Archive for June, 2015

Back to Censorship with the Tories

June 6, 2015

One of the reforms now being mooted by the Tories is the introduction of legislation to allow the Broadcasting Standards Authority to intervene in a possibly controversial or offensive programme before broadcast. This is, of course, censorship, and the Tories are well aware of what a hot potato this issue is. Mike’s already reported on his blog over at Vox Political the reaction of Sajid Javid, who has apparently raised some objections to it. It’s ‘apparent’, as Mike considers that Javid’s objections are merely cosmetic formalities. The decision has already been made, but the Tories are presenting a façade of objections in order to stave off criticism that they are all in favour of it.

In fact, sections of the Tory party have for some time now bitterly objected to what they see as appallingly lax, permissive standards on television and the theatre. A few years ago, one of the High Tories with either the Daily Mail, the Spectator or possibly the Telegraph, wrote a piece declaring that British society had been wrecked by the evil Roy Jenkins. Why Roy Jenkins, of all people? After all, Woy was hardly some Marxist or other radical Left firebrand, determined to destroy capitalism. He was one of the founders of the SDP. Some idea of his character can be seen in Gerald Scarfe’s description of him as having ‘a good claret face’.

Nevertheless, the Tory right despises him as the personification of the very worst aspects of the Sixties. It was Woy Jenkins as home secretary in the 1960s, who ended censorship in the theatre, legalised homosexuality and removed the property qualification for jury service. This meant that all kinds of ‘orrible filth was allowed on stage, to the consternation of Mary Whitehouse and the other members of her Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association. The judiciary became soft of crime, because the great unwashed now allowed to judge whether defendants were guilty in the courtroom were not respectable householders, and so had no interest in defending property rights. And most heinous of all, gays were allowed the freedom to indulge their sexuality in the privacy of their own homes, instead of being arrested and properly punished for the threat they posed to society.

Looking back, the restrictions on what was considered suitable for performance, either broadcast, or on stage, was quite severe. Michael Bentin, one of the Goons, said in his one man show, From the Sublime to the Paranormal, way back in the 1990s that the Beeb’s regulations forbade them from making jokes about the following:

The monarchy

Disability

The colour question

‘Effeminacy’ in men

and they couldn’t blaspheme.

They remembered all this through the mnemonic ‘My God, said the Queen, I do believe that one-eyed N*gger’s a poof’. According to the regulations, this would be the single most unbroadcastable sentence possible.

Of course, this censorship became increasingly untenable as popular attitudes changed and traditional authority came under increasing questioning, not least during the satire boom. Ways could be found for entrepreneurs to get round the statutory requirement for theatres to submit their scripts to the Lord Chamberlain for approval before they were staged. And the restriction’s became increasingly anachronistic and absurd. Peter Cook in an interview with Clive James back in the 1990s gave an example of just how absurd and unworkable they were. One of the plays he staged at his club, The Establishment, began with the line ‘Enter three terrible old queens’. Obviously, this violated the prohibition against the portrayal of homosexuals. The script came back covered in blue pencil. They then changed the line to ‘Enter three aesthetic young men’. This, however, was deemed completely accepted and duly passed.

The lifting of those restrictions thus prepared the way for the portrayal of racism and discussions of racial issues in Til Death Us To Part, with Alf Garnett on TV and the extremely camp characters, Julian and Sandy, on the radio comedy series, Round the Horne. Their sexuality was never clearly stated in English, but they spoke in Parlary, the language of actors and the gay underground. And if you understood that, then it was. There were numerous lines about men being ‘omee palones’. ‘Omee’ is the Parlary word for man. ‘Palone’ meant woman, and ‘Omee palone’ was the term used to mean a gay. So, provided you knew the lingo, it was pretty much in front of you all the time, even if the BBC never dared to say it quite outright.

As for the increasingly questioning attitude towards authority, this appalled members of the older generation to the extent that twenty years after it was broadcast, the BBC’s foremost political journalist and broadcaster, Robin Day, still declared That Was The Week That Was ‘deplorable’ in his autobiography, Grand Inquisitor, when it was published in the 1980s. The Tories would dearly love to drag the country back to situation before 1968/9, when there was due to deference to the monarchy and established authority, and the airwaves were full of clean, wholesome family entertainment without the sex and violence that they feel is destroying the British family and sending crime figures shooting up.

