Category Archives: Media
Parliamentary sketchwriter: “If a Corbyn government had behaved like this, wouldn’t Tory MPs be in uproar?”
Michael Deacon asks readers to imagine:
- that Jeremy Corbyn had won the election
- that his ministers had refused to be questioned on the Today programme.
- that journalists from certain right-wing newspapers were barred from a government briefing, while, say, the Morning Star was welcomed with open arms
- and that a Labour minister defended this behaviour by declaring, “Jeremy has just won a resounding majority, and has the support of the people!”
He then asks how Tory MPs would have responded and makes three suggestions:
A chilling attack on press freedom.
A cynical attempt to avoid scrutiny.
A sinister ploy by shadowy, unelected advisers.
On Saturday, Iain McNicol’s article ‘Corbynism must end with Corbyn’ was published in the Financial Times
As a post Corbyn entrant to the Labour Party I had only dimly heard of McNicol, so read around and discovered that he had been general secretary of the Labour party from 2011 to 2018 and now sits in the House of Lords. Then came a disturbing account of his wrecking tactics in his Wikipedia entry, condensed in The Jacobin by Daniel Finn:
“The party leadership has put a lot of effort into revamping Labour’s disciplinary processes so that real cases of antisemitism can be dealt with more quickly. Much of this work has been done since Jennie Formby took over as Labour’s general secretary in April 2018, replacing Iain McNicol, who was bitterly hostile to Corbyn. Some of the party officials who departed with McNicol had been slowing down the handling of cases, whether through incompetence or malice, knowing that Corbyn’s team would get the blame from the British media”.
No physiognomist needed
Finn described MacNicol as being one of the influential political players from Labour’s right-wing, anti-Corbyn faction which has a negligible organisational base in the party and unions but is closely linked to supportive media outlets. This faction is composed of Blairites and some MPs from the 2010 intake who believed themselves to be contenders for the party leadership once the Corbyn project collapsed.
MacNicol’s theme: “Clause One of the Labour party rule book states that the party’s purpose is to ‘promote the election of Labour party representatives at all levels of the democratic process’. It does not state that its function is to be a radical protest party. The fight is now on for Labour’s soul and the future”.
After taking credit for 2017’s ‘professionally-run campaign with strategic goals, a cutting edge social media campaign’ he refers to ‘a freshness that appealed to a broad coalition, including many hard-to-reach voters’.
This freshness was actually due to the surprise appearance of an honest and caring politician, the first in many decades.
Corbyn’s spectacular insurgent campaigns stand as vivid demonstrations that, as he said upon taking leadership of the Labour Party in September 2015, “things can, and they will, change.” Corbyn’s ease on the campaign trail and assured performances on TV transformed perceptions. He became Labour’s great asset (Alex Nunns)
MacNicol continued: “What did Labour offer? Everything to everyone and that was the problem . . . Corbynism has been an abject failure. We need a strong leader to reignite the party and connect with voters”.
Quickly disposing of Rebecca Long-Bailey: “If elected, she would kill any chance of Labour improving its electoral prospects” he moved on to focus on Keir Starmer, attracting the bulk of the support from MPs, the backing of Unison, the largest trade union and appointing a campaign team drawn from both left and right of the party
Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips – ‘capable of driving the transition Labour needs- – are likely to gain the necessary support to have their names on the ballot paper.
He ends, “A renewed Labour party, with a strong leader, could win the 123 seats needed to secure a majority . . . on April 4 take steps honour the promise of Clause One and move back to bidding for power or remain a party of protest.
So must the party resurrect New Labour? Will Corbynism and the bid for truth, peace and justice, end with Corbyn?
New petition calls for a full independent inquiry into the BBC’s coverage of the 2019 General Election
There has been longstanding official and unofficial censure of BBC bias
The BBC is seen by many as failing to fulfil its Charter’s first declared ‘public purpose’, ‘to provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them’.
For some years frustrated correspondents have sent the writer copies of their letters criticising the BBC for its biased reporting, adding the unsatisfactory standardised replies they receive. In similar vein is one by Gary Barker, headed by the following cartoon:
Readers are also encouraged to read Steve Beauchampé’s eloquent article in the Birmingham Press which opened:
“Five friends have told me recently that they have either stopped – or severely curtailed – how much BBC news and current affairs output they digest. All were once avid consumers of such content, none could be described as being on the extremes of political thinking, none would claim that the Corporation is guilty of ‘fake’ news, and none have turned instead to social media or become keyboard warriors or internet trolls to get their views across.
