Posts Tagged ‘Michael Howard’

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.

Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ Documentary from 2009: Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby – Part One

March 11, 2018

Presented by the Conservative journo Peter Oborne, this is a very hard-hitting and extensive investigation into the malign influence and tactics of the Israel lobby. It covers not just the soft corruption of political lobbying – the various donations in money and paid trips to Israel given to Tory and Labour politicos, but also the co-ordinated smear campaign against anyone who dares to speak out in favour of the Israeli state’s victims. It’s a smear campaign that has seen very respected members of the Jewish community, including senior rabbis, and BBC journos like the late Orla Guerin, Jeremy Bowen and even Jonathan Dimbleby accused of anti-Semitism. The result has been that the Beeb was pressured not to put out an appeal for the victims of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, and there was complaints about its coverage of those murdered by Israel’s allies in the Christian Fascists of the Lebanese Phalange in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. And there has been constant pressure by these same bullying thugs on the Groaniad under its former editor, Alan Rusbridger. Who really does look like Harry Potter. Much of this pressure and screaming abuse seems to have come from America. The organisations are carefully structured, so that they keep the total number of donations secret, and their donors hide behind anonymity. When investigated they repeat the same, smooth words about just trying to keep the argument open by presenting Israel’s case, or mutter platitudes about supporting a two-state solution. All the while doing their level best to make sure that their voice is the only the British public hear, and rabidly pursuing business deals on stolen Palestinian land.

I’m afraid I may have misheard some of the names in the programme, and so misspelled them, but they should be roughly accurate.

The documentary begins with the Israeli invasion of Gaza and the Conservative Friends of Israel. Despite the horrendous carnage and destruction wrought, David Cameron in a speech made no mention of this, but instead praised the Israelis and his pledged his lasting support to them if he became Prime Minister. It was this that prompted Oborne to launch his own investigation into the Israel lobby. He makes the point that they have influence on both sides of Parliament, as shown by an exchange between a Conservative MP, who was a member of Conservative Friends of Israel, who asked a question about Israel’s continuing safety. This was answered by a Labour MP, who was a member of the Labour Friends of Israel. Oborne then interviews Michael Ancram, former Tory Shadow Foreign Secretary from 2003-5, about the Israel Lobby’s influence. as well as Sir Richard Dalton, the former British ambassador to Iran from 2003-6. Dalton states clearly that the Israel Lobby does exist, and is important in defining the debate about Israel and the Palestinians. The Conservative Friends of Israel is highly influential, and boasts that it includes 80 per cent of all Tory MPs. Its chair, Richard Huntingdon, received £20,000 last year (2008) in donations, and gave £34,000 to the Conservatives. And the director of the No. 10 club, that exclusive Tory fundraising outfit in which, for a mere £50,000, you can meet David Cameron or have lunch with William Hague, is also included. The Tory Friends of Israel also arrange paid trips to Israel for MPs. So far there have been more of these than equivalent trips to America and Europe combined. Oborne states that in fairness, he has to say that he went on one of these, and there was no pressure to report favourably about Israel. But two MPs, who went on one of these trips, then received afterwards £25,000 in donations. This prompts Oborne to ask Ancram if this explains the soft line taken by the Tories about Israeli influence, and why the Tories don’t like to talk about it.

The documentary then moves on to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, during which 1,000 Lebanese civilians were killed, and $3.6 billion’s worth of damage inflicted. Michael Howard gave William Hague £25,000 in donations. Hague then made the mistake of making a speech criticising the Israeli response to Lebanese attacks as disproportionate. As a result, Lord Kalms, a CFI donor and head of the Dixons electronics chain, was outraged, and threatened to withhold further funding. Which he did, and Hague never received a penny more. The Israel lobby attacks even the mildest criticism of Israel. The director of the CFI, Stuart Pollak, had a meeting with David Cameron after the speech. Then, at his lunch with the CFI, Cameron didn’t mention the Lebanese invasion at all.

