Posts Tagged ‘Media’

‘I’ Newspaper: Rebecca Long-Bailey Promises to Support Unions and End Exploitative Work Practices

February 11, 2020

This is another excellent piece from Saturday’s I, for 8th February 2020. Written by Richard Vaughan, ‘Long-Bailey to promise no out-of-hours phone calls’ shows that the contender for the Labour leadership intends to restore the power of the trade unions and back them in industrial disputes, as well as removing work practices that damages workers’ mental health. It begins with her pledge to end the demand that workers should be on call 24 hours a day.

Labour leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey will pledge to give workers the right to switch off their phones outside of office hours to help end “24/7 work cultures”.

The shadow Business Secretary committed yesterday to give employees a “right to disconnect” based on the French system, which forces companies with more than 50 staff to allow them to ignore their mobiles during leisure time.

In a further attempt to show her support for workers, Ms Long-Bailey said she would back the right of employees to hold strike action “no questions asked” should she succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

Addressing a rally in Sheffield last night, she said the next Labour leader must be “as comfortable on the picket line as at the dispatch box.”

“As leader, I’ll put trade unions at the heart of Labour’s path to power, and back workers in every dispute,” she said.

She added that under her stewardship Labour would “back workers in every dispute and strike against unfair, exploitative and unjust employers”.

She said: “Standing on the side of workers and trade unions, no questions asked, is going to be crucial in standing up to this reactionary Conservative Government.”

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Ms Long-Bailey said she wanted to remove working practices that were damaging to mental health. “We can all do better with aspirational socialism, through pushing for an end to 24/7 work culture, and with trade unions empowered to negotiate this, we can work hard, be paid for the work we do and keep that precious time with our friends and family, uninterrupted by emails or demands”.

This is precisely the type of leadership working people need. The Tories and New Labour have done their level best to gut the power of the unions, and the result has been the massive increase in in-work poverty. Without strong trade unions, workers have been left stuck with stagnant wages, exploitative working conditions like zero-hours contracts which bar them from receiving sick pay, paid holidays or maternity leave and a culture that allows work place bullying and casual sacking. Blair and Brown were as keen on destroying union power as the Tories, and in denying workers protection against redundancy and short-term contracts, all in the name of workforce ‘flexibility’. Despite his candidacy for the party being backed by one of the unions, when Blair gained the leadership he even threatened to cut the party’s ties to them, a tie that is integral to the Labour Party, if they didn’t back his reforms and programme.

Long-bailey promises to reverse this, restore union power and so empower ordinary working people. Which means that the Tories and their lackeys in the press and media will do everything they can to discredit her. You can expect them to start running stories about the how the ‘strike-hit’ seventies made Britain ‘the sick man of Europe’ until Maggie Thatcher appeared to curb the union barons and restore British productivity and confidence. It’s all rubbish, but it’s the myth that has sustained and kept the Tories and their wretched neoliberalism in power for forty years.

But this is being challenged, and Long-Bailey is showing that she is the woman to end it.

Tony Benn’s Suggestions for Media Reform

February 10, 2020

One of the other books I picked up going through the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham last Friday was Tony Benn: Arguments for Democracy, edited by Chris Mullins and published in 1981. Based on Benn’s speeches, articles and lectures over the previous two years, the book was Benn’s observation on the profoundly undemocratic nature of British society, and his suggestions for reform. He wanted to create a more democratic society that would empower ordinary people and move towards the establishment of socialism.

Although it was written forty years ago, the book and its arguments are still tremendously relevant. One of the chapters is on media bias against the working class and the Labour party. As we’ve seen over the past five years and particularly during the last election in December, this is very much a live issue because of the unrelenting hostility by nearly all of the media, including and especially the Beeb, against Jeremy Corbyn, his supporters and the Labour party as a whole. Benn discusses right-wing media bias in the chapter, ‘The Case for a Free Press’, and on pages 118 to 120 he makes his suggestions for its reform.  Benn wrote

‘Some Proposals for Reform

Reform of the media has only recently come to be taken seriously. The Glasgow University Media Group, the Campaign for Press Freedom, the Minority Press Group and academics such as James Curran at the Polytechnic of Central London have produced a wealth of carefully researched analysis and proposals for reform which would reward seriously study. At the time of writing the Labour Party National Executive Committee has a working party considering what must be done to obtain a media responsive to the needs of a twentieth-century democracy rather than an arm of the British establishment. I do not wish to anticipate the proposals of the working party, but in the interests of stimulating debate on this important subject I set out below some of the possibilities for reform which are now being discussed in the Labour Party and elsewhere.

  1. An Open Press Authority

This has been suggested by James Curran and Jean Seaton in their book Power Without Responsibility. This would be a public agency accountable to Parliament and it would aim to extend the freedom to publish. The OPA objectives would include the following:

i Provision off a launch fund, raised partly from a tax on media advertising expenditure, to assist new publications.

ii Grants to assist publications that have failed to attract significant advertising.

iii A National Print Corporation to extend modern printing facilities to a wide range of publications.

iv A guarantee of distribution for minority publications through a new wholesale organisation.

2. Anti-Monopoly Legislation

Considerations will have to be given to legislation to break up the huge newspaper monopolies; existing monopoly legislation has proved wholly ineffective for this purpose. Such legislation should also prohibit or severely limit investment by newspaper chains in television and commercial radio.

3. Reform of the Wholesale Trade

Wholesale and retail distribution of British newspapers and magazines in dominated by just three companies: W.H. Smith, John Menzies and Surridge Dawson. In many areas one or other of these companies has a complete monopoly. The result is that non-consensus publications have great difficulty in reaching the news stands. The French have solved this problem by imposing a legal obligation on wholesalers and retailers to carry, on request, all lawful publications excluding pornography. Publishers have to pay a handling charge on all returns. As a result the French public have access to a far more diverse range of political views than we do in Britain. The French example should be studied.

