Alongside a few ministerial changes in this week’s error-strewn Tory reshuffle, the prime minister made some appointments within the party.
Four new party appointments are:
1. Tory Party Chairman: Brandon Lewis When housing minister, Lewis was keen to remove as many heath and safety regulations and requirements for property developers regardless of potential risk to users of the properties. He opposed the mandatory installation of sprinklers in buildings. In typical conman’s gobblydegook Lewis said “we believe that it is the responsibility of the fire industry, rather than the Government, to market fire sprinkler systems effectively and to encourage their wider installation” –Lewis on sprinklers. What is the “fire industry?” The fire service is a public service. (Most property developers are willing donors to the Tory party.)
Lewis swindled the tax payers of tens of thousands of pounds in decadent expensive hotel stays in London despite living within commutable distance: Lewis hotel stays.
As immigration minister, Lewis lied in the House of Commons about the indefinite detention of immigrants. Quoted inLewis on immigration detention, he said “we do not have indefinite detention in this country. In our policies is always a presumption of liberty. Individuals are detained for no longer than is necessary.” Every word in those sentences is a lie.
He elucidated his views on immigration inLewis on immigration wherein he pretended to conclude that “it is the Conservatives who are showing true compassion” immediately before he declared “we [the Tories] are the ones focused on preventing illegal migration.” He blamed immigrants for the exploitative landlords and employers who house or employ them. The entire article was from a far-right template for anti-immigrant diatribes. Utterly disreputable and wholly dishonest.
2. Tory Party Deputy Chairman: James Cleverly
Intellectually, Cleverly is bathophobic. He uses a brattish mode of communication to obscure his abject lack of knowledge and wit. His social media performances imitate the output of bot trolls. His preferred tactic when engaged with someone to his left politically is to shout “Stalin!” Coincidently, here is a photo of Cleverly taking instructions from a murdering, thieving dictator:
3. Tory Party Vice Chair For Youth: Ben Bradley
Ben Bradley is twenty-eight years old and, thus, for that reason only, he has been assigned the impossible role of persuading younger people to vote Tory. In preparation for this role Bradley has voted “against increased funding of public services; against scrapping university tuition fees; against restoring Education Maintenance Allowance, maintenance grants and nurses’ bursaries; against ending the public sector pay cap and against increasing the minimum wage.” (Taken fromBradley parliament votes)
He voted to stay in the EU but changed his mind after the referendum because he didn’t like the EU’s response to the Brexit vote –Bradley In/Out. Was he ignorant ahead of the referendum or is his change of mind pragmatic careerism? He expressed his newly found support for Brexit with gibberish: “Yes, I want security and certainty for my children, but I also want them to be able to forge their own path. Yes, I want them to be part of a global economy and to be able to travel and deal with the whole world, but actually that’s exactly what Brexit can achieve for them: a Britain that is outward-looking and that has a positive relationship not just with Europe but with countries all over the world; a Britain that is more comfortable with itself and more able to control its own destiny; an independent country that recognises its global role but actually puts Britain and British people first.”
4. Tory Party Vice Chair For Women: Maria Caulfield
Maria Caulfield is opposed to abortion and she has supported use of a 19th century law that limited abortion:Caulfield on abortion.
Caulfield admitted in a submission to aBew Report (page 77) that she has developed many tactics to dodge speaking to her constituents: “I now have video entry only into my constituency office. I have panic alarms installed. I only post on social media after I have attended events so people can’t track my movements, on the advice of local police. I no longer put anything personal on social media. I no longer hold open surgeries, they are by appointment only and are not advertised in advance.“
Lewis is a typical detached Tory who favours elite wealth terrorists and who promotes prejudice to encourage division.
Cleverly is a clown.
Bradley is a careerist with no principles and no consistency of opinion.
Caulfield doesn’t enjoy being an MP and is opposed to gender equality.
None of these appointments will help the Tory party to increase its membership or its appeal. Opponents of the Tories have nothing to be concerned about.
The Tories perceive all public services as merely schemes to enhance the unearned wealth of financial gangsters. The process that enables the transfer of tax-payers’ money into the hands of wealth terrorists is well-established and used widely.
Privatise and/or remove the public service from central government or council control.
Hand over tax-payers’ money to the new “owners/administrators” of the public service.
The charlatans who run the service fleece a huge percentage of the public money given to them and the service is poor and expensive for the public.
The public pay three times to feed the unearned profits of the financial charlatans:
Taxes that are handed over to the administrators of the public service.
Extortionate cost of using the service (for example rail fares, gas bills, etc.).
Poor quality service that encourages some people (who can afford it) to use private services that require extra fees (for example private healthcare and schools).
Throughout the 1980s and since 2010, the Tories have “privatised” most necessary public services including utilities (gas, electricity, water), housing, education, health service, transport, police, prisons, probation service, immigration services, refuse collection, welfare services, etc. For all of these necessary public services, there has been a stream of billions of tax-payers’ money being swallowed by the insatiable appetites of the wealth terrorists (and Tory party donors) accompanied by huge increases in costs of the services and rapid decline in their quality. The decline in quality has led to deaths.
The so-called “privatisation,” started by Thatcher’s Tories, was never intended to improve quality or to provide better value for (tax-payers’) money. It is not privatisation; it is theft, theft of money from the British public and theft of vital services. The current Tories exist to assist with this theft. Most Tory MPs and peers are in parliament to focus on finding more services that can be used to feed the financial gangsters.
Public services handed over to privateers provide a constant and never-ending stream of free money because the services are both a monopoly and a necessity. If any difficulties arise then the government just hands over some more cash to be siphoned off by the privateers. The private businesses that run public services never need to be concerned with quality, or competition or value for money because the necessity of the service makes them immune from the normal vagaries of running a business. Unearned profits are guaranteed regardless of quality of service or of cost to the users; they just sit there as open-mouthed gluttons.
Typically, the public money is handed over by the Tories to a handful of racketeers who register a fake company in a tax haven and “employ” people locally to do the work, in insecure jobs, with inadequate training, low pay and an absence of legally required employer commitments such as holiday pay, sick pay, over-time pay, redundancy pay, union recognition, etc. There is complete separation between the owners of the private businesses that run public services and the people who do the work. All the people doing the work could be employed by government, councils or other state agencies. Most of the public services are locally managed services. There is nothing that the owners do that could not be done by a public body.
An ill person, a disabled person or a child that needs an education are used as opportunities for the lowest breed of human to make money and the Tories are their enablers. Human necessities like water, heating, housing, health services, police service, fire service, etc. are exploited as means of profit for a small elite of grotesques.
Neon-lit Tory Lies It an axiom of political discourse that if a Tory is speaking or writing then a Tory is lying. The public know the Tory government lies constantly and brazenly about the NHS, housing, education, public transport, welfare provision, pensions, etc. and the public know the Tory government lies about pretending to tackle mass tax avoidance.
The Tory government and its enablers are aware their destructive intent is common knowledge. They are aware their continuous lies, obfuscations, misdirections, misrepresentations and confidence tricks are transparent and read easily. The typical Tory persona essays detached arrogance and confidence but Tories know they are not conning the majority of people.
The growing appeal of left of centre politics in Britain is partly a consequence of the disdain felt by many for Tories and Tory-lite like Liberal Democrats or Progress. Equally, the cohesiveness and focus of resurgent left-wing politics, both within and outside Labour, has helped to expose and highlight Tory dishonesty. For the Tories, the failure of the general election gamble this year emphasised the decline of the public’s faith in Tory integrity.
If the lies are no longer believed by enough people, with the number of naysayers increasing all the time, and if the Tories have nothing to offer, and if their shambolic, directionless and duplicitous handling of Brexit produces only ridicule, then they need a new tactic to cling onto power.
Censorship of opposition A year before the 2015 general election the Tory/Lib Dem government created a gagging law to prevent charities revealing the effects of government cuts to vital public services; this law was initially applicable during election campaigns. The purpose of the law was to hide the devastating consequences of Tory policy from the voters. A month prior to the 2017 general election the Tories demanded financial details from charities, including money spent on awareness campaigns about the effects of government policy, for the year up to the date of the election with a concomitant threat of criminal proceedings. This gagging law enhancement, enacted without parliamentary approval, was introduced to stop charities from ever spending any money to expose the severity of government social policy.
A focussed parliamentary opposition, a well-organised support group – Momentum, and a healthy exchange of information and ideas via social media involving various left-of-centre perspectives have all been part of an effective challenge to the Tory government and have been a strong counter to lopsided balance in the media. To stifle this success the establishment response is to seek to restrict the capacity to communicate.
In some countries the governments restrict communication with the use of force and outside of parliamentary, judicial or journalistic inspection. In less openly authoritarian countries like Britain forceful tactics are considered uncouth. Thus, the Tory government has needed to be creative by grossly over-exaggerating a problem and developing the framework for some censorship; new laws can then be used to silence critics.
The Tories’ aim to censor the internet was signposted in the manifesto ahead of the 2017 general election including direct censorship and prohibitive cost.
As tools to be used to enable censorship of opposition, the Tories and like-minded politicians and enablers are trying to direct consensus regarding two invented problems, namely fake news and intimidation of politicians.
Fake news is a directional description applied to (mostly) online information that is posted with the author’s full knowledge of its mendacity. In t’olden days, such comments were classified as satire and/or having a laugh. News, meaning serious information, can easily and quickly be checked for veracity by media outlets and by members of the public. The tendency for some untrue stories to gain an online life of their own is inconvenient but not a sufficient reason to want to erase everything apart from absolute verifiable truths.
Tories and their cohorts are not worried about fake stories but they are very worried about the success of left-wing voices online. The popularity of the fake news scare has created a spurious opportunity to restrict online communication: Fake news is cited as the enemy to be fought but revolutionary politics is the real target. Bankers’ puppet Emmanuel Macron has stated his intent to change the law in France to reduce opposition during election campaigns and he has presented his plans as a response to fake news:Macron censorship. The Tories have a similar plan.
