Friday 14 September 2018

Just a FEW things you might not know if you rely on mainstream media (MSM) PART THREE: political business as usual #LaboursVisionForBritain (and the world)

Just a FEW things you might not know if you rely on mainstream media (MSM) PART TWO: political business as usual #LaboursVisionForBritain (and the world)

The Official Opposition: business as usual – some examples  

1.  Where’s Jeremy Corbyn?

In a rare article focusing on what Jeremy Corbyn MP is actually doing and proposing in his vision for a country that works #forthemany Patrick Maguire writes:

Few political journalists spend much time in Corbyn’s other universe, as I did for a week last month. Hacks and Corbynsceptics at Westminster often ask: “Where’s Jeremy Corbyn?” It has become a rather lame running gag, but they are right to say he isn’t “on the pitch”, or, rather, their pitch. This summer, like the one before, and the one before that, Corbyn has been where he is happiest. On the road, in his favoured political universe. For Labour , this is precisely the point. It isn't the Corbyn of Westminster that will win them back Tory seats like Mansfield, they say - but the Corbyn on the road... 

And in a welcome break from the MSM problematisation, even at times (too many times) demonisation, of Mr Corbyn, and those of us that support him and UK Labour, Maguire continues: 

Corbyn's detractors privately deride his rallies as a symptom of a cult of personality. Their leader, they say, is preaching to the choir. His team sees is differently. Labour's institutional focus is no longer, as one puts it, "obsessing about what the deputy political editor of the Telegraph thinks" ... 

Waiting in the queue [at Stoke Stadium], I am struck by how profoundly ordinary it is. [my emphasis]

2. Some #SocialistPolicies

Yesterday I read a number of pieces reporting and reflecting on Diane Abbott MP’s speech on ‘Labour’s plans for a simpler, fairer migration system’. It was a wide ranging speech and I include just a little (from near the beginning and near the end) here:

A former Tory Prime Minister referred to migrants ‘swarming’ into this country. If you believe this rubbish, it’s little wonder the current Prime Minister calls for ‘deport first, and appeal later’. All of this is to cast migrants as a problem. Government Ministers then pledge to ‘deal with’ this problem, or at least limit it. We have had a net migration target in this country of “below ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND” since 2010. And it has never once been met.

Where did this target come from? What analysis was it based on? What study was made of the effects of achieving it, or not? No-one in Government can say. Or will say. This is not really a target at all. It is fake. It was plucked out of the air, without any evidence. It has never been met. The failure to meet it is blamed on others.... Its actual purpose is to allow permanent campaign against migrants and immigration in general…. When living standards have suffered the steepest fall since the 1930s, who should we blame? Those who crashed the economy and the Tories (and the Lib Dems) who imposed austerity to bail them out? Or the Government’s answer: Let’s have scapegoats, and blame those who had no responsibility for the economic crisis…

Instead, Labour begins from what is best for this country. As we have said many times, we will put prosperity and jobs first. To accept the immigrants we need, and those who are entitled to be here. To manage migration in a way that benefits us all.…

So, if you ask me, will there be more or fewer migrants? I can’t tell you this. Just as this Government can’t say how many migrants will come here even though they are foolishly and recklessly trying to control the numbers. They have damaged our economy and our public services in the process. And never even come close to the target. We will not do that. No plucking arbitrary numbers out of the air, failing to meet the target, and whipping up a panic when those targets are inevitably missed. 

The truth is this: Either you can have rational, evidence-based criteria for migration. Or you can have numerical targets. But you can’t have both…. Our aim is a just system, one that treats people fairly and humanely. A rational system, based on evidence. Above all it will be an immigration system that works for our society, for our economy, for the prosperity and well-being of all of us. It is an immigration policy in keeping with Labour values. It is for all businesses, all workers, for nurses not just for city traders. For the many, not the few.

