Posts Tagged ‘Bias’

Hope Not Hate Publishes Dossier of Tory Islamophobes

March 14, 2020

A week or so ago Mike put up a piece on his blog commenting on the Equalities and Human Rights Committee’s apparent double standards towards racism in the Labour and the Conservative parties. They have spent a year combing the Labour party for evidence of anti-Semitism. It’s undoubtedly there, because it exists in wider British society. However, the fact that they haven’t published anything about it so far indicates what has already been said about anti-Semitism in the Party: it’s at a much, much lower level than mainstream British society, and the majority of it comes from the right and especially the far right. However, the Tory, media narrative demands that Labour be a hotbed of anti-Jewish hatred, and so they’re determined to find it. No matter how long it takes.

This is in sharp contrast to the Tory party, which is seething with real islamophobia. The internet personality Jacobsmates found plenty of it on Tory Facebook and Twitter accounts, with the supporters of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg expressing real, vicious, murderous hatred towards Muslims. Sayeeda Warsi has been demanding that islamophobia in her party should be investigated, as has Miqdaad Versi of the Muslim Council of Great Britain. I think Boris even promised an inquiry, but put it off until after the election. How very convenient! A fortnight ago, 20 Tories were suspended and expelled for their prejudice towards Muslims. But so far the EHRC has done nothing. Perhaps it has something to do with its leader, Trevor Philips, being suspended from the Labour Party for it. This has infuriated the Tories, who are all claiming that Philips is innocent and it’s because he was telling the truth about Muslims and their grooming gangs. But the evidence against Philips seems strong. He did make false accusations against Muslims, particularly over the case of a child placed with a Muslim foster family. Please go and see Zelo Street’s posts about this for further information, such as https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/03/trevor-phillips-doth-protest-too-much.html

Now the anti-racism/anti-religious extremism organisation, Hope Not Hate, has published its list of Tory islamophobes, and is calling on the Conservatives to take firm action against them and racism in the party. The organisation says

Throughout 2019 there was a steady flow of allegations made against Conservative Party councillors, activists and members which, when viewed alongside the polling of members conducted by YouGov in July, paints a picture of a party that has a significant problem with anti-Muslim sentiment at local level. Now HOPE Not Hate can reveal a new dossier of Islamophobic social media posts by more than twenty Tory officials and activists, including six sitting councillors. We are calling on CCHQ to take immediate action against these individuals, and will continue to demand that they take proper steps to tackle the Islamophobia crisis that has gripped the party at every level.

The list includes:

Councillor Steve Vickers, of Nottingham County Council

Councillor Sonia Armstrong, Harworth and Bircotes Town Council

Councillor Judith Clementson, Winchester City Council

Councillor Karl Lewis, Llandinam Community Council

Councillor Derek Bullock, Bolton Council

Councillor Ranjit Pendhar Singh Gill, Hounslow

Parliamentary Assistant Fraser McFarland

Ex-councillor Bryan Denson, Wakefield

Ex-Councillor Gail Hall

Ex-Councillor Christopher Meakin

Ex-Councillor Susanna Dixon, Coventry

Ex-Councillor Martin Akehurst, Henley-on-Thames

2019 Council Candidate Liam Christopher Ritchie

2019 Council Candidate Roger Vernon, Bassetlaw

2019 Council Candidate Deirdre Vernon, Bassetlaw

2016 Council Candidate Yonah Saunders

2018 Candidate Paul Ingham, Tower Hamlets

2017 Council Candidate and Former Chair, Alan Booth, Durham

2016 Council Candidate John Hill, Portsmouth,

2016 Council Candidate John Shoesmith, Calderdale

2016 Council Candidate Charles Beckham, Darlington

Party Donor Fraser Duffin

Activist Fraser Duffin, Inverness

The offensive comments and posts they made include personal attacks on London’s mayor Sadiq Khan and Sayeeda Warsi, general hatred of immigrants and support for Donald Trump. Unsurprisingly, some of them also believe that Muslims are collectively responsible for 9/11 and support terrorism, as well as the various conspiracy theories about Muslims deliberately invading Europe in order to take over and destroy western society. Many of them believe the discredited ‘Eurabia’ nonsense, which holds that Muslims are outbreeding everyone else, and in two generations will be the dominate ethnic/ religious group.

Revealed: New evidence of Islamophobia among Conservative Party officials and activists

I have strong reservations about Hope Not Hate. They’ve done some brilliant work exposing genuine racism and religious extremism. However, one of the organisations they liaise with is the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which has been one of the major promoters of the Labour Party anti-Semitism smears. Nevertheless, they’ve done an excellent job in helping to expose the rabid islamophobia in the Tory ranks.

And Labour’s allegations of deep-seated islamophobia in the Tories is clearly causing more than a little discomfort. One of the hacks in the I last week wrote a piece attacking political ‘whataboutery’. I didn’t read the article, just the headline, so I may well be wrong. But I took this to mean that they weren’t happy with Labour raising the issue of Tory islamophobia in response to the anti-Semitism smears. Smears which the I, like the rest of the press, was all too eager to promote.

This is an embarrassing issue for the Tories. Which is why they and the media are trying to play it down and cover it up. But it’s not going away, and needs to be exposed and dealt with.

Perhaps after Hope Not Hate, other organisations will take up the challenge and pressure Johnson to do more to combat such racism in his ranks. But as he’s one of them, don’t bet on it. 

See: https://www.hopenothate.org.uk/2020/03/02/revealed-new-evidence-of-islamophobia-among-conservative-party-officials-and-activists/

 

 

Private Eye on Audrey White’s Libel Victory over the Jewish Chronicle

March 5, 2020

A week or so ago, Zelo Street put up a piece reporting that Audrey White, a Labour activist from Liverpool, had successfully sued the Jewish Chronicle for libel. The paper had smeared her as an anti-Semite, and accused her of a number of things, none of which were true, such as undermining the Jewish Labour MP Louise Ellman. Private Eye have also covered the case in their latest issue, for 6th to 19th March 2020. And that’s interesting, not just for what it says about the case itself, but about the Eye’s own attitude to the anti-Semitism witch hunt, in which the Eye has itself been an enthusiastic participant. The item, in the magazine’s ‘Street of Shame’ column, reads

Whatever the true level of anti-Semitism within the Labour party, there has been no shortage of media interest in the subject. Foremost among publications to have taken up the cudgels against labour over the issue has been the Jewish Chronicle (JC).

