Posts Tagged ‘Blogs’

Frank Field’s 1980s Campaign against His Own Party in Wales

July 19, 2020

Yesterday Zelo Street put up a piece about the various right-wing Blairite politicos, who deliberately campaigned against Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, who have now been rewarded with nominations for peerages from BoJob. They were Gisela Stuart, Ian Austin, John Woodcock, and Frank Field. Field, according to the Street, resigned the Labour whip last year and stood as an Independent candidate in Birkenhead. He was obviously expecting to beat his former colleagues, but was given a rude awakening when it was shown to him and the metropolitan elites who backed him how little he was regarded there personally.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/07/arise-lord-and-lady-turncoat.html

But that wasn’t the only time he stuck the knife into the backs of people in his own party. Private Eye in its ‘HP Sauce’ column in its edition for Friday, 21st August 1998 describes how he actively campaigned against the Labour Party during the European elections in north Wales in 1984. The snippet reads

Frank Field’s apparent desire to speak the unspeakable on welfare reform is not the first time he has kicked against the pricks in his party.

Back in 1980 the Eye welcomed him into parliament (New Boys, 483) recalling his nickname of “Judas”. This was earned in Labour circles for his outspoken attacks on the Wilson government when he was director of the Child Poverty Action Group. This was nothing compared to the bizarre events associated with him during the Euro elections in north Wales in 1984, however.

Labour candidate Ian Campbell found himself discredited in a series of quarter-page advertisements in the local papers, which claimed that Frank Field MP urged Labour party supporters to support Tom Ellis, the candidate for the SDP/Liberal Alliance, who was then standing on a straightforward Liberal ticket.

Pleas from Campbell to Field to retract these reported views, and to canvas with him to disprove such presumably false claims, found no response. Neither did the demands of the Labour party’s general secretary for a retraction: he was forced in a conversation with Campbell to admit that Field was simply a “maverick” over whom the party had no control.

Labour lost the seat by a small margin and Field never denied the views attributed to him – views which, according to the rules, should have led to his expulsion from the party.

When a politician says they’re going to ‘speak the unspeakable’ on welfare reform, or ‘slay the sacred cows’, they always but always mean they’re going to cut it. And there’s absolutely nothing unspeakable about it. It’s been Thatcherite orthodoxy for forty years. Field was one of the Tories’ favourite Labour MPs because of his anti-welfare stance. the British religious Right ‘Cranmer’ blog praised him in a post nearly a decade ago, and said that if he crossed the floor to the Tories he’d be most welcome. He didn’t quite do that, but he certainly campaigned for them.

And his squalid attacks on his colleagues in north Wales shows he had all the qualities of a New Labour politico then: the willingness to brief against others in his party, the intriguing and desire to see a competing party win at the expense of his own.

And it also shows how the Labour Party was willing even then to tolerate and reward behaviour from the Right that it never did from the Left.

Dominic Cummings Wants to Take Housing Out of the Hands of Local Authorities

June 28, 2020

I was at a Zoom meeting Friday evening of my local constituency Labour party, Bristol South. The evening was devoted to a discussion of how the party should respond and formulate proper policies following the Keir Starmer’s national policy review. The areas under discussion that evening were housing and local democracy, and health and social care after the Coronavirus. Many members that the way to restore proper health and social care would be to give power back to the trade unions, and proper wages and career prospects to the women and men working in our NHS and care sector.

Local democracy is rather more complicated, however. As has been shown by the news over the last couple of days, many local authorities are now in dire financial straits thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic. The Tories did promise that they’d give them all the funding they needed to cope, but it’s been a typical Tory promise: the funding hasn’t materialised. The result is that a number of local authorities are facing bankruptcy. Wiltshire in the West Country is one, and Bristol may well be another. Bristol has fared better than most, as the much-maligned elected mayor, Marvin, did manage to sort out the financial mess and serious budget deficits left by the previous elected mayor, George Ferguson. It seems under Red Trousers there was serious financial mismanagement. This really doesn’t surprise me, as Ferguson announced one year there would be tens of millions of cuts, but that we shouldn’t be afraid of them. Before he became an independent, Ferguson was a Lib Dem, but he may as well have been a Tory.

It’s unclear what the proper spheres of national and local government are. Andrew Marr has published a book on this very issue, but I stopped reading it and put it away due to the flagrant anti-Labour bias on his TV show. I guess I’ll have to dig it out and start reading it properly, as this could become a major issue in the next few years. It is a major problem how we can get the British public involved in both national and local government, so that they don’t feel ignored and marginalized by the authorities.

And there’s a serious problem for local authorities on the horizon. Apparently Dominic Cummings wants to take housing out of the hands of local authorities. This is extremely alarming, given the closeness between the Tories and developers, as shown by Jenrick’s scandalous conduct over at Tower Hamlets. As Mike and the others have revealed on their blogs, Jenrick allowed Tory donor Richard ‘Dirty’ Desmond to develop Westferry in London against existing planning regulations or the wishes of the local authority after Dirty Des gave the Conservatives a £12,000 bung. After twelve years of power, we’re back to John Major and New Labour levels of sleaze and corruption again. It’s feared that if the Tories do take it housing into national government, they’ll just let off a free-for-all of development.

The Labour party in Bristol is trying to encouraging the renovation of older properties as well as the construction of new housing. Not only does this also provide accommodation, but it also employs more people. There are also problems with the current planning legislation in that developers can convert old commercial properties into residential housing in areas around music venues. This has been done in the old office blocks surrounding the Bristol pub, the Fleece and Firkin, which has been a centre for live musical performances in Bristol since the 1980s. The problem is that at the moment the developers don’t have to do anything to protect the homes’ prospective residents from the noise, so that they complain instead about the music venue. The local authority in Bristol is trying to bring in some of the continental legislation that protects existing music venues by insisting that the developers must install double glazing and so on when they build flats and homes in such areas.

The party on Friday was expecting the Tories to make the announcement they were taking housing away from local authorities today, but wondered if they actually would after the scandal with Jenrick. I haven’t heard that they have. But it’s clearly something they would dearly love to do. If that happens it will lead to housing and building development that isn’t wanted by the existing residents of an area, and the further destruction of local democracy.

This is an area which needs to be very closely watched and guarded.

The Beeb and Lamestream Media’s Total Lack of Interest in Anti-Corbyn Plots in Labour Party

April 18, 2020

Here’s another example of the malignant bias against Labour and particularly the real Labour Centrists – Corbyn’s supporters – in the BBC and the mainstream media. They have shown close to zero interest in the leaked report showing massive plotting by the Blairites in the Labour Party to unseat Corbyn, particularly through the careful manipulation of the anti-Semitism crisis.