4 The Right of Reply

Where a newspaper or magazine has published a report about an individual or group which seriously distorts the truth, the person or organisation offended should have the right to set the record straight in the columns of that newspaper. The reply should be allotted adequate space and prominence and it should appear as soon as possible after the original story. It should be made legally enforceable. The Campaign for Press Freedom has set out the case for a right of reply in an excellent pamphlet.

5 Broadcasting

i Instead of being composed of the ‘great and the good’, worthy citizens chosen for their alleged impartiality, the boards of the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority should contain representatives of a wide spectrum of opinion and interest groups.

ii The proceedings of the two boards of governors and all internal directives on policy should be publicly available.

iii The IBA should be given a legal obligation when awarding franchises, to give preference to non-profit-making applications such as cooperatives; at present most franchises got to companies more concerned with profits than quality.

iv The BBC is too big. It should be broken up into separate independent units for television, radio and the overseas service.

v The BBC licence fee, which places the Corporation at the mercy of the government, should be abolished and replaced by a grant awarded by Parliament five years in advance.

vi The Fourth Channel, as presently constituted, is controlled by the IBA and will buy in programmes from commercial companies. It should be reconstituted as a separate, publicly financed cooperative which would act as a ‘publisher’ of programmes made by freelance and independent production groups.

6 Satellite Broadcasting

By the mid-1980s satellite communication systems will make it feasible for American or European commercial television to be relayed into Britain. The result could be a diversion of advertising revenue away from existing publicly regulated services and an end of any chance of creating and maintaining public service broadcasting. As a matter of urgency Britain must contact other European governments with a view to placing under international control all companies using satellites for this purpose.’

He concludes the chapter with this:

These are some of the ways in which the British media could be developed to serve democracy rather than a consensus which has long been overtaken by events. I list these suggestions simply as a basis for consideration in an area where, until recently, there has been very little positive discussion. The free flow of information is the life blood of democracy and the present ownership structure and organisation of our media is incompatible with democracy. At a time of crisis, such as we now face, itis important that people should be able to choose freely between the various alternatives that political parties are seeking to put before them. To do that they need to be properly informed. That should be the role of the media in a democracy.

I’m not sure how many of these suggestions are relevant today, given the expansion of satellite and cable broadcasting,  the establishment of Channel 5 and the rise of the Net. My guess is that much of it is still acutely relevant, and the situation regarding the press monopolies has got worse since Benn wrote this. Murdoch now has an even firmer grip on the press and his own satellite channel, Sky, which he’d like to replace the Beeb. The Beeb has shown itself craven and massively biased towards the Tories, but they’re going to break it up and sell it off if they can in order to please Murdoch and the other commercial broadcasters. I think most of these reforms are still very much needed, but can’t see them ever being put in place given the massive opposition they provoke among the press and media barons, who control public opinion.

Corbyn’s supporters found a way round that with the internet, and Richard Burgon at the recent Labour deputy leadership hustings in Bristol suggested that Labour supporters should look to this and other alternative media rather than the old media. There are problems with this too, as the right have also latched on to the power of the Net. But it might just be the best, or only, way to move forward.

 

Channel 4 Threatened by the Tories with Privatisation… Again

February 6, 2020

The ‘Viewpoint’ column in next week’s Radio Times, for the 8th to 14th February 2020, contains an article by Maggie Brown, ‘Saving Thatcher’s baby’, about the problems confronting Channel 4. It begins

In 2020, Channel 4 is facing a number of challenges. Its staff are scattered to the winds, Channel 4 News is under attack from the Government, and the threat of privatisation looms. Is the pioneering broadcaster, which was launched in 1982 by Margaret Thatcher, facing an endgame?

She then describes how the broadcaster has moved its headquarters out of London and into Leeds, with hubs in Glasgow and Bristol with more programmes filmed in the regions, such as Manchester and Wales, and changes to the broadcasting schedules with the introduction of new programmes. One of these will be Taskmaster, taken from the Dave digital channel. Brown comments that the programme’s acquisition by Channel 4 is an attempt to boost audiences, but is also ‘a symptom of the tricky compromises and tightrope that C4 has to walk.’ She continues

It is a public service broadcaster “funded by advertising, owned by you”. It must also rally support as an alternative public service broadcaster to the BBC in the face of a hostile Conservative government that is needled by its mischievous independence and most recent mockery (that melting ice sculpture after Boris Johnson failed to show up for a climate change debate).

But relations with Conservative governments have always been tense, with liberal Channel 4 News and tough current affairs programmes such as Dispatches the lightning conductors. After the climate change debate last November, privatisation was immediately threatened again: a knee-jerk response.

She ends the piece by stating that the broadcaster’s business team will remain in London. She sees this as an indication that the broadcaster will not only confound the pessimist’s predictions of its impending demise, but will actually thrive. The business team have the Thatcherite values of self-reliance, and it’s this quality that will allow the broadcaster not only to survive but flourish.

Hm. Possibly. My own feeling is that if Channel 4’s business team manages to save the broadcaster, it won’t be because of an nebulous ethos of ‘self-reliance’, but because it will reflect the views and demands of metropolitan business. The same businesses that fund the Tory party.

