Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Paxman’

The Tories Are the Implacable Enemies of Free Speech

September 7, 2020

Since 75 members of Extinction Rebellion decided to do what so many people have wanted to and blockade Murdoch print works in England and Scotland, Boris Johnson and his rabble have been pontificating about democracy and the need to protect a free press. This is all crass, hypocritical rubbish, and the truth, as with so much of Tory policy, is the exact opposite. In all too many instances, the Tories are the inveterate enemies of free speech and press freedom.

Mike and Vox Political have both shown this in their articles reporting that the Council of Europe has issued a level 2 media alert warning about Johnson’s government. This was because MoD press officers refused to deal with Declassified UK, a website focusing on foreign and defence stories. This was because Declassified’s journos had been critical of the government’s use of our armed forces. The Council issued a statement that they did so because the act would have a chilling effect on media freedom, undermine press freedom and set a worrying precedent for other journalists reporting in the public interest on the British military. They said that tough journalism like Declassified’s, uncomfortable though it was for those in power, was crucial for a transparent and functioning democracy. This puts Boris Johnson’s government with Putin’s Russia and Turkey, who also have a complete disregard for journalistic freedom.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/09/06/heres-the-shocking-reason-your-tory-government-is-more-guilty-of-attacking-press-freedom-than-extinction-rebellion/

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/09/free-speech-tories-speak-with-forked.html

We’ve been this way before, and it’s grim. Way back in the 1980s, Maggie Thatcher withdrew LWT’s broadcasting license over a similar piece of journalism that severely criticised the military. This was the documentary Death on the Rock, about the SAS’ shooting of a squad of IRA terrorists in Gibraltar. The documentary presented clear evidence that the squad had been under surveillance all their way down through Spain, and that the army could have arrested them at any point without bloodshed. This means that the SAS’s shooting of them was effectively an extra-judicial execution. They acted as a death squad.

This wouldn’t have been the first or only instance of such tactics by the British state in Northern Ireland. Lobster has published a number of articles arguing that special SAS units were active under cover in the province with the deliberate task of assassinating IRA terrorists, and that the security forces colluded secretly with Loyalist paramilitaries to do the same.

I heartily condemn terrorism and the murder of innocents regardless of who does it. But if ‘Death on the Rock’ was correct, then the British state acted illegally. The use of the armed forces as death squads clearly sets a dangerous precedent and is a violation of the rule of law. Most Brits probably agreed with Thatcher that the IRA terrorists got what was coming to them, and so would probably have objected to the documentary’s slant. But as the Tories over here and Republicans in the US have argued again and again about freedom of speech, it’s the freedom to offend that needs to be protected. Allowing only speech that is inoffensive or to which you agree is no freedom at all. Thatcher was furious, LWT lost their broadcasting license, which was given to a new broadcaster, Carlton. No doubt named after the notorious Tory club.

Then there was Thatcher’s interference in the transmission of another documentary, this time by the BBC. This was an edition of Panorama, ‘Thatcher’s Militant Tendency’. This argued that, just as Kinnock’s Labour party had been infiltrated by the hard left Militant Tendency, so Fascists from the National Front, BNP and others had burrowed into the Tories. In fact there’s always been concern about the overlap in membership between the Tories and the far right. In the 1970s there was so much concern that the Monday Club, formerly part of the Tory party until David Cameron severed links with it, opened its membership books to the Board of Deputies of British Jews. The Panorama programme was also too much for Thatcher, who had it spiked.

At the moment, the Tories are running a campaign to defund and privatise the Beeb under the specious claims that it’s biased against them. They were moaning about bias back in the ’90s under John Major and then Tony Blair, because Jeremy Paxman, among the Beeb’s other journos, insisted on asking tough questions. This resulted in Michael Heseltine walking off Newsnight, tossing his mane, as Ian Hislop described it on Have I Got News For You. Right-wing internet radio hack Alex Belfield has been ranting about how the BBC is full of Guardian-reading lefties in the same way Jeremy Clarkson used to about ‘yogurt-knitters’, who also read the same paper. Guido Fawke’s former teaboy, Darren Grimes, has also been leading a campaign to defund the Beeb. He should know about dictatorships and a free press. His former master, Paul Staines, was a member of the Freedom Association when that body supported the Fascist dictatorship in El Salvador. They invited to their annual dinner as guest of honour one year the leader of one of its death squads.

Belfield and the rest of the right-wing media have been loudly applauding the announcement that the new Director-General will cancel left-wing comedy programmes like Have I Got News For You and Mock The Week. Because they’re biased against the Tories. Er, no. Have I Got News For You was as enthusiastically anti-Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party as the rest of the media establishment, to the point where I got heartily sick and tired of watching it. And I haven’t watched Mock the Week for years. I don’t even know if it’s still on. Both the programmes are satirical. They mock the government as well as the rest of the parties. And the dominant, governing party over the past few decades has been the Tories, with the exception of New Labour from 1997-2010 or so. Which means that when they’ve been attacking the Tories, it’s because the Tories have been in power. A friend of mine told me that Ian Hislop, one of the regular contests on HIGNFY and the editor of Private Eye, was once asked which party he was against. He replied ‘Whoever’s in power’. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was a Conservative, but that is, ostensibly, the stance of his magazine. The Tories have been expelling much hot air about how a free press holds governments to account. But in the case of the BBC, this is exactly why they despise it.