The programme then moves on to the organisation’s income, as revealed by the Parliamentary Accounts Register. For comparison, the pro-Arab lobby revealed that they had been given £43,000 in donations. How many had the CFI been given? No-one knows. They didn’t register any. They’re structured as a group of individuals, and are not incorporated, so they don’t have declare any under the rules. In 2008 the CFI gave the Tories £2 million, but this is not the whole story. One Tory MP said that after a chance meeting with Stuart Pollak, he received two donations from businessmen he had never met, and who did not live in his constituency. The CFI gave £30,000 to Cameron’s team. And in 2005 Cameron met Plocha Zabludowicz, who gave the future Tory PM £15,000 and a further £35,000 to Tory Central Office. The total figure for the donations given by the CFI is £10 million, more than the other lobbies.

Then there’s the incident of the UN vote over a motion censuring both Hamas and Israel for the carnage in Gaza. The CFI rang Hague up to condemn the resolution and demand that he criticise it. Which he duly did.

But the Israel Lobby only became really powerful in Britain under Maggie’s favourite Labour pet, Tony Blair. Jon Mandelsohn, a prominent pro-Israel lobbyist, stated that ‘Zionism is pervasive in New Labour’ and ‘It is axiomatic that Blair will come to Labour Friends of Israel meetings’. There are more Labour MPs in Labour Friends of Israel than their opponents across the benches in the Tory Friends of Israel. The documentary describes how Blair met the rock entrepreneur, Lord Levy, at the Israeli embassy, who then raised £15 million for the Labour party before the row over ‘cash for questions’. When Blair became PM in 1997, he gave Levy a life peerage. Levy, however, was unpaid and never a formal servant of the British state, so that the deals he made as Blair’s special envoy to the Middle East between Israel and the Arab nations could be kept secret. The programme interviews Prof. Avi Shlaim of Oxford University’s Middle East department, who states that he considers Levy has damaged Britain’s reputation in the Middle East.

The documentary then moves back to CFI lobbyists at the Tory party conference. Their purpose there is to make sure Cameron’s policies are in line with Israel’s This means that Michael Kaminski, the Polish leader, who heads a small, far right nationalist party, is lionised by the Tories, despite his record of making anti-Semitic remarks and his refusal to apologise for the suffering of Jewish Poles during the Second World War. Stuart Pollak was most keen not to have Cameron’s speech to the CFI at the Tory conference covered. He is shown waving the camera crew away. The CFI totally support Kaminski. They also plead that they’re totally transparent through the distinction between their donations as a group, and those of individual businesspeople.

Continued in Part Two.

More Tory Lies as May Claims that ‘Austerity Is Dead’

June 15, 2017

On Tuesday Mike put up a post commenting on May’s claim that she was going to end the austerity foisted on the country by Cameron, Osborne and Nick Clegg. The trio had claimed that cutting services, privatising the NHS, and dismantling the welfare state even more ruthlessly, were what was needed to pay off the debt Labour had incurred trying to prevent the global economy collapsing due to the bankster’s recklessness. The result has been wages cuts and a massive increase in poverty as the poor, the unemployed, the sick and the disabled were thrown off benefits for the flimsiest of reasons.

Instead of blaming the bankers for the economic crisis, the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers went back to the using refrain of blaming ‘high spending’ Labour for ‘living beyond our means’.

As Mike points out in his post, cutting government investment is the one thing you don’t do during a recession. State investment stimulates the economy, which means that businesses start making money again, which generates more tax revenue.

This one of the arguments in support of welfare provision against unemployment. If unemployed workers have some kind of income during a recession, they can afford to spend some of it, thus generating more income for businesses and the state. It’s basic Keynsianism, and it works. Unlike the grotty free market economics embraced by the Tories. That has only succeeded in increasing the debt.

Now Theresa May has decided that austerity should be ended. Not because she has woken up at last to the fact that it isn’t working, and in fact is damaging the British economy. Or because she’s suddenly grown a conscience, and has realised the immense human cost of the Tories’ austerity policies in terms of tens of thousands of people, who have died in misery. Or the 7 million plus British people now living in ‘food-insecure’ households, who don’t know if they’re next meal is going to be their last.

