Posts Tagged ‘Private Eye’

Viktor Orban Uses Pandemic to Become Dictator of Hungary

April 2, 2020

The onward march of the extreme right in eastern Europe takes another fateful goosestep. Viktor Orban, the already very authoritarian president of Hungary, has used the Coronavirus crisis as the pretext to pass legislation destroying the last vestiges of the democracy there, establishing him as the country’s virtual dictator.

On Monday, Zelo Street posted a piece based on an article in the Groaniad, reporting that Hungary’s parliament, dominated by his xenophobic Fidesz Party, was expected to grant him sweeping powers. These will give Orban the ability to rule by decree. Elections will be banned. The speaker of the Hungarian parliament and parliamentary groups will be informed of the government’s actions. However, spreading false information will become a criminal offence punishable by a long prison sentence. It will be prerogative of Orban’s Fidesz MPs to decide when the emergency is over. Orban has said that when it is, he will surrender all his powers without exception. However, there’s absolutely no guarantee of this, as the laws he passed in 2016 against asylum seekers, which were also supposed to be temporary, are still in place. It’s therefore possible that a compliant parliament will allow Orban to hang on to some or all of them.

Zelo Street stated unequivocally that the EU should expel Hungary because of this seizure of power. The Sage of Crewe pointed out that when the EU was the EEC, and only consisted of France, West Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries – Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, the dictatorships to the east and west of the bloc stood absolutely no chance of getting. This meant the Fascist dictatorships of Portugal and Spain, Greece under the military rule of the colonels, Ceausescu’s Romania and the DDR (East Germany) under Erich Honecker. He remarks that Hungary’s continued membership of the EU has been a test for its remaining member states, one that they have so far failed to tackle. He concludes

‘Viktor Orbán may be more Chaplin than Hitler. But if the values of the EU are to mean anything, the Union cannot permit a dictatorship within its club. So expel the SOB.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/03/eu-must-now-expel-hungary.html

Zelo Street describes this legislation as an ‘enabling law’. The reference is to the Enabling Act which formally made Adolf Hitler dictator of Germany and suspended parliamentary democracy. And the Nazis, and the Italian Fascists before them, also seized power in response to a crisis. Fascist governments are crisis regimes. In the case of Italy and Germany, the crisis was first of all the breakdown in parliamentary democracy, as the pillars of the liberal regime in those nations stopped cooperating. In Germany this led to the president, Hindenburg, ruling by decree. This was succeeded by the recession caused by the Wall Street Crash and the massive uncontrolled inflation that saw the Mark as worth far less than the paper it was printed on. This discredited capitalism for millions of Germans, leading to a surge in votes for the Nazis and the Communists. And finally there was the Reichstag fire, which allowed the Nazis to declare a state of emergency and begin rounding up subversives. Which meant anybody who didn’t cede power to Hitler, and particularly Communists and the democratic socialists of the SPD.

Fidesz is extremely xenophobic and, like many political parties in the former eastern bloc, in particular anti-Semitic and islamophobic. I’ve no doubt Orban would be overjoyed if he could somehow blame the pandemic on Gypsies, Jews, homosexuals and Muslims. And I’m afraid that where Orban’s gone, other countries will follow, such as Poland under the Law and Justice Party. Or even Britain, where Boris has also passed legislation granting him extraordinary sweeping powers to deal with the pandemic emergency.

The EU’s failure to do so is an indictment of the hypocrisy of its leading politicos. Years ago Private Eye published an account of the EU’s dictatorial attitude towards the states then seeking membership in its ‘Brussels Sprouts’ column. The terms and conditions were very detailed and were not open to negotiation. Or at least, not very much. One of the countries joining was the Czech Republic. It’s president, Vaclav Klaus, was so outraged by his country’s dictatorial treatment, and told the EU negotiating team that his country had not suffered such treatment for nearly 30 years. This was in the late ’90s – early 2000s, so he was probably referring to the Russian invasion which ended the Prague Spring, the attempt by Czech premier Anton Dubcek to make Communism popular and democratic. This infuriated two of the EU’s team, the French former radical, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, and a German MEP. They immediately climbed on their high horses and started angrily shouting about how the EU was the opposite, and was the champion of democracy. And I can remember how, about ten years ago, the EU managed to leave many people highly unimpressed when it sanctimoniously awarded a peace prize to itself, claiming that it had successfully kept the peace in Europe. Well, possibly. But I also think NATO and a general fear across the continent of another war had played a major party. If the EU is unable, or unwilling, to do anything about Orban’s seizure of power, then all the verbiage about defending democracy is simply empty, vacuous nonsense. As readers of this blog will know, I am absolutely no supporter of Brexit. But it is true that EU is an immensely flawed institution.