She is, however, right about the Tories having a persistent distrust of the broadcaster. Thatcher set Channel 4 up in order to be an alternative to BBC 2. It was to serve communities that the Beeb channel didn’t, like ethnic minorities. It was also to excel in news coverage, as well as alternative arts and sports. By the latter, Denis Thatcher actually meant yachting. What that meant in practice was that the programme broadcast opera, as well as Indian cinema, a serial of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, a history of the madrigal, the pop show, The Tube, and a variety of comedy shows. These included Who Dares  Wins, a sketch show whose cast include Rory McGrath and Tony Robinson, the classic satirical puppet show, Spitting Image, and Desmond’s, which was set in a Black barbers, and launched a wave of Black comedian in Britain. It also had a history of Africa presented by the White afro-centric historian, Basil Davidson, and a news programme about the continent with Black presenters and reporters.  It also showed Max Headroom, which consisted of pop videos hosted by the eponymous Max, the world’s first computer-generated video jockey. Offsetting all the highbrow stuff were sexually explicit films and programmes, which was the closest teenage schoolchildren could get to viewing porn before the internet. It was the sexually explicit stuff that particularly annoyed the Daily Mail, who branded the broadcaster’s controller at the time, Michael Grade, ‘Britain’s pornographer in chief’. The Channel responded to this by broadcasting programmes for gays and lesbians. Amid the furore, one of the most sensible comments was made by the archdeacon of York. When they asked the good churchman what his view of the broadcaster showing a series about lesbians, he replied, ‘Well, who’s going to watch that if there’s Clint Eastwood on the other?’ Quite. Now I understand that one of the channels is bringing back The ‘L’ Word, a lesbian soap opera first shown at the beginning of this century. Quite apart from Channel 4’s own gay soap opera, Queer As Folk.

Private Eye seemed to regard Channel 4 back then as condescending and pretentious. Its literary reviewer sharply criticised a book by its then chief, Jeremy Isaacs, because he made it plain he wanted to bring the British public material like miner’s oral history and so on. When people complained that people didn’t want some of this, Isaacs replied that they had latent needs, needs they didn’t know they had, until someone showed them the material they’d been missing. It was this comment that particularly aroused the reviewer’s ire. But Isaac’s was right. Sometimes you don’t know if there’s a demand for a subject, until you offer people the chance of trying it. And Channel 4 really tried to expand, create and satisfy a market for culture. Oliver Letwin, the former sketchwriter for the Daily Mail and now the Times, actually praised the broadcaster for this in his book, Bog Standard Britain. The broadcaster’s programming always hit and miss. Amid the good stuff there was also much material that was rubbish. And while it had the reputation as rather left-wing, it also carried a programme of political discussion for Conservatives, Right Talk. On the other hand, its opera performances actually managed to reach a decently sized audience, showing that ordinary Brits wanted and would watch highbrow culture.

Its average audience, however, was tiny, and there was pressure on the broadcaster, like the Beeb, to produce more popular programmes to give the British public value for money. Hence the channel became much more mainstream in the 1990s. Its audience grew as expected, but the country lost out as the channel no longer tried to expand the public’s minds and tastes as it once had. And as I said, this was lamented by Letwin, among others, a supporter of the very party that had spent so much time decrying and criticising the channel for being too daring and alternative.

If I remember correctly, the Tories have privatised the channel before. There have been at least two part-privatisations, where the government has sold off some of its share in it. One was under Thatcher, when she was privatising everything. I think the other may have been under Major, who continued her programme. I have a feeling that the second privatisation may have been a cynical move by the Tories to try and work up some enthusiasm for the government. It was announced with the fanfare the Tories usually gave the privatisations, presenting them as some kind of exciting generous opportunity granted to Britain’s workers. Thatcher was trying to create a shareholder democracy, where ordinary people would own shares as participants in capitalism. That’s all died the death a long time ago. The shares given to the workers in the privatised industries have all been sold on, and are now in the hands of a few big businessmen. The council houses she sold off have been bought by private housing associations for profit, and there’s now a housing shortage. And the privatisations were never as popular as the Tories tried to make us all believe to begin with. Support for them, according to polls done at the time, never rose about fifty per cent.

Channel 4 news has a reputation for excellence. Which is undoubtedly why the Tories now despise it and are discussing privatisation again. Britain’s publicly owned broadcasters are under threat because they are obstacles to Murdoch, the Americans and the British private broadcasters, who fund the Tories, dominating British television. They also despise them because they’re supposed to be impartial, unlike the private networks, which would be free to have whatever bias their proprietors chose. And besides, as this week’s attempts to dictate to the media, who could and could not attend BoJob’s precious lobby briefings shows, the Tories want to impose ever more restrictive controls over the media. The end result of that process, if it goes on is, is the rigorous, authoritarian censorship of totalitarianism.

I dare say that if the Tories do go ahead and privatise the Beeb and/or Channel 4, it’ll be presented as some kind of great liberalisation. The British public will be freed from having to support them, and they will have to take their chances in the market place, according to the tenets of Thatcherism. But if that happens, public service broadcasting will have been destroyed along with what should have been cornerstones of media impartiality.

But considering how relentless biased the Beeb has been against Labour and in favour of the Tories, their news desk has done much to destroy that already.

MPs Condemn BoJob’s Attempt to Control Media at Briefings

February 6, 2020

This is another article from yesterday’s I, for 5th February 2020. The piece, ‘MPs from all parties raise concerns over ‘Trumpian-style’ media ban’, by Nigel Morris and Hugo Gye, reports that MPs from all parties are condemning the attempts by BoJob and his polecat, Dominic Cummings, to decide which journos should be rewarded with access to the PM at lobby briefings after Monday’s mass walkout. The article runs

Downing Street face cross-party anger over a “Trump-style” attempt to restrict access to a briefing on Boris Johnson’s Brexit policy to a small number of favoured political correspondents.

The exclusion of reporters regarded as critical of the Government prompted an emergency debate in the Commons, and the Cabinet secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, is under pressure to investigate the “deeply disturbing episode”.

I understands that Downing Street is reviewing its policy of staging selective briefings on policy.

Senior television and newspaper journalists walked out of Downing Street en masse when No 10’s director of communications, Lee Cain, insisted that only a handful of reporters would be admitted to a “technical briefing” with David Frost. I was among several titles that Downing Street attempted to exclude.

No 10’s tactics on Monday caused dismay among senior Tories and other MPs alike. One Tory MP said: “It makes us look like control freaks.”

And senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove endured an uncomfortable appearance on BBC’s 5Live programme when he refused to answer whether he would have joined the walkout when he was a journalist.