No, it’s because the Tories lost their overall majority, thanks to a revived Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn. Mike comments

And now, further cuts are being abandoned – not because austerity’s ends have been achieved, but because the Tories have realised they will forfeit votes if they continue.

Everybody in the UK, who isn’t filthy rich, should be furious. We should be marching on Tory MPs’ homes and offices with blazing torches and pitchforks, shouting “Burn the monsters!”

The last thing we should do is tolerate this latest cynical reaction to prevailing trends. Tories represent greed and power. The only reason they abandon their pursuit of greed is when it may harm their hold on power.

Mike isn’t the only one who’s furious at this cynical U-turn and the cavalier fashion in which the Tories have shrugged off their responsibility for destroying so many lives with a brutal, callous and entirely wrong economic and social policy. He concludes

Even now, on the BBC’s Daily Politics, Tories Michael Howard and Dominic Grieve are talking about the need to live within our means. The fact is that it is entirely possible, if Tories are stopped from siphoning off our money into their bank accounts.

The end of austerity is to be welcomed.

The end of the UK’s problems will only come when the Conservatives are banished from Parliament forever.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/13/austerity-is-dead-says-may-because-it-was-never-needed-we-should-be-enraged/

In fact, the I newspaper also reported on the same day that the Tories were revising their manifesto, and dropping the more unpopular policies, such as the ‘Dementia Tax’. This was accompanied with noises about how we lived in a democratic society, and the Tories were a democratic party, so they were responding to the demands of the electorate.

There were also statements designed to reassure Tory supporters that this time, May herself would be performing better in public. They claimed that she was now a more naturalistic speaker, and that ‘the Maybot is gone.’

I find all of this very difficult to believe. The Tories are inveterate liars, who lie constantly without compunction. You only have to look through Mike’s blog for the past week or so to find very long lists of May’s promises, which she has subsequently broken. Such as her promises to put workers on the boards of companies. The campaign of her predecessor, David Cameron, was one long series of lies. He and IDS, the minister for culling the disabled, claimed that they were going to ringfence spending on the NHS, campaigned against hospital closures by Blair’s New Labour, and tried to present the Tories as now being more left-wing and friendly to the poor. He also stuck a windmill on the roof of his house, and claimed that his would be ‘the greenest government ever’.

Once in power, the NHS was being cut and privatised, hospitals closed and given over to private management companies, conditionality for welfare benefits massively increased, and any semblance of environmentalism thrown out completely. The windmill went from his roof, and in came the privatisation of Britain’s forests, the repeal of various pieces of legislation protecting the environment, and the go-ahead given to fracking.

The fact that Howard and Grieve were talking about ‘living within our means’ – which is Tory-speak for not spending anything on the poor and state services, like the NHS and education, means that the Tories really don’t believe it.

And yesterday Mike put up a piece reporting that Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, and Sajid Javid are calling for May’s proposed cap on energy bills to be scrapped and the party should return to its ‘free market roots’.

Mike quoted Labour’s shadow energy minister, Rebecca Long-Bailey, and concluded:

“If correct, this is potentially another stunning U-turn from a weak and wobbly Prime Minister,” said Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

“One in ten households are living in fuel poverty and customers are being overcharged a whopping £2 billion every year. Theresa May unequivocally guaranteed a price cap before the general election but now it appears she is preparing to row back on that promise. It now looks like this price cap was simply an election gimmick and that the Conservatives were never serious about taking action to keep energy bills down.

“Britain needs a serious and long term approach in order to bring energy costs down, not cheap gimmicks that may simply be thrown into the bin just a week after the General Election.”

She’s right; Philip Hammond and Sajid Javid are wrong. What do YOU think the Tories will do?

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/14/the-tory-energy-price-cap-pledge-was-a-lie-or-at-least-philip-hammond-wants-to-make-it-one/

I think it’s blatantly obvious what the Tories will do. They’re lying now about ending austerity, but perfectly serious about abandoning the energy bill cap. If they get in again, May will reintroduce all the policies she claimed she abandoned, and the Tories will once again chant the old Thatcherite chorus of TINA – There Is No Alternative.

