Posts Tagged ‘Manchester University’

Ofcom Now Investigating BBC for Bias

March 8, 2019

Yesterday Mike posted up a piece reporting that the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, was investigating the Beeb for bias, and it wasn’t looking good for Auntie.

Mike began his article with his tweets criticising Jo Coburn of Politics Live for continuing describing the attack on Corbyn as an egging, when in reality the Labour leader had been punched in the head. He also noted the contradictions in its reporting of the anti-Semitism witchhunt in the Labour party. On the one hand he was being berated for his lack of leadership and doing too little, while on the other he was supposed to be personally interfering. These two assertions together violate one of the fundamental laws of logic discovered by Aristotle, the Law of Non-Contradiction. But logic and reason don’t matter a jot to the right-wing media.

The broadcasting regulator has said that its investigating the Beeb because people are worried about fake news on the internet. The Beeb has a central role in providing trusted news, but people feel that the beeb’s television and radio news is less impartial than its other news output. And so Ofcom is examining in detail the Corporation’s delivery of its first Public Purpose, the first point of which is

“to provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them. The BBC will provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world.”

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/03/07/ofcom-is-investigating-the-bbc-for-bias-and-its-looking-bad-for-auntie/

The BBC has a very long history of right-wing bias. During the miners’ strike in the 1980s they reversed footage of the police attack on the picket line at Orgreave to make it appear to show the miners’ attacking the police. The Kushners in their book Who Needs the Cuts show how the Corporation marginalises those politicians, trade unions and activists, who reject austerity in favour of its promoters. When dissenting voices do appear, they will be talked over or shouted down by the presenter. Studies by Scots academics have also shown that the Corporation prefers to interview Conservative politicians, bankers and industrialists about the economy than Labour politicians and trade unionists. And the Corporation’s coverage of the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn has been massively one-sided.

None of this is remotely surprising, considering how the Beeb’s newsroom is stuffed with Tories, like the Macclesfield Goebbels Nick Robinson, who was head of the Tory association at Manchester University.

The Beeb should face some tough questioning over its bias, and it’ll be very interesting what Ofcom concludes.

 

Advertisements

The Miners’ Strike and Times’ Editor Charles Moore’s Hatred of the Working Class

June 4, 2016

Owen Jones in his book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, argues that the impoverishment and degradation inflicted on the working class by Tony Blair’s New Labour and the Conservatives is due to a bitter hatred of them by the Conservative upper classes. He quotes Balfour as saying ‘Of course there’s a class war going on. We started it.’ Hollingworth’s discussion of the miner’s strike in his The Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship adds more evidence to this. He notes that the right-wing press and its editors may also have had a very strong hatred of the miners, a hatred that was displayed in a comment by Charles Moore, a former editor of the Times and one of the Thatcher’s biographers. It was also displayed in a piece written by an academic, who talked about how the miner’s were all tricked into striking because they were the less intelligent pupils from Secondary Moderns and Comprehensive schools.

There is also some evidence, though far from conclusive, that Fleet Street’s hostility was based on simple class hatred towards the miners and their families. Charles Moore is the editor of the Spectator but used to be a Daily Telegraph reporter and writer and still contributes to the paper regularly. Asked about the miners, he replied: ‘I really hate those people, actually. This strike as brought out feelings I didn’t know I had. It seems to me such a lie that these people represent or are the defenders of an oppressed class and so clear that Arthur Scargill is an oppressor, that is has finally brought out all my contempt for the Left. A perhaps more serious example came from the Sunday Times in August 1984. The paper commissioned a feature article by Professor Frank Musgrove of Manchester University. This is what he wrote:

In the past 30 years two social processes have siphoned off men of initiative and ability. Educational selection has left a residue of D and E stream secondary modern and comprehensive school pupils for pit work – there has been a massive haemorrhage of talent from mining communities. And earlier pit closure programmes have set up eddies of selective migration which have drained away the most enterprising men from the more northerly fields.

It is the dilute human residues that remain, especially in Yorkshire and Durham, that have been most effectively manipulated and mobilised by the tactics of the NUM. They have been bounced into a strike without a ballot and have learned to repeat slogans (‘No pit closures on economic grounds’. ‘Cowards hide behind ballots’) whose horrendous implications they do not begin to grasp.