It’s highly debatable how far the reactionary Right can turn the clock back to the 1950s. Homosexuality is still bitterly opposed and hated in some sections of British society, but it’s been so widely accepted elsewhere since the 1980s that the Tories have been forced to support gay marriage. Weirdly, even UKIP, which has viciously attacked gay rights, has now gone so far as to want to take part in a gay price march in London. Society generally has accepted premarital sex and the depiction of nudity and some sexual activity on TV – as long as it’s broadcast after the watershed, that it’s hard to see how an outright ban on this could ever be possible or be seen as anything other than ridiculous. Quite apart from the fact that viewers are able to see sexually explicit and violent movies on DVD or the internet in their own homes, and in films at the cinema.

This doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be some standards, especially when dealing with sex and extremely controversial topics like race. It does mean that the standards have moved so far since the days of censorship that its return would be difficult, unpopular and probably so riddled with complications, contradictions and exceptions as to be unworkable. One example of the latter was the prohibition of the Thatcher government against directly broadcasting statements by terrorists in their own voices. It was introduced to prevent organisations like paramilitaries in Northern Ireland and their associated political parties, like Sinn Fein, from gaining ‘the oxygen of publicity.’ So the TV companies simply resorted to voice actors imitating their voices while quoting their statements. The policy then had to be abandoned, because some of the impressions of the terrorists and their politicians, like Gerry Adams, were so good that they were actually indistinguishable from the people themselves.

And even before the policy was finally abandoned, it was spoofed and something of a laughing stock. The Day Today, the BBC spoof news show, which was the precursor to Chris Morris’ classic and highly controversial comedy, Brass Eye, sent up the restrictions in one edition. This featured an interviewed with a supposed Irish Republican politician, who, ‘in accordance with government broadcasting requirements’, was required to breath helium to make him sound as ridiculous as possible when giving his statement to journalists.

Moreover, any mention of censorship by that very term is extremely controversial. Way back in the 1980s or ’90s the British Board of Film Censors decided to change its name to the British Board of Film Classification as something that sounded much better and far less authoritarian. It’s interesting that the new legislation to allow the Broadcasting Standards Authority to intervene before broadcast has not been described as such. Nevertheless, censorship is what it is.

There is, of course, a much more sinister aspect to the Tories’ planned reintroduction of censorship. They’d like to have complete control over the news before its broadcast, to manipulate its content and control public attitudes. News analysts and media watchers have already noted that the BBC in its reportage is biased towards the Tories, but this isn’t enough for them. Any criticism, not matter how mild, is always denounced as evidence of the Beeb’s liberal bias. This is particularly self-serving when one considers how many of those making the denunciations have connections to Murdoch, who would dearly love the BBC to be reduced, privatised or completely abolished so he could grab some of its broadcasting action.

Private Eye have also published pieces pointing out just how many journalists from the Right-wing press, and associated in particular with Cameron, have gone off to work for the Beeb, contradicting the claims of the Telegraph and Times that there is a revolving door between the Beeb and the Labour party. This is, apparently, shown by the appointment of Andrew Marr as one of the Corporation’s leading political journalists. He is a member of the ‘left-wing’ establishment, as he was editor of the Independent, before taking up his position at the Beeb way back in the 1980s.

Thatcher’s government in particular acted at least twice to try and prevent the broadcast of critical programmes, or destroy the broadcasting companies that did. These were the programmes, ‘Maggie’s Militant Tendency’, an edition of the Beeb’s documentary and current affairs series, Panorama, and the ITV programme, Death on the Rock. ‘Maggie’s Militant Tendency’ annoyed the Tories because of its claim that they had been infiltrated by members of the extreme Right, such as the National Front, in order to radicalise it further, similar to the way the Labour Party had been infiltrated by the Marxist Militant Tendency. They therefore tried all they could to stop it being shown. Death on the Rock was about the shooting of a squad of IRA terrorists in Gibraltar as they were preparing to attack a British army base. The programme alarmed and angered Maggie as it showed that there was no need for the shooting of the terrorists. They had been under observation at almost every point in their journey to the Rock, and could have been picked up and arrested safely, with the minimum of violence, at a number of times before their final battle with the British army. This wasn’t a defensive battle, but a staged execution of the terror squad, intended to punish the IRA and send a clear message that future attempts at terrorism would be dealt with the same way. It also seems to support the allegation of Colin Wallace and others, published by Lobster, that special SAS squads had been embedded in the British army in Northern Ireland in order to carry out similar executions of Nationalists.