The Tories hate the BBC because it’s the state broadcaster, and so is an obstacle to the expansion of Rupert Murdoch’s squalid empire of filth and lies. They’d like it defunded and privatised so that Murdoch, or someone like him, can move in. Not least because Murdoch has and is giving considerable support to the Tories. And in return, the Tories and then New Labour gave Murdoch what he wanted, and he was allowed to pursue his aim of owning a sizable chunk of the British press and independent broadcasting with Sky. This has alarmed those concerned about the threat posed by such media monopolies. It’s why Extinction Rebellion were right to blockade Murdoch’s papers, as both Mike and Zelo Street have pointed out. We don’t have a free press. We have a captive press controlled by a handful of powerful media magnates, who determine what gets reported. John Major in his last years in office realised the political threat Murdoch posed, but by this time it was too late. The Tories had allowed Murdoch to get his grubby mitts on as much of the British media as he could, and he had abandoned the Tories for Blair. Who was all too ready to do the same and accede to his demands in return for Murdoch’s media support. Just as Keir Starmer is desperate to do the same.

Murdoch’s acquisition of British papers, like the Times, should have been blocked by the Monopolies and Mergers’ Commission long ago. There were moves to, but Thatcher allowed Murdoch to go ahead. And Tony Benn was right: no-one should own more than one paper. If the Beeb is privatised, it will mean yet more of the British media is owned by one of press and broadcasting oligarchy. And that is a threat to democracy and press freedom.

The Tories are defending the freedom of the press and broadcasting. They’re attacking it.

Violence and the Conservative Campaign of Hate against the Disabled

December 31, 2019

Mike and the other disability bloggers and campaigners have posted any number of articles about the massive increase in violence towards disabled people. This has its origins in the Conservatives’ vilification of them as welfare cheats or spongers, along with other underprivileged and marginalised groups like asylum seekers, the unemployed and the poor. This connection and the massive rise in hate crimes and violence against both immigrants and the disabled is described by Jon Burnett in his chapter, ‘Austerity and the Production of Hate’ in Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity.  While the attacks on immigrants and the disabled are separate issues and are managed separately, they are linked by an underlying ideology. Burnett writes

Such campaigns are organised separately. But they feed off and into each other. And they are replicated day after day to the point where they have become a routine aspect of popular culture. Both are voyeuristically treated in television programmes like Benefits Street and Immigration Street. Those programmes stem from the same ideological enterprise: to reduce their subjects to objects of ridicule and contempt, turning human struggles into a sneering form of entertainment. (p. 217)

He notes that David Cameron, dubbed by Paxo ‘the worst Prime Minister since Lord North’, explicitly linked migration with the British welfare system. He said that we need immigrants to do work that the welfare system encouraged British people not to do, and that therefore the welfare system needed to be reformed.

Migrants are filling gaps in the labour market left wide open by a welfare system that for years has paid British people not to work. That’s where the blame lies – at the door of our woeful welfare system, and the last government who comprehensively failed to reform it… So immigration and welfare reform are two sides of the same coin. Put simply, we will never control immigration properly unless we tackle welfare dependency. (p. 219).

Burnett states that five years later, this is now Tory orthodoxy. It, and the Tory policies based on it, have reduced immigrants to units of labour denied social rights, while welfare reforms are also reducing British workers into an expendable workforce. Immigration is a separate issue I shall tackle elsewhere. In this piece I’ll just talk about how the Tories’ rhetoric of hate against the disabled has resulted in an horrific increase in violence against them. Burnett writes of this

And when resentment to welfare and free movement is legitimised, hate becomes normalised. As campaign groups, support centres and self-organised networks have repeatedly shown, certain forms of violence have intensified under the rubric of austerity. But they are rarely given official recognition. In a survey published by the Disability Hate Crimes Network in 2015, ‘scrounger rhetoric’ was highlighted in the testimonies of around one in six of 61 disabled people who described themselves being verbally or physically assaulted in disability hate crimes. Six charities in 2012 stated that a narrative of ‘benefit scrounging’ or ‘faking’ was fuelling hostility. Discussing an increase in disability hate crimes coming before the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) between 2008/9 and 2013/14, one of the co-founders of the activist group Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) remarked that the figures were ‘no doubt fuelled by the constant media-fuelled campaign against benefit claimants.’ There were around 62,000 disability-related hate crimes each year in 2012/13 and 2013/14, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). In 2014/15 the last year for which figures are available, 2508 offences were recorded by the police – and increase of 15 per cent from two years earlier. (pp. 219-20).

There can be absolutely no doubt about it. The Tories are generating a violent hatred against immigrants and the disabled. And Mike’s also right that they aren’t going to make conditions any better. Because they enjoy causing suffering and misery to the poor and disabled.

 

Gordon Dimmack on Tweezer Refusing to Give Interview to Channel 4

October 3, 2018

Gordon Dimmack is a left-wing vlogger with a particular interest in disability issues. In the video below, of about six and a half minutes in length, he discusses Tweezer’s decision yesterday not to give an interview to Channel 4’s Jon Snow at the Tory conference.