There is. It’s Jeremy Corbyn. He’s this country’s hope to stop further NHS privatisation, welfare cuts, starvation and deaths.

Johnson Clueless about Whereabouts of Missing May

June 1, 2017

Theresa May was missing from the leader debate broadcast on BBC 1 last night. The leaders of all the other parties were there, except for her, and her place was taken by the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd.

May’s absence was no surprise to anyone. She’d already said many times before that she wouldn’t be appearing in the debates, and keeps dodging challenges by Corbyn and other party leaders to meet them in open debate.

It’s a tacit admission that rather than being ‘strong and stable’, May is weak and wobbly, who can’t face being challenged on her terrible policies and manifest failures by her political opponents in an arena she can’t control.

When she goes out to meet the public, it’s in very controlled circumstances like the extremely stage-managed PR exercises used by Blair and New Labour to give their administration a popular veneer. The meetings are held on private premises, and are frequently invitation only.

Authentic proles are not invited.

When the proles do get near her, as they did in Bristol, when she emerged from one of these private meetings, they see her off with boos and jeers.

She is manifestly not a ‘woman of the people’. And the media and public are asking questions about her whereabouts.

Boris Johnson was on Breakfast TV a moment ago. The presenters asked him where May was. He huffed and puffed in his usual, blustering manner, but admitted that he didn’t know where she was. He tried to make this sound better by saying something to the effect that wherever, she was, she was doing a good job.

Which sounds to me like another line from one of the great comedians of the 1990s, Harry Enfield.

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post how Amber Rudd’s speech last night sounded like a Rory Bremner impression of Michael Howard. Rudd, in her concluding speech, stated that a vote for any other party than the Tories would be a vote for Labour. This sounds like a joke Bremner made about the threadbare nature of the Tory arguments when Howard was leader of the party. In one sketch, Bremner appeared as the-then Tory leader, and said into the camera, ‘If you don’t vote Tory, Labour will get in.’ That was his whole argument in the satirical sketch, and pretty much the only arguments the Tories could muster at this time. Just as it appeared to be the core of their argument last night, only with the slight addition of rubbish about the ‘coalition of chaos’, Brexit and how May was ‘strong’.

Johnson’s reply to the question about May’s location sounds like a joke Enfield made on Comic Relief years ago. This was about the answer a Tory politician would give you if you asked him the time. Enfield then adopted the stern, lecturing posture of your typical Tory, and intoned

‘I do not know what the time is, but I can tell you this: whatever time it is, it is a far better we are having now, than was had under the last Labour administration.’

As Johnson showed just now, this is very much the kind of answer the Tories give when they don’t have an answer – they automatically try to shift the blame on the failings of the last Labour government.

As the Tories lose their lead in the polls, they’re floundering about using all their tired clichés to cling to some semblance of the popularity. And just as celebrities as they aged started to look more like their Spitting Image puppets, so the Tories are becoming increasingly indistinguishable from the jokes and caricatures about them.

They have no answers, and offer nothing except more poverty, despair and the victimisation of real working people, the elderly, the sick and disabled.

All for the benefit of the rich upper 25 per cent.

Kick them out.
Vote Labour on June 8th.

Amber Rudd’s Closing Speech On the Leader Debate – Like a Rory Bremner Impression + Soundbites

May 31, 2017

Okay, I confess, I didn’t watch the leader debates on BBC 1 this evening, as I afraid it would annoy me. I did, however, catch the closing speeches from Plaid Cymru, the Lib Dems and Amber Rudd. The Lib Dems made the entirely valid point that Theresa May was not the ‘strong and stable’ leader she’s claiming to be, because she wasn’t there.

Exactly true. May does not like meeting the public. When she does, it’s all very carefully stage-managed. They’re held on private premises, and tend to be invitation-only, so that the proles don’t show up and ask awkward questions.

