David Cameron

Lobster on How the Beeb Became Tory Propaganda Outlet

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/01/2020 - 1:47am in

Robin Ramsay has begun putting up articles on the latest issue of Lobster, no. 79, for summer 2020. In his ‘View from the Bridge’ section he has posted this piece, which was written  posted on Facebook by the former Beeb journalist, Marcus Moore, on how the Tories turned the Beeb into their own pet propaganda mouthpiece.

‘A number of changes made during the last seven years or so, spearheaded by David Cameron, have led to the corporation’s news and politics departments becoming little more than ventriloquists’ dummies. Of particular note are the following:

a) important posts at the BBC being filled by pro-government figures from the private sector (Rona Fairhead, David Clementi, James Harding,Robbie Gibb etc)

b) direct links with the manipulative tabloid press being strengthened by Downing Street giving important positions to dubious characters like Andy Coulson and Craig Oliver

c) the subsequent recruitment of people like Alison Fuller Pedley (of Mentorn Media), who is responsible for choosing who gets to be in the Question Time audience, and Sarah Sands (formerly of the Telegraph, Mail and Evening Standard) who now edits Radio 4’s Today programme

d) all of the above follows Cameron’s appointment, in June 2010, of John Browne (Baron Browne of Madingley) to the post of ‘Lead NonExecutive Director’ for Downing Street, his role being that of ‘recruiting business leaders to reformed departmental boards’ – Browne’s questionable history at BP notwithstanding (remember Deep Horizon!)

e) how all of this quiet, underhand activity has been largely unreported,but has given the current Conservative government immense power within fashionable and influential circles.’

See: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster79/lob79-view-from-the-bridge.pdf

All of which means that the Beeb isn’t remotely an impartial broadcaster, as it purports to be and should be by law. I’ve said that the Beeb makes some excellent programmes. It does, and this season’s Dr. Who has been a case in point. But its news reporting is irredeemable.

As far as I’m concerned, everyone in it should be sacked, and especially Laura Kuenssberg and Nick Robinson.

The Beeb’s Biased Reporting of NHS Privatisation

The Corporation’s General Right-wing Bias

The BBC is infamous for its flagrant right-wing bias. Writers and experts like Barry and Savile Kushner in their Who Needs the Cuts, academics at the media research centres of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff Universities, and ordinary left-wing bloggers like Mike and Zelo Street have pointed out time and again that the corporation massively prefers to have as commenters and guests on its show Conservative MPs and spokespeople for the financial sector on its news and political comment programmes, rather than Labour MPs and activists and trade unionists. The Corporation relentless pushed the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. But it has also promoted the privatisation of the NHS too through its biased reporting.

Biased Towards NHS Privatisation

Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis’ book on the privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS, has a chapter by Oliver Huitson, ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, discussing the biased reporting of the NHS’s privatisation by the media in general. Here, however, I will just confine myself to describing the Corporation’s role. The Beeb was frequently silent and did not report vital pieces of information about successive privatisations, such as the involvement of private healthcare companies in demanding them and conflicts of interest. On occasion, this bias was actually worse than right-wing rags like the Daily Mail. Although these ardently supported the NHS’ privatisation, they frequently reported these cases while the Beeb did not. When the moves towards privatisation were reported, they were often given a positive spin. For example, the establishment of the Community Care Groups, groups of doctors who are supposed to commission medical services from the private sector as well as from within the NHS, and which are legally allowed to raise money from the private sector, were positively described by the Corporation as ‘giving doctors more control’.

Lack of Coverage of Private Healthcare Companies Role in Privatisation

David Cameron and Andrew Lansley did not include Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill in the Tories’ 2010 manifesto, because they didn’t believe they’d win the election if they did. But in all the two years of debate about the bill, the Beeb only twice reported doubts about the bill’s democratic mandate. (p.152). In October 2010, Mark Britnell was invited to join Cameron’s ‘kitchen cabinet’. Britnell had worked with the Labour government and was a former head of commissioning for the NHS. But he was also former head of health for the accountancy firm, KPMG, which profits greatly from government privatisation and outsourcing. He declared that the NHS would be shown ‘no mercy’ and would become a ‘state insurance provider, not a state deliverer’. But the BBC decided not to report all this until four days after others had broken the story. And when they did, it was only to explain a comment by Nick Clegg about how people are confused when they hear politicians stating how much they love the NHS while at the same time demanding its privatisation. (pp.153-4).

On 21 November 2011 Channel 4 News reported that they had obtained a document which showed clearly that GP commissioning was intended to create a market for private corporations to come in and take over NHS services. But This was only reported by the Groaniad and the Torygraph. The rest of the media, including the Beeb, ignored it. (pp. 156-7).

Lansley was also revealed to have received donations from Andrew Nash, chairman of Care UK, another private healthcare firm hoping to profit from NHS privatisation. But this also was not reported by the Corporation. (pp. 157-8).

In January 2011 the Mirror reported that the Tories had been given over £750,000 from donors with major connections to private healthcare  interests since David Cameron had become their chief in 2005. But this was also not mentioned by the Beeb. (pp. 158).

The Mirror also found that 40 members of the House of Lords had interests in NHS privatisation, while the Social Investigations blog suggested that it might be as high as 142. The BBC, along with several papers, did not mention this. (pp. 158-9).

Sonia Poulton, a writer for the Heil, stated on her blog that 31 Lords and 18 MPs have very lucrative interests in the health industry. But this was also ignored by the Beeb, along with the rest of the media with the exception of the Guardian. (p. 159).

The Tory MP, Nick de Bois, was a fervent support of the Tories’ NHS privatisation. He is a majority shareholder in Rapier Design Group, which purchased Hampton Medical Conferences, a number of whose clients were ‘partners’ in the National Association of Primary Care, another group lobbying the Tories for NHS privatisation. This was also not reported by the Beeb. (pp. 159-60).