It’s too much to claim that the EU is some kind of authoritarian superstate, an EUSSR, as the Kippers and Brexiteers liked to describe it, or some kind of successor to the Third Reich or Napoleon’s empire. But with Orban seizing dictatorial power, it is true to say now that the EU is no bulwark of democracy either.

 

Private Eye: Tory NHS Privatisers Heading Back into Government

March 5, 2020

This fortnight’s issue of Private Eye, for 6th to 19th March 2020, has a worrying piece, ‘Smear Campaign’, in their ‘HP Sauce’ column on page 13. This reports that Boris, having won the election, is reneging on his promise not to privatise or commercialise the NHS. Instead, two Tory MPs with connections to the Serco and the private accountancy firm, McKinsey, respectively, which were deeply involved in the privatisation and outsourcing of NHS services seems to be coming closer to getting into government. It also names another senior NHS official, who is also in favour of privatisation and who also has connections to the same wretched bunch of profiteers. The article runs

“There has been no increase in NHS privatisation and there won’t be under a Conservative government”, the Tories insisted during the election campaign. But two of Boris Johnson’s new health ministers come from leading health privatisers.

Edward Argar, minister responsible for NHS England, was chief lobbyist for outsourcer Serco before he became an MP in 2015. Serco’s involvement in NHS privatisation includes some what the Tory manifesto liked to call “Labour’s disastrous PFI deals.”

Then there’s Helen Whatley, the MP for Faversham and Mid Kent and now minister for health and care integration, who was a management consultant in the health division of consultancy McKinsey from 2007 to 2015. McKinsey’s long-running interest in NHS privatisation includes helping former Tory health secretary Andrew Lansley draw up the reforms in 2012 that created many more opportunities for private firms to be “commissioned” for NHS work.

Though th egovernment was keen to close down NHS commercialisation as an issue during the last election, the appointment of a former McKinsey consultant as health minister suggests it is no longer worried on this score now it has such a big majority.

McKinsey’s influence was further cemented in January when NHS England appointed Penny Dash, its head of healthcare for Europe,to chair one of London’s five “integrated care systems” (ICS). These were set up to make the NHS and local authority social care work better together – a responsibility that will now be overseen by new minister and ex-McKinseyite Whatley. NHS England tells the Eye that Dash is “in the process of retiring” from McKinsey, though there is no set date: thus she will simultaneously work for NHS England and McKinsey until her retirement is complete.

Dash, who has also worked for the health department, typifies McKinsey’s enthusiasm for privatisation. In 2016 she talked up the Alzira plan, a Spanish scheme whereby a private firm takes responsibility for providing care to a given population in return for a fixed, per-capita payment. In 2011, Dash tried to revive interest in an idea rejected by Tony Blair, which would have given women needing a smear test or patients wanting an X-ray a voucher to shop around among providers. Will ideas like smear vouchers soon be back on the agenda? Watch this space…

I sincerely hope not, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they will. Nor would I be surprised if Cummings and crew aren’t discussing them even now.

There should be absolutely no surprise that the privatisation of the NHS is back in the Tory sights. As Mike’s pointed out in his piece today about Boris’ mendacious answers about nurses’ bursaries and free hospital car parking, the Tories are absolutely incapable of telling the truth. As for the guff about ‘Labour’s disastrous PFI deals’, well, yes, they were disastrous. But who dreamed up the Private Finance Initiative in the first place? You guessed it – the Tories. It was Peter Lilley’s big idea to open up the NHS to private investment.

The fact that Boris and his sordid band were desperate to deny they were going to privatise the NHS at the election shows how important it is that Labour should oppose NHS privatisation and demand its renationalisation. As for Serco and McKinsey, they should be thrown out of government contracting immediately. And Dash, Argar and Whatley should be kept as far from government and the NHS as possible.