Damian Collins, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) parliamentary committee, has been on a mission to combat social media fake news for a year. “The growing phenomenon of fake news is a threat to democracy and undermines confidence in the media in general” he declared in January 2017 in Collins on fake news. “The committee will be looking into the sources of fake news, what motivates people to spread it, and how it has been used around elections and other important political debates.”
During the campaign for the 2017 general election most of the daily newspapers published a barrage of fake stories about Labour, with the motivation of supporting the Tories. However, Collins has not started an investigation into fake news on the front pages of newspapers because he doesn’t want parliament to interfere in newspaper stories, as he explained (also in January 2017) in Collins on Leveson/IPSO:
“Press regulation is an important issue. But the greatest threat to the credibility of the media no longer emanates from newspapers. Instead it comes via the internet, where fake news spreads without regulation through social media platforms and numerous other channels. That should be a greater concern for us now.”
Collins’ support for the discredited and disreputable IPSO sits comfortably with his pretended ignorance of the motivation of most of the national newspapers in Britain.
To promote the invented problem of social media fake news, Collins has sought the assistance of the largest social media platforms Google, Facebook and Twitter. Clearly, such platforms are not vanguards of a revolution – (they exist to make a lot of money quickly for their shareholders and, usually, indulge in mass avoidance of tax) – but the users of these platforms have utilised them positively to help with political activism. The immediate world-wide exchange of information and political opinions online has become an effective challenge to filtered news and state political propaganda. This challenge scares not just governments but also the international financial elite that the governments serve.
Some authoritarian governments have simply shut down various social media tools to restrict online activism but the Tories have needed to be craftier. Presented as a response to “fake news” and to cross-border political interference, Collins has conducted a pantomime wherein he has acted out his attempts to coerce, persuade and threaten the social media companies. He sent a series of public letters to Google, Twitter and Facebook to which he published his analysis of their responses and their representatives attended a DCMS select committee hearing.
His first letter to Facebook began with a plea for information about “Russian-linked accounts,“
“I am writing to you to request information regarding the use of Facebook advertising and pages by Russian-linked accounts in the lead up to, and during, the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union and the 2017 British general election.” (Full letter at foot of blog)
“It seems odd that so far we have received more information about activities that have taken place on your platform from journalists and academics than from you. If Twitter is serious about cooperating with the work of this committee and tackling the spread of disinformation then you should provide me with a full response to the clear questions that I set out [in earlier letters] no later than Monday 15th January 2018.”
As the quotes above show, Collins’ letters were clunky, pompous, condescending and displayed mock authority. Despite his claim of “clear questions” there was no clarity about what Collins identified as a problem or what he wanted from the recipients. The purpose of these letters was not to obtain any information. They were intended as public signposts to direct attention to the issue of social media fake news. Any ensuing disputes between social media companies and the Tory government will also be part of this signposting.
The December letter to Twitter was a follow-up response to information being sent by Twitter to Collins that he felt was inadequate. He was equally (or pretended to be) unsatisfied by information supplied by Facebook – quoted in Collins Facebook response.
“It would appear that no work has been done by Facebook to look for Russian activity around the EU referendum, other than from funded advertisements from those accounts that had already been identified as part of the US Senate’s investigation. No work has been done by Facebook to look for other fake accounts and pages that could be linked to Russian-backed agencies and which were active during the EU referendum, as I requested. Are we to believe that Russian-backed targeting of voters through social media with fake news was limited only to Twitter during the referendum, when both Twitter and Facebook had been used in the USA during the presidential election?“
Again, Collins chose to make allegations as statements of fact and he presumed that he had any authority over Facebook.
His interactions with the social media companies have been a drama. The purpose of this drama is to create and keep newsworthy the concocted concept of the problem of fake news.
Right-wingers seeking to reduce freedoms can always rely on support from useful idiots among the illiberal liberal community. The Guardian’s Alex Hern might claim his job includes reporting on fake news because he is a ‘technology features writer at the Guardian’ but that job title doesn’t imply every such report is written from Collins’ perspective like a PR memo from the latter’s private office. Both Hern on Facebook (“Facebook has been slammed [by Collins]“) and Hern on Twtter (“Twitter has been attacked [by Collins]“) began with Hern’s facsimile of Collins’ PR lines. In January 2017 the Guardian’s Jane Martinson wrote a bland article about Collins,Martinson on Collins, wherein she said “Collins is a moderate” with no context to what that means and she regurgitated his anti-social media diatribe without any counter-analysis or comment; she presented Collins’ arguments as if they were uncontestable.
Collins’ (recently sacked) Tory colleague Damian Green showed that the campaign to create an anti social media consensus has no ethical boundaries by his comments in a speech to journalists, quoted in Green on fake news. He attacked independent left-wing news sites Canary and Skwawkbox, conflated them with the far-right cabal of professional trolls at Breitbart, and said “If we don’t respect each other motives then we risk feeding an atmosphere of increasing hatred which at the most horrible of extremes led to the killing of Jo Cox.” Canary‘s Editor-in-Chief Kerry-Anne Mendoza’s excellent response (from the same article) is worth quoting in full.
“The Secretary of State does a disservice to himself and his office with these appalling comments. Jo Cox lost her life due to bigotry and intolerance – she was killed by a racist man with Nazi sympathies. For decades, such hateful ideas have been actively promoted by mainstream outlets like The Sun and The Daily Mail. Every day, these outlets are attacking ethnic minorities, immigrants, LGBT+ communities and people who rely on the welfare state. Instead of speaking out against these billionaire-backed peddlers of bigotry, Mr Green is attacking one of the few independently owned, progressive outlets in the UK. An outlet led by a gay woman of colour as Editor-in-Chief. The truth is that we set up The Canary precisely because of the one-sided reporting already happening in the mainstream media – we are presenting the other side of that story. And we do that as probably the most diverse media outlet in the whole country. Our mission is to disrupt the hateful messages of the right-wing UK press, reminding people that we have more in common than the superficial differences. By disrupting those messages, we have helped to change the public conversation. This will always be threatening to those who benefit from an unjust status quo.”
In February, Matt Turner fromEvolve Politics had written on how left-wing news sites counter false reporting of much of the mainstream media:Turner on fake news. The percentage of purposefully fake news in mainstream media, in the literature and verbal contributions of think-tank members and in the lobbying of PR consultancies is significantly greater in volume and reach than any similar inventions in independent media. Right-wing free market think tanks are created to promote a particular political perspective and their main tactic is to espouse that view while pretending to be independent. Their members inveigle access to media and are allowed to present their fallacious arguments without challenge and without queries about the funding of the think-tanks. Political PR consultancies are professional con artists.
Giles Kenningham, an adviser to David Cameron for the 2015 general election campaign, “founded” PR consultancy Trafalgar Strategy that “advises on reputation and media management, campaigns, public affairs and complex communication challenges.” That quote translates as “advises politicians how to mislead, distract and lie successfully.” The Spectator magazine, known for its loose relationship with truth, gave a platform to Kenningham for him to accuse social media networks of the crimes that he, the government he worked for and the magazine he wrote for, have committed as a key component of their communication. In the same paragraph in Kenningham in Spectator he said “now it’s [fake news] threatening to undermine democracies across the world” and “you can normally assume newspapers, irrespective of their political stance, have sourced and doubled checked their facts.” No, the newspapers that support the Tories have no interest in facts. “Disinformation has become a new front in the cyberwar” claimed Kenningham. Yes, all the official Tory government department, minister and party social media accounts spout only lies, misinformation and misdirection. For example, @Conservatives, the official Tory party twitter account, is entirely lies.
“Politicians so far in this country have chosen not to regulate. But I think the time has come for them to act. To be quite blunt, will it take an act of unimaginable horror triggered by the spread of false information for the UK government to wake up?“
exclaimed Kenningham dramatically. The party that he helped to be elected is enabling “unimaginable horrors” in Yemen alongside continuous misinformation from government ministers. Kenningham’s job was to advise Cameron how best to deceive. His concern for fake reporting and its effects is beyond hypocrisy.
In his Spectator piece, Kenningham mentions the BBC’s project to teach children about fake news. BBC newsreaders will visit schools to educate children “to identify real news and filter out fake or false information.” In BBC Project on fake news James Harding, the (thankfully) soon to be departed Director of BBC News and Current Affairs, said
“Never has it been so important for young people to develop their critical thinking and to be news literate, and have the skills to filter out fakery from the truth, especially on their busy social media feeds. BBC News, as the most trusted news provider and home of Reality Check, is ideally placed to bring this project to schools and young people around the country.”
Perhaps, Harding’s successor Fran Unsworth could ask the producer of Question Time to take the course to ensure that fake “independent” “experts” from right-wing think-tanks don’t slip onto the show as panellists, and she could invite some of the BBC’s reporters to check their own social media output. Harding wants young people “to develop their critical thinking” but his career has been guided by stifling critical thought. The recent behaviour of the BBC, particularly the reluctance to interrogate Tory ministers properly when they are guests on TV and radio, means it is not adequately qualified to be a leader against fake news.
The BBC’s project isn’t necessary: Young people are naturally wary. InBBC Project on fake news 2 the BBC said “last month a survey by media watchdog Ofcom found almost three-quarters of children aged between 12 and 15 were aware of so-called fake news and that half of them has read a story they suspected of being false.” That is, fake news is spotted easily by younger people and so no need for the scare stories.
Fake News: A fake problem and a fake enemy Fake news exists but it is not the problem that the Tory government and cohorts claim it is. The campaign against fake news is really a campaign against political challenge; the former is being used as a reason to silence the latter.
Taking a break from laughing their heads off in unison in parliament whenever an opposition MP speaks about evictions, malnutrition, starvation, destitution and death caused by vicious Tory policy, the Tories have exercised their time and energy discussing “intimidation of parliamentary candidates.” Paul Bew, a peer in the House of Lords and a Statement of Principles signatory of the right-wing imperialist think-tank the Henry Jackson Society, chaired a review by the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) and compiled a report. Theresa May asked for the review and report.
