Category Archives: Public relations
Based in London, UK Policy Group is a research consultancy with affiliates in Washington, D.C., and Silicon Valley, which ‘brings clients the tactics and techniques of professional political campaigns’. https://ukpolicy.co.uk/about/ . It was founded last year by Matt Rhoades, Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign manager, and Joe Pounder, a former research director for the Republican National Committee. The pair also run a Washington-based public affairs company. UKPG’s staff includes former senior Tory advisers among its leadership team, including ex-director of policy and research Andrew Goodfellow and former staff from the Conservatives’ research department and media monitoring unit.
“Now the internet kids are coming of age, vetting must be taken more seriously,” Mr Goodfellow said in a post on the UKPG website.
As part of its broader corporate offering to British clients, UKPG offers vetting and due diligence services to high net-worth individuals who are considering becoming political candidates or donors. It can dig into a client’s past to show what a journalist or the cabinet office might uncover if they were to enter the political sphere or were nominated for a gong. UKPG also aims to explain to clients how some idiosyncrasies, such as unusual tax arrangements, might be interpreted in the press.
A classic Murdoch-Times headline: ‘How Tories could unleash US attack dogs to dig up dirt on Labour’
Lucy Fisher reports that this “opposition research” firm with links to Republican party figures and a controversial American campaign group has been hired by the Conservatives.
Their mission: “building up files on left-wing politicians that could potentially be deployed in attack campaigns ahead of elections”.
Ms Fisher continues “While both the Conservatives and Labour Party have in-house research units and media monitoring capabilities, the move to outsource these tasks signals an escalation in aggressive negative campaigning”.
Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) already has sizeable files on Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott so UKPG is “understood to be concentrating on creating opposition research books on figures such as Sir Keir Starmer, and other potential leadership candidates, who have received less scrutiny”.
Tamasin Cave of Spinwatch has branded opposition research tactics “anti-democratic”, arguing that “the free flow of opinions and debate; a robust political opposition; and a healthy media” can be undermined by it.
David Duckworth approved this move but added, “But there is risk if Labour do the same”
Hello Campers: On the other hand looking at the chart spending ££££££ to secure a ‘win’ regardless of ethics/morality/whatever looks as if it works (although not a lot).
Leicht Betrunkener Max: I guess good policies are too hard to come by these days
Mr. Robert Colledge: The same way all Murdoch papers do. Papers subbed by rich non-domiciled billionaire, have an interest in a grateful Tory party. All that money has to buy some influence…Remember It was the Sun that won it! The trouble is that the majority of the press are owned by rich non-domiciled magnates, they have no scruples about being impartial and even handed. Corbyn gets this more than anyone. It undermines democracy as we need more pluralism.
Bertierussell: If they did hire US companies and it became public it might not prove to be such a good idea. It’s just possible that the Tories have more dirt that can be dug up and when that sort of thing gets going it’s hard to stop it. Most organisations struggle to keep things secret; it’s almost as if saying “this is something we don’t want in the public domain” spurs on leakers and whistle blowers.
Tony Sutton: Won’t the Tories ever learn that negative campaigning costs them votes. Cameron and Co lost the referendum thanks to Project Fear and May lost her majority because she offered nothing more than “Corbyn is a commie and I’m strong and stable” The electorate are sick of negativity, back biting, point scoring & smears and are just waiting for a moderate party with well thought out, properly costed policies that will drag politics from the gutter.
Salisburygate: “My old Home Office instincts tells me this was a political game that quickly got out of control”
“The diplomatic mess caused by Prime Minister Theresa May is embarrassing. Not that the wider British public would realise this thanks to pro-May coverage in the media”.
So says an article received from a Jamaican contact, about the political fallout from the alleged nerve agent Salisbury attack against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Accusing the Russian government and expelling diplomats thereafter – based on flimsy evidence – was incompetence of an amateurish level.
The fact that she was not willing to share any hard evidence with colleagues and Jeremy Corbyn was classic May. During her time as Home Secretary, senior staff would complain of May’s bunker-type mentality and withholding key information and decisions even from her own junior ministers and key relevant staff.
Classic May is – make a big statement then retreat into the background leaving others, such as her media friends, to spin information to crazy levels.
In Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party leader, was correct to challenge May’s assertions of the Russian government’s involvement.
