Category Archives: Democracy undermined
A Moseley reader draws attention to an article by Peter Oborne, who marvels at media sycophancy: “Whatever Johnson does or says – however incompetent, immoral, ignorant or foolish – is strong, visionary and wise . . . We’ve seen nothing like this level of command and control of leading Fleet Street papers since the early years of Tony Blair, when editors and media bosses doffed their caps to Blair’s media advisers, Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson. That ended badly. The lack of criticism of New Labour helped create the hubris that led to the Iraq calamity”.
He asks us to imagine that Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister last week, put there by 93,000 mainly left-wing Labour members, and:
- that he then reshaped the Cabinet to make sure it was filled with personal loyalists, immediately sacking almost every centrist minister,
- that within minutes of kissing the hand of the Queen, he breached royal protocolby briefing the press about what the monarch had told him in private,
- that he committed himself to investing tens of billions of pounds in extra government spending within days of entering office, sending the pound into free-fall, hitting a two-year low,
- that he’d just ditched his wife of twenty-six years standing, and the mother of his four children, and installed in Downing Street a 31-year old girlfriend,
- that his new home secretary had been forced to resign in disgracejust two years earlier for secret meetings with a foreign government – and that he knew this, but still appointed her,
- that his education secretary had also been recently dismissed in disgrace for a gross breach of national security,
- that the new transport secretary had been found to have had a second job under a pseudonym while an MP – something he admitted to only after years of publicly denying the claims
- and that his most senior adviser was in contempt of parliamentafter refusing to appear before and give evidence to a select committee.
Oborne (right) continues: “all this is exactly what happened within days of Johnson entering No 10 last week. The collapsed pound. The girlfriend trouble. The dodgy cabinet appointments. The royal indiscretion”.
He asks us to imagine the media response if Jeremy Corbyn had acted in this way – “The outrage. The fury. The disbelief. The mockery. The newspaper headlines would be universally hostile. Chaos in Downing Street. Corbyn and his government would be flayed alive”.
Instead, Boris Johnson has been widely praised for ‘an almost faultless move into Downing Street’:
“It’s been a good week for Boris Johnson’s government,” drooled Christopher Hope, chief political correspondent for the Daily Telegraph. The Spectator praised Johnson as a man “dismissed as a philandering clown” but who has “confounded” his critics “at every stage”. The Times discerned Johnson’s “decisive action” in creating his new cabinet. The Telegraph opined that Johnson’s no-deal strategy sent a ‘clear message to the EU’ ”.
Oborne asks: “could it be that the rules of political reporting have changed?”
Rule 1: However incompetent, immoral, ignorant or foolish – Johnson is strong, visionary and wise.
Rule 2: Only Johnson’s opponents can be ruled offside, and only he is allowed to score the goals.
And ends, “It’s time Fleet Street woke up and asked difficult questions about Johnson’s Brexit plans. If Brexit goes wrong, Johnson won’t be forgiven – nor will the papers that backed him. It’s time to end the sycophancy”.
Peter Oborne won best commentary/blogging in 2017 and was named freelancer of the year in 2016 at the Online Media Awards for articles he wrote for Middle East Eye. He also was British Press Awards Columnist of the Year 2013. He resigned as chief political columnist of the Daily Telegraph in 2015. His books include The Triumph of the Political Class, The Rise of Political Lying, and Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran.
Post-PMQs: surely the views of over 100 distinguished Jewish signatories outweigh those of 60 assorted Labour Lords
In an unsuccessful effort to deflect attention from Mr Corbyn’s questions about climate change during today’s PMQs, Theresa May forcefully – even maliciously – demanded an apology for his ‘failure to deal with anti-semitism within the Labour party’.
The following snapshots were taken as they spoke.
She referred to a full page advertisement in the Guardian paid for by 60 ‘distinguished’ Labour peers, attacking Jeremy Corbyn over anti-Semitism – as reported in the Murdoch Press.
Watch the exchange by clicking on this link (6 mins) and note the difference in demeanour as Jeremy Corbyn – impressively cool under fire – sets the record straight and tenaciously continues to challenge the government on the contrast between its rhetoric and its actions on climate change.
This welcome financial windfall for the Guardian, which occupies several inches of space after every online article asking for donations, recalls its withdrawal – after a communication from the Jewish Board of Deputies – of a previously published letter supporting Labour loyalist MP, Chris Williamson. It had over 100 Jewish signatories – many of whom evidently deserve to be described as distinguished.
The list of these signatories and their affiliations has, however, been saved by people who are beginning to expect this sort of mainstream skulduggery and may be seen here.
