Tag Archives: Sky TV

Lobbying Bill rethink – another Tory ‘bait-and-switch’?

Listening on lobbying: Andrew Lansley proved exactly how trustworthy he is with the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Now he stands ready to hear concerns over the Lobbying and Transparency Bill.

Listening on lobbying: Andrew Lansley proved exactly how trustworthy he is with the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Now he stands ready to hear concerns over the Lobbying and Transparency Bill.

It seems we have all been victims of a Parliamentary stitch-up.

Everyone who was getting hot under the collar last week, because the Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill seemed to be attacking the fair and proper work of charities and other organisations, probably breathed a sigh of relief when the government announced it would scrap plans to change the way campaign spending is defined.

The Bill would have restricted any charitable campaigning which “enhances the standing of parties or candidates”, in the full year before an election, to £390,000. That’s a 70 per cent cut – plus it would now include staff costs.

The BBC reported that Andrew Lansley has tabled a series of amendments, including one reverting to the wording set out in existing legislation, defining controlled expenditure as any “which can reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success”.

What the BBC does not say, but is clarified in the government press release, is that “the Bill will still bring down the national spending limit for third parties, introduce constituency spending limits and extend the definition of controlled expenditure to cover more than just election material, to include rallies, transport and press conferences“.

In other words, this is a very minor change. Spending is still restricted during election years (and almost every year is an election year); the work of trade unions will be savaged – in a country that already has the most savage anti-union laws in Europe; and all organisations will still have to watch what they say about anything which might be considered an election issue.

Want to campaign to protect the NHS, introduce fair taxation, fight poverty, improve public health or education, reform the financial sector or civil liberties, or fight the privatisation agenda? Then your budget will be scrutinised and you may not go over. And don’t forget there will be limits on spending within constituencies.

This still means that smaller organisations will enjoy greater influence than larger ones and – perhaps most telling of all – it does not clarify the position with regard to the corporate media. Will the mainstream press be curtailed? Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp UK and the Daily Mail Group spend far more than £390,000 every day, and on material that absolutely is “intended to promote or procure electoral success” – for the Conservative Party. Does anybody seriously believe the Tories will enforce action against their supporters?

One tangential element that this does clarify is the BBC’s political stance. Its story makes no mention of the more-than-100 other amendments that have been proposed for the Bill – possibly because they were put forward by MPs who aren’t in the government. Nor does it mention any of the technicalities that water down yesterday’s announcement. Instead, the BBC presents it as a victory for charities, who are getting everything they want. They aren’t.

It’s another Tory ‘bait-and-switch’ trick.

Doubly so, in fact, because this little circus has diverted attention away from the other aspects of the Bill – its clampdown on trade unions and the fact that it does almost nothing to address lobbying, which was supposed to be its reason for existing in the first place!

Joint co-operation between various trade unions will be made more difficult – to such an extent that the Trade Union Congress will effectively be banned in election years (meaning almost every year).

All unions with more than 10,000 members will have to submit an annual ‘Membership Audit Certificate’ to the Certification Officer in addition to the annual return which they already make. The Certification Officer will have the power to require production of ‘relevant’ documents, including membership records and even private correspondence. What is the rationale for these draconian provisions when not a single complaint has been made to the Certification Officer about these matters?

Is the real motive behind this section of the bill to help employers mount injunction proceedings when union members have voted for industrial action, by seizing on minor if not minuscule flaws which the Court of Appeal would previously have considered ‘de minimis’ or ‘accidental’? Isn’t this about inserting yet further minute technical or bureaucratic obstacles or hurdles in the path of trade unions carrying out their perfectly proper and legitimate activities?

And what about the potentional for ‘blacklisting’? If union membership records are to be made publicly available, as seems the case, then it will be possible for businesses to single out job applicants who are union members and refuse them work.

And then we come to the matter of lobbying itself.

This Bill still does not do what it is supposed to do. A register of consultant lobbyists is not adequate to the task and would not have prevented any of the major lobbying scandals in which David Cameron has been embroiled.

Practically all forms of lobbying, including direct donations to political parties by corporate and private interests, will remain totally unaffected by the legislation and corporations could sidestep it easily, simply by bringing their lobbying operations “in house”.

No less than 80 per cent of lobbying activity will not be covered by the bill – and it must be amended to cover this percentage. The only lobbyists that will be affected are registered lobbying agencies, who will presumably suffer large losses as their clients leave. Perhaps the real aim of this part of the bill is to stop lobbying from organisations that don’t have enough money to make it worth the government’s while?

How does this bill prevent wealthy individuals and corporations from buying political influence through party political donations – direct donations to MPs who then coincidentally vote in ways beneficial to their donors – or directly to political parties, such as David Cameron’s “The Leaders Group”?

How will it stop paid lobbyists like David Cameron’s election adviser Lynton Crosby from having influential roles in politics?

How will it stop people with significant lobbying interests, like George Osborne’s father-in-law David Howell, being appointed as advisers and ministers in areas where they have blatant conflicts of interests with their lobbying activities?

