Category Archives: Media

Baroness Chakrabarti is ridiculed

Baroness Chakrabarti Is Ridiculed

From the Daily Mail:

Baroness Chakrabarti is ridiculed after she WRONGLY blames Copeland defeat on low turnout saying Labour supporters don’t have CARS

  • Shadow attorney general gives laundry list of excuses for Copeland disaster
  • Suggests bad public transport and carless Labour voters hampered party
  • But insists Jeremy Corbyn’s dire personal ratings nothing to do with the loss
  • Critics accuse her of being the ‘epitome of what Labour voters just rejected’  

Baroness Chakrabarti has been ridiculed after she wrongly blamed low turnout for Labour’s humiliating defeat in Copeland, saying the party’s supporters don’t have cars.

The shadow attorney general, a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn, set out a laundry list of excuses during an interview today as she insisted the leader was not responsible for the worst by-election performance since the war.

Factors she cited included interventions by Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson, the seat’s former MP Jamie Reed, disunity in the party, divisions over Brexit, media bias, Storm Doris and poor public transport.

But critics quickly pointed out that turnout in Copeland was over 51 per cent – significantly higher than the 38 per cent in the Stoke by-election, which Labour won, and well above average for such contests. And Mr Reed shot back: ‘Shami and co. have no idea how much the Labour vote dislikes them.’

In her appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Lady Chakrabarti flatly denied that Mr Corbyn’s appalling personal ratings were an issue.

‘It’s not about the terrible regime, it’s about the fact representatives cannot weigh people’s votes anymore,’ she said.

‘There was a low turnout in Copeland and having been to Copeland recently, I know that it’s a very rural constituency, public transport is not great,’ she said.

‘But it’s just one factor, of course that’s not the entire explanation.’

She said: ‘I think Copeland is probably one of those constituencies that was neglected by my own party over some years.

‘It’s remote from London. It’s changed its shape over many years.

‘There’s the nuclear industry and people who’ve done very well out of that industry – and then the people left behind.

‘From my experience in Copeland, Labour has looked like the establishment for a very long time because they’ve been represented by Labour for a long time.’

Lady Chakrabarti also criticised Marr for having Lords Mandelson as a guest the weekend before the vote.

‘Sometimes we haven’t had the fairest or most balanced treatment in the media, including in the broadcast media,’ she said.

But Labour former frontbencher Michael Dugher hit back: ‘Pearls of wisdom from the never-having-stood-for-election, joined-ten-minutes-ago wing of the Labour Party: Labour voters “don’t have cars”.’

Ex-MP Mr Reed – who quit to take a job at Sellafield amid despair in the parliamentary party at their electoral prospects – said Lady Chakrabarti was ‘the epitome of what Labour voters just rejected’.

In a series of tweets directed at the Labour peer, he said: ‘Shami and co. have no idea how much the Labour vote dislikes them. Even faced with the evidence.

‘She’s an unstoppable vote-harvesting-election-winning machine. Or the epitome of what Labour voters just rejected. I wonder which one?’

Using the hashtag #TellShami, Mr Reed reeled off a number of projects such as new schools, hospitals and the Moorside nuclear reactors that had been achieved under Labour leadership.

Mr Reed also insisted the weather was not a factor in Labour’s loss.

Read more:

Section 40 will curb media abuses

Section 40 will curb media abuses

Hugh Grant in The Guardian here:

Many newspapers have carried fulminating editorials and opinion columns recently about section 40, and how it spells the end of press freedom in this country. Do readers believe this stuff? Do people even read it? Is press regulation too much of a yawn?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I do believe that one newspaper should perhaps publish the other side of the argument. Or what I would humbly call the facts. And I’m very grateful to the Guardian for giving me the space.

So here they are, in the clearest English I can muster, and in plain vanilla with no jokes and (I hope) minimal or no ranting.

At his inquiry, Lord Justice Leveson found he could apply the same answer to two of the most important issues he identified. In other words, he killed two birds with one stone.

Issue one was that people without substantial means who are libelled or have their privacy illegally invaded by newspapers find it impossibly expensive to launch civil actions against those papers. They are effectively deprived of access to justice. (A typical court fee is £10,000 up front, even before you add in lawyers’ fees.)

