Daily Archives: October 2, 2018

No need for satirists – now the Tories are sending THEMSELVES up!

Sajid Javid: He’s the enemy of hope but the friend of humorists. This image was made in mockery of his wide-legged stance in publicity shots when he was first appointed as Home Secretary.

Day two of the Tory conference was a moment for people who make fun of politicians for a living – and we all enjoyed the results, didn’t we?

By day three, we didn’t even need their services – the Tories were providing all the humour themselves.

For example, here’s Sajid Javid, barely succeeding in preventing himself from saying his party is the enemy of hope:

How about Sir Edward Leigh MP, calling for incestuous civil partnerships to be legalised?

Meanwhile, attendance at the conference has been exactly as expected:

Well, what did they expect? The Tories were charging upwards of £500 per ticket!

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Do you really need to be told Esther McVey was lying about Tories and benefit cuts?

Esther McVey: She doesn’t look very healthy herself.

It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?

Esther McVey used her Conservative Party Conference speech – her first as Work and Pensions Secretary – to peddle a ridiculous, thoroughly-debunked lie that her party had not cut benefits.

She said reports of that nature were “fake news”, in an outburst worthy of Donald Trump.

Her claim was that the Tories have increased spending to £50bn a year – £9bn more than in 2010 when the Tories (and Liberal Democrats) took over from Labour.

In fact, they spent £39bn on disability, incapacity and industrial injury benefits in 2017-18. Ms McVey’s £50bn claim includes other benefits and says nothing about how individual people’s entitlements have changed due to Tory alterations to the benefit system.

We can do better, though. For example, the Liverpool Echo states that “most working-age benefits are frozen for four years from 2016/17 to 2019/20 – a cut to families’ real income. The government’s own 2015 Budget said this would cut £4billion a year from the benefits bill.

“Meanwhile, new benefit Universal Credit is widely agreed to be less generous than it was designed to be thanks to cuts by ex-Chancellor George Osborne.

“Its founder, Tory Iain Duncan Smith, said £2billion more must be put in to restore it – while the National Audit Office has cast doubt on its claim to “make work pay”.

“Tories have axed housing benefit for under-22s, only to U-turn and ditch the policy. They’ve introduced a £20,000 cap on household benefits.

“And hundreds of thousands of previous claimants have been denied disability benefits under the new Personal Independence Payment.”

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Exposed: The distortions that made anti-Semitism smears possible

Marc Wadsworth (left), introducing the family of Stephen Lawrence to Nelson Mandela.

A great deal of attention has been given on the social media recently (although not the mainstream media, you notice) to the report by the Media Reform Coalition and Birkbeck on the mainstream media’s coverage of allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

It found that there have been “prevalent errors, omissions and skews in the mainstream coverage”, and much of the reporting of it has focused on this headline.

This Writer found much of interest in the case studies, also – especially that which focused on Marc Wadsworth.

Mr Wadsworth has been in the news again recently, after he spoke in favour of Kerry-Anne Mendoza giving the Claudia Jones memorial lecture in his capacity as chair of the National Union of Journalists’ Black Members Council. His comments attracted the enmity of commentators of a certain political leaning, who referred critically to the incident at the launch of the Chakrabarti Report that led to accusations of anti-Semitism against him.

The MRC/Birkbeck report has this to say about it: “The immediate availability of a video recording of the incident offered a useful basis on which to assess the degree to which the activist, Mark Wadsworth, was accurately quoted in reports. Again, this reflects a common theme in much of the related coverage where contentious or controversial statements are paraphrased in reports in ways that can potentially distort their original context or meaning.

“Wadsworth accused Ruth Smeeth, a Jewish MP who had been critical of Corbyn on a range of issues (and especially antisemitism), of “working in hand in hand” with the Daily Telegraph. Given the immediate focus of the event, this was immediately interpreted by some as a veiled antisemitic attack, drawing on a racial stereotype of Jews controlling the media.

“On the face of it, however, Wadsworth’s comments seemed to reflect a widely-held concern amongst Labour members that centrist or right-wing MPs were ‘plotting’ to oust the elected leader of the party, and that this extended to collaboration with some of the Tory-supporting press. As it turned out, these concerns were well-founded as the event was swiftly followed by a wave of shadow cabinet resignations that was at least partly orchestrated with the media, including the BBC.

