Posts Tagged ‘SNP’

MPs Condemn BoJob’s Attempt to Control Media at Briefings

February 6, 2020

This is another article from yesterday’s I, for 5th February 2020. The piece, ‘MPs from all parties raise concerns over ‘Trumpian-style’ media ban’, by Nigel Morris and Hugo Gye, reports that MPs from all parties are condemning the attempts by BoJob and his polecat, Dominic Cummings, to decide which journos should be rewarded with access to the PM at lobby briefings after Monday’s mass walkout. The article runs

Downing Street face cross-party anger over a “Trump-style” attempt to restrict access to a briefing on Boris Johnson’s Brexit policy to a small number of favoured political correspondents.

The exclusion of reporters regarded as critical of the Government prompted an emergency debate in the Commons, and the Cabinet secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, is under pressure to investigate the “deeply disturbing episode”.

I understands that Downing Street is reviewing its policy of staging selective briefings on policy.

Senior television and newspaper journalists walked out of Downing Street en masse when No 10’s director of communications, Lee Cain, insisted that only a handful of reporters would be admitted to a “technical briefing” with David Frost. I was among several titles that Downing Street attempted to exclude.

No 10’s tactics on Monday caused dismay among senior Tories and other MPs alike. One Tory MP said: “It makes us look like control freaks.”

And senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove endured an uncomfortable appearance on BBC’s 5Live programme when he refused to answer whether he would have joined the walkout when he was a journalist.

In the Commons, the Cabinet Office minister, Chloe Smith, insisted it was “entirely standard practice” to arrange such briefings and that the Government was “committed to… the principles of media freedom”.

The SNP MP Pete Wishart said Ms Smith’s “self-justifying nonsense” would not “get her off the Trumpian hook”.

Tracy Brabin, the shadow Culture Secretary, said the decision undermined the traditional neutrality of civil servants.

The Labour leadership front runner, Sir Keir Starmer, said: “The actions… are deeply disturbing. Banning the media from important briefings… is damaging to democracy.”

A No 10 source said: “We reserve the right to brief journalists which we choose whenever we wish to.”

There is nothing normal about BoJob’s crew trying to dictate who does or does not attend press briefings. Zelo Street showed that in a couple of pieces commenting on Guido Fawkes’ attempts to spin this line a few days ago. Chloe Smith is wrong, and Peter Wishart, Tracy Brabin and Keir Starmer are right.

The end result of this attempt to impose highly authoritarian control over the media is the rigid censorship of totalitarian states like Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. As for Johnson believing in the principle of media freedom, well, he may do so in principle, but he has very blatant contempt for the idea in practice. With luck this means that the media will become much less docile and compliant in their support.

Perhaps they might even start to take the idea of the journalist’s responsibility to the hold government to account seriously again.

Journos Walk Out As Boris Tries to Control Press

February 5, 2020

The Tory attempts to impose rigid, authoritarian control over the press continues. One of the big stories yesterday was the news that the assembled hacks and hackettes of the media had walked out of a press briefing organised by No. 10. There was going to be a ‘technical briefing’ on Brexit by David Frost, our comedy Prime Minister’s adviser on Europe. However, only selected members of the fourth estate were invited. A list was read out of those favoured journos were going to be allowed to go to No. 10, splitting the media into two groups as those who were and were not invited were told to stand on different sides of the room. The media outlets that were definitely not invited included the I, Daily Mirror, Independent, Evening Standard, HuffPost UK and PoliticsHome. Those papers not on BoJob’s list also tried to get into the briefing. This assault on press freedom was too much even for those invited, and other journos walked out of the meeting in protest. They included Laura Kuenssberg for the Beeb, ITV.s political editor Robert Peston and the senior political correspondents from the Heil, Torygraph, Scum, Financial Times and the Groaniad. A row broke out, with Lee Cain, BoJob’s director of communications, declaring “We are welcome to brief whoever we want, whenever we want’.

The Mirror’s political editor, Pippa Crerar, described the shenanigans as ‘sinister and sad’. The SNP’s culture spokesman, John Nicholson, commented that Johnson already hid from interviewers he found too tough, a tactic he learned from Trump. The Shadow Culture Secretary, Tracy Brabin, said that it was concerning that Johnson was using Trump tactics to hid from scrutiny. Dame Eleanor Laing, the deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, also condemned BoJob’s actions, and said, ‘Accredited lobby journalists are indeed part of our parliamentary community and so, of course, must be, should be, and normally are treated with respect’. And the NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: ‘As ministers are now boycotting certain programmes and journalists, this represents another very dangerous step.’

The I covered this in yesterday’s edition, for 4th February 2020. Their description of the events on page 10 was accompanied by an analysis by Richard Vaughan, ‘No 10 has started to chip away at freedom of press’, describing how this was just the latest step in Boris’ attempts to restrict press freedom and hostile reportage. The article ran

Since entering No 10 last year, Boris Johnson’s senior advisers have wanted to exert greater power when it comes to the media. Up until the election, Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s de facto chief of staff, and his direct of communications Lee Cain, were too distracted to do much about it.

