Posts Tagged ‘Rod Liddle’

Radio 4 Programme on Journalistic Impartiality

April 16, 2019

According to next week’s Radio Times, for 20th-26th April 2019, Radio 4 are due to broadcast a programme questioning the notion of journalistic impartiality, ‘Call Yourself an Impartial Journalist?’, hosted by Jonathan Coffey. The blurb for the programme by Simon O’Hagan on page 138 of the magazine runs

In a febrile political age, fuelled by social media, the BBC has felt the heat as possibly never before – guilty, in its accusers’ eyes, of failing to reflect the full spectrum of opinion over not just Brexit but such culture-wars issues as transgenderism. With the BBC due to publish a new set of editorial guidelines in June (the first since 2010), Jonathan Coffey explores the idea of impartiality and whether any sort of consensus around it is possible. Contributors include the Spectator columnist Rod Liddle, the BBC’s director of editorial and policy standards, David Jordan, and Kerry-Anne Mendoza, the editor of online media The Canary.

The programme’s on at 11.00 am.

I don’t think there’s much doubt about the Beeb’s political bias. Academics at the media monitoring units of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff universities found that the Beeb was twice as likely to seek the opinions of Conservative MPs and financial experts as Labour MPs and trade unionists. Barry and Savile Kushner also describe how the Beeb pushed the austerity agenda in their book, Who Needs the Cuts?, to the point that the opponents of austerity were rarely invited onto their news and politics programmes to put their case. When they were, the presenters actually tried to silence them, even by shouting them down. And years ago Tony Benn in one of his books said that the Beeb considered itself impartial, because its bias was largely slightly to the left of the Tories at the time, but way to right of everyone else.

There could be some interesting things said on the programme, particularly by the excellent Kerry-Anne Mendoza, but my fear is that it’s going to be like the Beeb’s programme, Points of View, and just be an exercise in the corporation justifying itself and its own bias. 

Handbook of Disability History in Latest Oxbow Book Catalogue

March 31, 2019

I got the latest issue of Oxbow Book News, for Spring 2019, through the post the other day. Oxbow are specialist booksellers and publishers for archaeology and history. The Book News is really a catalogue of what they have in stock. And in the latest issue was The Oxford Handbook of Disability History, edited by Michael Rembis, Catherine J. Kudlick and Kim Nielsen (Oxford: OUP 2018). The blurb for it in the catalogue runs

Disability history exists outside of the institutions, healers, and treatments it often brings to mind. It is a history where the disabled live not just as patients or cure-seekers, but rather as people living differently in the world. The Oxford Handbook of Disability History is the first volume of its kind to represent this history and its global scale, from ancient Greece to British West Africa. The twenty-seven articles, written by thirty experts from across the field, capture the diversity and liveliness of this emerging scholarship.

Unfortunately, this book is going to be well beyond most people’s pockets. It’s hardback, and the listed price is £97.00, which means that it’s only really going to be affordable to the very affluent. On the other hand, you might be able to order it from your local library, assuming that the Tories haven’t shut it down already.

What is interesting is what its publication on its own says about this as an emerging area of scholarship. It says that the history of disabled people themselves is coming to be recognised as a field of historical research and endeavour by itself, alongside other disciplines in social history like Black, women’s, and gender history. It’s possible that this is part of a change in general cultural attitudes towards the disabled, in the way that the Black civil rights and feminist movements directly caused the emergence of Black and women’s history. Unfortunately, despite this apparent change in academic attitudes, popular attitude towards people with disabilities still has some way to go. We still have the Tories closing down services for disabled people in the name of austerity, efficiency and all the hypocritical cant about concentrating resources where they’re really needed. And we still have the wretched Tory press and media demonising them as welfare scroungers. A week or so ago Zelo Street put up a post about the Spectator’s Rod Liddle attacking people with ME as malingerers, who didn’t have a real illness. To which the answer is, no, Rod, it is, they are, and you’re a soulless Murdoch hack. This wasn’t the first time he’s taken a swipe at the disabled either. A few years ago he wrote a piece about how he’d like to get a disability, that would allow him to get off work without really being disabled. Once again, he went for ME and fibromyalgia. I’ve known people with ME. They’re not malingerers, and it’s a real illness which leaves them wiped out through chronic fatigue. And it’s a long time since doctors seriously doubted whether it really existed. I think that stopped with the end of the 1980s. But obviously not in Liddle’s squalid excuse for a mind. And if you need convincing that fibromyalgia is a real disease, go over to Mike’s blog and look up some of the posts, where he mentions the suffering it’s caused Mrs. Mike. This is real, genuine pain, and definitely not imaginary. Unlike Liddle’s pretensions to objective journalism.

This looks like it could be a very interesting volume. It’s too bad it’s price puts it beyond the reach of most of us. Hopefully this will lead to further scholarship, some of which will be aimed at a less restricted audience beyond academia, and will be at a more affordable price. And I hope some of it is also taken up by activists, who use it to challenge the assumptions of Liddle and the rest of the close-minded bigots in the right-wing press and Tory party.

‘I’ Newspaper Smears Corbyn’s Labour as Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theorists: Conclusion

March 10, 2019

Verber ends his strange concoction of fact, insinuation and outright lie with the paragraph ‘What Labour should do now’. This runs

A hallmark of Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis is that the argument that if someone is anti-racist, they cannot be anti-Semitic. Many socialists – and Marxists in particular – view Jews not through the prism of race or religion, but through that of class. Jews, in their eyes, are a white, rich, powerful elite, unworthy of the solidarity or protection normally afforded to ethnic minorities. This is not just racist, it is also false: there are many Jews of colour, and there are many Jews who live below the poverty line. But it also swallows, hook, line and sinker, the conspiracy theories that I have laid out here.