Sky News reported on it on the 12th of April, and Tom Mills, the author of The BBC: Myth of a Public Service, followed this up by seeing how the Beeb would respond to the story. Just before 3 in the afternoon of the 14th, Mills issued a tweet noting that the Beeb was ‘eerily quiet.’ The Beeb has an official list of 100 journalists on Twitter, but he couldn’t find a single one of them tweeting or retweeting the story about the leaked report. The Corporation did publish an article about the report, which played it down, and Keir Starmer’s reaction. But when The Canary went to look at Twitter themselves, they found that Mills was right. The Beeb’s journos were not tweeting about the story.

The Canary remarked that this was significant for several reasons, one of which was that many of the hacks on the list were keen to comment on the anti-Semitism allegations. Laura Kuenssberg is one particularly glaring example. The other was that the Beeb was at the forefront of reporting the anti-Semitism allegations against the Labour party. And one of the prime examples of that was the massively biased Panorama documentary, ‘Is Labour Anti-Semitic?’ The Jewish academic Justin Schlosberg was extremely critical of the programme, noting that it was the third edition of the programme since 2015 that was wholly critical of Corbyn’s leadership. It contained gross breaches of the Beeb’s rules governing impartiality and accuracy, and he mounted a challenge to Ofcom’s refusal to investigate the programme, calling it a ‘wholesale failure of accountability’. As for the leaked report, he further commented that ‘it appears to corroborate reams of evidence of a historic collapse of journalistic standards.’

Mark Curtis, who’s made a string of fascinating and important documentaries such as The Century of the Self, stated that it was important to view the Beeb’s lack of response in context. It was no wonder the Beeb wasn’t interested when the rest of the media wasn’t either.

Mills responded by urging people to support independent media. Because, for now, there is no alternative.

The Canary concurred, and concluded

Indeed, we’ve had years of shameful, unprofessional media coverage about Corbyn and his movement. And this has had a clear impact on voters. So today, it’s more important than ever before that we build an accountable, people-led media landscape. Our democracy depends on it.

See: https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2020/04/15/author-highlights-bbc-journalists-highly-revealing-response-to-labour-leaks-scandal/

As much as I respect Adam Curtis, the argument that the Beeb shouldn’t be judged too harshly for its silence because the rest of the media aren’t reporting it either, is absolutely no excuse. The Beeb has a dominant position in broadcast news, if not the media as a whole. Something like 70 per cent of the population get their news from the Corporation. This is immensely important at a time of falling newspaper circulation. The Beeb is suffering too from online competition, but even so, it is still in a powerful position as news provider. It should be leading the rest of the media in news coverage, not following them. Perhaps if it actually did this, it might start winning back some of the viewers it has lost to blogs, vlogs and the online news shows.

The reality is that no matter how liberal the Beeb’s bias may have been over a decade ago, it is now stuffed full of Tories and its pro-Labour staff seem to be Blairites. The Beeb took a major role in promoting the anti-Semitism smears, and the silence of its top journos shows that it is determined to preserve the narrative it has constructed: that Corbyn was an anti-Semite, and under him the Labour party was awash with Jew-hatred.

The opposite was true. Corbyn was always a friend of the Jews and campaigned on their behalf. He had the respect and support of a large section of the Jewish community, and during his leadership the levels of anti-Semitism were far lower than in society at large. Rather than being any kind of Nazi, as certain loudmouths allege, Corbyn was an anti-Fascist. He was simply critical of Israel’s slow-motion genocide of the Palestinians.

But to the Tories, the Blairites and a politically Conservative Jewish establishment absolutely unrepresentative of Britain’s diverse Jewish community, this meant that he was an anti-Semite they could vilify and smear in order to prevent a genuine reforming Labour government coming to power.

The Beeb’s silence about the leaked report is as damning an indictment of their culpable bias as their lies.

 

 

Complaint Sent to Charity Commission about Board of Deputies’ Political Bias

February 20, 2020

The internet blogger and activist Simon Maginn has complained to the Charity of Commission about the Board of Deputies of British Jews. They have, in his opinion, broken the Commission’s requirement that to qualify for charity status, an organisation should not support or oppose a political party or political candidate, although they may engage in political activity. Yet the Board has done this with its requirement that the Labour Party, and only the Labour Party, has to sign up to its 10 pledges to rid itself of anti-Semitism. When Mr Maginn asked the Board why they insisted that it should only be the Labour party who should do this, the Board said that it was ‘infested’ with ‘anti-Jewish racism’.

This is sheer nonsense. Of course there’s anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, just as there’s anti-Semitism unfortunately throughout British society. But despite what the Board, the Chief Rabbinate, and witch-hunting organisations like the woefully misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism would have us all believe, it is actually much lower in the Labour Party. Jewish Voice for Labour, which has larger and far more authentically Jewish members than the sham outfit, the Jewish Labour Movement, real name Paole Zion, has repeatedly pointed this out. And there have been a stream of Jewish Labour Party members, who’ve said the same. They’ve said that, while they know it must exist, they have never come across it themselves. And some of these are members of very long standing. This impression is supported by the Community Security Trust, who gather statistics on anti-Semitic crime and incidents. Their stats show that the incidence of anti-Semitism rises the further to the right you go, and so statistically the Labour Party is less anti-Semitic than the Tories. And three-quarters of anti-Semitic incidents recorded by the CST come from the far right. As you’d expect.

Simon asked the BoD why they were therefore targeting the Labour Party when the stats said otherwise. He states that they offered ‘no statistical rebuttal’.

Simon then says

“Thus, the BoD have made a very public statement that the Labour Party is problematic based on faulty data. They are ‘opposing’ the Labour Party in so doing. The issue is politically sensitive. The BoD’s ’10 point pledge’ has had enormous publicity, with all the Labour leadership candidates signing up to it. This, in my opinion, amounts to the BoD ‘opposing’ the Labour Party by singling them out for opprobrium and not demanding any other party sign the pledge.

“I think this politicisation of the BoD’s activities presents a negative image of charities, which the British people believe to be politically neutral. The suggestion that a charity might be using its charitable status to oppose one party and, by implication, support another is damaging to the reputation of the charitable sector generally.”

Mike in his discussion of this says it’s a strong argument, and will be interesting to see what the Charity Commission does with it. Particularly as it’s already investigating the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism for the same reasons.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/02/18/charity-commission-urged-to-take-action-over-political-activity-by-board-of-deputies/

But this was never about anti-Semitism to begin with.