Don’t believe the Tories lies – they are determined to privatise the health service. And that is something this country cannot afford.

Private Eye on Audrey White’s Libel Victory over the Jewish Chronicle

March 5, 2020

A week or so ago, Zelo Street put up a piece reporting that Audrey White, a Labour activist from Liverpool, had successfully sued the Jewish Chronicle for libel. The paper had smeared her as an anti-Semite, and accused her of a number of things, none of which were true, such as undermining the Jewish Labour MP Louise Ellman. Private Eye have also covered the case in their latest issue, for 6th to 19th March 2020. And that’s interesting, not just for what it says about the case itself, but about the Eye’s own attitude to the anti-Semitism witch hunt, in which the Eye has itself been an enthusiastic participant. The item, in the magazine’s ‘Street of Shame’ column, reads

Whatever the true level of anti-Semitism within the Labour party, there has been no shortage of media interest in the subject. Foremost among publications to have taken up the cudgels against labour over the issue has been the Jewish Chronicle (JC).

Curiously, though, the media appear to have ignored the recent settlement of a libel case involving the JC and Audrey White, a Labour party activist in Liverpool. White successfully complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) that the JC had breached the editors’ code of practice in four articles it published in February and March last year.

The JC alleged that White had actively undermined Louise Ellman, the former Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, who quit the party in October last year. Finding in favour of White, the IPSO ruled the JC articles to be “significantly misleading” and castigated the paper for having resorted to “unacceptable” obstruction during IPSO’s investigation. The JC agreed to apologise to White, and pay her substantial libel damages and costs. 

What is a mystery is why the JC didn’t realise its treatment of White, which could be construed as a witch-hunt, was akin to the very type of behaviour in the Labour Party it would rightly condemn.

Firstly, while it’s great the Eye is reporting this when the rest of the media isn’t, it isn’t innocent of pushing the anti-Semitism smears itself. Like the rest of the press and broadcasting, it accepted uncritically the claims of the Zionist Jewish establishment and the Blairites in the Labour party that Labour was a seething cauldron of Jew hatred. In fact, while anti-Semitism unfortunately does exist, it’s at a much lower level than in the parties further to the right. And as left-wing bloggers and Israel-critical Jewish bloggers and activists have pointed out, the vast majority of anti-Semitism comes from the far right. People have written letters to the Eye trying to point this out, but the smears continued. And the Eye’s response to one such letter was to cite Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, who certainly believed the allegations. The article begins with a note of doubt about the true extent of anti-Semitism in Labour – you’ll note the phrase ‘Whatever the true level of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party’ – but at the time the magazine made it clear that it had no doubt that the claims were true. This seems more than a bit contradictory, even hypocritical. But then, the election has come and gone, and Boris is in with a huge majority, Corbyn is stepping down as leader and all the candidates for the leadership have signed the Board of Deputies wretched pledges. So the smears aren’t needed any more. But don’t worry, I’m sure that they’ll be revived the moment the Tory establishment gets frightened and the Israel lobby finds it expedient.

And Audrey White isn’t the only person by any means the Jewish Chronicle and others have libeled as anti-Semites. It did it to Mike, along with the Sunset Times, the Depress and the Scum, if I remember correctly, when these rags told the world Mike was an anti-Semite and a Holocaust denier. Mike complained to IPSO, and the rags were forced to issue retractions. It was settled before Mike could begin libel proceedings, and so these, ahem, alleged newspapers, were spared the humiliation of a court judgement.

I’ve blogged several times complaining that, while the Eye and the rest of the press must know that the majority of anti-Semitism accusations are false – one Labour insider recently told the Canary or Novara Media that a third of them all came from the same person – the press, including the Eye, has resolutely refused to interview or profile any of the victims. It’s been a true witch hunt in that, like Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, the mere accusation is taken as proof, an assumption that the Board of Deputies has malignly incorporated into their wretched pledges. No-one in the establishment media has interviewed or defended victims like Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Tony Greenstein, Cyril Chilson, Martin Odoni, Mike, Asa Winstanley or any of the others. That would be going too far, as it would effectively disprove the anti-Semitism smears. And as the left-wing critics of Israel like Greenstein, Odoni, Walker and Winstanley are well able to show that is the Israeli state that is profoundly and aggressively racist, any interview or defence of them would also not only undermine the position of the Israel lobby and the Zionist Jewish establishment, it could also embarrass Britain’s own foreign policy in the Middle East. Greenstein and historians like Ilan Pappe and John Newsinger have shown just how deeply entwined Zionism and Israel have been with British colonial goals since the British Mandate.

