Category Archives: 2019 General Election
Land for the Many – a report presented to the Labour Party – raised what co-author George Monbiot has called a ‘storm of lies’ in the ‘billionaire press’.
After five months delay, the press regulator, Ipso, ruled against the Mail on Sunday’s false claim published under this headline: Corbyn’s ‘war on homeowners’: Proposal to grab more inheritances and tax increases in family house values. But the Mail on Sunday has asked for a review of the decision, delaying its publication, until after the election.
Though the report rejected the idea, the Mail on Sunday stated that it had proposed to levy a capital gains tax on the proceeds of the sale of a person’s house. The article quoted Boris Johnson, who claimed “this mad ‘tax on all your houses’ would cripple every Brit who owns or wants to own their own home” and the false claim was picked up on social media by other senior Conservatives.
The claim has also been used repeatedly in the party’s campaign materials, websites and Facebook pages. It was reproduced by most of the other billionaire papers and continues to be circulated.
Monbiot calls the ruling ‘a rare victory against the billionaire press’ but adds that it would count for nothing if buried until the election is over.
He comments: “Anyone who wants a better world finds themselves at war with the exceedingly rich people who own the media and the editors and journalists they employ. The pen might be mightier than the sword, but the wallet is mightier than the pen. News is the propaganda of the oligarch. Are we prepared to allow the proprietors of the newspapers, many of whom live offshore, to determine the course of our politics?” And ends:
“Futile as it often seems, one-sided as the war between truth and falsehood always is, we must fight the tide of lies. Don’t let them win this week”.
This disappointment is perhaps even more significant than the latest personal news items about Boris Johnson.
The original plans for Clean Air Zones in Birmingham and Leeds came after the Government had identified that parts of each city would probably fail legal air quality levels by 2020 and instructed both local authorities to tackle air pollution as soon as possible.
However, the introduction of the UK’s first Clean Air Zones is to be significantly postponed due to a Government delay in delivering the digital systems required to make the zones operational and enforceable.
Both Birmingham City Council and Leeds City Council had been on track to implement Clean Air Zones until they were informed that:
- The vehicle checking software needed to enforce the CAZ, which is being delivered by the Government’s Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU), will not be available until at least December 2019 — just weeks before the zones were due to come into force in January 2020.
- The government, which was also responsible for delivering the system to collect payments, failed to meet a deadline for handing over the technology to check vehicles entering the charging zone.
In June 2019, therefore, Birmingham City Council announced that the Clean Air Zone (CAZ), which it had planned to introduce in January 2020, would be delayed until July 2020 at the earliest.
Martin Stride, Birmingham Friends of the Earth (BFOE), pointed out the delay will mean that people in those areas of Birmingham shown on the map below, will be exposed to harmful and illegal levels of NO2 for longer than necessary which could adversely affect their health.
BFOE has written to all Birmingham MPs to ask them to take the government to task over the delay and a template letter on its website may be used and adapted..It asked the following questions:
- Will government provide sufficient resources and commitment to ensure that the vehicle checking software will not be delayed any further?
- If the responsibility for delivering the payment collection system is to be passed to the city council, will it provide sufficient support and resources to ensure that this is not delayed?
- To compensate for its part in delaying the introduction of the vehicle charging element of the CAZ, will the government now provide additional funding for other clean air measures which could be implemented quickly?
Birmingham’s transport and environment chief, Coun Waseem Zaffar said the delay was “completely unacceptable” but outside the city council’s control: “The council has been fully on track to implement the Clean Air Zone from January 2020 on the basis of assurances from the Government that the vehicle checker would be in place by October this year.We are now unable to go ahead with our Clean Air Zone in January as planned.”
IS THIS A ONE-OFF SLIP OR THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME?
Media 107: BBC removes account of Corbyn’s popularity, FT retains news of his standing ovation in Brussels
Readers in Stroud and Uganda sent links to the social media scoop featuring answers made by the Mirror’s political editor Nigel Nelson during the BBC interview pictured below.
Saturday night’s 10.30 edition of the BBC’s nightly review of the following day’s newspapers broadcast an admission of Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity with the public. Click here for the video extract.
The BBC presenter had asked “Very quickly, what’s he like engaging with the public” and Nigel Nelson replied:‘The public love him. Wherever he turns up he’s greeted like a rock star’
Corbyn’s phenomenal energy, stamina and work-rate were covered. Nelson’s verdict: Corbyn is ‘prime ministerial’.
It was all too much – didn’t fit the mainstream narrative – and in the second edition of the review an hour later, Nigel Nelson’s contribution was omitted.
But the FT retained its account of the standing ovation for Jeremy Corbyn in Brussels not mentioned in other mainstream media.
