At the other end of the spectrum, here’s Boris Johnson – who wants to be the leader of the Conservative Party, and therefore prime minister – squirming as he tries to defend his integrity in the face of evidence of his own former behaviour:
Together they make an excellent case for putting your cross next to a candidate who isn’t a Tory. Agreed?
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Jeremy Corbyn: According to the Tory government-funded “Integrity Initiative”, he’s a puppet of Putin. The problem with that claim lies in the fact that the organisation making it is funded to the Tories to do so.
Theresa May’s Conservative government spent £2.25 million of our money funding a “fake news” campaign to undermine the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn – after claiming it was clamping down on fake news.
We’ve just spent months debating whether Mrs May’s handling of Brexit is acceptable but now it should be clear that the only thing she should be allowed to handle in the future is prison food.
Misuse of public funds is an offence.
The so-called Institute of Statecraft – based in an old Victorian mill in Fife, Scotland – runs a programme called the Integrity Initiative using military intelligence specialists and £2.25 million of our cash to post false information on the social media about Mr Corbyn and Labour.
According to the Daily Record, “The ‘think tank’ is supposed to counter Russian online propaganda by forming ‘clusters’ of friendly journalists and ‘key influencers’ throughout Europe who use social media to hit back against disinformation.”
But it seems clear the organisation used the money handed to it by the Foreign Office for party political purposes: “One tweet quotes a newspaper article calling Corbyn a ‘useful idiot’, that goes on to state: His open visceral anti-Westernism helped the Kremlin cause, as surely as if he had been secretly peddling Westminster tittle-tattle for money.’
“Another added: ‘It’s time for the Corbyn left to confront its Putin problem.’ A further message refers to an ‘alleged British Corbyn supporter’ who ‘wants to vote for Putin’.”
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry wants to know exactly what has been going on. She said: “It is one of the cardinal rules of British public life that official resources should not be used for party political purposes.
“So it is simply outrageous that the clearly mis-named ‘Integrity Initiative’ – funded by the Foreign Office to the tune of £2.25 million over the past two years – has routinely been using its Twitter feed to disseminate personal attacks and smears against the Leader of the Opposition, the Labour Party and Labour officials.
“And this cannot be dismissed as something outside the Government’s control, given the application for funding agreed by the Foreign Office last year stated explicitly that it would be used in part to expand ‘the impact of the Integrity Initiative website…and Twitter/social media accounts’.
“So the Government must now answer the following questions: Why did the Foreign Office allow public money to be spent on attempting to discredit Her Majesty’s Opposition? Did they know this was happening? If not, why not? And if they did, how on earth can they justify it?”
Labour MP Chris Williamson had tabled a Parliamentary question about the Institute for Statecraft, and received the following answer from FCO minister Alan Duncan: “The Institute for Statecraft is an independent, Scottish, charitable body whose work seeks to improve governance and enhance national security. They launched the Integrity Initiative in 2015 to defend democracy against disinformation.
“In financial year 2017/18, the FCO funded the Institute for Statecraft’s Integrity Initiative £296,500. This financial year, the FCO is funding a further £1,961,000. Both have been funded through grant agreements.”
Clearly, this answer is untrue. If the “Integrity Initiative” was intended “to defend democracy against disinformation”, then it had no business posting disinformation to the social media (in fact, nobody has any business posting disinformation to the social media).
An angry Mr Williamson, after the current revelations were published, said the Tories were “using public money to subvert democracy”.
Bizarrely, it is less than a year since Theresa May announced the creation of a “rapid response social media capability” intended to respond to the scourge of fake news, based in the Cabinet Office.
At the time, I wrote: “This is not an attempt to ensure a ‘fact-based public debate’. It is a bid to hijack the news and turn it into Tory propaganda.”
It seems I was right – they’ve just outsourced that function.
The Twitterati have, of course, been abuzz – and who can blame them?
Nothing to see here: just a government that set up a committee to look into infowars-style fake news funding infowars-style fake news on the opposition. https://t.co/jwpHGvpzIO
This is quite right – it would be a list of people who peddle fake news that would be invaluable to those of us who want to stamp it out, although I think it would be better to hand it over to proper investigators, rather than the Cabinet Office organisation, in whatever form it currently takes.
For those of you who may have been convinced that Mr Corbyn really was a Russian puppet, here’s a quick response:
But there is another level to this – the lack of interest exhibited by the mainstream media. This story has been in two Scottish newspapers – the Sunday Mail and the Daily Record – and on a few social media sites like Vox Political. And that’s all. It is a huge story as it involves the misuse of public funds for party political purposes.
Why are the newspapers and broadcasters not covering it (as if we didn’t know the answer already)?
I honestly thought this was a joke at first. But then you realise the Conservative Government are paying military intelligence specialists to smear the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. This is quite a story. https://t.co/ntg8lz019D
Of course there was always suspicions of this, but to have it confirmed is sickening. £2m of taxpayer's money used to fund covert attacks against Corbyn and the Labour party. Yet more weight to bring this dreadful Govt down. https://t.co/uaUDL7ZdK6
Government linked to state-funded political attacks on HM’s Opposition is not something the British media can ignore, yet they are trying their best. We are in strange political times, but surely we can still expect democracy to be defended. https://t.co/fkwym3BGRU
Here at Vox Political, we love a politician with principles.