Thatcher, however, denied that the shooting of the IRA terrorists in Gibraltar was anything of the sort. She and her cabinet were so annoyed at the programme that the ITV broadcaster lost its licence, and was replaced instead by Carlton. The very name of that company recalls the Tories’ Carlton Club in London, and suggested their political allegiance, or at least compliance, with Maggie’s demands. Despite Maggie’s denials, Lady Olga Maitland later gave the game away in her biography of the Iron Lady published later, where she said that the terrorists were shot as a punishment, rather than killed from self-defence.

And if the Tories were upset and tried to ban hostile programmes, they also harbour long grudges about programmes supporting them which the Beeb didn’t broadcast. Every so often you can read one of the Tory journos griping in the Daily Heil or one of the other rags about the Beeb’s bias in not broadcasting a play about Maggie and the Falklands War. This had a pro-Thatcher perspective, and included a scene showing her crying about the squaddies, who had been killed by the Argentinians in the conflict. I find it hard to believe that Maggie shed any tears for anyone, except herself and her immediate family, but this might be right. Either way, it was not broadcast, and the Tories have bitterly resented this and used it regularly as a cudgel to beat the BBC for its supposed left-wing bias ever since.

If the Tories manage to get their way with the new broadcasting bill and its provisions, you can expect their control of the media to be more or less absolute. Mike and many of the other left-wing bloggers have pointed out how protests are not reported by the BBC, or given minimal, grudging coverage. This included a massive demonstration of tens, if not hundreds of thousands, outside the Beeb’s own doorstep. This will only get worse with the Tories’ plans for the Broadcasting Standards Authority to act before broadcast. There will be even less hostile or oppositional coverage of the Tories and their policies, and instead much more programming supporting them. Of course, this could ultimately damage the established broadcast media, as more people would turn to the internet, and foreign news channels to get an idea of what was going on here. It’s happened already, in that Russia Today and the Iranian Press TV have already given extensive coverage to protests and demonstrations against the Coalition and their cuts, which the Beeb and British broadcasters have done their best to ignore as far as possible.

The political dimensions to this new censorship won’t be introduced explicitly. Instead, it’ll be like Cameron’s proposed legislation trying to censor the internet. It’ll be promoted and set up under the pretext of protecting impressionable Brits from porn and other objectionable material. The Daily Mail will no doubt celebrate it as the return of proper protection for the vulnerable children watching TV. Nevertheless, it will come in. The Tories will do what they normally do, and lie and deny that it is censorship, but this will be exactly what it is. And another British freedom will have been destroyed to make the world safe and profitable for them and their corporate backers.

E-Petition, Meetings and Demos against Hackney Council’s Criminalisation of Rough Sleepers

June 4, 2015

I got this request to sign a petition on Change.org yesterday from Zahira Patel in Bromley. She writes to protest against the new police powers Hackney Council is proposing to give to their police so that they can fine and prosecute rough sleepers in the borough. She states

Hackney Council’s new “Public Space Protection Orders” will give police and council officers the power to ban “anti-social” activities such as sleeping rough or begging. Those who breach an order could be issued with a £100 fixed penalty notice or a fine of £1,000.

As homeless charities have pointed out, this will criminalise the homeless who are already vulnerable. It is absurd to impose a fine of £1,000 on somebody who is already homeless and struggling. People should not be punished for the “crime” of not having a roof over their head – there is nothing inherently “anti social” or criminal about rough sleeping. Criminalising rough sleeping privileges the appearance of Hackney and the convenience of customers over the damage caused to the vulnerable and homeless.

