uk https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/front en Sturgeon should give Scotland the chance to reject May’s absurd adventurism https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/sturgeon-should-give-scotland-chance-to-reject-may-s-absurd-adventurism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As Theresa May demands Scotland follows her loyally into the night, it's time for Sturgeon to call an independence referendum.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Theresa May 3_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Theresa May 3_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May giving her speech. Image, 10 Downing Street.</span></span></span></p><p>Being a woman, there was some discussion about what she wore. But most missed a key detail. The suit, you see, wasn’t just any&nbsp;tartan. It was what’s sometimes called ‘government tartan’. Or, more usually, ‘Black Watch tartan’. Probably Scotland’s most famous regiment, the Black Watch was founded to calm the Highlands after the 1745 uprising and has been on the front line of British military adventurism for the centuries since. This was not a kitsch nod to tourist tat on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, but evocative of the generations of interwoven history of a Union which conquered the world. &nbsp; </p><p>Perhaps it was a sensible choice. If I was a prime minister telling Scotland to ‘get in line or go fuck yourself’, I’d probably wear a Black Watch Tartan suit, too. Or, maybe it was a foolish choice. If I was a prime minister wishing to quell a troubled Northern Ireland, I probably wouldn’t choose the symbology of a regiment <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/12766825.A_TROUBLED_HISTORY__THE_BLACK_WATCH_IN_ULSTER/" target="_blank">which </a>did eleven tours during the Troubles. Or am I reading too much between those green and black lines? Perhaps she just liked the pattern, and was unaware of its meaning. But that tells a story too.</p> <p>In any case, what Theresa May said was more important than what she wore. She demanded that Scotland – and Northern Ireland and Gibraltar and everyone who voted Remain, or voted Leave but didn’t mean <em>this</em> – get on board with her drastic plan to exit not just the EU, but practically every continent-wide institution she can think of: a proposal more far-out than most in Leave-voting England and Wales say they want, never mind the parts of the union which voted Remain. </p> <p>Why did a politician usually seen as cautious jump so quickly to such a radical position? Why set out from the outset that “no deal is better than a bad deal”? Perhaps the answer, as Anthony Barnett outlined in October, is ideological: she represents the capturing of Downing Street <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/daily-mail-takes-power-0">by the Daily Mail</a>. But perhaps, in part at least, it’s for the simple reason that she understands that her country has little negotiating position and that she is likely to come back from Brussels and Berlin with almost nothing. And what do politicians do when they see stormy seas ahead? They fly the national flag and insist that their country is uniquely positioned to navigate the frothing ocean.</p> <p>The tone, too, reminded of something: the demand for unity, the nationalism, the insistence that she sets the plan and we follow her orders: no wonder she wore a military tartan, she was commanding us to follow her half a league, half a league, half a league onwards. We are Global Britain once again, resuscitating the glory days and heading forth for one last adventure on the high seas. And if we don’t like it? Ours, it seems, is not to reason why. </p> <p>Though May did say that she has received a paper from the Scottish government and awaits one from Wales, that she will consider these proposals from the devolved administrations. If nothing else, this provides Nicola Sturgeon with a little time to prepare her response. </p> <p>But what is increasingly clear is that if and when the prime minister rejects Holyrood’s plan to keep Scotland in the single market, the first minister ought to call an independence referendum.&nbsp;</p> <p>The case is simple. The people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly against leaving the European Union at all, never mind the single market and customs union. Unless the prime minister offers significant specific concessions in recognition of this, then voters here have a right to decide whether we wish to follow a foolhardy prime minister as she blunders into the valley of death, or to reassess the question asked in 2014. It <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/reverse-greenland-letting-scotland-stay" target="_blank">may have been</a> possible for the results of both the recent referendums to at least partially have been respected. But the prime minister looks increasingly belligerent in her refusal to contemplate any compromise. And that leaves us at an impasse: Scotland can either stick with the result of the 2014 referendum or it can respect the result of the 2016 referendum. It cannot do both.</p> <p>The idea that such contradictions are resolved by public vote is now well established in Scotland’s recent constitutional history. Unlike England, which has only ever had three referendums, two of which were on David Cameron’s watch, Scotland has voted in six constitutional plebiscites in the last forty-two years, an average of one every seven years for a generation. </p> <p>Where parliamentary sovereignty in England dates to the seventeenth century, Scotland’s position on the matter is more contested. In the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claim_of_Right_1989" target="_blank">Claim of Right</a> in 1989, 58 of Scotland’s 72 MPs acknowledged “the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs”; a claim which echoed the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320, sometimes seen as an early expression of the idea of popular sovereignty. When MSPs were sworn in to the Scottish Parliament in May last year, many of them, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-36267883" target="_blank">including the first minister</a> herself, declared before swearing their formal oath that “the people of Scotland are sovereign”. The parliament itself was founded on the back of a referendum vote, and the Vow declared it to be permanent – implicitly accepting that its legitimacy stems not from Westminster, but from the people.</p> <p>None of these arguments have any legal force, as such. But together they do point to a suggestion that the notion that it ought to be the people who are sovereign, rather than parliament, has a long and proud history in Scotland. </p> <p>The independence supporter in me wants such a referendum to be held when it will be won, and that’s a more complex question I’ll return to another time. But the democrat in me insists that it shouldn’t be about that. Much of me wants nothing less than yet another referendum, with all of the work and debate that entails – and I realise that huge numbers feel similarly fatigued. But this question is not for our first minister or our prime minister, the Scottish parliament or Westminster. It is a question which must be put to the people of Scotland. After all, we aren't a military regiment, honour-bound to follow the folly of our leaders. We have a democratic duty to decide for ourselves.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/back-to-1971-she-may-not-frighten-europe-but-prime-minister-frightens-me">Back to 1971: she may not frighten Europe but the prime minister frightens me</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Adam Ramsay Fri, 20 Jan 2017 14:44:13 +0000 Adam Ramsay 108243 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Liam Fox and the worst secret trade stitch up you've never heard of https://www.opendemocracy.net/molly-scott-cato/taking-back-control-secret-stitch-ups-have-already-started-in-mays-global-britain <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The EU/US 'TTIP trade deal' is dead - but another deal that will do similar damage to our public services and protections is almost in place already. And the socialists are split...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/4799290116_0f05b815de_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/4799290116_0f05b815de_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: International Trade Secretary Liam Fox. Rights: Chatham House</em></p><p><span><span><span>Lifting our last remaining restrictions on privatisation. Secret corporate courts. Y</span></span></span><span><span><span>ou </span></span></span><span><span><span>can </span></span></span><span><span><span>see why Greens have always characterised </span></span></span><span><span><span>deals like TTIP and CETA</span></span></span><span><span><span> as less of a ‘</span></span></span><span><span><span>t</span></span></span><span><span><span>rade treaty’ and more of a corporate power grab.</span></span></span></p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span>The irony that I am writing this post for Open Democracy is not lost on me. Trade treaties in general, and CETA - the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement - in particular are a classic case of decisions being made behind closed doors and with information being withheld even from elected members of Parliament. </span></span></span> </p><p> <span><span><span>The election of Trump and the vote to leave the EU has blown a massive whole in conventional trade policy. </span></span></span> </p><p><span><span><span>But what an irony faces those on the Left who voted to leave the EU </span></span></span><span><span><span><em>because</em></span></span></span><span><span><span> of TTIP and now find they are fast-tracked into a very similar</span></span></span><span><span><span> </span></span></span><span><span><span>treaty kindly offered by Trump, </span></span></span><span><span><span>even as TTIP dies! </span></span></span> </p><p><span><span><span>(</span></span></span><span><span><span>Cecilia Malmstrom, the Trade Commissioner, admitted before Christmas that </span></span></span><span><span><span>TTIP is</span></span></span><span><span><span> ‘pining for the fjords’!</span></span></span><span><span><span>)</span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span>For a more detailed glimpse into what the future of the UK’s trading relations (and the style of their negotiation) could look like, check out the nearly finalised CETA (the EU/Canadian ‘trade’ deal). Liam Fox has quietly decided, without proper parliamentary scrutiny or any debate in parliament, that this deal will apply to us <em>regardless</em> of Brexit. Fox did manage to apologise to a disgruntled parliamentary committee for the ‘scrutiny override’, <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/european-scrutiny-committee/parliamentary-scrutiny-of-eu-trade-deal-canadaeu-comprehensive-economic-and-trade-agreement-ceta/oral/42479.html" target="_blank"><span>claiming</span></a><span><span><span> </span></span></span>he had been befuddled by the ‘jobs, investment and prosperity’ the Treaty would (not) create. </span></span></span> </p><p> <span><span><span>So much for taking back control. </span></span></span> </p><p> <span><span><span>Instead we’ve been quietly and undemocratically saddled with a deal which jeopardises many of our hard-won protections – health, environmental, workers rights – not to mention our public services.</span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span><span>Perhaps most damagingly, CETA includes a proposal for an Investment Court System - a minor revision of the proposal for private, corporate courts that were the downfall of the TTIP treaty.&nbsp;</span></span></span><span><span><span><span>It is clear that the arbitration courts for investors are not only undemocratic, they are also incompatible with European standards for a fair justice system. We need to end this special treatment for multinational companies, and the parliamentary scrutiny and vote on CETA should give us the chance to do this</span></span></span></span><span><span><span>.</span></span></span></span></p><p><span><span><span>While concerns about the future of public services worry many across Europe, CETA has launched us in a direction that could further undermine them. For the first time, all services will be subject to a liberalised trade system unless explicitly excluded in writing, under what they call a ‘negative list’ approach. Previously, EU trade deals liberalised only what was specifically listed and agreed by national governments. Now any service, public or otherwise, that comes into being in the future, will be automatically liberalised, thereby severely limiting our governments’ ability to bring a service back under public control. In a&nbsp;</span></span></span><a href="https://corporateeurope.org/sites/default/files/attachments/public-services-under-attack.pdf" target="_blank"><span><span><span>report</span></span></span></a><span><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></span><span><span><span>called&nbsp;</span></span></span><span><span><span><em>Public Services Under Attack</em></span></span></span><span><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></span><span><span><span>a group of European NGOs make clear how this process turbo-charges and then sets in stone the process of privatisation:</span></span></span></p><p> <span>&nbsp;‘<span><span><span>A very limited general exemption only exists for services “supplied in the exercise of governmental authority”. But to qualify for this exemption, a service has to be carried out “neither on a commercial basis nor in competition with one or more economic operators”. Yet nowadays, in virtually all traditional public sectors, private companies exist alongside public suppliers – often resulting in fierce competition between the two. This effectively limits the governmental authority exemption to a few core sovereign functions such as law enforcement, the judiciary, or the services of a central bank.’</span></span></span></span></p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span>There is no surprise that negotiators do not want politicians or those they serve to know what is going on, because the agreements they are reaching blatantly advance the interests of the corporations who have been so busy lobbying for them.</span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span>So where’s the political fight-back? </span></span><span><span>The Green Group has been at the forefront of battling CETA and we are still the leading opponents now it has reached the stage of being ratified – or not – by the European Parliament. This process began on 21 November and in an extreme acceleration of the normal process it was proposed that we vote on it in December! As part of the same stitch-up we are being deprived of a debate and a resolution and will only have a chance to vote Yes or No. Meanwhile consultation with national parliaments has been reduced to a single lunch meeting with one representative from each country’s parliament. Hardly the rigorous scrutiny we might expect for a treaty with such far-reaching consequences.</span></span></span></p><p><span><span><span>T</span></span></span><span><span><span>he Greens managed to ensure that a number of committees could give written opinions on CETA, so MEPs had the chance to explore some of its content fully before we are asked to vote. Back in December, the employment committee&nbsp;</span></span></span><a href="http://ttip2016.eu/blog/EMPL%20CETA%20rejection.html" target="_blank"><span><span><span>voted</span></span></span></a><span><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></span><span><span><span>to reject CETA because of the threat i</span></span></span><span><span><span>t</span></span></span><span><span><span> poses to employment rights.</span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span>Earlier this month the opinion in the environment committee saw the socialists split down the middle, </span></span><span><span>with many ignoring Green</span></span><span><span> concerns about threats that EU law on chemicals, pesticides, animal welfare, food safety and climate protection may all be watered down.</span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span>Bart Staes, who wrote the opinion, was clear that:</span></span></span></p><p> <span>‘<span><span><span>[The Commission] has undermined the EU fuel quality directive to allow Canada to export fuel from dirty tar sands, and now even proposes to unlawfully modify provisions on endocrine disrupters in pesticide law. The Commission has acted in the interests of Canadian companies by refraining from banning cyanide in mining despite the </span></span></span><span><span><span>European Parliament</span></span></span><span><span><span> calling for a ban, and by recently </span></span></span><span><span><span>authorising</span></span></span><span><span><span> the use of carcinogenic substances in paints (lead chromates) even though EU companies use safer alternatives’</span></span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span>The agriculture committee may not even give a view, despite the treaty having deeply troubling implications for Europe’s farmers. CETA includes the dropping of tariffs on 97% of products, including on most agricultural products, so as MEP for the South West England this concerns me greatly. The likelihood is that we will see our markets flooded with poor-quality North American food, stuffed with hormones and modified genes, from mega-farms that destroy environments, family farms and rural communities.</span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span>As Greens we have been battering CETA for years but it limps along. To deal the killer blow we would need the whole-hearted support of the socialists in the Parliament. </span></span></span> </p><p> <span><span><span>Sadly, they have been ambivalent at best. With so much heat on this issue at home, most Labour MEPs are now voting against committee opinions on CETA - but they are not bringing their European socialist colleagues with them.</span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span>The European Parliament is now the last chance of blocking this damaging assault on democratic power. But without solid opposition from the socialists in the Parliament it is likely that CETA will be passed in February. As the vote in the Environment Committee showed, they are now divided. We need Jeremy Corbyn to keep true to his rhetorical opposition to CETA and to instruct his MEPs to vote it down. And please do what you can by making a noise about CETA and by letting your MEPs know that you want them to vote against the ratification of this damaging and anti-democratic treaty.</span></span></span></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS uk ourNHS Molly Scott-Cato Thu, 19 Jan 2017 08:06:13 +0000 Molly Scott-Cato 108202 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A manifesto for Manchester https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/steve-hanson/manifesto-for-manchester <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Andy Burnham has hit the ground running with an honest campaign around housing, although some of the ghosts of New Labour remain. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>A Manifesto for Manchester</strong></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Burnham_Pic_SH.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Burnham_Pic_SH.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="362" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mayoral hustings in Stockport (pic Steve Hanson) </span></span></span></p><p>I went to one in a series of events designed to engage citizens in order to generate a manifesto on housing in Greater Manchester. </p><p>This was held in Stockport and was organised by the team of prospective Labour Mayor Andy Burnham. It is widely assumed that Burnham is approaching what a friend calls 'his Coronation', rather than his election. Nobody wanted a mayor, or specifically him, but here he is, the future perfect, the already written. </p> <p>I watched Burnham on TV during the Labour Leadership campaign. Within five minutes he claimed he was very much his own man, and a total party man. Well, which is it? It surely can't be both. Because of that, I went to this event completely cynical, but I came out feeling more positive. </p> <p>It didn't start well. We watched a brief film of Burnham before getting the real Burnham, to some light elevator music. It escalated, but not alarmingly, peaking safely before fading. This stuff rose up repeatedly at key points across the morning. I experienced visions of us all buried in a shallow pit, after our collective death by muzak. </p> <p>Ian Munro of the New Charter Group spoke eloquently, but his microphone died during the extolling of devolution. It would be easy to turn this Alan Partridgesque beginning into a metaphor for the whole event, but that would be a mistake. </p> <p>I felt the need to pinch myself after some of the statements: We have been heavily reliant on the private sector as leaders of the housing debate. Therefore, we 'get regeneration, rather than housing needs.' There were more questions than answers, of course. For instance, if the fantasy of a swelling Manchester draining London comes true, will the rent for those 'affordable homes' rocket? Will those homes come with long term security of tenure and reasonable rates? </p> <p>To be fair, many of those questions were contingent on the controversial Spatial Framework for Greater Manchester, a joined-up planning document covering the ten districts of the city region, which currently only exist in draft form. We were told that the 'right mix' of housing in the Spatial Framework is not being encouraged at the moment. It is for larger private homes and large green sites close to roads. Burnham is for high density urban planning and integration with public transport. </p> <p>Again, this was great to hear, but again, there were questions: So far this strategy has only existed at a public level in the form of the link up for global capital via HS2 and the sacrifices made by communities for this; the ultimate winners being shareholders. But here was a window opened on what devolution and a city region mayor might do. </p> <p>Burnham is for 'air quality' and 'green spaces', but his plan to build on green belt land was released to the media as this event ran. There was a whiff of the all-things-to-all-people rhetoric of New Labour here, but something had changed. Burnham was honest about the fact that there is a crisis and wanted it sorted. That these things are to be celebrated at all illuminates the paucity of politics over the last twenty years, but something has shifted. </p> <p>There is of course a tension between having green spaces to attract more people into Manchester, and that attraction, which is already happening. For Burnham 'high density urban is the way', but he suggested greening other spaces to pay for the ones that are built on. I am reporting on an ongoing conversation here, and some of it was extremely refreshing. </p> <p>A claim was made that 'housing is too party political'. But hasn't the problem since the housing policies of the 1990s been that it isn't party political enough? By which I mean that the state takes far too little interest in it, under anyone's watch. The problem is that it is too deregulated. </p><p>There was a debate with another speaker around the idea that with the usual algorithm a magical 'trickle down' will come; but the other speaker didn't believe it, and Burnham seemed to agree with him, which was revelatory, although they have got to do something about it and that's the tricky bit. </p> <p>But let us pause again to check the distance travelled: At this event a massive drive for social housing and the rectification of the horrifying homeless problem were unanimously agreed upon. The manifesto as it stood when we entered the room assumed that owner-occupier, private let or social housing were the only forms of dwelling in Britain. When we left, co-operative co-ownership was on the agenda: And it was an actual agenda, printed out in black and white, given to us all as we left the room. </p> <p>If what was said that morning is carried out, we are in with a chance of some real reform in the Greater Manchester area. I have to pause to say this, as there were all sorts of bad hangovers still in the room, from the last era of British politics, and I will go on to criticise them. But even if revolution is not possible, reform might be, and this is something. </p> <p>The general pitch was a wide Northern Powerhouse one, and many of the problems were locatable in the broadness. Burnham wants to 'give us a voice'. I thought we had one already. He wants a resurgent left. I thought we had a popular resurgent right. Burnham outlined the aim for a public transport system that is 'sustainable'. Surely one thing to say about public transport – against the wider context of consumption – is that it is always already fundamentally unsustainable. The immediate problem for humans is that it is not universally affordable, or in many cases reliable. </p> <p>We heard about a 'Greater Manchester that leaves nobody behind'. This was Manchester as a city 'for everyone', all things for all people. This Panglossian rhetoric is meaningless when capital works when things are unequal, and then makes them more so. Emotive politics of this sort were detectable all morning, particularly a rhetoric of 'hope'. Hope is what desperate people do, nothing is ever solved and nobody is ever saved because they did some hoping. </p> <p>We were told that we can all rest assured that 'a passionate debate' is taking place about the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework document. Will lots of passion make it work? Passion, like hope, we need less of. Burnham spoke of the need to provide a 'convincing' plan. Surely all we need is one that works? This was an interesting slip: 'Convincing people'; the rhetoric that led to the seething, toxic political gas cloud of 2016. 'Convincing people' ended in the firm conviction that every politician without distinction is a swivel-eyed reptile.&nbsp; </p><p>The easy sentiment of Hillsborough was deployed by Ian Munro as a crowd pleaser. Burnham opened with a football line too, getting down with the ordinary folks. But we were sat in the Cheshire Suite in Edgeley Park football ground in Stockport. This detail seemed like a metaphor for the aspirational social agendas of New Labour: Cheshire, via downtrodden Edgeley. </p> <p>The event music was written for a cheesy banking or insurance ad. It reeked of suburbia, with sentimental slow fades and partial blurring. The aesthetics of Burnham are very just so too: Think John Lewis employee. But I entered the room thinking Burnham was a lizard and left thinking he was a decent human being. </p> <p>Burnham explained that housing policy has been London-centric for too long. On one hand, here was an exciting glimpse of the way in which devolution might work to develop a unique city-region that thumbs its nose to Whitehall. On the other hand, here was a politician's appeal to popular sentiment, rather than a real diagnosis: Neoconservatism is all over and it is global, it doesn't just exist in the South. </p> <p>Burnham's example of how the north is different to the south seemed to be the failure of Westminster to bail out northern industries as 'those industries were leaving': They didn't just jump; they were pushed. </p> <p>This then returns as he explains how 'technical education' has been 'failed' by a Westminster which is 'southern'. There is a norm here, a logical floor to what he is saying, that northerners do dirty jobs and southerners do desk jobs, like an old Mitchell and Kenyon film with bowler hats and flat caps. Surely the problem has been that Westminster isn't geographically-specific at all now, but universally, globally neoconservative. What should be rejected here, the thing that is being posited in the 'Northern Powerhouse', is the idea that we used to have technical education 'up here' and it has haemorrhaged – it has – and now we should have it back. This is a vision of northern proles for the pump house and the Eton elite for the brain. </p><p>However, the event was about housing, connected though all those things are. The main narratives revolved around the homeless crisis: Rent rises and benefit cuts and high bills for the state. But there was no suggestion that the fundamental system underlying all this be rendered a relic from a savage past. </p> <p>Burnham spoke about 'good and bad landlords' as though they were a natural phenomena, like rotten fallen apples, as opposed to those still on the trees that are fresh to pick. The questions piled up in my head: Are you going to regulate and how can you do that? As part of a post-devolution city constitution? </p> <p>This seemed like a crucial need, that Manchester becomes a fundamentally different state on these issues, one that innovates on these matters and enforces them, so that others may follow. Burnham then explained that he is for a voluntary regulation scheme for bad absentee landlords, which sounded little short of pointless. </p> <p>I nearly died in a house fire in Manchester in 2014 due to a badly wired fuse box. The fire service clearly diagnosed the fault, but nobody, from Council to Ombudsman to Insurance Underwriter could pursue the estate agent and landlord. I was simply brushed under the carpet. It was nearly impossible to get a Solicitor to take it on, and when I did they were well beyond my financial means: the clear need for stronger regulation flared up in examples given all morning. </p><p>But let me just pause again and pull back. We were sat in a room with a senior politician who expressed grave concerns about the state of private rented housing. If we take the proposals on their very broad terms, this event was a real advance, not only in the Northern Powerhouse debate, but in terms of what we might expect from a British politician. Burnham was honest about his approval of the Spatial Framework document and a centralised city vision. It was highly unpopular in the room, but he stuck to his guns. He said that it was 'right to have a plan' and I agree. Respect is due. </p> <p>The details were necessarily thin. Very specifically, someone needs to regulate in favour of longer-term letting. One of the big problems across the housing sector in Britain is short term lets, in terms of price increases and homelessness: But when we got to the breakout groups, we heard a lot of calls for more 'flexibility' in the housing market; different needs for different demographics. But all of this serves capitalist interests perfectly. There are Estate Agents in the Heaton Moor area who diagnose the situation as young people who 'prefer' flexible letting. This has to stop and stop now. Maybe it won't, but if it doesn't resentment will surely rise. </p> <p>However, Burnham is clearly thinking about these local troubles and he is also thinking globally. But how much of a utopian local is going to be delivered after he has gone to speak to Deloitte? To China? Various tentacles of the sprawling Peel organisation have been handed large sums of money for BBC rent and £2m for obscure projects by Salford Council. So there is a wider concern about 'landlordism' and 'rent' here, that is directly related to housing. For instance, the large class divides in Salford between the Quays and other areas. </p> <p>Burnham told us that 'inward investors' need 'to know that Manchester knows where it is going'. Manchester is going nowhere. It lies at Grid Reference SJ839982 and in the fifteen or so miles of radius around it. We should refuse the 'going somewhere' of growth and creaming, of surplus skimming. We need less ladders up and out, we need much richer horizontal patterns.</p> <p>But what can actually be done about the neoliberal culture that was rejected by the outcome of the Brexit vote? It is a big ask for anyone. The problem for the First World on a cliff edge is that nobody really knows what the hell to do about it.&nbsp; </p><p>Still, we must strike up a tune while Rome burns. There was a final space for questions and so I asked: “Can you write into the Spatial Framework document a guarantee that private companies with offshore tax arrangements won't be handed large sums of public money for housing?”&nbsp; </p><p>Burnham grinned. “Do you have someone in mind?” he said. “I think you can guess”, I replied. He then responded by saying the £300m coming from central government for housing in Manchester is currently far too weighted towards private for-profit companies and that he was going to try to do something about that.&nbsp; </p><p>Roll those words around your mouth and digest them. They taste good. I hope we won't need to regurgitate them, but if we do I recorded them. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/steve-hanson/constitutinoal-unchoice-in-manchester">Constitutional unchoice in Manchester</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Northern Powerhouse Steve Hanson Wed, 18 Jan 2017 17:07:19 +0000 Steve Hanson 108198 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Christopher Davidson interview: what is the role of the West in the Middle East? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/christopher-davidson-ian-sinclair/christopher-davidson-interview-what-is-role-of-west-in-middle-e <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A brief history of western intervention...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/militias-quest-libyan-unity.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/militias-quest-libyan-unity.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>image: Human Rights Watch.</span></span></span></p><p>A Reader in Middle East Politics at Durham University, in 2012 Dr Christopher Davidson published the best-seller <a href="http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/after-the-sheikhs/"><em>After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies</em></a>. </p> <p>Endorsed by John Pilger and Ilan Pappe, in his new book <a href="https://oneworld-publications.com/shadow-wars-hb.html"><em>Shadow Wars: The Secret Struggle for the Middle East</em></a>, Davidson turns his attention to the West’s often covert counter-revolutionary activities in the region.</p> <p><strong>Ian Sinclair: What have been the US and UK’s broad aims in the Middle East since World War Two?</strong></p> <p>Christopher Davidson: Although limping through World War Two as a technical victor, Britain’s surviving global empire was nonetheless in retreat. With repeated uprisings and national liberation movements chipping away at overseas possessions, Whitehall officials and planners were already expert in devising strategies aimed at blocking or reversing indigenous challenges. But with increasingly resource-intensive heavy industries requiring vast imports of basic materials at a cheap and stable price from their remaining colonies and protectorates, such counter-revolutionary efforts had to become much more focused on what was now the greatest threat of all: economic nationalism. Certainly the enemy insurgents Britain was facing by the mid-twentieth century were no longer being measured by their ideology, religion, or barbarity, but quite clearly by their capacity to nationalize resources and industries or, at the very least, build states capable of demanding greater stakes in the local production of wealth.</p> <p>Since its secret Sykes-Picot agreement with France that effectively carved up the territories of the crumbling Ottoman Empire in the wake of World War One, Britain’s grip over much of the Middle East had been more or less uncontested. But by the 1950s a potent pan-Arab movement was threatening to unseat remaining British client rulers in the region and jeopardize lucrative trade arrangements and control over valuable resources. With ‘classic nationalism [having become] impotent’ in the Middle East, as veteran correspondent Patrick Seale once described, many of the new ‘Arab nationalist’ revolts were effectively military operations, often led by army officers intent on forcibly removing foreign influences from their countries.&nbsp; </p> <p>Despite some muted discomfort over Britain’s stance on Arab nationalism, the United States of the mid-twentieth century was nonetheless rapidly waking up to the demands of its own resource-hungry industries and the realities of its Cold War stalemate with the Soviet Union.&nbsp; Ensuring vacuums left in the wake of the retrenching European empires were not filled by such antagonistic forces bent on nationalizing assets or – equally dangerously – liberation movements likely to align themselves with Soviet-sponsored international communism, the US government and its intelligence agencies soon found themselves at the very forefront of counter-revolutionary action, even surpassing the British. As Karl Korsch put it, the US may have been based on the ideals of revolutionary France, but by this stage it was fast losing its ‘capitalist infancy’.</p> <p>Advancing into the void left by Britain’s retreat, and quickly overcoming their initial fence-sitting on Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt, by the mid-1950s US planners acknowledged that securing the Middle East, and especially the Persian Gulf region, was going to be vital to the future prosperity of Western industries and, in turn, for holding the Soviet Union in check.&nbsp; As it was in the rest of the world, the extraction of natural resources was an obvious priority, so all indigenous attempts to nationalize economic assets – regardless of any progressive, liberal, or even democratic agendas – needed to be intimidated or destroyed by the US. In 1955, according to secret correspondence between British officials, President Dwight Eisenhower had even called for a ‘high class Machiavellian plan to achieve a situation in the Middle East favourable to our interests which could split the Arabs and defeat the aims of our enemies’.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>Just two years later the region got its own ‘Eisenhower Doctrine’; an evolution of the earlier Truman and Monroe doctrines that had sought to secure US interests against international communism and foreign encroachment on the American continents. Stating that ‘the US regards as vital to the national interest and world peace the preservation of the independence and integrity of the nations of the Middle East…’, Eisenhower effectively made the Middle East a special zone of US control. Moreover, as with Truman’s more global declaration, Eisenhower sought to tie the Cold War to all threats to the Middle Eastern status quo by claiming he was ‘prepared to use armed forces to assist [any Middle Eastern country] requesting assistance against armed aggression from any country controlled by international communism’. He also proclaimed that ‘the existing vacuum in the Middle East must be filled by the US before it is filled by Russia’.</p> <p>The sudden special treatment of the Middle East at this time was, for the most part, due to the simultaneous deepening of US dependency on crude oil imports. Although still a net exporter at the end of World War Two, by 1950 the US was importing a million barrels per day, and by the 1960s more than a third of the US energy demands were being met by such imports, mostly from the Shah’s Iran and the Gulf monarchies. US oil companies had already arrived on the Arabian Peninsula in 1933, eventually founding the American-Arabian Oil Company – Aramco – in Saudi Arabia, and with President Franklin Roosevelt proclaiming in 1943 that ‘the defence of Saudi Arabia is vital to the defence of the US.</p> <p><strong>IS: Though most accounts of Western involvement in the Middle East focus on the large scale interventions such as the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, with Shadow Wars you’ve decided to look at the West’s often covert actions in the region. What are some of the common strategies and tactics the West has used to achieve their aims in the Middle East?</strong></p> <p>CD: Since the 1950s a variety of different strategies and tactics have been employed, mostly determined by the scale and urgency of the perceived threat to Western interests. The first ‘wave’ of activity, led by the US and Britain’s fast-growing intelligence agencies, mostly comprised of assassination attempts, false flag operations, and efforts to destabilize uncooperative governments by sponsoring street protests and public political violence. Our best case studies from this period of course include the multiple attempts to kill off Gamal Abdel Nasser, the efforts to unseat Iran’s Mohammed Mosaddegh, who sought to part-nationalize his country’s oil industry, and the steps taken to undermine various Syrian, Iraqi, and Jordanian administrations.&nbsp; </p> <p>With other, more paramilitary threats, such as the challenges to Britain’s control over Yemen and then the Dhofar rebellion against the British-backed Omani sultan, such strategies needed to be supplemented by ‘shadow wars’ in which British forces were secretly deployed to assist the troops of their local clients or ‘proxy’ regional allies. In Yemen, for example, Saudi Arabia was conducting airstrikes with considerable British assistance and was sponsoring ‘tribal irregulars’ to fight against a new nationalist regime that had unseated a British-backed imam who had been ruling autocratically over the northern part of the country. In Oman, as well as British intelligence helping to wage a propaganda war against the rebels, the SAS was being deployed without the British parliament’s knowledge, while forces from several other pro-British states including Iran and Jordan arrived to buttress the sultan’s beleaguered army.</p> <p>By the latter part of the twentieth century, with the West’s demand for Middle Eastern resources intensifying and with the Soviet Union still undefeated, a much darker strategy started to form in which US and British officials sought to cultivate an ultra-conservative pan-Islamic movement capable of countering secular, progressive or potentially Soviet-aligned national liberation movements, or even simply nationalist governments. Gestating since the 1960s, by the 1980s the strategy was bearing great fruit as a CIA and Saudi-funded international jihad had already facilitated the arrival of thousands of foreign fighters in Afghanistan and helped forge a hardline Islamic state along the vulnerable Muslim-majority southern underbelly of the Soviet Union. By the end of the decade Al-Qaeda had emerged in the jihad’s wake, and since then its leaders and various splinter organizations proved themselves more than capable of sustaining the same sort of financial networks originally put in place for the Afghan campaign.</p> <p>In the 1990s such Islamic fighting forces remained a strategic, but volatile asset for the US and British intelligence agencies, with Al-Qaeda veterans helping form a jihadist ‘foreign legion’ in the Balkans to assist the Bosnian and Kosovan forces against Serbia, and with the ‘Libyan Islamic Fighting Group’ – whose leaders were living in Britain – being protected and paid by MI6 as part of a plot to remove Muammar Gaddafi from power. Al-Qaeda blowback to the West by the end of the decade, including the bombings of US embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen was largely contained. Even the massive disaster of 9/11 – which briefly threatened to expose and undo the US’s historically useful relationships with Saudi Arabia and other ultraconservative allies in the region – was successfully repackaged as a casus belli for a fresh round of US military interventions against other problematic regimes, and was carefully refocused on the immediate symptoms rather than the root causes of Al-Qaeda terror.&nbsp; </p><p>More recently, the nationwide revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt led to the discomforting overthrow of dictators who had opened up their economies to Western investment and had satisfactorily played the game of the post-9/11 'War on Terror'. Their overthrow certainly wrong-footed the Western powers, but very rapidly a series of counter-revolutions began as the West again began to call on key regional allies to either sponsor Islamist parties that could continue to uphold capitalistic structures and prevent the formation of inclusive, democratic, and secular societies, or could sponsor hard-man 'deep state' military dictatorships if Islamist parties proved incapable of keeping the crowds off the streets. By March 2011 a parallel campaign had also been launched to help re-direct the 'Arab Spring' to states such as Libya and Syria that remained antagonistic to Western interests. Wilfully fostering, funding, and weaponizing localized uprisings in an effort to create fresh nationwide revolutions, key US and British allies such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE all played major roles in destabilizing these long targeted Arab states, under the banner of the Arab Spring.</p> <p><strong>IS: Your book includes several sections on the ongoing Syrian war. The media and think-tank commentary around the conflict seems to be increasingly dominated by analysts who are pro-US intervention, or at least sympathetic to Western governments’ broad framing of the conflict. What do you make of the common arguments being put forward about the war?</strong></p> <p>CD: Despite the Central Intelligence Agency’s [CIA] bungled efforts in the twentieth century, the Western powers have still repeatedly sought to interfere in Syria’s affairs, with even Britain having had fairly well developed plans prior to 2011 to use the terrorist-designated Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and 'armed men' to destabilize the Al-Assad regime should it fail to prove more cooperative.&nbsp; Given this, many seasoned commentators, and not just ardent anti-imperialists or pro-Iran/pro-Kremlin partisans, have correctly understood the dynamics behind the current, post-2011 Syrian conflict, seeing close parallels with the 1980s Afghanistan war, and understanding it as a function of covert Western assistance to Syrian opposition factions combined with more extensive support provided by the West’s regional allies to groups that have included Al-Qaeda franchises and other terrorist-designated organizations.&nbsp; </p> <p>Nevertheless, as with the very vocal Western supporters of the Afghan ‘freedom fighters’ in the 1980s, most of whom were oblivious to the CIA’s ongoing ‘Operation Cyclone’ and the other efforts to wilfully create a hardline central Asian Islamic state, a significant proportion of the Western commentariat today continues to call for even greater Western intervention in Syria, either on some sort of selective humanitarian basis, or because Western allies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been lobbying strongly for more extensive efforts to remove the Damascus administration from power once and for all, even if this would likely entail the disintegration of the Syrian nation state and the rise of yet another reactionary, conservative religious regime in the region. Indeed, most of the major think tanks and policy institutes in the United States and Britain that focus on Syria either receive substantial donations from such allied governments or, at minimum, have interests that are now incredibly closely intertwined with the political elites of the Gulf monarchies.</p> <p><strong>IS: What is the role of the Western mainstream media in the West’s ongoing shadow wars in the Middle East?</strong></p> <p>CD: In general, the Western ‘mainstream’ media seems to be suffering from something of a crisis, perhaps best exemplified by its relentlessly one-sided coverage of the British ‘Brexit’ referendum and the recent US presidential campaign, which has done little to contribute to informed debate and, as far as I can see, has helped to polarize Western society. Its coverage of international events is certainly in trouble too, as although there are still some outstanding foreign correspondents, severe cuts have drastically reduced the number able to provide high quality coalface reporting. I believe this is particularly evident when it comes to writing on the Middle East, as there are now only a handful of journalists left to cover several parallel conflicts all at once. Understandably unable to visit warzones populated by groups known to kidnap for ransom, this means that most have had to rely on difficult-to-vet intermediaries and an increasing army of organized ‘information entrepreneurs’. </p><p>Easily able to manipulate this situation, a number of bespoke media outlets and ‘atrocity propaganda’ operations either directly funded by Western governments or Western regional allies, and managed by leading PR firms, have been able to create believable, seemingly credible on-the-ground sources in countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Libya that the Western media has largely had to rely upon. Usually identifiable by their catchy logos, high definition videos, slick websites, and bilingual twitter feeds, they are often ostensibly humanitarian, civil defence, or ‘citizen journalist’ non-governmental organizations, but yet they consistently produce a highly-politicized, and often very emotive narrative that almost always seeks to undermine the adversaries of the Western powers and their regional allies.&nbsp; For those who remember the ‘Nayirah testimony’ of ‘babies in incubators’ in the build-up to Operation Desert Storm, or perhaps the story of Soviet soldiers burning babies alive in Afghanistan, there is an eerie sense of familiarity.</p> <p><strong>IS: Other than your book, which other writers and books would you recommend to someone trying to understand the West’s real role in the Middle East?</strong></p> <p><strong>CD: </strong>Robert Dreyfuss, Devil’s Game. William Blum, Killing Hope. Mark Curtis, Secret Affairs and Web of Deceit<strong>. </strong>Stephen Dorril, MI6: Fifty Years of Special Operations.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/loubna-mrie/aleppos-forgotten-revolutionaries">Aleppo&#039;s forgotten revolutionaries</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Arab Awakening uk Ian Sinclair Christopher Davidson Wed, 18 Jan 2017 16:28:11 +0000 Christopher Davidson and Ian Sinclair 108196 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Employment Diversity – Has Ofcom been nobbled by the TV industry? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/simon-albury/employment-diversity-has-ofcom-been-nobbled-by-tv-industry <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>When it comes to diversity, Ofcom is being captured by the broadcasting industry. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/panel1.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/panel1.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The author and others discussing diversity in broadcasting at the Royal Television Society. Image: Royal Television Society.</span></span></span></p><p lang="en-US">There is phenomenon called “regulatory capture.” It is a form of failure that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or political concerns of special interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating.</p> <p lang="en-US">Regulatory capture often happens because people from the industries they represent have privileged access to the regulator in the course of their work and at expensive industry events, beyond those without corporate expenses, where the regulated and the regulators mix and mingle informally. To be fair, Ofcom says that holding one public meeting a year in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, where the public is given 30 minutes to ask questions about the Ofcom annual plan, demonstrates that no one has privileged access.</p> <p>Ofcom showed the first signs of regulatory capture last week at its annual public meeting in London when it was asked about seeking and publishing programme diversity data from broadcasters. The Campaign for Broadcasting Equality has argued that Ofcom should publish simple on and off screen diversity data on the top ten programmes in every genre – to provide evidence that employment diversity is not being pushed to the margins. The entertainment union, BECTU, wants to see diversity data on prime time programmes that employ more than fifty people, with just one data set for a series and just one data set for the reporting period for continuing programmes.</p> <p lang="en-US">Tony Close is Ofcom’s Director of Content Standards, Licensing and Enforcement. He is responsible for “Monitoring diversity and equality of opportunity in broadcasting.” What Ofcom says about diversity in its annual plan sounds good:</p> <p lang="en-US">“We will publish a new annual monitoring report on ‘Diversity in Broadcasting’, based on equal opportunities data and information on diversity initiatives from broadcasters. This report will provide a comprehensive picture of how well each broadcaster – and the industry as a whole – is performing on staff diversity.”</p> <p>But when Ofcom was asked about publishing programme diversity data, Ofcom suggested it was only a matter for “Project Diamond” – the TV industry-controlled project that Close said has chosen not to report on a programme by programme basis “because some programme making teams are so small that to release the data would be likely to identify individuals and the information they have given about their protected characteristics.”</p> <p>This reasoning is nonsense and Ofcom should know it. The BBC has reported “the editorial department of Holby City included 40% BAME employees.” An "editorial department" on Holby City represents a much higher level of granularity than either the Campaign for Broadcasting Equality or BECTU is seeking.</p> <p lang="en-US">As for size, the Arts Council now publishes annual diversity data on all National Portfolio Organisations and Major Partner Museums who employ more than 50 staff.</p> <p lang="en-US">With Project Diamond, the television broadcasters are collecting very detailed diversity data. Ofcom should require all radio and television broadcast licensees to supply it with the simple diversity data the Campaign for Broadcasting Equality and BECTU seek and Ofcom should publish it for the top ten programme in each genre which employ more than fifty staff.</p> <p>Ofcom must also clarify that when it reports on “broadcasters”, it will publish equality monitoring data for each licence. BAME broadcasting workers have long complained of being ghettoised into working in areas and licences focussed on BAME content and not being hired to work on mainstream licences. </p> <p lang="en-US">As yet, radio has no Project Diamond to collect diversity data. Unless Ofcom seeks diversity data per radio licence, the picture on major issues, such as the ghettoisation of BAME workers in some areas and their complete absence from others, will remain hidden. Data for only Global Radio would mask individual data for LBC, Capital, Heart, Capital XTRA, Classic FM, Smooth, LBC, Radio X and Gold which together broadcast to 24.6 million listeners.</p> <p>Under its earlier leadership, Ofcom did the bare minimum to fulfill its statutory requirements under Sections 27 and 337 of the Communications Act. Early last year, Culture Minister, Ed Vaziey, reassured diversity campaigners that Ofcom would now be “looking at the maximum possible under the duties.”</p> <p>In November, Sharon White, Ofcom CEO, said that diversity is “an area where we have not done enough in the past, and it is now a priority for us.” Ofcom’s unquestioning acceptance of the industry line on programme diversity data is a poor start. Ofcom should think again – and quickly.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/simon-albury/diversity-what-ofcom-needs-to-do">Diversity - what Ofcom needs to do</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb OurBeeb uk Simon Albury Wed, 18 Jan 2017 15:18:22 +0000 Simon Albury 108192 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Back to 1971: she may not frighten Europe but the prime minister frightens me https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/back-to-1971-she-may-not-frighten-europe-but-prime-minister-frightens-me <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Theresa May sets out her view of what kind of country she wants Britain to be.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Theresa May 3.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Theresa May 3.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May's speech - image, number 10.</span></span></span></p><p>Theresa May’s historic speech at Lancaster House will go down as one of the last manifestoes of English imperialism and perhaps its final call. The latter depends on the response of the other European powers as well as Scotland and whether they have the will and capacity to call her bluff.&nbsp; </p><p>The ostensible purpose the speech was to set out the U.K.'s Brexit strategy. But May stated at the start, “That means more than negotiating our new relationship with the EU. It means taking the opportunity of this great moment of national change to step back and ask ourselves what kind of country we want to be”. Her answer, “I want us to be a truly Global Britain”.</p> <p>She mentioned "Global Britain" eleven times. The phrase was branded on the lectern as well as the wall behind her. If it strikes you as more than accidental that “global” alliterates with “great” you would be right. For the phrase Global Britain is capitalised in the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-governments-negotiating-objectives-for-exiting-the-eu-pm-speech">official text</a> of the speech on the Downing Street website. Global is not used as a regular adjective, it has become part of the country's proper name. It is no longer credible to boast of ourselves as Great Britain. But rather than lose the imperial brand, we can replace it with Global. Greatness modernised! </p> <p>There was another twist to the imperial subtext when she addressed herself directly to "our friends across Europe". She wanted to explain to them – the audience was made up of ambassadors from EU countries – the reason for the referendum’s outcome is that the country wants “to restore, as we see it… national self-determination…”. Coming from the mouth of Downing Street, which has had to grant national self-determination to many a colony, usually under duress, this a provocative dig at the imperial pretentions of the EU. It is an endorsement of Brexit as a liberation from an occupying power. And it plays that familiar gambit of bullies everywhere, it makes out that Britain is a victim.&nbsp; </p><p>At the start of her description of the kind of country she wants us to self-determine, May said, “we will put the preservation of our precious Union at the heart of everything we do. Because it is only by coming together as one great union of nations and people that we can make the most of the opportunities ahead”. And, “A stronger Britain demands that we do something else – strengthen the precious union between the 4 nations of the United Kingdom”. She mentions three of the nations by name, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There was no mention of the fourth. Yet at the end of this section she spoke in a commanding, possessive tone, saying the government was determined that there will be no new barriers “within our own union”. </p> <p>Then she added, and, “as we do this, I should equally be clear that no decisions currently taken by the devolved administrations will be removed from them”. This looks like a gesture of respect if not generosity. In fact it is an outrageous claim. It presumes she has the unilateral power to reduce the authority of the “devolved administrations”, should she so wish. Who is occupying whom in this case? It is not just up to her as to whether decision making will be “taken” from the Scots and the Welsh, or without the agreement of Dublin from the Northern Irish. Nor are they simply “devolved administrations”, these are governments authorised by their own parliaments. This is not an acknowledgment of other governments within the Kingdom but of “devolved governance”, as if to recall the phrase of Enoch Powell’s “power devolved is power retained”.</p> <p>What we are witnessing in Theresa May is an English voice, full of its own conceit, presuming itself to be in sole charge of its&nbsp; “precious union”, so as to bend Britain to its will. Doing so, she told the Europeans, because: </p> <blockquote><p>Our political traditions are different. Unlike other European countries, we have no written constitution, but the principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty is the basis of our unwritten constitutional settlement. We have only a recent history of devolved governance – though it has rapidly embedded itself – and we have little history of coalition government.</p></blockquote> <p>This sets her face against any constitutional reform at this moment of profound change. We are not going to update the UK or become a modern country with a written, democratic constitution. We will stay as we are. The reference to coalition is a signal to her own party that we don’t want any more of <em>that</em> if we can help it – and there will be no change to the voting system. It is also an aggressive push back against Scotland too.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>But Scotland today enjoys a government based on popular not parliamentary sovereignty. Its constitution is not yet written down in an independent document, however, its powers are codified, its legal tradition is rooted in Europe’s codified one, and its parliament is permanent. As Adam Ramsay set out in an <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/scotland-isnt-different-its-britain-thats-bizarre">openDemocracy article</a> widely read in the approach to Scotland’s independence referendum of 2014, it is not Scotland that's different it is Britain that's bizarre. </p> <p>The prime minister called for both sides in the coming negotiations between the UK and the EU to show “imagination”. If Europe’s leaders were to show some real imagination and stop pushing Scotland out of the EU against its wishes, they would offer it generous economic terms to ensure it remains. If they did, Theresa May’s proclamation of continuity would be just words. </p> <p>She is aware of this vulnerability. Hence the extraordinary threat that she made, behind her smiling pitch for a free trade agreement. Agree, or it will prove to be “an act of calamitous self-harm for the countries of Europe”. Because if the EU does not do as she wishes, it “would jeopardise [its] investments” in Britain as well as its trade with “one of the biggest economies in the world”. So there!&nbsp; </p><p>She backed up her menacing talk by claiming, “if we were excluded from accessing the single market – we would be free to change the basis of Britain’s economic model”. As Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform <a href="https://www.cer.org.uk/insights/what-does-theresa-mays-speech-tell-us-about-how-britain-will-leave-eu">notes,</a> this is a hollow threat. If she tries to turn the UK into a low-regulation Singapore undercutting the EU, the prime minister will upturn the one set of positive changes she pledges for Britain after Brexit: robust workers’ rights and – perish the word – a European industrial strategy. </p> <p>The more significant incoherence is institutional. Whatever the tensions in negotiation with the EU, Global Britain, she says, will be unified at home, “Because after all the division and discord, the country is coming together”.&nbsp; In May’s view, “The referendum was divisive at times. And those divisions have taken time to heal. But one of the reasons that Britain’s democracy has been such a success for so many years is the strength of our identity as one nation…”. </p> <p>Hold on, "one nation"? This is the same person who in the same speech refers to “the 4 nations of the United Kingdom” and our “union of nations” has collapsed them into one? Some cognitive dissonance.</p> <p>One nation style unity is on the way because, “the importance we attach to our institutions means that when a vote has been held we all respect the result. The victors have the responsibility to act magnanimously. The losers have the responsibility to respect the legitimacy of the outcome. And the country comes together”. </p><p class="mag-quote-right">in this speech, there is not the slightest concession to anyone this side of UKIP</p> <p>This is a very striking claim. May supported Remain but she speaks here as if she is a victor. But where is the magnanimity? the word implies not simply telling the losers to accept the outcome, but stretching out to them with some concessions to meet their concerns. Yet she makes not the slightest concession to anyone this side of UKIP. This is not a formula for coming together or unity. After May made her first speech about Brexit in October last year, I showed how <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/daily-mail-takes-power-0">the Daily Mail had taken power</a>. When they are magnanimous, she will be. Until then, if you are not with her, you are an enemy of the people.</p> <p>Which brings me to the NHS. The word 'England' may have been missing in her utterly English presumption about the country’s sovereignty, but its absence is an old trick. What is more surprising is the absence of any reference to the NHS. The campaign for Brexit was notoriously tattooed with a pledge to pump money into it. If there is one institution everyone, whether Remain or Leave, attaches importance to it is the Health Service. About this, and its desperate need for funds there is silence. Under Blair, New Labour pledged to bring UK expenditure of the NHS up to European levels, of over 10 per cent of GDP. Current projections seem to suggest it will sink back to below 7 per cent by 2020. Is this a preparation for the prime minister’s threat to alter the country’s “economic model”? Inflicting calamitous harm on the institution that most unites the country, in “one of the biggest economies in the world”. It does not make sense – unless the Daily Mail has taken over your brain. &nbsp;</p> <p>The media understandably focused their response to the speech on the big story of what Theresa May is saying about Brexit. But her setting out “what kind of country we want to be” is as important. At the start she heralded a “great moment of national change”. Yet she is not proposing that Britain changes the way it is governed one bit. Instead of offering the Scots a federal settlement, giving the English who drove Brexit a voice (see Nicholas Boyle’s <a href="http://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/top-stories/the_problem_with_the_english_england_doesn_t_want_to_be_just_another_member_of_a_team_1_4851882">recent philippic</a>), proposing an inventive solution for Northern Ireland, and acknowledging that London, a world city with its own directly elected mayor, voted to remain by 60:40, she insists we can make our greatness global and appears to want to take the country back to 1971, if without its then troublesome trade unions. Her Daily Mail approach has led the prime minister to place too much emphasis on firmness. What works for a headline does not good policy make. Every holder of her office is now haunted by the way Margaret Thatcher reshaped the country. But Thatcher's conviction was harnessed to a formidable programme of genuine domestic transformation and a new culture of government, whether you liked it or not. There is no such depth to May’s announcement of her beliefs. </p><p><em>Anthony Barnett is writing <strong>THE LURE OF GREATNESS: England's Brexit &amp; America's Trump</strong> <a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit">which can be pre-ordered here.</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/sovereignty-bites-back-and-media-take-on-judges">The Media Monarchy: the press versus the &#039;people&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/daily-mail-takes-power-0">The Daily Mail takes power</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Anthony Barnett Wed, 18 Jan 2017 02:44:43 +0000 Anthony Barnett 108174 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 5 reasons Brexit is hazardous to our health https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/ted-schrecker/5-reasons-brexit-is-very-bad-for-our-health <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The post-Brexit deals now being negotiated are likely to leave Britons in poorer health and with a severely damaged or even privatised NHS.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/private medical advert_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/private medical advert_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="267" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Will reliance on private health insurance be the ultimate outcome of a Brexit withdrawal?</em></p><p><span>Some public policies should carry health warning labels like cigarettes or uncooked meat. Certainly that is true for a reckless and ill-thought-out policy like the UK government’s current approach to leaving the European Union, after a close advisory referendum in which at least one of the campaigns would quickly have run afoul of trading standards law if had involved a consumer product. As controversy rages on about exit paths – ‘strategies’ would be too kind a word – health researchers and professionals </span><span>are asking</span><span> how Brexit</span><span> could and will </span><span>affect public health.</span></p><p><span>Among the questions informed by a political economy perspective on health and its social determinants, five stand out. </span> </p><p><span>1.</span><span> Whose living standards will be hit first, and worst, as sterling dives towards parity with the US dollar, or even lower? Make no mistake, it is headed that way. What will be the direct and indirect effects on </span><span>the costs of </span><span>housing, transport, the cost of a healthy diet? </span> </p><p><span>2. What kind of job losses are likely to be associated with the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jun/28/firms-plan-investment-freeze-amid-brexit-fallout-cbi">shift of corporate operations</a> to locations where they are ensured of continued access to the single European market? It is plausible that the most severe losses will be concentrated among the so-called ‘unskilled’, whose mobility and options are limited by lack of credentials. If you doubt that the locational shift will be substantial, ask yourself: how much of your pension pot would you want to invest in a country with no access to any markets other than the 64 million within its borders <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/16/uk-business-leaders-cbi-train-crash-brexit">beyond that ensured by time-consuming WTO disciplines</a> that its government has no experience of negotiating?</span></p><p><span>I thought so. Prime Minister May <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/26/theresa-may-hard-brexit-goldman-sachs-private">herself conceded the point</a> during the referendum campaign. </span> </p><p>3. Beyond these impacts on social determinants of health are those on the NHS. The most recent figures from the International Monetary Fund show projected UK government spending as a percentage of GDP trending downward towards US levels – or, in historical terms, to the levels characteristic of the pre-war period, before the establishment of the NHS and the Beveridge approach to social policy.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/GDP SPEND.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/GDP SPEND.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="336" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><span>A public sector budget of that constrained size is simply incompatible with a comprehensive health service that is free at the point of use. The insurance industry, as shown by a tube advertisement from 2011, understood this point years ago. </span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/private medical advert.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/private medical advert.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="267" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><span>Crucially, these expenditure projections do not take into account the need (at least, so we will solemnly be told) for further austerity measures as government revenues drop with slower growth in anticipation of Brexit.</span></p><p><span></span><span>4. In a similar vein, how will economic policy respond to the challenges of Brexit? Chancellor Hammond has recently warned (or threatened) that the post-Brexit UK </span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/15/philip-hammond-suggests-uk-outside-single-market-could-become-tax-haven">might need to become a tax haven</a><span> to an even greater degree than is already the case in pursuit of corporate investment, abandoning ‘a recognisably European-style economy’ in favour of ‘something different’ – travelling still further down the neoliberal road that my colleague </span><a href="http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(16)31027-3.pdf">Clare Bambra and I described</a><span> in 2015. (Some of us think that was the objective of ruling class Brexiteers all along.) What is this likely to mean for public sector revenues, and for whatever solidaristic social policies have survived the </span><a href="http://www.europenowjournal.org/2016/10/31/a-tale-of-two-britains-examining-the-divide-of-health-care-disparity-in-the-uk/">post-2010 upward redistribution</a><span> of income, wealth and opportunity?</span></p><p><span>5. Finally, what will post-Brexit trade negotiations mean for the future of the NHS? A <a href="http://www.fph.org.uk/uploads/FPH%20Policy%20report%20on%20the%20Transatlantic%20Trade%20and%20Investment%20Report%20-%20FINAL.pdf">detailed legal analysis by the UK Faculty of Public Health</a> pointed out the possible dangers of investor protections proposed as part of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: ‘</span>the worst case scenario for the NHS would then be that commercialisation becomes “locked in”, sealed by the threat of huge compensation claims by investors’.</p><p>TTIP is now almost certainly dead, but the UK now faces post-Brexit trade negotiations with both the EU and the United States from a far weaker position that it occupied as part of the EU negotiating bloc. </p><p>It is hard to imagine that UK negotiators informed by the health system wisdom of Jeremy Hunt would resist opening up investor access to health services, in particular when dealing with <span>a United States in which the health care industry accounts for one-sixth of the entire economy, with associated domestic political clout. Indeed, the profit potential of a privatised NHS might be one of the most important offers available to those negotiators. </span> </p><p><a name="_GoBack"></a> <span>One needs to remind oneself that the last word in Albert Camus’ famous essay about suicide is ‘hope’. But it is hard to sustain in these times.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/jan-savage-gay-lee/brexit-or-no-brexit-so-called-trade-deals-still-threaten-our-nhs">Brexit or no Brexit - so-called &#039;trade&#039; deals still threaten our NHS</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/what-does-brexit-vote-mean-for-nhs">What does the Brexit vote mean for the NHS?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/martin-obeirne/nurses-fight-back-against-trade-treaty-that-threatens-nhs">Nurses fight back against trade treaty that threatens NHS</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/nhs-boss-stevens-and-ttip-lobbyists">NHS boss Stevens and the TTIP &#039;trade&#039; lobbyists who threaten our NHS</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/john-hilary/cameron-faces-ttip-showdown-over-nhs">Cameron faces TTIP showdown over NHS</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/ruth-atkinson/brexit-and-nhs-we-need-to-fight-racist-discourse">Brexit and the NHS - why we all must fight the racist discourse</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS uk ourNHS Brexit Ted Schrecker Tue, 17 Jan 2017 08:42:24 +0000 Ted Schrecker 108142 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Maybe it is time to tell new stories of Scotland https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/gerry-hassan/maybe-it-is-time-to-tell-new-stories-of-scotland <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On the new Scotland and its emerging political culture.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/joyce.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/joyce.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Scottish cultural commentator Joyce McMillan - YouTube, fair use</span></span></span></p> <p>It has been an unprecedented political year, and 2017 will also be full of high drama – globally, across Europe, in the UK, and nearer to home in Scotland. </p><p>Politics isn’t everything. Just as important is culture – a word used and over-used, seemingly about everything and everywhere, but difficult, and sometimes impossible to pin down and define.</p> <p>Culture when we forensically examine it can mean so many things. It can describe individual growth and enrichment. It can be about a group or community’s way of life. It expresses the activities of consuming culture. And finally, it is also used to define the way groups and organisations act and the codes and practices which shape them.</p> <p>The many facets of culture and the propensity not to define them can be seen in our nation. We have a politics which is meant to be all-encompassing, but often evades detail and substance. Reinforcing this is a widespread characteristic of not wanting to define Scottish culture – for fear of ghettoising and marginalising.</p> <p>This is part of a universal trait about identity and culture – one which can be seen in debates on women’s writing and studies, or regarding lesbian and gay culture – and indeed any aspect of human life which challenges or isn’t part of the mainstream. </p> <p>When writing ‘Scotland the Bold’ I asked a number of prominent writers and thinkers what Scottish culture meant to them. Many refused – some for the reasons above. The cultural critic and commentator Joyce McMillan offered the following insights:</p> <blockquote><p><em>I think all living cultures are in a constant state of dynamic change, and can – should – never be ‘defined’, although they can be sketched at any given moment. There is nothing unusual about Scotland in that respect. We simply have to fend off the danger of metropolitan perceptions which would prefer Scottishness to be a non-threatening dead culture, a quaint piece of exotica pickled in nostalgia. Fortunately, Scotland’s artists are having none of that.</em></p></blockquote> <p>It is a great quote, filled with light and insight. Yet, in its clarion call against pathologising or sentimentalising Scotland, McMillan states that ‘there is nothing unusual about Scotland’ and its culture. Yet, unusualness and uniqueness are central to the Scottish condition. We have been for three centuries that strange entity: a stateless nation. We gave away our political sovereignty in the age of absolutism to preserve our nationhood. And we committed ourselves with enthusiasm and energy to the British Empire and imperial project, and now feel semi-detached from the sad remains that are left. That seems quite a unique experience.</p> <p>In this experience much is being re-examined about our past, but much, too much, is still left unsaid. This includes casting a critical eye on the different strands of culture in our nation. This scrutiny has been missing too much from how we have understood past eras, institutions and politics, let alone given due prominence to the disparate voices and traditions which have made up this nation. </p><p>There are notable exceptions to this. David McCrone’s outstanding ‘Understanding Scotland: The Sociology of a Stateless Nation’ published twenty-five years ago was an important breakthrough. There was the cultural studies work post-1979 of the ‘Scotch Myths’ school of, amongst others, Cairns Craig and Colin McArthur. And from non-academia, there has been Carol Craig’s provocation ‘The Scots’ Crisis of Confidence’.</p> <p>Scotland remained a nation and political entity post-1707 because of the deal that was done in the Acts of Union. They preserved the institutional autonomy of the nation, and in particular, that of the Kirk, law and education – ‘the holy trinity’ which underpinned and contributed to preserving Scottish identity – but one which was elite based and controlling, and with limited democracy, accountability and scrutiny.</p> <p>The rhetoric of these dominant bodies was often inclusive – the democratic intellect, the Kirk General Assembly as the surrogate parliament of the nation – but the practices were often oppressive, claustrophobic, and about the maintenance of a rigid system of social control throughout most of the 18th and 19th centuries. This overhang continued long into the 20th century. One example amongst many is that when nationalist campaigner Wendy Wood addressed the Church of Scotland General Assembly in 1961 she was the first woman to do so since Lady Liverpool in 1931. </p> <p>I have called this public culture ‘undemocracy’ and the practices it has given rise to ‘unspace’ – the dominance in so many parts of the country of institutional authority, opinion and voices. This may be, and indeed is probably true of nations the world over, but there is, a unique Scottish experience post-1707 of all-pervasive authority. There was pre-1707 as well, but its practice becomes more explicit and increasingly problematic, the nearer we get to modern times.</p> <p>The unspace of old – of ‘the holy trinity’ – was often punitive and could invoke fear, foreboding and even retribution. It had legitimacy and reach in what was at the height of the Kirk a moral order which mobilised large swathes of the nation, and which reached into men and women’s souls, and produced a kind of internal inferiorism, altering how they saw and acted in the world.</p> <p>Its slow demise is one of the main stories of post-war Scotland – a land increasingly secular, less deferential to traditional authority, and which has changed dramatically as an economy and society. This is one of the long tails which produced the independence referendum, for with these changes, the liberal unionist establishment which controlled many of our elites has seen its power wane and the charactertistics of remaining institutions shift to being less attached to the maintenance of the union. </p> <p>Yet, if the indyref was a product of a new opening, it also looks, as we mark the SNP being in government for coming up for ten years, that this set of changes has marked an important transition, the scale of which is only coming into view. </p> <p>It looks as if as we leave the world and contours of the old unspace that we may be entering into a new kind of unspace. For as we have shed the clothes of the old Labour dominance and nomenclature, it looks like we may be entering a new age of orthodoxies and groupthink. </p> <p>Thus we have a parliament and political classes who see politics as about them and accruing power, who engage in centralisation, standardisation, and scooping up institutions and responsibilities. ‘Social justice’ is the mantra of everything, but no goodies are taken away from the middle classes and affluent. Meanwhile, dull Boardism defines much of public life: of safety first placemen and women sitting on the deep state of networks of patronage. In short, much of this looks like the old Labour Scotland but with new ownership and titles on the front shop. Scotland has gone through some kind of peaceful revolution, but basically many of the same tenets, conceits and even personnel are still running things in exactly the same way.</p> <p>Britain’s politics and public culture have eroded and corroded to the point of travesty and tragedy. There are the deceptions and lies which now form the mainstay of British government. There is the cumulative effect of the disinformation of the Murdoch Empire that is now set upon even more enrichment and reward with the full acquisition of Sky. And there is the frightening aspect of where the UK positions itself geo-politically: divorcing itself from the European Union, still fanatically committed to Atlanticism come what may and the advent of Trump, and without any real diplomatic strategy or strategic allies across the world.</p> <p>Such times and high stakes necessitate that we talk openly and truthfully about Scotland: the place and limits of politics and politicians, and about the trajectory and make-up of our many cultures. Some of this will entail embracing inconvenient truths to the ruling party and the dominant values of our time. </p> <p>A Scotland earmarking on greater self-government and the prospect of independence cannot be a land where we are expected to keep our mouths shut, and just pray it will all be alright on the night. Some pro-indy cheerleaders argue, indeed expect, that loyalty and silence in the cause of the greater cause is the right approach to get us over the winning line. But this is entirely the wrong way of thinking of politics and culture, for the Scotland of the future, in its hopes, fears and contradictions is being made now. A diverse Scotland which turns its back on unspace doesn’t start the day after independence. It either starts in the here and now, or it never does.</p> <p>There is still a lack of confidence about large parts of Scottish culture. There is a feeling of fear and incorporation, alongside an anxiety about its fragilities and sustainability. Writing after the announcement of the threatened closure of the ‘Bella Caledonia’ website (now reprieved), the playwright David Greig said on twitter that Scotland could be reduced to ‘a regional culture’ and that ‘we make hardly any films or TV’ as an example. Joyce McMillan then asked why so many Scots ‘defer so instinctively to London government?’ </p> <p>There are many weaknesses about our culture, but Scotland isn’t going to be reduced to a region. More critical are the pressures of living in the same media and public space as the London media, and the propensity of some to worry that Scotland could somehow be wiped out or erased as a nation doesn’t help anyone. It isn’t going to happen, but we do need to talk about a lot of difficult and more tangible things: a lack of alternative spaces, the death of the old media, an absence of new media models, and a lack of pluralism in much of public life.</p> <p>This brings me back to cultural accounts of Scotland. The studies I mentioned were part of a cultural reawakening and flowering – and became along with many other political and intellectual interventions – part of the official story of Scotland of recent times: that we were a distinct, autonomous, different society.</p> <p>We need a new set of political and cultural interpretations for the present and the future: ones which are as daring and challenging in their way as the McCrones and ‘Scotch Myths’ were in their day. McCrone has his successor volume out later this year: a huge tome entitled ‘The New Sociology of Scotland’ which is perhaps aspiring to be the final word on the subject. Yet, the stories of a nation never stop and never reach a destination. They are part of what French philosopher Ernest Renan called ‘the daily plebiscite’ which contribute making a nation what it is. </p> <p>What would these new stories address? For a start they would recognise that there is no single story or endpoint in Scotland’s journey; they would disrupt the political and cultural orthodoxies which have emerged post-1979, and welcome and encourage new dissent, note our missing voices and perspectives, and not believe that somehow everything in our garden is progressive and rosy. There have already been some important first steps: Scott Hames questioning of the conventional wisdom that artists reimagined the nation post-1979; Eleanor Yule’s work on the spectre of cultural miserablism in film and fiction, and the counter-critique of Neil Davidson on everything from bourgeois nationalism to the limits of ‘the Edinburgh school’ of academia. </p> <p>And so it should be. The radical voices of yesteryear become the new class of today. The heretics become incorporated, and their counterblasts muffled. Maybe we can eventually accept that in the multiple voices and accounts of our country, there can never ever be a ‘settled will’. The story goes on and we should champion this, not resist it.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Gerry Hassan Mon, 16 Jan 2017 20:14:58 +0000 Gerry Hassan 108137 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Theresa May has handed the NHS crisis to the regions - here's why that should worry us all https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/sid-ryan/theresa-may-has-handed-nhs-crisis-to-regions-heres-why-that-should-worry-us-all <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Westminster and Whitehall ‘lords and masters’ are making local NHS bosses create NHS plans full of hopelessly optimistic ambitions, and bad excuses for cutting services.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/p1150114.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/p1150114.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em>Image: NHS cuts won't heal. Rights: <a href="https://bristolpeoplesassembly.wordpress.com/bristol-nhs-bloc-photos/">Bristol People's Assembly</a>.</em></p><p><span>Sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) are what’s in store for the NHS in the next five years. The term ‘STP’ is contentious because it’s not really a sustainable approach, nor really a plan – and although transformative, it’s not at all clear what the NHS is transforming into. The plans are being pushed through at light</span><span>ening</span><span> speed, during the NHS and local government’s biggest crisis in decades.</span></p><p> <span>STPs, the government’s response to the NHS crisis, have been in development for the last year. Instead of the government taking control of the sector as a whole, the NHS is being broken up into 44 regional blocks, which are ‘empowered’ to resolve their own problems in their own way. </span> </p><p> <span>Take the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) region. It’s made up of 15 NHS Trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups and other health bodies. It will get some limited powers to establish its own systems and set its own rules. </span> </p><p> <span>As the ‘STP footprints’ start to diverge we’ll move away from a National Health Service and towards regional health services.</span></p><p> <span>The programme for Bristol isn’t yet clear. NHS England, the Department of Health’s enforcer, has ordered that the plans be kept under lock and key for as long as possible. It was only after activist pressure and Freedom of Information requests by organisations such as the Cable in Bristol, that plans were released – and it was obvious why the government would prefer to keep them secret. </span> </p><p> <span>The jumbled wish-list of projects generally falls into three categories: good ideas that make little overall difference, hopelessly optimistic ambitions, and bad excuses for cutting services.</span></p><h3 class="western"> <span>What’s the plan?</span></h3><p><span>The crux of the STP initiative is that if the NHS continues along its current trajectory, by 2020/21 there will be a </span><span>huge deficit across the country. In Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, for example, the deficit will be in the</span><span> region of £300 million per year. That shortfall will be in the form of either a gigantic budget crisis that needs to be bailed out by government, or more likely simply £300 million’s worth of healthcare that’s no longer provided.</span></p><p> <span>To put that figure into context, Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership employs the equivalent of 3,300 full-time staff, serving a population of 1.8 million, with about 2,000 inpatients and 75,000 patients in the community. Abolishing the entire organisation would save £197 million – only two-thirds of the expected budget deficit – and would of course lead to all those untreated conditions worsening and requiring more care at greater expense.</span></p><p> <span>There Bristol region plans contain no detailed proposals for how this budget gap will be closed. The STP project teams have identified £139m of cuts and ‘efficiencies’ under obscure headings, like the £35 million to be cut from North Bristol Trust’s “operational productivity” or an extra £10 million from University Hospitals Bristol seizing “commercial opportunities”. On top of these nebulous savings are a further £104 million of cuts that are yet to even be identified.</span></p><p> <span>More problematic is that many of the savings programmes supposed to be carried out need a significant amount of investment in new technologies and new working teams. The savings these plans are supposed to generate are booked, but their delivery is far from certain. The “sustainable transformation fund”, a one-off £61 million block of funds from government supposed to support the transition, is mostly being earmarked for shoring up pre-existing budget deficits rather than addressing the root causes.</span></p><p> <span>When the three local councils in the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire region met to scrutinise the plans, not one councillor spoke in favour of them. The most common concern for councillors was the concurrent social care crisis. Lockleaze councillor Gill Kirk said: “The council has already made big savings in social care but still have a shortfall and there’s no new money coming. The chancellor is content to say that there will be some money for social care in 2020. The problem is, what are we going to do until then? The needs of those people are urgent and there isn’t any funding.”</span></p><h3 class="western"> <span>Where are we going?</span></h3><p> <span>The publicly available plans are based around ‘frameworks’ and ‘principles’ instead of concrete and credible proposals. It’s a ruse – no-one could ever object to the many of the <em>principle</em><em>s</em>, it’s the <em>execution</em> that causes concern. And the Department of Health’s track record on reforming the NHS that exacerbates it.</span></p><p>‘<span>Care closer to home’ is one such </span><span>principle</span><span>. In </span><span>theory</span><span> it looks to help patients manage their own long-term conditions and give them some independence from the health system. ‘Managing demand’ is supposed to reduce the number of contacts with GPs and community care services by 15%, reduce hospital admissions by 30% for some conditions and cut the average length of a stay in hospital by 20%. Reading between the lines you get the impression that patients are being asked to look after themselves because the NHS no longer can.</span></p><p>“<span>This looks like rationing of healthcare,” says Mike Campbell, a member of campaign group Protect Our NHS. “Even if there was enough money to set this new system up, which there isn’t, it’s going to lead to more people falling through the cracks and not getting the care they need. Self-care might make sense for some, but it’s vulnerable people who’ll suffer.”</span></p><p> <span>The other concern for health campaigners is the spectre of privatisation. All STP areas are being encouraged to follow an ‘Accountable Care Organisation’ model, an <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/stewart-player/accountable-care-american-import-thats-last-thing-englands-nhs-needs">import from the US health system</a>. Effectively a single umbrella organisation to provide care for an area, it is funded a fixed amount per person in its area. Not only does this encourage ‘care to fit your budget’ rather than your needs, it could lead to the introduction of top-up fees and co-payments (fixed fees paid each time a medical service is accessed).</span></p><p> <span>The other danger, though less so in a big city like Bristol, is that one or more of the 44 STP areas collapses into financial ruin only to be bought up by a private firm. Over the previous 15 years private providers have been increasing the scale of their holdings, first targeting specific treatments such as cataract surgery, then onto whole bundles of services such as Virgin Care recently taking over community health and care in Bath. Now the NHS offers the prospect of a regional monopoly over the entire health and social care system.</span></p><h3 class="western"> <span>Push back</span></h3><p><span>The STP is supposed to pull the NHS back from the brink, and yet the planning documents admit that we need change “at a scale not previously seen” with a “limited evidence base that exists for achieving” that change. </span><span>That’s a bureaucratically polite way of saying that </span><span> the STP is a road to ruin, and yet it will continue anyway unless it is challenged.</span></p><p> <span>Even the supposed cheerleaders for the sustainability and transformation plan, the local health service bosses responsible for developing and implementing it, are finding it hard to defend. Robert Woolley, chief executive of University Hospitals Bristol Trust, said it was “inappropriate” for the plans to be developed with so little input from patients, the public and the council. He emphasised that he and his colleagues were being asked by their “lords and masters” to develop the plans in whatever “spare time” they had left over after running some of the largest NHS Trusts in the country.</span></p><p> <span>The next few months will be critical and the stakes couldn’t be much higher. Although there is a half-hearted attempt to fulfil the legal duty to consult with members of the public, remember that there’s only one relevant question here: is healthcare going to get better or worse? So far there’s not much evidence to suggest the former. Which means we’ve got some work to do.</span></p><p><span><em>This piece is cross-posted with kind permission from <a href="https://thebristolcable.org/">the Bristol Cable.&nbsp;</a></em></span></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS uk ourNHS Sid Ryan Mon, 16 Jan 2017 12:30:31 +0000 Sid Ryan 108119 at https://www.opendemocracy.net DUP risks turning Northern Ireland into an EU condominium https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/tom-griffin/dup-risks-turning-northern-ireland-into-eu-condominium <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The implications for the collapse of the Northern Irish Assembly this week could be far reaching...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 16.20.41.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 16.20.41.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Northern Irish Assembly: photo, Robert Paul Young.