Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’

Vox Political: Channel 4 Documentary and Churches’ Report against Mass Sanctions

March 2, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has a piece on a documentary tonight by Channel 4’s Despatches, Britain’s Benefit Crackdown. The documentary covers a recent report into the appalling consequences of the sanctions regime by a coalition of Baptist, Methodist, the United Reformed Church, and Welsh and Scottish churches, Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions. The churches condemn the sanctions regimes because of the hardship it inflicts on the poor, the sick and the disabled. They point out that the sanctions regime is worse than the criminal justice system and ordinary employers. The courts cannot order a convicted criminal to be denied food, and ordinary employers can’t stop peoples’ wages for petty infractions, like coming to work ten minutes late. But jobcentres not only can, but do.

And Mike is most infuriated by the harm this does to children. His piece is called Coalition government condemned over sanctions regime that tortures children. It begins with the horrifying statistic of the number of children, who have been the victims of sanctions.

Around 100,000 children were affected by benefit sanctions between the beginning of April 2013 and the end of March 2014, according to a new report.

In the same period, nearly seven million weeks’ worth of sanctions were handed out to benefit claimants.

The data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, will feature in this evening’s episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches, entitled Britain’s Benefits Crackdown.

The report – Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions – is published today by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Church Action on Poverty, the Church in Wales, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church. It contains new data on the severity and length of sanctions under ‘welfare reform’, and on how sanctions affect vulnerable groups such as children and those with mental health problems.

It features the stories of people like James [not his real name] who have had their benefits sanctioned: “During the first three weeks of my sanction I continued to look for work as I was required to.

“By the fourth week, however, I was exhausted, unwell and no longer had it in me. I was not eating as I had no food and was losing a lot of weight. I told the Jobcentre I was unwell through not eating, but was sanctioned for another three months for not looking for work properly,” he added.

The churches are also concerned with the degradation and humiliation inflicted by the sanctions regime, which they feel contravenes the proper respect and love due to all humans as created by the Lord.

“But sanctions don’t just have a financial impact. The people we’ve spoken to have told us of the shame, demoralisation and loss of self-worth caused by this system. As Christians we believe that everyone is loved, valued and made in the image of God, and we have a responsibility to challenge any structure or system that undermines that dignity.”

Mike also points out that the deliberate infliction of hunger also contravenes the UN Convention on Human Rights, Article 3, as also contained in the Human Rights Act. The British civil liberties organisation, Liberty, also considers this to be the case. Mike provides the link.

He also quotes Dr Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, who is also concerned that the DWP guidelines knowingly discuss the use of hunger and deprivation on benefit claimants. The good churchman also makes the point that the amount of suffering the sanctions regime has inflicted in Wales may be much greater, but he doesn’t have the statistics on it. They haven’t been released, despite requests for them under the Freedom of Information Act.

Mike’s article concludes

It is clear that the DWP is in breach of the Human Rights Act and is subjecting benefit claimants to torture as punishment for late attendance at appointments.

This report by the churches is to be welcomed. Now, what can they do to punish the government for torturing its own citizens?

It’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/02/coalition-government-condemned-over-sanctions-regime-that-tortures-children/.

No doubt after the Despatches programme tonight, the Tories will start their using moaning about ‘left-wing liberal bias’. They’ll say the same thing about the churches’ report. Just as they did to the 50-page letter attacking benefits drafted by the Anglican bishops under Archbishop Welby. The Tories like to pretend that they are the protectors of Christianity against secularism and militant Islam. In fact, as their behaviour to the various churches shows, they have absolute contempt for them when their social attitudes and theology is not in absolute agreement with theirs. And that’s shown in the derisory treatment the Archbishop of Wales and his team have received from them in the government’s blatant withholding of information. Just as they also treated Mike and the other inquirers with contempt and disdain when they requested this information.

The sanctions regime is a criminal, humanitarian disaster. It should be scrapped, and those behind it humiliated and forced to leave office.

Vox Political: Labour to Introduce New Legislation Against Animal Cruelty

February 22, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has this story, Labour’s plan to protect animals. Maria Eagle – now there’s a fitting name – has just announced Labour’s six point plan to protect the nation’s wild and domestic animals. These are:

* Defending the hunting ban.
*Banning the use of wild animals in circuses.
* Ending the badger culls.
*Improving the protection of dogs and cats
* Tackling wildlife crime and reducing cruelty on shooting estates.
*Leading the fight against animal cruelty across the world.

Mike’s article lists the policies and describes them in order. He begins

Here’s another terrific Labour Party policy announcement that seems to have been overlooked by the news media: Animal protection.

The policy was announced by Maria Eagle and runs as follows:

1) Labour will protect the Hunting Act
Ten years ago the Labour Party ended the cruel practice of hunting with dogs, because we believe that causing defenceless animals to suffer in the name of sport has no place in a civilised society. But just as we celebrate the Hunting Act, the Tories plan to repeal it. Only Labour can protect the Hunting Act because Labour is the only major party committed to defending it.

2) Labour will ban wild animals in circuses
Travelling circuses are no place for wild animals. Being moved from place to place in cramped and substandard enclosures, forced training and performance, loud noises and crowds of people are the unavoidable distressing realities for animals in circuses. Despite promising to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, the Tory-led Government has failed to do so. The next Labour government will ban this cruel practice.

Mike’s piece is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/22/labours-plan-to-protect-animals/. Read it for a further description of the policy.

These are actually good, sensible policies. Despite the noise made by the Countryside Alliance, as various bloggers have recently revealed, most people in the countryside don’t support fox hunting. I personally know people from a farming background, who are very strongly against it.

As for the use of wild animals in circuses, this has been a scandal for years. The great broadcaster, Ludovic Kennedy, who I remember for hosting the television review programme Did You See ..?, was very clear in his disapproval of circuses that featured performing wild animals. A number of circuses today don’t use them, a movement that began, as I recall, back in the 1990s.

