Unherd: A herd of the already heard, all too often

(Website: Unherd)

UnHerd.com is a new media platform with a double mission. We aim to appeal to people who instinctively refuse to follow the herd and also want to investigate ‘unheard’ ideas, individuals and communities.

It would be an extremely peculiar predilection to wander the streets gathering a variety a dog excrement remains, displaying them to the public neatly arranged and declaring the presentation not only as art but as a seminal piece that portends a new exciting art movement.  Equally, it would absurdist to handpick the most predictable quantity-over-quality professional trolls and self-appointed opinion-deliverers, who occupy the range of political perspectives from right-of-centre to a bit more right-of-centre, provide yet another vehicle for them to spout their non-didactic drivel and announce that a new platform for disseminating ideas has been gifted to humanity.  Perhaps, some artist, somewhere, at some time, has created art similar to the aforesaid faeces manipulation – I am not an art historian and have no desire to be one; what is certain is that someone, namely right-wing think-tank veteran Tim Montgomerie, has inflicted further bouts of spontaneous lobotomies with the creation of Unherd.

Montgomerie describes the purpose of Unherd here: Introducing UnHerd.  It is clear from his description that it doesn’t offer anything that doesn’t already exist in abundance.  There is no shortage of possibilities online for anyone with an opinion, or even with useful information and analysis, to speak to the world.  Indeed, some of the blogs, vlogs, facebook accounts, periscoping, etc. are often much better and fuller sources of news and/or more rounded analyses that most of the professional output and Montgomerie knows this.  He knows that his description of UnHerd’s aims is about ten years late.  He knows that his use of both ‘unherd’ and ‘unheard’ is the opposite of what UnHerd offers: The invited columnists‘ list is as bland and as predictable as the comedy of Dec and Ant and is definitely not a gathering of the ‘unheard’ – centrist sniping of Bloodworth, far-right new colonialism of Douglas Murray, a few MPs and MSPs self-promoting – and a ‘herd’ (or a less polite collective noun like ‘stench’) would be apt for this group.   Unherd is, indubitably, ‘heard’ and a ‘herd.’

In Montgomerie’s introduction he states one of Unherd’s topics will be “making capitalism work for the many.”  It is undeniable that he doesn’t mean the same as Jeremy Corbyn’s slogan “for the many.”  Montgomorie and his fellow opinionators know that capitalism is, by invention and by use, designed to work for the few and, thus, the phrase quoted above espouses the intrinsic dishonesty at the heart of Unherd’s ethos. 

What is the point of Unherd?  
It is just another label that can be used by the contributors (and Unherd’s financial backers) to con the media into giving yet more opportunities for the same tired old confidence trickster opinions to be broadcast.  That is it. 

HerdOfSheep

Unherd: A herd of the already heard, all too often

Murder or Social Murder? Grenfell, disability benefit cuts and NHS destruction

FriedrichEngels

Communist revolutionary Friedrich Engels’ ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’ described working class lives and working conditions in industry in the early to mid-nineteenth century.  His description included analysis of causes and consequences of the state of people’s lives.  He elucidated the political causes in the context of propertied class versus working class and exposed the aims of the former and its relentless exploitation of the latter.  

In the final chapter, Results – a description of typical daily lives of people living in towns and cities, Engels posited the hardships of such lives not only as a direct and inevitable consequence of capitalist methodology but also as the result of deliberate policy.

But when society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life, places them under conditions in which they cannot live – forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence – knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which does not seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission. But murder it remains.

He devised the charge ‘Social Murder.’

I have now to prove that society in England daily and hourly commits what the working-men’s organs, with perfect correctness, characterise as social murder, that it has placed the workers under conditions in which they can neither retain health nor live long; that it undermines the vital force of these workers gradually, little by little, and so hurries them to the grave before their time. I have further to prove that society knows how injurious such conditions are to the health and the life of the workers, and yet does nothing to improve these conditions. That it knows the consequences of its deeds; that its act is, therefore, not mere manslaughter, but murder, I shall have proved, when I cite official documents, reports of Parliament and of the Government, in substantiation of my charge.”

(The remainder of the chapter provided the proof that Engels claimed.)

Social Murder is a necessary facet of capitalist and imperialist exploitation.  Without the continuous presence of this crime the exponential unearned profits for an elite would decline.  Clearly, the fightback by the people had achieved apparent diminished prevalence of Social Murder since the mid-nineteenth century but this reduction is illusory: The criminal acts just moved to other countries through the use of first colonialist imperialism and later economic imperialism.

In Britain from 1945 to 2010 there had been a steady (though occasionally stalled) attempt to remove Social Murder via creation of and continuous improvement of the NHS, extensive social housing building (until 1979) and laws to protect workers and tenants.  In the three decades immediately preceding 2010 the fight against Social Murder had been piecemeal with some retardation.  

Since 2010 a reversal has occurred.  All the progress attained since 1945 is being destroyed rapidly.  Seven years of government from obedient servants of wealth terrorists, the former trained in inhumane and extreme anti-social elitism at some of the top private schools in Britain, has been a relentless single-minded violent destruction of anything that counters Social Murder.  The most destructive acts are the following.