He shows the piece Snow himself broadcast about it, pointing out that this was the first time since the broadcaster was founded in the 1982 that it had been refused an interview with the-then leader of the ruling party. He’s been therefore for 35 years interviewing Thatcher, then Blair, Brown, Cameron and even Tweezer herself. Except this week, when they turned him and the broadcaster down. No reason was given.

Dimmack wonders whether the reason could possibly be connected to an interview Tweezer gave four weeks ago to Channel 4’s Michael Crick. This was when she was at Robben Island in South Africa going to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela. And Crick gave her a grilling comparable to that handed out by Paxo on Newsnight. He asked her a question she really didn’t want to answer: what did she do to free Nelson Mandela?

As you can see from that segment of Dimmack’s video, she really didn’t want to answer that question. She tries to get round it by waffling about the support given to Mandela and South Africa during the transformation to democracy. What it doesn’t wash with Crick. He asks her if she got herself arrested protesting South Africa or boycotted South Africa. Tweezer admits that she ‘didn’t chain herself to railings’ before trying to resume with her waffle about Britain supporting Mandela, his vision of the country, etc. Crick is skeptical about this, and with good reason. Thatcher considered Mandela a terrorist. And he asks Tweezer about all this supposed aid Britain gave South Africa under Thatcher. Tweezer continues with her nonsense about giving help where it was needed.

Crick doesn’t pick up on it, but that raises all kinds of questions. Thatcher tried to justify her refusal to boycott South Africa on the grounds that it would hit Black South Africans the worst. But the ANC, Mandela and the other Black organisations wanted Britain to impose sanctions anyway. So what was Tweezer saying: that by not imposing sanctions, they were giving to Black South Africa, even when that was not what they wanted, when they saw their real goal as ending apartheid? Crick doesn’t ask, and Tweezer didn’t say, but the question’s still there.

Crick’s interview was admired, rightly, by the press and critics. But the Tories haven’t given Channel 4 another interview with Tweezer.

But one broadcaster they have allowed to interview her was the Beeb. And Dimmack pointed out that the last interview the Corporation did with her was very softball, with what looks like the Macclesfield Goebbels, Nick Robinson, lobbing very easy questions at the Prime Minister.

Dimmack wonders if Tweezer’s new reticence towards Channel 4 has got something to do with the above, claiming that he honestly doesn’t know. Well, unless Tweezer ‘fesses up, no-one knows. But he’s built a good case.

As for Jon Snow, he remarks that access is the cornerstone of democracy, it helps journalists hold the government to account. He’s right, but this is clearly a government that doesn’t want to be held to account. But then, that was clear by its attempts to weaken even further the Freedom of Information Act, the way Tweezer and her predecessors have refused FOIA requests into the deaths they have caused with their wretched ‘work capability tests’. And the Tory press have been absolutely complicit in supporting this out of control, murderous party.

News Rottweiler Richard Madeley Throws Gavin Williamson Off Programme for Not Answering Question

May 31, 2018

This is a turn up for the books. Richard Madeley is probably the last person I would have considered an aggressive, uncompromising interviewer, trying to hold the government and the authorities to account. But on ITV’s Good Morning on May 29th, 2018, Madeley showed he was not prepared to put up with Gavin Williamson’s repeated failure to answer his questions about the Skripal poisoning. And so, rather than let him continue, Madeley ended the interview, wishing him good luck with his project for Africa.

Mike put up a piece about this yesterday, remarking that not only had Williamson not answered the question, he was carrying on with a smug smirk on his face. Mike wrote of Williamson’s refusal to answer the question

He was deliberately withholding, not only his opinion on his ill-chosen words about the Russian government, but information on whether the Conservative government acted prematurely in blaming Russia for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

The Tory narrative that the Russian government was responsible has collapsed beneath a barrage of factual information suggesting otherwise, with no facts to support it.

If Mr Williamson had admitted his words were ill-advised, he would have been accepting that the anti-Russia stance was a mistake – and opening the UK government to an investigation into its own activities. So he was between a rock and a hard place.

And he thought he could brazen it out on TV because mainstream media interviewers are now notoriously soft on Tories.

Mike noted that this deference to the Tories had changed with Madeley’s actions, but was unsure whether it would spread to the Beeb because so many of the Corporation’s top news team are Conservatives. However, the public are also turning away from soft interviewers like Andrew Marr and Evan Davis, and this may force the BBC to adopt a tougher stance when interviewing Tory politicians.

Mike’s article also compares it to the incident, 21 years ago, when Paxman ended an interview with Michael Portillo because the future presenter of programmes about train journeys around the globe refused to answer a question on his party’s policy towards the single European currency. The incident happened in a good-humoured way, and Paxo was probably able to do it, according to Mike, because Portillo was out of Parliament at the time, and his political influence was due to be confined for the foreseeable future to being one of the commenters on Andrew Neil’s The Week.

Mike’s article is at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/30/the-madeley-moment-is-it-really-21-years-since-an-interviewer-dismissed-an-evasive-politician-for-failing-to-answer-a-question/

RT, as well as a number of other news sites on YouTube, also reported the incident. Here’s RT’s video of it.

