Yesterday (9th August) the Israeli airforce bombed civilian neighbourhoods in Gaza. Among the deaths were a pregnant woman and her young son. The BBC website covered the incident with this headline:
That headline was uncontroversial, accurate and balanced.
Later in the day, the headline was changed to:
The second headline attempted to provide an excuse for air strikes on civilian areas. It tried to present the air strikes as justifiable punishment.
After the second headline was published, the Board Of Deputies expressed approval of the alteration:
The BBC’s cowardice is clear. A false, malicious and fraudulent complaint was made because the first headline was accurate and appropriate, and the BBC capitulated meekly. Such cowardice is incompatible with the BBC’s charter and an embarrassment.
The quick capitulation by the BBC demonstrated an abject lack of confidence in its own capacity to make informed intelligent balanced decisions.
Last week, Steve Bannon, former Breitbart chairman, former Trump advisor and present racist white supremacist, had a nice cosy chat with Murdoch gimp Michael Gove and old Etonians Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson. It was a meeting to share stupidity, bigotry and venality. Bannon wanted some help to create a series of extremist fascist states in Europe and the three Tory twerps wanted to get some advice on what tactics and strategy they can get away with.
Looming Brexit encouraged Bannon and his Tory friends to get together now. The latter three intend to do all they can to ensure that disaster capitalists make hay out of Brexit; equally, Bannon believes that Brexit’s calamitous consequences will be fruitful opportunities to rabble-rouse, organise and instill fascism on a grand scale.
The extreme-right is generally composed of two almost distinct groups: 1) Lumpen-headed foot soldiers with unbending, unchallengeable belief in the veracity of their views, and 2) financial beneficiaries and their servants (politicians) who direct the first group via misrepresentation and propaganda, and then reap the awards. For example, an EDL street thug and an old Etonian, respectively.
Steve Bannon, as an extreme-right activist, is both a believer in the politics of racism and fascism and also an influential leader and organiser with connections throughout governments, media, business and think-tanks. He straddles both of the above groups. Unlike Donald Trump, who is in it for the money for himself and his family, Bannon really believes what he thinks, says and promotes. Unlike street thug Tommy Robinson, Bannon has the influence to persuade people in power.
It is unsurprising that Rees-Mogg, Gove and Johnson were keen to meet Bannon. Their view of him is of someone who has succeeded in a support role to a politician. For this trio, Bannon’s use of racism, fascism and extreme dishonesty is not problematic, just tactical. The Eton machine taught Rees-Mogg and Johnson how to treat the world as a competition bereft of ethics, morality and integrity. Johnson’s racism has never been hidden by him. Rees-Mogg has been delighted to acquire a fanbase of dim-witted racist thugs.
Soon after meeting Bannon, Boris Johnson wrote a newspaper article wherein he made a few childish comments about Muslim women’s clothing, written in the style of Katie Hopkins. Most likely, these racist asides by Johnson were suggested by Bannon as a means of testing what could and what couldn’t be said and what would be the reaction and from whom. Johnson, a moron, would have been confident to follow Bannon’s instructions without ado; Bannon is someone who Johnson reveres as an intellectual. Of course, Johnson didn’t need encouragement to be racist.
The reaction to Johnson’s racism has been mixed. The right-wing media have used it as an opportunity to have debates about whether or not his racism is racism. The centrist media and politicians have managed to force out a few words of criticism before returning swiftly to whatever point they are trying to make about Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism. The media have been reluctant to use the word “racist” to describe what Johnson said, and have pitched their articles as people complaining about Johnson rather than his wrongdoing being the focus. Socialists have condemned Johnson. Prime minister Theresa May has, predictably, said absolutely nothing.
Thus, Bannon’s experiment with Johnson’s utterances could be construed as a success for both of them. The condemnation of Johnson’s racism has come only from the left, a section of the political landscape that Bannon has no interest in, and the media have used the racism as an entry point into a general discussion that questions whether racism is racism.
Steve Bannon cannot be dismissed as an opportunist, like Trump, nor as a barely human yob, like Robinson. Bannon occupies all parts of the extreme right circus with considerable manipulative skills and a strong knowledge of propaganda.
The least scary threat in the history of democracy, a history that is two millennia old, is the threat that some Labour MPs and the Lib Dems will form a new centrist party. This flaccid threat, never openly stated, elicits no fear in its intended targets because such a party would dissipate within seconds of its launch. It would have no political position and nothing to offer.