Not the real hatred of Jews, simply because they’re Jews. This is the dictionary definition of anti-Semitism, and the one adhered to by one of the odious organisations behind modern anti-Semitism, the German Bund Antisemisten. But the Board of Deputies wasn’t interested in that. This was all about getting the Labour Party to adopt the I.H.R.C. definition of anti-Semitism and its examples, in order to prevent criticism of Israel’s oppression and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. The BoD, Chief Rabbinate, Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and their counterparts in the Labour Party, Paole Zion, er, I mean the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel, were frightened of changes to the Labour leadership long before Corbyn was elected. They started screaming that it was anti-Semitic when the Jewish Ed Miliband was elected, because he dared to criticise Israel. And they panicked when Corbyn was elected, because he is a long-time anti-racism activist who has consistently supported Palestinian rights. Along with supporting Britain’s Jewish communities. Mike and other bloggers have put up ad nauseam a long list of Corbyn’s actions to defend the country’s Jews. One of the best known of these is when he helped prevent the redevelopment of an historic Haredi Jewish cemetery. And he is also absolutely not an enemy of Israel. He just wants it to stop persecuting its indigenous Arabs.

Critics of Israel like Norman Finkelstein, the Jewish American academic, have pointed out that Israel is unable to counter criticism of its policies on factual grounds. It has therefore concentrated on smearing its opponents as anti-Semites. This is what the Israel lobby in this country was doing when it attacked Corbyn and the Labour Party. The accusations were very definitely politically motivated, and had a ready audience in the Conservative political and media establishment. These were all too eager to broadcast and amplify these smears to the widest possible audience, while ignoring the very many Jews and Jewish organisations that denied and contradicted these smears.

Simon’s absolutely correct, but I’m afraid I don’t see the Charity Commission acting. I’ve heard a number of stories about serious and flagrant mismanagement of charities. But it seems the Commission is very reluctant to act unless there’s no way it can get out of it. In this, it seems to resemble the Financial Services Authority, which is supposed to police the banking and financial sector. This is so loath to act on cases of wrongdoing that Private Eye has nicknamed it the ‘Fundamentally Supine Authority’.

But I hope the Charity Commission will prove me wrong in this, and hope they will investigate thoroughly this obvious case of definite, selective political opposition by the Board.

Simon has also published a series of Tweets criticising the Board’s 10 pledges and the reactions of the Labour leadership hopefuls to them. He points out that they won’t end the anti-Semitism controversy and Board’s meddling in the Labour Party. They’ll just increase it until the Party is destroyed. See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/02/19/labours-leader-candidates-seem-determined-to-destroy-their-own-party-heres-how-it-works/

 

 

The Beeb’s Biased Reporting of NHS Privatisation

January 2, 2020

The Corporation’s General Right-wing Bias

The BBC is infamous for its flagrant right-wing bias. Writers and experts like Barry and Savile Kushner in their Who Needs the Cuts, academics at the media research centres of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff Universities, and ordinary left-wing bloggers like Mike and Zelo Street have pointed out time and again that the corporation massively prefers to have as commenters and guests on its show Conservative MPs and spokespeople for the financial sector on its news and political comment programmes, rather than Labour MPs and activists and trade unionists. The Corporation relentless pushed the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. But it has also promoted the privatisation of the NHS too through its biased reporting.

Biased Towards NHS Privatisation

Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis’ book on the privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS, has a chapter by Oliver Huitson, ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, discussing the biased reporting of the NHS’s privatisation by the media in general. Here, however, I will just confine myself to describing the Corporation’s role. The Beeb was frequently silent and did not report vital pieces of information about successive privatisations, such as the involvement of private healthcare companies in demanding them and conflicts of interest. On occasion, this bias was actually worse than right-wing rags like the Daily Mail. Although these ardently supported the NHS’ privatisation, they frequently reported these cases while the Beeb did not. When the moves towards privatisation were reported, they were often given a positive spin. For example, the establishment of the Community Care Groups, groups of doctors who are supposed to commission medical services from the private sector as well as from within the NHS, and which are legally allowed to raise money from the private sector, were positively described by the Corporation as ‘giving doctors more control’.

Lack of Coverage of Private Healthcare Companies Role in Privatisation

David Cameron and Andrew Lansley did not include Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill in the Tories’ 2010 manifesto, because they didn’t believe they’d win the election if they did. But in all the two years of debate about the bill, the Beeb only twice reported doubts about the bill’s democratic mandate. (p.152). In October 2010, Mark Britnell was invited to join Cameron’s ‘kitchen cabinet’. Britnell had worked with the Labour government and was a former head of commissioning for the NHS. But he was also former head of health for the accountancy firm, KPMG, which profits greatly from government privatisation and outsourcing. He declared that the NHS would be shown ‘no mercy’ and would become a ‘state insurance provider, not a state deliverer’. But the BBC decided not to report all this until four days after others had broken the story. And when they did, it was only to explain a comment by Nick Clegg about how people are confused when they hear politicians stating how much they love the NHS while at the same time demanding its privatisation. (pp.153-4).

On 21 November 2011 Channel 4 News reported that they had obtained a document which showed clearly that GP commissioning was intended to create a market for private corporations to come in and take over NHS services. But This was only reported by the Groaniad and the Torygraph. The rest of the media, including the Beeb, ignored it. (pp. 156-7).

Lansley was also revealed to have received donations from Andrew Nash, chairman of Care UK, another private healthcare firm hoping to profit from NHS privatisation. But this also was not reported by the Corporation. (pp. 157-8).

In January 2011 the Mirror reported that the Tories had been given over £750,000 from donors with major connections to private healthcare  interests since David Cameron had become their chief in 2005. But this was also not mentioned by the Beeb. (pp. 158).

The Mirror also found that 40 members of the House of Lords had interests in NHS privatisation, while the Social Investigations blog suggested that it might be as high as 142. The BBC, along with several papers, did not mention this. (pp. 158-9).

Sonia Poulton, a writer for the Heil, stated on her blog that 31 Lords and 18 MPs have very lucrative interests in the health industry. But this was also ignored by the Beeb, along with the rest of the media with the exception of the Guardian. (p. 159).

The Tory MP, Nick de Bois, was a fervent support of the Tories’ NHS privatisation. He is a majority shareholder in Rapier Design Group, which purchased Hampton Medical Conferences, a number of whose clients were ‘partners’ in the National Association of Primary Care, another group lobbying the Tories for NHS privatisation. This was also not reported by the Beeb. (pp. 159-60).

The Beeb also chose not to report how Lord Carter of Coles, the chair of the Co-operation and Competition Panel charged with ensuring fair access to the NHS for private healthcare companies, was also receiving £799,000 per year as chairman of McKesson Information Solutions, part of the massive American McKesson healthcare company. (p. 160).

There were other links between politicos, think tanks, lobby groups and private healthcare companies. The health regulator, Monitor, is dominated by staff from McKinsey and KPMG. But this also isn’t mentioned by the press. (pp. 160-1).