Issue two is that over the past 60 years there have been several public inquiries and commissions into press misconduct. On each occasion, it was clearly demonstrated that the press had failed to enforce even its own codes of ethical practice. Recommendations were made for improvements, or for a new regulator that was independent both of press control and government influence.

On every occasion, the corporate mass of the commercial press, owned by a handful of wealthy men, refused to comply. Instead they made cosmetic changes, falsely claiming that their new arrangements were a vast improvement, and then carried on exactly as before.

This is what those same papers have done now – rebranding the discredited PCC as “Ipso” – which is largely the same people working to the same model.

Just as on every previous occasion, the Leveson inquiry stopped short of recommending that papers should be compelled by law to join a “good” new regulator. Instead, it gave the press a final chance to put its own house in order.

But how to persuade newspapers to do something they have never done before: to create a fair, effective and independent new regulator? What incentives could be offered?

The solution Leveson came up with to deal with both these issues was a new regulator, which could be set up by the press themselves, which would offer a cheap arbitration service to settle legal claims.

This is the part that is seldom or never mentioned when newspapers talk about section 40. Through this arbitration service a person could have their case against a newspaper dealt with very quickly (in less than a day) and at very low cost (less than £200) without either side having to suffer the vast expense and stress of going to court.

If a newspaper chose not to join this “good” new regulator, and so deprived claimants of this low-cost system of arbitration – forcing them instead into the expensive courts – then that newspaper should have to pay ALL the costs of the court case, even if they won the case. The idea was that recalcitrant newspapers would be incentivised to create a “good” regulator.

But – crucially – there was a further incentive, a carrot as well as a stick. You will not read about this carrot in newspaper reports or editorials on section 40.

Newspapers that join this new regulator would enjoy much greater freedom to publish important investigative journalism. Hitherto, if a paper had an important story about a wealthy and powerful person, they might reluctantly decide not to publish because the threat of being dragged through expensive court actions was too great. A wealthy oligarch would only need to win once to bust the paper.

But under the new system, our litigious oligarch would first be offered the new cheap arbitration system. If he took this option, the matter would be settled at a tiny fraction of the time and cost for the newspaper. But if he insisted on going to court (as is his right) he would have to pay his own costs even if he won. This is why investigative journalists such as Nick Davies (who of course broke the phone hacking story in the Guardian in the first place) are so keen on the Leveson recommendations, in full.

This solution was voted into law (as section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act) by big majorities in parliament in March 2013. But a law that has been enacted by parliament still requires the subsequent pressing of a green button by the secretary of state. This is known as “commencement” and is a formality in 99% of cases. This government, under intense lobbying from the corporate press, has so far not commenced the law.

And here is the gentlest of nudges to the esteemed editor of the Guardian and to the Scott Trust. A recent YouGov poll commissioned by Hacked Off found that 93% of Guardian readers with an opinion on the matter (which is, of course, most) agree with the Leveson system or something stronger. That seems like a mandate to me.

In the face of all this, and in the face of an astonishing volume of dis and misinformation on this issue, it’s vital that people who care about the standards and practices of the national press make the case for full Leveson.

Letters From Mars

Letters From Mars

I notice, with an election creeping up on us, that the local newspaper “letters page”  is filling up again with propaganda and schlock from the Usual Suspects.

This week we have Cllr. David Patrick, who has scoured the depths of his vibrant and versatile mind to come up with something “attacky” to sit comfortably alongside the Editor’s comments.  The best he could manage was to talk about a Town Council tax rise from a few years ago.  A friend of mine who isn’t particularly political put it very nicely: “What has this got to do with anything?”  My answer was that it has quite a lot to do with trying to dig themselves out of their own hole because they just have so little to work with this time.  “Once, a few years ago, the Council increased Council Tax in order to save the local toilets.”  Oh yes, I remember, even though this predates my membership of the Council.  These were the same public loos that were in danger of being closed by Fenland District Council – the same Council where Dave Patrick was a Councillor.  The same public loos that were rescued thanks to Cllr. Sam Hoy and Cllr. Carol Cox pushing the Town Council into buying them.  Although Dave Patrick is correct that he voted against the increase, I’m not sure he should be proud about not wanting to support the measure which saved the public toilets in our Town Park, as vocally demanded by the Public at the time.  Notice that Taxi Dave doesn’t mention that anywhere.  Perhaps he thought: “It was a few years ago, nobody will remember.”