Note that Kay Zell Huxley, a duty manager at a pub in the area was reported to have admitted that the “vagrants hanging around” do “respect the businesses and the pubs and are generally well behaved.” It is completely unjustifiable to criminalise these people simply because they “may be intimidating for people outside.” We should not privilege the convenience and desire of customers to have a good night out without having to see any homeless people over the lives and rights of those who are homeless and vulnerable.

We already know that homeless people are amongst the most vulnerable in our society and are already victims of exceptionally high levels of violence, crime and victimisation which is often committed by the general public and largely goes unreported. Researchers at the London School of Economics confirmed this in a study commissioned by Crisis as far back as 2004 and the rate of homelessness has only increased since then. We should not allow measures which will make the lives of those with nowhere else to go even harder than they already are.

We have seen public pressure stop similar measures when they were proposed by Oxford City Council. Let’s make sure we also stop this in Hackney and everywhere else it is proposed – we must force councils and policy makers to deal with the lack of affordable housing and rising levels of homelessness in London as a whole, rather than allow them to get away with shifting the “problem” into another borough.

Please take a moment to sign this petition. Let’s make sure that Hackney Council doesn’t make rough sleeping harder than it already is!

The petition can be found at https://www.change.org/p/hackney-council-stop-criminalising-hackney-s-rough-sleepers?utm_source=action_alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=320853&alert_id=ZxcmqaXGXS_By7w7G1xVoDY42RgG6ngIOusxjs8nXPXPHSTeSF%2By1s%3D

Tonight I got this update, reporting that they were holding a public meeting against these laws and were planning demonstrations for the 22nd of this month. It’s again from the organiser, Zahira Patel. She writes

Everyone has done an incredible job of spreading this petition. We now have over 70,000 signatures and there is lots of activity being planned!

If you are free and near Hackney tonight, you may want to attend a public meeting to plan a direct action in response to the Council’s PSPOs. It will be held tonight at 7pm, Halkevi Centre, Dalston Lane.

Hackney Renters are also organising a demonstration on Monday 22nd June, 6PM, outside Hackney Town Hall, Mare Street, E8 1EA London, United Kingdom.
Please see the events page here- https://www.facebook.com/events/1403275666667416/ and attend if you can!
You can follow Hackney Renters on Twitter by following @Hackney_renters for further updates about this.

There has also been a lot of media attention on this, with stories being featured by The Independent, The Guardian, The Huffington Post and others. Singer Ellie Goulding has also criticised the Council’s PSPOs which will hopefully raise even more public attention.

Here are a few of the articles which have been published:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/thousands-sign-petition-calling-on-london-borough-of-hackney-to-stop-criminalising-homeless-people-10295269.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/06/04/hackney-homeless-to-be-fined-london_n_7508716.html
http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jun/04/ellie-goulding-challenges-british-councils-treatment-homeless-hackney-pspo
http://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2015/jun/03/councils-help-rough-sleepers-not-fine-them-hackney

You can follow me on Twitter using @ZahiraPatel if you would like to be kept updated on further media stories on the PSPO.

I will be in touch soon over the next few weeks about how we can deliver this petition or arrange a meeting with the Council if possible. So far we have done an incredible job of building public awareness of this issue – now let’s use our collective 70,000-strong voice to persuade Hackney Council to remove rough sleeping from its PSPOs! Please keep writing to, tweeting or contacting the Council and urge them to follow Oxford City Council’s decision to leave out rough sleeping from its PSPO.

Thank you once again for all your help and I hope many of you will be able to attend the demonstration.

This is chilling, and is definitely one for Johnny Void, who is particularly interested in homelessness and the authorities’ policy of social cleansing – forcing the poor and working class out of London, in order to make it nice and attractive for the middle class and super-rich.

It also shows how reactionary the Tories are. Under Thatcher, they were determined to drag us back, kicking and screaming, into the golden age of cut-throat capitalism, the 19th century. Now they’re trying to drag us even further back to the Sixteenth Century. This was a time when the nascent industrial economy first suffered a serious recession. Thousands lost their jobs and their homes, and were forced to take to the road to look for work. This frightened the authorities, who saw ‘masterless men’ – those without a craft employer or manorial lord, as a threat to public order. Local authorities also did not wish to see their areas burdened with supporting the poor from outside. They reacted by passing a series of legislation providing for vagrants to whipped and sent on their way. The laws against vagrancy in Halifax and Hull were so severe, that they became immortalised in a ‘beggar’s prayer’

‘From Hell, Hull and Halifax, good Lord deliver us.’