In the Commons, the Cabinet Office minister, Chloe Smith, insisted it was “entirely standard practice” to arrange such briefings and that the Government was “committed to… the principles of media freedom”.

The SNP MP Pete Wishart said Ms Smith’s “self-justifying nonsense” would not “get her off the Trumpian hook”.

Tracy Brabin, the shadow Culture Secretary, said the decision undermined the traditional neutrality of civil servants.

The Labour leadership front runner, Sir Keir Starmer, said: “The actions… are deeply disturbing. Banning the media from important briefings… is damaging to democracy.”

A No 10 source said: “We reserve the right to brief journalists which we choose whenever we wish to.”

There is nothing normal about BoJob’s crew trying to dictate who does or does not attend press briefings. Zelo Street showed that in a couple of pieces commenting on Guido Fawkes’ attempts to spin this line a few days ago. Chloe Smith is wrong, and Peter Wishart, Tracy Brabin and Keir Starmer are right.

The end result of this attempt to impose highly authoritarian control over the media is the rigid censorship of totalitarian states like Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. As for Johnson believing in the principle of media freedom, well, he may do so in principle, but he has very blatant contempt for the idea in practice. With luck this means that the media will become much less docile and compliant in their support.

Perhaps they might even start to take the idea of the journalist’s responsibility to the hold government to account seriously again.

Journos Walk Out As Boris Tries to Control Press

February 5, 2020

The Tory attempts to impose rigid, authoritarian control over the press continues. One of the big stories yesterday was the news that the assembled hacks and hackettes of the media had walked out of a press briefing organised by No. 10. There was going to be a ‘technical briefing’ on Brexit by David Frost, our comedy Prime Minister’s adviser on Europe. However, only selected members of the fourth estate were invited. A list was read out of those favoured journos were going to be allowed to go to No. 10, splitting the media into two groups as those who were and were not invited were told to stand on different sides of the room. The media outlets that were definitely not invited included the I, Daily Mirror, Independent, Evening Standard, HuffPost UK and PoliticsHome. Those papers not on BoJob’s list also tried to get into the briefing. This assault on press freedom was too much even for those invited, and other journos walked out of the meeting in protest. They included Laura Kuenssberg for the Beeb, ITV.s political editor Robert Peston and the senior political correspondents from the Heil, Torygraph, Scum, Financial Times and the Groaniad. A row broke out, with Lee Cain, BoJob’s director of communications, declaring “We are welcome to brief whoever we want, whenever we want’.

The Mirror’s political editor, Pippa Crerar, described the shenanigans as ‘sinister and sad’. The SNP’s culture spokesman, John Nicholson, commented that Johnson already hid from interviewers he found too tough, a tactic he learned from Trump. The Shadow Culture Secretary, Tracy Brabin, said that it was concerning that Johnson was using Trump tactics to hid from scrutiny. Dame Eleanor Laing, the deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, also condemned BoJob’s actions, and said, ‘Accredited lobby journalists are indeed part of our parliamentary community and so, of course, must be, should be, and normally are treated with respect’. And the NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: ‘As ministers are now boycotting certain programmes and journalists, this represents another very dangerous step.’

The I covered this in yesterday’s edition, for 4th February 2020. Their description of the events on page 10 was accompanied by an analysis by Richard Vaughan, ‘No 10 has started to chip away at freedom of press’, describing how this was just the latest step in Boris’ attempts to restrict press freedom and hostile reportage. The article ran

Since entering No 10 last year, Boris Johnson’s senior advisers have wanted to exert greater power when it comes to the media. Up until the election, Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s de facto chief of staff, and his direct of communications Lee Cain, were too distracted to do much about it.

But having secured an 80-seat majority, the pair have all but declared war on the parliamentary “lobby” journalists in a bid to exercise their new-found strength.

First was change to the lobby briefing system – the twice-daily meetings where journalists can fire questions at the Prime Minister’s official spokesman.

Cain insisted that all meetings would be held in Downing Street rather than the Commons. This raised concerns that it would give No 10 the power to refuse entry for any journalists who had fallen out of favour.

And so it has proved. Last week, a select group of journalists were invited to a briefing by security and intelligence officials on allowing Huawei to run part of the UK’s 5G network. Representatives from I, the Daily Mirror, HuffPost, the Independent, the Press Association, Reuters and several websites were barred.

Yesterday, No 10 repeated the move, attempting to freeze out several journalists from a Downing Street briefing with the Government’s lead Brexit negotiator David Frost, only this time it prompted a walkout.

It follows similar decisions by Mr Johnson’s team to boycott BBC Radio4’s Today and ITV’s Good Morning Britain as well as avoiding Andrew Neil during the election.

It is a power play by Cummings and Cain, who prioritise “message discipline” above all else and who view the favoured outlets as being essential to getting their message out. The move has been described as Trumpian by opposition MPs, due to its similarity to the way the US President excludes certain reporters he does not like.

It would be very easy to dismiss this as sour grapes at not being one of the chosen few titles, but it is a worrying sign of things to come. Shutting out certain publications damages the bedrock of a free media which exists to help hold the Government to account.

In fact, as the media coverage of the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn has shown, it’s been a very long time since the Tory media held the government to account. They were also very heavily favoured by the Beeb. John Major, when he was in power in No. 10, used to ask his cabinet how their friends in the media could help them spin certain issues and stories. And former cabinet ministers of Tony Blair’s have described how he was always concerned to have the press on his side, and that Rupert Murdoch was always an invisible presence at meetings due to his switch to supporting Blair.

Now with this attempt by Boris to exclude the media outlets he dislikes and Johnson debating whether or not to abolish the licence fee and privatise the Beeb, the media just might be waking up to what a threat Johnson poses to freedom of speech and of the press.

And this is a very dangerous step. Trump, who started this tactic, also pondered whether or not he could have certain newspapers closed down. He can’t, at least not at the moment. But that’s another step in the sequence of imposing a rigid state censorship over the media comparable to that of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.

