Posts Tagged ‘Peter Oborne’

Priti Patel and the Shady World of Right-Wing Lobbyists and Thinktanks

November 9, 2017

Hat tip to Michelle, one of the great commenters on this blog, for letting me know about this article.

Priti Patel has finally done the decent thing, and resigned following the revelation of her highly secretive visit to Israel, where she met met leading politicians, while telling everyone she was just on a holiday. Part of the reason behind Patel’s little trip seems to have been to get the British government to divert some of the money it gives for international aid to Israel, so it can spend it on the IDF’s continuing occupation of the Golan Heights. This is territory which Israel nicked from the Syrians during the Six Day War.

Israel is already massively supported by Britain, the US and the EU, where it is treated almost as a member, despite not having formal membership. The IDF is one of the main instruments of the country’s brutal repression and ethnic cleansing of its indigenous Arab people, the Palestinians. During its independence campaign in 1948, the Israeli armed forces were responsible for a series of massacres, rapes and beatings against the Palestinians. The most notorious of these was Deir Yassin. But that was only one massacre out of many. Very many. Israeli soldiers killed people sheltering in a mosque, shot and threw handgrenades at women and children, and in one horrendous incident killed a group of Palestinians, who were coming towards them to offer them rice in the hope of getting some mercy. The IDF today enforces the brutal apartheid regime against the Palestinians, including the fouling of cisterns and wells to make the water undrinkable, and the demolition of houses and seizure of property by Israeli colonists.

I have no desire whatsoever to see my government give aid money to the IDF. And I very much doubt I’m alone.

This isn’t about anti-Semitism. I am very much aware that there is and always has been a very strong Jewish opposition to the ethnic cleansing and terror, which not only includes American and European Jews, but also Israelis such Ilan Pappe and human rights organisations such as BT’salem. Anyone, who dares to criticise Israel, is smeared and abused as an anti-Semite. But many anti-Zionist Jews, or simply Jews critical of the occupation of the West Bank and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, feel that they are particularly singled out for abuse and vilification. Tony Greenstein, a veteran anti-Zionist and anti-Fascist campaigner, has quoted in his blog the left-wing comedian, Alexei Sayle. Sayle, the son of Jewish Communists, has said that it seems to him that the majority of people smeared as anti-Semites in the Labour Party were Jews.

Returning to Patel, an article by Adam Ramsay on the Open Democracy site, reveals that she has very extensive links to some very shady right-wing lobbying groups and thinktanks.

Before she was elected MP in 2010, Patel worked for the PR form Weber Shandwick, whose clients included British American Tobacco. Not only does the company produce a highly addictive and lethal drug, it also has links to the dictatorship in Myanmar and child labour. The article notes that some of the PR company’s employees were uncomfortable dealing with BAT. Not so Patel. She was perfectly relaxed.

BAT in their turn fund the right-wing think tanks the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute for Economic Affairs. In 2002, while Patel was working there, Weber Shandwick merged with the Israeli lobbyists Rimon Cohen, whose clients include the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, the illegal Migron settlement on the West Bank, and Benjamin Netanyahu. Whom Patel coincidentally met on her jaunt.

Weber Shandwick’s clients also included Bahrein, and just months after her election, the Bahreini’s flew her there to meet some of their ministers. This is a Gulf kingdom widely criticised for human rights abuses. In 2012 she went on another trip, this time to the United Arab Emirates, as part of the All Party Group, which went there. She made two return trips in 2013 and 2014. The first time she went with the World Consulting and Research Corporation, based in New Delhi. This outfit describe themselves as a brand equity and management organisation. The second trip was courtesy of Sun Mark Ltd., who are regular donors to her office. Weber Shandwick also added the Dubai firm Promoseven to its list of clients about the same time it merged with Rimon Cohen.

