Posts Tagged ‘Conservative Central Office’

The Majority Report: British Journo Calls Theresa May ‘A Glum-Bucket’

May 31, 2017

Our liberal friends and cousins across the Atlantic have also picked up on the pessimism and desperation that the British media have detected in May’s campaign. In this clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, the host comments on a clip from British TV where the man interviewing May states that her campaign has been ‘low-key’ and that she’s ‘a bit of a glum-bucket’ compared to the dynamism of Boris Johnson.

The Majority Report’s anchor says that the take such an interest in British politics, as compared to it, American culture is ‘adolescent’. But he comments that you need to have 100 years of decadence and imperialism before you get to call the Prime Minister ‘a glum-bucket’. And, he adds, you have to be ‘frickin’ mad’ to want Boris as your leader.

Of course, May rebuts the remark, stating with the fixed, squinting, rictus smile she adopts whenever anyone even obliquely suggests that she is not the greatest thing since Margaret Thatcher walked this earth, that she is very optimistic.

But the blurb for the clip on YouTube says it has obviously got her rattled.

Well, of course she’s rattled. Her lead in the polls have been cut down to 5 per cent, far more people in England trust Labour with the NHS, most people don’t want the backdoor privatisation the Tories – and New Labour – have been sneaking in, and Labour has far more sensible polices on defence than the Tories. Such as actually restoring the strength of our police, border guards and armed forces, which the Tories cut.

And May is a ‘glum bucket’. She very obviously does not like meeting the public, as is shown by the fact that she only conducts her meetings with ordinary people behind closed doors, and often they’ve been carefully selected beforehand, so it’s invitation only.

When she does encounter crowds, they boo her and she is left scuttling back to whichever grim biotechnology lab under Tory Central Office spawned her. A few days ago she was forced to beat a hasty retreat from a council estate in Bristol. Possibly she felt that she’d find some loyal, Alf Garnett-style working class Tories. What she found instead was local people ground down by welfare cuts, stagnant wages and zero hours contracts, who were understandably angry.

Hence a swift walk back to the black limousines, which vanished off as quick as they could.

Any optimism she affects is painfully false. And the fear underneath the mask is showing as the wheels fall off the Tory battle bus.

Labour Promises £37 Billion More for NHS While Hunt Peddles Away from Media

May 16, 2017

The current crisis hitting the NHS isn’t an accident. The Tories – and Blairites – have had a decades-long policy of privatising the NHS and starving it off funds going back to the days of the molten Tory tin goddess herself, Maggie Thatcher. Thatcher wanted to privatise the NHS as part of her campaign to destroy the welfare state as a whole. That she couldn’t was down to two things – there was a massive cabinet revolt, as they realised it would be, er ‘highly courageous’ in the words of Sir Humphrey in ‘Yes, Minister’. In other words, they knew it would cost them the next election. Also, her private secretary Patrick Jenkin actually visited America and found that there healthcare system is rubbish, with 55 million people unable to afford their health insurance before Obamacare, and about 30,000 folks dying every year due to lack of medical care.

But this didn’t stop her or them. She wanted to engineer a situation where 25 per cent of Brits would have private medical insurance. And over the next three decades and more the Tories and the Blairites opened up more of the NHS to private industry through the Private Finance Initiative and other schemes whereby private hospitals and clinics are now contracting in to provide services for the NHS, while the NHS is being privatised, starved of funds and broken up.

Even as far back as the 1970s Britain actually gave less funding to its health service than the other countries in what is now the EU. And that funding has been further slashed as part of a spurious programme of cutting the deficit by the Tories.

Jeremy Corbyn has said he intends to reverse this. He will find an extra £37 billion for the NHS, including £10 billion to correct the hardware problems, which left our health service vulnerable to hackers last weekend.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/15/a-tale-of-two-jeremys-corbyn-offers-37bn-to-help-the-nhs-hunt-runs-away/

So where does this leave the Tories?

Well, as the TV host Victoria Derbyshire tweeted, they had seventy years to solve the problems of the NHS, but didn’t.

One of the journos at the Beeb, Jon Ironmonger, doorstepped Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, for his comments on Labour’s pledge. The result is very telling. Hunt kept his mouth firmly shut, and peddled off as fast as he could into the London traffic.

Like May, Hunt depends on first being programmed by the spin doctors at Tory Central Office. Without Linton Crosby to type the soundbites into ZX 81 1 Kilobyte powerhouse that is his brain – for those of you, who remember ’80s home computers – Hunt and the rest of them have nothing to say. And so they disappear as fast as they can into the smoke and petrol fumes.

