Boris Johnson

It’s our money: HS2, the Barnett formula, and the threat to Welsh democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/02/2020 - 9:07pm in

Yesterday’s announcement from Whitehall that HS2 would proceed – at an estimated cost now of £100bn, a figure that seems likely to rise substantially – has opened a wide fault-line about the future of Wales and Welsh devolution.

As Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards argues persuasively in a piece in Nation Cymru, the issues for Wales are simple. HS2 is classified as a project that benefits both England and Wales, and therefore Wales will not receive any consequential funding as a result of the Barnett Formula, which provides that increasing public expenditure in England will be reflected in an increase in Westminster funding for Wales. This is despite the fact that not a centimetre of HS2 track will be laid in Wales and economists estimate that HS2 will actually damage the economy of South Wales – to the tune of £150m per year; the justification is that it will be possible to get a connecting service from Wrexham to Crewe, which some would regard as a pretty desperate piece of post-hoc rationalisation. It looks especially threadbare when one considers that Scotland – which will potentially benefit from substantially reduced travel times to London – will receive Barnett consequentials.

The loss in Barnett consequentials is likely to be around £5bn – assuming the £100bn overall cost of HS2 is correct (and it seems reasonable to expect it will come in above that).

All of this matters, not just because of the loss of £5bn of desperately needed funding in the poorest country in Northern Europe, whose economy is blighted by notoriously inadequate transport links. It throws into sharp relief issues that are beginning to emerge about the future of devolution itself.

First, it is a reminder that the Barnett Formula is no more than a convention. It has no force in law, and only exists as long as the Treasury in London allows it to exist. The Treasury could announce tomorrow that it was over and the Welsh Government could do absolutely nothing about it.

And politically, it’s essential to remember two things: first, that the new Tory government, faced with the austerity that will inevitably follow the hard Brexit it now appears to be pursuing, will be under huge pressure from its new North of England Tory MPs to protect spending in their areas, in line with Boris Johnson’s rhetoric about promoting the North of England. The convention that automatically uplifts Wales’ spending settlement is bound to be under political pressure in these circumstances.

Morevover, Wales has recently been granted tax-raising powers. There is a close fit with the Cameron governments’ localism agenda, which in theory granted extra revenue-raising powers to English local authorities through retention of business rates, but in practice became a rationale for cutting central Government funding: the message was, you can raise the money locally so we don’t need to fund you.

So there is a clear rationale emerging in which Welsh political institutions continue to take the responsibility for providing services but are systematically starved of the resources to do so; the scenario facing many English local authorities but from which Wales – has to a limited extent – been protected by the Barnett formula (although it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the ability of Welsh political institutions to deliver services like health is under huge and growing pressure).

And, second, it’s essential to understand the political context in which the HS2 decisions have been taken. It was instructive to hear Boris Johnson, yet again, using the HS2 announcement to attack the Welsh Government’s decision not to build the M4 relief road around Newport. The point is that whatever one might think of that decision, it was taken in Wales by our own government; Johnson and Westminster have absolutely no jurisdiction. here.

Added to that is the huge pressure that Brexit – especially the hard Brexit envisaged by Whitehall – will place on Wales: both on our economy and on our political autonomy. The effect of a hard Brexit will obviously be catastrophic for Wales; the Government’s own estimates suggest a 7% fall in GDP across the UK as a whole – similar to what Spain and Ireland experienced in the Eurozone crisis. Wales, because of our economic structures, is far more vulnerable than many parts of the UK. And the EU withdrawal legislation means that over areas determined by Whitehall fiat to be part of the UK single market, it will be far more difficult for the Welsh Government to act, least of all to mitigate the effects of Brexit on either the economy or essential quality-of-life issues like the environment or food standards.

In other words, the HS2 decision is a reminder that the cumulative effect of Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party’s attitude towards Wales – including its attitude to Brexit – is to undermine fatally both our political institutions and our ability to finance our own public services; it is essentially a denial of service attack on Welsh democracy. And anybody on the progressive side of Welsh politics has to understand that the HS2 decision exposes clearly the ruthless determination of Tories, ultimately, to ensure that Wales learns its place and takes its medicine.

So where do progressives start to fight back? One of the complaints that one hears on the progressive side of politics is that we don’t have the three-word slogans that Boris Johnson and his minders used so devastatingly in the EU referendum: “take back control” and “get Brexit done”.