But having secured an 80-seat majority, the pair have all but declared war on the parliamentary “lobby” journalists in a bid to exercise their new-found strength.

First was change to the lobby briefing system – the twice-daily meetings where journalists can fire questions at the Prime Minister’s official spokesman.

Cain insisted that all meetings would be held in Downing Street rather than the Commons. This raised concerns that it would give No 10 the power to refuse entry for any journalists who had fallen out of favour.

And so it has proved. Last week, a select group of journalists were invited to a briefing by security and intelligence officials on allowing Huawei to run part of the UK’s 5G network. Representatives from I, the Daily Mirror, HuffPost, the Independent, the Press Association, Reuters and several websites were barred.

Yesterday, No 10 repeated the move, attempting to freeze out several journalists from a Downing Street briefing with the Government’s lead Brexit negotiator David Frost, only this time it prompted a walkout.

It follows similar decisions by Mr Johnson’s team to boycott BBC Radio4’s Today and ITV’s Good Morning Britain as well as avoiding Andrew Neil during the election.

It is a power play by Cummings and Cain, who prioritise “message discipline” above all else and who view the favoured outlets as being essential to getting their message out. The move has been described as Trumpian by opposition MPs, due to its similarity to the way the US President excludes certain reporters he does not like.

It would be very easy to dismiss this as sour grapes at not being one of the chosen few titles, but it is a worrying sign of things to come. Shutting out certain publications damages the bedrock of a free media which exists to help hold the Government to account.

In fact, as the media coverage of the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn has shown, it’s been a very long time since the Tory media held the government to account. They were also very heavily favoured by the Beeb. John Major, when he was in power in No. 10, used to ask his cabinet how their friends in the media could help them spin certain issues and stories. And former cabinet ministers of Tony Blair’s have described how he was always concerned to have the press on his side, and that Rupert Murdoch was always an invisible presence at meetings due to his switch to supporting Blair.

Now with this attempt by Boris to exclude the media outlets he dislikes and Johnson debating whether or not to abolish the licence fee and privatise the Beeb, the media just might be waking up to what a threat Johnson poses to freedom of speech and of the press.

And this is a very dangerous step. Trump, who started this tactic, also pondered whether or not he could have certain newspapers closed down. He can’t, at least not at the moment. But that’s another step in the sequence of imposing a rigid state censorship over the media comparable to that of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.

The media were fine about supporting Boris when it was voluntary. He was standing up for capitalist freedom against that evil Commie Corbyn. Well, Corbyn wasn’t a Commie, and they’re just now starting to find out that under Boris, supporting him is going to be  compulsory.

Question Time Makes Tory Bias Official Policy

January 18, 2020

Yesterday, Tracy Keeling over at The Canary posted up a piece reporting that the Beeb had finally come out and made a public statement about the way they were selecting the audience for Question Time, as revealed on the show the night before. Apparently, they aren’t going to choose audiences to represent the broad views of society as a whole. No! They’ve decided that audiences members will be selected according to ‘the current political picture’ in the country in which it is held. This means that, following the Tory election victory, the audience in Liverpool Thursday night was mostly composed of Tories. Even though the city had returned only Labour MPs.

Fiona Bruce, the show’s nauseatingly biased presenter, tried to pass this off as normal, stating

As usual, our audience has been selected to reflect the current political picture, depending where we are. So here in England that means there are more Conservative than Labour supporters plus a smaller number from other parties.

Keeling points out that this is very definitely not ‘as usual’, as the Beeb’s own webpage on Frequently Asked Questions stated

Question Time selects local audiences which reflect a broad range of political views. … This is to ensure a range of views are represented in the audience. …

As with the make-up of the panels, Question Time is aiming to achieve due impartiality in the membership of the audience across the series as a whole, rather than being confined to an exact mathematical formula for each programme.

The article then goes on to discuss a number of instances where the audience seemed to be mostly Tory plants. One such case was a show in Scotland, where only 7 members of the audience out of 80 in shot raised their hands to show they were supporters of the SNP. At the time the SNP had 40 per cent support up there.

Then there was the Youth Question Time for the under-30s, which made the split between Remainers and Leavers 50-50. But 70 per cent of people under 30 voted Remain. Admittedly this was at the time of an election, so there were laws dictating their treatment of the issue. But even so, it delivered a Tory win. Femi Oluwole was so outraged that he complained about these instances social media, and told the Beeb it would be simpler if they just confessed to being a Tory propaganda machine. Rho, another poster, asked where all the Scousers were last Thursday’s edition, and wondered if they’d had to bus the Tories in from outside.

Keeling says in her article that the Tories have little regard for the Beeb, just as the Beeb has little regard for the Left and Labour, and it seems that the Corporation is running scared of them. This new policy on Question Time was announced after Johnson declared that his government would consider scrapping the license fee. She also pointed out that the programme had already been subject to complaints of pro-Tory bias. However, this policy on audience selection is new, whatever Bruce and the Corporation claim to the contrary.

