What a travesty – but then, you will be well aware that the UK’s news media have been backing the Conservatives for many years.
There has been at least one other academic study in the last few years, showing that the media – and especially the BBC – predominantly support the Conservative Party in their news coverage.
Now, Loughborough University has analysed newspaper coverage of political parties during the first week of last year’s general election campaign.
It found that the Labour Party was overwhelmingly targeted with negative coverage, while the Tories were showered with praise.
What is your average, non-political person-on-the-street supposed to think?
Look at the state of this:
The study also showed that the most positive coverage of the Tories came from the highest circulation newspapers, with journalists at The Sun and the Daily Mail relied upon to write deferential, pro-government stories.
“The unweighted results show that only the Conservative Party received more positive than negative coverage across all newspapers,” the academics said in a summary of their research.
“In contrast, Labour had a substantial deficit of positive to negative news reports in the first formal week of the campaign.”
To give you an idea of the scale of the imbalance: the study weighted each news item on whether it contained a negative or positive implication for each party, scoring either -1 or +1 respectively, while balanced news items produced a 0.
The result:+4 for the Conservatives, and -91 for Labour.
At a time when the law demands impartial coverage.
The UK badly needs independent news coverage – or at least a restoration of the balance.
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.
New research by Lancaster University has shown that austerity policies, beloved by the Conservative government, amount to “social murder”.
But don’t get your hopes up that this might lead to a huge policy change. This isn’t the first such report to come from a British university, and the Tories are likely to treat it with the contempt they have given the last.
The new report by Dr Chris Grover, head of the university’s sociology department, defines austerity as a form of structural violence – built into society in the form of unequal power and unequal life chances – that deepens inequalities and injustices and creates desperate poverty.
As a result, the report states, working class people face harm to their physical and mental well-being and in some instances are “socially murdered”.
Dr Grover gives examples of where social security austerity has led to a range of harms:
· an additional six suicides for every 10,000 work capability assessments done;
· increasing number of people Britain dying of malnutrition
· increasing numbers of homeless people dying on the streets or in hostels
He refers to the process as ‘violent proletarianisation’ – claiming that violent austerity is aimed at forcing people to do paid work, rather than being reliant upon benefits. This makes them vulnerable to exploitation by employers who have no reason not to pay the lowest wage possible.
Dr Grover is using the research to call on the government for fundamental change that removes the economic need for people to work for such low wages.
“The violence takes two forms,” said Dr Grover. “First it involves further economic hardship of already income-poor people.
“It causes social inequalities and injustices in the short term and in the longer term.
“Second, the poverty that violent proletarianisation creates is both known and avoidable.”
But don’t expect the Conservative government to pay the slightest bit of attention to it.
Remember when the universities of Oxford and Liverpool produced a report showing the work capability assessment used to decide whether people deserve Employment Support Allowance had caused a massive increase in mental illness among claimants? The Tories just shrugged it off.
I wrote at the time: “The research by Oxford University and Liverpool University shows that more than two-thirds of claimants who took the fake ‘medical’ test between 2010 and 2013 – 7,020 out of every 10,000 – received prescriptions for anti-depressant drugs afterwards.
“There were 2,700 cases of mental ill-health and – most damning of all, six suicides per 10,000 assessments. If these were all separate cases, that would leave just 274 people who, after the assessment, were only suffering with the illnesses they took into it.”
The mention of six suicides per 10,000 assessments corresponds with Dr Grover’s work, suggesting that the evidence base is at least partially the same.
That will not help prove the case to the Tories. They’ll only say suicides have many causes and should not be associated with a single element of a person’s life, blah blah blah. Oh, and that this evidence shows correlation, not causation – that is to say, there is no direct causal evidence linking the Conservative government’s benefit policy with mental illness and suicide, blah blah blah.
In fact, there is direct causal evidence – I’d say suicide notes by some of the deceased, directly blaming the government, are direct evidence. And there’s no evidence showing an increase in mental ill-health, malnutrition, deaths of the homeless and suicides of benefit claimants before the Tories forced austerity on those people.
But of course the government has other ideas. And we all know what Tories think of experts – remember what Michael Gove had to say about them?