Then up pops somebody else, like some political Jack-in-a-box, declaring that it is vital that we get the Committee System at Fenland District Council because, um, er, um, the chaos in the marketplace when it changed to one way (that they also conveniently moan about) was delivered by exactly  that system?  That the threat to Estover field in March was delivered by exactly that system?  These Committee System advocates make me chuckle.  They waffle on about how “democratic” it will be (never using more than the most vague terms about why this might be) but it’s patently clear that the only reason they really want a Committee System is because they perceive it will somehow empower them.  Can’t get control of a Council with your Independent Group or fringe party?  Don’t like having to actually take responsibility for your decisions?  Solution: Cripple the Council with a seedy stitch-up deal, then spend the next few years promoting yourself from the ruins.

I would expect the opposition to be filling the local newspaper up with letters right up until May now.  Why not?  It’s easy to get publicity while not actually having to do any work, particularly when you have an ally running the newspaper.  You get to make grandiose claims without having to face any challenge about it until after the fact – particularly useful if you are terrified of scrutiny and debate and seek to stifle those who disagree with you by calling them names and playing the victim.  As the election looms ever closer, expect to see the letters accompanied by Front Page Spreads, colourful interior photo ops and supportive Editorial “opinion” pieces.


* Post modified, since I had thought my recent letter to the Wisbech Standard was unprinted, but the Editor assures me it was printed.  Apologies if I missed it and made incorrect assumptions.  (Notice, when I get something wrong, I retract and admit it.)  :)

Campaign Diary 10th October, 2014

Campaign Diary 10th October, 2014

I certainly hope we win the by-election next week – I’ve already got a list as long as my arm of issues that local people want me to sort out!  Knocking on doors has raised a diverse bunch of different concerns and new ideas, which is very welcome as it will give me some stuff to get my teeth into if I am lucky enough to get the most votes on Thursday.

Several of the things people have raised are County Council issues.  Streetlights taken away (without consultation), poor management of highways maintenance, in many cases the complete lack of highways maintenance, that sort of thing.  I point out to them that they have four UKIP County Councillors, so all of these problems have a distinct purplish tinge.  No need though, they already know.

I enjoyed canvassing with Steve Barclay MP on Wednesday evening, along with Cllr. Sam Hoy and others.  People are always pleased to see our local MP, whose popularity and support seems to cross party political boundaries with ease.

It’s a bit blurry, sorry!  Taken by an enthusiastic pedestrian! :)

The campaign remains very upbeat and positive.  The Sun is out again today, so I guess I’d better get back out there… :)

Another One.

Another One.

Every day I think: “It’s time to give it a rest about UKIP.  It’s been done to death.”  And then every day some new morsel appears and I sit there looking at it and thinking: “How can I not write about this?  How CAN I not?”  These bloomin’ clowns are the gift that keeps on giving.

So, I’m sorry.  But here’s another one.  I know that the many people who despise UKIP will simply say: “No surprise” and the fanatical ‘Kippers will say: “LIBLABCON CARTEL HANG THE TRAITORS” or whatever.  But still.  You gotta do what you gotta do. :)

I just want to pick a few of my favourite bonkers extractsfrom this interview with one of UKIP’s leading donors.

On Gay People.

“There is no love in a homosexual relationship.  Only lust.”
“There is no such thing as fidelity in homosexual relationships.”

On Women Wearing Trousers

“Do you think Women should be banned from wearing trousers?”

“What?  By law?”
Did you know that until three hundred years ago a women wearing trousers would be executed?”

“There are several reasons (for women) not to wear trousers.  The first is that they don’t look as nice.”
“The second (reason) is – trousers don’t excite men.  Only skirts excite men.”