As the ‘censored’ Guardian letter said, such attacks on Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters aim to undermine the Labour party’s leadership, but – we add – they can rebound on the perpetrators.
Media 99: Anti-semitism campaign a fabrication – Norman Finkelstein charges the British elite & its media
Richard House has drawn attention to the latest Media Lens report: ‘Suspending Chris Williamson – The Fury And The Fakery’ – which includes a comment in a forceful and eloquent video by American political scientist, activist, professor and author, Norman Finkelstein (right), whose mother survived the Warsaw Ghetto, the Majdanek concentration camp and two slave labour camps and whose father was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz concentration camp. He writes:
‘Corbyn . . . did not present a threat only to Israel and Israel’s supporters, he posed a threat to the whole British elite. Across the board, from the Guardian to the Daily Mail, they all joined in the new anti-semitism campaign . . . this whole completely contrived, fabricated, absurd and obscene assault on this alleged Labour anti-semitism, of which there is exactly zero evidence, zero.’
Media Lens points out that more than 150 Labour MPs and peers – the “infamously pro-war, Blairite section of the party have added to the propaganda blitz by protesting against the decision to readmit Williamson in a statement led by the bitterly anti-Corbyn deputy leader Tom Watson”.
A recent blog on the Jewish Voices for Labour site also stated that a “hostile, personal campaign is being waged against Chris, who is a hard-working and diligent MP with great standing in his constituency and a strong record of anti-racist campaigning”.
It adds: “This country stands in desperate need of a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, aiming to unite people around protection and promotion of hard won rights and services, the party needs the dedication and principled commitment of Chris Williamson and others like him”.
In 2018, Noam Chomsky commented on this campaign: ‘The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally, while also authentically concerned with the rights of suffering and oppressed people throughout the world. Plainly an intolerable threat to order.’ (Chomsky, email to Media Lens, 9 September 2018).
He commented on these issues again this month in correspondence with journalist Matt Kennard:
‘The way charges of anti-Semitism are being used in Britain to undermine the Corbyn-led Labour Party is not only a disgrace, but also – to put it simply – an insult to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The charges against Chris Williamson (right) are a case in point. There is nothing even remotely anti-Semitic in his statement that Labour has “given too much ground” and “been too apologetic” in defending its record of addressing “the scourge of anti-Semitism” beyond that of any other party, as he himself had done, on public platforms and in the streets.’
Media Lens’ challenging conclusion asks what sanction the Labour Party should put on those politicians who personally voted to authorise illegal British and US wars in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria – acts which did not merely offend but killed, maimed and displaced millions of people, bringing whole countries to their knees.
A Corbyn government will need support from openly selected MPs and a mass members’ movement to bring about beneficial change
An editorial by Ben Chacko opens with a reference to civil servants apparently briefing the press against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – a further sign of the strain a truly radical opposition is putting on our political system.
Chacko (right) predicts that this will intensify if he enters office:
“Labour’s radical programme will face parliamentary sabotage, which is why open selection of Labour MPs to improve the character of the parliamentary party is essential.
“It will face legal challenges from corporations with bottomless wallets, institutional interference from the judiciary and the EU if we haven’t left the latter, economic warfare, meddling by foreign powers such as the United States, perhaps even the military putsch mooted in 2015”.
John McDonnell has often said that when Labour goes into office we will all go into office – and Chacko stresses:
“We need to build a mass movement of trade unions, campaign groups such as the People’s Assembly and community organisations fighting for change in every workplace, every town hall and every high street to make those words a reality”.
Only by building up united and determined pressure ‘from below’ will the political-corporate grip on power be broken.
Read the Chacko editorial here.
Tuesday, 9th July | 2pm – 4pm, Room 313, Floor 3, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, E1 4NS
Abstract firstname.lastname@example.org – http://statecrime.org/
After misconduct charges were dismissed against Metropolitan Police officers involved in the arrest of her brother over 10 years ago, Marcia Rigg said the police ‘had a licence to kill.’ More than 30 years after the murder of Daniel Morgan, and despite an apology from the Met eight years ago that police corruption thwarted the criminal investigation, his family are still awaiting the report of an independent panel established in 2013.
Evidently, police impunity is a pressing issue for Londoners.
This event brings together leading scholars and activists from the US and UK to examine both the structures and conditions of and solutions to police impunity.
Dr Graham Smith- Senior Lecturer, University of Manchester
In the 1980s and 1990s Graham Smith was the secretary of the Hackney Community Defence Association, a self-help group comprising victims of police crimes, and developed a police misconduct database. More recently he has served the Council of Europe and UN as an international expert on police complaints, the prohibition of torture and combatting impunity.