What a shame Hilary Benn doesn’t seem to be one of them.
Only a couple of weeks ago, he was arguing that, after the Paris attacks, the UK should concentrate on peace talks and helping refugees.
One is led to consider whether those who applauded his speech in support of air strikes were really supporting his ‘principled’ view – or whether they were simply happy to see him abandoning whatever principles he had.
An interview published on 15 November in which Hilary Benn said he did not advocate bombing Isis in Syria has been shared widely on social media in the aftermath yesterday’s Syria debate in Parliament.
The interview saw renewed interest after the shadow foreign secretary … advocated the bombing of Syria.
In the previous interview, given to the Independent on Sunday… Mr Benn was asked whether the Government should bring forward a vote on bombing Isis in Syria, which was at that time not planned. He replied:
“No. They have to come up with an overall plan, which they have not done. I think the focus for now is finding a peaceful solution to the civil war.
The comments contrast with the view stated by Mr Benn in his speech two weeks later. In that speech he urged Labour MPs to vote for bombing.
Why do people still believe the Conservatives are more likely to raise their living standards than Labour, even though they understand that they have become worse off over the last five years?
Why do political commentators brand Ed Miliband a “useless” leader, when even former Torygraph stalwart Peter Oborne has admitted he has been responsible for extraordinary successes and has challenged the underlying structures which govern Westminster conduct?
Let’s look at the first claim, courtesy of the latest Mainly Macro article by Professor Simon Wren-Lewis. He makes it clear from the start that people are being denied the facts; otherwise the economy would be the Conservative Party’s weakest point in the election campaign.
Look at the evidence: Since 2010 we have endured the weakest economic recovery for at least 200 years, with a steady fall in real wages (masked in average figures by the huge pay rises awarded by fatcat bosses to themselves). “The government’s actions are partly responsible for that, and the only debate is how much,” writes the Prof. “Living standards have taken a big hit.”
He continues: “There is no factual basis for the view that the Conservatives are better at managing the economy, and plenty to suggest the opposite. However this belief is not too hard to explain. The Labour government ended with the Great Recession which in turn produced a huge increase in the government’s budget deficit. With the help of mediamacro, that has become ‘a mess’ that Labour are responsible for and which the Conservatives have had to clean up.
“The beauty of this story is that it pins the blame for the weak recovery on the previous government, in a way that every individual can understand. Spend too much, and you will have a hard time paying back the debt.”
It’s a myth; the facts disprove it easily – so the Tories avoid the facts at all costs.
But why be concerned, if Ed Miliband is such an awful excuse for a Labour Party leader. Didn’t David Cameron describe him as “weak” and “spineless” to Scottish Conservatives only a fortnight ago?
Not according to Peter Oborne. Writing in The Spectator, he has praised Miliband because he “has been his own person, forged his own course and actually been consistent”.
Oborne praises Miliband for “four brave interventions, each one taking on powerful establishment interests: the Murdoch newspaper empire, the corporate elite, the foreign policy establishment and pro-Israel lobby… There is no doubting Mr Miliband’s integrity or his courage.
“Opposition is an essential part of British public life. Oppositions have a duty to challenge government and to give the electorate a clear choice. Ed Miliband has done precisely this and yet he has been written off. Does this mean that no opposition dare offend the big vested interests that govern Britain? Is this really the politics we want?”
It’s the politics the Conservative Party wants.
Professor Wren-Lewis notes that Miliband’s opinion poll ratings are low “because most people just see unglamorous pictures of him and note that he does not have that Blair appeal.
“That could be changed if they saw him in a one on one debate with Cameron, so there was never any chance that the Conservatives would let this happen. The debates last time had huge audiences, so no one can dispute that democracy has been dealt a huge blow as a result of what the FT rightly calls Cameron’s cowardice.”
He goes on to say that Cameron’s refusal to debate one-on-one with Miliband is “a key test” for the media, with Cameron counting on them letting his spin doctors dictate what people are allowed to see.
If that is true, then it seems Cameron has miscalculated.
Broadcasters have said the three TV general election debates planned for April will go ahead, despite Cameron saying he will take part in only one.
“It means Mr Cameron – who has rejected a head-to-head debate with Ed Miliband – could be ’empty-chaired’,” according to the BBC. Perhaps they really will put a blue chicken on the podium, as was suggested on this blog yesterday!
John Prescott has suggested that if David Cameron does not turn up for the TV debates, this should be placed on the empty podium.
Perhaps the broadcasters were provoked by Cameron’s claim that they were the ones responsible for what he called the “chaos” surrounding the TV debates, when it is clear that he has been responsible for delays and indecision.
The end result is the same. Cameron has denied himself the chance to stand up and defend his record against an Opposition leader who is increasingly starting to come through as The Better Man.
Will the debates be enough to change the mind of the general public and mitigate against the mass ignorance nurtured by the Tory Press?