Beeb Falsely Presents Pro-Privatisation Think Tanks as ‘Independent

The BBC, along with much of the rest of the media, have also been responsible for misrepresenting spokespeople for pro-privatisation lobby groups as disinterested experts, and the organisations for which they speak as just independent think tanks. This was how the Beeb described 2020health.org, whose chief executive, Julia Manning, was twice invited onto the air to discuss the NHS, and an entire article was given over to one of her wretched organisation’s reports. However, SpinWatch reported that its chairman, former Tory minister Tom Sackville, was also CEO of the International Federation of Health Plans, representing of 100 private health insurance companies. Its advisory council includes representatives of AstraZeneca, NM Rothschild, the National Pharmaceutical Association, Nuffield private hospital group, and the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services. (p. 162).

Another lobby group whose deputy director, Nick Seddon, and other employees were invited onto the Beeb to discuss the proposals was Reform. Seddon was head of communications at Circle, the first private healthcare company to take over an NHS hospital. Seddon’s replacement at Circle was Christina Lineen, a former aide to Andrew Lansley. None of this was reported by the Beeb. Their corporate partners included companies like Citigroup, KPMG, GlaxoSmithKline and Serco. Huitson states ‘Through Seddon’s and other Reform Staffs’ appearances, the BBC may have facilitated private sector lobbying on a publicly funded platform without making relevant interests known’. (163).

Beeb Did Not Cover Protests and Opposition to Bill

Pages 164-5 also discusses the Beeb’s refusal, with few exceptions, to interview critics of Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill, the rightwing bias of panels discussing it and how the Beeb did not cover protests against it or its discussion in parliament. Huitson writes

At the BBC opportunities were frequently missed to provide expert opposition to the bill on a consistent basis. the RCGP’s Clare Gerada was largely the exception to this rule. Many of the most well-known and authoritative critics of the bill – the likes of professors Allyson Pollock or Colin Leys, doctors Jacky Davis and Wendy Savage from Keep Our NHS Public – never appeared on the BBC to discuss the plans. Davis recalls being invited to appear on the BBC a number of times but the item was cancelled on every occasion. ‘Balance’ is supposedly one of the BBC’s primary objectives yet appearing on the Today programme of 1 February 2012 to discuss the bill, for instance, were Shirley Williams (who voted in favour of the bill, however reluctantly), Nick Seddon of ‘independent’ Reform (pro-Bill), Steve Field (pro-Bill) and Chris Ham (pro-Bill). It’s difficult to see how that is not a breach of BBC guidelines and a disservice to the public. One of the fundamental duties of an open media is to ensure that coverage is not skewed towards those with the deepest pockets. And on that issue the media often performed poorly.

Further criticism of the BBC stems from its curious lack of NHS coverage during the climactic final month before the bill was passed in the House of Lords on 19 March. One such complaint came from blogger and Oxford Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology Dorothy Bishop, who wrote to the BBC to ask why it had failed to cover a number of NHS stories in March, including an anti-bill petition that had been brought to the House by Lord Owen, carrying 486,000 signatures of support. In reply, the BBC confirmed that the bill had been mentioned on the Today programme in March prior to the bill’s passing, though just once. Bishop replied:’So, if I have understood this right, during March, the Today programme covered the story once, in an early two-minute slot, before the bill was passed. Other items that morning included four minutes on a French theme park based on Napoleon, six minutes on international bagpipe day and eight minutes on Jubilee celebrations.’

Other BBC omissions include Andrew Lansley being heckled by angry medical staff at a hospital in Hampstead, as reported by both the Mail and Sky News. On 17 March a peaceful anti-bill march took place in central London. Those out protesting for their national health service found themselves kettled by riot police despite being one of the most harmless-looking crowds you’re ever likely to see. The protest and the shameful police response were completely ignored by the media, except for a brief mention on a Guardian blog. On social media numerous examples have been reported of protests and actions opposing the bill that were entirely absent from national coverage.

Then, on 19 March, the day of the final vote on the bill, the BBC ran not a single article on the event, despite this being one of the most bitterly opposed pieces of legislation in recent history – it was as if the vote was not taking place. The next day, with the bill passed, they ran a full seven articles on the story. Three days after the bill passed, Radio 4 broadcast The Report: ‘Simon Cox asks: why is NHS reform mired in controversy?’ Why this was not broadcast before the Lords’ vote is a mystery. 

When the Bill was passed, the bill scrolling across the BBC News’ screen ran ‘Bill which gives power to GPs passes’. (166). Huitson remarks that when the Beeb and the other news networks reported that the Bill gave power to GPs and allowed a greater role for the private sector, it was little more than regurgitating government press releases. (p. 168).

Beeb Bias Problem Due to Corporation’s Importance and Domination of Broadcast News

Huitson also comments on the specific failure of the Beeb to provide adequate coverage of NHS privatisation in its role as one of the great British public institutions, the dominant role it has in British news reporting. On pages 169-70 he writes

Campaigners may not expect more from the Sun but they certainly do from the BBC, given its status as an impartial public service broadcaster whose news gathering is supported directly by licence fee payers. The BBC accounts for 70 per cent of news consumption on television. Further, the BBC accounts for 40 per cent of online news read by the public, three times that of its closes competitor, the Mail. Quite simply, the BBC dominates UK news. The weight given to the BBC here is not purely down to its dominance, however, but also because, along with the NHS, the BBC remains one of our great public institutions, an entity that is supposedly above commercial pressures. Many of the stories ignored by the BBC were covered by the for-profit, right-wing press, as well as the Guardian and Channel 4, so the concern is not that the organisation failed to ‘campaign’ for the NHS, but that it failed to report facts that other outlets found newsworthy.

The BBC’#s archive of TV and radio coverage is neither available for the public to research nor technically practical to research, but there are a number of reasons for confidence that their online content is highly indicative of their broader output. First, BBC online is a fully integrated part of the main newsroom rather than a separate operation. Consequently, TV and radio coverage that can be examined is largely indistinguishable from the related online content, as demonstrated in the examples given above. During the debate of Lansley’s bill, the BBC TV and radio were both subject to multiple complaints, the figures for which the BBC has declined to release.

Beeb’s Reporting of NHS Privatisation as Biased as Coverage of Miners’ Strike

He also compares the Beeb’s coverage of the bill, along with that of the rest of the media, to its similarly biased reporting of the miners’ strike.

The overall media coverage of the health bill brings to mind a quote from BBC radio correspondent Nicholas Jones, on the BBC’s coverage of the miners’ strike: ‘stories that gave prominence to the position of the National Union of Miners could simply be omitted, shortened or submerged into another report.’ (pp. 172-3).

Conclusion

The Beeb does produce some excellent programmes. I really enjoyed last night’s Dr. Who, for example. But the right-wing bias of its news reporting is now so extreme that in many cases it is fair to say that it is now a propaganda outlet for the Tory party and big business. It’s utterly indefensible, and in my view it will only be reformed if and when the newsroom and its managers are sacked in its entirety. In the meantime, Boris and the rest of the Tories are clamouring for its privatisation. Godfrey Bloom, one of the more prominent Kippers, has also put up a post or two in the past couple of days demanding precisely that.