Curiously, though, the media appear to have ignored the recent settlement of a libel case involving the JC and Audrey White, a Labour party activist in Liverpool. White successfully complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) that the JC had breached the editors’ code of practice in four articles it published in February and March last year.

The JC alleged that White had actively undermined Louise Ellman, the former Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, who quit the party in October last year. Finding in favour of White, the IPSO ruled the JC articles to be “significantly misleading” and castigated the paper for having resorted to “unacceptable” obstruction during IPSO’s investigation. The JC agreed to apologise to White, and pay her substantial libel damages and costs. 

What is a mystery is why the JC didn’t realise its treatment of White, which could be construed as a witch-hunt, was akin to the very type of behaviour in the Labour Party it would rightly condemn.

Firstly, while it’s great the Eye is reporting this when the rest of the media isn’t, it isn’t innocent of pushing the anti-Semitism smears itself. Like the rest of the press and broadcasting, it accepted uncritically the claims of the Zionist Jewish establishment and the Blairites in the Labour party that Labour was a seething cauldron of Jew hatred. In fact, while anti-Semitism unfortunately does exist, it’s at a much lower level than in the parties further to the right. And as left-wing bloggers and Israel-critical Jewish bloggers and activists have pointed out, the vast majority of anti-Semitism comes from the far right. People have written letters to the Eye trying to point this out, but the smears continued. And the Eye’s response to one such letter was to cite Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, who certainly believed the allegations. The article begins with a note of doubt about the true extent of anti-Semitism in Labour – you’ll note the phrase ‘Whatever the true level of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party’ – but at the time the magazine made it clear that it had no doubt that the claims were true. This seems more than a bit contradictory, even hypocritical. But then, the election has come and gone, and Boris is in with a huge majority, Corbyn is stepping down as leader and all the candidates for the leadership have signed the Board of Deputies wretched pledges. So the smears aren’t needed any more. But don’t worry, I’m sure that they’ll be revived the moment the Tory establishment gets frightened and the Israel lobby finds it expedient.

And Audrey White isn’t the only person by any means the Jewish Chronicle and others have libeled as anti-Semites. It did it to Mike, along with the Sunset Times, the Depress and the Scum, if I remember correctly, when these rags told the world Mike was an anti-Semite and a Holocaust denier. Mike complained to IPSO, and the rags were forced to issue retractions. It was settled before Mike could begin libel proceedings, and so these, ahem, alleged newspapers, were spared the humiliation of a court judgement.

I’ve blogged several times complaining that, while the Eye and the rest of the press must know that the majority of anti-Semitism accusations are false – one Labour insider recently told the Canary or Novara Media that a third of them all came from the same person – the press, including the Eye, has resolutely refused to interview or profile any of the victims. It’s been a true witch hunt in that, like Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, the mere accusation is taken as proof, an assumption that the Board of Deputies has malignly incorporated into their wretched pledges. No-one in the establishment media has interviewed or defended victims like Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Tony Greenstein, Cyril Chilson, Martin Odoni, Mike, Asa Winstanley or any of the others. That would be going too far, as it would effectively disprove the anti-Semitism smears. And as the left-wing critics of Israel like Greenstein, Odoni, Walker and Winstanley are well able to show that is the Israeli state that is profoundly and aggressively racist, any interview or defence of them would also not only undermine the position of the Israel lobby and the Zionist Jewish establishment, it could also embarrass Britain’s own foreign policy in the Middle East. Greenstein and historians like Ilan Pappe and John Newsinger have shown just how deeply entwined Zionism and Israel have been with British colonial goals since the British Mandate.

As for the Eye’s statement at the end that the Jewish Chronicle would otherwise be against any form of witch hunt, this is the complete opposite of the truth. The Jewish Chronicle has been one of the main instigators of the witch hunt in and against the Labour Party. Possibly the Eye means that it would be against any anti-Semitic witch-hunt, but even this is highly doubtful. Many of the victims – Tony, Jackie, Cyril, Martin and others – are self-respecting, decent Jews. But they’re vilified and smeared as anti-Semitic and self-hating simply because they’re anti-Zionist, or have otherwise criticised Israel. And the abuse they have consequently suffered would be unequivocally condemned as anti-Semitic if it came from gentiles.

And the Jewish Chronicle gives every sign or wishing to continue its persecution. A week or so ago, Tony Greenstein on his blog reported that the Chronicle’s gentile editor, goysplainer Stephen Pollard, had sent one of its contributors, Geoffrey Alderman, a letter giving him the heave-ho. Alderman’s a very respected historian of the British Jewish community, and a true-blue Tory. The letter didn’t explain why Pollard was letting him go, but the reason seems obvious: Alderman committed the unforgivable sin of writing a piece in the Spectator declaring that Corbyn wasn’t an anti-Semite. And this show of integrity against lies and smears couldn’t be tolerated.

It’s very welcome that the Eye has finally decided to report White’s victory against the lies and smears of the Israel lobby. But this is just one incident a long line which the magazine, like the rest of the media, has very conveniently chose to ignore.

But this may well change. Mike is taking the Labour Party to court for breach of contract over the wrongful decision to expel and smear him as an anti-Semite. His case is solid. When I went to court to support him the other month, the judge express surprise that, given the importance of the case, the press wasn’t present.

I don’t doubt it will be there next time. And that will be very embarrassing for those responsible for the smears.