Reichwing Watch: How the Billionaires Brainwashed America

November 16, 2016

This is another excellent video from Reichwing Watch. Entitled Peasants for Plutocracy: How the Billionaires Brainwashed America, it’s about how wealthy industrialists, like the multi-billionaire Koch brothers, created modern Libertarianism and a stream of fake grassroots ‘astroturf’ organisations, in order to attack and roll back Roosevelt’s New Deal and the limited welfare state it introduced. And one of the many fake populist organisations the Koch brothers have set up is the Tea Party movement, despite the Kochs publicly distancing themselves from it.

The documentary begins with footage from an old black and white American Cold War propaganda movie, showing earnest young people from the middle decades of the last century discussing the nature of capitalism. It then moves on to Noam Chomsky’s own, very different perspective on an economy founded on private enterprise. Chomsky states that there has never been a purely capitalist economy. Were one to be established, it would very soon collapse, and so what we have now is state capitalism, with the state playing a very large role in keeping capitalism viable. He states that the alternative to this system is the one believed in by 19th century workers, in that the people, who worked in the mills should own the mills. He also states that they also believed that wage labour was little different from slavery, except in that it was temporary. This belief was so widespread that it was even accepted by the Republican party. The alternative to capitalism is genuinely democratic self-management. This conflicts with the existing power structure, which therefore does everything it can to make it seem unthinkable.

Libertarianism was founded in America in 1946/7 by an executive from the Chamber of Commerce in the form of the Foundation for Economic Education. This was basically a gigantic business lobby, financed by the heads of Fortune 500 companies, who also sat on its board. It’s goal was to destroy Roosevelt’s New Deal. Vice-President Wallace in an op-ed column in the New York Times stated that while its members posed as super-patriots, they wanted to roll back freedom and capture both state and economic power. The video also quotes Milton Friedman, the great advocate of Monetarism and free market economics, on capitalism as the system which offers the worst service at the highest possible profit. To be a good businessman, you have to be as mean and rotten as you can. And this view of capitalism goes back to Adam Smith. There is a clip of Mark Ames, the author of Going Postal, answering a question on why the media is so incurious about the true origins of Libertarianism. He states that they aren’t curious for the same reason the American media didn’t inquire into the true nature of the non-existent WMDs. It shows just how much propaganda and corruption there is in the American media.

The documentary then moves on to the Tea Party, the radical anti-tax movement, whose members deliberately hark back to the Boston Tea Party to the point of dressing up in 18th century costume. This section begins with clips of Fox News praising the Tea Party. This is then followed by Noam Chomsky on how people dread filling out their annual tax returns because they’ve been taught to see taxation as the state stealing their money. This is true in dictatorships. But in true democracy, it should be viewed differently, as the people at last being able to put into practice the plan in which everyone was involved in formulating. However, this frightens big business more than social security as it involves a functioning democracy. As a result, there is a concerted, and very successful campaign, to get people to fear big government.

The idea of the Tea Party was first aired by the CNBC reporter Rick Santilli in an on-air rant. Most of the Party’s members are normal, middle class Americans with little personal involvement in political campaigning. It is also officially a bi-partisan movement against government waste. But the real nature of the Tea Party was shown in the 2010 Tea Party Declaration of Independence, which stated that the Party’s aims were small government and a free market economy. In fact, the movement was effectively founded by the Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch. Back in the 1980s, David Koch was the Libertarian Party’s vice-president. The Libertarian Party’s 1980 platform stated that they intended to abolish just about every regulatory body and the welfare system. They intended to abolish the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Authority, Occupational Health and Safety Administration, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, National Labor Relations Board, the FBI, CIA, Federal Reserve, Social Security, Welfare, the public (state) schools, and taxation. They abandoned this tactic, however, after pouring $2 million of their money into it, only to get one per cent of the vote. So in 1984 they founded the first of their wretched astroturf organisation, Citizens for a Sound Economy. The name was meant to make it appear to be a grassroots movement. However, their 1998 financial statement shows that it was funded entirely by wealthy businessmen like the Kochs. In 2004 the CSE split into two – Freedom Works, and Americans for Prosperity. The AFP holds an annual convention in Arlington, Virginia, attended by some of its 800,000 members. It was the AFP and the Kochs who were the real organising force behind the Tea Party. Within hours of Santilli’s rant, he had been given a list of 1/2 million names by the Kochs. Although the Koch’s have publicly distanced themselves from the Tea Party, the clip for this section of the documentary shows numerous delegates at the convention standing up to declare how they had organised Tea Parties in their states. But it isn’t only the AFP that does this. Freedom Works, which has nothing to do with the Kochs, also funds and organises the Tea Parties.