The media were fine about supporting Boris when it was voluntary. He was standing up for capitalist freedom against that evil Commie Corbyn. Well, Corbyn wasn’t a Commie, and they’re just now starting to find out that under Boris, supporting him is going to be  compulsory.

Ian McCulloch – Ready to Continue the Witch Hunt?

February 4, 2020

This is another piece about the deputy leadership hustings in Bristol, and about one of the contentious issues that was inevitably raised there – anti-Semitism. All the candidates made it clear that they were determined to stamp out racism and Jew-hatred in the party, but it was the comments by Ian McCulloch and, to a lesser extent, Rosena Allin-Khan, that gave me concern. McCulloch seemed absolutely ruthless about it, stating that he would do anything to crush it in the party.

These are dangerous words, as the amount of real anti-Semitism in the Labour Party has been massively exaggerated. It exists, but it’s vanishingly small. Less than one per cent of Labour Party members have been found to be anti-Semitic. It’s far smaller than the amount of racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism that’s very often openly displayed in the Tory party and among its supporters. The extent of anti-Semitism in Labour was played up purely for political reasons. The Tories, their media lackeys and the Blairites in Labour simply wanted to use it as a stick to beat and oust Corbyn. The Israel lobby, including the Jewish establishment – the Jewish papers, Board of Deputies, Chief Rabbis, Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Jewish Labour Movement and so on, also wanted to overthrow Corbyn and purge the party of his supporters because they were afraid of the election of a national leader, who would genuinely defend the Palestinians. These organisations aren’t interested in defending Jews from real racial hatred. In their view, anti-Semitism is nearly synonymous with opposition to Israel. It was made very clear by Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, who wrote a piece declaring that Michal Kaminski, a far-right Polish MEP, wasn’t anti-Semitic because he was a ‘good friend to Israel’. It’s shown in the way the Israeli state greets and welcomes genuine far right leaders and heads of states so long as they trade with Israel and buy their arms.

As a result of these political intrigues, many hundreds of entirely innocent individuals, including self-respecting Jews, have been purged from the party simply for voicing opinions on Israel’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians. Opinions that the Thatcherite establishment and Israel lobby wish to suppress. Either that, or they’ve been thrown out simply for defending those, who’ve been libelled, suspended and expelled. The victims include Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Marc Wadsworth, Cyril Chilson, Mike Sivier, Martin Odoni, Ken Livingstone and many others. As you can see from this brief list, many of them are Jewish, and all are absolutely convinced anti-racists. But because they are genuinely anti-racist and are not prepared to exclude Israel from criticism and are concerned with historical truth, they’ve been victimised and expelled.

As the leadership elections commenced, the Board of Deputies sent the candidates a list of pledges they demanded them to commit to. These pledges, as Mike has made clear on his blog, give the Board and its subsidiary organisations total control over who is to be judged an anti-Semite, and the processes by which they are judged and punished or expelled. This is unacceptable for several reasons. The Board has been one of the parties pushing the anti-Semitism smears, and so is hardly a disinterested, objective party. It is also an outside organisation, not a part of nor responsible to the members of the party. Its interference in the party’s affairs is unacceptable purely on that account. All of the leadership candidates signed their wretched piece of paper, which means that instead of drawing a line under the anti-Semitism controversy, it will almost certainly result in further interference, smears and fake accusations by the Board.

It’s a pity that the candidates weren’t taking questions directly from the audience about their answers. I would have liked to have challenged McCulloch about this, made the point that majority of accusations were false, and asked him what he was going to do to make sure any accusation and trial were just. But this was not permitted by the format. Instead, McCulloch got thunderous applause from those present.

I was also rather concerned by Rosena Allin-Khan’s statement about anti-Semitism. She wanted it cleaned out because she had Jewish friends, who were considering joining and standing for the party. But they had been put off, and wondered if there was a place for Jews in it. Now I don’t doubt that this is true. There are many Jews within and outside the Labour party, who do realise what is going on and that the accusations are false. But nevertheless, the Jewish establishment have done an excellent job of scaring Britain’s Jews into believing that Corbyn and the Labour Party really are anti-Semitic and an ‘existential threat to Jewish life in Britain’. I wanted to ask Allin-Khan what she had done to calm their fears. Had she tried to refute them, to show that the vast majority of accusations were false, that nearly all of them were purely political in motivation? And was she concerned about the vast numbers of Jews inside and outside the party, who were being smeared as ‘the wrong kind of Jews’ by the Zionist Jewish establishment? Did she know, had she told them, that the Jewish Labour Movement was at the time tiny, and that most of its members were gentiles and that many of them weren’t even members of Party, against Jewish Voice for Labour, which was much bigger and the majority of whose members were, through its constitution, very definitely Jewish? Didn’t she point out and defend the Jews, who had been falsely accused, smeared and then expelled or bullied into leaving, who very definitely weren’t self-hating, or anti-Semitic? Quite the opposite, in fact. Many Jews despise Israel and its treatment of the Paletinians because they are Jewish. They include Torah-observant Jews, such as the Haredi, who object to it because the Torah and Talmud state that Israel can only be restored by the Messiah and the hand of the Almighty. Or they see liberal values as the moral core of Judaism, and object to Israel because it’s the same kind of ethnic state that persecuted them. And one Jewish journalist has said that British Jews are afraid to speak out against the Israel lobby. This is really persecution, but as it’s done by the self-professed British Jewish establishment, it’s totally ignored. It’s victims really are the ‘wrong kind of Jews’, you see.

I couldn’t ask these question, but they do need to be asked. I realise the candidates have to be very careful in the answers they give, because any sign that they don’t back Israel 100 per cent or that they believe the anti-Semitism accusations to be grossly inflated will result in further smears and accusations against them. I want a Labour government back in power. But I also want a party genuinely committed to justice, and not dominated on this or any other issue by an outside party acting primarily in the interests of another nation. I believe this can be done, if the party is prepared to stand together to rebut the lies and libels.