The deliberate destruction of the NHS

Healthcare is a necessity.  Therefore, in a society without an NHS, healthcare is an enormous source of unearned income for the wealth terrorists via health insurance and direct payment, the latter often leading to a lifetime of debt for the patient; those who are too poor to afford adequate insurance and those with chronic illnesses are left to become more ill and die.  The current impasse in the USA regarding the president’s attempts to make changes to public healthcare is a debate between republicans about how best to exploit the ill for the benefit of the vulture health insurers.  In Britain, the two most recent Tory Health Ministers, Andrew Lansley and Jeremy Hunt, have been well-schooled by health bandits from the USA in how to destroy the NHS and how best to prepare the UK healthcare system for exploitation.  Whilst maintaining a shameless unblinking presentation of lies the two health ministers have oversaw

  • NHS property and land given away to developers
  • Continuous arbitrary closures of hospitals, health centres and GP’s surgeries
  • Removal of bursaries for nursing students leading to a huge reduction in applicants
  • Deliberate over-working of doctors, accompanied by a campaign against legitimate concerns raised by junior doctors, with the intent of encouraging doctors to leave the NHS
  • Management of services, including ambulances, paramedics, cleaning staff, telephone services (including 999 calls) “outsourced” to made-up companies that have no interest in providing an adequate service and who subject their employees to overlong working hours and low pay
  • Introduction of “optional” payments to fast-track patient access to a doctor; those who are unable to pay are shunted to the back of the queue

The above and other tactics are part of the strategy to destroy the NHS.  Its destruction has been narrated by ghouls who repeat the mantra: “Look how bad the NHS is performing.  It needs to be replaced.”  

The removal of the NHS is a deliberate social policy that views ill people as commodities or as burdens.  The former are fleeced and the latter are left to die.  Healthcare insurers and financial vultures profiteer.  Clear Social Murder.

Vicious campaign against people with disabilities

Even for the expert money-grabbers in the wealth terrorism industry there is no profit to be made out of a person with a disability or chronic illness that severely inhibits their ability to work.  Tories view disabled people as a cost in healthcare, welfare and housing with no financial return.  The ethos of the conservative mind cannot accept that it is appropriate to provide support for someone without there also being an unearned profit for the wealth pillagers.  Thus, since their return to government in 2010, the Tories have been engaged in multi-layered attacks on people with disabilities and/or chronic debilitating illnesses.  Basic financial support, access to housing and life-dependent healthcare have all been slashed in quantity and in quality including the following.

‘Fit For Work’ tests
The dehumanising and incompetent ‘fit for work’ tests are imposed by the DWP on anyone claiming any disability benefit.  Conducted by poorly trained unsuitable personnel the monitoring of the tests is designed so that almost every person forced to take part will be declared fit for work.  As soon as such a judgement is passed, benefit related to disability stops and the participant must begin to look for work and make a claim for unemployment benefits.  

If someone is too ill to attend or their disability makes attendance impossible then that person has all their benefits removed.  The appeals procedure to challenge ‘fit for work’ decisions is designed to fail – staff are given bonuses for failing an appeal – and takes months which is too long for many people, and the appeals procedure against benefit sanctioning does not exist.  Doctors have been coerced into charging exorbitant fees for medical letters of support for someone attending a ‘fit for work’ test or who is unable to attend one.  

Many have received a demand to attend such a test or a notification of benefit sanction due to non-attendance while they lay on their death-bed suffering from a terminal illness.  Attendees have exasperated their illnesses by taking part in a ‘fit for work’ test when not well enough to do so.  Some people have had to be rushed to hospital after becoming severely ill at a test and subsequently had their benefits sanctioned due to abandoning the test.

The devastating consequences of the ‘fit for work’ tests and the accompanying conduct by decision-making DWP staff are eviction, destitution, illness relapse and death.  Thousands of deaths.  Deaths caused by attending tests when not fit to attend, deaths caused by removal of vital financial support including people unable to purchase necessary medication and some people starving after benefit sanctions, deaths as a consequence of eviction and deaths caused by taking on jobs when not well enough to do so.

Bedroom Tax
The bedroom tax, a partial removal of housing benefit if a residence has what is arbitrarily deemed to be an extra room or rooms, has particularly affected people with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses because, often, a residence has been adapted to assist with the specific needs of the resident.  Thus, moving to a smaller property has been impossible for many disabled people and, therefore, their financial support is reduced causing hardship, affecting health and leading to eviction.

Removal of disability vehicles
Many disabled people have had their vehicles removed.  Mobility scooters and specially adapted cars have been taken from people.  The senselessness of the snatching of these vehicles is palpable: Most of the cars are specifically adapted for one person and are not easily transferable to someone else.  Some people have had to abandon work because of the removal of their vehicles.  It is a policy that appears to have been enacted purely out of spite.

None of the government’s assaults on the lives and livelihoods of people with disabilities “saves” any money for the tax payers.  Driven by warped extreme ideology that had been created in anti-human think-tanks Centre For Social JusticeInstitute of Economic AffairsAdam Smith Institute and others, the Tory targetting of disabled people started as the typically right-wing strategy of dividing the public by trying to cast some people as an enemy to be got at.  This strategy morphed quickly into a many-headed relentless attack that served no logical purpose and continues because the Tories hate to admit bad judgement and because they are unwilling to perceive the deaths and broken livelihoods as problematic.  “That it knows the consequences of its deeds; that its act is, therefore, not mere manslaughter, but murder” explained Engels.

