Boris Johnson’s forerunner Theresa May told us her government would fight ‘fake news’ – but did little or nothing about it. Now we see one of Mr Johnson’s friends is behind a propaganda network.
Will he do anything to stop it? Doubtful.
And this network, run by former Tory election advisor Lynton Crosby, is on Facebook.
The person in charge of identifying and removing ‘fake news’ from Facebook is former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.
Why hasn’t he done anything about it? Is he too busy blocking access to innocent left-wing news pages?
The lobbying firm run by Boris Johnson’s close ally Sir Lynton Crosby has secretly built a network of unbranded “news” pages on Facebook for dozens of clients ranging from the Saudi government to major polluters, a Guardian investigation has found.
In the most complete account yet of CTF Partners’ outlook and strategy, current and former employees of the campaign consultancy have painted a picture of a business that appears to have professionalised online disinformation, taken on a series of controversial clients and faced incidents of misogynistic bullying in its headquarters.
They said that such was the culture of secrecy within the firm that staff working on online disinformation campaigns, which selectively promoted their clients’ viewpoints on anonymised Facebook pages that followed a common formula, used initials rather than full names on internal systems and often relied on personal email accounts to avoid their work being traced back to CTF and its clients.
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.
That’s telling him: Michael Segalov put Nick Clegg firmly in his place on the BBC’s Politics Live [this shot from a previous appearance, on Daily Politics].
At long last, Brexit liar Nick Clegg had his comeuppance – albeit on the BBC’s Politics Live programme where few people are likely to have seen it.
Michael Segalov, who was too young to vote in 2010 when the Liberal Democrats under Mr Clegg went into a pre-arranged coalition with David Cameron’s Conservatives, said he had been enthused by the possibility of supporting that party – but had swiftly become disillusioned as Clegg supported the Cons on one disastrous policy after another.
And these were the policies that led people into voting ‘Leave’ in the 2016 EU referendum.
The outburst has encouraged others to talk about the failings of the Liberal Democrats:
Yes, the hypocrisy of the LibDems is breathtaking. I also remember them on the streets in the 2016 Witney by-election telling people they were the party of the NHS when, without them, the Tories would have been unable to force through the devastating 2012 Health & Social Care Act https://t.co/ViF0Z0fdre
Nick Clegg, former leader of the Liberal Democrats and latterly a bit of a loon [Image: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg via Getty Images].
We all knew Nick Clegg was talking nonsense throughout his time as deputy prime minister; at least now he’s doing it openly.
He’s right that Labour’s decision to “demonise austerity” led to Jeremy Corbyn being elected as party leader – but completely wrong to present that policy position as something that is bad.
There was absolutely no point to austerity, other than to shrink the state, take money from the poor and give it to the rich. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the UK “living within its means”.
Austerity did not save any money at all. The UK is still running a huge deficit and the national debt has nearly tripled – as Nick Clegg well knows.
If he had wanted to get the UK out of debt, he would have advocated expanding the economy, putting more money into it and getting more out of it.
That’s what Labour’s manifesto promised.
The claim that Labour did not explain how the country could afford its policies was a lie, of course. Every policy was carefully costed and explained in the manifesto and accompanying documents.
Or perhaps Mr Clegg doesn’t understand how the UK economy works. If so, then why was he ever allowed to be deputy prime minister at all?
Nick Clegg has said Labour’s decision to “demonise austerity” as “evil” is what led to Jeremy Corbyn being elected its party leader.
The former Lib Dem leader said while he understood why voters liked Corbyn’s manifesto as it was “an invitation to the British public to have a warm bath and a nice cup of tea”.
But Clegg criticised Labour for not explaining how the country would afford its policies.
“I totally understand why they did this, but the Labour Party had been in government for 13 years and actually presided over many deeply regressive things, far more regressive than we would have allowed,” he said.
“They just loved being in Opposition suddenly in 2010 and found the easiest thing was to demonise any idea of how to save money.”
He added: “It’s what created Jeremy Corbyn. Because if you spend five years demonising austerity and some sort of evil choice, then of course you can never digest ideas that sometimes you need row back as a country in a way of living within the means of what you can afford.”
Big Mouth strikes: Stewart Hosie was desperate to wrongly lay blame for the economic crisis on Labour. Now he’s being told that every vote for the SNP could help enable a Conservative-Liberal Democrat second term.