When she does try meeting the public, she’s either met with a barricade of closed doors, as she was in Scotland, or else is booed out and by angry locals, as she was recently at a housing estate in Bristol.

Corbyn, by contrast, is given a rapturous welcome by people, who genuinely want change and an end to Tory austerity, cuts to public services, the dismantlement of the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS.

Standing in for May was Amber Rudd, whose final speech, minus the soundbites, sounded like Rory Bremner’s mickey-take of Tory leader Michael Howard back in the 1990s.

So what was Rudd’s final argument for voting Tory?

Well, she claimed that a vote for any other party than the Conservatives would let Jeremy Corbyn in. She sneered at the other parties as ‘the coalition of chaos’, and claimed that May is the strong leader Britain needs to negotiate a good Brexit and deliver a strong economy.

In other words, as Max Headroom used to say, ‘more…of the same’. It was the same tired old clichés and outright lies: ‘coalition of chaos’, ‘strong and stable’, ‘Brexit’, ‘strong economy’. You could probably play a form of bingo with the Tories, in which you have a card marked with these clichés and soundbites. First person, who crosses all of them wins the right to buy something nice to get over the horror of having to listen to more Tory bilge.

Let’s deal with some of these claims. The French Philosophical Feline, Guy Debord’s Cat, has knocked flat the Tory rhetoric about a ‘strong economy’. He points out that when they say they’re going to create one, it clearly implies that we don’t have a strong economy already. And we clearly don’t, because otherwise we would have money being poured into the NHS, people would not be forced to use food banks, public sector workers would not have their wages cut year on year, and people would have other jobs available to them than those which are only part-time or short-term contracts.

https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/the-strong-economy-soundbite/

As for the ‘coalition of chaos’, this goes back to the old Tory lie that Labour would form a coalition with the Scots Nats. As Corbyn himself said yesterday that it ain’t going to happen, no matter what Nicola Sturgeon may say, this has been blown away.

But if you want to talk about a ‘coalition of chaos’, how else would you describe the Tory-Lib Dem coalition of David Cameron and Nick Clegg? Cameron very effectively weakened the Union by calling the referendum on EU membership, in a bid to silence the Eurosceptics in his party. The result is that England largely voted to Leave, while the rest of the UK, including Scotland and Northern Ireland, wanted to Remain.

This means even further divisions between the constituent nations of the UK itself. And in Northern Ireland, that division is potentially lethal. It was a condition of the 1990s peace agreement that there should be an open border between Ulster and the Republic. If the UK leaves the EU, then it could mean the imposition of a border between the North and the rest of Ireland. And that could mean a return to real chaos and bloodshed.

Nobody in Northern Ireland wants a hard border. That was shown very clearly this morning when the Beeb’s breakfast team interviewed a load of Ulster politicos on the beach at Portrush, except for the Sinn Fein candidate, who was in his constituency office. All but one wanted the border to remain open, including the spokesman for the UUP, while the Sinn Fein candidate wanted Ulster to have a special status within the EU to guarantee the open border.

So congratulations, Cameron and Clegg: You’ve come just that bit closer to destroying the 300-year old union between England, Wales and Scotland, and the almost 200-year old union with Ireland, or rather, with the small part of Ireland that wanted to remain British after the establishment of Eire.

And her cuts to the police, the emergency services, the border guards and the armed forces have led to chaos in this country. They weakened our security, so that it was made much easier for the Manchester suicide bomber to commit his atrocity.

And that isn’t all. The Tories have caused massive chaos in the NHS through their cuts and piecemeal privatisation; millions are living in poverty, thanks to benefit cuts and sanctions, stagnant and falling wages, and zero hours contracts.

As for May being a strong leader, well, no, she isn’t that either. Mike’s put up a post pointing out the number of times she’s made a U-turn. The most obvious was her decision to call a general election, after telling everyone she wouldn’t.

She has also, very manifestly, failed to get a good deal for Britain on Brexit. Despite her waffle to the contrary, when she turned up in Brussels, the rest of the Euro politicos all turned their backs on her. She also showed that she didn’t have a clue what she was doing a little while ago by repeating endlessly the oxymoron, ‘Brexit means Brexit’, and then looking down her nose at the questioner as if they were thick when they tried to ask her what that nonsense meant.