As for the Eye’s statement at the end that the Jewish Chronicle would otherwise be against any form of witch hunt, this is the complete opposite of the truth. The Jewish Chronicle has been one of the main instigators of the witch hunt in and against the Labour Party. Possibly the Eye means that it would be against any anti-Semitic witch-hunt, but even this is highly doubtful. Many of the victims – Tony, Jackie, Cyril, Martin and others – are self-respecting, decent Jews. But they’re vilified and smeared as anti-Semitic and self-hating simply because they’re anti-Zionist, or have otherwise criticised Israel. And the abuse they have consequently suffered would be unequivocally condemned as anti-Semitic if it came from gentiles.

And the Jewish Chronicle gives every sign or wishing to continue its persecution. A week or so ago, Tony Greenstein on his blog reported that the Chronicle’s gentile editor, goysplainer Stephen Pollard, had sent one of its contributors, Geoffrey Alderman, a letter giving him the heave-ho. Alderman’s a very respected historian of the British Jewish community, and a true-blue Tory. The letter didn’t explain why Pollard was letting him go, but the reason seems obvious: Alderman committed the unforgivable sin of writing a piece in the Spectator declaring that Corbyn wasn’t an anti-Semite. And this show of integrity against lies and smears couldn’t be tolerated.

It’s very welcome that the Eye has finally decided to report White’s victory against the lies and smears of the Israel lobby. But this is just one incident a long line which the magazine, like the rest of the media, has very conveniently chose to ignore.

But this may well change. Mike is taking the Labour Party to court for breach of contract over the wrongful decision to expel and smear him as an anti-Semite. His case is solid. When I went to court to support him the other month, the judge express surprise that, given the importance of the case, the press wasn’t present.

I don’t doubt it will be there next time. And that will be very embarrassing for those responsible for the smears.

 

Rejoice! Murdoch Press Losing MILLIONS

February 23, 2020

Here’s a bit of good news amidst the horrors of this Tory government, the floods, deportations, rampant racism and the Coronavirus: the Murdoch press is losing money. Very big money. Zelo Street has just put up a very revealing piece about their accounts for the period ending June 2019. This reveals that the Murdoch empire has been hit with a charge of £26,721,000 for one-off payments for legal fees and damages paid to the claimants in the phone hacking scandal. They’ve also incurred other one-off costs for UK newspaper matters of £25,737,000. Other charges include £1, 549,000 for the Management and Standards Committee. This means that the total damage is £54,007,000. Mind you, the directors still remain handsomely rewarded. They have been paid £5,191,000. Of which Rebecca Wade got £2,787,000. Overall, the company lost a total of £67, 952,000. The total loss for the financial year is £67,952,000. Which means that even without the phone hacking scandal, the company would have lost £14 million.

Zelo Street comments

‘Will the Murdoch press make money again in the next few years? Given the claims keep on coming, and the potential downside for the Sun titles if there is serious blowback (as happened with the Screws over the Dowler hacking), it’s not such a daft question.

Or is Rupe just in it for the political leverage? There’s a $64,000 question for you.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/02/murdoch-press-still-losing-money.html

That’s a very good question. A little while ago Private Eye raised the same issue regarding the Times. The actual amount of income generated by the Thunderer is so small, and its losses correspondingly so high, that if it was any other paper it would have been closed down years ago. But because it’s the British paper of record, Murdoch keeps it going because it gives him a seat at the same table as the politicos.

The Sage of Crewe recognises how influential the Murdoch titles still are. Tim remarks that the Murdoch’s goons still exceed the other titles, even those of the Heil, in the hate they can lay on their targets. The rest of the press follows their lead, and knows better than to mess with them. But the costs of the phone hacking scandal show all this is catching up with Dirty Rupe and his empire of sleaze.

Tony Benn in his book, Arguments for Democracy, points out that the Daily Herald didn’t fold because it lacked a popular readership. It collapsed, and then was subsequently bought by Murdoch and transformed into the scabby rag it is now, because it lacked advertisers. At the time its readership was bigger than the Times, the Groaniad and the Financial Times added together. What killed it is that its working class readers were too poor to appeal to the advertisers.