The Beeb also chose not to report how Lord Carter of Coles, the chair of the Co-operation and Competition Panel charged with ensuring fair access to the NHS for private healthcare companies, was also receiving £799,000 per year as chairman of McKesson Information Solutions, part of the massive American McKesson healthcare company. (p. 160).

There were other links between politicos, think tanks, lobby groups and private healthcare companies. The health regulator, Monitor, is dominated by staff from McKinsey and KPMG. But this also isn’t mentioned by the press. (pp. 160-1).

Beeb Falsely Presents Pro-Privatisation Think Tanks as ‘Independent‘

The BBC, along with much of the rest of the media, have also been responsible for misrepresenting spokespeople for pro-privatisation lobby groups as disinterested experts, and the organisations for which they speak as just independent think tanks. This was how the Beeb described 2020health.org, whose chief executive, Julia Manning, was twice invited onto the air to discuss the NHS, and an entire article was given over to one of her wretched organisation’s reports. However, SpinWatch reported that its chairman, former Tory minister Tom Sackville, was also CEO of the International Federation of Health Plans, representing of 100 private health insurance companies. Its advisory council includes representatives of AstraZeneca, NM Rothschild, the National Pharmaceutical Association, Nuffield private hospital group, and the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services. (p. 162).

Another lobby group whose deputy director, Nick Seddon, and other employees were invited onto the Beeb to discuss the proposals was Reform. Seddon was head of communications at Circle, the first private healthcare company to take over an NHS hospital. Seddon’s replacement at Circle was Christina Lineen, a former aide to Andrew Lansley. None of this was reported by the Beeb. Their corporate partners included companies like Citigroup, KPMG, GlaxoSmithKline and Serco. Huitson states ‘Through Seddon’s and other Reform Staffs’ appearances, the BBC may have facilitated private sector lobbying on a publicly funded platform without making relevant interests known’. (163).

Beeb Did Not Cover Protests and Opposition to Bill

Pages 164-5 also discusses the Beeb’s refusal, with few exceptions, to interview critics of Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill, the rightwing bias of panels discussing it and how the Beeb did not cover protests against it or its discussion in parliament. Huitson writes

At the BBC opportunities were frequently missed to provide expert opposition to the bill on a consistent basis. the RCGP’s Clare Gerada was largely the exception to this rule. Many of the most well-known and authoritative critics of the bill – the likes of professors Allyson Pollock or Colin Leys, doctors Jacky Davis and Wendy Savage from Keep Our NHS Public – never appeared on the BBC to discuss the plans. Davis recalls being invited to appear on the BBC a number of times but the item was cancelled on every occasion. ‘Balance’ is supposedly one of the BBC’s primary objectives yet appearing on the Today programme of 1 February 2012 to discuss the bill, for instance, were Shirley Williams (who voted in favour of the bill, however reluctantly), Nick Seddon of ‘independent’ Reform (pro-Bill), Steve Field (pro-Bill) and Chris Ham (pro-Bill). It’s difficult to see how that is not a breach of BBC guidelines and a disservice to the public. One of the fundamental duties of an open media is to ensure that coverage is not skewed towards those with the deepest pockets. And on that issue the media often performed poorly.

Further criticism of the BBC stems from its curious lack of NHS coverage during the climactic final month before the bill was passed in the House of Lords on 19 March. One such complaint came from blogger and Oxford Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology Dorothy Bishop, who wrote to the BBC to ask why it had failed to cover a number of NHS stories in March, including an anti-bill petition that had been brought to the House by Lord Owen, carrying 486,000 signatures of support. In reply, the BBC confirmed that the bill had been mentioned on the Today programme in March prior to the bill’s passing, though just once. Bishop replied:’So, if I have understood this right, during March, the Today programme covered the story once, in an early two-minute slot, before the bill was passed. Other items that morning included four minutes on a French theme park based on Napoleon, six minutes on international bagpipe day and eight minutes on Jubilee celebrations.’

Other BBC omissions include Andrew Lansley being heckled by angry medical staff at a hospital in Hampstead, as reported by both the Mail and Sky News. On 17 March a peaceful anti-bill march took place in central London. Those out protesting for their national health service found themselves kettled by riot police despite being one of the most harmless-looking crowds you’re ever likely to see. The protest and the shameful police response were completely ignored by the media, except for a brief mention on a Guardian blog. On social media numerous examples have been reported of protests and actions opposing the bill that were entirely absent from national coverage.

Then, on 19 March, the day of the final vote on the bill, the BBC ran not a single article on the event, despite this being one of the most bitterly opposed pieces of legislation in recent history – it was as if the vote was not taking place. The next day, with the bill passed, they ran a full seven articles on the story. Three days after the bill passed, Radio 4 broadcast The Report: ‘Simon Cox asks: why is NHS reform mired in controversy?’ Why this was not broadcast before the Lords’ vote is a mystery. 

When the Bill was passed, the bill scrolling across the BBC News’ screen ran ‘Bill which gives power to GPs passes’. (166). Huitson remarks that when the Beeb and the other news networks reported that the Bill gave power to GPs and allowed a greater role for the private sector, it was little more than regurgitating government press releases. (p. 168).

Beeb Bias Problem Due to Corporation’s Importance and Domination of Broadcast News

Huitson also comments on the specific failure of the Beeb to provide adequate coverage of NHS privatisation in its role as one of the great British public institutions, the dominant role it has in British news reporting. On pages 169-70 he writes

Campaigners may not expect more from the Sun but they certainly do from the BBC, given its status as an impartial public service broadcaster whose news gathering is supported directly by licence fee payers. The BBC accounts for 70 per cent of news consumption on television. Further, the BBC accounts for 40 per cent of online news read by the public, three times that of its closes competitor, the Mail. Quite simply, the BBC dominates UK news. The weight given to the BBC here is not purely down to its dominance, however, but also because, along with the NHS, the BBC remains one of our great public institutions, an entity that is supposedly above commercial pressures. Many of the stories ignored by the BBC were covered by the for-profit, right-wing press, as well as the Guardian and Channel 4, so the concern is not that the organisation failed to ‘campaign’ for the NHS, but that it failed to report facts that other outlets found newsworthy.