If the Beeb was genuinely impartial, it would have defenders on the Left. But it is rapidly losing them thanks to its bias. And to the Tories, that’s also going to be a plus.

Thanks to the Beeb’s own Tory bias, it’s going to find it very hard to combat their privatisation.

And in the meantime they will have helped destroy the most valued of British institutions, the NHS, and free, universal healthcare to Britain’s citizens.

Book on Austerity as State Violence

December 21, 2019

The Violence of Austerity, Vickie Cooper and David Whyte, eds. (London: Pluto Press 2017).

Okay, I realise that this isn’t the kind of book most of us would choose to read at Christmas. We’d rather have something a bit more full of seasonal good cheer. I also realise that as it published nearly three years ago in 2017, it’s somewhat dated. But it, and books like it, are needed and still extremely topical now than 14 million people have been duped into electing Old Etonian Tory Boris Johnson.

I found the book in one of the many excellent secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. I was particularly drawn to it because of its title, and the titles of the chapters it contains. It’s a collection of papers describing the Tories’ attack on the poor, the disabled, the marginalised, the unemployed, homeless and BAME communities, and particularly women of colour, as forms of violence. This isn’t mere hyperbole. The book discusses real instances of violence by the state and its officials, as well as landlords and private corporations and individuals. Mike in his articles on the Tories’ wretched benefits sanctions has argued time and again that this is a form of state violence against the disabled, and that it constitutes genocide through the sheer scale of the deaths it has caused: 130,000 at a conservative estimate. It’s therefore extremely interesting that others attacking and campaigning against austerity share the same view. The blurb for the book runs

Austerity, the government’s response to the aftermath of the financial crisis, continues to devastate contemporary Britain. Thius books brings together campaigners and writers including Danny Dorling, Mary O’Hara and Rizwaan Sabir to show that austerity is a form of systematic violence.

Covering notorious cases of institutional violence, including workfare, fracking and mental health scandals, the book argues that police attacks on the homeless, violent evictions in the rented sector, community violence and cuts to the regulation of the social protection are all being driven by reductions in public sector funding. The result is a shocking exposes of the ways in which austerity policies harm people in Britain.

One of the editors, Vickie Cooper, is a lecturer in Social Policy and Criminology at the Open University, while the other, David Whyte, is professor of Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Liverpool. He is also the editor of How Corrupt Is Britain, another scathing look at the UK under the Tories.

The book’s introduction by the editors is on the violence of austerity. After that it is divided into four sections, each on different aspects of austerity and its maltreatment of the poor.

Part 1, ‘Deadly Welfare’, contains the following chapters

  1. Mental Health and Suicide, by Mary O’Hara
  2. Austerity and Mortality, by Danny Dorling
  3. Welfare Reforms and the Attack on Disabled People, by John Pring
  4. The Violence of Workfare by Jon Burnett and David Whyte
  5. The Multiple Forms of Violence in the Asylum System by Victoria Canning
  6. The Degradation and Humiliation of Young People, by Emma Bond and Simon Hallsworth.

Part II, ‘Poverty Amplification’, has these

7. Child Maltreatment and Child Mortality, by Joanna Mack
8. Hunger and Food Poverty, by Rebecca O’Connell and Laura Hamilton
9. The Deadly Impact of Fuel Poverty, by Ruth London
10. The Violence of the Debtfare State, by David Ellis
11. Women of Colour’s Anti-Austerity Activism, by Akwugo Emejulu and Leah Bassel
12. Dismantling the Irish Peace Process, by Daniel Holder

Part III, ‘State Regulation’, includes

13. Undoing State Protection, by Steve Tombs
14. Health and Safety at the Frontline of Austerity, by Hilda Palmer and David Whyte
15. Environmental Degradation, by Charlotte Burns and Paul Tobin
16. Fracking and State Violence, by Will Jackson, Helen Monk and Joanna Gilmore
17. Domicide, Eviction and Repossession, by Kirsteen Paton and Vickie Cooper
18. Austerity’s Impact on Rough Sleeping and Violence, by Daniel McCulloch.

Part IV, ‘State Control’, has these chapters

19. Legalising the Violence of Austerity, by Robert Knox
20. The Failure to Protect Women in the Criminal Justice System, by Maureen Mansfield and Vickie Cooper
21. Austerity, Violence and Prisons, by Joe Sim
22. Evicting Manchester’s Street Homeless, by Steven Speed
23. Policing Anti-Austerity through the ‘War on Terror’ by Rizwaan Sabir
24. Austerity and the Production of Hate, by Jon Burnett.

These are all subjects that left-wing blogs like Vox Political, Another Angry Voice, Pride’s Purge have all covered and discussed. The last chapter, ‘Austerity and the Production of Hate’, is on a subject that Mike’s discussed several times in Vox Political: the way the Tory press and media justifies the savage attacks on the poor and disabled through stirring up hatred against them. Mike has published several articles on the way Tory propaganda has resulted in vicious attacks on the poor, particularly the homeless.

This violence and campaign of hatred isn’t going to stop after Boris’ victory, and his appeal for healing after the election is just rhetoric. He doesn’t want healing, he wants compliance and complacency. He doesn’t deserve them, and should not be given any, because from now on he and his party will only step up the attacks.

Don’t be taken in by establishment lies. Keep working to get him out!

Tory NHS Lies Now Too Much for Private Eye

November 29, 2019

The colossal lies put out by the Tory party about building new hospitals, recruiting new nurses, and expanding the number of GP appointments have been ripped to shreds by leftwing bloggers and news and comment sites like Mike’s, Zelo Street and many, many others. And it seems Private Eye now shares that highly critical views. On page 7 of their latest edition for 29th November to 12th December 2019 there’s this little article, ‘Tory Story’. It runs

It’s hard to rank the Conservative’s NHS pledges in order of ridiculousness.

“40 new hospitals”, but only six existing refurbs named and costed; 50,000 new nurses – when 19,000 of them are already employed by the NHS which is already 40,000 nurses short; or 50m more GP appointments when the number of GPs has fallen despite a previous failed pledge to recruit another 5,000. But dwarfing all of these is the absurd pledge that no one will have to sell their house to fund social care, with nothing in their manifesto to explain how.

In other words, the last is yet another empty Tory election promise that they’ve no intention of keeping. This seems to be a bit of a volte face on the part of Eye’s editor, Ian Hislop. I can remember him making a sarcastic comment about Labour’s opposition to people having to pay for their social care on I Have I Got News For You. Possibly something changed in the meantime, and one of Hislop’s relatives is now having to face the possibility of selling their home to pay for it.