To conquer the crisis, the Labour leadership needs to educate itself to understand what these conspiracy theories are, and why they’re so pervasive; it needs to disavow them publicly; and its needs to educate Labour members to spot these pernicious stereotypes and call them out when they appear.

Let’s start taking this apart. Firstly, it is massively hypocritical for any Zionist to start talking about the conditions of Jews of colour. Jackie Walker, whom the Israel lobby has foully smeared, is very much a Jewish woman of colour, who has fought against racism, including anti-Semitism, all her life. In Israel also Black Jews from Ethiopia and elsewhere are also suffering prejudice and often violent persecution, because they, like Walker, are not seen as Jewish because of their skin colour. Also, in Britain, as Tony Greenstein has pointed out, Jews are not persecuted. They are largely upper middle class and don’t suffer the same level as violence, prejudice and state discrimination as other ethnicities. No-one has forcibly put them on to planes to deport them, as they did the Windrush migrants and their children. Nor has anyone in any part demanded that there should be more prejudice against them, as Rod Liddle has with the Tories and Muslims. The anti-Semitic abuse and attacks are largely directed against Orthodox and Haredi Jews, because of their distinctive dress and lifestyle. Only 7 per cent of the British public hold anti-Semitic views. That’s too much, but it’s small, especially to the vicious hatred directed against Blacks, Asians and Muslims. Greenstein and those like them aren’t anti-Semites by any stretch of the imagination. But they are against hack propagandists like Verber grotesquely inflating the level of prejudice against Jews in order to justify smearing critics of Israel as anti-Semites, holocaust deniers and conspiracy theories.

Far from apologising for anti-Semitism that doesn’t exist in the Labour party, I think Williamson was right. It’s time to take a robust approach and defend the innocents, who have been smeared by people like Verber, the CAA and JLM, and publicly make the point that there is a real smear campaign against Israel’s critics by the Israel lobby, just as Peter Oborne and al-Jazeera have.

 

Jackie Walker on the Right’s Stance against Anti-Semitism

March 8, 2019

I’ve found an interesting video on YouTube of Jackie Walker talking to the members of Jewish Antifa Berlin. It’s nearly an hour long, so I haven’t watched all of it. But what I have seen has been very insightful.

Walker is, as you know, a Jewish Black historian and anti-racism activist. She was the vice-chair of Momentum until she was smeared as an anti-Semite by the libelous scumbags of the JLM and CAA. The real reason she was attacked was her opposition to Zionism and Israel’s horrendous persecution of the Palestinians. The video is interesting as clearly Jewish Antifa Berlin are definitely not going to tolerate even remotely a genuine Nazi. Not with their and their parents’ and grandparents’ experience of Nazi persecution and the Holocaust. Hosting the event is a young woman, who begins by asking some questions herself and then opening it out to the audience. She begins by asking Walker about some of the groups now declaring their opposition to anti-Semitism. Such as the various right-wing parties and organisations, including the Daily Mail. The mention of the Heil brings a snort from someone in the audience, so even over in Merkel’s Bundesrepublik the Heil is notorious for its racism and bigotry. Walker in her response states that the Right is keen to attack anti-Semitism because it shows they are anti-racist, without actually doing something about those, who are genuinely underprivileged and under-represented. This does not, however, mean that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist. They also talk about the really horrifically anti-Semitic parties and regimes that have arisen in eastern Europe, whose heads then go off to Israel and meet Netanyahu.

This is a good point. There is, unfortunately, still anti-Semitism in Britain. But Tony Greenstein has pointed out time and again that as a group, Jews are not persecuted and not marginalised. Sociologically they are comfortably upper middle class. They don’t suffer the prejudice and discrimination like Blacks or Muslims. None of Britain’s Jews has been seized and forcibly deported, for example, like the Windrush migrants and their children. And for that matter, they don’t have to suffer Rod Liddle proclaiming that the Tory party needs to be more intolerant of them, as Muslims have had. And so the Tories and the Tory press can proclaim their opposition to anti-Semitism because it costs them absolutely nothing. While underneath, as we have seen, there’s a seething mass of venomous, Nazi hatred, including anti-Semitism and its conspiracy theories about the Jews plotting the destruction of the White race.

Watching anything Walker says, it’s very clear that the Israel lobby and the Labour right had good reason to fear her. She’s very sharp, with a clear grasp of the issues involved and an ability to communicate it easily to an audience. It’s a video that I will have to watch in full, and then post on.

Liddle and Phillips Hold ‘Freedom to Offend’ Event – But No-One Seems Interested

March 8, 2019

More fun at the expense of right-wing hacks and hate-mongers Rod Liddle and Melanie Phillips from Private Eye. According to this fortnight’s edition, for 8th-21st March 2019, Liddle and Phillips held an event supporting the ‘freedom to offend’. But no-one was interested. The article on page 8 runs

FORGET the Rumble in the Jungle; consign Frost v Nixon to the history books. As the Eye went to press this Monday evening, London was preparing itself for the event that would eclipse them all: “Spectator and Sunday Times columnist Rod Liddle makes the case for the freedom to offend. Rod will be in conversation with Melanie Phillips”.

For just £32.50, organisers at the How to Academy were offering tickets to a “no-holes-barred (sic) approach to what it is and is not acceptable to say in the 21st century”.

Alas, despite the Spectator’s boast last year that Liddle’s pulling power was enough to sell out the 2,300-seat London Palladium,m his popularity seems to have wanted. A full fortnight before the Rod/Mel smackdown, self-described audience-booster website Central Tickets was trying to convince its “community of seat fillers” to make up the numbers at the event, paying just a “nominal booking fee” of £4. Any gluttons for punishment taking up the offer were given strict instructions: “Don’t mention complimentary tickets in or around the venue. Do not make social media posts referencing free tickets.