Professor Craig Futterman- Professor of Law, University of Chicago
Craig B. Futterman is a Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School and a Resident Dean in the College. He founded and has served as the Director of the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic since 2000. Before his appointment to the Law Faculty, Professor Futterman was a Lecturer in Law and Director of Public Interest Programs at Stanford Law School. He previously joined Futterman & Howard, Chtd., a boutique law firm concentrating in complex federal litigation. There, Prof. Futterman specialized in civil rights and constitutional matters, with a special focus on racial discrimination, education, and police brutality. Before that, he served as a trial attorney in the Juvenile Division of the Cook County Public Defender’s Office. Mr. Futterman received his J.D. from Stanford Law School and graduated with the highest distinction from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Economics.
Dr Nadine El-Enany, Senior Lecturer, Birkbeck College
Nadine El-Enany is a Senior Lecturer in Law at Birkbeck School of Law and Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Race and Law (@CentreRaceLaw). Nadine teaches and researches in the fields of migration and refugee law, European Union law, protest and criminal justice. Her current research project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, focuses on questions of race and criminal and social justice in death in custody cases. Her book, (B)ordering Britain: law, race and empire is out with MUP later this year.
Val Aston, NETPOL
Val has recently completed her PhD at the Law School of the University of East Anglia, where her research has centred on the impact of state surveillance on political autonomy and the growth of social movements. She also sits on the steering group of Netpol, a UK-based human rights NGO which focuses on the protection of assembly rights and the monitoring of public order and protest policing. Val’s current research interests include pre-emptive policing and the designation of ‘risk’, and in particular, the extent to which a growing emphasis on preventive policing is constraining the growth of civil society.
To register for tickets go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/combating-police-impunity-tickets-62262795698
In December Extinction Rebellion wrote to BBC Director General Tony Hall detailing an eight-point plan of how it could play a pivotal role in the transformation to face the climate and ecological crisis:
“We issued a plea to BBC bosses to live up to their role as public service broadcasters by fully informing the public of the existential threat faced by the human race unless urgent action is taken to reduce carbon emissions” commented Sophie May from Extinction Rebellion.
On Monday April 1st, XR launched a campaign to discover whether BBC staff feel their organisation is telling the truth about the dangers from accelerating global climate breakdown. An Extinction Rebellion team visited BBC Broadcasting House in London to conduct a BBC Staff Survey – putting a series of searching questions to BBC staff on their lunch and coffee breaks.
In the evening, during the debate on the second stage of the Brexit alternatives, Extinction Rebellion activists stood semi-naked in the House of Commons public gallery to call attention to the ‘elephant in the room’ – climate and ecological crisis.”
In what may be an incomplete recording – though James politely said that he hoped the BBC would report climate changes issues more prominently the BBC Radio 5 Live interviewer, Emma Barnett (right), firmly focussed only on the protestors’ actions and not the crisis which prompted them.
James Dean from Extinction Rebellion explained that a dramatic gesture was needed because the government had ‘stuffed itself up with Brexit’ and was not dealing with more important issues which need emergency action now.
He briefly and calmly outlined ‘the awful and dangerous’ future awaiting us all unless every possible action to avert climate change is taken – referring to the increasing incidence of floods, wildfires and storms,
2018: wildfires in Australia and the United States
Emma was not distracted: she charged the protestors with a huge breach of security and risk to MPs – saying that it would be more difficult for people to visit parliament in future.
James replied that this sort of action was nothing new and cited the suffragettes, who finally achieved their ends and whose drastic actions are now admired.
Emma failed to respond to the references to climate change and once again said their action was a serious breach of security: “How can you defend that when we are being told to be careful, not to go out alone etc”.
James ended by saying that they had used a minimum disruption to make their point :
“We know that what is to come will be far worse than putting off a few hours of politicians’ discussions.”
Aditya Chakrabortty focusses on the ‘vast disconnect between elite authority and lived experience, central to what’s broken in Britain today’ – the ‘gap’ which widened as independent working class self-help initiatives were replaced by the ‘hand of the state’ (Mount) creating ’a new feudalism’ and from two searing analyses of our divided society (Jones).
- “Why is a stalemate among 650 MPs a matter for such concern, yet the slow, grinding extinction of mining communities and light-industrial suburbsis passed over in silence?
- “Why does May’s wretched career cover the first 16 pages of a Sunday paper while a Torbay woman told by her council that she can “manage being homeless”, and even sleeping rough, is granted a few inches downpage in a few of the worthies?”
- Is “the death sentence handed to stretches of the country and the vindictive spending cuts imposed by the former chancellor George Osborne, a large part of why Britain voted for Brexit in the first place?”