</span></span></span></p><p>This week's collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly has obvious implications for Brexit. Some have even suggested that the need to consult Stormont will delay the start of the Brexit process with the invocation of Article 50. What's more certain is that parliamentary skirmishing of recent months over Brexit is building up to a real battle over Article 50, and Northern Ireland's largest party the DUP will be <a title="a key weight in the balance" href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-news-theresa-may-northern-ireland-dup-votes-peace-process-a7519106.html" target="_blank">a key weight in the balance</a>. </p><p>Labour has a real chance of constraining the drive towards a hard Brexit if it can find a formula that will bring on board rival forces like the Lib Dems and SNP who are much less inclined to recognise the need for an Article 50 process at all. If the opposition unites, the Conservatives may need the DUP simply to cancel out the votes of the so-called 'new bastards' on the Tory benches. The approach of the Tory whips in the <a title="skirmishes of the autumn" href="http://www.tomgriffin.org/the_green_ribbon/2016/12/brexit-terms-and-the-commons-the-numbers-for-round-two.html" target="_blank">skirmishes of the autumn</a> suggests they fear defeat even with the DUP onside. </p> <p><a title="Consciousness of DUP strength at Westminster" href="http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/sam-mcbride-dup-and-sf-are-both-taking-mammoth-strategical-risks-1-7766619" target="_blank">Consciousness of DUP strength at Westminster</a> may have influenced the unilateralist approach adopted by Arlene Foster as First Minister. However, that calculation may have misjudged a key factor, the power of Westminster itself, and the impact on it of a DUP-backed Brexit. </p> <p>The relationship between Stormont and Westminster is ultimately less fundamental than the one between London and Dublin, and that will change significantly after Article 50. Britain will remain a major European power, and Ireland will remain a relatively small EU member state, but the influence of smaller EU members has been consistently under-estimated by British euro-sceptics committed to the idea of the EU as a bureaucracy influenced by at most one or two big powers. </p> <p>This will shape the crisis that has so far unfolded along traditional lines. In the absence of the Stormont executive, there have been calls from unionists for <a title="direct rule from London" href="http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/allister-calls-for-a-new-form-of-direct-rule-to-be-run-alongside-assembly-if-the-executive-collapses-in-2017-35328884.html" target="_blank">direct rule from London</a>, and from nationalists for <a title="joint authority" href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/11/northern-ireland-british-irish-rule-sdlp-dup-sinn-fein" target="_blank">joint authority</a> exercised by London and Dublin. Under the last Labour Government, the DUP was cajoled into power-sharing partly by the threat of '<a title="green-tinged" href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/threat-of-a-green-tinged-stormont-as-blair-raises-the-heat-on-paisley-6104395.html" target="_blank">green-tinged</a>' direct rule, with a greater role for Dublin. </p> <p>Theresa May's Conservative government may be less inclined to make such a threat. However, it also has to consider the views of the Irish government, which has been seen as one of Britain's best potential allies in the EU 27. This is largely based on shared east-west economic relationships with provide a basis of common interest independently of events in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, Ireland also has worries, voiced by European Commissioner <a title="Phil Hogan" href="http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/phil-hogan-now-is-the-time-to-cut-our-ties-with-brexiting-britain-1.2928074" target="_blank">Phil Hogan</a>, about being too closely identified with the UK. </p> <p>While Dublin's stewardship may also be complicated by rivalry between the governing parties and Sinn Fein, the Irish government has economic and political interests in the North from which it is unlikely to resile. It has stated that Northern Ireland is one of its <a title="key priorities" href="http://www.merrionstreet.ie/en/News-Room/Speeches/Statement_by_An_Taoiseach_Enda_Kenny_TD_on_the_UK_Vote_to_Leave_the_European_Union.html" target="_blank">key priorities</a> in its approach to Brexit, and has sought to keep open the route to <a title="Irish unity" href="http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/irish-unity-must-be-considered-in-brexit-talks-enda-kenny-says-1.2785987" target="_blank">Irish unity</a> provided for in the Good Friday Agreement. </p> <p>Brexit already means that the EU is about to acquire a direct interest in the administration of an Irish border which is <a title="singularly ill-suited" href="http://www.tomgriffin.org/the_green_ribbon/2016/10/brexit-and-cross-border-smuggling.html" target="_blank">singularly ill-suited</a> to be an immigration or customs frontier. There will now also be a negotiation on restoring the partnership government at Stormont. It is inevitable that those two negotiations will become intertwined. After the invocation of Article 50, issues about equality and parity of esteem between the two traditions in Northern Ireland will also be issues about the rights of EU citizens. </p> <p>This situation is not the product of opportunism by nationalists. Both taoiseach Enda Kenny and former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness have honestly sought to <a title="avoid the current impasse" href="http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/normal-politics-in-the-north-still-a-pipe-dream-1.2932051?utm_source=dlvr.it&amp;utm_medium=twitter" target="_blank">avoid the current impasse</a>. It is former first minister Arlene Foster who has opened up the prospect of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams pursuing a new peace process on a broader European stage. </p> <p>It does not, however, require any political adventurism by either Ireland or the EU to change the balance of power that led to the current breakdown. They should pursue three broadly supported goals: firstly the honouring of existing commitments such as the Good Friday Agreement and the principles underlying them; secondly, arrangements to keep open a border which can never be an effective immigration or customs frontier; thirdly, arrangements that will allow Northern Ireland to retain access to the single market, including the market in the Republic. </p> <p>Successive referendums have shown that the DUP does not necessarily speak for a majority of Northern Ireland on any of these issues. It should be invited to return to government on the basis of partnership and equality as the best way to influence a debate, which its actions up to now, and its votes in coming months, will make inevitable.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/2007/08/31/northern-ireland-marginalised-in-debate-over-britishness">Northern Ireland marginalised in debate over &#039;Britishness&#039;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Tom Griffin Thu, 12 Jan 2017 16:30:15 +0000 Tom Griffin 108077 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Make justice great again https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/helena-kennedy/make-justice-great-again <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>openJustice had its official launch party this week. Helena Kennedy talked about access to justice, justice post-Brexit and the future of human rights in the UK. Watch it here.</p> </div> </div> </div> <iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/FCOpCg4h12w?list=PL27HDLFDYbmKp9Zspq31pbQw2qOCINXTv" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice Can Europe make it? uk openJustice Helena Kennedy Thu, 12 Jan 2017 12:23:01 +0000 Helena Kennedy 108070 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Parliamentarians - wake up! https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/stein-ringen/parliementarians-wake-up <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The author launches <a href="https://thatsdemocracy.com">a new blog</a> with a message on Brexit – parliament wake up! Former Labour parliamentarian replies on how to correct the imbalance exploited by Thatcher, Blair and May.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-29675137.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-29675137.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. January, 2017. Stefan Rousseau/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>If Members of Parliament could shed their attitude of servility to the Prime Minister and government, this is what they should do: The House of Commons should elect its own leadership in the form of a committee of speakers – the Speaker and five or six deputies – to be in charge of parliamentary business and represent and speak for Parliament. The post of “Leader of the House” should be abolished.<br /><br />Parliament wants to consider the government’s Brexit plan. The Prime Minister is resisting any serious involvement by Parliament. We have a parliamentary democracy. Parliament does not need to ask the Prime Minister. It should instruct her.<br /><br />We the people elect Members of Parliament to manage out joint affairs: laws, public policy and budgets. Parliament appoints a government to implement parliamentary decisions and prepare parliament business. Parliament is the democratic boss. The government is its servant.<br /><br />However, in Britain, constitutional practice, in this as in so much, is ambiguous. Brexit has plunged the country into a power struggle between Parliament and government. This has given Parliament a golden opportunity to assert itself and improve the constitution.<br /><br />There are two reasons why it is difficult for the British Parliament to exercise its full democratic. First, Parliament is not in control of its own agenda. “<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/ministers/leader-of-the-house-of-commons">The Leader of the House</a>” is appointed by the government and manages parliamentary affairs under the government’s instructions. Parliament has no leadership of its own and no one has a mandate to speak for Parliament as such. <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/about/mps-and-lords/principal/speaker/">The Speaker,</a> who is elected by Parliament, has in this respect only a ceremonial role. Hence, in the ongoing power struggle, there is the government on the one side with all of its apparatus, and on the other side only individual MPs who can no more than appeal to the Prime Minister to involve Parliament. Parliament as such has no voice.<br /><br />The other reason is in attitudes. It is thought normal by most people in and around Parliament and Whitehall that it is right and proper that the government, once appointed by Parliament, should be in command. The Prime Minister insists that she should be in command of the Brexit process by “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_prerogative_in_the_United_Kingdom">royal prerogative”</a> – but in a parliamentary democracy the Prime Minister can have no other prerogative than is accepted by Parliament.<br /><br />The constitutional practice in which the government dominates Parliament makes for an unsafe system of decision making. The government, the Prime Minister really, has too much of a free hand and government business is not tested by adequate oversight and scrutiny. The <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36721645">Chilcot report</a> last year levied a broadside of criticism against our system of political decision making which enabled Britain to fall into the catastrophe of the Iraq war. Britain is in fact badly governed in general. In their brilliant book <em>The Blunders of our Governments</em>, Antony King and Ivor Crewe, both esteemed constitutional experts, show that badly prepared and mistaken decision making is rather the rule than the exception. The reason for this is not that our politicians are incompetent but that the system is dysfunctional.<br /><br />We would be better governed if there were a more balanced relationship between Parliament and government. The weak link in the system of decision making is the House of Commons.<br /><br />In the ongoing power struggle the Prime Minister has, unwisely, decided to protect the government’s supremacy over Parliament. She now wants decision making over Brexit to be conducted in the same way that has long caused blunders great and small. Iraq was a big issue in which Britain got it wrong. Brexit is a big issue that is again being managed under an unsafe system of decision making. Parliament now has the opportunity to improve on our political system – if MPs are able to learn from previous mistakes and act in accordance with their instinct.</p><h2>Mark Fisher responds: </h2><p>( Labour MP for Stoke on Trent Central 1983-2010; Minister for the Arts; and Chair of Parliament First 2003-2010)</p><p>The reform of parliament on which Stein Ringen is embarking is an important, nay vital, project: the executive/Government has dominated the legislature/Commons for longer than the past century – ever since Parnell’s brilliant manipulation of the Parliamentary timetable that led to the Government seizing control of Standing Orders in order to control him. Since when, as he rightly says, the Commons has been in thrall to the Government.&nbsp; </p><p>It was precisely to address this that Parliament First – an All Party Group of MPs – was established in 2003. It consisted, mainly, of former Ministers who despaired of the way that Thatcher and then Blair were flagrantly manipulating Parliament to such an extent that the Commons voted to “deem” that legislation had been considered and scrutinised when it had not been, so that swathes of legislation was being waved through ‘on the nod’.</p> <p>Parliament First included Ken Clarke, George Young, Gwyneth Dunwoody, Alex Salmond, Douglas Hogg, Michael Meacher, Tam Dalyell,&nbsp; Bob Marshall Andrews, &nbsp;Frank Field, Tony Wright, with me as Chair. </p> <p>Among its aims were the establishment of a Business Committee to give the Commons a say in setting its own business; the election, and payment, of Select Committee Chairs; the payment of Select Committee Chairs to create an alternative to Ministerial office; the curtailing of prerogative powers, and the separation of responsibilities and powers.</p> <p>It was initially quite effective and led to Gordon Brown establishing a Committee to consider the issue under the chairmanship of Tony Wright. The Select Committees have indeed been strengthened but the overall balance between executive and legislature remains unchanged, and neither David Cameron nor Theresa May has given any indication that they recognise the problem, far less that they intend to address it.&nbsp; </p><p>The impasse between the Government and the Supreme Court over Brexit is a return to the worst of the past.&nbsp; </p><p>The Scottish Parliament, unconstrained by history, has attempted to establish a Business Committee that could provide some parity, but it has not proved very effective.</p> <p>Until we address this imbalance we will not have an effective legislature. But a larger team of deputy speakers is not the way forward. We have in the present Speaker, John Bercow, a speaker who is far more independent minded than any previous speaker in our lifetime. He does not flinch from supporting back bench MPs, and opposition parties, but independent minded speakers will not in themselves provide a solution.</p> <p>That can only be achieved if the Commons gets off its backside and asserts itself by, for instance, tackling the standing orders; by establishing a Petitions Committee to give the electorate a say in legislation; by making pre-legislative scrutiny the norm; by scrutinizing non-departmental expenditure and Private Finance Initiatives; above all by distinguishing between the proper responsibilities of the Commons and the Government.&nbsp; </p><p>It is entirely right that the Government, having gained a mandate for its programme at an election, should have sufficient time to introduce the legislation necessary to implement that programme. But legislation takes up much less than half the time of the Commons. What is not proper is that Government should control all of the work of the legislature : when the House should sit; what business should be; how Parliament should be administered. </p> <p>Parliament must find the self-confidence to make it clear that it is distinct from Government, that it is not a creature of the Executive, as it has too often become in recent years; that is, in short, a partner of Government.</p> <p>Only if it is capable of doing that, will we have a democracy that is truly effective and of which we can be proud.</p> <p>So &nbsp;… &nbsp;the problem is clear, but the solution is not &nbsp;.. &nbsp;.. &nbsp;yet.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Brexit2016 Mark Fisher former MP Stein Ringen Thu, 12 Jan 2017 08:57:13 +0000 Stein Ringen and Mark Fisher former MP 108001 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Illegitimacy of Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/pavlos-eleftheriadis/illegitimacy-of-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Britain voted to leave the EU. But there is no mandate for where it should go.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Ukraine_Forum_on_Asset_Recovery_(14038928986).jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Ukraine_Forum_on_Asset_Recovery_(14038928986).jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May, image, FCO.</span></span></span></p><p>What we may call constitutional ‘populism’ has thrown the British constitution into a state of confusion. Old certainties about the supremacy of parliament, the role of parties and the independence of the civil service and the courts are being challenged. Alarmingly, the nebulous idea of a remote and ‘illegitimate’ establishment seems now to include our democratic representatives in parliament, as well as the civil service and the courts. Theresa May, who, ironically, is an unelected prime minister who won office through the internal processes of her party, said in a speech last October that those that challenged the legality of the Article 50 notification were ‘subverting democracy’. </p><p>It was an extraordinary thing to say. This statement – not an isolated case – was a public endorsement of the populist narrative. Newspapers then followed suit in branding the judges as ‘enemies of the people’ after they found that an Article 50 notification must be decided by parliament, under standard rules about the use of the royal prerogative. Even Vernon Bogdanor, an experienced observer of the British constitution, wrote a few weeks ago that the will of the people, not the will of parliament, is now sovereign (‘<a href="https://www.ft.com/content/9b00bca0-bd61-11e6-8b45-b8b81dd5d080">After the Referendum the People and not Parliament are Sovereign</a>’ <em>Financial Times,</em> 9 December 2016). Anthony Barnett also argued that Brexit has ‘killed the sovereignty of parliament’ in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnet/brexit-has-killed-sovereignty-of-parliament">these pages</a> in December. Barnett, however disagrees strongly with Bogdanor’s conclusion that the change is to be welcomed. Barnet alerts us to the risks of authoritarianism with much needed clarity: “The 'Will of the People' must now prevail. Those who resist are 'Enemies of the People’. This is the raw meat of dictatorship.” In Barnett’s view the required response is the creation of a European style <em>written</em> constitution, which will protect British democracy from authoritarian populism. </p> <p>Barnett is to my mind right on both issues. The constitution is at risk. The best way to protect it may well be to create a new constitutional document as the embodiment of our constitutional fundamentals. But before we start thinking about a radical remedy, we need to be clear what the risk is. In my view the current populist challenge has not transformed our constitution. But it threatens its stability and coherence. </p> <p>The British constitution has for years relied on a careful balance between parliament, the political parties, the civil service and the courts. It is a unique arrangement which has been held together by an unwritten set of rules and principles, giving emphasis on constitutional precedent and convention. The populist claim is that on the basis of the referendum It has already changed by removing authority from parliament and returning it ‘directly’ onto the people. Does this novel claim have any basis on the constitution? I believe it does not. The constitution is being challenged by the novel and ultimately authoritarian claims of the extreme Eurosceptics, but nothing that has taken place has changed its fundamental structure. </p> <h2><strong>What was decided in June?<br /></strong></h2> <p>The referendum question was simple. Anyone who reads the ballot paper (pictured on the right) understands that it was about <a href="http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-referendums/electoral-commission-recommends-change-to-eu-referendum-question">leaving or remaining</a>. This was just a single question concerning continuing membership. </p> <p>The referendum question asked whether we wished to reject a familiar status quo. The question did not say <em>what</em> we might wish to replace the status quo with. And as we shall see, it could not do that because there are many ways in which the UK can be connected to the EU without being its member. The various possibilities for leaving have been helpfully summarized by the European Committee of the House of Lords in a <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201617/ldselect/ldeucom/72/72.pdf">Report</a> entitled ‘<a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201617/ldselect/ldeucom/72/72.pdf">Brexit: The Options for Trade’</a>. The Report lists four separate options, which is a convenient simplification. </p> <p>The first option is <em>EEA membership</em>, which entails membership of the single market and free movement of persons (also known as the ‘Norway’ deal). The single market is very significant for the British economy because it is an integrated geographical area where formal rules of non-discrimination and mutual recognition entail a virtually friction-free environment for the movement of goods, services and workers. This applies also to financial services, which through the mechanism of passporting rights can be provided throughout the EU from anywhere in the EU. This market access will be lost if the UK leaves the single market. </p> <p>The second option would be the agreement to remain in <em>the customs union</em>, but not in the single market. It is the agreement currently entered between the EU and Turkey, which is also a candidate country for membership (although the likelihood of joining is currently very low).</p> <p>The third option would be an <em>ad hoc</em> trade agreement with the EU outside the single market (the ‘Canada deal’). We can only speculate as to what such a bespoke deal would include. </p> <p>The fourth option is the option of no deal with the EU, and therefore trade on the basis of <em>WTO rules</em> outside the single market (‘hard Brexit’). It is the only option not requiring any negotiations with the remaining EU member states. It is the default position that will come about if the two-year deadline of Article 50 passes without agreement.</p> <p>These options are very different in content. The first keeps the UK within the single market. The others do not. The four options are also different in how they can come about. The first three depend on negotiations and can only be created if an agreement is struck with the other twenty-seven member states. But the fourth option, hard Brexit, can be a unilateral decision because it does not depend on the consent of anyone else to come about.&nbsp; </p> <p>Given the referendum question, voting ‘Leave’ was not a vote for choosing any particular of the four available options<em>.</em> The referendum only rejected a fifth option, namely that of remaining a member under the current arrangements. That the referendum question had to focus on the status quo is understandable. Since nobody knew then – and we still do not know now – what precise deal the negotiations will produce, no other choice was available for us to consider. It was natural to start from the question if the status quo was acceptable and leave the future options indeterminate. </p> <h2><strong>Suddenly: hard Brexit</strong></h2> <p>Nevertheless, the prime minister is now saying that only two of the four options are open to the UK after the referendum. In her speech at the Conservative conference in Birmingham (and in her most recent interview) she said: “But let’s state one thing loud and clear: we are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration all over again. And we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. That’s not going to happen”. </p> <p>The prime minister’s statements entail that the first option, namely EEA membership, is out of consideration, because it is incompatible with retaining immigration control for EU citizens and with escaping the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. But this also means that in all likelihood, the second option is excluded too, since membership of the customs union would normally require some supervisory role for the European Court of Justice. So the government seems to be saying that Brexit means only the third or the fourth option, which means some variation of ‘hard brexit’. But is this legitimate? </p> <p>It is not. The referendum was not a vote to leave the single market. Nor was it a decision to limit the rights of European Citizens. None of these questions were on the ballot paper. Staying in the single market, staying in the custom union as well as accepting European free movement of persons, are fully compatible policy choices with the ‘Leave’ outcome of the referendum. Indeed, the referendum vote may have been different if we knew that Brexit meant withdrawal from the single market. Some people who did vote for Brexit may have thought that the Norway deal was a good option in the years ahead, or they might have thought that this was something to be decided later. If they had known that Brexit meant ‘hard Brexit’ - with all the associated economic hardship it will bring – they may have opted to vote for ‘Remain’. We simply do not know.</p> <p>It is important to note here that the referendum vote is the only mandate for Brexit that we have. The 2015 election was won by a party whose leader campaigned for ‘Remain’. Parliament has never voted for Brexit (and it is overwhelmingly in favour of remaining). Hence, although Mrs May is the legitimate leader of the Conservatives now, her decision for hard Brexit cannot derive any legitimacy from the 2015 general election. </p> <p>Of course, the government must make decisions all the time. But according to the British system, the government is accountable to parliament. But as we have seen the government is saying that this is unnecessary. By resisting the <em>Gina Miller</em> case, the government says it can proceed with hard Brexit (by triggering the two year deadline of Article 50) only on the basis of the referendum result, without even engaging the current parliament by way of a vote on the road ahead. By claiming that a decision for hard Brexit has already been taken and therefore parliament has nothing more to decide the government is seeking to start process for a hard separation with the EU within two years, without any authority whatsoever.</p> <p>So the government’s is seeking to proceed with ‘hard Brexit’ with no legitimacy at all. Let us recap. There has never been a referendum on hard Brexit. There has never been a general election fought on a manifesto commitment of hard Brexit. There has never been a parliamentary vote on hard Brexit. The only basis is the unchecked decision of the Prime Minister, who now says that she wants Britain to be, once again, ‘fully sovereign’ (even though she herself supported ‘Remain). This is an entirely novel way of taking important political decisions without any representation or any accountability at al. This process has no constitutional legitimacy in the British system of government. </p> <h2><strong>Restoring the constitution</strong></h2> <p>One of the principles of constitutional legitimacy in the UK is that law-making should be subject to democratic procedures of representation and accountability. This principle – established as far as back as the Bill of Rights 1688 - is clearly violated when legislative decisions are made by the Prime Minister alone, without parliamentary debate and vote (or when the Prime Minister claims that the ancient right of the judicial review of her actions supposedly ‘subverts’ democracy). To proceed to hard Brexit on the basis of no deliberation, no debate and no vote is contrary to the British system of government. What the government has resolved to do is unconstitutional. </p> <p>This populist argument, which distorts the referendum result in order to serve a narrow partisan political agenda (the agenda of apparently isolating the United Kingdom from the rest of Europe), in effect unsettles our constitution by diminishing the role of democratic institutions, the parliament, the civil service and the courts in the name of a false account of the ‘people’.&nbsp; In all these ways the populist argument seems to me entirely illegitimate. Using the referendum in this way makes our political system <em>less democratic</em>, not more. We need to return to basics. Parliamentary deliberation is indispensable for democracy under <em>any</em> constitution. And this is for the very simple reason that collective choices are never in black and white. Various policy goals often coexist and sometimes conflict with one another. They require tradeoffs and the exercise of judgment. Some interests must give way for other interests. Such decisions have to be made by parliament, where all the various interests of the nation are represented.&nbsp; Cutting off deliberation is the same things as cutting off representation.&nbsp; </p> <p>The referendum decision was indeed a rejection of the status quo. But all it means, is that we now need to decide about what to do next. The vote did not change anything in our constitution. There is no mandate for hard Brexit. There is no mandate to abolish parliament. Isolation from Europe may well be what the people want, but they have not yet told us so. They have not had the opportunity. They may well choose to go for hard Brexit either by way of referendum or by way of a general election or by way of parliamentary vote. But on all these issues about the future relationship between the UK and the rest of Europe there are still many different decisions to be made. The appropriate process for making these decisions is by way of full deliberation and vote in parliament. For example, the Conservative party MPs must consider if a leader who is determined to bring about hard Brexit causing great economic hardship to millions of people (even though she campaigned for ‘Remain’) is the right person to lead their party. They have never had a chance to ask themselves this question, since Mrs May did not campaign for hard Brexit when she contested the party leadership.</p> <p>If necessary, given that a referendum has already been held, we may have to ask the people again the people the second part of the original question, which will only be possible once the details of a new deal are known. A referendum on hard Brexit must thus be one between two real and present alternatives, namely the option ‘Remain’ (which in principle is still open to the UK) and whatever deal (or absence of deal) the government will come up with once it has decided what its preferred ‘hard Brexit’ should be. The way to proceed after the referendum is by staying within the Constitution. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/gilbert-ramsay/those-who-dont-like-referendum-result-should-demand-more-democracy-not-less">Those who don&#039;t like the referendum result should demand more democracy, not less</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Pavlos Eleftheriadis Wed, 11 Jan 2017 14:43:27 +0000 Pavlos Eleftheriadis 108040 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Bauman's legacy https://www.opendemocracy.net/neal-lawson/baumans-legacy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Zygmunt understood the crisis of a social democracy built on solid jobs, fixed identities and bounded within nation states, and paved the way for thinking about the need for progressive alliances. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/neal-lawson/el-legado-de-bauman">Español</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Zygmunt_Bauman,_fot._M._Oliva_Soto_(6144135392).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Zygmunt_Bauman,_fot._M._Oliva_Soto_(6144135392).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Zygmunt Bauman at the European Culture Congress, Wroclaw, Poland, September 2011.Wikicommons/Polish National Audiovisual Institute. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Forgive me, this is as personal as it is political.<br /><br />I don’t know what to do. A world that was getting darker suddenly turned pitch black. Zygmunt Bauman is dead. The towering intellectual colossus of our times and yet such a frail, slight and humble human being is gone. He lived an amazing life and was an amazing person. The brilliance of his mind and the warmth of his heart shone so strongly and clearly that even in these bleakest of times we had a person that could light the way to a good society.</p><p>To live to 91 and do so much can’t really be sad.&nbsp; But I am crying as I write. Not just from sadness and feeling bereft, but out of the fear of not being able to make good what his legacy leaves us, just when we need it so much. Because Zygmunt saw Trump, Brexit and the lurch to the right happening before anyone else and he understood the weakness of the left in an age he described as liquid modern.<br /><br />I first read Zygmunt properly at a formative moment, around 1998, just as I was groping towards a fundamental critique of New Labour. He helped me understand that the role of the poor isn’t just to be a reserve army to be called on when, and only when, the economy needed them; they existed to be humiliated and ‘Othered’, to police us to run endlessly on the treadmill of turbo-consumption for fear of being like them. As I watched New Labour divide the ‘deserving’ from the ‘undeserving’ poor, it was like a thunderbolt to my political soul.<br /><br />And then, digging deeper into his work, I grasped his insight into the shift from a world based on our identities formed by production, to identities, life and a society formed largely by consumption – buying stuff we didn’t know we needed, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t know. And then the separation of politics from power and power from politics, as financial flows and corporate investment escaped the nation state and went global.&nbsp; All this and more drew a line under under the solid and predictable culture of the 20th century and hurtled us into the fragility and fluidity of a 21st Century culture where everything feels temporary and until further notice.<br /><br />So Zygmunt understood the crisis of social democracy whose success was rooted in solid jobs, fixed identities and bounded within nation states. And so he paved the way for our thinking about the need for progressive alliances, not just of parties, but of movements that are trying to negotiate and navigate a world in which each day we live the tensions between our need for security and our desire for freedom.<br /><br />Reading Zygmunt can be tough – both in terms of the language but also the bleakness of some of his analysis.&nbsp; Some recoil. But staring into the abyss is the only way we prepare ourselves for the fight ahead. <br /><br />For me, there will be no more vodka at noon at his ramshackle home on the edge of Leeds, where he was Emeritus at the University for longer than he was employed there. There will be no more billowing pipe smoke as he pondered on what pearl of wisdom he was going to nudge you with next. There will be no more insightful articles (like these at <a href="https://www.socialeurope.eu/author/zygmunt-bauman/">Social Europe</a>) or precision-bombed <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGk-iaTr9hk">speeches</a> and <a href="http://elpais.com/elpais/2016/01/19/inenglish/1453208692_424660.html">interviews shining his torch</a> to the future.&nbsp; Momentarily there is a void.&nbsp; And we have to fill it.&nbsp; We will do so by taking his ideas, his insights and his enormous appetite for humanity and building on and shaping them.<br /><br />Zygmunt knew that we don’t die wishing we owned a bigger television, but longing for more time to be with the people we love, doing things we love doing. It is how he would have died. He never stopped.&nbsp; He never gave up. He said the ‘good society was one that didn’t know it was good enough’.&nbsp; As a member of Compass, he knew everything was about the journey, our sense of direction and the way we behaved towards each other as we travelled the road to get better and better.<br /><br />In the bleakness of our moment, and the sadness of our loss, I am so grateful for what Zygmunt Bauman gave us – hope. Now we must act on it.<br /><br />My best, Neal</p><p><em>This personal open letter was written for Compass, and <a href="https://www.compassonline.org.uk/building-on-baumans-legacy/">published on January 10, 2017.</a></em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk EU Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Neal Lawson Tue, 10 Jan 2017 17:47:13 +0000 Neal Lawson 108016 at https://www.opendemocracy.net False Consciousness, what's not to dislike? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/steve-hanson/false-consciousness-whats-not-to-dislike <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span>The left need to face the hard truth of False Consciousness: We actually need more of what has just happened, not less. Paradoxically, the left now need to let go in order to get to grips with the new situation.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Grey.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Grey.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Brexit depicted in shades of grey, the percentages also meet 52% across the image. </span></span></span></p><p>There are a lot of shrill declarations to be heard at the moment, after Brexit, after Trump, about how 'we' now need to give the people who never got a look-in 'a voice'. As these middle class liberal and left wing commentators inhale the vapours to bring them out of shock, the real working classes get on with their lives. </p><p>Those commentators, some journalists, some academics, assume that if 'we' enable 'them' then 'they' will miraculously form a whole new polity. And so they might. Yet exactly the same commentators recoil in horror from the idea that they might be speaking for the masses, at the same time as they are doing exactly that, by default. </p> <p>You can see both things happening at the same time in some articles, we must not speak for the masses, but 'we' must put 'them' back in the picture, because of what has just happened. The whole discourse has turned into a patronising advocacy of enabling, but enabling in a patrician mode of teaching right from wrong, 'right' being the default left-liberal polity of the last thirty years or so. </p> <p>But that, you may have noticed, has just been thrown out. It's time to catch up properly: They were enabled; they just acted.&nbsp; </p><p>This scramble to advise reformism in the face of a populist right turn is desperate stuff. If these commentators really trust the working classes, if they believe they can think all by themselves, then why have they suddenly turned into one big advocacy machine, pumping the same useless substance down different conveyor belts?&nbsp; </p><p>However, I am not going to simplistically claim that the working classes were right all along here. We need to turn to face the harder truths, and False Consciousness is one of them. </p> <p>False Consciousness is a Marxist term. It denotes a situation where the understanding and feelings of a great mass of people do not match the hard facts of their lives. The man who perhaps developed the concept most, Gyorgy Lukacs, saw that old institutions cling on far longer than is necessary as countries modernize. Guilds are a good example. In Britain, we still have popular royalism. </p> <p>False Consciousness is not simply confusion, it is a kind of mass hallucination floating over and describing a situation that it is possible to see very differently in concrete form. </p> <p>As a working class writer and academic I seem to have cut through the usual worries around declaring False Consciousness, because my family live there. </p> <p>John Harris, although brilliant on many current questions, fears False Consciousness. It means calling out the working classes using a Marxist term. But False Consciousness is to be found at the same co-ordinates as Post-Truth and Neoliberal doublespeak. Post-Truth is Postmodern False Consciousness. </p> <p>False Consciousness doesn't mean the working classes are idiots, but it does mean that they have been systematically fed untruth. Harris and many others are already saying this anyway, in one form or another. </p> <p>False Consciousness is not a declaration that 'the working classes are stupid', it never was. There is not some place 'over there' where False Consciousness exists, in relation to a place over here where it does not. We are all blind to the full, macro complexity. What do they talk about over lunch in The Athenaeum? I probably wouldn't understand it even if I sat at the table, yet I think I know how the elites work. False Consciousness is not just working class. In many ways, False Consciousness is the political landscape, it is not binary and it takes different forms.&nbsp; </p><p>There is Pure False Consciousness, and it is definitely to be found among the working classes. Pure False Consciousness is what I have called elsewhere 'descriptive fatalism', that 'things are how they are, because they are how they are', a traumatised, necessary retreat into description. </p> <p>Then there are multiple forms of Partial False Consciousness. I have reams of fieldwork notes where people said things like 'yeah, I know, it's screwed up, but I just get on, make a life, I know how to enjoy myself.' People understand that the banks got away with murder in 2008, and then still put 'descriptive fatalism' in after they have explained it to you, often in great detail. 'Ah well, we just get on eh?' They see no contradiction in this: Understanding and False Consciousness are not mutually exclusive. </p> <p>There are politically disengaged working class people. There are politically switched on, self-educated or graduate working class people. There are racist right wing nationalist and liberal and left wing working class people. But to claim all the working classes in this country are engaged liberal lefties with a nuanced understanding is beyond delusional. Yet to read some of the pleas on behalf of the working classes, you might be forgiven for thinking that they are. </p> <p>I get a strong sense that the biggest defenders of working class intelligence are simply not from their planet: I am. </p> <p>The left need to completely re-orient themselves. They are often fine with nationalised rail and the dream of nationalised banks and industries, but they begin to scream when they detect cultural nationalism. These confusions mirror the continuing point that keeps getting missed, that somehow Brexit Leave Voters didn't understand the facts and Remain voters did. Neither side had a clear picture of what they were voting for, or the consequences. The vote was made through cultural feeling, on both sides: False Consciousness. </p> <p>False Consciousness is not just about Those Who Understand and Those Who Do Not. The mirror of this logic is the binary of those who have accepted a monotheistic religion into their lives and those who have not. This is the unconscious dimension that the liberal and left wing commentators inhabit. It is evangelistic. By showing 'them' the way, or the facts, we will somehow trigger a great wave of transformation. The wave is here and it has little to do with you. </p><p>How is this different from the preacher showing the poor misguided flock The Light? Most liberal left commentators currently look like a bunch of trendy vicars, clucking and cooing, praying for a second referendum, as though that's even remotely acceptable. </p> <p>There is a real parallel with Matthew Arnold here, perhaps the ultimate trendy vicar, with his supposedly benign, patrician advocacy of 'good culture' for 'the masses'. </p> <p>As David Ridley explained recently, Neoliberalism contains the assumption that the masses are unthinking, or at least unreflective and unreflexive. He is right. The whole Euro-technocracy rising in the late-1980s contains that assumption. The working classes are of course thinking beings. They were all along. But they are humans and they practice reflection and reflexivity from their particular psychological lifeworlds – what the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called ‘habitus’ - as do the middles and uppers. </p> <p>The working classes understand a lot of what has gone down politically and economically, but they sometimes do not care very far beyond self-interest and immediate family. But then nor do many city players. Glasman's 'Family, Faith and Flag' of Blue Labour is in some ways correct, but only as a diagnosis, as a place to begin, not as a place to intentionally take us, which in the case of Blue Labour is back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. </p> <p>I don't care what Neoliberals think about the opinions of the masses, but I do care about the stark fact that the masses are being redirected to the right, whether you call it 'repressive desublimation', False Consciousness, or theorise it via Dewey or Marx. </p> <p>Part of the founding assumption of Neoliberalism is that individuals cannot understand the complexities of modernity at any scale. Both left and right now agree that this has been a problem. But now we have parties and intellectuals suddenly declaring that hoi polloi were reflective and reflexive all along, which is to try to solve that problem with the same problem, only in a different shape. </p> <p>Neoliberal players have woken up to the anger and rejection of a great body of people in the form of Brexit and Trump. But the left have woken up to it too. These patronising messages must end, that 'we' should put things in place for the masses, to then step back with a benevolent eye and watch 'them' develop, with the triumphal sound of a jet engine streaking into blue sky. </p> <p>There are writers who damn the <em>Daily Mail</em> to hell for poisoning vast amounts of minds and then ten minutes later paint the working classes as robust enough to resist their rhetoric. Which is it? </p> <p>Well, the situation isn't so binary, the working classes are not simply one thing or the other, but saying that doesn't solve the contradictions in their arguments either. </p> <p>I suspect what really troubles these writers is simply the unfiltered reality, that they are not in control. </p> <p>The commentators on both the left and right who see a binary split must start to view the 48% to 52% differently. If we depicted the 48% and 52% as shades of grey they would be virtually indistinguishable. That's what we have here, a giant political ash cloud, produced by the suffocated burning rage of the last few decades. </p> <p>False Consciousness is real. Stop shrieking about using the term. If it is not real, then show me the smoking gun of a working class, radical, progressive transformation. The idea that the Richmond by-election was a triumph for the slow exit agenda is crazy. The EU are pushing their own timescale and the Sleaford by-election saw a hard Brexit agenda. The only way a new left can reform is outside of these soft, comforting bubbles of analysis. Over in the East Midlands, resentment over European workers is a strong factor. We have to face these hard truths to begin again on the left. We have to stare them in the face. </p> <p>The idea that an educated liberal left might give people 'a voice' was exactly the problem of Neoliberal technocracies, and it has just been discarded. To offer exactly that problem as a solution, then, is pure Neoliberalism at its most farcical. </p> <p>The rightwing tabloids have been getting away with it for a long time, as the phone hacking scandals testify. But the public don’t back the tabloids they read on these issues. They may not rebel over the things a Marxist might wish them to, but 'they' rebel and Brexit was a rebellion. </p> <p>This is a Legitimation Crisis, but what is really needed is Polity Rebooted, not leftwing hand-wringing: A clear Constitution and compulsory voting from 16 years of age. We actually need much more of what just happened, not less. What is definitely not required is this hamstrung leftwing confusion and a lot of patronising shepherds. </p> <p>An LSE blog, Who’s Afraid of Identity Politics? by Jonathan Dean, ends by saying he finds a 'return to class alarming'. The return to class started much earlier in academia and class itself never went away. The current wealth gap is the largest in history. You cannot just float that away by recalibrating the language.&nbsp; </p><p>This kind of cloistered slip of the tongue is all over and it is completely risible. We need more talk about class, more talk about nationalism, and more referendums, but voted in by everyone. Do we want a monarchy? What kind of constitution?</p> <p>It is time to let go in order to get to grips with the new era opening up. Because the even more scandalous thing for liberal and left commentators to consider, much more scandalous than the reality of False Consciousness, is that what they want 'them' to do, they are doing already, and the liberal left are no longer required for that. </p> <p>Which means we are all suffering from False Consciousness of a sort, myself included. </p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Steve Hanson Tue, 10 Jan 2017 10:20:27 +0000 Steve Hanson 108002 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Was the Richmond Park by-election really a setback for Brexit? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/david-elstein/was-richmond-park-by-election-really-setback-for-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Was it really Brexit which swung Richmond Park to the Lib Dems?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Zac_Goldsmith_KewGardens.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Zac_Goldsmith_KewGardens.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Zac Goldsmith, campaigning in 2008, by Busillis, Wikimedia Commons.</span></span></span></p> <p>Zac Goldsmith’s billionaire father, Sir James Goldsmith, tried to upset the 1997 general election with his personally-financed Referendum Party, whose objective was to force a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. The campaign failed, Sir James himself winning a negligible number of votes in Putney (where I live); two months later, he died of pancreatic cancer. </p><p>Zac – rich, good-looking, glamorous – was quickly seen as a potential star by Tory chieftains once he decided that his credentials as an environmentalist could co-exist with a mainstream political career. Richmond Park is right next door to Putney, having been re-shaped as a constituency in 1997, with the new boundaries seen as more favourable to the Liberal Democrats than the old Richmond and Barnes seat held by Jeremy Hanley. Despite a turnout of nearly 80%, Hanley lost to Jenny Tonge by a margin of 5.2%. </p> <p>Four years later, she held the seat against a new candidate, almost doubling her percentage lead to 10.1%. When Tonge was replaced by Susan Kramer as the Lib Dem candidate in 2005, the seat was retained, but by a margin of just 7.1%.