Even the most blinkered and most bubble-encased Progress and Lib Dem MPs know a new centrist party is a ticket to oblivion. Equally, they know that the supposed recipients of the threat to form such a party – the Labour left – are not at all perturbed about the possibility of one being created. Indeed, there is encouragement from labour’s left for the creation of a centrist party in order to hurry along the departure of some annoying MPs.
If the formation of a new centrist party is a certain failure, what options do the self-penned “politically homeless” MPs and activists have in their centrist dilemma?
They have three options.
Option 1: Continue the disruption They could stay where they are, keep the MP’s salary, keep their access to media and continue to disrupt, both in parliament and particularly within the Labour party. They could continue their relentless, spurious attacks on Corbyn and his colleagues to try to ensure that neither he or any of his like-minded colleagues ever becomes prime minister. That is their top priority. Anything else is secondary and a long way behind. If Brexit leads to an absolute disaster, as seems likely, then at least the centrists would be keeping Corbyn away from power; if Johnson, Rees-Mogg or Gove replaces May and the Tories lurch even further to a Trump-like racist freedom-crushing extreme-right then at least Corbyn would not be in power. Keeping a tendency toward socialism away from government is the centrists’ focus. Nothing will divert them from that aim and they prefer any other type of government.
Option 2: Steal parliamentary seats John Woodcock, a good friend of and employee of the arms industry, is currently stealing a parliamentary seat. He “resigned” from Labour but has chosen not to call a by-election. His decision to refuse to contest a by-election is understandable cowardice because, clearly, he would lose. His constituents elected a Labour MP. Right now, they do not have a Labour MP. Woodcock’s disruptive colleagues might choose to follow his example and resign from Labour but stay in parliament unelected. Their departure from Labour would be welcome. Their theft of parliamentary seats would be an unsurprising demonstration of their opposition to democracy.
Option 3: Do one They could just sod off. Resign from Labour and step down as MPs. Whether or not they stood in any ensuing by-elections would be irrelevant because they wouldn’t win. Away from parliament they could console themselves by writing incoherent, inconsistent fact-averse columns for think-tanks and newspapers or set up secretly-funded talking shops and lobby groups. They could do that, but that decision would be a relatively honest decision with integrity, and honesty and integrity are not qualities associated with the Progress mob.
Grubby violent crook Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (mortgage fraud, assaulting a police officer, travelling on a false passport, etc.) was released from a jail sentence recently via a technicality. He had been jailed for contempt of court after physically harassing witnesses and defendants on several occasions at different courts.
Whether he should or should not have received a custodial sentence is of interest only to legal nerds. His racist supporters used the conviction as an opportunity to grab media airtime. Intelligent humane people snorted in derision.
As soon as the racist twerp was free, liberal centrist media wrestled with each other to be the first to prostrate at Yaxley-Lennon’s feet and beg for interviews. He was happy to oblige, of course. But, why would the allegedly anti-racist section of the media be so keen to offer free airtime to such an extremist and such an idiot? Their fraudulent excuse was “free speech.” That argument would contain the smallest possible smidgen of validity only if characters like Yaxley-Lennon had a single opportunity to speak followed by a deluge of jacksons, but he and his ilk have had many such opportunities. There is no longer any valid reason to hand airtime to them and, thus, the free speech excuse is a lie.
Free speech is not the reason that centrist media gave Yaxley-Lennon exposure. Two motivations have driven their interest in him.
1)Ratings Disgusting, dim-witted, bigoted scum on the extreme-right can give a temporary boost to the viewing figures for TV news shows. Even the non-commercial BBC is very aware of ratings. Ratings trump (no pun) integrity and ethics, always.
2) Shift the Overton window rightward Normalisation of the extreme-right pulls the Overton window rightward with a resultant shifting of the position of the imaginary centre to the right. The knock-on effect is that any view that is left-of-centre appears to be closer to the left extremity. This false perception aids the rhetoric that seeks to describe the Labour leadership as far-left.
TV and radio news, current affairs and political debate shows in Britain are increasingly geared toward entertainment and there is an absence of true objectivity. The executive staff, producers and presenters do not have the intelligence or knowledge to differentiate between analysis and propaganda; they are easily (often very willingly) guided by professional lobbyists employed by hard-right think tanks; they do not understand how balance works. The absence of courage, independent thought and confidence is palpable.
