Tag Archives: criticism

POLL: Is Commons Speaker John Bercow right to voice his own views on Brexit?

Speaking out: John Bercow at the Bingham Lecture. Is he right to make his opinions known?

John Bercow, the soon-to-retire Speaker of the House of Commons, is being criticised for voicing his opposition to Boris Johnson’s “no deal” Brexit.

Critics are saying he should be impartial and has no right to attack the prime minister and his policies.

Supporters say it is important for him to stand up for Parliamentary sovereignty.

Now he has said he may bend Parliamentary rules – in response to efforts by BoJob and his advisers to go around them.

And he has voiced support for the idea of a written UK constitution, to ensure that the kind of shenanigans we have seen from the Johnson administration (and the May ministry before it) cannot happen again:

John Bercow has threatened Boris Johnson that he will be prepared to rip up the parliamentary rulebook to stop any illegal attempt by the prime minister to take the UK out of the EU without a deal on 31 October.

In a direct warning to No 10, the Speaker of the House of Commons said he is prepared to allow “additional procedural creativity” if necessary to allow parliament to block Johnson from ignoring the law.

“If we come close to [Johnson ignoring the law], I would imagine parliament would want to cut off that possibility … Neither the limitations of the existing rulebook or ticking of the clock will stop it doing so,” he said, delivering the annual Bingham lecture in London. “If I have been remotely ambiguous so far, let me make myself crystal clear. The only form of Brexit that we have, whenever that might be, will be a Brexit that the House of Commons has explicitly endorsed.”

He also proposed a written constitution to stop “executive malpractice or fiat”, which could potentially have avoided the constitutional crisis that the UK has found itself in over Brexit.

Simple question: Do you think Mr Bercow is right to speak out? Or should he keep his mouth shut?

Source: John Bercow: I’ll stop Boris Johnson breaking the law on Brexit | Politics | The Guardian

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Labour’s first post-‘IHRA’ anti-Semitism accusations have been made – and they abuse the new rules

Remember when right-wing Labour MPs were screaming for the party to adopt the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism with all its examples, including those that make it almost impossible to criticise the Israeli government?

Remember how those people swore blind that adopting these examples would not lay party members open to false accusations by those abusing the new rules?

Well, they lied.

(Or at least, they have been proved wrong.)

The first accusations under the new system are starting to come to light, and they are damning.

Consider the case of Eleanor Penny, a correspondent for Novara Media, who happens to be Jewish.

It seems – and please correct me if I’m mistaken – that parts of this video in which Ms Penny states that it isn’t anti-Semitic to criticise Israel, holding it to the same standard as other countries, are being used as the evidence against her.

Fortunately there are those among the rest of us who are not willing to lie down and put up with this nonsense:

For what my word is worth (not much at the moment, owing to my own suspension by Labour after allegations of anti-Semitism – a suspension that is now in its 16th disgraceful month), Labour should not just dismiss the complaint.

The party needs to make a sincere apology for allowing such an abuse of its complaints system to take place – as it should with other false complaints such as that against me.

And does the complaint itself count as anti-Semitism, as it is intended to create discrimination against a Jew?

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Straight-talking university conquers critics of refugee scheme with this great response

The University of Reading is This Writer’s alma mater so I am proud to report this particular story.

The university announced a plan to offer up to 14 sponsored places to refugees living in the Reading area, on June 19 – developed in partnership with Reading Refugee Support Group and the university’s own students’ union.

Unbelievably, this laudable scheme has attracted enmity – from small-minded little-Englanders, one can only conclude.

Its response is what make me a happy alumnus today:

“Tough. Jog on.” Right on!

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Loach’s outburst over Labour MPs at anti-Semitism demo should provide food for thought – not knee-jerk reactions

Ken Loach.

It’s going to be hard to have a serious discussion about Ken Loach’s reported words because the rent-a-quote crowd have been all over it already.

He says his suggestion that party members should “kick out” Labour MPs who attended the anti-Corbyn (not anti-Semitism – that was just a pretext) demonstration does “not reflect my position”.

Of course, we know that the characterisation of Mr Corbyn as a leader who has done little about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party does not reflect his position, either.

Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party has reduced since Mr Corbyn became leader.

So the question arises – did these MPs attend the demonstration because they genuinely wanted to harm their party leader by supporting a lie, or were they genuinely misled? Either answer implies a critical failure of judgement.