Grenfell Tower fire

The causes of the rapid spread of the fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington, London and the reasons for a high death toll are clear:  

  • Reckless management of fire safety at Grenfell by various incompetent contractors hired by an indifferent council that led to flammable cladding attached to outside of building, no fire alarms and insufficient fire escape plans
  • Contempt by Kensington and Chelsea Council toward hundreds of legitimate concerns raised by Grenfell tenants over several years regarding fire safety including threats of legal action by the council against tenants to force complainants to remove publicly accessible documents that described fire safety issues
  • Pyre of health and safety regulations and concomitant legal obligations for property owners and businesses since 2010
  • Devastating cuts to fire service (personnel, equipment and stations) in London by former mayor Boris Johnson

All of the causes of the fire were created by the same ideology and the same intent.  The ideology is that everything and everybody exists as means to help service the profits of the wealth terrorists.  Vital fire stations are, in the eyes of Eton-educated buffoon Johnson, property to be handed over; from the perspective of exploitative businesses and property owners, health and safety regulations are an obstacle to maximising profit; social housing is taking up space that could be used by luxury property developers; social tenants are not only in the way of said developers and profiteers but also less likely to vote Tory: In the first of this year’s general elections Labour’s Emma Coad won the Kensington parliamentary seat from the Tories with a majority of just twenty, a number much lower than the number of people who later died in Grenfell Tower.

The behaviour of Kensington and Chelsea council since the fire has combined indifference, incompetence, contempt and abuse.  It has failed abjectly to provide adequate assistance to displaced residents, it has restricted access for victims and media to attend public council meetings, councillors have abused survivors on social media and the council has tried to “rehouse” survivors outside the borough, presumably with that aforesaid constituency majority of twenty in mind.  The Tory government’s response has been cursory and distant and it purposefully chose an entirely inappropriate judge to lead an “inquiry.”  Nothing said or done by the government or the council since the fire suggests that either is willing to perceive culpability and, disturbingly, the Grenfell fire hasn’t surprised or shocked them.  The lack of surprise at such a horrific incident reveals knowledge that reckless administration can have, and is very likely to have, awful consequences.  That is a difference between manslaughter and murder.  “That it knows the consequences of its deeds; that its act is, therefore, not mere manslaughter, but murder.

Murder or Social Murder

Engel’s description of Social Murder remains applicable 170 years later.  Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell used the description in reference to the Grenfell Tower fire.  McDonnell is not a communist but one doesn’t need to be to see the clarity and accuracy of Engel’s phrase.  For Grenfell, for the destruction of the NHS and for the constant assault on the lives and livelihoods of disabled people, it is necessary only to consider whether the acts are Social Murder or murder.

SocialMurderSuspects
Assassins laughing: Iain Duncan-Smith (ex DWP), Theresa May, health secretary Jeremy Hunt
Murder or Social Murder? Grenfell, disability benefit cuts and NHS destruction

Tories and campaign abuse

One of the Tories’ little helpers, Telegraph hack Ben Riley-Smith, cobbled together a few half-backed complaints by Tory MPs about abuse they received while campaigning prior to the first of this year’s general elections.  Riley-Smith’s piece is here: Abuse at Tories.  (It’s a ‘Premium’ article requiring payment to see all of it, but the first two paragraphs are visible and they set the gormless tone adequately.  The MPs’ quotes from Riley-Smith’s piece appear in a similar article on the Independent website: Indy on abuse at Tories.)

The complaints are lightweight: Abuse and idle threats on social media, a few angry shouted comments in the street and the odd face-in-face moment.  None of the incidents described are unusual and they are not a new phenomena.  Politicians from all parties have similar encounters.  

The co-ordinated whingeathon from a few backbench Tories is partly motivated by their respective self-promotions but its main purpose is to continue smearing opponents.  This smear tactic is doomed to fail because

  • All the smears from the right are transparent in motive and intent
  • The examples of ‘abuse’ are flimsy and unremarkable
  • Abuse aimed at Tories is often met with observational indifference or even support 

The transparency of the methodologies of the anti-socialists has become obvious – Transparent politicians and media.  We can see right through the pantomime behaviour by the backbench Tories as they whinged about abuse.  