SNP mouthpiece Stewart Hosie should have known better than to try to score political points with information from Oxford’s Professor of Macroeconomics.
After Professor Simon Wren-Lewis (author of the Mainly Macroblog) confirmed to The Conversation that Nicola Sturgeon’s claims about austerity* were correct, “with no qualifications” (meaning he would not correct her on any aspect of it), Hosie spouted the following in a press release:
“Professor Wren-Lewis reflects what many other experts and indeed members of the public know all too well – that Tory/Lib Dem austerity has done deep harm to the country’s recovery from the Labour recession.” [Italics mine]
Here’s the response from Prof Wren-Lewis (bolding mine):
“Oh dear – ‘the Labour recession’. That would be the global financial crisis that originated with US subprime mortgages! Calling this the Labour recession is just stupid, and is something I would never say. It is very unfortunate (and I hope it is just a misfortune) that Stewart Hosie appeared to suggest that I had said or implied that. Whatever the intention, it indicates that at least some in the SNP are still in the business of making highly misleading statements to advance their cause.
“While on the subject of the SNP and this election, let me make one final point, just in case any prospective SNP voters read this. In the quite likely event that the Conservatives get more seats than Labour, but less seats than Labour and the SNP combined, in a situation where either side would need LibDem support Nick Clegg has made it clear he will talk to the Conservatives first. That will almost certainly lead to the current coalition government continuing. Clegg’s reasoning for doing this makes little sense, but the SNP cannot influence Clegg’s decision, and I suspect nor can his party even if they were minded to.
“If that comes to pass, then every vote for the SNP rather than Labour that loses Labour seats becomes a vote to continue with the current government. That is not an opinion, but a factual statement. So, to be consistent with his own logic, I think Stewart Hosie would have to call this election result the SNP’s Tory-LibDem second term.”
If we’re honest, this means Nicola Sturgeon really does need to ask England and Wales not to vote Tory, as this blog stated a few days ago.
Any questions (or indeed squeals from the SNP cultists in our readership)?
*She had said: “In the last five years, austerity has undermined our public services, lowered the living standards of working people, pushed more children into poverty and held back economic growth.”
The leader debate in a nutshell [Image: Lizzie Harvey on Twitter.]
What did people want from the televised political leaders’ debate?
It’s a question that has troubled this writer ever since it ended and the reactions started coming in.
The spin doctors and the hacks in the right-wing press claimed victory for the parties they support – of course. That’s why the front pages of The Sun and the Daily Torygraph proclaimed victory for David Cameron. They had been prepared before the debate had even finished because those rags were always going to make that claim.
A significant number came out in support of Nigel Farage – the UKIP party faithful and those who believed his anti-immigration, anti-Europe spiel. Of course, they might have felt differently, had they known he only plans to reduce immigration by around 28,000 a year, but it’s easy to deceive someone who doesn’t want to know the facts.
Extreme: The signed version of the debate provided this interpretation of a Nigel Farage comment.
There seemed to be a swell of support for the three female leaders. A knee-jerk reaction might be to suggest that this was simply because they weren’t men; this writer does not subscribe to that view. It is far more likely that people warmed to Natalie Bennett, Leanne Wood and especially Nicola Sturgeon because this was their first mass exposure to the British viewing (and voting) public. They head the so-called ‘minority’ parties and are often excluded from the national conversation by reason of their size.
Not only that, but they had a message that people wanted to hear: No More Austerity. It was pleasantly surprising to see all three pounding the message home against a defensive David Cameron – and it is in this context that we should measure the public’s reaction to them. This blog has stated previously that the larger parties cannot hope to gain popular support if they are offering only what they want, rather than what the people want. Now the people have found organisations that are offering what they want. This Writer feared that they would take votes from Labour, rather than the Conservatives; now that outcome seems less likely.
Nicola Sturgeon, in particular, is to be congratulated for her performance which has eased, somewhat, This Writer’s concerns about her party gaining influence in Westminster. She came across very well and seemed to be offering an olive branch to Ed Miliband in her opening statement, which included support for at least three Labour policies. However, there remains the question of how far she may be trusted; she repeated the lie that Labour had voted to support £30 billion of Tory austerity cuts when Labour did nothing of the sort (Miliband put her straight but the accusation always receives more attention than the rebuttal). And what of the rumour that the SNP is planning a Unilateral Declaration of Independence for Scotland – whether the majority of its people want it or not – after the election?