The Tory press has been pushing the ‘freedom to offend’ stance for some time. It’s part of the usual torrent of complaints about ‘political correctness’ stifling free speech. And they are also ostensibly firmly against racist hate crimes being investigated as such only on the perception of the person offended. Over two decades ago I remember the Heil publishing a long rant against Labour’s introduction of this legislation, complaining that perfectly decent people would now be accused of racism simply on the subjective judgment of the offended person.

Er, no. That’s not what the legislation says. As Mike’s pointed out time and again, the legislation states that a possible hate crime is to be recorded as a hate crime if the victim believes that it is, but is to be investigated in the same way as any other crime. And this includes ascertaining whether it is, in fact, a hate crime.

And it’s cant and hypocrisy anyway. The right really isn’t interested in the ‘right to offend’ as such. Both Liddle and Phillips are venomous islamophobes. Liddle is notorious for saying that there should be more islamophobia in the Tory party, while Phillips is constantly talking about the threat Islam poses to Judaeo-Christian western and British society. She published the book, Londonistan, about how the country’s capital is now the largest centre of Muslim terrorists in Europe. When these two talk about the right to offend, like the Mail and the rest of the right-wing press they mean the freedom to demonise and vilify Blacks and other ethnic minorities. And particularly Muslims.

But this doesn’t apply to Zionists and Zionist Jews, as the press is fully against anyone offending them. And this is what many of the anti-Semitism accusations come down to: not that Jews were really being vilified or demonised, as they notoriously were by the Nazis in the pages of Der Sturmer. Or that the information in the material which forms the basis of their complaints is incorrect. That’s irrelevant. Shai Masot at the Israeli embassy was certainly conspiring with British officials to have Alan Duncan removed from the government, but simply describing it as a conspiracy is anti-Semitic. Because of the real anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, you see. No, they’re quite happy to accuse innocent, decent people of anti-Semitism due to personal offence. Marc Wadsworth was accused of anti-Semitism partly because, according to the Heil, he had made Ruth Smeeth cry. He hadn’t, but fact has never been of particular concern to the Heil in these matters. And Mike was accused of anti-Semitism because someone had been ‘upset’ by one of his pieces. And then there’s the matter of libel. Because it was the Sunset Times, along with other rags like the Jewish Chronicle, which published the libels against Mike that he’s an anti-Semite and holocaust-denier.

In fact, I fully support the ‘right to offend’. George Orwell wrote about the political writer’s job being to tell people things that they don’t want to hear. It’s a quotation often used by news journalists, including hacks like Liddle. But Liddle and Phillips aren’t really interested in the right to tell uncomfortable truths. That’s why the right has given its full, malign support to the anti-Semitism smears and witchhunt in the Labour party. They’re only interested in the right to smear, and create racial hatred and division. Because it’s through racism and hatred, including that of the poor, the unemployed, and ethnic minorities, that the Tories thrive and their vile press sells their papers.

But possibly not for much longer. By and large the younger generation is much less racist than the older generation of readers and bigots, who seem to be the core of the internet groups demanding that Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson should lead the Tory party. And the Spectator and Sunset Times were clearly promoting Liddle and Phillips as a pair of journalistic big hitter, who could be expected to draw crowds in. But they didn’t. And I hope this will continue, until there’s no-one left reading these genteel, up-market hate-sheets.

Zelo Street: LBC’s James O’Brien Turns Tables on Tories over Racism and Anti-Semitism

March 7, 2019

Yesterday the good fellow at the Crewe-based Zelo Street blog put up a post discussing how LBC radio’s James O’Brien had attacked the Tories for their hypocrisy in criticising the Labour Party. for supposed anti-Semitism, while all the time allowing venomous racism to flourish in their own. This came after the blogger Racists4ReesMogg revealed a long series of tweets from internet groups set up to promote Boris Johnson and Rees Mogg as leaders of the Tory party.

The tweets were truly vile. The members of these groups discussed burning Qu’rans, throwing Muslims off bridges, bombing and closing down mosques, sterilising immigrants and the poor, debarring Muslism, and particularly Sajid Javid and Sadiq Khan from positions of government, ’cause their Muslims, along with ethnic cleansing  of such ferocity that the ‘SS Einsatzgruppen would look like a Boy Scout’s picnic’. There were racist attacks on Diane Abbott and Sayeed Warsi, along with speculation that a civil war was coming and they should all get guns and licences. And almost inevitably there were the weird conspiracy theories about the Jews. Some of them seem to believe in all that nonsense about the ‘Kalergi’ plan, a secret Jewish conspiracy to import Africans and Muslims into Europe to destroy the White race.

As a result, Tory deputy chairman James Cleverly suspended 14 members, boasting on politics live that his party takes action, unlike Labour in its handling of the anti-Semitism crisis. But Zelo Street speculates that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and that Racists4ReesMogg seems to be finding more all the time.

And then James O’Brien sharply contrasted the Tory tolerance, and even encouragement of frothing racism and islamophobia, with their sharp intolerance of supposed instances of anti-Semitism. Zelo Street quoted him as saying

“Imagine if the New Statesman published an article by Owen Jones stating baldly that there is not enough anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. What would happen? Imagine if Diane Abbott or John McDonnell came forward with comments about Jewish women being like letterboxes, or made a joke about the wigs that orthodox Jewish women wear. Made a joke that invited people to mock and condemn them”.

Imagine if John McDonnell made a joke about … the locks that Orthodox Jewish men grow, or the Yarmulkes that many, many Jewish men choose to wear. Imagine if, for example, John McDonnell said ‘Why do all these Jews walk around with frisbees on their heads?’ Explain to me how that would be substantially any different from what Boris Johnson said about Muslim womens’ sartorial choices”.