Johnny-Mercer-MP
Smug, petulant Tory twitter troll Johnny Mercer MP

One culprit, Johnny Mercer (pictured above), like many fellow Tory backbenchers, has enjoyed winding people up by being deliberately provocative and offensive on twitter and, so, any complaint from him is laughable and treated with the contempt it deserves; another, Sheryl Murray, who had praised the need for foodbanks, chose to confuse parliamentary protocol with twitter terms and conditions when she objected to non-constituents tweeting her regarding her political views and actions;

SherylMurrayTweets

a third, Nigel Evans, got all flustered because he was called a terrorist and child murderer – presumably a reference to the Tory government’s use of the British military to support Saudi Arabia’s carpet bombing of Yemeni civilians.  Evans declared that the description aimed at him was a “new low in campaigning.”  Perhaps, Evans had momentarily forgotten the constant deluge of libel, smears and abuse hurled at Corbyn, McDonnell and Abbott by the Tories’ friends in the right-wing media during the election campaign, or Evans may have just been play-acting in the usual Tory pantomime infested with fraud, deceit, lies and misdirection.  Byron Davies, who was kicked out on his backside by the voters of Gower in June’s general election, is using his newly acquired spare time as an opportunity to rant incoherently on twitter about “vile” Labour party supporters being rude to Tories.  A caricature of a parody of a satire about Mr. Angry of Gower: Byron Davies proclaims.

clowns2
Tories concocting another smear

Of course, Tory MPs always treat people with civility and respect do they not?  No, they don’t.  This twitter thread from Evolve Politic’s Matt Turner lists a few examples: Tories with a cob on.

Why abuse a Tory?

Abuse, even short bursts of anger, normally has some logic behind its use.  A reason exists, from the perpetrator’s perspective, to utter or type a vitriolic remark often intentionally rude and unpleasant.  The reason could be valid or not and the step from anger to act could be instantaneous or planned carefully.  Such behaviour is not abnormal; it combines beastly rage with cerebral logic which are both aspects of human psyche.  (Recommended reading; ‘Man, Beast, Zombie’ by Kenan Malik.)

Angry abuse directed at Tories must have some logic behind it.  What could that be?  Let’s have a damn good think about that.

Albert Einstein

In other news, entirely unrelated to reasons to abuse a Tory, here is a short sample list of what Tories are up to

  • Vicious targetted cuts to financial support for people with disabilities leading to destitution, homelessness, illness and death
  • Deliberate reduction in quantity and quality of service provided by the NHS as a tool to destroy the NHS and replace with private healthcare
  • Replacement of state education system with academies whose purpose is to  provide unearned income to owners of academies with accompanying decline in education standards
  • Reduction in quality and quantity of fire service, a factor in the death toll at the Grenfell Tower fire
  • Reckless removal of health and safety regulation to increase business and property owner profits, a factor in the death toll at the Grenfell Tower fire
  • Removal of workers’ rights re. working hours, minimum hourly pay, holiday entitlements and health and safety issues
  • Selective financial assistance to councils that acutely favours Tory councils leading to removal of vital services in non-Tory-controlled areas
  • Reduction in corporation tax and other taxes that favours the wealthy
  • Acquiescence with multi-billion pound tax-dodging, a practice used by most Tory MPs and their families, and enabled by the prime minister’s husband Philip May
  • Military assistance for Saudi Arabia to carpet bomb Yemeni civilians, hospitals and schools
  • Military sales to Turkey, a country where opposition politicians, journalists and teachers are being jailed in their thousands
  • The recurring theme whereby contracts for public projects are awarded to businesses in which Tory MPs have a financial interest
  • Laughter by Tory MPs in the House of Commons whenever opposition MPs describe the lives of people who are suffering under the Tory boot
  • Petulance
  • Deceit
  • Fraud
  • Theft
  • Corruption
  • Relentless lies
  • The fact that, by definition, every Tory MP is a fully paid gimp of financial terrorists

Given what the Tories are up to every day, given what the intrinsic priorities are of the Tory party: A method for channelling as much public money (taxes) into the grubby hands of a few tax-dodging international criminals, given the party’s use of division and imbued prejudice to distract people, given the absolute lack of any interest in social responsibility or humanity (except as an electoral con trick) and given the nasty and unpleasant demeanor of every Tory MP then it is astonishing that the millions who are adversely affected by the Tories’ acts are able to maintain their civility and composure.

The Tory whingers and their enablers in the media can sod off.

Tories and campaign abuse

Countryside Alliance

FoxHunter

(Website: Countryside Alliance)

“Our vision is a future for the countryside which both preserves its traditional values and promotes a thriving rural community and economy.”

The Countryside Alliance (CA) is a conservative political lobby group that protects the financial interests of corporate landowners of the British countryside, many of whom are the absentee offshore type.  The CA’s main activity is to coerce the government into using tax-payers’ money to enhance the profits of these landowners.  

Money grabbers
Examples of the aforesaid coercion are in the CA’s Rural Charter 2017, a document that outlines the CA’s wish list in a post Brexit UK.  The quotes below are taken from this document.

The CA demands “incentives for landowners to make land available for affordable housing in rural communities.”  That is, the CA wants tax-payers’ money to be handed over to non-contributing owners of unused land (in addition to the cost of buying or leasing the land) in exchange for the owners allowing people to have somewhere to live.  

The CA wants the government to “ensure that [post Brexit] UK farmers and producers continue to have access to the EU labour market, which may include the reintroduction of a Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme.”  This is a demand for UK government intervention (that is, tax-payers’ money) to be used to subsidise what is already cheap labour to maximise the profits of landowners.