“Of crucial significance here was Wadsworth’s reference to an interaction he witnessed between Smeeth and a single reporter from a single newspaper. There was nothing in his original comment that either explicitly or implicitly generalized this interaction into a broader accusation of working with the right-wing press or media at large. Indeed, he was subsequently caught on camera having a private exchange with Jeremy Corbyn stating that he ‘outed’ Smeeth for “working with the
‘Torygraph’”. This would seem to support the view that Wadsworth’s charge was not one of collaborating or conspiring with the press in general.

“Yet this is precisely how Wadsworth was indirectly quoted in 13 out of 35 reports. At its most benign, such paraphrasing adopted words such as “colluding with the right-wing press” without any qualification… And at the extreme end of the spectrum Wadsworth was reported in the Sun as accusing Smeeth of being part of a “Jewish media conspiracy” and in a separate article, simply “attacking her for being Jewish”.”

The report added: “It would appear that several journalists had taken cues from Smeeth herself who, in a formal response, had alleged that Wadsworth used traditional antisemitic slurs to attack her “for being part of a ‘media conspiracy’”. In spite of the seriousness of the allegation, nearly half of the reports in the sample (15 out of 33) either quoted Smeeth directly or referred to her allegations without mentioning Wadsworth’s denial. This was a clear subversion of the journalistic principle of offering a right of reply to those who face reputational damage from an allegation of harm.

This was all the more perplexing given that journalists did not have to rely on second hand accounts of what was said at the meeting. Many were in attendance of  the launch which was also streamed live and the video footage – including the recorded interaction between Wadsworth and Smeeth – was easily and immediately accessible.”

The conclusion was: “Underlying the evidence presented here was a persistent subversion of conventional news values…  Journalists covering the launch of Labour’s antisemitism report in 2016 routinely misquoted Mark Wadsworth in ways that invoked a notion of media conspiracy that was entirely absent from his original statement, in spite of the fact that a video recording of the event was readily and immediately accessible.”

I know from personal experience that the treatment of Marc Wadsworth was not a solitary case. Gabriel Pogrund’s Sunday Times article alleging that I was a Holocaust denier relied entirely on a ‘leaked’ report from Labour’s NEC which itself was based on allegations by the Campaign Against Antisemitism. My own original words were publicly available – and had been for more than a year, at the time his report was published.

Whilst I was contacted by Mr Pogrund prior to publication of his story, he did not give me a right of reply on the claims he made.

It is clear that this “persistent subversion of conventional news values” has become standard practice in mainstream media coverage of allegations of anti-Semitism against members of the Labour Party.

In light of the facts highlighted by the report, it seems clear that Labour’s National Constitutional Committee, which examines allegations against members, needs to revisit the case of Mr Wadsworth – and reconsider whether it should continue with the cases against myself and others who have suffered similar accusations.

And then the Labour leadership would be well-advised to consider suing the press outlets mentioned in the report, not only for wasting all our time but for libelling the party as a whole.

It is these so-called newspapers that have brought the Labour Party into disrepute, and not the members whose names they have dragged through the mud.

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Where is the POLITICAL will to stop us all ‘Drowning in Plastic’?

The BBC broadcast a horrifying documentary yesterday on October 1, showing the extent to which waste plastic is clogging up our rivers and seas and the appalling harm being done to both plant and animal life as a result.

It represents a shocking dereliction of duty on the part of the organisations around the world that are charged with handling this material responsibly – and are ignoring that responsibility on a global scale.

I wrote a few words on Facebook and they seem to have enjoyed some popularity so I am reproducing them here:

I’m watching ‘Drowning in Plastic’, the BBC documentary about waste plastic killing wildlife in the world’s rivers and oceans. I think it’s supposed to be making me feel guilty but actually I’m angry.

We don’t get much choice about our use of plastic, or the other stuff that gets thrown into the water and forgotten. We have it foisted upon us in the packaging of the things we buy and, as a rule, we handle it in the manner that (we’re told) is responsible.

It is the people we have to trust to get rid of it responsibly who are letting everybody (and I mean everybody) down.

There needs to be some accountability here. From what I’m seeing, I’m unwillingly complicit in a crime of such enormity that my mind flinches away from considering it. And that is not acceptable.

I want to know who is responsible for this – and I notice that this information is missing from the film. I want to know what can be done to hold them to account – and if there’s no accountability at the moment, I want to know what can be done to BRING them to account. And I want to know how people like myself can participate in determining what the remedial action should be.

I bet nobody’s going to put it right in anything like a timely way unless people like us roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty.

And I don’t mean by fishing this crap out of the water ourselves.