And people naturally love domestic animals, to the point where, shockingly, the amount given to animal charities is actually greater than that for children. Don’t get me wrong on this – I’m not arguing that people should give less for animals, only that children deserve more. Despite this, there are indeed cases of terrible abuse and neglect inflicted on dogs and cats. Clearly, some extra protection is appropriate here.

Mike points out that nothing like this has been put forward by the Tories. Quite the opposite. They have decided to spend taxpayer’s money subsidising grouse shooting. Because of the desperate poverty and near destitution of all the great landowners and their shooting estates north of the border.

Such as, presumably, the former Tory treasurer, Lord McAlpin. Way back in the 1990s he was repeatedly in the pages of Private Eye, because rare birds of prey were turning up poisoned on his estate in the highlands. No-one was prosecuted, and it looks like any investigation was either impeded or very half-hearted.

Mind you, perhaps it’s too much to believe that the Tories will be much interested in protecting animals. After all, they really don’t like humans much, and especially not if they’re poor.

So we can expect more Tory opposition to this, based not on its feasibility, but simply because the Tories will resent what they see as their right to pursue the usual aristocratic sports of hunting and shooting.

Vox Political on Private Healthcare Overcharging the NHS

January 27, 2015

Rapacious Quack

18th Century Satirical Print: The Rapacious Quack. It depicts a poor family at the mercy of a doctor, who has taken away a flitch of bacon in lieu of unpaid fees. Its caption reads
‘The Rapacious Quack quite vext to find,
His patient poor, and so forsaken
A thought soon sprung up in his mind
To take away a piece of bacon.’
Which just about describes the grasping attitude of the private healthcare firms mentioned in the report.

Earlier this evening I blogged a piece on Mike’s story over at Vox Political on Ed Miliband’s promise to rebuild and strengthen the NHS. The piece is Will voters support Labour’s vision for the NHS? and it’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/01/27/will-voters-support-labours-vision-for-the-nhs/. It offers hope for an NHS decimated by the Tories, but also by Blair and Brown.

Mike also wonders in the piece whether Alan Milburn, Blair’s former health secretary, is really a member of the Labour party, or a Tory, who has worked his way into Labour to undermine it. He isn’t the only one. A few weeks ago, Johnny Void pointed out how one of the authors of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s report suggesting the establishment of a national network of food banks was Frank Field, and made the same comments about him. Field is notorious for recommending further cuts to the welfare state to encourage unemployed hoi polloi to find work. And it isn’t only his critics, who have suggested he should join the Tories. He also has admirers within that party, who’ve actually made the invitation. The politically Conservative Cranmer blog actually invited Field to cross the floor and join the Tories.

And the same comments could have been made about much of the New Labour leadership. Remember the computer programme back in the 1990s that made anagrams from politicians’ names, supposedly revealing their real character? Michael Portillo was ‘a cool, limp Hitler’. Blair came out as ‘I am Tory Plan B’. Lobster compared Blair to Ted Heath. Both were men leading the wrong parties. Giles Brandreth, who served on John Major’s Tory cabinet in the 1990s, on Have I Got News For You described the Blairs, both Tony and Cherie, as natural Tories. They were, and they similarly pursued a policy of privatising the NHS piecemeal.

In the first few years of this century Patricia Hewitt wanted to sell of the £64bn commissioning and supply arm of the NHS, but ended up having to reject the plan, claiming it was mistaken. She therefore just privatised hospital management. And one of the brilliant ideas of Blair’s administration was the inclusion of private healthcare companies to pick up work that could not be done by an overstretched NHS. Who was the brains behind this, ahem, operation?

Alan Milburn.

And in 2009 Private Eye carried a story about an independent report that concluded the private healthcare providers were overcharging the NHS, including billing for work they did not carry out. The article was in their edition for the 15th – 30th May. Here it is.

NHS Plc.
ISTCs: A Crying Sham

Another crumbling New Labour initiative, independent sector treatment centres (ISTCs) for NHS operations, has ben exposed as a shambolic waste of money.

ISTCs were supposed to provide low-cost operations to an overstretched NHS. But the have long been suspected of creaming off the most lucrative ones under favourable contracts without providing the quality to be found in the NHS.

A 2006 parliamentary report questioned their value for money and asked the National Audit Office to look into it. Several billions of pounds of public money were at stake, but the audit body has oddly shied away from the subject despite reportedly expressing some concern over the ISTCs’ performance and £100m+ procurement costs 18 months ago.

Now academics Allyson Pollock and Graham Kirkwood at Edinburgh University have obtained the contract for one ISTC under Scottish freedom of information laws (contracts in England remain confidential). This shows that the NHS in Tayside paid an ISTC run by Amicus Healthcare – a joint venture of private equity firm Apax and South Africa’s Netcare – for 90 percent of referrals even though the centre only performed 32 percent of them. The academics estimate that Tayside’s overpayments could be dwarfed by those across England, where the NHS could have been stung by up to £927m for operations not performed.

The £5bn ISTC programme was pushed through by the Department of Health’s commercial directorate, set up in 2003 by the then health secretary, Alan Milburn, now earning £30k a year from the private equity firm Bridgepoint that owns ISTCs through Alliance Medical. The directorate was run by American Ken Anderson (since decamped to Swiss bank UBS’s private health investments) and was exposed by the Eye two years ago as home to 220 consultants on an average £238k a year, much channelled through tax-efficient service companies. It has since been quietly disbanded without ever having faced the scrutiny it warranted.

This effectively explains why Milburn was so keen to pour scorn on Miliband’s plans for the NHS: he’s working for a private equity firm that will lose work in that area if Miliband starts to take seriously the NHS’ commitment to providing free state medicine.

It also shows how better governed Scotland is than England. The two academics are able to get details like this through the Scots freedom of information act, which is denied to citizens south of the Border.

As for Amicus Healthcare, I remember Amicus as the American rival to Hammer films way back in the 1970s. Although American, they used much of the same actors and production staff. Sadly, Hammer and Amicus passed away, though the horror continues under the Amicus name.