On Sunday, Jewish Labour supporters continued their protest at BBC bias during the coverage of the general election campaign, which includes persistent sidelining of expert Jewish commentators critical of the attacks on Labour.
Efforts to silence such news in order to prevent the election of a Corbyn-led government include direct party funding of a government which appoints the chair and four directors of the board of the ‘independent’ BBC. To the indirect funding of right-wing think tanks is added pressure from corporate lobbyists. These efforts are further strengthened by control of 71% of national newspapers and 81% of local newspapers, by corporations and billionaires (Edinburgh TV Festival, August 2018).
Members and supporters of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) said that the corporation’s election coverage “falls disastrously short of its own formal standards of accuracy and balance.” The repeated and unproven allegations that the Labour Party “is riddled with anti-semitism” were being reported by the BBC as “quasi-factual, with no indication that they are fiercely contested.”
In a letter to BBC director-general Tony Hall and director of news and current affairs, Fran Unsworth, JVL co-chairs Jenny Manson (right) and Leah Levane said: “In the closing stages of an acrimonious election campaign, the BBC’s coverage of anti-semitism charges against the Labour Party has been both unbalanced and uncritical.”
The most recent example of BBC bias was its uncritical reporting of the Jewish Labour Movement’s resurrection of long-debunked allegations against Jeremy Corbyn and the party, adding uncorroborated charges from individuals, many of whom have already had their testimony powerfully challenged.
When Jeremy Corbyn delivered the Alternative Mactaggart Lecture, he told vital truths about the corporate media. The lecture ‘went viral’ last year and should be recalled during the approach to the UK General Election on December 12.
The clip began: “A free press is essential to our democracy. But much of our press isn’t very free at all . . . The unhealthy sway of a few corporations and billionaires shapes and skews the priorities and worldview of powerful sections of the media”.
Mr Corbyn then called for the BBC to be freed from government control and made representative of the country it serves.
Corporations, billionaires and their employees understandably fear that their ‘sway’ will be diminished by the election of Corbyn, who would form a government dedicated to ‘building a Britain for the many not the few’.
As Paul Halas writes (Western Daily Press, 7 December 2019, p. 30):
“Over the past few decades privatisations have included Royal Mail, British Gas, electricity, water and sewage treatment, the 999 calls service, much of the ambulance service, the NHS appointments service, British Steel, large parts of the education service, the Coal Board (as was), the probation service, many prisons and detention centres, large chunks of the care services, British Airways, British Rail… ad infinitum”).
Martin Rudland draws attention to the ‘we own it’ website which focusses on privatisation of public services which wastes billions each year on shareholder dividends and high borrowing costs, giving links to research into costs in several sectors including water, energy, transport, broadband, Royal Mail and NHS.
Transnational Engie is on the list of Luton and Dunstable University Hospital’s suppliers of domestic, catering and cleaning services. Unison and GMB are calling for these services to be brought back in-house once Engie’s contract ends next year.
UNISON, the union representing workers at Luton & Dunstable Hospital, points out that staff who were transferred from the NHS in 2015 are being paid NHS rates of £9.02 an hour but anyone who started since is paid the legal minimum of £8.21 an hour.
New starters are paid at least £1,400 less than colleagues who were at the hospital before cleaning services were sold off. Engie employees have also told UNISON that they are being denied leave and being made to take the blame when the contractor is pulled up by the Trust for any shortcomings in service.
UNISON’s Eastern regional organiser Winston Dorsett said, “Engie has confused and demoralised its staff further with a third set of pay and conditions brought in last year to squeeze a bit more cash out of the taxpayer. This firm is making its profits off the backs of some of the lowest-paid workers in our NHS”.
GMB regional organiser Hilda Tavolara agrees that the workers “deserve to be treated fairly by their employer” and points out that last year, housekeepers’ working hours and wages were cut, yet they were still expected to do the same amount of work. This has had a knock-on effect on the patients, their families and visitors.
Hospital chiefs are offering Engie a new 10-year contract to provide the services, proposing to outsource a number or employees currently working for the NHS but UNISON is calling on the Trust not to renew Engie’s contract next year and bring cleaning, catering and housekeeping back in-house.
This week an IPPR study revealed the cost of private finance initiatives (PFI) contracts in the NHS.
These contracts brought £13 billion of initial investment capital into the health system but by the time they have ended the NHS will have spent £80 billion on them.
This is money which could have been spent on doctors’ and nurses’ salaries, on improving treatments, or on making sure young mental health inpatients don’t have to stay in hospitals hundreds of miles away from their family and friends.
The IPPR report reveals that £55 billion of this debt is still outstanding – representing a huge burden on tight NHS resources if the government does not take action. It recommends that bad deals be brought back into public ownership.
