Tories preparing to censor revolutionary politics: Bew Report

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.

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Paul Bew at Westminster

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.

The Seven Principles of Public Life (The Nolan Principles)

  1. Selflessness
  2. Integrity
  3. Objectivity
  4. Accountability
  5. Openness
  6. Honesty
  7. Leadership

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.   

  1. Bew claimed abuse of politicians is increasing.
  2. Bew claimed social media networks are not treating abuse by users of the networks seriously enough.
  3. Bew claimed politicians share some responsibility for not addressing abuse by their respective supporters.
  4. Bew claimed police have not dealt with online abuse sufficiently.
  5. 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,

AndrewLomasTweetGrenfell

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?

TheresaMayCrazyLaughing
Prime minister laughs at the victims of Tory destruction

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 74/5 in 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 swiftly from “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.

SmashRobots
Smash robots laugh heartily and derisively

The section on the law and social media was a repeated declaration of Bew’s opposition to the EU 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.

Albert Einstein

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 not be 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 ignored the 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 constantly and 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.

Links to related blogs
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Screaming Heads And Professional Trolls
BBC: Bias And Balance
Kuenssberg

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Tories preparing to censor revolutionary politics: Bew Report

6 thoughts on “Tories preparing to censor revolutionary politics: Bew Report

  1. […] In her speech May said the Government will launch a consultation to make intimidating parliamentary candidates and campaigners an offence under electoral law, with the loss of the right-to-vote as a possible consequence.  The intent to enact this disgusting attack on the right-to-vote was the reason Theresa May asked Lord Bew to concoct a review and report on ‘intimidation of MPs.’  Under instruction from May, the agenda-driven Bew Report was created with the specific purpose of creating false groundwork for the Tories to propose a law restricting the right-to-vote.  The report depicts social media activism as an evil to be crushed while totally exonerating mainstream media for any blame or wrongdoing: Analysis of Bew Report. […]

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