Cameron Has Killed at 2,200 People’ : Frankie Boyle at the 2014 Television Festival

January 24, 2015

boyle_1510448c

This follows on from the question Mike raised in the previous post Class divide in the arts – are they just for the toffs? at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/01/24/class-divide-in-the-arts-is-it-just-for-the-toffs/. The controversial Scots comedian, Frankie Boyle, was interviewed last year at the Guardian’s International Television Festival last year by Pointless’s Richard Osman. The interview was a review of the state of television. And Boyle made it very clear that he though British television was being held back by the desire of TV commissioning editors to remain safe. Boyle made it very clear that class attitudes were very definitely a part of this. The interview can be found on Youtube with the title GEITF 2014 – Frankie Boyle: State of the TV Nation.
Boyle on the Two Most Offensive Jokes

Boyle is one of Britain’s very edgiest comedians. Osman tackled him about two of his most controversial jokes. These were about Katie Price being raped by her mentally disabled son, and a disparaging comment about the appearance of the Paralympic swimming heroine, Rebecca Adlington. Osman states that he’s a fan of Boyle, but makes it clear that he feels those jokes should never have been broadcast, and an apology should have been issued. Boyle defended the Katie Price joke by stating that he thought very hard about it. He told it because he felt it was a valid comment about Price. She had two points on which she sold herself: her looks, and her disabled son. She had other, non-handicapped children, who you never heard anything about. Boyle felt that the joke was a suitable comment on Price’s self-publicity.

False Banter on Comedy Panel Shows

Boyle made the comment that television panel shows, like Mock the Week, now relied on banter. It looked like normal conversation, but was all false. It was all scripted. And it was there, because the TV companies did not want to tackle other, more difficult issues. He specifically mentioned the two land wars in which Britain was involved at the time. Five years ago, Boyle said, you could mention them. Now they were verboten. He tried on Mock the Week to make a joke commenting on them, but was told that he couldn’t. As an example of the depths the show how reached now, he said that the last time he watched it had to make jokes about the Ryder Cup. He told the Katie Price joke because for the past ten weeks they’d been making jokes about the Olympics, and then they were being asked to return to them. Boyle’s controversial joke followed soon after.

No Challenge to Cameron’s Murder of the Disabled by Atos

As a further example, Boyle gave the murderous campaign of Cameron against the disabled. He said outright that Cameron had killed at least 2,200 people ‘bottom line’ through Atos and the fit for work test. But he was never challenged. Osman raised the topic of the Channel 4 conspiracy drama, Utopia, as an example of television tackling difficult topics. Boyle stated in his usual forthright terms that the show was rubbish. It was based very much on the type of comics produced by Alan Moore and his ilk. However, Channel 4 had taken all the good material out of it. If they were really determined to produce quality television, they’d hire Alan Moore and co. Instead Channel 4 produced endless programmes genuinely exploiting deformity and sneering at the working class, explicitly mentioning Benefits Street.

TV Bosses’ Misogyny

He criticised the channel bosses for their peculiar ideas of what was ‘fringe’ and ‘mainstream’. He’d tried to get Andrew Newsom on a programme, only to be told that she was too fringe. He felt this was rubbish, as he’d just seen her play at the Royal Albert Hall. He was also sharply critical at television’s very misogynist attitudes. When asked about the issue of quotas, and putting more women and members of ethnic minorities on screen, Boyle said he agreed with them. Regarding the proportion of women on panel shows, he felt it should be 50/50 with men. This, however, was definitely unwelcome to channel bosses. He told how he heard the regular host of a panel show use an extremely crude term for women comedians. It’s extremely coarse, so be warned. The bosses had very definite ideas about how many women should be allowed on a panel show. He tried to get a female comedian on Never Mind the Buzzcocks four times. One of these times he tried to get them to bring on Sarah Millican. He was told that this was not possible, as they already had a female comedian on for that week.

Sack the Bosses, Not Cancel BBC 3

He was very critical of the efforts of the television bosses themselves and their personal failure to increase diversity. He noted that Alan Yentob and the others bewailed the fact that there weren’t enough women and Black people on TV, while doing absolutely nothing about it, despite the fact that it was their jobs. On the subject of the scrapping of BBC 3, the Corporation’s youth channel, Boyle said that the Beeb had admitted they had made a mistake. They had been trying to get young people to watch TV instead of other media. The age demographic for the other channels was very high – in the 50s. Yet they had scrapped the channel in order to concentrate on the internet, which was precisely the thing that was taking da yoof away from TV. When Osman asked Boyle where Boyle would cut to save money, he replied that it would be with the bosses. They formed a useless layer of people, whose job was to stop programme being commissioned, often for the most bizarre reasons.

Class Bias in Satire and the Westminster Bubble

Boyle considered that such satire that was permitted, was only allowed because it came from an upper middle class voice. He gave as examples Peter Cook and Patrick Morris, the creator of Brass Eye. Anything that did not come from that social echelon, which could be easily identified as ‘ironic’, or ‘playing with concepts’, was therefore dangerous and unsettling.

He felt part of the problem was that satire in this country was very newspaper-based. He gave Have I Got News for You and Private Eye as examples. They were stuck in the Westminster bubble and the Westminster cycle as a result. Comedians like Boyle presented a problem, as editors and producers wanted them to produce party political satire, which Boyle didn’t.

Jeremy Clarkson’s a Cultural Tumour

They got on to the different way Boyle and Jeremy Clarkson had been treated by television. Clarkson, like Boyle, made controversial jokes and comments. Boyle, however, declared that Clarkson, whom he described as ‘a cultural tumour’, was acceptable because there was no context for what he said. For example, Boyle had been criticised for a comment he made about Israel during the Gaza conflict. He was attacked as anti-Semitic, an accusation which he denied. Yet when Clarkson was attacked for using the ‘N’ word in nursery rhyme, the head of BBC 1 appeared to defend him and state that he wasn’t racist. Boyle felt this might have been due to rights issues. Most producers, Boyle said, would be happy with 3/4s of the ratings, if the content was less controversial. Clarkson, however, still had his job, which suggested to him that they were afraid to sack him because of the problem of who owned the rights.