I’ve no doubt the paper’s sales increased massively after it was transformed into the Scum. But I also think that it was kept afloat because it was a Tory paper. It was the first working class Conservative newspaper, and so companies that would have had second thoughts about advertising in a socialist paper were probably more prepared to place adverts with Rupe’s mighty organ.

The question is, will that continue. If the Murdoch papers continue to lose readers, will there come a point when the advertisers demand that they’re not getting enough exposure for the money they’re spending, and demand that his newspapers cut their advertising rates. Which will mean another financial hit for them. And what will happen if Murdoch doesn’t shake off his newspaper’s reputation for gross breaches of journalistic standards. Of course the Scum’s journalistic reputation always was low, but in the 1980s and ’90s there was also a tendency to laugh it off as a joke. One of the silly parties standing in Gloucestershire in either the 1983 or 1987 election was the ‘Have the Sun Redesignated as a Comic’ Party. This shows how seriously some people viewed it. Which is unfortunate, as while the Scum certainly deserved its mockery, the joke also created a kind of complacency. For the more intelligent, the Scum was dire and a joke, but it still was massively influential, and the policies it and its master promoted – rampant militarism, welfare cuts, privatisation and a culture of ruthless selfishness and greed – were anything but funny.

But with the phone hacking scandal, some of that laughter has died, quite apart from the bitterness the good folk of Liverpool still feel about the paper’s gross libel of their fair city. How long before the paper’s reputation gets just that bit too toxic that the advertisers don’t want to risk their reputations by being associated with it. And if they go, the Scum goes too.

And hopefully, there’ll be a few more years where the Murdoch press makes such spectacular losses, that it won’t be too long in coming.

Complaint Sent to Charity Commission about Board of Deputies’ Political Bias

February 20, 2020

The internet blogger and activist Simon Maginn has complained to the Charity of Commission about the Board of Deputies of British Jews. They have, in his opinion, broken the Commission’s requirement that to qualify for charity status, an organisation should not support or oppose a political party or political candidate, although they may engage in political activity. Yet the Board has done this with its requirement that the Labour Party, and only the Labour Party, has to sign up to its 10 pledges to rid itself of anti-Semitism. When Mr Maginn asked the Board why they insisted that it should only be the Labour party who should do this, the Board said that it was ‘infested’ with ‘anti-Jewish racism’.

This is sheer nonsense. Of course there’s anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, just as there’s anti-Semitism unfortunately throughout British society. But despite what the Board, the Chief Rabbinate, and witch-hunting organisations like the woefully misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism would have us all believe, it is actually much lower in the Labour Party. Jewish Voice for Labour, which has larger and far more authentically Jewish members than the sham outfit, the Jewish Labour Movement, real name Paole Zion, has repeatedly pointed this out. And there have been a stream of Jewish Labour Party members, who’ve said the same. They’ve said that, while they know it must exist, they have never come across it themselves. And some of these are members of very long standing. This impression is supported by the Community Security Trust, who gather statistics on anti-Semitic crime and incidents. Their stats show that the incidence of anti-Semitism rises the further to the right you go, and so statistically the Labour Party is less anti-Semitic than the Tories. And three-quarters of anti-Semitic incidents recorded by the CST come from the far right. As you’d expect.

Simon asked the BoD why they were therefore targeting the Labour Party when the stats said otherwise. He states that they offered ‘no statistical rebuttal’.

Simon then says

“Thus, the BoD have made a very public statement that the Labour Party is problematic based on faulty data. They are ‘opposing’ the Labour Party in so doing. The issue is politically sensitive. The BoD’s ’10 point pledge’ has had enormous publicity, with all the Labour leadership candidates signing up to it. This, in my opinion, amounts to the BoD ‘opposing’ the Labour Party by singling them out for opprobrium and not demanding any other party sign the pledge.

“I think this politicisation of the BoD’s activities presents a negative image of charities, which the British people believe to be politically neutral. The suggestion that a charity might be using its charitable status to oppose one party and, by implication, support another is damaging to the reputation of the charitable sector generally.”