Way back in the 1990s Jeremy Paxman was called a ‘Rottweiler’ for his persistent, aggressive questioning of politicians on his show, and his refusal to take any nonsense from them. Which was shown in his repeated questioning of Michael Howard whether he overruled another Tory minister. His ‘take no prisoners’ style of questioning enraged the Tories, and Michael Heseltine actually walked out during one interview, ‘angrily tossing his mane’ in the words of Ian Hislop later that week on Have I Got News For You.

The Tories responded as they usually do by claiming that Paxman and the BBC were biased against them. There was an article in the Spectator comparing Paxman to a similar TV interviewer in the Republic of Ireland, who went in hard with establishment politicians, but didn’t dare adopt the same stance with Sinn Fein or spokesmen for the IRA. And so eventually Paxo left Newsnight, and went instead to harass university students on University Challenge.

Then when Labour got it a few years later, the Tories showed once again how two-faced they are by lamenting how sad it was that Paxo had departed from political journalism, because now the country needed him to interrogate Blair and co with his aggressive refusal to allow his guest to get away with talking nonsense.

And so began the situation that prevails today, when members of the government turn up on television with the attitude that they can more or less say what they want, without being corrected or pressed by the interviewer. Some of us can still remember how Nicky Morgan repeatedly refused to answer one of the Beeb’s interviewer’s questions when she was minister for education. This was when Tweezer decided that every school should be an academy. The interviewer asked her a question about the number of academies, that had to be taken over again by the state, and all Thicky Nicky did was to repeat a line about how terrible it would be if children continued to be badly educated through attending failing state schools. In fact, the number of failing academies was high – about 21 or so, I seem to recall. Thicky Nicky clearly couldn’t admit that, and so she carried on repeating government propaganda. Just as the interview ended, the journo said, ‘You know the number’. He was clearly annoyed and frustrated at Morgan’s failure to answer the question, and made it very clear.

It would solve a lot of problems if interviewers did adopt a more uncompromising stance, and did throw politicians off the programme if they didn’t answer their questions. Reith was an authoritarian, who supported Mussolini, but he was right when he said that broadcasting to the nation was a privilege, not a right. This is a democracy, and the role of the press and the media – the Fourth Estate, as they’ve been called – has traditionally been to hold the government to account. Of course, this collapsed at least a decade ago, when the media became dominated by a very few big proprietors, who made sure that their papers represented their interests and those of the Conservative government, including Blair’s Thatcherite New Labour.

It’s good now that some TV interviewers are tired of giving the government such soft treatment. And as I said, it’s remarkable that this should come from Richard Madeley, who would be the last person I would have thought would do it. But obviously he decided he’d had enough, and something snapped. All hail Madeley, news Rottweiler. And I hope this attitude carries on and spread, so that we get something like the media we deserve in this country, rather than the one that’s foisted on us by the Beeb, Murdoch, Dacre and the Barclay Twins.

Radio 4 Programme on Douglas Adams, and New Series of Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

February 27, 2018

This Saturday, 3rd March 2018, Radio 4 are broadcasting a programme on Douglas Adams and his ideas for the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, based on papers at Cambridge University. The programme’s part of their Archive Hour series, at 8.00 O’clock in the evening. The blurb for it on page 119 of the Radio Times reads

John Lloyd explores a collection of Douglas Adams’ private papers written as the latter’s ideas for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy took shape.

There’s a bit more about the programme on the previous page, 118, which runs

Don’t Panic! It’s the Douglas Adams Papers

As part of the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast on Radio 4 of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy a new series begins on Radio 4 on Thursday. It includes unused material held at Cambridge University by author Douglas Adams, and Adams’ papers are the basis of his friend and collaborator John Lloyd’s tribute this evening. The tribute inevitably hinges on Adams’ famous inability to write. He “got stuck”. But the results of his anguish impressed such fans as Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, both of whom appear. A priceless homage to a comedy genius.

And there’s a two-page feature on him on pages 114 & 115.

The new series of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is on Radio 4 at 6.30, on Thursday 8th March. The new series’ entitled The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Hexagonal Phase, and the listing for it in the Radio Times runs

Simon Jones returns as Arthur Dent in a new sci-fi comedy tale based on Dirk Maggs’ novel And Another Thing, with additional material by creator Douglas Adams. It sees Arthur and the rest in an adventure involving Viking Gods and Irish confidence tricksters-not to mention the first glimpse of the Eccentrica Gallumbits.

I don’t think I’ll be listening to it, as I went off Hitchhiker and Adams way back in the 1990s. I loved the first two books, but their quality steadily went down, and I’ve had no desire to read the Dirk Gently stories or anything else Adams’ wrote. And I also wasn’t impressed by the way Adams got very sniffy in an interview on the radio with Paxman, when Paxo told him he wrote science fiction, ‘but it was good’, and Adams denied that he did. Hitchhiker clearly is SF, but it seems Adams either didn’t respect the genre due to literary snobbishness, or simply didn’t want to be pigeonholed as an SF writer. I can also remember him on another radio programme back in the 1990s telling an audience of schoolchildren that he was a ‘wordsmith’. I’m sure that’s true, in the sense that Adams was genuinely concerned with making sure his work was exactly right, but it still sounds more than a little pretentious and conceited when the uses the term to describe himself.