</p> <p>In those three elections, the average Lib Dem vote was 24,282 (46.4%), against a Tory average of 20,400 (38.9%). Enter Zac, in 2010: the LibDems scored their highest ever vote – 25,370 – but the Tory vote soared to 29,461, giving Goldsmith a lead of nearly 7%, having captured 49.7% of the votes cast. The Labour share of the vote continued its steady decline, from 12.6% in 1997 to 5% in 2010.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ***********************</p> <p>1997 result &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;(turnout 79.5%)</p> <p>LibDem&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 25,353&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 44.7%</p> <p>Conservative &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;22,422&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 39.5%</p> <p>Labour &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;7,172&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 8.3%</p> <p>Referendum &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;1,467 &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;2.6%</p> <p>Others &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;523 &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;1.0%</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ***********************</p> <p>2001 result&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; (turnout 67.6%)</p> <p>LibDem&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;23,444&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 47.7%</p> <p>Conservative&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; 18,480&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 37.6%</p> <p>Labour&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 5,541&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 11.3%</p> <p>Green&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;1,223&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp; 2.5%</p> <p>UKIP&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 348&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 0.7%</p> <p>Other&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 115&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 0.2</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; **********************</p> <p>2005 result&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; (turnout 72.8%)</p> <p>LibDem&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; 24,011&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; 46.7%</p> <p>Conservative&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; 20,280&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; 39.5%</p> <p>Labour&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 4,769&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 8.3%</p> <p>Green&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 1,379&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 2.7%</p> <p>UKIP&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 458&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 0.9%</p> <p>Others&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 478&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;0.9%</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; **********************&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>2010 result&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; (turnout 76.9%)</p> <p>Conservative&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; 29,461&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; 49.7%</p> <p>LibDem&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; 25,370&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; 42.8%</p> <p>Labour&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 2,979&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 5.0%</p> <p>UKIP&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 669&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 1.1%</p> <p>Green&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 572&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 1.0%</p> <p>Others&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 217&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 0.3%</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ***********************&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Then came 2015, with the slaughter of Lib Dems across the nation: their Richmond Park candidate did not even win 20% of votes cast, the Labour share, by default, jumped to 12%, and Goldsmith was supported by 34,404 voters – a remarkable (but surely not repeatable) 58% share.</p> <p>2015 result &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;(turnout 76.6%)</p> <p>Conservative&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; 34,404&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; 58.2%</p> <p>LibDem&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; 11,389&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; 19.3%</p> <p>Labour&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 7,296&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; 12.3%</p> <p>Green&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 3,548&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 6.0%</p> <p>UKIP&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 2,464&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 4.2%</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ***********************</p> <p>So how was that stunning result overturned so decisively just 18 months later, with the Liberal Democrats more than doubling their share of the vote? The proximity to the June referendum and the high profile the Lib Dems had maintained since June in opposing Leave (and especially the idea of a “hard Brexit”) certainly invited the media to view the outcome through the Brexit prism. LibDem leader Tim Farron, and his Richmond Park victor, Sarah Olney both claimed the result as a rejection of Brexit, and in particular a hard Brexit, which would see the UK leaving the single market, the customs union, the European Court of Justice and free movement of labour.</p> <p>Now, the Lib Dems had hundreds of volunteers working in the constituency in the weeks before polling day, and perhaps they spoke to their thousands of supporters before reaching this conclusion. But all the evidence strongly suggests they cannot be right.</p> <p>In June, over 35,000 electors in Richmond Park ticked the Remain box on the referendum ballot paper, compared with some 15,000 who opted for Leave. Yet on December 1st, the combined vote of the Remain candidates was only 22,000, while the Leave candidates mustered nearly 19,000 votes. A ratio of 54:46 is far worse than the 73:27 by which Remain outscored Leave in June. If Brexit was indeed the key factor in Richmond Park, the result suggests a massive movement <em>towards Leave</em> in the six months since June – a shift of 20%, giving Leave an overwhelming current majority of 72:28, rather than June’s 52:48. That is simply not credible.</p> <p>So what actually happened? My reading is that a combination of an hubristic sense of entitlement and a mild swing back to the Lib Dems since May 2015 settled Goldsmith’s hash. He had foolishly made a pledge to resign as a Conservative MP if his government approved the long-standing recommendation from the Inquiry chaired by Howard Davies to allow Heathrow to build a third runway. Even more foolishly, he then acted on that pledge, ignoring his party’s fragile majority in the Commons, and the fact that no other West London MP opposed to the third runway had given such a pointless undertaking.</p> <p>The absurdity of Goldsmith’s decision was exposed as soon as the list of candidates for the by-election revealed that they were <em>all </em>opposed to a third runway: so voting for him would make no difference on that score. Moreover, even though the Conservatives embarked on a “damage control” exercise, by not fielding a candidate of their own (and so risking a split amongst their supporters which would allow any LibDem victor to claim to have beaten the government, rather than a vain Don Quixote), it was evident that the Tories were on a lose/lose trajectory. As an “independent”, Goldsmith was denied access to the local party’s valuable database, and many party workers who had supported him in 2015 sat on their hands this time around. Disloyalty is a cardinal sin amongst Tories.</p> <p>Moreover, Goldsmith had form. He had accepted the invitation from the London Conservatives to stand as their successor to Boris Johnson in the mayoralty contest just seven months earlier, which might have forced the Richmond Park Tories to find a new candidate, and face an unwanted opportunity for the LibDems to claw back local ground after the 2015 debacle. As it was, his lacklustre – and arguably illiberal – campaign left him trailing 13 percentage points behind Labour’s Sadiq Khan, eliminating the need for a by-election then: so to impose one now, so unnecessarily, proved a real irritant, not just for party workers, but for many thousands who had previously voted for Goldsmith. </p> <p>Those canvassing for Goldsmith knew his – and their – fate well before polling day. 16,000 of the 34,000 who had voted for him last May failed to do so this December: a resounding expression of either disapproval or indifference. At the same time, the Lib Dems – able in a by-election to concentrate resources on a single seat in a way that was impossible in a general election – staged a predictable bounce back from the dismal result in 2015: very creditable for such an inexperienced candidate. Even so, and despite almost eliminating Labour, Sarah Olney’s total of 20,510 votes was well below the 24,282 that the Lib Dems averaged in 1997, 2001 and 2005, even if her share of the vote was slightly higher than in those three contests.</p> <p>2016 result &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;(turnout 53.4%)</p> <p>LibDem&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; 20,510&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 49.7%</p> <p>Independent&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; 18,638 &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;45.1%</p> <p>Labour&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 1,515&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp; 3.7%</p> <p>Pro-Leave Ind&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 173&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp; 0.4% </p> <p>Others&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 447&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp; 1.1%</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ***************************</p> <p>Most local observers expect that a new Conservative candidate at the next general election will dislodge Ms Olney. She, at least, can expect to join her Lib Dem predecessors as MP for Richmond Park in the House of Lords (though Jenny Tonge has now been ousted from the Lib Dems due to allegations of anti-Semitism while speaking up for Palestinian rights). </p> <p>Goldsmith, rightly, can expect no such preferment. His hubris and his resultant humiliation may have been on a minor scale compared to his father, nearly 20 years ago, but his career is surely over. And we should all resist trying to impose a “Brexit dimension” on that result, whenever it occurs, just as we should regard with strong scepticism the Lib Dem claim in December that their victory in Richmond Park represented some kind of rejection of Brexit. Voters, not candidates, decide what elections are about.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/josiah-mortimer/forget-standing-down-in-richmond-parties-shouldn-t-have-to-make-that-choice">Forget standing down in Richmond: parties shouldn’t have to make that choice</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk David Elstein Mon, 09 Jan 2017 17:57:51 +0000 David Elstein 107986 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Rupert returns https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/david-elstein/rupert-returns <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>21<sup>st</sup> Century Fox – the Murdoch family’s entertainment conglomerate – is bidding for the 61% of satellite broadcaster Sky it does not own. Predictably, alarm bells are ringing. What is at stake?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-29523055.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-29523055.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Campaigners dressed up as Theresa May and Rupert Murdoch protest against Murdoch's takeover bid for Sky in Parliament Square, London. December 20, 2016. Stefan Rousseau, Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Rupert Murdoch launched Sky television as a UK-targeted satellite television service in 1988. Its meagre offering included a movie channel, an entertainment channel, the UK’s first 24-hour news channel and a rudimentary sports package. Few expected it to survive.</p> <p>Survive it did, but only after nearly bankrupting Murdoch’s master company, News Corporation (NewsCorp hereafter), entering a forced merger with its rival (British Satellite Broadcasting), reducing the NewsCorp stake in the merged company to below 40% in order to facilitate a public flotation, and seeing a swathe of legislation introduced to prevent NewsCorp – or Sky – ever owning any significant part of ITV.</p> <p>Through those 28 years, Murdoch has subsidized Sky News, whether as sole owner in the early years, or part owner ever since. At least £500 million must have been invested so far, without any real prospect of the service making a profit (especially after the BBC launched its own 24-hour news channel). Throughout this period, Sky News has won multiple awards, been recognized as a highly successful editorial offering, diligently observed UK licensing requirements for impartiality and accuracy, and pioneered a range of developments such as the Prime Ministerial debates during elections.</p> <p>When NewsCorp sought to buy the 61% of Sky it did not own, in 2010, the independent directors – representing the majority of shareholders – effectively invited him to close down Sky News, to remove any regulatory obstacles to the deal (and also allow a higher price to be paid). Murdoch declined, and after Ofcom – thanks to a deeply misleading and perverse analysis – objected to the transaction, he spent months trying to find a formula that dealt with Ofcom’s stated anxieties about media plurality whilst keeping Sky News alive. </p> <p>Eventually, six months later, the revelation that Millie Dowler’s voice mails had been listened to by the News of the World (Murdoch’s highly popular Sunday newspaper) led to outrage in the House of Commons, the closure of the News of the World and a hasty retreat from the Sky deal by Murdoch. Yet before then, the chief executives of both The Telegraph and The Guardian had publicly stated that closing Sky News might be the required price for allowing the deal: such are the defenders of media plurality! &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ***************</p> <p>Since then, much has changed. The phone-hacking affair cost NewsCorp hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation and legal fees. A range of journalists and executives were put on trial, and a handful jailed, including the former editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson. Murdoch and his son James were called before the House of Commons Select Committee on Media, where they apologised profusely (whilst denying any personal knowledge of criminality). </p> <p>James stepped down from the chairmanship of Sky, allowing Ofcom – whilst trenchantly criticising his failure to deal with phone-hacking at NewsCorp’s newspaper subsidiary, where he was chief executive – nonetheless to give NewsCorp approval as a “fit and proper” controlling shareholder in Sky. James has subsequently resumed his chairmanship of Sky: but Ofcom has not attempted to block this, or to re-visit its “fit and proper” assessment.</p> <p>More importantly, persistent shareholder criticism of NewsCorp’s attachment to the declining newspaper business – long pre-dating the phone-hacking disaster – finally induced the Murdochs to split their company in two. </p> <p>NewsCorp itself now owns all the print businesses, whilst a new company – 21st Century Fox – embraces all the film, TV and entertainment elements: Twentieth Television (producer of such hits as The Simpsons and Modern Family), Fox Television Group (including the Fox Channel, Fox News and Fox Sports) and a range of international assets including the 39% of Sky. The two companies are both controlled by the Murdoch family, through the significant minority stakes they hold, but each has a wide range of outside shareholders, which effectively constrains any possible co-ordination between the companies (not that there is any evidence of that being pursued).</p> <p>Outside the Murdoch empire, the scale of change is even greater. In the UK, BT Sport has emerged as a formidable competitor for Sky’s premium content, and Liberty Global’s purchase of Virgin Media has greatly strengthened cable’s challenge to Sky as a bulk supplier of channels.</p> <p>Across the globe, the internet is now enabling consumers to download huge volumes of video content, without any need even to own a television, let alone a satellite dish. Netflix is spending ten times more on content every year than Sky, and has nearly six million UK subscribers just four years after launch (Sky is barely growing the 10 million it carefully accumulated over 28 years). In the US, the response has been defensive mergers between the likes of telecoms giant AT and T and the major content owner Warner (which includes HBO amongst its assets). </p> <p>Murdoch – having failed in his own bid for Warner – has decided that his best bet for defending his position is to consolidate within Sky: it is, after all, a business he knows inside out, and where he can both measure risk and execute strategy rapidly. Sky itself is a much bigger company than it was in 2010, having absorbed its equivalents in both Germany and Italy.</p> <p>For the UK, much is at stake. Thanks to Murdoch, we have become the European hub of the satellite TV industry, and well over 100,000 jobs have been created. James Murdoch has reportedly promised that if Fox were to take full ownership of Sky, billions more would be invested in the UK, with tens of thousands of additional jobs in prospect. On the other hand, if the bid fails, Fox’s plan B is to sell the 39%: depriving Sky of its creative and business genius, and so putting at risk the achievements of the last 28 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ****************</p> <p>Needless to say, none of this cuts any ice with Murdoch’s traditional critics. Hacked Off and 38 Degrees have launched petitions to oppose the deal, and politicians across the hard and soft left have called for – at the very least – a “public interest” intervention from the Culture Secretary, Karen Bradley, requiring Ofcom to check on the media plurality implications of the proposed transaction.</p> <p>Last time round, there was an alliance of media firms which campaigned to block NewsCorp – led by those improbable bedfellows, The Telegraph, The Guardian, Trinity Mirror and the Daily Mail, and supported by both our publicly owned broadcasters, the BBC and Channel 4. To find the Mail singing the praises of Hacked Off in this context is pure Alice in Wonderland; on the other hand, it is very hard to believe that Tony Hall will follow the example of his predecessor, Mark Thompson, who was reprimanded by the BBC Trust for signing the media alliance letter without first asking permission. </p> <p>Channel 4, already embroiled in a series of battles with the DCMS over its future status and appointment of board members, may feel there is nothing to lose from voicing its opposition, despite the example set by ITV, last time, whose Chief Executive refused to sign the media alliance letter, to avoid any suggestion that ITV’s news coverage might lack impartiality. In any event, The Guardian has already plunged into battle, with an impassioned article by Polly Toynbee (which sadly contains 15 factual errors in just 13 paragraphs).</p> <p>A problem for opponents of the deal is to find some legal and factual basis for blocking it, over and above a well-honed hatred of the Murdochs and their already significant position in UK media. Ed Miliband and Sir Vince Cable have penned a joint article for The Guardian which contained probably the biggest whopper yet in a year of big lies. </p> <p>They argue that, as the Murdochs effectively control NewsCorp’s 30+% share of UK national newspaper consumption, they should not be allowed to take full control of Sky News, which they claim is responsible for 45% of all radio news consumption: a figure 45 times too large at best, and – if the legal and contractual reality of radio news broadcasting is acknowledged – completely wrong at worst.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ***************</p> <p>How did they arrive at such a giant error (assuming it wasn’t a deliberate lie)? They must have noted that commercial radio has a 45% share of all radio listening (the rest is the BBC), and that Sky News has a contract with Independent Radio News (IRN – a body owned by the commercial companies collectively) to supply material for radio bulletins. What they failed to notice was that the BBC broadcasts far more news and current affairs (the categories Ofcom says have to be measured in a plurality review) than the commercial stations. When Ofcom tried to measure radio news consumption in 2010, it estimated the split between the BBC and the commercial sector at 73:27. But that excluded – despite Ofcom’s opinion that it should have been included – all current affairs content, where the split is even more heavily in the BBC’s favour. Combining the two genres, the ratio is 85:15.</p> <p>But that’s not the whole story. Sky News certainly provides material to the commercial stations, but they nearly all simply use that as one resource amongst many in their compilation of news bulletins. IRN was so bewildered by Ofcom’s report on the NewsCorp bid for Sky, which had included bizarre and unfeasible estimates for both the reach of commercial radio news, and the role played by Sky, that they undertook detailed research. This revealed that the two-minute Sky News package was sparsely used by radio stations: just 7% of their bulletins were explicitly labelled as from Sky News. </p> <p>7% of 15% is 1.05%: rather different from 45%. Given that the stations themselves have editorial, contractual and legal responsibility for <em>all</em> the news they broadcast, it is hard to argue that Sky News <em>controls </em>even the 1%: its role is little different from that of Reuters or Associated Press, neither of which has ever been accused of <em>controlling </em>any part of the UK’s media just because their output is used. Moreover, given the obligation on all commercial radio stations to comply with the requirement for due impartiality and accuracy in news output, it is hard to see what difference it might make if Sky News <em>did </em>“control” that 1%.</p> <p>Amusingly, the dynamic duo (Ed and Vince) fail to point out that NewsCorp already controls 2% of the radio audience (and thereby nearly 1% of radio news consumption) through TalkSport, which it bought earlier this year. But as that transaction – bringing TalkSport under the same umbrella as the newspapers – aroused no opposition, petitions or political intervention, it is hard to see how an additional 1% could make any difference.</p> <p>Of course, there is also Sky News as a TV service, which accounts for about 7% of TV news consumption. Including its online audience, the Sky News TV service’s share of all news consumption in the UK is about 3%. What difference would it make to UK media plurality if Fox took 100% control of Sky?</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; *****************</p> <p>In the 2010 assessment of the last proposed transaction, Ofcom looked at the combination of Sky News with the newspaper interests of News UK (the UK print arm of NewsCorp). It acknowledged that there would be no actual reduction in owners of media enterprises from NewsCorp buying the 61% of Sky it did not already own: there was no large holding within that percentage - just a mass of small shareholders, mostly investment firms. </p> <p>Ofcom nonetheless imagined that full ownership of Sky might have some implications, even though it was acknowledged that NewsCorp had always had operational control of Sky, despite – since 1990 – only owning 39%. Ofcom claimed – wrongly – that full ownership would allow NewsCorp to replace the editor of Sky News: in point of fact, no editor of Sky News has ever been appointed without NewsCorp’s agreement. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In the same vein, even though NewsCorp had always had operational control of the NewsUK newspapers <em>and </em>of Sky (and Sky News), Ofcom somehow thought that increasing NewsCorp’s ownership of Sky would have implications for media plurality, and accordingly went through a series of calculations of what the combination of the newspapers and Sky News meant in terms of control of UK news consumption (the nub of concerns about media plurality). </p> <p>Sadly for Ofcom’s reputation as a regulator, most of these calculations were hopelessly awry. That <em>all </em>the errors served to enlarge the perceived dominance of NewsCorp and reduce that of the BBC only called into question the impartiality of Ofcom itself (which had been led from its inception by committed Labour Party supporters, and which in 2010 was in the midst of a fierce and expensive legal battle with Sky over the wholesale price of its sports channels).&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The biggest mistake was in calculating the significance of newspaper readership. National newspaper sales have been reducing by about 2% a year for more than two decades, such that barely 15% of the population now buys a national title every day; however, the more important measure is of “readership” of these titles, which is measured quarterly, and remains at around 25%. </p> <p>Ofcom’s key error was to treat every minute reading newspapers as equivalent to a minute watching TV news. A moment’s reflection exposes the error: at least half of the time spent reading newspapers has nothing to do with news, but consists of horoscopes, travel information, reviews of films, horseracing tips, crosswords and other puzzles, recipes, fashion guidance and TV listings – not to mention advertisements. All this absorbs at least as much time as “news” and “opinions”. The experts at Enders Analysis suggested to the Leveson Inquiry that less than 20% of newspaper content constituted “news”.</p> <p>Despite acknowledging these other elements, and despite the example of the German regulator in discounting newspaper “readership” accordingly in these types of calculation, Ofcom insisted on its preferred approach. As a result, it grossly exaggerated the role of News UK in news consumption. </p> <p>At the same time, it excluded from its assessment all the great regional newspapers like the Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman, despite the millions of sales for morning, evening and weekly editions, not to mention the millions of free newspapers, like Metro and the Evening Standard, that are read daily. This omission<em> </em>had the side effect of artificially enlarging News UK’s significance, in that – unlike its rivals, Trinity Mirror and Daily Mail General Trust – it owns no regional titles.</p> <p>The Ofcom report on the 2010 transaction listed newspapers as representing 40.3% of all news consumption, and TV as 33.9%. Once a discount of 50% is applied to newspaper readership figures, and the decline in readership since 2010 is factored in, we find that the correct figure for the national titles is 18.5%, plus an estimated 4.4% derived from their share of online news consumption. Of that, News UK accounts for just under a third, at 6.3%, rather than the 13.8% reported by Ofcom. Correcting the newspaper figure has the effect of enlarging the TV share of news consumption, to 39%.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ***************</p> <p>Ofcom’s assessment of TV news also left much to be desired. Having announced that current affairs needed to be included in the consumption calculation, it ignored that genre. It then calculated the reach of the main TV news programmes, using just one set of assumptions, without explaining that there are dozens of ways of calculating reach: the length of continuous viewing being measured can be 3 minutes, 5 minutes, or indeed any other number, just as the period within which this continuous viewing is measured can be a day, week, a month, or any other length of time. So, for instance, by using 5 minutes a week as the test, rather than 3 minutes, the reported reach for Channel 5 News dropped by 60% - because many of its news bulletins were shorter than 5 minutes.</p> <p>This was not unimportant, as Ofcom decided to attribute to Sky News the entire share of viewing of news on Channel 5, in terms of both reach and volume. This was multiply contentious: as a former Chief Executive of Channel 5, I knew perfectly well that the legal and regulatory responsibility for its news output rested with Channel 5 itself, not with its contracted supplier (be that Sky News or ITN). Certainly, if Ofcom had had a problem with any output, it would have ignored the supplier, and dealt solely with the licensed broadcaster. Subsequently – if a little grudgingly – Ofcom has accepted the view of the Competition Commission that, at the very least, editorial control is shared between broadcaster and supplier.</p> <p>But this was not the only reason for criticising the Ofcom approach. Even at the time that Ofcom was conducting its exercise, Channel 5 had announced that it was replacing Sky News with ITN as its supplier: indeed, in their submission of evidence to Ofcom, Enders Analysis expressly excluded Channel 5 from the Sky total when it was working out the proportions of news consumption attributable to Sky and to other broadcasters. That Channel 5 wanted to change the style and tone (as well as cost) of its news output confirmed that it exercised at least shared control of its output. </p> <p>As it happens, the mis-attribution of the Channel 5 news element only marginally affected the Ofcom report, which claimed the Sky News share of all news consumption to be 3.1%, out of a TV total share of 33.9%. As explained above, that 33.9% is really 39%, and the Sky News share should have been stated as 2.3%. By comparison, the attribution to Sky News of <em>all </em>commercial radio news reach and consumption was a massive error – although not as gross as the miscalculation by Miliband and Cable – all the less understandable given Ofcom’s status as the regulator for commercial radio.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ****************</p> <p>It transpired that Ofcom did not really know how much news its commercial radio licensees broadcast, how they compiled their bulletins, nor what the true extent of reliance on Sky News was, whether as a source or as a packager of ready-made bulletins. Ofcom compounded these errors by offering a version of radio news reach which was wholly implausible: recognising that the industry did not measure the reach of genres, Ofcom chose to treat <em>any </em>level of radio consumption as equivalent to news consumption, even though news constituted less than 5% of commercial radio output. This was ridiculous – but even as, in mealy-mouthed fashion, Ofcom accepted that such an assumption was “likely to overstate” commercial radio news reach, it failed to abandon it.</p> <p>Ofcom also failed to include current affairs in its attempts to measure radio news consumption. Given all these mistakes, it was no surprise that Ofcom’s attribution of radio news consumption to the planned merged entity was hopelessly wrong. Its report to the Secretary of State included a figure of 6.7% as commercial radio’s share of total news consumption, all attributable to Sky News. The true figure was 4.2%, of which at most 0.2% could be attributed to Sky News. </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ***************</p> <p>The combination of Ofcom’s mistakes led them to report that the combined share of news consumption accounted for by Sky News and News UK was 23.7%, whereas the correct figure was in the range of 9-10%. Conversely, the Ofcom figure for the BBC was 43.5%, when the correct figure was over 60%.</p> <p>The most frustrating aspect of the Ofcom exercise was that the third measurement of consumption it stated as relevant was based on its own regular research into what consumers said was the relative importance of different news sources. As the whole point of a media plurality review is to ensure that a single player does not exercise undue influence, what people actually say about what influences them is surely central. </p> <p>Consistent Ofcom research over the years – re-visited for the report on the transaction – showed that television is overwhelmingly the most important source of news, named by over 70% of respondents, with all other sources – radio, newspapers and online – typically in single figures. By applying these weightings to the shares of consumption within each of the four categories of television, newspapers, radio and online, Ofcom would have concluded that the BBC’s score was over 60%, and the combined score for News UK and Sky News was just 10%. That this subjective approach so precisely reflected the proper assessment of objective behaviour only emphasises how undisciplined – at best – the Ofcom analysis was.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; **************</p> <p>Where does that leave us this time round? The separation of the Murdoch entities on the face of it eliminates the case for any regulatory intervention: there is no question of any anti-competitive business combinations – and, anyway, the EU competition authorities quickly dismissed fears expressed by the media alliance with respect to such combinations last time round. </p> <p>Fox will nonetheless be forced to submit the bid to the EU again, especially since Sky’s embrace of the German and Italian satellite TV businesses: but it is hard to see how any kind of problem at that level will arise. More delicate is the question of media plurality – and within ten days of Fox formally submitting the transaction to Brussels next year, the UK Culture Secretary, Karen Bradley, will have to decide whether to use her powers under the Enterprise Act. Technically, these can only be exercised with the permission of the EU, but Brussels acknowledges the special issue of media plurality. So the minister – acting in a quasi-judicial capacity, without any discussion with cabinet colleagues – has the right to ask Ofcom to investigate whether there might be sufficient risk to plurality from the transaction to justify a reference to the Competition and Markets Authority (the CMA, which has replaced the old Competition Commission) for a full inquiry.</p> <p>The test the Act invites the minister to apply is normally whether a proposed transaction will reduce the number of relevant media enterprises below the level to safeguard media plurality, which itself is defined as (in the case of newspapers) a plurality of views or (in the case of broadcasting, where provision of “views” is expressly forbidden by statute) a plurality of owners.</p> <p>The statute does not define “sufficient”, and the definition of media enterprises excludes ITN (which is not a broadcaster). Even the question of “control” is not defined, though the Act includes a clause that recognizes “control” as potentially being exercised even where a party has less than 50% ownership (which seems directly to address the Murdoch factor, but which Ofcom chose to ignore in its 2010 report).</p> <p>The problem for the minister – and indeed for the opponents of the Fox bid – is how to differentiate between a controlling ownership stake (which the Murdochs clearly have both in Sky currently and in News UK) and something much closer to 100% ownership. Would a media “owner” be removed by the transaction? Who, exactly? And if there is no “reduction in the number of owners”, where does the issue of plurality arise?</p> <p>Interestingly, when Northern and Shell bought Channel 5 in 2010 – very visibly displacing RTL as an owner – there was no intervention. Nor was there an intervention when NewsCorp bought TalkSport this year – quite clearly reducing the number of owners of media enterprises, and enlarging the share of media controlled by the second player in the media world (even if one far behind the BBC in terms of news consumption).</p> <p>The question seems fairly binary: do the two separate controlling stakes (in Fox and NewsCorp, and through them to Sky and News UK) already risk the UK’s media plurality (in which case why did Ofcom not say so when it issued a special report on media plurality three years ago)? If not, in what way would full ownership by Fox of Sky do so? Last time round, in 2010, Ofcom imagined – wrongly – that full ownership of Sky by NewsCorp would allow the Murdochs more control over Sky News. Quite why that should cause concern, anyway, given the obligation for Sky News to observe rules on due impartiality and accuracy, was never satisfactorily explained: implicitly, Ofcom was admitting that it was unable to enforce its own broadcasting code, and would be unable to remove the Sky News licence if the code were repeatedly breached. This untenable proposition was never put to the test at a full competition hearing, which is probably just as well for Ofcom.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; **************</p> <p>Nonetheless, it is quite likely that Karen Bradley will indeed intervene, on the basis that an initial Ofcom inquiry would either clear the bid quite quickly, or find enough issues to justify a full CMA process. The chances of the CMA blocking the bid are low, and even a six-month investigation would not push Fox beyond its self-imposed deadline of closing the deal by the end of 2017. On that basis, Bradley might calculate, where is the harm?</p> <p>Indeed, Fox might even welcome an Ofcom process, as defusing the political opposition to the bid. Paradoxically, the party with the most to lose is Ofcom itself, which will have to decide whether or not to abandon most of its 2010 methodology, or risk being overturned decisively by the CMA (which would no doubt spend some time examining the inadequacies of the 2010 report).</p> <p>The current Sky share price – nearly £1 below the £10.75 offer price – suggests that the market still perceives regulatory risk (there are reportedly shareholders who think the offer price is too low, but if they were significant in number, logically they should be pushing the price up, not down). We shall see. Meanwhile, there will be plenty of noise around the issue. Will that include an abject apology from Messrs Miliband and Cable for their ridiculous claims about radio news? I am not holding my breath.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk OurBeeb uk Culture Democracy and government Economics International politics David Elstein Mon, 26 Dec 2016 11:50:40 +0000 David Elstein 107890 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Another man's freedom fighter https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/eleanor-penny/non-violent-domestic-extremist <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Eleanor Penny talks to Dr Salman Butt about extremism, terrorism, and how to challenge violence without propping up prejudice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="m_1932632885016157719gmail-p1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/24766897942_09a88d8538_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Mosques have been critical of the anti-radicalisation strategy &#039;Prevent&#039;. Photo: Flickr. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/24766897942_09a88d8538_z.jpg" alt="Mosques have been critical of the anti-radicalisation strategy 'Prevent'. Photo: Flickr. " title="Mosques have been critical of the anti-radicalisation strategy &#039;Prevent&#039;. Photo: Flickr. " width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mosques have been critical of the anti-radicalisation strategy 'Prevent'. Photo: dgeezer. Flickr. </span></span></span>“More people die from bee stings than terrorism in the UK.” Dr Salman Butt smiles and shakes his head. By now, he’s pretty tired of the myriad confusions that clutter the way we talk about terrorism and extremism. And little wonder. Dr Butt has himself been labelled a ‘non-violent domestic extremist', falling foul of the notorious '<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prevent-duty-guidance">Prevent' legislation </a>that aims to identify nascent extremist sentiments in order to rout them from public institutions such as schools and universities.</p><p class="m_1932632885016157719gmail-p2">In September 2015, a government issued a press release entitled: ‘PM’s Extremism Task Force: Tackling Extremism in Universities and Colleges top of the agenda’. It named Dr Butt as an dangerous speaker; a mouthpiece for the kind of extremist agenda that should, according to Prevent, have no place in public institutions. As the Editor in Chief of the website ‘<a href="http://www.islam21c.com/">Islam in the Twenty-First Century</a>’, Dr Butt is accused of expressing opinions contrary to ‘British values’, and has therefore been labelled a ‘non-violent domestic extremist’. To him, this is a ludicrous mis-application of the term. “This press release didn't mention anyone who's been ostracized by other muslims, such as <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/aug/16/anjem-choudary-convicted-of-supporting-islamic-state">Anjem Choudary</a>, or anyone who actually caused violence or supports ISIS. The people that it actually mentioned were on record distancing themselves from ISIS and condemning political violence. So that was when a lot of people thought, they've gone a bit too far now. They’re just mentioning random Muslim speakers.”</p><p class="m_1932632885016157719gmail-p2">Indeed, Butt has espoused some opinions unlikely to win him friends on university campuses, which tend to leand socially liberal. He's previously stated that homosexual acts are not permitted by Islam. But according to him, these statements don’t merit his being targeted as an extremist. And you might be forgiven for assuming that the government should broadly agree with him on this point;&nbsp;numerous Conservative MPs, <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/andrea-leadsom-and-theresa-may-are-two-of-britains-most-prominent-homophobes-and-ones-about-to-a7125131.html">having expressed similarly abhorrent homophobic sentiments</a>, are left to pursue political careers untroubled by accusations of extremism. “Contrary to popular belief, I've never denounced British values, I have no issues with them. But I would fight for somebody's right to do so in a peaceful, non-insulting manner. I would want to live in a society where someone can do that. They're not committing crimes, if they're just saying 'what's so good about democracy or tolerance?'. Why not let them have that conversation?” For Butt, this was a call to action. He is in the midst of a legal challenge to UK Prevent legislation, on the grounds that it constitutes a violation of the human right to free speech. If the High Court rules in favour of Butt, declaring that Prevent does indeed constitute a violation of free speech, it could undermine the legal and constitutional basis of the entire strategy.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Contrary to popular belief, I've never denounced British values, I have no issues with them.</p><p class="m_1932632885016157719gmail-p2">A softly-spoken man in his early thirties, he’s not someone you’d immediately peg as some kind of firebrand rabble-rouser. “It was a surprise to me to find my name on the press release… I thought, maybe it's a different Salman Butt. I genuinely thought maybe it was just a blunder on the part the Home Office.” This seems like a fairly reasonable assumption, given the blunders and missteps that have dogged Prevent guidance ever since it was rolled out in 2015. Earlier this year, a ten year old was interrogated by police over&nbsp;<a href="https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/blog/2016/1/20/uk-police-interrogate-10-year-old-muslim-over-terrorist-spelling-mistake" target="_blank">what turned out to a spelling mistake</a>&nbsp;that confused ‘terrorist’ with ‘terraced’.&nbsp;</p><p class="m_1932632885016157719gmail-p2">But Dr Butt takes issue not with these farcical cases of carry-on counter-terrorism, but with the model at the heart of the legislation.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bindmans.com/news/r-on-the-application-of-dr-salman-butt-v-secretary-of-state-for-the-home-de" target="_blank">According to his lawyer</a>&nbsp;“It is has been impossible for the government to arrive at a credible definition of "extremism" which works in practise and targets the mischief that it is aiming at. The government's view that there is an escalator which starts with religious conservatism and ends with violent extremism is not proven.”</p><p class="m_1932632885016157719gmail-p2">Snagged in the wide net of Prevent guidance, Butt fears that the policy has some deeply dubious assumptions lodged at its heart. “Those people who are studying the actual causes of terrorism and political violence, they almost all unanimous: A particular ideology is not a cause for terrorism - it's incidental. The actual, empirically determined causes of political violence and terrorism are things like alienation despair, disenfranchisement, anger. Types of particular mental health states as well. That all of these things mixed in a perfect storm to create the conditions where someone might be able to go to the path of so-called radicalisation. To simplify into non-violent extremist causes violent extremism, causes terrorism, is highly problematic.”&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Those people who are studying the actual causes of terrorism and political violence are almost all unanimous: A particular ideology is not a cause for terrorism.&nbsp;</p><p class="m_1932632885016157719gmail-p2">Butt tells me that Prevent isn’t simply casting the net too wide; it’s a fundamentally flawed strategy. “I think that it suffers from some very systemic problems. How can you prevent extremism when you don't have a cogent, coherent definition of what that is?” But beyond this lack of clarity, he cautions that Prevent may end up alienating people. Although the Prevent duty namechecks far-right organisations and non-Muslim terrorist groups such as the IRA, it’s come under fire for targeting Muslims, and a society of mosques has even&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/17/society-of-mosques-to-boycott-anti-terror-prevent-programme" target="_blank">boycotted</a>&nbsp;the duty, condeming it as islamophobic. It’s hard to deny such accusations when Muslims make up only 5% of the overall population, but&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/04/prevent-hate-muslims-schools-terrorism-teachers-reject" target="_blank">67% of those referred</a>&nbsp;to authorities under the Prevent duty. Some London Imams have claimed that Prevent is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/dec/06/east-london-muslims-prevent-strategy">"spying on [their] young people"</a>, spurring on a creeping feeling of alienation. On the government website, the guidance is translated into Urdu; the national language of Pakistan, spoken by many British Muslims. Translations into Spanish, French and Polish - languages that are also commonly spoken in the UK - were nowhere to be found.</p><p class="m_1932632885016157719gmail-p2">“It's actually counterproductive. Because it exacerbates the actual empirically determined causes of terrorism. Such as alienation, feeling that the state is somehow against us. The ‘us and them mentality’, feeling of despair. […] When we're actually looking at the historical examples of radical political movements and their links between non-violence and violence, it's always accompanied by some for of state repression. Whether it be the anti-war movement in the USA, student anti-war movement against Vietnam. Whether it be the Provisional IRA. Whether it be the anarchist bombings in Paris 100 years ago. It's true that they started off as non-violent political radical movements, but it's only when they felt that there was some kind state crackdown on their ability to express their grievances that a very small minority of them actually were driven to the point of despair and actually went and took violent means to achieve their aims. So I think we're going down a very dangerous path, if the government or the state is seen to crackdown on the expression of non-violent, even radical political views.”</p><p class="m_1932632885016157719gmail-p2">He doesn’t want to talk causes. When we ask whether religious conservatism ‘causes’ terrorism, we all too often mistake “the cause of something” for "its after-the-fact justification”. Butt explains: “Popular counter-terrorism policy relies on fudging the distinction between the two. So they'll see somebody blowing themselves up, saying “Allahu Akbar” or using the Qu'ran or something to justify their actions. As some kind of cause for their actions in the first place. And it's presented in a very simplistic way. It's just a fine individual, who has no mental health issues, no social, political issues, but he may have misread something in the Qu’ran, And said, oh, let me go and find somebody else to murder. […] That’s the narrative. And the result of this narrative is if somebody makes ideology, the last step in this so-called conveyor belt, we all want to stop the last product. So in order to stop someone moving along this conveyor belt, they're going to look for expressions of that ideology. Because you can't probe everyone's beliefs. So if someone starts growing a beard or wearing a hijab, or wants to eat halal meat, then that raises a flag as an indicator, potentially, for this person's journey towards killing someone in the streets.