Most of the British media, the government and Labour backbench MPs mocked his stance, labelling him a traitor, not fit to become PM and a Vladimir Putin stooge. But Corbyn – like many of us – has seen far too often where governments and law enforcement officials have got their initial claims on high profile incidents so wrong. e.g. Hillsborough, Manchester bombing, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Jean Charles de Menenez, Jill Dando, Rachel Nickell, Stephen Lawrence etc.
Given that the alleged foreign state sponsored incident happened on British soil, Home Secretary Rudd – who has oversight over national security – has said very little. The last time Rudd directly accused the Russian government was early March. Ben Wallace is Rudd’s junior minister responsible for national security matters; he too has been silent.
My old Home Office instincts tells me this was a political game that quickly got out of control. The fault lies not with Amber Rudd but Downing Street. Hence the silence from Rudd and Wallace: and why in recent days Rudd has deflected from Salisbury and promised to target wealthy Russians residing in the UK.
The reason why the May government is not receiving any flak for this diplomatic blunder is that the media would rather play down a diplomatic incident, than admit that Corbyn’s cautious instincts were correct.
Full marks to Corbyn and the Labour front bench for standing their ground and challenging Theresa May directly over Salisbury.
SEVEN POINTED QUESTIONS
After the Iraq lies the public has a right to question their government on any statements relating to serious national security issues:
- How is it that over 125 countries did not join May and expel any Russian diplomats?
- Why did May say that the Skripals’ health was in such danger that they might never fully recover? Only days later both came out of intensive care and are recovering well.
- Why has the UK prevented Russian Embassy officials from visiting the Skripals in hospital? Why have they denied a visa to Yulia’s cousin Viktoria to visit them from Russia?
- Why has May blocked international observers from inspecting the alleged nerve agent?
- Why have May and Amber Rudd said very little in Parliament over the past 14 days?
- Why did Boris Johnson claim that he was told by government scientists at Porton Down that the source of the nerve agent used was Russian, only for the Chief Executive to deny such claims?
- Why has there been no joint press conference held by May, Rudd and Johnson to answer media questions?
“The government will never admit to their error of judgment as that would be political suicide. So expect May, her ministers and media pals to play out this false narrative right up to the May local elections”.
Setting aside the ‘left-wing’ partisan views, two BBC insiders – former senior BBC figures – have disputed the frequently brandished depiction of BBC ‘impartiality’.
Media Lens quoted Greg Dyke, a former BBC director general, who believes, ‘The BBC is part of a “conspiracy” preventing the “radical changes” needed to UK democracy.’ He says that a parliamentary commission should look into the ‘whole political system’, adding that ‘I fear it will never happen because I fear the political class will stop it.’ And recalled the words of Sir Michael Lyons, former chairman of the BBC Trust, who said there had been ‘some quite extraordinary attacks’ on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn by the BBC.
Reading ML’s (Killing Corbyn) dissection of the role played by BBC News – in particular, its political editor Laura Kuenssberg ‘fed’ by two public relations companies – recalls the classic display given as she attempted to ‘down’ Jeremy Corbyn. A would-be demolition expert, Laura completely abandoned her regular target after a good performance in the last general election and avidly described the losses and distress of Theresa May
In December it was reported that Labour MP Chris Williamson was invited to appear on the BBC’s Daily Politics programme to discuss the mainstream media ‘blackout’ of the news about Jeremy Corbyn’s award from the International Peace Bureau.
That ‘blackout’ would almost certainly still be in place if the award had not ‘gone viral’ on social media and it was pointed out that the MSM had given extensive coverage to Theresa May putting a star on a Christmas tree and to William and Kate receiving a Blue Peter badge.
Of late Momentum has been firmly in its sights – an easier target than Corbyn
Failing to toe the policy line, Norman Smith, the BBC’s Assistant Political Editor ‘tells it like it is’ – and describes meeting a group of Momentum supporters in Brixton and finding no-one fitting the hard-left stereotype:
“What Steve, Samira, Nadine and Roland (and we add hundreds of thousands) have in common is an enthusiasm fired by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign. They are Corbyn’s foot soldiers. Steve – a self-confessed “middle aged, BBC Radio 4 addict”- says he joined the Labour Party ‘about 20 seconds’ after Mr Corbyn’s victory. Samira also joined after Mr Corbyn won. “For the first time”, she says, “I felt there was somebody I could stand behind and that I could trust”.
