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Monday, 22 May 2017

Danczuk Media Ban FAILS

As if the twists and turns of the Rochdale constituency saga were not enough in themselves, with former MP Simon Danczuk barred from standing for Labour, former Greater Manchester interim Mayor Tony Lloyd inserted as the candidate instead, and then Danczuk deciding to run as an independent, possibly because he’d miss out on some more money unless he fought the election and lost, there has been more today.
Overnight had come the news that Danczuk’s latest squeeze, Charlene Meade, had at last seen sense and dumped him. As she has now taken her Twitter feed private, we have to rely on press reports to relay the news. For this, the Murdoch Sun claimed an exclusive. So Spanker was now on his own. And he wasn’t pleased. So he decided to take it out on the unfortunate people at BuzzFeed News.

Tomorrow, there will be a hustings event put on for a group of local business people. The lunch event is called the “Rochdale Hour”. Danczuk declared that he would not participate if anyone from BuzzFeed were invited. As the excellent Rochdale Online has reported, “The organiser, Damien Maddock, is reported to have withdrawn Buzzfeed's invitation to the 'Rochdale Hour' business lunch, saying ‘his hand had been forced’”.

Their report added “Buzzfeed is a well respected global news organisation headquartered in New York with offices in cities around the world … Last week a BuzzFeed reporter called on Karen Danczuk to make enquiries about Danczuk claiming on his election nomination papers that he lived with her - something she denied before launching a tirade on Twitter against BuzzFeed”. The other candidates were unimpressed.

Lib Dem candidate Andy Kelly said: ‘Disgusting behaviour by Danczuk and disappointing decision by the organisers. Danczuk should not be allowed to dictate who attends and reports. In the circumstances I will not be attending’ … A spokesman for the Labour Party said: ‘It is deeply concerning for a candidate to be allowed to prevent a well respected, bonafide news organisation from attending’ … Conservative candidate Jane Howard said the organisers should tell Danczuk it is not for him to dictate who can attend, she said: ‘It should be open for any media to go along and report on the hustings’”.

Then, as Tony Lloyd had also apparently declined to go along with the ban, BuzzFeed was re-invited. Rochdale Online again: “Mr Maddock has now taken the decision to re-invite Buzzfeed and Buzzfeed reporter Hannah Al-Othman has accepted the re-invitation”. So what’s Spanker going to do? Will he stay away?

It is not known if Danczuk will now boycott the meeting, as he threatened, as he refuses to respond to Rochdale Online”. So who knows. And, indeed, who cares? Simon Danczuk has tried to throw his weight around, unaware that his word no longer carries much weight in the constituency he represented for seven years.

And whether his ex-wife Karen turns up, seeings she hates BuzzFeed as well, nobody cares either. The era of the Danczuks in Rochdale was for a time, but not for all time.

Theresa May Is No Margaret Thatcher

At the depth of her unpopularity in 1980, Margaret Thatcher attended the Tory Party conference in Brighton. Unemployment was bad and getting worse, as was inflation. The embrace of monetarism, far from putting the inflationary genie back in the bottle, was instead putting smaller companies out of business as they found it impossible to get funding from the banks (multinationals, on the other hand, had no such problem).
Opinion polls showed the Tories’ ratings in free fall. Some in Mrs T’s own party were becoming nervous. There would, surely, have to be some kind of re-think? Other might have stopped and thought. Not her. “To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning!she declared to conference.
Fast forward 37 years and we have another woman Prime Minister, one who wasted no time in comparing herself to Mrs T. At her first PMQs, Theresa May stared down Jeremy Corbyn and goaded him with “Remind him of anyone?” She was in no doubt that she was the true heir to the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. But then came the manifesto, its dreaded “dementia tax”, and the widespread revulsion from voters.
There was only one thing to do: make the equally dreaded U-Turn, but ensure it was spun in such a way to ensure that the more compliant part of the media knew to tell their readers that it was no such thing. Also, any idea that there ever was a dementia tax could then be painted as a scare story by those ghastly socialists. The strong and stable imperial progress of the Empress Theresa could then resume!
First with the story, proving that editor George Osborne still has rather good contacts within the Tory Party, was the Evening Standard, which has put it on its front page: “PM’s emergency move comes as Conservative candidates panic over ‘Dementia Tax’ … NOW MAY GOES INTO REVERSE ON SOCIAL CARE COST”. The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg confirmed “Here it comes - 'consultation will include an absolute limit' i.e. A cap, which was not in manifesto last week”. A blatant and panicked U-Turn.
But then came the spin. Faisal Islam of Sky News recorded its application: “PM says Corbyn & Labour is trying to scare old people with ‘fake claims’ about social care system”. What? You heard that right. “Theresa May: ‘these are good and sensible plans... but since my manifesto has been published, has been subject to fake claims’”. “My manifesto”.
There was more. “May: Green Paper ‘will include proposals for an absolute limit on what people have to pay’ - that its not what the manifesto briefing said”. Kevin Maguire of the Mirror was unimpressed. “Theresa May killing irony by accusing Corbyn of ‘fake claims’ when she falsely accuses him of wanting to abolish the army”. Michael Deacon of the Telegraph confirmed this: “Less than two minutes before accusing Corbyn of ‘manipulating people's fears’, May suggested Corbyn would abolish the Army”.