Either way, it shows that people are realising that the Tories’ lies about improving the NHS are just that – lies. While they privatise it.

Zionist Ben Shapiro’s Rhetoric Causing Anti-Semitism

August 27, 2019

This is a very interesting and no doubt controversial video from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, in which he shows the link between Shapiro’s rhetoric about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Jews and an attack on a synagogue in Indiana. Shapiro is a Republican mouthpiece, a very aggressive Zionist and Jewish. Seder’s also Jewish, describing himself as ‘the most Jewish guy you know’. But Seder’s also left-wing and a determined critic of Israel. He takes Shapiro to task for his sharp distinction between good and bad Jews, based on ethnicity versus religious practice, as distinction which is also made by neo-Nazis. And ‘bad Jews’ are Jews, who vote Democrat and specifically for Barack Obama.

Seder wondered what would happen if a public figure said something that inspired someone to commit a horrible act. And not only did they inspire the perp, they also made an equation that the perp cited as the cause for his committing the horrible act. Shapiro tried this with the Nazi, who shot up the synagogue in Pittsburgh, claiming that the Nazi was following an ideology similar to Ilhan Omar, the Muslim Congresswoman and critic of Israel. This is untrue. The Nazi didn’t, and he didn’t cite Omar as an explanation for his murder of the Synagogue’s congregation. But it has happened in the case of Shapiro and two Nazis, who vandalised a synagogue in Indiana.

The Nazis were Nolan and Kiyomi Brewer, and their crime was painting a Nazi swastika and Iron Crosses on a wall of a synagogue in Carmel. Nolan, the husband, was apparently law abiding, docile and passive. He was drawn into it by his wife, Kiyomi. She stated in her defence that she was led into the dark world of Nazism through mainstream right-wing news sites and organisations like Ben Shapirok Breitbart and Fox News. She then moved onto Stormfront, and then a Nazi site on the Discord Server. She and her husband also stated in the court papers that they deliberately selected that particular synagogue because it was full of ethnic Jews. This follows the neo-Nazi claim that Hitler wasn’t against religious Jews, but only against ethnic Jews.

Seder then shows with a series of tweets from 2011, 2016 and this year, that Shapiro himself makes the distinction. In one, he claimed that the Jewish community had always been undermined by bad Jews, and that these bad Jews voted Democrat. In the 2016 tweet, he said that there was a distinction between ethnically and religious Jews. Bernie Sanders was ethnically Jewish, and so passed the first standard, but not a Jew at all by the second standard.

Seder also shows a clip from the interview Shapiro gave with Andrew Neil, which was so embarrassing for Shapiro that he claimed that Neil was some kind of Leftist. Neil isn’t. He’s a Tory. Neil asked him about his claim that bad Jews voted for Barack Obama. Shapiro then tried to get around it by saying that American Jews were largely secular, and so his claim about nonreligious Jews was correct. Neil wasn’t going to be diverted, and stated that he hadn’t said that. He had said that bad Jews voted for Barack Obama.

Shapiro apparently has a list of stupid things he’s said on his website, and this comment is now one of them. But as Seder shows, Shapiro was still defending his comment on Neil’s show just weeks before in 2019. This is disgusting, and he wonders how many times Shapiro can say stupid things like it, which go down on his list, before newspapers like the New York Times stop giving him fawning headlines like ‘The Philosopher for the Cool Kids’. Seder cites her a tweet by Almanaqa refuting another tweet by Shapiro denying that he planned the synagogue attack. He didn’t, and nobody is saying that he did. But his rhetoric did inspire the attackers. Seder also makes the point that this is what the Intellectual Dark Web, so beloved of extreme right-wing ideologues, is actually about – Nazi sites like Gab. He concludes by attacking Shapiro once again for his comments and demanding that he be held responsible for them.

I’m blogging about this because this isn’t just an American problem. In this country the lamestream media, the Conservatives and the Blairites in the Labour party are using the same Nazi distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Jews to smear the Jewish supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, as Jewish and gentile left-wing bloggers like Tony Greenstein, Martin Odoni, David Rosenberg, Jewish Voice for Labour, Mike Sivier, Tim Fenton of Zelo Street and Tom of Another Angry Voice have pointed out.

It isn’t quite a distinction between ethnic and religious Jews, as the racism has included very religious, ultra-Orthodox Jews like Shraga Stern. But there is a particular venom within the Zionist right at Israel-critical Jews, like Greenstein and Jackie Walker, who are subjected to the vilest abuse. Abuse which would be considered anti-Semitic if it came from gentiles.

And right-wing Zionists do ally themselves with the Islamophobic and Nazi right. They have links to Tommy Robinson and the EDL, as well as Paul Besser and Britain First. Tony Greenstein’s put up long articles identifying the organisations and individuals involved. These include Jewish Fascist organisations, like Herut. When the Board of Deputies and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis organised their farcical rally against the Labour party last year, two of the Zionists attending sported T-shirts bearing the Kach logo. Kach was a Judaeo-Nazi terrorist organisation banned in Israel. And then there’s the antics of the former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, who led a British contingent to the March of the Flags day in Israel. This is when Jewish Nazi thugs march round the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem, vandalising homes and businesses and intimidating the locals. The same Jonathan Sacks, who declared Reform Jews were ‘enemies of the faith’. Which is the rhetoric of persecution.

Those smeared as an anti-Semites by the witch-hunters – the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Board of Deputies and so on – have received death threats. Jackie Walker has been horrendously vilified. She has been told that she’s not Jewish, because she’s Black, and that she should be lynched and her body burnt or put in bin bags. Chris Williamson, the Labour MP, who rightly said that Labour had given too much ground to those making false accusations of anti-Semitism, has also received death threats.

So I wonder how long it’s going to be before someone attacks a Jewish supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, and then states in court that they were doing it because he or she was ‘the wrong type of Jew’, and they were radicalised by Sacks, Mirvis, Gideon Falter and Marie van der Zyle.

 

 

 

 

Brendan O’Neill Claims El Paso Mass Murderer ‘Eco-Terrorist’

August 10, 2019

Is there no lie so low that Brendan O’Neill and Spiked won’t stoop to? Spiked magazine, as has been pointed out by various left-wing blogs, is completely unrelated to the satirical magazine of the same name that briefly appeared in the 1990s. That was an attempt to compete with Private Eye, but rather more left-wing and much more scatological. It had a cartoon strip spoofing Clinton with the title ‘Clinton’s Got Aides’, for example, which was presumably a pun about both the presidential staffers and the disease. The modern Spiked is frantically right-wing. It’s what happened to the net work around Living Marxism magazine after Communism collapsed. Instead of carrying on the ideological struggle for equality and workers’ rights, the former Revolutionary Communists decided to throw on in their lot with capitalism and became extremely right-wing. And one of their latest pieces of drivel is very unpleasant indeed.