A consequence of the above is that a racist street thug is treated as a serious interviewee.
Newspaper hack and talking head Stephen Pollard is determined to prevent a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn. Some observers have been puzzled by the relentlessness and ferocity of Pollard’s chosen stance toward Corbyn. Are there valid reasons for the deliberate tone and intent of the attack?
Corbyn and his front bench colleagues’ views are well-known. If in government, their probable policies on NHS, wages, tax, welfare, privatisation, housing, defence, education, etc. can be predicted with confidence. On such issues, and others, how much does Pollard’s political stance differ from that of the Labour leadership?
Pollard’s views can be seen easily from the many pieces he has written for various newspapers over several years.
All italicized quotes below are the words of Pollard.
In Pollard on NHS Pollard expressed his glee that patients could be increasingly forced to provide extra payments for vital treatment. Written ten years ahead of the NHS’s 70th birthday (this year) Pollard stated enthusiastically “the introduction of co-payment will lead, inevitably, to a blurring of that divide, as there will be no reason in principle why patients will not be able to top up the care they receive from the health service. By the time of its 70th birthday, the NHS will not look remotely as it does as it celebrates its 60th.”
In Pollard on Unions Pollard launched an angry rant against the power of unions to protect workers’ jobs and money. “It’s easy to think that these [rail] strikes are based on nothing more than greed, bloody-mindedness and union bosses’ desire to throw their weight around and show they’re powers in the land. It’s easy to think that – because that’s exactly how it is.”
Yes, union power and strength is vital. Pollard doesn’t like that power and he expressed his gleeful support for further undemocratic attacks on workers by the (Cameron-led) Tory government. “Yes, they can throw their weight around and cause chaos. But with a Government committed to restoring sanity, that can only last for so long. In the 1980s, Baroness Thatcher changed the law to neuter another bunch of militants and hand unions back to their members. Now David Cameron and Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary, are going to deal with the latest bunch of militants.”
Pollard displayed full unconditional support for employers to be free to exploit employees without effective organised resistance led by unions. He criticised the relationship between the Labour party and unions, conveniently forgetting that the Labour party was created by trades’ unions.
Interestingly, in the above 2015 article, Pollard claimed “Mr Corbyn, of course, is unelectable.” If he still thought that now, Pollard wouldn’t be spending so much energy criticising Corbyn.
In more Pollard on unionsPollard said “rail unions RMT and Aslef are calling strike after strike over entirely spurious ‘safety’ issues.” Unions, staff and passengers have proven repeatedly that safety concerns are valid. Pollard’s dismissal of them exposed his political stance bereft of objective analysis.
The rail system is owned by gangs of charlatans and thieves. Tax-payers, passengers and employees are fleeced continuously. The rail unions are trying to fight back against the gangsterism as much as they can, but Pollard pretended to see only unions playing games. “In reality they [unions] are striking for the sake of striking. All three of the unions involved in these two disputes – CWU, Aslef and RMT – take the public for idiots. Because when you strip away their ludicrous explanations, this is what it’s really all about.”
In the same article Pollard dismissed the CWU’s concerns about the future of the postal service. “There is no threat to the Post Office,” he proclaimed before expressing his delight with some selected statistics. Two points jumped out from Pollard’s analysis: 1) He was delighted that the service has been reduced, and 2) he had no understanding, or claimed to have none, of what a public service is supposed to be. “You really don’t need me to tell you that it’s good news that the Post Office is no longer a basket case propped up by the taxpayer.” Pollard’s figures on the postal service failed to include all the buildings and infrastructure that were stolen by the privateers.
Pollard returned to the rail network with an attack on Aslef. “Not one employee will lose his or her job over Southern Rail’s plan to introduce driver only operated (DOO) trains,” he said randomly. “Aslef says, in desperation to find a cause to justify its strikes, that DOO trains are unsafe.” People being attacked or falling ill on trains without guards are not a problem for Pollard.
“This [strike action] is what the hard Left do. Playing political games with the public services on which we all depend is the core of their ideology. And they’re not alone. Guess which politician is backing them? Yes – you guessed right. Guest speaker at last week’s Aslef Christmas dinner was Jeremy Corbyn.”