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">If somebody happens to be a Muslim and he wants to, or he's driven to the point of wanting to commit a crime - he's going to try and express himself and justify that in the language, ethics, and iconography that he knows</p><p class="m_1932632885016157719gmail-p2">He doesn’t want to deny any link between Muslims and violence; just that that link is causal. “If somebody happens to be a Muslim and he wants to, or he's driven to the point of wanting to commit a crime - he's going to try and express himself and justify that in the language, ethics, and iconography that he knows. That's Islamic, if he's a Muslim. If he's a Christian, like the Lord's Resistance Army for example, he's going to want to justify his own action using the language he knows. Christian. If he's a Hindu, he's going to justify in Hindu terms and ethics. It’s not the actual motivating factor for his criminality.”</p><p class="m_1932632885016157719gmail-p2">And as for combatting any genuine incidents, he claims again that Prevent is not fit for purpose. When young disaffected Muslims have been found teetering on the brink of violence, “it was Muslims who were speaking out and teaching the youth how to approach, how to deal with your grievances, how to deal with your anger and frustration, Muslim scholars teaching the people about their religion. And those very people who were teaching the people, teaching Muslims how to deal with your grievances in a productive constructive, not a destructive, way. Unfortunately, those very people are now being subject to restrictions in their right to speak under this who disastrous policy.”</p><p class="m_1932632885016157719gmail-p2">For Butt, talking about criminality and violence is much more useful than talking about ‘terrorism’.&nbsp;“I tend to use a word like 'political violence.' It’s much clearer. […] I mean historically, terrorism has been used to give a special status to some types of crimes. To try and provoke an extra level of condemnation from the masses, as compared to regular crimes. There’s some kind of limbic system response, a pre-rational response attached to this word 'terrorism' for decades. It invokes a very emotional response from people that hear it. A person in power will generally try and exploit this, whether it's the Tory party or Kim-Jong Un, or whether it's Sisi in Egypt labelling opposition as terrorists. Whoever. This is always a very useful word to demonise somebody.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">I tend to use a word like 'political violence.' It's much clearer.</p><p class="m_1932632885016157719gmail-p2">“That's not to absolve anyone of any kind of responsibility. It's just that - it's a fundamental question we need to ask society as to why we selectively apply this term 'terrorism' to some and not others. You've probably already seen those memes about lone gunmen being either mentally ill or terrorists or depending on the colour of your skin. So it's a type of bias we put onto things. Thomas Mair, the killer of Jo Cox, wasn't referred to as a terrorist, even though his motivations were explicitly claimed to be political.”</p><p class="m_1932632885016157719gmail-p1">In the manner of a put-upon school science teacher, Butt pleads for a little more “statistical rigour”, both from the government and the media. “I don't want just for the sake of it, just to say get rid of [all anti-terror legislation]. What I really want is an evidence-based approach. A bridge between peer-reviewed research science and policy. At the moment what's happening is that we have a disproportionate influence from neo-Conservative think tanks on our counter-terrorism policy.”&nbsp;</p><p class="m_1932632885016157719gmail-p2">“I know an angry bearded person on the front page sells papers.&nbsp; But we all have a responsibility to give people an accurate representation of certain threats that might face them. More people die from bee stings than terrorism in the UK. I think the threat of so-called extremist Muslims is way overblown in terms of the threat it poses to the average person. His or indeed her interests -just general day-to-day interests- overlap with the interests with the vast majority of the population. Going to school, getting a job, I need to pay the rent. It's unfortunate but I do believe they are used as scapegoats to distract people away from real causes of their problems. Just like our immigrants are blamed sometimes when they can't get an appointment with their doctor. Or they can't get a place in school. Instead of blaming the people who are responsible for your open doctor surgeries and schools and providing housing, they're told to blame the immigrants who are coming to take their job.”</p><p class="m_1932632885016157719gmail-p2">“People should not be worried about their Muslim neighbours. They should be worried about those people who are telling them to be worried about Muslims or some kind of existential threat to the west. I think if they do so they'll find that people warning them about so-called Muslim extremism or terrorism they will often have a vested interest in keeping them in a state of fear and paranoia and disaffection. The message to everyone is that we have the same interests, we have the same enemies even. People who thrive off dis-empowering the masses. Making us fight with each other. They are the real problems.”</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Eleanor Penny Fri, 23 Dec 2016 14:41:33 +0000 Eleanor Penny 107872 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What would a populist Corbyn look like? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/aaron-bastani/what-would-populist-corbyn-look-like <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Eight things the UK's Labour leader should do if he wishes to catch the populist wind.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-29481367.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-29481367.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="333" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeremy Corbyn takes part in a class showing how to make cheap healthy food. PA Images.</span></span></span></p><p>Last week Labour party strategists spoke of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/15/labour-plans-jeremy-corbyn-relaunch-as-a-leftwing-populist">relaunching Jeremy Corbyn as a more populist figure in the New Year</a>. The big idea? To exploit an increasingly widespread anti-establishment mood. </p><p class="Body">First up, what is a populist? Well, this <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Populism">definition on Wikipedia</a> (don’t worry its actually from Princeton University) is as a good place as any to start: “"Populism is a political outlook or disposition that appeals to the interests and conceptions (such as hopes and fears) of the general population, especially when contrasting any new collective consciousness push against the prevailing status quo.” Inherently, then, it integrates elements of what we’d usually think particular to political parties and social movements</p> <p class="Body">Then there is this translation of <a href="http://www.versobooks.com/blogs/1226-the-people-are-not-a-brutal-and-ignorant-mass-jacques-ranciere-on-populism">a piece by Jacques Ranciere</a> over at Verso Books. Ranciere is arguably the outstanding thinker on the topic, specifically in how populist rhetoric expresses and appeals to a deeper yearning for radical democracy. This excerpt, in particular, clarifies the meaning of the term in its contemporary application for Ranciere: </p> <p class="Body">“Not a day goes by without the risks of populism being denounced on all sides. But it is not so easy to grasp what the word denotes. What is a populist? Despite various fluctuations of meaning, the dominant discourse seems to characterise it in terms of three essential features: <em>a style of speech addressed directly to the people, bypassing representatives and dignitaries; the assertion that governments and ruling elites are more concerned with feathering their own nest than with the public interest; a rhetoric of identity that expresses fear and rejection of foreigners</em>.”</p> <p class="Body">The style of speech, from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump and Pablo Iglesias, is easy enough to comprehend. As is the assertion that elites are essentially kleptocratic: that they are tending to their own interests rather than serving a greater, common good (the conservative defence of elite-dominated politics from Plato to Peter Oborne). Finally there is the third point, a “rhetoric of identity that expresses fear and rejection of foreigners”. Clearly no leftist worth their salt, or liberal for that matter, would tolerate such a thing.</p> <p class="Body">But, for me, race and immigration is not a necessary component of populism. It is true that the genre is powered by a sense of grievance, justified or not, and that perceived injustice seeks to establish a decisive cleavage between an under-represented majority and an overly powerful minority. That holds in a range of settings: working families and taxpayers versus the work-shy, unemployed and feckless (productive versus unproductive); ‘native born’ citizens, with all the legal and economic rights that entails, versus immigrants, refugees and even ‘native born’ people of colour (white nativism); ‘normal’ people with a ‘normal ‘ sense of humour and morality (which, okay might offend some people and actively discriminate) versus the ‘PC brigade’ who, somehow, dominate cultural institutions through a long strategy of cultural marxism (this now common myth used to critique multiculturalism <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/19/cultural-marxism-a-uniting-theory-for-rightwingers-who-love-to-play-the-victim">originates among white nationalists and neo-nazis in the United States</a>.)</p> <p class="Body">The success of right-wing populism is that it internalises, to differing extents and depending where you sit within the ideological family, all three of these cleavages: the ethic of work, the identity of whiteness and an abiding sense of moral degeneracy actively cultivated by latent, often-times revolutionary forces. </p> <p class="Body">Yet it is also possible to mobilise cleavages which have nothing to do with race, place of birth or present work status. That, after all, was what lay behind the historic refrain of Karl Marx when he wrote ‘workers of the world unite’. While the greatest weakness of Marx’s work, more than predicting a terminal crisis of capitalism, was how he underestimated the abiding pull of race and nation, the shared economic status of most people under capitalism – having to work in order to live – clearly offers those like Corbyn the possibility of a populist terrain. What is more, advancing a shared economic identity fits far more neatly with Ranciere’s second point – of framing elites as selfish to the point of moral bankruptcy – than blaming immigrants.</p> <p class="Body">For me, the primary point of populism is this: <em>it understands government, at its best, as an instrument for the popular will rather than a vehicle for consent</em>. While that may sound somewhat vague, what is actively willed and what is consented to are very different things: the former is propositional, based on constructing social majorities through exploiting cleavages; the latter is a politics of aggregation, inherently less able to appeal to the passions and incapable, for better or worse, of utopianism. A politics rhetorically driven by the people – by ‘you’ as Barack Obama said so many times in 2008 (and Trump eight years thereafter) – is, as the Princeton quote at the top of this piece makes clear, necessary for any project aiming at social and economic transformation. </p> <p class="Body">So how could JC do it? How does he exploit a changed zeitgeist where elites don’t just look lost, but actually lose. Below are seven areas that Team Corbyn should pursue in cultivating a more populist persona, <a href="http://novaramedia.com/2016/11/18/the-world-after-2016-6-new-rules-in-politics/">in so doing adhering to the new rules of politics</a>.</p> <h2><strong>1) Completely Re-think Social Media <br /></strong></h2> <p class="Body">Twitter doesn’t win elections. It never will. For all we know it might not even exist by 2020. Facebook, on the other hand is a different story. More Americans used the social media platform than voted on November 8th, with the average session being fifty minutes. </p> <p class="Body">Nevertheless Twitter is still incredibly useful, for no other reason than journalists spend an inordinate amount of time on it. The master of the medium as a political tool is, undoubtedly, Donald Trump. Just as Roosevelt was a pioneer with the national radio address, his ‘<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9CBpbuV3ok">Fireside chats</a>’ a means by which to communicate directly with the nation, Trump is the premier exponent of the <a href="http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-11-29/trump-launches-renewed-tweet-storm-blasting-pathetic-media">2am tweetstorm</a>. Both, in different ways, exert an influence upon the mainstream media that was previously impossible.</p> <p class="Body">In terms of how Trump uses Twitter, it’s easy to observe him create or amplify ‘news’: re-channelling and re-framing particular narratives and turning marginal stories, often intersecting with celebrity, rumour or conspiracy, into mainstream converation. Often this feeds straight into online news and broadcast, in the process completely bypassing print media and ‘patient journalism’ like journals and magazines. </p> <p class="Body">Emblematic of this approach was when Trump tweeted how Nigel Farage should be made Britain’s ambassador to the United States in late November:</p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-12-22 at 14.40.23.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-12-22 at 14.40.23.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="144" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p class="Body">This became a major story in the UK within a matter of minutes.</p> <p class="Body">How did Farage respond? He went straight to the media and wrote a response, of course. Only it wasn’t the Times, the Telegraph or the Mail, <a href="http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/11/22/farage-prepared-help-britain-work-president-trump/">rather it was Breitbart</a>. What mattered wasn’t who read the original piece but how it would be reported elsewhere, the intention being the re-broadcast of Farage’s key points in online headlines and broadcast news. There can be no doubt that Trump’s tweet and Farage’s response was choreographed: Steve Bannon, who would either have proposed the tweet or even composed it himself, is the former executive chair of Breitbart LLC. He, more than Trump himself, is close to Farage (the editor-in-chief of Breitbart News London is Raheem Kassam, ex-chief advisor to the former UKIP leader) and the two men have known one another for several years. Between them, in both the US and the UK, they shaped the news output for the day, more than the Tories or Labour ever could with a month of press releases. With Trump what appear to be the unmanaged ramblings of a megalomaniac are, more often than not, precise interventions which aim to generate and steer the broader debate. </p> <p class="Body">The same happened with Trump’s thanksgiving speech on Facebook, which despite being 1:44 and saying nothing of particular interest, again informed the news agenda for the day. </p> <p class="Body">In each case the historic print media was entirely bypassed in order to give Farage and the President-elect maximum exposure, exerting extraordinary influence in the process. Both instances compound what Andrew Chadwick has written about extensively: we are not in an age of digital media, but hybrid media, an era where old and new genres inflect and adapt to one another rather than the old world simply replacing the new. In his own way Trump, Farage too, understands this new relationship between social media, particularly Twitter, and broadcast. Indeed it is at the very core of both men’s media strategies and their very modern genres of populism.</p> <p class="Body">For Corbyn to do something similar would require a huge change in approach. While this might seem puerile to some, the overhead of imitating such strategies would be negligible, and, whatever your thoughts on new media, the benefits potentially significant. So gone would be the diary tweets and in would come more colour, personality and provocation, inserting the leadership’s voice within unfolding stories in real time as much as generating them, giving the movement behind Corbyn a sense of momentum, mission and energy. </p> <p class="Body">A perfect example of this would be the <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/2016/12/18/peter-capaldi-theresa-may-should-learn-tolerance-doctor/">recent story regarding Peter Capaldi</a> and his advice to Theresa May while on the Marr Show. When told that the prime minister makes Dr Who a regular feature of her Christmas Day, Capaldi replied, “I hope she takes this message of kindness and tolerance and compassion to heart”. This is absolute gold. Here, as with the Theresa May leather trousers story, or the Nicky Morgan response, one saw an opportunity for Corbyn to amplify a story and re-direct it. Alas, there was nothing. </p> <p class="Body">It’s the same with Facebook and video. There are now many videos of Corbyn, McDonnell and other members of the shadow cabinet, but there is clearly no broader strategy. Few risks are taken and little time or resources are allocated to the task. This is not to blame the politicians, or their respective staffs, rather it means asking significant questions of Labour’s central media operation. An organisation <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36977840">with an income last year of over £50 million</a> and a media team of six seemingly can’t make regular in-house video – or make the right changes to do so. To build a bespoke TV studio, and kit it out, would cost potentially less than £20,000 and with unions like the CWU (Communication Workers Union) having the ability to make their own video content it seems outright bizarre that Labour doesn’t. Until that changes, and major reforms are enacted at the party’s headquarters, the leadership need to get a grip on video. Again, that isn’t because huge numbers engage with it on social media, although that can certainly happen, but because it intersects with broadcast and online news very well. More importantly, the point with video isn’t just to do it – talk to this or that person or relay a certain message – but to be compelling. I follow Trump on Twitter and Facebook, not because I agree with him, but because <em>I know</em> he will make the next day’s news. Trump confirms something fundamental about the modern era: we don’t live in an information age, despite an immensity of facts available to us at virtually zero cost, but an entertainment one. You might groan, and really I have groaned, but that’s the reality, that’s the terrain for changing the world and building a society for the many, not the few. </p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>2) Go on a permanent campaign between now and the next general election</strong></h2> <p>It's beyond doubt that during the last eighteen months Corbyn was at his best over the two leadership campaigns. Towards the end of this summer it became increasingly clear that he was improving all the time, becoming ever-more confident in unpredictable situations, more comfortable with the media and a more established speaker (his conference speech in September was inarguably his best so far). Whatever the media, and sadly some of his colleagues say, those intense periods of campaigning have rendered Corbyn a much more effective politician than Theresa May. That’s for all to see on a weekly basis at Prime Ministers Questions, with the Labour leader now widely viewed as getting the better of the PM week in, week out. Come a General Election, with its whirlwind campaigning and TV debates, that will really count. </p><p class="Body">Which is why Corbyn, if he is going to be a real populist, needs to start that campaign now. He, and as much of the shadow cabinet as possible, should be on the road running a permanent campaign to get more voter contacts, more members and direct the debate around living standards and post-Brexit Britain. Events in Cornwall, Dorset, Scotland or Norfolk shouldn’t just mean people turn up, they should – like Bernie Sanders ‘<a href="https://go.berniesanders.com/page/content/barnstorm/">Barn Storms</a>’ earlier this year – create a lasting contact base for activism as well as assets like phone banks which local Labour parties could rapidly deploy in a general election. If Labour are going to get a million members, with local parties being led by an organised and competent left, this is how you would do it.</p> <p class="Body">Furthermore, offline events intersect perfectly with new media, so as well as inspiring and expanding the movement behind him, and augmenting its organisational resources, these rallies would provide copy and video for online and broadcast media as well as headlines. Again, we saw this perfectly during the Trump campaign over the Summer, although it was there to see with Corbyn before in 2015. Indicative of just how important rallies are to Trump in cementing his base and exerting media influence, both online and in broadcast, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pg/DonaldTrump/videos/?ref=page_internal">he continued to do them even after winning</a>. Something Corbyn should have done after his two respective leadership wins. </p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>3) Move out of Westminster</strong></h2> <p class="Body">Democracy, at least if you are a populist, can be summed up in one line: government of the people, by the people, for the people. To be ruled is only legitimate, not when you consent to it, or your interests are aggregated along with others, but when you are also endowed with the possibility of governing, and the art of government itself aims at the common good.</p> <p class="Body">Such a spirit of radical democracy is at odds with Corbyn running his leadership from the isolated system of Westminster. On one level it doesn’t sit with how he seeks to articulate his leadership, on another he and his team are literally surrounded by people desperate to see them politically destroyed. Whining rebel MPs can moan all they like about a few Tweets, but that’s an unacceptable situation: it’s not good for one’s mental health and it certainly doesn’t enable outstanding work. And anyway, Westminster doesn’t offer a modern working environment, the place drips with stultifying inertia and the air of our backwards political culture at every turn. Real Labour needs to escape its deadening gravity.</p> <p class="Body">So Corbyn and McDonnell need to get out of Westminster ASAP. My proposal is they relocate to a bespoke office space (I’d love to say a shop front but for security concerns that probably wouldn’t be possible). Short of that, and this would integrate with longer term changes that need to happen at party HQ, they should move in to Labour headquarters at Southside – <a href="http://labourlist.org/2016/11/labour-hires-pollsters-and-plans-office-move-as-it-gears-up-for-snap-election/">or its possible replacement</a>.</p> <p>A move out of Westminster would be a major political statement, a better fit with the values of the project and would provide Corbyn and his team the opportunity to work in a pleasant and productive working environment. The lace curtain intrigues of Portcullis House are beneath them.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>4) Hang Out With cleb’s</strong></h2> <p class="Body">While some around Corbyn might find this distasteful, that is a test regarding the extent to which both he and they really want to see him succeed as leader. As I recently wrote over at Novara Media:</p> <p class="Body">“With the increased mediatisation of politics in the digital environment I think it’s highly likely that celebrities will feature ever more prominently, not only as advocates and ‘influencers’ – leveraging their massive networks of followers on social media – but also as participants. While celebrities getting involved in politics isn’t new – after all Ronald Reagan became president having been a Hollywood leading man, while the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura were state governors after being on the big screen – what Trump betokens is a shift from celebrities dabbling in politics to being at the very heart of public life.</p> <p>In part that is a result of the distinction between celebrity culture and politics becoming increasingly permeable (just look at recent headline stories surrounding Gary Lineker and Lily Allen) but it is also a result of immediate name recognition colliding with the end of the mainstream media as we know it. Without social media these individuals, despite always being widely known, had no means of conveying their political views to a wide audience. That has now changed, with their accumulated social capital easily transferable to communicative power and political capital. As Paul Mason has noted, ‘networked individualism’ is what powered many of the movements of 2011, so it should come as no surprise that the networked individuals par excellence aren’t activists or citizen-journalists, but people with large amounts of social and media capital: celebrities.”<em> <br /></em></p> <p class="Body">In any politics driven primarily by <a href="http://ccce.com.washington.edu/about/assets/2012iCS-LCA-Bennett&amp;Segerberg-LogicofConnectiveAction.pdf">crowds rather than organisations</a>, the cache of celebrity is a big deal. Corbyn’s team should be offering to meet as many as they can – from Rio Ferdinand to Peter Capaldi and JK Rowling – about establishing a relationship and what they can do for them, rather than the other way round. While some will have political disagreements with Corbyn, it’s important to establish that a bigger dynamic is now at work, especially after Brexit. If they disagree with falling living standards, rampant poverty and a long depression following Britain’s exit from the EU, they should welcome a more sustainable, strategic relationship with the Labour party – whoever is at the top. As with much of the central party operation, the fundraising team are more interested in whining than taking the kinds of opportunity which meant the party raised over £1 million from registered supporters during the last leadership race (while disgusting, this illustrated the wide scale of passion and interest for a different kind of Labour party). That extends to established names in entertainment and sport.</p> <p class="Body">Furthermore, a number of prominent left wing celebrities – as well as being cause advocates for the party – should also be encouraged to run for party selection in their local areas, or where they grew up, ahead of the next election. Along with local activists they will be part of a great mix of left wing MPs entering parliament whenever that time comes.</p> <h2 class="Body">5) <strong>Do More Non-Political Broadcast Media</strong></h2> <p class="Body">Let’s be honest. Nobody cares what John McDonnell writes for the New Statesman or Jeremy Corbyn writes for the Times (unless it intervenes in an extant conversation). A miniscule portion of the public reads this stuff. That’s not to denigrate those guys, after all I helped start <a href="http://novaramedia.com">Novara Media</a>, but it accepts that ‘political’ media isn’t consumed in the same way that entertainment or documentaries are. To be honest, most written content by top politicians is a waste of time, unless it’s something to influence broadcast (like Farage did in regard to the Trump ‘ambassador’ tweet for Breitbart). Instead, the Labour leadership should be looking to leverage a genuine interest in the new(ish) guy at the top. That is real and to some extent reflected in social media: Corbyn’s personal Facebook page has more likes than Labour while JC4PM, an unofficial page that supports him, has more than the Liberal Democrats. While the opportunity hasn’t been taken as quickly as it should have been, the Labour leader should be doing Gardeners World, Match of the Day Two, Gardeners Question Time and local radio. </p> <p class="Body">If you want to see what a populist looks like in this respect, check out Barack Obama on <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmWlrtpqp40">Monday Night Football in 2006</a>. Fun, engaging and on level with ordinary people, this is the gold standard. The important thing to remember is that, compared to Aston Villa supporting David Cameron (<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/apr/25/david-cameron-mocked-for-aston-villa-gaffe">or is it West Ham</a>?) he is a relatively ‘ordinary’ (<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_of_David_Cameron">that is to say, not a descendent of William IV</a>) person.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>6) Do Cool Stuff</strong></h2> <p class="Body">Just like with broadcast, social media and moving out of Westminster, it’s obvious that a populist Corbyn would have to think outside the box. If he won’t be covered by the news, which is another weapon in the arsenal, then he’ll just have to make it. This is a great opportunity to get some strong social media stuff out there. I’ve got a few funny, hare-brained ideas, some my own, others which people have shared with me. One is John McDonnell taking a Tesla Model S for a spin with the Stig while talking about renewables and a new economy, another is Corbyn trying out a range of bikes to commute with, from a Brompton to a Raleigh, and rating them. This kind of approach doesn’t need to be limited to the front two, and should be part of offering the shadow cabinet an opportunity to show another side of themselves. These videos would be short, fun and, in an unconventional way, very political. They would be produced by an in-house video team at Labour HQ as part of sweeping changes there.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>7) Be bold and provocative in content and form</strong></h2> <p class="Body">It’s easy to understand why Corbyn, and those surrounding him are risk averse. That, combined with the stultifying routine of working in a building designed to eliminate a single useful thought from one’s head, means big changes are needed if people are serious about walking down the populist path. It’s often the case in politics that a public ‘re-brand’ signifies inertia, but I don’t think that’s entirely the case here. Rather it’s clear that in light of Brexit and Trump we are now, undeniably, in new times. Clearly that should be reflected in the leadership’s policies and rhetoric. </p> <p class="Body">At the same time, however, announcing this kind of thing is easier than actually doing it. And let’s be honest, Corbyn’s leadership – beyond campaigning over two summers – has been painting by numbers. Initially his approach was to build bridges in the parliamentary Labour party with those intent on destroying him. That was a shame because, while those MPs didn’t have the ideas, grit or candidate to beat Corbyn, it meant the Shadow Cabinet was dysfunctional for nearly a year. As I’ve said before, Corbyn’s original sin as leader wasn’t incompetence but kindness and good will.</p> <p class="Body">A populist strategy needs to be bold in both form and content. It will necessitate changing certain things quite dramatically, discarding previously held views about how things are done and what is useful. My sense is that both Corbyn and McDonnell are quite resistant to experimentation, certainly on the scale that is required. I’d love to be wrong of course. </p> <h2><strong>8) A New ‘Master Frame’: Luxury Socialism <br /></strong></h2> <p class="Body"><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/mar/18/fully-automated-luxury-communism-robots-employment">I’m a fully paid up luxury communist</a>. What does that mean? It means that imminent within our technologically advanced society, which permits a world of both synthetic biology and millions lacking access to basic medicine, is the possibility of a different kind of civilisation, one beyond both scarcity and work: fully automated luxury communism. Fully automated, because we identify a trajectory within two centuries of capitalism and subordinate it to people and leisure rather than profit and competition; luxury, because in overcoming scarcity we will lead lives of immense material and spiritual richness; communism, because all of this is understood within a heterodox reading of Marx, specifically the Grundrisse; its state is one where wage-labour, production for exchange and the commodity have all been superceded. For a more simple precis of what that means watch this brief clip from <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzqW0YaN2ho">Star Trek: The Next Generation</a>. </p> <p class="Body">While some of those ideas are complex, there is no reason why they can’t be presented clearly and in a way readily understood to anybody, anywhere. Most people get that automation is changing things, and fast.</p> <p class="Body">Now I know that Corbyn will avoid the ‘C’ word like the plague, and ‘fully automated’ won’t make much sense to the electorate or the likes of Peston and Marr, but there is no reason why such a zeitgeist can’t inform a new left populism that challenges the society of work and aspires to superior higher living standards for all. After all, it actually engages with the key questions posed by automation and globalisation. Unlike the likes of Trump and Farage, it also offers potential solutions.</p> <p>Indeed, we’ve already seen a glimpse of it when John McDonnell spoke of ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/nov/20/john-mcdonnell-to-unveil-socialism-with-an-ipad-economic-plan">socialism with an iPad</a>’ in 2015. The real point, though, is that kind of consumer technology is utter junk compared to some of the potential applications offered by the likes of synthetic biology, additive manufacturing (particularly in construction) and AI over the coming years. Luxury socialism – yes I’m willing for these guys to water it down a little – should inform the master frame for Labour under populist Corbyn. The answer to stagnating pay, falling wages and inferior public services isn’t a slight policy shift, or a bit less austerity – it’s a totally different kind of economy. Next year I’ll be releasing a book about what the concrete policies, from social care to immigration and health, would look like. </p><p class="Body">The thing is that austerity doesn’t really capture much, nor does it mean anything specific to the electorate. The real enemy is neoliberalism, that is to say the variant of capitalism which hasn’t brought improved living standards (relatively lower wage growth historically speaking) and is based on growing inequality, weak unions, profits over wages and the fanatical dogma of the free market. What is more the Tories, albeit six years too late, have now put growth ahead of deficit elimination and, as the economic picture worsens over 2017, expect them to talk more about stimulus and industrial policy than the national debt. To persist with austerity now, guarantees another recession.</p> <p class="Body">While the task is to defeat, we must also explain that there is no going back <a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26634594-the-rise-and-fall-of-american-growth">to the golden age of capitalism</a>.</p> <p class="Body">Here is a post by satirical page ‘fully automated luxury liberalism’ on Facebook. It’s a joke, but there is more than a kernel of truth to it for any luxury communist aiming at populism, especially within electoral contexts:</p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-12-22 at 14.37.23.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-12-22 at 14.37.23.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="290" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>What would that mean in a real context? Well, when Donald Trump spoke of bringing back American jobs, Hillary Clinton should have replied with the truth saying ‘we are, it’s called re-shoring and they are robots’. Trump’s rhetoric of a return to an industrial America of full, well-paid employment is impossible, primarily because of automation and innovations in real time communication and global transport. Fatally for centrist politics after the crisis, they have to accept the same rules of political economy as the right, simply by virtue of being committed to free market economics and a failing variant of globalisation. In a world of increased automation and human labour rendered ever-more superfluous, that can end in only one thing: defeat. </p><p class="Body">If you are going to break with neoliberalism, and accept that a return to the social democratic settlement of the post-war period is impossible, then luxury socialism is the only practical utopia on offer: subordinating a tendency (or better a common resource) everyone understands, automation, to the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Less work, more pay, better services and infrastructure.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Conclusion</strong></h2> <p class="Body">What will do for Corbyn isn’t the parliamentary Labour party or the Tories – both in their different ways are useless – but a more dangerous mixture of the media, complacency among his movement and boredom. If you aren’t on the front foot in the new politics you are nowhere. Too often, even since his second leadership win in September, Corbyn hasn’t been on the front foot. Without that Labour will lose the next general election, though I find predictions by what margin as irritating as they are useless. The reality is the Tories could easily lose their majority simply by virtue of a Liberal Democrat resurgence and Labour standing still. Meanwhile, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/luke-cooper/is-ukip-labour-s-phantom-menace">despite the media bullshit, UKIP came second in more Tory seats than Labour ones last May</a>. The Tories are more likely to lose South Thanet than Labour are Hartlepool.</p> <p class="Body">All of that, however, is meaningless if the leadership continue to play by the rules. Ed Miliband lost because of an aversion to risk and ultimately not having enough confidence in his politics or ability to shape the agenda. It would be a tragedy for Corbyn to go the same way. A shift to populism is to be welcomed and, <a href="http://labourlist.org/2016/11/is-jeremy-corbyn-the-only-answer-to-trumpism/">as Conor Pope writes</a>, it really is now or never for the politics of the radical left to succeed. But that will take something we’ve not really seen from Corbyn outside of his leadership campaigns: an insurgent strategy, a sense of fun, a propositional political agenda and a willingness to dispense with protocol. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/aaron-bastani/why-trade-unions-need-to-get-serious-about-new-media-in-2017">Why trade unions need to get serious about new media in 2017</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/aaron-bastani/seven-things-momentum-should-do-now">Seven things Momentum should do now</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Aaron Bastani Thu, 22 Dec 2016 15:01:43 +0000 Aaron Bastani 107861 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The BBC and Wales' information deficit https://www.opendemocracy.net/daniel-evans/bbc-and-wales-information-deficit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Wales suffers the unique problem of a lack of information, as opposed to misinformation. Welsh people need to explore alternative media forms to create a Welsh public sphere</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562240/PA-29478064.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562240/PA-29478064.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="293" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Wales player Hal Robson-Kanu. Mike Egerton PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Wales has a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/angela-graham/towards-better-broadcasting-in-wales">serious problem</a> with its media. </p><p dir="ltr">Of course, the UK as a whole is <a href="https://www.lse.ac.uk/media@lse/research/pdf/JeremyCorbyn/Cobyn-Report-FINAL.pdf; http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-public-wrong-about-nearly-everything-survey-shows-8697821.html">hardly a paragon</a> in this regard, with its rabid tabloid press out to distort and manipulate at every turn. </p><p dir="ltr">Yet Wales suffers the unique problem of invisibility, of no information rather than distorted information - it’s difficult to say which is worse. </p><p dir="ltr">Welsh people simply don’t hear anything about Wales or Welsh politics. There is a glaring <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-35984859">information deficit</a>. Less than 5% of Welsh people read Welsh newspapers (unlike most nations, Wales has never had a truly ‘national’ daily newspaper) instead reading English papers which never mention Wales or Welsh politics. This is the same for television, with Welsh citizens overwhelmingly consuming English/’British’ news media which again never mentions Wales or the Welsh Assembly. The Welsh television news which exists is tiny. It consists of a Welsh supplement which follows the ‘proper’ BBC or ITV news. These segments are generally 15 minutes long in the afternoon, half an hour at 6, and 10 minutes at 10 PM. This short time scale means that these shows are almost always ‘roundups’ which have to cram in of a combination of assembly news- normally a 10 second talking head of a minister or expert- sport, local news, crime and so on. On top of this, wider issues of political economy have further weakened what little indigenous media exist in Wales. Wales three ‘major’ papers - The Western Mail, South Wales Echo (both South Wales) and Daily Post (North Wales) are owned by Trinity Mirror, a chief player in the reduction of journalism to listicles and <a href="http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/spiked-column-by-sacked-star-writer-on-the-leicester-mercury-railed-against-risible-standard-of-clickbait-online-journalism/">clickbait</a>. As a consequence, their content has become increasingly trivial and unconcerned with Welsh politics or culture.</p><p dir="ltr">The information deficit has an incredibly pernicious impact on Welsh society. </p><p dir="ltr">The general lack of coverage about the Welsh assembly or Welsh policy distinctiveness has led to a farcical situation whereby no one knows <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-27739205">who does what</a>, who is in charge of what, and <a href="//www.iwa.wales/click/2016/04/british-media-is-failing-to-give-voters-the-full-picture-ahead-of-elections-2/">so on</a>. &nbsp;In my own field of education research, for example, teachers have told me how they are frequently confronted by upset parents scared about changes to education, unaware that the changes they have seen on the news only apply to England.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Wales suffers the unique problem of invisibility, of no information rather than distorted information.</p><p dir="ltr">This lack of information directly contributes to political disengagement and the uniquely <a href="http://orca.cf.ac.uk/48970/1/Scully%202004.pdf">low election turnout</a> in Wales, as well as undermining the Assembly and devolution itself- devolution hasn’t really embedded in the public imagination because of a lack of awareness of the role it plays in everyday life. </p><p dir="ltr">Next, the lack of media coverage means a lack of scrutiny which reinforces the awful state of Welsh politics. Welsh politics continues to be so partisan and the Welsh government continues to underperform and contradict itself because they simply get an easy ride, as their failures either go unreported or unseen. A final corollary of this invisibility- it not just the news media: <a href="http://www.iwa.wales/click/2013/05/putting-wales-on-the-small-screen/">dramatic portrayals of Welsh life </a>remain largely invisible in film, music and literature - is that it contributes to an extremely weak sense of national identity in Wales. The nation is a discursive construct, and we know who ‘we’ are through the media- through the constant, banal framing of ‘us’ as a nation through the news, drama, through seeing ‘people like us’ on the screen. In Wales the ‘we’ is not ‘we Welsh’ unless it comes to the 6 nations. The rest of the time ‘we’ refers to ‘the UK’ and ‘us British’. </p><p dir="ltr">There is, thankfully, an <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-19904438; http://www.iwa.wales/news/2015/11/iwa-wales-media-audit-2015/">increasing realisation</a> that this has to change. </p><h2 dir="ltr">BBC Wales</h2><p dir="ltr">In the animated discussions about transforming Wales’ media landscape, the BBC has featured heavily. To understand the role the BBC can and will play in Wales’ future, it is first worth reflecting on the history and nature of the BBC as an institution in Wales. </p><p dir="ltr">The role of the BBC in Wales, as in Scotland and Northern Ireland, is complex and contradictory. Like the British state (and indeed Britishness) itself, which has always been flexible and accommodating to national minorities, the BBC has always had to balance its commitment to the Union and status quo with a strong commitment to Wales. The BBC first established establishing Welsh transmission in 1937. After pressure, BBC Wales Cymru was launched as a distinct service in 1964, moving to Cardiff permanently in 1967. The new service provided both Welsh language and English language broadcasting. This was <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/corporate2/cymruwales/history">followed</a> in the 1970s by the establishment of BBC Radio Wales &amp; BBC Radio Cymru. </p><p dir="ltr">Many nationalists in Wales view the BBC in simplistic terms, as an entity which simply pumps out ‘Britishness’ at the expense of Welshness. This is easy to sympathise with when one looks at the Olympics coverage (‘COME ON OUR BOYS’) and the twee nationalism of shows like Bake Off, amongst other things. </p><p dir="ltr">Thomas Hajkowski’s ‘<a href="http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9780719079443/">The BBC and British national identity</a>’ challenges the traditional assumption that the BBC simply pumped out state propaganda from London, arguing instead that the regional BBC offices were nearly autonomous from London, and developed a strong Welsh national culture. He argues that “in an era of local or provincial newspapers on the one hand, and a London or Hollywood dominated cinema on the other, the regional BBCs were the only truly ‘national’ media in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland’, although this was later somewhat fractured by the advent of commercial broadcasting. </p><p dir="ltr">In other words, whilst the BBC has always been central to <a href="http://www.renewal.org.uk/articles/blair-and-the-importance-of-being-british">promoting a sense of Britishness</a>, it has also simultaneously functioned in many ways as a de facto Welsh national broadcaster and has always had an influential role to play in shaping Wales’ imagined community (within the boundaries of the UK, of course), something which <a href="http://www.viewjournal.eu/index.php/view/article/view/jethc038/72">continues today</a>. Indeed, such was the BBC’s ostensible sympathy for the Welsh language and ‘cultural issues’, the great Welsh Marxist Gwyn Williams once <a href="http://banmarchive.org.uk/collections/mt/pdf/81_12_14.pdf">spoke of</a> two rival ‘establishments’ within Wales: the formidable Labour party apparatus on one hand, and the ‘nation-conscious Welsh BBC’.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet pointing out the central role the BBC has played in recent Welsh history does not make the BBC a benevolent, neutral entity. Hegemony does not mean the absence of domination or the absence of a self-aggrandizing ruling class, but rather speaks of a “<a href="https://newleftreview.org/II/35/leo-panitch-sam-gindin-superintending-global-capital">quality of rule on the part of particular ruling classes</a>”. Raymond Williams tells us that the state will attempt to incorporate ‘harmless’ subaltern narratives and cultures - evident in the BBC’s recognition and co-optation of ‘cultural’ Welshness - but when this is not possible, threatening discourses will be “extirpated with extraordinary vigour”. So for example, whilst the BBC always recognised and helped promote the Welsh language, Hajkowski argues it did also attempted to marginalise &nbsp;Welsh (and Scottish) political nationalism, which it saw as beyond the pale and a threat to the established order (for example by barring Plaid and the SNP from making political broadcasts until the 1960s). </p><p dir="ltr">This constant <a href="http://orca.cf.ac.uk/89096/1/1464884916648094.full.pdf">balancing act </a>is why the BBC in Wales &amp; Scotland is often accused of being nationalistic by Unionists, and Unionistic by nationalists.