The purpose of the review and report was to create false impetus for a new criminal offence of intimidating parliamentary candidates and party campaigners. The objective of the new offence is to restrict criticism of political parties and their supporters during election campaigning. Specifically, the intent is to lessen valid criticism and fact-checking of the typical lies, smears and omissions of the Tories’ public presentation of their record and their plans, while simultaneously applying no restrictions at all on the extreme bias of most of the mainstream media that favours the Tories.
Mail smears Labour MPs during 2017 election campaign
The analysis and discussion that helped to inform the Bew Report included a CSPL discussion of parliamentarians and invited guests, a debate in parliament and an Electoral Commission report.
CSPL roundtable discussion In his introduction to a CPSL roundtable discussion, in September, Paul Bew said“the committee is independent” with no explanation of from what it is independent. He claimed he wanted input from guests invited to the committee discussion: “We need the help of those of you who are in this room today [invited guests]. We are very keen to hear your thoughts. We want to know what can be done, what your views are on the changing tone of political debate, and what the responsibilities of individuals, political parties in Parliament and social media companies are in this context” but he had already restrictively defined said context earlier in his introduction: “We have come to the conclusion, in the work we have carried out so far, that we have a special problem in recent times in and around the issue of intimidation.” Bew was keen to keep all contributions within set boundaries.
Bew’s colleague Jane Ramsey said “I should say that our current definition of intimidation is, ‘Words or behaviour intended or likely to block participation in public life’.” That is an absurd definition. Ramsey wants elected representatives and candidates to be free of any criticism. She wants special provision for those who should face the most political criticism. Anyone attempting to acquire a representative role “in public life” should be the target of exhaustive criticism and, if necessary, dissuaded from trying. Charlatans, liars, crooks, confidence tricksters, fraudsters and gimps of wealth terrorists need to be exposed before they are elected and prevented from progressing further but Ramsey wants them to have an unfetterred passage to power.
Some of the contributors at the roundtable discussion made valid points about abuse of politicians and their colleagues. The discussion was designed to focus on behaviour by members of the public and political activists but the main perpetrators of abuse, lies, libel, smears and encouragement of violence – right-wing newspapers like Mail, Express and Sun – were excused thorough investigation by this inquiry. Below are a few extracts from the discussion.
Tory MP Simon Hart expressed concern for his campaign donors and businesses that support him. “The other reason why I did this was the impact of all this on the families of MPs and candidates, our donors, our supporters, our volunteers and businesses that might want to support us.” Hart’s donors include the Countryside Alliance and businesses associated with hunting; he is its chairman and its former (highly paid) chief executive. On behalf of the Countryside Alliance he physically disrupted a meeting in parliament and invited trouble-makers into parliament to assist with the disruption: Hart disrupts meeting.
Later in his contribution, Hart blamed “a social media campaign” for Tory MP Byron Davies losing his seat. Davies had been ungracious in defeat:
Hart had already attacked left-wing activists earlier this year by claiming they are the main perpetrators of abuse at MPs –Hart in Huffpost.
“What’s the difference between 2015 and 2017? Actually it’s not the economy, that’s much the same. Lot’s of things are the same, there is very little new stuff in terms of the state of the nation. What is new is the rise of Corbynism and Momentum. There are plenty of articles you can read and observations you can make from [Guardian columnist] Owen Jones to [Labour MP] Yvette Cooper which suggest that Momentum wield quite a heavy weapon when it comes to this kind of stuff. I don’t care or know whether Momentum formally sanctions this or organises this sort of stuff or not. But as long as they refuse to condemn and deal with it there is always the possibility people will reach that conclusion. Because what else is driving it? Is silence from Momentum and silence from Jeremy Corbyn actually just giving people permission.”
Hart’s comment about the differences between 2015 and 2017 is a lie. The effects of Tory destruction of society increased markedly in those two years: More homelessness, more destitution and more deaths, particularly for people with disabilities. Hart’s hypocritical comments were a response to political combat that confronts the Tories.
At the roundtable discussion Tim Bale blamed Corbyn’s supporters.
“But we also have to take account of the fact that politics has become more polarised since 2015 when Jeremy Corbyn took over the Labour Party, and there has been an influx of people into the party of people who are rather more used to a kind of factionalised and vituperative culture of politics in which it is perhaps a little bit more normal and acceptable to conduct debate in these very polarised and in some ways violent terms, at least if we are speaking about speech rather than necessarily actions.”
Does he mean that there are people in political combat who know who the enemy is and are seeking to challenge? Politics needs to be “polarised.” His objection is to the fact that there is a growing political movement, within and outside of Labour, that sees enemies to be fought against. Ultimately, Bale wants no challenge whatsoever; he wants options on a similar theme. Challengers to the Tories shouldn’t “conduct debate” with them; it is not possible to debate with confidence tricksters. Bale added a smear about anti-Semitism without evidence: “Also, for those people [Corbyn supporters]—this goes to the comments about anti-Semitism—foreign policy is a very big issue, particularly Israel/Palestine, and that sometimes shades over into anti-Semitism directed at people with whom they disagree.”
Former Murdoch hack Peter Riddell continued Bale’s anti-left theme. “I have only one complication to what Tim [Bale] was saying. Intimidation has appeared more recently in the Militant phase in Liverpool in the 1980s.”
Bale piped up again to admonish Aneurin Bevan. “Aneurin Bevan saying that Tories were lower than vermin. That was pretty vituperative, and I think if a politician said that these days they would be severely criticised.” Bevan, of course, was correct then and his comment is correct now. His description of Tories has been quoted often recently and Bale is aware how positively Bevan’s comment has been repeated and promoted. Bale attacked Labour MP Laura Pidcock for her entirely sensible comment that she would not be friends with a Tory MP.
“Even something like the Labour MP [Laura Pidcock] who recently said she could not possibly imagine having a friend who was a Conservative—that begins to legitimise the idea that these people are two tribes, not that they are conducting a debate between fellow human beings who have differences.”
Again, Bale reveals his insistence that mainstream politics should be a choice between two (or more) similar parties with “differences.” To fight against the Tories requires the understanding that they are an enemy. That is what Bale wants to suppress. He wants to suppress genuine challenge.
Tory MP Sarah Newton began the debate with a prepared speech that sought to set the tone of increased problems for parliamentary candidates regarding intimidation and abuse.
“The Government absolutely recognise that this is a very serious issue that affects not only MPs and parliamentary candidates from all parties, but the wider public.” “Fear of abuse or intimidation can have far-reaching consequences. It has the potential to affect people’s desire to stand for office or public service in the first place. In turn, that can have a negative impact for us all and for our democracy. That is why in July the Prime Minister asked the Committee on Standards in Public Life to carry out a review of the intimidation experienced by parliamentary candidates.”
No, the reason why Theresa May asked the CSPL for this review was to try to create impetus for changes to the law to dampen opposition to the Tories and shut down effective criticism.
Newton correctly highlighted that a lot of abuse (at politicians) is racist, sexist, homophobic or a demonstration of religious intolerance. Newton did not state (as she should have done) that much of this abuse is a consequence of the rabble rousing of many newspapers and of the comments by some MPs, councillors and MEPS. Nowhere in her introduction to the debate did she mention the actions of the newspapers. “I know that, for many Members, the issue of online abuse is one of particular concern” said Newton, a directional comment, but the key adverserial feature of the 2017 general election was the behaviour of some newspapers who partook in a continuous, vicious, mendacious assault on the Tories’ opponents. Later, Newton explained how current law is sufficient to respond to criminal acts online including abuse.
“The law does not differentiate between criminal offences committed on social media and those committed anywhere else. It is the action that is illegal. Robust legislation is in place to deal with internet trolls, cyber-stalking, harassment, and perpetrators of grossly offensive, obscene or menacing behaviour. A number of criminal offences may be committed by those abusing others on social media. These include credible threats of violence; damage to property; sending grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing messages; harassment; and stalking.”
So, a new law is unnecessary.
Tory MP Rachel Maclean praised the BBC’s fact-checking as a contrast to “fake news” on social media. Maclean didn’t mention that the BBC’s fact checking is far from unbiased; for example, the BBC uses the right-wing corporate-funded think-tankScience Media Centre as a guide to what should and, crucially, what should not be broadcast. Equally, Maclean didn’t mention the constant barrage of lies, smears and abuse in the mainstream media. Newton was happy to join in with the praise for the BBC’s willingness to be guided by such think-tanks. “Its fact-checking work is invaluable during elections and all year round. A number of extremely good programmes on the radio and television look at statistics and provide really good rebuttals to some of the myths we hear peddled.” By “myths,” she meant exposure of the intent and of the consequences of Tory policy.
Newton followed her misrepresentation of BBC fact-checking with a similar presentation of the government’s attitude to “critical thinking” among young people.
“The work we are doing in schools is incredibly important so that young people are taught to be critical thinkers, are robust and are able to ask themselves some straightforward questions about the motivation of the person putting information before them. They will then become more resilient and questioning, coming to their own conclusions and accessing the very good resources that give the facts of the matter.”
Young people are naturally critical. They do not need a biased government directing them in how to become critical thinkers. By “the very good resources that give the facts of the matter” Newton meant the right-wing media, the Tory government and right-wing think-tanks. Her comments about “critical thinking” expressed the opposite of the Tory government’s intent.
Labour MP Cat Smith responded to Newton with a reasonable speech that was peppered with interruptions from Tories whenever Smith’s factual analysis strayed from the Tories’ desired narrative. She rightly stated that abuse is not a new phenomena, which got an interruption by Tory MP Alex Chalk who wanted to push the claim that everything started with the 2017 election, and she highlighted the threats of violence made by former Tory chancellor George Osborne which got a complaint from Tory MP Hugo Swire who objected because said ex-chancellor (and current Evening Standard editor) wasn’t there to defend himself.