That leaves the three ‘main’ parties. Nick Clegg was a joke. Nobody agreed with Nick this time.
David Cameron also lost traction. He did manage to crowbar into the debate the messages this blog reported yesterday but nobody seemed impressed by them; Ed Miliband debunked the claims about Labour pretty sharpish and the public wanted to believe the ladies when it came to the economy. He scraped the bottom of the barrel several times – yet again quoting Liam Byrne’s ill-advised note about there being no money in 2010 as the reason austerity cuts had to happen (in fact, the UK was never in danger of bankruptcy but Cameron likes to make that claim, even though he knows better); and once more using his late son Ivan as his ‘human shield’ against attacks about the state of the NHS. The audience didn’t groan, but the country did. Asked where the £12 billion of ‘welfare’ cuts would be made, he again refused to answer, meaning the Tories are planning something extremely unpleasant for you, if they win. And – amazingly – he thinks ‘Free’ (in fact they are exorbitantly expensive) schools are a good idea!
That leaves Ed Miliband. whose confident, fact-filled performance ensured he won the ‘snap’ poll conducted online immediately after the debate – if only by a whisker. He had plans; he described them. He apologised for the mistakes Labour has previously acknowledged; he didn’t apologise for the party’s current plans. He stared down Cameron when the Tory leader tried to accuse him of financial irresponsibility, and he had the country on his side when he did so, because Cameron’s party has doubled the national debt and failed to balance the books while inflicting a huge human cost on their fellow citizens. His narrow victory this week followed a narrow defeat last week, meaning his stature amongst the public is growing. People are starting to like this man. The more he mentions what he would do “if I am Prime Minister”, the easier it is for them to see him in that role.
So we return to the question at the top of this piece: What did people want from this debate?
Judging from the reactions as they developed, it seems people wanted something fresh and new-looking, that corresponded with their own desire – not just for an end to the oppression of the last five years, but for a reversal of it.
That’s all very well, but those aren’t the qualities that are needed to run a country successfully. A national leader needs a cool head and the stamina to see long-term matters to their conclusion, for the sake of the whole nation.
The evidence on display yesterday suggests that Ed Miliband has what it takes. Slow and steady may win the race after all.
But will the public be too dazzled by the others to realise this?
Will the leaders of the smaller parties (Plaid, Green, SNP) open the back door for the Conservatives to be re-elected – by eroding Labour’s vote with lies?
This writer has spent a lot of time, over the last couple of days, debunking myths about the Labour Party.
People reading the Vox Political Facebook page will have seen a lot of verbiage showing that Labour did in fact vote against the Bedroom Tax, that claims about Johann Lamont being told to keep her opposition to it quiet until Ed Miliband had decided to do the same were based on nothing more than gossip put out by “a source” in a newspaper story… even that Labour has never advocated the slaughter of innocent people in the Middle East (as one commenter claimed – no, really, they did! They reckoned Labour actually said innocent people in the Middle East should be killed).
There have been other smears – and it is possible that even more will be broadcast on ITV this evening, starting at 8pm, when the leaders of the smaller ‘left-wing’ parties take part in a televised election debate.
Judging from their past record, it seems entirely likely that the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party leaders (Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood and Natalie Bennett, respectively) will fling falsehoods about Labour – because they think they can steal left-wing votes from the bigger party.
They will be doing David Cameron’s job for him.
If you can’t see why, here’s the explanation: In constituencies where Labour and the Conservatives are both contesting a seat, with candidates from the Green Party and either Plaid or the SNP, any vote taken from Labour to boost the non-Tory parties will mean that the Conservatives have a better chance of winning* – none of them are trying to take votes from the Tories, remember. Conservative voters regularly turn out in large numbers to support their candidates, even though this means lower living standards for everybody.
It seems clear that the SNP, Plaid and the Greens are too timid to tackle the Tory wolf at the door.
Instead, they’ll carry on chipping away at Labour with stories about imagined crimes.
Like the proverbial blind person in the story, they are happy to stay in a darkened room, looking for a black cat – that isn’t there.
*Some might say this does not count in Scotland, where the SNP is polling more strongly than Labour. While this is correct (at the time of writing), this blog has shown that much of the SNP’s support is based on exactly the kind of lies about Labour that This Writer has been having to debunk. Any political organisation that deliberately lies to the electorate in order to gain votes does not deserve even to participate in the process.