The ones that make them look like letterboxes. D’you see what I mean? That’s not even controversial, that comparison. Just imagine Owen Jones wrote an article on there not being enough anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and then how the hell Rod Liddle gets to write an article arguing that there’s not enough Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. And he’ll still get invited on to programmes and into studios, and Andrew Neil can still claim when he’s covering these issues that he’s impartial”.

And Fraser Nelson can host an event at the London Palladium with Jacob Rees-Mogg, whose fans are so vile that 14 of them have been suspended from the very party. Now just swap all of those phrases. Swap Islamophobia for anti-Semitism. Swap Rod Liddle for Owen Jones, swap Fraser Nelson for Jason Cowley … and swap Jacob Rees-Mogg or Boris Johnson for John McDonnell or Tom Watson. And you tell me that we don’t live in a country that is utterly upside down”.

Zelo Street states that the Tories have got away with it for so long because the press has been actively complicit in promoting such venomous bigotry. Like the Scum, which started off whipping up hatred against the Irish, then it was Blacks, and now it’s ‘Scary Muslims’. This press is only now stopping to think about what they’re doing. But it’s too late for the Tories, as the lid is being taken off this ugly can of worms. The Tories have every reasons to try to misdirect people to the anti-Semitism allegations against Labour. Because when this stops, people will turn and see where the real racism is. And it will not end well for the Tories.

http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/03/tory-islamophobia-action-not-enough.html

There always has been a section of the Tory party whose members and views have overlapped with the real, horrific Fascists of the NF and BNP. Like Paul Staines, AKA Guido Fawkes and the Libertarians links to Latin American death squads and apartheid South Africa. But the rantings of Rees Mogg’s and Boris Johnson’s supporters reminded me in particular of the weird, paranoid conspiracist views of the Nazi ideologue, Alfred Rosenberg. Almost by definition all the Nazis were paranoid conspiracy theorists, as the whole party was based on the assumption that Jews control capitalism and communism and were working to destroy the Aryan race as a whole and specifically Germany. But in the case of Rosenberg the paranoia was particularly acute. Rosenberg was bitterly anti-Christian, and his book The Myth of the Twentieth Century was suppressed by Hitler because it was an embarrassment at the time the Fuhrer was trying to gain the support of Christian Germany. Apart from Jews, Rosenberg was also paranoid about Freemasons, Communists and nearly everybody else. At one point he was convinced that there was a secret Roman Catholic plot to seize control of Germany and install the old Catholic princes. In a party of murderous paranoid nutters, he was one of the most paranoid and nuttiest. But looking at the paranoia and frothing, venomous racism of Johnson’s and Rees Mogg’s supporters, he’d have fitted in very well there.

These people are genuinely frightening. During the mid-70s there was a plot by the editors  of the Times and Mirror, as well as the British intelligent agencies, to overthrow the minority Labour government. Left-wing MPs, trade unionists, activists and journos would be rounded up and interned, possibly on one of the Scottish islands. It never got off the ground, as leading members of the civil service and the staff at Sandhurst weren’t interested and told the plotters where to go.

But it shows how fragile British democracy really is. This was during the mid-70s, when the country was experiencing inflation, strikes and the energy crisis. Thanks to Thatcher, the unions have been smashed and inflation kept low, which is why there is so much poverty. But May’s botched and incompetent Brexit threatens to make the problem much, much worse. And as the case of Nazi Germany shows, in times of severe economic and political crisis, people look for scapegoats. We could see a massive expansion of bitter, murderous racism in this country too, accompanied demands for the full instruments of Fascist repression – internment, mass arrest, and death camps if people like the denizens of these sites and the threat they pose are not taken seriously.

Andrew Neil Loses Badly to Owen Jones and Carole Cadwalladr on Fascist Content of the Spectator

January 20, 2019

More fun at the expense of the right press! About a fortnight ago, left-wing journo and activist Owen Jones appeared on Andrew Neil’s current affairs show, This Week, and seriously upset him by reminding him of the Spectator’s dodgy far-right content. Neil and his guests had been supposed to talk about whether the media was assisting the rise of the far right. Just to show that people in glass houses shouldn’t raise topics they may find embarrassing, Jones reminded the world that the Spectator, of whose board Brillo is the distinguished chairman, had published an article praising Greek neo-Nazis. This was the rag’s long-time columnist, Taki, which praised the Golden Dawn as just good, patriotic Greeks. Well, they are patriotic in the same sense as the Nazis, Mussolini’s Fascists and the BNP. They’re a violent neo-Nazi group notorious for violent attacks on immigrants and asylum seekers. If I remember correctly, one of their members was also accused of murder of an opposition politician or journalist. As for Taki himself, he’s a snobbish Greek multimillionaire playboy, who has spent time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in Pentonville for possessing cocaine. He’s also published articles in the Speccie which are anti-Semitic.

Brillo Pad tried to shut Jones up, talking over him and accusing him of persuing a personal vendetta against him. That sequence of his wretched programme ended with Brillo staring into the camera like an existentialist philosopher like Sartre or Camus contemplating the awful meaninglessness of the universe. It seems that the veteran newspaper editor was afraid Jones was trying to get him sacked, and the spat continued on Twitter. According to a piece put up on Zelo Street last Monday, Brillo was denying that the Spectator was a ‘facist’ magazine and repeated the claim that Jones was pursuing a personal vendetta. He was also upset because one of the magazine’s own columnists had compared him to Mussolini and another that he was a ‘Paisley Pleb’. Jones hit back, saying

“There is no personal vendetta. You are the licence payer funded BBC flagship politics interviewer, and the Chairman of a hard right magazine whose articles praise the Wehrmacht, claim black people have lower IQs than white people, and defend Greek neo-nazis. These are facts”.

