Posts Tagged ‘The Week’

News Rottweiler Richard Madeley Throws Gavin Williamson Off Programme for Not Answering Question

May 31, 2018

This is a turn up for the books. Richard Madeley is probably the last person I would have considered an aggressive, uncompromising interviewer, trying to hold the government and the authorities to account. But on ITV’s Good Morning on May 29th, 2018, Madeley showed he was not prepared to put up with Gavin Williamson’s repeated failure to answer his questions about the Skripal poisoning. And so, rather than let him continue, Madeley ended the interview, wishing him good luck with his project for Africa.

Mike put up a piece about this yesterday, remarking that not only had Williamson not answered the question, he was carrying on with a smug smirk on his face. Mike wrote of Williamson’s refusal to answer the question

He was deliberately withholding, not only his opinion on his ill-chosen words about the Russian government, but information on whether the Conservative government acted prematurely in blaming Russia for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

The Tory narrative that the Russian government was responsible has collapsed beneath a barrage of factual information suggesting otherwise, with no facts to support it.

If Mr Williamson had admitted his words were ill-advised, he would have been accepting that the anti-Russia stance was a mistake – and opening the UK government to an investigation into its own activities. So he was between a rock and a hard place.

And he thought he could brazen it out on TV because mainstream media interviewers are now notoriously soft on Tories.

Mike noted that this deference to the Tories had changed with Madeley’s actions, but was unsure whether it would spread to the Beeb because so many of the Corporation’s top news team are Conservatives. However, the public are also turning away from soft interviewers like Andrew Marr and Evan Davis, and this may force the BBC to adopt a tougher stance when interviewing Tory politicians.

Mike’s article also compares it to the incident, 21 years ago, when Paxman ended an interview with Michael Portillo because the future presenter of programmes about train journeys around the globe refused to answer a question on his party’s policy towards the single European currency. The incident happened in a good-humoured way, and Paxo was probably able to do it, according to Mike, because Portillo was out of Parliament at the time, and his political influence was due to be confined for the foreseeable future to being one of the commenters on Andrew Neil’s The Week.

Mike’s article is at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/30/the-madeley-moment-is-it-really-21-years-since-an-interviewer-dismissed-an-evasive-politician-for-failing-to-answer-a-question/

RT, as well as a number of other news sites on YouTube, also reported the incident. Here’s RT’s video of it.

Way back in the 1990s Jeremy Paxman was called a ‘Rottweiler’ for his persistent, aggressive questioning of politicians on his show, and his refusal to take any nonsense from them. Which was shown in his repeated questioning of Michael Howard whether he overruled another Tory minister. His ‘take no prisoners’ style of questioning enraged the Tories, and Michael Heseltine actually walked out during one interview, ‘angrily tossing his mane’ in the words of Ian Hislop later that week on Have I Got News For You.

The Tories responded as they usually do by claiming that Paxman and the BBC were biased against them. There was an article in the Spectator comparing Paxman to a similar TV interviewer in the Republic of Ireland, who went in hard with establishment politicians, but didn’t dare adopt the same stance with Sinn Fein or spokesmen for the IRA. And so eventually Paxo left Newsnight, and went instead to harass university students on University Challenge.

Then when Labour got it a few years later, the Tories showed once again how two-faced they are by lamenting how sad it was that Paxo had departed from political journalism, because now the country needed him to interrogate Blair and co with his aggressive refusal to allow his guest to get away with talking nonsense.

And so began the situation that prevails today, when members of the government turn up on television with the attitude that they can more or less say what they want, without being corrected or pressed by the interviewer. Some of us can still remember how Nicky Morgan repeatedly refused to answer one of the Beeb’s interviewer’s questions when she was minister for education. This was when Tweezer decided that every school should be an academy. The interviewer asked her a question about the number of academies, that had to be taken over again by the state, and all Thicky Nicky did was to repeat a line about how terrible it would be if children continued to be badly educated through attending failing state schools. In fact, the number of failing academies was high – about 21 or so, I seem to recall. Thicky Nicky clearly couldn’t admit that, and so she carried on repeating government propaganda. Just as the interview ended, the journo said, ‘You know the number’. He was clearly annoyed and frustrated at Morgan’s failure to answer the question, and made it very clear.

It would solve a lot of problems if interviewers did adopt a more uncompromising stance, and did throw politicians off the programme if they didn’t answer their questions. Reith was an authoritarian, who supported Mussolini, but he was right when he said that broadcasting to the nation was a privilege, not a right. This is a democracy, and the role of the press and the media – the Fourth Estate, as they’ve been called – has traditionally been to hold the government to account. Of course, this collapsed at least a decade ago, when the media became dominated by a very few big proprietors, who made sure that their papers represented their interests and those of the Conservative government, including Blair’s Thatcherite New Labour.