How will it increase transparency when it comes to which organisations have been lobbying which politicians on particular issues?

It won’t.

Nor will it stop lobbyists targeting ministers’ political advisers (SPADs), as was witnessed in the Jeremy Hunt Sky TV affair.

Or prevent corporate interests being invited to actually write government legislation on their behalf – for example the ‘big four’ accountancy firms, who run many tax avoidance schemes, actually write UK law on tax avoidance.

An adequate register would cover all of the above, including details of all non-Parliamentary representatives seeking to influence members of the government, how much they paid for the privilege, and what they expected to get for their money.

Then we will have transparency.

Nobody’s fooled – but for Tories, the child abuse cover-up may still succeed

The text states: “Don’t be an accomplice. Denounce child abuse.” It doesn’t say “… unless you think it’s being done by a Conservative”.

The British public are not as stupid as some of our so-called ‘leaders’ would like to think.

Despite the best efforts of people like David Mellor, the editors and writers at the Mail on Sunday, and I’ll even include David Cameron (because I find it suspicious how quickly attempts were made to discredit the allegations after his This Morning interview), it seems most people have rejected their claims that child abuse victim Steve Messham is a lone crank.

We believe him. Somebody sexually abused him, and he had reason to believe it was a particular person with Conservative connections.

But the attempt to cover up his case may still succeed, because child abuse is now toxic to the BBC, and other reporters will hesitate to report it for fear they’ll get the same treatment as the Corporation.

Possible abusers from other walks of life and other political parties are still fair game, I notice, leading to the possibility that followers of the news will get an unbalanced view that the other parties are full of abusers and the Conservatives are not. That, I think, is dangerous, especially when it comes to elections.

There is no doubt that the BBC has been seriously harmed by the Newsnight child abuse story – even though it never named any suspects and Mr Messham’s claim that a person with Conservative connections was involved may yet prove accurate. But the most harmful aspect of this is that attention has been diverted away from an investigation into child abuse. And we all know it.

On Twitter, ‘Mrs VB’ pointed out that it was “utterly depressing to see the BBC headlines all about the bloody BBC rather than the widescale abuse of children in the care system.”

Columnist Owen Jones agreed: “Newsnight screwed up, but children who were raped have been forgotten. It is a disgrace.”

It IS a disgrace. But not one that has gone unnoticed. The ‘Comment’ column attached to the Mail on Sunday‘s smear job against Mr Messham showed clearly that the public are not going to put up with this nonsense.

‘Loraine’ wrote: “If I was asked to talk about tiny details of a long time ago, my memory would not be so accurate either. If there was only one victim claiming all kinds of things, then so be it. BUT there isn’t, IS THERE!!! A deeply horrible thing happened to this man when he was a vulnerable child; I’m not at all suprised if there may be residual issues. And your attempt to darken his character by claiming criminal allegations against him, [of] which by the way he was acquitted, as mentioned in this article, beggars belief.”

‘Belinda’ added: “No wonder abuse and rape victims dont come forward – they are all terrified this is what will happen to them; they will be called liars. You should be ashamed, Daily Mail; you are contributing to helping his abusers avoid justice.”

‘Null’ commented: “Stephen Messham has NOTHING to apologise for; it is truly shocking the way this poor man is being vilified and yet again unable to defend himself. He never mentioned Lord McAlpine. Newsnight never mentioned Lord McAlpine. This is a predictable cover up.”

And someone calling themselves ‘p2244a’ summed the situation up ver well: “Journalists need to stop playing with this person’s mind. Heartless cowards who will not listen to anyone who was abused because it is too ‘dirty’ to talk about.

“Mistaken identity of the photo caused the problem when the person, holding the photo for Mr Messham to see, wrongly named the man! Mr Messham thought the person who abused him was DEAD!”

This is exactly right, as the following transcript from the Waterhouse Tribunal (at which Mr Messham had previously given evidence on his abuse and abusers) reveals (courtesy of http://blog.albionalliance.org.uk/2012/11/how-the-daily-mail-set-up-messham-mi5-implicated/):

Gerard Elias QC: “Does the name McAlpine mean anything to you.”

Steven Messham: “Yes, sir.”

Elias: “In what context?”

Messham: “I was also abused by him sexually.”

Sir Ronald Waterhouse: “Is the person you referred to alive or dead?”

Messham: “I believe he is dead.”

This article also suggests that the ‘David Rose’ who co-wrote the Mail on Sunday smear piece is a former MI5 agent. The plot thickens…

It adds: “The Waterhouse report contains Steven Messham’s statement to the police. In it, Steven testified that his abuser ‘had several cars and a chauffeur.’

“The abusers would wait for Steven Messham at the bottom of a lane near Bryn Estyn children’s home when Steven had a late pass from the home. Messham was then abused in the car in a lay-by, and at the Crest Hotel in Wrexham.

“Local Welsh councillor Keith Gregory has testified that boys from Bryn Estyn would be taken to the homes of two McAlpine family members in the area – Gerwyn Hall and Marchwiel Hall, both a few miles from Wrexham town centre. Gerwyn Hall was occupied by Jimmie McAlpine, who died in 1991. Marchwiel Hall was the home of Jimmie’s sister.