That will be up to Mr Miliband. If his performances in recent Prime Minister’s Questions are any indication, it should be a walkover for him.
Unfit to wear the helmet: How deep does corruption run within our police? Do most officers still uphold the law without prejudice? Or do they use the uniform to pursue their own personal vendettas against innocent members of the public?
When did you lose faith in the British police?
Was it after Plebgate, the subject of a considerable controversy that has resurfaced this week? Was it after Hillsborough? Do you have a personal bad experience with officers whose interpretation of their duty could best be described as “twisted”, if not totally bent?
The Independent Police Complaints Commission says that the row involving whether former Conservative Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell used offensive language against a policeman who stopped him from riding a bicycle through the gates of Downing Street should have led to disciplinary action for the officer involved, along with others who supported his story.
Now, there is plenty of evidence that this police complaints commission is anything but independent, and that it provides verdicts as required by its superiors – either within the force or politically. But the weight of the evidence that we have seen so far suggests that, in this instance, the conclusion is correct.
In addition, post-mortem reports on the deceased were falsified and the police tried to blame Liverpool fans for the disaster.
These were both events that received national news coverage – but what about the local incidents that take place all around the country?
Sir Hugh Orde, chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers said, “130,000 police officers are delivering a good service” – but are they really?
This blog has already mentioned the experiences of several people here in Mid Wales who have had unsatisfactory experiences with the police, including victims of serious physical, psychological and sexual abuse who were told to go back and suffer more of this personal hell by policemen and women who either couldn’t care less or were complicit in the crimes. Years later, attempts to get justice fell on the equally deaf ears of officers who didn’t want to know.
And this week the front paper of my local newspaper (the one I used to edit) carried the headline ‘Hello, hello, what’s going on here then?’ over a story about two local police officers who, while on duty, seemed more interested in having sex than upholding the law.
One was an inspector; the other a (married) constable. The inspector, prior to her promotion, had been instrumental in sending a friend of mine to prison on a particularly unsavoury child sex charge. There was no concrete evidence and the case hinged on the opinion of a doctor that was hotly disputed by other expert testimony. But my friend’s path had crossed this policewoman’s before and she had failed to gain a conviction on the previous occasion. It seems clear that she had not forgotten him.
I have always believed that the jury convicted my friend because its members were worried that he might be guilty – despite the lack of evidence – simply because he had been accused. “There’s no smoke without fire,” as the saying goes. It seems likely now that this conviction reflects the policewoman’s preoccupations with sex, rather than any criminal activity on the part of my friend.
It also seems to be proof of the fear raised by Andrew Neil on the BBC’s This Week – that police have been sending innocent people to jail and letting the guilty go free.
My friend is still inside, by the way. He has maintained his innocence throughout the affair but, having been released on parole and then dragged back to jail for a breach that was more the fault of the authorities for failing to give adequate warning against it, he is now determined to serve his full sentence rather than face the heartbreak of having his freedom stolen with another excuse.
How this man ever got to be leader of the Conservative Party is astounding but anyone can see why he failed.
Iain Duncan Smith, a man with four children who has spent a sustained period of his life claiming state benefits, has described the UK’s benefits system as “overly generous”. Is he going to return the public cash he received, then? (No, I didn’t think so)
The Sun reports that he said big handouts for jobless parents are resented by their hard-working neighbours. How odious. He’s hoping that, by saying it, gullible members of the public will believe it, rather than thinking for themselves.
According to the article, “Most people get up in the morning, work hard, come back late and can only afford to have one or two children,” said the father of four.
“They look down the road to the house with the curtains closed, no-one going out to work but lots of kids around.” Your house, Iain.
“It’s dividing society.” No – you’re dividing society, Iain.
He added: “Everybody in Britain makes decisions based on what they can afford and how their family life works.” Fine words, coming from a man who lost a job at property firm Bellwinch after six months. I wonder if he was married then (he probably was; he’d been at GEC-Marconi in 1981, prior to Bellwinch, and they wed in 1982). So he knows that life-changing events can happen unexpectedly.
He just refuses to acknowledge this universal fact of life – it would contradict his ideology.
And his ideology is twisted, when it comes to money.
Look at his policy special adviser, Philippa Stroud, who is also being paid by a right-wing thinktank, the Centre for Social Justice, that lobbies his own Department for Work and Pensions!
He knows that the special advisers’ code of conduct stipulates that they “should not receive benefits of any kind which others might reasonably see as compromising their personal judgment or integrity”.
An annex to the code, titled the Seven Principles of Public Life, adds: “Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.”
The code also makes clear that ministers making such appointments, in this case Smith himself, are held responsible for their advisers’ conduct.
He seems to think it’s okay for her to take public money on top of her own salary; he seems to think it’s all right for her to have a job as a senior member of a pressure group that tries to influence his department, when he role within that department is to give him advice on what to do; he seems to think it’s permissible to allow all that and still lecture the nation about what is morally acceptable; and he seems to think he’ll get away with it.
Sadly, as a member of a government that is so twisted its members need help screwing themselves into their trousers in the morning, he’s probably right about that last assumption.
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