Mike in his discussion of this says it’s a strong argument, and will be interesting to see what the Charity Commission does with it. Particularly as it’s already investigating the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism for the same reasons.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/02/18/charity-commission-urged-to-take-action-over-political-activity-by-board-of-deputies/

But this was never about anti-Semitism to begin with.

Not the real hatred of Jews, simply because they’re Jews. This is the dictionary definition of anti-Semitism, and the one adhered to by one of the odious organisations behind modern anti-Semitism, the German Bund Antisemisten. But the Board of Deputies wasn’t interested in that. This was all about getting the Labour Party to adopt the I.H.R.C. definition of anti-Semitism and its examples, in order to prevent criticism of Israel’s oppression and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. The BoD, Chief Rabbinate, Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and their counterparts in the Labour Party, Paole Zion, er, I mean the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel, were frightened of changes to the Labour leadership long before Corbyn was elected. They started screaming that it was anti-Semitic when the Jewish Ed Miliband was elected, because he dared to criticise Israel. And they panicked when Corbyn was elected, because he is a long-time anti-racism activist who has consistently supported Palestinian rights. Along with supporting Britain’s Jewish communities. Mike and other bloggers have put up ad nauseam a long list of Corbyn’s actions to defend the country’s Jews. One of the best known of these is when he helped prevent the redevelopment of an historic Haredi Jewish cemetery. And he is also absolutely not an enemy of Israel. He just wants it to stop persecuting its indigenous Arabs.

Critics of Israel like Norman Finkelstein, the Jewish American academic, have pointed out that Israel is unable to counter criticism of its policies on factual grounds. It has therefore concentrated on smearing its opponents as anti-Semites. This is what the Israel lobby in this country was doing when it attacked Corbyn and the Labour Party. The accusations were very definitely politically motivated, and had a ready audience in the Conservative political and media establishment. These were all too eager to broadcast and amplify these smears to the widest possible audience, while ignoring the very many Jews and Jewish organisations that denied and contradicted these smears.

Simon’s absolutely correct, but I’m afraid I don’t see the Charity Commission acting. I’ve heard a number of stories about serious and flagrant mismanagement of charities. But it seems the Commission is very reluctant to act unless there’s no way it can get out of it. In this, it seems to resemble the Financial Services Authority, which is supposed to police the banking and financial sector. This is so loath to act on cases of wrongdoing that Private Eye has nicknamed it the ‘Fundamentally Supine Authority’.

But I hope the Charity Commission will prove me wrong in this, and hope they will investigate thoroughly this obvious case of definite, selective political opposition by the Board.

Simon has also published a series of Tweets criticising the Board’s 10 pledges and the reactions of the Labour leadership hopefuls to them. He points out that they won’t end the anti-Semitism controversy and Board’s meddling in the Labour Party. They’ll just increase it until the Party is destroyed. See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/02/19/labours-leader-candidates-seem-determined-to-destroy-their-own-party-heres-how-it-works/

 

 

Flooding: Private Eye Cover Shows How Nothing Has Changed Under Tories

February 19, 2020

Here’s a piece of de ja vue, courtesy of Private Eye’s issue for 10th-23rd January 2014. It shows former Prime Minister, David Cameron, surveying one of the areas then hit by disastrous flooding. Dodgy Dave has to bear some responsibility for the disastrous, as it was his government that cut funding for the flood defences.

Well, it’s six years later, we’ve got a Tory government that’s promising to increase funding to the public infrastructure, and Tweezer declared that ‘austerity was over’. But there has been no increase in public spending, or at least, none I’ve been aware of. And the country’s now hit by disastrous floods.

Which shows that almost nothing has changed.

Except one thing:

David Cameron at least visited some of the areas that had been hit, like the Somerset Levels, and pledged more funding – funding that should never have been cut anyway.

Boris Johnson, however, is nowhere to be seen. He’s retreated to Chevening, a 115 room mansion in Kent. He’s probably hiding from having to answer awkward questions about why he thought it would be a good idea to hire Andrew Sabisky, a racist, misogynist eugenics nut. Or if he holds the same vile views.

It also shows his own, cynical attitude to public welfare. Johnson hasn’t called any emergency meetings. He did before he was elected, but that was when he needed people’s votes. Now he has them, and is in No. 10, although obviously not physically, he just doesn’t care. But he has sent his deputy official spokesman – not his official spokesman, mind – to reassure us that he is receiving briefing updates and that the flooding is terrible for people affected.