You’ll have spotted that I asked some questions that I considered pertinent: Who is responsible? What can be done to hold them to account? What can be done to bring them to account if there is no legal recourse now? And how can ordinary people participate in bringing justice to this matter?

A few people made suggestions on Facebook but I’m keen to see more. I spotted an infographic on Twitter that suggested ways we can make our opposition known – you can see it at the top of this article – but I don’t think it goes anything like far enough. I don’t think enough people will take the kind of mass, sustained action that would be necessary to make the uncaring corporates change their minds.

As one respondent stated: “Let’s all pretend it’s our personal responsibility while big corporations are raping the planet. Keep focussed on individuals that way people don’t look where the real problem lies. The idea that we can save the planet by not using plastic washing up brushes etc is naïve in the extreme.”

Another respondent voiced his suspicion: “I feel that a lot of the plastic waste floating around in the world’s oceans has come from unscrupulous shipping companies who have been contracted to transport our waste to other countries for processing and then just dump their cargo at sea, pretty much a bigger version of what some commercial vehicle owners do when offering to remove your rubbish for a fee.”

Another supported it: “Do the shipments arrive at their destinations?
Who checks they’ve got there?
With the “flagging out” of marine transportation who checks the shipping arrangements?
What if a large percentage of shipped recycling is actually just jettisoned en route and the ships then proceed somewhere else to pick up more?
How does anyone manage to find out anything more about this?”

They are good questions, especially as: “Inspectors for various things were one of the losses in the Tory’s ‘bonfire of the quangos’ that they managed to persuade everyone to applaud. We need a rebuilding of the quangos (but with a less tainted name).”

Many of you may consider this a useful solution: “I’ve started to send all my excess plastic packaging back to the customer services department of whichever supermarket it came from. Most of them have a freepost address, so you just package up all the surplus plastic and mail it to them at their expense.” But what will those corporations do with the waste?

One suggestion as a solution was, “We need a Plastics Act rather than just randomly targeting individual items.” I would agree, but I think it would need to be international rather than just operating in a single country.

Here’s another: “We need much more strict regulations from the top down, and this indeed means governments being accountable for their decisions on an environmental basis across the board. Including economic modelling to properly respect environmental concerns, the same for businesses, and right through society to farmers and consumers. In short creating a ‘fairer’ society to accommodate these interventions. The governments should be accountable to the UN and subject to harsh penalties (not piffling fines) in case of infringement. I think we should all engage with the clean up at this stage as far as possible, not because it’s the peoples’ fault per se but because it has gotten that bad. But ultimately the world’s governments need to be held to serious account for their treatment of the environment on so many levels.”

But who will impose such regulations and how will they be enforced? Should there perhaps be an independent, international organisation?

Perhaps it would be an easier argument to make if an alternative material were available? “Hemp is a really versatile material, clothes, paper, rope, soap, oil – what’s needed is a decision (and funding) taken nationally, so that manufacturers set up to make things in plastic are given compensation for refitting their factories. Major university departments study materials science, with government funding initiatives they could invent something surely.”

What about this issue? “Corporate courts are probably preventing us doing much towards polluters paying for remedial costs.”

We do recycle many plastics – or we think we do. Consider this: “All the recycling efforts we make – then strangely, recycling centres all over Britain keep going up in flames. At the end of August, from about 2 hours of google searching, I found 15 centres had caught on fire since April. That’s a lot of carcinogenic dioxins being released, – but what a convenient way of getting rid of it all, convenient for the contracters that is.” What is the story here? 

Make no mistake: This issue will magically go away if we don’t keep it on the public agenda – because governments and corporations can’t be bothered to deal with something that may reduce profits/harm the economy and don’t care if it kills a few animals and plants (they won’t accept the overarching threat to the ecosystem that the plastic poisoning of the planet represents).

So the question remains: What do you think should be done about it, and how do you propose to make it happen?

I await your contributions.

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Tories steal Labour policy that bans stealing. Jeremy Corbyn’s response is priceless

In by the back door: Look out, Labour MPs! Theresa May has come to steal more of your policies.

The Conservatives have announced a new policy to ban employers from making “deductions” from employees’ tips.

Here’s how they announced it on Twitter:

But Jeremy Corbyn announced the same policy back in June – and the fact was not lost on the Labour leader.

He responded with a ReTweet of his original announcement – with a barbed comment for Theresa May:

He’s absolutely right, and the Tory conference is proving his case every day.

We need a general election so we can implement all of Labour’s policies – not just a few that the Tories have stolen.

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