So here’s one for Welsh progressives: “its our money”. And let’s use this as a reminder that achieving progressive politics in Wales is intimately bound up with developing constitutional arrangements that are fit for purpose, robust and not subject to Whitehall whim.

Murdoch’s Daughter Being Considered as Next Beeb Director-General

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/02/2020 - 10:24pm in

This is ominous. According to an article by Adam Sherwin in yesterdays I for Monday, 9th February 2020, the BBC is considering appointing Elisabeth Murdoch, Dirty Rupe’s daughter, as its first female Director-General. The I’s article seems to think this will be a positive move, as she isn’t supposed to be hostile to the Beeb like her father. And the appointment of one of Murdoch’s family as the Beeb’s chief will supposedly deter Downing Street from making any further attacks on the Corporation. The article runs

Elisabeth Murdoch, the daughter of Rupert Murdoch, who became a successful television entrepreneur in her own right, has emerged as a surprise candidate to run the BBC.

Mus Murdoch, former head of Shine UK – the production company behind MasterChef and Broadchurch – would be seen as an acceptable director-general by the BBC’s Downing Street critics. However, the prospect of the broadcaster being run by a member of the Murdoch family, which has campaigned against the licence fee-funded BBC through its newspapers, will shock many at the corporation.

I has learned that the BBC is appointing headhunters to broaden the search for a new leader, following the announcement that Tony Hall is leaving.

Current favourites include Charlotte Moore, BBC director of vision, the best-placed internal candidate; Jay Hunt, former head of BBC1 and Channel 4, who now leads Apple’s European TV commissioning; Alex Mahon, chief executive of Channel 4; and ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall.

Insiders say the BBC is almost certain to appoint its first female director-general.

The BBC board, led by Sir David Clementi, is seeking a figure with proven leadership in the creative industries who carries enough authority in Whitehall to guide the BBC through tough negotiations over the future of the licence fee.

Ms Murdoch, who pocketed £130m when she sold Shine to 20th Century Fox, ticks many of the boxes. She does not share her family’s antipathy to the BBC, having sold 20 shows to the broadcaster as a producer.

Stepping aside from her family’s succession battle, Ms Murdoch, 51, has spoken in support of the “universal licence fee” but urged the BBC to how “efficiently that funding is being spent on actual content”.

It is not clear if Ms Murdoch would welcome an approach for the £450,000 post. last year she co-founded Sister, a global television production business which developed the acclaimed Sky drama Chernobyl.

Although Downing Street’s choice to lead the BBC would be a longstnding critic such as Rebekah Brooks, CEO of Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, a figure such as Ms Murdoch would prove an acceptable compromise.

In a box article next to this, ‘Power play Smart move?’, Sherwin also writes

Although the appointment of the new director-general is a matter for the BBC board, Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s top aide, has privately warned that a ‘business as usual’ successor to Tony Hall would only hasten the end of the licence fee.

Handing the BBC’s future to a scion of the Murdoch dynasty would be a bold move for the broadcaster.

Elisabeth Murdoch has £300m in the bank, boosted by dividends from her father’s sale of Fox’s entertainment assets to Disney, and has made a number of strategic investments in digital start-ups.

But another option could be Alex Mahon, Channel 4’s chief executive. Hired by Ms Murdoch for her Shine group in 2006, it was Ms Mahon who brought the Broadchurch producer Kudos into the business.

The upside of luring Ms Murdoch, once named the fifth most powerful woman in Britain in a Woman’s Hour poll, is the weight her name would carry in negotiations over the BBC'[s future with Downing Street. “It could be a genius move. They woulnd’t dare f**k with a Murdoch,” said one insider.

My guess is that even if Murdoch became director-general, she’d still carry on the and increase the Beeb’s right-wing political bias. I also think that she’d carry out some further privatisation and quiet dismantling of the Beeb for the benefit of its competitors, but not as outright as Cummings and BoJob would quite wish.

Whoever gets installed as the next director-general will still be under pressure to get rid of the licence fee, though I’m sure the Tories would hesitate at attacking one of Murdoch’s own family because of the power of the Murdoch press. On the other hand, she could well reverse her previous positive attitude to the Beeb, and become an enthusiast for its dismantlement once she become D-G.

Whatever happens, the Beeb is still in serious danger. But because of its massive political bias, its traditional defenders on the Left are no longer as willing to support it.