The hunting industry is a significant source of income for the rural landowners.  The CA wants the government to maintain “tariff-free and frictionless trade with the EU in firearms, ammunition and game meat, and ensure that those travelling to or from Europe to take part in country sports face no additional bureaucracy or costs.”  Again, the CA wants preferential post Brexit access to the EU for an issue that affects the income of rural landowners; such post-Brexit access would be attained via negotiation between UK government and the EU with inevitable costs to the UK tax-payers.

Animal welfare?
The CA congratulates itself repeatedly as a defender of animal welfare.  This onanistic back-slapping is at odds with its posture toward the RSPCA: Countryside Alliance attacks RSPCA.

Fox hunting with hounds is fully supported by the CA, including the use of violent mercenary thugs to prevent animal welfare activists from monitoring the hunts for illegality.

CA media appearances
Watch out for this pair on TV.

CAPeople
Liam Stokes and Tim Bonner

Links to brief descriptions of other right-wing think-tanks

Countryside Alliance

Adam Smith Institute

(Website: Adam Smith Institute)

“Independent, non-profit and non-partisan, we work to promote free market, neoliberal ideas through research, publishing, media outreach, and education. The Institute is today at the forefront of making the case for free markets and a free society in the United Kingdom.”

The Adam Smith Institute (ASI) is the marketing and public relations for the most inhumane and most destructive wealth terrorists.  Its objective is to promote extreme free-market annihilation of society for the benefit of a small minority of soulless financial gangsters.  Inevitably, this promotion is presented entirely dishonestly.

For the ASI, the state should exist solely as a tool used to channel taxes into the grubby hands of a few organised corporate criminals.  It is glibly proud of its vociferous support for the privatisation of vital public services in Thatcherite 1980s and beyond.  The intent of these ‘privatisations’ was to provide a steady source of income (taken from taxes) to financial crooks, preceded by a handover of public property, land and infrastructure.  The consequence for the public has been a steady decline in the extent and quality of the services and continuous unrestricted rise in the cost of the use of the services.  Gas, electricity, water and public transport are all now absurdly expensive and of poor quality.  The ‘owners’ continue to rake in unearned income.

ASI Policy

Current ASI policies express a desire to see a violent expansion of the mass theft of public services to further enhance the offshore stash of the wealth terrorists.

(Bullet points below in italics are quotes from ASI Policy)

Education:

  • Allow profit-making free schools to spur the creation of school chains that compete on quality and standards.
  • Give parents the option of a voucher-like bursary so they can send their children to an independent school if they wish.
  • Scrap the national curriculum and allow schools to experiment with different subjects and approaches to teaching.

How does a fee-less school become “profit-making?”  What would happen if all parents wanted to send their children to independent schools via the use of a “voucher-like bursary?”  Clearly, neither question can be answered within the realms of logic.  A cursory glance between the lines of the ASI bullet points above reveals the aims of an expansion of fee-paying schools and of an expansion of the taxes drain into the hands of privateers.  The third bullet point is an admission that the quality and usefulness of education is irrelevant to these scoundrels.

Welfare:

In a section entitled “free market welfare” ASI supports

  • Favour simple cash payments to people dependent on income, not whether someone is in work or not and not dependent on where they live.
  • Welfare should subsidise work, not unemployment. Protect Working Tax Credits from cuts, and reform them to make them an automatic part of the PAYE system – they are the best form of welfare that we currently have.
  • Phase in a Negative Income Tax or Basic Income to replace most existing forms of welfare except disability benefits, and integrate into the tax system.
  • Scrap the National Living Wage and stop raising the National Minimum Wage. Low Pay Commission should instead advise on the optimal level of Negative Income Tax (or similar) payments.

The minimum wage is barely basic sustenance for many people.  Any reduction, by any circuitous means, is a vile attack on the lowest paid.  Working tax credits exist to allow disreputable businesses to receive public money to pay their employees rather than the businesses paying the workers sufficiently.  It is a free handout to the employers, not to the employees.  ‘Negative income tax’ is a scam whereby unemployment benefits paid to a claimant are repaid by a balancing of income tax paid at the end of the financial year; that is, the system is, effectively, a loan.  ASI favours a welfare benefit level that is independent of location, thus enabling further social cleansing of London.  The phrase “welfare should subsidise work, not unemployment” is simultaneously meaningless and sinister.

Healthcare

In a section entitled “healthcare competition” ASI supports

  • Abolish national pay bargaining in the NHS. Devolve pay negotiation and hiring powers to Trusts, and make patient outcomes the only goal. Increase private provision of care where appropriate.
  • Aim towards a Singaporean-style system of full private provision of healthcare paid for with a combination of private health savings accounts and catastrophic health insurance, with government covering costs for those who cannot pay for themselves.

ASI aim for a healthcare system where anyone with a serious chronic illness will be made destitute and where the vulture insurance companies will rake in the money for nothing.

Tax

  • Take the poorest workers out of tax altogether by pegging the personal allowance and National Insurance threshold to the National Minimum Wage rate.
  • Merge income tax and both employee and employer National Insurance contributions into a single system rate to boost transparency.
  • Abolish all taxes on capital and transactions, such as corporation tax, capital gains tax and stamp duty.
  • Broaden the VAT base and consider replacing income tax with a progressive consumption tax, so savings are not taxed.
  • Reform business rates and council tax into a pure Land Value Tax on unimproved land values so that capital investment is not taxed.