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:
We've had feedback over the last week that some people are unhappy with our plan to offer up to 14 scholarships to refugees living in the local area. To these people, we would like to say: Tough. Jog on. https://t.co/ioDLPp5crw
Some MPs – particularly those on the left of the political spectrum – are going to end up with proverbial egg on their faces after the scuffle involving Jacob Rees-Mogg at the University of the West of England.
It seems some were quick to condemn masked protesters who heckled Mr Rees-Mogg from the back of the hall in a confrontation that escalated until one man apparently tried to punch a supporter of the Conservative MP for North East Somerset.
In fact, footage shows that a white-shirted supporter of Mr Rees-Mogg had slapped a student – and this is what prompted the protester to aim a punch.
The woman who was hit, Andreea Dumitrache, has tweeted about what happened:
The member of the audience in the white shirt started getting violent towards the people being disruptive. I was standing in front of him when he punched me. No student was violent here. https://t.co/TKH2kjC9fR
it is pretty clear that the white shirted man attacked and the hooded man responded. To me this shows we need more non-violence training. Its very hard not to respond to violence with violence, takes practice but it matters
Here’s a comment sent in response to This Site’s previous article about the incident, from a person who was too cowardly to provide his own name but instead went by the imaginative pseudonym ‘z’:
look up the definition of a common assault spakka.
whiny left tries to deflect from yet another example of its own violent, hateful extremism.
According to the Urban Dictionary, a “spakka” (there are many different spellings, presumably indicating the illiteracy of those who use the word) is a derogatory term for people with mental and/or physical disabilities.
So this Rees-Mogg supporter is someone who discriminates against the disabled in the most insulting way possible. And they support physical attacks against other people. Despicable.
By the way, everyone who trains as a news reporter has to learn the definitions of certain crimes, including common assault. Assault happens when a person intentionally or recklessly causes another to believe they will be the victim of unlawful force. Actual harmful or offensive physical contact – like a punch – is legally defined as battery. White shirt man appears to commit both in the video evidence we’ve seen, although a jury may be asked to make the final decision.
So, not only is ‘z’ the kind of creature who tries to put other people down with derogatory language, they also pretend to know more than they do – again, to put others down. On top of all that, they then accuse others of “violent, hateful extremism”.
To that person, I say: If you want to see a violent, hateful extremist, just look in a mirror.
Eddie Briggs, below, makes an appropriate observation in a much milder way than I would have:
So let me get this straight. Jacob Rees Mogg (homophobic who says women who get pregnant through rape shouldn't be allowed an abortion) has a group of students protest at one of his talks. A Rees-Mogg supporter hits one of the female protesters. And Corbyn is to blame? Okay 🤨
Good point. The protesters had to be labelled as supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. Were they? And if they were, is he really to blame for their actions, which were simply to protest verbally until rent-a-thug turned up.
But let’s stay on the subject of Mr Corbyn, because this last bombshell is perhaps more pertinent than any of the others. It’s from Aleesha, who tweeted (and I’m going to have to quote her because for some reasons the tweet isn’t reproducing here):
“Honestly, there’s more outrage over the fact that Jacob Rees-Mogg was *not* hit than there was outrage over the fact that this week, it became apparent that a terrorist literally planned to assassinate Jeremy Corbyn.”
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Toby Young’s appointment to the board of the Office for Students has been criticised by … well, by everybody who knows about it, really – apart from highly blinkered Tories [Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA].
If you haven’t seen my video blog on the crises afflicting the UK – thanks to our Conservative government – you should probably have a gander before you come back to this.
All done? Good.
So: How did Toby Young become a major issue for the Conservative government?
The Tories today appointed writer Toby Young, who complained about the ‘ghastly inclusivity’ of wheelchair ramps in schools, to the board of their new higher education watchdog.
The Office for Students (OfS) legally come into force today with a remit to hold regulate university vice chancellors’ pay and enforce ‘free speech’ on campus.
The appointment of Young, an outspoken right-wing writer, to the board of the regulator has sparked criticism.
In a column for the Spectator in 2012, Young wrote: “Inclusive. It’s one of those ghastly, politically correct words that has survived the demise of New Labour. Schools have got to be “inclusive” these days.
“That means wheelchair ramps, the complete works of Alice Walker in the school library (though no Mark Twain) and a Special Educational Needs Department that can cope with everything from Dyslexia to Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.”