The media has already seen through this desperate U-Turn. And there is still the means testing of the winter fuel allowance to go. Owen Jones was right - you can’t trust a word Theresa May says. She is no Margaret Thatcher.

Tories Deploy IRA Dead Cat

The furore over the Tory manifesto’s social care proposals, which if implemented would see the elderly have their homes sold after their death to pay care bills, with their children getting to inherit very little indeed, shows no sign of going away. And with weekend opinion polls recording a closing of the gap between Labour and the Tories, The Blue Team’s press cheerleaders had to change the subject, and fast.
Their new chosen specialised subject would have been Brexit, a trusty staple where readers could be reminded of all those ghastly foreigners being faced down by the might of Empress Theresa. But then came Jeremy Corbyn’s interview by Sophy Ridge on Sky News yesterday morning, where Ms Ridge brought up the subject of Northern Ireland.

Corbyn would have known this was a highly likely line of questioning, as his side-kick John McDonnell would know that he might face prodding on Marxism. There was no ideal answer for Jezza: unequivocal condemnation of the Republican side would lay him open to charges of hypocrisy, and less than unequivocal condemnation of the Republican side would have him, once again, labelled an IRA sympathiser.

And so it came to pass: Ms Ridge wanted to know if Jezza condemned the IRA. He replied “I condemn all the bombing by both the Loyalists and the IRA”. This was enough to have the dead cat duly deployed by the more obedient part of the press.
Pride of place has to go to the Telegraph, for inflating this particular soufflé of news well beyond the limits of viability: “Corbyn engulfed in IRA furore … Labour leader refuses to condemn group”. Er, he did condemn them. The Mail was also ready on the hair trigger: “Labour leader refuses FIVE times to unequivocally condemn IRA … CORBYN’S KICK IN TEETH FOR IRA VICTIMS”. The supporting articles were equally condemnatory.

Daily Mail Comment talked ofthe twisted Corbyn narrative - peddled by Marxists for years … The thought of this IRA cheerleader becoming Prime Minister is simply grotesque”. The Sun’s editorial, backing up that front page “IRA pal Corbyn blasted” teaser, tells “The hardcore leftie is making the party more out of touch day by day with his immigration policies and IRA ties”. But the Murdoch goons can always be relied upon to foul up.
Ranting “He was snapped having coffee with [Gerry] Adams and the late Martin McGuinness in the summer of 2015 - shortly before he became party leader … He also observed a minute’s silence in 1987 for eight IRA members killed by the SAS in an ambush in Gibraltar”, the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker duly sell the pass.

The SAS ambush in Gibraltar resulted in the deaths of THREE IRA members, something the Murdoch press ought to know about. After all, when it was revealed that the three were unarmed, the Sun and Sunday Times went after the ITV documentary Death On The Rock, and were so creative in smearing those involved that they ended up paying most of the £300,000 libel damages awarded to witness Carmen Proetta.

The Murdoch press can’t even get its Corbyn IRA smear right. But good to see the knee-jerk deployment of the dead cat. I’m sure Lynton’s cheque isn’t in the post.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Dan Hodges Can’t Figure Tories

Those who think the Tories are wilful and uncaring may be right, especially having seen the party’s election manifesto. But there are people out there rather more wilful, and certainly more uncaring, and they are the right-leaning part of the Pundit Establishment, those trousering six-figure salaries to pontificate on why the political stance of those earning a small fraction of that amount should align with theirs.
He's desperate, Dan

And recently joining that right-leaning band on his generously remunerated floor-crossing journey has been the Mail on Sunday’s not even slightly celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges, who has signed on to the imperial progress of the Empress Theresa so enthusiastically that the merest wobble in the opinion polls gives him a visible case of the vapours. Thus it was with his attempt to get MoS readers to “look over there”.

In an instant, Theresa May has killed off Thatcherism. It may end in disaster. But by God, she is brave” read the grovelling headline. Yes, pensioners wary of losing all but the last £100,000 of equity in their houses, and children seeing their modest inheritance vanishing before their eyes, the Tories may be proposing to crap all over you, but think how brave they are being! And, er, what has Ms May actually killed off?