After Smith had rightly exposed the racism of Lynton Crosby’s management of Zac Goldsmith’s mayoral campaign against Sadiq Khan, Chalk complained that the word “murderers” had been used in discussion of the cause of the Grenfell Tower fire.
“It does not help to use language like the word ‘murderers’ in the context of the Grenfell Tower atrocity, because it revs people up. Is there not a duty on all of us to be careful about what we say in the public domain?”
As Engels described 150 years ago, social murder is a tactic of the capitalist system. Chalk’s objection is that a truthful analysis will encourage people to know the causes of an event like the Grenfell fire. His comment epitomised the objective of this investigation: Clamp down on genuine opposition and disallow criticism and knowledge of Tory destruction. Chalk displayed his contemptibleness by attempting to equate reasonable assessment of the cause of the Grenfell fire with Crosby’s deliberate use of racism.
Tory Pauline Latham complained about a leaflet distributed as part of the campaign against Derby North candidate Amanda Solloway. The leaflet – text below – highlighted facts about the candidate, who had previously been the MP for that constituency.
“Voted against ending rough sleeping and causes of rising homelessness. Voted against accepting 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children. Visited Israel with Conservative Friends of Israel as a Tory candidate. Voted for UK to support Saudis’ bombing of Yemen. Do you want this Tory MP to represent you…? You decide on June 8th“.
Clearly, there is not one word in the leaflet that is false and none of it is abusive, threatening or intimidating. But, Latham pretended she thinks that “the leaflet in my view was bullying and intimidatory, and it was not even truthful.” Latham’s objection is that a political leaflet exposed the truth about a Tory candidate. The facts stated in it can be confirmed easily via public parliamentary records. Latham’s “bullying and intimidatory” claim about a list of facts is an alarm that screams the real motive for the Tory’s creation of the new intimidation of politicians law: The Tories want to shut down effective criticism of their record and of their plans.
Alex Chalk complained about the exposure of the bankruptcy of a company of which Solloway was a director alongside her husband. Many people lost money and it was absolutely right that a parliamentary candidate’s directorship of a bankrupt business should play a part in the election campaign. The then Labour candidate, now MP, Chris Williamson offered to help those who lost money due to Solloway’s recklessness and abandonment of responsibilities. Chalk expressed his disapproval of Williamson’s involvement.
“She [Solloway] had no connection to her husband’s business” claimed Chalk about someone who was a director of the business.
“Nobody in this House would expect to be deemed responsible for a relative’s business.” It was her husband and she was a director of the business.
“Bringing family into any political debate is unreasonable.” No, it is bringing in bankruptcy and abandonment of responsibilities for a director of a business who is also a parliamentary candidate.
“This was a targeted, personal and unfair campaign against our former colleague. In fact, I would say it was bullying.” No, it was exposure of extremely reckless behaviour that robbed people of money.
Latham joined in with the smears against Williamson re. Solloway’s bankruptcy.
“The final straw was when the current Member of Parliament [Williamson] asked people who had been affected by the bankruptcy to join him at a meeting to discuss how he would return their money. He said he would pay their expenses to attend the meeting, and the money was raised from donations through a YouCaring compassionate crowdfunding page. All this was done on the page by video. The new Member for Derby North asked for donations, so that he could meet at a venue in Derby those who had lost money—most of them were not from Derby—and presumably promise that he, and he alone, would stand up for them, and probably ask them to help his campaign. In fact, at the first business questions following the election, he tried to trick the Leader of the House into condemning Amanda and her husband’s company. He knows the ropes, because of course he had been an MP before Amanda Solloway won in 2015—something he has never come to terms with.”
The snide and libellous comments (underlined) above by Latham regarding Williamson’s motivation are quite pathetic. It is not coincidence that Chalk and Latham’s target Chris Williamson is a successful colleague of Jeremy Corbyn.
Swireadded to the attack on Corbyn’s supporters with a wild unproven swipe.
“It is regrettable when we have people such as Len McCluskey and the shadow Chancellor seeking to cherry-pick which laws of the country should be obeyed, and encouraging, at times, civil disturbance if they do not get their way.”
After an obsequious comment of agreement to the above from Progress MP Graham Jones, Swire libelled Momentum.
“I also feel tremendous sympathy for my friends on the Opposition Benches—and I do have friends of long-standing on the Opposition Benches—who have come under horrendous criticism from the Momentum movement in their own party. Some of that has been absolutely vile, and I feel extremely sorry for them, having to operate with that going on as well.”
Soon, Swire will not have any “long-standing” friends “on the opposition benches” and that time cannot come too soon.
Tory Matt Warman said “I would like the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary to set out what constitutes free speech” which is disturbing and must always be challenged.
Tory Alex Burghart‘s opening line, “it is a real pleasure to speak in a debate in which there is so much to agree with on both sides of the House,” encapsulates a huge problem with British parliamentary politics and indicates a reason why there is antagonism toward politicians. Burghart equated revolutionary language with the language of criminals.
“We have to stay away from phrases such as ‘day of rage’. Rage is the language of uncontrolled emotion. Perhaps I am being oversensitive—perhaps it is the language of the barricade and of romantic revolution, or perhaps just a little political Viagra to some doddery old militants—but it is also the language of the flick-knife, of the boot in the face, of the garrotte; it is the language of violence, and it does not belong in the mouths of hon. Members of this Chamber.”
It is amusing to consider how these sensitive Tory souls would cope with real revolutionary fervour.
The prevalent themes from the Tories in the debate were
Whinges about opponents’ valid criticisms
Exaggerations and falsehoods about the behaviour of Labour MPs and supporters
Inventions of concern about combative politics
It is clear that the Tories’ objective is to suffocate effective opposition. They do not want their intent and the consequences of their actions to be scrutinised adequately. They want genuine opposition to be gagged.
Chris Skidmore, the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, concluded the debate with a scripted statement that emphasised the government’s intent.
“We [parliament] have a duty to safeguard our democracy and to ensure that such abuse has no place in it.” This duty doesn’t extend to any concern about The Sun, Mail, Express and Evening Standard wherein promotion of racism, religious intolerance and political abuse and libel is daily and intrinsic.
“The independent committee—it is vital that it is independent—is looking at the nature of the problem of intimidation and considering the current protections and measures in place for candidates.” Independent of what? It is claimed to be independent to provide an ephemeral buffer in front of the Tory government.
“We should not prejudge or pre-empt the conclusions now.” Bew did exactly that.
“The code will set out guidance on what social media providers should do in relation to conduct on their platforms that involves the bullying or insulting of an individual, or other behaviour likely to intimidate or humiliate.” “Insulting?” Are insults to be banned? “Behaviour likely to?” Who decides what is likely to “intimidate or humiliate?”
“Our democracy is built on the foundation of inclusion and tolerance.” All “inclusion and tolerance” that exists in British democracy has had to be fought for by those previously excluded. The outsiders, the radicals, the revolutionaries, the people who are being cast as wrongdoers by this debate and by Bew’s investigation are precisely those who created, via antagonistic combative politics, the “inclusion and tolerance” that exists and that still needs to exist.
(Skidmore’s problematic history includes membership of a rock band whose lyrics were deliberately vulgar and sexist:Skidmore rocks, and membership of right-wing think-tank Bow Group, a subset of the Tory party through which many future Tory MPs pass.)
Electoral Commission report The Electoral Commission was asked to contribute to the investigation into intimidation of parliamentary candidates. Specifically, it was asked to respond to four questions put by the CSPL:
What is the nature and degree of intimidation experienced by Parliamentary candidates, in particular at the 2017 General Election?
Is existing legislation sufficient to address intimidation of Parliamentary candidates?
What other measures might be effective in addressing the intimidation of Parliamentary candidates, and candidates for public offices more broadly?
What role should political parties play in preventing the intimidation of Parliamentary candidates and encouraging constructive debate?
CSPL question: What is the nature and degree of intimidation experienced by Parliamentary candidates, in particular at the 2017 General Election?
“Of the 3,304 candidates who stood, we received feedback from 780 candidates (24%). From this total, 13 responses included references to issues of intimidation.“ 13 candidates out of 3304 reported “references to issues of intimidation.” That is O.39% or 1 in 254.
The thirteen candidates’ responses were
“4 responses raised general concerns that intimidation had taken place, including posters being ripped down and vandalised, false allegations made over the internet and malicious statements made about candidates, but they did not provide any specific examples or details.” Compare a handful (<= 4) of “false allegations made over the internet and malicious statements made about candidates” with the daily deluge of vicious, libellous vitriol by the right-wing newspapers directed at Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon and their respective colleagues.
“2 respondents said that they had been intimidated and received threats at their own homes.” The Electoral Commission didn’t provide specific details. A reasonable guess is someone (or two) walked past a Tory’s home and shouted “Tory wanker!” Meanwhile, the right-wing press routinely harass candidates at their homes.
“1 respondent said they were harassed by attendees at the count. 1 respondent said that another candidate was rude and aggressive to them at the count.” So what? Counts should sometimes be adverserial with an exchange of views. There should be strong celebrations if a corrupt gimp of wealth terrorists lost in an election. The filth in the far-right should be treated with continuous contempt. Two candidates, out of 3304, reported a minor issue to the Electoral Commission. Two!
“1 respondent said they were subjected to covert and overt bullying, dirty tricks and misogyny. 2 respondents said that their tellers had been subject to intimidation and abuse. 1 respondent said that one of their volunteers had been assaulted delivering leaflets. 1 respondent said that attempts had been made to intimidate other candidates in order to make them stand down.”
A very small number of reports by parliamentary candidates of behaviour they felt was wrong. It is such a small number that, for the purposes of analysis, it equates to zero.
CSPL questions: Is existing legislation sufficient to address intimidation of Parliamentary candidates? What other measures might be effective in addressing the intimidation of Parliamentary candidates, and candidates for public offices more broadly?
The Electoral Commission answers these two questions together. The commission showed that laws exist to counter abusive or intimidatory behaviour in person and online and that laws exist to counter interference in the electoral process. It recommended two additions to the law. One recommendation is the introduction of a digital imprint as a tool to certify online content; the second recommendation, below, is very worrying.