 

American Conservative Demands Beeb’s Privatisation Because Feminism, Muslims and Non-Binary Haircuts

February 28, 2020

Boris Johnson and his pet polecat, Dominic Cummings, have made it very clear that they want the Beeb privatised. They’re talking about removing the licence fee and turning it into a subscription service. This is because they claim that the Beeb is full of evil lefties, who are biased against them. The evidence from the BBC newsroom, at least, completely contradicts this. The Beeb followed the rest of the right-wing press in viciously attacking and smearing the Labour Party and its leader at every opportunity. And that included pushing the anti-Semitism smears. But this is the propaganda line Boris takes in order to justify his running away from everything but the softest interviews, and for the eventual privatisation of the Corporation itself.

The Tories hate the BBC partly for ideological reasons, partly out of simple political strategy and partly out of venal self-interest. They despise the Beeb as a nationalised industry and because, the present state of the Corporation notwithstanding, it has in the past criticised, contradicted and refuted Tory claims. Hence the Tories have claimed the Corporation was against them under Thatcher and John Major, and made the same threats of removing the licence fee. They also want to privatise it because many of the parties’ chief donors and supporters are the owners and proprietors of rival broadcasters, like Rupert Murdoch. They’re jealous of the Beeb’s dominant position in British broadcasting, and want to see it go so that their networks will fill its place. These rival networks also include American broadcasters, who have been buying into British TV companies since at least the 1990s.

And earlier this week, the American Conservative broadcaster Lauren Chen joined all the British Tories demanding the Beeb’s privatisation.

Who? Good question! Chen’s young American woman with her own internet show, discussing issues from a right-wing perspective. You can find her videos up on YouTube. I found one of them earlier this week, in which she ranted about how the Beeb needed to be privatised because of a programme produced by BBC Scotland, The Social. No, I hadn’t heard of it, either. I doubt many people in Britain have. But Chen had, and was furious. Because the Beeb was using it to push far left Social Justice Warrior propaganda on ordinary, Conservative-voting Brits!

This was because the programme had featured short pieces in which a variety of people talked about the issues that were important to them. Those Chen seized on and used as the subject for her video were a piece by a young woman complaining that men were all sexist and didn’t go to female-led movies. This would mean that the Oscar’s committee, over two-thirds of whom were male, wouldn’t give an award to Little Women. Another woman, who identified as non-binary, complained that she couldn’t get a suitably androgynous haircut.  A dominatrix appeared to talk about her profession and complain that people didn’t respect BDSM as they’d been conditioned to think of it as deviant. Another woman argued that Islam believed in the equality of all, whether male or female, while firmly wrapped up in a burqa so that only her eyes were visible. Then there was a young man arguing for Christianity. These all showed the Beeb’s liberal, progressive bias. It using taxpayer’s money to push feminist, LGBTQ+, Muslim propaganda. And it only broadcast the Christian because he was weak, woolly and unconvincing, and so showed how they wanted to present the religion.

Now I can’t say that those pieces would have been of interest to me, and I doubt they would to many other Brits. Some of the arguments were quite flimsy. For example, a number of vloggers on cinema dispatched the claims about sexism and Little Women a few weeks ago before the Oscars. They pointed out that there have been scores of female-led films, that have attracted a male audience. I don’t know if they mentioned it, but I’m fairly sure one was Annihilation. Based on the book by Jeff Vandermeer, this was an SF tale of a group of female squaddies investigating a mysterious zone in which the laws of nature had been subtly altered and plants, animals and humans mutated by a meteorite. This was a zone of eerie beauty and equally weird menace, and the film was highly praised. A male psychologist argued that it wasn’t because they were female-led that meant men had no interest in certain types of movie. Rather men were generally interested in tales which either contained violence or danger, or which had a strong element of good versus evil. And a number of female vloggers also said that they weren’t interested in seeing Little Women either, because there had been so many other adaptations of it. As for the non-binary woman and her haircut, as Chen pointed out, that was an inconvenience. Plenty of other people also have problems finding the right hairdresser or barber.

Behind all this, however, was her argument that the Beeb should privatised because then market economics would prevent it from foisting these opinions on the British public. The Beeb shouldn’t be using taxpayer’s money to produce material like this. Instead she told Brits that the money would be better spent on our failing health service. Well, our health service does need more money, but it’s only failing because the Tories also want to privatise it and sell it to American private healthcare companies. And it is true that if the Beeb was privatised, it probably wouldn’t be able to produce shows like The Social, because they wouldn’t be commercial. No-one would watch them, and they wouldn’t attract advertising revenue.

And this argument shows that Chen either knows nothing, or simply doesn’t care, about the ethos of public service broadcasting. The Beeb produces videos like those Chen attacked, not because it’s full of evil Commies determined to destroy mainstream British culture and turn everyone into BDSM, non-gender specific feminist Muslims, but because it has a duty to serve the public. That means that its content has to reflect a range of opinions, include those, who wouldn’t otherwise have a voice. Like women worried about how well a classic girls’ movie would do at the Oscars, fetishists, Muslims, the queer and transgender, and even the odd Christian. They pay their taxes and in a democratic state, have the right to make their views heard. They’re given a platform because free speech is a public good above the requirements of pure commerce, according to the ethos of public broadcasting. And everyone should be entitled to their opinion, regardless of whether it is held by the majority or not.

Chen isn’t defending free speech. She’s arguing for its denial.

As for The Social itself, I went to its homepage at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p039wndg

This simply states that

BBC The Social is an award-winning digital platform based in Glasgow that develops creative new talent.

We help develop ideas and commission content to publish across the BBC and our content reaches millions of people every week.

And most of their videos aren’t particularly political or contentious. Yes, their site has a section on LGBTQ+ videos, and as well as one about a young man coming out as gay at church. But they also have videos on disability in Scotland, the problem of living with a kind of alopecia, deafness, overcoming the stigma of being a single mother, and many other topics and issues. It seems to be ordinary community broadcasting, in the sense that it gives people in the wider community an opportunity to talk about issues that are important to them. It’s similar to a number of shows that have appeared on British TV, such as Brass Tacks back in the 1970s, and the 4 Thought short films on Channel 4.