Zelo Street, quoting Michael Walker on Twitter also said that Jones did not accuse the magazine of being Fascist, but of publishing and platforming Fascists. The website also added that Brillo has also published a piece from Rod Liddle, saying that there should be more islamophobia in the Tory party, and from Douglas Murray, who said that conditions should be made harder for Muslims right across the board. As for Brillo’s statement that instead of pursuing his personal vendetta on the Beeb, Jones should have first come to him with his complaint, Zelo Street pointed out that this would have been worthless, because of the way Brillo tried to shout him down.

http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/01/owen-jones-roasts-andrew-neil.html

Brillo was also roundly criticized by Observer journo Carole Cadwalladr, who rebutted Neil’s claim that he doesn’t interfere in the content of the Speccie. This is the journalist Neil had insulted as a ‘crazy cat woman’. After asking Neil on Twitter if he was sitting comfortably, she began with telling him that an ex-employee had said that

“The Spectator today is entirely made in Andrew Neil’s image. His constant presence in the building means that he looms over everything editorial … he shapes the agenda by his contempt for anyone and anything that challenges his right-wing, ultra-capitalist world-view. He wishes the Spectator was the Economist and that Margaret Thatcher was still Prime Minister. He has drained the magazine of gentleness and joy”. She also quoted another ex-Speccie journo, who said

The idea that Andrew is not responsible for content at the Spectator is…laughably false.’ … ‘The editors were frankly a little scared of Andrew.’

Zelo Street went on by reminding its readers that under Brillo Pad, the Sunday Times paid holocaust denier David Irving to write articles, as well as publishing pieces claiming that the HIV virus did not cause AIDS. It also lost Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli whistleblower, who was jailed for revealing that Israel had developed nuclear weapons. The article continues by stating that Neil has got away with flagrant conflicts of interests with his position at the Beeb, including running the Addison Club, an elite dining society which may have been responsible for Russian money finding its way into the Leave campaign. He also used his position at the Beeb to promote his own denial of climate change. The article concluded with the statement that he got away with all that, but one more callous insult could be the last straw.

http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/01/brillo-faces-cadwalladrs-revenge.html

Last time I looked, Neil was still on the Beeb and I really doubt that the corporation wants to fire him. But Neil’s own history of publishing extreme right-wing and unscientific articles in his newspapers clearly shows that he really can’t claim to be an impartial host, and lay the broadcaster open to further criticism.

Radio 3 Programme on Internet Threat to Democracy

March 15, 2018

Next Tuesday at 10.00 pm Radio 3 is broadcasting a programme about the threat to democracy in the age of the internet. It’s part of the Free Thinking Festival, and is entitled ‘People Power’. The blurb for it in the Radio Times reads

Democracy was the most successful political idea of the last century but can it survive the digital age? Anne McElvoy chairs a discussion with Rod Liddle, associate editor of the Spectator, David Runciman, author of How Democracy Exists, Caroline MacFarland, the head of a think tank promoting the interest of “millennials”, and geographer Danny Dorling. Recorded in front of an audience at Sage Gateshead as part of Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival. (p. 130).

McElvoy recently presented the excellent short history of British Socialism on Radio 4. Now, I might be prejudging the programme, but it looks like very establishment thinkers once again trying to tell us that the Net, bonkers conspiracy theories and electoral interference from the Russians are a threat to western democracy as a way of protecting entrenched media, political and business interests.

The Net isn’t a threat to democracy. What is destroying it, and has caused Harvard University to downgrade America from a democracy to an oligarchy, in the corporate sponsorship of politicians. Because politicos are having their electoral funds paid by donors in business, they ignore what their constituents want and instead represent the interests of big business. Which means that in Congress they support the Koch and the oil industry, and the arms companies against 97 per cent of Americans, who want greater legislation over guns to prevent any further school shootings.

As for the press, they’re aiding the collapse of democracy because they’ve become part of massive media and industrial conglomerates, and represent the interests of their corporate bosses. They are most definitely not representing ‘truth to power’, but are instead another layer of power and ideological control. They promote the policies their bosses in big business want, even when it is actively and obviously impoverishing ordinary people. Like the way the right-wing press is constantly pushing neoliberalism, even though this as a doctrine is so dead it’s been described as ‘Zombie Economics’.

In this case, the internet really isn’t a threat to democracy, but the opposite. People can check the lies their governments and media are telling them, and disseminate real information to correct it, as well as go further and identify the people and organisations distorting and corrupting our politics from behind the scenes.

And this is obviously scaring the political and media elite. Otherwise they wouldn’t be transmitting programme like this.

Miliband, Blair, the Financial Sector and Labour’s Rejection of the Working Class

March 27, 2014

Eye Miliband pic

Private Eye’s satirical view of Labour leader Ed Miliband from the cover of their edition for 5th -18th October 2012.

There has been increased criticism of Ed Miliband this week after an open letter signed by 28 left-wing activists was published in the Guardian criticising Miliband’s electoral strategy. Many traditional Labour supporters and voters have been increasingly alienated by Labour’s move to the Right and its policy of adopting harsh Tory policies and attitudes towards the poor. Miliband has stated that he wants to reach out to the middle classes, and this week ordered the parliamentary Labour party to vote with the government for the imposition of an overall benefit cap. Although Labour would be better by far than another Tory government after 2015, Miliband’s leadership seems to demonstrate many of the problems and attitudes of the modern political elite: very middle class, with little awareness of or sympathy for the problems and hardship experienced by the poor, the working class, the disabled, and unemployed.

Tony Blair and the Neglect of the Working Class

Much of this attitude began under New Labour with Tony Blair. Own Jones in chavs describes how the political elite have played down the existence of class in order to ignore the working class to concentrate on gaining middle class votes, quoting the politicians Jon Cruddas and Matthew Taylor, one of Blair’s aides.