The BBC’#s archive of TV and radio coverage is neither available for the public to research nor technically practical to research, but there are a number of reasons for confidence that their online content is highly indicative of their broader output. First, BBC online is a fully integrated part of the main newsroom rather than a separate operation. Consequently, TV and radio coverage that can be examined is largely indistinguishable from the related online content, as demonstrated in the examples given above. During the debate of Lansley’s bill, the BBC TV and radio were both subject to multiple complaints, the figures for which the BBC has declined to release.

Beeb’s Reporting of NHS Privatisation as Biased as Coverage of Miners’ Strike

He also compares the Beeb’s coverage of the bill, along with that of the rest of the media, to its similarly biased reporting of the miners’ strike.

The overall media coverage of the health bill brings to mind a quote from BBC radio correspondent Nicholas Jones, on the BBC’s coverage of the miners’ strike: ‘stories that gave prominence to the position of the National Union of Miners could simply be omitted, shortened or submerged into another report.’ (pp. 172-3).

Conclusion

The Beeb does produce some excellent programmes. I really enjoyed last night’s Dr. Who, for example. But the right-wing bias of its news reporting is now so extreme that in many cases it is fair to say that it is now a propaganda outlet for the Tory party and big business. It’s utterly indefensible, and in my view it will only be reformed if and when the newsroom and its managers are sacked in its entirety. In the meantime, Boris and the rest of the Tories are clamouring for its privatisation. Godfrey Bloom, one of the more prominent Kippers, has also put up a post or two in the past couple of days demanding precisely that.

If the Beeb was genuinely impartial, it would have defenders on the Left. But it is rapidly losing them thanks to its bias. And to the Tories, that’s also going to be a plus.

Thanks to the Beeb’s own Tory bias, it’s going to find it very hard to combat their privatisation.

And in the meantime they will have helped destroy the most valued of British institutions, the NHS, and free, universal healthcare to Britain’s citizens.

Hunger and Starvation in Tory Britain

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/01/2020 - 9:23pm in

The Tory governments that came in after David Cameron’s victory in the 2010 election have caused massive poverty up and down Britain. Thanks to austerity, welfare benefits have been cut, wages kept low and workers placed on exploitative contracts, like zero hours contracts, which deny them sick pay, paid holidays and other rights. An ever increasing number of people are unable to pay for food, with the disabled and unemployed forced to use food banks to keep body and soul together after being found fit for work, sanctioned, or simply because they have to wait weeks before their first benefits payment. Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity gives some statistics on rising ‘food poverty’, and they’re horrifying.

In the chapter ‘Hunger and Food Poverty’, Rebecca O’Connell and Laura Hamilton state

Emergency food provision has been used as an indicator of the scale of food poverty in the UK. As the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty noted in 2015, the Trussell Trust, the largest emergency food provider, ‘has seen the number of people referred for emergency food rise by 38 per cent in the last year’. Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty calculate that 20,247,042 meals were given to ‘people in food poverty’ in 2013/14.’ While these are shocking statistics, they are likely to underestimate the numbers in food poverty in Britain; not all people who are hungry go to food banks and not all food banks collect data in a systematic way. The Poverty and Social Exclusion UK (PSE UK) 2012 study found that the proportion of households unable to afford two adult meals a day in 2012 stood 3 per cent, ‘back to levels found thirty years earlier having to dropped to negligible levels in the intervening period.’ In addition, well over half a million children live in families who cannot afford to fee them properly, that is, provide at least one of the following three meals a day; fresh fruit and vegetables every day; or meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent at least once a day. If many parents were not cutting back on their own food intake to protect their children, the number would be much higher… (pp.94-5).

Analysis by the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs shows that falling incomes and rising living costs mean that food is now over 20 per cent less affordable for the poorest 10 per cent of people in the UK compared to 2003. In 2012, when the proportion of the household budget spent on food peaked in the UK, those in the lowest income decile spent 22 per cent more on food than in 2007 and purchased 5.7 per cent less, buying significantly fewer portions of fruit and vegetables than previously. Further, the number of UK adults who have reported being unable to afford meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every other day (a measure of adequate protein in the diet) has increased between 2004 and 2012, that is, in the context of economic austerity and rising food prices. The PSE UK study noted above found that the proportion of adults going without meat or equivalent every second day  because they could not afford it rose from 2 per cent in 1999 to 5 per cent in 2012. In addition, 3 per cent of children went without adequate protein and the same proportion did not eat fresh fruit or vegetables every day because their families could not afford it. Reduced affordability of food therefore generally leads to a reduction in nutrient quality of food consumed and, in a growing number of cases, to hunger and reliance on emergency food provision. (pp.95-6).

This is a crisis of enormous proportions, and it is going to get worse. Much worse. Boris will continue and expand the policies forcing people into such desperate poverty. But yesterday the wretched Tory press were telling the world that he would bring in a golden age of prosperity. Which he will, for the profiteers at the top of the corporate ladder and the hedge fund managers that contribute so handsomely to Tory coffers.

But to pay for that, the rest of the country will be forced into grinding poverty. While the newspapers lie to them that there’s not alternative and they’re richer than ever before.

Violence and the Conservative Campaign of Hate against the Disabled

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 01/01/2020 - 5:44am in

Mike and the other disability bloggers and campaigners have posted any number of articles about the massive increase in violence towards disabled people. This has its origins in the Conservatives’ vilification of them as welfare cheats or spongers, along with other underprivileged and marginalised groups like asylum seekers, the unemployed and the poor. This connection and the massive rise in hate crimes and violence against both immigrants and the disabled is described by Jon Burnett in his chapter, ‘Austerity and the Production of Hate’ in Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity.  While the attacks on immigrants and the disabled are separate issues and are managed separately, they are linked by an underlying ideology. Burnett writes

Such campaigns are organised separately. But they feed off and into each other. And they are replicated day after day to the point where they have become a routine aspect of popular culture. Both are voyeuristically treated in television programmes like Benefits Street and Immigration Street. Those programmes stem from the same ideological enterprise: to reduce their subjects to objects of ridicule and contempt, turning human struggles into a sneering form of entertainment. (p. 217)

He notes that David Cameron, dubbed by Paxo ‘the worst Prime Minister since Lord North’, explicitly linked migration with the British welfare system. He said that we need immigrants to do work that the welfare system encouraged British people not to do, and that therefore the welfare system needed to be reformed.