In 2014 she also attended a meeting in Washington, courtesy of the right-wing, and highly secretive British think tank, the Henry Jackson Society. The meeting was organised by AIPAC, the very powerful Israeli lobbying organisation in the US, about security in the Middle East. As for the Henry Jackson Society, they are so secretive about the source of their funds that they withdrew it from two parliamentary groups, rather than reveal where it comes from. Earlier this year the Charity Commission announced they were investigating it following allegations that it was being paid by the Japanese government to spread anti-Chinese propaganda.

Patel’s holiday to Israel also seems to have been sponsored by Stuart Polak, the former head and honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel. In 2009 Peter Oborne wrote a piece about the extensive influence the CFI has in the Tory party. Ramsay also notes that trips to Israel funded by the CFI and similar groups are the most consistent entry in the MPs’ and MSPs’ register of foreign interests.

The article concludes

Much has been written about the weakness of the current Conservative government, as exhibited by this scandal, Boris Johnson’s blunders, and last week’s resignation of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon amid allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour. But here is the problem. When governments are falling apart, special interest groups run riot. Flagrant abuses usually happen at times when minor abuses are normalised. What other powerful lobby groups are pushing ministers around? How did it get to the point that Patel thought she’d get away with this?

https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/we-cant-ignore-patels-background-in-britains-lobbying-industry

It’s a good question, though you’d have to work extremely hard to find out. The Labour MP Colin Challen wrote a piece years ago in Lobster reporting that half of Tory funding remains mysterious. As for the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs, they’re extreme right-wing think tanks that provided much of the ideology of the New Right during Thatcher’s grotty rise to power and period in office. They want to privatise everything, including the NHS and schools, as well as social security. I know. I’ve got the IEA’s pamphlets about the last two. The IEA also produced another pamphlet addressing a question vital to today’s women: Liberating Women – From Feminism. Which has been the line the Daily Mail’s taken almost since it was founded.

Mike yesterday put up a piece commenting on the strange verbiage of Patel’s resignation letter, and the reply from Theresa May. Both contained passages stressing that Patel was usually open and transparent about her business. Mike commented that neither of these letters actually looked like they’d been written by the two.

Mike comments that neither May nor Patel have acted transparently and openly, and we still don’t know what Downing Street’s role in this whole affair may have been. The Jewish Chronicle suggests it’s rather more than May and Patel are telling.

He concludes

This matter has demonstrated that Theresa May’s government has no interest in transparency and openness. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The minority Prime Minister will be hoping that it will go away, following the resignation of the offending minister.

It won’t.

We need to know exactly what happened, when it was arranged, with whom, who knew about it, who was there at the time, what was said about it afterwards and to whom, and whether all the information has been made public. My guess that it hasn’t.

Recent events involving Boris Johnson have shown that ministers cannot expect to be able to lie to us and expect us to accept it. We need the facts.

And if Theresa May can’t provide the answers, it won’t be one of her ministers who’ll need to resign.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/11/08/priti-patel-resigns-resigns-doesnt-theresa-may-have-the-guts-to-sack-anyone/

And Patel’s trip to Israel is just one secretive lobbying trip, paid by some very shady people, of many.

It’s time this government was forced out, and some real transparency put in place.

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Labour to End Tory Persecution of Sick, Disabled and Poor

May 16, 2017

This is excellent news for anyone on a low income, or who suffers from a long term sickness or is or cares for a disabled person. And it’s going to send the Tories, the Blairites and the parasites in the private insurance industry, who recommended the current high persecutory disability policies, absolutely incandescent with fury.

Mike over on his blog has reported that Labour have made the following promises in their manifesto:

* to scrap the work capability assessments and Personal Independence Payment assessments.

* to stop the endless reassessments of people with severe long term conditions.

* Scrapping sanctions.

* Scrapping the bedroom tax.

* Increasing ESA for people in the work-related activity group, and reversing the cuts in UC LCW.

* Uprating carers allowance.

* reinstating housing benefit for young people under 21.

* Reversing the cuts to the bereavement support payments.

* Reviewing the cuts to work allowances in Universal Credit.