Thursday’s manifesto launch represented Theresa May’s Clause IV moment. Where [Tony] Blair had tried sleight of hand, she, characteristically, preferred bluntness”. Yes? Yes yes? Yes yes yes? “‘For too many people in Britain today, life is simply much harder than many seem to think or realise. They are not ideological. They don’t buy into grand visions. They aren’t fooled by politicians who promise the earth and claim no tough choices are required’”. Yes, she said that. But, so what? What’s such a big deal?

“In that instant, Thatcherism - and its dogmatic faith in the power of free markets - died. Along with John Major’s sepia tinted vision of Britain, and David Cameron’s liberal, metro-centric Toryism”. How, exactly? “To grasp the full significance of what she said you need to understand what she didn’t say. Mrs May could have ignited the blow-torch of a new Conservative revolution. A bonfire of regulation. The slashing of taxes. An acceleration of deficit reduction, coupled with a fresh assault on public services”.

I hate to mention this to Dan, but she didn’t exclude any of that. He’s not for listening, though, preferring to sup a little more Tory Kool-Aid: “Who could have stopped her? The Election is won. The official Opposition are a rabble. Her opponents within her own party are still reeling from her turbo-ascent to the premiership. But instead, she lined up the Conservative Party’s holy cows, and slayed them”.

Theresa May slayed nothing. And the idea that Dan Hodges’ witterings carry more authority because he attended a Labour Party conference almost 23 years ago does not stand serious analysis. Instead, he ought to start learning about the Tory Party. When Hodges cites claims such as “We see rigid dogma and ideology not just as needless but dangerous” as some kind of Damascene conversion, it is nothing of the sort.

The Tory Party is the party of the Establishment. And the Establishment always figures out how to look after itself - even if it means having to co-opt a few of the lower orders to achieve its goals. Dogma was never the name of the game. It’s all about being in power.

Don’t Menshn Impeachment

Some of us here in Britain have watched the troubles of Combover Crybaby Donald Trump unfold with one particular interest in mind - to see when the scales would fall from the eyes of those Stateside and the wibbling of (thankfully) Tory MP Louise Mensch would be called out for the conspiracist tosh we already knew it was. That moment has now come.
The pivotal moment when Ms Mensch’s house of cards began to collapse was when Vox ran a piece titledDemocrats are falling for fake news about Russia … Why liberal conspiracy theories are flourishing in the age of Trump”. This focused on Ms Mensch’s constant outpouring of claims about the Trump Gang, and rather a lot more.

And it’s interesting for us in the UK to see Ms Mensch linked to Democrats and others called liberal. This is, of course, part of the problem for Dems looking for Trump to topple - Louise Mensch is no liberal. She’s a Tory, she backed every Republican except Trump last year, and she is also a taker of the Murdoch shilling. That’s the same Rupert Murdoch who is devoting serious amounts of media resource to talking up … Donald Trump.
But that she’s away with the fairies is at last becoming clear to more and more watchers of the unfolding Trump crisis. After Ms Mensch claimed the process of impeachment had started - it hasn’t - Alexandra Erin lost patience: “Louise Mensch is lying to people and saying impeachment has started. She is spreading dangerous lies that can demoralize the resistance”. That could be because she isn’t really part of that resistance.

Ben Dreyfuss was less subtle: “These are the most shared lies from Louise Mensch’s actual fake news blog”. There were rather a lot of them. And Graham Linehan, seeing that the Mensch and Gamergate connection had also been twigged, declared his relief: “Good that Americans are beginning to see Mensch for the hustling opportunist she is”.
That anyone in the USA ever took Ms Mensch seriously is baffling to many here. Her lack of credibility was exemplified by the Rochdale grooming saga, which saw many men jailed after a Prosecutor had the files reopened. She got it totally wrong and claimed the same prosecutor was covering it all up for his mates and the Police.

Her vicious pursuit of anyone not backing her line on Tim Hunt (the Gamergate connection) resulted in the Association of British Science Writers declaring her complaints to it vexatious and without credibility. The Korean Federation of Women in Science and Technology talked ofthe ongoing serious distortion of facts by foreign commentators”.
She claimed the Russians killed Andrew Breitbart. She claimed the Guardian and New York Times had revealed “agents’ names” when discussing the Edward Snowden leaks. She viciously harassed a teenage girl over nothing more than a hashtag. She told her readers there had been an EU coup in Portugal (wrong). She was sure that Charlie Hebdo was an actual person. She even threatened me with a libel action (didn’t happen).

There are more examples of Louise Mensch’s idiocy - many more. It is my pleasure to bring them to the attention of all those good people in the USA.