 

The Licence Fee & Boris’s Fake Fight with the BBC

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 09/02/2020 - 5:05am in

On Wednesday, it was reported that Boris Johnson’s government is considering scrapping the licence fee. [For non-UK readers, the licence fee is a mandated payment all citizens are required to make if they own a television, it is how the BBC is funded. Non-payment can result in imprisonment. We have Orwellian posters about it] Scrapping …

Cartoon: Frankenthatcher!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/02/2020 - 6:08am in

Welcome to another one of my cartoons, in which I satirise the Tories by portraying them as monsters from Horror films. This one was suggested by Trev, one of great commenters on this blog. Thanks, Trev! It’s of Maggie Thatcher as Frankenstein’s monster. I’ve added Jacob Rees-Mogg as Frankenstein himself, and Boris Johnson as the hunch-backed servant, Igor.  Enjoy!

 

Channel 4 Threatened by the Tories with Privatisation… Again

The ‘Viewpoint’ column in next week’s Radio Times, for the 8th to 14th February 2020, contains an article by Maggie Brown, ‘Saving Thatcher’s baby’, about the problems confronting Channel 4. It begins

In 2020, Channel 4 is facing a number of challenges. Its staff are scattered to the winds, Channel 4 News is under attack from the Government, and the threat of privatisation looms. Is the pioneering broadcaster, which was launched in 1982 by Margaret Thatcher, facing an endgame?

She then describes how the broadcaster has moved its headquarters out of London and into Leeds, with hubs in Glasgow and Bristol with more programmes filmed in the regions, such as Manchester and Wales, and changes to the broadcasting schedules with the introduction of new programmes. One of these will be Taskmaster, taken from the Dave digital channel. Brown comments that the programme’s acquisition by Channel 4 is an attempt to boost audiences, but is also ‘a symptom of the tricky compromises and tightrope that C4 has to walk.’ She continues

It is a public service broadcaster “funded by advertising, owned by you”. It must also rally support as an alternative public service broadcaster to the BBC in the face of a hostile Conservative government that is needled by its mischievous independence and most recent mockery (that melting ice sculpture after Boris Johnson failed to show up for a climate change debate).

But relations with Conservative governments have always been tense, with liberal Channel 4 News and tough current affairs programmes such as Dispatches the lightning conductors. After the climate change debate last November, privatisation was immediately threatened again: a knee-jerk response.

She ends the piece by stating that the broadcaster’s business team will remain in London. She sees this as an indication that the broadcaster will not only confound the pessimist’s predictions of its impending demise, but will actually thrive. The business team have the Thatcherite values of self-reliance, and it’s this quality that will allow the broadcaster not only to survive but flourish.

Hm. Possibly. My own feeling is that if Channel 4’s business team manages to save the broadcaster, it won’t be because of an nebulous ethos of ‘self-reliance’, but because it will reflect the views and demands of metropolitan business. The same businesses that fund the Tory party.

She is, however, right about the Tories having a persistent distrust of the broadcaster. Thatcher set Channel 4 up in order to be an alternative to BBC 2. It was to serve communities that the Beeb channel didn’t, like ethnic minorities. It was also to excel in news coverage, as well as alternative arts and sports. By the latter, Denis Thatcher actually meant yachting. What that meant in practice was that the programme broadcast opera, as well as Indian cinema, a serial of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, a history of the madrigal, the pop show, The Tube, and a variety of comedy shows. These included Who Dares  Wins, a sketch show whose cast include Rory McGrath and Tony Robinson, the classic satirical puppet show, Spitting Image, and Desmond’s, which was set in a Black barbers, and launched a wave of Black comedian in Britain. It also had a history of Africa presented by the White afro-centric historian, Basil Davidson, and a news programme about the continent with Black presenters and reporters.  It also showed Max Headroom, which consisted of pop videos hosted by the eponymous Max, the world’s first computer-generated video jockey. Offsetting all the highbrow stuff were sexually explicit films and programmes, which was the closest teenage schoolchildren could get to viewing porn before the internet. It was the sexually explicit stuff that particularly annoyed the Daily Mail, who branded the broadcaster’s controller at the time, Michael Grade, ‘Britain’s pornographer in chief’. The Channel responded to this by broadcasting programmes for gays and lesbians. Amid the furore, one of the most sensible comments was made by the archdeacon of York. When they asked the good churchman what his view of the broadcaster showing a series about lesbians, he replied, ‘Well, who’s going to watch that if there’s Clint Eastwood on the other?’ Quite. Now I understand that one of the channels is bringing back The ‘L’ Word, a lesbian soap opera first shown at the beginning of this century. Quite apart from Channel 4’s own gay soap opera, Queer As Folk.