It’s good now that some TV interviewers are tired of giving the government such soft treatment. And as I said, it’s remarkable that this should come from Richard Madeley, who would be the last person I would have thought would do it. But obviously he decided he’d had enough, and something snapped. All hail Madeley, news Rottweiler. And I hope this attitude carries on and spread, so that we get something like the media we deserve in this country, rather than the one that’s foisted on us by the Beeb, Murdoch, Dacre and the Barclay Twins.

Private Eye on the Non-Dom Press Barons of Fleet Street

April 22, 2015

Ed Miliband’s announcement a few weeks ago that he would end non-dom tax status was greeted with howls of derision from the right-wing Tory press. The Evening Standard, Torygraph and the Heil all claimed that if the various millionaires resident in Britain, who weren’t paying their taxes here, were forced to do so, then they would all leave en masse.

As Private Eye pointed out in last week’s issue, these paper’s stance has hardly been disinterested. Their owners are all non-doms. Evgeny Lebedev, the Russian oligarch, who owns the Evening Standard, last year dodged the Eye’s questions on where he pays his tax. The weirdo Barclay brothers, the owners of the Torygraph, are tax exiles in Monaco and the Channel Islands. And the Mail’s Viscount Rothermere is another one. He inherited his non-dom tax status from his father, despite not living abroad and building something that can only be described as a stately home in the south of England.

Sky also decided to join in the criticism, while obviously not mentioning that its owner, Rupert Murdoch, also doesn’t pay tax in Britain. Neither in fact, does Dirty Rupe’s papers, the Sun and the Times, which the Eye revealed a few years ago to be registered abroad for the purposes of corporation tax. So much for the true-blue British patriotism of these papers.

The Eye refuted all this criticism by printing the views of Jolyon Maugham, a QC who has advised both Labour and the Tories on tax policies. Maugham pointed to the similar criticisms levelled at Labour by the papers when the party first started levying taxes on non-doms in 2008. Then the Mail predicted a massive stock market crash, and it, the Telegraph and the British Banking Association all warned that Britain’s millionaires were considering leaving the country. In fact, the opposite was true. By the end of 2014, according to the Eye, about 54 per cent of property sales in Kensington were to foreign purchasers. At the moment, there are 115,000 non-doms in London, because the capital is still an extremely attractive place for millionaires.

The article also points out that the Financial Times also supports the ending of non-dom tax status. They suggest, however, the paper didn’t come out and make its opposition to the tax status earlier because until 2013, it was partly owned by Dame Marjorie Scardino, who would have been entitled to non-dom tax status on her London flat.

Readers of Johnny Void’s blog will know about the problems created in London by the presence of the global super-rich, and the way they are pushing ordinary working and lower-middle class Londoners out of the city. In a post I reblogged here a few days ago, Mr Void described the appalling destruction of London’s working class and counter- or alternative cultural heritage. Like the historic Black Cap gay bar, Soho, Tin Pan alley, parts of Camden market, and the relocation of St Martin’s school of art. It does seem that the capital’s real, living heritage that has grown up over decades and centuries, is being gutted in order to leave the capital another sterile, homogenous global environment for the planet’s super rich.

This has to be resisted – not just in London, but all over England and the UK. It’s part of a general process throughout Britain where gentrification and the desire to please and attract the wealthy from across the world is destroying working class communities, and the places they live, work, shop and relax across the UK.

The problem isn’t that if Ed ends the non-dom tax bracket, there’ll be an exodus of oligarchs and multi-millionaires, as the Week put on its cover last Friday. The problem is the opposite – that if the power and cupidity of the super-rich isn’t curtailed, they’ll price the poor out of their homes altogether. It’s most acute in London, but if it isn’t stopped, it’ll come to somewhere near you very quickly.

The Week Demands Part-Privatisation of NHS

April 18, 2015

Amongst the other snippets taken from the press the I published yesterday in its ‘The Opinion Matrix’ column, was this piece from the Week’s editorial arguing for the part privatisation of the NHS.

It is clear that the next government will inherit a health service under huge financial pressure – so could a form of privatisation help fix the “financial hole”? This is not a new phenomenon.

Indeed it is not. It was suggested back in the 1980s by a group set up by Maggie Thatcher to examine the ways of increasing the role of private enterprise in the NHS. The Private Finance Initiative set up by Peter Lilley was, according to Private Eye, part of this. As has been Nigel Farage’s suggestion that the NHS should be financed through insurance contributions.