In my reading I came across an article by Polly Toynbee which prompted me to write this letter to The Guardian (I don't expect they'll publish it):

In her piece on Labour’s plans and proposals  for a ‘simpler, fairer migration system’ Polly Toynbee writes: Here’s another symbolic moment of contrast between the erratic behaviour of the bedlam party in power and the gradual laying down of solid policies by Labour, even if no one is paying much attention. My response to this is to ask the mainstream media, and I include The Guardian in this, to take a long, hard look at itself. Given that @UKLabour received 40% of the vote in the 2017 general election and that the Labour Party is, as demonstrated not least by the membership figures, a political movement of political, sociological and historical interest and significance is it not a dereliction of duty to pay so little critical (in the broadest definition of the word) attention to the wide spread support for, and the policy developments of, said Party?

@UKLabour have been busy over the summer, and into the new parliamentary session, with (some) MPs speaking and retweeting about existing policies. Just a couple of examples here:

Dawn Butler on international development and social justice:

‘A World For the Many, Not the Few’ is a policy paper setting out the Labour Party’s vision for international development and plans for government….THE WORLD WE LIVE IN A world for the many, not the few, will be a fundamentally fairer one. What people need and want in the UK, people need and want everywhere: our needs, our rights and our struggles to achieve them are one and the same. Yet we face a global crisis.…

It is time for another, equally radical, ‘1997 moment’. The Labour Party stands ready to lead the transition to a fairer world. The singular mission of international development under Labour will be to build a world for the many, not the few. Labour will wholeheartedly back the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a progressive route to building that world. Labour will set a second twin objective for all international development work and spending: not only to reduce poverty but also, for the first time, to reduce inequality.

Angela Raynor on the National Education Service:

Children are growing up in an environment where every defence against poverty has been eroded by years of austerity. In November, the Social Mobility Commission concluded there is a “fracture line running deep through our labour and housing markets and our education system”. Our society is less equal, more divided. It’s no surprise that the commission then resigned, with the former chair saying that he had ‘little hope’ of the current government making the necessary progress to change the trends in social mobility. Ministers have taken over six months to replace him and even now the commission is not ready to start its work again….

Since 2010…  Well over a thousand Sure Start centres have been lost, with hundreds of millions cut from that programme and even more from wider services for young people. The National Education Union found that there are currently 4.1 million children in poverty, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies warning that this may rise to 5.2 million by 2022.

The next Labour government will need to implement long-term and long-lasting reforms to turn this around. The NHS, our greatest achievement in government, has survived because the public feel strongly about an institution that supports them from cradle-to-grave. The National Education Service, which was outlined in our manifesto last year, will hold the same position as the NHS as an institution of equality and fairness; free at the point of delivery, funded by fair taxation. Social mobility is crucial to the NES, too, that’s why we will invest £5.3bn in early years, which includes more money for Sure Start.

And  Jeremy Corbyn on media reform:  

@Jezza4_PM10 new policies from Labour to clean up UK journalism, including: •Replace Tory appointed BBC Board with an ELECTED BBC Board •Charitable status for Citizen Journalism •Tech Giant Tax to finance public interest journalism •Cut BBC Licence Fee for poorer homes #ChangeTheMedia

The National Union of Journalists’ response to this includes:

"As a trade union we would agree on the importance of empowering journalists to act ethically, increasing diversity and equality in the media, tackling the concentration of media ownership and power, and enabling media workers to have a louder voice in their own workplaces and on decision-making boards.

The NUJ is not affiliated to any political party but it is important that politicians recognise the vital role of independent public interest journalism, and the grave price that some journalists have paid with their lives for speaking truth to power. We hope this speech is just the start of a more detailed discussion about how to bring change to the media that benefits journalists, journalism and society as a whole."

Labour do need to continue to work on their proposals and policies. The snap general election of 2017 necessitated a hastily put together manifesto. And yet it was the Conservative Manifesto that fell apart alongside a campaign based on little else than slurring the opposition Soon after the election which ‘surprised’ the very journalists (and some MPs) whose powers of criticality have improved very little since ( Mike Phillips put together For the Many: preparing Labour for power (published 2017 by OR Books). The collection (which I’ve bought but not read yet) includes chapters focusing on each of the Labour Manifesto’s sections discussing the strengths and shortcomings of the policies. Similarly, The New Socialist currently has a call out for articles addressing the topic ‘Beyond the Manifesto’:

Such debate, alongside the many and growing examples of alternative media and citizen journalism/activism, is it seems part of what is so frightening to the self-entitled establishment. We do not, of course, agree on everything, we do not all support the same political party, but there is a  growing number of us who think about politics for more than the apparent average of four minutes a week. And we are educating ourselves and each other and we are increasingly able to criticism and call out injustice, discrimination and #ToryLies when we see it.