Migrants are filling gaps in the labour market left wide open by a welfare system that for years has paid British people not to work. That’s where the blame lies – at the door of our woeful welfare system, and the last government who comprehensively failed to reform it… So immigration and welfare reform are two sides of the same coin. Put simply, we will never control immigration properly unless we tackle welfare dependency. (p. 219).

Burnett states that five years later, this is now Tory orthodoxy. It, and the Tory policies based on it, have reduced immigrants to units of labour denied social rights, while welfare reforms are also reducing British workers into an expendable workforce. Immigration is a separate issue I shall tackle elsewhere. In this piece I’ll just talk about how the Tories’ rhetoric of hate against the disabled has resulted in an horrific increase in violence against them. Burnett writes of this

And when resentment to welfare and free movement is legitimised, hate becomes normalised. As campaign groups, support centres and self-organised networks have repeatedly shown, certain forms of violence have intensified under the rubric of austerity. But they are rarely given official recognition. In a survey published by the Disability Hate Crimes Network in 2015, ‘scrounger rhetoric’ was highlighted in the testimonies of around one in six of 61 disabled people who described themselves being verbally or physically assaulted in disability hate crimes. Six charities in 2012 stated that a narrative of ‘benefit scrounging’ or ‘faking’ was fuelling hostility. Discussing an increase in disability hate crimes coming before the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) between 2008/9 and 2013/14, one of the co-founders of the activist group Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) remarked that the figures were ‘no doubt fuelled by the constant media-fuelled campaign against benefit claimants.’ There were around 62,000 disability-related hate crimes each year in 2012/13 and 2013/14, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). In 2014/15 the last year for which figures are available, 2508 offences were recorded by the police – and increase of 15 per cent from two years earlier. (pp. 219-20).

There can be absolutely no doubt about it. The Tories are generating a violent hatred against immigrants and the disabled. And Mike’s also right that they aren’t going to make conditions any better. Because they enjoy causing suffering and misery to the poor and disabled.

 

Outrage as Iain Duncan Smith Given Knighthood

This is a really sick joke, and shows the absolute contempt the Tories have for the poor, the unemployed and the disabled. Iain Duncan Smith, the architect of the Tories welfare reforms, has been given a knighthood in the New Year’s honours. Smith is the pompous nonentity who was briefly the leader of the Tory party at the beginning of this century before David Cameron took over. It was a period of failure, in which the party utterly failed to challenge Blair’s Labour Party. He was, however, a close ally of his successor, and has also served Boris. He tried to stand up for Johnson when our farcical Prime Minister was denied the lectern in Luxembourg, claiming that the Luxembourgers should be grateful to us because we’d liberated them during the War. But we hadn’t. The Americans had. And under Tweezer he’d also peddled the line that there would be no legal divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

But what Smith is most notorious for is mass murder. As head of the Department of Work and Pensions, he was responsible for the welfare reforms, including the Work Capability Assessments and the system of benefit sanctions, that have seen hundreds of thousands denied the welfare payments they need and deserve. He is also responsible for Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments. UC is supposed to combine all the welfare payment into a single system. It has proven catastrophically flawed, with people waiting weeks or months for their payments, which have been significantly lower than the previous system. Mike in his article about it quotes statistics that some of those on UC are £1,000 a year worse off. But this jumped-up, odious little man boasted that Universal Credit would be as significant in lifting people out of poverty as the ending of slavery in the British Empire in 1837.

The result of IDS’ reforms is that at least 130,000 people have died. The true figures may well be higher, as the DWP has been extremely reluctant to release the true figures, as Mike and other disability campaigners have found. His attempts to get the Department to release them under the Freedom of Information Act were refused, then stonewalled. Finally Smith’s Department released some figures, but interpreted his requested so that they weren’t quite the figures Mike had requested.

As well as the financial hardship there is the feelings of despair and humiliation that his reforms have also inflicted on the poor. Doctors and mental health professionals have reported a rise in depression and suicide. The Tories, naturally, have repeatedly denied that their policies have any connection to people taking their own lives, even when the person left a note explicitly stating that this was why they were.

Some sense of the despair IDS’ wretched reforms has produced in young people is given by the quotes from them in Emma Bond and Simon Hallworth’s chapter, ‘The Degradation and Humiliation of Young People’ in Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity. ‘Julie’ said

The way that it feels walking into the JobCentre is that you are there to do what you are told to do and that’s it and then you leave. They are not there to actually help you it is just like, you have to do this and if you don’t do this or you won’t get no money. (p. 79).

And ‘Bridget’ described how she felt so low at one point she contemplated suicide.

I am ashamed to admit it but I did feel suicidal at one point. I felt so down after I was made redundant that I felt that there was no point. I had worked really hard at school and I got good grades but for what? I was happy when I got my job, it wasn’t that well paid but it had prospects and a career path – or so the recruitment agency told me – I had my flat and that and I thought I was OK. But when it [the redundancy] happened I felt like I had been hit by a brick wall. I got really down especially when I went to the JobCentre and they would not help me. I felt so depressed. I could not afford my rent. I lost my flat and the few things I had saved up for. I did not know where to turn. I took drugs for the first time in my life – I felt so wretched. I wanted to die. I was too ashamed to tell my parents that I had lost my job. (p. 80).