And this leads us back to the last point Mr Loach made – that Parliamentary candidates should be selected every time there is an election, and the selection should not be based on individual incidents but on the MP’s principles, actions and behaviour over a sustained period of time.

Whatever you think about his other comments, he is right in that.

Everybody makes mistakes, and it is easy to be deceived by a lie if enough people are demanding that you believe it.

I wonder how many of the Labour MPs who attended that demo are big enough to admit they made a mistake in supporting such a lie?

The outspoken film-maker and ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the dozen Labour MPs who attended last month’s demonstration – including Bristol representatives Thangam Debbonaire and Darren Jones – of “dirty tricks”.

Mr Loach said: “Unless we get Labour MPs who believe in that manifesto last year we won’t get in power.

“If they’ve been going to the demonstration against him [Jeremy Corbyn] outside Westminster… those are the ones we need to kick out.”

The Kes and Looking for Eric director said: “You cannot work with people who have come to undermine the biggest challenge we’ve had – we’ve never had a leader like Corbyn before in the whole history of the Labour Party….and that’s why the dirty tricks are going to come out.”

Mr Loach has since rowed back on his comments telling the Daily Mail , which broke the story, that he did not want MPs to be deselected based on one event and that what he is reported to have said at Kingswood Entertainment and Sports Club “do not reflect my position”.

He clarified, saying: “Re-selecting an MP should not be based on individual incidents but reflect the MP’s principles, actions and behaviour over a long period. Being an MP is not a job for life.

“My view is that candidates should be selected for every election and party members should be able to make a democratic choice.”

Source: Film director Ken Loach says Bristol MPs should be ‘kicked-out’ over anti-Semitism rally – Bristol Post


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Once we were a ‘nation of shopkeepers’ – now Michael Fallon is adding ‘warmongering’ to the accusation

Laughing at the Tory: Former shadow defence secretary Emily Thornberry once made a fool of current defence secretary Michael Fallon on Andrew Marr’s TV show.

This is Conservative policy on the international stage: Never mind human lives, never mind international law – we’ll sell anything, to anyone, and damn the consequences.

That’s the reason Michael Fallon doesn’t want any inconvenient facts raised in Parliament (or, one is to suppose, the media) about the uses to which UK-built weapons are being put by Saudi Arabia.

He doesn’t want you to know that British jet fighters are being used to kill innocent citizens of Yemen because the bad publicity it would create for the customer – Saudi Arabia – would create what This Writer believes is termed “consumer resistance”, and they’ll cancel any deal.

Good.

I know there would be an immediate effect on the UK’s balance of trade deficit, and on the future of contractor BAe Systems, if this multi-billion-pound trade deal were to be cancelled but the effect on our international reputation is even more chilling.

BAe is already in trouble and it would be better if the company re-tooled itself to pursue peaceful commercial enterprises instead of weapon-building, as This Site has already reported.

And the UK would be in a better position to market such products across the world if ministers like Mr Fallon weren’t intent on staining our reputation with concerns that we are breaking international law to make a fast buck.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has told MPs to stop criticising Saudi Arabia so we can sell them more weapons.

He told MPs criticism of the regime’s brutal bombardment of Yemen is “unhelpful” while Britain is trying to finalise a deal with BAE Systems to sell the Kingdom a further batch of Eurofighter jets.

Both the UN and Human Rights Watch have said the intervention is in breach of international law.

[Mr Fallon] told the Defence Select Committee: “We’ve been working extremely hard on the batch two deal. I’ve travelled to Saudi Arabia back in September and discussed progress on the deal with my opposite number, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia – and we continued to press for a signature or at least a statement of intent as we’ve done with Qatar.

“I have to repeat sadly, to this committee, that obviously other criticism of Saudi Arabia, in this Parliament, is not helpful and …I’ll leave it there, but we need to do everything possible to encourage Saudi Arabia towards batch two. I believe they will commit to batch two and we need to work away on the timing.”

Labour’s Emily Thornberry has voiced the concerns we should all feel:

“These comments are extremely concerning. The sale of arms should never be prioritised over human rights, the Rule of Law and the lives of innocent children in Yemen.”

All quotes from: Michael Fallon tells MPs to stop criticising Saudi Arabia so we can sell them more weapons

But these are falling on deaf ears. Warmonger Fallon once tried to claim that the UK had a moral responsibility to bomb people in the Middle East and wants the UK to become the world’s biggest armaments marketplace after Brexit.

Not only are the Conservatives determined to destroy the UK’s economy – they are ruining our good name abroad so that it will be even harder to claw our way out of their mess after they are removed from office.