At present, people being paid the national minimum wage are below the tax threshold and, so, the first bullet point above is entirely meaningless and a con.  The second point suggests that employers’ National Insurance contributions should disappear.  The clarity of ASI’s objectives is seen in the remaining points: Higher tax for the poorest (VAT) and huge tax deductions for the wealthiest (abolition of capital gains tax, corporation tax, financial transaction tax and reduction of council tax.)  It is promotion of blatant theft; it is a sales pitch for wealth terrorism.

ASI Salespersons

The think-tanks that promote extreme free-market ideologies tend to use similar techniques when presenting their pitches: Their salespersons adopt the demeanour, language and phraseology of academic experts.  This act is a facet of the confidence trick.  The ASI has a different strategy: Truculent slappable fratboys.  Nurtured vileness adorned by an assassin’s smirk.  

ASIStaff
Philip Salter, Ben Southwood, Sam Bowman and Matthew Kilcoyne

Links to brief descriptions of other right-wing think-tanks

Adam Smith Institute

BBC News: Balance And Bias

JamesHardingBBCNews
Director of BBC News James Harding

Because it is not reliant on advertising or on subscriptions for income the BBC need not always pursue the popular option.  Therefore, it can offer a wider variety of TV and radio programmes than the commercial channels.  This is as true of news and current affairs programmes as it is of any entertainment show.  The BBC does not have to broadcast pseudo-debate garbage similar to Sky News’ ‘The Pledge’ and does not have to broadcast continuous angry bigot phone-ins similar to most of the output on commercial radio station LBC.  

The BBC could rely on intelligent, informative news and current affairs shows that explore a variety of perspectives and always seek to give a complete analysis rather than thrusting created controversy at the viewers and listeners.  It could choose relevant and intelligent participants over professional screaming heads and trolls.  It could choose quality over news-as-entertainment.  Sadly, BBC news and current affairs almost always choose the latter options.  

An example of the BBC evading intelligent discussion is the fact that the Question Time panel almost always has a fifth element drawn from the malodorous bag of professional right-wing think-tanks.  The think-tanks are agenda driven cons that eschew facts and present fallacious arguments to support extreme free-market ideologies.  

QuestionTimeConTanks
Tax-Payers’ Alliance, Centre For Policy Studies and CapX on Question Time

Question Time also prefers to give a platform to far-right screaming heads and professional trolls rather than to a guest with useful information or to a guest who is representative of the public on a particular issue.  Working-class activists are denied a voice.  The best the marginalised can expect is a pop star or a footballer.  

QuestionTimeRW
Far-right screaming heads on Question Time

On a programme like Question Time the invitation to a professional confidence trickster rather than a genuine representative voice is a consequence of both a desire for dumb (populist) entertainment and of an overwhelming infestation of bubble-dwelling establishment junkies among management and decision-makers.  BBC managers and producers marginalise spokespersons for the people.  The in-house normalisation of elite-only perspectives has become ingrained.  

Balance?

For news broadcasts, facts should always trump (no pun) opinions.  The confusion between facts and opinions should be left at Fox News.  Sadly, fact-checking – live or post-comment – has declined in quantity at the BBC.  Guests and interviewees, including politicians, know that they can spout a list of lies and inventions that will probably not be challenged.  It is the responsibility of the interviewer and their colleagues off camera to ensure that the lies are challenged immediately and the facts broadcast.  This responsibility is shirked because there is a culture at BBC News that chooses to not value accuracy and facts highly enough.  Facts are merely on a list of options to use.

The lack of challenge to a false statement is partly due to an obsession at the BBC that all opinions should be broadcast.  This is not ‘balance.’  An opinion that includes lies and/or is informed by lies is not a valid opinion.  Responsible broadcasting is the antithesis of letting everyone proclaim whatever garbled fraudulent tripe they want to.   Balance does not mean allowing any professional troll, any performing seal, to make a living out of deliberately dishonest anti-logical arguments with the intent of suffocating rational, informative discussion.

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Performing seal – library photo

Radio 4’s ‘Today’ show remains determined to eschew didactic analysis and instead focus on pie throwing.  No matter what topic an intelligent guest wishes to talk about, the production team will find a worthless pseudo-adversary to mount a dumb pointless rebuttal.  This is not balance.  It is an insult to the listeners.  For an example, see Graham Linehan’s (co-writer of Father Ted, among other shows) account of his experience: Linehan programme ambush.

At BBC News there is a deliberate misunderstanding of the meaning of and the structure of balance in a news programme.  The (possibly wilful) ignorance of the meaning of balance in broadcasting puts silly entertainment ahead of any attempt to inform the public and it denies a thorough investigation of the issue being discussed.

BBC biased?

BBC News has been accused of bias by many observers of varied political hues.  The most vociferous condemnations occurred during the first Scottish independence referendum campaign (accusations of anti-independence bias) and during the first UK general election this year (accusations of anti-Corbyn bias).  Although they are understandable observations the veracity of the bias described above is doubtful.  The bias that does exist is not specifically anti a particular political outlook or party.  The bias is an ingrained almost intrinsic partiality to support the establishment.  This continuity bias is an inevitable consequence of BBC News being rammed full of the trained protectors of the elite produced by the private school conveyor belt.