The outrageous new audience selection policy BBC Question Time revealed last night

I put up a piece the other day from Lobster about the way the Tories had turned the corporation into a channel for the propaganda. The Corporation’s anti-Labour bias has been acutely obviously for years, particularly in its vilification of Jeremy Corbyn. Now it’s become overt and undenied, at least on Question Time, and at least as regards the audience. I’ve no doubt that the Corporation will continue to huff and puff about how its political broadcasting and reportage is impartial, and try to wave away allegations of bias as simple mistakes. But they aren’t mistakes, and the bias will become even more extreme and acute.

At the moment, only 44 per cent of people trust the Beeb’s news according to a recent poll. If the Beeb carries on like this, that’s going to be a lot less. And the left-wingers they used to rely on to defend them from privatisation will be well and truly alienated and sick of them by the end of it.

I’m heartily fed up with the Beeb’s newsroom. There’s hardly one of them now that I trust with truthfully reporting the news. There should be a mass sacking, beginning with Fiona Bruce.

Trust in Beeb Falls Below 50 Per Cent

December 19, 2019

A few days ago Zelo Street put up an article commenting on a letter Joel Benjamin sent to the Beeb’s Director-General complaining about the corporation’s massive pro-Tory, anti-Labour, anti-working class bias. Benjamin had taken the step of writing to Tony Hall directly because he didn’t trust the Corporation’s complaints service. He stated that it was

a private contract administered by criminally negligent outsourcing company CAPITA. Experts in dull, pro-forma response letters, which fail to address the complainants concerns and a symbol of much that has gone awry at the BBC and in neoliberal, corporatist Britain. 

He also listed the following specific examples of the Beeb’s bias towards the Tories.

To which Zelo Street added a few more of their own.

‘(a) the use of newspaper columnists, editors and press hangers-on in paper reviews, allowing the press to mark their own homework and therefore perpetuate right-wing bias,(b) the blatant use of the BBC’s Sunday Politics by veteran presenter Andrew Neil to push climate change denial, and (c) Neil and political editor Laura Kuenssberg, along with Robbie Gibb, orchestrating a resignation from the shadow cabinet live on the Daily Politics just before PMQs to the benefit of the Tories…(d) Ms Kuenssberg effectively taking dictation from Vote Leave’s Matthew Elliott over the campaign breaking electoral law, (e) Refusal to discuss the misbehaviour of Cambridge Analytica, to the extent of having Carole Cadwalladr shouted down during a paper review on The Andy Marr Show™, (f) a whole string of instances where the Question Time audience has been infiltrated by Tory plants, and (g) loading panel shows with right-wing pundits and other hangers-on.’

Benjamin particularly resented the Beeb’s dismissive attitude towards criticism. He wrote

Instead of BBC management being responsive to public criticism this election, licence fee payers were subject to Francesca Unsworth, the BBC’s Director of News and Current Affairs – publishing a letter in the Guardian – framing complainants as peddlers of “conspiracy theories” in the wake of a highly visible series of self-ascribed “mistakes,” each, coincidentally, benefitting Boris Johnson and the Conservatives, whilst harming the Labour opposition. Despite the pushback to Unsworth’s article, you then chose to to double down, blame licence fee payers, and cry conspiracy

He also remarked that the Corporation’s bias was

clearly unacceptable, yet a natural consequence of a broadcaster answerable not to the public, but directly to an increasingly brutalising, fact free, and tone deaf Government, that ultimately wants the BBC abolished. In this context, your servile, pro-establishment political coverage looks to fee payers like feeding Conservative crocodiles, in the vain hope the BBC get eaten last.

See: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1T55oQGHV1bJUzljHSE3akPlguzrmZCYcTDZ53WBGdGs/edit

But what is also remarkable is the extent to which people share this dissatisfaction with the Beeb. Zelo Street reported that a poll by YouGov at the start of this month – December 2019 – had found that trust in the BBC had fallen to 44 per cent. 48 per cent, on the other hand, distrusted the Corporation. This was a marked drop from October, when 51 per cent of respondents to the survey trusted the Corporation, and 41 per cent didn’t.

The Street remarks that not everyone will share Benjamin’s views and his wider analysis, but they may understand his frustration, particularly at the Corporation’s refusal to listen to the people that actually support it by paying the licence fee.

He also warns that the Tories are determined to inflict further damage on the Beeb in order to create an utterly compliant media landscape. And if that happens, Hall and the rest of them may find themselves out of a job. Unless they actually start listening to their critics, and realise that there is a problem.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/12/bbc-charge-sheet-looks-grim.html

Now I dare say that many of those, who distrust the Beeb come from the Right. People who think that the Beeb really is biased against the Conservatives, because Johnson tells them it is while running away from interviews, his comments echoed and supported by the right-wing press. I’ve come across complaints from those on the extreme Right, who despise the Corporation because it generally supports multiculturalism, feminism and gay rights. Which in their view makes it anti-White and anti-British.