The Beeb and Scots Independence

Boyle was also one of those, who support Scots independence. He remarked on the media bias against the independence campaign, and the weird behaviour of David Cameron and the leaders of the ‘No’ team, when they ventured north of the Border. He stated that the Beeb were against independence, because the licence money from Scotland acted a subsidy for the corporation as a whole. Altogether, the BBC gains £300 million from the licence fee in Scotland. Of this, only about £40 million is spent on Scottish programmes. Another £60 million is spent ‘finessing’ programmes produced elsewhere, but which travel up to Scotland. Thus the Beeb effectively got a subsidy of £200 million from Scots viewers.

As for David Cameron, Boyle stated that when he and the ‘No’ coterie travelled up to fair Caledonia, they were so out of place that they looked like time travellers trying to find oil to power their time machine. He was particularly amused by Cameron’s comments about the ‘silent Scottish majority’. He’d never known Scots to be silent about anything.

The Sun

Osman raised the topic of Boyle’s writing for the Sun. Boyle was a left-wing comedian, but there he was, writing for Murdoch. Boyle replied that there were no ‘good’ papers, as far as he was concerned. The Observer, for example, had also cheered on the war in Iraq. He started writing for the Sun because they censored him less than the BBC. He also developed a particular technique of making sure they didn’t take too much out of his work. However, during one newspaper and magazine media event, Boyle had found his material disappearing. He asked why it was suddenly being edited out. He was told that it was because Murdoch himself was up for the event, and liked to edit everything in person. Boyle didn’t believe it was true, but went into the cafeteria early one morning to see Murdoch sat at a table, going through everything with black marker. So perhaps, he concluded, it really was true.

Upbringing of the Ruling Class

As for the ruling class, they were so appalling because of the way they were raised. It was exactly like the Spartans. At seven or eight they were taken away from their parents and placed in an all-male environment. They were then bored with Latin and other useless subjects, in order to inculcate the right attitudes into them ‘like a brainwashing cult’. And then finally and suddenly, sodomy. With this background, no wonder they were like they were.

Drama, Brothel Keeping and the Hedge Fund Managers

And as an example of the way television was reluctant to tackle anything too challenging, he gave the example of a friend of his, who was a professional television writer. The man had been hired to write a story about people trafficking for one of the cop dramas. In the script he subsequently produced, the villain was a hedge fund manager, who went into people smuggling because the returns were so good. This was very definitely not what the Beeb wanted. They told him that instead of a hedge fund manager, the villain was going to be a Russian gangster called ‘Sergey’.

So he subsequently revised the script. The villain was turned into the gangster, Sergey. But in his treatment, Sergey had gone into the people smuggling business, after borrowing money from hedge fund managers, because the return was so spectacular. This was, against, unacceptable. The villain was a Russian gangster called Sergey. He had a black leather jacket and a gun, and he was into people smuggling because he was evil. End of. The story was taken away from the writer for someone else to work on.

A few months later, the cops in New England raided a brothel. It was one of string of them, all run by a hedge fund manager. Because the returns were spectacular. It was a reality that the Beeb had literally not wanted to imagine.

Here’s the interview. Warning: Boyle’s language is at times very coarse, and the jokes about Price and Addlington are offensive.

It’s a fascinating perspective from the state of television today from someone, whose frequently tasteless jokes have almost made him an outsider. Nevertheless, Boyle makes it clear that he thinks very hard about what he says. As for the comments about satire being acceptable if it comes from an establishment voice, he has a point. Even so, Private Eye and Brass Eye at various points in their careers were barely acceptable. When it started out, Private Eye was only stocked by a very few newsagents. I remember ten years ago I took a copy of the Eye into work, and was asked by an older colleague, ‘You don’t actually read that, do you?’ Some of the Eye’s jokes have been considered in such bad taste, such as their cover satirising the mass adulation at the funeral of Princess Di, that newsagents have refused to stock it. As for Brass Eye, that was indeed so extreme in its satire that Grade had to fight hard to save it from cancellation.

As the founders of Private Eye, Richard Ingrams and co themselves made clear, they, Ingrams, Peter Cook and Willie Rushton were all far from outsiders. They were privately educated members of the middle class. Auberon Waugh was the son of the novelist Evelyn, and John Wells had been the headmaster of Eton. You couldn’t get much more establishment than that.

Private Eye also inspired David Frost’s That Was The Week That Was, the ’60s ancestor of popular satirical television. While it’s now regarded as a classic, it was intensely controversial at the time. Even in the 1980s Robin Day, the heavyweight interviewer of politicians on the Beeb, disliked it so much that he described it as ‘deplorable’ in his autobiography, Grand Inquisitor. Satire has become acceptable on TV, only because so many of its producers were respectably middle class, and even they had to work very, very hard.

Wanted Poster for Notorious Criminal

December 10, 2014

Same Difference spotted this wanted poster for a particularly unpleasant villain on Facebook. I found it over on Mike’s site at Vox Political. As a journalist, Mike’s used to appalling crimes and the disgusting habits of the dregs of humanity.

141210IDShaveyouseenthisman

As you can see, the suspect is a hardened, recidivist criminal, who has done all he can to evade arrest. Members of the public are warned that he tends to run away very quickly and hide in laundry baskets when approached. He is believed to have a residence in Scotland, but is frequently seen in the Westminster area. It is possible that he may be severely delusional, as he claims during the attacks that he is doing it for the benefit of his victims. He also believes that his actions are on the same moral level as William Wilberforce, the 18th century campaigner against slavery. He should therefore be arrested, and sent to Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane, to share a cell with another murderous Joker.