Jon Cruddas is in no doubt that politicians of all colours have a vested interest in denying the existence of class. It has proved an effective way of avoiding having to address working-class concerns in favour of a small, privileged layer of the middle classes. “They devise ever more scientific methods of camping out on a very small slice of the electorate … those who are constituted as marginal voters in marginal seats.’ Working class voters were taken for granted as the ‘core vote’ who had nowhere else to go, allowing New Labour politicians to tailor their policies to privileged voters.

No New Labour politician personified this attitude more than Tony Blair. Matthew Taylor offers an interesting insight into Blair’s political approach. ‘I worked for Tony Blair, and the point about Tony is that Tony would always say when I would say to him, or other people would say to him: “What about a bit more kind of leftism in all this? What about a bit more about poverty and justice and blah blah blah? …”‘ Blair’s response was blunt, to say the least:

Tony would always say, fine, but I don’t need to worry about that, because that’s what everybody else in the Labour Party wants, and that’s what everybody else in the Cabinet wants, and that’s what Gordon [Brown] wants, and that’s kind of fine. And I’ll leave them to do that, because I know that’s how they’ll spend all their time. They don’t want to do public service reform, they don’t want to wealth creation, they’re not interested in any of that, they’ll just kind of hammer away at that agenda. My job is to appeal to the great mass of people on issues that the Labour Party generally speaking is just not interested in.

The near-obsession with ignoring working-class voters meant inflating the importance of a very small tranche of wealthy voters who were misleadingly construed as Middle England. After all, an individual in the very middle of the nation’s income scale only earns around £21,000. ‘You’re probably right that we did misportray Middle England,’ admits Matthew Taylor, ‘But that again, I’m afraid, is not just a Labour characteristic. It’s characteristic of the middle classes as a whole.’

Chavs, 100-101.

Lobster on Kinnock and the Development of New Labour

The parapolitical magazine, Lobster, has printed a number of articles analysing and critiquing Blair, New Labour and their policies. One of the most important accounts of the origins of the New Labour project is the article, ‘Contamination, The Labour Party, Nationalism and the Blairites’ by the editor, Robin Ramsay, in no. 33, Summer 1997, pp. 2-9. Ramsay views the emergence of what later become known as New Labour in Neil Kinnock’s change of policies following their 1987 election defeat. Kinnock had previously been very left-wing. In his book Making Our Way, according to Ramsay ‘had come close to a radical, anti-finance capital, anti-overseas lobby, pro-domestic economic policy’. This changed after the election defeat, when Kinnock and his economic advisor, John Eatwell, enthusiastically embraced the free market and EEC. He notes that when a group under Bryan Gould produced the report, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, Eatwell, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair objected to the sections recommending a return to national ownership.

An Economic Secretariat was created under John Smith, including advisors from the City of London. Kinnock and Smith became pro-EEC and were convinced that Britain should join the Exchange Rate Mechanism. At a Shadow Cabinet meeting on the 16th November 1989, the Labour leadership followed Smith’s advice that the state could not stimulate the economy, either through the nationalised industries or local councils, because this was prohibited under the rules of the ERM. The Labour Party thus launched the ‘prawn cocktail offensive’ to win over the City of London, in which John Smith and Mo Mowlam assured the bankers that they would not attempt to limit their profits any more than Thatcher had. This resulted in the establishment and expansion of a series of groups creating links between the Labour party and the financial sector. These included the Smithfield discussion group, the Labour Finance and Industry Group, and the Industry Forum. The Labour Finance and Industry group represented the interests of the domestic sector, while the Industry Forum and the Norton group presented the interests of the overseas lobby – the City of London and the multi-nationals.

Transatlantic Background of New Labour Leadership

Blair, Brown, Balls, David Miliband and the rest of ‘New Labour’ all had extensive links to America and American interests. Gordon Brown, for example, used to spend his summer holidays in the library of Harvard University. Blair went on a trip to America, which was part of a scheme sponsored by the US government to aspiring young British MPs. David Miliband, took an MA at MIT, Ed Balls studied at Harvard and, before he joined Brown, was about the join the World Bank. As for Mandelson, in his final year at Oxford University he became Chair of the British Youth Council, which had originally been set up in the 1950s by the CIA and SIS as the World Assembly of Youth in order to combat the Soviet youth fronts. Ramsay states

In short, the people round Blair are all linked to the United States, or the British foreign policy establishment, whose chief aim, since the end of the Second World War, has been to preserve the Anglo-American ‘special relationship’ to compensate for long-term economic decline. The Blair’ group’s orientation is overseas: this is the territory of the Foreign Office and its think tank satellites like the Royal Institute of International Affairs – the political and propaganda apparatus of the overseas lobby. (p.7).

New Labour and the City of London and Overseas Lobby

Blair himself also announced before the annual conference of Murdoch’s News Corp that the Americans had also insisted that Britain should adopt a more pro-European policy. Due to the massive expansion in overseas investment under Thatcher, Britain was second only to America in this regard and so looked to American political and military power and influence to protect those interests. The result was an increase in support for Labour over the Tories in the London establishment over the Conservatives. The result was a complete reversal of attitude towards the City of London. Whereas the Labour report, Meet the Challenge Make the Change: A New Agenda for Britain had been highly critical of the influence of City of London, the latter was held up as a great success seven years later by Mandelson and Roger Liddle, in their book, The Blair Revolution. Liddle, incidentally, now writes for the Spectator.

Under Bryan Gould, the Labour report had stated of the City’s destructive dominance over the British economy that

‘The concentration of power and wealth in the city of London is the major cause of Britain’s economic problems’… and that Britain’s economic policy had for too long been dominated by City values and run in the interests of those who have assets rather than those who produce.

The Blair Revolution, however, described the City of London and the new, de-industrialised British economy in glowing terms.

Britain can boast of some notable economic strengths – for example, the resilience and high internationalisation of our top companies, our strong industries like pharmaceuticals, aerospace, retailing and media; the pre-eminence of the City of London.