Private Eye seemed to regard Channel 4 back then as condescending and pretentious. Its literary reviewer sharply criticised a book by its then chief, Jeremy Isaacs, because he made it plain he wanted to bring the British public material like miner’s oral history and so on. When people complained that people didn’t want some of this, Isaacs replied that they had latent needs, needs they didn’t know they had, until someone showed them the material they’d been missing. It was this comment that particularly aroused the reviewer’s ire. But Isaac’s was right. Sometimes you don’t know if there’s a demand for a subject, until you offer people the chance of trying it. And Channel 4 really tried to expand, create and satisfy a market for culture. Oliver Letwin, the former sketchwriter for the Daily Mail and now the Times, actually praised the broadcaster for this in his book, Bog Standard Britain. The broadcaster’s programming always hit and miss. Amid the good stuff there was also much material that was rubbish. And while it had the reputation as rather left-wing, it also carried a programme of political discussion for Conservatives, Right Talk. On the other hand, its opera performances actually managed to reach a decently sized audience, showing that ordinary Brits wanted and would watch highbrow culture.

Its average audience, however, was tiny, and there was pressure on the broadcaster, like the Beeb, to produce more popular programmes to give the British public value for money. Hence the channel became much more mainstream in the 1990s. Its audience grew as expected, but the country lost out as the channel no longer tried to expand the public’s minds and tastes as it once had. And as I said, this was lamented by Letwin, among others, a supporter of the very party that had spent so much time decrying and criticising the channel for being too daring and alternative.

If I remember correctly, the Tories have privatised the channel before. There have been at least two part-privatisations, where the government has sold off some of its share in it. One was under Thatcher, when she was privatising everything. I think the other may have been under Major, who continued her programme. I have a feeling that the second privatisation may have been a cynical move by the Tories to try and work up some enthusiasm for the government. It was announced with the fanfare the Tories usually gave the privatisations, presenting them as some kind of exciting generous opportunity granted to Britain’s workers. Thatcher was trying to create a shareholder democracy, where ordinary people would own shares as participants in capitalism. That’s all died the death a long time ago. The shares given to the workers in the privatised industries have all been sold on, and are now in the hands of a few big businessmen. The council houses she sold off have been bought by private housing associations for profit, and there’s now a housing shortage. And the privatisations were never as popular as the Tories tried to make us all believe to begin with. Support for them, according to polls done at the time, never rose about fifty per cent.

Channel 4 news has a reputation for excellence. Which is undoubtedly why the Tories now despise it and are discussing privatisation again. Britain’s publicly owned broadcasters are under threat because they are obstacles to Murdoch, the Americans and the British private broadcasters, who fund the Tories, dominating British television. They also despise them because they’re supposed to be impartial, unlike the private networks, which would be free to have whatever bias their proprietors chose. And besides, as this week’s attempts to dictate to the media, who could and could not attend BoJob’s precious lobby briefings shows, the Tories want to impose ever more restrictive controls over the media. The end result of that process, if it goes on is, is the rigorous, authoritarian censorship of totalitarianism.

I dare say that if the Tories do go ahead and privatise the Beeb and/or Channel 4, it’ll be presented as some kind of great liberalisation. The British public will be freed from having to support them, and they will have to take their chances in the market place, according to the tenets of Thatcherism. But if that happens, public service broadcasting will have been destroyed along with what should have been cornerstones of media impartiality.

But considering how relentless biased the Beeb has been against Labour and in favour of the Tories, their news desk has done much to destroy that already.

MPs Condemn BoJob’s Attempt to Control Media at Briefings

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/02/2020 - 1:26am in

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

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 Labour Party, Affirmative Action and the Problem of Liberal Prejudice, Part 1: Racism

This is another piece about one of the issues raised at the Labour party deputy leadership hustings in Bristol on Saturday. It could be controversial, because in it I question some of the assumptions underlying some of the pro-minority movements and campaigns. I’m doing this not because I’m opposed to them, but simply to try to correct what I regard are flaws and defects in them, which may be the source of other kinds of injustice and fuel a backlash against these programmes from the right.

