Posts Tagged ‘Tracy Brabin’

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.

The Crisis at the BBC and the Cancellation of the Victoria Derbyshire Show

January 23, 2020

A few days ago the Director-General of the Beeb, Lord Tony Hall, formally stepped down. According to Mike over at Vox Political, Robert Peston has said that this means that the Beeb’s chairman, David Clementi, can oversee the installation of a new D-G, who isn’t under the control of Boris and the Tories. But Mike argues instead that Clementi’s time as chair is nearly over, and it’s likely that Johnson will use his influence instead to make sure the next D-G is a Tory puppet, who will purge anyone BoJob and Cumming’s don’t like. He also reblogs posts from the ever-perceptive Tom London, who points out that the Beeb has already been significantly biased towards the Tories. The bias against Labour and Jeremy Corbyn personally was so pronounced that it denies the election democratic validity. Tom London says that while it might say ‘Democracy’ on the tin, that democracy has already vanished when nothing but propaganda is being pumped out.

Quite so. As Mike says, the Tories’ plan is to install someone, who will raise no objection to their privatisation of the Beeb and its replacement by commercial operators, who will kowtow to the Tories.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/01/22/johnsons-corrupt-plan-for-the-bbc-the-propaganda-arm-of-the-tory-party/

In fact, as Mike also says, the Beeb has been under Tory influence for quite some time. Ever since David Cameron passed legislation allowing the public sector to recruit from the private industry. This has led to the influx of further senior management and corporate bosses at the Beeb, determined to turn it into a propaganda mouthpiece for the Tories.

It was also announced today that the Corporation was axing the Victoria Derbyshire Show. Derbyshire is a highly respected journalist, and the decision dismayed journalists and media figures as diverse as Paul Lewis, Stephen Pollard, the extreme right-wing editor of the Jewish Chronicle; Martin Barrow, and the Labour MP Tracy Brabin. Lewis described the show as ‘innovative’, praising the way it dealt with important social issue like poverty other mainstream shows would have struggled with, and called it ‘a people’s current affairs programme’. The former MP Danielle Rowley said that the show made complex issues accessible through a wide-ranging format, different voices, and great journalism and presenting. Martin Barrow, who is a foster carer as well as a journo, condemned its cancellation, and said he would always be grateful to the show for its reports into children’s care and young people’s mental health. Brabin said that the show was unique in having rigorous campaigning and allowing the public to have their say. She also praised Derbyshire as sharp, approachable and with a personal story that made her relatable. Laura Smith from Crewe and Nantwich praised the show for making sure that the voices of the survivors of historic abuse were heard, and praised the personal bravery of named victims that appeared on the show.

Zelo Street states that not everyone was upset by the show’s cancellation. Right-wing guttersnipes Darren Grimes and the Economist’s David Vance were overjoyed, though Vance considered it no more than a welcome start and wanted the complete closure of the Beeb.

Zelo Street believed that the show’s cancellation might not be unrelated to the fact that Derbyshire showed up Dominic Raab in the 2017 general election. Raab had claimed that the people using food banks weren’t poor, just experiencing ‘cash flow problems’.

The Street concluded

Once again, journalism is publishing, or indeed broadcasting, what someone does not want to see published, or broadcast. And the increasingly craven BBC is axing it.

Trebles all round for leering Tory boot boys. A lesson in grim reality for everyone else.’
See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/01/victoria-derbyshire-binned-big-bbc.html

Another right-wing figure, who was not at all sorry to see Derbyshire and her show cancelled was Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, the man who broke UKIP, who has made a video about it. Sargon and his equally deranged followers are convinced that the Beeb is biased towards Left and against the Tories, even when all the evidence shows the complete opposite. He thought she was particularly biased towards the Tories because she accidentally used the ‘C’ word for Jeremy Hunt’s surname when announcing a story. She immediately apologised, and said it was usually men, who used that word. Which is actually true, though I have heard it used by some foul-mouthed women. Sargon decided her comment showed that she had planned it, and thus her whole demeanour was an act. My guess is that it was a genuine mistake, but someone in the Newsroom probably had been referring to Hunt by the obscenity. Hunt’s name practically invites it. Derbyshire may well have heard it so often, that she accidentally said it herself, even though it was genuinely something she wouldn’t normally have said.

I’m not sure that Derbyshire is as unbiased as her supporters claimed. I was at a local Labour party meeting last week, and one of the subjects that came up again and again was the extreme bias against Labour by the media and its continued pushing of the anti-Semitism smears. And Derbyshire had done her fair share of this as well. When interviewing a spokesman from the Labour Party, Derbyshire had persistently asked them if they thought Corbyn needed sensitivity training. The spokesman had replied that he already had such training, as had they all. Too which she responded that she couldn’t believe the Labour party representative had said that he didn’t need it. Which is not what the Labour person had said.

Sargon’s video about it is interesting, however, for some of the stats he found. These included Derbyshire’s salary – £200 – £249,000 – and her viewing figures: 39,000. He concluded that her show had such a small audience that this was reasonable saving. He also pulled out the ratings for the audience of BBC news. Under Lord Hall, it has declined from 27 million three years ago to 18 million. It’s lost a third of its audience. While Sargon and other members of the right and extreme right are convinced it’s because of the Beeb’s nonexistent left-wing bias, the reality is that many of those 9 million viewers, who’ve turned off or over, will be left-wingers and Scots Nats put off by the Corporation’s pro-Tory bias.

My guess is that Derbyshire’s cancellation shows the direction the Beeb is moving. The Corporation’s being run down as it becomes nothing but a Tory propaganda outlet. The Tories would like to privatise the Corporation completely, but still recognise how valuable it is in the meantime. 70 per cent of the British public take their broadcast news from it. So the BBC will retain its main news programmes while closing down those, like Derbyshire, that provide a public service but don’t have massive ratings.

In that way the Tories will turn it into a propaganda network Goebbels would have been proud of, while preparing it for eventual privatisation and replacement by the networks of the Tories’ corporate backers.