Mark Crispin Miller, an expert on propaganda, analysing these astroturf organisations makes the point that for propaganda to be effective, it must not seem like propaganda. It must seem to come either from a respected, neutral source, or from the people themselves. Hence the creation of these fake astroturf organisations.

After its foundation in the late 1940s, modern Libertarianism was forged in the late 1960s and ’70s by Charles Koch and Murray Rothbard. Libertarianism had previously been the ideology of the John Birch Society, a group harking back to the 19th century. Koch and Rothbard married this economic extreme liberalism, with the political liberalism of the hippy counterculture. They realised that the hippies hated the state, objecting to the police, drug laws, CIA and the Vietnam war. Ayn Rand, who is now credited as one of the great founders of Libertarianism for her extreme capitalist beliefs, despised them. The film has a photo of her, next to a long quote in which she describes Libertarianism as a mixture of capitalism and anarchism ‘worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two different bandwagons… I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect.’

The documentary also goes on to show the very selective attitude towards drugs and democracy held by the two best-known American Libertarian politicos, Ron and Rand Paul. Despite the Libertarians’ supposedly pro-marijuana stance, the Pauls aren’t actually in favour of legalising it or any other drugs. They’re just in favour of devolving the authority to ban it to the individual states. If the federal government sends you to prison for weed, that, to them, is despotism. If its the individual state, it’s liberty.

And there’s a very telling place piece of footage where Ron Paul talks calmly about what a threat democracy is. He states clearly that democracy is dangerous, because it means mob rule, and privileges the majority over the minority. At this point the video breaks the conversation to show a caption pointing out that the Constitution was framed by a small group of wealthy plutocrats, not ‘we the people’. This is then followed by an American government film showing a sliding scale for societies showing their positions between the poles of democracy to despotism, which is equated with minority rule. The video shows another political scientist explaining that government and elites have always feared democracy, because when the people make their voices heard, they make the wrong decisions. Hence they are keen to create what Walter Lipmann in the 1920s called ‘manufacturing consent’. Real decisions are made by the elites. The people themselves are only allowed to participate as consumers. They are granted methods, which allow them to ratify the decisions of their masters, but denied the ability to inform themselves, organise and act for themselves.

While Libertarianism is far more popular in America than it is over here, this is another video that’s very relevant to British politics. There are Libertarians over here, who’ve adopted the extreme free-market views of von Hayek and his fellows. One of the Torygraph columnists was particularly vocal in his support for their doctrines. Modern Tory ideology has also taken over much from them. Margaret Thatcher was chiefly backed by the Libertarians in the Tory party, such as the National Association For Freedom, which understandably changed its name to the Freedom Foundation. The illegal rave culture of the late 1980s and 1990s, for example, operated out of part of Tory Central Office, just as Maggie Thatcher and John Major were trying to ban it and criminalise ‘music with a repetitive beat’. Virginian Bottomley appeared in the Mail on Sunday back in the early 1990s raving about how wonderful it would be to replace the police force with private security firms, hired by neighbourhoods themselves. That’s another Libertarian policy. It comes straight from Murray Rothbard. Rothbard also wanted to privatise the courts, arguing that justice would still operate, as communities would voluntarily submit to the fairest court as an impartial and non-coercive way of maintain the peace and keeping down crime. The speaker in this part of the video describes Koch and Rothbard as ‘cretins’. Of course, it’s a colossally stupid idea, which not even the Tory party wanted to back. Mind you, that’s probably because they’re all in favour of authoritarianism and state power when its wielded by the elite.

I’ve no doubt most of the Libertarians in this country also believe that they’re participating in some kind of grassroots, countercultural movement, unaware that this is all about the corporate elite trying to seize more power for themselves, undermine genuine democracy, and keep the masses poor, denied welfare support, state education, and, in Britain, destroying the NHS, the system of state healthcare that has kept this country healthy for nearly 70 years.

Libertarians do see themselves as anarchists, though anarcho-individualists, rather than collectivists like the anarcho-syndicalists or Communists. They aren’t. This is purely about expanding corporate power at the expense of the state and the ordinary citizens it protects and who it is supposed to represent and legislate for. And it in practice it is just as brutal as the authoritarianism it claims to oppose. In the 1980s the Freedom Association became notorious on the left because of its support for the death squads in Central America, also supported by that other Libertarian hero, Ronald Reagan.

Libertarianism is a brutal lie. It represents freedom only for the rich. For the rest of us, it means precisely the opposite.