One of the questions at the hustings came from a student at one of the city’s universities. They were upset at the appearance of posters saying, ‘It’s Okay To Be White’ around campus. Racism was on the rise, and they wanted to know what the candidates would do about it.

Now let’s be clear about it. Racism is on the rise. There has been an increase in racist incidents since Brexit. Yesterday the papers carried a story about poster that had been put up in a block of flats telling non-Anglophone residents that they should only speak English. If they couldn’t do this, it said, that they should hand their property over to an English family and leave for their countries of origin. One of the documentary shows following real police doing their job last night showed them tackling a racist incident. A Romanian family had been abused by their English neighbour, and the father had been attacked. One of the two female rozzers, who made the arrest, said that she didn’t feel that the number of racist people had increased, but that the racists had been emboldened by Brexit. Some of Zelo Street’s posts confirm this. The supporters of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, whose anti-immigrant abuse and vitriol was uncovered by the blogger Jacob’sfriends, also seems to be strongly pro-Brexit. As were the right-wing posters attacking Rachel Riley for getting Katie Hopkins banned from Twitter, whatever lies Oberman wants to push about the far left. 

But the situation is complicated by the fact that many Whites do not feel themselves to racist, and believe that the anti-racism campaigns are racially smearing them. Over a decade and a half ago the Spectator expressed and tried to capitalise on this resentment with an article ‘Blackened Whites’. Another article stated that the only minority not welcome in central London was White working class men. The slogan ‘It’s okay to be White’ is another expression of this feeling. As far as I can make out, it started in America among Conservatives, who believed that Whites were being unfairly tarnished as racists. These Conservatives include Blacks as well as Whites. There’s a series of videos by a group of Black activists carrying a placard bearing the slogan as the confront liberals and left-wingers.

And unfortunately, they do have a point. I’ve read material from anti-racist and Black activists that seems to assume that if you’re White, you have to be racist and which does approach a kind of racial essentialism. There’s a hidden assumption that, through their history, somehow all Whites are racist and can only be stopped from being so through Black activism. I’ll admit that not all Black or anti-racist activists are like this by any means. But it is there, and it is causing a backlash against anti-racism programmes.

All of the candidates expressed their firm determination to combat racism. One of the female candidates – I’m fairly sure it was Dawn Butler, but I could be wrong – announced that she wanted to defend and promote the rights of all minorities. Not only did she want all-women shortlists, she wanted all-Black shortlists, and similar representation for the LGBTQ communities and the disabled. She, or one of the other female candidates, also said that they were also determined to stamp out misogyny.

There have been calls for greater numbers of Black and Asian MPs for a long time. It has been said that if the number of BAME MPs reflected the size of the Black and Asian population, there would be 50 of them rather than the handful there is at the moment. However, as many Black communities form a minority within White majority constituencies, there’s a tendency, conscious or otherwise, to choose White candidates. Hence there was a letter in one of the papers during an election in the first decade of this century by a Black writer, stating that Black people could represent them.

I am absolutely sure in many cases that this is correct. But this also raises the question of Black racism and double standards. If Whites can’t represent Blacks, then it could be asked if it is also unfair to assume that Blacks can represent Whites. And Black and Asian anti-White racism exists. At the same time that letter was written, Whites became the majority of victims of racial abuse and assault. Reading between the lines, I think that the majority of victims were still Black and Asian, but Whites constituted the single largest group of victims. The rise in anti-White racism was throughout the country, and the organisations set up to help victims of racial abuse made it clear that they were also going to help Whites. Since then, and particularly after 9/11, the situation has returned to Blacks and Asians being the victims of most of this abuse and violence. But anti-White racism is still present. And unfortunately some of the Black anti-racist organisations don’t want it recognised or tackled.

A few weeks ago, Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, put up a video about the Black and Asian organisations, which had written to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. They were upset because the Commission was also including stats on incidents against White British. This, they felt, could not be justified because Whites don’t have the long history of racist persecution as non-White minorities. This is an extremely dangerous view. The recognition of racial abuse and violence by ethnic minorities against Whites in no way subtracts from the racism experienced by those communities. It is merely a recognition that anti-White prejudice also exists, and needs to be tackled. If it isn’t, it hardly needs to be said that a certain section of the White community will look instead to the far right as their protectors. Racial tensions have also increased due to the mishandling of the cases of Asian paedophile gangs abusing White girls. In Rotherham it went on for years, and the Manchester police and local authority knew about it, and did nothing. They were afraid that if they did act, it would start riots.