You don’t have to agree with what these films are about to recognise that they are part of the reason public service broadcasting must continue in this country. The Beeb’s Tory bias is doing it no services by alienating its traditional left-wing supporters. But it’s important that the Beeb should continue, even if most of the newsroom and its senior management should be sacked.

Because ordinary people, including the transgender, Muslims, Christians, the disabled, and whoever else – should have a voice, and not just Tories and the owners of big multimedia firms.

 

Rebecca Long-Bailey Promises to Retain All Labour’s Manifesto Policies

February 18, 2020

Here’s some really good news from today’s I for Tuesday, 18th February 2020. According to the article, ‘Long-Bailey sticks to manifesto’ by Richard Vaughan, the Labour leadership contender Rebecca Long-Bailey has promised to retain all of Labour’s manifesto promises. The article runs

The Labour leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey said she would not drop a single policy from the party’s general election manifesto, but admitted it “confused” voters. 

The shadow Business Secretary said there were policies in Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto that were “undeliverable in five years”, but were long-term aims. Ms Long-Bailey highlighted promises, such as the four-day week, which the party “would never have achieved in five years”.

“It was a long-term aspiration,” she said, “But putting it in a manifesto a packaging it in a way that we could deliver it under a next Labour government confused people.”

Ms Long-Bailey made the comments during a live Channel 4 debate in Dudley.

This is optimistic, as those manifesto policies, with the possible exception of G4 broadband coverage or whatever it was, are exactly what this country needs. They were actually very well received by the public despite the Tories’ and their media lackeys’ successful vilification of Corbyn. Their success is also shown by the fact that Boris has been forced to copy them. He had to announce he was pouring more money into the NHS, and build 40 more hospitals, as well as engage on a massive renovation of the public infrastructure, particularly the railways. Of course, he’s not going to do any of that. He’ll continue to cut funding to the NHS ready for privisation, and those hospitals aren’t going to be built. As for the money he’s going to spend on the railways, they are far below the vast sums required. He’s likely to go ahead with HS2, but that’ll be it.

And Boris has also had to renationalise Northern Rail, which clearly shows that rail privatisation hasn’t and isn’t working. Although I accept that some of the problems weren’t the fault of the rail operators, but the government’s and that of the state-owned company holding their railways lines, Railtrack.

The fact that BoJob has had to make these promises means that Labour can hold him to them. It means there’s pressure on the Tories to move in a left-ward direction, especially if they wish to retain and reward the former Labour voters in the north and midlands. It means that hopefully politics may no longer be a race for privatisation and welfare cuts between the Tories and the Labour party, as it was under Blair.

She’s also right in that there was a problem with communication. I was at a local Labour party meeting a few weeks ago, and the consensus there was that Labour left the public confused. There was too much for people to take in, and policies seemed to be announced by the day. It was also considered that Boris won by stressing an optimistic message looking forward, while Labour concentrated too much on the achievements of the past.

It’s a good point, but as a Labour supporter I was really enthusiastic about the election broadcast and its hark back to that awesome government of Clement Attlee and Nye Bevan. But I agree with them and Long-Bailey that Labour must communicate its excellent policies better, and look forward. We have to stress that under the Labour Party, the future will be better, and we will have better services, better healthcare and better welfare support, and the country will be altogether more prosperous, than it will under the Tories, Because all they off is broken promises and illusions based on fading memories of imperial greatness.

I take Long-Bailey’s point that many of the policies in the manifesto will probably take more than a single term to implement. But they have to be long-term aims. And in the meantime Labour should concentrate on absolutely defending the NHS and seek to restore and expand the welfare state as well as employment rights and trade unions.

Because the NHS and welfare benefits are matters of life and death.

This announcement by Long-Bailey suggests she means to keep those promises, and is the woman to lead Labour to victory in the next election.

Beeb Producers Decide News Programmes’ Slant Before Shootingll

February 17, 2020

A few days ago I put up a review of Robin Aitken’s Can We Trust the BBC? (London: Continuum 2007). This argues that the Corporation isn’t full of Conservatives and has a right-wing bias, but the opposite: that it is crammed full of left-wingers and has a marked, institutional bias against Conservatives and the monarchy, former British empire and Christianity. While Aitken musters a considerable amount of evidence for this, he also ignores the far greater amount of evidence against his view. The Beeb has nearly always been biased against the Labour party and the trade unions, although I’m prepared to admit that there may have been pockets in the Beeb, like Scotland, where Aitken started his career, that may have been more left-wing. If this changed, it was while the Beeb was under the control of John Birt and Greg Dyke. But while Dyke may have been a member of the Labour Party, he was a New Labour convert to the free market. Which means he definitely wasn’t Old Labour. Since the departure of Dyke, the Beeb has become very blatantly biased against Labour and especially against Jeremy Corbyn. It did as much as the rest of the media to push the anti-Semitism smears.

But there is one part of Aitken’s argument that I believe, and still think remains true today, even after Brit’s departure and the Beeb’s alleged return to the Right. Aitken states that Birt wasn’t satisfied with merely presenting the news. He wanted the Beeb to contextualise and explain it. And this meant that news and documentary producers decided on their programmes’ content and direction before they shot any footage or interviewed anyone. Aitken writes

I saw Birtism close up when I moved to the Money Programme. This long-established show had a loyal audience for its Sunday evening slot, but the old populist format was viewed with disdain by Birt. What he wanted was analysis, and lots of it. The new programme style was uncompromising. A subject would be chosen – say electricity privatisation – and a storyline worked out. A detailed script including putative interviews was worked up before a single word had been uttered by an interviewee, or a frame of film shot. We worked from written sources (previous articles/ analyses by academics) and briefings by individual experts.The fine detail of these scripts was obsessively wrangled over until, finally, filming actually began. The task then was to make sure reality conformed to our preconceptions.