After Nick Robinson, Beeb Considers Abandoning Impartiality

October 14, 2014

Nick Robinson’s Distorted Reporting of Salmond on Scots Independence

Mike over at Vox Political and countless other bloggers, myself once again included, have posted pieces condemning Nick Robinson’s blatant political bias. The most blatant example of this was his flagrant distortion and censorship of Alex Salmond’s answer to his question on the effect Scottish independence would have on the Scots financial sector. The Scots First Minister committed the cardinal sin of giving a reasoned answer, with supporting evidence, showing that Scotland would not lose corporate tax revenue if the banks and insurance companies now based north of the Border went and moved south to London. This was something that Robinson clearly didn’t want to hear, and definitely didn’t want the British voting public to hear either. So the Beeb’s footage of the conference was manipulated to make it seem that Salmond was criticising the treasury, when in fact Salmond was making a few barbed comments about the Corporation’s own objectivity. It was then further edited and excised from a later report, in which Robinson lied and said that Salmond had not answered the question. This was the Beeb acting as Newspeak in Cameron’s ‘1984’ Big Brother Britain.

I did wonder what that great Scots writer, John Buchan, would have made of it all. Buchan was the author of The 39 Steps, Greenmantle, and other tales of British pluck and derring-do against the threat of the Kaiser’s Germany. He was a staunch Unionist, but I wondered if he wouldn’t have seen Robinson’s blatant falsification of the news as something deeply Un-British, a blatant flouting of the British tradition of a free press. A piece of state propaganda that only those benighted countries under an absolute monarchy or dictatorship, without the benefits of the British constitution, would suffer.

The Radio Times Looks Forward to Biased News

Unfortunately, the problem of BBC bias doesn’t end there. Bloggers like Mike, Johnny Void, the Angry Yorkshireman, Jayne Linney and their commenters and followers have long observed the Beeb’s pro-Tory bias. This is bad enough, even with the denials. There was an article in last week’s Radio Times, however, which threatened to make such bias official. Written by one of the news staff, the article suggested that the impartiality customarily expected of the Beeb would soon be a thing of the past. It had gone from American broadcasting, which had suffered no loss of audience as a result. American news broadcasting, the article claimed, had been enlivened and invigorated by presenters and news anchors with a distinct, unconcealed bias. How would the British public react, it asked, if a reporter or newsanchor over here made various critical remarks about the state of the three main parties. It then gave examples of the type of comments that could be made. The article left you in no doubt that the period of official impartiality on the Beeb was limited, and that with a few years it would be gone.

The Malign Influence of Rupert Murdoch

Now I find it shocking that the Beeb is even considering such a policy. The article makes it clear that it was considering the example of the Fox Network in America, which had taken over as the country’s most popular broadcaster from the older, established networks like NBC and ABC. What the article didn’t say was that this has come at a cost. The Dirty Digger is very touchy about his network’s reputation for impartiality. So touchy that he actually copyrighted Fox News’ slogan of ‘Fair and Impartial’, and then tried to sue a liberal writer, who dared used it as the title of a book questioning the integrity of his news service. Despite this, Fox News has a reputation for being anything but ‘fair and impartial’. It ain’t called ‘faux news’ in certain quarters for nuttin’.

The article was also somewhat misleading in that it seemed to suggest that equal time would be given to broadcasters of different political bias. For example, reporters critical of the Tories would have equal airtime with those commenting from a Tory or Liberal Democrat perspective. That won’t, however, be the case. What will happen will be what has already occurred in America: the airwaves will be dominated by the Right, and sometimes the extreme Right, like the various stars found ranting on Murdoch’s network. At the moment the Beeb has a right-wing political bias, but it’s concealed and at least the Corporation aims at objectivity.

Now I freely admit that I do take my news from biased sources. I don’t, however, want the Beeb to follow suit and become a biased broadcaster itself. I want it at least to try being genuinely objective, even if that goal is unobtainable. I want there to be a news service I can trust. This will go if the BBC adopts a policy of permitting and encouraging blatant political bias. Instead of objective truth, we’ll get official Tory propaganda and all the disinformation and spin the Director General and the head of BBC news thinks we’ll take.

It’s not the Beeb I want, and the movement to embrace blatant party political bias should be stopped now, long before it gets started.

BBC’s Tricky Nick Robinson’s Misreporting of Alex Salmond on Scottish Independence

September 24, 2014

Mike over at his blog has frequently discussed the repeated misreporting and, indeed, deliberate censorship of left-wing demonstrations against the government by the BBC and the other mainstream broadcasters. Apart from the usual tactic of deliberately giving the number of protestors as smaller than there were in reality, the BBC has also totally omitted several major demonstrations against the government from its television news. Instead, some minimal coverage was grudgingly given to them on the radio and on-line. Several of Mike’s readers and commenters, including Mike himself, have complained about this. They’ve been brushed off with a standard reply about the limited amount of space available, and the necessity of skipping or omitting some items in favour of more important news. The Beeb has then smugly declared that it’s duly investigated the case, and found that everything was done properly and appropriately.

So that’s alright then, as Private Eye says when an organisation or authority guilty of misconduct similarly exonerates itself by giving the exact same reply.

The debates over Scottish independence, leading up to the referendum last Thursday, threw the BBC’s pro-government bias into sharp relief. The Corporation’s reporter, Nick Robinson, selectively edited and then completely falsified his report on a question he asked Scotland’s then First Minister about the possible damage independence might have to the nation’s finances. This was then edited by the Beeb to claim that the First Minister had attacked the treasury. Robinson stated that several of the banks and insurance companies, like the Royal Bank of Scotland, had stated that in the event of Scotland gaining its independence, they would move their headquarters from Edinburgh to London. This would, suggested Robinson, lead to a massive loss of corporation tax for the Scottish government.

Salmond disagreed. He gave the opinion of other leading financiers north of the border that there would be no significant loss of tax revenue, as corporation tax was paid in the country where there a corporation had most of its economic activity, not where it had its headquarters. The banks and other financial institutions may move south to London, but they would still end up paying the same amount of corporation tax. I noticed that the I newspaper made a similar claim. I also wondered how the Royal Bank of Scotland could possibly continue under its name, if it very unpatriotically pulled out of its home country.

This, however, was not the answer Robinson wanted. When Salmond moved on to answer questions from the other reporters present, Robinson heckled and continued to demand an answer from Salmond. Salmond returned to the point, gave a full answer, and pointedly stated that he knew the BBC would report it in its scrupulously unbiased reporting. He then tried to move on to questions from the foreign press. This wasn’t good enough for Robinson, who asked the same question, and got the same answer.