“We have economic policymakers who can’t grasp how the economy has changed, elected politicians who share hardly anything in common with their own voters . . . Over a decade from the banking crash, the failings of our economic policymaking need little elaboration. the basic language of economic policy makes less and less sense.
“Growth no longer brings prosperity; you can work your socks off and still not earn a living. Yet still councils and governments across the UK will spend billions on rail lines, and use taxpayers’ money to bribe passing billionaire investors, all in the name of growth and jobs.”
A University College London study published last year shows that the parliamentary Labour party became more “careerist” under Tony Blair – and also grew increasingly fond of slashing welfare. Social security was not something that ‘professionalised MPs’ or their circle had ever had to rely on, so ‘why not attack scroungers and win a few swing voters?’
The trend continues: Channel 4 News found that over half of the MPs elected in 2017 had come from backgrounds in politics, law, or business and finance and more came from finance alone than from social work, the military, engineering and farming put together.
This narrowing has a direct influence on our law-making and political class and Chakrabortty comments: “We now have economic policymakers who can’t grasp how the economy has changed, elected politicians who share hardly anything in common with their own voters”.
He concludes that this is what a real democratic crisis looks like: failed policies forced down the throats of a public. Institution after institution failing to legislate, reflect or report on the very people who pay for them to exist. And until it is acknowledged, Britain will be stuck, seething with resentment, in a political quagmire.
Media 97: An inconvenient truth? A Dutch reader notes UK’s ZERO coverage of 40,000 climate change demo in Amsterdam
She writes: “*zero* coverage in the UK over climate demo Sunday 10th in Amsterdam?! 40,000 people at climate change demo in Amsterdam and it RAINED heavily all day … we got soaked to our underwear …)!!”
An online search today saw no UK coverage on the first four ‘result’ pages – only American and European coverage.
Adding wryly: “When 40 yellow vests get together it’s shared all over the planet…
The demonstration, the first of its kind in the Netherlands, drew around 40,000 people despite heavy rain, according to Agence France-Presse.
“The high turnout is the proof that people now want a decisive policy on climate from the government,” Greenpeace, one of the march organizers, said in a statement.
The Netherlands could be especially vulnerable to the rising tides brought on by climate change. Much of the country already sits below sea level, and some of its land is sinking.
While the U.S. has been backpedalling out of global climate change agreements like the Paris accord, Dutch lawmakers have passed ambitious climate change laws, seeking a 95% reduction of the 1990 emissions levels by 2050.
In January, however, a Dutch environmental research agency said the government is lagging behind its goals. “We are under sea level, so we really need to do something about it,” said a 21-year-old climate studies student at Amsterdam University.
Students around the world have been leading protests to prompt their governments to address climate change. A worldwide school strike is planned for later this week. Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager widely known for her climate change activism, said on Twitter that at least 82 countries plan to participate in the upcoming protest.
Will British media fail to report the forthcoming school strikes as well as this one?
This is Richard House’s challenging assertion as anti-Corbyn Labour MPs deserted the party in recent days. He continues:
“It’s too easily forgotten that the deserters are the same people who never accepted Corbyn’s leadership of the party from day one, and who’ve continually done everything possible – eagerly aided by their establishment media friends – to undermine him at every turn, so making his leadership job quite impossible.
“Remember the attempted MPs’ coup led by these people in their unconstitutional attempt to get rid of Corbyn? – this was long before the Labour Party anti-Semitism hysteria had ever been heard of.
“And having failed to displace Corbyn with their spiteful coup attempt, their fall-back was to concoct a carefully choreographed plan: namely, create a hysterical (but fictional) media storm about anti-Semitism; allow it to rage for a few months; then re-kindle it (literally making it up as they went along); and finally, when the fire was raging again, use this as a baseless pretext for splitting the Labour Party so we can have another five years of heartless Tory rule. Establishment job done.
“These “courageous” people have discharged their quasi-Tory bidding very well.
“Oh, and of course it’s just a coincidence that these deserters are all virulent Remainers who’ve never accepted the democratic result of the EU referendum, and will continue to do anything possible to reverse it.”
“One thing that May and Corbyn do have in common is that at least they’re trying to stay true to the democratic result of the EU referendum.
He concludes that – rather than having to devote huge amounts of time and energy defending themselves from relentless attacks from ‘serial underminers‘ within their own party – Corbyn and his team can now spend all their time on exposing the nation’s headlong social disintegration under Tory austerity.
And above all “inspiring us with their stellar policy portfolio”.o
Dr Richard House
Source: Western Daily Press, 25 February 2019, p. 16–17