David Davis’ EU Bluff CALLED

After last week’s party manifesto launches, and the realisation that the one with the real suicide note in it was not the Labour one, the Tory-supporting press has realised that they must move the narrative away from social care. Because the more time the voters who will decide next month’s General Election spend looking at the prospect of not being able to leave their home to their kids spend looking at those proposals, the more the polls move.
So this morning the fallback position was being adopted, and that meant increasingly telling readers to look somewhere else. And, as the election was supposed to be about Brexit, Brexit was now the issue. The problem for the Tory press was what exiting the EU was going to entail. So while the Sunday Telegraph teases readers with “May: We want Brexit refund”, the Murdoch Sunday Times is ready to ‘fess up.
There, it is admitted that the Brexit “divorce bill” will not mean a refund, but a substantial payment in the general direction of Brussels, hence the headline “Davis warns Britain will quit talks if EU demands €100bn”. So the Tories are ready to pay up - as their manifesto admitted, and Zelo Street covered the other day - but they want voters to know that those ghastly foreigners will not be permitted to hit us too hard.
To this end, outgoing Brexit minister David Davis has shared his thoughts, including “Rounding on European Commission officials who leaked details of a recent dinner with the Prime Minister, Davis said Eurocrats had ‘axes to grind’ and accused the other member states of posturing, incoherence and failing to tell the truth”.

So yet more pointless railing at those other 27 member states who have left it all to Michel Barnier and Jean-Claude Juncker, then. What else did Davis have to tell the ST? “He made clear the UK was prepared to walk out if the other 27 member states did not moderate their demands”. Why the tough talk? Ah well.

Buried in the ST interview narrative is this: “Davis spoke out as the other 27 countries prepare to sign off on a legally binding negotiating position tomorrow … Senior EU sources say their position has hardened and they will demand more than €100bn, including money they claim is still owed by Britain from the period from 2007 to 2013”.
Whoops! The ST calls this “a dramatic escalation of hostilities”, and goes on to tell “A senior source says the other countries would not back down either”. So where does this needless exercise in comparative swaggering leave the UK? Any falling back on an environment where our industries face both tariffs and customs delays means only one thing - a substantial part of that which can more elsewhere will move elsewhere.

David Davis and his fellow Tories have been reduced to explaining their problem away by telling interviewers “look over there at that dreadful Corbyn chap”, as London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson did when quizzed by Robert Peston this morning. That is because, despite the bluster, all Davis can summon up is empty threats. We can’t just walk out, because if we do, we’re even more stuffed.

Davis has, despite the press refashioning, had his bluff called by Brussels. Game over.

Top Six - May 21

So what’s hot, and what’s not, in the past week’s blogging? Here are the six most popular posts on Zelo Street for the past seven days, counting down in reverse order, because, well, I have kitchen cleanup stuff to do later. So there.
6 Uber App - Dangers IGNORED The distraction of Uber drivers, because they cannot interact with the app unless they use their hands, has resulted in an increasing number of variously bent Toyota Prius models. It’s not good for the passengers, either.

5 Daily Mail Doxing Shame The intrusive response of the press, as they rushed to identify the person who helped stop the spread of “ransomware” across NHS networks, was totally unnecessary and yet another example of the papers’ inability to behave themselves.

4 Karen Danczuk’s Council Tax Secret News arrived on Zelo Street that Kazza had been claiming Single Occupier discount on her Council Tax. But her ex-husband had put her address on his nomination papers, and the press has been running a story claiming her new partner moved in with her recently.

3 An Open Letter To Toby Young Tobes has once more been saying things about press regulation that are demonstrably untrue. So perhaps he could do everyone a favour and debate the subject with someone of opposing view.

2 Tories Cave In On Brexit Bill Hidden away in the Tory manifesto is the admission that, if elected, they will pay up when the EU “divorce bill” is presented.

1 Nigel Farage’s German Skewering The people at Die Zeit did what far too few interviewers in the UK have managed - to expose the former UKIP leader as a blustering nonentity and busted flush.

And that’s the end of another blogtastic week, blog pickers. Not ‘arf!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Tory Internet Regulation Hypocrisy

Some people say that it is not for Government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet. We disagree”. So begins “A FRAMEWORK FOR DATA AND THE DIGITAL ECONOMYon page 84 of the 2017 Conservative Party manifesto. And how does the manifesto see this lofty goal being accomplished?
So we will establish a regulatory framework in law to underpin our digital charter and to ensure that digital companies, social media platforms and content providers abide by these principles. We will introduce a sanctions régime to ensure compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law”.

They weren’t finished: “We will also create a power in law for Government to introduce an industry-wide levy from social media companies and communication service providers to support awareness and preventative activity to counter internet harms, just as is already the case with the gambling industry”. The gambling industry. You read that right.

Just as we led the world in regulating embryology thirty years ago, we know that if we create the right system of governance for the digital economy and use of data, we will attract the right businesses who want to become the global centre for data use and research”. Thus the final delusion of Theresa May and her obedient followers.
Those who look in regularly on Zelo Street will need no reminder of the tendency of our free and fearless press to demand the highest standards of the New Media, while refusing to have the Government go anywhere near placing anything resembling regulation upon them. These proposals could, like the Tories’ abject proposal to drop Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry, have been written for them by the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate.

