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The truth: countering the rhetoric of the Murdoch press

As the Labour Party membership decides who will represent the party in elections, based on their record and politics, the Times and the Sun call the democratic process a plot and a purge.

The Times headline: “Moderates (aka ‘Tory-lite’ Blairites) forced out by hard left in Labour purge” is accompanied by a photograph of two deselected councillors of pleasant appearance.

The Sun is cruder: “The RED REVOLUTION: Corbynistas launch widescale plot to take over Labour from the bottom up by kicking out moderate councillors”. Its article shows a picture of Momentum supporters – one looking extremely aggressive.

The reality: a few of the Momentum supporters in Birmingham – a varied and thoughtful crowd

Steve Walker sets the scene: “The ‘MSM’s latest smear, aided and abetted by the centrist ‘usual suspects’, is that ‘hard left’ Momentum ‘bullies’ are unfairly deselecting poor, abused centrist councillors in places such as Haringey . . .

“The background to this is the ‘Haringey Development Vehicle’ (HDV) – a hugely controversial and many would say hare-brained scheme championed by senior, right-wing Labour councillors whereby thousands of social homes will be handed over to a developer in what campaigners have termed ‘the £2 billion gamble’.

Owen Jones is equally clear: “What has actually happened is this: Labour is choosing candidates to stand as councillors in next year’s local elections. In some cases, members have democratically decided that some sitting councillors should face an open contest. This happened automatically until a rule change last year. Calculating that they will lose to a left-wing alternative, some have stood down. Others have lost. This is not a “purge”. This is what is known as “democracy”.

He assesses the recent history of the Labour Party . . .

“Before the Corbyn surge, many Labour parties were hollowed-out husks, the playthings of ambitious hacks, lacking roots in their local communities. Council candidates were selected at poorly attended meetings: yes, often because of stitch-ups. In the last two years, Labour has blossomed into one of the biggest parties in the western world. In Hornsey and Wood Green – one half of Haringey – one in 14 voters are now members of the Labour Party. Many of these members are full of inspiration and optimism – they want to replace our bankrupt social order, not tinker with it – and expect their representatives to be accountable to them and their values”.

and notes the renewed media campaign against Momentum

The frequent portrayal of Momentum as a group of extremist zealots is driven by political and corporate establishment fears backed by a press reliant on advertising patronage, who – increasingly – fear the election of a government headed by Jeremy Corbyn.

Jones concludes that the democratisation of the Labour Party is a good thing – essential to the building of a democratic socialist society.





Media 80: election result confirms waning influence of corporate media

Readers from other countries (left) who found the Media 79 article of interest are directed – for a fuller account – to a detailed article in Media Lens discovered after this post was written. As George Monbiot writes:

“The billionaire press threw everything it had at Jeremy Corbyn, and failed to knock him over. In doing so, it broke its own power.

Its wild claims succeeded in destroying not Corbyn’s credibility, but its own. But the problem is by no means confined to the corporate media. The failure also belongs to the liberal media, and it is one from which some platforms might struggle to recover . . .

He adds that broadcasters allow themselves to be led by the newspapers, despite their massive bias, citing the 2015 election campaign, during which opinion polls revealed that the NHS came top of the list of voters’ concerns, while the economy came third – but received four times as much coverage on TV news as the NHS, which was commonly seen as Labour’s strongest suit: “This appeared to reflect the weight given to these issues in the papers, most of which sought a Conservative victory”.

Monbiot records that an analysis by the Media Reform Coalition and Birkbeck College found that, despite the rules on impartiality and balance, when Corbyn’s leadership was being challenged last summer, the BBC’s evening news bulletins gave almost twice as much airtime to his critics as they gave to his supporters. They often ascribed militancy and aggression to him and his supporters, but never to his challengers and quoted one report on the BBC News at 6 which finished with the words,

“This is a fight only one side can win. The others are being carted off to irrelevance. The place for political losers”. The accompanying shot showed a dustbin lorry setting off, painted with the word Corbyn”.

Suzanne Moore also looks at the futile attempts of these tabloids to ‘crush Corbyn’ in the Guardian but in a slightly less crude way the Times and the FT also devoted much space to this end (see the Rachman FT article and cartoon, below) – and signally failed to achieve their objective.

Many ‘ordinary’ people have suspected that social media has been becoming far more influential – Suzanne observing that: “the hope of so many on social media and the tirelessness of those out campaigning contrasted with the stunned, sometimes agonised coverage of the old men who govern the airwaves”.

After detailing the evidence of bias in the Guardian George Monbiot concludes that the liberal media have managed to alienate the most dynamic political force this nation has seen for decades:

“Those who have thrown so much energy into the great political revival, many of whom are young, have been almost unrepresented, their concerns and passion unheeded, misunderstood or reviled. When they have raised complaints, journalists have often reacted angrily, writing off movements that have gathered in hope as a rabble of trots and wreckers. This response has been catastrophic in the age of social media. What many people in this movement now perceive is a solid block of affluent middle-aged journalists instructing young people mired in rent and debt to abandon their hopes of a better world”.