But the Left have every reason not to trust the Beeb. Joel Benjamin and Zelo Street are right: the Corporation has been massively biased. And not just in this election either. One commenter to Zelo Street’s post reminded readers how the Corporation was also biased in the referendum on Scots independence.  They were. I remember how Nick Robinson was so dissatisfied with Alex Salmond’s very full answer to a question on the effect independence would have on the Scottish financial sector, that it was progressively cut down during subsequent news bulletins with Robinson claiming that Salmond had made an unsatisfactory answer. Finally it disappeared altogether, and Robinson claimed the-then leader of the SNP hadn’t answered it. Which is a piece of newspeak worthy of Orwell.

I despise the corporation’s political bias and its knee-jerk contempt for its critics. Any and all criticism of the Corporation is met with the same response: that the Beeb is criticised for bias by both Left and Right, with the implication that the Beeb isn’t biased and it’s all somehow in the critics’ imagination. But studies cited by Benjamin in his letter show that isn’t the case. And in some of the recent instances of glaring bias, the Beeb tries to excuse them by claiming that it was all a mistake.

This won’t wash. Not any more.

The Beeb does make some excellent programmes. But I’m sick and tired of its massive political bias to the point where I’d happily see nearly all their newsroom sacked. Johnson has said that he’s considering decriminalising nonpayment of the licence fee. And the Tories and their donors, particularly Rupert Murdoch, have been clamouring for the Beeb’s privatisation for nearly four decades.

The Beeb may soon find it needs all the help it can get. But it’s rapidly losing them on the Left, and may well end up regretting this.

 

 

Scots Government Considering Nationalising Railways

December 19, 2019

But only in Scotland, of course. Today’s I carries a piece by Chris Green, ‘Scotrail may be nationalised after franchise cut short, reporting that the Scottish government is considering nationalising the rail contractor. Here’s a snippet from the article

The public sector could soon take over the running of Scotland’s railways after ministers decided to terminate the current ScotRail contract with Abellio three years early.

Abellio has been operating the service since 2015 and its contract was not due to expire until 2025, but it has faced growing anger over cancellations, overcrowding and delays.

The Scottish Government announced yesterday that it had activated a break clause in the contract, meaning that it will come to an end in March 2023.

The decision clears the way for a public sector bid for the franchise, which would honour a commitment made by the SNP ahead of the last Holyrood election in 2016.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson told MSPs that after examining the Dutch firm’s plans for the remainder of the contract, he was “not satisfied” it would provide value for passengers.

Mr Matheson said that the current franchising system had “failed” and called for the UK Government to devolve total control over the railways to Scotland, which would allow for full nationalisation.

The article goes on to report that the Tories are accusing the SNP of trying to duck out of its own failure in awarding the contract to Abellio in the first place. It also says that changes to rail franchising system were recommended by the Williams Review commission, but the government’s response has not been published. It also gives the response of Abellio, which states that it has invested more than £475m in train services, added 23 per cent more seats and created more than 500 jobs. This is supposed to be the greatest investment in trains and stations in over 150  years.

I hope the Scots go through with it and nationalise the service. This would show the rest of the UK that nationalisation really is a realistic long-term option. Failing railway companies in England have been nationalised several times over the past decade or so, but they’ve always been handed back to a private contractor. But the problems continue. It’s time that this ended, and we had a proper, nationalised railway.

Bring back British Rail!

Has Tory Victory Emboldened the Islamophobes?

December 15, 2019

Zelo Street yesterday posted an article that ‘Hatey’ Katie Hopkins has slithered out from under whatever stone she hides under, and endorsed the Tories. And in doing so made some clearly islamophobic and racist comments directed at the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Sayeeda Warsi.

Hopkins started off by gloating about the extent of Bozo’s majority. She tweeted

Boris majority on track to be bigger than Thatchers or Blair’s. Incredible turn from Labour to Tory in unthinkable seats like Redcar, jihadi-central-Stoke & Workington … Formally out of the EU in December … Nationalism is back in Britain. Time to put British people first.

Zelo Street points out that Thatcher had a majority of 140 in 1983 and Blair 180 in 1997, both of which were much larger than the Blonde Beast’s 80.

Ignoring the inconvenient fact that the Tories lost half their seats in Scotland, she declared that the ‘Ginger Dwarf from the North’ does not speak for all Scots. Which I’m sure she doesn’t, just as Bozo definitely doesn’t speak for all of Britain. But Sturgeon speaks for the majority of Scots.

As Zelo Street’s article showed, Hatey Katie then posted a meme saying ‘Safer to be in Syria’ and tweeted

We have taken back control of England from leftists & those who wish to see this country fail. Now it is time to take back our capital city. Time to Make London Great Again.

Which she then followed with

Now that nationalists are in control of England, we begin the fight back for London … It’s time to kick Sadiq Khan out of office.

She tried to make this not sound racist by including ‘love to my Indian family’, but the islamophobic and racist subtext is very clear.

She then tweeted at Sayeeda Warsi when she sent a message saying that her party must begin healing its relationship with Muslims

It’s our party now Warsi. Time you stepped down, love. Way down.

This was followed by

Your party? Hold on a minute sister. I think you will find it’s OUR party now. Britain has Boris and a blue collar army. Nationalism is back. British people first.