Hardly a week goes by without the shock troops of the tabloid media launching another assault on Google, or Facebook, or anyone else who has incurred their displeasure. But the idea of self-regulation for online content providers is Streng Verboten for Team Theresa. That luxury is only to be permitted for their pals in the press.
But this is not merely a case of rank hypocrisy: the idea that the Internet is like the evolution of embryology research is delusional in the extreme. How will these new laws be enforced against companies based in other jurisdictions? Do the Tories expect to be able to tell Governments in the USA and China how they should proceed?

How will those services be shut out of the UK? Do the Tories and their press pals intend to indulge in censorship? They wouldn’t be adopting double standards, would they? But enough. This is, once again, the disproportionate influence of the press barons and their interventionist editors, sourly resentful at losing so much advertising revenue to the likes of Facebook, but still possessing enough influence to bend the ear of Tory technophobes.

The idea that a future Tory Government could police the internet from the UK is laughable. All that proposals like this will do is to guarantee that digital jobs migrate to other, marginally less authoritarian countries. Then, Team Theresa will be able to repent at leisure after following the word of the false press prophets.

Jeremy Corbyn MI5 Scare BUSTED

The General Election may not be until next month, but the electoral process gets going in earnest next week, when postal ballots are sent out. So this weekend, the parties are looking to make the kind of impact that will resonate with the electorate. Helping them along will be the partisan part of the press - for which read almost all of it - with a few well placed slices of knocking copy to scare voters into line.
So who was going to jump first? That question seems to have been answered by the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, which has decided to frighten folks away from Labour by chucking the “security risk” dead cat on the table. “MI5 ran file on Corbyn to investigate IRA links” tells the headline. Jezza asked then PM Margaret Thatcher if someone in prison could have more visits. How traitorous was that?

Well, not really. We know that Mrs T, and other Prime Ministers, were either talking to the IRA, or had chaps doing that sort of thing for them. And the Tel - not for the first time - is taking a small amount of information and inflating the resulting soufflé beyond the limits of viability. We know this as the Telegraph’s story has been lifted away from its paywall by the Mail - and a “source close to the investigation” has spilled the beans.

If there was a file on someone, it meant they had come to notice. We opened a temporary file and did a preliminary investigation. It was then decided whether we should open a permanent file on them”. Yes? Yes yes? Yes yes yes? “A file would be opened on ‘someone who sympathises with a certain group, or is friends with a specific person’ and the purpose was to ‘assess whether the person was a threat’, the source added”.
So we don’t know if this claimed “investigation” went any further than a preliminary stage. The reports on the Corbyn story are all filled out with nudges and winks, although the Mail also volunteers “It has previously been claimed that the Metropolitan Police special branch had opened a file on Mr Corbyn over his association with anti-racism campaigns”, and it is admitted the security services snooped on anti-Apartheid activists.

How much of a security threat were Jack Straw and Peter Hain? Moreover, MI5 has in the past kept files on many other politicians. They kept one open on Harold Wilson, even through his eight years as Prime Minister. Stafford Cripps, chancellor of the exchequer in the late 1940s, was also the subject of MI5 surveillance. John Strachey, Attlee’s under-secretary of state for air, was another target, as was Liverpool MP Bessie Braddock.

MI5 kept a file on Tony Benn. They snooped on Peter Mandelson. Trades Union leaders were a favourite target. There was even a file on Peter Hitchens. That the spooks opened a file on Jeremy Corbyn is next to irrelevant: the Telegraph might as well have exhumed the Zinoviev Letter, for all the good their propagandising will do.

Expect more of this non-story deployment in the next two and a half weeks. But nothing about Tories who are security risks. Hello Liam Fox.

Tories Get Away With Media Ban

When their long-serving editor-at-large Adam Boulton made an on-air announcement telling viewers of Sky News (“first for breaking wind”) that the Tories were refusing to give the broadcaster the same level of access afforded to BBC, ITV and Channel 4, some pundits found this hard to believe. Sky? Where the Murdoch mafiosi have a 39% stake? The story did not seem plausible. But Boulton was dead right.
This was confirmed in a Sky News statement: “Since early in the election campaign, Sky News has not been getting live interviews on election issues with Conservative ministers. Also, we weren’t initially invited to follow the leader’s tour … We understand this to be because members of the Prime Minister’s team are unhappy with aspects of our political coverage. Sky News stands by its journalism and is committed to fair, impartial and accurate reporting of all the political parties”. What sensitive souls they are.

And, it seems, the slap in the face for Sky News was not an isolated incident. Steven de Foer of Belgian newspaper De Standaard observed yesterdayThe Conservative party might rhapsodise about traditional values, but hospitality, courtesy and respect for the press are apparently not among those”. He, too, had been shut out. So, whisper it quietly, has the New York Times. What was the Tories’ game?