Consequence of City Influence: Everywhere else in Britain Suffers

Ramsay goes on to describe what this change of attitude actually means for everyone else in Britain outside the elite financial circle of the metropolis.

That the British economy policy is ‘outward-looking, internationalist and committed to free and open trade’, in Blair’s words, is precisely the problem from which non-metropolitan Britain has suffered. These are the values of the overseas lobby, the Home Counties financial elite, people for whom Bradford or Norwich, let alone Glasgow and Cardiff, are far away places about which they know nothing – and care about as much.

British politics has been stood on its head. The Conservative Party, traditionally the party of financial and overseas interests, has been replaced in that role by Labour. Instructed by its new friends in the City, Labour has become the party of financial- that is pre-Keynsian – orthodoxy. Gordon Brown looks determined to re-enact the role of Philip Snowden in 1931. The last three years of the Major regime saw Chancellor Kenneth Clarke running the kind of orthodox Keynesian policy – increasing government deficits in response to the recession – which Labour, under Wilson or Callaghan, would have run, but which is anathema to ‘Iron Chancellor’ Brown. (p. 8).

Miliband’s Apparent Lack of Interest in Poverty and Working Class due to New Labour

Ramsay notes the way Labour adopted the rhetoric of ‘One Nation’ Toryism and appeals to British patriotism. This was to disguise their promotion of the overseas economy at the expense of domestic industry. He concludes

The Blair faction will fail. ‘One nation’ rhetoric, continuing membership of the institutions of the New World Order – which is essentially the same old American post-war order minus the Soviet challenge – and leaving economic policy to the overseas sector won’t affect the real structural problems of the British economy. When it does finally dawn on the Parliamentary Labour Party that it won’t work, they will have to look elsewhere. The wrong turning was taken at the point when Bryan Gould was defeated by John Smith and the party leadership decided to surrender to the overseas lobby. To that disjunction it will have to return. (p. 9).

This is the origin of New Labour and the background to Miliband’s continuing attempts to appeal to the Middle Class and the financial elite at the expense of the poor and working class. And it needs to change urgently. Even so, a Labour government would be far preferable to another Tory government. If nothing else, Labour have said that they will stop the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS. But for Labour truly to start tackling poverty and unemployment in this country, it will have to jettison much of the New Labour project and start returning to its working class roots.

New Labour and the Abandonment of Socialism and the Working Class

July 11, 2013

Yesterday Ed Milliband announced that he was ending the automatic contribution to the Labour party from the subscriptions of individual members of the trade unions. It marks a continuation of the New Labour policy of distancing the party from its origins in the unions. Way back in the 1990s, Tony Blair threatened to end the party’s ties to the unions altogether if they did not toe his line. It’s also part of the New Labour campaign of presenting itself as more middle class party. This process began under Neil Kinnock. The satirical British magazine, Private Eye, satirised Kinnock’s new middle class direction for the party by showing him shouting ‘Ich bin ein shareholder!’ Other spoof photographs on the same theme showed Kinnock shouting declaring, ‘I am an estate agent, and the son of estate agents’. Later Tony Blair was shown next to John Prescott saying, ‘We’re all middle class now’, to which Prescott replied ”appen I am, you middle class ponce’. Or words to that effect. We’ve come a long way since the Fabian Society published the pamphlet Natural Allies: Labour and the Unions, by Martin Upham and Tom Wilson in the 1980s.

New Labour and its Pursuit of the Middle Class and Increasing Alienation of the Working Class

The British conspiracy magazine, Lobster, has published a series of pieces charting and strongly criticising the rise of New labour and its abandonment of socialism and the working class. Simon Matthews in his review of Anthony Selden’s biography, Blair notes that the core of New Labour was a group of ‘modernising’ Labour MPs, the Project, consisting of Blair himself, Peter Mandelson, Margaret Hodge, John Carr, Jack Dromney and Sally Morgan, amongst others. It was essentially a response, shared by many other demoralised Leftists in Britain, the US and Australia, to Reagan and Thatcher’s electoral triumphs and the apparent victory of Neo-Liberal economics. Matthews considers that at the heart of New Labour’s political philosophy are the following ideas:

1. Middle class support is absolutely critical at every level. They must not be alienated through raising direct personal taxation.

2. The immense power of the media means that it is impossible to challenge them. They are therefore to be flattered and given good stories. The press are to be allowed to work in a deregulated market place.

3. If extra money is needed to pay for domestic projects, this may only be raised through the importation of cheap foreign labour. This increases the working population and lowers labour costs, so allowing an increase in tax revenue. This last policy has led to the increasing alienation of the White working class, that feels that Labour and the other mainstream political parties has abandoned them. The result is a resurgence in right-wing parties with anti-immigration policies, such as UKIP, or the English Defence League, which campaigns against radical Islam. This alienation has been noted by the BBC. A few years ago the BBC ran a series of programmes devoted to the issue of race in contemporary Britain. The trailer for this showed a White, working class man standing in front of a black background, slowly having his face covered in black ink until he became invisible. A gravelly voice then asked if the White working-class were being written out of Britain today. American critics of Neo-Conservatism have noted much the same attitudes in both the Democrat and Republican parties. The middle-class White members of these parties support affirmative action programmes, so long as they do not affect their children. See the volume, Confronting the New Conservatism.