Stephen Hawking to Play The Book in New Series of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

February 18, 2018

The I newspaper yesterday reported that the physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, is set to play the Book in a new radio series of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Entitled ‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Hexagonal Edition’ the series will commemorate the original show on Radio 4 back in 1978, featuring the original cast.

I loved the original series of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the first two books based on the show, the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. However, I lost interest in it after the third book. I tried reading the fourth, only to give up. I think by that time Douglas Adams himself was growing tired of writing them. I’ve heard someone say on an interview that he was only lured back to write his last Hitch-Hiker book by the publisher’s promise that in it he could destroy every possible Earth in every possible universe. So I’m not sure I’ll listen to it, especially as the series is being carried on by other writers.

I also wasn’t impressed by Adams’ expressed contempt for the genre he wrote in. Back in the 1990s he was interviewed on the radio by Paxo, who said his book was Science Fiction, but different. It was good. Adams replied by saying that he didn’t write Science Fiction. Which is odd, because that’s what Hitch-Hiker is. But I guess Adams wanted to avoid being pigeonholed as a genre writer.

At that time the prejudice of the literary establishment towards Science Fiction and Fantasy was much stronger than it is now. I can remember seeing Terry Pratchett speaking at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, saying how the organisers looked on him as if he was going to talk to people about fixing motorcycles. There’s a clip of the BBC arts programme, The Late Review, in which the Oxford lecturer and poet, Tom Paulin, and a female litterateur are asked to review one of Pratchett’s books, where they both make very disparaging remarks. The woman states that she felt like writing across it in big lines ‘I cannot read any more’. Paulin compared it to lifting up a stone to find all these weird people doing weird things underneath it. And going further back to the 1950s Brian Aldiss commented in The Trillion Year Spree that at that time, despite being championed by Kingsley Amis, pornography had a better reputation than Science Fiction amongst the literary elite.

Pratchett had to fight against that literary snobbishness throughout his life, but is now being taken very seriously by critics. I think Adams avoided it. Back in the ’90s he and Hitch-Hiker were the subjects of one edition of the South Bank Show with Melvin Bragg. But perhaps the price of that critical acclaim was his denial that he wrote Science Fiction at all.

But other people are different, and so I’ve no doubt that there are millions of Hitch-Hiker fans out there, who will be delighted to hear the news. They know who they are. They’re the people, who bought merchandising, like the Hitch-Hiker bath towels. This was a large, white bath towel with the text from the HHGG talking about how every Hitch-Hiker really needed to know where their towel was on it. I found one of those in Forever People, the comics/ SF shop in Bristol. The show’s fans are also the people, who organised conventions with dubious names like ‘Slartibartday’, after one of the creators of the Earth, Slartibartfast.

Hawking is in many ways an ideal choice for The Book after the death of Peter Jones, who was its original voice on Radio 4 and then in the BBC 2 TV series. He already has an electronic voice to fit the character of an electronic book, and is a world famous space scientist and advocate of space colonisation. But you wonder how massive his ego will be after playing a publication, which the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy describes as, amongst some people, having displaced the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom.

Paxo Draws Blood Again and Savages May

May 30, 2017

The Beeb’s crowing about how they caught out Jeremy Corbyn over the costs of free childcare on Woman’s Hour has shown several things that the Beeb definitely wouldn’t have intended. Firstly, it revealed how massively biased the Corporation is towards the Tories. As the French Philosophical Feline, Guy Debord’s Cat, has pointed out, the Beeb never, or rarely ever, asks where the money is going to come from when the Tories announce tax cuts. It sounds counterintuitive, but he makes the point that tax cuts also involve costs as well. Not that this would have mattered – none of the Tories’ policies are costed. But it also shows how desperate the Beeb and the Tories are getting, now that Corbyn is closing the gap between them and Labour.

A poll conducted shortly before the Manchester bombing showed that the gap was down to 5 per cent.

Hence the Beeb trying to make as much out of this minor victory as possible.

Last night, May and Corbyn were interviewed separately by Paxo. And, for many people, May’s performance was a debacle, while Corbyn came out far better. How poorly May performed can be seen on the clips Mike put up on his blog earlier today.

Paxo showed that he still had the power to lay into the great and powerful after leaving Newsnight and becoming the scourge of student quiz teams on University Challenge. Commenting on May’s various U-turns, such as when she announced she wouldn’t call a general election, and then did, and reversals she had made over Brexit, he said that instead of finding someone who was a good negotiator, the EC’s politicos and functionaries would instead find ‘a blowhard who falls down at the first sign of gunfire’. May, at least, had the decency to acknowledge they were U-turns, but tried explaining them away as necessitated by the circumstances.

And the responses from Twitter have been brilliant. WirralinItTogether, in response to Paxo’s brief, pithy characterisation of May as a negotiator, posted a picture of a little girl falling out of her chair laughing. Tory Fibs put up a list of the devastating cuts that have been inflicted on the NHS, and their equally devastating effects, like waiting lists are now at a seven year high. Members of the audience laughed at her, were seen mouthing ‘that’s bollocks’ when she spoke. And Martin Lewis posted the results of the poll.