We did not solve the educational problem by raising the school-leaving age to 15, still less to 16. Five years in the E Stream of a comprehensive school is an excellent training in sheer bloody-mindedness if not actual subversion. … This is not education. It is a species of trench warfare. It is anticipatory socialisation for the mass picket line. (The emphasis is added by Hollingworth, pp. 283-4). The Sunday Times was, of course, edited by Andrew Neil, now presenting the Daily Politics for the Beeb.

The Miners’ Strike and Andrew Neil’s Connections to the Tories

June 4, 2016

Many of the leading Fleet Street journos and BBC presenters have connections to the Tory party. This has been shown very clearly recently in the public outrage over Laura Kuenssberg’s egregious bias towards the Tory party, but other leading BBC hacks are equally culpable. Nick Robinson was head of his branch of the Federation of Conservative Students at Manchester University, and Evan Davies has also written books in favour of privatisation. Another Conservative on the Beeb’s news and current affairs department is Andrew Neil, former editor of the Sunday Times and the Scotsman, and present of the Daily Politics. Mark Hollingworth discusses Neil’s close links to the Tory party in the chapter on the Miner’s Strike in his 1986 book, The Press and Poltical Dissent: A Question of Censorship, in which he notes the personal friendship and collaboration between Neil and Peter Walker, the energy secretary. During the dispute, Neil ran Conservative propaganda in the Sunday Times. However, the relationship between the two goes back further than the strike. Hollingworth writes

The close links between Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil and Walker had a strong bearing on that paper’s coverage of the strike. The two have been close friends since the autumn of 1971 when Neil worker for Walker as his political assistant on the environment desk in the Tory Party research department during the Heath government. They parted ways in November 1972 when Walker was moved to the Trade and Industry Ministry, and the following year Neil joined the rightwing Economist magazine. But they kept in touch. They both share a passion for all things American and Walker would often stay at Neil’s flat in New York between 19779 and 1982 when Neil was the Economist’s US correspondent.

Neil and Walker have similar political views. Liberal on social issues, on economic policy they are both keen advocates of the market economy and the deregulation of business. Although Neil is a firm supporter of privatisation, he says he is ‘left of centre’ on the overall management of the economy. Perhaps this is why he addressed a Tory Reform Group fringe meeting at the 1985 Conservative Party conference. Neil spoke alongside Tory MP Julian Critchley on the theme: ‘Is It Policy or Presentation?’ Walker is, of course, president of the Tory Reform Group.

But when the 1984-5 miner’s strike began Neil and Walker were of one view – the NUM must be beaten. Throughout the dispute, according to former Sunday Times political correspondent Robert Taylor, Walker Telephoned Neil every Saturday morning with his current thoughts and fed him information about the government’s strategy. Another former Sunday Times journalist said that ‘these conversations certainly influenced the way the paper covered the strike.’ Neil declined to comment about his personal links with the Energy Secretary. ‘Any talks with Walker were off the record,’ he said.

And this is one of the right-wing journalists and Tory activists, who are now trying to tell us how impartial the BBC is. It’s a lie, just like most of the crap Neil published about the miner’s.

The Robbins Report and the Expansion of University Education

March 16, 2016

The expansion of higher education and its extension to students from working class backgrounds was a policy that had its origins in a Conservative government. This was the Robbins Committee formed by Harold MacMillan’s government, which produced a report in 1963. This argued that higher education should be made available to everyone, who had the ability. They were assisted in this by the massive growth in secondary education, and the growing need for an educated class of technicians and workers for industry. The Labour party under Harold Wilson was also planning to found 40 new universities.

Sullivan, in his The Development of the British Welfare State, writes of this

Into this maelstrom of political activity, emerged the Robbins Report in October 1963. Its most important recommendation was that ‘courses in higher education should be available to all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so.’ In effect, this was to mean two things. First, that all candidates with good enough A-level passes would be eligible (thus satisfying the ability criteria). Second, however, it meant that local authorities would be committed to funding all candidates accepted by higher education institutions. For the recommendations of the Anderson Committee that all students in higher education should be grant-aided had been implemented while the Robbins Committee was sitting.

The implications of the Robbins proposals were momentous. First, the report assumed a 50 per cent increase in the number of higher education students by 1967, turning into a 250 per cent rise by 1980. As the bulk of these were to be in universities, new universities would need to be built. As the need for technological development was recognised by the committee, the Colleges of Advanced Technology, (CATs) were to be translated into universities. (p. 148).