“They are, in their different ways, frustrated at the BBC’s failure to adequately reflect their own political beliefs and the lack of balanced debate on issues that matter to them. And they are irritated at some of the Corporation’s presentational tropes and the cheapening of the discourse that often accompanies it”.
“I never felt this way about our national broadcaster. They have always been my ‘Go To’ media outlet for gaining an understanding and appreciation of world affairs . . .
“But things have changed, and one issue above all has led me to question my primary allegiance to the BBC’s news and current affairs output. It is the coverage of the Labour Party and anti-semitism.
“I have never been a Labour Party member and have no intention of becoming one. But I voted Labour for the first time in thirty years at the 2017 General Election because the social democratic policies they offered resonated with me in a way that the centrist stance of New Labour never did”.
One example of the transformation of many BBC reporters into aggressive points-scoring inquisitors, is Laura Kuenssberg’s 2015 interview with Jeremy Corbyn
The BBC was later officially censured for breach of accuracy and impartiality in Laura’s News At Six report.
Several petitions and a host of readers’ letters have challenged the BBC’s failure to respect its mission “to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain”.
Following the July petition addressed to parliament, a call for a Public inquiry into bias in the BBC, the latest petition for a full independent inquiry into the BBC’s coverage of the 2019 General Election may be read here.
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”.
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.
The Labour Party’s inspiring manifesto is described by FT Journalist Robert Shrimsley (right) as “a self-indulgent and ideologically obsessed clique, holding open the door of Number 10 for Mr Johnson . . . economically ruinous; a manifesto that effectively tells outside investors the UK is closed for business . . . the cumulative effect is an all-out attack on wealth creators which will deter foreign investment.
Brief comment on foreign policy. “Electing Mr Corbyn would be handing control of Britain’s defences to people who think the wrong side won the cold war”.
He continues: “For all those yearning for more investment in public services, a fairer economy, a saner Brexit and those just desperate to be rid of a government which has deepened the divides in the nation, Labour’s approach is a shameful betrayal“ after conceding:
“It may yet be that his potpourri of policies can win enough support among the young, the environmentally concerned and those who have suffered under austerity to stop Mr Johnson. There is no doubt Mr Corbyn has mobilised an activist base as no other recent leader has managed . . . but time is running out”
Eleven FT readers criticised yesterday’s FT editorial: “Labour’s manifesto adds up to a recipe for decline”, subtitled Jeremy Corbyn’s hard-left programme will wreck the UK economy
- However much you disagree with the Labour manifesto – and I personally disagree with much of it, especially on nationalisation – it is an honest, decent and transparent set of proposals, fully costed. It is actually easy to disagree with it in its detail and clarity.
- This editorial is based on conjecture rather than any facts. The Labour manifesto only looks so radical given the extent of the move to the right the Tories have dragged the country to over the last decade.
- It’s been a decade of ideologically driven austerity which has decimated local services with the the only winners a few of the super elite and big companies. If this experience of the last decade doesn’t call for a “radical” change in our politics, whenever will this need arise?
- Look outside your gated communities and your shiny office buildings – Britain is hurting because of your hubris. We need real change. If that radical change hurts some of you who have caused this decline, good.
- Those who claim Labour’s manifesto will wreck the economy must consider who, ultimately, this economy is for. When the fifth-richest country in the world cannot feed its children, house its working poor or treat its sick, its economy is already wrecked.”
- You have foolishly believed the right’s false propaganda that the democratic state is incompetent to radically transform society for the benefit of all (well, most). “Those who claim Labour’s manifesto will wreck the economy must consider who, ultimately, this economy is for. When the fifth-richest country in the world cannot feed its children, house its working poor or treat its sick, its economy is already wrecked.”
- This article is mistaken in suggesting this manifesto is a throwback to the seventies. Things have changed, not everywhere for the better and this is a radical programme for the future. Time to get the neo-liberal blinkers off.
- I can’t help noticing there is no mention of the financial transaction tax in the article. Too close to the bone? Or perhaps simply, much too sensible and reasonable for your diatribe?
- On railway, most countries with successful railway services retain majority public ownership of the system (Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain … just to name a few). One should be agnostic on the model and look at the empirical evidence. Also, the entire contractual arrangements in public monopolies don’t necessarily mean public jobs — again there are different models!