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Nick Robinson can’t help the BBC and his ideas about trust aren’t valid – for a simple reason

The BBC’s former political editor Nick Robinson referred to a ‘guerrilla war’ waged by alternative news sites [Image: Paul Hampartsoumian/Rex].

Culpability.

Social media criticism of Nick Robinson and the BBC are based on concerns that the corporation is biased in favour of the Conservative Party.

Mr Robinson, with his close ties to the Conservatives, is in no position to defend Auntie from such accusations. Nor is the BBC itself likely to be believed while it sends former board members to become Tory peers, and former reporters to become Tory PR bosses (to name just two recent events).

Still, his suggestions deserve to be considered.

Firstly, could the BBC do more to engage with people who get their updates from social media sites on Twitter? Sure. But BBC tweets are unlikely to gain credibility until the more serious problem – of trust – is addressed.

This brings us to Mr Robinson’s second suggestion – that the BBC should demonstrate its impartiality by, in effect, showing its workings when making decisions about what to report and how to do so.

But it is easy to spin a line to defend any decision – especially when there is no higher authority to rule otherwise. That’s how the BBC has got away with previous transgressions.

And there is no suggestion from Mr Robinson about when the BBC should admit that it was wrong, or that it did show bias. This is a real problem.

You see, social media organisations such as This Site (and thanks for not bothering to mention me, Mr Robinson! Charmed, I’m sure) have easy access to information that can support or undermine any news story you care to mention. In many cases this puts the BBC on extremely dodgy ground.

Look at my own clash with the BBC over whether the Conservatives have increased NHS funding in real terms or not (the BBC claimed they had; the facts showed otherwise). The BBC was wrong but spokespeople lied through their teeth.

At the time of writing, the BBC has come under heavy criticism for failing to cover the alleged (if you like) police brutality at the Catalan independence referendum in a balanced manner. It will be interesting to see how the Corporation justifies its decisions, if questioned in the matter.

It’s interesting that the conversation has swung towards the BBC, though. Initially, the plan was to insult social media sites by claiming they are published by amateurs. After this was proved untrue (I’m a fully-qualified reporter and former newspaper editor, for example) the attack shifted to claims that social media stories – and claims about mainstream media stories – were unsubstantiated. Those have proved baseless as well.

Now the debate has shifted to the behaviour of the mainstream. Will the mogul-led media prove as easy to defend?

Robinson suggested that the BBC should do more to engage with people disillusioned with the news and those who get their updates from social media while “looking at their phone on the loo”.

He also called for the BBC to promote and celebrate its impartiality by being more transparent about how it reaches editorial decisions. This could include, Robinson suggested, publishing the BBC’s “producers’ guidelines” in real time to demonstrate why a report has been worded a certain way, or disclosing the discussions and decisions at editorial meetings. The consequence of this would be that when the BBC received a complaint it could point to its workings.

Source: Nick Robinson’s ideas about how the BBC can regain trust are valid | Graham Ruddick | Media | The Guardian


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If Tory Momentum HAD been called ‘Inertia’*, it wouldn’t be worse than Activate

British comedy hasn’t been this good since Rob Grant quit Red Dwarf.

Yes, that is a reference to an ancient science fiction institution, in keeping with the #meme** used by Activate UK – the Conservative Party’s answer to Momentum (stop laughing!). Here it is:

I know!

For a start, they were using an image from Internet pre-history to attract young people – something likely to appeal only to their target audience’s dad. Then there’s – oh, please, do I have to explain the sheer awfulness of it?

The Twitter address on the #meme is wrong, by the way – it’s @ActivateBritain now. @Activate.UK.Net was vacated and subsequently adopted by a satirist who has been having great fun with the name.

Activate has a website, where it proudly proclaims: “Activate is an independent national grassroots campaign organisation that seeks to actively engage young people in the right of centre politics, make a case for what conservatism can offer and provide a platform to enable their voices to be heard.

“We intend to reclaim the voice of young people in politics, bringing together individuals and groups in our education system, workplaces and communities. We will campaign and organise to ensure that issues that are important to them are heard, discussed and addressed.”

Fine, if you like that sort of thing. It’s just that the public turns out not to.

The first sign of trouble is on the parts of the website relating to money – membership and donations. Full member, aged 25 and over, are encouraged to spend anything between £10 and £500 – yes, really! – on their membership. This Writer has no idea how many people have signed up to that, but as a possible indicator, let’s look at the “Donations” page, where we see the most that has been offered so far is £2.06, from a person with the unlikely name “Theresa May is wildly incompetent”.