Among its conclusions, the Report stated ‘But we believe that it is highly misleading to suppose that one can determine an upper limit to the number of people who could benefit from higher education, given favourable circumstances.’

‘[J]ust as since the war more children have stayed on at school for a full secondary education, so in turn more of their children will come to demand higher education during the 1970s…’

‘This in itself is … no guarantee that the quality of students will be maintained if there is an increased entry. There is, however, impressive evidence that large numbers of able young people do not at present reach higher education….

‘The desire for education, leading to better performance at school, appears to be affecting the children of all classes and all abilities alike, and it is reasonable to suppose that this trend will continue…

Finally, it should be observed that fears that expansion would lead to a lowering of the average ability of students in higher education have proved unfounded. Recent increases in numbers have not been accompanied by an increase in wastage and the measured ability of students appears to be as high as ever.’

(From Margaret Jones and Rodney Lowe, From Beveridge to Blair: The First Fifty years of Britain’s Welfare State, 1948-98 (Manchester: Manchester University Press 2002) 125).

It’s to SuperMac’s credit that his government did open up university to people from the working classes. Since Margaret Thatcher’s time, the Tories have increasingly wanted to shut it off to students from poorer backgrounds. Higher education has been privatised, funding cut, and student grants abolished. Instead they’ve been replaced with loans, which have escalated to exorbitant levels beyond the ability of many students to pay as free education has been abolished. Bliar’s government took the step of introducing tuition fees nearly a decade ago now, but it was Cameron’s coalition government that raised them to £9,000 a year. And many universities have been pressing for further increases.

What this means is that graduates and former students now live with considerable debts, to the point that they may never be able to afford a mortgage. This is despite Nick Robinson, one of the Beeb’s newscasters, leaping about the TV studio trying to convince everyone that student loans were going to be free money, because you didn’t have to pay them back if you didn’t earn a certain amount. Robinson’s enthusiasm for student loans is only to be expected. He was, after all, the head of the Federation of Conservative Students at Manchester University, and another link between the Tories and the BBC. When Bliar was discussing introducing student fees in the 1990s, there was considerable concern that this would make university too expensive for poorer students. The result would, in the view of one university spokesman, be that universities became a kind of finishing school for wealthy former public school pupils.

I don’t know if that’s quite happened yet. There are still many thousands of pupils willing and eager to go to university. However, with tuition fees rising to the tens of thousands and no funding available for those from lower or middle class backgrounds, it does seem to me that the Tories are aiming at taking us back to the situation before 1963. Four decades of Thatcherism is undoing SuperMac’s work, and higher education is being increasingly selective on the basis, not of talent, but of wealth.

Which is what you’d expect from a government led by toffs.

Hope Not Hate on British Nazi’s Anti-Semitic Rant at Blackpool

March 15, 2016

Hope Not Hate, the anti-Fascist, anti-religious extremism organisation, has published a piece about Jack Renshaw’s Nazi tirade against the Jews during the demonstration on Saturday by National Action, the youth wing of the BNP, and the North West Infidels. Hope Not Hate has described the descent of the British Fascist fringe back into anti-Semitism, casting off their attempts in recent years to put the Nazi origins of the various grouplets and decaying parties in the past.

Renshaw himself has been a fixture of the Far Right in this country for some years now. He had been a student at Manchester University, but has now been thrown out. At Blackpool, Renshaw threatened that when the Nazis come to power, they’ll execute anti-Fascists in ‘the chambers’. He described the current global migration as a ‘disease’ that was caused by, you guessed it, the Jews. He followed this up by saying that ‘in the Second World War, we took the wrong side’. He declared Jews to be the major issue, and urged people to ‘deal with them’.

The article can be read at: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/insider/jack-should-be-getting-a-tap-tap-tap-4805

It’s vile stuff, though it’s to the credit of the great people of Blackpool and the holidaymakers that Renshaw and his crowd of boot-boys were roundly ignored. After all, those who go to Blackpool, go there to have a good time, which obviously rules out listening to the vile and stupid ranting of wannabe mass-murderers.