Zelo Street points out that Warsi is British, because she was born in Dewsbury. But Hopkins doesn’t mean that. Hopkins then went on to post a picture of a letter box, saying that this reminded her to post her Christmas cards. She then sent another tweet in the direction of Sadiq Khan, saying

Don’t think of it as a dark day darling. Think of it as a brilliant awakening. Britain is fighting back for its own.

As Zelo Street points out, the doesn’t consider Khan British either, because he isn’t white.

Tim concludes

‘Bozo’s victory has emboldened the racists. I’ll just leave that one there.’

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/12/katie-hopkins-full-tory-english-racist.html

Absolutely. Yesterday I found that a supporter of Tommy Robinson had posted a series of comments on this blog. One was objecting to my article about Mike Stuchbery suing Robinson for libel after Robinson and his storm troopers turned up at Stuchbery’s house banging on the windows and doors at all hours. In addition to demanding that Stuchbery come out to talk to them, they also accused him of being a paedophile. Stuchbery’s a teacher, and so this has made his job in England very difficult and he’s moved to Germany. But Robinson’s supporters see their leader as absolutely innocent of all wrongdoing, and claim that Stuchbery had doxed Robinson by putting up pictures of his house. Which I don’t believe Stuchbery did.

They also gloated about the extent of the Tory victory, and accused Corbyn of supporting Islamist terrorists like Hamas and Hezbollah, and the IRA over here. Which he doesn’t. They also posted this comment

Oh, and if you think Islam is so wonderful, I suggest you move to Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, or Iran then you can see what life is really like under Sharia Law.

They’re talking to the wrong person here. I’m not a Muslim, but I studied Islam as part of a minor degree in Religious Studies when I was at College in the 1970s. This was during the Satanic Verses controversy, and I am very well aware of the bigotry in certain sections of British Islam, and the problems confronting the Islamic world. These are social, political and economic stagnation, an absence and in some cases complete rejection of democratic government and modern human rights, corruption and religious intolerance. However, none of these are unique to Islam. As I’ve pointed out, Christianity and the West passed through similar crises in the 19th and 20th centuries, and I’ve read works by a French anthropologist arguing that Islamism is the result of a similar crisis in Islam as it grapples with modernity. As reader of this blog will be aware, I also call out and denounce Islamist bigotry as well as other forms of racism, including islamophobia.

Some of the problems facing the Islamic world have been greatly exacerbated by outside, western interference. Saudi Arabia has gained its powerful position in the Middle East through support by the West, who have used it as a bulwark against secular Arab nationalism in the Middle East. The rise of Islamism in Algeria was partly encouraged by the country’s politically Conservative regime. They saw it as a peaceful alternative to the radical socialism preached by intellectuals with a French education. And there are movement for greater political freedom and feminism within the Islamic world.

Also, just ’cause Muslim countries are a mess doesn’t mean that Muslims over here want to turn Britain into an Islamic state or import some of the elements of Islamic politics that have held these countries back. Yes, you can find the intolerant bigots ranting against Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and so on, and there are those, who would like to turn Britain into an Islamic state. But I’ve also seen them challenged by other British Muslims. There have been demonstrations against bigots like Kalam Sadeequi and the rest. And when Akhthar and his crew were burning copies of the Satanic Verses in Bradford, one of the Islam lecturers from my old College went up there to argue with them, quoting chapter and verse from the Qu’ran why this was wrong. And attempts to launch Islamist parties over here have hardly been impressive. I remember back in the 1980s or early ’90s there was a British Islamic party launched. But it seems to have vanished without trace. If it was Hizb ut Tahrir, then this may have been because it was banned as a terrorist organisation. I’m sure you can find some far left morons, who support it and feel it should be given a voice, but they are very few and far between, despite the Islamophobic propaganda. And Hizb ut Tahrir and groups like it, from what I’ve seen, have never commanded a mass membership.

The wider Muslim community in this country thus should not be accused of terrorism or terrorist sympathies, based on the actions of the Islamist radicals. Nor should they be seen as somehow less British than anyone else in the UK.

Taken with Hopkins’ tweets attacking praising the Tories and attacking Warsi and Sadiq Khan for being Muslims, these comments do seem quite ominous. It reinforces Zelo Street’s conclusion that the Tory victory has emboldened the racist right. After Johnson published his noxious comments about Muslim women in burqas, there was an increase in Islamophobic attacks. And certainly racist incidents have been on the rise since the emergence of UKIP and the Brexit party. Brexit does seem to have encouraged racist Whites to believe that they can get away with the abuse and assault of ethnic minorities. I might be wrong – I hope I am – but I won’t be surprise if we can expect a further increase in racist incidents.

The Conservatives have always played on racism, and Johnson’s victory is going to make this worse. 

Labour Party: 16 Year Olds Should Have Vote in EU Referendum

December 10, 2019

Last Saturday’s I also said that Corbyn has promised to extend the vote to 16 year olds in a future EU referendum. The article, by Harriet Line, ran

Jeremy Corbyn has confirmed that he would want voters aged 16 and older to be able to take part in an EU referendum under Labour.

“You ask about people voting in the referendum. We have been very clear from our previous manifesto, as well as this one, that we will lower the voting age to 16 as we think that’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Sixteen-year-olds already vote in Scotland and in Wales, and we think that should be extended across the whole of the UK. I see absolutely no complications in that at all.”