And I definitely don’t want to elect a leader, who will continue the witch hunt and wreck decent peoples’ lives, Jewish and gentile, by seeing them smeared as anti-Semites when they are absolutely not.

Andrew Neil Shows Staggering Ignorance of Irish Politics

February 3, 2020

Zelo Street put up this story on Saturday, and it’s one of those that makes you wonder just how intelligent and insightful certain highly paid Beeb journos and political pundits really are. In this instance, the journalist in question is Andrew Neil, former editor of the Sunday Times and the Economist, and chairman of the board running the Spectator. Is he really this ignorant, or is he just pushing Brexiteer propaganda?

Zelo Street notes that next Saturday there’s a general election over in the Emerald Isle. This is also important for us over on this side of the Irish Sea because of the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace back to Northern Ireland. Panelbase, a polling company, conducted a survey of Irish voters, and concluded that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael party was down four points. Neil picked this up, and told his followers on Twitter that it was due to the party campaigning on an ‘anti-British’ small country ticket.

Er, no. No, it wasn’t. And various Irish Tweeters let Neil know that it very definitely wasn’t. Jonathan Mills posted this explanation of the real reason Fine Gael were down in the polls:

For UK ppl reading this; FG are down in the polls for good domestic reasons to do with health waiting lists and homelessness (we’ll get them on the economy next week). Their Brexit performance is about the only thing they have going for them. They are the pro-British party”.

Others cast aspersions on Brillo’s abilities as a journalist. ‘Ban Normality’ commented

I’m surprised that Andrew is following this line but it is still slightly worrying that such an established, supposedly informed politically commentator tweets something like this. Does he believe there is a correlation in Ireland that FG stance on Brexit has lost them votes?

Paul O’Kane went further, and tweeted

Any journalistic credibility you ever had in relation to Irish politics has just evaporated in a single tweet”.

Irishmonk called him a junior reporter, and told him there was such a thing as being informed, and advised him to use Google.

And Irish Times writer Conor Gallagher went further and observed how this reflected badly on the British press as a whole. He said

One of the most striking things I’ve noticed since Brexit started was how badly the British people are served by their media”.

Yes, we are very badly served by our media. It has become particularly dire after Brexit, but it was always terrible. However, the real rot set in about 1980 with the toxic combination of Maggie Thatcher in No. 10 and Rupert Murdoch owning the Scum and the Thunderer. He made these newspapers much less about journalism and all about pushing Tory ideology, and set in motion a trend that has affected all the British newspapers. And the Beeb and television in general also became far more about promoting Tory propaganda rather than objective reporting, with a few notable and honourable exceptions, of course.

Neil’s tweet hasn’t completely destroyed his journalistic credibility by any means. He’s still highly paid and respected, and isn’t as massively ignorant about Brexit as Julia Hartley-Brewer. She’s shown several times that she knows less than zero about it, as Nigel Molesworth would put it, and simply repeats pro-Brexit lines even when anyone, who really does know anything about the EU, knows that the reality is the complete opposite. But Neil’s tweet does raise questions about the limits of his knowledge. Surely someone with his reputation and career should know more about Irish politics than this? And have more concern for the facts than to say something that anyone could check and see was wrong?

Or is Neil really not bothered at all with getting his facts right and keeping the British public properly informed, but just with pushing the Conservative/ Brexiteer line regardless. Like pretty much the rest of the BBC newsdesk.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/02/andrew-neil-youre-embarrassment.html

Right-Wingers Attack Riley for Hopkins Ban, Oberman Blames Left

February 1, 2020

On Thursday, Zelo Street reported the welcome news that just about all of Hatey Katie Hopkins’ tweets had been removed from Twitter. However, when she was on there Riley had 1.1 million followers, and despite the ban there’s always the possibility that she’ll come back. Credit for her removal from the platform must go to Rachel Riley, who said that she had met Imran Ahmed for the Centre for Countering Digital Hate, and asked them to review the presence on Twitter not just of Hopkins, but also of George Galloway.  Someone describing himself only as ‘That Chap’ commented that it was sad that Twitter had received many thousands of reports about Hopkins’ conduct, but only acted because someone famous had got involved. Dr Louise Raw took a more cheerful view, noting that despite Riley’s crowing, much of the work had already been done by dedicated anti-Fascists.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/01/katie-hopkins-and-vanishing-twitter-feed.html

Hopkins’ banishment from Twitter is certainly no bad thing, but Riley herself is certainly no friend and ally of genuine anti-racists. Her benchmark for deciding someone is an anti-Semite is crudely simple: are they a critic of Israel and/or a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn? If the answer to either or both of those is yes, she accuses them of anti-Jewish hatred. Even when they definitely are anything but, like Corbyn himself and his supporters. These include people, who have suffered abuse and violence at the hands of real anti-Semites and Nazis, either for being Jewish, or for standing with them. It’s why Riley decided she wanted Galloway’s Twitter channel pulled as well. Galloway isn’t an anti-Semite, and has made it very clear that he regards the Holocaust as a monstrous crime against humanity. But his former wife was a Palestinian, and he has always stood up for the Palestinian people against the dispossession and the ethnic cleansing of the Israeli state, and so Riley has decided to libel him as an anti-Semite.

Mike has put up a piece today making it clear that on this issue, my enemy’s enemy is certainly not my friend. He asks if the CCDH have looked at Riley’s own record – at the way she stirred up hatred against Jeremy Corbyn, her comparison of the Durham Miners’ Band with the Klu Klux Klan, her false accusation of a anti-Semitism against a Labour election candidate, and her abuse and harassment of a teenage girl, and then libeling those, like Mike, who stood up to defend her. Mike says, quite rightly, that ‘Ms Riley gets away with all of this because she is an overpaid TV celebrity who can use her wealth to bully into submission anybody against whom she has a disagreement’.

