Guest post by Dale Street
Above: fearsome, isn’t it?
It’s been a busy week for media hacks who hate trade unionists. And what better opportunity for hacks to vent their spleen than the fallout from the Ineos dispute in Grangemouth?
The Sunday Times (27th October) led the way with lengthy articles about the contents of e-mails sent or received by former Unite Ineos convenor Stevie Deans.
A dossier of these e-mails had been “passed to police last week”. But subsequent press coverage suggested that the e-mails had also been passed on to half of Fleet Street. And the source of the “dossier” was Ineos itself – hardly a disinterested party in the matter.
The opening sentence in the Sunday Times front-page article had all the right buzzwords: “Ed Miliband is facing a crisis this weekend as a cache of bombshell e-mails expose a concerted union plot involving blah, blah, blah.”
Only the word “sinister” was missing. But this was the Sunday Times, not the Sun.
A few paragraphs into article, however, the “crisis” eased off to become mere “pressure” (“… Miliband is facing pressure …”). And by the end of the article the crisis-cum-pressure turned out to be no more than a rent-a-quote from a Tory MP in Crawley called Smith.
Pages ten and eleven carried a lengthy article about the e-mails, headlined with the lurid quote: “A Blueprint of How to Hijack a Constituency”
On closer inspection, however, the quote turned out to emanate from a “company insider” whose qualifications for making such a judgement remained as unknown as the insider’s name.
To be fair to “company insider”, what he/she actually said was: “It looks like a blueprint …” But even that still begs the question of what, if any, expertise the “company insider” had to be able to conclude that the e-mails “looked like” a blueprint for a CLP takeover.
The article made great play of the figure of “a thousand e-mails” (or, alternatively, “a thousand e-mails and attachments”). But this turned out to include e-mails (and attachments) received as well as sent, and covers a period of eleven months.
Nor was there any mention of the whether the e-mails had been dealt with during or outside working hours.
In terms of the e-mails’ contents and volume, there was certainly little or nothing in the article to give weight to the claim by “company insider” that “Deans spent most of last summer organising his union’s infiltration of the Labour Party.”
This weekend’s Sunday Times (3rd November) continued its attacks on Unite, this time in the shape of three articles and an editorial focusing on the Labour Party report into allegations of vote-rigging by Unite in Falkirk.
“Revealed: Milband’s Dossier on Union Plot” read the headline over the front-page article, while a spread on pages 14/15 appeared under the headline “The Secret ‘Vote-Rigging’ Report Labour Suppressed”.
The headlines suggest that the newspaper had obtained a copy of the report. So too do the opening paragraphs of the articles:
“Secret contents of the report are revealed today. They lay bare the shocking conclusions of the enquiry into alleged electoral corruption in the brutal battle by Unite to sieze control of the safe Labour seat of Falkirk.”
In fact, the paper had a Unite document (discovered in Stevie Deans’ “cache of bombshell e-mails”) which appears to be an early draft of the union’s response to the Labour Party report.
The Sunday Times articles re-quoted the various Labour Party allegations quoted in the Unite document. But it did not quote a single one of Unite’s response to those allegations.
This was despite the fact that the article acknowledged that the Unite document was “deeply critical of the Labour Party investigation, which, it says, draws conclusions on the basis of little or no hard evidence.”
(Rather like the Sunday Times article itself.)
In fact, the article even conceded in the small print that “Unite rebuts all the claims in its document”, and that the Unite document contained “a line-by-line rebuttal of the (Labour Party) allegations”.
Such poor-quality one-sided ‘journalism’ did at least display a fine sense of timing: Falkirk CLP was meeting the same day, and the Scottish press had been ‘reporting’ that a motion of no-confidence in Stevie Deans as CLP chair would be proposed at the meeting.
(This was based on various anonymous statements by “a key figure in Falkirk CLP”, “another local party member” and “sources at the local party”. Given that these articles had appeared several days before the CLP meeting, this hardly constituted ‘reporting’ in the normal sense of the word.)
“Miliband will now come under intense pressure to re-open the inquiry and publish its report,” continued the Sunday Times article. But what happened to the crisis-cum-pressure which Miliband was supposedly already facing the previous weekend?