But IDS, as Zelo Street reminds us, is the man who laughed at a woman talking about her poverty in parliament. He’s also blubbed on television, describing how he met a young woman, who didn’t believe she’d ever have a job. ‘She could have been my daughter!’ he wailed. But this is just crocodile tears. He, like the rest of the Tory party, have no love whatsoever for their victims as the guffaws with Dodgy Dave Cameron in Parliament showed.

Mike in his piece about the wretched man’s ennoblement has put up a large number of Tweets by ordinary people expressing their outrage. One woman, Samanthab, states how rotten the honours system is when it rewards not just IDS, but other creeps and lowlifes, like the sex abusers Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and Rolf Harris.

The outrage is so great that one NHS psychiatrist, Dr Mona Kamal Ahmad, has launched an online petition at Change.Org calling for the scumbag’s knighthood to be withdrawn. She describes him as responsible for some of the cruellest welfare reforms this country has ever seen and notes that Britain is the first country the United Nations has investigated for human rights abuses against the disabled. She states clearly that the suffering and impoverishment in Britain today is a direct result of Smith’s welfare reforms.

30,000 people, including myself, have already signed it. If you want to too, go to Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/28/will-you-sign-nhs-doctors-petition-to-stop-iain-duncan-smith-receiving-knighthood/ and follow the links.

See also: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/27/chorus-of-derision-greets-announcement-that-iain-duncan-smith-is-to-be-knighted/

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/12/arise-sir-duncan-cough.html

English History through the Broadside Ballad

A Ballad History of England: From 1588 to the Present Day, by Roy Palmer (London: BT Batsford 1979).

From the 16th century to the 20th, the broadside ballad was part of the popular music of British working people. They were written on important topics of the day, and printed and published for ordinary people. They would be sung by the ballad sellers themselves while hawking their wares. This book is a collection of popular ballads, assembled and with introductory notes by the folklorist Roy Palmer. It begins with the song ‘A Ioyful New Ballad’ from 1588 about the Armada, and ends with ‘The Men Who Make The Steel’ from 1973 about the steelworkers’ strike. Unlike the earlier songs, it was issued as a record with three other songs in 1975. The ballads’ texts are accompanied by sheet music of the tunes to which they were sung. Quite often the tunes used were well-known existing melodies, so the audience were already familiar with the music, though not the new words which had been fitted to them.

The ballads cover such important events in English and wider British history as a Lincolnshire witch trial; the draining of the fens; the Diggers, a Communist sect in the British Civil War; Oak Apple Day, celebrating the narrow escape of Charles II from the Parliamentarians in 1660; the defeat of the Monmouth Rebellion; the execution of Jacobite rebels in 1715; the South Sea Bubble; Dick Turpin, the highwayman; the Scots defeat at Culloden; emigration to Nova Scotia in Canada; Wolfe’s capture of Quebec; the enclosures; the Birmingham and Worcester Canal; the 18th century radical and advocate for democracy, Tom Paine; the mechanisation of the silk industry; the establishment of income tax; the death of Nelson; the introduction of the treadmill in prison; the Peterloo Massacre and bitter polemical attacks against Lord Castlereagh; Peel’s establishment of the police; body snatching; the 1834 New Poor Law, which introduced the workhouse system; poaching; the 1839 Chartist meeting at Newport; Queen Victoria’s marriage to Albert; Richard Oastler and the factory acts; the repeal of the Corn Laws; Bloomers; the construction of the Oxford railway; Charles Dickens‘ visit to Coketown; the Liverpool Master Builders’ strike of 1866; agitating for the National Agricultural Union of farmworkers; the introduction of the Plimsoll line on ships; an explosion at Trimdon Grange colliery in County Durham; a 19th century socialist song by John Bruce Glasier, a member of the William Morris’ Socialist League and then the ILP; the Suffragettes; soldiers’ songs from the Boer War and the First World War; unemployed ex-servicemen after the War; the defeat of the General Strike; the Blitz; Ban the Bomb from 1958; and the Great Train Robbery. 

It also includes many other songs from servicemen down the centuries commemorating the deaths of great heroes and victories; and by soldiers, sailors and working people on land protesting against working conditions, tax, and economic recessions and exorbitant speculation on the stock markets. Some are just on the changes to roads, as well as local disasters.

This is a kind of social history, a history of England from below, apart from the conventional point of view of the upper or upper middle class historians, and shows how these events were viewed by tradesmen and working people. Not all the songs by any means are from a radical or socialist viewpoint. The ballad about Tom Paine is written against him, though he was a popular hero and there were also tunes, like the ‘Rights of Man’ named after his most famous book, celebrating him. But nevertheless, these songs show history as it was seen by England’s ordinary people, the people who fought in the navy and army, and toiled in the fields and workshops. These songs are a balance to the kind of history Michael Gove wished to bring in a few years ago when he railed against children being taught the ‘Blackadder’ view of the First World War. He’d like people to be taught a suitably Tory version of history, a kind of ‘merrie England’ in which Britain is always great and the British people content with their lot under the benign rule of people like David Cameron, Tweezer and Boris. The ballads collected here offer a different, complementary view.

Jarvis Cocker Launches Charity Song with Explicit Title about Tory Victory

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/12/2019 - 4:34am in

Remember Jarvis Cocker? He was the lead singer of the Britpop band Pulp, who gave us the song Common People commenting on the persisting class division in Blair’s Britain. He also caused mass outrage and hilarity when he dived onto the stage during Michael Jackson’s performance at one of the annual music awards, ran around the stage being pursued by the bouncers and then mooned the world live on TV. He then issued an apology stating that he did not mean any disrespect to the late Jacko.

Now, as Mike reports on his blog, Cocker has released a charity single intended to create an atmosphere of ‘inclusivity, representation, love, acceptance and kindness’. All the sentiments you want at Christmas. Just as ‘Common People’ was a bitter comment on the upper classes’ attitude to us, the lower orders, so this song’s a bitter protest against the Tory election victory. It’s titled ‘C*nts Are Still Running the World’. It attacks the idea that we love in a meritocracy when such people are rewarded with their position at the top of society, how they view working people as obsolete and are outsourcing their jobs abroad, the way they claim to tolerate us, while making sure we don’t live anywhere near them, and laissez-faire economics. A Facebook group has been launched to try to get it to number one.