He went on to call on then-Education Secretary Michael Gove to bring back O-levels and repeal the Equality Act, because “any exam that isn’t “accessible” to a functionally illiterate troglodyte with a mental age of six will be judged to be “elitist” and therefore forbidden by [Harriet] Harman’s Law.”
University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt said: “If this organisation was to have any credibility it needed a robust board looking out for students’ interests.
“Instead we have this announcement sneaked out at New Year with Tory cheerleader Toby Young dressed up as the voice of teachers and no proper representation from staff or students.”
Fresh questions have been raised over the suitability of Toby Young to sit on the board of the new universities regulator after it emerged that the government exaggerated his qualifications.
Young acknowledged on Tuesday that the Department for Education’s (DfE) claim that he had held teaching posts at two of the world’s most illustrious institutions, Harvard and Cambridge, were not accurate.
“I taught undergrads at Harvard and Cambridge and was paid to do so but these weren’t academic ‘posts’ and I’ve never made that claim,” he told the Guardian.
Defending Young’s appointment to the newly set-up Office for Students (OfS) on Monday, the department told the Guardian that his “diverse experience includes posts” at the institutions.
That’s called lying. Government departments aren’t supposed to do that.
But what about the new regulator’s personality? Surely he must have admirable features, to have been appointed to the new organisation for students?
We’ll come to some of those objectionable tweets in a moment. Before we do, I wanted to remind you all of an important point: The Conservative government has recently endured humiliation because of the sexually inappropriate behaviour of some of its members – and not all of the people who have been named have yet accounted for the activities of which they have been accused. I’ll hand over to Rachael Swindon now:
Just recently the government insisted they want to tackle the sexist and misogynistic atmosphere in British politics, which makes the appointment of Toby Young even more bizarre.
It was all looking rough for Mr Young – but then Boris Johnson, of all people, threw the weight of his questionable judgement behind the man who calls himself Toadmeister on Twitter. The man whose genius encouraged the Iranian legal system to add five years to the wrongful prison sentence of a British citizen, and who failed to secure her release after visiting the country, likewise failed to impress the home audience:
Boris Johnson says Toby Young’s caustic wit qualifies him to supervise universities. I’d rather have Frankie Boyle’s.
Toby Young's "caustic wit" includes leering at politicians' and celebrities' breasts, talking about "hardcore dykes", calling a celebrity "as queer as a coot", and joking about gay celebrities wanting to "bum" straight men. Our Foreign Secretary thinks it's hilarious, though. https://t.co/Mw7I5eZvSM
But does any of this have a bearing on Mr Young’s appointment to the Office for Students? Let’s see:
As an ex Deputy Head I can vouch for this. A little context for the Toby Young appointment : Under current guidelines his views, writings and posts would preclude him from even being a Teaching Assistant.
Philip Davies: ‘Feminist zealots want women to have their cake and eat it’
If the so-called ‘York Tories’ are determined to invite the Shame of Shipley, Philip Davies, to speak, This Writer would like to encourage opponents of the move to emulate students at Brunel University, when some nonentity called Katie Hopkins spoke there.
Here’s what they did:
How about it, York?
The University of York Conservative and Unionist Association has been criticised for inviting a “misogynistic” Member of Parliament to speak on campus in a forthcoming academic term.
The society, better known as the York Tories, has received criticism on social media for extending an invitation to Philip Davies, the MP for Shipley, to speak on campus.
Davies has represented his constituency of Shipley for over ten years. He has been a vocal supporter of the case for leaving the European Union. Davies was returned to his seat in the most recent election, albeit with a smaller majority.
The York Tories announced yesterday that Davies had been invited to speak on the 9th of February 2018. However, some students reacted with anger at the group’s decision to welcome him to the campus.
One student described Davies as “the most misogynistic MP”.
Davies is well-known for his criticisms of feminism and the modern feminist movement. The MP was criticised for speaking at the International Conference on Men’s Issues, an event produced by the political party Justice for Men & Boys, in 2016, in which he told the attendants that feminists “fight for their version of equality on all the things that suit women – but are very quick to point out that women need special protections and treatment on other things.”