In fact, the only sign of this “intense pressure” in the pages of the newspaper was its own editorial – insofar as a Sunday Times editorial counts as “intense pressure”. The paper hadn’t even been able to get a rent-a-quote from a Crawley Tory MP called Smith.
While the Sunday Times focused on a report which it had never even seen, the mid-week issues of the Daily Mail focused on the terrors of a giant inflatable rat.
A “sinister unit” (Unite’s Organising and Leverage Department) sent “mobs of protestors” to the homes of Ineos directors as part of a “campaign of bullying and intimidation” intended to “humiliate executives and their families”.
“It was a mob, a threatening mob,” explained a Dunfermline-based Ineos director who described how “25 Unite members protested on his driveway with flags, banners and an inflatable rat. … Children as young as seven who were playing on the street were coaxed into joining the mob.”
The article was accompanied by a grainy picture of the “threatening mob”. But the picture gives the lie to the substance of the article.
There is no “threatening mob”. There are simply some Unite members standing around. They are not on the driveway. They are on the pavement. They are not threatening anyone. (In fact, not only was chanting banned on the protest, so too was smoking.)
There is certainly a giant inflatable rat in the picture. But it looks as fearsome as Mr. Blobby on a bad day. As for children being “coaxed” into the joining the non-existent “mob”, if a giant inflatable rat suddenly appears at the bottom of your road, natural curiosity is going to attract the average seven-year-old to take a closer look.
In a follow-up article the Daily Mail reported that the previously unheard-of Jonathan Roberts had resigned from Unite “in disgust after the Daily Mail’s revelation about the union’s bullying tactics.”
Bang on cue, Roberts, who stood for Labour in the safe Tory seat on Thirsk and Malton in the last general election, attacked Unite for “picketing the family homes of company bosses and intimidating their children” and for generally failing to represent its members.
Of course, there had never been any evidence – not even in the lurid pages of the Sunday Times or the Daily Mail – that Unite members were “intimidating children”.
But what did facts count for when the sole concern of such newspapers was to whip up an anti-Unite hysteria on the back of the threat by a billionaire tax-exile to shut down Grangemouth unless his workforce, their union, and the Scottish and British governments gave him everything he wanted?
Not that there might be anything in Jim Ratcliffe’s behaviour, of course, which might merit closer investigation by the fearless journalists of the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail.
This blog tends to have a love-hate relationship with Nick Cohen. But we have to admit that when he’s good, he’s very, VERY good. If you missed him on Radio 4’s Any Questions, you really should listen now. He certainly won me over on the question of the Royal Charter on the press with a quietly impassioned contribution that even brought in Milton. He was equally good on the Snowden revelations and threats to the Guardian. Come to that, he spoke a lot of sense about that inflatable rat…
Here he is in equally splendid form at the Spectator‘s blog:
British journalists form a circular firing squad
To stop liberals duping the credulous masses, the very right-wing press, which boasted with justice in the case of the Mail, about how it stood up to Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson’s attempts to intimidate the media, is now encouraging the Tories to attack the Guardian and intimidate the BBC while they are about it.
Their double-standards show censorship is fine on the British Right as long as it is the Right doing the censoring. Mind you, the Left is no less duplicitous.
Protest: for everyone the Daily Mail hates
On Sunday, all the people hated by the Daily Mail – that’s pretty much all of us – are going to turn up at their headquarters, loud and proud about who we are. If you’re a woman, a Muslim, LGBT, a nurse, a socialist, a trade union rep, a disabled person or just someone who doesn’t like hatred being pumped into public life every day, turn up.
This is an upbeat, carnival-type protest, a statement of defiance against bigotry and hatred. So turn up in a good mood, with colourful banners, full of pride about who we all are.
Journalist and campaigner Owen Jones said: “A newspaper that once had the cheek to back Adolf Hitler and the Blackshirts has smeared Ralph Miliband, a Jewish refugee who fought the Nazis for this country, as a ‘man who hated Britain’.
“But the reality is it is the Daily Mail who hates Britain. They hate our proud institutions, like the NHS and the BBC. Their campaign of hatred has targeted women, public sector workers, trade unionists, immigrants, Muslims, benefit claimants, travellers, and other vast swathes of our society.