After a significant amount of badgering, CCHQ eventually brushed de Foer off with a sniffy “There are limits to the amount of media we can accommodate at visits, and we have had a lot of requests from both UK and international media”. That might sound like an honest answer to a pressurised situation, but de Foer had seen through it.

The suggestion that May is besieged by hordes of camera teams and reporters from around the globe is nonsense. That media frenzy was last year, during the Brexit campaign … The UK is important, but not that important. The truth is that today only the usual suspects from the national media follow May on the campaign trail, which amounts mostly to nothing more than photo-ops”. So what was going on?

Simples. The Tories are indulging in micro-management of media opportunities that verges on the paranoid. Sky News had discovered that The Blue Team was keeping London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson out of the way. They had the story triple sourced. Theresa May’s spinners didn’t like that. The Belgian press? Stuff them, very few Tory votes in Belgium. And they’ll get away with it.

Why can I be so sure of that? Two things here. One, the rest of the media, having seen the punishment beating handed out to Sky News, will think twice before incurring the displeasure of Ms May’s minders, and two, the press will almost all ignore it, instead choosing to keep on cheering for the Tories. They have made that choice because the imperial progress of the Empress Theresa means no more press regulation reform.

So the Tories can behave like a bunch of Soviet-era thugs and get away with it, thus demonstrating how free and fearless our press really is. Banana Republic here we come.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Julia Hartley Brewer’s Unfree Breakfast

Tory-supporting pundits know their talking points, and make sure the lumpen proletariat know their place. School lunches for all? What a ghastly waste of money. School breakfasts for all? No, it’s so unnecessary. Who says so? As if you need to know, this is the latest example of how Julia Hartley Brewer, radio host and shameless promoter of Herself Personally Now, shows how out of touch she really is.
Don't they know who you are? Er, yes, that's sort of the problem

Ms Hartley Dooda has taken grave exception to the idea of her taxes contributing to all those hungry children actually being fed a half decent breakfast at school. I mean, how dare they? Before you know it, political parties will be suggesting that Talk Radio hosts use public transport, including buses. One does have certain standards to maintain.
And so it came to pass that Ms Hartley Dooda took to Twitter to register her displeasure: “New Tory policy offering free school breakfasts to all kids. When did it stop being parents' job to feed their kids?” Who manages for seven days on five days’ breakfast? Whatever. She still wasn’t happy: “there isn't a parent in this country who can't afford to feed their kids breakfast”. Her statistical expertise is quite magnificent. Or maybe it isn’t.
April Preston begged to differ. “I was one of these children which apparently do not exist”. What did the great radio host and after dinner somnambulism inducement specialist have to say about that? “Tell me about it. Why couldn't your parents afford to feed you?” Slightly presumptuous assumption there, as Ms Preston soon confirmed.
My mothers husband died, my father, and she is half paralysed and deaf. Unable to work and pay bills. With two daughters”. But reply came there none. Ms Preston noted “Still nowt”. And waited. The response, when it came, was as kindly and understanding as might have been expected: “I was in a meeting. Some of us have jobs”.
Callous, much? Where was the empathy, the realisation that she might have been wrong? Paul Unwin was not pleased with Ms Hartley Dooda’s response: “Thank you April. If this is true @JuliaHB1 must answer you”. After Ms Preston replied “It is true”, he affirmed his stance. “Thank you. @JuliaHB1 please answer? You cannot say what you did and when challenged withdraw”. Well, most reasonable people couldn’t. Not her.
Indeed, after the callous and dismissive “I’ve been in a meeting because I’m important” response, and the cynical addition of “Well you're out of it. Care to answer?” from Ross McCafferty, Ms Hartley Dooda added some of that sniffy patronising, just to make sure the lower orders knew their place. “Sweetheart, this conversation happened just fine without your help. Move along” she sneered. Except it didn’t.

April Preston never got her response. And more importantly for Talk Radio’s mid morning weekday host, there was no admission of getting it wrong. And don’t even think of asking for an apology. One has more important things to do with one’s time.

Some people in this country are so poor that they have difficulty putting food on the table. And they aren’t all druggies and wastrels. Hello Julia Hartley Brewer.

Theresa May’s Banana Republic

So now we have the Tory manifesto for next month’s General Election, dressed up as the triumph of Theresa May’s will. It is a product not of the Conservative Party, but is solely about Theresa May For Britain. We mere mortals are promised “strong, stable leadership in the national interest”, which is an easy claim to make, given that “national interest” is one of those hard-to-define ideals that usually vary, depending on the claimant.
But unlike the manifestos put forward by Labour and the Lib Dems, the Tory one has a significantly sized gap where the beef might be expected to be: it is largely uncosted. Yes, the party that leaps upon every costed proposal of its opponents has failed to do what it demands of others. We should, instead, take the imperial progress of the Empress Theresa on trust, and truly believe in her regal omniscience.
I'll support who I f***ing want, c***

The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg, so often the target of complaints about her coverage of the Tories, has spelt it out: “The Tories are vulnerable to claims their plans would hit millions of people, because they will not give out the details of how their plans would actually work”. Like on the winter fuel allowance.