Pollard’s closing comments in the above article revealed his economically hard-right political stance very clearly and demonstrated without doubt why he vehemently opposes the politics of Jeremy Corbyn and his colleagues:
“So what do we do about this madness? As so often, the answer is provided by Ronald Reagan. In 1981 President Reagan sacked 11,000 striking air traffic controllers when they refused to return to work. At a stroke it destroyed the union wreckers, showing they would no longer be able to get away with it. We now need equivalent action. That will almost certainly mean legislation barring strikes in essential public services – and then sacking those employees who refuse to work. As a first move, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling should strip Southern Rail of its franchise and replace it with an operator who will face down the unions. The time has come to put the union militants in their place.”
In Pollard on welfarePollard attacked the centrist Fabian Society for daring to suggest that vicious Tory cuts have caused child poverty to rise. Summoning the verbal dexterity of Donald Trump, Pollard said “let’s be clear about this. Even if every figure in this report [by Fabian Society] is true and every calculation flawless, it’s rubbish.”
As DWP minister and via his Centre For Social Justice, Iain Duncan-Smith orchestrated Social Murder with his vicious cuts to a variety of benefits. The cuts purposefully caused homelessness, destitution and death, with the greatest effects suffered by people with disabilities. However, Pollard said “to those on the Left, Iain Duncan Smith is a bogeyman.”
“He [IDS] is portrayed as some kind of lunatic Right-winger who enjoys nothing more than stamping on the poor. But the caricature, along with the premise of yesterday’s Fabian report, says far more about those who make the attacks than they do about IDS.” What the “attacks” on IDS say is that his critics have qualities he lacks: Humanity, generosity and a sense of society.
Pollard continued with the deceptive analysis favoured by the economically hard-right. This included the familiar false claims that many people prefer to be on benefits and that enough available jobs is insufficient to reduce unemployment. He noted that the number of people claiming benefit had reduced but failed to mention that many were in zero-hours jobs or sub-minimum wage jobs or had simply been sanctioned to starvation.
His disgusting analysis included all the usual vindictive and fraudulent presentations of arguments about unemployment that are popular with hard-right think-tanks and their puppet politicians including “dependency culture,” “cycle of dependency” and “it’s no longer an attractive or even feasible option to opt for a life on benefits.”
In Pollard on child benefit Pollard emphasised his contempt for people receiving benefits and reused the directional language mentioned above.
“Welfare has become, for many, not a helping hand in times of need – the help in need that almost everyone agrees we should offer to the vulnerable and those in temporary difficulties – but an alternative way of life. Welfare is thought of as an entitlement, so that those who choose not to work to support themselves can rely on the rest of us to pay their way. And that is not just financially reckless; it is morally reckless, promoting an entirely new and warped model for society itself.”
Pollard’s bigotry and dishonesty shone in a diatribe against child benefit. Child benefit, and its predecessor Family Allowance, has existed for decades. It is not a new benefit. Also, high earners benefit hugely from procreation via income tax cuts. But, Pollard choose to ignore those facts.
“We tell parents that the rest of us will simply hand over our hard-earned income to them every time they choose to have children. Now it’s certainly not for the state, or anyone else, to tell us how many children we should have. I have two, but it’s a matter for me and my wife if we want to have any more. But just as no one has the right to tell me how big my family can be, I equally don’t have the right to expect the rest of society to hand over cash to me if I decide to have more children. And that is doubly true if I am not even working, and am already living on benefits at the expense of the rest of society.”
Clearly, Pollard has no concept of society, or of humanity. “Capping child benefit is a modest change, that will save money and change behaviour,” he concluded. The change in behaviour that Pollard spoke of appears to be social eugenics.
Kissing Murdoch’s backside
Stephen Pollard is a big fan of media mogul Rupert Murdoch. In Pollard on Murdoch he said “the real Murdoch is a man who has done more to democratise news, sport and leisure than any of his opponents.” “Democratise?” That’s an odd way to describe something that is a product (Sky TV channels) that is bought.
He praised the two cheeks of the same ordure-packed backside, The Times and The Sun: “The Times, which Murdoch has for many years not merely propped up but lavished with care. And, yes, the Sun —sneeringly dismissed by bien pensants but a newspaper of genius in the way it presents stories with flair and accuracy.” “Accuracy?” Ask the families of the ninety-six victims of Hillsborough about The Sun’s “accuracy.”