Monbiot asks why it has come to this, even in the media not owned by billionaires – apparently not taking into account that retaining the lucrative corporate advertisements is of crucial importance to    newspapers. He points to the selection of its entrants from a small, highly educated pool of people adding “Whatever their professed beliefs, they tend to be inexorably drawn towards their class interests”.

He ends “We need to interrogate every item of the news agenda and the way in which it is framed” and we enlist his support for Media Lens, which is doing exactly that”. 









Media 71: Peter Burgess tells the truth and pulls no punches

jeremy-corbyn-2Much of the media is taking its usual stance referring to Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘handlers’ as though he were a pit bull terrier. The Times has determined that he was making a bid to relaunch his leadership which has been derailed and Jim Pickard in the FT, author of many hostile articles, focusses on pay caps but not pay ratios.

It is good to turn to sane and rightminded commentators such as Peter Burgess (Times comments) and Maisie Carter (recent article). Peter spells out the Corbyn message with absolute clarity and rather more bluntly than JC:

  • It is very clear he wants top execs pay to reflect that of the lowest paid worker for them to earn more and not rely on tax payers to boost their salaries and for the top execs to earn a decent salary but nor one that is obscene (sadly so many Tories want to see the poor get poorer and the rich richer).
  • He also wants to ensure that we continue to bring in workers when needed but ensure they don’t depress wages for British workers.
  • Of course those at the top getting obscene salaries want to disgrace Corbyn because the last thing they want is for their salaries to fall under £500,000 a year.
  • There’s big and there’s obscene especially when they are telling others to tighten their belts, can’t afford to pay you more then handing themselves 7 and 8 figure salaries and bonuses.
  • What shows double standards are all those commenting on here who think salaries of over £100,000 a year are too much if somebody is running the NHS, a local authority or running a Union.
  • I do find it difficult to understand how anybody can find the policies which have allowed so many workers to have their wages and working conditions deteriorate whilst CEO’s are paying themselves up to 700x the salary of their employees as being fair and something they’d support.
  • I would add that labour to their shame played an important part in allowing these obscene differentials since Maggie was in office. Some of them thought £500,000 a year for them and their friends was not enough.
  • Yes Corbyn needs to keep shaming all those, including some labour MP’s who’ve happily supported the policy of “austerity” that have hit the poorest whilst allowing the richest to continue to get richer.
  • I’d support a return to the differentials back in the days of Maggie. Top execs back then were hardly struggling. 20x / 30x acceptable 700x isn’t!

Endnote: Maisie Carter’s appeal

“Unite around Jeremy Corbyn’s ten point programme, which proposes the building of one million homes in five years, a free national education service, a secure, publicly provided NHS, with an end to health privatisation, full employment, an end to zero hours contracts, security at work, action to secure an equal society, a progressive tax system, shrink the gap between highest and lowest paid; aim to put conflict resolution and human rights at the heart of foreign policy.  On the last point, as the wars waged or aided by the West are the cause of mass immigration, we must step up foreign aid and instead of spending £37bn a year on foreign wars as our government does, invest in helping to rebuild these war torn countries”.

Read Maisie’s article in full here.




Media 55: make the content substantiate the title and subtitles, Rosa: ‘must do better’

Hopefully a far better food writer and cook than journalist, Rosa Prince worked as a chef and cook in the Notting Hill specialist bookshop, Books for Cooks with Clarissa Dixon Wright and was the in-house cook at the Spectator magazine for seven years.

Were the captions a hamfisted editorial decision? After reading her Times sub-title, “Online activism is a powerful weapon for Labour’s leader but too often it’s a hate-filled echo chamber for the like-minded”, readers will have expected unpleasant examples of ‘hate-filled’ speech. Not so, the succeeding passages were bland and innocuous.

JC standingDoes the Times really expect its readers to receive the titles without examining the substance? Do they have such a low opinion of them – even though ‘Comrade Corbyn’, a book Ms Prince put together, is now reaching the second hand market on offer at half price.

At 8pm on Monday, Rosa reports: “a few thousand Jeremy Corbyn supporters sat at their computers or took to their phones to share personal, often moving, accounts of care they had received from junior doctors. By midnight, the Twitter hashtag #theyarethedoctors had been used more than 20,000 times and was ‘trending’ “.

Wistfully recalling the days when highly motivated leftwingers made banners or went on marches, she rues that now: “these were taking part in a “Twitter storm”, bombarding the internet with 140-character soundbites in a form of megaphone diplomacy”.

A reluctant compliment followed: “For an old-fashioned lefty a few months shy of his 67th birthday, Jeremy Corbyn is surprisingly adept at this internet thing — and so far it has served him very well”.