Grammar Schools Show May Has No Idea About Education

September 10, 2016

I saw Theresa May announce on the news yesterday that all schools were going to have the opportunity to become grammar schools, along with the headlines proclaiming it in the Torygraph and the Daily Heil. I’ve no doubt both those papers were working themselves up into a frenzy about how wonderful and exciting this policy is going to be, how it’s going to smash years of ‘loony left’ progressive education forced on our children, which has resulted in them being poorly educated illiterates and prone to violence. They’ll also probably try telling us that it was all introduced in the terrible 1960s with the deliberate intention of destroying quality education and Britain’s wonderful class structure, along with teaching kids to be gay. There’ll also be some kind of insinuation coming, no doubt, that it’s all about destroying traditional ‘Britishness’ and so making us welcome foreigners, meaning Blacks, Asians – and particularly Muslims – as well as eastern Europeans.

Yes, the comprehensive schools were introduced with the intention of destroying the British class structure in education, which condemned kids from the working and lower middle classes to manual trades, and gave the wealthy access to the elite education for a clerical or managerial career. No, this class structure was not beneficial, whatever John Betjeman said about it in his poem, ‘Westminster Abbey’. But it’s been said many times that the British are locked in nostalgia for a glorious past that never was. One pop band, Jon Downes and the Amphibians from Outer Space, even said in one of their lyrics that ‘Unreasoning nostalgia is a British disease’. And they’re right. And one of the major sources of the infection is the Daily Heil, for whom everything right and good ended with the Labour victory in 1945.

Apart from the sheer reactionary nature of the policy itself, it also seems to me to shout loudly that Theresa May hasn’t a clue about education. David Cameron’s education secretary was Thicky Nicky Morgan, now sacked from her post, who also didn’t have a clue either. This was the only thing that shone out of her vacant eyes, as she persistently failed to answer any questions on the failure of the government’s support of Academies at the expense of state education. Alan Coren once joked that Conservative candidates were all so similar, it was like they were all clones. There was a vast laboratory of them round the back of Conservative central office, from which they were taken and defrosted ready for elections. With Thicky Nicky you go the impression that she was programmed with her answers like a robot, along with the strict instruction not to deviate from them if she couldn’t answer the question. Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece reporting that Thicky Nicky has just attacked May’s policy. She claimed that the concentration on selection would undermine six years of progressive education reform. Mike points out that her opposition to it is problematic, given how terrible she was at the job of education secretary. Is she opposed to it, because it’s even worse than her idea, is Mike’s entirely appropriate question here.

Thicky Nicky attacks May’s grammar school plans – for doing more harm than she managed?

In fact, this whole affair screams to me that May actually has no carefully thought out education policy. She wanted to have all schools transformed into academies, until that was shot down in flames. Now she wants them transformed into grammar schools. Or rather, they can apply to become grammar schools. Clearly, in line with Tory elitism, only a few will actually be allowed to become them, because you’ve got to have somewhere that’ll educate those not intelligent enough to get into the grammar schools. So something like ‘secondary moderns’ will come back, although they’ll be called ‘failing state schools’. Which they are at the moment. As for selection by ability, that was always on the cards with the Academies, as the author of one book against them I blogged about here revealed, The Great City Academy Fraud.

May doesn’t really have any policy for education, beyond the destruction of the state system. She just wants it handed over to private enterprise, just as much of it was before the introduction of comprehensives. The academies were the best guise for doing this, as they could be sold off to academy chains, while still remaining in theory state schools. And despite being elitist and selective, they weren’t as elitist and selective as grammar schools.

Now that’s gone, it looks like she just start fumbling around for any policy that would do the job, no matter how antiquated. And the first one to hand was the nostalgia of the British middle classes for grammar schools. She needed to announce a police quickly that would grab the public’s attention and make it sound like she was firm, determined and with a clear policy. Except that it shows that she doesn’t have one, except to grope back to the class-ridden past, because the class-ridden snobs that read the Torygraph and the Fail demand it. It’s another policy with no substance, except stupid, reactionary nostalgia. Which basically describes just about every policy and stance announced by Thatcher and her followers for the last thirty-odd years.

Private Eye from 2012 on the Failure and Misgovernment at the DWP

March 13, 2016

In their edition for 1st – 14th June 2012, Private Eye devoted nearly a page to the disgusting actions, policies and general misgovernment in aIDS’ DWP. Here it is.

Not Working: A DWP Special

Freudian Slip
How serious does the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) treat cases of alleged fraud in its multi-million-pound employment programmes, under which private companies are meant to help benefit claimants find work?

Last week pressure from ministers led Tory MPs on the Commons public accounts committee (PAC) to oblige their colleagues to listen in secret to whistleblowers describing potential fraud by welfare-to-work firms like Working Links and A4E.

This was just the DWP’s latest attempt to hide its dirty washing: it has been shifty about possible cheating by the “benefit-busting” firms for years. Take, for example, the mysterious “annual report” on employment programmes which was promised to MPs before disappearing from sight.