An interesting and gormlessly stupid residue of the BBC’s ignorance of true balance is its apparent sensitivity to accusations of bias aimed at it from the far-right.  The “left liberal elite” BBC cliché is a standard push-point howled by UKIP and others as a tool to try to re-position the BBC’s acceptance of where the middle-ground in the political spectrum lies.  The false nature of such accusations is obvious but BBC News chooses to use these complaints in its defence against accusations of bias directed at it from a left-of-centre perspective: “We are accused of bias from both left and right” is a common refrain used to dismiss genuine and lucid complaints.  This stance is lazy, dishonest and insulting.

BBC News is stuck

The BBC is criticised more than other broadcasters because it is publicly funded.  It is under constant pressure from right-wing media and the Murdoch broadcasting empire because they cannot control it.  The Tories’ ultimate objective is to destroy the BBC.  Thus, it is understandable if the BBC is fearful of being radical and challenging with its news output.

Years of selective recruitment have narrowed the range of perspectives in senior BBC positions.  Not only is there limited knowledge of which views on political issues need to be broadcast but there is also ignorance of this lack of knowledge: Unknown unknowns.

Local BBC news is less diminished by the aforesaid narrow range; there, recruitment has been focussed more on ability than on which school the applicant attended.  Conversely, at 5live, packed full of alumni of the best private schools, the news bulletins emit rhetoric that would sit comfortably in a Paul Dacre editorial.

BBC News is stuck in its current predicament.  It can change but the evolution won’t be smooth.

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The Sound Of Silence
BBC News: Balance And Bias

History repeats: Hillsborough, Grenfell

Very soon after the deaths of ninety-six people at Hillsborough it was clear what had happened and who was to blame: Incompetent policing prior to kick-off led to a crush followed by malicious policing later that prevented ambulances and medical personnel from entering the ground.  Everyone at the ground knew what had happened and the families of those who had died knew what had happened.  It was clear.  

Twenty-eight years later the guilty still refuse to admit culpability.  It took twenty-five years for any official inquiry to agree with the assertions made by the families of the dead.  Twenty-five years of cover-ups, misdirection, lies and false blame.  All of the cover-ups were, and are, deliberate.  Alongside the cover-ups and misdirection, there was blame thrown at the Liverpool fans by South Yorkshire police with the help of the far-right media, blame that some such police officers continue to repeat in order to protect their police pensions.

The cause of the deaths and injuries at Hillsborough was bad policing.  The ingrained attitude of the police was a consequence of the then Tory government’s contempt for working-class people.  The cover-ups, by police, FA and both Tory and Labour governments, were driven by an intrinsic desire to protect the reputation of the establishment and by ideologies that viewed the masses of the working-class as enemies.  People who have fought for justice over the last twenty-eight years have been variously ignored, vilified and patronised.  

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The look of contempt, Hillsborough to Grenfell

An unknown number of people died in the fire in the Grenfell tower block in Kensington; as many as two hundred people may have died.  

The cause of the rapid spread of the fire is known: Flammable cladding on the outside of the building.  

The reason that flammable cladding was used is known: Penny pinching by a reckless Tory council.  

The reason that the management contractors of the building were able to forego necessary fire safety features in the building is known: Removal of access to legal aid by the Tory government that prevented the tenants from mounting a legal challenge to the lack of fire safety features and removal of fire safety regulations by the Tory government.

The above is known.  It was already known: Tenants of Grenfell described the cause of the fire as soon as they left the building.  

The anger of the residents and family and friends of those who died existed before the fire.  The people knew that such a catastrophe was possible but their complaints were treated with disdain by Kensington and Chelsea council.  The council threatened legal action against Francis O’Connor from Grenfell Action Group, a tenants group that made numerous complaints to the council regarding fire safety all of which were ignored; the threat of legal action was an attempt to suppress a blog wherein Mr. O’Connor expressed concern about an impending catastrophe at Grenfell: Playing With Fire.  Details of the council’s legal threat are here: Kensington council letter.

The pull-back from necessary health and safety regulations that began with the Cameron/Clegg government has eaten away at basic protections for tenants, and occupants of other buildings such as schools.  The only reason such a pull-back has occurred is to further enhance the profits of private contractors and to reduce council tax bills for the wealthiest.  It is a step back from civilised society.  There is a good account and analysis of this pull-back here: Conservatives’ bonfire of red tape.

Families burnt to death is a direct consequence of a Tory council’s recklessness and of a Tory government’s focus on profit.  The abject lack of interest in the consequences of their reckless and profit-oriented actions is driven by the Tories’ contempt for the working-class and their complete detachment from society.  It is exactly the same separation between elite and people that created the attitudes that led to the Hillsborough crime.

Politicisation?

The fire at Grenfell Tower is a political event.  It is not a Labour versus Tory political event but it is a clear political event.  The causes of the fire and the ideology behind the causes are political ideologies, political attitudes and political decisions.  The blame lies with the politicians at Kensington Town Hall and with the current (and previous) occupants of Downing Street.