Speaking at a press conference in London he added: “It’s young people’s future that’s at stake here. Let them take part in that discussion and in that debate. We will be doing that as a priority in a Labour government.”

I realise the extension of the franchise to 16 year olds was controversial when it was introduced in Scotland. Many argued that young people of that age were too young and inexperienced to have the responsibility of voting for their government. Against that is the argument that the parties have been trying to overcome voter apathy by appealing to school students and trying to get them interested and enthusiastic about politics. Part of the rejection against the lowering of the voting age in Scotland came from the Tories, who objected to it because young people up there were more nationalistic, and so more likely to vote SNP, than their elders. In Britain generally, young people are also more likely to support remaining in the EU. Support for UKIP, and now, I suppose, the Brexit party, is strongest amongst the over 50s.

But the Labour party is right. The question of EU membership directly affects young people’s future, and so it is entirely right that they should have the vote for it.

And it also shows that Labour is serious about extending democracy, unlike the Lib Dems, who seem to have thrown out John Stuart Mill and his concern with political and joined the Tories in wanting to keep effective power restricted to a very narrow elite.

Private Eye’s Demolition of Cameron’s Book about His Government

December 1, 2019

Way back at the beginning of October, our former comedy Prime Minister, David Cameron, decided to give us all the benefit of his view of his time in No. 10 with the publication of his book, For The Record by William Collins. The review of it in Private Eye was not kind. Reading it, it appears that Cameron was deeply concerned to present a rosy, highly optimistic view of his years as Prime Minister. His was a government that gave Britain prosperity and growth, and had improved conditions in the NHS. The current, wretched economic and political situation is all due to everyone else, not him. It’s entirely false, as the Eye’s review made abundantly clear, citing Cameron’s book again and again as it he tries to claim success in tackling an issue, only to show the present grim reality and how Johnson actually made it all worse with Brexit.

The review, titled ‘Shed tears’, in the magazine’s issue for 4th – 17th October, runs

John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln at a Washington theatre inspired the quip: “Apart from that, Mrs, Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” David Cameron’s autobiography leaves the reader asking: “Apart from Brexit, Mr Cameron, how did you enjoy being prime minister?”

“I liked it,” he declares, and so should we. At 800 pages, this account of his generally tedious career – apart from Brexit – is only 200 pages shorter than Churchill’s Second World War memoirs. Indeed, Dave may have originally matched Winston, for the Mail reported his publishers cut 100,000 words from the manuscript.

The verbose special pleading William Collins so sadistically allowed to survive tries to anesthetise readers into accepting that – apart from Brexit – they should applaud his playing at being prime minister too.

When Cameron stood for leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, he recalls, “Everyone said that I was too young. That I had no ministerial experience.” Instead of worrying that a gentleman amateur would lead the country to perdition, we should have rejoiced. “However new and inexperienced” he was, young Cameron saw himself “inheriting the mantle of great leaders like Peel, Disraeli, Salisbury and Baldwin.”

In 2010, with the world in crisis, he followed his illustrious predecessors and produced one of the “most stable and I would argue, most successful governments anywhere in Europe”. That Brexit has subsequently produced a paralysed parliament, culture war without end in England, the highest support for Welsh independence ever recorded, a revitalised Scottish National Party and a clear and present danger to the peace in Ireland must be someone else’s fault.

Only Ukraine is a less stable European country now. Not that Cameron can admit it. The Brexit referendum was “a sore confronted”, he says, as if he were a doctor who had healed wounds rather than a quack who had opened them. His greatest regret is for himself, not his country. “I lament my political career ending so fast,” he sighs. Brexit ensured that he went from private citizen to national leader to private citizen again in 15 years. “I was a former prime minister and a retired MP at the age of 49.”

He shouldn’t despair. His work experience on the British now completed, Cameron could be ready to hold down a real job should one come his way.

As for his supposed successes, in his own terms he would have a point – were it not for Brexit. “When I became prime minister my central task was turn the economy around,” he says. Now the British Chambers of Commerce reports that companies are living through the longest decline in investment in 17 years. He left Downing Street in 2016 “with the economy growing faster than any other in the G7”, Cameron continues, showing that whatever else he learnt at Eton, it wasn’t humility. The UK is now bottom of the G7 growth table, while the governor of the Bank of England is warning a crash out could shrink GDP by 5.5 per cent.

By the time Brexit forced his resignation, “hospital infections, mixed-sex wards and year-long waits for operations were off the front pages.” In the very week his book appeared, patients were preparing as best they could for a no deal Brexit cutting off drug supplies, while NHS trusts were wondering what would happen to the 8 percent of health and social care staff they recruit from the EU.

“It was clear to me that reasserting Britain’s global status would be one of our biggest missions in government,” Cameron says of the premiership, while failing to add that the Britain he left was both a warning and laughing stock to the rest of the world.