In 2010, MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee said that reports of the “Risk Assurance Division”, which investigates allegations of fraud by workfare companies, “must be published where wrongdoing is found”.

While the DWP argued that publishing the reports would be unfair on contractors, its “delivery director” Alan Cave instead promised some “regular reporting of trends and lessons learned” in an annual report.

This March, when the Eye asked to the report, the DWP press office responded with contradictory answers. The report was published, it said, and a copy would be sent. Then it announced that the report was about to be published. Finally it stopped returning the Eye’s calls altogether.

Unable to get any sense from the press office, the Eye made a freedom of information request. The DWP pointed to a March admission to MPs by Mr Cave that the report had not been delivered. Cave said because of the new government and new Work Programme, it “seemed sensible to put a pause on that while we got the new system up and running before returning to that.”

Really? The Eye made another freedom of information request to see any papers relating to the report-but the DWP says there are none. In other words, all the work in providing MPs and the public with information on workfare fraud apparently hasn’t generated a single email, minute, letter or note.

In fact, the entire proposed annual report appears to be a fob-off, as it seems the DWP didn’t put any work into it anyway.

Missing Links
The evidence of Eddie Hutchinson, former head of internal audit at “benefit-busting” firm Working Links, confirms what the
Eye has been saying repeatedly: there is something seriously wrong with this company, which gets more than £100m a year from taxpayers (via the DWP) to help the unemployed.

Hutchinson told the Commons public accounts committee that fraud was “extensive” and “systemic” at Working Links, explaining: “All these frauds involved the falsification of job outcome evidence to illegally claim monies from the DWP, together with the false claiming of bonus payments by staff through the company’s incentive bonus system”.

In 2006, DWP research showed the firm failed to meet targets on benefit-busting schemes, whereas JobCentre staff did twice as well. The government responded by taking JobCentre staff of the job and handing more schemes to Working Links. In 2009 Ofsted found that Working Links was failing to meet targets – so the government stopped Ofsted inspecting benefit-busting programmes!

In 2011 the Eye saw a leaked report showing the DWP had caught Working Links claiming money for people it had not helped into work in Liverpool. Hutchinson’s evidence suggests that DWP clawed back cash for similar fiddles in South Wales (2007), Glasgow (2007 and 2008), Hackney (2008) and other areas. However, while the DWP asked for the money back, it does not appeared to have punished the firm.

* it may be generating bad headlines for its sloppy internal financial controls, but A4E still knows how to find work for people – if they happen to chums with the chancellor anyway.

A4E recently hired lobbyist George Bridges and his firm Quiller Consultants to help with its crisis management. Bridges, a personal friend of George Osborne, became head of Conservative Campaigns in 2006 and helped Osborne run the Tories’ election campaign in 2010.

Quiller Consultants itself is owned by Tory peer Lord Chadlington, who also happens to be Cameron’s constituency party chairman in Witney. His links with the prime minister caused embarrassment last year when it emerged that the lobbyist lord had sold Dave a strip of land used as a driveway and garage at the PMN’s Witney home. Chadlington bought the land and sold it to the prime minister, raising questions about lobbyists’ access to Cameron.

Downing Street meanwhile is considering hiring another Quiller Consultant, Stephen Parkinson, to pep up Number 10’s spin operation. Parkinson was also previously a Conservative Central Office apparatchik, underlining the close links between a4e’s new friend and the government.

Factory Fibs
Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith refused to apologise for declaring that disabled people in Remploy’s supported factories were “not doing any work at all… just making cups of coffee”.

Perhaps he was bolstered by Remploy chairman Ian Russell’s own foreword to the recently published 2011 accounts claiming that workers “have little or no work on most days of the week”. The comments help the case for closing 36 of the remaining 54 Remploy factories, despite union figures showing that 85 per cent of disabled workers made redundant in the last round of Remploy cuts remain unemployed.

One problem – a recent congratulatory internal letter from Remploy Enterprise Businesses (EB) managing director Alan Hill paints a different picture of life in the factories. “I am delighted to say the overall performance of EB has been outstanding,” writes Hill, reporting that sales have grown 12.2 per cent in the last financial year, reaching £117m.

Indeed, after cutting costs as well, the Remploy factories’ overall operating result had improved by a whopping 27.9 per cent, according to Hill. A KMPG analysis produced in Mary found that some of the Remploy businesses – such as making car parts and monitoring CCTV – were viable and even profitable, while others could also be made sustainable.

NEST beg

Misleading advertising is nothing new when it comes to financial product mis-selling, but few would expect the government to exploit a loophole to produce its own dodgy sale pitch.