Asked who they believed won,
48 per cent, who also supported Labour, thought he’d won.
37 per cent, who were not supporters of Labour, also thought he had.
11 per cent, who were Tories, though May had won.
And 9 per cent, who weren’t Tories, believed May had been the victor.

For more information, go to Mike’s blog, at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/30/battle-for-number-10-more-of-a-rout-as-theresa-may-falls-apart-under-questioning/

He has various clips, including a whole video of the interviews, so you can judge for yourself, along with other Tweets and videos showing Labour’s promises, including their pledge to reverse the damage to Britain’s security inflicted by May’s cuts to the police, border guards and armed forces.

Jim Hacker’s Interview Advice, and Michael Howard Savaged by Paxman

May 29, 2017

Tonight Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are both going to be interviewed by Paxman as part of the Beeb’s series of interviews with the party leaders in the run up to the general election. I found this video yesterday of Jim Hacker giving advice to Bernard on how to handle interviews with the media. The hero of ‘Yes, Minister’, and ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ advised

If you have nothing to say, say nothing. Better still, have something to say, and say it.

Pay no attention to the question, just make your own statement. Then if they ask the question again, you answer the question you want. If they ask you again after that, you say, ‘That’s not the question. The real question is..’, and then go on to make your statement.

Intercut with this is footage of the classic interview of Michael Howard by Paxo on Newsnight way back in the 1990s, when Michael Howard was the head of the Tory party. This was when Paxo’s interviews were something of a blood sport and hapless politicians found themselves demolished by his persistent questioning. Such as his repeated questioning of Howard whether he overruled a Tory colleague.

Paxo has said since then that he feels bad about this interview, as he went in much harder that he needed to be. The interview looked like it was going to end before the show’s time, and so the producer told him to keep Howard talking. And unable to think of anything else, Paxo savaged him for not answering the question.

Hacker’s advice to politicos and civil servants facing the media is still relevant. You can see them using it. MPs, cabinet ministers and even Theresa May herself will refuse to answer the questions put to them, and carry on making the same statements they want to make. As for May, she’ll adopt an awkward chumminess with the interview, as she did with Andrew Neil. She tried calling him by his first name, ‘Well, Andrew…’ before repeating ad nauseam her mantra of ‘strong and stable’.

Again like Hacker in one of his interviews with the Beeb in ‘Yes, Minister’, where he adopted the same fake chumminess, calling the interviewer by his first name.

‘Yes, Minister’, however, was a satire intended to mock and show up the bureaucracy of the civil service and the pretensions and incompetence of government officials and civil servants. Hacker’s interview advice was effectively the writers’ way of telling the audience how politicians try to wriggle out of answering questions they can’t handle.

In the case of Theresa May, it looks very much like she learned the technique, but hasn’t mastered it. She is not at ease with interviews, just as she does not like meeting the public. When she appears on interviews, she appears stiff and awkward, and when she uses this technique, it actually looks like something she’s been consciously taught and is trying to remember, like a school pupil trying to remember what the teacher said to him about techniques for public speaking. And, sooner or later, my bet is that she’s going to use this technique tonight.

Corbyn, by contrast, has been savaged by the media despite the fact that he does give them clear answers. They just don’t like what he tells them. All this stuff about not letting people starve, giving people decent wages and benefits and trying to create a fairer society. Which is why they’ve smeared him as a Trotskyite, just like they tried to paint Ken Livingstone as a Communist way back in the 1980s.

As for Theresa May, not only does she use Hacker’s interview technique, she’s even worse at it than Hacker, who was supposed to be a rather bumbling figure, something of an innocent, whose efforts to reform the civil service were constantly being stymied by Sir Humphrey.

The classic comedy series was so accurate in its depiction of Whitehall bureaucracy, that a friend of mine remarked that he now views it less as a comedy and more as a documentary.

Unfortunately, Theresa May and her vile policies are no laughing matter. Hundreds of people have died in misery and starvation thanks to her policies. 200,000 or so people have to use food banks, and 7 million people live in ‘food insecure’ households.

That’s homes where the mother is starving herself to make sure her kids eat, or where they don’t know where the next meal is going to come from.

Let’s end this malignant farce.

Vote for Corbyn and the Labour party on June 8th.

The Bad Man Blog: Q & A with Comics Legend Pat Mills

October 3, 2016

Borag Thungg again, Earthlets! Pat Mills, one of the Britain’s leading comics creators, and the script robot behind the Nemesis the Warlock, ABC Warriors, DeFoe, and Slaine strips in 2000 AD, and the classic Charley’s War in Battle, as well as Marshal Law, is featured in The Bad Man Blog in an entry for the 5th April this year, in which he answers 10 questions. The Bad Man introduces him with the words

If you want to know where the edge in modern comic books comes from, whether that be the inception of DC’s 80’s Vertigo line, the Image creator evolution of the 90’s, right on up to the Indie Artist ripe market-place, vying for a spot amongst the giants in modernity, then perhaps turn your head back to the late 70’s and the birth of 2000AD.

2000 AD Creator Pat Mills wanted to write working class comic books that shook the establishment and reached out to an angry youth with a subversive message that spoke to them through sci-fantasy. He succeeded with a revolution in British comic book storytelling that’s been oft imitated but never replicated.