</p><h2 dir="ltr">The BBC and the devolved political</h2><p dir="ltr">Devolution was meant to rejuvenate Wales, including its media. But just like all the other issues that devolution was meant to solve, the structural problems of the Welsh media have gotten <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pa.198/pdf">worse</a>, not better. The lack of any other Welsh media and the lack of interest in Wales from commercial television ultimately means that post-devolution Wales is now even more dependent on the BBC as a source of local news and affairs than other part of the UK. BBC Wales remains the most watched Welsh news outlet. The BBC Wales news website is where the majority of people get their online news about Wales. The BBC continues to reflect the realities of devolution better than its commercial rivals, although as Stewart Lee puts it, this is a bit like being the world’s tallest dwarf, and the BBC’s Welsh political coverage has been criticised for <a href="http://orca.cf.ac.uk/5524/">lacking substance</a>. The BBC’s ‘lift and shift’ policy (where it is obliged to have a certain production outside London) has made it a significant employer in Wales, producing the likes of Dr Who, Torchwood etc., (although of course these are basically English shows made in Wales). </p><p dir="ltr">Despite this centrality to the Welsh ‘public sphere’, the BBC’s Welsh outputs have declined steeply in quality and quantity in recent years: Welsh language output has fallen by 15% since 2006/7; English language Welsh programmes have been impacted by a 32% cut in spending. In other words, the BBC, Wales’ only beacon of hope, is failing to accurately represent Wales. </p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">The lack of any other Welsh media&nbsp; ultimately means that post-devolution Wales is now even more dependent on the BBC as a source of local news and affairs than other part of the UK. </p><p dir="ltr">How do you solve this problem? One huge obstacle is that media policy and broadcasting are not <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/408587/47683_CM9020_ENGLISH.pdf">devolved to Wales</a>,&nbsp; meaning that the Welsh government doesn’t have the tools to sort the information deficit out. More worryingly, as with so many other things, the Welsh government also does not really seem interested in equipping itself to deal with the problem. Academics and other experts working on the Welsh media have<a href="http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/uwp/cowa/2006/00000018/00000001/art00013"> passionately called </a>for media policy and broadcasting to be devolved, only to be met with <a href="http://www.senedd.assembly.wales/documents/s7672/The%20future%20outlook%20for%20the%20media%20in%20Wales%20-%20Report%20-%20May%202012.pdf ">resistance or fatalism</a> from the Welsh government. The weaknesses of the Welsh devolution settlement- constantly having to ask for permission to do something- have, over time, produced an institutional culture of helplessness and impotence which permeates everything the Welsh government does. Its first instinct always seems to be to assume that something is not possible –‘we couldn’t do that’- to fundamentally misunderstand that the function of government is to legislate and rule. A cynic might also say that the Welsh government simply enjoys the lack of responsibility and scrutiny, and is therefore not serious about wanting to change a situation which suits it very well.</p><p dir="ltr">Wales’ lack of power over broadcasting means that the relationship between the Welsh government and the BBC has to occur via Whitehall and the Secretary of State, normally through the timeless Welsh tradition of establishing committees, which then make recommendations which are sent to Westminster. This is basically a form of lobbying, except The Welsh government doesn’t have any political leverage (bizarrely, numerous Welsh Labour leaders seem to think Wales’ reluctance to rock the boat represents a negotiating strategy in itself, and have claimed Wales’ political docility should be rewarded with <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-29287647">greater crumbs</a> from the <a href="//hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2014-10-15/debates/141015104000247/WalesBill">top table</a>. The reality, of course, is that their timidity means that Wales is simply easy to ignore). </p><p dir="ltr">These Welsh ‘demands’ are complicated further by the wider political context in which the BBC operates. The BBC as a whole is undoubtedly under threat. It is faced with severe cuts from a Tory government that is itching to <a href="http://bjr.sagepub.com/content/27/3/37.full.pdf+html">privatise the BBC</a> (like everything else), as well as paradoxically attempting to erode the institution’s independence from government, (<a href="http://cnc.sagepub.com/content/13/1/7.extract">reflecting</a> the <a href="http://socialistregister.com/index.php/srv/article/view/5431">twin pillars</a> of Thatcherism). So the weak Welsh government is making demands of an organization which is already overstretched. This is why BBC representatives have implied that in this environment, increasing services to Wales would mean diverting resources from elsewhere. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The demands from Wales on the BBC have belatedly become somewhat more urgent and aggressive. The latest Enquiry into the BBC Charter Review writes:</p><p dir="ltr">“it is incumbent on the BBC to ensure that its output reflects the diversity of Welsh life and culture. It is in this regard that we believe the BBC has fallen short of its obligations…. The significant decline in the BBC’s investment in English-language programming over the last ten years has resulted in fewer hours of Wales specific programming and a schedule that has failed to capture and explore adequately the lives and experiences of Welsh communities, as well as the changing political landscape post-devolution. Further, this decline in investment has been more severe in Wales than the other nations of the UK. &nbsp;Whilst the <a href="http://www.assembly.wales/laid%20documents/cr-ld10602/cr-ld10602-e.pdf">BBC Executive</a> has publicly acknowledged these shortcomings for some time, it seems to have done little to address them.</p><p dir="ltr">Moreover, after pressure from Welsh civil society, the Welsh government has called for an extra 30 million to be spent by the BBC on English language programming to better reflect Welsh culture. However, experts in the same report also correctly note that the timidity of the Welsh Government is an obstacle to radical reform, stating&nbsp;“a number of witnesses questioned what political pressure would be brought to bear by the Welsh Government if this additional £30 million funding was not forthcoming”. &nbsp;</p><h2 dir="ltr">The BBC draft charter and Wales- problems solved?</h2><p dir="ltr">From this milieu, a draft of the latest BBC charter (the BBC’s rolling constitution) has emerged, complete with updates which impact on Wales. Most noticeably, Wales will now have a non-executive representative on the BBC’s new unitary board. The BBC is also now to be made <a href="https://assemblyinbrief.wordpress.com/tag/bbc-charter/ ">accountable</a> to the Assembly for its Welsh output, which will be quantified and scrutinised by the Assembly and Ofcom. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">These changes have predictably been <a href="http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/politics/how-radical-changes-proposed-bbc-10971202">portrayed as radical</a> but &nbsp;there are significant caveats. Money is still a very big issue. The demand that more programmes being made in Wales is problematic, for these will not necessarily be Welsh in content. What counts as distinctly Welsh programming? If more English language shows are actually made, what aspects of modern Welsh life will be reflected? (I suspect more focus on the valleys at the expense of everyone else).</p><p dir="ltr">At best, these new measures are stopping the rot, but hardly progress. It is difficult to foresee an actual increase in the BBC’s Welsh political coverage. In all likelihood, BBC Wales’ politics and Welsh news coverage will remain a ‘round up’ after the ‘proper’ news. </p><h2 dir="ltr">The Future</h2><p dir="ltr">The struggle over the Welsh media and the begging letters to the BBC sums up the failures of Welsh devolution. Twenty years on, Wales remains powerless and dependent.</p><p dir="ltr">So long as Wales remains in the UK, and as long as the British state remains interested in keeping Wales on side, BBC Wales will always provide some concessionary coverage to Wales and will remain the main pillar of Welsh broadcasting. The only issue will be about the amount and quality of this provision, which will alternate depending on who is in government: like the civil service, the BBC tends to absorb and reflect the ideologies and hegemonic strategies of whichever government is in power in Westminster, and some are more inclined to pursue strategies of consent than others. But so long as the BBC also remains committed to the Union, Wales and Scotland will never be provided any more than the absolute minimum, for the simple reason that this might, in the words of John Bird, ‘<a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14745594.Scottish_Six_news_programme_plans_are_dead__Whitehall_insiders_confirm/">foster separatist tendencies</a>.’ </p><h2 dir="ltr">The people of Wales should be asking themselves: is this is good enough? </h2><p dir="ltr">All this is about democracy. The idea of the ‘public sphere’ is thrown around a lot these days. It simply refers to an idealized image of a democratic society whereby all citizens are involved in the decision making process. It is about political participation and the belief that the public can be a check against the state and abuses of power. This requires a politically educated public, and this is facilitated by an accessible and open flow of information.</p><p dir="ltr">When Wales voted for devolution in 1997, these high minded ideals were prominent, but have sadly faded from view as Welsh expectations have successfully been managed downwards. </p><p dir="ltr">Like all dependent peripheral nations, Wales is basically used to change coming from the top, rather than from the bottom- everything is always sorted out by someone else. Changing this culture of dependency is perhaps the most important step in achieving a Welsh public sphere: instead of waiting for small concessions to be granted by the BBC, or trusting our incompetent government to sort this out for us (they won’t), the future for the Welsh public sphere lies in exploring innovative non-statist alternative media forms, a la <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/nov/24/the-national-scotland-newsquest-pro-independence">Scotland</a> . We also have to realise that the public sphere goes beyond just ‘the media’ but also depends on the contribution of Universities, schools and civil society, and that ultimately we all have a part to play in creating it.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/sam-coates-paul-atkins/forward-wales-five-ways-welsh-progressives-need-to-take-back-control">Forward Wales: five ways Welsh progressives need to take back control</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/angela-graham/towards-better-broadcasting-in-wales">Towards better broadcasting in Wales </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hywel-ceri-jones/wales-and-changing-union">Wales and the changing Union</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb OurBeeb uk UK what is public service? Daniel Evans Thu, 22 Dec 2016 14:34:49 +0000 Daniel Evans 107858 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The battle of governments against extremism has to be credible https://www.opendemocracy.net/richard-norton-taylor/battle-of-governments-against-extremism-has-to-be-credible <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Byrne writes, ‘the starting point for radicalisation may in fact be rage rather than religion…it’s not the madrassa that is the problem, it’s your mates.’ Book review.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28895009.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28895009.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Communities Secretary Sajid Javid speaks at the Pride Of Britain Awards launch in Speakers House, Houses of Parliament, London, October 2016. Stefan Rousseau/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>For years successive UK governments under the ‘PREVENT’ programme have<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38440939"> tried to tackle</a> ‘extremism’ or ‘radicalisation’ – that is to say, stop individuals, mainly youngsters, supporting or becoming jihadists. The latest tactic, promoted by UK communities secretary, Sajid Javid is to get those holding any public office to swear an oath of allegiance to British values. Far from promoting ‘integration’ this would be more likely to provoke hostility and resentment. It certainly will not help discourage anyone from embracing violent Islamic ideology.</p> <p>Prevent has manifestly become counter-productive. Two recent books help to explain why, very welcome contributions to what is still a much-needed debate. One is <em>Radicalized, New Jihadists and the Threat to the West</em>, by Peter Neumann (published by IB Tauris), an extremely useful guide by the Professor of Security Studies at King’s College, London and director there of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) providing the context and background of the latest wave of terrorist groups.</p> <p>Neumann traces the different roots and strands of modern terrorism, from the late nineteenth century anarchists, to anti-colonialists, the New Left, then to al-Qaida, and finally to Islamic State. While al-Qaida and IS share the ultimate goal of a caliphate, their strategies were very different, says Neumann. Al-Qaida’s strategy was first to attack the ‘far’ enemies – the US and its western allies – because they were crucial in propping up secular dictatorships in the Arab world. For IS leaders, it was the other way around: ‘the process of state building had to come first, not at the end.’</p> <p>Yet that strategic difference may now become irrelevant as IS loses territory in Syria and Iraq as a result of US-led air strikes and advances on the ground by a US and UK-trained Iraqi army – attacks which, as western security and intelligence chiefs now predict, will increase the terrorist threat in western countries, notably by lone wolves.</p> <p>For those living in corrupt regimes, extremist ideology had the attraction of providing certainty and order. For those in the west tempted by jihadism, the causes are different. Their anger was fuelled by western foreign policy – something Tony Blair strongly denied, though his claim was roundly rejected by MI5 and Home Office. </p> <p>Both Neumann and Liam Byrne, former Labour cabinet minister and author of the second book, <em>Black Flag Down</em> (published by Biteback), emphasise that many of the most extreme and violent jihadists/terrorists are not motivated by religion at all. Indeed, they are totally ignorant of Islam and its teachings, however they are interpreted. ‘Those searching for meaning, ‘Neumann writes, ‘are chiefly motivated by neither politics nor religion, but are part of a booming jihadist counterculture that meets their needs for identity, community, power and a feeling of masculinity.’</p> <p>Byrne convincingly shatters the view, propagated by David Cameron among others, that there is a ‘conveyor belt’ route to radicalisation. ‘There is only one problem with the conveyor belt theory. And that is that it’s wrong, ‘ Byrne writes. He points to a MI5 paper, leaked to the Guardian in 2008, titled ‘Understanding Radicalisation and Violent Extremism in the UK’. MI5 concluded there was no single pathway to extremism. A subsequent Whitehall study concluded: ‘We do not believe that it is accurate to regard radicalisation in this country as a linear “conveyor belt” moving from grievance, through radicalisation, to violence…This thesis seems to both misread the radicalisation process and to give undue weight to ideological factors.’</p> <p>What is becoming very clear, writes Byrne, ‘is that the starting point for radicalisation may in fact be rage rather than religion…it’s not the madrassa that is the problem, it’s your mates.’ Neumann refers to the British programme, ‘Channel’, described by the government as a key part of its Prevent strategy, a ‘multi-agency approach to identify and provide support to individuals who are at risk of being drawn into terrorism’, and says: ‘A new, comprehensive approach is necessary – and that includes not only the traditional tools of foreign and domestic security, but also a credible and strategic policy on prevention, intervention, and deradicalisation.’ </p> <h2><strong>Lip service?</strong></h2> <p>But there is little credible point in the government, any western government, paying lip service to the principle of tolerance, of pledging allegiance to, say, ‘freedom from abuse’, or ‘a belief in equality’, as Javid suggests, when immigrants are threatened and treated as outsiders, data is collected on children whose parents are born abroad, inequality and poverty are increasing, and overcrowded prisons become incubators for extremist views. </p> <p>Byrne – whose Birmingham constituency has afforded him much first-hand experience, warns that ‘frontline is online, and it is here that we confront a new digital danger slide, like a roller-coaster, capable of taking a young person from rage to radicalisation…’ Yet websites of the conventional media encourage Islamophobia, as other websites encourage jihadism. Many who support the British government indulge in hostile rhetoric that encourages extremism on all sides, which the government says it abhors. Promoting the tolerant society ministers say they want needs more than lip service.</p> <p>Byrne’s book is the more lively read, and the author in the end strikes an optimistic note. Neumann offers a stringent analysis and pleads for an effective ‘national prevention strategy’ before it is too late. </p> <p>The question of how to achieve it still goes unanswered. It will require profound changes in British civil society, not strategies promoted by a government, or even a parliament, which still has no realistic idea of what Britain’s future role in the world could be. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/paul-thomas-ted-cantle/extremism-and-%27prevent%27-need-to-trust-in-education"> Extremism and &#039;Prevent&#039;: the need to trust in education</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vian-bakir/from-torture-to-de-radicalisation-towards-public-accountability-of-secret-policies-design">From torture to de-radicalisation: towards public accountability of secret policies designed to prevent terrorism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/francesco-ragazzi-rosemary-bechler/policed-multiculturalism-and-predicting-disaster">‘Policed multiculturalism’ and predicting disaster</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/wfd/ben-hayes/worried-about-return-of-fascism-six-things-dissenter-can-do-in-2016">Worried about the return of fascism? Six things a dissenter can do in 2016</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/julian-petley/is-mistrust-of-mainstream-media-become-sign-of-violent-extremism">How did mistrust of mainstream media become a sign of violent extremism?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics Internet Richard Norton-Taylor Wed, 21 Dec 2016 09:09:02 +0000 Richard Norton-Taylor 107813 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Candidate: How Corbyn survived the coup – extract https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/alex-nunns/candidate-how-corbyn-survived-coup-extract <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In an extract from new book <a href="http://www.orbooks.com/catalog/the-candidate/?utm_source=Open%20Democracy&amp;utm_campaign=Candidate&amp;utm_medium=extract">The Candidate: Jeremy Corbyn’s Improbable Path to Power,</a> Alex Nunns explains how Corbyn was able to survive the attempt of his MPs to overthrow him.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/TheCandidate_CVR_3D.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/TheCandidate_CVR_3D.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="300" height="370" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: OR books, fair use.</span></span></span></p> <p>Corbyn was able to see off the attempted coup of summer 2016 because his sources of power, in the membership, the unions and the movement, were greater than those of his opponents in the PLP, the party bureaucracy and the media. Any conventional politician who had won the leadership by advancing through parliament and the press would have been unable to survive. But Corbyn’s success was achieved in spite of those institutions. He was not playing by Westminster rules. In their bewilderment and exasperation at his refusal to resign, many MPs appeared not to realise this. </p><p>The issue at the heart of the coup—and indeed the whole first year of Corbyn’s leadership—concerned where power lay in the Labour Party. Was it with the PLP, as had historically been the case, or was it with the membership? And where did the unions, with the constitutional might to settle the matter one way or the other, stand?&nbsp; </p><p>Corbyn’s survival made this clear: power now resided with the membership. Politically, Corbyn was only able to defy the coup because of the legitimacy he took from the members—hence his frequent reminders that he had been given a huge mandate by a greatly expanded party under a one-person-one-vote system.</p> <p>In contemporary Western societies, at least, individualised, one-person-one-vote democracy commands greater legitimacy than any of its alternatives. Collective arrangements, such as those that traditionally characterised the Labour Movement, are regarded as inferior, suspect, even corrupt—witness the praise lavished on the GMB union for balloting its members individually about which candidate to nominate for the Labour leadership in 2016, compared to the opprobrium heaped on Unite for making its decision in the usual way through its (elected) executive council. MPs and commentators regularly express their commitment to the ideal of individualised democracy. Yet on this standard, Corbyn’s credentials were impeccable. Consequently there followed the odd spectacle of the same MPs and commentators venting their outrage at Corbyn for sticking to democratic principles in which they openly professed to believe. They were unable to clearly articulate what he was doing wrong in refusing to resign. All they could charge him with was constitutional impropriety, arguing that it was harmful for the country to not have an opposition in which the MPs were loyal to the leader—a problem for which there was an easy fix entirely in the PLP’s hands.</p> <p>Behind this confusion lay two contending conceptions of the Labour Party. The Labour establishment was correct to say, as Neil Kinnock expounded in a speech to the PLP on 4 July 2016, that the party had been founded to represent the Labour Movement in parliament. Therefore, the argument went, it was a parliamentary party above all else, and the leader had to have the confidence of the MPs. “This is our party!” Kinnock exclaimed. But when the Labour Party was first created it had no individual members. In the intervening 116 years it had transformed gradually, stutteringly, with reverses along the way, into a democratic membership organisation. Just two years before the coup, it had taken the latest step along this road in the form of the Collins Review when it decided overwhelmingly—with the fulsome backing of the PLP—that all of its members and eligible supporters would have an equal say in choosing the leader.</p> <p>Labour MPs clearly did not understand the consequences of this radical democratisation of the way the party determines who leads it. Their collective culture remained dominated by what Ralph Miliband, Ed’s dad, called “parliamentarism”—a “dogmatic devotion to the parliamentary system,” the defining feature of which was rule from above. Corbyn’s more than three decades in parliament attest to his belief in the possibility of a parliamentary road to socialism. But he has always been much more interested in power from below, believing that the action in parliament represents the final stage of much bigger processes that have already occurred in society. His repeated invocation of his mandate from the members during the coup was not made solely or even primarily out of political convenience but because he genuinely believed in democracy from below. As he saw it, 172 MPs voting no confidence should not void the decision of hundreds of thousands of fellow Labour members. This perspective appeared beyond the comprehension of some of his colleagues, who resorted to unpersuasive accusations that Corbyn was refusing to go due to narcissism or ego. “It’s not about you, Jeremy,” the MP Ian Murray barked at him at the vicious PLP meeting of 27 June; Corbyn surely would have wholeheartedly agreed.&nbsp; </p><p>It was ironic that a rule change promoted as a solution to the split electoral college in 2010, when trade unionists secured Ed Miliband’s victory, facilitated the opening of a much wider chasm between the PLP and the membership. But in fact this was not solely a result of the new rules. Labour’s electoral reforms only took on such significance because of a political divergence between MPs and the members that was already in train before the Collins Review was adopted. In the aftermath of the 2008 crash, the membership had adapted to the new political context. Its shift left under Miliband was then greatly accentuated by the influx of new recruits during and after the 2015 leadership contest, when the party doubled in size from 200,000 to nearly 400,000 members (before rocketing to over half a million during the coup).</p> <p>In contrast to the flexible, responsive membership, the parliamentary party was largely a relic from the New Labour era. The stitching up of parliamentary candidate selections over many years had resulted in a PLP that was unhitched from the wider party—exemplified by its decision, sharply at odds with the views of most Labour Party members, to abstain on the Welfare Bill in June 2015. There was no quick mechanism to alter the composition of the PLP in fast-changing times. This was a constitutional conundrum. Under first-past-the-post, where most constituencies are safe seats, many MPs can have what are effectively jobs for life if their party has no recall process in place, such as mandatory reselection. This creates a lag effect. At any one time the PLP is the product of a bygone age. This can work both ways—Corbyn’s own presence in parliament is a legacy of the strength of the left in constituency parties in the early-1980s. But the particular diligence with which New Labour controlled parliamentary selections meant that, as leader, Corbyn faced a far less politically diverse cohort of MPs than had Labour leaders of old, and certainly one less reflective of the party at large.</p> <p>There is a further dimension to this conundrum that became apparent during the coup. MPs justified their defiance of the elected leader by emphasising their personal mandates from voters. They had a higher calling than to the party membership, they said, which was to their constituents. Again there was a historic constitutional basis to their argument. MPs were originally local landowners sent to parliament to represent the other landowners in their area. The first political parties, when they emerged towards the end of the seventeenth century, were loose groupings of these individuals, elected on their own mandate, who only banded together once at Westminster. That basic constitutional framework persists, but a fully-fledged party system has developed within it. These days, it is the party name printed on the ballot paper that most voters look for, not the name of the individual candidate. Moreover, candidates’ electoral prospects often depend considerably on the campaigning efforts and resources of their party. </p><p>Appealing to party members was one of the few means of leverage Corbyn had over MPs. He employed it effectively during the debate on whether Britain should carry out airstrikes in Syria in December 2015. By simply emailing members asking for their views, Corbyn reversed the momentum in the PLP towards military action, resulting in just 66 Labour MPs—far fewer than had been expected—supporting the government. It was an instructive moment. After the sense of empowerment many members had experienced during the 2015 leadership contest, national politics became once again more remote as the key action returned to Westminster. Corbyn’s call for involvement on Syria reactivated a membership that was desperate to participate.</p> <p>A similar mobilisation was triggered by the coup. MPs’ timing and tactics provoked fury in the wider party, constituency chairs reported. Members had elected Corbyn in part because of his promise of an open, participatory politics. The PLP was explicitly attempting to veto that vision. There was little appetite for a return to a managed party, which was the most likely consequence of a successful putsch as the only means by which a triumphant PLP could have dealt with an angry membership. The lengths to which the Labour establishment was prepared to go in order to defeat Corbyn confirmed that if the left lost the leadership it would be “put in a box for 30 years or out of the party,” as one former shadow cabinet minister put it. Tom Watson’s proposal to reinstate the electoral college, made in August 2016, was a clear indication that the PLP’s first priority was to diminish the power of ordinary members.</p> <p>The one institutional base of support that Corbyn did enjoy during the coup (though it fragmented slightly in the subsequent leadership election) was the trade union leadership. For the unions the coup put at risk a 10-year project to reshape the Labour Party, restore their position within it, and steer it away from Blairism. Their unexpected success in 2015 had come five years earlier than they dared hope, in circumstances they would not necessarily have chosen. Their efforts during the Miliband years to get more union-friendly MPs into parliament were made with an eye to having a leadership candidate ready to stand in 2020. But, because of the particular dynamics of the 2015 contest, they ended up supporting a winning candidate from a strand of the party with which they would not traditionally have allied, before a sufficient base of parliamentary support had been built. Nevertheless, had Corbyn been overthrown in an undemocratic coup the PLP would have been massively empowered to reverse all of the trade union gains in the party over the previous half-decade. With the unions having backed two successive leaders that a majority of MPs did not want, and with no sign of the centre of gravity in the union movement shifting right-wards, it was highly likely that a triumphant PLP would have sought their emasculation. On the other side of the coin, the ouster of Corbyn would have created immense pressure within several unions, including Unite, to disaffiliate from the Labour Party.</p> <p>For Corbyn, having the unions’ public support during the coup was enormously important. It undermined the narrative being spun by the PLP that his inadequacy was self-evident to all but the Momentum “rabble.” The trade unions were widely seen as solid, realistic organisations, pillars of the Labour Party. When they insisted—as 12 unions did in a joint statement on the day after the EU referendum—that “the last thing Labour needs is a manufactured leadership row... we call upon all Labour MPs not to engage in any such indulgence,” it was hard to brush off their view as zealotry. Significantly, the signatories to that statement featured five unions that had not nominated Corbyn for leader the previous year, including the third-biggest union GMB.</p> <p>In going ahead with their action anyway, MPs evidently hoped that by creating a crisis they would force a rethink. It did not happen. The unions restated their support on 29 June, urging MPs to “respect the authority of the party’s leader.” Meanwhile, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey filled the airwaves and newspapers with an unambiguous message, warning that any attempt to keep Corbyn off the ballot paper would “lead to the break up of the Labour Party” and pillorying the plotters for “betraying not only the party itself but also our national interest.”</p> <p>Of even greater importance than the unions’ public support was their steadfast stance behind the scenes. Their refusal to budge on the issue of Corbyn’s resignation led Watson unilaterally to break off negotiations he had opened with the unions, a move McCluskey described as “an act of sabotage.” The ultimate reason why the unions held so much sway became clear at the crunch meeting of the NEC on 12 July, when the votes of their 12 representatives spelt the difference between Corbyn being on the ballot or not. The whole gambit had been undertaken on the assumption that some unions, under the cloak of a secret vote, would swap sides. As was becoming a habit, the Labour elite had miscalculated.</p><p><span class="m_-8773289207135680598highlight"><span class="m_-8773289207135680598colour"><span class="m_-8773289207135680598font"><span class="m_-8773289207135680598size"><em>We are pleased to be partnering with OR Books to offer a 20% off Alex Nunns' '<a href="http://www.orbooks.com/catalog/the-candidate/?utm_source=Open%20Democracy&amp;utm_campaign=Candidate&amp;utm_medium=extract">The Candidate: Jeremy Corbyn's Improbable Path to Power</a>'. Use the discount code "</em><span class="m_-8773289207135680598highlight"><span class="m_-8773289207135680598colour"><span class="m_-8773289207135680598font"><span class="m_-8773289207135680598size"><em>OPEN-DEMOCRACY" to receive your discount. </em><br /></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/alex-goodman/hijack-or-mutiny-labour-leadership-and-left">A hijack or a mutiny? Labour, leadership and the left</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Alex Nunns Mon, 19 Dec 2016 14:29:54 +0000 Alex Nunns 107786 at https://www.opendemocracy.net BAFTA/BFI Film Diversity Measures may not lead to BAME employment https://www.opendemocracy.net/simon-albury/baftabfi-film-diversity-measures-may-not-lead-to-bame-employment <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The press should not exaggerate the effectiveness of the film diversity measures introduced by BAFTA this week. They deserve only a small welcome.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562240/PA-25522188.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562240/PA-25522188.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Actor Leon Herbert protests lack of diversity at the BAFTA film awards. Jonathan Brady PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The press has overblown the film diversity measures announced by BAFTA this week. </p><p>The Guardian reported they mean “nominees must show they have boosted opportunities for ethnic minority and socially disadvantaged film-makers.” That is not true. On Talk Radio, Julia Hartley-Brewer said a film that was “too white, too straight and too male” couldn’t win a BAFTA. As her 12.45pm phone guest, I explained why that wasn’t true. The Telegraph suggested that I had said that BAFTA’s membership requirements and old awards system had “blighted progress in the industry for decades”. Again not true.</p> <p>Let’s look at what is true. When it comes to membership, BAFTA has done well. Last week in the members’ bar, Sugar Films supremo and industry big wig Pat Younge was doing business with a large diverse group at one of BAFTA’s big round tables and, as usual, there were many other BAME people around the room. So, on membership BAFTA starts from a good place. </p> <p>Now Variety reports that, for 2017, BAFTA has “abolished the requirement for new member applicants to need proposers and seconders from the existing membership”. If true, this removes the “who you know” hurdle from joining BAFTA and is a great move and deserves a big welcome. As I did tell the Telegraph – on diversity “who you know” has blighted progress in the industry for decades. </p> <p>What has caught the press’ eye is BAFTA’a announcment it will add the <a href="http://www.bfi.org.uk/sites/bfi.org.uk/files/downloads/bfi-diversity-standards-leaflet-2016-05-11.pdf" target="_blank">BFI Diversity Standards</a> to the eligibility criteria for the Outstanding British Film and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer categories from 2019. <em><span>This is welcome but it might have no impact on BAME or disabled employment on-screen or off.</span></em> To understand why, you have to look at the full detail of the criteria in the BFI document.</p><p>1. To meet the standard only two out of the following four criteria areas needs to be addressed: </p><ul><li>- On screen representation, themes and narratives</li><li> </li><li>- Project leadership and creative practitioners</li><li> </li><li>- Industry access and opportunities</li><li> </li><li>- Opportunities for diversity in audience development.</li></ul> <p>In practice, a film could meet the diversity standard by employing the following combination: an expert advisor, providing one off student work experience, added value in a specific UK region and reaching new audiences through alternative distribution and marketing strategies (e.g. VOD, special events, targeted pricing strategies). All these taken together are very nice but they will not drive the necessary structural change.</p> <p>2. The most challenging disadvantaged groups may be ignored as, to qualify, a production can choose to focus on only one group from disability <em>or</em> gender <em>or</em> race <em>or</em> age <em>or</em> sexual orientation <em>or</em> lower economic status. The BFI criteria can be matched without addressing BAME or disabled employment at all. As I’m now in my seventies, I might be in with a chance on age!</p> <p>The most recent Creative Skillset Census 2012 reported for Diversity in Film Production the makeup was:</p> <p>47% Women</p> <p>5.3% BAME</p> <p>1.5% Disabled</p> <p>For matching some paltry measures, a multi million pounds film will now be able to display an impressive Screen Diversity mark of good practice. The idea that a film that is “too white, too straight and too male” couldn’t win a BAFTA is clearly nonsense. </p> <p>With the BFI Diversity Standards, a very small step has been made. It deserves only a very small welcome.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/claire-westall-michael-gardiner/bbc-and-british-branding">The BBC and British branding</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/simon-albury/diversity-what-ofcom-needs-to-do">Diversity - what Ofcom needs to do</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/trevor-phillips/british-tv-not-quite-black-and-white">British media: not quite black and white</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb uk UK Simon Albury Mon, 19 Dec 2016 12:48:48 +0000 Simon Albury 107771 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Bigotry seeks company in the UK https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/warwick-historians/bigotry-seeks-company-in-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We historians at the University of Warwick are very concerned about the racism that is becoming increasingly commonplace over Britain, especially in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-29256024.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-29256024.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A white and red rose on Jo Cox's empty seat in the House of Commons, London, as MPs gathered to pay tribute to her.July 20,2016. Press Association Wire. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>We are witnessing a profound authoritarian shift in long-established liberal democracies around the world. The recent result of the US election is only the most dramatic illustration of this. But while we have reason to worry about Trump, grave developments are also afoot in Britain. </p> <p>Since 23 June, this country has experienced one of the greatest upsurges in racism that has happened in our lifetimes. This has affected EU migrants: Poles have been attacked as “vermin”, a Czech and a Polish man were even murdered, while mothers with infants are being assaulted on the street. This October a Polish shop in Coventry, just over five miles away from Warwick’s Campus, was the victim of an arson attack that many suspect to be racially motivated. The attacks also target Black and Minority Ethnic British citizens – a painful reminder that when certain forms of racism become legitimised, its targets diversify. And since bigotry loves company, we should not be surprised that homophobic attacks have increased by 147%.</p> <p>The mainstream media has colluded in the myth of immigration as the source of all the nation’s ills, with demurring voices increasingly squeezed out of the public sphere. <span class="mag-quote-center">The mainstream media has colluded in the myth of immigration as the source of all the nation’s ills, with demurring voices increasingly squeezed out of the public sphere. </span>We see the language of the most xenophobic and far right sections of British society becoming mainstream, and statements that would have been unthinkable earlier cascading from the mouths of the political establishment. </p> <p>History is being made, and is doing so at such an alarming pace that it is easy to feel as if we have no control over the direction in which it takes us. Yet as historians we believe that it is people – our everyday actions and choices and our efforts or indifference to the societies in which we live – that have a role in determining this history. This is not a moment for intellectuals (or anyone else) to sit back and contemplate, but instead to step up and speak out. </p> <p>The xenophobia exploding around us makes skilful use of nostalgic myths about a 'lost' British greatness. It harks back to themes of empire, national glory, and 'taking our country back'. We believe this mythmaking is enabled by a selective amnesia about Britain's national and imperial past. One symptom is the profound public ignorance about the realities of the British Empire, whose history is whitewashed by the mainstream media, political parties, and much of the education system. </p> <p>British domination of the world in the nineteenth and early twentieth century involved white Britons conquering other countries, exploiting their national resources, and legitimizing this through a myth of racial superiority. Assiduous attempts are made in our public sphere to domesticate this history - by erasing the stories of massacre, plunder and racism that made up the Empire. Conversely, the greater social liberalism that exists in contemporary Britain – something the mainstream media often pays lip service to – would have been unthinkable without multiculturalism and immigration, themselves the historical products of Empire and decolonization. If we are to resist the myths being peddled today, we need to engage seriously with the real past, instead of an imaginary history of unbroken glory and virtue somehow poisoned by 'migrants'. <span class="mag-quote-center">We need to engage seriously with the real past, instead of an imaginary history of unbroken glory and virtue somehow poisoned by 'migrants'.</span></p> <p>Politicians and commentators, none of them working-class, conjure up the spectre of 'ordinary working class people', invariably defined as homogenously white and inherently racist. This myth is used to justify policies that leave refugees drowning in the sea or herded into camps on the basis that ‘we have to give the people what they want’. This ignores the existence of a multi-cultural working class across the UK, and erases a long history of BME people living and working in Britain. British society, past and present, is indeed scarred by racism, and migrant communities have often become scapegoats for the worst effects of austerity. Yet to claim that racism is the special preserve of ‘the working class’ is historically and factually incorrect. In fact, working class communities are far more ethnically diverse than public schools and the Houses of Parliament. At its best, the British labour movement has been a place in which alliances between Black and white working people have been built, and BME workers have played a central role in struggles for improvements in pay and conditions for working-class people across ethnic boundaries. </p> <p>The events of the last months have alarming historical resonances. The Conservative conference in Birmingham, where the PM notoriously stigmatized migrants as “citizens of nowhere”, was a truly chilling spectacle. Theresa May’s racist remarks were accompanied by demands for foreign GPs to be replaced by British colleagues by 2025. &nbsp;Moreover, Amber Rudd called for firms employing foreigners to be ‘named and shamed’. All this eerily echoes the 1930s in Germany. In the spring of 1933, the Nazi regime removed German-Jewish physicians from the state hospitals, lest they touch “Aryan” bodies. Over the next twelve years, ordinary Germans became complicit in the Holocaust by singling out their Jewish friends, colleagues, and neighbours. Ordinary people succumbed to racism, and this provided the foundation for the horrors to come. <span class="mag-quote-center">Politicians and commentators, none of them working-class, conjure up the spectre of 'ordinary working class people', invariably defined as homogenously white and inherently racist.</span></p> <p>Of course, that was the past. But while most Britons will agree that Nazi Germany was fundamentally debased, we need to remember that Nazism too began with small acts of prejudice and social exclusion, and public indifference to such acts normalized Nazi terror. </p> <p>There is absolutely no reason to believe that events of a similarly horrifying character are not possible today. The responsibility to be a decent human being lies with each of us. Dehumanising fellow human beings as non-citizens, and stigmatizing them for being migrants, is inherently racist, and wrong. More than anything else, contemporary Britain’s vibrancy flows from its pluralist and multicultural society. We need to fight to keep it so.</p> <p>Professor Rebecca Earle, Professor of History</p> <p>Professor Beat Kümin, Professor of Early Modern History</p> <p>Professor David Lambert, Professor of Caribbean History</p> <p>Professor Tim Lockley, Professor of History </p> <p>Professor Hilary Marland, Professor of History</p> <p>Professor Penny Roberts, Professor of Early Modern European History</p> <p>Professor Christopher Read, Professor of Modern European history</p> <p>Andrew Birchall, Ph.D. Student in the Centre for the History of Medicine</p> <p>Somak Biswas, Ph.D. Student in Modern British History </p> <p>Dr Francesco Buscemi, Visiting Associate Fellow and Ermenegildo Zegna Founder's Scholar</p> <p>Dr Jonathan Davies, Associate Professor of Italian Renaissance History</p> <p>Dr Rosie Doyle, Teaching Fellow in Latin American History</p> <p>Dr Christos Efstathiou, Teaching Fellow in Historiography</p> <p>Dr Roger Fagge, Associate Prof of American History</p> <p>Dr Charlotte Faucher, Teaching Fellow in Modern History</p> <p>Dr George Gosling, Research Fellow in the Centre for History of Medicine</p> <p>Dr Anna Hájková, Assistant Professor of Modern Continental European History </p> <p>Dr Sarah Hodges, Associate Professor of South Asian History</p> <p>Dr Andrew Jones, Teaching Fellow in Imperial History</p> <p>Kate Mahoney, Ph.D. Student in Modern British History</p> <p>Dr Celeste McNamara, Assistant Professor of Medieval and Renaissance History</p> <p>Dr Meleisa Ono George, Senior Teaching Fellow</p> <p>Dr Giada Pizzoni, Teaching Fellow in Early Modern History</p> <p>Dr Pierre Purseigle, Associate Professor of Modern Continental European History</p> <p>Dr Sarah Richardson, Associate Professor of Modern British History</p> <p>Dr Anna Ross, Assistant Professor of Modern European History</p> <p>Dr Aditya Sarkar, Assistant Professor of South Asian History</p> <p>Dr Martina Salvante, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow</p> <p>Dr Rosa Salzburg, Assistant Professor of Italian Renaissance History</p> <p>Dr Jack Saunders, Research Fellow in Modern British History</p> <p>Dr Laura Schwartz, Associate Professor of Modern British History</p> <p>Dr Benjamin Smith, Reader in Latin American History</p> <p>Dr Elise Smith, Assistant Professor in the History of Medicine</p> <p>Dr David Toulson, Seminar Tutor in Modern British History</p> <p>Dr Charles Walton, Reader in Modern French History</p> <p>Holly Winter, Ph.D. Student in Modern African History</p> <p>Esther Wright, Ph.D. Student in Modern American History</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>&nbsp;See <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/brexit2016">BREXIT 2016</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/aaron-winter/island-retreat-on-hate-violence-and-murder-of-jo-cox">Island retreat: on hate, violence and the murder of Jo Cox</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/benjamin-ramm/long-shadow-of-empire-has-cast-pall-over-eu-referendum">The long shadow of Empire has cast a pall over the EU referendum</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/pall-has-fallen-across-referendum">Death and the referendum</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? uk United States EU UK Civil society Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality International politics People Flow Warwick historians Mon, 19 Dec 2016 09:32:24 +0000 Warwick historians 107762 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Shakespeare the revolutionary https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jeremy-fox/shakespeare-revolutionary <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>England's bard saw everyone as a whole human. That makes his plays great: and makes him a great revolutionary.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/kinglearlgfmtnew.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/kinglearlgfmtnew.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>King Lear, the Barbican</span></span></span> Watching a performance of King Lear at London’s Barbican Theatre, I was struck not for the first time by Shakespeare’s awareness of poverty and inequality. Though his popularity and sheer brilliance during his lifetime kept him safe from the Tower, he was something of a revolutionary, an egalitarian long before the word or any of its strident political equivalents had found their way into our vocabulary. Passages, not only in Lear but in other plays too, show evidence of a strong social conscience – at times stated quite bluntly and at others more subtly through the treatment and shaping of character. </p> <p class="Body">In Lear, part of the learning experience forced upon the eponymous hero, and also on the Earl of Gloucester, is recognition of economic injustice and of their own failures to address&nbsp; it during their long careers as powerful members of the elite – one a monarch, the other an aristocrat. Thus Gloucester, intent on suicide, hands his purse to his son Edgar, whom he believes to be a beggar, with these words:</p> <p><em>Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man</em><em><br />That slaves your ordinance, that will not see</em><em><br />Because he does not feel, feel your pow’r quickly;<br />So distribution should undo excess,<br />And each man have enough.