As for her statement that a vote for any other party meant that Labour will get in, Rory Bremner sent that one up on his show, Bremner, Bird and Fortune. This featured the great impressionist posing as Michael Howard, the then leader of the Tory party, and saying into the camera ‘Vote Conservative. If you don’t vote Conservative, Labour will get in.’

And that was, pretty much, all that the Tories could really offer that time.

And, as I saw tonight, that’s pretty much all Amber Rudd and the Tories have to offer now, except for two soundbites.

It’s a threadbare argument, and they know it. That’s why they have to attack Jeremy Corbyn personally, just as the Tories back in the 1990s tried to frighten people with images of Blair as some kind of horrific, demonic beast.

Don’t be fooled.
Don’t let the Tories’ campaign of chaos plunge this country into more bloodshed, poverty, starvation and death.

Vote Labour on June 8th.

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.

Michael ‘Poundland Pinochet’ Howard Rattles Sabre over Gibraltar

April 3, 2017

Mike over Vox Political posted up a piece today reporting Michael Howard’s belligerent comments about Gibraltar. Theresa May didn’t mention Gibraltar when she gave the EU her notification that Britain would like to trigger Article 50. As Spain also has territorial claims to the Rock, the EU then inserted a clause stating that Spain would have a veto over any negotiations.

This has caused Howard to start getting his toy sword out, and start waving it around whichever parliamentary play room he now inhabits. Howard has declared that Britain will defend Gibraltar, and that the country will rally round the Tory party, just like they rallied around Mrs T. over the Falklands.

Mike over at Vox Political points out how stupid this is, and includes a selection of tweets about it from the many others, who also think that Howard has gone off the deep end. At least one of them points out that NATO countries cannot go to war on each other. Others point out that the EU was formed to stop European countries attacking each other. And there’s a piece from 2000 AD’s Calhab Justice way back in the 1990s, in which Britain nukes Spain over Gibraltar.

And Mike also points out that Gibraltar, unlike England, voted to stay within the EU.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/04/03/poundland-pinochet-michael-howard-thinks-uk-should-declare-war-on-spain-over-gibraltar/

There are number of aspects to this latest piece of Tory warmongering that need to be commented on. Firstly, the Tories have nearly always been the War Party. During the 1990s under Blair the situation was reversed, and many Tories campaigned against his evil and mendacious invasion of Iraq. Now that they’re in power, the situation has reversed again and the Tories are back to demanding more fire and blood. As usual.

Now dictatorial regimes faced with a domestic crises often start an international crisis in order to divert attention away from their weaknesses. Franco used to do it too with Gibraltar. As soon as his regime started to look insecure and unrest increased, he’d start banging on about sovereignty in order to get the Spanish people to rally round him. Mussolini and Hitler were both imperialists by conviction, rather than expediency, but they also used their imperial ambitions to divert resentment away from their regimes to the countries they fought and invaded.

Now under Theresa May, Michael Howard is using the same tactic.

Which suggests that you really can’t trust the polls. They may show that the Tories are way ahead in the polls, but the fact that Howard feels that a war is needed to rally Brits around them, and raise the spectre of Thatcher and the ‘Falklands Factor’ again, suggests otherwise. Whatever the polls say, it appears that secretly some Tories are very worried.

Good. Let’s make ’em petrified.

Howard talks about Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands, but it could very easily have gone the other way. At the time, Thatcher was cutting back the armed forces. I got the impression that we were able to defeat the Argentinians because we had the help of the Americans and Chile.

The Tories have similarly cut back the armed forces since David Cameron took power. Even before then, British troops in Afghanistan had problems acquiring needed kit, to the point where Private Eye reported that they were being nicknamed ‘the borrowers’ from their American comrades because they were forced to borrow theirs.