As for Renshaw’s claim that ‘the Jews’ are behind international mass migration, this is obviously a lie. There are a number of reasons behind it. These include the frustrated and desperate forced out of their home countries by war, persecution and violence, or simply looking for better economic opportunities in the far more prosperous, stable and at least for the present, much less corrupt nations in the northern hemisphere. A little while ago I put up a piece from an sociological study of a Moroccan migrant to Europe, who came here to work. He stated that there were little prospects for employment in his country, due to the much higher status of European manufactures amongst consumers and the extremely hostile business environment, which squeezed out and bled dry small, independent businessmen. My guess is that this experience is general across much of the Developing World. And where no work means no money – the Tory dream over here – it’s natural that so many should try to come to Europe and North America seeking better prospects.

As for those displaced by war, many of these have been forced out of their countries of origin by ethnic conflicts and feuds that date back centuries. And in the case of the Middle East, many of them are moving north from Syria and Iraq because of the destabilisation of the Middle East caused by Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq. So no, there is no Jewish conspiracy going on there.

Renshaw’s rant does show how far the British Far Right has gone as it goes back to its Nazi roots. They’ve given up the pretence of being respectable political parties, and stand exposed as what they are: racists, anti-Semites and Nazis. People, who thoroughly deserved to be ignored.

Vox Political: Tory MP’s Stupid Comments about Person with Learning Difficulties Sanctioned, Left to ‘Starve in the Dark’

February 7, 2016

Here’s another story from Vox Political that will make your blood boil, and astonish you with the sheer crass stupidity and insensitivity on the Conservative party. In his article, http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/07/how-many-other-tories-share-starve-in-the-dark-mark-spencers-views/ Mike reports that Labour’s shadow civil society minister, Lisa Nandy, told the Commons during a debate on Wednesday about poverty in the UK, how one of her constituents was sanctioned after arriving only four minutes late for an interview at the Job Centre. The man has learning difficulties, and was left without food or electricity. Mark Spencer, one of the genuine morons elected to join the Tory madhouse, declared this would teach the man better time-keeping, and blamed the education system for not curing his ‘learning difficulties’. A political scientist from Manchester Uni, accused hims of leaving the poor to starve in the dark.

Sometimes I wonder where the Tories find these people. Four minutes is hardly terribly late, and certainly not enough to warrant leaving someone without their food or power, except in the warped view of the DWP, which is desperately trying to find any excuse to throw people off benefits. Moreover, as any fule kno, most ‘learning difficulties’ can’t be cured simply through education. The term frequently refers to people, who have some kind of mental handicap. They’re incurable, or require special assistance in order to help them function in society. Like all the mentally handicapped people, who were educated in special schools, and are employed under particular schemes designed to give them work.

Spencer undoubtedly believes he’s just a bluff, straight-talking bloke, who simply says what things are. In other words, he’s the type of right-wing windbag you can find in many bars, sounding off about things they really don’t understand with all the confidence and self-assurance of the complacently ignorant. The Tories have been particularly successful in attracting any number of these ignorant so-and-sos to their ranks. Remember Matthew Freud, formerly a member of New Labour, and before then a lawyer for the Dirty Digger’s squalid empire, who declared that ‘the poor should be more flexible than the rich, because they have less to lose’. Or the Tory grandee, who described the homeless as ‘the people you step over leaving the opera’. And I don’t doubt there’s more. Many, many more. Mike even asks in his article how many share Spencer’s repulsive views. The answer is ‘quite a few, I should think.’

Once upon a time, Tory backbench MPs used to cause a scandal making racist comments about Blacks and Asians. They’ve clearly been told to shut up about race by Cameron, so they can no longer try and ‘outnigger’ each other, in the slang of the American Deep South for such politicised racist rhetoric. But the disabled and poor are still fair game. Last week I posted up a piece on the term ‘outnigger’, and wondered what the equivalent for the expression of competitive political contempt for the disabled would be. Florence, one of the commenters here, suggested ‘outmengle’. From Mengele, the infamous Nazi doctor. Well, it describes Spencer. He definitely has tried to ‘outmengle’ his rivals. He has both expressed his contempt for the weak, and the Social Darwinist ideal that they should have nothing done for them and be left to starve. We can definitely say that Florence’s neologism applies to him. And you can bet he isn’t the only one. Expect more outmengling of the physically and mentally handicapped as parliament goes on and the loudmouths get bolder.