* Reviewing the decision to limit tax credits and Universal Credit to the first two children in a family. Which is, as Mike points out, the Rape Clause. This odious piece of legislation was defended in Scotland by an equally odious piece of work, Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Tories up there.

Mike states

The Labour Party manifesto, released today (May 16) has confirmed what we all saw in the leaked version last week – a bonfire of the cruel legislation that has led to the deaths of thousands upon thousands of vulnerable people.

But remember – this is only what Labour would do, if elected back into office on June 8.

With the mass media lining up to attack Labour over any slightest quibble, that will be hard to achieve.

So please make sure all 12 million sick and disabled people, and all of the unemployed and under-employed get to see this.

He also applauds Labour’s promises to end the way the Jobcentre staff and the benefit system itself demonises those with disabilities and the unemployed, so that it becomes more supportive and enabling.

He gives due credit to Debbie Abrahams, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, saying that this confirms what he has known about her, that she is a woman of strong professional integrity, who will act on her promises.

Mike concludes

If YOU have a long-term illness or disability, this is all the reason you need to vote Labour on June 8. If you don’t, but know somebody who does, please share this information with them.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/16/confirmed-labour-will-end-tory-persecution-of-the-sick-disabled-and-poor/#comments

I agree with Mike on just about every line of this. And I won’t be remotely surprised when the Tories and their lapdogs in the press and media go absolutely insane at this.

It is a direct reversal of the welfare policies introduced by Blair and the Tories, at the behest of American private healthcare firms and insurers. The wretched work capability tests were recommended by John Lo Cascio, the head honcho of the American insurance fraudster, Unum. This was based on bogus science, that has now been comprehensively refuted. I’ve reblogged material from Johnny Void and Kitty S. Jones and many, many others over the years, which provide a very detailed critique which absolutely demolishes its pretension to scientific fact. But still the Tories tout it.

And Labour’s pledge to stop the demonization of the sick and poor is a direct attack on one of the fundamental principles of Thatcherism: that those dependant on welfare payments, the sick, disabled and unemployed, must be humiliated as much as possible, in order to deter them from becoming a burden to the taxpayer. Meaning the rich, who must be given tax breaks and corporate subsidies at every opportunity.

It’s called the principle of Less Eligibility, and it was the reason why the workhouses were such places of degradation and misery. But Thatcher celebrated it as one of her ‘Victorian values’, which she really wanted to call ‘Victorian virtues’, but her spin doctors wouldn’t let her.

Like the Tories, the Blairites are Thatcherites, who adopted her vicious, spiteful and punitive attitude to poverty.

This is also a comprehensive rebuttal to the refrain you also hear from Tory voters when the work disability assessments are criticised: no, they’re not going to vote Labour, ’cause Labour introduced them.

Well, they can’t use that excuse now, because Labour’s committed to scrapping them.

This will be bitterly resented by the Tory press, not just because it is a strong attack on decades of Tory policies, but because newspapers like the Torygraph make their money from advertising, and are afraid to do anything that will offend their advertisers. The Torygraph is particularly sensitive to this, as they’ve been spiking stories that would offend their advertisers. It was the reason one of the columnists, Peter Oborne, walked out and very publicly denounced them in the rest of the media, including Channel 4, a few years ago. As the Torygraph seems determined to lock itself into a death spiral of continuing cuts and sackings in order to maintain its share price, while its readership plummets, I’m not remotely worried if these policies help put another boot into the Tory paper.

And, of course, it’s going to inflame the already fevered tempers over at the Daily Mail massively. The Heil has been one of the papers that has been at the very forefront of demonising people on disability benefit as scroungers. Mike has shown that the true statistics for benefit fraud is 0.7 per cent – a vanishingly small amount. But thanks to the Tories and the lies of the press, the British public believe that it’s 27 per cent.

And the rich, who have been pushing for these policies so they can enjoy ever greater profits and tax breaks are afraid.