In fact the NHS is far more efficient than the privately run, insurance-funded American system. This has seen a massive increase in bills for patients from the private medical providers and the insurance companies. Forty per cent of bankruptcies in America are due to inability to pay medical bills. Much of the increased costs in the health service is actually due to the internal market and repayments to the private companies administering the hospitals due the PFI. And the use of insurance to top up state financing of the NHS was discussed and firmly rejected by Robin Cook in his pamphlet on the NHS published back in 1987.

You could make the NHS more efficient and save money by simply ending PFI and the internal market.

This would, however, horrify the parasites in the private medical companies now trying to worm their way into the NHS by sponsoring parties, as well as their puppets and cheerleaders in the Conservatives, Lib Dems and the Tory Press.

One element of which is the Week. I gave up reading it a few years ago because of its Tory bias. That little snippet in the I has not encouraged me to return to it.

Ed Miliband, on the other hand, has stated that he will end the privatisation of the NHS, which Clegg and Cameron have not. And for that reason, as well as many others, I feel he should be supported on May 7th.

Cameron: Maths and Science Students Should Get £15,000 Bursaries

March 12, 2015

The I yesterday carried a story that Cameron had announced that his party is planning to award bursaries of £15,000 to high-performing students if they go on to study Maths and Physics at university. In return for the money, they will have to commit themselves to teaching for three years after their graduation.

He also announced that from next months maths and science teachers, who had left their jobs will be able to get specialist help and training in order to encourage them to return to teaching.

And from 2016/17 ten universities will also be trying out new physics degrees that will combine the subject with a teaching qualification. Fast-track schemes to retrain people to become maths and physics teachers are also going to be designed.

The paper quotes Cameron as saying that ‘I want to make Britain the best place in the world to learn maths and science – and because of our growing economy, we have a clear plan to deliver the best teachers to make this happen.’

Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, also said, ‘We want to attract more high-quality candidates to teach maths and physics and further raise the status of teaching as a rewarding career.’

The general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Brian Lightman, said he welcomed the plans to get more maths and physics teachers, but stated that more fundamental reforms were needed to solve the crisis in teaching.

He said ‘There is a need for a robust strategy plan to make sure there are enough teachers coming through in every subject. Headteachers all over the country are reporting serious shortages in not only maths and science teachers, but also in English teachers.’

There are several points to be made about Cameron’s plans. Firstly, I actually wonder whether the Tories are at all serious about them. They lied about protecting the NHS from cuts, along with a whole string of other promises, which they had no intention of honouring and have since tried deleting from the records. They are a deeply mendacious party, and I see no evidence that they will have any intention of making good on this promise.

Secondly, this is a tacit admission that the introduction of tuition fees has failed. Clearly, this must be the case if young people are coming forward to study maths and physics at university, or train as teachers because of the sheer cost of university education.

Furthermore, Brian Lightman is right – simply promising to make more money available and encouraging more to train as teachers in itself isn’t enough. The profession itself has to be reformed so that the job remains attractive. It is no good encouraging more students to train as teachers, if they subsequently decide to leave. And this is a problem. Since Maggie Thatcher decided that all teachers were fundamentally to blame for shoddy education, regardless of their personal efforts, subsequent administrations have piled on the pressure, increased workloads and cut funding, leaving many teachers feeling undervalued and demoralised. Private Eye did a feature in the mid-90s reporting the accounts of teachers from the chalkface as they had to deal with poorly disciplined and disruptive students and a social and political environment that was frankly indifferent to them and unsupportive. The Week a few years similarly carried an account by someone, who had become a supply teacher for a year, reporting the same problems. Education funding has been cut along with teachers’ salaries, and the national curriculum chopped and changed as new ideas came into vogue amongst politicians, who had no personal experience of what it was actually like to stand in front of a blackboard and teach.

And this is quite apart from the frothing loonies in the Mail and Express, who scrambled over each other to denounce the profession as full of Left-wing agitators determined to indoctrinate children with Communist, radical feminist and gay dogma.

The teaching profession needs to be thoroughly reformed so that teachers are valued, schools are given proper funding and support from central government, and teachers, along with other workers, are properly paid and given the administrative support they deserve in what can be a difficult, stressful job.

I don’t see Cameron’s proposed plans tackling any of these issues. Nor do I expect them to, as his party and its policies are primarily responsible for the mess education is in in the first place. And the situation will get worse, and Cameron goes ahead with privatising schools to turn them into profit-making institutions.