After wondering whether what’s left of the NHS is really going to remain in the public domain under the Tories, Paul Halas adds: “What they (private companies) all have in common is poorer service, higher prices, worse wages and conditions for employees, and a haemorrhaging of money to highly paid executives and shareholders, many of them based overseas and avoiding tax in this country”, ending:
“The Tories’ long-term goal has always been to shrink the public sector to the size of a walnut and until the NHS, the last of the public service dominoes, is toppled it’ll remain a thorn in their ideological flesh”.
The revolving door between government & big business
Yesterday’s headlines review of ONS report: 2008-2019, richest 10% enjoy biggest gains in household wealth
It’s fashionable for people on the progressive left to call out and highlight the anti-left and anti-Corbyn bias of the BBC, but this claim needs some careful unpacking.
Academic research (e.g. LSE: Journalistic Representations of Jeremy Corbyn in the British Press: From Watchdog to Attackdog) certainly seems to support this view; but assuming it to be true for a moment, it by no means follows that all, or even most, journalists working for the BBC are themselves politically right-wing.
Parallels can be drawn here with the right-wing press. I’ve been reliably informed by a former Daily Telegraph journalist, for example, that at that newspaper, many of the journalists working there are well left of centre.
At the institutional level however, everyone knows what’s required by the paper’s owners and so a culture of right-wing and right-oriented commentary is created, which becomes an accepted norm to which all journalists employed by that title conform. In such organisations, moreover, the management are likely to be right-wing in orientation.
Something similar to this seems to be happening at the BBC, as political commentator Owen Jones pointed out at length on Radio 5 Live last Saturday evening (Saturday 30 November).
So perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised to see a former very senior BBC journalist and editor ‘coming out’ on the political left. I remember Nick Jones (right) very well from the miners’ strike in the early 1980s when he was chief political editor at the BBC, and when he was clearly doing his best as the time to be as even-handed and neutral as possible. Jones left the BBC in 2002 (aged 60), and I’ve heard nothing of him since. So I was mildly amazed to read in a recent issue of the Morning Star a feature article by him on media bias. Titled ‘Boris Johnson’s shock troops in the commentariat’ we read about how, ‘when the PM runs into trouble, he’s not short of obliging media pundits to rush to his rescue and deliver a hatchet job on Corbyn’.
Jones evocatively writes of what he calls ‘attack journalism’, their ‘character assassination of Jeremy Corbyn’, and their ‘conjuring up yet another hatchet job on Corbyn to help bolster the brilliance of Johnson’.
Listing a number of obnoxious headlines from an array of Tory propaganda comics, Jones then points out the sobering fact that Conservative-supporting newspapers account for 80% of UK newspaper sales.
But it’s far worse than even this, as the likes of the BBC pick up on and report the right-wing editorial lines of these papers, ‘feeding through to the commentary on television and radio programmes’. And the right-wing press commentariat also ‘command a far higher proportion of broadcast interviews and invitations to newspapers reviews on radio and television’, with press headlines commonly treated as news.
Jones concludes his article with a chilling observation: ‘Media coverage in 2017 was the vilest of any general election of my 60 years as a reporter’.
I fear 2019 might be even worse.’ From what I’ve seen to date, I think his worst fears have already come to pass, with the Cummings-driven Tory Dirty Tricks Department leaving all previous Tory attempts to propagandise the electorate trailing in his wake.
When a widely respected journalist of Nick Jones’s seniority and professional stature speaks so scathingly about the flagrant bias of the right-wing press, we really have to take it seriously. But just what we can do to neutralise the propaganda impact of this outrage to democracy is something that the left urgently needs to address – and preferably well before 12 December 2019.
Guest-blogged by Richard House Ph.D., former senior university lecturer in psychology, psychotherapy and early childhood studies, and now a full-time Labour Party and environmental campaigner-activist.
Two days is a long time in pre-election politics
On 28th November Francis Elliott’s triumphalist article in the Times heralded a seat-by-seat analysis based on polling by YouGov for The Times.
But two days later, a BMG poll which questioned 1,663 voters between 27 and 29 November showed that the Conservative lead had ‘narrowed sharply’ (Reuters) – halved when compared with last week’s poll.
Robert Struthers, BMG’s head of polling, said “If this trend continues, this election could be much closer than it looked just a matter of weeks ago.”
Rob Merrick (Independent) points out that the results come at the end of a week when Mr Johnson has faced further criticism on several counts, compounding earlier allegations, including:
- his appalling attitude to single mothers and working-class men
- his unwillingness to face Andrew Neil.
- the early release from prison of the London Bridge attacker and
- his relationship with Donald Trump, who will arrive for a NATO summit in London on Tuesday.