How else can you explain today’s headline in the I, which screams that Labour intends a ‘tax grab on the rich’. The term ‘tax grab’ seems to show a little panic on the part of the editor, no doubt on behalf of the Russian oligarch who owns the paper.

So don’t be deceived by the lies and hysterical denunciations of these policies. Unlike the rubbish spouted by May, these are sincerely meant, and if implemented will lead to a better, fairer, and healthier Britain.

Because the destruction of the sanctions regime and the work capability tests will stop people dying. Look at Stilloak’s website and the site Atos Miracles to see how many have died in poverty, misery and starvation due to these vile and evil policies.

So please vote Labour on May 8.

Northcliffe on the Threat of Coercion by Advertisers

February 21, 2015

Who Runs This Place

I also picked up yesterday a copy of Anthony Sampson’s Who Runs This Place? The Anatomy of Britain in the 21st Century (London: John Murry 2004). This attempts to describe how the country has become less democratic, and government and big business more unaccountable. It’s a very good book, and accurately describes how we have lost power to the governing elites. One of the most immediately significant passages deals with the way newspapers have increasingly come to reflect the interests of their advertisers.

This was brought home most powerfully this last week with the scandal over the suppression of adverse news about HSBC by the Telegraph. HSBC is heavily involved in tax avoidance, and is being investigated by the Swiss, Americans and other nations for money laundering. Yet this was largely kept out of the pages of the Torygraph on the express orders of its chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan. HSBC was the advertiser the newspaper believed it could not afford to lose, and so instructed its journalists to do everything not to offend it. The resulting scandalous lack of coverage, and the suppression of other news stories and their substitution by puff pieces to satisfied other advertisers, so outraged the columnist Peter Oborne that he resigned. Oborne has written a piece on the Net describing his decision and the circumstances that led up to it. Mike has covered this extensively, including linking to Oborne’s piece, on his own blog over at Vox Political.

Sampson notes in his section on the growing power of advertisers that Lord Northcliffe, the press tycoon, was well aware of their power and did everything he could to keep it in check. Northcliffe said in 1922 ‘Do not let the advertisements rule the paper’. Apparently for a brief period he had the hall porter at the Daily Mail censor them. Northcliffe himself was a major pillar of the establishment, but he was absolutely right in this instance. Unfortunately, Murdoch MacLennan and the others weren’t listening.

Insurance Companies Hampering Council Investigation of Child Abuse

February 19, 2015

Radio 4’s File on Four next Tuesday investigates the way council’s insurers are influencing the way local authorities investigate claims of child abuse and are trying to limit the amount paid in compensation. The blurb for the programme in the Radio Times runs

Tim Whewell investigates the role insurance companies play in local authorities’ handling of child sex abuse cases, with many firms wanting to limit the amount of compensation paid. Whewell hears claims from lawyers that getting access to information and files is becoming increasingly difficult, and this is causing further distress to victims. One former senior member of staff alleges that they were made to alter the way they approached investigations, just to protect insurer’s interests.

The programme will be on at 8.00 pm.

Coming after Peter Oborne’s resignation because of corporate corruption at the Telegraph and the on-going investigations into historic sex abuse, this should be a major scandal.

Vox Political on Peter Oborne’s Resignation Article in Open Democracy

February 19, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has this article on Peter Oborne’s resignation, entitled Oborne’s resignation article lifts the lid on Torygraph corruption. This reports on Oborne’s article giving his reasons for resigning from the Torygraph, including extracts from the article. While the newspaper’s cover-up of tax avoidance and money-laundering was the immediate reason Oborne took the step of walking out, this was only one of a number of instances where the newspapers content had been grotesquely distorted to suit the interests of the advertisers. Other examples include a puff-piece about Cunard’s Queen Mary II; extremely minimal news coverage given to the pro-democracy protests in China, with another puff piece by the Chinese government urging the British people not to let events in Hong Kong ruin the relationship between the two countries; further puff-pieces about the wonders of Tesco, while the false accounting scandal at the company was, like Hong Kong, barely mentioned.