This is the modern version of that legislation. They can’t whip the poor souls, so they’re reduced to fining them instead. Which is particularly ridiculous, considering that if they had any money, they wouldn’t be on the streets in the first place.

I can, however, see this situation changing. A couple of decades ago you could hear the more extreme Tories talk approvingly about the birch in the Isle of Man. The island still retained this medieval corporal punishment, in which criminals were caned by the local police. There’s still nostalgia amongst some of the older generation for caning in schools, despite the horror stories you can hear from some of them about the abuse and violence meted out by sadistic teachers. Amongst tales of caning, my father told me how one of the teachers at his old school once threw one poor child out the window when he couldn’t answer a question.

I’ve got a feeling that some of the pressure against caning, and the birch, comes from international human rights legislation. This will go if the Tories succeed in getting rid of it. Then they’ll be nothing – or at least, very little – preventing the Tories from reintroducing the cane and the birch. And they can exercise their full, atavistic hatred of the poorest in society by having them flogged for daring to appear in public.

Nicky Morgan Refuses to Answer Questions on Failing Private Schools on Breakfast TV

June 4, 2015

This is another story I’m late covering. Nevertheless, it’s still important as it shows the way the Tories will refuse to answer any questions that threaten to upset their policy of privatising everything that isn’t nailed down.

Nicky Morgan, who has now replaced Michael Gove as the minister responsible for destroying this country’s education system, was on BBC breakfast TV yesterday. She was trying to promote the government’s policy of converting schools into privately run ‘academies’. This would, she claimed, transform and improve standards in failing state schools. The presenter, Stayt, asked her outright how many private schools had failed. She didn’t answer, just carried out with the spiel about privatisation raising standards. So Stayt asked her again. No answer that time, just ‘more of the same’, as the late, great Max Headroom always used to say. He ended up repeating the question four or five times. And answer came their none.

In the end, Stayt gave up and simply said, ‘You know how many.’

Indeed she does. A whole string of the private educational companies supposedly running and transforming Britain’s schools have failed. One of the companies that went under, if I recall correctly, ran about 25 schools, all of which were taken back into the public sector.

Morgan was obviously well aware of this from the weird expression on her face. All the while she was talking, her eyes were round and wide. It was the classic look of the proverbial rabbit caught in the car headlights. Of course, she wasn’t going to answer the question, as admitting that the policy of handing schools over to the private sector is a shambles would lead to the whole system having to be abandoned. And the Tories and their corporate paymasters really don’t want that.

They want a private educational system, where teachers with fewer qualifications can be taken on and paid less than the state sector, and have fewer employment rights, in order to make massive profits for the private corporations running them.

And one of the Tory backers interested in moving into education is one Rupert Murdoch, formerly of Australia, now of the US, and responsible for lowering the tone and degrading the press and political environment across at least three continents.

As with the Tories, this isn’t about raising standards, improving literacy and giving our children the skills and resources they need to participate fully in the nation’s cultural and political life, let alone get a job. This is just about corporate profit, in pursuit of which any lie and evasion is justified.

Gove was incompetent and his management of the educational system disastrous. Morgan is exactly the same. But despite the lies her mouth spews, her eyes show she’s aware precisely how mendacious and disastrous these policies are and the official lies and half-truths that support them.

Kipper Insurance Firm Moves Jobs to South Africa

June 4, 2015

Okay, I really I’ve been away from blogging for over a week or so now. I got sidetracked doing other things after the Tories won the election. As I said in my previous blog about the Tory victory, I was just so angry and upset that I simply couldn’t face blogging.

Well, I’m back. And I couldn’t let this story up, because it affects my home town, Bristol. According to Hope Not Hate and the local paper, the Bristol Post, Aaron Banks, the founder of the insurance company, Go Skippy, has decided to outsource its 150 jobs to South Africa. The staff at their headquarters in Cribbs Causeway were greeted on Monday by company representive, who read from a script and told them to pack their bags and clear the office.