Mills talks about the difficulty of writing for a disenfranchised generation, both then and now, without sounding too preachy or ‘David Icke’, and his regret that he couldn’t hit the establishment harder. He talks about how his opposition to the establishment was a product of his upbringing, and particularly his experience with the Roman Catholic Church and the Masons. He gives advice to budding comic creators, and lists the writers, who have been the biggest influence on his writing. Among literary giants like Wilkie Collins, Graham Greene, Dennis Wheatley and Rider Haggard, and modern crusading journalists and polemicists like John Pilger, he also includes Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle for the Molesworth Books, and for Searle’s St. Trinian’s cartoons. In answer to the question of what motivates him to write, he states that it’s a kind of catharsis and a way through strips like Slaine to explore his own psychology. And he also states that its a way of paying tribute to his heroes, like the Levellers. He continues

Defoe is a Leveller – they were great men who schools deliberately do not teach kids about because they stood for freedom. If the Levellers had won it wouldn’t be Charles 1 alone on the scaffold. They’d have got rid of all privilege. And there’d be no Charles 111. How our country allows an idiot with a disturbing, troubled and suspicious private life to take the throne of Britain is beyond me.

He also urges aspiring comics artists and writers to take up social activism and issues in their work, saying

Challenge society, change society, widen perspectives outside the mental straitjacket the media would put us in. E.G. By acknowledging Britain was probably one of the most evil Empires the world has ever known (and it’s still pretty dirty when you look at Iraq and Syria,) it sets us free. It’s not self-flagellation, it’s actually taking pride in the true Britain of characters like Defoe and the Levellers, soldiers like Charley in Charley’s War, wild Celts like Slaine and so on.

He discusses more history you don’t and won’t read about in answer to the Bad Man’s question of what he would do if he could go back in time. Mills’ answer is straightforward: Shoot Lord Milner. He explains that Milner was part of a conspiracy that started the First World War. He states that Belgium was in a secret alliance with Britain and France at the time, and it’s only in Britain that we’ve been taught otherwise. Mills goes on to explain that E. Morel, who exposed the Congo atrocities, also revealed Milner’s role in igniting the War, but his work is simply dismissed as ‘wrong’ by historians today. He recommends that for further information people should read McGregor’s Hidden History, which is available online, Milner’s Second War, and E. Morel’s pamphlets. He explains

If Milner had been assassinated, in 1912, it could have just stopped Armageddon and opportunist characters like Churchill and Lloyd George might never have come to power with the terrible consequences for the people of 1914 – 1918 and beyond. With some areas of history, I’m still a student, but I’ve been studying WW1 since I was a kid and there is no doubt Britain was responsible.

Not something you’re likely to read about in school books or the mainstream media where Max Hastings and Paxman reign supreme, alas. As you can see, I feel strongly about this because we owe it to our ancestors that the truth gets out there. Not the ‘noble sacrifice’ bullshit of Cameron and co. The WW1 generation of young soldiers were murdered by the British establishment in conjunction with other forces, notably the bankers and merchants of death.

He ends the session by talking about the strips he’s working on at the moment.

See: https://therealbadman.wordpress.com/tag/nemesis-the-warlock/

Mills clearly has some very controversial opinions, especially about the Roman Catholic church, and that Britain is occupying Northern Ireland. That clearly isn’t the way the Loyalist community see it. Nevertheless, regardless of his views on the legitimacy of British rule in Northern Ireland, he is absolutely right about there having been a ‘dirty war’ there. Lobster has published a series of articles discussing the collaboration of the British state with loyalist paramilitaries in containing the IRA, and how secret SAS units were embedded in regular army units to assassinate leading Nationalists.

As for the Roman Catholic church, unfortunately he is right in that there is a problem with corruption in Vatican and the Church hierarchy, and this has left many Roman Catholics feeling betrayed. The many scandals around the world about child abuse by priests and clergy has led to many believers leaving the Church, particularly in Ireland and in Germany. Many German Roman Catholics left because of the last pope’s perceived reluctance or inability to tackle the issue and make proper reparations.

Mills also makes a very good statement about the misuse of power in local communities, when he says that in the small town where he grew up, everyone in power knew everyone else, and used their power in very negative ways. Dad and others had the same experience of the power of the local business community in Taunton, and the same abuse of social and economic position and authority still continues in Britain today.

It would be very interesting indeed to read and hear more about Britain’s responsibility for causing the First World War. This is not a view I’ve ever heard before. Quite the opposite. Just about all the historians I’ve ever read have blamed the Germans and Austrians. German historians argue in contrast that the War broke out almost as an inevitable accident, brought about through the web of alliances and the extremely volatile nature of the Balkans. Together, these caused the nations of Europe to ‘drift to war’. The German view, from what I’ve read, is not only rejected by British historians, but seen as something peculiar to Germany. It seems to me that it’s implied in British historians’ criticism of the German view of the origins of the War that the Germans are somehow trying to exculpate themselves from their responsibility for starting it. After reading Mills’ brief statements about the issue, the conventional historical view of German culpability no longer seems at all certain.