America also cannot be relied upon to give its support automatically to Britain. Britain lost the Suez canal when it was seized by Nasser back in the 1950s, because the Americans refused to back Eden’s proposal for military action. This effectively ended Britain as a leading superpower, and our replacement by the Americans.

Lobster’s editor, Robin Ramsay, is very critical of the EU as an instrument of economic domination across the Continent in favour of big business. He’s run several articles arguing very strongly, and with very good evidence, that Britain’s membership of the Common Market, or EEC, as it then was, was due to lobbying by right-wing business groups and the Americans. Now I don’t support Brexit, but do accept that there is much about the EU that is undemocratic and massively needs reform. I mention that the Americans pressured us into the joining the EEC to make the point that they may not support us if we withdraw.

In short, the Americans will embarrass May’s government by denying Britain their support to safeguard their own interests, just like they did Eden.

But let’s suppose that somehow, Britain did go to war with Spain. This could escalate, as both sides start trying to find allies. It’s unlikely, but this could end up with NATO divided, and several of its countries shooting and bombing each other.

In which case, congratulations, Howard and May. You’ve just destroyed 70 years of western European peace and divided a continent, causing massive bloodshed. Because you wanted to get yourselves re-elected by causing another Falklands War.

And finally there’s a lesson from the First World War. This was opposed by radical Socialists across Europe as an imperialist war. It was fought by the great powers for the benefit of big business. The ordinary Brit, Frenchman, German or Austrian was being told to sacrifice his or her life for the profit or their country’s ruling classes. Ordinary working people across Europe had more in common than national divisions, and so should not participate in a fratricidal war.

The same criticism applies exactly today to Howard’s ludicrous outburst. Neoliberalism is the economic doctrine espoused by the political elites across Europe and the rest of the globe. But it is doing nothing to benefit the poor and working people. Indeed, quite the opposite. Poverty is increasing. Now Howards wants to start a war with Spain, or threaten a war with Spain, so that his neoliberal party of exploiters can benefit by bamboozling working people into dying on their behalf.

Just like Blair did in the invasion of Iraq.

We were lied to about that war. Millions have perished and been displaced as a result. We will not be lied to again.

Private Eye on Government’s Attempt to Destroy Freedom of Information Act

November 15, 2015

This fortnight’s Private Eye has a piece attacking the government’s attempt to neuter the Freedom of Information Act. It takes apart their claims they are doing so ‘because newspapers are using it to generate stories’, and gives the email address for people to contact the Commissioners to express their opinions on the issue. The Private Eye article makes much the same points Mike over at Vox Political and the other bloggers have done.

I’m posting up the article as you have to email the commissioners before the end of Friday, 20th November. This means that if you feel so strongly about this issue that you want to state your case to the commissioners, you only have about five days or so left.

FOI
Cry Freedom

The government’s “Independent” commission of the great and not so good on the future of the Freedom of Information Act is looking for views on if and how the rules should be changed. The mood music is not encouraging.

First there was the appointment of former cabinet ministers with little interest in the full truth emerging – Lord (Michael) Howard and Jack Straw – while no campaigner for more openness was invited on the commission. Then last week the leader of the Commons, Chris Grayling, complained that the law was being used by the media to “generate stories”. How appalling!

Among the “stories” that would not have come out were it not for the legislation, and might not again if it were watered down or subject to financial charges, are MPs’ expenses and several exposed in the Eye over the past ten years, including: the recent mapping of English and Welsh property owned by offshore companies; the “shameful” (the Coalition’s word) privatisation of part of the UK’s international development fund CDC; rampant junketing by the country’s public spending watchdog; the scale fo the “tax gap” (extent of the tax dodging in the UK); the schmoozing of Whitehall mandarins that forced the open publication of hospitality registers; and New Labour’s prolific and ruinous spending on management consultants and the disastrous NHS IT project – to name just a few.

Readers who think such matters should continue be exposed, or indeed if they think they should be covered up, can write to foi.commission@justice.gsi.gov.uk by the end of Friday 20 November.