The virtual black-out on any adverse news about HSBC, including its investigation by the Swiss authorities, began two years ago in 2013. Quite simply, the bank was a such a major advertiser, that journalists were told that they simply couldn’t afford to lose the account. And so they did everything they could to appease it.

Oborne further makes the point that the Telegraph is only one case of the corruption of British journalism in general. He attacks the way the newspapers, with the honourable exception of the Guardian, were silent during the phone-hacking scandal, regardless of whether or not they were involved.

He makes the excellent point that this has extremely serious implications for democracy. Newspapers aren’t just entertainment, and they aren’t their to appease big corporations and rich men. ‘Newspapers have a constitution duty to tell their readers the truth’.

Mike himself is a trained journalist, and as he says, has personal experience of this. He walked out on two jobs because of management interference in the contents of the newspapers he was with to suit their advertisers.

The article begins

Peter Oborne has written an enlightening article on OpenDemocracy, covering his concerns about the Daily Telegraph’s editorial enthrallment to its advertising department and the effect on its news coverage.

Passages like the following are particularly disturbing:

The reporting of HSBC is part of a wider problem. On 10 May last year the Telegraph ran a long feature on Cunard’s Queen Mary II liner on the news review page. This episode looked to many like a plug for an advertiser on a page normally dedicated to serious news analysis. I again checked and certainly Telegraph competitors did not view Cunard’s liner as a major news story. Cunard is an important Telegraph advertiser.

The paper’s comment on last year’s protests in Hong Kong was bizarre. One would have expected the Telegraph of all papers to have taken a keen interest and adopted a robust position. Yet (in sharp contrast to competitors like the Times) I could not find a single leader on the subject.

At the start of December the Financial Times, the Times and the Guardian all wrote powerful leaders on the refusal by the Chinese government to allow a committee of British MPs into Hong Kong. The Telegraph remained silent. I can think of few subjects which anger and concern Telegraph readers more.

On 15 September the Telegraph published a commentary by the Chinese ambassador, just before the lucrative China Watch supplement. The headline of the ambassador’s article was beyond parody: ‘Let’s not allow Hong Kong to come between us’. On 17 September there was a four-page fashion pull-out in the middle of the news run, granted more coverage than the Scottish referendum. The Tesco false accounting story on 23 September was covered only in the business section. By contrast it was the splash, inside spread and leader in the Mail. Not that the Telegraph is short of Tesco coverage. Tesco pledging £10m to fight cancer, an inside peak at Tesco’s £35m jet and ‘Meet the cat that has lived in Tesco for 4 years’ were all deemed newsworthy.

The article can be read at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/18/obornes-resignation-article-lifts-the-lid-on-torygraph-corruption/.

The Guardian and Observer haven’t exactly been as entirely blameless or free of such contagion as Oborne describes. In the 1990s and 2000s they often featured in the pages of Private Eye’s ‘Street of Shame’ column for running the same kind of puff-pieces Oborne describes. Frequently, these were articles extolling the virtues of extremely authoritarian countries, like Indonesia, which at that time was pursuing its brutal occupation of East Timor through terror and genocide, and similarly harshly suppressing and persecuting political dissidents. Nevertheless, it should be said that Groaniad and Absurder still published articles criticising such regimes.

And Murdoch’s might empire also has form in this. Australia’s Minister for Public Enlightenment was personally horrified by the Tianamen Square massacre. Nevertheless, Murdoch was keen to expand his global empire into the Chung Kuo. Thus when Chris Patten tried to publish his book describing his experiences and perspectives as the last British governor of Hong Kong, it was turned down by HarperCollins. The publisher was owned by Murdoch, who didn’t want to upset the Chinese, and so lose his chance of subjecting the citizens of the Middle Kingdom to the same kind of moronic bilge he inflicts on the rest of the population.

The corruption of the British press goes back decades. The Torygraph and HSBC are merely the most extreme and recent example. Let’s hope this prompts people to strike back and demand a genuinely free and informative press.