Posts Tagged ‘Francis Maude’

BBC Claims of Impartiality Shattered as Another Newsman Joins May’s Campaign Team

July 8, 2017

The Beeb constantly answers any criticism that it is biased towards the Tories by repeating its claim that it’s impartial, bound by its official charter and so on. Anyone writing to the Corporation to complain about its egregious bias, such as against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour, as shown in its coverage of the last general election and the barrage of lies and sneers long before by Laura Kuenssberg, John Pienaar et al are given this standard reply. The Beeb, you are sanctimoniously and haughtily told, is above suspicion, so you should go away and mind your own business.

Mike, as he reminds us, received one of these letters when he complained about the Beeb’s bias. So have many of his commenters, after they complained. Buddy Hell, over at Guy Debord’s Cat, got a similarly sniff missive from the Corporation when he did.

But the bias is real. Researchers at the media units at Edinburgh, Cardiff and Glasgow universities concluded that the Beeb was far more likely to interview Tory MPs and financial experts, and accept their comments, than talk to Labour MPs and trade unionists. Barry and Saville Kushner, in their book, Who Needs the Cuts, described how they were moved to campaign about austerity partly by the way the Corporation uncritically accepted the need for its savage cuts against the poor and working class. They cited one example where a leading trade unionist was effectively shouted down by a BBC presenter on the radio when he dared to say that they were unnecessary and the arguments for them didn’t hold water. The proles were getting uppity and questioning the impeccable logic of their lords and masters, and so had to be shut down.

You can hear the same claim of impartiality repeated ad nauseam on the Beeb’s own public relations programme, Points of View, where the Beeb takes a look at the letters its received about its programmes. Private Eye has criticised this many times over the years as simply an exercise for allowing the BBC to answer its critics while playing very fast loose and with the actual evidence. For example, if one programme comes under fire from a section of the public, the Beeb will cites correspondence it has received in support of the programme. However, it won’t mention the actual volume of correspondence it has received on the issue. So if it receives, say, 30 letters of complaint about a programme, and only two or three letters of support, those two or three letters will still be trotted out, along with a few remarks from the show’s producers, to give the impression that opinion was equally divided when it was anything but.

As for political bias, when this is raised the BBC will trot out the remark that all administrations have felt that the BBC was biased against them. This is probably true. Way back in the 1990s under John Major the Tories were constantly screaming how the ‘left-wing BBC’ were biased against them. They do the same today, on website like Biased BBC, where right-winger – and often extreme Rightists – whine about how the Corporation is pro-Islam and full of ‘cultural Marxists’.

These claims of impeccable impartiality were seen to be increasingly threadbare this week, as two more of the Beeb’s news managers vied with each other to join Theresa May’s team. The two candidates for the post of head of May’s communications team were Robbie Gibb, the head of the BBC news team at Westminster, and editor of the Daily and Sunday Politics, and John Landale, the deputy political editor at the Corporation. Landale, it seems almost needless to say, is another Old Etonian. One of the previous heads of communications for the Tories was Craig Oliver, another newsman from the Beeb. Oliver was responsible for revamping the News at 10 at organising the coverage for the 2010 Election.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/05/pro-tory-bias-confirmed-as-bbc-news-men-vie-to-be-theresa-mays-comms-chief/

In the end, Gibb got the job. Well, he is the brother of Tory politico Nicolas Gibb, the former chief of staff for Tory Francis Maude, and was best man for another Tory candidate, Mark MacGregor. He was also the vice-chair of the Federation of Conservative students.

Other Tories, who have found agreeable posts at the Corporation include James Harding, who is head of news and current affairs across the Corporation. He’s another Murdoch employee and a friend of George Osborne. Then there’s Andrew Neil, who was editor of the Sunset Times under Murdoch, a chairman of Sky TV, and chairman of the Press Holdings Group, which own the Spectator. Among the commenters on Twitter, who remarked on this latest blatant link between the Beeb and the Tories was Owen Jones, who reminded his readers that Cameron, Boris Johnson and George Osborne all took their spin doctors from the Beeb. Another commenter, Will Black, said that with the numbers of Tories at the Beeb, the news should be written off as a Tory election expense, rather than be paid for by the licence fee.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/07/proof-of-dodgy-link-between-bbc-and-tories-robbie-gibb-is-theresa-mays-new-communications-chief/

This latest move of a high-ranking newsman at the Beeb makes it even more difficult for the Corporation to deny that it has a right-wing bias. Although I have no doubt that they won’t stop trying. Expect more guff about how the corporation is utterly impartial and above reproach, even when the careers of editors and presenters and the content of the news itself screams otherwise.