The latest issue: the BBC’s role in portraying opposition to gentrification profiting developers, evicting local residents, as a left-wing power grab
There is widespread opposition to the destruction of estates where thousands of families lived, small businesses trading for generations, in this case by a private fund, the Haringey Development Vehicle, owned jointly with the developer Lendlease. Read more here.
Last night the SKWAWKBOX published exclusive evidence showing a BBC journalist leaking sensitive information to an anti-Corbyn activist in the London borough of Haringey
It included the journalist’s personal opinions about the case and about statements made by the complainant against the councillor. It commented, “The leaking of the email and the information it contained raised serious questions about the ethics and appropriateness of sending it – and about the BBC’s impartiality in the way information and claims were presented”.
The identity of the journalist and councillor in question, along with details of the information and the untrue claim, will be released shortly in a separate Skwawkbox article.
The whole unspun truth is given briefly in the FT: “a ban on charges for paying via credit or debit card comes into force across the EU from Saturday, making it unlawful for retailers to charge customers additional fees for paying on plastic”.
Though the whole truth is too tall an order in matters of diplomacy, the government wold have been well advised to emulate the FT’s delivery.
No longer confined to the mainstream media, adventures with the truth are mercilessly mocked on social media and more radical media:
See Steve Walker’s shot of the official Conservative Twitter site:
The Independent’s gentler account quotes British MEPs who criticised the Government for claiming responsibility for the move, “which comes as part of a broad range of new payment regulations based on an EU–wide directive that was spearheaded by left-wing politicians in the European Parliament”.
We expect a jaded public response to this ‘business as usual’ spin. No longer has financial or political dishonesty the power to surprise.
May the British public one day routinely hear the truth – or would that be electoral suicide?
The right-wing press, neoliberal politicians and corporates in Britain such as Foreign Minister Sir Alan Duncan, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, Tory MP Mark Pritchard and Labour MP Frank Field, are firmly attached to the US-led global order which attempts to impose its will by propaganda and force – generally in oil rich countries like Venezuela. As MP Chris Williamson pointed out in his recent Newsnight interview, the US has a track record of interference at all levels, including military overthrow of inconvenient governments, in Latin America.
They have led repeated attacks on an absent Jeremy Corbyn for failing to cheer the US-led destabilisation of Venezuela. Labour List, which is clearly backing the Blairite wing, referred to ‘Nicolas Maduro’s violent suppression after a dirty election’. The Sun’s dig:
On his return, Mr Corbyn said: “I’m very sad at the lives that have been lost in Venezuela. The people who have died, either those on the streets or security forces that have been attacked by people on the street — all of those lives are terrible for the loss of them.” Repeatedly pressed to condemn Mr Maduro’s actions, he said: “What I condemn is the violence that’s been done by any side, by all sides, in all this. Violence is not going to solve the issue”, adding:
“We also have to recognise that there have been effective and serious attempts at reducing poverty in Venezuela, improving literacy and improving the lives of many of the poorest people.”
Using record-high oil revenues of the 2000s, the government nationalized key industries, created participatory democratic Communal Councils, and implemented social programs to expand access to food, housing, healthcare, and education. Venezuela used its oil revenue to make improvements in poverty, literacy, income equality, and quality of life.
James Tweedie effectively put the record straight in an interview on Radio 4’s Today Programme on 7th August, with the usually combative presenter failing to challenge even one of the facts he presented. In that and a recent article he made many points. Some of these follow:
- The opposition is led by representatives of wealthy families that have never been reconciled to losing power to a government committed to raising the majority from abject poverty.
- Tactics include factory-owners stopping production of products to create shortages in the shops. Food distribution giant Polar is accused by Mr Maduro’s government of orchestrating the food shortages that led to the current crisis, by hoarding stocks in its warehouses. Actions include blocking main roads, shutting down public transport networks and forcing shops to stay closed — exacerbating the shortages of food, medicines and other goods the opposition blame on the government. On Thursday night rioters burned some 40 tons of food out of 100 at a government distribution centre in eastern Anzoategui state destined for distribution to hungry families.
- Opposition supporters building barricades, blocking streets and attacking police during the constituent assembly election are routinely described in our mainstream media as “peaceful protesters”, though, as Sky News footage revealed, masked men were dressed in helmets, carrying full body shields carrying firearms and a roadside bomb blasting police motorcyclists.
The use of fire is a prime opposition weapon
- The opposition tactics are to engage in violent protests that force responses by the government and make the Maduro government look like an authoritarian regime.
- Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are taking a simplistic view of the intensifying crisis in Venezuela, ignoring appalling acts of opposition violence such as those detailed in this site which brings Spanish-language news in English.
- The country overwhelmingly believes the opposition lacks a plan for dealing with high inflation and the lack of state revenue for social services. They also oppose the violent tactics of the opposition (see poll results).
- The opposition agreed to take part in Vatican-mediated negotiations with the government but walked away from talks, adopting a new strategy of violent street confrontations to destabilise society.
- After all the executives of Smartmatic, an electronic voting company, left the country its CEO claimed at a press conference that the 8.1 million turnout figure in Sunday’s National Constituent Assembly election had been “tampered with” and inflated by about a million votes. No such report had been made to the Venezuelan authorities. (Smartmatic is owned by former MP Baron Mark Malloch-Brown, who has close links to George Soros – a major funder of New York-based Human Rights Watch and longstanding critic of Venezuela’s socialist government).
True socialism has been advancing in Britain over the past two years with Labour’s gains in the June election on an anti-austerity manifesto and the increasing public respect for Corbyn as leader. We can see, on the horizon, rejection of the current form of Western intervention which has gained adherents for extremist groups, destabilising many of the world’s regions, followed by collaboration with others to undertake the monumental task of rebuilding and reconciliation.
The general message:
“I avoid the news; I just don’t switch on.“
Anecdotal evidence from many encountered indicates a growing intolerance of TV, the Murdoch press in particular and radio, which constantly focus on the latest man-made or natural disaster and the actions of the corrupt or callous – a tiny minority.
Online headlines presented by the Murdoch Times today:
- Mike Ashley (above) ‘drank 12 pints and vomited at meeting’
- No 10 ‘buried terror report to protect Saudi Arabians’
- Border Force makes record seizure of guns
- Venus in tears as car crash casts a shadow over first-round
- May’s pork barrel tactics demean our politics
- City gripped by sub-prime lending fears
- Pay row leaves Bank of England facing its first strike in 50 years
- Rise in high-risk dependency on alcohol among those seeking help.
If you want something better go to Redbrick, and read the thoughtful offerings of students at Birmingham University: http://www.redbrick.me/comment which offer a more balanced view of life around them.
A revulsion from the continual diet of news focussing on the thankfully rare instances of disaster and cruelty is growing. A reaction from hardier souls is to actually read these newspapers and listen to or watch the news because ‘You’ve got to know what’s going on’ – apparently oblivious of the fact that what is presented is often far from being the truth – see our Secret State category for more on that subject – the 18th here.
A report about the first scientific study into the effect of TV news reports confirmed the obvious: that broadcasts of reports of famine, violence, poverty and crime leave viewers considerably depressed – and happy stories of Lottery winners and “miracle” recoveries (equally rare) do not.
Psychologist, Prof Graham Davey (University of Sussex), who conducted the study with colleague, Dr Wendy Johnston (University of Edinburgh), said: “We found that negatively balanced material does change people’s moods in a negative way, and this could have other knock on effects, such as making people worry more about their own problems.”
The writer’s unscientific findings were that was that the people I met actually felt that they’d had ‘the best of it’ and were worried about the future for their children and more so for their grandchildren.
The Positive News Journal aspires to redress the balance
And it does this occasionally – see the link to this list above: ‘From political upheaval to natural disasters, the first three months of 2017 have seen many challenges. But behind the headlines, there are signs of progress and possibility. Here are 20 of our favourites’. So often, however, the reports come from far afield – only two items in the list from Britain – and many will not feel that they are relevant to daily life here.
Amongst the writer’s websites which cover political corruption, growing food insecurity, chemical and nuclear dangers and illegal killing by armed drones is one – Antidote to Gloom – which is more happily received.
This week random visitors from America topped the list (left) who actively sought news relating to the first link:
- Swiss voters embrace shift to renewables and ban new nuclear plants (top post this week)
- An all-electric taxi, releasing no emissions into the local environment
- Renewable energy storage – by rail
- Solihull, Leeds and Manchester aim to reduce air pollution and ease traffic congestion
- What went right? January to March 2017 (taken from Positive News)
Occasionally thanks are emailed by Antidote readers whose spirits have been lifted by a respite from the current destructive news-diet.
Time for change in our media as well as our politics.
The Telegraph reports that AELTC appears to anticipate ‘displays of Corbynmania’, during this year’s event.