Rosa Prince expresses the belief – and no doubt her employers’ hope – that online activism has become an end in itself:

“For 40 years, it was enough for Corbyn to attend the meetings, to shout the slogans and to wave the placards. Even his greatest achievement to date, as one of the convenors of the Stop the War movement, to mobilise millions of people from all corners of the world in opposition to the war in Iraq, was ultimately a failure. When it came to it, the only people who mattered were the two sitting in 10 Downing Street and the White House”.

Does the Times article headline: “Social media monster could devour Corbyn”, reflect not only a desire to see Jeremy Corbyn to retreat into obscurity, but also her employer’s impotent anger at the loss of readership, advertising revenue and influence posed by social media?

Rosa’s advice: “ To get there, it’s not enough to tweet to the converted — you must persuade people to get out of their armchairs and go and vote for you”.

Will this challenge be met by ‘armchair’ users?

FSA approves DEFRA sale of meat from TB-affected cattle: very low risk – for those who can avoid it

owen paterson wigging over horsemeatA medic alerted PCU to the Times report that DEFRA is earning £10m by selling, for human consumption, cattle slaughtered after testing positive for bovine tuberculosis (bTB).  Will MP Owen Paterson (Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – opposite) and the Food Standards Agency be called into No 10 again about this?

The FSA approves this practice and products containing the meat are not labelled as such. At present, relatively few people, including DEFRA and FSA personnel, know where it is going – and one suspects their families are not eating these products.

gummer beefburgerDuring the government’s sorry handling of  BSE , John Gummer at least had the courage of his convictions, however mistaken. Will DEFRA and FSA personnel demonstrate their faith in this meat by consuming it regularly for a year?

The Farmers Weekly explains: “Where an inspection of a carcass reveals TB lesions in more than one organ or region it is declared unfit for human consumption and destroyed, but if the lymph nodes in one organ or part of the carcass are infected, that area is removed and the rest is considered safe to enter the food chain”.

Another government body, the Food Standards Agency, carries out the inspection process.

The raw meat, from around 28,000 diseased animals a year, is banned by most supermarkets and burger chains, but it is sold to some caterers and food processors who supply schools, hospitals and the military, or put the meat into pies and pasties.

DEFRA says the risk of infection is “extremely low” and sells the meat without anything to warn processors or consumers that it comes from bTB-infected cattle

The Food Standards Agency confirms there are no known cases of humans contracting TB from eating meat.

The medic wrote to a local firm, Ginsters:

Ginsters logo”I heard on the Today programme today that DEFRA are selling carcases for human consumption that have previously tested positive for TB. As a doctor, and the grandfather of three girls who eat Ginster’s products, I would like to be assured that your firm does not use such meat”.


The reply from its head of marketing:

“Ginsters takes pride in the fact that we only purchase quality cuts of beef that we prepare ourselves in our on-site bakery. We are committed to sourcing ingredients as locally as possible and building long term partnerships with a small number of British farmers and suppliers who share our quality focus. Since this issue came to the fore, we have contacted all our beef suppliers to stress that at Ginsters we will not accept any meat from the carcasses of TB reactor cattle”.

Readers will come to their own conclusions – is The Times “scaremongering” as DEFRA claimed in The Grocer?

Should government ensure that insurance corporates offer home-insurance policies in high risk flood areas?

Or should a free market put profits before people?


The National Flood Forum, a charity dedicated to supporting and representing flood risk communities, warns that as reported today in The Timeshundreds of thousands of householders in areas are at high risk of flooding face losing their home-insurance policies next year unless the Government finds extra cash to rescue the industry. Talks between insurance chiefs and ministers, which have lasted for months, are on “the brink of collapse”.

As hundreds of homes in the Midlands and the South West were deluged by floods, the National Flood Forum has hit out at Government and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) for failing to secure an agreement on the future of flood risk insurance.

It warns that the Statement of Principles covering flood insurance runs out in June next year and states that many insurance companies are making plans that assume there will be no agreement, continuing:

“The consequence will be a free-for-all where insurance companies are free and refuse insurance to anyone who is at high risk.

“Chairman of the National Flood Forum, Charles Tucker, said “This is kicking people when they are down. Every one of those 816 households is likely to have a nasty shock when they come to renew their insurance. Many that have flooded before could now find it difficult to get insurance, at any price.

“It’s bad enough just to be flooded. Being hit with a 4-figure insurance premium adds insult to injury. And being refused insurance could spell financial ruin for thousands. Every household and community hit by flooding is relying on them to ensure that flood risk insurance is available to all, is affordable, and is based on social justice.”

The Flood Forum asserts that it is Government’s responsibility to ensure that a clear framework is in place with the insurance industry for flood risk insurance. Failing agreement, a completely free market will leave many thousands of high risk properties unable to obtain insurance in future years. It’s now time for action.