Pollard’s hatred of trades’ unions’ ability to protect workers’ jobs and rights was displayed again: “It is ironic that one of the causes of the hatred for Murdoch is his role in breaking the print unions in the Wapping dispute. But their corrupt and damaging grip on Fleet Street had to be broken if newspapers were to have a future.”
Arms industry profits
Pollard backed Donald Trump’s assertion that some NATO members do not donate enough tax payers’ money to the arms industry. In Pollard on NATO he claimed to fear an imminent Russian military attack on a NATO member. He tried to justify his fear by mentioning the Novichok attack in Salisbury, which was aimed at British spy Sergei Skrypal, and he described the “annexation” of Crimea as “brutal.” It was the most non-brutal “annexation” in the history of the world.
Pollard’s brief historical analysis of the “cold war” and beyond was laughably stupid. “The Nato concept of an attack on one member being treated as an attack on every member was pivotal in keeping the Soviets at bay.” Firstly, a “Soviet” is a governing assembly not a person; secondly, the USSR invaded many countries between the dates of NATO’s creation and the demise of itself, and the members of NATO invaded many countries during that time. The exclusivity of NATO membership has always negated any claims it has had to being a force for good.
“Our feeble response to the invasion of Ukraine sent a bad enough message to Putin.” The conflict in Ukraine began due to interference from NATO members who encouraged a non-democratic change of government, which has led to a Ukrainian government full of far-right extremists.
Pollard had a particularly uninformed perspective on Eastern Europe: “Russia still smarts from the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and believes those countries that turned to freedom, such as Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia are naturally part of the Russian sphere of influence.” The Warsaw Pact’s relationship was with the USSR, not Russia. The countries Pollard named have no desire to be in a “Russian sphere of influence.” Like Sarah Palin and her Russian air force jets seen from Alaska, Pollard has confused geographical proximity with political interaction and listed some countries that he saw on a map close to Russia.
The depiction of Russian troops on the verge of driving across Europe and rocking up in Kent was a daft idea during the “cold war” and even dafter afterward, and was a very clumsy method to try to justify more taxes being handed to arms manufacturers.
Bad Bootle Meff
Pollard’s expertise in political prediction was glowing in his assessment of the electoral prospects of UKIP when Paul Nuttall was appointed leader in 2016. In Pollard on Meff he gushed that “the announcement of Ukip’s new leader could turn British politics on its head in ways that will make even that mad fortnight after the referendum look positively dull. The real threat Ukip poses is to Labour. If Paul Nuttall plays his cards right – and the evidence of his campaign is that he knows exactly what to do – Ukip could be the final nail in Labour’s coffin.”
He justified his theory by insulting working-class people who Pollard believes would be easily led by UKIP’s dishonest rhetoric and by its xenophobic rabble-rousing. (To be fair to Pollard, many centrists in the media made the same stupid predictions about Nuttall.)
Pollard took his analysis of what he claimed was Labour’s demise further from reality.
Fidel Castro was mentioned: “Nothing better illustrates the parallel universe in which they live than the reaction to the death of Fidel Castro. Most normal people can see that he was a monster who locked up and murdered his opponents and impoverished his country.”
Immigration: “Labour leader believes that any cap on immigration numbers is racist.”
Defence: “And on defence, not only does he [Corbyn] want to ditch Trident, his – and his allies’ – sympathies lie with all the West’s key enemies.”
These bizarre Farageist utterances from Pollard were pitched as a reason for his perception of Labour losing the working class vote. More accurately, they were propaganda comments designed to fool people.
The article ended with an acutely dishonest appraisal of Theresa May’s political stance and her intent. “Lazy commentators have peddled the line that the Tories have tacked to the right under Mrs May. The opposite has happened. She wants to move the Conservatives towards becoming a more continental-style Christian Democrat party.” That’s the same Tory party that has conducted a campaign of Social Murder, particularly at people with disabilities, and is systematically destroying the NHS.
Direct criticism of Corbyn and his colleagues
Pollard has attacked Jeremy Corbyn and other members of Labour’s leadership team often. A year ago in Extreme Corbyn Pollard said “Mr Corbyn is electorally toxic because he is by far the most extreme leader any mainstream party has ever put forward as a potential prime minister.” The general election later last year disproved that assertion.