Which leads me to…

3. The Dispatch Box

At PMQs this week (Wednesday 12th September) the Leader of the Opposition took the Prime Minister for task for the #ConsciousCruelty and #DestitutionByDesign of the government. There’s a clip on Jeremy Corbyn's twitter page, here (via your web browser):

@jeremycorbyn: @Theresa_May is pouring petrol on the burning injustices in our society. #PMQs

As ever those sitting opposite did nothing but bray, attempting to shout the LOTO down, hurling abuse and laughing at the plight of those whose lives are so much harder than their own. Karen Lee MP retweeting Corbyn’s tweet and clip wrote:

@KarenLeeMP: This is what the baying Tories didn’t want you to hear. Disgusting behaviour from disgusting people.

And similarly, Jo Platt MP:

@JoPlattMP: Appalling behaviour from Conservative MP’s at #PMQs today.

Screaming, shouting and trying to silence criticism doesn’t change the fact that Universal Credit is failing families across the country with child poverty rising #Disgraceful

In response to @theresa_may's PMQ tweet announcing that she is 'tackling injustice and racism' whilst Jeremy Corbyn is 'creating an institutionally racist party' (a phrase gifted to her by Labour's Chuka Umunna MP) there's this: 

@davidschneider:  “I’m tackling injustice and racism” says woman whose party just voted in support of the far right, anti-Semitic, Islamophobes in Hungary.


But despite:

@jeremycorbyn: The Tories brought shame on the UK by backing Hungary’s far-right government in a crucial vote in Europe. Theresa May trying to sweep it under the carpet is disgraceful.

The prime minister must apologise and explain why her party voted in the way it did.

The outrage from the MSM (particularly radio and TV), and others, on this issue has been somewhat muted!  

But to be fair BBC, Channel 4, Sky and others do have a heavy investigative journalism case load. Just see this example today from Michael Crick (Political Correspondent C4 News) complete with clip (again via web browser):

@MichaelLCrick: Jeremy Corbyn outside his house this morning, tells a BBC pool cameraman “Right, can you turn it off? And he raises his hand towards the camera.

Wow. What. Ground. Breaking. Journalism. (At the time of writing the ratio is LIKES 586. RETWEETS 387. COMMENTS 2851). Most of the commentators are as impressed (NOT) as I am. 

The continued scrutiny of everything Jeremy Corbyn has ever done, said, or (as some obvious mind-readers are absolutely certain of) thought; the simultaneous lack of attention to Labour policies and Labour MP's activities; and the lack of focus on #ToryShame and #ToryLies is not surprising. Just more of what we have become used to. With this in mind who could disagree with Kadira Pethiyogoda:

In future history classrooms*, students will likely be told the tale of the tag-team assault on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn by the mainstream media and MPs. It will be taught as a harbinger of what is erupting into the most pivotal crisis facing Western politics in half a century: the chasm between ordinary people and the elites.

*And I would add sociology, politics, media studies … classrooms. 

These two tweets could easily be reworded into essay questions; 4000 words at least I'd say:

@docrussjackson: Tax exile owned Tory supporting right wing propaganda outlet the @dailytelegraph, whose readership comprises elderly bigoted Brextremists, compares @jeremycorbyn to Enoch Powell & @theresa_may to Nelson Mandela! Any ideas why is its circulation is down 19% over the last year?

@robjeffecology: @SkyNewsThe difference of tone and style in reporting between on May compared to Corbyn shows us our media is broken. Corbyn is an evil racist and May likes to get good shoes and dance we have learnt this summer apparently from them.