All this accorded with Birt’s philosophy. In his autobiography, The Harder Path, he writes: ‘Directors and reporters were sent off with a clear specification of the story their film should tell … [they] … had lost the freedom of the road; they had forfeited much of their discretion’. Birt had encountered stiff resistance to this methodology at Weekend World, similarly at The Money Programme the producers and reporters resented the new straitjacket but had to embrace the new orthodoxy. (pp. 23-4).

My guess is that this system is still very much in place. It’s why the Beeb has followed the rest of the media in demonising the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semitic. And it’s particularly responsible for the horrendous bias of the Panorama programme about anti-Semitism in the Labour party. This was so extreme that it sparked a storm of complaints and resulted in the production of a documentary film refuting it. A film that inevitably was attacked by the same fanatical Zionist witch hunters responsible for the smears against Labour.

The Corporation’s bias may have changed from Labour to Conservative – if it was ever ‘Labour’ in the first place – but the mindset and methodology behind the biased reporting is exactly the same.

A Conservative Accusation of Liberal Bias at the Beeb

February 15, 2020

Robin Aitken, Can We Trust the BBC (London: Continuum 2007).

Robin Aitken is a former BBC journalist, and this book published 13 years ago argues that the BBC, rather than being unbiased, is really stuffed full of lefties and the broadcaster and its news and politics programmes have a very strong left-wing, anti-Conservative bias. Under Lord Reith, the BBC upheld certain core British values. Its news was genuinely unbiased, giving equal time to the government and opposition. It also stood for essential institutions and such as the monarchy, the constitution, the British Empire and Christianity at home, and peace through the League of Nations abroad.

This changed radically between 1960 and 1980 as the BBC joined those wishing to attack and demolish the old class-bound institutions. Now the BBC stands for passionate anti-racism, ‘human rights’, internationalism and is suspicious of traditional British national identity and strongly pro-EU. It is also feminist, secular and ‘allergic to established authority whether in the form of the Crown, the courts, the police or the churches.’ This has jeopardised the ideal at the heart of the Corporation, that it should be fair-minded and non-partisan.

Aitken does marshal an array of evidence to support his contention. This includes his own experience working for BBC Scotland, which he claims was very left-wing with a staff and management that bitterly hated Margaret Thatcher and made sure that the dismantlement of the old, nationalised industries like shipbuilding was properly lamented, but did not promote it as ‘creative destruction’ as it should, nor the emergence of the wonderful new information industry north of the border. A later chapter, ‘Testimonies’, consists of quotations from other, anonymous rightists, describing how the Beeb is biased and bewailing their isolated position as the few Conservative voices in the Corporation. He is particularly critical of the former director-general, John Birt. Birt was recruited in the 1990s from ITV. He was a member of the Labour Party, who brought with him many of his colleagues from the commercial channel, who also shared his politics and hatred of the Tories. He goes on to list the leading figures from the Left, who he claims are responsible for this bias. These include Andrew Marr, the former editor of the Independent, and the left-wing, atheist journo and activist, Polly Toynbee.

Aitken also tackles individual topics and cases of biased reporting. This includes how the BBC promoted the Labour Party and the EU before Labour’s landslide victory in the 1997 general election. The Conservatives were presented as deeply split on the issue and largely hostile to EU membership. The EU itself was presented positively, and the Labour Party as being united in favour of membership, even though it was as split as the Tories on the issue. Another chapter argues that the Beeb was wrong in challenging the government’s case for the Iraq Invasion. He claims that in a poll the overwhelming majority of Iraqis supported the invasion. The government did not ‘sex up’ the ‘dodgy dossier’ in order to present a false case for war, and it was wrong for the Beeb to claim that Blair’s government had.

The chapter ‘The Despised Tribes’ argues that there are certain ethnic or religious groups, who were outside the range of sympathy extended to other, more favoured groups. These include White South Africans, the Israeli Likud Party, Serb Nationalists under Milosevic, the Italian Northern League, Le Pen and the Front National in France, the Vlaams Blok in Belgium, American ‘Christian Fundamentalists’, conservative Roman Catholics, UKIP ‘and other groups who have failed to enlist the sympathies of media progressives’. These include the Orange Order and Ulster Protestants. He then claims that the Beeb is biased towards Irish Republicans, who have successfully exploited left-wing British guilt over historic wrongs against the Roman Catholic population. He then goes on to claim that Pat Finucane, a lawyer killed in the Troubles, was no mere ‘human rights’ lawyer but a senior figure in the IRA.

The chapter, ‘The Moral Maze’ is an extensive critique of a Panorama documentary claiming that the Roman Catholic condemnation of premarital sex and contraception was causing needless suffering in the Developing World through the procreation of unwanted children and the spread of AIDs by unprotected sex. This is contradicted by UN evidence, which shows that the African countries with the lowest incidence of AIDS are those with the highest Catholic populations. The Catholic doctrine of abstinence, he argues, works because reliance on condoms gives the mistaken impression that they offer total protection against disease and pregnancy, and only encourages sexual activity. Condoms cannot offer complete protection, and are only effective in preventing 85 per cent of pregnancies. The programme was deliberately biased against the Roman Catholic church and the papacy because it was made from the viewpoint of various groups with an explicit bias against the Church and its teaching on sexuality.

Aitken’s evidence is impressive, and I do accept part of his argument. I believe that the Beeb is indeed in favour of feminism, multiculturalism and human rights. I also believe that, the few remaining examples of the Beeb’s religious programming notwithstanding, the Corporation is largely hostile to Christianity in ways that would be unthinkable if applied to other religions, such as Islam. However, I don’t believe that the promotion of anti-racism and anti-sexism is wrong. And groups like the Northern League, Front National and other extreme right-wing political and religious groups, including UKIP, really are unacceptable because of their racism and should not be given a sympathetic platform. Their exclusion from the range of acceptable political and religious views is no bad thing.