To see the video for it, and links to the Facebook group and the site for the single’s purchase, go to Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/20/buy-the-latest-christmas-charity-song-with-a-naughty-title-and-a-serious-message-extreme-language/

I realise that many people will object to the obscenity Cocker uses to describe the ruling orders, and I know women, who feel that it’s misogynistic, and sympathise. But Cocker isn’t the first person to use it to describe the ruling elite. Way back in 2011 the conspiracy magazine Lobster published an article by William Clarke, ‘The C*ntocracy’, which used it to describe the British class system of government and its members. This began

Why not call the present political system a ‘c*ntocracy’? This is not, as it might seem, just a reaction to the advent of someone as painfully fraudulent as Nick Clegg. We need a new name for not just what the political class do to us because of greed and stupidity; we need a term that advances the idea of social organisation as something innate in people. It should combine a description of the reality of our place in such a society with an accurate discription of the nature of the society. Cuntocracy describes the reality.

By calling our society a c*ntocracy we return power to the ordinary people; we give the people a voice, a simple way for them to talk back to those who pose as leaders but take
us nowhere. And we offer a meaningful contribution to David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’.

The article can be read here: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster62/lob62-cuntocracy.pdf#search=%22cuntocracy%22. Be warned, the offensive term is printed in full.

Jarvis Cocker shows that he’s still rocking, and fighting against the Tories!

Book Review: Cameron: The Politics of Modernisation and Manipulation by Timothy Heppell

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/12/2019 - 11:22pm in

In Cameron: The Politics of Modernisation and ManipulationTimothy Heppell offers a new analysis of David Cameron’s leadership of the Conservative party (2005-16) and of the UK, organised around the key themes of modernisation and manipulation. In his admirably objective study, drawing on compendious reading of relevant sources, Heppell demonstrates that while Cameron’s attempts to ‘de-toxify’ his party are important to his legacy, it is equally profitable to regard him as a manipulator of the broader political landscape, writes Mark Garnett

Cameron: The Politics of Modernisation and Manipulation. Timothy Heppell. Manchester University Press, 2019.

Find this book: amazon-logo

On the eve of the 2019 general election, almost the only certainty was that the outcome of the contest was unlikely to generate a revival of David Cameron’s reputation. Even the timing of the poll, which ensured that 2019’s ‘season of goodwill’ was arguably the least amicable in Britain’s post-war history, could be attributed to Cameron, since his Fixed-Term Parliaments Act denied Boris Johnson the chance of choosing an election date which would be less vexatious for Christmas shoppers.

Thus few Conservative activists are likely to include Timothy Heppell’s new study of Cameron’s leadership of his party and his country in their letters to Santa. However, the timing of its publication – hard on the heels of the appearance of Cameron’s memoir, For the Record – should have encouraged serious students of contemporary British politics to send a request for both books to Lapland. It would be a rare treat in any season to read and compare an exercise in self-justification with the careful scholarly analysis that Heppell provides.

Heppell organises his account of Cameron’s leadership (2005-16) around two main themes – ‘modernisation’ and ‘manipulation’. As the author points out, Conservative ‘modernisation’ under Cameron has been analysed by several scholars. But while Cameron’s attempt to ‘de-toxify’ his party is important, it is at least equally profitable to regard him as a manipulator of the broader political landscape – both before and after he became prime minister.

This is a very useful corrective to the previous literature on Cameron. Indeed, one might even wish that Heppell had pushed it further. From this perspective, it could appear that Cameron, and his key ally George Osborne, were preoccupied with the ‘modernisation’ of their party between the former’s rise to the Conservative leadership in 2005 and Gordon Brown’s fatal hesitation over the wisdom of calling a ‘snap’ election in the early Autumn of 2007. From that point until the election actually took place (May 2010), Cameron and Osborne sensed (rightly) that it would be easier to pursue a campaign of ‘delegitimisation’ against Labour than to persevere with the task of transforming their own party.

The sudden switch from a medium-term project of ‘detoxification’ to immediate electoral battle-readiness necessitated headline-grabbing genuflections towards right-wing voters – most notoriously, Osborne’s promise of Inheritance Tax ‘reforms’ at the 2007 Conservative Party conference – which ran the risk of undoing some of the modernising work. Yet it was a risk worth taking, since Osborne and Cameron had sought modernisation not for its own sake, but as the inescapable prelude to election victory. Now, thanks to Brown’s bungling, it suddenly looked as if their ultimate goal could be secured even if the Conservatives were less than fully refurbished. This is not to say that modernisation was abandoned completely, but rather that it became a secondary consideration and never regained Cameron’s full attention even after the election scare passed away.

Image Credit: David Cameron, speaking at the opening of the GAVI Alliance immunisations pledging conference, 13 June 2011 (Ben Fisher/GAVI Alliance, courtesy of DFID CC BY 2.0)

On this view, the ill-fated Brown shares responsibility with Cameron for our current discontents. If Brown had decided to call a general election for October 2007 to capitalise on his honeymoon period (and without undertaking his much-criticised visit to British troops in Iraq), it is likely that Labour would have won, but with a reduced majority, which would have encouraged Conservatives to think that Cameron should be given another chance. This, after all, would have been a fourth successive defeat for the Conservatives – the same number of reverses which had made even sincere socialists succumb to Tony Blair in 1994, such was their desire to regain electoral bragging rights. Cameron would have drawn the (correct) lesson that his party could not be confident of victory unless he gave an additional push to modernisation – i.e. he would have been forced to accept that tokenistic gestures involving huskies and ‘hoodies’ were not enough to make Conservatives seem electable. Given their innate liking for tactical gambits, Cameron and Osborne would still have played blame games over public spending and MPs’ expenses; but they would have done so in the knowledge that Brown, now equipped with a UK-wide ‘mandate’ of sorts, could deny them a chance to unseat him until as late as 2012, so that ‘modernisation’ had the space to proceed in tandem with ‘manipulation’.