Blocked for 11 months: The Mail on Sunday describes how the Conservative-run Cabinet Office tried to hide information about paedophilia in the corridors of power.
According to Labour’s Simon Danczuk, the government is refusing to publish at least four files on historic child abuse because it is worried about what information may be revealed ahead of May’s general election.
Oh really? This suggests that the facts must be more damaging than any speculation. We all know that leading Conservative MPs, including at least one cabinet minister from the Thatcher era, have been implicated in the ongoing paedophile investigation.
And the Daily Mirror, together with investigative news site Exaro, has revealed that police have raided the London and North Yorkshire homes of the late Leon Brittan as part of Operation Midland – set up to investigate historic claims of child abuse by a group of powerful men.
The Mail on Sunday report states that the Cabinet Office – run by Conservative Francis Maude – repeatedly blocked attempts to see documents about Cyril Smith, and only relented under threat of High Court action.
It said David Cameron and Nick Clegg have both been accused of colluding in the cover-up.
Mr Danczuk told the paper: “Nick Clegg and David Cameron have colluded in covering this up. It involves their people and we should not have to learn about this piecemeal because of journalists pestering for information.
“Both men need to come clean and make a personal commitment to revealing everything that is now held by Government departments.
“The Prime Minister promised there would be no stone unturned into the inquiry of historic sex abuse in Westminster. But the Cabinet Office seems to be doing the opposite.
“Clegg, who sits in this department, has already written to me refusing to carry out an investigation into who knew what about Cyril Smith in his party and it’s disappointing to see the Cabinet Office continuing this unhelpful approach.”
What’s the current situation on the political parties’ ‘leader debates’? Is Cameron still playing chicken and using the Green Party as a human shield?
The last this writer heard was that he was saying he wouldn’t turn up if Ofcom didn’t let the Greens take part, as the Green Party is now the fourth largest in terms of membership (behind Labour, the Conservatives – who could be lying about theirs, and the SNP, having overtaken UKIP and the Liberal Democrats).
Ofcom seems to be saying the Greens don’t qualify because they don’t have enough MPs (which seems strange, as it seems perfectly willing to let UKIP take part and it only has one more MP than the Greens).
Is that about right?
It’s rumoured that Cameron has cold feet about the debates because of what happened in 2010, when ‘Cleggmania’ (briefly) swept the nation and everybody including himself seemed to be saying “I agree with Nick”. His advisors are allegedly telling him that Clegg’s performance in the debates seriously damaged his standing and prevented him from gaining an outright victory in the election.
(This may seem odd, as the Liberal Democrats in fact lost five seats at the election, but we need to remember that – in the First Past The Post system – it seems likely that LD candidates took votes from Conservatives, allowing others to take marginal seats).
It seems likely Cameron is also in fear of Nigel Farage, who is generally accepted to have beaten Clegg in televised debates about the European Union.
The other three leaders who were set to take part in the debates have called for them to go ahead, with Cameron ’empty-chaired’ – a podium should be put out for him but left vacant to show he has opted not to participate.
This would still leave the other parties without a voice in the debates and – considering their popularity – that’s clearly wrong.
Perhaps these debates should go ahead, with only the Labour, LD and UKIP leaders if Ofcom won’t bend.
If so, then the other party leaders should consider alternative strategies.
Is there any reason they should not record their own responses to the questions asked in these debates – and the issues raised by them – and make those responses available to the public, via the media broadcasters, newspaper websites, YouTube and the social media?
This would give a certain unfair advantage to the Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru, the National Health Action Party, FUKP and whoever else, because they would have advance warning of the questions before starting, and would know what the other leaders had said – but it does seem fairer thanaltogether denying them a chance to put their cases forward.
In this scenario the only loser would be David Cameron who, fittingly, would have denied himself the chance to speak while allowing it to everyone else – poetic justice for a man who has tried to gag political debate in the run-up to the election.
Apparently the Coalition government has confirmed that Bicester, in Oxfordshire, will be the site of the second new Garden City. It is six miles from David Cameron’s home village of Chipping Norton, but conveniently (for those wanting to avoid accusations of corruption) in the next-door constituency of Banbury, held by fellow Tory Tony Baldry.
It is already the home of Chic (that’s not a description – it’s the name of the company) outlet shopping centre Bicester Village, home of many big brands – and for “big”, please feel free to read “expensive”.