When the BBC reported Robinson’s question and Salmond’s reply, they selectively edited the footage so that it looked like Salmond was attacking the British treasury, and praising the BBC. In fact, as the original footage makes clear, Salmond had been making a veiled criticism of the quality of the BBC’s reporting. Later still, on Newsnight, Robinson claimed that Salmond had not answered his question at all: a bare-faced lie.

As you might expect, Scottish Nationalists are massively unimpressed with this blatant falsification by the BBC, and there are several videos about it on Youtube. Here are two I found that make the case particularly well.

This video, The BBC Is Killing Democracy, gives footage of what really happened when Robinson asked his question. It then gives Robinson’s own highly selective report, pointing out how it has been altered and edited to present the answer Robinson wanted, rather than the one he got. It then moves on to Robinson’s final report, where he lies and states that Salmond didn’t answer the question. It then concludes with a brief resume of Robinson’s and Salmond’s careers, pointing out that Robinson was first head of the Young Conservatives in Macclesfield, and then national head of the organisation.

This video, Dodgy reporting from BBC News Editor – Nick Robinson 11/09/2014 goes further, and gives the relevant passages in the BBC’s charter that demand impartiality, and which the BBC’s reporting of Robinson’s question to Salmond broke.

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There were protests against the BBC’s biased reporting of the independence campaign outside the BBC’s headquarters in Scotland on the 1st and 29th June 2014. This video below, Protest Against BBC Scotland Referendum Bias shows pro-independence Scots discussing the Beeb’s bias, and their disillusionment with the Corporation.

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One of the women speaking is actually an English person living in Scotland. She states that she is voting for independence for Scotland because she is worried about the Westminster establishment’s destruction of the NHS and tuition fees. She states her daughter will not be able to afford to go to uni, and the only people that will, will be the elite.

Robinson’s deliberate falsification of Salmond’s answer is important far beyond the immediate debate about Scots independence. Regardless of one’s personal opinion of that particular issue, it should concern everyone worried about the Beeb’s pro-establishment bias. It’s clear and undeniable evidence that the Corporation has blatantly lied in order to serve the interests of the Tory Westminster elite. It also shows how Tricky Nick Robinson really is little more than a Corporation apparatchik spouting propaganda, and that the BBC is now well and truly the establishment’s equivalent of Pravda and TASS, the state news agency in the Soviet Union or the various state-controlled newspapers and broadcasters in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

Ancient Egyptian Ships in Iron Age Britain

July 7, 2014

Here’s another one for the Kippers. I used to save newspaper clipping on items of particular interest, such as space, archaeology and general weirdness, to send in to the Fortean Times. Rummaging through them this morning, I found this little gem from the Daily Mail, Saturday, 26th August 2000.

Where the Hull have we landed, pharaoh?

Egyptian were shipwrecked off the east coast of Britain some 2,700 years ago and settled in Hull, it was claimed yesterday.

Three wooden boats found in mud on the banks of the Humber in 1937 – thought at first to be Viking- are now said to date from around 700 BC and be identical to ones which once navigated the Nile. Egyptologist Lorraine Evans says her findings will revolutionise views about our ancestors. ‘The simple fact that many peoples of Britain are going about their daily business unaware of their Egyptian heritage is astounding,’ she added.

I can remember talking to a friend of mine about the possibility of ancient contact between Britain and the Land of the Nile, following some of the very bonkers stuff published in the 19th century. One of the century’s great eccentrics decided that ancient Israel was really Great Britain, because obviously only the British were truly great enough to be the descendants of the ancient Israelites. He also believed that Scotland was ancient Greece, and that many of Britain’s place-names were actually derived from ancient Egyptian. Robin Hood’s Hill in Bristol, for example, was really Ra-benu, a reference to the rising sun. It is indeed, completely mad, absolutely wrong, but strangely fascinating.

My friend replied that he’d been talking to a scientist friend, who told him that a set of genetic tests had been done in Birmingham to see if the genetic information taken would allow them to trace the people’s origins. Of course, Birmingham now has a highly diverse population, including people from all over the world. He remarked that apart from people of more recent African and Asian origin, they found evidence of ancient Egyptian heritage in the genes of the traditional population, who had been there for centuries. I think the genetic evidence suggested that this heritage goes way back to the Iron Age.

Which means, if I interpret that correctly, that a proportion of White Brummies are descended from travellers from ancient Egypt.

So there have been African immigrants to Britain from a very long time ago.

Which is something the Kippers can discuss when debating leaving Europe and putting up even more restrictions on immigration.

Iain Duncan Smith and his Links to Fascism – The Reality in Pics (Satirical)

June 14, 2014

Ian Duncan Smith pic

Earlier today I reblogged Tom Pride’s article on IDS’ historic links to the Far Right. Like in 1995 he went on a trip with other Tory MPs to meet the French Front National, including their deputy Fuhrer, Bruno Gollnisch. The vice president of the campaign in Wales to have him elected as leader of the Tories was Edgar Griffin, Nick Griffin’s father. Which makes this pic from the Facebook page, Britain Furst, spoofing the Nazi splinter group, Britain First, also a suitable comment on IDS.

Griffin Crush pic

He was also involved with the pro-Apartheid Swinton Circle within the Tories, which was led by Alan Harvey, a former member of the NF. He was also endorsed by Bill Binding, the former deputy head of the English branch of the KKK. Which makes this photograph, from Britian First, also spoofing Britain First, an appropriate description of his attitudes.

Britian Klan Burka

In fairness, he hasn’t said anything about Islam or the burka. On the other hand, he is supported by the kind of people, who used to dress up in white sheets, burn crosses and look so daft that dogs probably do laugh at them.

And this photo, also from Britain Furst’s facebook page, exactly describes his attitude to the disabled:

Britain Furst Crutch Scrounger

He seems to feel that he’s some kind of political titan, and has compared his welfare reforms to William Wilberforce’s abolition of slavery. Sorry, Iain, but you’re more like this bloke:

Lord Haw Haw pic

That’s William Joyce, ‘Lord Haw Haw’, speaking at one of Oswald Mosley’s rallies for the British Union of Fascists. Joyce got his nickname for his sneering tone in his propaganda broadcasts from Nazi Germany, just as IDS sneers at the poor, the unemployed and disabled.