“In some instances, electoral law does specify offences in respect of behaviour that could also amount to an offence under the general criminal law. This is often because electoral offences have special consequences, in that their commission could invalidate the election result and result in the person convicted losing their elected office and/or being subject to a period of disqualification from being registered as an elector, voting in an election and standing for election (section 173 RPA 1983). It may be that similar special electoral consequences could act as a deterrent to abusive behaviour in relation to candidates and campaigners.”
The underlined section is a suggestion of support for straightforward voter suppression and for denial of the right to be elected. This is how far the Tories are prepared to go to cling onto power. They have noted the success of voter suppression in the USA and the continued application of it by Kris Kobach since Donald Trump’s election. They have also noted how the denial of the right to stand in an election has helped many world leaders stay in power like, for example, Vladimir Putin. The reason Theresa May asked for the investigation into intimidation of MPs and candidates was to stifle opposition. The electoral Commission was happy to play along and obediently suggested the possibility of both the removal of the right to stand for election and the removal of the right to vote.
CSPL question: What role should political parties play in preventing the intimidation of Parliamentary candidates and encouraging constructive debate?
The Electoral Commission’s answer included a request that political parties try to ensure that their members’ and supporters’ behaviour is acceptable during election campaigns. There was no mention of political parties “encouraging constructive debate” by the media or by the right-wing think-tanks.
Paul Bew published his report on ‘Intimidation in Public Life’ in December 2017. The full report is here: Bew Report. The purpose of the report, and its preceding investigation of intimidatory behaviour at public figures, particularly MPs, is to spuriously set the groundwork for a new law designed to further limit public examination during election campaigns of a government’s or potential government’s record and/or plans.
It was easy to expose the dishonesty and lack of consistency in the report’s analysis and conclusions. Everything in italics below is a quote from the report.
To set a tone of philosophical entrapment imbued with pomposity, the report began with a list of ‘The Seven Principles of Public Life,’ devised by Michael Nolan in 1955.
Does the current Tory government satisfy these principles? Let’s have a look.
1. Selflessness Nolan: “Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.” Tories: The Tory government always acts entirely in the service of elite financial gangsters.
2. Integrity Nolan: “Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.” Tories: Tory MPs and the party receive large donations, directly or indirectly (secretly), that are designed to direct policy. Tory MPs employ family members and house family members as ruses to extract further public payment. Theresa May’s husband’s job is to advise wealthy people how to avoid British tax payments.
3. Objectivity Nolan: “Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.” Tories: No decision made by the Tory government is based on merit. Every decision is designed to serve an elite. Decisions are often devised by right-wing think-tanks who are paid by said elite and who infest government.
4. Accountability Nolan: “Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.” Tories: Theresa May dodged interviews and debates in 2017 election campaign. She never answers any questions put to her in media interviews or in parliament. She requested this report in order to further reduce scrutiny of the government’s behaviour.
5. Openness Nolan: “Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.” Tories: The debacle regarding the Impact Assessments of leaving the EU is a clear example of the government’s attitude to openness.
6. Honesty Nolan: “Holders of public office should be truthful.” Tories: The entire public presentation of the Tories’ acts and their plans is dishonest. Lying, purposefully and unashamedly, is normal behaviour for government ministers and MPs.
7. Leadership Nolan: “Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.” Tories: Theresa May is a very poor leader. She is a vacuum. By example, she encourages her party to reject all of the other six of the Nolan Principles.
Open letter to PM In an open letter to Theresa May (page 7 of the report) Bew assured her that he has done what she wants.
“The increasing prevalence of intimidation of Parliamentary candidates, and others in public life, should concern everyone who cares about our democracy.” So, Bew concluded that there is an “increasing prevalence” has he? It was his remit to choose to reach that conclusion.
“A significant proportion of candidates at the 2017 general election experienced harassment, abuse and intimidation.” What is a “significant proportion?”
“Intimidatory behaviour is already affecting the way in which MPs are relating to their constituents.” Some MPs, mostly Tory, are finding any reason to dodge having to answer to their constituents. The restrictions on access to MPs’ surgeries have become a deterrent to constituents seeking advice or redress.
“At a watershed moment in our political history, it is time for a new and concerted response.” There is no “watershed moment.” There is a planned, multi-facetted campaign to reduce criticism of government and to stifle opposition. This exists because of the separation between the Tories’ objectives and what is needed for the British people.
“We must see greater energy and action from social media companies, political parties, Parliament, the police, broadcast and print media, and from MPs and Parliamentary candidates themselves.” The purpose of the government’s campaign is to target criticism from the public, online and elsewhere. The Tories have no intention of reducing the newspapers’ capacity to lie, libel and encourage extreme prejudice and violence.
“We propose legislative changes that the government should bring forward on an electoral offence of intimidating Parliamentary candidates and party campaigners.” That is the purpose of the investigation and of this report: Crush criticism of and challenge to the Tory government.
Executive summary There is a lot of deliberate repetition in Bew’s summary (starts page 13) of the “investigation.” The points he made in the executive summary are few in number.
Bew claimed abuse of politicians is increasing.
Bew claimed social media networks are not treating abuse by users of the networks seriously enough.
Bew claimed politicians share some responsibility for not addressing abuse by their respective supporters.
Bew claimed police have not dealt with online abuse sufficiently.
Bew claimed electoral law is out of date with respect to online abuse.
The most contentious of the above conclusions by Bew is the first and the most worrying is the fifth.
Bew listed the contributors to the investigation.
“To understand this issue we have heard from a range of individuals and organisations, including candidates, MPs, social media companies, local councillors, regulatory bodies, broadcasters and journalists, police and security authorities, and other relevant stakeholders. We held 34 individual meetings, a roundtable, and a public and private hearing. We also received 88 written submissions to our call for evidence.”
Thus, an abject absence of members of the public, only one public hearing and only 88 written submissions, with no details of how many, if any, of those 88 submissions were from members of the public and no details of how many were submissions from journalists, right-wing think-tank members or PR consultants. For such an important proposed change in the law, a change that seeks to greatly reduce opposition, criticism and scrutiny, it is an insult to any democracy to have such a limited pool of contributors.
“The call for evidence [as written submissions] stated the terms of reference of the review and invited evidence and comments on the following themes” explained Bew in the Methodology appendix of his report (page 82). His invitation for evidence was presented as questions to whoever was submitting. These questions were designed as tools to guide and to restrict the submission. The most marked aspect of his questions was that all assumed the conclusion that Bew was aiming for: They stated the assumption that there exists a problem with intimidation of parliamentary candidates that needs corrective action. Thus, anyone submitting is bound by Bew’s aim. Such a tactic makes a balanced investigation impossible. The questions are listed below.
What is the nature and degree of intimidation experienced by Parliamentary candidates, in particular at the 2017 general election?
Does the issue of the intimidation of Parliamentary candidates reflect a wider change in the relationship and discourse between public office holders and the public?
Has the media or social media significantly changed the nature, scale, or effect of intimidation of Parliamentary candidates? If so, what measures would you suggest to help address these issues?
Is existing legislation sufficient to address intimidation of Parliamentary candidates?
What role should political parties play in preventing the intimidation of Parliamentary candidates and encouraging constructive debate?
What other measures might be effective in addressing the intimidation of Parliamentary candidates, and candidates for public offices more broadly?
Could the experience of intimidation by Parliamentary candidates discourage people from standing for elected or appointed public offices?
Has the intimidation of Parliamentary candidates led to a change in the way in which public office holders interact with the public in correspondence, on social media, or at in-person events?
In the summary section on social media (page 13) Bew said
“The government should seek to legislate to shift the balance of liability for illegal content to the social media companies away from them being passive ‘platforms’ for illegal content. Given the government’s stated intention to leave the EU Single Market, legislation can be introduced to this effect without being in breach of EU law. [E-Commerce Directive (2000)]”
The Tories’ desire to leave the EU is primarily to dodge EU law that protects freedoms and Bew knows his recommendations fit into that objective.
Bew claimed social networks have not addressed an issue of online abuse adequately.
“Political tensions run high during election campaigns, and this also plays out online. During election campaigns, political debate and discussion online can become particularly heated. This can be amplified when intimidatory content online is not taken down quickly enough, as it shapes the tone of political debate.”
That is, Bew and the Tories want all forceful, assertive, directed and effective political criticism of a government or a potential government to be watered down, quietened and made impotent during the crucial time of election campaigns.
In the summary section on the behaviour of politicians (page 15), Bew asked that they should set an example for good behaviour and challenge poor behaviour by party members and supporters.
Did Bew mean poor behaviour like David Davis lying repeatedly and brazenly in the House of Commons and at parliamentary committees about the existence, or lack, of Impact Assessments for the effect of Brexit, or Boris Johnson jeopardising the freedom and life of a British citizen in Iran with irresponsible reckless comments, or Damian Green lying to all and sundry about what may or may not have been on his ministerial computer, or Mark Garnier the dildo boy?
Did Bew mean poor behaviour like the blatant racism from two Scottish Tory councillors who were suspended and then re-instated soon afterward:Scottish Tory racists, or Tory MP Lucy Allan’s doctoring of a facebook message wherein Allan added a death threat not sent by the messager:Lucy Allan ‘death threat’, or Tory MP David Morris’ accusation that teachers and doctors were lying when they commented on financial difficulties and diseases that existed in Morris’ constituency: David Morris accusations, or Tory MP Guto Bebb’s observation that a constituent was ‘talking out of his arse’ followed by a claim from Bebb that the expression is a popular idiom in the Welsh language:Bebb’s arse, or Tory MP Andrew Percy’s aggressive response to myself when I (rightly) raised the issue of reduced investment in flood defences by recent Tory governments:Percy petulance, or disgraced former minister Priti Patel’s description of elderly and disabled NHS protesters at her constituency office as “thugs:”Patel’s thugs, or Tory Kensington and Chelsea councillor Andrew Lomas who, just days after the Grenfell Tower fire, described protesters at Kensington Town Hall as a “mob” and falsely accused them of intimidation and criminal damage,
or Tory MP Anne Marie Morris’ use of an extremely offensive racist word in an extremely offensive historical context that led to suspension from the party but, a few months later, reinstatement:Morris racism, or Tory councillor Dominic Peacock’s comment that he would donate the “steam off his piss” to a memorial fund for murdered Labour MP Jo Cox: Peacock’s piss, or Tory MP Andrew Griffiths’ childish remark referencing Jeremy Corbyn’s age when the latter was describing the difficult circumstances for many elderly people in Britain with respect to access to adequate care:Griffith’s childishness?