“Jimmie McAlpine’s ID fits to the letter, with his chauffeurs, his massive car collection, the house where he lived, the hotel he frequented, and the golf club membership he shared at the time with the two leaders at Bryn Estyn, both of whom went to jail on multiple charges of buggery.”

So there you are. It is possible that Mr Messham was abused by a now-deceased member of the McAlpine family. I feel comfortable in suggesting this as it is impossible to libel the dead (note the current attack on Cyril Smith).

So why have we been told that he is a crank? That his allegations are the false ramblings of an unhinged mind? That (by implication) there are no paedophiles among the Conservatives and that the party does not need to be investigated?

Sonia Poulton, writing in the Express, tells us she has compiled a list of 132 “utterly shameless” Establishment child abusers, including MPs, lords and local councillors, and that “a similar list” exists for police officers.

“I don’t believe these lists are complete,” she writes. “This is not conjecture or media gossip but people, primarily men, who have been prosecuted for child sex offences throughout the UK.

“Many of these abusers still represent constituents and are ‘serving the public’. At the very least we should know who they are, where they are and if their public decisions are influenced by the greater good or their own twisted perversions.”

Meanwhile, attempts are being made to tranquillise us by making us think that child abuse investigations are still taking place and getting results – so we hear that a former primary school headmaster has been jailed for 15 years after he was convicted of raping and indecently assaulting an under-age girl. Malcolm Ford, 66, committed the offences more than 20 years ago, Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard.

Fair enough, but he was not a politician.

And there have been allegations against the late Liberal MP, Cyril Smith. Like Jimmy Savile (and the member of the McAlpine family that Mr Messham accused), he is dead, so it is safe to make the claim publicly.

Fair enough, but he was not a Conservative.

The situation with Mr Messham reminds me of one I underwent with the police a few years ago. I made an allegation and backed it up by quoting the relevant section of the relevant law. The response I got back quoted a completely different section of the same legislation in order to reject what I was saying. Despite my protestations, they stuck to their (erroneous) guns and I was eventually told I would need to seek a judicial review if I wanted to take it any further. I don’t have any money, so that was the end of that.

Here we have a man who made an allegation against another man (now dead) – but opportunists have twisted it to make it seem he was referring to a living man who is (as far as we know) innocent, in order to discredit the claim and the man who made it. And they refuse to countenance any argument other than their own.

The attack on the BBC was just a side-effect which they will, no doubt, believe was very lucky. Look at how badly people like Jeremy Hunt wanted to strengthen Sky – and Rupert Murdoch’s bid to own it – and weaken the Corporation in the past.

Far more serious is the attack on the credibility of anybody making claims that they suffered sex attacks as a child, especially if their claim implicates members of – you guessed it – the Conservative Party.

Cameron and Brooks – the more we know, the less we like it

What have they got to hide, and can it be any worse than what we’re all thinking?

There’s a bad smell surrounding the correspondence between David Cameron and Rebekah Brooks, and it has nothing to do with the horse she let him ride.

The Observer is today reporting details of “intimate” texts sent between the current UK Prime Minister and the former head of Rupert Murdoch’s News International. One of them, from Brooks, states that she felt so emotional listening to his (2009) conference speech she “cried twice”, and that she “will love ‘working together’.”

Working together?

In what way, exactly?

There are too many loose ends here for anyone to feel comfortable. Everywhere you turn, one of them whips you in the face (like a riding crop, perhaps).

Let’s bear in mind all the embarrassment fomer Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt (Con) had over the plans for Mr Murdoch’s firm to take over Sky TV, granting it an unprecedented dominance over the UK mass media. Working together?

Let’s remember that Andy Coulson, a former News International employee and editor of the News of the World, became Mr Cameron’s Downing Street press officer for a time, until he was implicated in the phone hacking scandal and stood down. Working together?

Let’s also consider the way the right-wing press – of which News International and Sky News form an uncomfortably large cohort – has suppressed stories about the harmful effects of Mr Cameron’s policies, such as the deaths of 73 sick or disabled people every week (on average) who had their benefits cut after reassessment by the Department for Work and Pensions and its contractor, Atos. Working together?

Cameron has refused to allow publication of any more of these texts – and it is understood that around 150 may exist. The Observer states that it understands many of them would prove to be “a considerable embarrassment” to the government.

We don’t know what is in those texts, and we are being told that we never will. The only possible conclusion is that they contain information that is damaging to Mr Cameron, and therefore to his Conservative-led government. Because of the identities of the correspondents, we can also conclude only that this damage relates to them working together.

It’s obvious he’s got something to hide.

He’s not going to come clean about it either.

So he’s being dishonest to us, the British public.

It is not in our interest for him to behave like this.

What else has he been doing that is not in our interest?

I think we have a right to know.

After all, he didn’t win the 2010 election; he’s only in Downing Street because of a dodgy deal with the Liberal Democrats.