I am very much aware that the majority of child abusers in this country are White. I am also aware that the abusers were secular individuals, and that they weren’t abusing White girls because they were Muslims, as the Islamophobes have claimed. One academic, who has covered the case, has denied that race was a motivation behind their assaults. However, it was a factor in the authorities decision not to prosecute the offenders for about ten years. They did not want to do so because they were Asian, and the girls were White. And this has promoted the feeling that the liberal establishment, as it is so considered, has no interest in defending Whites from victimisation by ethnic minorities. It’s a gift to organisations like Britain First and the EDL. Or simply the Conservative party, as it has moved so far to the racist right under Johnson.

There is also the problem that some of the alienation experience by Whites in constituencies with large ethnic minority communities, has been increased immensely when the parties seem only interested in choosing candidates from those communities. Following the Oldham riots, the Financial Times sent their correspondent, Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, to the town to investigate. The Asian and White communities there were nearly equal, with the White a fraction larger. However, all of the parties – Labour, Lib Dem and the Conservatives – had chosen Asian candidates. And these candidates seemed less interested in the local issues that affected everyone in Oldham, regardless of colour, than in issues far away in India and Pakistan, most specifically the issue of Kashmir. A section of the White community felt ignored and marginalised, tensions increased and then exploded into violence.

This puts any politician elected from an all-Black or Asian shortlist in a difficult position. They are there to represent all of the community. But many will be on the list because they specifically want to help Blacks and Asians. In constituencies where Whites are in a minority, like parts of London, that could mean that parts of the White population feel discriminated against. Some might turn to the far right. Others may leave London to White majority in the ‘White flight’. And some will remain, but become alienated and cynical. It’s recipe for increasing racial tension, not fighting it. The situation is made worse by the network of organisations and schemes that are only open to Blacks and Asians and which exclude Whites in a system that the Financial Times called ‘liberal apartheid’. Black and Asian politicians elected through such shortlists will be seen as part of an establishment that actively discriminates against Whites. Individual politicians elected through such lists will have to show that they can also represent Whites as well. Which means that they also may be too cautious, and fail to give deprived ethnic minority communities adequate help and support.

All-Black and Asian shortlists will help solve the problem of Black underrepresentation in Parliament, but depending on the local personalities and organisations involved, they risk increasing racism by excluding Whites. 

 

Right-Wingers Attack Riley for Hopkins Ban, Oberman Blames Left

On Thursday, Zelo Street reported the welcome news that just about all of Hatey Katie Hopkins’ tweets had been removed from Twitter. However, when she was on there Riley had 1.1 million followers, and despite the ban there’s always the possibility that she’ll come back. Credit for her removal from the platform must go to Rachel Riley, who said that she had met Imran Ahmed for the Centre for Countering Digital Hate, and asked them to review the presence on Twitter not just of Hopkins, but also of George Galloway.  Someone describing himself only as ‘That Chap’ commented that it was sad that Twitter had received many thousands of reports about Hopkins’ conduct, but only acted because someone famous had got involved. Dr Louise Raw took a more cheerful view, noting that despite Riley’s crowing, much of the work had already been done by dedicated anti-Fascists.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/01/katie-hopkins-and-vanishing-twitter-feed.html

Hopkins’ banishment from Twitter is certainly no bad thing, but Riley herself is certainly no friend and ally of genuine anti-racists. Her benchmark for deciding someone is an anti-Semite is crudely simple: are they a critic of Israel and/or a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn? If the answer to either or both of those is yes, she accuses them of anti-Jewish hatred. Even when they definitely are anything but, like Corbyn himself and his supporters. These include people, who have suffered abuse and violence at the hands of real anti-Semites and Nazis, either for being Jewish, or for standing with them. It’s why Riley decided she wanted Galloway’s Twitter channel pulled as well. Galloway isn’t an anti-Semite, and has made it very clear that he regards the Holocaust as a monstrous crime against humanity. But his former wife was a Palestinian, and he has always stood up for the Palestinian people against the dispossession and the ethnic cleansing of the Israeli state, and so Riley has decided to libel him as an anti-Semite.