Banks himself, who comes from Thornbury, a small town just north of Bristol, made the news last year, when he gave £1 million to Farage’s stormtroopers. He was originally only going to give £100, 000, but increased the amount after William Hague sneered at him as ‘someone we haven’t heard of’. Before that, like so many of the Kippers’ backers, he had been a Tory donor.

The Post stated that they had seen a letter from the company, which says

“The most robust and prudent way for the company to test this new way of working is to divert all live functions in its entirety to South Africa for the period of this trial.

“This will ultimately establish if this proposal can succeed against rigorous and demanding service level agreements that will be scrutinised over the coming weeks.”

The Post’s article states that the letter goes on to say it will “significantly reduce” the workforce in the UK if the trial is successful, and that it was taking this measure after the poor results of the insurance business in 2014. It also states that during the trial period, departments in Bristol affected by the trial will be closed down.

The article reports the shocked reactions of some of the workers, one of whom nicely summed up the situation. One woman said ” I think it’s quite ironic that he (Mr Banks) is a UKIP supporter and yet is taking his business to South Africa”.

It is, but it’s part of the party’s deep hypocrisy and highly misleading and mendacious attitude towards British nationalism and the European Union. While Farage and the others tried to get working class votes by playing on fears about immigrants taking British jobs, and British industry supposedly being stifled by Brussels bureaucracy, in actual facts they are deeply hostile to workers’ rights and all in favour of globalisation. As so many blogs have pointed out, ad nauseam, the Kippers want to get rid of basic rights like paid holidays, sick pay and maternity leave. This last is part of their highly reactionary and grossly sexist attitude towards women. Like the Daily Fail, they seem to have the attitude that employing women is a particular burden to companies, as they have to be supported and their jobs kept open when they become pregnant and take the necessary time off to bring junior into the world.

Much of their hostility to the EU comes partly from nostalgia for the time when Britain could command the resources of an entire Empire, and the standard Tory resentment to the European Union because of the provisions protecting workers in the Social Charter. Way back in the 1990s and the first decade of this century, there were noises from the transatlantic Right – American Republicans and some sections of the Tory party, that Britain should leave the EU and join NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Area. Years ago there was an article in Lobster that covered the history of calls from the Conservative party for Britain to join America as the 51st state. It’s a bizarre, and unrealistic dream, but it resurfaces every so often because the Tories in this country like and admire the country’s cut-throat capitalism and corporate power. Hence the way some of the Tories on the extreme Right over here, like the Tory MEP for Dorset, Daniel Hannan, go on about the ‘Anglosphere’ – the English-speaking world in preference to links with the continent.

As far as jobs go, they have absolutely no objection to outsourcing them if they think they can make a quick buck out of it. And they have definitely not raised any objections to the TTIP, the transatlantic trade agreement that would allow corporations to sue national governments for legislation that damages their profits. As so many bloggers have pointed out, this is a danger as it would cement in place the Tories’ creeping privatisation of the NHS.

UKIP have now gone into something of an eclipse, having failed to get any MPs except Douglas Carswell elected. The Fuhrage’s fake resignation, which has been compared to that of Stalin’s own threat of resignation in order to force the rest of the Politburo to endorse him, has led to the party currently being riven by a leadership contest. Nevertheless, they’re still about, and just might make a come-back. So, it’s worth making it even harder for them.

And this story is relevant far beyond UKIP. They’re actually putting into practice, and saying what the Tory Right also believes and says. Cameron and co are just more subtle about, and better at hiding it all behind spurious pretexts and outright lies.

Never mind their verbiage about the EU – this incident shows what the kippers and the Tories really think about ‘British jobs for British workers’.

And quite frankly, they don’t care two hoots.

The Bristol Post story is at http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/150-staff-Bristol-insurance-company-Skippy-told/story-26621857-detail/story.html#ixzz3c7OEcSTg.

The Hope Not Hate story is at: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/news/home/article/3784/jobs-of-150-staff-at-bristol-insurance-company-founded-by-ukip-donor-could-go-to-south-africa