Pollard revisited a recurrent theme of his which is to attack socialism and communism as ideologies. His abject ignorance provided no barrier to an opinion. “We sometimes need to remind ourselves that communists are not pie-in-the sky idealists but proponents of an ideology that leads to mass slaughter and the destruction of freedom and democracy” was followed by a comparison of Hugo Chavez (not a communist) to Idi Amin. Chavez was mentioned because Corbyn has applauded some of his actions.
“He [Corbyn] hero-worships tyrants and proudly proclaims his friendship with terrorists. It is no wonder that Labour is now on course to electoral oblivion.” Similar fraudulent claims were rammed down the throats of the readers of all the right-wing rags during last year’s election, with no adverse effect for Labour.
Pollard’s hates socialism. This ensures that he is opposed to Corbyn. Pollard wants everyone else to follow his line of (un)reasoning. But, rather than prove an argument, he assumes he is correct and states that everyone agrees with him, rendering proof unnecessary. It is Lewis Carroll logic. “As the election [GE 2017] campaign progresses, Labour’s current dire poll figures are likely to be a ceiling, not a floor. When voters are exposed to Mr Corbyn’s views they will recoil in horror.” “Recoil?” Because Corbyn quite liked Chavez?
In Unpatriotic Corbyn Pollard opened with “it has become a cliché to say that Jeremy Corbyn is not fit to be the leader of the Labour Party, but it’s worse than that. He is barely fit to be an MP. Corbyn doesn’t just hate America, Nato and the West. He appears to hate Britain itself. Every one of his foreign policy positions involves supporting our enemies and attacking our friends.” “Our enemies” and “our friends?” It is an indictment of Pollard’s outlook on life that he sees the world divided between enemies and friends with direct correlation to nationality. He tried to justify his opinion on Corbyn by objecting to the latter’s view that international law and human rights should have a role in warfare.
“When Putin invaded Ukraine last year, he was not demonstrating Russian imperialism but acting defensively against US and Nato provocation, says Corbyn.” Did Corbyn say that? Did he try to offer a balanced objective intelligent analysis rather than just taking sides? Pollard demanded complete subservience to a particular directional opinion, or else be branded as unpatriotic and biased against ‘the West.’
“The point is that in the Corbyn world view, any enemy of the West is worthy of support. Any ally is opposed.” Clearly, that isn’t true. What is true is that Pollard uttered such stupidity as a response to some opposition to actions by Britain and NATO. Deliberate raving blind support is what Pollard demanded.
At the end of the article there was a box that highlighted some of Labour’s positive manifesto pledges. Everything there seemed very reasonable. It would be fair to assume the box was not inserted by Pollard because, if he had inserted it, then he would have looked even more ignorant and illogical.
In McDonnell the revolutionary Pollard got confused between replacing capitalism and ending democracy. He noted that John McDonnell had said, more than once, that he would like to replace capitalism with socialism but Pollard appeared to think that such a scenario would mean the end of democracy. He tried to justify that abstract jump in logic by mentioning McDonnell’s support for the government of Venezuela. But, Venezuela is not a communist country, it is a democratic country with a socialist government. As noted earlier, Pollard never lets facts derail his train of thoughtlessness.
Stephen Pollard’s political position is hard-right economic libertarian similar to the Tea Party in the USA, the current Australian government, Dan Hannan, Iain Duncan Smith, Priti Patel, Jacob Rees-Mogg and a variety of right-wing think tanks – Adam Smith Institute, Tax-Payers’ Alliance, Institute of Economic Affairs, Centre for Policy Studies, etc.
He is opposed to the NHS and to workers’ rights, he supports fully the Tory government’s policy of Social Murder and he is keen to finance the arms industry. His hatred of socialism throbs. He has no concept of what a public service is and he has no concept of society.
His political analysis is ignorant, illogical, dishonest and petulant. He is a very poor writer and is as thick as mince.
It is no surprise that he is very fearful of the possibility of a left-leaning Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn because such a government would enact policies that are diametrically opposed to Pollard’s demands.
In December 2017 Paul Bew concocted and published a report under instruction from the government with the intent of preparing the groundwork for an extreme attack on democracy. Presented as response to “intimidation of MPs” one of the suggestions in the Bew Report was that people who opposed the government could be barred from voting in elections in Britain.