Now, up to 13,000 new houses are to be built on the edge of the town, as part of the National Infrastructure Plan. They are part of a £2 billion investment to build 55,000 houses per year until 2020. Do you think they’ll be expensive too?
According to the BBC News article, “Garden cities are large-scale developments in which, according to the government, certain features can be ‘hardwired into designs from the beginning’. The government has said it does not want to ‘impose any definition of what garden cities are’, but features can include ‘quality design, gardens, accessible green space near homes, access to employment, and local amenities’.”
A feature already announced is a new railway station “to serve the expanded population”.
How many locally-born working people will have a chance to live in this new conurbation? How many residents will be migrants from elsewhere (you can bet immigration will be no object if they’ve got wads of cash)? Whatever happened to austerity?
When he announced the plan for new garden cities in April, Nick Clegg said it was a “call-to-arms for visionaries in local areas in need of housing to put forward radical and ambitious proposals” for “beautifully-designed new cities” providing “affordable homes to live in”. But this part of the Cotswolds is already spectacularly well-off and nobody there will welcome a development that will adversely affect house prices.
What we’re looking at here is an expensive dormitory town for the people who have benefited from David Cameron’s premiership – high-cost homes in a luxury environment, served by designer-label shops and with an easy commuter rail link to London and all points beyond.
The whole project is sure to create a large amount of prosperity for Oxfordshire in the immediate future – handy for Conservative MPs whose government stinks and who want to ensure their continued political survival after a forthcoming general election! Meanwhile, other parts of the UK – that need the investment – will go without.
It isn’t for ordinary people, that’s for sure – you can bet the residents’ bins will be emptied by workers who have to travel in from sink estates in other towns – paying for the journey out of their own pockets.
Garden city? With Cameron’s fellow parasites installed, it’ll be a blot on the landscape.
Postscript: It seems Sam Cameron – the prime minister’s wife – has holdings in the company that will be responsible for this development. He reckons he “forgot” to mention it on the register of members’ interests! As one commenter put it: “I’m sure it’s all above board. I mean, he’s an MP, a Tory, a Cabinet Minister and the leader of the country. All positions beyond suspicion or reproach”, while another added: “Yes and we all came up the Clyde on a bike!”
Sue Marsh published this last week but it is worth highlighting as it shows up the Liberal Democrats for what they are. You can read the full article on Diary of a Benefit Scrounger but here’s a quick summary:
Never has there been a better example of naive little fishes swimming in a vast, Machiavellian pond than Nick Clegg’s “Orange Bookers”.
It’s easy now to forget just how shocking and incomprehensible we all found even the concept of a Tory/LibDem coalition. To forget those 5 surreal days our democracy was in hiatus, holding it’s breath while just 4 men decided the future of our countries behind a locked door. For 5 days and 5 nights, Cameron, Osborne, Alexander and Clegg hammered out their agreement. A vacuum where one day, history would be.
After 29 million, 691 thousand, 380 people had voted, in fact they may as well not have bothered. The manifestos they thought they had voted for were discarded along with student trust and the last drop of belief in our political system. The party of civil liberties was artfully convinced to give them up for the promise of a few tempting beans.
Clegg… came out having ceded to Osborne’s right wing economic strategy, with the promise of a referendum on AV that was dependent on boundary changes that would see the Tories gain an almost indefinite majority in the commons, tripling tuition fees and supporting a welfare reform bill that would throw all but the most fortunate to the wolves.
Almost every policy decision for the next 5 years was decided in that room, by those 4 men. Since then, each time democracy has tried to object, she has been silenced with either bribery, dishonesty or the Whip. From using financial privilege to overturn Lord’s amendments and increasing government surveillance measures, to threatening the BBC and deleting old speeches from the internet.
They ripped up disability living allowance and replaced it with personal independence payments in that room, agreeing to slash a random 20% of people with disabilities from the budget – it was in neither manifesto. They awarded themselves 5 years of power with virtually no possibility of challenge the very day they left the room.
Nothing has demoralised me more than watching previously centre left politicians with apparently, well, Liberal values, file into those lobbies, one by one, in support of slashing payments for disabled children, selling off our NHS in piecemeal chunks and slashing legal aid.
What disgusted me, was being assured through it all that the Lib Dems had somehow stopped the worst excesses of the Tories. I have found myself living in a country that has allowed sick and disabled people to die in hunger and despair and they dare speak to me of mitigation?
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