How very reassuring!

Mike in his article points out that one reason Johnson may be dodging this issue is because it raises awkward questions about climate change and global warming. But Donald Trump and the Republic Party don’t believe in it, and are passing laws to gut their Environmental Protection Agency and prevent anyone in it from publishing any research showing that it exists. Because the Republicans and Trump are also heavily funded by the fossil fuel lobby, particularly the Koch brothers. And so they pretend that it doesn’t exist.

But Johnson needs Trump’s trade deal, which will do precious little for the country except hand over British industries and utilities, including a privatised NHS, to the Americans. But it will make Johnson and the Tories backing it rich, so Johnson wants to dodge the issue as well.

Meaning that as Britain starts sinking into the sea and primordial ooze, Johnson is holed up in his mansion hoping that it will all go away.

While Britain sinks, Boris Johnson hides

 

Dawn Butler Defends Labour Manifesto, Says Tories Stole Labour Policies

February 11, 2020

Last Saturday’s I for 8th February 2020 carried a piece about Dawn Butler by the paper’s political editor, Hugo Gye, ‘Butler: as deputy leader, I’d be like John Prescott without the violence.’ This consisted largely of an interview with Butler followed by how well the various deputy leadership contenders were faring. Butler argued that she should be leader as she was ‘the experience candidate’, having served under two Labour Prime Ministers. She also claimed that she could unite all sections of the party, and was therefore the unity candidate. She also stated that as deputy leader she’d be like John Prescott without the violence, because she doesn’t intend to punch anyone. As for her chances of winning – the favourite is Angela Rayner – she said that throughout her life as a Black female she’d always had someone telling her she had no chance.

But this isn’t what I found interesting. That was what she said about the positive reception she’d experienced of Labour’s manifesto, and that the Tories had stolen Labour’s policies. Gye wrote

I’ve put up several pieces about Butler, criticising her demand for all-Black shortlists and her statement that she intends to fight misogyny. The all-Black shortlists could make racism even worse, as some Whites in majority ethnic neighbourhoods with a Black MP may feel excluded. Her statement about misogyny is questionable because of the way what is considered misogynist has been expanded to include not just definite cases of sexism, but more dubious areas like microaggression. These are supposed to be the tiny, everyday pieces of sexism that affect women’s confidence and feeling of self-worth. Like calling them ‘Love’. At the same time, Private Eye has claimed that, rather than not having been a member of any coup against Corbyn, as she claims, Butler was very definitely one of the participants. This casts doubt on her position as a left-wing candidate.

But I think she is almost certainly right about the positive response of the public to Labour’s policies. In polls Corbyn’s policies of renationalisation and the restoration of workers’ rights and the welfare state were well-received. It’s why the Tory media had to resort to portraying him as an anti-Semite and communist or Trotskyite. And the Tories have been forced to appear to steal Labour’s policies. After Labour announced its policies on the NHS, the Tories announced they were going to invest a record amount in the health service and built more than 40 new hospitals. This is all lies, but it shows how they have been forced publicly to move away from their real policies of starving the NHS of funding and closing hospitals. Just as they have been forced to renationalise Northern Rail, although some of that was an attempt to divert attention away from the problems caused by government failures in the construction and maintenance of the tracks and infrastructure, on which the trains run, which is still government-owned. Just as the Tories have also promised – again, it’s just lies – a massive campaign of house construction as well as the expansion of the rail network.

I feel that even though Labour will be out of power for the next five years, it can still do much good by maintaining those left-wing policies and trying to force the Tories to move left, so that when the Tories – and they will – their right-wing policies will be soundly contrasted with Labour’s socialist programme that will be far more successful. If this is done properly, it will show to the public that socialism hasn’t been superceded by Thatcherism. Quite the opposite – it is Thatcherism that is now obsolete.

My fear, however, is that if Starmer and Rayner get into power, they will turn the clock back to Blair, and Britain will be further decimated, economically and socially, by the Thatcherite policies of privatisation of industry, schools and the NHS, and the destruction of the welfare state.

