Posts Tagged ‘SNP’

BBC Chief Says Corporation Could Axe News Programmes

August 22, 2020

Here’s another piece from yesterday’s I, for 21st August 2020. Written by Adam Sherwin, it reports the comments by the Beeb’s Fran Unsworth in an interview with the Torygraph that the corporation could axe the 6 O’clock and 10 O’clock News from its mainstream channels in a decade. The article runs

The BBC’s News At Six and News At Ten could disappear from television screens as the corporation’s coverage shifts to digital, its head of news has said.

Fran Unsworth said that a push to attract younger viewers meant that the BBC’s flagship bulletins could move from broadcast channels to the iPlayer within a decade.

Ms Unsworth said: “Ultimately, in 10 years’ time, we probably won’t be consuming linear bulletins. I might be wrong about that but I doubt it. There might be one (bulletin) a day, but video will just be in a different space… you know, iPlayer, your tablet, your iPhone.

One of the flagship bulletins, whose audiences have doubled during the pandemic, might survive, she told The Daily Telegraph.

Figures released at the start of lockdown showed news programmes’ ratings had risen.

In the week to 28 March, five of the 10 most-watched broadcasts were editions of the BBC News At Six, with the bulletin on 23 March attracting a TV audience of 8.3 million, nearly double its typical rating so far this year. The 10pm programme had reported audiences of six million.

But Ms Unsworth said that while young viewers had discovered the BBC delivered information they could trust during a crisis, the surge in TV news viewing was a temporary phenomenon.

The corporation has announced already that it will axe the Newsround afternoon bulletin, which has run for nearly 50 years.

The BBC is slashing more than 500 jobs from its news division in a bid to make savings of £80m. Reports and interviews will be shared between BBC outlets.

This is going to delight the Tories and the Murdoch empire, who would like to see the Beeb privatised completely. About 70 per cent of news consumed in the UK comes from the Beeb, and obviously Murdoch and his squalid minions would like to see this greatly reduced so that they can move in. And that means extremely biased right-wing news, like Fox in America. Or Sky News Australia, which is so right-wing it can only get further to the right by beginning with an evocation of the Eureka Stockade and calls for the reintroduction of the White Australia policy.

The Beeb is having trouble attracting a young audience. According to the reports I’ve read, they simply aren’t interested in it. And unless the corporation can find ways of attracting them, that means the Corporation won’t have an audience and so consequently, no future.

However, many young people have learned that the Beeb doesn’t produce information they can trust. Not after its constant, vicious smearing of Jeremy Corbyn and its blatant anti-Labour bias. And Scots viewers, I’ve no doubt, will remember how Nick Robinson very carefully edited down SNP leader Alex Salmond’s full answer to a question about the impact Scottish independence would have on Edinburgh’s financial sector. Salmond stated fully that they’d gone into it, and Edinburgh’s banks would remain in the Scots capital after independence. They wouldn’t leave for London. But this didn’t satisfy the Macclesfield Goebbels, and his answer was first cut so that Robinson claimed he hadn’t properly answered it, and then completely edited out so that he finally claimed that Salmond hadn’t answered it all. It was a piece of propaganda worthy of a totalitarian state. I realise that Salmond, despite his acquittal, is still under the shadow of the multiple rape accusations. But this is a different issue, and shows how desperate the Beeb and the British establishment were to discredit him when it came to Scotland leaving the union.

Millions have learned that the Beeb does not produce information they can trust. That’s why they’re turning to alternative news sources, like those on the Net.

I think it would be disastrous if the Beeb did abandon proper news bulletins on its broadcast channels, leaving that space to be filled by Murdoch and the other media magnates. I want it to get better, not to go completely. But through its concerted campaign against the Labour party, the Beeb has successfully alienated the very people, who would have otherwise supported it the most against Tory demands for its privatisation.

And so the Beeb has only itself to blame for the crisis it is now facing, whatever delusions Unsworth might have about winning back young people.

 

 

Starmer Snubs Scotland by Appointing Nandy Shadow Foreign Secretary

April 8, 2020

More bad new for traditional, old Labour centrists like myself – the real Labour centrists, not the neoliberal, Thatcherites that came in with Blair. Keir Starmer has appointed Lisa Nandy his shadow Foreign Secretary. She’s another Blairite like him, but her appointment also means that he’s given up any hope of winning back Scotland for Labour. Nandy once offered her opinion on how to deal with Scottish independence by saying that we should look to Spain on how they dealt with separatism. Mike in his article stated that Scots would regard her as violent and offensive.