Vox Political on the Tories Empty Pledge for Extra NHS Funding

April 13, 2015

On Saturday, the Tories declared that they were going to add an extra £8 billion to the NHS budget by 2020 if they are returned. When pressed by Andrew Marr on his show about where the money would come from, George Osborne repeatedly refused to say, and instead gave evasive non-answers about the state of the economy instead. He also gave assurances that it had all been correctly costed, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Labour have released a video of this section of the interview, which the good Mr Pride has put on his blog. He had accompanied it with a clip from the classic Newsnight interview, when Paxo repeatedly asked Michael Howard a question, which the then head of the Tories refused to answer, and hummed, ha-ed, and bluffed instead.

Mike over at Vox Political has also posted his critique of Osborne’s claims in the post ‘Tory NHS pledge is ‘fantasy funding’’. This begins

The Conservative Party must be getting very desperate indeed.

Faced with the failure of the plan to belittle Ed Miliband, the Tories are making a belated attempt to take some of Labour’s policy ground with a promise to provide £8 billion extra, every year, for the NHS.

From where?

The Conservatives have already told us they will be squeezing the economy by (at least) £30 billion over the next five years – if they remain in office. The National Health Service is ring-fenced from those cuts, we are told, but that hasn’t prevented real-terms funding from falling during most – if not all – of the Parliament that has just ended.

The Tories had no intention of adding funds to the NHS – or at least, they didn’t until today.

Despite claims that the health service in England alone needs another £8 billion in order to cope (the shortfall is £30 billion but NHS boss Simon Stevens reckons “efficiency savings” – cuts – will cover £22 billion of it), the Conservative Party had been hoping to keep it quiet and let the public service quietly starve while private, profit-making firms strip it of its most lucrative sources of funding; the services that attract the most money.

Like the plan to attack Miliband, this was a mistake; Labour has campaigned forthrightly on the needs of the NHS and the public has responded strongly.

So the Tories have wheeled out Jeremy ‘Misprint’ Hunt to announce a funding commitment that they don’t have the ability to honour.

It is exactly the kind of fiscal ineptitude of which they were accusing Labour, before the other party publicised its fully-funded plans for government.

Mike also refutes Hunt’s claim that the Tories have increased funding to the NHS. They haven’t. As the table from the National Statistics Authority shows, it’s actually been below intended funding, not above.

He also shows Hunt’s claim that the Tories have turned the economy around to be equally mendacious. Well, not exactly. Not if you believe the exact opposite of what they’ve said. They claimed that Labour had produced the depression, and that now, thanks to them, the economy is expanding. In fact, the economy was growing thanks to Alistair Darling. The Tories, on the other hand, have managed to shrink the economy.

Mike therefore concludes that What we’re seeing is fantasy funding – building castles – or rather, hospitals – in the air.

Judging the Tories on their record, they certainly won’t be improving health here on the ground.

Mike’s article can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/04/11/tory-nhs-pledge-is-fantasy-funding/

In fact, as I commented on my reblog of Tom Pride’s post about this, there is a way to increased effective funding of the NHS and make massive savings: cut out the waste of money that is the Private Finance Initiative, the internal market and the outsourcing of NHS treatment to private firms. The bureaucracy involved in this waste’s billions, as well as causing massive inefficiency and waste.

On the other hand, it does provide a nice, juicy income to Tory donors, and the private healthcare firms which 92 Tories and Lib Dem MPs either own, or are employed in. Cameron, IDS and Clegg really won’t want to upset them, especially as they might need to find a few more jobs after the election.

The Doormat That Makes It All Very Clear to Farage

March 20, 2015

Remember when, under Michael Howard, the Tories launched their election campaign slogan of ‘Are You Thinking, What We’re Thinking?’ It didn’t work for them, as the answer for most people was ‘No’, and they lost the election to Bliar. I found this photo of a doormat that makes it very clear what the householder thinks of Farage.

I apologise for the language to all you sensitive souls out there. It’s coarse and nasty, but that’s exactly what a lot of people think of him.

Now, if only there were a few that expressed the same sentiments about Cameron and Clegg.

Anti-Farage Doormat