Mike has put up a piece today making it clear that on this issue, my enemy’s enemy is certainly not my friend. He asks if the CCDH have looked at Riley’s own record – at the way she stirred up hatred against Jeremy Corbyn, her comparison of the Durham Miners’ Band with the Klu Klux Klan, her false accusation of a anti-Semitism against a Labour election candidate, and her abuse and harassment of a teenage girl, and then libeling those, like Mike, who stood up to defend her. Mike says, quite rightly, that ‘Ms Riley gets away with all of this because she is an overpaid TV celebrity who can use her wealth to bully into submission anybody against whom she has a disagreement’.

He therefore asks his readers to contact CCDH and Imran Ahmed if they don’t think that real anti-racism campaigners should be consorting with Riley. The organisation and Mr Ahmed are on Twitter themselves at @CCDHate and @imi_ahmed. And you might also wish to donate to Mike’s defence fund to help him fight Riley’s false accusation of libel.

Removal of Katie Hopkins from Twitter shows my enemy’s enemy is NOT my friend

Riley herself has now come in for further criticism on Twitter for getting Hopkins banned. Zelo Street has put up some of the Tweets, and it’s clear that they come from the Right. They seem to be Brexiteers, Conservatives and Unionists, and supporters of Boris Johnson. But Riley’s bestie, the equally offensive Tracey Ann Oberman, has declared that they are all members of the extreme Left. Zelo Street comments

‘That’s a pretty right-wing crowd. But admitting that would never do. You think I jest? Here comes Tracy Ann Oberman. “Watching the Far Left have a twitter meltdown over KatieHopkins twitter ban at the hands of EVIL Rachel Riley and those of us who have helped Twitter assess these matters , is quite a thing. The irrationality and double think plus the outright LIES”. Forget what you saw and look over there!

Katie Hopkins is out there on the far right. So it is those out there who are screaming the loudest. But remember, ignorance is strength, and right is left. I’ll just leave that one there.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/01/hopkins-twitter-ban-blame-game.html

Now there is, unfortunately, nothing unusual in Oberman’s actions here. She and Riley, it seems, always try to blame each and every piece of abuse they receive on the left, even when it is manifestly clear that it comes from the right and the far right. It’s so ingrained now that they don’t seem to be capable of doing anything else. It’s got to the point where you wonder if it’s simple misdirection, or whether Riley and Oberman really do believe that anti-Semitism is just something that come from the left. If they do, then as I said a few times before, they’re losing their grip on reality. They’re starting to sound like all the crazies, who believed there are secret government plots against them, or that the Communist Chinese are beaming messages into their head via secret supertechnology. Or that Blacks have a secret powder that transforms them into Whites, and Roman Catholics can control your thoughts via telepathy, so that you will start thinking about the Pope under their nefarious influence.

That would be bad enough, at least for the mental health of the two women themselves. But in some ways it’s actually worse if Riley and Oberman aren’t deluded, but are consciously and deliberately deceiving people by opportunistically blaming the left for instances of anti-Semitism and the abuse they receive.

Because that would mean that they are enabling the far right.

Despite the claims of the media, the actually incidence of anti-Semitism in the Labour party is vanishingly low. It’s much higher in right and in the far right. But there hasn’t nearly been so much attention on that because of the determination of the media and the political establishment to destroy Corbyn any chance they can get. Riley and Oberman have been an enthusiastic part of this campaign.

But ignoring it only allows this right-wing anti-Semitism to grow. The blogger Jacobsfriends showed how much it was prevalent, along with other forms of racism and islamophobia, in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s and Boris Johnson’s supporters. But Riley and Oberman have made it very clear they’re not interested in right-wing Jew-hatred. They’re only interested in it when it’s on the left, or they can shift the blame to the left. They are therefore tacitly demanding that people ignore it and don’t worry about its growth.

Even though its more powerful, and far more of a threat to Jews and people of colour.

Which means that despite getting Hopkins banned, Riley and Oberman are definitely not genuine anti-racists and may even be seen as its enablers.

DISCUSS: Brexit Day, Trump Impeachment, Coronavirus

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 01/02/2020 - 5:00am in

This is just an open thread to focus discussion on the breaking news of the day. The last day of the first month of 2020 is shaping up to be pretty busy. Brexit Day Today is the day. Nearly four years after the referendum, the UK might actually be leaving the European Union. The coverage …

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