</em></p> <p class="Body">It is a recipe for progressive taxation, for a generous benefit system, for a National Health Service, for what used to be called the Welfare State.</p> <p class="Body">King Lear on the heath in the midst of a violent storm goes further, as his sudden material impoverishment brings him awareness of the plight of others so afflicted:</p> <p><em>Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,<br />That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm.<br />How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,<br />Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you<br />From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en<br />Too little care of this! Take physic pomp,<br />Expose yourself to feel what wretches feel,<br />That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,<br />And show the heavens more just.</em></p> <p class="Body">Lear’s reflection on his own lack of concern for the poor – “I have ta’en too little care of this…” could not be other than a contemporary reference. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the acceleration of land enclosures in Tudor England which left many people unemployed, the number of vagrants and vagabonds had mushroomed. In 1594, the Lord Mayor of London estimated the number of beggars in the city at 12,000, while tens of thousands more roamed the countryside either as smart-assed rogues like Autolycus in A Winter’s Tale, or ragged vagabonds such as Edgar pretended to be in Lear. Both would have been familiar figures to an Elizabethan/Jacobean audience. Altogether at least a third of the entire population of Shakespeare’s time was estimated to be poor, including those who were nominally in work but badly paid. </p> <p class="Body">Today, with unnumbered refugees from Africa and the Middle East pressing at Europe’s gates, while homelessness, hunger and distress grow within the European citadel, Lear’s and Gloucester’s cry against inequality seems as shockingly relevant to our own time as it undoubtedly was to Shakespeare’s. </p> <p class="Body">How did Shakespeare come to write such lines? Whence the extraordinary range of his sympathies? </p> <p class="Body">We know that he had read Montaigne’s essay “On Cannibals” – from which he derived the name of Caliban in The Tempest. In the sixteenth century, the process of discovery and conquest of the New World was in full swing, and stories abounded of the strange creatures who lived there. Though Shakespeare portrayed Caliban as a savage, he also understood native indignation at having their land and inheritance taken by a ‘colonial’ usurper:</p> <p class="Body"><em>&nbsp;“This island’s mine by Sycorax my mother, Which thou tak’st from me”</em>, Caliban tells Prospero. </p> <p class="Body">In the same essay Montaigne writes of an encounter with three natives of Brazil during which the visitors offered a stinging rebuke of the inequality they had observed in France:</p> <p class="Body"><em>“…They noticed how some men were replete with every imaginable commodity while others, impoverished and hungry, went begging at their doors. And they found it strange that the poor tolerated such injustice and wondered why they didn’t seize the wealthy by the throat or set fire to their houses.</em>”</p> <p class="Body">It is a theme that Montaigne goes on to address at length in a subsequent essay – “On Inequality among us” in which he questions why we value people by their <em>“wrapping and packaging …which merely hide the characteristics by which we can truly judge someone”</em>. Here, in one of Hamlet’s exchanges with Claudius, is a Shakespearean dramatisation of the same issue:</p> <p><em>“</em>Hamlet:<em> A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.</em><br />King:<em> What dost thou mean by this?</em><br />Hamlet:<em> Nothing but to show you how a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar.”</em></p> <p class="Body">Socio-political injustice was, therefore, neither strange nor novel in 16th century European thought or literature. However, our playwright did not write didactic dramas, nor build his plays as illustrations of good or evil, right or wrong behaviour, or – as one academic put it to me – to induce salutary reactions in the audience via catharsis or laughter. Had he done so he would have been following a long tradition in which dramatic characters had first and foremost a symbolic or illustrative function, that is they represented an idea, or a set of dispositions or feelings that audiences were expected to approve or reject. Such was the case with both Roman and Medieval drama – the major influences on Elizabethan playwrights. Not even Marlowe, among Shakespeare’s contemporaries, contravened this schematic framework. If we examine Marlowe’s treatment of character in Tamburlaine, or the Jew of Malta, or Faustus, we find that the symbolic role of the protagonists takes priority over their qualities as recognisable individuals – flesh and blood human beings.</p> <p class="Body">What Shakespeare did was to reverse the conventional procedure by building from character to meaning, from the individual to the universal. The philosophical equivalent would be inductive instead of deductive reasoning. This is why his characters work so powerfully on our imagination, why Marlowe’s Jew remains a stereotype while Shakespeare’s (despite the prejudices of the age) is a full of personality, while we love Falstaff despite and because of his all-too-human failings, why Hamlet puzzles, angers and frustrates because like us he is insecure, by degrees passionate, cruel, witty, honest, dissembling – a thoroughly human mixture. We meet Shakespeare’s characters in the street, those of his predecessors in our minds. Stage figures of what we might call ‘human complexity’ are a Shakespearean innovation. Only in poetry do we find obvious precedents – for example in Chaucer’s wonderful gallery of portraits and François Villon’s verse “Testaments” – and there are hints also perhaps in early Spanish picaresque fiction such as the anonymous “Lazarillo de Tormes”. But Chaucer and Villon were solely accessible to a select few – those who could both read and were able to acquire books, while Shakespeare worked in a universal medium of communication where only ears were needed.</p> <p class="Body">Why was this “inductive” technique revolutionary rather than merely innovative? I believe the answer lies in the fact that, for the first time, the individual became a focus of public and artistic attention. Shakespearean drama brought previously unattended elements of human nature and of political and social life to the forefront: the quixotic nature and psychology of motive (Cervantes belongs here, too, of course), the individual validity of the common man, human rights of the kind both Ariel and Caliban demand in the Tempest, and so on. Little of this is to be found in other playwrights of the period. </p> <p class="Body">In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Shakespeare’s plays were criticised for their ‘excesses’, and attempts were made to &nbsp;improve them by pundits who thought they knew better. What were the objections? Low-life subject-matter (unfit for polite society), lack of taste, improper language – features we might recognise, nowadays, as coming from&nbsp; ‘East-Enders’ rather than ‘Yes Minister’. Editors and amenders tried to excise precisely those features that show the commonest citizen as the moral equal of the greatest monarch. They were uncomfortable features. Whoever witnesses the downfall of Angelo (Measure for Measure), or the rise of Bolingbroke (Richard II) knows that the high and mighty are not necessarily to be trusted. Perhaps not to be trusted at all. And here we are not just speaking of a lust for and abuse of power (a familiar Elizabethan theme) but about corruption of a kind that brings to earth the moral authority of the powerful. Much more important, though, is that the Shakespearean common man is as full of humanity as a monarch. </p> <p class="Body">Shakespeare wasn’t a pamphleteer aiming to bring about political change. But his view of people was more revolutionary than anything a pamphleteer could achieve. Elizabethan stage convention unthinkingly accepted class values as fixed (as did French classical theatre). Shakespeare did not; though his originality in this respect may sometimes pass unnoticed because it seems so natural. Since the plays deal so powerfully with human emotions and states of consciousness, we can easily overlook the implicit socio-economic and political views that, like scenery, colour their background.</p> <p class="Body">My argument then is that Shakespeare was a revolutionary in the way he treated the individual – and that is precisely why he forces an attentive reader or playgoer to re-examine the basis of his or her beliefs, prejudices and social attitudes. Whatever Elizabethan England thought about Jews, for example, the import of Shylock’s words in The Merchant of Venice can’t be avoided: </p> <p class="Body"><em>“I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal’d by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?”</em></p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;The speech was quietly and firmly revolutionary, and Shakespeare must have known as much. Revolutionary not because the writer wanted to change contemporary attitudes about Jews – that would be a crudely anachronistic fallacy – but because no one in Shakespeare is “merely” anything, not a Jew, nor a peasant, nor a soldier, nor an inn-keeper nor a bawd, nor a king.</p> <p class="Body">This great idea – that of not being “merely” – has been the basis of much of the political change that has taken place in Europe, North America and elsewhere since the seventeenth century. It lies at the heart of modern democracy, and forms a backcloth to political movements like Marxism and socialism that are founded on ideals of equity and distributive justice. </p> <p class="Body">What Shakespeare helped to bring about was a fundamental change in European consciousness concerning the human condition in the social and political context. I doubt this was his intention; but it is a consequence of his work – of his quiet persistence in giving his characters their head and refusing to censor either them or his own pen.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/globalization-climate_change_debate/shakespeare_2572.jsp">Shakespeare on climate change</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/william-shakespeare/wretched-strangers-in-sir-thomas-more">‘Wretched strangers’ in Sir Thomas More </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/willy-maley-margaret-tudeau-clayton/shakespeare-neither-simply-english-nor-british">Shakespeare, neither simply English nor British</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Jeremy Fox Sun, 18 Dec 2016 12:47:12 +0000 Jeremy Fox 107749 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Five reasons why we don’t have a free and independent press in the UK and what we can do about it https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/ed-jones/five-reasons-why-we-don-t-have-free-and-independent-press-in-uk-and-what-we-can-do-about <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Britain's press is controlled by the same networks of people as run everything else. Is it really free?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-12-16 at 17.47.07.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-12-16 at 17.47.07.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"Old man at newsagents", by Florian Plag.</span></span></span></p> <p>While most of us <a href="http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/iggcymaqch/YG-Archives-Pol-Trackers%20-%20Trust.pdf">don't trust journalists</a>, many of us <a href="http://survation.com/survation-poll-for-the-free-speech-network-reveals-public-support-for-press-freedom-enforcement-of-existing-law-vs-further-regulation/">are still</a> under the illusion that we have a free and independent press. The truth is we don’t. Here’s five reasons why we should be very sceptical of the information we read in the corporate media and why there is hope for the future.</p><h2><b>1) The billionaires that own the press set the agenda</b></h2> <p>Who owns the media shapes what stories are covered and how they are written about. The UK media has a very concentrated ownership structure, with six billionaires owning and/or having a majority of voting shares in most of the national newspapers. </p> <table cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" border="1"> <tbody><tr> <td width="102" valign="top"> <p><b>UK national paper(s)</b></p> </td> <td width="78" valign="top"> <p><b>Effective owner(s)</b></p> </td> <td width="122" valign="top"> <p><b>Info on owner </b></p> </td> <td width="87" valign="top"> <p><b>Newspaper’s political support</b></p> <p><b>General</b><b> Election 2015</b></p> </td> <td width="73" valign="top"> <p><b>Weekly readership (print &amp; online combined, removing duplicates)</b></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="102" valign="top"> <p>Daily Mail &amp;</p> <p>Mail on Sunday</p> </td> <td width="78" valign="top"> <p>Lord Rothermere</p> </td> <td width="122" valign="top"> <p>Billionaire. Lives in France. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jul/10/whos-who-britain-legal-offshore-tax-avoidance-james-dyson">Tax avoider</a>.</p> </td> <td width="87" valign="top"> <p>Conservative</p> </td> <td width="73" valign="top"> <p>11,374,000</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="102" valign="top"> <p>Metro</p> </td> <td width="78" valign="top"> <p>Lord Rothermere</p> </td> <td width="122" valign="top"> <p>See above.</p> </td> <td width="87" valign="top"> <p>No endorsement, but Conservatively aligned.</p> </td> <td width="73" valign="top"> <p>7,727,000</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="102" valign="top"> <p>The Sun &amp;</p> <p>Sun on Sunday</p> </td> <td width="78" valign="top"> <p>Rupert Murdoch</p> </td> <td width="122" valign="top"> <p>Billionaire. Lives in US. <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/special_report/1999/02/99/e-cyclopedia/302366.stm">Tax avoider</a>.</p> </td> <td width="87" valign="top"> <p>Conservative except in Scotland where SNP</p> </td> <td width="73" valign="top"> <p>9,550,000</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="102" valign="top"> <p>The Times &amp; Sunday Times</p> </td> <td width="78" valign="top"> <p>Rupert Murdoch</p> </td> <td width="122" valign="top"> <p>See above.</p> </td> <td width="87" valign="top"> <p>Conservative</p> </td> <td width="73" valign="top"> <p>3,810,000</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="102" valign="top"> <p>Express &amp; Sunday Express</p> </td> <td width="78" valign="top"> <p>Richard Desmond</p> </td> <td width="122" valign="top"> <p>Billionaire. Lives in UK. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2000/dec/24/pressandpublishing.dailyexpress">Tax avoider</a>.</p> </td> <td width="87" valign="top"> <p>UKIP</p> </td> <td width="73" valign="top"> <p>3,521,000</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="102" valign="top"> <p>Daily Star &amp; Daily Star Sunday</p> </td> <td width="78" valign="top"> <p>Richard Desmond</p> </td> <td width="122" valign="top"> <p>See above.</p> </td> <td width="87" valign="top"> <p>No endorsement</p> </td> <td width="73" valign="top"> <p>2,405,000</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="102" valign="top"> <p>Telegraph &amp; Sunday Telegraph</p> </td> <td width="78" valign="top"> <p>David &amp; Frederick Barclay</p> </td> <td width="122" valign="top"> <p>Billionaires. Live on private island under the jurisdiction of the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2012/dec/17/barclay-brothers-bbc">tax haven Sark</a>. </p> </td> <td width="87" valign="top"> <p>Conservative</p> </td> <td width="73" valign="top"> <p>5,142,000</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="102" valign="top"> <p>London Evening Standard</p> </td> <td width="78" valign="top"> <p>Alexander &amp; Evgeny Lebedev</p> </td> <td width="122" valign="top"> <p>Alexander is a billionaire or close to it, ex-KGB and lives in Russia. His son, Evgeny lives in UK.</p> </td> <td width="87" valign="top"> <p>Conservative</p> </td> <td width="73" valign="top"> <p>4,179,000</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="102" valign="top"> <p>The Independent</p> <p><i>&nbsp;</i></p> </td> <td width="78" valign="top"> <p>Alexander &amp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Evgeny Lebedev</p> </td> <td width="122" valign="top"> <p>See above.</p> </td> <td width="87" valign="top"> <p>Conservative /Lib-Dem</p> </td> <td width="73" valign="top"> <p>1,710,000</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="102" valign="top"> <p>Financial Times</p> </td> <td width="78" valign="top"> <p>Nikkei Inc.</p> </td> <td width="122" valign="top"> <p>Public Limited company.</p> </td> <td width="87" valign="top"> <p>Conservative / LibDem</p> </td> <td width="73" valign="top"> <p>2,200,000</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="102" valign="top"> <p>Mirror &amp; Sunday Mirror</p> </td> <td width="78" valign="top"> <p>Trinity Mirror plc</p> </td> <td width="122" valign="top"> <p>Public Limited Company.</p> </td> <td width="87" valign="top"> <p>Labour</p> </td> <td width="73" valign="top"> <p>6,216,000</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="102" valign="top"> <p>Guardian &amp; Observer</p> </td> <td width="78" valign="top"> <p>Scott Trust Ltd</p> </td> <td width="122" valign="top"> <p>Limited Company.</p> </td> <td width="87" valign="top"> <p>Labour</p> </td> <td width="73" valign="top"> <p>5,618,000</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="102" valign="top"> <p>Daily Record &amp; Sunday Mail</p> </td> <td width="78" valign="top"> <p>Trinity Mirror plc</p> </td> <td width="122" valign="top"> <p>Public limited company.</p> </td> <td width="87" valign="top"> <p>Labour</p> </td> <td width="73" valign="top"> <p>1,363,000</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="5" width="462" valign="top"> <p>Table adapted from blog by <a href="http://tomdlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/facts-about-uk-newspapers-owned-by.html">Tom London</a>. Figures from data released by the National Readership Survey (NRS) in Nov 2016, based on data from <a href="http://www.nrs.co.uk/downloads/padd-files/pdf/nrs_padd_oct15_sept16_newsbrands.pdf">October 2015 – September 2016</a>. Financial Times data from <a href="http://aboutus.ft.com/2012/02/10/ft%E2%80%99s-global-audience-rises-to-2-2m/#axzz45bjABkGQ">their website</a> is PwC assured from November 2011 and is based on daily readership as weekly figures not public nor recorded by the NRS.</p> </td> </tr> </tbody></table> <p>True editorial independence often doesn’t exist in these papers. The owners can – and do – interfere with what is published in their publications, which editors and journalists are promoted or fired as well as which political parties the paper supports.</p> <p>For example, Harold Evans, a former editor at the Sunday Times,&nbsp;made it very clear to the Leveson Inquiry how Rupert Murdoch interfered with the <a href="http://leveson.sayit.mysociety.org/hearing-17-may-2012/sir-harold-evans#s74737">content of the paper</a>. Evans was often rebuked for “not doing what he [Murdoch] wants in political terms,” including when reporting on the economy. Evans recounted how they almost came to “fisticuffs” because he allowed an economist (James Tobin) to publish an article with differing viewpoints to Murdoch in the Sunday Times. According to Evans, Murdoch’s “determination to impose his will” destroyed the “editorial guarantees that he'd given.”</p> <p>Evans went on to say:</p> <p>“Mr Murdoch was continually sending for my staff without telling me and telling them what the paper should be. He sent for the elderly and academic Mr Hickey, who went in tremulously, to be told by Mr Murdoch, "Your leaders are too long, too complex. You should be attacking the Russians more."” </p> <p>David Yelland, a former editor of The Sun – another Murdoch owned paper – admitted in <a href="http://leveson.sayit.mysociety.org/hearing-26-april-2012/mr-keith-murdoch#s68394">an interview</a>: </p> <p>"All Murdoch editors, what they do is this: they go on a journey where they end up agreeing with everything Rupert says but you don't admit to yourself that you're being influenced. Most Murdoch editors wake up in the morning, switch on the radio, hear that something has happened and think: what would Rupert think about this? It's like a mantra inside your head, it's like a prism. You look at the world through Rupert's eyes."</p> <p>During the Leveson inquiry, when asked about this, Murdoch was also reminded he <a href="http://leveson.sayit.mysociety.org/hearing-26-april-2012/mr-keith-murdoch#s68396">had previously said</a>, “If you want to judge my thinking, look at the Sun." Murdoch admitted that frequent phone calls happened between the editors and him, although as Yelland shows, the influence of Murdoch could also be more subtle, with editors internalising his values and opinions.</p> <p>Even The Guardian is compromised, although not as much as other national media companies. The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/gnm-press-office/scott-trust-updates-structure">Scott Trust Limited</a>, which owns The Guardian, is wholly owned by the company directors who are prohibited from taking <a href="http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/guardian-owning-scott-trust-to-fold-after-72-years/">any dividends</a>. The Guardian also claims to be guided by a range of <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/the-scott-trust/2015/jul/26/the-scott-trust">progressive values</a>, including the task of maintaining its editorial independence. However, as Nafeez Ahmed points out in <a href="https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/death-drugs-and-hsbc-355ed9ef5316">Insurge Intelligence</a>, some members <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/the-scott-trust/2015/jul/26/the-scott-trust-board">of its board</a> are ex-financiers – binding the Guardian into Britain’s murky financial world in a way which may surprise many of its readers.</p> <p>With six billionaires as majority voting shareholders for most of the UK national newspapers, it is unsurprising that they mostly supported the Conservatives in the last general election. The Conservatives reduced the top tax rate, and want to reduce it further, giving millionaires and billionaires massive tax breaks. Under the current media ownership structure, how much hope is there of genuine progressive agendas to reduce wealth, income and power inequality that also threatens the interests of the billionaires and companies that own the press?</p><h2><b>2) Corporate advertising revenue censors the content</b></h2> <p>The media relies heavily on corporate advertising, often for more than <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldselect/ldcomuni/122/12205.htm#a11:">50% of its revenue</a>. Just how much varies for different media outlets. Peter Oborne, former chief political commentator at <i>The Telegraph</i>, resigned from his job after he was censored from writing about HSBC because it was one of the paper's major corporate advertisers. He wrote <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/peter-oborne/why-i-have-resigned-from-telegraph">in openDemocracy:</a></p> <p>“From the start of 2013 onwards stories critical of HSBC were discouraged…Its account, I have been told by an extremely well informed insider, was extremely valuable. HSBC, as one former&nbsp;<i>Telegraph</i><i>&nbsp;</i>executive told me, is 'the advertiser you literally cannot afford to offend.'”</p> <p>Oborne went on to say:</p> <p>“The&nbsp;<i>Telegraph’s</i>&nbsp;recent coverage of HSBC amounts to a form of fraud on its readers. It has been placing what it perceives to be the interests of a major international bank above its duty to bring the news to&nbsp;<i>Telegraph</i>&nbsp;readers. There is only one word to describe this situation: terrible.”</p> <p>This situation is not exclusive to the Telegraph. As Nafeez Ahmed <a href="https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/death-drugs-and-hsbc-355ed9ef5316">points out</a>:</p> <p>“Here’s something you won’t read in the&nbsp;<i>Guardian</i>. During the Treasury Select Committee meeting on 15th February, it emerged that the newspaper that styles itself as the world’s “leading liberal voice” happens to be the <i>biggest recipient</i><i>&nbsp;</i>of HSBC advertising revenue: bigger even than the&nbsp;<i>Telegraph</i>.”</p> <p>Media heavily reliant on corporate advertising is compromised as it influences what is and isn’t written about. As David Edwards and David Cromwell of Medialens <a href="http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2015/787-peter-oborne.html">have written</a>:</p> <p>“this corporate structure not only trims individual stories, it excludes&nbsp;<i>entire frameworks of understanding</i>. If writing something disagreeable about HSBC or animal rights is problematic, imagine editors consistently presenting corporate domination as a threat to human survival in an age of climate change.”</p> <p>Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman give many more examples of this <a href="https://chomsky.info/consent01/">here</a>.</p> <p>How often do we read articles in newspapers critiquing capitalism, let alone corporate capitalism? Just imagine what would happen to a newspaper’s advertising revenue if it consistently critiqued corporate capitalism. Just think what else is excluded from the press because it would seriously challenge corporate advertisers. </p><h2><b>3) Privately educated white men dominate the media</b></h2> <p>There are different <a href="http://www.suttontrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/06/Journalists-backgrounds-final-report.pdf">studies showing</a> the dominance of a private-school and Oxbridge educated elite at the top of UK journalism, and the trend has been getting worse. The recent Social Mobility and <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/347915/Elitist_Britain_-_Final.pdf">Child Poverty study</a> found out that nearly half of UK national newspaper columnists graduated from Oxford or Cambridge (as opposed to <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/347915/Elitist_Britain_-_Final.pdf">less than 1 per cent</a> of the population) and that 54 per cent of the nation's "top 100 media professionals" attended private schools (compared to around <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/aug/28/elitism-in-britain-breakdown-by-profession">7 per cent</a> of the population).</p> <p>This creates an upper middle-class worldview in much of the media – as well <a href="http://www.suttontrust.com/researcharchive/leading-people-2016/">as in many other professions</a> – which is divorced from the wants and needs of large parts of the population. As Oxbridge educated journalist<i>, </i><i>Frank Cottrell Boyce,</i><i> has written <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-leadership-race-how-has-jeremy-corbyn-galvanised-so-many-people--both-young-and-old-10444194.html">in The Independent</a>:</i></p> <p>“Only 25 per cent of the population earns more than £30,000 a year. Most media commentators (including me) do. For people like me, the country basically works. Politics doesn't affect me. Politics, for me, is about how other people are treated. It's easy inside my echo-chamber to believe that I am the norm, or the middle. Easy to forget that there are voices outside.</p> <p>“To people in my position, austerity can be read as regrettable but pragmatic. But to my friends and family, who live outside the bubble, it's not regrettable, it's terrifying. It's also not pragmatic. The crackpot, gimcrack ideological nature of austerity becomes more apparent the closer you get to the point of delivery.”</p> <p>Mark Mardell, a privately educated journalist, echoed a similar but tamer view <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33687369">for the BBC</a>:</p> <p>“It is hardly surprising that Westminster journalists crave the ideologically soft centre. None is on the minimum wage, let alone tax credits, nor are any, to my knowledge, owners of third homes on the Cayman Islands, or running big corporations. They are nearly all university educated and live in London or the South East of England (Yes, all that goes for me, too). There is group-think in the muddled middle, a fear of thinking outside a comfortable box.”&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not just <a href="https://twitter.com/GownsAndClowns">private and Oxbridge</a> education which dominates the media. Due to the under-representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) journalists, as well as the frequent racist portrayal of <a href="http://diversityuk.org/78-believe-way-media-portrays-ethnic-minorities-promotes-racism/">BAME people</a> in the media, <a href="http://mediadiversified.org/about-us/">Media Diversified</a> was set up to try and combat this. </p> <p>Women are also heavily under-represented, both in journalists employed but also in the amount of coverage received. Research on the UK media by <a href="https://www.city.ac.uk/news/2015/november/research-reveals-success-of-campaign-to-increase-proportion-of-women-experts-in-news">Professor Lis Howell</a> found that between April 2014 and September 2015 the number of male experts interviewed on flagship news programmes outnumbered female experts by 3.16: 1, with ITV News at 10 having 4.9 male experts for every woman. In previous research, Prof Howell also found ten times as many UK male politicians featured on the news <a href="https://www.city.ac.uk/news/2015/november/new-research-on-women-in-broadcasting-to-be-revealed-at-inaugural-lecture-of-city-academic-professor-lis-howell">as female politicians</a>. Research by <a href="http://womeninjournalism.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Seen_but_not_heard.pdf">Women in Journalism</a> and <a href="http://theconversation.com/hard-evidence-is-there-still-a-gender-bias-in-journalism-19789">others</a> in 2012 also found that men dominated news stories in a wide range of ways, such as front page stories being about or written by men around 80 per cent of the time. </p> <p>Even if they wanted to, these privileged and predominantly white, male, privately educated, Oxbridge graduates often can’t truly understand, let alone accurately represent in the media, the situations and choices faced by most people as they are outside their own life experiences. </p> <p>How many have strong links with working class communities? How many of these influential journalists have been long-term unemployed, on low incomes, on benefits or tax credits, with long-term health conditions or have faced racism or sexism? How many fall back into repeating ideas to each other within the “echo-chamber” of the privately and/or Oxbridge educated, while falsely believing they are in the “muddled middle”?</p><h2><b>4) The political use of supposedly neutral sources</b></h2> <p>The sources which are used by journalists and the range of debate published within the UK media can show us another way in which the corporate media is deeply compromised. There have been academic studies proving that systemic bias exists in how the media covers events. Three events can be used as examples – the Scottish referendum, the 2008 financial crisis and the second Iraq war.</p> <p>A team of academics studied the coverage of the Scottish independence referendum between 17 September 2012 and 18 September 2013, looking at 730 hours of evening TV news output broadcast by BBC 1, Reporting Scotland, ITV and Scottish TV (STV), and found them all to be biased against Scottish independence. </p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ajd4R-9BEIw?rel=0" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe> </p><p>(Professor John Robertson summarising his research and the different ways the media was biased against Scottish independence)</p> <p>As Professor Robertson of the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) has <a href="http://issuu.com/creative_futur/docs/robertson2014fairnessinthefirstyear">outlined</a>, anti-independence statements were aired over pro-independence statements at a ratio of around 3:2 on most channels. The research also showed a clear tendency to use anti-independence over pro-independence ‘expert’ sources, including from organisations presented as independent and/or impartial despite their linkages to UK government departments with a vested interest in maintaining the union. </p> <p>After Robertson’s research was published it was stonewalled and mostly unreported by the BBC. The BBC then went above Robertson’s head to his Principal at the UWS to try (unsuccessfully) to discredit the research and colleagues of his were even warned to <a href="http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/759-scotlandshire-bbc-scotland-coverage-of-the-independence-referendum.html">“stay away”</a> <a href="http://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2014/06/30/i-was-bullied-bbc-over-academic-report-indyref-bias-scottish-media-blackout-must?fid=14377&amp;isc=1&amp;did=87a606ef0509db8b6539a5e79ed2a1bddd7fe612&amp;ctp=article">from him!</a> Robertson followed up this research with a one-month intensive study of BBC Scotland’s extended ‘flagship’ politics show, Good Morning Scotland, which found similar bias around the <a href="http://issuu.com/creative_futur/docs/robertson2014goodmorningscotland/1">independence campaign</a>.</p> <p>Paul Mason, former economics editor for the BBC’s Newsnight and economics editor for Channel 4 News, confirmed this bias when he later told his Facebook followers of the BBCs referendum coverage: "Not since Iraq have I seen BBC News working at propaganda strength like this. <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/13637075.BBC_is_a__unionist_institution___says_Channel_4_News_economics_editor_Paul_Mason/">So glad I'm out of there</a>."</p> <p>Other studies of the media have found similar results of bias in relation to the financial crisis. Dr Mike Berry, of Cardiff University, authored such a study – <i>The Today programme and the banking crisis</i> (<a href="http://jou.sagepub.com/content/14/2/253.short?patientinform-links=yes&amp;amp;legid=spjou;14/2/253">not open access</a>). The table below, from the study, shows the sources featured during the intense six weeks of coverage on the BBC’s Today programme following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Banking Chapter Proofs.5-1_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Banking Chapter Proofs.5-1_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>These numbers are even likely to be skewed. Mike Berry points out that many of the individuals clas­sified as politicians, regulators, academics and business representatives “also have close links with the City and broader financial services community,” and therefore the prominence of ‘City voices’ is “very conservatively estimated.”</p> <p>He continues:</p> <p>“Since the main three British political parties during this period were all committed to free markets and ‘light touch’ regulation, there is a narrowness in the range of opinion available to listeners. This is magnified by the presence of other groups such as business lobbyists, neoclassical economists and journalists from the financial press who all tend to share a similar laissez-faire outlook on how the economy should be managed. Organised labour is almost completely absent from the <i>Today </i>programme with only a single appearance from one union leader (0.4%).”</p> <p>Considering the impact of the financial crisis on the UK workforce, and that trade unions represent the largest mass democratic organisations in civil society, such invisibility shows the BBC is not truly committed to impartial and balanced coverage.</p> <p>As Mike Berry points out <a href="https://theconversation.com/hard-evidence-how-biased-is-the-bbc-17028">in The Conversation</a>, opinion of the financial crisis:</p> <p>“was almost completely dominated by stockbrokers, investment bankers, hedge fund managers and other City voices. Civil society voices or commentators who questioned the benefits of having such a large finance sector were almost completely absent from coverage. The fact that the City financiers who had caused the crisis were given almost monopoly status to frame debate again demonstrates the prominence of pro-business perspectives.”</p> <p>The choice of sources used not only influences whether countries become independent, or how financial sectors are regulated or nationalised, but whether they go to war or not. The practice of uncritically using (anonymous) government sources is often used to justify war and state oppression, as Glenn Greenwald points out <a href="https://theintercept.com/2015/06/14/sunday-times-report-snowden-files-journalism-worst-also-filled-falsehoods/">in The Intercept</a>: </p> <p>“Western journalists claim that the big lesson they learned from their key role in selling the Iraq War to the public is that it’s hideous, corrupt and often dangerous journalism to give anonymity to government officials to let them propagandize the public, then uncritically accept those anonymously voiced claims as Truth. But they’ve learned no such lesson. That tactic continues to be the staple of how major U.S. and British media outlets “report,” especially in the national security area.”</p> <p>Greenwald goes on to say of an article in the Sunday Times, which was used to smear whistleblower Edward Snowden:</p> <p>“The whole article&nbsp;does literally nothing other than&nbsp;quote anonymous British officials. It gives voice to banal but inflammatory accusations&nbsp;that are made about every whistleblower from Daniel Ellsberg to Chelsea Manning. It offers zero evidence or confirmation for any of its claims. The “journalists” who wrote it&nbsp;neither questioned any of the official assertions nor even quoted anyone who denies them. It’s pure stenography of the worst kind.”</p> <p>This kind of reporting increases the likelihood of war and state oppression. A 2013 UK <a href="http://www.comres.co.uk/wp-content/themes/comres/poll/Iraqi_death_toll_survey_June_2013.pdf">ComRes poll</a> – which was almost entirely ignored by the media when it was published – showed how the media had completely failed to educate the population about the devastating human death toll of the war. Most people vastly underestimated how many people died in the Iraq war, with two-thirds (66 per cent) of the public estimating that 20,000 or fewer civilians and combatants died as a consequence of the war in Iraq since 2003, with around 40 per cent thinking 5,000 or less had died.</p> <p>The real figures of how many people died in the Iraq war are several hundred thousand, with it highly likely to be at least 500,000, which different large academic studies <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Iraq_War#Tables">have confirmed</a> (e.g. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lancet_surveys_of_Iraq_War_casualties">The Lancet</a>, <a href="http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001533">PLOS Medicine</a>). As Alex Thomson, one of the very few prominent journalists that commented on the poll, wrote on the <a href="http://blogs.channel4.com/alex-thomsons-view/poll-shows-public-odds-reality-iraq-war/4968">Channel 4 blog</a>:</p> <p>“If we believe the results, then&nbsp;war-makers in government&nbsp;will take great comfort, as will the generals who work so hard to peddle the lie of bloodless warfare, with all the cockpit video propaganda video news releases and talk of “collateral damage” instead of “dead children”.</p> <p>“Equally – questions for us on the media that after so much time, effort and money, the public perception of bloodshed remains stubbornly, wildly, wrong.”</p> <p>Joe Emersberger was even more damning, <a href="http://www.spinwatch.org/index.php/issues/war-and-foreign-policy/item/5499-poll-shows-that-uk-public-drastically-underestimates-iraqi-war-deaths">writing at SpinWatch</a>:</p> <p>“The poll results are a striking illustration of how a “free press” imposes ignorance on the public in order to promote war. Future wars (or "interventions") are obviously far more likely when the public within an aggressor state is kept clueless about the human cost.” </p><h2><b>5) The intelligence services manipulate the press</b></h2> <p>While it is almost impossible to distinguish between conspiracy theories and to prove the extent to which intelligence services and specialised <a href="https://corporatewatch.org/resources/2014/chapter-16-when-co-option-fails">police units</a> have infiltrated the media, Richard Keeble, professor of journalism at the University of Lincoln, thinks “from the limited evidence [their influence] looks to be enormous.” Keeble has written on the history of the links between journalists and the intelligence services in the book chapter – <i>Hacks and Spooks – Close Encounters of a Strange Kind: A Critical History of the Links between Mainstream Journalists and the <a href="http://www.academia.edu/10766319/THE_MEDIA_AND_THE_SECRET_STATE">Intelligence Services in the UK</a></i>. He quotes Roy Greenslade, who has been a media specialist for both the Telegraph and the Guardian, as saying: "Most tabloid newspapers – or even newspapers in general – are playthings of MI5."</p> <p>Keeble goes on to say:</p> <p>“Bloch and Fitzgerald, in their examination of covert UK warfare, report the editor of “one of Britain’s most distinguished journals” as believing that more than half its foreign correspondents were on the MI6 payroll. And in 1991, Richard Norton-Taylor revealed in the Guardian that 500 prominent Britons paid by the CIA and the now defunct Bank of Commerce and Credit International, included 90 journalists.”</p> <p>Keeble has given many more examples in his book chapter of the intelligence services infiltrating the media and changing the politics of the time, including around the miners strikes and Arthur Scargill in the 1980s and during the lead up to the Iraq war in 2003. </p> <p>The recent revelations by former CIA <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/22/nsa-leaks-britain-us-surveillance">employee Edward Snowden</a> showed the extent of co-ordination between the spy agencies of the UK and America – especially between GCHQ and the NSA. They showed, for example, that western intelligence agencies attempt to manipulate and control online discourse with various tactics of <a href="https://theintercept.com/2014/02/24/jtrig-manipulation/">deception</a> and <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/aug/16/britains-twitter-troops-ways-making-you-think-joint-threat-research-intelligence-group">reputation-destruction</a>.</p> <p>David Leigh, former investigations editor of The Guardian, wrote about a series of instances in which the secret services <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2000/jun/12/pressandpublishing.mondaymediasection">manipulated prominent journalists</a>. He claims reporters are routinely approached and manipulated by intelligence agents and identifies three ways – providing examples for each in his article – in which they do it:</p> <p>• They attempt to recruit journalists to spy on other people or themselves attempt to go under journalistic “cover.”</p> <p>• They allow intelligence officers to pose as journalists “to write tendentious articles under false names.”</p> <p>• And “the most malicious form”: they plant intelligence agency propaganda stories on willing journalists who disguise their origin from readers.</p> <p>Leigh partly concludes that:</p> <p>“We all ought to come clean about these approaches and devise some ethics to deal with them. In our vanity, we imagine that we control these sources. But the truth is that they are very deliberately seeking to control us.”</p> <p>So why do many journalists continue to be duped by the intelligence services? And why are they not open about these attempts to manipulate them? David Rose, a journalist who admitted he had been the victim of a “calculated set-up” devised to foster the propaganda case for the war in Iraq, wrote <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2007/09/mi6-mi5-intelligence-briefings">in the New Statesman</a>:</p> <p>“One reason, aside from the lunches and the limos, is that editors are extremely reluctant to lose the access they have: the spooks’ stories may be unreliable, but they often make good copy, and if everyone is peddling the same errors, it doesn’t much matter if they turn out to be untrue. Another, as a seasoned BBC correspondent put it to me, may be a judgment that if MI5 and MI6 sometimes peddle disinformation many viewers and readers may not very much care as ‘we’re all on the same side.’”</p> <p>While we will never know the true extent of secret service influence on the media, there is no doubt that it does happen. And while some BBC correspondents may think that “we’re all on the same side” and that it doesn’t matter if MI5 and MI6 sometimes peddle disinformation, the truth is that it can sometimes have disastrous consequences, such as making war much more likely. The recent Iraq war showed us that the secret services are not always acting in the public interest.</p> <h2><b>What are the alternatives? </b></h2> <p>Our media system is deeply compromised. However there is some hope for the future as ideas not normally in the corporate media are increasingly being distributed through other channels – especially through the internet, alternative media and media co-operatives.</p> <p>Alternative media such as <a href="http://opendemocracy.net/">openDemocracy</a>, <a href="https://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/static/about_us.html">Indymedia</a>, <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/">Democracy Now</a> and <a href="http://redpepper.org.uk/">Red Pepper</a> have existed for years, while <a href="http://thecanary.co/">The Canary</a> was launched online <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/marieleconte/the-rise-of-the-canary?utm_term=.pi6ao4zXv#.luMbX5kKa">a year ago</a>. There has also been a resurgence of co-operatively owned media after some failed experiments in <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_Daily_News">the 1970s</a>, with <a href="http://newint.org/">The New Internationalist</a> (now apparently the UK’s <a href="http://www.thenews.coop/97853/news/producer-or-worker/britains-oldest-worker-co-op-closes/">oldest workers’ co-operative</a>) still surviving from that period. These media co-operatives are either owned by their workers, their readers or both as multi-stakeholder co-operatives. <a href="http://corporatewatch.org/">Corporate Watch</a> and <a href="http://strikemag.org/">Strike! </a>Magazine – both workers’ co-operatives – have been running since 1996 and 2012 respectively. The Morning Star has been a reader owned co-operative for <a href="http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/about-us">several years</a>. Ethical Consumer converted into a <a href="http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/aboutus/membersarea/uniquestructure.aspx">multi-stakeholder co-operative in 2008</a>. The <a href="http://thebristolcable.org/about">Bristol Cable</a> has recently been created by local residents as a co-operative. <a href="https://www.positive.news/2015/society/ownthemedia/18071/positive-news-worlds-global-media-cooperative/">Positive News</a> has recently <a href="http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/positivenews">been crowdfunded</a> by its readers to be a co-operative. <a href="http://stirtoaction.com/">STIR magazine</a> is planning to transition to a co-operative structure. In the UK the co-operative movement founded their own publication in 1871 to report on the co-operative movement – the Co-operative Press – which continues as <a href="http://www.thenews.coop/">Co-operative News</a> to this day.</p> <p>There has been a surge in Scottish alternative and co-operative media. The <a href="http://www.allmediascotland.com/press/17172/employees-swoop-to-take-over-west-highland-free-press/">West Highland Free Press</a> was bought out by its employees in 2009. <a href="http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/">Bella Caledonia</a> emerged before the Scottish referendum, and after it <a href="https://theferret.scot/about-us/">The Ferret</a> was crowdfunded to pursue investigative journalism as a co-operative owned by its subscribers and journalists, and <a href="https://www.commonspace.scot/">Common Space</a> was established as a crowd-funded rolling news service.</p> <p>There have also been efforts to support investigative journalism. Websites such as <a href="https://www.patreon.com/nafeez?ty=h">Patreon</a> enable readers to support investigative journalists directly. <a href="https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/who">The Bureau for Investigative Journalism</a> also funds and supports investigative journalism. <a href="https://wikileaks.org/-Leaks-.html">Wikileaks</a> has also provided a very valuable resource for journalists trying to investigate what is actually going on.</p> <p>Globally, there are many more examples of alternative and co-operative media. <a href="http://www.mediacoop.ca/about">The Media Co-op</a> is a network of local multi-stakeholder media co-operatives providing grassroots, democratic coverage of Canadian communities. <a href="http://therealnews.com/t2/about-us/mission">The Real News</a> is a non-profit, viewer-supported daily video-news and documentary service based in the United States. <a href="https://zcomm.org/znet/">ZNet</a> is a viewer supported alternative media outlet based in the US. </p> <p>Critical perspectives on the media appear with <a href="http://www.medialens.org/">MediaLens</a>, <a href="http://www.spinwatch.org/index.php/about/about-spinwatch">Spinwatch</a>, <a href="http://off-guardian.org/category/guardian-watch/">Off Guardian</a> and <a href="http://bsnews.info/about-us-2/">BS News</a> in the UK as well as <a href="http://fair.org/">FAIR</a> and many others in the US. </p> <p>However, alternative media does vary in quality. As has been much discussed since <a href="https://theintercept.com/2016/11/26/laura-ingraham-lifezette/">Donald Trump’s election</a>, alternative (as well as corporate) media can be fake, far-right and/or not sufficiently fact-checked. Only if alternative/co-operative/investigative journalism is financially supported by its readers will they be able to research and write high quality articles. Together we have immense resources and power to support non-corporate media if we choose to. The Media Fund – which itself will be a multi-stakeholder <a href="http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/mediafund">co-operative – recently</a> crowdfunded £10,000 to support the UK’s media revolution, but much more is needed to ensure its success.