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Fairy tale: Dominic Raab thinks it’s terrific that wages are lower now than when Labour was in office.
It’s the season for fairy tales and pantomimes so picture the scene: Once upon a time, the UK’s evil stepmother Theresa May was admiring herself in the mirror.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall,” she gurgled in the half-strangled voice we know so well (unfortunately), “who’s the stupidest of them all?”
“Dominic Raab,” the mirror replied without hesitation.
“What?” Mrs May was taken aback- and not by the fact that she was having a conversation with a piece of furniture (draw your own conclusions). “Not the 200 Tory MPs who supported my leadership when they could have got out of the Brexit mess I’ve created by electing a new boss?”
“He could have been one of them, too,” said the mirror. “And I don’t mean his gaff about the Dover-Calais crossing, either. Haven’t you seen his tweet about wages rising faster than they have in years?”
“That’s brilliant news!” said Mrs May. “Although being a staunch neoliberal I can’t take any of the credit for it – market forces and all that.”
“Oh?” said the mirror, trying to arch an eyebrow until it realised it didn’t have any. “You think it’s a public relations triumph that he’s going around admitting that wages have fallen drastically under the Conservatives and have never been as high as they were under Gordon Brown? The social media have been having a field day!”
Indeed. Take a look:
Dominic appears to have accidentally pointed out that under a Tory Government, average wages are no better than they were 8 years ago! Time for them to stand aside and let @UKLabour govern #ForTheMany ! https://t.co/CFV39Wm22m
Comrade Raab campaigning for @UKLabour by demonstrating that real wages are significantly lower than when his calamitous Tory party came to office. What an absolute plonker this guy is #Strewth🤦♂️😂😂😂 https://t.co/uUzXMBdeDb
“And you might like to read Sue Jones’s article on this, which shows that this rough average doesn’t provide any information about the real situation for working people, whose pay rises depend on how long they’ve been in a job, where they live, whether they’re in the public sector or the private sector – I could go on all day.”
“Oh bugger,” said Mrs May.
But she was still prime minister, so nobody lived happily ever after.
We already know that the civil servant who wrote the controversial ‘Memogate’ memo believed that it was accurate. Now the MP who leaked it has said the same.
The only people who have cast any doubt on the document are those who have an interest in doing so.
If the civil servant had not declared his belief that the information he had written was factually accurate – by which, let’s by clear, he meant it was what he had been told by the French consul-general – then This Writer would be more willing to give Nicola Sturgeon the benefit of the doubt.
The civil servant did express concerns that the consul-general had misheard the information he had imparted – but, looking at the actual content of that information, it is hard to find any way this could be true. There is no language barrier between three people who are all perfectly fluent in English, for example.
So this issue still comes down to whether you believe a civil servant with an impeccable record for honesty, absolutely no reason to fabricate any information, and no reason to believe he could get away with any such fabrication at the time he communicated the message he did, or three people who were directly involved in what appears to be a politically incendiary conversation, all of whom would have had very strong reasons for being conservative with the truth, if that conversation really did take place as recorded.
You be the judge.
Alistair Carmichael has told a special court he leaked a confidential memo that claimed Nicola Sturgeon secretly wanted a Tory general election victory because he believed it was true.
The former Scotland secretary told an election court in Edinburgh he believed the so-called Frenchgate memo was “politically explosive”, because it confirmed that the first minister wanted David Cameron to win in the belief it would further her quest for Scottish independence.
Carmichael denied he had intended to smear Sturgeon when he authorised his special adviser Euan Roddin to leak the memo. He said that until she forcefully denied it was accurate within minutes of the Daily Telegraph publishing it, he felt it revealed facts that were of critical public importance.
“A smear is where you say something about somebody else, an opinion which is untrue and which you know to be untrue,” he said. The memo “was saying something about Scottish nationalists that I believed to be true”.
The case centres on Carmichael’s decision in March to allow Roddin to leak a memo that allegedly summarised Sturgeon’s comments to the French ambassador Sylvie Bermann. The first minister allegedly said she did not believe Ed Miliband, then the Labour leader, was prime ministerial material, and that she would prefer to see the Tories win.
Carmichael said he trusted the honesty of the Scotland Office civil servant who had drawn up the memo, and the account Pierre Alain Coffinier, the French diplomat who briefed the civil servant, gave about the ambassador’s meeting with the first minister.
Look at this – The Guardian has had to respond to attacks from readers who claim it has been too critical of Jeremy Corbyn in its Labour leadership coverage.
Not surprisingly – given this newspaper’s history – the Labour leadership race, and in particular the candidacy of Jeremy Corbyn, has generated powerful feelings among readers, not all in favour of the Guardian’s coverage. “Had enough of your paper,” said the subject line of an email from one reader, who went on to say: “I’ve been a regular reader of the Guardian (Manchester Guardian as was) since 1958. Despite the low point reached in the 60s when you supported the US war in Vietnam for a while, I still continued with it. But your sustained, arrogant, specious and just false reporting of Corbyn’s candidacy is too much. I am not a member or even supporter of the Labour party but your scurrilous coverage has convinced me that your paper no longer lives up to the label. I shall no longer … buy it nor view it online. Goodbye.”