Experts like the Resolution Foundation believe the only realistic way to introduce means testing is to limit the benefit to pensioners who get pensions credit … But using that system, and five out of six pensioners would lose out, which translates to 10 million people - yes, you read that right, 10 million”. The Tories say they’ll do something different.
Without being specific of course, they do leave themselves open to suspicions about their true intentions … The same is true on their plans for social care”. And it’s the same on those immigration targets, as another Beeb post notes: “The Conservatives would ‘aim’ to meet their manifesto pledge to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, a cabinet minister has said … Sir Michael Fallon said the policy was not yet costed as the government did not know when it would be achieved”. No deployable dead cat, then.
So how does Ms May propose to move forward with sufficient success to see off any opposition? Simples. It is down to good, old-fashioned, blatant, shameless, premeditated and calculated corruption. You think I jest? Consider today’s Daily Mail front page, with its propagandist apologia of “AT LAST, A PM NOT AFRAID TO BE HONEST WITH YOU”.

Now consider the more honest mock-up: “AT LAST, A PM NOT AFRAID TO DO WHAT THE PRESS TELL HER … No press regulation in manifesto … Fawning adulation offered in return … Private strategy meetings with Paul Dacre … Attacking of political opponents guaranteed”. The Tories’ pledge on press regulation could have been written for her by the press barons - and most likely was.

We hear so often of other countries’ problems with corruption. It used to be a regular occurrence to laugh at the ridiculous front page headlines of Soviet-era Pravda and Isvestia. The Newspeak of Nineteen Eighty-Four would never happen here.

Well, it is happening now. Jeremy Corbyn is the present subject of the ritual Two Minutes’ Hate. Reality is being reimagined via a corrupt relationship between Government and the Fourth Estate. And tens of millions of Britons stand to be royally screwed over - but, you understand, screwed over in the national interest. Welcome to the banana republic.

An Open Letter To Toby Young

Hello Tobes.

I hate to inconvenience you, far less drag your good self away from your Government-funded sinecure, er, sorry, key role telling a sceptical public how wonderful Free Schools are, but we need to talk about your latest attempt to tell the world how knowledgeable you are on the subject of press freedom, and that dreaded L-word, as in Leveson.
Having read your Spectator propaganda piece - one draws the line at calling it journalism - titled “A vote for the Tories is now a vote for a free press”, I do have to take issue with your impressionistic grasp of facts, lack of the most basic research, and blinkered attitude towards all those little people the press loves to smear, who I get the impression you would rather didn’t talk back and know their place.

Let’s start at the very beginning, as it’s a very good place to start. Here’s your opening gambit: “I have long campaigned against the activation of section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, as well as a second Leveson inquiry which would have examined the culture, practices and ethics of the press”.
Tobes, you really ought to have figured out the mystical art known as “five minutes’ Googling” by now. Had you bothered to do this, you would know that there was never anything called “a second Leveson Inquiry”. The Leveson Inquiry was always intended to be in two parts, the second having been delayed due to outstanding court cases.

And Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry would not have “examined the culture, practices and ethics of the press”. The terms of reference - I’ve added this to the post so all can see the distinction between the two parts - are totally different. They have mainly to do with the relationship between the press, especially the Murdoch press, and the Police.

One might have expected a member of the press establishment, and indeed the pundit establishment, such as yourself to know this. But let’s move on.

Sadly, Tobes, things do not improve with the next paragraph: “If section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act was activated it would have meant that any publication not a member of Impress, the press regulator largely funded by Max Mosley, would have had to pay all the costs in a libel case even if it successfully defended a claim”.

That’s totally untrue. Section 40 does not specify Impress, because any press regulator can apply for recognition under the terms of the Royal Charter. You know, Tobes, the Royal Charter that Parliament overwhelmingly voted for - including Theresa May.
Leveson Inquiry terms of reference - spot the difference

Who funds a recognised regulator is irrelevant, providing that regulator demonstrates its independence. Were it not to do so, it would not be recognised. Max Mosley’s presence is therefore irrelevant. Worse, Tobes, you have managed to miss that mildly inconvenient matter called Low Cost Arbitration. That would be the first port of call for any claimant. Only those publications that refuse to take part in that process - thus forcing claimants to bet the house on a libel action - would face Section 40 provisions.

Sadly, Tobes, not only have you failed to tell your readers this, but have repeated the untruth: “But if section 40 had been activated, publishers outside Impress would have had to pay their costs and their opponents’ costs even if they won”. Once again, Impress need not be the only recognised regulator. And it doesn’t get any better.