IDS undoubtedly feels he deserves his place in parliament, and as the occupier of a farm in Scotland. The place below is, I feel, a more suitable location for RTU given his murderous policies and his links to international Nazism:

Fascist Internment pic

It’s an internment camp for Fascists in an unnamed northern town during the Second World War.

Chunky Mark The Artist Taxi Driver Interviews Frankie Boyle

June 13, 2014

Earlier this week, I wrote about the late, great Bill Hick’s brand of highly political comedy, and how he used it as a weapon to attack everything he considered to be oppressive, stupid and malign in politics and popular culture. Hick’s comedic description of the Reaganite senator Jesse Helms as murderous child-killer now strikes me as a pretty good description of our own Iain Duncan Smith. Smith’s reforms are leading to mass starvation and despair, with an estimated death rate of about 220 per week, or three every four hours. I cannot, however, see RTU finally having his conscience catch up with him, so that he ends it all by cutting his wrists in a bathtub under a pecan tree, while investigators find the bloody skins of all the children he’s murdered up in his attic. He’s also very self-aggrandising and self-promoting, so I doubt very much he’d ever write a suicide note saying ‘I been a bad boy’ either.

I did, however, find this interview on Youtube between Chunky Mark, the Artist Taxi Driver, and Frankie Boyle. Boyle is, of course, the comedian, whose remarks were so offensive he left the satirical panel show, Mock The Week, for his own late night show, Tramadol Nights, on Channel 4. Left-wing, outspoken, and with a seeming indifference or actual hostility to polite sensibilities and what is considered to be acceptable public discourse, Boyle shows himself in the interview to be intelligent, articulate and very well-informed, as well as political active for highly contentious and controversial issues. In the interview he discusses how he went on a hunger strike in support of Shakir Ahmed, a British internee in Guantanamo Bay, whom Boyle considers to have been wrongfully imprisoned. The conversation also touches on a number of esoteric, mystical subjects, like Vedantic (ancient Hindu) pantheism, Gnostic Christianity, Terence McKenna, Robert Anton Wilson, semiotics and conspiracy theories, the MKULTRA mind control programme, and the Bilderberg group. Fans of a certain Galaxy’s Greatest Comic will also note the way he compares the situation in Gitmo, where people have been interned without trial on a tropical island, with a 2000 AD strip. Zarjaz!

Boyle Careful in Speech about Non-Western Societies, also Concerned about Women’s Role Models

For someone, who became notorious for his offensive humour, it’s interesting to note how careful and well-thought out Boyle actually is about what he says. For example, at one point he talks about ‘primal’ societies. This is the approved, ‘pc’ term for tribal cultures. Note he does not say ‘primitive’. One of the reasons the term ‘primal’ was adopted in preference to ‘primitive’ was to make the point that these peoples are not primitive, but have their own, often very sophisticated culture.

He is also very definitely not a misogynist. He describes Pippa Middleton and other, upper-class women like her, as essentially Stepford Wives, promoting notions of female passivity. He defends making jokes about ‘rape’ but arguing that it is absurd to make it off-limits for humour, and points out that it depends on the type of joke being made. He wanted to make jokes that stigmatise the perpetrator, not the victim, and contrasted proper jokes of this sort with the type of treatment that is considered acceptable. He specifically mentions here two-part drama series on ITV, which he describes as the lowest kind, and pop songs about ‘rape’ that rhyme it with ‘cape’. As for the abuse doled out to women on Twitter, he agrees that this is part of an extremely twisted, misogynist culture. He sees it very much as part of a general ‘rape culture’.

Growth of Culture Where Attacks on Disabled and Poor Permissible

It’s clear that Boyle believes that there should be no limits to comedy, nor what should be able to be discussed, joked about, lampooned and satirised, in order to attack the oppressive and vicious. He and Chunky Mark, discussing the government’s welfare reforms, are shocked that Grant Shapps can actually declare – without shame!- that he’s proud of putting 5,000 cancer victims on workfare. Boyle states that he believes the government can get away with this because there is a silence about discussing disability in our culture, and so they can get away with attacking and bullying the disabled.

He is, however, extremely sceptical about the way humour is being used in the West to attack and criticise authority. He believes that it is now acceptable to make jokes attacking austerity, because there is now no difference between parties so that it doesn’t matter if these jokes are made. He argues that it was New Labour that began the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich under PFI, and that this had been going on for fifteen years with no pretence that anything different was happening. Thus, Cameron can state that he is not worried about getting votes because of his policies, because he knows that a few days after he announces a policy, Ed Miliband will appear on TV agreeing with him.

British Satire and Romanian Comedy for State Propaganda

He also describes how shocked he was when a Romanian guide with whom he was working pointed out the similarity between a Romanian comedy programme and Britain’s own Have I Got News For You. The Romanian show featured a comedian, who started making jokes about the country’s minister of defence. The politico in question was actually in the audience at the time, covered in medals. And the comedian then went over to him for a bit of friendly badinage. Boyle says it was blatant propaganda, and when he remarked on it, his Romanian guide said, ‘But you have it in your country!’ When Boyle disagreed, the Romanian continued, ‘Yes, you do. It’s Have I Got News For You’. And Boyle states that when you see Boris Johnson on the programme, pretending to be a lovable oaf, and receives cheers and applause when it’s announced he’s going to be on there next week, that’s exactly right. ‘Satire should not be doing that’, he comments.

Scandals, Official Racism and Miscarriages of Justice Now Acceptable in British Political Culture

Boyle and the Taxi Driver also make the point about how British society has declined to the point where things, which would have provoked riots a few years ago, like the privatisation of the NHS and the racist vans, are suddenly possible. They criticise the public’s passivity in the face of the Health Service’s sell-off by the Tories, and discuss not just the racist vans encouraging immigrants to go home, but also the racial stereotyping of the Border Control Agency. They apparently stood at several stations in London, making note only of ‘people of colour’. He and Mark also discuss manifest injustice in the case of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian student shot by mistake as a terrorist by the police. Despite the fact that many of the police officers committed perjury at the trial, they were not punished. Similarly wicked is the fact that it has taken over 20 years to break the silence surrounding Hillsborough and the authorities’ lies about that tragedy.

