A surprisingly fair and sympathetic piece by Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, who appeared on Channel 5’s The Big Benefits Row last night. The standard health warning about re-blogs here at Shiraz (ie don’t assume we agree with all of it) applies:
Katie Hopkins, Matthew Wright and Spectator reader White Dee
My night with White Dee — and Channel 5’s Big Benefits Row
What do you get if you mix the Jeremy Kyle show with Question Time? Channel 5 tried to find out this evening in a one-off debate about benefits and I was one of the 25 – yes, 25 – guests they asked along. Matthew Wright tried to keep the order, and the debate ranged (or, rather, raged) from the morality of benefits for immigrants to high MTR rates for welfare. It was more of a verbal explosion than a debate – you’d have working single mums screaming (“give me a job, innit!”) at benefit-dependent single mum. Edwina Currie baiting the lefties, with visible enjoyment. Even a mini protest (“every mum’s a working mum”) and Katie Hopkins who, with her ‘you’re all evil scroungers’ act, wound up the audience perfectly. And Jack Monroe, of the austerity recipe fame, who was admonished for using the f-word. It was kind of political panto.
Even Peter Stringfellow was present- in his capacity as a pensioner on benefits. He was very keen to touch the hem of Rachel Johnson, there as she’d recently spent a week living on £1 a day and has (as she put it) “friends with benefits”. The ex-Guardian journalist, Sarfraz Manzoor, was there to heckle Katie Hopkins and just when you though the evening couldn’t get more bizarre, up pops Terry Christian (ex-The Word) to stick the knife into Ms Hopkins as well. Margot James, a Tory MP and member of the 10 Downing St policy group, was watching all this, open-mouthed, from the front row.
But the star of the evening, for my money, was White Dee. She was then, as she is in Benefits Street, calm, articulate and funny – and making more sense than the rest of the guests put together. When the show closed, everyone came to to her asking for autographs and taking selfies. She kindly said that she was a Spectator reader (all the best people are) and that she liked our coverage of the Benefits Street debate.
I’m not sure what was learned this evening, given the variety of angles the topic was approached from – and the brave attempt to mix the Jerry Springer-style fights with the likes of myself jabbering on about marginal tax withdrawal rates (see below). But one thing’s for sure: after years of being an incredibly dull policy area, welfare reform is now one of the hottest topics in Britain. It is capable of breaking out of the normal confines of Westminster debate, and into a wider realm where wilder beasts roam and many more millions pay attention. And where poll after poll (including one taken for the show) makes clear that the public still backs reforms – still, that is, on the side of the government.
PS Here’s the point I was trying to make. White Dee doesn’t work because if she found part-time work and wanted to increase her hours, she’d find herself trapped in a system that would, in effect, tax her at 100 per cent for the work that she does. There is so much poverty in Britain because we have destroyed the economic function of work for the low-paid. Below is the Marginal Deduction Rate (i.e., benefits withdrawn, as a percentage of money earned) for someone in White Dee’s situation (i.e., a lone mother with two children).
Just found this which I once copied from a comments thread. To save you reading Brendan O’Neill and the rest of the Spiked gang:-
1. [Subject] reveals a contempt for the working classes.
2. [Subject] is thinly disguised misanthropy.
3. [Subject] is merely an exercise in liberal self-congratulation.
4. [Subject] encourages a culture of victimhood.
5. [Subject] shows we’re governed by alarmist scaremongers.
6. [Subject] is an attempt to censor dissent.
Covers all the bases.
Happy New Year!
Guest post by Pink Prosecco
Above: Lib Dem idiot David Ward
Early Day Motion 739 is a call for the freedom of movement of Palestinian journalists. Its primary sponsor is Jeremy Corbyn, who once invited Raed Salah, a promoter of the blood libel, to Parliament, and it is being supported by many other usual suspects: George Galloway, who refused to debate with a student at Oxford once he realized he was Israeli, David Ward, who bemoaned the fact Jews hadn’t learned more of a lesson from the Holocaust and Bob Russell, who has drawn a false equivalence between the Holocaust and the suffering of the Palestinians.
However those of us who are inclined to defend Israel from disproportionate scrutiny and exaggerated, even racist, criticism will sometimes find ourselves on the same ‘side’ as people with views just as deplorable – eg: Israel supporters who deny the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, and assert that they are a “made up people” with only themselves to blame. So it doesn’t seem rational to dismiss this EDM just because supporting it will put one in some unwelcome company. Here is the full text.
That this House notes that, on a daily basis, Israeli authorities restrict journalists’ movements and there are hundreds of military checkpoints that constrain or forbid journalists’ movements; further notes that despite the long standing campaigning by journalists and civil rights organisations, the Israeli authorities continue to reject identity cards, accreditation and press cards, including the International Federation of Journalists press card, when carried by Palestinian journalists; condemns the continuous attacks by Israeli soldiers on Palestinian news gatherers, in particular photographers and camera crews, the level of attacks has increased during the first half of 2013, in 2012 the attacks involved rubber coated steel bullets, tear grenades and stun grenades; and reaffirms that freedom of movement is a central tenet of independent professional journalism and, in restricting such a right, Israeli authorities are in breach of international covenants and the right to report.
There would seem to be two possible objections to the EDM. First, the claims may be exaggerated; secondly, even someone who is, or seems to be, a journalist may still pose a threat. Here’s a link to a story about a clearcut example of this, a newsreader who dropped off a terrorist before going to work to report on the bombing: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/27/arts/television/27genz.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1386088156-piyAlCJHUvKKlpjcZCsThg
Yet security concerns don’t justify the apparently brutal treatment some Palestinian journalists have experienced, as documented here:
Trying to establish whether the EDM is reasonable or not, like most lines of enquiry relating to Israel/Palestine, has the same bewildering effect as looking at this ambiguous picture:
Is the journalist featured in this story (link below), Mohamed Jamal Abu Khdeir, a victim of Israeli heavy handedness or a real security threat?
While looking up recent news stories about Palestinian journalists I found an example of one unfortunate man, George Canawati, who had been beaten up for mere “slander and abuse” – making derogatory remarks about a police officer. However in this case the violence was carried out, not by Israeli forces, but by the Palestinian Authority:
However, even though one might wryly note that some sections of the media won’t be so quick to report on this attack on press freedom as on Israel’s shortcomings, that doesn’t mean those shortcomings aren’t real. The monitoring organisation Reporters without Borders doesn’t have the kind of profile one would associate with reflexive Israel-bashing, yet it seems increasingly critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinian journalists:
So, whether or not one goes along with every element of the EDM, it certainly seems to highlight a genuine cause for concern in a year which has seen Israel’s press freedom ranking fall sharply:
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.