But the book also ignores the copious documentation from the various media study units at Cardiff, Glasgow and Edinburgh universities of massive BBC Conservative bias. Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis have a chapter in their book on the gradual, slo-mo privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS, on the way the media has promoted the Tories’ and New Labour’s project of selling off the health service. And this includes the Beeb.  The Corporation was hostile to Labour after Thatcher’s victory, promoting the SDP splinter group against the parent party in the 1983 election, as well as the Tories. This pro-Tory bias returned with a vengeance after the 2010 Tory victory and the establishment of austerity. Barry and Savile Kushner show in their book, Who Needs the Cuts, how the Beeb excludes or shouts down anyone who dares to question the need for cuts to welfare spending. Tories, economists and financiers are also favoured as guests on news shows. They are twice as likely to appear to comment on the news as Labour politicians and trade unionists.

And we have seen how the Beeb has pushed the anti-Labour agenda particularly vigorously over the past five years, as it sought to smear Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party as institutionally anti-Semitic at every opportunity. Quite apart from less sensational sneering and bias. The guests on Question Time have, for example, been packed with Tories and Kippers, to whom presenter Fiona Bruce has shown particular favour. This has got worse under Johnson, with the Beeb now making it official policy not to have equal representation of the supporters of the various political parties in the programme’s audience. Instead, the majority of the audience will consist of supporters of the party that holds power in that country. Which means that in England they will be stuffed with Tories. Numerous members of the BBC news teams are or were members of the Tory party, like Nick Robinson, and a number have left to pursue careers at No 10 helping Cameron, Tweezer and Boris.

The evidence of contemporary bias in favour of the Tories today is massive and overwhelming.

With the exception of particular issues, such as multiculturalism, feminism, a critical and sometimes hostile attitude towards the monarchy, and atheism/ secularism, the BBC is, and always has been, strongly pro-Tory. The Birt era represents only a brief interval between these periods of Tory bias, and I believe it is questionable how left-wing Birt was. Aitken admits that while he certainly was no Tory, he was in favour of free market economics.

This book is therefore very dated, and overtaken by the Beeb’s massive return to the Right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn Butler Defends Labour Manifesto, Says Tories Stole Labour Policies

February 11, 2020

Last Saturday’s I for 8th February 2020 carried a piece about Dawn Butler by the paper’s political editor, Hugo Gye, ‘Butler: as deputy leader, I’d be like John Prescott without the violence.’ This consisted largely of an interview with Butler followed by how well the various deputy leadership contenders were faring. Butler argued that she should be leader as she was ‘the experience candidate’, having served under two Labour Prime Ministers. She also claimed that she could unite all sections of the party, and was therefore the unity candidate. She also stated that as deputy leader she’d be like John Prescott without the violence, because she doesn’t intend to punch anyone. As for her chances of winning – the favourite is Angela Rayner – she said that throughout her life as a Black female she’d always had someone telling her she had no chance.

But this isn’t what I found interesting. That was what she said about the positive reception she’d experienced of Labour’s manifesto, and that the Tories had stolen Labour’s policies. Gye wrote

I’ve put up several pieces about Butler, criticising her demand for all-Black shortlists and her statement that she intends to fight misogyny. The all-Black shortlists could make racism even worse, as some Whites in majority ethnic neighbourhoods with a Black MP may feel excluded. Her statement about misogyny is questionable because of the way what is considered misogynist has been expanded to include not just definite cases of sexism, but more dubious areas like microaggression. These are supposed to be the tiny, everyday pieces of sexism that affect women’s confidence and feeling of self-worth. Like calling them ‘Love’. At the same time, Private Eye has claimed that, rather than not having been a member of any coup against Corbyn, as she claims, Butler was very definitely one of the participants. This casts doubt on her position as a left-wing candidate.

But I think she is almost certainly right about the positive response of the public to Labour’s policies. In polls Corbyn’s policies of renationalisation and the restoration of workers’ rights and the welfare state were well-received. It’s why the Tory media had to resort to portraying him as an anti-Semite and communist or Trotskyite. And the Tories have been forced to appear to steal Labour’s policies. After Labour announced its policies on the NHS, the Tories announced they were going to invest a record amount in the health service and built more than 40 new hospitals. This is all lies, but it shows how they have been forced publicly to move away from their real policies of starving the NHS of funding and closing hospitals. Just as they have been forced to renationalise Northern Rail, although some of that was an attempt to divert attention away from the problems caused by government failures in the construction and maintenance of the tracks and infrastructure, on which the trains run, which is still government-owned. Just as the Tories have also promised – again, it’s just lies – a massive campaign of house construction as well as the expansion of the rail network.

I feel that even though Labour will be out of power for the next five years, it can still do much good by maintaining those left-wing policies and trying to force the Tories to move left, so that when the Tories – and they will – their right-wing policies will be soundly contrasted with Labour’s socialist programme that will be far more successful. If this is done properly, it will show to the public that socialism hasn’t been superceded by Thatcherism. Quite the opposite – it is Thatcherism that is now obsolete.

My fear, however, is that if Starmer and Rayner get into power, they will turn the clock back to Blair, and Britain will be further decimated, economically and socially, by the Thatcherite policies of privatisation of industry, schools and the NHS, and the destruction of the welfare state.

Murdoch’s Daughter Being Considered as Next Beeb Director-General

February 11, 2020

This is ominous. According to an article by Adam Sherwin in yesterdays I for Monday, 9th February 2020, the BBC is considering appointing Elisabeth Murdoch, Dirty Rupe’s daughter, as its first female Director-General. The I’s article seems to think this will be a positive move, as she isn’t supposed to be hostile to the Beeb like her father. And the appointment of one of Murdoch’s family as the Beeb’s chief will supposedly deter Downing Street from making any further attacks on the Corporation. The article runs

Elisabeth Murdoch, the daughter of Rupert Murdoch, who became a successful television entrepreneur in her own right, has emerged as a surprise candidate to run the BBC.

Mus Murdoch, former head of Shine UK – the production company behind MasterChef and Broadchurch – would be seen as an acceptable director-general by the BBC’s Downing Street critics. However, the prospect of the broadcaster being run by a member of the Murdoch family, which has campaigned against the licence fee-funded BBC through its newspapers, will shock many at the corporation.