In the summary section on changes to the law (page 16) Bew claimed that
“Intimidation of Parliamentary candidates is of particular significance because of the threat it poses to the integrity of the democratic process and of public service more widely. Specific electoral sanctions would reflect the seriousness of this threat. A new electoral offence of intimidating Parliamentary candidates and party campaigners during an election should be considered. This would serve to highlight the seriousness of the issue, result in more appropriate sanctions, and serve as a deterrent to those specifically targeting Parliamentary candidates and their supporters.”
During election campaigns, normally six to eight weeks, there needs to be full-on, exhaustive, continuous and accurate scrutiny, criticism and exposure of a government’s record and of the plans of potential new governments. This scrutiny should not be suppressed, neutered or quietened. The mainstream media has failed to scrutinise accurately or exhaustively; moreover, the majority of the newspapers have ignored facts and analysis and have focussed on lies, smears and misdirection, almost always favouring the Tories. It is vital that independent media and activists are able to reveal the truth about political parties’ intentions, and reveal who is funding the parties and who is driving their policies. Equally, all consequences of a government’s actions should be available for inspection during an election campaign. The Tory government gagged charities from publicising harmful effects of policy via the gagging law. As Bew explained above, the single purpose of his investigation, report and recommendations is to add further curbs on scrutiny in order that the Tories can keep the electorate ignorant.
Bew concluded his executive summary with a section on taking responsibility (page 18). Much of this section appears to make reasonable suggestions but it is at odds with the behaviour of the Tories in general, and particularly their behaviour during the 2017 election campaign, and at odds with how the Tory-supporting section of the media operates. By asking for politicians and media to take responsibility to behave well, is Bew being optimistic, or ignorant, or is he pretending to be offering some balance?
Main body of the Bew Report Bew’s report included evidence and comment in sections that match the sections in his executive summary.
Rightly, in Intimidation in Public Life (Chapter 1 – starts page 26) Bew highlighted the fact that a lot of abuse is racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, homophobic or prejudiced against particular faiths. Some of the evidence revealed disgusting behaviour, in person and online. Women have received the worst online abuse and it was sometimes accompanied by physical threats. Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott has received more online abuse than any other elected representative and she has received the most disturbing abuse. A lot of the abuse directed at her has been extremely racist.
Bew stressed that the volume of abuse and its severity is aided by the ease of access and the partial anonymity of social media.
“The rise of social media has been the most significant factor accelerating the prevalence of intimidatory behaviour in recent years.”
“One clear trend is that social media is changing the way in which election campaigns are conducted and has led to a marked shift in how the public engages with Parliamentary candidates. Online intimidation is now a persistent characteristic of election campaigns for a large number of Parliamentary candidates, who can be subject to intimidatory messages 24 hours a day.”
But, Bew barely mentioned the role of the newspapers, radio and TV as contributors to abuse at politicians. Right-wing newspapers – Telegraph, Times, Express, Sun, Mail, Evening Standard – promote and encourage racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Islam prejudice daily, in large volume. False stories are the norm and are designed to generate bigotry, prejudice and hatred. Front page headlines, editorials and regular columns are used by the proprietors of the newspapers as tools to rabble rouse and to create an entirely mendacious narrative. The stories include direct attacks on politicians. A boundless cesspit of professionals trolls make a living out of writing bile; there is always a newspaper or radio station like LBC willing to offer money for trash from Katie Hopkins, Quentin Letts, Nick Ferrari, Richard Littlejohn, Rod Liddle, Isabel Oakeshott, Nigel Farage, Stephen Pollard, etc. The only comment that Bew made about the mainstream media in the chapter on intimidation in public life were the three words underlined below.
“As we explain in chapter 5, some abuse takes place in response to an unhealthy public political culture. This can be a result of an unhealthy public discourse of those in public life – including the media – needlessly undermining trust in public institutions.”
In the section on the responsibility of the media (pages 74/5in chapter 5), Bew made a brief remark on the media’s responsibility to watch its language when writing about politicians.
“Threatening or contemptuous language [in the media] to describe public officials, especially when they are upholding high professional and ethical standards, can shape a culture that makes intimidation more likely.”
However, bizarrely, Bew sought to blame the media’s misdoings on “reporting on twitterstorms” (page 74) and “freelance journalists” (page 75). Nowhere in this section did Bew blame the proprietors, editors or senior journalists for any unacceptable reporting.
“Broadcast and print media can amplify the effects of intimidation that takes place on social media, for example, by reporting on ‘twitterstorms’. As the distinction between traditional and social media becomes increasingly blurred, for example, with online-only news outlets with a high profile on social media such as Buzzfeed, The Canary, and Guido Fawkes, the media should be increasingly attentive to how stories are reported can give rise to intimidatory behaviour.”
“News organisations should make clear to freelance journalists that they expect the same standards of conduct from them as with staff reporters.”
Bew completely absolved the newspapers; he cast them as vessels that have been led astray by outside forces.
“News organisations should only consider stories from freelance journalists that meet the standards of IPSO’s Editors Code, or the Editorial Guidelines of Impress, as appropriate, and ensure that freelance journalists are aware of this policy.”
IPSO is a joke. It is controlled by the people who are responsible for false stories, for smears, lies and libel, for promotion of bigotry and prejudice, but Bew elevated it to a reputable body that has had to control others’ misdemeanors. Bew blamed criminal behaviour on the tools the criminals used rather than the criminals themselves.
In chapter 2 on Social Media (starts page 31), Bew went swiftlyfrom “social media can be a democratising force” to “this can take a dark turn” with the rapidity of a voiceover for a horror film trailer.
Bew said that “we” will be keeping on eye of the social media platforms.
“In the fast-paced and rapidly developing world of social media, the companies and the government must proactively address the issue of intimidation online. So far, not enough has been done. We have met with Twitter, Facebook, and Google, and we are deeply concerned about the lack of progress all three companies are making in protecting users online. We will be monitoring their progress in implementing our recommendations.”
Or what? Does Bew support state interference in social media access similar to Turkey and China, for example?
His assessment of how social media works displayed Bew’s (possibly willful) ignorance.
“Social media has revolutionised how voters and candidates receive information. This has dramatically altered the pace of political debate by encouraging and enabling its users to comment on political news stories in real time. When commenting in this fast-paced environment, messages can be sent immediately without the deliberation which may take place in face-to-face communication.”
That is a nonsensical comment by Bew. On social media there is more time to respond than when talking to someone face-to-face.
“The format of social media, most obviously Twitter, encourages brevity. While concise communication can make political messages more accessible, the motivation to boil down complex political ideas into short messages can change the tone of debate. The norms of appropriate communication online are not well established.”
“The detailed discussion of a political idea or concept may be too long or complex to deliberate or debate on social media.”
“Social media therefore incentivises content which is more likely to be negative.”
Has Bew never listened to how Theresa May and her colleagues communicate in the House of Commons? Their style consists of snide remarks and silly catchphrases that would not exhaust even the old 140 character limit of Twitter. The comment section on Facebook has no character limit. Even Twitter allows full discussion via threading. To put it bluntly, Bew is lying.
He compared moderation of social media platforms with the, apparently spotless, world of mainstream newspapers.
“While communication and discussion in the traditional media also encourages brevity, these publications receive editorial oversight and operate within a regulatory framework which moderates content.”
The only Jackson possible in response to the underlined comment above is to invite the Smash Robots to express their opinion.
The section on the law and social media was a repeated declaration of Bew’s opposition to theEU E-Commerce Directive. Such freedom of communication is not to his liking, but he announced triumphantly that “when the UK leaves the EU, it will cease to have obligations under EU law.”
Bew’s analysis of how social media companies operate (page 36) was purposefully flawed, particularly regarding their legal responsibilities with respect to illegal content on their respective platforms. His description of their liability, as host versus publisher of content, was entirely spurious. He concocted a rambling, inventive narrative that claimed current law doesn’t allow removal of some illegal content, a false statement, blamed the EU directive mentioned above as a cause of all ills, a false statement, and said that “prompt, automated identification of illegal content would have a positive impact on combatting the intimidatory tone of online political discussions.” “Illegal” and “intimidatory” are not synonyms.
Bew asserted that government and social media companies should work together. But, the political success of social media access is due to its separation from government. The usefulness of social media communication to the opposition to conservative politics, worldwide, is huge. Social media has allowed rapid and uncensored exchange of information and ideas. The effect of this billion strong community is demonstrable in many countries. It is an effective challenge to whatever establishment is in power, and these establishments are frightened by its success. Some countries – Turkey, China, Saudi Arabia, etc. – use extreme censorship of social media access to shut down opposition. Bew’s preferred methodology would imitate the subtle intimidation of a gofer sent round to someone’s small business to offer protection:
“The social media companies must uphold their responsibility to engage with government to help tackle these issues. The government should take a coordinated approach to promote joint working with the social media companies. Government and Parliament should consider the recommendations we make to social media companies, and make efforts to take them forward as part of their wider work with the companies.”
Some of the technical analysis in the report of how the social media platforms function is observationally correct and the necessary improvements mentioned have been suggested by users many times independently of any government action. The problems that exist with respect to illegal online content and targetted abuse are not new and are definitely not specific to parliamentary candidates during an election campaign. The government, via Bew, has astroturfed onto existing complaints in order to use such complaints as a means of censoring social media.