Regrets? Come off it. “One of the core ideas of my politics,” Cameron tells those readers who survive the long march through his pages,m “is that our best days are ahead of us and not behind us, I don’t think Brexit should alter it.” The bloody fool does not realise his best days are behind him  and he (and the rest of us) have nothing to show for them – apart from Brexit.

It’s not the comprehensive demolition that Cameron’s mendacious book deserves. It hasn’t just been Brexit that’s caused mass poverty, starvation, despair and misery to Britain. It was the policies he and his government both inherited from New Labour, and ramped up and added a few of their own. He continued the Thatcherite policy of the destruction of the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS, as well as the wage freeze and pushing zero-hours and short term contracts. As well as allowing firms to make their workers nominally self-employed, so they don’t have to give them things like sick pay, holidays or maternity leave. Thanks to his policies, as continued by Tweezer and then Boris, a quarter of a million people have to rely on food banks for their daily bread, 14 million people are in poverty and an estimated number of 130,000 people have died after being found ‘fit for work’ by the DWP.

As for the tone of lofty self-assurance with which Cameron makes his assertions, that can only come from someone, who has enjoyed immense privilege throughout his life, and never suffered uncertainty due to the advantages bestowed by his background. He got a job at Buckingham Palace, remember, because they actually rang him up and asked for him. Thatcher’s former Personal Private Secretary, Matthew Parris, in his book Great Parliamentary Scandals observes that MPs, contrary to received wisdom, are not polished all rounders. Rather they are more likely to be the lonely boy at school. They have huge, but fragile egos due to the respect the public gives them tempered with the humiliation they receive at the hands of the whips and the awareness of how little power they really have. All the decisions are made by the Prime Minister. Parris’ own career as a cabinet minister came to a sharp end when he sent a rude reply to a letter sent to the former Prime Minister. Clearly, Cameron himself has never suffered, or appears not to have, from any kind of personal or professional uncertainty. He’s always been supremely confident in his own ability, choices and decisions. It’s this arrogance that has caused so much suffering to the country and its working people. But he certainly hasn’t suffered the consequences. Instead of trying to do something about the mess he created with Brexit, he left it for others to do so. And we’re still grappling with that problem nearly four years later.

Cameron’s was the start of a series of Tory governments that have actually left this country far worse than Tony Blair’s administration. Blair was determined to sell off the NHS, but he kept it well funded and he had some success in tackling poverty. It was the Tories who massively expanded the use of food banks instead of giving the disabled, unemployed and poor the state support they needed.

Cameron’s book is therefore one mass of self-delusion and lies. As have all the statements about how well the country is doing from his successors. Don’t vote for them. Vote for Corbyn instead.

 

BoJob States He Is Prepared to Break Law For Brexit

October 4, 2019

Yesterday Mike put up the ominous news that BoJob has confirmed in parliament that he would break the Benn Act in order to bring about a no-deal Brexit. Mike comments that this seems to confirm that he is indeed in the pocket of financial speculators, who stand to make billions from the economic and social chaos and misery that would result. Jeremy Corbyn and the SNP have also made it clear that they will not support Johnson’s new attempt at a deal with the EU. It appears that they only course left open is a vote of No Confidence, followed by a caretaker government led by Corbyn. If that fails, Mike speculates that John Bercow may seek to delay Brexit again in preparation for a general election. Mike goes on to wonder if Johnson actually wants that, as well as the Lib Dems, who seem to be ready to support the Tories back into power once again. He concludes

Perhaps he thinks the Brexit-supporting public will put him back into Number 10 with a majority.

But after a series of failed attempts at Brexit, is anybody really stupid enough to think he has anything to offer us?

WATCH: Johnson confirms he’s ready to break the law to leave the EU without a deal

By stating plainly that he is prepared to break the law to get the Brexit he and his backers want, Johnson has made it blatantly clear that he is not fit to be prime minister. While I’ve no doubt his toadies and lackeys in the right-wing press would try to claim that this would be the action of a strong prime minister against a weak, divided and traitorous parliament – and where would we have heard that kind of rhetoric before? Oh yes, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy – it’s the actions of an autocrat. We have such laws binding the powers of prime ministers and the head of state because we have constitutional government. It’s evolved over centuries through turmoil and revolution to protect British people, their liberty and property, from arbitrary, tyrannical government. That’s it’s point. Johnson and his supporters are willing to break that. It puts the lie to the old Tory claim that they represent democracy and the British constitution. In reality, as this shows abundantly, they are increasingly keen on autocratic one-man rule, with BoJob as the new Duce or Fuhrer.

If BoJob does violate the Benn Act, then I believe that he should be arrested and impeached as a clear and present threat to democracy. Perhaps we could put him and his supporters in the internment camp the right-wing forces plotting a coup in the 1970s wanted to put Harold Wilson, trade unionists and left-wing activists and journalists.

The Lib Dems – So Progressive and Remainer, They’d Rather Have No-Deal Brexit than Corbyn

August 19, 2019

So much for the Lib Dems claims to be a progressive party standing for remaining in the EU. Last week Corbyn wrote to the various MPs in the House, declaring his intention of calling for a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s government in order to stop the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal on October 31st. This would mean that the Labour leader, as the leader of the opposition, would form a caretaker government for a few months before a general election was called.