I has learned that the BBC is appointing headhunters to broaden the search for a new leader, following the announcement that Tony Hall is leaving.

Current favourites include Charlotte Moore, BBC director of vision, the best-placed internal candidate; Jay Hunt, former head of BBC1 and Channel 4, who now leads Apple’s European TV commissioning; Alex Mahon, chief executive of Channel 4; and ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall.

Insiders say the BBC is almost certain to appoint its first female director-general.

The BBC board, led by Sir David Clementi, is seeking a figure with proven leadership in the creative industries who carries enough authority in Whitehall to guide the BBC through tough negotiations over the future of the licence fee.

Ms Murdoch, who pocketed £130m when she sold Shine to 20th Century Fox, ticks many of the boxes. She does not share her family’s antipathy to the BBC, having sold 20 shows to the broadcaster as a producer.

Stepping aside from her family’s succession battle, Ms Murdoch, 51, has spoken in support of the “universal licence fee” but urged the BBC to how “efficiently that funding is being spent on actual content”.

It is not clear if Ms Murdoch would welcome an approach for the £450,000 post. last year she co-founded Sister, a global television production business which developed the acclaimed Sky drama Chernobyl.

Although Downing Street’s choice to lead the BBC would be a longstnding critic such as Rebekah Brooks, CEO of Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, a figure such as Ms Murdoch would prove an acceptable compromise.

In a box article next to this, ‘Power play Smart move?’, Sherwin also writes

Although the appointment of the new director-general is a matter for the BBC board, Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s top aide, has privately warned that a ‘business as usual’ successor to Tony Hall would only hasten the end of the licence fee.

Handing the BBC’s future to a scion of the Murdoch dynasty would be a bold move for the broadcaster.

Elisabeth Murdoch has £300m in the bank, boosted by dividends from her father’s sale of Fox’s entertainment assets to Disney, and has made a number of strategic investments in digital start-ups.

But another option could be Alex Mahon, Channel 4’s chief executive. Hired by Ms Murdoch for her Shine group in 2006, it was Ms Mahon who brought the Broadchurch producer Kudos into the business.

The upside of luring Ms Murdoch, once named the fifth most powerful woman in Britain in a Woman’s Hour poll, is the weight her name would carry in negotiations over the BBC'[s future with Downing Street. “It could be a genius move. They woulnd’t dare f**k with a Murdoch,” said one insider.

My guess is that even if Murdoch became director-general, she’d still carry on the and increase the Beeb’s right-wing political bias. I also think that she’d carry out some further privatisation and quiet dismantling of the Beeb for the benefit of its competitors, but not as outright as Cummings and BoJob would quite wish.

Whoever gets installed as the next director-general will still be under pressure to get rid of the licence fee, though I’m sure the Tories would hesitate at attacking one of Murdoch’s own family because of the power of the Murdoch press. On the other hand, she could well reverse her previous positive attitude to the Beeb, and become an enthusiast for its dismantlement once she become D-G.

Whatever happens, the Beeb is still in serious danger. But because of its massive political bias, its traditional defenders on the Left are no longer as willing to support it.

 

‘I’ Newspaper: Rebecca Long-Bailey Promises to Support Unions and End Exploitative Work Practices

February 11, 2020

This is another excellent piece from Saturday’s I, for 8th February 2020. Written by Richard Vaughan, ‘Long-Bailey to promise no out-of-hours phone calls’ shows that the contender for the Labour leadership intends to restore the power of the trade unions and back them in industrial disputes, as well as removing work practices that damages workers’ mental health. It begins with her pledge to end the demand that workers should be on call 24 hours a day.

Labour leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey will pledge to give workers the right to switch off their phones outside of office hours to help end “24/7 work cultures”.

The shadow Business Secretary committed yesterday to give employees a “right to disconnect” based on the French system, which forces companies with more than 50 staff to allow them to ignore their mobiles during leisure time.

In a further attempt to show her support for workers, Ms Long-Bailey said she would back the right of employees to hold strike action “no questions asked” should she succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

Addressing a rally in Sheffield last night, she said the next Labour leader must be “as comfortable on the picket line as at the dispatch box.”

“As leader, I’ll put trade unions at the heart of Labour’s path to power, and back workers in every dispute,” she said.

She added that under her stewardship Labour would “back workers in every dispute and strike against unfair, exploitative and unjust employers”.

She said: “Standing on the side of workers and trade unions, no questions asked, is going to be crucial in standing up to this reactionary Conservative Government.”

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Ms Long-Bailey said she wanted to remove working practices that were damaging to mental health. “We can all do better with aspirational socialism, through pushing for an end to 24/7 work culture, and with trade unions empowered to negotiate this, we can work hard, be paid for the work we do and keep that precious time with our friends and family, uninterrupted by emails or demands”.

This is precisely the type of leadership working people need. The Tories and New Labour have done their level best to gut the power of the unions, and the result has been the massive increase in in-work poverty. Without strong trade unions, workers have been left stuck with stagnant wages, exploitative working conditions like zero-hours contracts which bar them from receiving sick pay, paid holidays or maternity leave and a culture that allows work place bullying and casual sacking. Blair and Brown were as keen on destroying union power as the Tories, and in denying workers protection against redundancy and short-term contracts, all in the name of workforce ‘flexibility’. Despite his candidacy for the party being backed by one of the unions, when Blair gained the leadership he even threatened to cut the party’s ties to them, a tie that is integral to the Labour Party, if they didn’t back his reforms and programme.

Long-bailey promises to reverse this, restore union power and so empower ordinary working people. Which means that the Tories and their lackeys in the press and media will do everything they can to discredit her. You can expect them to start running stories about the how the ‘strike-hit’ seventies made Britain ‘the sick man of Europe’ until Maggie Thatcher appeared to curb the union barons and restore British productivity and confidence. It’s all rubbish, but it’s the myth that has sustained and kept the Tories and their wretched neoliberalism in power for forty years.

But this is being challenged, and Long-Bailey is showing that she is the woman to end it.