Lost cause or no, I felt it only courteous to reply: “I’m sorry that you are leaving and I will be looking at the Guardian’s coverage of Jeremy Corbyn to test your theory, but I just wondered whether you’d read this [‘I don’t do personal’, 17 June], or this [No wonder Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents are so rattled, 8 July], or this [Jeremy Corbyn has the one Blairesque trait the Blairites don’t get, 20 July].” These were articles that could be described as showing a measure of support for Corbyn. There was also a piece by Seumas Milne with a sympathetic mention for the Labour leadership contender (There’s no reason to accept austerity. It can be defeated, 18 June).
The reader responded, putting me firmly in my place: “Yes, I’ve read the articles you refer to but they are outnumbered some five to one by the negative reports. Comment is perfectly legitimate, but the sneering, supercilious, specious and dismissive contributions masquerading as ‘commentary’ belittle the claims of a ‘quality’ paper.”
In the early days of Corbyn’s charge, the readers rightly got a sniff that on occasions we weren’t taking him seriously enough. That has changed, and there is still much coverage to go before the ballot closes on 10 September.
Considering today’s attack piece, quoting Chris Leslie, are we really to believe that closing comment?
Nicola Sturgeon has been crowing after the Independent Press Standards Organisation upheld her complaint about the ‘Memogate’ story that caused such a stir for the Daily Telegraph in April.
Ipso has ruled that the story – based on a memo that was leaked, we later learned, on the orders of the Coalition’s then-Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael – was “significantly misleading” because “the newspaper had failed to make clear that it did not know whether the account the memorandum presented was true”. It stops short of any suggestion that the story was false.
This means we still do not know whether the account in the memo was true.
A Cabinet Office investigation revealed that the civil servant who wrote the memo had a spotless record of accuracy and believed that it was accurate because it set down what he was told, faithfully.
But the SNP distortion machine has rolled into action to claim that Ipso’s ruling supports Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that the memo – and the story – were not true. This is a claim that we cannot accept on trust because, as one of the people involved, she has something to gain by making it.
In fact, none of the statements made by people who took part in the conversations mentioned in the memo may be taken at face value. The only person whose account may be considered impartial is the civil servant who wrote the memo – but everyone seems very keen to dismiss what he said.
According to The Guardian, Sturgeon said: “Subsequent events have proven conclusively that the story was entirely untrue, and today’s ruling simply underlines that.” This is a lie. They did not; it does not.
“They [the press] have a duty to ensure, as far as possible, that the stories they present to readers are fair, balanced and – above all – accurate. The Daily Telegraph, in failing to carry out the most elementary of journalistic checks and balances, failed in this case to meet that duty.”
Which checks and balances would these be, Nicola? Do you mean the Telegraph reporters didn’t ask you if the memo was accurate? Now, why do you think that would be? Could it be because the memo said you secretly wanted David Cameron to be the next Prime Minister, while open claiming you wanted Miliband – suggesting you were lying to the public? You’re too intelligent not to understand that this means anything you said about it would be suspicious.
Why are you insulting the public’s intelligence by claiming otherwise?
Back at the end of September the BBC News website ran a story on 91-year-old Harry Smith’s speech to the Labour Party Conference, in which he detailed the miserable state of healthcare before the arrival of the NHS and stated his fears for the future of the service under the Conservative Party.
This was all fine. What a shame Auntie’s unnamed reporter had to spoil it by adding in two extra paragraphs that parroted – almost word-for-word – comments made by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt that seemed to contradict what Mr Smith had said. Tom Pride, over at Pride’s Purge, put the statements into an image, allowing people to compare Mr Hunt’s statements with the BBC’s. That image is reproduced again here:
The BBC report was clearly paraphrasing Mr Hunt’s words. No attempt was made to indicate that this was the government’s side of the issue; the offending paragraphs were stationed at the end – as statements of facts that contradict Mr Smith’s words.
That’s blatant government propaganda, in the view of this blog – especially as both statements are false.
That’s right – analyse the facts and Mr Hunt’s/the BBC’s assertions fall apart.
Did the government increase NHS spending in the UK? The BBC attitude was that it has, because the amount of money spent on the NHS – in England alone – has increased.
But Mr Smith wasn’t talking about England alone. Look at the BBC article (which has been revised since Vox Political complained) and you’ll see he refers to “the Britain of my youth”. The final paragraph (as it is now) does not separate England from the rest of the UK.
You may think that’s nit-picking. Try this instead: A “money-terms” increase in NHS spending is not what the Coalition government promised. The Coalition Agreement of 2010 promised a “real-terms” increase and that is what Jeremy Hunt said had happened in the comment from 2012. But spending on the NHS has fallen in real terms.
The BBC’s complaints director, Richard Hutt, in a letter of October 31, admitted as much: “My research suggests that spending on the NHS has increased marginally in terms of the amount of money spent… but as you are aware, if GDP deflators are applied a slight decrease is shown.”