Media Bias Keeping Voters Ignorant

Boyle also discusses at length the problem of media bias. He defends the BBC, stating that there are some very good people in it, who do an excellent job by their standards, but its mixed in with their received class prejudices. He notes the way the Right-wing media have demonised nurses, teachers and firefighters. He also states that with the rape joke, he had 2,000 people laughing. The outrage there wasn’t public, it was that the TV companies were afraid of the outrage created by the media barons.

He also talks about the way the media shapes opinion by not reporting events and opinions. Mike’s covered this topic in his comment to his reblog of Inforrm’s review of The Knowledge Gap. In this case, it’s the way the media has omitted some of the real fears of the Iranian people. Chunky Mark states that he had an Iranian student, who told him how that country’s people were genuinely afraid of an American and British invasion. This is all too likely. Bush was banging on about the possibility of invading Iran when he was in office, and there were certainly protest meetings organised against it up and down Britain. Boyle points out that the Iranian government suggested that there should be a central bank of nuclear material, and that countries should be able to use it, after first getting permission from the controlling international authorities. This was turned down by America and Israel because they were for non-proliferation, which meant stopping other countries acquiring nuclear power.

Boyle is concerned about the way so little information now reaches the general public, because of the way the media is selectively managed. He states that a little while ago, the media used to talk about ‘low information voters’ when organising election coverage. These were people in the rural parts of America, who didn’t read newspapers or have the depth of knowledge to make an informed choice while voting. The term has now fallen into disuse, as so few people now have that depth of knowledge about politics that the media considers everyone to be a ‘low information voter’.

This selective reporting also extends to western environmentalists. Boyle points out that whereas a few years ago, the Green movement produced characters like Swampy, this is now absent from contemporary reporting. He feels it’s because the news corporations have learnt that if they concentrate on characters and personalities, like the above marshy gentleman, then the public will become sympathetic towards them. This is something the corporations wrecking our planet do not want.

British and American Exceptionalism and Imperialist Brutality and Exploitation

Boyle and the Taxi Driver also discuss and express their outrage at the way Britain, the US and their allies have slaughtered and exploited the developing world. For Chunky Mark, the banks, oil industry and arms industries are the motors of the economy, and so peace is definitely not something that their leaders want. Boyle here points out that Palestine is the test-bed for new military technology, which the Israelis then sell elsewhere. The full-body scanners now used at airports are an example. They also discuss the mining companies, and the murder, atrocities and misery inflicted on the developing world. Britain built its wealth through the exploitation of other nations when it was an imperial power. This has since changed, so that Britain is no longer an imperial power in its own right, but a client state of America. They also describe and criticise the exceptionalism that permits Britain and America to behave like this. Britain and America are terrorist states, but refuse to recognise this, as terrorism is only something that is done by their enemies. Boyle makes the point that when another country behaves like Britain or the US, it provokes an invasion. When we do it, it simply causes another meeting about the definition of ‘terrorism’. Boyle does not, however, blame the troops. He points out that there are some very good people in the British army. The atrocities and massacres come from the people who lead them.

Obama Greater Global Tyrant than Bush

Somewhat unusually, Boyle considers Barak Obama to be actually worse than Bush. Bush was constantly concerned to justify himself and win over the American public. Hence, he merely imprisoned people without trial in Gitmo. Obama is more credible than Bush, and so much more dangerous. He doesn’t stop at merely vanishing them into America’s gulag, but assassinating people without trial through drone strikes.

Criticism of SNP, Labour and the Lib Dems; Scotland Should be Independent, Best Party Green

Boyle is also outspoken in his views about Britain’s domestic politicians, and the institutions that support them. He describes London as a gigantic tax haven, which sucks in illegal money from around the world, citing the book Treasure Islands on the role of these places in the global economy. He and Mark both attack Tony Blair for his morally corrupt business interests around the world. He is dismissive of Ed Milliband, and notes with sardonic humour the absurdity of the Lib Dems, who have now started talking about what they would be able to do, if they weren’t in power. Boyle is unusual in that he supports Scots independence, but not the SNP. He states that it’s absurd that Scotland should be ruled by a completely different centre of power 500 hundred miles away, whose culture and interests are so markedly different. He believes that the SNP and Alex Salmond, in their heart of hearts, don’t actually want independence, just ‘autonomy max’, but within the framework of the British state. That’s why he believes the ‘Yes’ campaign is so lacklustre. He suggests that what should happen is that the Scots should vote ‘Yes’, then stop voting for the SNP altogether, and go and vote for someone, who would create the socialist republic the country needs. Like the Greens, who have a genuinely alternative agenda. It’s a point that has been made by the Angry Yorkshireman over at Another Angry Voice. And, of course, he is highly critical of the monarchy and its role in preserving Britain’s class structure. He’s also suspicious of Snowden’s revelations of mass NSA snooping. Not because they aren’t true, but merely because they’re being released now. So do the authorities want us to believe we’re being monitored in order to keep us in line. This might be a bit too paranoid. But even so, as someone once said, ‘Even paranoiacs have enemies. They just don’t know who they are’. Another conspiracy watcher also one observed that whatever you think they’re doing to you, the reality is far worse than you image.

Boyle’s views are controversial, and I know there are those, who take exception to his criticisms of the Labour party. Kittysjones in her blog has made the point that Labour aren’t as Right-wing as has been claimed. The interview was clearly filmed some time ago before Milliband began making some of the more radical promises that will undo much of the Tory programme. Nevertheless, it’s stimulating and worth listening to for the depth of knowledge and a different perspective Boyle brings to these issues. Like Hicks, Boyle is a comedian with a point. Not just a joke-blower being pointlessly offensive.