This piece is part of a series. See also:

Just a FEW things you might not know if you rely on mainstream media (MSM) PART ONE: political business as usual #GTTO

Just a FEW things you might not know if you rely on mainstream media (MSM) PART TWO: #ChangeTheMedia  

Saturday 8 September 2018

Just a FEW things you might not know if you rely on mainstream media (MSM) PART TWO: #ChangeTheMedia

Just a FEW things you might not know if you rely on mainstream media (MSM) PART TWO: #ChangeTheMedia  

The problem with the mainstream media (MSM)

On Friday (7th September), New Labour PM Tony Blair (in a BBC podcast discussion with Nick Robinson) told us that he is: "not sure it is possible" for Labour "moderates" to take the party back from the left.”

To which the leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn MP replied:

"I think Tony should recognise that party membership is now much bigger than it has ever been." 

Asked about his predecessor's comments, the Labour Leader added: "I've been in the Labour Party all my life. I am a socialist. I am determined to see a fairer and more equal society." 

"That's what the Labour Party exists for. We're there for human rights. We're there for social justice. We're there for the future of the people of this country." 

"It's not personal, it's about us as a movement. That's why we were founded. That's why the party is so big. And that's why I'm confident that we are continually challenging this government and we will win a general election."

Mr Corbyn was speaking whilst at a visit to Abbey Pumping Station in Leicester to discuss re-nationalising the water industry. Just more evidence of him getting on with his job, despite a summer of attack from all sides (I’ve written a little about this here: )

After a full day of Blair coverage (who was also in the news for receiving millions of pounds in donations from Saudi Arabia today (Saturday 8th September) Labour Party activists, members and supporters woke up to reports that Chuka Umunna (a back-bench Labour MP once tipped as a future leader) is ‘imploring’ the Labour leader to ‘call off the dogs’ who are trying to ‘drive’ centre-left MPs out of the Party 

Furthermore, Mr Umunna insists:

The Labour party leadership has a responsibility to ensure not only that the party remains a broad church, but one of tolerance, respect and comradely conduct. If they do not, and the stories we hear of bullying, abuse and intimidation online, in branches and in CLP meetings continue, then people will be forced out of the party and the movement not through their own choice, but because they no longer feel welcome. The issue of whether there is a split in the Labour Party or whether members leave, is therefore ultimately in the hands of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party leadership. 

Given that people, like me, who support the current leadership (and the socialist policies espoused by Labour), have been, and continue to be, called entryists, hard-left fanatics, fucking fools’, and more, so much more – including of course ‘dogs’ by Mr Umunna himself – these comments are a tad selective, and hypocritical, to say the least. I agree with Billy Bragg:

@billybragg: Chuka’s plea for Corbyn to ‘call off the dogs’ is not only an insult to Labour members but also perpetuates the slur that we are a ‘cult’, rather than engaged citizens who believe in accountability and party democracy.

What is clear is that the comments by both Blair and Umunna fit the dominant narrative, perpetuated by the MSM, that any criticism of right-leaning MPs (from whichever Party) and journalists who lack balance or curiosity for perspectives/opinions/(and)facts that challenge the perpetual criticism of the Labour Leader (his team and those who support him) is abusive. On the other hand any, and every, criticism of those who lean to the left, many of which are very personal and more than combative, is fair game. 

So even though there is clear evidence of MPs both name calling and swearing at constituents and other Labour supporters on social media the myth that all bad behaviour is perpetuated by those on the so-called 'hard left' continues. I am not disputing that some claiming to be Corbyn supporters also engage in such attacks but a) it appears that there is some (at least some) mischief making by non-Corbyn supporters here and b) there are multiple examples of abuse towards pro-Corbyn supporters. Helen Lewis' recent piece in The New Statesman appears, to me at least, to add to the myth that abuse comes from only one group. Lewis also argues: 

Calculated offence (and the taking of it) has always been a part of politics. Seventy years ago this summer, Labour’s minister for health Aneurin Bevan stood up in Manchester to give a speech. In it, he described the poverty and hunger of his early life, adding: “That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.”