“Why should women dress to excite men?”
“Because if they don’t.  Men are going to stop f***ing them.  You understand?”

“Woman have always tried to excite men because women need to get married!  And men don’t want to get married!  So women have to persuade them to get married.”

There is no such thing as rape within marriage.  Once a woman accepts – she accepts.

On Black People

“Do you think black people were better off as slaves?”
“Yes.  Because if they survived the horrific journey they had a much better life (as slaves).”


“A UKIP spokeswoman said the party no longer had anything to do with you.
“Well she was stupid.  She was just trying to … smooth things over.”
“Do UKIP still ask you for money?”
“They are always asking for money.”
“In December you gave them another £5000?”

Fenland Citizen

Fenland Citizen

I’ve been really impressed with the Fenland Citizen this year. That paper has really upped it’s game. Nice new style layout. Lots more news content. Website revamped. I think its a great local paper now. And it manages to avoid all the nastiness and bias which you see elsewhere and concentrate on just reporting the news instead of trying to make it! Proper local journalism.


The End Of The Free Press

The End Of The Free Press

A lot has been written about the battle between media and some politicians.  On the one side you have the Hacked Off team and their various hangers-on and allies of convenience.  On the other the civil rights free speech advocates and their hangers-on and allies of convenience.  As is common in these type of things I find myself taking an unpopular middle ground, probably alone.  I don’t mind, I’m used to it.

I don’t like the idea of politicians controlling the press and I don’t like the idea of censorship either.  But I’ve seen the press doing its gutter thing, indeed I’ve been the subject of some pretty dirty tactics myself although only on a very local level, so I do understand the anger that some of these much more serious cases have created.   Strong emotion is not the basis of good policy, though.  Good policy is done with reason, with logic and with careful analysis.

I don’t support the Royal Charter because, quite simply, I think that Free Speech and freedom of expression is the single most important liberty we have.  Once you surrender it, you surrender you ability to fight for every other liberty.

That said, I don’t share the doom-mongery and apocalyptic predictions of some of those who are writing in grand and dramatic fashion about the media equivalent of the End Of Days.  Simply because I don’t think the State really has the power to do what it wants to do.

Sure, they now have a new tool to develop to silence anybody who might want to reveal the next corporate scandal, expenses abuse or celebrity blowjob back alley liaison of an illegal and illicit variety.  But things have already moved so far beyond the Old Media that they might as well be writing new regulations for the use of the steam engine, or the cleaner’s mangle.

In the end, Media is just a market like any other.  Consumers want information and are willing to trade, pay and work to get it.  They don’t want state fed and sanctioned information, they want real information.  And markets will deliver that to them.  In faster and faster ways, with more advanced and more powerful techniques.

The State wishes it could control the spread of information, but those days are gone.  All this Royal Charter stuff is just whistling in the dark.

Nevertheless, we should still oppose this measure at every opportunity.  Even despite large sections of the press entirely deserving some of what may be coming to them.  Otherwise, the statists will start thinking they can do anything they want.  That’s not a good place to be.


The Truth Is Out There

The Truth Is Out There

Regular readers will know that I’ve often pointed out the intrinsic, systemic and prolific bias that is the calling card of a certain section of our local media. Indeed, over the last couple of years I’ve watched as it grew and grew, swelling grotesquely as it fed on its own hubris and self-importance.

But I honestly thought I couldn’t be surprised any more. Somebody would say to me: “Have you seen this…” and I’d just shrug and be like: “Well what do you expect? That’s what they do.”

But this week I have genuinely been surprised.  I had to literally read it twice, so astonished was I by the sheer gall of it.  There is a piece so utterly dripping with bias that it literally seems to be screaming from the page: “Hey!  Look!  I can say anything I want and nobody will ever question it.”

It’s not that the piece is right, or wrong – honestly I don’t really know either way – only that it’s so obvious in its position as to be embarrassing.  It is so clearly not about any objective facts, but purely about getting a preordained result in public opinion.  I mean, forget any chance of actual news.  Or investigatory endeavour.  Just pick your favourite team and then drip honey on them, while spitting poison at their opponents.