The DWP has been busy pushing “workplace pensions”, using adverts that feature toy people building a rising wall. “A simple step to a better future” is the unequivocal message.

The principle “workplace pension” being promoted is the government’s default scheme into which employees will soon be automatically enrolled, the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST). But tis is a stock-market based scheme in which there will be a large number of losers after fees, the loss of other means-related benefits and the fact that stock markets can go down as well as up. Go in at the wrong time and you’re effectively screwed.

The standard disclaimer to this effect is, however, missing from the government’s adverts because, the DWP tells an Eye reader, its lawyers agreed that the adverts’ purpose “is to promote the general concept of saving through workplace pensions, rather than saving through a specific product”. Never mind that almost all such schemes, including the reassuringly branded NEST, are now stock market-based.

The government is effectively saying that volatile investments will be a good bet for a safe pension, risk-free. The next big mis-selling scandal, in other words.

This catalogue of incompetence, lies, fraud and failure also puts the lie to another claim by the Right: that Socialism somehow punishes excellence. By redistributing wealth and putting checks on the rapacity of senior management, the argument goes, Socialism and the welfare state somehow punishes the superior skill and talents of private entrepreneurs. This shows the opposite: that it actively rewards failure and punishes excellence. How else can you explain the determination to stop JobCentres finding work for the unemployed and hand it over to fraudsters like Working Links, or close profitable and potentially profitable Remploy factories? Or promoting potentially underperforming ‘workplace pensions?’ This is all about supporting failing private industry, the Tories’ paymasters, and punishing excellence in the state sector. This even goes as far as the personnel selected to run the Department. Ian Duncan Smith stands out as a man of precious little talent, but somehow this massive failure of a man has been awarded an entire department to run, and run into the ground.

Viva Zapatero: The Beeb, Sarkozy, Berlusconi and Political Censorship in Television

February 24, 2016

One of the issues that comes up regularly is the question of BBC bias. In actual fact, there doesn’t seem to be much question there. BBC News is very biased against the left and in favour of the Tories. There have been studies done by media monitoring organisations in Glasgow, Edinburgh and elsewhere. Mike over at Vox Political has pointed out that the Beeb will ignore certain strikes, or grudgingly give them coverage only online. There was anger the other week when the panel on Question Time was nearly all composed of right-wingers. Nick Robinson censored and distorted one of Alex Salmond’s speeches during the Scots independence campaign to make it appear he didn’t answer a question when he did. Robinson was the former head of the Young Conservatives at Manchester University. And Laura Kuenssberg doesn’t really bother writing her own material any more. She just recycles press releases from Tory central office.

But ’twas ever thus. One of the commenters on this blog pointed out that the Beeb ran government propaganda against the strikers during the General Strike. Yet still the right jumps up and down ranting about ‘liberal’ bias at the BBC. There are liberal voices there, but they’re increasingly kept away from the main news and comment.

Kampfner in his book Freedom for Sale: How We Made Money and Lost Our Liberty describes the development elsewhere in the world of similar political bias and censorship in television. He looks at the way Sarkozy in France and Berlusconi in Italy both overtly sought to extend state control over television in order to suppress or censor unfavourable broadcasting. In the case of Sarkozy, the centre-right president passed a series of legislation in 2009 which reinforced government control over publicly owned television stations. This was aimed at phasing out commercial advertising, which would be replaced by government funding. Kampfner states that this made French television dependent on the goodwill of the central government. He also removed the responsibility for nominating the Chief Executive of France Televisions, and instead made it one of the powers of the presidency. He also ensure that the contract could be severed at any time, and the CEO dismissed. (p. 181).

It’s not hard to see parallels between this and the way the government has continually exerted pressure on the BBC. I can remember John Major’s administration threatening the Beeb with cuts in the licence fee, or refusing to raise the licence fee to extent desired by the broadcaster. The Tories have also made noises about not renewing the Corporation’s charter, and privatising it, either wholly or in part.

The most extreme example of state political control of television in Europe outside Putin’s Russia and the former Soviet bloc is probably Berlusconi in Italy. Kampfner states that Berlo not only owned the major private broadcasters, but also very strictly controlled state television. Editors and managers, who refused to toe his line were removed from their posts after the diminutive Duce had a few words with the board. Those TV shows he didn’t like, or which criticised him, were taken off the air. One of the most notorious of these was the satirical show, Raiot, shown late nights on Rai Tre, Italian TV’s third channel. This directly lampooned Berlo himself, and so not only did the vain squadristo with the dodgy hair implants have it pulled from television, his private TV station, Mediaset, sued. Sabina Guzzanti, the show’s writer, made a film about this debacle, entitled Viva Zapatero. This became a surprise hit and the Cannes Film Festival It’s title is not just a homage to the film, Viva Zapata, but also a tribute to the Spanish centre-left president, Jose Zapatero, who removed the right to nominate the head of the state television authority from presidential control.