A number of politicos have indicated their support for his plan, like the Welsh Tory Guto Bebb, and the leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon. There have been caveats – Sturgeon has said that she will only support Corbyn if he gets a majority in the House. A number of Lib Dems have also expressed cautious interest. But so far the official line from their oh-so-progressive, Remain leader, Jo Swinson and her buddies is flat refusal. They aren’t going to support Corbyn, because he won’t be able to command a majority, she says. Of course, the real reason is that Swinson and the Lib Dems aren’t progressive at all, no matter what they were saying at the council elections. Swinson voted for all of the policies and reforms demanded by the Tories when the Lib Dems were in Coalition with them. All of the policies cutting welfare benefits for the poor, the sick, disabled and unemployed, the tax cuts for the rich, and the privatisation of the NHS. Furthermore, she’s also run around demanding a statue be put up to Maggie Thatcher. Yes, Thatcher, the woman who ushered in this whole era of cuts, privatisation and more cuts. The woman, who took her monetarist economics from Milton Friedman, who influenced Chilean Fascist dictator General Pinochet. Who was also Maggie’s best friend. How very progressive!

Well, Swinson seems to have turned her back on the Liberal tradition, at least that part of it that came in with T.H. Greene and the other great thinkers of the ‘New Liberalism’ of the 1880s onwards. You know, the philosophers and other ideologues, who realised that state intervention was also compatible with individual freedom. Even necessary for it, as through state intervention the individual was free to do more than he or she could through their own unaided efforts. The kind of Liberalism that prepared the way for Lloyd George’s introduction of state pensions and limited state health provision through the panel system. But Swinson and her colleagues have turned their back on that, and have decided to support the absolute laissez-faire, free enterprise doctrines of the Manchester School of the early 19th century. The doctrines that didn’t work, and which successive governments challenged and rejected in practice while supporting in theory when they passed acts providing for better sanitation, limiting factory hours, and establishing free primary education for children, for example. Greene and the other leaders of the New Liberalism were interested in providing an intellectual, philosophical justification for what government was doing in practice. And they succeeded.

And it’s highly questionable how traditionally Liberal they now are. Liberalism’s fundamental, definitive text is John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. This is one of the great classics of British political philosophy, in which Mill thoroughly examined and lay the basis for modern British democracy and individual freedom. But one of the particularly dangerous policies the Lib Dems supported was the Tories’ introduction of secret courts. Under their legislation, if the government deems that it is warranted because of national security, a person may be tried in secret, with the press and public barred from the courtroom. They may not know the identity of their accuser, and evidence may be withheld from them and their defence. I’ve blogged about this many times before. This isn’t remotely in keeping with anyone’s idea of freedom, and definitely not Mill’s. It the twisted justice of Kafka’s novels, The Trial and The Castle, and the perverted judicial systems of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia.

And then there is Swinson’s whole claim that her party, and her party only, stands for ‘Remain’. That, supposedly, is why, or one of the reasons why, she won’t work with Corbyn. She has gone on to declare her support for Kenneth Clarke as the leader of an interim government, despite the fact that he’s a Brexiteer. He just doesn’t want a no-deal Brexit. And Corbyn has always said that he is willing to go back to the country if he is unable to secure a proper, beneficial Brexit, and hold a second referendum. Which means that if the country votes against Brexit, he won’t do it. But this isn’t enough for Swinson. She wishes to play kingmaker with her tiny band. They got 7 per cent of the vote, and only 10 MPs, whereas Labour got 40 per cent of the vote. She claims that she cannot work with Corbyn, and therefore he will have to go as leader of the Labour party. But this can easily be turned around. Corbyn is willing to work with Swinson, and the simple numbers say he should stay as leader, and she should go as the head of her party. After all, it’s her that’s preventing them from going into government with Corbyn, if the Labour leader should offer that opportunity to them.

Actually, there’s a suggestion that Swinson, like her predecessor Clegg, has already thrown in her lot with the Tories. According to Zelo Street, Natalie Rowe issued a tweet to Swinson demanding that she confirm that she had not been holding talks with BoJob from the 9th to the 12th of this month, August 2019.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/08/jo-swinson-speaks-with-forked-tongue.html

I don’t think Swinson’s issued any response, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she had. Clegg, remember, claimed that he was willing to join Labour in a coalition, but wouldn’t do so if Gordon Brown was leader. In fact he was lying. He had already made a pact with Cameron. And it’s a very good question whether Swinson hasn’t done the same. Even if she hasn’t, by her refusal to support Corbyn and his vote of no confidence, she’s shown that she’s no stout defender of this country against Brexit, and least of all a no deal Brexit, after all. So much for all the Lib Dem MPs in the European parliament, who all turned up grinning in matching T-shirts with the slogan ‘Bollocks to Brexit’.

Swinson isn’t progressive. She’s a Tory in the Lib Dems. She isn’t a defender of liberty after J.S. Mill. She’s its enemy. And she stands for Remain only when it suits her.

Lib Dem voters were fooled by their party once. Will they be fooled by them again? Remember the saying: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.