an ultra secret part of the anti-fifth column organisation, the Home Defence Security Executive which had precedence over MI6 and MI5.

As a “poacher turned game keeper” he continued to secretly control the anti-war, anti-government weekly magazine Truth, and there is some evidence of a covert involvement in the peace mission conspiracy of the Rudolf Hess flight of May 1941.

Ball was finally expelled from the corridors of power in 1942, and used his extensive old boy network of appeasement contacts to build up the multinational empire of Lonrho which he sold on to the controversial German “one-time Hitler youth” Tiny Rowlands (sic).

The Tories, for the most part, accepted the National Health Service and nationalizations (after voting against both). Labour lost the elections of 1951, 1955 and 1959 due to infighting. It seemed the Tories could do no wrong. By 1963, however, the Profumo Scandal tarnished the image of the party and in the 1964 General Election, Harold Wilson’s Labour Party won by a slender margin. Wilson called a snap election in 1966 to increase his majority, while the Tories chose Edward Heath to lead the party in an attempt to distance itself from aristocratic past and appear more modern. Labour won the election and embarked on a series of social reforms to the consternation of the Tories.

Many Conservatives turned to the Republican Party in the United States for ideas, while a whispering campaign was initiated against Wilson, who was accused of being Soviet agent. This was due to two things: the work of the CRD and hardline military men who had Tory sympathies. In 1968, Cecil King the proprietor of the Daily Mirror and scion of the Rothermere/Harmsworth family suggested overthrowing Wilson in a coup and installing Lord Mountbatten as Prime Minister. King even went as far a meeting Mountbatten himself. This plan would be resurrected in 1974 with the appearance of Colonel David Stirling’s GB75 and General Walter Walker’s Civil Assistance. Central to this plot and others like it was Brian Crozier, who is listed as a “historian, journalist and strategist” in his Wikipedia entry. Crozier had been active in a variety of shadowy right-wing groups that had links to the Central Intelligence Agency. One of these was the Congress for Cultural Freedom, for whom he worked from 1966

Now you may say “Well, all parties use dirty tricks”. That may well be true, but the Tories take it much further. The 1976 Reg Prentice affair is a case in point. Julian Lewis infiltrated the Newham North East Labour Party and stood as a ‘moderate’ candidate (with financial backing from the right-wing Freedom Association) in an effort to steer the constituency party to the right. It failed and Lewis had a brief spell in the Navy before officially joining the Conservatives. Lewis, now armed with a doctorate in Strategic Studies from Oxford University, helped to found the Orwellian Coalition for Peace Through Security alongside Crozier, Tony Kerpel and fervent Thatcherite, Edward Leigh, MP.

The CPS’s primary mission was to destroy the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Labour Party, which largely supported nuclear disarmament, by using the courts. It was hoped that this strategy would bankrupt both CND and the Labour Party, thus ushering in the kind of political system that was acceptable to the right. Namely, one in which the political right prevailed and the Labour Party would be made to resemble the corporate-friendly Democratic Party of the United States. Tellingly, the CPS’s office was on Whitehall and was financed by a variety of right-wing groups in the United States and Britain. One of these groups was the Heritage Foundation. In November 1983, Labour had begun its march to the right by electing Neil Kinnock as leader. Coincidentally, Tony Blair had also been elected as MP for Sedgefield in June’s General Election. His rise through the party ranks would be rapid. Shortly thereafter, the party gradually modified its position to unilateral disarmament to the point that it was rarely mentioned, if at all, during the Blair years. These days, it’s disappeared completely.

In 1985, Lewis and Kerpel set up Policy Research Associates, which included the Media Monitoring Unit. The latter was established to counter perceived left-wing bias in the media. One intention was to create a media that was compliant, supine and overwhelmingly supportive of Thatcherism. The other intention was to narrow the range of acceptable political and economic discourses in the public sphere. We continue to live with the consequences to this day.

Lewis became Deputy Director of the CRD in 1990 and held that position until 1996, a year before he was elected to the Commons as MP for the New Forest. If you look at his Wikipedia entry, most of the references come from his website.  If you look at his record at his speeches, the vast majority of them are related to defence and security. Yet, very little is known about the man himself. We do know that he was a ‘go to man’ for dirty tricks and he didn’t take kindly to journalists making enquiries into the shadowy nature of CRD’s work. This came to the fore in 1993 when Scallywag printed a series of stories implicating a number of high-ranking Conservatives in a paedophile scandal at Bryn Estyn and Dolphin Square. The magazine also alleged that John Major and a Downing Street caterer were having an affair but they were set up. Major was having and affair with Edwina Currie, the Health Secretary. Major successfully sued. Scallywag continued but was eventually driven out of business by Lewis when they threatened to print a story about him. Lewis bought the contents of their office.

Labour won by a landslide in 1997 and it seemed as though the Tories had been put on the back foot. Blair had stolen their clothes by keeping Thatcher’s anti-union legislation in place and by retaining Right to Buy. Here was a ‘new’ party that was just as friendly as Thatcher towards big business and the financial sector. The political and economic discourse had been limited to variations on a neoliberal theme. Nu Labour’s version of neoliberalism had a pale social democratic gloss to it. It was packaging that barely concealed a mish-mash of free market capitalism, liberal interventionism and managerialist politics. Even if some Tories believed it to be socialism, it wasn’t. It was  knock-off Thatcherism with added pizzazz. Politically, the field had been skewed rightward, leaving the Labour Left marginalized.

This brings us to the early 21st Century: the Conservatives had been out of power for 13 years, their longest spell in opposition since the 19th Century. The election of 2010 resulted in a hung parliament and the Tories formed a coalition with their erstwhile enemies and partners, the Liberal Democrats. Given their historical origins, this relationship was more of a death embrace than a working partnership. Even their apparent mutual antipathy was little more than sibling rivalry. Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander and David Laws are Tories in all but name.

The Tories’ election campaign uses all the dirty tricks imaginable. Their allies in the press continue to produce smear stories on their behalf as they have done for nearly a century. Two years ago, the Daily Mail, believing the year was 1924 printed an outrageous smear about Ralph Miliband.  On Sunday, the Daily Telegraph claimed to have a letter written by a 5,000 small businesses allegedly supported Cameron, claiming a Labour government would be “bad for small business”. Within 24 hours it was exposed as bogus; the metadata on the letter revealed that it had been written by someone in Conservative Central Office.

Compared to the dirty tricks campaigns of the past, these recent smear attacks look amateurish and sloppy. The supposedly earth-shattering letters and ‘leaked’ memos are bad copies of past forgeries. It’s as if the Tory strategists don’t really care if you think their lies are lousy or not. This is due, in part, to an arrogance that stems from their sense of entitlement and this blinds them to their own failings.

The other strategy of this election campaign is its use of attrition on the public mind. Tories want people to feel fed up with all politicians: this has the effect of turning off those voters who would otherwise vote for a left-wing or progressive party. Thus the only people to come out and vote are the Tories. If the Tories get a majority or form the next government it will be because they have lied and cheated their way into office.

Edited to add:

Cameron, Osborne, Letwin and Lansley also worked for the CRD as ‘advisers’.  Enoch Powell also went through the CRD.

Further reading

“Wilson, MI5 and the Rise of Thatcher” in Lobster, No. 11 Available at: http://www.8bitmode.com/rogerdog/lobster/lobster11.pdf

Pink Industry blog on Reg Prentice

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