“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.” (p 60, section: Electoral Law)
On the following page Bew said
“The government should consult on the introduction of a new offence in electoral law of intimidating Parliamentary candidates and party campaigners.” (p 61, box)
That “consultation” has just begun.
Tory Minister for the ConstitutionChloe Smith, MP for Norwich North, quoted in a BBC report, said “intimidation was putting talented people off standing for election,” and “the measures being consulted on would protect voters, candidates and campaigners so they can make their choice at the ballot box or stand for public service without fear of being victims of misinformation or abuse.”
The BBC report also claimed that a Cabinet Office spokeswoman said the length of the ban on convicted “abusers” standing for or holding public office would be a part of the consultation.
To clarify, the Tory proposals are:
Stop political opponents and critics from voting
Stop political opponents and critics from standing in elections against the Tories
That was always the intent of the Bew Report and of preceding debates in parliament on “intimidation of MPs.”
A consequence of the introduction of laws to enact the above proposals would be a significant fall in the volume and the intensity of criticism of Tory acts, statements and policies. Of course, that diminution of criticism and inspection is precisely what the Tories are aiming for. Threats of being barred from voting or from standing for office is sufficient to attain the reduction in accountability that the Tories want and need.
This is not the first time that the Tories have sought to greatly reduce inspection of their behaviour, particularly during election campaigns. They created the infamous gagging law to stop charities revealing the savage effects of Tory policy.
It is also not the first time that the Tories have sought to restrict voting. They intend to expand voter suppression trialled in this year’s council elections.
The Tories claim that their proposed changes to the law are a response to “intimidation of MPs.” But, analysis of the Bew Report and analysis of the debates in parliament about such “intimidation” show that the justification for any changes to the law is manufactured and contrived:
After publication the Bew Report did not get much attention. Understandably, a long-winded repetitive government report is not an appealing read. But, the proposed attacks on democracy and on the ability to examine, criticise and hold to account the government are deeply disturbing and need to be understood in their intent and their consequences.
(Chloe Smith has form. Earlier this year she pressed criminal charges against a disabled constituent who had criticised the government’s persistent attacks on people with disabilities.)
In political discourse certain words and their definitions are mini soundbites. They are hooks onto which an argument can be attached and they are guides to direct the perspective of the opponent or the observer.
New words and new meanings for existing words acquire a majority consensus for their respective definitions quickly which are difficult to alter. Many of these definitions are specifically designed to hide or to distort.
For example, “alt-right” was invented as a tool to humanise and to downplay extreme-right racists, “populist” was given a new definition that sought to obscure the extreme-right nature of the politics to which the word is applied, “gig economy” was invented as a jaunty neutral description of low paid, insecure, unsafe, unregulated employment with no statutory rights, and “moderate” was given a new political definition that sought to describe nothingness as a viable entity while simultaneously implying anything else was immoderate.
There has been a recent fightback against new definitions being dominated by the right or the centre. “Centrist dad,” “melt” and “gammon” have attained popularity alongside old favourite “Blairite” and its neighbour “bitterite.”
It is vital that socialists continue to try to direct the definitions of politically charged words and phrases and eschew others’ definitions.
Also, it is important to replace directional words or phrases with alternatives, with exactly the same meaning, in order to change subtlythe emphasis of the description.
An example of positive word replacement is to use “unprivatise” as an alternative to “renationalise.” The words mean exactly the same but they can direct the listener or reader in different ways. “Renationalise“ emphasises the act of a state taking control of a service forcefully and, thus, could be perceived negatively whereas “unprivatise” emphasises the removal of something and helps to posit the thing to be removed as negative. “Unprivatise a public service” is a much more positive sounding action than “renationalise a private business” and it is a much more accurate description of the action.
When a socialist party becomes the government in Britain it will face obstructions to its aims. These will include actions by High Court and Supreme Court, decisions by unelected quangos and procedural restrictions in parliament. The deceptive phrase normally used for these obstructions is “check and balances” which depicts them as positive and harmless and also implies that an elected government cannot be trusted to govern without higher (unelected) powers interfering. A better phrase to use to describe the obstructions is “legacy obstacles.” This phrase highlights the obstructive nature of the non-democratic bodies and emphasises their historical nature, and, thus, implies that they are removable.
One of the most successful phrase replacements in modern British politics was “poll tax” replacing “community charge.” This simple substitution helped to force changes to the tax and showed how powerful ownership of words is.