Jodrell Bank and Amateur Radio Telescopes

December 18, 2015

BBC 4 a few weeks ago broadcast a documentary on the history of Jodrell Bank, Britain’s pioneering radio telescope. Bernard Lovell, its founder and director, had been one of the scientists working on the development of radar during the War, and the radio telescope was originally built using parts left over from the project that were due to be scrapped. In the early days it was very much an ad hoc operation. The size of the telescope’s dish has the radius it has because that was the distance between the van holding its key components in the early days to the edge of the field. The programme covered the history of the telescope from its very beginnings to today. It described how the telescope came into its own in the late 1950s and 1960s when it was the only instrument that could independently verify the first Soviet space missions and their conquest of space. This also caused additional pressure on Lovell, as there was official demand for him to monitor space missions in the USSR, which detracted from his real interest in exploring the heavens through the radio signals sent out into space from stars, nebulae and galaxies.

The Russians also liked and admired Lovell, so much so that on scientific trip to the Soviet Union, the Russians showed him some of their highly top secret space installations, and hinted that he would be very welcome if he left Britain and joined them. Obviously the great man did not take up the offer. Eventually such pressure proved so great that he was off work suffering from depression, and even considered leaving science altogether. Lovell was a Methodist, and to the surprise of his children, at this point in his career he considered joining the clergy. He didn’t, but went back to charting the heavens.

Other highlights of the telescope’s fifty-odd year history was the discovery, by Jocelyn Bell-Purnell, of pulsars. These are neutron stars, small, highly compact stars at the end of their lives, which broadcast a signal into space. The stars are small, about 40 miles or so in diameter, and spin quickly, so it appears that the signal is being sent in pulses. They’re also regular, so that in the first few days when they were discovered one of the theories about them was that they were a signal deliberately sent out into space from an extraterrestrial civilisation. After more pulsars were discovered in the following days, the scientists were able to give the true explanation of their origins.

Since its heyday, much larger telescopes and arrays have been built. Jodrell Bank nevertheless still remains important, contributing valuable research in this area of astronomy.

Indeed. I remember a few years ago an edition of one of the Beeb’s astronomy programmes in which Dara O’Brien and Brian May were up there. O’Brien is a failed mathematician, having dropped out of a university maths course, while May is a properly accredited astrophysicist. He had, it’s true, a twenty-odd year gap in his career, due to performing with Queen, but he finally handed his thesis in a few years ago. It was duly marked, and he passed. This obviously makes him one of the most rock ‘n’ roll scientists ever. I think in the programme they were supposed to be looking for signals from alien civilisations. They didn’t find any, which probably surprised no one, given that scientists have been looking, off and on, for radio signals from aliens since the days of Project OZMA in the late ’60s and 70s. Despite NASA’s optimistic prediction in 1995 that in five years they would be discovered, no has as yet.

Patrick Moore, one of the greatest science communicators and popularisers, always maintained that astronomy was still one of the very few areas of science where amateurs using modest equipment could make a real contribution. I doubt that there are very many ordinary people outside the big observatories, who have an active interest in radio telescopy. Nevertheless, it is possible to build your own radio telescopes. There’s a piece by Trevor Hill, who was a science teacher at Taunton School in Somerset, about how he built a an array of radio telescopes in the book, Small Astronomical Observatories, edited by Patrick Moore (London: Springer 1986). He did so as part of an attempt to get the pupils interested in astronomy. Naturally, he started off by building a normal, optical observatory for a telescope. He turned to radio astronomy at the suggestion of one of the pupils after the normal astronomy session had been cancelled due to rain. The pupil pointed out that radio waves travel through clouds, and so observation wouldn’t be stopped by bad weather. His article in the book describes the radio telescopes he built. This includes a set of Ham radio aerials set up in an array to receive radio waves from solar flares.

Taunton School Radio Telescope

Trevor Hill’s Solar Flare Radio Telescope at Taunton School

He also provides a schematic of the telescope’s construction. As you can see from the photo, even as a small-scale amateur project it’s still very large. Nevertheless, he states that it was very cheap. With the exception of the computer, it cost about £200 in 1995. Which means it’s almost possible for every man or woman to become their own radio astronomer. Obviously, this was before the boom ended, and Cameron got in to hit everyone with massive debt and advancing poverty.

Here’s Tim O’Brien, professor of astrophysics at Manchester University and the radio telescope’s associate director, talking about the telescope on the 70s anniversary of its establishment. It’s great to hear him say that it remains at the cutting edge of research, and may be so for the next fifty years.