“Social media provides a means by which citizens can engage with the political process during these times, but the darker side of such engagement is the intimidation that Parliamentary candidates, party campaigners, and others in public life experience.”
“Analysis of offensive language targeted at MPs during the month leading up to the 2017 general election found that in general, between 2% and 4% of all tweets sent to politicians on a given day could be identified as abusive.”
The “darker side” is “between 2% and 4%.” That much!
Bew demanded that “social media platforms should work proactively during elections,” (page 43). He meant that comments should be removed before complaints occur. Alongside an incomplete definition of “abuse,” the too-wide definition of “intimidation” of politicians and the thinly veiled threats aimed at social media companies if they don’t co-operate with the government, the report is a shoddy attempt to justify changes to the law that are designed to remove criticism of the government.
Bew discussed “trusted flaggers” (page 44) who are an army of online censors who could remove contentious content.
“Twitter, Facebook and Google should work with the government to create a ‘pop-up’ election social media reporting team of trusted flaggers. This team should receive specific training on online activity which breaches the site’s rules, so that their recommendations for takedown can be expedited.”
That is, the government would be party to censoring online content that was too critical of the government during an election. Bew reiterated throughout his report what he perceived as the necessity to control criticism during an election because he knows that is when such criticism can be most effective.
The chapter on social media in Bew’s report is fanciful, comically dramatic, misleading, contradictory and, often, downright lies. Some ongoing changes need to be made, generally, about abuse and illegal content online. All such changes are entirely independent of so-called intimidation of politicians. Bew’s objective – creating impetus for new laws to restrict criticism during elections – is present in every paragraph in his report. His approach is very deceitful, dishonest and an insult to whoever reads the report.
In chapter 3 on Political Parties (starts page 46) Bew reported that “evidence submitted to the Committee suggests that Conservative candidates were more likely to be subject to intimidatory behaviour than candidates representing the other political parties.” I wonder why that could be. That is something to ponder on.
This chapter was a repetitive plea for everyone involved in election campaigns to be so terribly nice to each other including many mentions of all-party agreements. With reference to the Nolan Principles, Bew asked for party leaders to set the tone and “take steps to eradicate a culture of intimidation.” The Electoral Commission recorded thirteen examples of “intimidation” in the 2017 general election – page 3 of Electoral Commission Report; thus, Bew’s claim of a “culture of intimidation” is an invention.
The effect of normal interaction between opposing party members has been exaggerated comically throughout this chapter, without examples or evidence. “Given the seriousness of these issues, parties must use the full range of sanctions available to them to penalise inappropriate behaviour by their members.” What “seriousness?” Election campaigns should be much more adversarial than they have been. Opposition should be forceful, assertive, relentless and cold. The next general election, whenever that occurs, is a vital election. What will notbe needed is a friendly, insipid, flaccid campaign; what will be needed is combat. The Tory government wants to prevent an effective challenge at the next election. Bew’s dramatic bluster about nothing is just a tool to help neuter opposition.
In a section critical of fringe groups Bew repeated the word “fringe” several times. In the absence of any other information or any group being named, one can only assume that by “fringe groups” Bew meant
Right-wing think-tanks that infest government
Right-wing PR consultancies who often employ ex-Tory MPs
Right-wing newspapers who spend each election campaign spouting lies, smears and prejudices
It was good to see that Bew highlighted these problematic “fringe groups.”
The chapter on Law, Policing and Prosecution (starts page 57) began with clear statements that sufficient laws exist to deal with any of the (real or otherwise) issues raised in the report.
“We have seen no evidence to suggest that the current criminal law is insufficient in covering the full range of cases that we have defined as intimidation for the purpose of this report. As such, the current criminal law should remain as it is.”
Undeterred by facts, Bew ploughed on with his objective. The section on electoral law is the crux of his report.
It is unclear if the report asked for new sentencing (or “sanctions“) specific to elections for existing law, or else asked for new offences.
New sentencing? (page 60)
“As we conclude above, we believe the current criminal law is sufficient to cover the full range of cases of intimidation. Therefore any new offence in electoral law should be no broader than the existing criminal law.“
“However, the Committee considers that the issue of intimidation is of particular significance because of the threat that it poses to the integrity of public service and the democratic process. During an election period, it would therefore be appropriate to have specific electoral sanctions that reflect the threat that intimidation of Parliamentary candidates and their supporters poses to the integrity of elections. Any such offence in electoral law should be tightly defined, to capture intimidatory behaviour that is directed towards an individual specifically in their capacity as a Parliamentary candidate or party campaigner, which intends unduly to influence the result of the election (for example, by affecting their candidature or inhibiting their campaigning).”
New offence? (pages 60/61)
“We believe that any new electoral offence that is introduced should not have any wider scope than the existing criminal law in respect of intimidatory behaviour. No behaviour which is currently legal should be made illegal.“
“However, we believe that the introduction of a distinct electoral offence will serve to highlight the seriousness of the threat of intimidation of Parliamentary candidates to the integrity of public life and of the electoral process, and will result in more appropriate sanctions. We believe that specific electoral offences will also serve as an effective deterrent to those who are specifically targeting Parliamentary candidates and their supporters.”
Whichever of the above two options was the intended stance of the Bew Report, the consequential threat was not ambiguous.
“Electoral law can overlap with and complement the criminal law, such that offences with criminal sanctions can also involve sanctions under electoral law. These sanctions are specific to the election process, such as being barred from voting for a certain period, or removal from the electoral register.”
Clearly, any attempt to remove the right to vote or the right to stand for election would be difficult to enforce in a court but the threat of such a sanction is the real aim.
After he noted what appears to be a clear assessment of CPS guidelines (page 64),
“The high evidential threshold [set by the CPS] required to proceed with a prosecution reflects how commonplace offensive comments are in everyday life, and the importance of context to determining if an offence has been committed. In particular, a communication must be more than simply offensive, shocking or disturbing.”
Bew squeezed out a wholly unconvincing conclusion: “In practice, on the guidelines provided, a number of cases of intimidation of Parliamentary candidates would seem to us to meet the requirement for prosecution but did not proceed to prosecution.” The use of “us” is self-indictment. Bew sought more “evidence” to arm his objective and encountered the European Convention on Human Rights.
“We sought further evidence, and heard that the test for grossly offensive communications is a demanding evidential standard because it must be compatible with the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
He didn’t give up and pretended to find one crumb to help him.
“The CPS guidance states that one aggravating factor that tips the public interest test towards prosecution is that the target of a communication is a person serving the public at the time.”
“Parliamentary candidates meeting the evidential test for prosecution would almost certainly also meet the public interest test. As such, the current enforcement of the criminal law in respect of prosecution seems to us to be satisfactory.”
“We are confident that cases of intimidation of Parliamentary candidates that meet the high evidential standard would proceed to prosecution.”
Bew’s linguistic contortions coupled with conclusions that are unattached to the preceding analysis are embarrassing; he stumbled toward the spurious point that a new law-or-sentence is needed.
The most noticeable point in chapter 5 on Taking Responsibility (starts page 70) is what Bew omitted or glossed over. His absolution of the mainstream media was noted earlier. The purposefully abusive and rabble-rousing editorial policies and front page headlines of many newspapers were ignored. He did not mention the behaviour of right-wing think tanks and PR consultancies that are embedded in government and are lobbying constantly, always with no care about the abusive, dishonest and prejudicial content of their advice and statements. His analysis of parliamentary behaviour was too general and woolly. There exists a government that behaves abusively, childishly, dishonestly and evasively without pause. Bew’s report saw nothing.
In chapter 6 on The Impact of Intimidation (starts page 77) Bew tried to conclude that public figures are under constant threat of intimidation and that something needs to be done. He had not acquired evidence to support this conclusion; the review that preceded his report had not tried to gather sufficient evidence. Throughout he was dealing with crumbs.
“Now is the right moment to address intimidatory behaviour,” he declared. What Bew meant is that the Tories and those they work for fear a genuine challenge to the exploitative system they operate and so they want to suffocate opposition in advance.
Summary of Bew’s Report and of government intent The purpose of the review and report was to create impetus for restrictions on challenges to the Tories during election campaigns. The desired restrictions include stifling effective criticism, particularly online. The main targets of the restrictions are left-wing news sites and political activists. The restrictions would be enacted via changes to the law and/or sentencing to censor activism and punish activists. The report claimed that such law changes could be made simpler to enforce following Britain’s departure from the EU and associated abandonment of legal protections for citizens.
To attain the invented conclusion of the necessity for law changes, the report attempted to develop a narrative of “intimidation of public figures.” Despite many facts, data and surveys, referred to in the report, that disputed such a narrative, Bew did not waver from his intent. Contortions of argument, clumsy contradictions and comical non-deductions were all used plentifully throughout the report. The submissions of evidence for the report were few and were directed via signposting questions.
The report ignoredthe appalling biased behaviour of mainstream media, particularly newspapers, that are full of lies, smears and extreme encouragement of prejudice and bigotry; the report ignored the mob of right-wing think-tanks that spout constructed lies and have teams of con artists infested in government and in the media; the report barely mentioned the childish, bratty and abusive behaviour of Tory MPs in parliament; the report didn’t criticise Theresa May for lying constantlyand for evading every question put to her.
The report attacked social media disproportionately and dishonestly. The presented arguments about social media were convoluted and fanciful. What is clear is how much the power of mass communication frightens the establishment and the report displayed this fear throughout.
The fake conclusions of the Bew Report were determined before any review occurred. The entire process of evidence gathering, review and report was a pantomime that eschewed logic and consistency. It was a sham.
“The HSC aims to promote and help create an international society in which individuals and communities everywhere are able to live free from fear, free from want and free from indignity.”
A mix of the Henry Jackson Society’s new colonialism, the UK Defence Journal’s arms industry porn and Breitbart’s divisive exclamations of prejudice, the Human Security Centre (HSC) promotes worldwideimperialist economic control via the use of military force.