What was a rare such critical comment … turned into a ‘blizzard of abuse’ towards MPs and journalists …

Why is everyone always angry on the internet? . . .

As the amount of information instantly available at our fingertips has sky-rocketed, we have dealt with the overload by extending our tribalism from opinion to facts themselves. This is called “tribal epistemology” – where information is evaluated primarily by asking whether it supports your tribe’s values, and is being pushed by your tribe’s leaders, rather than by appealing to a sense of objective truth.…

So how do we make our political conversation less toxic? How do we stop bad faith preventing us from discussing politics with people on the other side? How do we stop the current situation, where too many people don’t run for office, or even join the conversation, because they don’t want to step into a swamp? Sometimes, I long for the digital equivalent of Chernobyl’s concrete shell to be built over Twitter, as everyone leaves and we all agree never to mention what happened there ever again. 

In addition to my concern over what we might call out as bias in reporting abuse I have three other concerns about this piece. The first is with the issue of so-called journalistic objectivity. As a social scientist I have learnt that there is no such thing, not in research nor in journalism, and that it is far better to acknowledge our subjectivity rather than hide behind objective impossibility (for more see : As an aside here it’s interesting to note that left-leaning commentators are almost always ‘outed’ as a ‘Corbyn supporter’ or ‘left-wing writer’ whereas there is no similar introduction to those who clearly favour Theresa May and/or right-wing politicians and Parties. My second additional concern is the lack of attention by Lewis as to what people are ANGRY about. As Steve Topple pointed out:

This entire piece manages to discuss the levels of toxicity/anger that exist in online/IRL politics/media, & why they exist - and it manages to do so without mentioning ONCE the financial crash or the systems of power that are literally killing people.

And a twitter conversation I contributed to (remember to read from the bottom up):

@gletherby: Ken Loach (2016): ‘If you’re not angry, what type of person are you?’
@MrTopple: Spot on. The cries of "BE QUIET AND KNOW YOUR PLACE" by the commentariat have intensified.
These freeloading, class carpetbaggers should come knock some doors on my estate.
Try telling it to people's faces and see how they get on. Yet the 'Corbynistas' are the cowardly trolls.
@TheMendozaWoman: Every Centrist hack is writing the same column right now, called: “Why is everyone so angry?!”
I’ll sum it up in one sentence, so you don’t have to suffer through them:
“Being angry about injustice is worse than injustice.”
I know, it’s nonsense.
You’re welcome.

And see similar by Tom London:

I know why I’m angry.
For 4 decades the ideology of selfish neoliberalism has been unchallenged in the UK
Since 2010 Austerity has been imposed on the most vulnerable.
When a politician challenges the status quo he is smeared by the Establishment with intent to destroy politically.

And finally in terms of Lewis' argument is the growing (it seems) clamour to shut down/up the voices of those not in positions of power who have little enough space or opportunity to make their/our concerns heard. 

I have almost completely given up watching or listening to the news preferring to get my daily political education through reading (online). Every now and again I try the TV or the radio but this almost always results in my writing a letter of complaint (always dismissed), and/or turning off in disgust. Instead I read and re-read articles and Blogs (and sometimes watch news clips online) about the same issue in various different outputs (MSM and alternative). I also follow people on twitter who are experts – both through life experience and education - and discuss (face-to-face and online) issues and concerns with others. I appreciate that I am, just like everyone else is, guilty of what Lewis (see above) calls ‘tribal epistemology’. But, and this is I think a big but, I accept this and attempt to find out about other(s') positions and perspectives, to read widely and think carefully. I strongly believe that there are some – politicians and journalists – who have such a strong sense of entitlement, such a humongous amount of self-worth that they are unable to ever engage in any self-reflection or critique.  