Dealing with realities rather than counter-factuals, Heppell shows that Cameron’s manipulation of the broader political debate had three objectives: making Labour seem culpable for the financial crisis which erupted almost as soon as Brown had decided to ‘bottle’ the snap election; staving off the challenge from the centre-left by endorsing as many Liberal Democrat policies as his party would allow him to get away with; and heading UKIP off at the pass by parading Eurosceptic credentials which he had borrowed for the purposes of winning his party’s leadership in 2005.

For Cameron, after the 2010 election it seemed that ‘manipulation’ had succeeded in a way which could make the incomplete project of Conservative ‘modernisation’ seem almost irrelevant. The Liberal Democrats had been increasingly sympathetic towards ‘Conservative’ economic principles at least since the publication of The Orange Book in 2004. Cameron’s ‘modernisation’ was essentially an attempt to move the Conservatives closer to the Liberal Democrat agenda on social issues. This ideological ‘convergence’ remained a work in progress in 2010, since many Conservative MPs and grassroots members retained the outlook which had earned them the reputation of ‘the nasty party’.

But Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg and his senior colleagues needed no convincing that Cameron and Osborne, at least, shared their social liberalism. By enlisting the Liberal Democrats into his coalition, Cameron had thus augmented the voting strength of the Conservative ‘modernisers’ in the House of Commons to the tune of 62 MPs. One might even say that, if all governments are essentially ‘coalitions’, the 2010-15 coalition was less like a coalition than any government since the days of Macmillan and Home. For Cameron, the parliamentary arithmetic of the 2010 general election apparently had produced a miraculous congruence between the twin aims of ‘modernisation’ and ‘manipulation’: hence, perhaps, the unmistakable aura of liberation which he exuded when celebrating the agreement with Clegg in the Downing Street garden.

In a sense, however, Cameron’s ‘manipulation’ strategy turned out to be his undoing. Although he had reached an ideological concordat with the Liberal Democrats, his commitment to political principle was never strong enough to overcome his tribal allegiance to his own party. Over issues like tuition fees and constitutional reform, he was either happy to let his coalition partners incur odium or to exploit their weaknesses in order to thwart their reformist proposals. In the 2015 general election the Conservatives duly seized 27 seats from the Liberal Democrats. If the party had exercised more mercy towards its coalition partner, it is possible that the Cameron-Clegg show could have been kept on the road, resulting (among other things) in a compromise around the 2010 Conservative policy of calling a referendum on any future EU treaty of constitutional significance, or perhaps a deal which gave Cameron time to call an ‘in-out’ referendum when he could feel more confident of securing the positive vote that he desired.

As it was, while Cameron’s ‘manipulation’ proved all too successful on his ‘left’ flank – saddling Labour with the blame for ‘austerity’ and ensuring that the Liberal Democrats looked like Conservative stooges – he never landed an effective blow against the hard right, within and outside his own party. Significantly, in 2006 when he thought that he was just beginning the arduous process of taking on the right, Cameron expressed the hope that Conservatives would ‘stop banging on about Europe’, but also took the risk of characterising UKIP members as mostly ‘fruitcakes’, ‘loonies’ and ‘closet racists’.  Since these verbal volleys were just the opening shots of a campaign which he did not sustain, they left Cameron’s targets insulted and seriously annoyed, but uninjured.

Image Credit: Cropped image of Boris Johnson and David Cameron speaking at the ‘Special Address’ section of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012 (World Economic Forum CC BY NC SA 2.0)

It was not surprising, then, that having backed away from his looming confrontation with the right over Europe after 2006, Cameron was forced in January 2013 to promise an in-out referendum on EU membership. Significantly, the speech which announced this policy shift was delivered on the day before the first parliamentary reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. In due course, this legislation would expose the extent of Cameron’s failure to modernise his party – or, according to taste, it demonstrated that the odds against a truly successful modernisation had been so steep that the whole exercise could never have been more than a public relations stunt. 136 Tory MPs voted against the second reading in February 2013, providing opportunists – even those whom he counted as close friends – to base their calculations of succeeding Cameron on the existence of an unreconcilable element within the party which would be only too glad to combine their distaste for social liberalism and fanatical loathing of the EU into an incendiary anti-modernising agenda. Thus the arch-manipulator found himself comprehensively out-manipulated by individuals who had no respect even for the (very) elastic boundaries of political respectability which were recognised by Cameron and Osborne.

Perhaps the best defence for Cameron, then, is that he was over-confident of his ability to build a ‘post-Thatcherite’ movement on the centre-right to match and mirror Blair’s New Labour, even after he had jettisoned long-term strategy in favour of tactical manoeuvres. Having taken control of his party, Blair destroyed his political career through maladroit decisions; Cameron made his share of mistakes (even, in the case of Libya, one which he could and should have avoided if he had clearly seen where his political role model had gone wrong), but given the incurable truculence of his party he could never have been more than a plausible frontman for the same old act. Amidst the unsightly wreckage there are some landmark reforms which could not have been achieved without him. Even so, a more resolute and principled politician than Cameron could surely have made a more concerted effort to make his party into a ‘hostile environment’ for extremists on a variety of issues, and to follow up on his attacks on UKIP with a series of thoughtful speeches on the pros and cons of EU membership, rather than saving up that material for the fateful Bloomberg speech of January 2013 which marked his capitulation to the demand of alleged ‘fruitcakes’ and ‘loonies’ for an in-out referendum.