In its Mission Statement HSC says it believes that “the international community must be willing and prepared to protect the lives of innocent people with all necessary means, including force as the last resort.” However, “innocent people” doesn’t include all innocent people in every country.
Yemen In Yemen, thousands of civilians have been killed by deliberate targetting of homes, schools and hospitals by the Saudi Arabian air force and hundreds of thousands of people are facing starvation and fatal diseases due to the Saudi Arabian navy’s blockade of food and medical supplies. The Saudi armed forces are receiving assistance from UK and USA. The British government is using the carpet bombing of Yemeni civilians and infrastructure as an opportunity for lucrative arms deals. The recently departed foreign secretary Michael Fallon complained to a parliamentary select committee a few weeks ago that
“I have to repeat, sadly, to this committee that obviously other criticism of Saudi Arabia in this parliament is not helpful and … I’ll leave it there, but we need to do everything possible to encourage Saudi Arabia towards batch two [of aircraft sales]. I believe they will commit to batch two.”
However, these innocent civilians in Yemen do not appear to be within the caring remit of HSC. In August in Lenarz on Yemen the HSC executive director Julie Lenarz tried to justify the continuous targetting of Yemeni civilians by stating that every act against them was a response to actions taken by or sponsored by Iran. Her main source of (dis)information for the recent history of the conflict in Yemen was Benjamin Weinthal from Foundation for Defense of Democracies, an extremely biased and discredited far-right think-tank in the USA. Nowhere in the article did Lenarz criticise the Saudi tactic of targetting civilians and civilian infrastructure. She noted coldly the direct involvement of the US air force:
“Underscoring what appears to be a major escalation of U.S. involvement in Yemen, the U.S. military, on orders of the President, carried out 70 airstrikes in the country in March 2017 – more than twice the number for all of 2016.”
The entire article was purposeful misinformation that erased the slaughter of the Yemeni civilians by Saudi Arabia and used the conflict as a tool to politicise against Iran. Pure unashamed criminal propaganda.
In their HSC bios both Lenarz and fellow director Dwayne Menezesare described as “lead Coordinator of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Yemen in the UK Parliament.” The good servants of Saudi money in the Tory government are, of course, capable of choosing to reach an extremely biased opinionand conclusion on Yemen without outside assistance but it is an intrusion on democracy that the APPG is advised by members of a partisan think-tank of puppets operated by US neocons.
HSC political philosophy Both HSC directors expressed their political philosophies in articles presented as (fake) interviews.
In Lenarz speaks to Clarion she said “the HSC believes that the practice, promotion, toleration and relativisation of terrorism or otherwise the intentional killing of civilians should be vigorously challenged.” This belief doesn’t apply to all civilians, as the analysis on Yemen shows.
Lenarz’s description of what she calls “Islamism” is straight from the hard right handbook. “Do not get intimidated by charges of Islamophobia” she advised, rather than asking people not to be Islamophobic. Without proof Lenarz claimed that “a significantly larger minority [of Muslims] than we had originally anticipated sympathizes with and supports non-violent and violent-Islamism.” Her response to the question ‘What do you see as the biggest obstacle to defeating Islamism?’ was to accuse the then US president Obama of “denial.” This is the same US president that bombed the middle east and north Africa more than any US president in history but, because he didn’t use the inflammatory language that Lenarz wanted him to use, she accused him of denial.
“We have to be more confident and stop apologizing for our own position. The West’s perpetual sense of guilt, the absurd notion that we are somehow to blame for Islamist extremism, is playing right into their hands.”
Who is the “we” here? It couldn’t be the arms dealers and the gimps in government because they never feel any “guilt.” Perhaps, Lorenz is worried about liberal guilt. Clearly, humanity and intelligence are not qualities that HSC admires.
HSC’s diktat is that everyone must join in with its blinkered dogmatic perspective: “This [HSC ideology] is what every ordinary citizen must internalize because only if that thinking takes hold in our collective mindset, we will stand a chance of defeating the ideology of Islamism.” Apparently, “think tanks can provide expertise and policy advice in areas not available within government,” concluded Lorenz. Think-tanks like HSC provide nothing positive whatsoever and their presence in government analysis is very destructive.
“For too long, we have been simply too afraid to call a spade a spade” explained HSC director Dwayne Menezes inMenezes on “Islamism.”There is no need to read anymore in another fake interview. He espoused the same rhetoric as his colleague.
In Persecution of Christians Paul Adams said “this postmodern secularist pose of Western elites approves of every culture but its own, and values, in the name of diversity, every religion except those at the heart of its own culture and civilization, Christianity and Judaism.” The HSC’s division of the world is faith-based.
“Most of the more extreme objections to the ships can be readily dismissed as the work of cranks and the poorly informed,” declared Rowan Allport in hisAircraft carrier porn PR piece.
The HSC could be dismissed as just a mob of bog-standard right-wing screaming heads and professional trolls but its infestation at the APPG on Yemen means it must be challenged constantly and aggressively.
Links to brief descriptions of other right-wing think-tanks
(Update: Toby Young stepped down from his post at Office For Students on January 9th) (Update: Jo Johnson was reshuffled to the Department For Transport on January 9th)
The Tory government feels compelled to attack universities constantly.
Knowledgeable academics are ignored by the government for expert advice in favour of a symbiosis between government and dumbed-down right-wing think-tanks. Academics who seek to express a learnèd opinion backed by facts are shunned and attacked. For example, Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris harassed universities by demanding lists of academics who are opposed to Brexit: Heaton-Harris letter.
The Tory government and its cohorts are anti-knowledge. This stance includes opposition to knowledge of history, particularly British history. A current theme of this opposition is the attempt to re-write the history of the British Empire both by hiding knowledge of its savage effects and by promoting a rose-tinted account that invents its benefits. A recent example of the removal of problematic knowledge is the apparent “loss” of thousands of historical documents many of which detailed war crimes by the British government: Lost archives.
A false presentation of the effects of the British empire was proposed by Nigel Biggar. His proposal, bereft of intelligent analysis and entirely conclusion-led, was rightly criticised by many academics at Oxford University:Academics oppose Biggar. This criticism was not an attempt to deny free speech; it was a valid assertion that Biggar’s aims were not in tune with a place of learning because of the lack of intelligence and lack of didactic reasoning in his plans. He was recognised immediately as a professional troll and called out for it. The response to the reasonable attitude of the sixty academics has been a coordinated, dishonest and directional attack on their integrity that has included the repeated false claim that they are denying free speech. Opposing a charlatan talking drivel is not opposing free speech.
The dispute between Biggar and his academic colleagues encouraged witless Tory Higher Education Minister and exponent of random bigotry Jo Johnson, brother of witless Tory Foreign Secretary and exponent of random bigotry Boris Johnson, to state that the government’s misnamed interferring quango, Office For Students, will stop criticism of any gormless, vacuous, mendacious use of university venues and money such as Biggar’s plan. Johnson said that universities could be fined if they do not allow idiots to waste time and money with concocted anti-knowledge garbage: Johnson to fine universities.
However, wholly contradictory to his stated belief in free speech and in access to a variety of views at schools and universities, Johnson is a keen supporter of Prevent, a programme that clamps down on the expression of some political views in education. In 2015, Johnson criticised the National Union of Students for their opposition to Prevent:Johnson criticised NUS. Johnson’s duplicity emphasises the lack of conviction in any opinion he pretends to express.
Johnson needed to appoint someone to act as a spokesperson/consultant at the Office For Students who could try to promote and to enable the strategy of attacking universities that choose to deny space to right-wing anti-intellect professional trolls and screaming heads. The qualities that such an appointee required were
Absence of personal and professional integrity
Shamelessness and total lack of self-awareness
Extreme bigotry and offensive far-right prejudiced political views
Continuous professional failure
Who could Johnson find that satisfied the above requirements and who has also developed conspiratorial relationships with pliable media over several years of duonistic mendacity?
The answer, apparently, was Toby Young, the favoured screaming head for contrary garbled poorly researched claptrap on many TV and radio shows and a purveyor of a plentiful supply of deliberately offensive essays designed to distract and to dumb-down debate.
A few lowlights from Young’s “career” as an opinionator are
He wants people in wheelchairs to be excluded from education:Ban Wheelchairs.
He flatly denied (lied) that ‘I, Daniel Blake’ portrayed accuracy in the benefits system despite evidence that proved it did:Young vs. Daniel Blake.
He objected to working-class students at Oxford University:Young snobbery.
He claimed that low income is due to genetic conditions rather than economic issues:Young’s Behavioural Genetics. This essay advocated the intervention of genetic engineering to help social mobility, which is an entirely false argument, deeply offensive and designed as a means of absolving the exploitative capitalist system as the cause of economic imbalance.
Young’s political stance and pseudo-academic perspective are as (offensively and anti-intellectually) extreme as any activist who remains at large in society. He has been appointed at Office For Students to make it easier for extreme-right speakers to be invited to universities. His complete lack of integrity and his imbued dishonesty make him immune from any consideration of academic professionalism. His witlessness means he will not be distracted by reasoned argument or facts. Like all far-right gimps, his stupidity is an asset for those who employ him.
Jo Johnson wants the universities to be infested with streams of ignorant, deceitful bigots and/or economic con artists like, for example, Douglas Murray, Adam Perkins, Ben Shapiro, Milo Yiannopoulos, Julie Lenarz, Melanie Phillips and Niall Ferguson. He wants to replace the intelligent, thought-provoking and useful speeches, seminars and Q&As with dumb, brain-numbing idiocy that promotes prejudice.
The appointment of Young by Johnson exposes the intent of Office For Students. It is a vessel to enable the government to interfere in universities and colleges. Johnson’s hypocrisy regarding no-platforming versus Prevent is clear but they are contradictory positions driven by the same intent: The Tories want to monitor and restrict education.
Neither Jo Johnson nor Toby Young should be anywhere near education. They should be nowhere near a TV studio, or a laptop or government.