“We’re calling on all those hated by the Daily Mail to join us on Sunday, and to be loud and proud about what they are in a show of defiance against bigotry and hatred.”
Sam Fairbairn, Secretary of the People’s Assembly said: “Miliband announces he’ll scrap the Bedroom Tax and freeze energy prices, the next day the Daily Mail launches a vicious personal attack on his father. Millions are suffering under austerity Britain and this paper has made it clear who’s side they are really on – the corporations and the austerity addicted politicians. It’s the Daily Mail who really hates Britain.”
H/t: Comrades Bruce and Coatesy
Frost v Powell, 1969
Originally scheduled for 39 minutes, this 1969 interview with Enoch Powell was allowed to continue for a further 20 minutes during the live broadcast as the TV producers realised that something exceptional and absolutely gripping was taking place.
It starts politely – amiably even – but the tone soon changes as Frost attempts to pin down the old racist on matters of straightforward fact. Essential viewing, especially for those who’ve only seen Frost in his later, smug and pompous, incarnation. Put aside an hour for this extraordinary encounter:
Above: Miranda (left) and Greenwald
“Freedom only for supporters of the government, only for members of one party — however numerous they may be — is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of ‘justice’ but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends upon this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when ‘freedom’ becomes a special privilege” – Rosa Luxemburg, The Russian Revolution, 1918.
Regular readers will know that I think Glenn Greenwald is a self-important jerk with views that are symptomatic of a lot of what’s wrong with much of the so-called ‘left’ these days: third-worldist, petty bourgeois, often downright bizarre, and generally indifferent to working class struggle.
None of that changes the fact the detention of his partner David Miranda for nine hours at Heathrow under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, is an outrage and an obvious attempt to intimidate not only Greenwald, but all investigative journalists taking an interest in the activities of the US National Security Agency and the UK’s GCHQ.
Everyone who cares about free speech and a free press should sign this petition:
By Adeel Akhtar:
On Sunday David Miranda, the Brazilian partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald who has written stories about revealing mass surveillance programmes by the US Government, was held at Heathrow Airport under the UK Terrorism Act. He was released without charge after nine hours.
Being detained by authorities can be terrifying for an innocent person. Unfortunately I know how David feels. Ten years ago, I was returning to New York from London where I was studying when I was detained for several hours on ‘suspicion of terrorism’ – their reason? I looked ‘familiar’. It was a traumatic experience which left me feeling powerless and let down, fearful that when travelling I’ll be singled out and have to go through the same thing again.
Glenn Greenwald told the BBC: “They never asked him about a single question at all about terrorism or anything relating to a terrorist organisation. They spent the entire day asking about the reporting I was doing and other Guardian journalists were doing on the NSA stories.”
Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows the police to detain anyone at the UK’s borders without any requirement to show probable cause and hold them for up to nine hours, without seeking further justification.
Schedule 7 has a become a blunt legal instrument that the UK government can use to intimidate people who it doesn’t agree with. I think it’s time for the Government to review how it uses Schedule 7. Please join me.
Above: Crosby who works for the Tories and big tobacco
So let’s get this straight: Unite members are accused of signing up a couple of people to the Labour Party in a pub in Falkirk: that’s a major political scandal?
The government shelves plans for plain packaging of cigarettes and it turns out that the Tories’ election ‘strategist’ Lynton Crosby also works for the cigarette firms Philip Morris and British American tobacco: that, it seems, isn’t a scandal – or not much of one, judging by the meagre press coverage (with the honourable exception of The Observer)?
The other noticeable difference is that whereas Miliband called in the cops and rushed out proposals to weaken the union link in response to the Falkirk ‘revelations’, Cameron has so far done fuck all about Crosby and appears confident of riding out whatever minor storm there may be.
And you wonder why decent people seem to be increasingly cynical about mainstream politics?
Above: Victoria shares a ‘Counterfire’ platform with fellow apologist and Guardianista, Shameless
The pro-Islamist Grauniad has carried some shameful and idiotic articles over the years, from the like of ‘Mad’ Maddie Bunting, Shameless Milne and Jonathan Stalinist. At one point the Graun even employed a member of Hizb ut- Tahrir as a trainee journalist, and published his filthy opinions without noticing anything wrong, until his politics were exposed.