Censorship and political bias at the Beeb long predates the modern, insistent Tory bias, but it seems to be a part of the increasing right-wing authoritarianism across Europe, a process that needs to be tackled before free speech is gradually snuffed out across the continent.

More about the Raiot affair can be read here, on the site for US Citizens for Peace and Justice: http://www.peaceandjustice.it/o25-viva-zapatero.php

I found this English language interview from 2008 with Guzzanti, where she talks a bit about the Raiot incident, and her forthcoming movie, Sympathy for the Lobster. Influenced by Jean-Luc Godard’s film about the Rolling Stones, she says that this movie is about what happens when you want to change society politically, but can’t because politics is too corrupt. She also mentions that she has two more films in production, one on satirists and censorship, and another which was to be a straightforward documentary on Italian society.

If you can speak Italian or Spanish, here’s the trailer for the film Viva Zapatero itself. It’s in Italian, with Spanish subtitles. There are piece of English. This includes a sketch she did as Berlusconi with our own Rory Bremner as Tony Bliar, and a Spitting Image-like puppet sequence where Dubya and the other leaders sing ‘We fight the world’. Oh yes, and at one point two of the characters from Pulp Fiction leap out and shoot Berlusconi.

Lies and Secrecy in the Tory Privatisation of the NHS

March 16, 2015

NHS-privatisation

Yesterday I put up an extract from Robin Cook’s Fabian Society pamphlet, Life Begins at 40: In Defence of the NHS, refuting health insurance as an acceptable source of funding for the NHS. Cook had been prompted to write the pamphlet in response to a review of the NHS by Maggie Thatcher. He was concerned at the way the review seemed less interested in improving the performance of the NHS as a state institution, than in opening it up to the market. Cook’s fears have been born out in the decades since. The Tories introduced the internal market under John Major. The role of the private sector in the NHS was then taken up and expanded further by Tony Blair. Now, nearly three decades after Cook wrote his pamphlet, the Tories are once again privatising the NHS.

This is being done piecemeal, and is shrouded in secrecy and denials. There are 92 Tory and Lib Dem MPs who stand to gain financially and commercially through their business contacts with private healthcare firms. Andrew Lansley himself has advocated the dismantlement of the NHS and its replacement with a private, insurance based healthcare system. So has Nick Clegg in the Lib Dems. Yet when one Tory official candidly stated that ‘in five years the NHS as we know it will not exist’, Tory Central Office immediately started issuing denials and spurious clarifications. The original statement made it clear that they expected the NHS to be sold off, and what remained of its bureaucracy would merely be concerned with processing the private insurance claims.

Not so, according to the ‘clarification’ issued by the Tory apparatchiks. What he meant, they claimed, was that the Tories would cut simply cut bureaucracy and improve efficiency. He never said anything about privatisation. ‘Onest, Guv.

It’s a lie. And the Tories have a long record on lying. To go back to the beginning of Cameron’s government, the plastic-faced android Toff promised that NHS spending would be ring-fenced and protected from cuts. This has most definitely not been carried out, and indeed the Tories have tried to purge the records of that promise ever having been made from their own internet site.

This is just part of the Tories’ long term strategy of secrecy and denial when it came to NHS privatisation. Thatcher also claimed that she would not privatise the NHS. Even so, documents released a year or so ago under the 30 year rule show that the review she commissioned argued for its privatisation. One of the authors of the report was Wassermann, who is now one of Cameron’s assistants on health policy.

Cook in his pamphlet also remarks on the secrecy surrounding the compilation of the review, and the way Labour researchers were denied information on it. Cook wrote:

This is not Review by independent inquiry but Review by Cabinet sub-committee. Entertainingly in the first week after the Review was appointed the Table Office of the House of Commons declined to accept parliamentary questions about it, as internal Government committees officially do not exist.

Not that we have learnt much more since questions have been accepted. Ministers have refused to publish any of the evidence submitted to the Review as some of it may have been confidential. They have refused to name the organisations who submitted evidence on the imaginative grounds that “it would be impracticable to try to distinguish between those communications which see themselves as specifically ‘submitting evidence’ and those which do not, but which may, nevertheless, be relevant to the continuing review process”.

Even our attempts to obtain the official remit of the Review have been baffled by the formula that the Review is “wide-ranging and fundamental”.

Tory policy on the privatisation of the NHS has not changed in the decades since then. It is still one of secret privatisation masked by public denial.