It is the politics of division, of elitism versus the masses, of contempt for the working-class.  It is the same destructive political ethos that led to Hillsborough.

Residents of Grenfell, families and friends of those who died and the neighbours in Kensington have not needed any outside influence for them to know that the fire is a political event and that what follows is also political.  The ineptitude of the council to provide adequate assistance to the displaced residents of Grenfell is political, the paltry funds (£5m) assigned by the government to help displaced residents is political and the absence, physically and verbally, of the prime minster and other senior ministers is political.  It is the politics of detachment, of elitism, of absolute lack of empathy.  It is symptomatic of how the Tories view the masses.

People are angry.  The anger is focussed on what needs to be done and it is focussed on who is to blame.  On Friday some people, including displaced residents and family and friends of the dead, protested at Kensington Town Hall.  The protest was a response both to the culpability of the council for the fire and to the wretched, arrogant behaviour of the council to the needs of those affected.  The reaction of Tories in the council, other Tories elsewhere in the country and their friends in the media was reminiscent of how the Tories and right-wing media reacted to complaints about Hillsborough.  

The words “mob” and “stormed” were used to describe the people entering the town hall, a public building.  A Kensington councillor, Andrew Lomas simultaneously libelled the protesters and invented a story about staff being fearful.

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That is, nasty defamatory and dishonest abuse aimed at displaced residents and families of bereaved from one of the councillors who shares responsibility for the fire and who shares responsibility for the absence of council help after the fire.  A clear snapshot of the arrogance of Tory attitudes toward working-class people.  

The Telegraph had a similar perspective.

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A theme in the above headline in the Telegraph is the invention of the outsider as provocateur.  This invention serves two purposes: It belittles the protesters by claiming outsider political activists are driving any actions taken and it denigrates the intent of people who want to support the protesters.  It is a standard form of misrepresentation that right-wing media and right-wing politicians use.  They want to try to limit support for people who are protesting and they want the victims to be passive.  

The ‘passive victim’ is a preference for the centrist media as well as the right-wing media.  The masses gathering to exercise their opposition scares the centre.  “Once anger is unleashed, it is hard to contain.  Once it is contained, however, it tends to stay that way, for a time at least,” says Deborah Orr in The Guardian – Unbridled Anger.  Her plea for everyone to be calm and passive while the overlords sort themselves out typifies liberal philosophy.  Since J. S. Mill this philosophy has been useful only for an elite few.  It is very insulting for observers to instruct victims how to behave, how to react, how to seek justice and how to protest.

Right-wing politicians and almost all of the media want depoliticised passive victims.  But, the Grenfell Tower fire is political in every aspect and the consequences of it are political.  The behaviour and words about Grenfell from the politicians in power are wholly political.  The motivation behind the media’s coverage is political.  What the establishment want, as always, is a one-way unfair fight: Hamfisted right-wing politics versus passive victims.

Hillsborough similarities

As well as the same elitism and division that led to Hillsborough being replicated with Grenfell – described above, there are other similarities between the two events.

Demonisation of protagonists started immediately.  It is a favourite method of the right-wing media.  Isolating individuals and slandering them is used to misdirect attention and to divide support.  

The Daily Mail published photos of a Grenfell resident in whose flat the paper claimed that the fire began.  Even if true, the fire in one flat is not responsible for the rapid spread of the fire – the cladding is.  This story in the Daily Mail exists to deflect blame from the culprits and to attach blame to a Grenfell resident.  Such a story is motivated exactly as Kelvin McKenzie’s infamous story in The Sun about Hillsborough was motivated.

The Telegraph focussed on one of the organisers of and speakers at the protest at Kensington Town Hall, Mustafa al-Mansur.  In Telegraph smear Martin Evans said “but he [al-Mansur] is also a slick political campaigner, a vocal supporter of Labour leader Mr Corbyn, whose brother stood in last week’s election as an independent candidate in east London.”  A slick political campaigner?  Evans elucidated the establishment’s fear that the victims might not agree to be passive and that they may fully understand the political nature of the fire at Grenfell.  “It emerged last night that Mr Mansur, who used to be spokesman for the Finsbury Park Mosque, had been arrested 10 years ago by the Metropolitan Police on suspicion of terrorism offences. He was released without charge,” proclaimed Evans.  Released without charge, ten years ago?  So, of absolutely no relevance other than to smear.  Martin Evans is channelling Kelvin McKenzie shamelessly.

The themes of the establishment response to the Grenfell fire were set straight away:

  • Protect the reputations and careers of the agents of authority – council and government
  • Demean protest via slander and misdirection
  • Invent culprits
  • Jump on any political solidarity while simultaneously being entirely political

The same themes informed the immediate establishment response to Hillsborough.

History repeats itself, unsurprisingly.

Transparent shenanigans

Twenty-eight years on it is much more difficult for cover-ups to succeed.  Today, the tactics, nuances and subtleties of the establishment shenanigans are transparent – Transparent politicians and transparent media are nearing extinction.  There is full knowledge of the motivations of the Tories and of their friends in the media.  Ignorance is receding.

Nothing scares the establishment more than an informed wise public.

History repeats: Hillsborough, Grenfell