Tony Benn’s Suggestions for Media Reform

February 10, 2020

One of the other books I picked up going through the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham last Friday was Tony Benn: Arguments for Democracy, edited by Chris Mullins and published in 1981. Based on Benn’s speeches, articles and lectures over the previous two years, the book was Benn’s observation on the profoundly undemocratic nature of British society, and his suggestions for reform. He wanted to create a more democratic society that would empower ordinary people and move towards the establishment of socialism.

Although it was written forty years ago, the book and its arguments are still tremendously relevant. One of the chapters is on media bias against the working class and the Labour party. As we’ve seen over the past five years and particularly during the last election in December, this is very much a live issue because of the unrelenting hostility by nearly all of the media, including and especially the Beeb, against Jeremy Corbyn, his supporters and the Labour party as a whole. Benn discusses right-wing media bias in the chapter, ‘The Case for a Free Press’, and on pages 118 to 120 he makes his suggestions for its reform.  Benn wrote

‘Some Proposals for Reform

Reform of the media has only recently come to be taken seriously. The Glasgow University Media Group, the Campaign for Press Freedom, the Minority Press Group and academics such as James Curran at the Polytechnic of Central London have produced a wealth of carefully researched analysis and proposals for reform which would reward seriously study. At the time of writing the Labour Party National Executive Committee has a working party considering what must be done to obtain a media responsive to the needs of a twentieth-century democracy rather than an arm of the British establishment. I do not wish to anticipate the proposals of the working party, but in the interests of stimulating debate on this important subject I set out below some of the possibilities for reform which are now being discussed in the Labour Party and elsewhere.

  1. An Open Press Authority

This has been suggested by James Curran and Jean Seaton in their book Power Without Responsibility. This would be a public agency accountable to Parliament and it would aim to extend the freedom to publish. The OPA objectives would include the following:

i Provision off a launch fund, raised partly from a tax on media advertising expenditure, to assist new publications.

ii Grants to assist publications that have failed to attract significant advertising.

iii A National Print Corporation to extend modern printing facilities to a wide range of publications.

iv A guarantee of distribution for minority publications through a new wholesale organisation.

2. Anti-Monopoly Legislation

Considerations will have to be given to legislation to break up the huge newspaper monopolies; existing monopoly legislation has proved wholly ineffective for this purpose. Such legislation should also prohibit or severely limit investment by newspaper chains in television and commercial radio.

3. Reform of the Wholesale Trade

Wholesale and retail distribution of British newspapers and magazines in dominated by just three companies: W.H. Smith, John Menzies and Surridge Dawson. In many areas one or other of these companies has a complete monopoly. The result is that non-consensus publications have great difficulty in reaching the news stands. The French have solved this problem by imposing a legal obligation on wholesalers and retailers to carry, on request, all lawful publications excluding pornography. Publishers have to pay a handling charge on all returns. As a result the French public have access to a far more diverse range of political views than we do in Britain. The French example should be studied.

4 The Right of Reply

Where a newspaper or magazine has published a report about an individual or group which seriously distorts the truth, the person or organisation offended should have the right to set the record straight in the columns of that newspaper. The reply should be allotted adequate space and prominence and it should appear as soon as possible after the original story. It should be made legally enforceable. The Campaign for Press Freedom has set out the case for a right of reply in an excellent pamphlet.

5 Broadcasting

i Instead of being composed of the ‘great and the good’, worthy citizens chosen for their alleged impartiality, the boards of the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority should contain representatives of a wide spectrum of opinion and interest groups.

ii The proceedings of the two boards of governors and all internal directives on policy should be publicly available.

iii The IBA should be given a legal obligation when awarding franchises, to give preference to non-profit-making applications such as cooperatives; at present most franchises got to companies more concerned with profits than quality.

iv The BBC is too big. It should be broken up into separate independent units for television, radio and the overseas service.

v The BBC licence fee, which places the Corporation at the mercy of the government, should be abolished and replaced by a grant awarded by Parliament five years in advance.

vi The Fourth Channel, as presently constituted, is controlled by the IBA and will buy in programmes from commercial companies. It should be reconstituted as a separate, publicly financed cooperative which would act as a ‘publisher’ of programmes made by freelance and independent production groups.

6 Satellite Broadcasting

By the mid-1980s satellite communication systems will make it feasible for American or European commercial television to be relayed into Britain. The result could be a diversion of advertising revenue away from existing publicly regulated services and an end of any chance of creating and maintaining public service broadcasting. As a matter of urgency Britain must contact other European governments with a view to placing under international control all companies using satellites for this purpose.’

He concludes the chapter with this:

These are some of the ways in which the British media could be developed to serve democracy rather than a consensus which has long been overtaken by events. I list these suggestions simply as a basis for consideration in an area where, until recently, there has been very little positive discussion. The free flow of information is the life blood of democracy and the present ownership structure and organisation of our media is incompatible with democracy. At a time of crisis, such as we now face, itis important that people should be able to choose freely between the various alternatives that political parties are seeking to put before them. To do that they need to be properly informed. That should be the role of the media in a democracy.

I’m not sure how many of these suggestions are relevant today, given the expansion of satellite and cable broadcasting,  the establishment of Channel 5 and the rise of the Net. My guess is that much of it is still acutely relevant, and the situation regarding the press monopolies has got worse since Benn wrote this. Murdoch now has an even firmer grip on the press and his own satellite channel, Sky, which he’d like to replace the Beeb. The Beeb has shown itself craven and massively biased towards the Tories, but they’re going to break it up and sell it off if they can in order to please Murdoch and the other commercial broadcasters. I think most of these reforms are still very much needed, but can’t see them ever being put in place given the massive opposition they provoke among the press and media barons, who control public opinion.

Corbyn’s supporters found a way round that with the internet, and Richard Burgon at the recent Labour deputy leadership hustings in Bristol suggested that Labour supporters should look to this and other alternative media rather than the old media. There are problems with this too, as the right have also latched on to the power of the Net. But it might just be the best, or only, way to move forward.