Other donors at the time of writing include “Harold Shipman”, “Jimmy Savile” and “Communism Will Win”.

So it seems the public has not taken Activate seriously…

Perhaps they have taken their cue from the Conservative Party – one glance at the “People” section of the website showed that it is not a grassroots campaign at all, but run by old-hand Tory apparatchiks. I say “showed” because that page has disappeared from the website for some strange reason – teething troubles, perhaps?

Fortunately, Twitter is there to show us what we were missing:

https://twitter.com/askforcombi/status/901913151419150336

Actually, let’s stick with Twitter, because this is where Activate has really come into its own – in parody. This is how the public sees the Tory version of Momentum:

https://twitter.com/ActivateUKNet/status/902345642881814529

https://twitter.com/ActivateUKNet/status/902347461066452992

Yes. To complete the science fiction comparison, Activate has now become the Tory equivalent of The Black Hole, attracting all comment into its self-parodying gravity well. Even this (mocking) query about tax avoidance couldn’t escape the inevitable:

https://twitter.com/J_A_Colwell/status/902596253216858112

This Writer hopes that Activate enjoys a long life on the Internet and beyond. I also enjoy a good laugh. But I fear that this may be a phenomenon without enough momentum (ha ha!) to last until the end of the week.

*I joked that the Tory version of Momentum should be called “Inertia” in a previous article.

**”Activate shared their first meme on Twitter with the hashtag “#meme”. Hashtag meme. They also – save yourself, read not on – finished the tweet with #retweet and #rt,” according to New Statesman.


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Attack on Corbyn over Bin Laden assassination is hysterical

bin laden ap

For clarity, this is Osama Bin Laden, not Jeremy Corbyn. Some right-wing commentators may not be able to tell the difference.

… In both senses of the word.

It seems that people who should know better have dredged up a comment made by Jeremy Corbyn in 2011 about the death of Osama Bin Laden – that it would have been better if the Al-Qaeda leader had been arrested and put on trial, rather than killed.

Tory Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC: “Osama bin Laden was a terrorist who any sensible human being in the world would want either killed or arrested.” So he agrees with Mr Corbyn that arrest should have been an option.

And Labour’s – Labour’s! – defence spokesman, Kevan Jones, said: “This just shows you how out of touch he is with what most people’s views are.”

Oh, really?

This Writer would have preferred to see Osama Bin Laden arrested and put on trial, and so would Mrs Mike. We may not be representative of the whole of the UK but that’s two-thirds of this household agreeing with Mr Corbyn (the other third is not available for comment) – enough for one to question whether Mr Jones is more out of touch than Mr Corbyn.

Why wasn’t Bin Laden arrested? The US troops who took part in the operation neutralised everybody in the compound, didn’t they? So there was no reason not to take Bin Laden into custody. The fact that he was shot raises questions about whether he might have revealed information that compromised the USA’s – and possibly even the UK’s – standing in the international community. Those questions must go unanswered, leaving suspicion behind.

And isn’t it interesting that Mr Corbyn’s opponents are reduced to digging around for long-buried comments he made, in order to besmirch his reputation.

Would these people like it if we all did that?

Here’s George Osborne, writing in Tory propaganda sheet The Sun: “The new unilateralists of British politics [meaning Corbyn and his supporters] are a threat to our future national security and to our economic security.”

Those are bold words, coming from a man whose policies before the economic crisis threatened our economic security to a much greater extent, by supporting calls for banking to be deregulated further than they already had. The banks later became part of – and fuelled – a massive debt crisis that threatened the global economy. If Osborne had had his way, it would have been much worse.

Perhaps this is why he has persistently claimed – falsely – that the UK’s debt problems were due to overspending by the previous Labour government.

And perhaps that is why he has been a strong supporter of austerity policies that take money from the poor and hand it to the rich – despite the discrediting of the academic studies on which these policies are based, early in the Coalition Parliament.

With that kind of record, why should anyone listen to George Osborne?

Still, this episode offers an opportunity for the rest of us. If Corbyn’s opponents are willing to dig up anything he once said, just to keep a good man from an opportunity to change matters for the better, they won’t mind if the rest of us do the same.

Pick your targets, folks, and start digging up the dirt.

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Perhaps he should have been impartial: BBC News’s top Tory James Harding whinges about criticism of election coverage

BBC News chief James Harding is whining about politicians from all sides, who he claims threatened the BBC’s future funding over its handling of the election.