On Thursday, the Sage of Crewe put up on Zelo Street a piece taking apart an article by Brendan O’Neill, one of Spiked’s hacks, who decided to vent his spleen and try to smear the left with the El Paso massacre last weekend. You’d have thought this would be difficult, as the murderer was a White supremacist with a bitter hatred of immigrants. Like the White terrorist a few months ago who shot up the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, because they were Jews, who were heavily involved with a charity for immigrants. But no, for O’Neill it was because the mass-murderer was an ‘eco-terrorist’. O’Neill’s piece began

In his alleged manifesto, the killer, alongside his racist rants about Hispanic people and the ‘replacement’ of whites, attacks modern society for being eco-unfriendly. Westerners’ lifestyles are ‘destroying the environment’ and ‘creating a massive burden for future generations’, he says. He seems obsessed with the core element of green thinking.

He then went on to state that the murderer in his manifesto was also strongly opposed to urban sprawl, consumer culture for producing thousands of tonnes of plastic and electronic waste, and humanity’s decimation of the environment. He also alleged that the murderer targeted a Wal-Mart as an act of ‘eco-Malthusianism’. O’Neill speculated that he not only wanted to kill Latinos, but also shoppers. He also claimed that the butcher, who opened fire on the worshippers at the mosque in Christchurch said that he was an ‘eco-Fascist’ not a Nazi. The Zelo Street article effectively tears O’Neill’s nonsense to shreds, quoting a comment by Zubaida Haque:

Brendan O’Neill’s piece is utterly dishonest. I’ve seen the manifesto thru a journalist. It’s almost entirely focused on immigrants and barely mentions environmentalists. And there’s a whole section on guns, how it’s great that US have them and how the killer needed to adapt his”.

Zelo Street notes that, strangely, O’Neill’s article doesn’t mention that. He also skewers the article’s attempts to appear mildly even-handed by throwing in a few ‘perhaps’ and ‘it seems’ when the title of the wretched article asserts that ‘El Paso was a vile act of eco-terrorism’. He concludes that O’Neill is a massive charlatan, ‘so no change there then’.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/08/brendan-o-neill-out-trolls-himself.html

There are several points of interest about the article, and how it tries to divert attention from the attacker’s real motives. One is O’Neill’s careful avoidance of informing his readers that the El Paso terrorist was a gun nut. The Republican party gets a considerable amount of funding from the NRA, whose leadership get donations from the gun and munitions companies. Most Americans, including the rank and file members of the NRA, would actually like tougher legislation on certain types firearms to prevent atrocities like this occurring. Or at least, preventing the killers from having access to military-grade weaponry. But because of the power of corporate sponsorship, this is ignored in favour of the fanatics, who believe that every American should have the right to own the type of guns and armaments wielded by professional soldiers. In the name of freedom, of course.

The argument here is that a free people need guns in order to defend themselves from an oppressive regime. The Holocaust is often cited as an example. If the Jews had guns, it’s argued, they could have successfully fought off the Nazis. This ignores the fact that the legislation permitting and demanding their persecution was gradually enacted, so that it is difficult to tell when German and eastern European Jews could have rebelled before it was too late. Furthermore, while the Jews were disarmed, the Nazis were also very firmly in favour of ‘Aryan’ Germans owning firearms. And in many cases, Jews did not go passively to the gas chambers, but rose in heroic revolt. But this didn’t help them, because they were pitched against the massively superior force of the German armed forces. No matter how incredibly bravely they fought, it was inevitable that, with the exception of the Russian Jews, who banded together in that country’s forests, they’d lose.

Guns don’t guarantee freedom. And the availability of military-grade weapons to the public just makes atrocities like El Paso possible, regardless of the views of doubtless responsible weapons hobbyists.

There’s also the attempt in O’Neill’s article to smear Green politics with the taint of Fascism. The Republicans in America have been doing that for a very long time. I remember coming across this type of argument in the 1980s. This argues that because the Nazis were very ecologically aware, environmentalism itself is somehow automatically Fascist. This obviously ignores the central features of Fascism – dictatorship, extreme nationalism, racism and militarism. It also ignores the fact that the roots of the modern Green movement lies in the increasing appreciation of the threatened beauty of the natural world from the 19th century onward by thinkers and social movements that had nothing to do with Nazism or organised anti-Semitism. One source of the American Conservationist movement, for example, is working class huntsmen. The same people the American Right tends to celebrate and defend. In fact much of the early Conservationist movement in both America and Britain came from the first few generations of factory workers, who yearned for the beauty of the countryside their parents and grandparents had left in search of work. At the same time, local authorities and the wider public in Britain became concerned about the threat to the countryside from urban sprawl and the dangers to health from industrial pollution, lack of sanitation and overcrowding. One early example of this new sensibility in art is Cruikshank’s 1829 cartoon, London Going Out of Town, which shows the capital, represented by decaying buildings, and personified by marching, anthropomorphic buckets and spades, invading a terrified, equally anthropomorphised countryside.

O’Neill’s piece also shows how desperate the Anglo-American Right are to divert attention from the role of nationalism in the rising racism and the resulting atrocities. Remember how Candace Owens, when she appeared over here to promote Turning Point UK, tried to distance nationalism from the Nazis? She notoriously claimed that, in her opinion, Hitler wasn’t a nationalist. He was the opposite of a nationalist, she claimed, because he didn’t want what was right for his own country. He imposed it on others. She was rightly torn to shreds for this piece of utter bunkum by people, who pointed out that her wretched comment seemed to suggest that it would have been all right for Hitler to exterminate the Jews, if he had just kept to those in Germany. They also pointed out that Hitler actively said that he was a nationalist. It was in his party’s name: the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP). Conservatives, not just in America, like to claim that he was a socialist on the basis of the party’s name, despite the fact that the Nazis weren’t and were actively hostile to it, whatever they said to the contrary. But they really don’t want to face the fact that he also rightly claimed to be a nationalist.

O’Neill’s article is thus absolute rubbish, designed to protect nationalism and the gun lobby by throwing the blame instead on the Green movement. It’s an example of Spiked’s absolute mendacity, and is pretty much in line with the Right’s hatred of environmentalism and its increasing concern to defend racism and extreme nationalism. And unfortunately, as governments in America and Britain move rightward, I fear we can expect more of this dangerous nonsense.