But today’s article by Victoria Brittain, defending the racist homophobe and misogynist Abu Qatada (aka Omar Othman), must take the biscuit. Oh, but Mr Othman is an intellectual who wrote books in prison (Hitler did the same as I recall):
Our security services and politicians turned this man into an Islamic counter-terrorism myth. If instead they had chosen to talk to him, as I have many times, they would have found that the man behind the myth is a scholar with wide intellectual and cultural interests. He wrote books while he was in prison. His home is filled with books. His children have excelled at school, with help and encouragement from his daily phone calls from prison.
Victoria Brittain is certainly an idiot. Whether she’s a useful one is very much a matter of opinion.
“I note that the Socialist Unity blog has just carried a piece denouncing Britain’s “blood soaked” role in Syria. Strangely enough, the article did not use a similar adjective to describe the Russian role. I pointed out this double standard in a comment which is currently “awaiting moderation”. It will be interesting to see whether it is printed.”
From commenter Paul Fauvet
In the unlikely event that such a neoliberal piece of pro-imperialist pleading is allowed on Socialist Unity, Paul should purchase this T-shirt:-
Intelligent comment from behind enemy lines.
We occasionally publish worthwhile comment from unlikely sources. It should go without saying that this does not mean that we endorse the overall politics of the author, or indeed, everything in the article itself…
By Iain Martin (Daily Telegraph 24 May)
Above: can’t we go back to ‘Team GB’?
Tune into any BBC London programme at the moment and one word dominates. That word is community. Even on a normal day on the capital’s airwaves you will hear it a great deal, but in the aftermath of the Woolwich terror attack its use has gone into overdrive. On the BBC London news last night it – or the frequently used variant communities – was averaging 11 mentions per minute.
When did this word get such a grip that even passers-by vox-popped by a TV crew will deploy it a couple of times in a sentence when they are asked to asses the impact of a particular event? I wonder whether it really is widely used in everyday discourse or whether it is just what people feel they ought to say when tensions are high and a microphone is put under their nose. Having said that, yesterday I did overhear youngsters at a bus-stop discussing their horror at the Woolwich murder, and both used the word community, as in the perpetrators were a “disgrace to their community” (in the words of one). So perhaps it really has seeped into everyday speech through constant repetition in schools and on television.
The word took hold after the riots of the early 1980s, when there was a breakdown of trust, in certain inner cities, in the police and traditional institutions. After various inquiries, public policy was reconfigured to ensure that “communities” must be consulted on policing and much else besides. The traditional approach – in which people clustered together in a particular place voted for councillors and MPs who would then represent their interests – was out. With it went the widely held understanding that to live alongside each other none of us can get everything that we want.
From that point, other techniques were developed to make “excluded” people feel included. To facilitate this there suddenly emerged the “community leader”, someone unelected and usually possessing the gift of the gab. If they were smart they might get a well-paid gig with local government, or even national government, advising on “community relations”. Inevitably, under successive governments over three decades which all wanted to avoid tensions, this hardened into an orthodoxy, underwritten by third-rate academics in new disciplines. “Community” was the key word, used over and over again.
Of course, like many linguistic devices pushed by ultraliberals it actually has ended up with the opposite meaning from the one many people seem to intend when they use it. Rather than suggesting togetherness the term is actually highly divisive. Rather than emphasising common endeavour it sets one person’s alleged “community” against that of his neighbour.
I actively dislike the term and would refuse to be described as, say, a member of the claret-drinking community. Indeed, the traditional approach is still favoured by many, many millions of us in Britain of all creeds and colours. We think of life in terms of family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, perhaps religion, charity, hobbies such as sport or music and then the nation. Sometimes the various groups and circles involved are distinct and sometimes they overlap. We also accept common institutions as a bulwark of liberty, of course. And it is all wrapped up, ultimately, in that word that I used at the end of the list: the nation. How wonderful it was for a few weeks during the Olympics. The dreaded word “communities” disappeared. We heard instead of Team GB. Can’t we go back to that?