He therefore asks his readers to contact CCDH and Imran Ahmed if they don’t think that real anti-racism campaigners should be consorting with Riley. The organisation and Mr Ahmed are on Twitter themselves at @CCDHate and @imi_ahmed. And you might also wish to donate to Mike’s defence fund to help him fight Riley’s false accusation of libel.

Removal of Katie Hopkins from Twitter shows my enemy’s enemy is NOT my friend

Riley herself has now come in for further criticism on Twitter for getting Hopkins banned. Zelo Street has put up some of the Tweets, and it’s clear that they come from the Right. They seem to be Brexiteers, Conservatives and Unionists, and supporters of Boris Johnson. But Riley’s bestie, the equally offensive Tracey Ann Oberman, has declared that they are all members of the extreme Left. Zelo Street comments

‘That’s a pretty right-wing crowd. But admitting that would never do. You think I jest? Here comes Tracy Ann Oberman. “Watching the Far Left have a twitter meltdown over KatieHopkins twitter ban at the hands of EVIL Rachel Riley and those of us who have helped Twitter assess these matters , is quite a thing. The irrationality and double think plus the outright LIES”. Forget what you saw and look over there!

Katie Hopkins is out there on the far right. So it is those out there who are screaming the loudest. But remember, ignorance is strength, and right is left. I’ll just leave that one there.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/01/hopkins-twitter-ban-blame-game.html

Now there is, unfortunately, nothing unusual in Oberman’s actions here. She and Riley, it seems, always try to blame each and every piece of abuse they receive on the left, even when it is manifestly clear that it comes from the right and the far right. It’s so ingrained now that they don’t seem to be capable of doing anything else. It’s got to the point where you wonder if it’s simple misdirection, or whether Riley and Oberman really do believe that anti-Semitism is just something that come from the left. If they do, then as I said a few times before, they’re losing their grip on reality. They’re starting to sound like all the crazies, who believed there are secret government plots against them, or that the Communist Chinese are beaming messages into their head via secret supertechnology. Or that Blacks have a secret powder that transforms them into Whites, and Roman Catholics can control your thoughts via telepathy, so that you will start thinking about the Pope under their nefarious influence.

That would be bad enough, at least for the mental health of the two women themselves. But in some ways it’s actually worse if Riley and Oberman aren’t deluded, but are consciously and deliberately deceiving people by opportunistically blaming the left for instances of anti-Semitism and the abuse they receive.

Because that would mean that they are enabling the far right.

Despite the claims of the media, the actually incidence of anti-Semitism in the Labour party is vanishingly low. It’s much higher in right and in the far right. But there hasn’t nearly been so much attention on that because of the determination of the media and the political establishment to destroy Corbyn any chance they can get. Riley and Oberman have been an enthusiastic part of this campaign.

But ignoring it only allows this right-wing anti-Semitism to grow. The blogger Jacobsfriends showed how much it was prevalent, along with other forms of racism and islamophobia, in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s and Boris Johnson’s supporters. But Riley and Oberman have made it very clear they’re not interested in right-wing Jew-hatred. They’re only interested in it when it’s on the left, or they can shift the blame to the left. They are therefore tacitly demanding that people ignore it and don’t worry about its growth.

Even though its more powerful, and far more of a threat to Jews and people of colour.

Which means that despite getting Hopkins banned, Riley and Oberman are definitely not genuine anti-racists and may even be seen as its enablers.

Unite’s Len McCluskey Attacks Anti-Corbyn Plotters, Backs Rebecca Long-Bailey

January 27, 2020

Today’s I for 27th January 2020 also reports that the head of the Unite union, Len McCluskey, attacked Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents and publicly supported Rebecca Long-Bailey when he appeared on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday. The report, by Richard Wheeler, runs,

Opponents of Jeremy Corbyn “used the anti-Semitism issue” faced by Labour to undermine the leader, Unite’s Len McCluskey has claimed.

The union’s general secretary labelled such actions “despicable” but also acknowledged that Labour “never handled the anti-Semitism issue correctly”.

Mr McCluskey also said it was “unfair” to describe the Labour leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey as “continuity Corbyn”, arguing she backs the “radical nature” of the alternative offered by the party but will have different priorities to Mr Corbyn. Unite has supported Ms Long-Bailey for the leadership. Appearing on the Andrew Marr Show, Mr McCluskey said: “I’m absolutely convinced that ther were those individuals who opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s election right from the beginning… used the anti-Semitism issue – which I think is quite despicable that they did this on such an important subject – to undermine Corbyn, there’s no doubt about that.

Dawn Butler, the Black lady campaigning to become Labour’s deputy leader, also attacked the anti-Corbynites at a Labour hustings yesterday. She told the ‘moderate’ MPs who plotted to oust the leader that ‘you lost us the election in 2017’. She also described her anger at them, and her pledge never to join a coup.

But the Skwawkbox adds that she could have gone much further. The plotters meant Labour to lose the 2017 election, just as they meant the party to lose the December election. They were stunned by how close Labour came to winning the election in 2017 with a very similar election to the one a month ago, except for Brexit. They therefore had to put their plans on hold and wait for the last election.

Skwawkbox states that these MPs and plotters should never be allowed to profit from the suffering of millions of people in this country and their shameless willingness to rewrite history to support their false narrative. It concludes

Dawn Butler’s straight talking helps to dismantle that fake narrative. She and Richard Burgon, who have both showed loyalty to the cause of helping the millions in misery, deserve your first- and second-preference votes in the deputy leadership contest – and your CLP nominations to ensure they are on the ballot.

See: https://skwawkbox.org/2020/01/26/video-brilliant-butler-slams-saboteur-mps-you-lost-us-the-election-2017/ which also contains a short, 55 second video of that part of Butler’s speech.