Robert Struthers said there was growing evidence Labour is “starting to build momentum” ahead of the election on 12 December. 73% of those who backed the party at the 2017 election now planning to do the same on 12 December – up from 67% a week ago.
The change in direction is shown above and BMG’s headline voting intention figures take the Conservative lead from a likely majority into possible hung parliament territory. Will this continue and take the Labour Party into the lead?
Media 104: pro-Corbyn text from major Israeli newspaper suppressed by BBC & MSM, ‘as it does not fit their agenda’
Prem Sikka sent the Haaretz link with the comment: “I doubt that BBC or any of the UK press would refer to it as it does not fit their agenda”.
In Haaretz, a major Israeli newspaper, two days ago: ‘The Jews and Israel’s true friends should hope that Corbyn is elected . . . Corbyn is not an anti-Semite. His real sin is to fight against injustice in the world, including the version Israel perpetrates’ – the words of Gideon Levy (right), award-winning journalist, in Haaretz. His article follows.
Opinion: The Contract on Corbyn
The Jewish establishment in Britain and the Israeli propaganda machine have taken out a contract on the leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. The contract was taken out a long time ago, and it was clear that the closer Corbyn came to being elected prime minister, the harsher the conflict would get.
On Tuesday it reached its climax in an article by the chief rabbi of Britain, Ephraim Mirvis, in an article in The Times. Mirvis has decided that the anxiety of British Jews over Corbyn is justified and he is not fit to be prime minister. He called on Jews not to vote for Labour in the election on December 12.
Born in South Africa and a graduate of Har Etzion Yeshiva in the settlement of Alon Shvut, Mirvis is the voice of British Jewry. In Capetown, Johannesburg and Har Etzion, he should have learned what apartheid was and why one should fight it. His parents did so, but one doubts that he learned the moral lesson from the regions of disenfranchisement in which he lived in South Africa and the West Bank.
As opposed to the horrid Corbyn, Mirvis (below left) sees nothing wrong with the continued occupation; he does not identify with the struggle for Palestinian freedom, and he doesn’t sense the similarity between the South Africa of his childhood, Har Etzion of his youth and Israel of 2019. That is the real reason that he rejects Corbyn. The Jews of Britain also want a prime minister who supports Israel – that is, supports the occupation. A prime minister who is critical of Israel is to them an exemplar of the new anti-Semitism.
Corbyn’s real sin is his staunch position against injustice in the world, including the version Israel perpetrates.
Corbyn is not an anti-Semite. He never was. His real sin is his staunch position against injustice in the world, including the version Israel perpetrates. Today this is anti-Semitism. The Hungarian Viktor Orban, the Austrian Freedom Party and the extreme right in Europe are not the danger to Jews. Corbyn is the enemy. The new and efficient strategy of Israel and the Zionist establishment brands every seeker of justice as an anti-Semite, and any criticism of Israel as hatred of Jews. Corbyn is a victim of this strategy, which threatens to paralyze and silence Europe with regard to Israel.
British Jewry might not be faking its anxiety, but it is certainly magnifying the danger. There is anti-Semitism, though less that what is presented, certainly on the left. About half of British Jews are considering fleeing if Corbyn is elected. Let them flee. The survey that showed this could actually encourage anti-Semitism: Are the Jews of Britain conditionally British? To whom is their loyalty?
The future of all British Jews is much more secure than the future of any Palestinian living under the occupation
The future of all British Jews is much more secure than the future of any Palestinian living under the occupation, and even more secure than that of any Arab living in Israel. Jews are persecuted and are victims of discrimination and racism less so than the Palestinians in the Israel they hold dear.
Moreover, Islamophobia in Europe is more common than anti-Semitism, but people talk about it less.
Mirvis presents no evidence of Corbyn’s anti-Semitism. It sufficed for him to note the fact that Corbyn described as “friends” those who “endorse the murder of Jews” – a reference to Corbyn’s comments on Hezbollah and Hamas. Corbyn (left) is indeed a very harsh critic of the occupation, supports the boycott and compares the closure of Gaza with the siege of Stalingrad and Leningrad. These are anti-Israeli positions, but not necessarily anti-Semitic. The Jews of Britain are blurring this difference as are many Jews throughout the world, intentionally. One can (and should) be a harsh critic of Israel without being anti-Semitic.
If the Jews of Britain and their chief rabbi were more honest and courageous, they would ask themselves: Isn’t Israel’s brutal occupation policy the strongest motive for anti-Semitism today? There is anti-Semitism, it must be fought, but it must also be recognized that Israel supplies it with an abundance of excuses and motives.
The Jews and Israel’s true friends should hope that Corbyn is elected. He is a statesman who can change international discourse about the occupation and the struggle against it. He is a ray of hope for a different world and a different Israel – and what more could we want.