Even if these reflections on Cameron’s political career are not set out explicitly in Heppell’s study, they seem to be implied. Heppell maintains an admirable tone of objectivity in a survey which demonstrates compendious reading of relevant sources, including the work of many authors who have written since Cameron’s ignominious departure from office. Ironically, Cameron’s successor, Theresa May – who had given her fellow Conservatives the bad news that they were regarded as ‘nasty’ – seemed to think that the process of ‘modernisation’ had succeeded already, and based her progressive and disastrous 2017 manifesto on that assumption. Johnson, by contrast, gives the impression of thinking that ‘modernisation’ will follow inexorably in the wake of successful ‘manipulation’ – Cameron’s original schedule in reverse. If Johnson really does end up as the leader of a Conservative Party that merits the ‘One Nation’ label, Cameron should be allotted a portion of the credit. However, at best he will be regarded as the inadequate instigator of the modernising process rather than a decisive actor – the ‘heir to Kinnock’, perhaps, not the ‘heir to Blair’. In other respects, even the manner of Cameron’s departure fell short of the standards required of a responsible political leader: his resignation statement was more a vindication of the decision to call the referendum than an analysis of the result, and he did more than anyone else to create the misleading impression that this outcome represented an unequivocal instruction to politicians. Thus, if British voters were ever asked to participate in a referendum on Cameron’s merits as a prime minister, there are good reasons to believe the negative verdict would be much more decisive than 48:52.

Mark Garnett is a Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Lancaster University. He has written numerous books and articles on British Politics, and is currently co-editing The Routledge Handbook of British Politics.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 


Ash Sarkar Urges Us to Get the Tory Cabinet of Millionaires Out of Office

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/12/2019 - 10:26pm in

Very short video by Novara Media’s superb Ash Sarkar urging people to get out, knock on a few doors in marginal constituencies, and vote out the Tory ‘cabinet of millionaires’. Because it is they, who are holding us back.

She’s shown walking down a street, saying ‘Forty years of being told’ and the video shows Cameron, Thatcher and Tweezer saying the Leaderene’s favourite catchphrase – ‘there is no alternative.’ ‘Four years of the pundit class being wrong for a living’. There’s then a clip of Jon Snow saying, ‘We, the media, the pundits, the experts, know nothing.’ This is a followed by footage of a demonstrating crowd. ‘We’re old, we’re young, we’re Black, White, Asian and ‘funny tinged’ – a dig at Angela Smith of the Change.UK group – ‘we’re students, we’re workers, and it takes a cabinet of millionaires to hold us back. Polls move when people do, and today we’ve got the chance to move the only poll that matters. So get yourself down to a marginal, knock on a few doors and take the opportunity to kick the Tories out of government. It’s time to put the people in power’.

Ordinary Brits React to Boris Johnson’s Racism, Misogyny and Bigotry

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/12/2019 - 8:35am in

Mike posted this video from Jeremy Corbyn on Sunday. It’s of an Asian chap in a town’s centre reading out some of the vile racist remarks our unfunny walking farce of a Prime Minister has made to ordinary people on the street and asking them for their comments in turn. In order to get their reactions, he doesn’t tell them who made them. The people asked are both White and black. And the remarks they’re asked about are some of Johnson’s most notorious:

‘The children of single mothers are ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate’.

‘All the young people I know have an almost Nigerian interest in making money’.

‘Tribal warriors in the Congo will all break out in watermelon smiles’.

‘You must accept that the problem is Islam, Islam is the problem’.

‘Late at night, when I come across that bunch of black kids shrieking in the spooky corner by the disused gents, I would love to pretend that I don’t turn a hair.’

‘The best way to deal with a woman colleague giving you advice is to just pat her on the bottom and send her on her way.’

Needless to say, the peeps interviewed aren’t impressed with these bigoted comments, which are described as mad, wrong, rude, horrible, racist. They feel that the remark about Islam particularly crosses the line by insulting someone’s religion, even though, as one woman makes clear, they’re not Muslim. They’re also not impressed by his characterisation of Nigerians. A white man simply doesn’t understand it, while a tall Black woman says that she’s Nigerian and has to live with the stereotype. The interviewer also says that the remark of Black boys perpetuates the stereotype that they’re trouble. The reality could be that they’re just hanging about, playing Pokemon or something. Two of the women shown, one young and Black, the other older and White, also very definitely did not agree with Johnson’s sexist, patronising remark about how to handle women.

When asked for their opinion about the person who said all that, the people said that he needed to widen his world and he wasn’t happy.  And they reacted with incredulity and laughter when informed it was Boris.  A White women said that he should be ashamed of himself. A black man in a market stall says that as a leader, you should lead without prejudice. The interviewer also comments that his worry is that if he’s saying all this publicly, what’s he saying privately? When asked if they want him to be their Prime Minister, they make it very clear they don’t. One Black man says that when he thinks of him, he thinks of Windrush and the way they kicked them out of the country. How, he says, can he vote Conservative when they do that to our Black people? The video ends with the Nigerian woman and the Black man, who remembered Windrush, advising people to vote Labour. In fact, the Black man and the interviewer even join together in chanting a little ditty about it at the end.

Boris and the Tories have tried to shrug this off my saying that it’s just the Prime Minister being straight-talking. But it isn’t. His comments are ignorant and offensive. Yes, there are problems with multiculturalism, but Boris’ comments don’t help. They make the situation worse. After Johnson’s odious comments about women in burqas looking like bin bags, for example, there was a spike in racist incidents including assaults. And his remarks about getting rid of women giving unwanted advice by patting them on the rear could very easily get the man who tried it hauled up in front of a sexual harassment tribunal. And the Tory bigotry Johnson expresses has also had very real, and unjust consequences as the Black gent in the video says. It was those attitudes that convinced the Tories they could deport the Windrush migrants and their children, people who were here perfectly legally, but whose right of citizenship was torn up by David Cameron and Tweezer.

Boris Johnson is an oaf and his views insulting and dangerous. He isn’t fit to be Prime Minister. Britain deserves better.

And there is one. Jeremy Corbyn, who has always stuck up for the rights of all the people of this country, regardless of their colour and gender.

Get Johnson out, and him in!

 

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