This is brilliant. Both McCluskey and Butler are absolutely right, as is the Skwawkbox about the plotters’ determination to make Labour lose the elections and the immense threat they pose to the poor and working people. However, it wasn’t just the plotters within the Labour party, who were using the anti-Semitism accusations against the party. The lies were repeated by all their opponents – the Tories, Lib Dems and the media as a whole, as well as the Jewish establishment. The latter was determined to destroy Corbyn simply because he was a critic of Israel and its barbarous treatment of the Palestinians. And the party did not handle the accusations well. It should have gone on the attack and powerfully rebutted them, instead of caving in and meekly accepting them. This was seen as weakness and encouraged the smear merchants to go further. And unfortunately Long-Bailey was one of those, who gave in to their demands without a murmur. Now, by accepting the Board of Deputies highly manipulative and totalitarian demands for the Labour party on this issue, Long-Bailey, Starmer, and Nandy have ceded absolute control over it to them. This will ensure their continued interference and meddling in the party’s affairs in order to stifle reasonable criticism of Israel and prevent a truly radical leader achieving power. They will do this because they’re Zionists and Tories, not because they’re really interesting in protecting Jews.

We need Rebecca Long-Bailey as leader, just as we need Dawn Butler as deputy. But we also need to be realistic and aggressive in rebutting similar smears and plots against a left-wing leadership in the future.

Bhaskar Sunkara on Blair’s Devastation of the Labour Party

January 25, 2020

The papers and the media have been doing everything they can to attack the left-wing candidates in Labour’s leadership contest and puff the ‘moderates’. That has meant trying to discredit Rebecca Long-Bailey, the ‘continuity Corbyn’ candidate. She was the subject of a series of smears and untruths last weekend by the Tory press, in which it was claimed that she and her husband were millionaires and so on. At the same time, the remaining liberal papers, like the I, have been promoting candidates like Lisa Nandy. I’ve just heard someone from the Labour party, speaking on a Radio 4 news programme just now, make a few scornful comments about Long-Bailey. He remarked that it was surprising that Keir Starmer and Nandy were so far ahead, considering that the Corbynites had their hands on the centres of power in the party for three years. He was particularly sneering at Long-Bailey for saying that she gave Corbyn ’10 out of 10′. Corbyn, he stated, had lost three elections. And that was the point where I decided to put fingers to keyboard to make a few comments myself, and correct this fellow’s biased and misleading remarks.

For a start, I think Corbyn did exceedingly well, at least initially. The party had lost much of its membership under Blair and Brown. Corbyn managed to turn this around, so that it became the largest socialist party in Europe. Yes, he did lose three elections. But during one of those elections, even though he lost, he won an enormous number of seats from a  low starting point, so that it marked the most gains by the party in several years. And he did this despite massive opposition. This came from the Parliamentary Labour Party, a sizable number of whom were constantly intriguing against him, threatening coups and mass departures. These were aided by the media, including the increasingly far right and wretched Beeb, which did everything it could to smear and vilify Corbyn and his supporters. And then there was the unrepresentative organisations that pass themselves off as the Jewish establishment. These, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Chief Rabbinate, Jewish Leadership Council and the Jewish press, did everything they could to smear Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites simply for making perfectly valid criticisms of Israel and its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

And from what I understand, Corbyn did not have his hands on the mechanisms of power. Or not completely. When he was first elected I was told by a friend that Corbyn had left himself in a very weak position by not purging the party bureaucracy. This was based on a piece he’d read in an online magazine. The bureaucracy were all Blairites, and had been expecting to be sacked. But Corbyn retained them, preferring instead to run his campaign from his own constituency office. If this is true, then he made a rod for his own back. It is certainly true that he had to struggle for control of the NEC and the Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, also did his best to undermine and discredit Corbyn at every opportunity. I don’t think any Labour leader could have won elections under these circumstances.

The press and the Labour centre – for whom, read ‘Thatcherite entryists’, are nostalgic for Blair, his neoliberal economic policies of privatisation, including NHS privatisation, and restructuring of the welfare state. New Labour under Blair and Brown was in power for 13 years, from 1997 to 2010. This was because they had the support of the mass media and big business, whom they rewarded with government posts. But their leadership decimated the party itself, and ultimately helped to discredit them.

Bhaskar Sunkara describes how Blair and Brown managed to reduce the party to half its former size in his book The Socialist Manifesto. He writes

The Japanese have a word for looking worse after a haircut: age-otori. Its synonym in English should be Blairism. Despite initial electoral success and some attempts on the margins to solve social issues such as child poverty, Blair and Brown pursued policies that undermined their own social base. When Blair became prime minister in 1997, Labour had four hundred thousand party members. By 2004, it had half that. That year Labour lost 464 seats in local elections. With anger over the party’s privatisation agenda and oversight of the financial crisis, as well as its support for the disastrous Iraq War, Labour was out of power and completely discredited by 2010. (p.209).

Part of the reason Labour lost the north was because, under Blair and Brown, the party ignored its working class base in order to concentrate on winning swing voters and appealing to the middle class. The working class were expected to carry on supporting the party because there was nowhere else for them to go. But that base showed its dissatisfaction by voting for Brexit, and then backing Johnson because he boasted that he was going to ‘get Brexit done’. But Corbyn’s left-wing followers and successors realise this, and are determined to start representing and campaigning for the working class again.

The Blairites, the media and the industry want the Labour party back to where it was – numerically small, and supporting big business and the rich against the working class, the NHS and the welfare state. This is the reason they’re attacking Long-Bailey and the other left-wing candidates, and praising and promoting moderates like Starmer and Nandy. But Blair’s success was only possible because the Tories were even more discredited than he was. And there was no need for his Thatcherite policies. They weren’t particular popular with the electorate at large, and with the massive majority that he won in the year, he could have started putting back real socialism instead. But that would have alienated the Tory voters he was determined to win over, Murdoch and the Tory press, and his backers in business.

Corbyn was defeated, but I don’t believe for a single minute that his policies have been discredited. Rather I think it’s the opposite: Blairism has. And while the Tories now have a massive majority, their policies are destroying the country and its people.

Only a return to traditional, old Labour values and policies will restore it.