Tory Secrecy and Lies about Workfare

The privatisation of the NHS is not the only area of Tory policy, about which the government remains secret in order to prevent any criticism. Johnny Void has repeatedly blogged about how the identity of the firms involved in the Tories’ workfare scheme have also not been released. In this case the Tories have admitted that they are afraid that the scheme is unpopular, and fear that if the names of the participating companies were made known, they would be placed under massive pressure to withdraw. As a result, the scheme would be unworkable.

Lies and Secrecy about Sanctions Deaths

And Mike over at Vox Political and other bloggers about disabled issues have also met with refusals for their inquiries into the numbers, who have died after being assessed as fit and well under the Work Capability Assessment. Mike has estimated the number to be about 55,000 a year. Yet we cannot know the real figures, because the government says they are collating them for release later as part of government policy. They’ve been doing this for two or three years now. And if you try to ask for this information, you will see your request turned down as ‘frivolous’.

Secrecy about Honours Candidates

And yesterday it was reported that the Tories weren’t going to announce their honours list until after the election, because there were fears that too many of the MPs named would have been caught up in corruption scandals, like Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind.

So much for Cameron’s vow that this would be the most open and transparent government.

The Tories are privatising the NHS, and literally killing people with the sanctions system. This is being covered-up through lies and denials. Just as the party has always lied and covered up the truth.

Vox Political: The Torygraph and Tory Allegations of Labour Paedophiles: Fact or Smear, but Definitely Scandal

February 19, 2015

I’ve just reblogged Tom Pride’s story about the Torygraph withholding information they received from Tory Central Office suggesting that several senior sitting Labour MPs may be paedophiles. Tom Pride makes the point that that this is absolutely scandalous, whether or not the allegations are true. If they are, then the Torygraph is covering up the information and actually protecting them. If the allegations are untrue, then it looks very much like Tory Central Office is engaging in a vile smear campaign.

Either way, it’s disgusting, and shows the extremely low standards at the Torygraph and Central Office.

Mike has a fuller account of the incident over at Vox Political in the article Is the Telegraph withholding emails that could help the inquiry into child abuse?. This comes from the account of the Labour MP Tom Watson, who was told over lunch at the Quirinale Restaurant by another MP, Chris Bryant, who’d been told in his turn by Matthew Holehouse, the Torygraph’s political correspondent. Holehouse had been included in a series of emails by staff at Tory Central Office discussing which Labour MPs they thought were paedophiles. Holehouse made it clear that he thought it was a childish smear by the Tories, and really wasn’t impressed at all by these puerile tactics.

Watson wrote to Cameron in an effort to clear up the matter, and get Cameron to come clean on what’s going on here. He has not received an answer from the Prime Minister. He did get a non-answer from unconvicted fraudster and Tory Chairman, Grant Shapps, essentially trying to brush it all off.

The article begins:

Thanks today go to Vox Political commenter concernedkev, who brought this writer’s attention to a piece by Labour MP Tom Watson. It’s self-explanatory so here it is:

I have had cause to write to [the Telegraph] about a disturbing allegation shared with me by Chris Bryant MP. They just ignored me.

My letter was prompted by a conversation I had with Chris. He told me that he’d had lunch at the Quirinale restaurant with Telegraph political correspondent Matthew Holehouse. [We won’t quote this part because there is a direct quote from Mr Bryant later in the piece, as follows:] “Matthew Holehouse told me at lunch at Quirinale that he had been accidentally included in a series of email exchanges between senior figures at Conservative Central Office who were speculating about which Labour sitting MPs were paedophiles and how they should deploy this ‘information’. Matthew seemed to think that this showed that CCHQ was run by a bunch of children and he said it was worse than Damian McBride. He reckoned the paper would be running the story later that week, unless the powers that be intervened. I asked him which senior figures were involved. He said ‘very senior’, but refused to elaborate. He also refused to tell me which Labour MPs were speculated about. He didn’t believe that any of the emails’ allegations were anything other than nasty vindictiveness and an attempt to smear Labour MPs.”

When what he told me had sunk in I was furious. It showed that senior offices at CCHQ were either a; holding back vital intelligence from the police abuse inquiry or b; engaging in a smear campaign against their opponents. Either way, it showed appalling conduct.

The article has a copy of the letter Watson wrote to Cameron, and links to Watson’s own, longer account of this affair. It’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/18/is-the-telegraph-withholding-emails-that-could-help-the-inquiry-into-child-abuse/

As for the Torygraph and child abusers, see the comments by Bob Chewie and others over at Tom Pride’s blog piece. One of the journos on the Torygraph was a paedo, who came to the Barclays’ esteemed organ after writing for one of London’s gay magazines. Allegedly.