The York Tories themselves have been subject to accusations of sexism in recent months. In November 2016 a Nouse report stated that a “culture of sexism” existed in the society. Finn Judge, who had attended a York Tories AGM and now edits Nouse, told the paper at the time of an atmosphere engineered to make female members uncomfortable during the society’s elections.
This is an excellent idea from the Labour Party, as higher education organisations prepare for their latest intake of students.
The Conservatives know the best way to kill democracy is to discourage young people from taking an interest in it; make it seem dull. That way, they can concentrate all their policies on helping a very small number of interest groups – along with pensioners, who remember (or at least remember learning about) the struggle to get the vote for ordinary people in the first place.
If the UK is to become a vibrant democracy again, young people must be educated in its value. Universities seem a great choice of venue for this to happen.
Labour is contacting every university leader in the country to encourage them to get even more students to vote.
Cat Smith, Labour’s shadow minister for voter engagement, is encouraging vice-chancellors to act after a program at Sheffield University saw voter registration soar amongst students.
[She has written] urging principals to “integrate voter registration as part of your start-of-term enrolment process” to help people vote.
Young people are overwhelmingly more likely to back Labour. This fact, coupled with higher than average turnout in student areas such as Reading and Canterbury, is thought to partially explain the party’s gains in these areas.
“Building an inclusive democracy that works for many and not the few requires active participation from citizens of all ages and backgrounds. However, as one of the most mobile and transient groups, students continue to fall off the electoral roll every year,” Smith adds in her letter, sent alongside shadow higher education minister Gordon Marsden.
There is a significant variation in the numbers of students registered to vote between universities, with some reporting figures as low as 13 per cent, compared to 76 per cent at Sheffield.
Donald Trump has settled fraud lawsuits relating to Trump University for $25m, removing a legal headache despite having pledged to fight the cases to the bitter end.
Lawyers for the president-elect settled the three lawsuits on Friday, averting the prospect of him testifying in a courtroom showdown which threatened to reveal more troubling details about the now defunct real estate course.
The Conservatives’ latest negative campaign advert: The Tories seem to think they are the only party who should be allowed to steal the cash from poor people.
Twice, in a matter of days, Vox Political‘s findings on political issues have been supported by the evidence of a scholar.
Today, the Mainly Macroblog written by Professor Simon Wren-Lewis, who teaches Economics at Oxford University, supports This Writer’s argument that the so-called economic recovery, that began in 2013, had little or nothing positive to do with the Coalition Government or George Osborne’s policies.
“The idea that austerity during the first two years of the coalition government was vindicated by the 2013 recovery is so ludicrous that it is almost embarrassing to have to explain why,” he writes.
“Imagine that a government on a whim decided to close down half the economy for a year. That would be a crazy thing to do, and with only half as much produced everyone would be a lot poorer. However a year later when that half of the economy started up again, economic growth would be around 100%. The government could claim that this miraculous recovery vindicated its decision to close half the economy down the year before. That would be absurd, but it is a pretty good analogy with claiming that the 2013 recovery vindicated 2010 austerity.”
That’s right. George Osborne did huge harm to the economy when he imposed austerity in 2010, choking off Labour’s recovery. It is senseless for him to claim that easing off on that policy has created an economic miracle. As this blog has repeatedly stated, any economic recovery enjoyed by the UK has had nothing to do with the actions of the Coalition Government.
It is important to remember that the Tories intend to impose even deeper austerity if they win the election next month, causing catastrophic harm to anyone who isn’t in the richest 10 per cent of the population.
But why do this at all? What was the point of it?
A commenter to this blog’s Facebook page put it very well only today. Tracey Wilkinson Clarke wrote: “Corporations and capitalism [were]crashing…the banking crisis was created … as a reason to bring in austerity measures to feed the money back up to the few.” This opinion is supported by an article on this blog at the time.
It is also supported by the Conservative Party’s most recent anti-SNP campaign advert. Following on from David Cameron’s overheard comment on television last week, that Alex Salmond was a pickpocket, the advert has an image of the SNP candidate reaching towards a member of the public’s pocket, with the tagline, “Don’t let the SNP grab your cash.”
It is Conservative Party policy to do exactly that – and hand it over to the very rich in the form of tax breaks (both personal and business-orientated), tax avoidance, lucrative public ‘service’ contracts, and shares in privatised utilities.
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