Alan Milburn Attacked Cameron for Not Going Further in NHS Privatisation

February 8, 2020

Here’s a piece from Private Eye from 9 years ago, in the edition for 24th June to 7th July 2011. And it shows exactly why the Blairites should not be allowed back into power. It’s about an article Alan Milburn, the former Health Secretary under Blair, wrote in the Torygraph in which he actually criticised David Cameron for not having privatised the NHS enough. And it exposes Milburn’s own personal connections to private healthcare firms eager for a piece of NHS action. The article runs

Alan Milburn was characteristically modest in last week’s Telegraph when he attacked the coalition for backpedalling on NHS reform: “When I introduced private sector providers, some claimed it would be the end of the health service as we had known it. In fact, they strengthened it.”

Labour’s former health secretary wanted and expected more of the same from Andrew Lansley and David Cameron. Instead, he wrote: “Every single local decision-maker will read [the U-turn] as a signal to weaken competition, not strengthen it, and to protect the public sector incumbent over the private or voluntary sector insurgent. The debacle has set back for a generation the cause of market-based NHS reform… GPs’ ability to drive more services out of hospital and into the community has been severely compromised.”

At no point in this tirade did Milburn or the Telegraph decide that etiquette demanded he declare his financial interest. As the Eye has regularly pointed out, Milburn is now the chairman of the European advisory committee at Bridgepoint Capital Limited, whose website drools in the prospect of “excellent growth prospects and consolidation opportunities for those private sector players that can offer flexible, efficient and innovative business models in this evolving environment. Bridgepoint has long experience of investing successfully across the European healthcare sector.”

He is also a member of the healthcare advisory panel at Lloydspharmacy Limited, whose managing director Richard Smith indicated his firm’s enthusiasm for driving more services out of hospitals when told the Times in 2009 that “the pharmacy is the frontline in the NHS, but we have to change mindsets about it being part of the NHS. I believe that the pharmacy giving a solution is better value than a doctor.”

Milburn’s concern for the nation’s wellbeing extends only so far, however. He also happens to be a member of the advisory board at Pepsico, whose portfolio includes such healthy delights as Walkers Crisps and Sugar Puff.

Milburn wanted to reduce the NHS to a kitemark for services provided by private healthcare companies. As Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis show in their excellent NHS – SOS, private healthcare companies are less efficient than state hospitals and healthcare, not more. Furthermore, instead of cutting costs the inclusion of private sector companies has actually increased it by 6 per cent. And the end point of all this privatisation is an American-style system funded by private health insurance. And under that system, if you can’t pay, you don’t get treated. or just received minimal treatment in the Emergency Room. Millions of Americans can’t afford their health insurance and 40,000 people every year die because they can’t afford medical treatment in the Land of the Free.

This is what will come if the Tories are allowed to privatise the NHS. And by pushing privatisation and competition, Blair, Milburn and their wing of the Labour party will have helped them.

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.

Sinn Fein Attends Recruitment Drive for Ulster Police

February 6, 2020

If this was done in genuine good faith, then it’s truly a massive step forward. According to yesterday’s I, the Ulster police have hailed as ‘seismic’ the attendance of Sinn Fein at a police recruitment drive. The report on page 2 ran

Sinn Fein’s attendance at a police recruitment drive in Northern Ireland has been hailed as “seismic and historic” by the region’s chief constable. Stormont Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill joined Simon Byrne at the event at the PSNI training college in east Belfast.

When the British government initially sent the troops into Ulster, they were welcomed by Roman Catholics because the RUC was dominated by Protestants, and biased and brutal in its treatment of Catholics. Of course the good will towards the army didn’t last, and they became primary targets in the hideous violence and civil war that followed. In the ’90s the government began a move to reform the RUC and recruit more Roman Catholics. This was criticised by newspapers from the Daily Mail to Private Eye. The latter magazine also published a letter from an Ulster Catholic stating that, as dominated by Protestants as it was, they preferred the RUC to the ruthless community enforcement of the IRA.

I hope this means that Sinn Fein is now confident that the police is in impartial in its treatment of people in the Six Counties, and that RUC officers may carry out their duties without threat from the Nationalist community. I also profoundly hope that Sinn Fein is now able to represent and stand up for Ulster Catholics and a united Ireland peacefully through democracy and the ballot box. And also that they continue to receive the support of the Nationalist community, who don’t see this as some kind of sell-out and turn to the men and women of violence for the achievement of those goals instead.