The problem is, of course, that in a biased arrangement like this – the people on the positive side benefit from the situation.  So they won’t be complaining any time soon.  They’ll excuse or deny instead.  But the day will come when the shadowed side of the pendulum swings their way and then we’ll see if they are quite as quick to enjoy the fruits of such manipulative bias.

Meanwhile, the popular mood is anti-politics and so people never question whether maybe, just maybe, a section of their media is twisting the stories to suit their own taste, agenda and private power trip.  All in all it’s sad, and its damaging for our communities in a subtle but cumulative way.

The only reason I never get too concerned is that I know people are not stupid, despite some folks thinking they are.  That sometimes it takes a while because clever hands are being played by diabolically cunning people.  But eventually – eventually – the lies fall away and the facts are revealed.

The Truth, as they used to say in the X-Files, is out there.

Swivel-Eyed Loon And Proud

Swivel-Eyed Loon And Proud

I was contacted by The Sun today who asked for an interview in regards to the comments about “swivel eyed loons” allegedly made by one of the Prime Minister’s advisers.

Their journalist, Emily Fairbairn, called me promptly at 3.30PM and we spent about fifteen minutes chatting about the Swivel-Eyed business, party policy, the current state of the coalition government, UKIP and other issues.  It was a very nice interview – although I have no idea what parts of it, if any, will make it into print.

Broadly I said that I didn’t know if the Swivel-Eyed comments were true, but if they were I didn’t really care.  I pointed out that I am a Conservative member just like all the others and that I wasn’t worried about being called names by another member no matter who they were – sticks and stones and all that.  My main concern is that upon hearing those claims- members didn’t doubt that it could be true. Which is sad,  because it should be our first instincts to trust that if a friend of David Cameron were to say that to him, the Prime Minister would tell them to get out of his sight.  Instead people have been more resignedly like: “Yeah, that probably did happen.”  Which indicates a breakdown of trust that our leader is going to really struggle to repair with the members.

When asked what I thought about the government’s policies, I accepted that there had been successes, but I felt the wider feeling was that we weren’t acting conservative anymore in a number of areas and that this had escalated to the point where many traditional supporters had run out of patience.  Emily asked whether I thought this was because we were in coalition with the Liberal Democrats.  I acknowledge that this was the ten thousand dollar question.  I’m not sure supporters really believe that anymore. I’m not sure I do. The fear grassroots have is that this isn’t because of the Liberals, but might actually be the direction the Prime Minister would choose even without their presence.  That’s what brings us out in a cold sweat.  We just don’t know.

I pointed out that I didn’t think “detoxification” was ever necessary.   The “Nasty Party” label was a clever spin device used by our opponents and we should never have bought into their (false) arguments.  There is nothing “nasty” about free trade, personal responsibility, family values, patriotism, duty, law and order or secure borders.  The political pendulum swings over time and a few years ago it swung back to the right – but we weren’t in the right place to gain the advantage of that.  We were hanging around near the middle trying to grab it as it went past.  That’s why we lost the last election despite being up against Gordon “Unpopular” Brown – and that’s why we are having the problems we are having right now.

I was asked if I would ever consider moving to UKIP.  I said: “No.”  UKIP may have some policies I agree with, but their underlying ethos leaves me cold.  Those people who are “lifelong loyal Conservatives” who get taken for granted?  I’m one of those.  That’s not changing.  Because the Conservative party for me is about tradition and about loyalty.  Not to an individual, nor to a logo, nor to a colour rosette.  But to a set of core values that will still be there and still be valid when our leaders have changed ten more times.

I was asked what I thought about immigration.  I said I supported proper border controls so that we knew who was here, why and for how long.  I think that the pace of change and the level of immigration was allowed to get way out of control by the previous government and that it is human nature to respond negatively when such dramatic change is forced upon us so quickly.  Nevertheless, I am not prepared to support the blatant “immigrant bashing” that is so popular at the moment.  The vast majority just came here to make a better life for themselves and there is nothing wrong with that.  It is the system which has caused our problems, and the sheer pace of change.  I refuse to lump thousands of individuals together as if they are all “the same.”  They are not.  That sort of prejudiced approach is not Conservative at all and I will have no part in it.