It is perhaps obvious that the main reason I have stopped watching the news and political programmes live is for self-protection. I have learned that it is much better for my mental well-being to read around, or follow a twitter discussion, about a topic/item before listening or watching the 'news', in order to prepare myself; often for the worst. I know I am not alone in this. This afternoon I was in a shop. A radio was playing and after a few minutes the BBC news came on. My stomach clenched with what has become a familiar anxiety. Sure enough the first item was a report of Chuka Umunna’s speech today. Amongst other things the report included him saying that not only were ‘centre-left’ politicians at risk in 'Corbyn’s Labour Party' but so were ‘centre-left’ values, such as ‘anti-racism’. The implication of course being that those of us supposedly on the ‘hard-left’ are both bullies and racists. I left the shop. . . .

So, for some respite, to calm by tangled nerves, let’s turn to some alternative perspectives: 

@TomLondon6: @bbcnews you have an obligation to be careful with your language Corbyn and his supporters are NOT “hard left" - they are “on the left of the party” The Labour MPs attacking Corbyn are NOT “moderates” - they are “on the right of the party”


-Launched a coup against the leader (failed)  
-Suggested Labour were unfit for government during an election (majority massively increased)
-Sought to form a new party (failed) But Corbyn needs to ‘call off the dogs’...You’re fooling no one.


With Blogs in mind I found this recent one by Jonathan Cook very useful:

Our political language is rupturing because we are now completely divided. There is no middle ground, no social compact, no consensus. The dissenters understand that the current system is broken and that we need radical change, while the trusters hold desperately to the hope that the system will continue to be workable with modifications and minor reforms. . . .We are arriving at a moment called a paradigm shift [my emphasis]. That is when the cracks in a system become so obvious they can no longer be credibly denied. Those vested in the old system scream and shout, they buy themselves a little time with increasingly repressive measures, but the house is moments away from falling. . .

We are now at the point where the corporate elite can see the cracks are widening but they remain in denial. They are entering the tantrum phase, screaming and shouting at their enemies, and readying to implement ever-more repressive measures to maintain their power.

Cook continues (again, my emphasis here):  

They have rightly identified social media as the key concern. This is where we – the 99 per cent – have begun waking each other up. This is where we are sharing and learning, emerging out of the darkness clumsily and shaken. We are making mistakes, but learning. We are heading up blind alleys, but learning. We are making poor choices, but learning. We are making unhelpful alliances, but learning.

No one, least of all the corporate elite, knows precisely where this process might lead, what capacities we have for political, social and spiritual growth.

And what the elite don’t own or control, they fear.  
Cook's focus on a ‘paradigm shift’ and on the significance of social media as a place where ‘the many’ can engage with and challenge the views and the values of ‘the few’ clearly demonstrates the fear the establishment have of the very many, and growing numbers, of us every day folk who not only care about, but are also working for a #PoliticsofHope, for #LaboursVisionforBritain.
Alongside the argument that twitter is a ‘hellhole’ and a ‘cesspit’ (a regular claim by some journalists and MPs) another criticism is that, much of the alternative media and citizen journalism (this piece being an example I humbly suggest) is that is it partisan; biased. I have in this piece both challenged, and hopefully highlighted, some of the reasons for, the first critique. With reference to the latter all I can say is ‘well yes of course it is’ as is ALL media, which if everyone engaged in political and journalistic discussion would only admit, we could perhaps at least, at last, begin a more honest, less hostile, more thoughtful debate. I'm not holding my breath.

A few days ago I read a SKY news-piece quoting experts arguing that a social media free September could improve one’s mental health I know that is not true for me (and I would guess many others also):

@GrahamScambler: Social media users urged to give up for a month. That’s all very fine, but I wouldn’t want to rely on the MSM for news for a month, especially in such volatile times!

NB: I hurried to finish this piece today so that I could publish and post on the eve of #SocialistSunday, a wonderful initiative bringing together, linking up, people who don't agree on everything, but who ALL care about how hard it is for many to live in #ToryBritain and who want to continue to learn from others, and work together for a better future for all of us. 

Just one more thing. Remember we are #StrongerTogether 


This piece is part of a series.

For Just a FEW things you might not know if you rely on mainstream media (MSM) PART ONE: political business as usual #GTTO see

AND Just a FEW things you might not know if you rely on mainstream media (MSM) PART ONE: political business as usual #LaboursVisionforBritain (and the world) to follow soon.