- Why does this editorial spout rhetoric without evidence? Without reference to your own data analyses? The last ten years of deregulation has hugely increased poverty, homelessness, use of food banks, and cut all social welfare and education funding in real terms. AND it has doubled the national debt. Corbyn’s policies will restore the balance between wealth and income as Thomas Piketty and many progressive economists (Wren-Lewis, Stiglitz, Mazzucato, Krugman, Blanchflower) suggest. I expect more from the FT than neoliberal platitudes devoid of data.
- Socialism my foot – this is social democracy, it used to be quite fashionable, remember? Corbyn’s spending plans will make the UK a typical European country, next to Germany, in terms of government expenditure. (See FT Nov 21).The more recently fashionable neoliberal model has got us into a right old mess. Maybe this country can provide an example of the necessary corrective which others will follow – wouldn’t that be a turn-up for the books given our recent embarrassing hopelessness?
“What exactly is Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on the Brexit Bill?” A friend asked this question and – suffering from Brexit fatigue – I’m ashamed to say that I could not answer off the cuff.
After returning home, the only relevant information was found in these paragraphs by Oliver Milne, written on Friday 23rd October, which I’ve printed for my friend.
Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson meet to discuss a ‘reasonable timetable’ for Brexit Bill
“They met in Mr Johnson’s House of Commons office. Last night, Mr Corbyn said that Labour was prepared to work with the Government to agree “a reasonable timetable” to enable the Commons to debate and scrutinise the legislation properly. That would be the sensible way forward, and that’s the offer I make on behalf of the opposition tonight”.
“A Labour Party spokesperson said: “Jeremy Corbyn reiterated Labour’s offer to the Prime Minister to agree a reasonable timetable to debate, scrutinise and amend the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, and restated that Labour will support a general election when the threat of a No Deal crash out is off the table.”
“A Conservative source said: ‘PM met Corbyn this morning in his office in the House of Commons to discuss whether Labour would back a timetable that allows us to actually get Brexit done rather than yet more delay. Corbyn made clear he has no policy except more delays and to spend 2020 having referendums.’ “
But still mainstream media reporters and interviewers focus on ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s indecision’. This morning Chris Warburton on BBC Radio 5 hammered away on the theme that JC has long called for an election – despite the patient and repeated explanations ably given by MP Jasmin Qureshi.
Despite this – yet another item in the long list of attempted but unsuccessful character assassination directed at Jeremy Corbyn – huge crowds continue to turn out to hear and support him, to the dismay of ‘the few’ fearing a rebuilding of Britain ‘for the many’.
Richard House draws attention to a letter from Mark Trotman in the Western Daily Press, 11 October 2019, p. 23
Unaccustomed as I am to praising your political columnist Chris Moncrieff, I almost choked on my Rice Krispies this morning on reading his (albeit somewhat grudging) praise for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (WDP, October 8). I’ll give Chris the benefit of the doubt and assume his praise is genuine – and that there isn’t a mischievous tongue lurking in his ample cheek. And I’d like to add to it.
There are three common criticisms made of Corbyn by the mainstream commentariat: i.e. that he’s “not a leader”; that “he’s weak”; and that he “sits on the fence” (e.g. in relation to Brexit).
Corbyn is a different kind of leader – one who’s a co-operative team player rather than a narcissistic individualist, and who prefers to listen thoughtfully, rather than hearing the sound of his own voice fuelled by a puffed-up ego.
Now that’s the kind of leader I want for our country.
On strength – I’d like to know if there is any political leader in living memory who could have withstood the most vicious character-assassination campaign on record, and this over a period of four years.
In spite of this unremitting tirade of propaganda assaults, many of which must have been deeply hurtful (e.g. the outrageous slurs and smears about racism), Corbyn is not only still standing, but is touring the land speaking to many hundreds of his admirers and supporters.
As for sitting on the fence, Corbyn has the maturity to realise that infantile polarisation is emphatically not what the nation needs right now.
Only Corbyn can heal the deep divisions
Rather, our country desperately needs healing and bringing together – and of all current and recent political leaders, Corbyn alone possesses the emotional intelligence and magnanimity to achieve it.
Corbyn is a shy and unassuming man who is refreshingly free of ego-driven self-centredness and personal ambition, but one with a deep strength, reliability and consistency of vision that a modern age filled with division, fake news and hate-filled rhetoric so desperately needs.
I seem to remember that in 1945, another shy, unassuming Labour leader beat a bombastic Winston Churchill at the general election, despite the latter’s determination to paint Attlee as some kind of proto-Communist stooge.
Corbyn “is touring the land speaking to many hundreds of his admirers and supporters”
Mark Trotman ends: “In the forthcoming election, I think this particular history might be about to repeat itself”.