But, following on from a previous BBC response in which we were told, “your blog talks about real-terms spending. Our original article did not, and had we wished to refer to real-terms spending, we would have said so,” he continued: “Nothing in the article indicated that the intention was to refer to “real-terms” spending and so I have difficulty in agreeing that this is how it would have been understood.”
Then what was the point of mentioning spending at all?
The promise was to increase “real-terms” spending, and “real-terms” spending has in fact decreased. Any reference to spending other than in “real-terms” is therefore irrelevant to the debate and can only confuse the issue in the minds of the public.
In the face of the facts, Mr Hutt – it seems – isn’t having this. Doesn’t that suggest that he has been told to whitewash the BBC – deny any wrong-doing, no matter what?
Let’s move on.
Does the Coalition support the founding value of the NHS that nobody, regardless of income, should be deprived of the best care? The easy answer to this is no, it doesn’t.
It was the work of a moment on a search engine to find a story demonstrating the opposite. It was this Daily Mailarticle, detailing the predicament of a gentleman who has been forced to pay £450 per month because his local Clinical Commissioning Group (brought into being by the Coalition government) would not provide him with a drug that is available free on the NHS elsewhere in England. Ironically, the cash-starved NHS in Wales is reported to have agreed to provide the drug.
In response, the BBC changed the wording of the last paragraph slightly, claiming that this changed the meaning. It didn’t.
The BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit has done nothing but whitewash its story.
Never mind; there was still one more bullet in our gun. An email has just been sent to Mr Hutt, pointing out the words of Tom Pride that kicked off the whole affair:
“These are not facts. They are the opinions of a government minister being reported as facts by the BBC.
“That’s not news. It’s propaganda.
“Mind you, I don’t know why the reporter who wrote the article is so keen to remain anonymous.
“I mean, we all know that the reporting of unattributed propaganda from government ministers is a sackable offence for professional journalists in reputable news organisations.”
It’s best not to expect a reasonable response.
It’s clear we aren’t dealing with a reputable news organisation at all.
Juxtaposition is a terrible thing if you’re a newspaper sub-editor – as the front page of this week’s Powys County Times demonstrates.
In the week when David Cameron was pilloried for saying the Queen “purred down the line” at him when he told her Scotland had rejected independence, the County Times ran a photograph of him (relating to another story) over the headline: “‘Sickening and vile abuse’ over phone”.
What’s even worse is the lead paragraph of the story itself: “A woman was subjected to a vile campaign of sickening and anonymous abuse from a man she had considered a friend.”
Juxtaposition – putting one story next to another in a way that means it is possible to associate an image from one with a headline from another – is a terrible, and often unintentionally hilarious thing. Reporters (and editors) are warned to beware of it because of the possibility of libel litigation and it behooves Vox Political to point out that no disrespect is intended to the real victim of the abuse detailed in the actual story.
Open mouth, insert foot: How Vox Political reported Cameron’s faux pas (or perhaps that should be faux paw).
Cameron himself is being made to apologise for his gaff, to Her Majesty.
While he’s at it, he should use the opportunity to apologise for the last four and a half years of his misrule.
“Not even this much”: Iain Duncan Smith demonstrates how much he cares about the fact that his claims about unemployment being a lifestyle choice have been revealed as lies. It WON’T change his attitude and it WON’T change his policies.
Hopefully the piece’s author, Hugh Moir, will forgive us if we don’t bat an eyelid in surprise.
Researchers spent eight months failing to unearth any examples of joblessness as a lifestyle choice, or multiple generations of a family in which nobody had worked. And – crucially: “They did not find any prevailing aversion or reluctance to work.”
The article continues: “The new research does suggest that the reasons for long-term endemic joblessness are much more complicated than the story crafted by government and eagerly gobbled up by irresponsible programme makers and scrounger-seeking tabloids.”
What’s unusual about this particular article is that, rather than end it there, Moir goes in for the kill: “Attention to the multiple causes of long-term joblessness would require well-funded, well-staffed social services, a focus on problems such as alcohol abuse in deprived communities and resources to fight the ravages of drug addiction in poor areas. But these are the very services that feel the full effect of the government’s cuts in local-authority funding and its wider objective to shrink the state.
“This is waste of potential on a grand scale, ruining lives, and damaging to the economy. But in the absence of any strategy to deal with the problem at its most complex, we are offered a narrative to define it at its most superficial. Four years in, subjected to scrutiny, that approach may at last be starting to unravel.”
As, of course, it should.
Interestingly, the piece starts by referring to stories crafted by other politicians about themselves, to make them seem more appealing. So Bill Clinton was “the boy from Hope” – a small-town boy from Arkansas who did well, rather than a privileged American who had studied at some of the best universities in the world; and George W Bush claimed he was an average boy from an average family when we know his father was a leading Republican and president-to-be.
It does not mention RTU’s own self-crafted story – that he attended the Universita di Perugia in Italy, that he was educated at Dunchurch College of Management, that he had a glittering Army career. This is odd, because it is more clearly bunkum than either of the US Presidents’ claims.
Vox Political has produced an entire article about his lies – one which, due to their sheer weight of numbers, remains unfinished. For further information, why not take a look at it?
After that, you’ll never believe a single word he says.
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