Harding, who is himself a Conservative, doesn’t really have a leg to stand on. The corporation’s news coverage has suffered serious bias for a considerable period of time – not only in the way it covers news, but in its choice of news coverage.

How many of you have attended large-scale anti-government demonstrations recently? How many of them made it onto the news without violence taking place?

“But, along the way, there were people from all parties who made the connection between their dissatisfaction with the election coverage and the fact that the next government will set the licence fee and the terms of the royal charter.

“Some did so explicitly. Nigel Farage, for example, said he was unhappy at Ukip’s treatment on the BBC and proposed cutting the licence fee by two thirds. Others left it hanging in the air.”

Farage had better coverage of his party than any of the other minor players (including the Liberal Democrats) – and more complimentary coverage than Labour! He had no reason to complain at all.

Harding said criticism of the BBC’s newsrooms was “unfair and unfounded”, including the “fabled leftwing bias” which he said he found “increasingly hard to take seriously in the light of the Conservative victory”.

“What’s the argument? That the BBC’s subtle, sophisticated leftwing message was so very subtle, so very sophisticated that it simply passed the British people by?” Harding told a Voice of the Listener and Viewer conference in London on Tuesday.

At least he’s being accurate here – but disingenuous about the reason for this, which is the fact that the BBC’s news editors and reporting team is too right-wing for words. Oh, but hang on…

“I find equally implausible the Labour critique that the BBC is too rightwing,”

… said Mr Harding, who is well-known as a Conservative – as are Fran Unsworth, deputy director of BBC news and current affairs; Mary Hockaday, head of newsroom; Gavin Allen, news editor, BBC News; Keith Blackmore, managing editor of news and current affairs; Jonathan Munro, head of newsgathering; and the chair of the BBC Trust, Rona Fairhead.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson is not only a Conservative; he’s a Conservative activist.

“Let me be clear: the BBC is scrupulously impartial. Of course, we make mistakes. I’m not saying we’re perfect; but we are impartial.”

Harding, the former editor of

… Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing mouthpiece …

The Times and a key lieutenant of BBC director general Tony Hall, said he “got it in the ear from politicians and their spokespeople from all political parties”.

“Labour was angry about the focus on the SNP, the Tories regularly questioned our running orders and editorial decisions, the Lib Dems felt they weren’t getting sufficient airtime, the Greens complained about being treated like a protest movement not a party,” he said.

If he was any good at his job, Harding would have said that none of these complaints are any of his business; the only thing that should have mattered to him was that the BBC was putting out accurate, impartial election coverage.

Considering his own personal history, that of his staff, the coverage we got and his reaction to criticism, this ex-newspaper editor can happily conclude that the BBC did not put out such coverage, and that some of the criticisms are accurate.

Perhaps the BBC would like to tell us where it hides reporters and editors with a left-wing background?

Source: BBC news chief: politicians of all parties made threats to funding | Media | The Guardian

Fracking set to be banned from 40% of England’s shale areas

The Guardian is reporting that regulations proposed by the Labour Party and approved by the Coalition Government mean fracking will be banned from two-fifths of the land in England.

[Image: The Guardian.]

[Image: The Guardian.]

Labour faced harsh criticism last week, particularly from the Green Party of England and Wales, after it failed to support that party’s call for a moratorium on fracking that would have banned it altogether. Green supporters suggested that Labour had done a deal with the Coalition to abstain on the moratorium in return for support over the 13-point regulation scheme.

In fact, according to the newspaper, “Ministers were forced to accept Labour’s new environmental rules last week to avoid a rebellion by Conservative and LibDem backbench MPs, many of whom are facing opposition to fracking from constituents.”

So there was no dirty backroom deal and 40 per cent of England is free of fracking whereas, if Labour had supported the Green moratorium, none of England would be protected.

The article continues: “Neither the government nor Labour have stated how much of the land available for future shale gas drilling – 60 per cent of England – would be affected by the new bans. But a Guardian data analysis has revealed it is 39.7 per cent, with large swaths of the south and south east off-limits, as well as the Yorkshire Dales and Peak district.

“An independent analysis by Greenpeace also found that 45 per cent of the 931 blocks being licensed for fracking in England were at least 50 per cent covered by protected areas, which it said was likely to make them unattractive to fracking companies.

“Just three per cent of of the blocks have no protected areas at all, Greenpeace found.”

Well played, Labour! That was a good afternoon’s work.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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