Emily asked me what I thought of Gay Marriage.  I support it, though I do think David Cameron made a mistake in both his timing and his methods of consulting the party over it.  She asked me what I thought of the EU – “I’d leave tomorrow.”  She asked me what I thought about the current divisions within the party.  I said that I thought debate and argument, even quite heated, is actually a positive thing. It’s not the divisions that are the problem – it’s the perception that nobody is listening.  That’s what our leaders need to deal with.

Finally I was asked what the morale is like in our local area.  I said, obviously, it’s tough to have a bunch of your hard-working friends lose their elected seats to another party – whoever they are.  But I pointed out that we are Conservatives.  And Conservatives, by their nature, bounce back quickly.   We’ll be just fine.

Thank you, Emily, for a very enjoyable and pleasant interview.  Good luck with your piece.

PCC Election Afterthoughts

PCC Election Afterthoughts

All the media channels are running with the expected “Police And Crime Commissioners Idea Has Failed” type story. Which is a shame because, substantially, I still think its a good idea. Though it has clearly been mishandled. I’ve been interested in many of the comments on the radio where people have vented their anger about it, only for their argument to essentially confirm the need for an elected representative at the commissioning level. Then I’ve been enthused by other people commenting who clearly do get it and understand why this role is necessary. But we’ve had that debate and I’m not going to revisit it – I am going to briefly talk about where I think the government did go wrong with this one.

Poor Debate. Very little effort has been made to explain what the role is for and why things are being changed. If you’re going to replace a largely unknown body like the police authority with a single elected individual then you should probably make sure people understand why you think it’s important. How it will affect them. Personally, I do think its important and I do think we’ll all be affected by it – hopefully for the better – but it’s absolutely true that the government seem to have made only the most cursory effort to tell people what it’s all about.

Poor Communications. I can understand why the government decided not to pay for leaflets for all the candidates in the usual way – it is a time of austerity after all. I’m sure they thought that this would dilute some of the anger at paying for an expensive constitutional change. But if you’re going to make a case for a significant new elected post you need the information out there in the public domain so that people feel more connected to it.

Poor timing. Obviously this should have all happened with the District Council elections in order to save money, get a better turnout and allow for better communications alongside all the normal local government stuff. Rumour has it the Lib Dems at national level, in their infinite wisdom, vetoed this because they were worried that a concentration on law and order would depress their local council vote. (Which, let’s face it, is probably right.) So then you have to wonder: Why not wait until the county elections next May? This would surely have saved a lot of money and allowed for better presentation. Plus, the ballot would not have taken place on a cold, dark, wet day in mid-November.

I do believe that the Police & Crime Commissioner role is here to stay and I also believe that in time people will warm to it – once the winners begin showing they can make a difference. But there will be a bumpy period while the media spotlights those new to the role who do stupid things, or strange things, or dodgy things. (And there will be some, a tiny minority, but some.) We’ll also have all the opponents of the idea, both those who are principled and those who just oppose everything, banging on about the low turnout and claiming that they know exactly why every individual who didn’t vote didn’t vote. (Which never seems to be just that it was cold and dark and there were better things to do – which is the reason some friends gave me this morning that they didn’t vote. )

In the end the whole thing was handled pretty poorly and I expect the public will turn out to have used their votes to protest. But even that has value, right? If a protest is heard and action is taken then, if nothing else, that’s a result. Maybe if UKIP have a good day – which I suspect they will both locally and nationally – David Cameron will wake up to the fact that his view that “not many people care about the EU” is actually completely wrong. Maybe the handful of my Conservative colleagues who think our talking about Europe is a waste of time and we should stay in will take a different view. And maybe we’ll get the referendum that most Conservatives I know want and which my constituents tell me they want regularly and passionately.

I can’t say I’m incredibly pleased with the dog’s ear that the government made of a sound and sensible policy. But we are where we are and must make do and mend. If you’ll excuse the concatenated parables. Looking forwards, we have to hope that whoever wins today will help reduce crime across the county – which is something we should all be able to support.