His is an extreme view, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. And he’s right about contemporary historiography of the war, at least at the popular level, being dominated by establishment figures like Max Hastings, the former editor of the Telegraph, and Jeremy Paxman. I like Paxo, and think he did a good job when he was on Newsnight, at least of irritating the Tories. But that doesn’t mean he’s telling the truth as an historian. Indeed, Private Eye a few weeks ago pointed out the many mistakes he was making in his latest excursion into literary history. He was trying to argue that a number of literary genres were in fact the creation of British writers in the 19th century. One of these was detective fiction. In fact, the first detective novel is usually considered to be Edgar Allan Poe’s The Mysteries of the Rue Morgue. Mind you, as with so many things, it can also be argued that the Chinese got there first. The Chinese also independently developed the novel, including tales of detection featuring Judge Dee. A number of these were translated by Van Lustgarten, who also wrote a story of his own using the character. So perhaps Paxo probably isn’t the most reliable guide either to literary history, or that of the Great War.

And as extreme as his view is, I don’t think it should be immediately dismissed because of the care Mills took in researching his stories. Charley’s War is a classic because it movingly portrays the reality of the War for the ordinary Tommy, and I’ve no doubt Mills did considerable research when writing the strip and subsequently after. He has said in another interview, a few years ago, how he broke with the traditional, very low view of comic writing when he started on 2000 AD. It was an SF comic, so he bought four books on science to research the subject, and invoiced IPC for expenses. Which left them shocked with the idea that anyone should do something as basic as that. Clearly, 2000 AD and its characters are Science Fiction and Fantasy, not fact, and in many cases very obviously are far from conventional scientific or historical fact. But the fact that Mills is prepared to research carefully the background of the strips he writes does make me wonder whether he’s right about this issue as well. But go and read what he says for yourselves, and make your own minds up.

Splundig Vur Thrigg!, as Old Green Bonce would say.

Vox Political: Former Chair BBC Trust Accuses Government of BBC Bias against Labour

May 12, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has also reported that a former chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons, has said that he believes that the BBC has been under political pressure from the government to be biased against Labour and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Mike writes

The former chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons, has admitted what some of us have been saying for years – that political pressure has been exerted on the Corporation to bias its news coverage in favour of the Conservatives and against Labour.

Sir Michael Lyons was chair of the BBC Trust from 2007 to 2011. He spent much of his career in local government, in chief executive posts, but he was also briefly a Labour councillor in the early 1980s.

He said on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One that political pressure was making the BBC biased against Labour and Jeremy Corbyn:

“I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that the BBC has sought to hedge its bets of late. There have been some quite extraordinary attacks on the elected leader of the Labour party, quite extraordinary. I can understand why people are worried about whether some of the most senior editorial voices in the BBC have lost their impartiality on this.”

Mike states that this could apply just to Laura Kuenssberg, who has been the subject of a petition to remove her because of her blatantly overt bias against Corbyn. But the comments could just as well refer to those further up, such as Kuenssberg’s boss, James Harding. He also states that several kites have been flown, by people he believes are close to John Whittingdale.

Naturally, this has been rejected by the Beeb’s head, Tony ‘Head Prefect’ Hall.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/12/political-pressure-making-bbc-biased-against-labourcorbyn-says-former-bbc-trust-chair/

I really don’t take the Beeb’s protestations of impartiality terribly seriously. Not after academics from, I think, Edinburgh University showed that the Beeb was far more biased towards the Tories and business leaders, and was more likely to invite them to speak than Labour or the trade unions. As for Dave Cameron’s cruel and disgraceful austerity programme, Barry and Saville Kushner were moved to write their book, Who Needs the Cuts, because the very people, who should have been challenging the government’s line on austerity, weren’t. That includes BBC broadcasters, who uncritically accepted the government’s assertion that the debt was nearly insurmountable and that savage cuts were needed to bring it down to a manageable level.

Years ago, when the Beeb was under the control of John Birt, the Conservatives were constantly attacking it for being biased against them. They have been particularly annoyed about Jeremy Paxman, whom they regularly accused of bias. These claims seem somewhat risible now that Paxman has admitted being a ‘One Nation’ Tory. Private Eye attacked this claim of Labour influence at the Beeb with a story from one of their readers, who had been shooting in the Scots highlands. A party led by John Birt was also shooting not far away. And after shooting had ended at that location, as well as Birt they saw a whole party of leading Tory politicos, including Peter Lilley, scurry out of the undergrowth.

The Tories regularly accuse the BBC of having a pro-Labour bias, rather in the same way that Accuracy in Media would have Americans believing that the American broadcasters are overwhelmingly liberal with the only exception being the ‘fair and balanced’ Fox News. In fact, you can expect the opposite. The BBC is part of the establishment, and so the most common voice on it is that of the establishment – the upper and upper middle classes, represented politically by the Conservatives. And the BBC probably genuinely believes it’s impartial, because it shares the Tories’ class background, and so considers that their views, or views like them, are really the only views that matter. And so working class and trade unionist political views points are not given the same airtime or consideration, as these are still considered, after a over a century of the Labour party’s existence, as still somewhat outside what the serious classes believe. And so runs the bias, conscious or unconscious, at the heart of the Beeb’s attitude to Labour.