The Tories and the War on Drugs

June 16, 2019

There’s been some amusement to be had this past week with various leading Tories coming out and admitting to having used drugs. Michael Gove confessed to having snorted cocaine, and Rory Stewart admitted that he’d smoked opium once, 20 odd years ago, when he was backpacking around Iran. It was at a wedding. He claimed that it couldn’t have affected him much, as he was walking 25 – 30 miles a day. My guess is that in reality he’d have been stoned out of his tiny patrician brain. It’s generally the lean, fit people, who are most affected by intoxicants, as you can see by all the tales about champion marathon runners and other athletes, who become massively drunk when they celebrate with half a pint of booze afterwards. Then there’s Paul Staines of the Guido Fawkes blog. He hasn’t come out of the stoner closet, but he was notorious as a Libertarian for taking and advocating DMT as a mind-expanding drug. My guess is that he’d need it. As a member of an organisation that was so right-wing, it invited the leader of one of Rios Montt’s death squads from El Salvador to be their guest of honour at their annual dinner, Staines would need some powerful hallucinogenics to convince himself he was a decent human being.

Boris is also widely suspected of having done drugs, and it’s almost certain that the allegations are true, and of continuing to use them. But he hasn’t confessed to it. When asked whether he had at a press conference about his candidacy for the Tory leadership, he brushed the question aside by claiming that he thought the British public were more interested in what he intended to do as politician than whether he took illegal substances. He might be right for some people. We’re so used to public figures, like actors, rock stars and other media celebrities, coming forward to admit that they took drugs some time in their lives, that it almost seems unremarkable. In some parts of the entertainment industry, it’s even to be expected, as with tales of pop musicians, which have become part of the general pattern of rock excess. However, Boris’ own political career isn’t any recommendation for him as Prime Ministerial material either. He’s been so egotistical and massively incompetent that many people would have to take large amounts of illegal chemicals to be persuaded otherwise.

Author’s impression of Theresa May with potential voter.

There’s more than a little fun to be had out of all this furore. Some wag with a better grasp of video editing than yours truly could provide us all with a laugh by cutting their speeches with bits from notorious films about drugs from the past. Like the 1950s anti-cannabis film, Reefer Madness, or David Cronenberg’s ’90s flick, The Naked Lunch, based on the notorious book by William S. Burroughs. This latter film is roughly based on Burrough’s own life, and is about a pest exterminator, who gets high on the ketamine he’s using to kill the insects. As the drug takes effect, he hallucinates that he’s some kind of SF spy, and has to make his report to Interzone before flying to Morocco after accidentally shooting his wife while they were playing William Tell. The hallucinations include the hero seeing everyone in a bar as mugwumps – humanoid lizards – and a gay talking typewriter-beetle. You could have some fun showing Boris sitting down to type his statement for the leadership election, but showing the hands of Cronenberg’s hero typing away at the beetle creature. Though as the beetle-typewriter then goes on to declare how wonderful homosexuality is, this scene might not be appropriate. The Tories have declared themselves at ease with the gay community, and no-one could ever accuse Boris of it. Another excellent film candidate for mixing with the Tory leadership speeches would be Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, based on the book by Hunter S. Thompson, illustrated by Ralph Steadman. Which also has a bar full of hallucinatory lizards, bats coming down out of the desert sky, and Richard Nixon erupting out of a TV set, amongst other bizarre visions.

But there’s also a very serious side to all this. The great commenters on Mike’s blog, when he covered this story, made some very good points about these people’s hypocrisy. They’ve all done drugs, and got away scot-free, in contrast to more ordinary users, who’d been to jail. One commenter told how he had a friend, who now suffers from PTSD because of what he’d experienced in prison after being convicted of a drugs offence. And the whole affair also seems to me to be a replay of a similar scandal back in 2004, when a number of other Tories confessed to having used cannabis.

The furore was started when Anne Widdecombe announced that she wanted harsher sentences for drugs, quite at variance with the party stance on the issue at the time. A number of Tories then came forward to announce that they’d taken it. Matthew Parris then gave his view about it all in an article he wrote for the Spectator. One Tory revealed that he had smoked cannabis at Oxford. This didn’t shock Parris, who was far more outraged by the way the august gentleman had consumed it. Parris declared that he could have been smoking cowpats for all he cared. What offended him was that the pretentious so and so had put it in his pipe. He smoked a pipe! It’s something you can imagine Rees-Mogg, the MP for the 18th century, doing. If he were inclined towards the substances used by Thomas De Quincy and Coleridge, of course.

This came at the time the government was considering changing its policy towards drug abuse. Much had been in the news about the success the Scandinavian countries, Portugal and Switzerland had achieved in their battle with illegal drugs, in contrast with Britain’s failure to combat or contain its growing drugs problem. These nations had a softer approach to tackling drug abuse. Addicts were treated not as criminals, but as sick people, who needed to be helped. But this was too namby-pamby for Widdecombe and those like her. Parris wrote that this had also been the policy in Britain, and had been giving positive results. But it all changed with the election of Ronald Reagan. Reagan wanted a war on drugs, and as American’s ally and the Special Relationship, we had to follow suit. The result was harsher sentences for drug offences, which actually had a negative effect on what they were trying to achieve. Treating drug addiction as a sickness makes sense, as no-one wants to be sick so they seek help. Criminalizing it, however, gives it a kind of glamour. You ain’t sick, you’re gangsta! Public enemy No. 1. And so far from deterring people from using drugs, the policy actually helps to promote it.

And then there’s the racism of the War on Drugs. Hillary Clinton deliberately played on White American fears of Black criminality when she announced Clinton’s new, tougher policies on drugs back in the 1990s. She talked about ‘superpredators’ – at the time, a term that was only used about Black men. The laws were also framed so that it targeted Blacks rather than Whites. Although studies have shown that Whites are just as likely to use drugs as Blacks, the majority of those arrested and convicted are Black. And I suspect that the situation is similar over here. Certainly it’s been clear to me from talking to Black friends that they believe that Blacks suffer disproportionately harsher punishment than White drug abusers. I know many Blacks, who won’t touch the stuff, and they make the point very clear to Whites trying to encourage them to do so.

It seems very clear to me that we need a return to a saner, more effective drugs policy. One that discourages it as it helps the victims by treating it as a disease, rather than giving it a spurious glamour it doesn’t deserve by criminalizing it. A policy that punishes and cures White and Black equally, instead of playing to White fears and racism.

But for me, the most toxic drug not mentioned in the Tory leadership contest is Conservatism. This has destroyed whole communities, and comprehensive wrecked Britain, creating poor healthcare, unemployment, despair, depression and general poor mental health, all while fostering racism, bigotry and bitter resentment against the poor, disabled and marginalised. It has done this while creating illusions of prosperity and national greatness. It’s time it was stopped. The pushers of this vile drug – Johnson, Gove, Leadsom and the rest of them – should be properly punished by losing any and every election they take part in. And the literature that encourages this vile drug – the Times, Torygraph, Mail, Sun and Express, should be binned at once and readers should turn to proper news outlets.

Only then can we look forward to a saner society, less afflicted by drugs.