She was referring, of course, to the Spanish government sending in troops and militarised police into Catalonia after the head of the regional government there declared independence. I realise that the issue isn’t quite as black and white as it might appear, and that not all Catalans were behind their president’s decision to secede. But many people were appalled by this use of force on a democratically elected regional government, and the authoritarian brutality with which it was suppressed and its members and activists arrested. Tony Greenstein was one of those, for example, who decried it on his blog, and the refusal of the EU government to intervene in the Catalans’ favour.

Which raises the question of what Nandy believes a British government should do if something similar happens in the UK. If Nicola Sturgeon unilaterally held another independence referendum, and the majority of Scots voted in favour so that Sturgeon began formal moves to secede, would Nandy really support sending the troops in? That would turn even more Scots against Britain, and would create a situation north of the border very similar to Northern Ireland after we sent troops in there. It would create resentment and disaffection, which would in turn lead to violence in the shape of protests and terrorism.

I can’t really see this scenario happening. Sturgeon definitely wants a second referendum, but I’ve seen no indication yet that she means to break the law and hold one without the support of the UK government. But she was, however, determined to press for one. Nandy’s comment may well have been no more than a thoughtless remark given on the spur of the moment, rather than a genuine, deeply held opinion. But even so, it won’t endear her to the Scots or anyone else who believes in the democratic process of debate, elections and negotiations, rather than the use of the mailed fist.

And away from Scotland, it also doesn’t say much for her suitability as Foreign Secretary. Her stupid remark about Spain, with its implicit approval of the Spanish government’s actions, isn’t just offensive to Scots and Catalans. The Basques also have a very strong independence movement, which included a terrorist wing, ETA. Nandy obviously should not condone or support terrorism, but her comment also bodes ill for a peaceful Basque government, should they declare independence. As it does for any independence movement, anywhere. She has shown that she will support the dominant national government against separatists, and that has very serious implications for those movements in countries, whose government is definitely brutal and oppressive. One of the great iniquities of the late 20th century was that no government raised a protest against Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor in 1971 or thereabouts. Yet during the following thirty years the Indonesian government and its troops massacred about a third or a half of the island nation’s people.

The case of Catalonia is also disturbing, because for many people across Spain and Europe the government’s actions were reminiscent of Spain’s former dictator, General Franco, and his brutal regime. Franco seized power by overthrowing the democratically elected Republican government. This included a range of political parties, from Liberals to Socialists and Communists, and so was not a Communist regime, as its opponents tried to paint it. However, the Anarchists had seized power in Catalonia, and so Franco made a deliberate point of retaking that region before taking Madrid and formally ending the war. His regime then embarked on a reign of terror, massacring their former opponents. Their mass graves are being excavated by archaeologists, as people demand that the memories of the brave men and women, who died fighting Franco, be commemorated and their sacrifice recognised and celebrated. It’s controversial, because there are figures on the right, who would rather this did not happen. And the squalid dictator’s own mausoleum is the focus of particular rancour and controversy. Franco claimed it commemorated all the victims of the war, but in reality it’s just a monument to Franco and his goons, the Fascists and Falangists. Modern Spain’s suppression of Catalan independence may well carry overtones of Franco’s brutal suppression of the province. This might be a superficial impression, but if it’s there, it’ll be a powerful feeling of renewed historical grievances. And Nandy definitely should not say anything to stoke them.

Domestically, her appointment also shows that Starmer and the Blairites aren’t interested in appointing someone more suitable, who would stand a chance of reviving Labour up there. And without Scotland, there’s no chance of Labour winning a general election, which means we’re going to be faced with more years of Tory rule.

And that show you in turn how malicious the Blairites are. They would rather Labour lost elections and the Tories continued their campaign of privatisation, including the selling off of the NHS, and the dismantlement of the welfare state, rather than have a socialist in charge of the Labour party and in power at No. 10.

I hope I’m wrong, and that Nandy turns out to be a better shadow minister than she appears and that Starmer at least tries to win back Scotland. But for now the omens aren’t good.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/04/06/nandy-appointed-shadow-foreign-secretary-labour-has-no-plans-to-regain-scottish-seats/

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.