Section 40 was a stick inserted into the Crime and Courts Act by the enemies of press freedom in the Lords to try and force newspapers and magazines to agree to be regulated by an official, state-approved body”. Who are these enemies of press freedom? Would you care to name one? I’d hate to think that the great Toby Young was of less than perfect courage. Oh, and neither Impress, nor any other recognised regulator, is an official body. Nor is it “state approved”. Research, Tobes, research.
On to the next less than factually accurate morsel. “It’s worth pausing for a second to reflect on the nature of Impress and its attitude to the press. Not only is it largely funded by Max Mosley, who has made it his life’s mission to destroy the tabloids, but Impress is largely composed of metropolitan liberal types who loathe the red tops”.

Impress does not have a pre-ordained attitude to the press, and once again, Tobes, you retreat into characterising it as being all about Max Mosley, which it is not. Nor has Mosley “made it his life’s mission to destroy the tabloids”. And do we have to have the sneering “metropolitan liberal types” smear again? After all, if there is one person in this conversation that matches the description, Tobes, it’s you.

But it seems the smears are, indeed, to be liberally applied: “For instance, Impress’s CEO Jonathan Heawood has shared social media posts comparing Daily Mail journalists to Nazis”. Three things here. One, Retweets are not endorsements, as you well know. Two, the Mail’s back catalogue of shame is well known. And three, the Mail is not a red top.

And I’m afraid you do no better by smearing the whole of Impress: “If the Sun or the Mail had been forced to sign up, all complaints brought by aggrieved parties - and Impress’s definition of who is entitled to complain is very broad - would have been adjudicated by finger-wagging scolds who would like nothing more than to see them go out of business”.
Let’s take this nice and slowly, Tobes. You’re unhappy that Impress allows complaints where the press’ own sham regulator IPSO does not. Why is that such a bad thing? You wouldn’t have a problem if, for example, third parties were able to complain about what they just saw on the BBC, so why the reticence to have the press held to the same standard? And save us the “finger-wagging scolds”. This is just another cheap smear.

What do we have next? “These same scolds will be up in arms about the Conservatives’ decision to repeal section 40, but it is perfectly consistent with the findings of the Leveson inquiry”. Two things here, Tobes. One, point me at one comment from anyone at Impress who might be involved in adjudicating complaints. And two, I look forward to reading your in-depth interview with Brian Leveson.

Then Tobes actually gets on to IPSO. But oh dear, Tobes, this is great unintentional humour, but it just will not do: “As it turns out, the independent regulator set up by the press - IPSO - complies with almost all of Leveson’s recommendations and, to date, has been doing a good job”. Let’s do more of that “five minutes’ Googling”, shall we?

Here’s the conclusions reached by the Media Standards Trust report on IPSO (you don’t like that the MST did this, Tobes? Fine - nominate someone else’s report. If there is one).

Lord Justice Leveson made 47 recommendations for press regulation in his Report of November 29th 2012. Of these 47, 38 relate to self - regulators … According to this analysis, of these 38 Leveson recommendations, IPSO satisfies 12, and fails to satisfy 20 … of the 20 recommendations that IPSO fails, many are key elements of the Leveson system, including independence from industry, access to justice, and complaints”.
Toby Young's real target. With whom he is unwilling to debate

IPSO, Tobes, is not independent. Your claims of Leveson compliance are little short of a pack of lies. And, as to whether it’s doing a good job, that all depends whether you’re one of the little people who the press routinely dumps on.

We’re not quite done, Tobes, though - your last slice of deception is not going to escape scrutiny: “the decision not to activate section 40 is a victory, not just for the press, but for Brian Leveson too. I daresay he’s not too unhappy about the fact that he won’t be holding the ring in another three-ring circus, either”. Oh dear, Tobes!

As any fule kno, Leveson Part 2 need not involve Leveson.

Now I’m sure, Tobes, that you think this press establishment propaganda piece is an example of good journalism, and your editor Fraser Nelson clearly agrees with you, otherwise it would not still be live at the Spectator website. But we both know that it is, in reality, a shoddily-researched, fact-free, poorly-argued pile of tosh which should have been put on the spike.

In any case, as I’m sure you feel strongly about this issue, and are prepared to argue your corner, you’d be more than happy to show willing and debate the subject or press regulation with someone of opposing view. How about that, Tobes?

Who might that other party be? Why, I’m sure any of those in and around campaigning group Hacked Off would be pleased to debate you. Perhaps I should get word to Evan Harris - he would be happy to nominate someone. Then we could get all those contentious arguments out in the open and see just how well you know your subject.

Perhaps we could sell tickets, Tobes. I dare say there could be a competitive market in popcorn, too. You free marketeers would be in your element!