Sharing mainstream alarm at the unprecedented scenes witnessed at last month’s Glastonbury festival, the All England Lawn Tennis Club, a private members’ club which hosts the Wimbledon Championships, hopes that warning notices, “No political slogans!”, on display at the entrance gates will be taken to heart by Corbyn’s supporters and other political activists.
This is a continuing manifestation of a threatened establishment – a general right-wing demonisation of Corbyn.
Corbyn is the norm – in tune with European heads of state
A more stable response comes from many well-informed commentators who explain that Corbyn’s ‘extremist’ ideas are actually in line with mainstream European policy and practice (above: European Socialist heads of state).
In the Financial Times, Des Freedman, Professor of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London, has remonstrated with economist Tim Harford, author of the latest two epithets, who accused Corbyn of ‘scapegoating’ and ’xenophobia’ (re requisition of empty foreign-owned property to house the Grenfell survivors).
Freedman believes that this ‘unwarranted criticism of Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the (Grenfell Tower) tragedy should be placed in the context of the 2016 FT report ‘s finding of some 9,169 vacant flats and houses in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, adding:
“It is not “xenophobic” to suggest that these homes could be usefully occupied by those who actually need somewhere to live. It is simply common sense”.
*Des Freedman Professor of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London
News of the long campaign against the proposed Javelin Park incinerator was read by many visitors to this site in 2013 and 2015.
This year, campaigners obtained a copy of the contract, after using freedom of Information rules, and the monitoring officer at Gloucestershire County Council has now been asked to investigate whether the leader and his deputy exaggerated the cost of backing out of a plan to commission a £500m waste incinerator.
A resident of the county was contacted and replied that she had read about the discovery in the Gloucester Citizen, which republished an account from Gloucestershire Live, but neither account may now be found online. A search reveals no mainstream media reference to the subject.
Public Sector Blogs drew on an account by Tim Davies, co-founder of Open Data Services Co-operative, co-director of Practical Participation, affiliate at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society:
“The claim made to council on 18th Feb 2015 that it could cost £60m – £100m to cancel the contract appears to be based on calculations from officers, and/or Ernst and Young which have not been published by the authority (perhaps another EIR or FOIA request will be needed here…). The Tribunal ruling refers in Paragraph 27 to a document from Ernst and Young presented to Cabinet in November 2015. However campaigners reading the unredacted contract cannot find the substantiation for the cancellation costs being so high before the facility is operational. It appears breakage before the plant is in operation could cost substantially less than the break-points once it is up and running – and possibly even lower than the £30m the Council has subsequently committed from reserves to cover shortfalls in the project”.
Community R4C, a community-led project promoting a circular economy in Gloucestershire, which published local media accounts of the recent discovery here, has now gone to the council’s external auditor, Grant Thornton. With the help of the Environmental Law Foundation, a case has been put together which, it believes, shows the Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) contract is not value-for-money. It has also approached the Competition and Markets Authority, claiming that Gloucestershire’s contract breaks competition law.
A contributor to Private Eye magazine reports that environmental law expert Raymond Purdy, a senior fellow at Oxford University, has complained about the way Gloucestershire council leader Mark Hawthorne and deputy Ray Theodoulou presented financial details to a crucial meeting. As Tim Davies noted above, it was claimed that to opt out of the contract already signed with UBB would potentially cost £100m.
ELF elaborates: “The contract, originally signed in 2013 and then renegotiated in 2015, for the £500 million incinerator was awarded to Urbaser Balfour Beatty although details on pricing and information on termination were only made public following an Information Tribunal ruling in March this year (2017). In light of this information, and after seeking assistance from Counsel through ELF member, Duncan Sinclair of 39 Essex Chambers, R4C lodged a complaint with the CMA on 21st March that the Javelin Park contract breaches the Competition Act 1998. R4C believe that the exclusive contract is anti-competitive and prevents technological innovation, imposing a huge financial burden for years to come. They state that:
- the price paid by GCC for waste disposal for a minimum amount is 10 times the next tranche, thereby creating ‘de facto’ exclusivity and foreclosing the market for waste treatment (including eliminating incentives to recycle/move higher up the waste hierarchy);
- there are excessive termination costs thereby enforcing the ‘lock-in’; and
- the 25-year contract prevents newer, cheaper and more efficient/environmentally friendly alternatives developing to the detriment of consumers in terms of not only price but also their interest in the environment (both local and more broadly).
If the complaint is upheld there would be serious consequences for Gloucestershire County Council and the residents they are elected to represent.