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George Monbiot on the Political Power of the Supermarkets

April 20, 2016

As well as documenting the pernicious economic and social effects of the supermarkets, as they force out small business people and exploit their suppliers through some highly manipulative contracts and trading practices, Monbiot also discusses the political power of these vast corporate chains. He details the various chief executives and senior managers, who were given important political posts by New Labour and the Tories, and the various lobbying organisations they have set up to further their already extensive political influence. This goes on for several pages, but considering the immense power the supermarkets still hold, I think it’s worth reproducing this section of the chapter in full. Monbiot writes:

No commercial sector is better represented in British politics than the supermarkets. David Sainsbury, the chain’s former chief executive and the richest man in Britain, is a minister at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which oversees competition policy. Tesco executives inhabit no fewer than six government task forces, including the DTI’s Competitiveness Advisory Group. A Tesco executive also sits on both the United Kingdom Eco-labelling Board and, alongside a representative of Marks and Spencer, the government’s Advisory Committee on Packaging. The superstores have lobbied to ensure that regulations in both areas remain as ‘flexible’ as possible. Andrew Stone, Managing Director of Marks and Spencer, was made a life peer soon after Labour took office. the official spokesperson for the four biggest supermarkets at the British Retail Consortium is Baroness Thornton, a Labour peer and Director of the Labour Women’s Network, and previous Chair of the Greater London Labour Party. Delegates to the 1998 Labour Party Conference wore identification badges sponsored and labelled by Somerfield. While Tesco gave £12m to the government’s Millennium Dome, David Sainsbury (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) has personally donated a total of £5m to the Labour Party.

The Sainsbury family has long been blessed with a direct line to power. While David Sainsbury, a Labour peer, is one of the businessmen closest to Tony Blair, his cousin and predecessor as chairman of the firm, the Conservative peer Sir John Sainsbury (now Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover), appears to have been Margaret Thatcher’s most frequent confidant. His brother, Sir Tim Sainsbury, another member of the Sainsbury board, was a Conservative MP who once held the same government post as David Sainsbury does today.

The opposition is unlikely to challenge the superstores’ power. The shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, who – if he took office – would be responsible for most of the decisions affecting the supermarket chains, is Archie Norman, previously the Chief Executive of Asda. Francis Maude, the shadow Foreign Secretary, was one of Asda’s non-executive directors.

The supermarkets conduct much of their lobbying through their trade association, the British Retail Consortium. According to its Director General, ‘BRC is no longer an organisation that simply reacts to Government proposed legislation or White Papers but sets out to help shape them. By creating significant links with special advisers, policy specialists and the leading think tanks, the intention is to work in a non-confrontational way so we are involved at the beginning of any legislative process.

Its tactics appear to be successful. it has persuaded the government to allow 41-tonne lorries on to British roads and to consider its request for 44-tone trucks to be permitted in a few years’ time. It claims to have played an important role in the government’s decision not to tax out-of-town car parking spaces. Speakers at the BRC’s annual dinner have included the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, the Conservative Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, John Major and Tony Blair. the Consortium’s submission on the minimum wage ‘was read by Chancellor Gordon Brown, the Treasury and the Bank of England’ and was ‘influential in persuading the Government and the Low Pay Commission’ to hold the level down to £3.60 per hour and introduce a separate, lower rate ‘not just for young people, but for returners to the labour market’. The consortium successfully lobbied the government to introduce amendments to the Competition Bill to permit ‘vertical agreements’ of the kind the superstores strike with their suppliers.

The BRC is also ‘ready to shape the Brussels agenda in the same way it does the UK Government agenda’. In Europe it has lobbied for ‘flexible’ consumer guarantees and against the European legislation requiring companies to inform and consult their workers. It has influenced European food safety standards and defended its members against the European requirement that the pesticides used on the foods they sell should be listed on the packaging. It has succeeded in keeping the definition of ‘free range’ as broad as possible.

Government is not the only realm in which the influence of superstores and their employees raises public concern. Sainsbury, for example, is a sponsor of the Soil Association, which regulates organic standards in Britain. In 1998, the Sunday Times alleged that a chemist from Sainsbury’s presented much of the case for the preservative sodium nitrate to the government’s United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards. The chemical is banned from organic produce in Germany and Holland, partly because, in large doses, it has been linked to cancer. What the Sunday Times did not discover, however, was that one of the members of the register is Robert Duxbury, an employee of J. Sainsbury Plc. Sainsbury was also one of the three sponsors of the Town and Country Planning Association’s inquiry into the future of planning, a subject in which the superstore chain has more than a passing interest. The Chairman of the Post Office, Neville Bain, is also a non-executive director of Safeway. This causes alarm to some of the people campaigning to keep post offices on the high street and out of the superstores.

In 1999,. the government published the first of its ‘annual reports’, which would tell the nation how well it was doing. It was launched not in Westminster, but in the Kensington Tesco’s. The Prime Minister’s office had given the supermarket chain an exclusive contract to sell it. It officially entered the public domain when Jack Cunningham, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, handed a copy of the head of Tesco. (Captive State, pp. 203-206).

So Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s and the rest are involved in making sure that road and planning policy reflects their interests, as does employment and agricultural legislation. They have ensured that a known carcinogen is permitted as a pesticide in this country, and have campaigned to keep the minimum wage low. It is therefore absolutely no surprise that the same exploitative gang have been so keen to back workfare. One of the personal stories recounted on the Boycott Workfare website is from someone who was taken on by the supermarkets. At the end of their official stint, they were asked by their boss to stay on. When they asked if they would be paid, their boss stated quite openly that there was no need for him to do so, when he could simply get more unpaid labour from workfare.

Britain is rapidly descending into a corporate oligarchy like America, and the supermarkets are at the centre of this mess of political corruption. It’s about time they were cleaned out, along with the rest of the corporatists occupying government posts.

Private Eye on How the Tories Wrecked Private Pensions

March 11, 2016

I found this piece in Private Eye for 8th to 22nd July 2011 on how Tory legislation allowing companies to take ‘pension holidays’ wrecked their pension schemes.

“There has been widespread pension reform across the economy. People in the private sector have seen old defined benefit schemes disappearing.” So said Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude in his defence of serious public sector pensions cuts when a graph in pension advisor John Hutton’s r4eport proved that the “unaffordable” argument didn’t hold water.

But why have private sector workers lost decent pension arrangements providing fixed benefits based on their previous salary? It’s not simply because too many oldies are not living longer.

Unlike most state schemes of this sort, private ones have to be backed by funds, which were in pretty good shape until the companies providing them started taking extended pension holidays in the 1980s and 1990s to bolster profits in order to keep the City happy. The excuse was that the stocks and shares they shifted their funds into would magically grow to pay the pensions.

When this mirage was exposed after the stock market slump at the start of this century, not helped by Gordon Brown’s 1997 removal of pension tax credits, the response wasn’t to make good the shortfalls (which the markets would never have worn) but to shut the pension schemes. Today just one in five private schemes is open to new employees, compared to nine out of ten a decade ago, allowing Maude to make his comparison and “gold-plated” to become the default prefix for public sector pensions which are now in the firing line in the dash for public spending cuts.

So the reason why so many people now have an inadequate private pension, is because their bosses decided to use them money to boost their profits instead of providing for their staffs’ old age. Another rubbish policy that ultimately goes back to Margaret Thatcher. But hey, it does have its bright side for the Tories: it allowed Francis Maude a pretext for attacking the pensions of workers in the public sector. Trebles all round, as they say in Private Eye.

Vox Political on the Tories Gradually Stripping the Elderly of their Pensions

February 23, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has this article asking the question Cameron promises to protect pensioners’ benefits. Do you believe him? Mike points out that Cameron broke his election pledges not to introduce means testing for certain benefits, and to the NHS. He stated that spending on the Health Service was to be ring-fenced against cuts.

He broke these promises, and is set to break his promise to protect pensions.

The pensionable age is being raised. Firefighters will be sacked, and thus lose their pensions, if they fail the fitness test. Francis Maude wishes pensions to be accessed only through the internet, which will prevent many pensioners from getting theirs. The Tories are also going to end the protection for those on Pension Credit, and Iain Duncan Smith is mooting ending the free TV licences, bus passes and winter fuel allowance as part of his benefit cap. And pensioners will definitely be subject to the bedroom tax.

Mike’s article begins

Why should you believe a word David Cameron says?

He has repeated a pledge not to introduce means testing for benefits such as bus passes, TV licences and the winter fuel allowance, if elected (not re-elected; he didn’t get enough support for that in 2010) in May.

This is the man who “looked down the barrel of a camera” (as he describes it) in 2010, promised to protect the NHS, and to tell any cabinet minister proposing cuts to frontline services that they should go away and think again.

He is denying the state pension to increasing numbers of people with a staged plan to raise the pensionable age. Members of Parliament, meanwhile, will receive transitional protection as the pensionable age rises – meaning they won’t miss out. Members of the public fund 60 per cent of Parliamentarians’ pensions.

The article is at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/23/cameron-promises-to-protect-pensioners-benefits-do-you-believe-him/.

The Republicans in America were moaning under George ‘Dubya’ Bush about how greedy senior citizens were. They would very definitely have liked to cut their pensions, but were well aware that if they did so, they’d lose vital electoral support. And so they complained bitterly about their greed and how selfish they were, when everyone else was having to tighten their belts.

The Tories have copied much of their rhetoric and strategy from the Repugs. There can be little doubt that like the Republicans, they want to get their hands on senior citizens’ pensions and cut them.

Do not trust anything Cameron says, and do not give him your vote.