American Commercial and Political Interests

Critical to the New Labour project has been collaboration with the Democrats in America, and the Australian Labour Party, but not with the Centre-Left European socialist parties. In the summer of 1993 Blair and Brown visited America, a trip arranged by the British embassy. There they met Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserved, who recommended that the Bank of England should set the interest rates in the UK. This was put into practice four years later when they gained power. Blair, and many of the other leading figures of New Labour – Gordon Brown, Ed Balls, David Miliband, Mo Mowlam, Patricia Hewitt and Tessa Blackstone, amongst others, had extensive transatlantic connections. They studied at American Universities, and/or worked for American companies.
Robin Ramsay, Lobster’s editor, has noted that New Labour represent American interests, and those of the British Foreign Office, determined to preserve both the ‘special relationship’ with the US and British commercial interests overseas. Blair himself stated as much in a speech he gave to Rupert Murdoch’s News International.

‘The Americans have made it clear they want a special relationship with Europe, not with Britain alone. If we are to be listened to seriously in Washington or Tokyo, or the Pacific, we will often be acting with the rest of Europe … The real patriotic case, therefore, for those who want Britain to maintain its traditional global role, is for leadership in Europe … the Labour government I hope to lead will be outward-looking, internationalist and committed to free and open trade, not an outdate and misguided narrow nationalism’.

The Primacy of the Financial Sector over Manufacturing

The privatisation and deregulation of the economy under Mrs Thatcher resulted in British companies having the largest overseas investments after the United States. The Blairites supported continued American power and international hegemony because it offered the best global protection to British commercial interests. Manufacturing industry and the public sector became merely special interest groups, which were simply taken for granted and ignored. Gavyn Davies in his comments supporting an independent Bank of England stated that the ‘one quarter of the economy that is affected by the exchange rate’ – in other words, manufacturing, could not be allowed to ‘take precedence over the inflation target’. In others, it should not prevent interest rates being kept high to attract capital to London.

A major part of the New Labour programme was the promotion of the interests of the City of London. The first draft of the Labour Party policy document, Meet the Challenge Make the Change: A New Agenda for Britain by a committee chaired by Bryan Gould stated in its section on finance:

‘The concentration of power and wealth in the City of London is the major cause of Britain’s economic problems’. It further argued that Britain’s economic policies had been for too long ‘dominated by City values and run in the interests of those who hold assets rather than those who produce’.

Seven years later, however, when New Labour had become dominant, the power of the City was seen as a source of economic strength. Peter Mandelson and Roger Liddle, in their book The Blair Revolution, published in 1996, claimed that

‘Britain can boast of some notable economic strengths – for example, the resilience and high internationalisation of our top companies, our strong industries like pharmaceuticals, aerospace, retaining and media; the pre-eminence of the City of London.’

The Blind Trusts, Labour Finance and Industry Group and Commercial Donors as Alternative Funding Sources to Traditional Membership Fees and Union Contributions

Tim Pendry, another contributor to Lobster, has described his experience with the Labour Finance and Industry Group and its use by Labour to construct an alternative source of funding from the trade unions and constituency activists. He considers that the party deliberately constructed an opaque and highly centralised funding system. The idea was that this would remove the party’s reliance on its traditional supporters, who as a demographic were considered to be aging and declining. The constituency system was believed to be costly and impossible to police. Moreover, it was vulnerable to being captured by the activists, who would make the party once more unelectable. The funds raised could be used by the Party to fund the kind of mass marketing that the Tories had achieved with Saatch and Saatchi. This policy was to result in the scandalous creation of a series of blind trusts. Pendry notes that the scandals surrounding New Labour and business came from their complete ignorance of the Puritanical ethics of the business community. He considered that many business leaders were horrified by the type of conduct that was considered acceptable in politics. Pendry wrote this in 2006. After the near collapse of western Capitalism under Goldman Sachs, Lehmann Brothers and the other major banks, these comments now seem somewhat ironic. Pendry himself has strong affection for the members of the Labour Finance and Industry Group. He describes them as decent, clubbable people, and notes that they themselves tended to be very much Old Labour – Gordon Brown, rather than Tony Blair. The result of the current parties’ reliance on funding from rich donors has resulted in the membership of both Labour and Tories plummeting. He estimated that Labour had about 200,000 members, while the Conservatives are around 300,000. The Conservative parliamentary leadership has also had problems recently with the apparent contempt with which it holds its members. Yesterday Cameron delivered a speech stating that grassroots Conservatives were highly valued by the party. This followed previous comments by senior party figures describing them as ‘swivel-eyed loons’.

Conclusion: Labour as Centre-Right Pary; Alienation of Working Class

The result of all this is that the Labour party has been transformed from a Centre-Left to Centre-Right party, keen to promote Neo-Liberal economic policies and distance itself from its roots in the 19th and early 20th century trade union movement. The result has been the gradual erosion under Labour of worker’s rights and the encroachment of the market through the Private Finance Initiative. Apart from the continued legacy of Mrs. Thatcher’s destruction of Britain’s manufacturing economy, the British working class has felt disenfranchised and alienated. A minority of its White members have been turning to more extreme nationalist organisations, such as UKIP, which are perceived as far more receptive to their interests.

Sources

Simon Matthews, ‘Our Leader’, in Lobster 48, Winter 2004, 34-5.

Tim Pendry, ‘The Labour Finance and Industry Group: A Memoir’, Lobster 51, Summer 2006, 3-9.

Robin Ramsey, ‘Contamination, the Labour Party, Nationalism and the Blairites’, Lobster 33, Summer 1997, 2-9.

A Note on Lobster

I’ve described Lobster as a conspiracy magazine, which makes it sound like one of those magazines devoted to insane, and frequently dangerous theories about secret governing elites like the Freemasons, Jews and now Reptoid aliens from the Pleiades. It’s not. It’s devoted to what its founder and editor, Robin Ramsey, describes as ‘parapolitics’. This is the study of politics as affected and influenced by genuine covert groups, such as funding lobbies, think tanks and the intelligence and security services. It bases its material on published studies and memoirs from the various groups involved, newspaper articles, and the personal experience of its contributors. It’s also on the web, and has an archives of some articles on-line.