</p> <p>Other information sources (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) – which although are corporations themselves – provide access to different viewpoints, but they can also create bubbles where people with similar beliefs follow each other and they can be compromised and censored by the corporations themselves (censorship of <a href="http://members.efn.org/~paulmd/OwnWork/AdventuresinCensorship.pdf">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_of_Facebook#United_Kingdom">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrOaDEJeid0">YouTube</a> exists, including of large numbers of Palestinian posts, pages and <a href="https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20160609-under-israeli-pressure-facebook-and-twitter-delete-large-amounts-of-palestinian-content/">accounts</a>). There are also dangers with the idea that everything we say should be connected to a personal profile – there are real benefits to anonymity as shown by the countless people in prison or facing trial in the Middle East for their posts on corporate social media. Ideally, for alternative media to be truly successful, we need to create alternatives to Facebook and Twitter that are open source, collectively owned and which allow anonymity if desired.</p> <p>As the internet generation gets older, and hopefully less exclusively reliant on the corporate media, maybe things will continue to change. Despite relentless aggressive attacks by the corporate media against Jeremy Corbyn, which unmasked supposedly left-wing newspapers <a href="http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/09/21/red-neoliberals-how-corbyns-victory-unmasked-britains-guardian/">like</a> <a href="http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2015/798-the-guardian-readers-editor-responds-on-jeremy-corbyn.html">the</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/11/26/jeremy-corbyn-media-coverage_n_8653886.html">Guardian</a> which three academic studies have <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/des-freedman-justin-schlosberg/jeremy-corbyn-impartiality-and-media-misrepresentation">recently confirmed</a>, he managed to win two Labour leadership elections by a landslide. <a href="https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/08/27/you-may-say-im-dreamer-inside-mindset-jeremy-corby/">A poll</a> of those eligible to vote for Jeremy Corbyn at the Labour leadership election a year ago found that for 57 per cent of them social media was a main source of news, as compared to around 40 per cent for the other candidates. Social and alternative media <a href="https://theworldturnedupsidedownne.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/jezwedid-from-red-labour-to-jeremy-corbyn-a-tale-from-social-media/">helped lead to the rise</a> of Corbyn and changed the limits of ‘acceptable’ debate within the Labour party.<a href="https://theworldturnedupsidedownne.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/jezwedid-from-red-labour-to-jeremy-corbyn-a-tale-from-social-media/"><br /></a></p> <p>The fact that you’re reading this means that alternative viewpoints can be sought out, read and shared. Please check out the alternative media above, share it, support it financially and/or become a member if you can. Or consider writing for – or even <a href="https://www.uk.coop/sites/default/files/uploads/attachments/good_news_-_fresh_ideas_2.pdf">setting up your own</a> – media co-operative.</p> <h2><b>Further reading:</b></h2><p>* <a href="http://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Edward-S-Herman/Manufacturing-Consent--The-Political-Economy-of-the-Mass-Media/148019">Manufacturing Consent</a>: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky</p><p>* <a href="http://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Nick-Davies/Flat-Earth-News--An-Award-winning-Reporter-Exposes-Falseh/147110">Flat Earth News</a>: An Award-Winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media by Nick Davies</p> <p>* Guardians of Power: The Myth of the <a href="http://medialens.org/index.php/bookshop/newspeak-sp-893004228.html">Liberal Media</a> by David Edwards &amp; David Cromwell</p> <p>* Good News: A co-operative solution to the <a href="https://www.uk.coop/sites/default/files/uploads/attachments/good_news_-_fresh_ideas_2.pdf">media crisis</a> by Dave Boyle </p> <p>* <a href="http://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Joe-Trippi/The-Revolution-Will-Not-Be-Televised-Revised-Ed--Democrac/14718716">The Revolution Will Not Be Televised</a>: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything by Joe Trippi</p> <p>* How Thatcher and Murdoch made <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/apr/28/how-margaret-thatcher-and-rupert-murdoch-made-secret-deal">their secret deal</a> by Harold Evans</p> <h2><b>Documentaries on the corporate media:</b></h2> <p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P74oHhU5MDk">Outfoxed</a></p> <p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlJkgQZb0VU">Spin</a></p> <p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHa6NflkW3Y">Manufacturing Consent</a> - Noam Chomsky and the Media</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/peter-oborne/why-i-have-resigned-from-telegraph">Why I have resigned from the Telegraph</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Ed Jones Sun, 18 Dec 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Ed Jones 107739 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A guide to Christmas books for the radical in your life https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/mark-perryman/guide-to-christmas-books-for-radical-in-your-life <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Mark Perryman provides a seasonal round-up of the best books to cheer up the radical spirit</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">From #chaoticbrexit to the triumph of Trump via the summertime Labour coup, 2016 will be a year to forget for many &nbsp;who cling on to an optimism that a better tomorrow remains not only necessary but possible too. The toxicity of racism , the brutal closure of the Calais refugee camp, the political murder of Jo Cox, the human disaster unfolding in Syria and ever-increasing landmass temperatures signalling the onward march of Climate Change are more than enough to have us all digging into our pockets for the humbugs while giving the holly and the ivy this year a miss. But there’s another side to all of that, for every setback there’s a fightback and in and amongst the mix more than enough to keep at least a semblance of belief in a radically different future. There’s always next year after all. </p><p dir="ltr">In Britain, across Europe, and in the USA, progressives are now up against a Populist Right, which requires a Populist &nbsp;Left in response. <a href="https://globalreports.columbia.edu/books/the-populist-explosion/">The Populist Explosion</a> by John &nbsp;B. Judis is a richly analytical account of the similarities and differences of what this year emerged as a global phenomenon of racist reaction while <a href="https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/1015-europe-in-revolt">Europe in Revolt</a> edited by Catarina Príncipe and Bhaskar Sunkara reveal the resources of hope an insurgent European left provides. For the prospects of &nbsp;‘what might have been’ read <a href="https://profilebooks.com/our-revolution.html">Our Revolution</a> by Bernie Sanders and imagine what a President Trump-free 2017 might have looked like. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Europe in Revolt.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Europe in Revolt.png" alt="" title="" width="413" height="640" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Such an alternative right now however remains at a very low ebb. Books that begin to map out the beginnings of a journey back are needed more than ever. Fortunately 2016 began to provide a good variety of such handy volumes. Now out in paperback, Paul Mason’s <a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/188551/postcapitalism/">Postcapitalism</a> remains for many the best of the bunch and for those who don’t have it already a must-have for any Christmas radical reads shopping list. A personal favourite for the combination of design, format and writing is <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2219-the-abcs-of-socialism">ABCs of Socialism</a> edited by Bhaskar Sunkara. A book to bring the optimist back to earth is <a href="https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/the-corruption-of-capitalism">The Corruption of Capitalism</a> by Guy Standing, pioneer of the ‘precariat’ analysis, who continues his well-studied research to reveal the transformation &nbsp;of work being effected via the rentier economy. An updated edition of the trailblazing <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2315-inventing-the-future">Inventing the Future</a> from Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams provides a manifesto of change to counter the miserable terms and conditions Standing’s ‘precariart’ are forced to endure. But of course these conditions aren’t created simply by the world of work, edited by Jeremy Gilbert <a href="https://www.lwbooks.co.uk/book/neoliberal-culture">Neoliberal Culture</a> provides a much-needed breadth of critique that takes our understanding of the neoliberalism beyond any tendency to cling on to a workerist model &nbsp;of explanation. Taking a similarly broad scope is author Mark Greif, the title of his new book rather gives this away, <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2256-against-everything">Against Everything</a>, the perfect seasonal gift for oppositionalists everywhere, not that they will appreciate the gesture, being against such fripperies after all. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">After that little lot the season of not enough goodwill and too little peace may require a bit of cheer-me-up. <a href="http://www.orbooks.com/catalog/the-candidate/">The Candidate</a> by Alex Nunns should do precisely that for the convinced Corbynite with an account in riveting detail of Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to power which reads more like a thriller than a chronicle, and that’s a compliment by the way! And for the year ahead those plotting the downfall of Corbyn’s opposition from the Labour Right have the perfect Christmas present in the way of David Osland’s rewrite of the activist classic <a href="http://www.spokesmanbooks.com/cgi-bin/sh000002.pl?REFPAGE=http%3a%2f%2fwww%2espokesmanbooks%2ecom%2f&amp;WD=osland&amp;PN=Socialist_Renewal%2ehtml%23a893#a893">How to Select or Reselect Your MP</a>. The annual Socialist Register 2017 edition is entitled <a href="http://www.merlinpress.co.uk/acatalog/RETHINKING-REVOLUTION--SOCIALIST-REGISTER-2017.html">Rethinking Revolution</a> with a range of fresh thinking on a great theme ranging from Corbynism , the European Left and South Africa’s ANC to radical change in Bolivia plus a range of essays questioning the legacy of 1917’s revolutionary model. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Of course in 2017 there’ll be no escaping the centenary of the Russian Revolution. Get ready to make it a revolutionary New Year with the classic dissident account, Victor Serge’s <a href="https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/502-year-one-of-the-russian-revolution">Year One of the Russian Revolution</a> or for a wholly original approach treat yourself to the brilliant comic-strip style approach of <a href="https://bookmarksbookshop.co.uk/view/43652/1917%3A+Russia%27s+Red+Year">1917: Russia’s Red Year</a> by Tim Sanders and John Newsinger. Quite the quirkiest account of 1917 I’ve read though, and all the better for it, is Catherine Merridale’s incredibly original <a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/274533/lenin-on-the-train/">Lenin on the Train</a> which describes Lenin’s journey to the revolution as a kind of communist version of great rail journeys, superb. The latest edition of my favourite journal <a href="https://www.lwbooks.co.uk/twentieth-century-communism">Twentieth Century Communism </a>has a particular interest in communist nostalgia ranging over instances of this perhaps not very quaint phenomenon in Romania, Italy Greece and elsewhere. Without decrying the historical significance of the Russian Revolution there are plenty of other starting points for the revolutionary impulse. <a href="https://www.philosophyfootball.com/levellers-book.html">The Leveller Revolution</a> from John Rees expertly and passionately describes the tumultuous times of the 1640s English Civil War as one such starting point. Not exactly a year of revolution but one of change nevertheless David Stubbs in <a href="http://repeaterbooks.com/books/1996-and-the-end-of-history-david-stubbs/">1996 &amp; The End Of History</a> chooses the year of Blur, Oasis, Three Lions and the eve of Blair as PM to entertainingly conclude that those particular twelve months were a kind of start for what became postmodern Britain.</p><p dir="ltr">To understand the evolution of an historical tradition of thought and action there’s no better collection than the recently re-issued <a href="https://www.lwbooks.co.uk/book/the-antonio-gramsci-reader">Antonio Gramsci Reader</a>. This peerless thinker and revolutionary ’s writings 1916-1935 remain the single most important application of 1917 to the world after WWI coinciding with the rise of interwar fascism, moreover they have stood the test of time better than most. A new collection of Eric Hobsbawm’s writings on Latin America <a href="https://www.littlebrown.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781408707081">Viva La Revolucion</a> is a wonderful way to explore how interpreting the world can enable us to change the world, to kind of misquote Marx. Today such a philosophy, what was once called praxis, finds many different expressions in varied locations and situations. One example is activist-photography on the frontline between the state of Israel and Palestinian resistance &nbsp;which is the subject of <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745336695">Activestills</a> edited by Vered Maimon and Shiraz Grinbaum. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Viva la revolucion_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Viva la revolucion_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="408" height="640" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In 2016, as 2015 and 2014 were too the pivot of radical change on this island remains Scotland. Voted against #ToryBrexit, for a social-democratic and green majority in favour of Scottish independence, led by the most impressive by far of all domestic party leaders. It is no surprise then that writing on Scotland and its politics produces some of the most thoughtful insights either north of, or all points south, of the border. Neil Davidson’s latest collection of richly intellectual essays <a href="https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/784-nation-states">Nation-States</a> reinforces his reputation as the most creative author currently writing out of the Marxist tradition on the theories and intersections of a nationalist politics. Davidson’s writing combines critical analysis with a grand global overview. <a href="http://www.freightbooks.co.uk/scotland-the-bold.html">Scotland the Bold</a> by Gerry Hassan is focussed more specifically on Scotland yet this liberates rather than restricts Gerry’s radical imaginary which he brilliantly applies to the present and future of this most turbulent of nations. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The dark side of versions of nationalism rooted not in liberation but blood and soil are covered in two powerfully critical memoirs. Gaby Weiner’s <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=oashDQAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PP1&amp;lpg=PP1&amp;dq=Gaby+WEiner+%2B+Tales+of+LOving+and+Leaving&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=zn-I6wXks6&amp;sig=v00he8tuGTthu1LBG_Q-Ohr-MXQ&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjt9I7I783QAhULAcAKHTlUD4kQ6AEISTAL#v=onepage&amp;q=Gaby%20WEiner%20%2B%20Tales%20of%20LOving%20and%20Leaving&amp;f=false">Tales of Loving and Leaving </a>deserves to become a modern classic. This is a book that expertly yet effortlessly weaves family and generation into two of the most epic events of the Twentieth Century, the Russian Revolution and Hitler coming to power while linking both to a consequence that we continue to live with in the 21st, mass migration. &nbsp;<a href="https://www.routledge.com/Fascist-in-the-Family-The-Tragedy-of-John-Beckett-MP/Beckett/p/book/9781138907874">Fascist in the Family </a>is the kind of title to get the reader to sit up and take notice before they’ve even started thumbing through the pages. Left-wing writer Francis Beckett retells the story of his father, elected as Labour’s youngest MP at the 1924 General Election he became one of Oswald Mosley’s key allies in the British Union of Fascists until he found even this lot not Nazi enough and helped found the National Socialist League. Told with a brutal honesty, a book of horrific tragedy. </p><p dir="ltr">To add some fiction over the holiday break Andrew Smith’s <a href="https://urbanepublications.com/books/the-speech/">The Speech</a>. Taking as its starting point the real-life Enoch Powell &nbsp;‘Rivers of Blood’ tirade Smith engages with themes of culture and community to reveal a &nbsp;fictional plot rooted in reality and hope. Originally published in the wake of Italy’s ‘Hot Autumn’ of 1969 the novel <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2114-we-want-everything">We Want Everything</a> by Nanni Balestrini is both framed by this period of revolutionary youth culture but not trapped by it. As such, this is a novel of enduring inspiration as well as a riveting portrayal of revolt. Europe today is a very different place to ’69 and for a chunk of the British electorate they can’t leave the continent quick enough. Bruno Vincent’s pastiche Enid Blyton story <a href="https://www.quercusbooks.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781786483843">Five on Brexit Island</a> is the near perfect stocking-filler for politicos, remainers or leavers alike. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/9781784783686-d24712f831c2f27922332dc6c69442bc.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/9781784783686-d24712f831c2f27922332dc6c69442bc.jpg" alt="" title="" width="424" height="640" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">But why should the grown-ups have all the best books? A new Michael Rosen is the highlight of almost any Christmas for younger readers &nbsp;and his latest <a href="http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/jelly-boots-smelly-boots-9781408873434/">Jelly Boots, Smelly Boots</a> will do anything but disappoint. Newly translated, <a href="http://www.pushkinpress.com/book/an-elephantasy/">An Elephantasy</a> by Argentine children’s author María Elena Walsh combines surrealism and humour via an adventure that is every bit as revealing as it is funny.</p><p dir="ltr">Even post Bake Off sell-off Christmas is arguably more than almost anything else a culinary event. For those looking to go past the Delias and Jamies three cookery books to expand any chef’s horizons. Ideas to make a break with the traditonal yuletide fare, or simply spice up meal times the whole year round, are aplenty in Meera Sodha’s new book <a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/283851/fresh-india/">Fresh India</a>. Looking beyond Christmas the latest Leon book <a href="https://www.octopusbooks.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781840917185">Happy Salads</a> by Jane Baxter and John Vincent will have any wannabe chef eagerly awaiting Spring to try out the vast range of recipes offered for warmer days. Substantially updated and entirely redesigned the second edition of Laila Ed-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt’s <a href="http://justworldbooks.com/books/the-gaza-kitchen-2nd-ed/">The Gaza Kitchen</a> is internationalism as you eat. History, politics and delicious recipes for those who like to cook up some solidarity.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/51yuwxYjB0L.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/51yuwxYjB0L.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">And the perfect gift to put under the tree for the activist who is anti-consumerist until he, or she, realises that means no pressies? The new edition of Verso’s <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2224-the-verso-book-of-dissent">Book Of Dissent</a> will have ‘em whooping with revolutionary delight not just on the 25th but for the next twelve months too. Or if a different kind of inspiration is required one from Michael Rosen for all from young adults to fully fledged grown-ups, &nbsp;<a href="http://www.walker.co.uk/What-Is-Poetry-9781844287635.aspx">What is Poetry?</a> . An easy-to-follow guide to both reading and writing poems, perfect for those with the secret ambition of &nbsp;releasing the inner rhyming couplet. Though our favourite gift is another from Verso, their <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2225-2017-verso-radical-diary">2017 Radical Diary </a>destined to resurrect the annual Big Red Diary that some of a certain political age will remember with fondness. Luxurious design, historical dates and details, quotes, illustrated throughout, it has enough to turn the most dogged pessimist into an optimist for the year ahead. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/walls come tumbling cover.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/walls come tumbling cover.jpg" alt="" title="" width="416" height="640" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>And our book of the seasonal quarter, our number one for Santa’s red list? Well we have two not one because we’ve chosen a theme and there is a pair such outstanding titles it has proved impossible to separate them so we recommend splashing out and getting both. Trump, Farage the #brexit fallout, has seen a revival of a right wing populism built round a naked racism, and with Le Pen 2017 could be worse still. What we desperately need is a popular anti-racism, not talking to each other to confirm our own opinions but to reach out, not pandering to the haters and the misinformed but conversing and where required challenging too. Daniel Rachel’s superb <a href="http://www.picador.com/books/walls-come-tumbling-down">Walls Come Tumbling Down</a> chronicles one such effort, via music, from Rock against Racism via 2-Tone to Red Wedge. A period when pop and politics, including Labour, learned how to work together towards what both understood in different ways as the common good. But no such effort would have been remotely possible without the singular experience of Rocking against Racism a story now retold via <a href="https://bookmarksbookshop.co.uk/view/43647/Reminiscences+of+RAR%3A+Rocking+Against+Racism+1976+-+1982">Reminiscences of RAR</a> edited by two who set it all up, Red Saunders and Roger Huddle. This a book full of such sublime enthusiasm and vision it can only leave the reader wondering why nothing remotely like it has come again and what we can do in 2017 to make that happen. Daniel Rachel’s book will help convince us of the pitfalls of simply recreating the past, Roger and Red’s that despite this when culture and politics click anything is possible. Now that’s one Christmas present worth having.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-12-17 at 20.20.48.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-12-17 at 20.20.48.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="658" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br /><em>Note: No links in this review to Amazon, if you can avoid buying from tax dodgers, please do so.</em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Mark Perryman Sat, 17 Dec 2016 20:22:51 +0000 Mark Perryman 107747 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is BBC Question Time’s audience producer really a fascist? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/tim-holmes/is-question-time-s-audience-producer-really-fascist <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A freak Twitter storm engulfed the audience producer of the popular current affairs programme last week, as it was revealed she had shared Facebook posts by far right groups. But is there more to it?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562240/PA-11997235.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562240/PA-11997235.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Question Time at Westminster Hall. Dominic Lipinski PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>A freak Twitter storm engulfed the audience producer of Question Time last week. Alison Fuller Pedley, who picks the BBC panel show’s audience, received a hail of online attacks and condemnations. By Tuesday, she had removed her Facebook profile and deleted both Twitter accounts.</p><p class="western">Critics had good grounds for rage. In September, Pedley had invited the Boston, Lincolnshire EDL to apply for the show’s audience – drawing complaints from anti-racist campaigners and local MP Matt Warman. The backbencher was told the show approached the EDL repeatedly, but contacted neither the Conservatives nor any other local group. In a <a href="http://www.mattwarman.co.uk/2016/10/06/letter-bbc-director-general-regarding-question-time-edl-boston/">letter</a> to the director-general, he accused the BBC of misrepresenting Boston, “fanning the flames of division” nationwide, and “giving the impression that abhorrent views are widespread enough to be acceptable.”</p><p class="western">On Monday, things kicked off again. People discovered Pedley had shared posts by far-right group Britain First, tweeted supporting Vote Leave and joined facebook group the “British Patriot Front”. On Thursday, Bella Caledonia discovered a UKIP councillor claimed to know Pedley, and said he persuaded her to bring Question Time to his town. The same day, campaigner Jack Monroe <a href="https://twitter.com/MxJackMonroe/status/806721058539769856">cancelled</a> her licence fee in disgust, branding Pedley a “blatant neo-Nazi supporter.”</p><p class="western">Mainstream coverage has been woeful. The BBC press team focused its denials on the Britain First posts, claiming Pedley shared them “unwittingly”. Sure enough, the media followed suit: the <em>Mirror</em>, Huffington Post and <em>Daily Mail</em> omitted all other new revelations.</p><p class="western">Yet further damning evidence is not hard to find. The British Patriot Front, which hosts Islamophobic and racist material, is riddled with “likers” of the BNP and EDL. The group’s creator posted extreme Islamophobic images to a “BNP EDL NF [National Front]” group. Its other admin is an active member of “UK Nationalists For Our White Race And Culture”.<br /> <br /> Scrolling back through November, I saw a poll on whether to hang or deport <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gina_Miller">Gina Miller</a>, or burn the three “traitorous” <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/04/enemies-of-the-people-british-newspapers-react-judges-brexit-ruling">judges</a> who upheld her appeal; a video claiming Muslims threatened to rape children; a clip alleging a “Clinton sex ring”. In October, one member posted a crucified figure with neo-Nazi slogan “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”.</p><p class="western">But it’s not just the facebook group. Far-right Islamophobe Douglas Murray is “always a great panellist” on Question Time, Pedley writes. She “likes” far-right journalists Melanie Phillips and “shock jock” Jon Gaunt. In May, she “liked” a clip of Nigel Farage obliquely excusing violence. The same month, she encouraged Brexiteers “Better Off Out” and UKIP South Leicestershire to join a Channel 4 audience. In 2008, she invited two Republican groups to apply for a US Question Time audience. It seems these right-wing groups are the only ones Pedley publicly contacted.</p><p class="western">None of this takes place in a vacuum. Recent Question Time audiences seem angrier and more Europhobic, a fact that has not passed viewers by. “I haven’t been able to watch it due to the absolute absurdity of the audience”, <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/unitedkingdom/comments/5glxao/audience_producer_at_bbc_question_time_has_links/">writes</a> one reddit user – “very extreme nowadays and not just your average opinionated types who just want to vent. There’s no nuance to it anymore, it’s all highly polarising rhetoric.” When Question Time aired from Boston (where Pedley invited the local EDL) people <a href="https://medium.com/@_phage/bbc-invite-edl-members-to-join-question-time-studio-audience-via-facebook-50eafcdebd2a">tweeted</a>: “Since when was the agenda on #bbcqt set by the National Front?” “#bbcqt is the worst I’ve ever seen, can’t watch any more. Vile, racist and disgusting #switchingoff”.</p><p class="western">This issue can’t be brushed under the carpet. The audience producer plays a pivotal role and wields real power. As journalist Teo Beleaga <a href="https://blogs.journalism.co.uk/2010/02/11/behind-the-scenes-at-bbc%E2%80%99s-question-time/">revealed</a> in 2010, Pedley’s background checks are supposed to ensure audiences “embody the image of their city”.</p><p class="western">Yet the selection process is a closed box. The BBC claims audiences are representative and balanced, but how does it make sure? In 2010, a member of the public <a href="https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/selection_criteria_for_question">tried to find out</a> through the Freedom of Information Act. The Corporation refused the request.</p><p class="western">This is an intolerable situation. The Question Time audience, one of few political fora that represent the public week after week, is selected by opaque and unaccountable means. If a producer has their thumb on the scales, we need to know. If a far-right sympathiser is in a position to apply that thumb, we <em>definitely</em> need to know. So the BBC, Pedley, Mentorn Media and Full House Audience Management must all take some flack.</p><p class="western">That, then, is the case for the prosecution. Now here’s a (qualified) case for the defence. I found no concrete evidence of Pedley’s far-right politics, and some counter-evidence. She shared an article predicting “dark times” under Trump, and, shortly after his 8 November victory, a popular meme of the despairing statue of liberty. Granted, Pedley might back British nationalism while disdaining vulgar American populism. But we can place a question mark over cries of “fascist”.</p><p class="western">It’s not even clear that Pedley backed leave. That might sound ludicrous, given that she tweeted her support – but a week before the referendum, she tweeted supporting Remain. She likewise enjoyed seeing not only Douglas Murray on Question Time, but social democrat Will Hutton and cosmopolitan liberal Simon Schama (or “Sharma”, as she dubbed him). If she “likes” Melanie Phillips, she also “likes” left-leaning economist Noreena Hertz.</p><p class="western">What about those Britain First posts? Pedley only ever shared generic right-nationalist material – “support our troops” and “wear a poppy”. Britain First thrives on this stuff, because most sharers won’t notice or recognise its source. Is that also why she joined the “British Patriot Front”? I found no evidence Pedley was an active member of this or any similar group, though clearly she considers herself a “patriot”, duty-bound to support Britain’s armed forces. Did she know what she’d signed up to? (Could she <em>not</em> have known?)</p><p class="western">Here’s my personal theory, which I believe best fits the evidence. Pedley is a right-wing Tory. We know she’s a landlord who believes landlords deserve more power, and joined her local Conservatives on facebook. She’s a “moderate” in that she favours democratic pluralism, probably sees herself as open-minded, and enjoys a knockabout debate – for reasons professional as well as personal. By June, I believe she was supporting Remain, possibly convinced by David Cameron on Question Time. But, because her political “centre of gravity” is hard right, she’s more open to “respectable” far-right voices like Farage, Phillips or Murray than left-wing “crazies” like Corbyn. “Crypto-fascist” material appeals to her because it dresses in right-nationalist clothes.</p><p class="western">Does this explanation reassure? Not especially. As Jack Monroe wrote: “Her JOB is to conduct POLITICAL BACKGROUND CHECKS on up to 4k people a week.” “You cannot be responsible for researching 4,000 political character profiles a week, &amp; claim to be ‘unaware of the context of Britain First’”.</p><p class="western">If Pedley supported Remain, why did she tweet supporting Leave? Therein lies a tale. She posted the tweet on 16 May. It was the first tweet from @fullhouse21 in over a month; another month would pass before the next one. The same day, Pedley was working on Channel 4 News’s “EU referendum special”. The audience was supposed to divide evenly over Brexit, so she scrabbled around seeking Leave-supporters. She contacted UKIP South Leicestershire and Better Off Out. She tried to reach Vote Leave – but instead, clumsily posted an invitation message and “vote Leave” link on facebook. I think that’s when she tweeted “vote leave”, and I think it was an accident.</p><p class="western">In contacting the EDL, UKIP, Better Off Out and GOP, what was Pedley doing? Stacking the deck with favoured right and far-right voices, or plugging gaps to “balance” the crowd? There’s no transparency here, so we don’t know. But either is a scandal. Asking activists to represent the public is like asking trainspotters to represent commuters: enthusiasts just aren’t normal. Particularly enthusiasts for race hate.</p><p class="western">Maybe that’s what broadcasters want – after all, fireworks make “good TV”. But good TV does not equal good democracy. Question Time offers the public a rare mass media platform; how it selects audiences needs to become transparent and accountable. The BBC must record methods used, demographic and polling data consulted, applications, invitations, approvals and rejections, and publish them. Media companies shouldn’t get to decide in secret, by secret means, who’s in, who’s out and who’s invited. It’s our audience, not theirs. Let’s take back control.</p><p class="western"><em><strong>Update: This piece was amended at 17:57 on 15 December 2016. An earlier version of this piece stated that a UKIP councillor claimed to be friends with Alison Fuller Pedley; in fact he only claimed to know her. The piece also stated Gina Miller is a QC. This has since been corrected.</strong></em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb OurBeeb uk UK Tim Holmes Thu, 15 Dec 2016 16:54:38 +0000 Tim Holmes 107710 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Tackling antisemitism doesn't mean clamping down on criticism of Israel https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/eleanor-penny/tackling-antisemitism-doesnt-mean-clamping-down-on-criticism-of-israel <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The government has formalised a flawed definition of antisemitism that includes 'exceptional criticism' of Israel.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/15965030092_f9ce591d43_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Israeli military exercise near the Gaza border. Photo: IDF. Flickr."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/15965030092_f9ce591d43_z.jpg" alt="" title="Israeli military exercise near the Gaza border. Photo: IDF. Flickr." width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Israeli military exercise near the Gaza border. Photo: IDF. Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>It is summer 2014, the height of the most recent Gaza war. With around twenty fellow members ‘Jewdas’ – a group of self-proclaimed leftwing Jewish anti-zionists, are assembled opposite Brighton Pavilion. I'm there to picket a demonstration by ‘Sussex Friends of Israel’. We read out the names of the Palestinian dead – a figure that by that point was already in the hundreds – only to be half drowned-out by the boos of the larger of demonstration. </p><p dir="ltr">From between two bulks of policemen, we were faced down by a gaggle of young men around the age to be fresh of the grand tour of Israel . who yelled at us that we were antisemites. Someone pointed out, as politely as possible whilst still being heard over the chanting, the cheers, the sirens, that we were in fact all Jews, or at least, Jew-ish. He replied that real Jews support Israel. Another Jewdas member shouted that antisemitism was not the same as anti-zionism, whilst someone else waded in to the effect that Jewish identity is complicated. From somewhere in the crowd someone lobbed a “self-haters!” at the picketers. This unlikely identitarian dispute was quickly broken up when an unprepossessing auntie-type (complete with cardigan and pearls) punched me in the arm and ripped up my “Zionism, Schmionism” sign. </p><p dir="ltr">In short, debates around antisemitism in public political discourse are nothing new to Jewish people. They’ve been rattling on for years – indeed, for centuries. What counts as antisemitism? Who can claim to speak for Jewishness? How can we talk about the frequently-fudged difference between antisemitism and anti-zionism without people actually throwing punches?</p><p dir="ltr">So it was with trepidation that I heard the news that Theresa May has waded in to the debate. She recently announced that the UK is officially adopting the definition of antisemitism drawn up earlier this year by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Whilst it is already used in public institutions such as the police force and universities, this move will formally enshrine the definition in law, binding it to pre-existing anti-hate crime legislation. It includes the proviso that criticising Israel can be seen as an act of antisemitism, stating that "manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity". This move was never going to be uncontroversial. The question of what constitutes antisemitism draws on deeply loaded issues of identity, homeland, and the still-living memory of genocide. It polices the boundaries of legitimate fear; it divides families. But despite these subtleties, Theresa May is unambiguous about the practical upshot of this reform: “Of course, I am talking mainly about the Labour party and their hard-left allies."</p><p dir="ltr">On the one hand, I can’t help but be glad that some action is being taken. antisemitic hate crimes are on the rise. The first six months of 2016 saw an 11% rise of reported incidents including verbal abuse, threats, desecration of property, and violence.&nbsp;And when some people still seem to think that antisemitism is a spectre of the past, something that was exorcised from the collective European consciousness around, say, seventy years ago – it is almost a relief to hear the prime minister take such an uncompromising line: "It is disgusting that these twisted views are being found in British politics.”</p><p dir="ltr">On the other hand, I’m tired. May’s announcement unashamedly recruits incidents of antisemitism to bash her opponents at Westminster. Once again, we see antisemitism weaponised as a tool of political convenience. It smacks of the idea that such attacks matters only by the grace and favour of some powerful people who have realised that they can leverage it to their own advantage. The prime minister does, of course, pay lip-service to the importance of eradicating bigotry. But here’s the thing: I simply don’t believe her. And not just because she’s used the reform to take a cheap potshot across the speaker’s bench – but because if she were genuinely committed to it, she would be routing it out of her own party as well. She would be outraged that when Tory MP Aidan Burley <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/21/tory-mp-aidan-burley-nazi-stag-party-france-offensive-not-antisemitic">threw a ‘Nazi’ themed party</a>, he was not disciplined by the Conservatives. They deemed him “stupid but not antisemitic”, and he was allowed to serve out his tenure in parliament. She would have raised some concerns that the party campaigned against Ed Miliband by calling him a ‘backstabber’ who couldn’t eat a bacon sandwich properly. She would be outraged that Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has links to the <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jacob-rees-mogg-s-after-dinner-speech-to-group-calling-on-doreen-lawrence-to-go-home-8752995.html">Traditional Britain Group</a>, an organisation <a href="http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/insider/civil-liberty-or-just-old-fashioned-anti-semitism-1997">accused of antisemitism</a>.&nbsp;And she might be less keen to triangulate the position of UKIP, a party with <a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/ukip-nazi-nigel-farage-proudly-4761109">direct links to neo-nazis</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">We would perhaps be naive to expect any different from a politician who shows about as much racial sensitivity as a hammer shows the head of a nail. Her tenure as home secretary saw the illegal deportation of thousands of migrants, a policy that overwhelmingly targeted people of colour. One of her first acts as prime minister was to appoint to foreign secretary a man who has publicly called black people “piccaninnies with watermelon smiles”, who claimed that Barack Obama of had an ‘ancestral dislike of Britain’ due to his Kenyan heritage. Such accusations of ‘divided loyalties’ are exactly the type that would land him in hot water, were they covered by this legislation.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">But then again, we are forced to ask ourselves whether it matters that this move is being used for cheap parliamentary point-scoring. It seems, on face value, a good thing that such protections are being put in place – even if May’s motivations for doing so may be cynical. The definition, after all, is borrowed from the IHRA, and used in many countries over the world as a litmus test for antisemitism. But the inclusion of ‘criticism of Israel’ remains controversial among Jewish communities – such as Jewish Voice for Peace, who claim that it unfairly limits criticisms of Israel. And they have good reason to think so. </p><p dir="ltr">In the most recent Gaza war the French government banned protests against the Israeli insurgency on the grounds that it was antisemitic. It did not cite specific incidents of antisemitism within the movement. It did not have to; under the auspices of this definition, the movement was antisemitic simply by virtue of existing. In the UK, Prevent legislation builds in criticism of Israel as one of the hallmarks of radicalisation; a provision that saw Rahmaan Mohammadi arrested for wearing a pro-Palestinian badge. And that’s why it matters. Not because the definition of antisemitism is leveraged for gain. Not because those putting it forward are hypocrites of the highest order. But because this definition of antisemitism is fundamentally flawed. It gives the green light to a clampdown on legitimate political criticism of a state repeatedly accused of war crimes, whilst doing little to support victims of violence and abuse – violence and abuse that, it should be noted, is already covered by anti-hate crime legislation.</p><p dir="ltr">By collapsing the interests of Israel and the interests of Jews, you play right into the antisemitic trope that Jewish identity is inextricably bound up with the maintenance of state power. It sounds rather like the “stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective” that the IHRA directive rightly criticises. Indeed, you’ll hear just as much claimed by your average diatribe on 4chan. But Jewishness isn’t a monolith. There are many Jews for whom criticism of the Israeli state isn’t a matter of being ‘self-hating’ – it’s a matter of self-preservation. Arab Jews face incredible discrimination in Israel. The government recently <a href="http://women">admitted to sterilising</a> Eritrean Jewish women without their knowledge or consent. And despite being called ‘the only gay-friendly state in the Middle East’, the high court cow-towed to rising homophobic rhetoric by withdrawing permission for the pride parade in the city of Be’er Sheva to march through the main thoroughfare. These targeted Jews might have a thing to say about what May termed a “remarkable” and “tolerant” state.</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, there is a strong tradition of Jewish anti-zionism whose proponents include Judith Butler, Noam Chomsky, and Primo Levi. Indeed, in so far as the idea of Zionism came out of Jewish communities, the first anti-zionists were themselves Jewish. The Jewish left Bundists’ uncompromising criticism of Zionism may well have cast them as antisemitics in the eyes of this legislation. Clearly, in the eyes of the gentile citizens of eastern Europe, they weren’t adequately anti-Jewish; they were killed and expelled by pogroms all the same.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In a more recent – and thankfully, much lower-stakes – skirmish, an Israeli pro-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) activist caused a considerable ruckus when he ran for president of the Union of Jewish Students. Eran Cohen, an undergraduate at the University of York, is guilty of the same ‘exceptional criticism’ that puts him firmly in the grey area. How it might help him in dealing with the antisemitic abuse that he received throughout his campaign remains unclear.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">I may here be accused of a lack of nuance. The definition states that criticising Israel is permissible that Israel can be criticised in the same terms that any other state might be criticised. The problem is, that the interpretation of what counts as ‘exceptional criticism’ is tasked to authorities who have not, at the best of times, looked kindly on any criticism of Israel. It sometimes seems like rather a moveable feast. Indeed, a favoured refrain of Israeli ambassador Mark Regev is to point out the crimes of other countries, and claim that that people are unfairly targeting Israel for criticism; even when those criticisms are to point out the somewhat exceptional&nbsp;fact that its political settlement has been repeatedly compared to those of <a href="http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/a-special-place-in-hell/1.671538">apartheid South Africa</a>, and that it stands accused of <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/09/israel-put-trial-war-crimes-160904084237369.html">multiple war crimes</a>. The charge of ‘exceptionalism’ is used to distract from criticisms that are not only legitimate, but necessary. Israel was established by a mandate from the British government, which colluded in the expulsion of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, and for whom it has since been a key strategic ally in disastrous foreign incursions into the Middle East. In this context, singling out Israel for criticism is not antisemitic. It is to attempt to right the wrongs in which your country has colluded.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">So, we seem to be left with a definition that fails to distinguish actual abuse from legitimate criticism, proposed by a government riddled with racism. A definition which then leveraged to attack left-wing politics both inside and out of Westminster. In this light, it’s somewhat understandable that the knee-jerk reaction of some leftist groups is to flatly deny the charges, and become suspicious that any charge of antisemitism is some rightwing diversionary tactic. Understandable perhaps, but profoundly wrong and incredibly dangerous. The problem is this: leftwing people, despite what some people may tell you, are humans living in the world. They are as exposed as anyone to antisemitic tropes, and left-wingers have proved themselves more than capable of lazily reproducing tired tropes about Jews secretly controlling the world. That it would be convenient for the right if the left were shot through with antisemitism does not in fact mean that the left is not shot through with antisemitism. The fact that anti-zionism is different from antisemitism doesn’t mean that anti-zionists cannot be antisemitic. Journalist Emily Hilton <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/anti-semitism-definition-jewish-woman-uk-israel-theresa-may-labour-party-corbyn-demoralising-year-a7471506.html">reports that</a> she attended a Momentum meeting where a woman “voiced her concern about the likelihood of “the Rothschild Banking state” taking over. Another jewish activist told me that they encounter "a lot of subconscious biases". In a discussion about Iran, they were questioned about "where their loyalties really lie". As someone who struggled to remember where they left their keys, it’s occasionally gratifying to entertain the idea that I’d be capable of orchestrating a secretive system of world control. But it’s pretty horrifying to think there are people knocking around the 'anti-racist' left who genuinely hold these kinds of views. If people on the left fail to honestly examine antisemitism, this will only be allowed to fester. It will only further alienate Jewish people; and perhaps rightly so. It leaves reactionaries and demagogues to draw the lines around what counts as acceptable public discourse. And, furthermore, it plays right into the hands of the insidious hasbara that equates Jewishness with the Israeli state. It’s easier to push the line that you’re defending the interests of all Jews when even your critics claim that you’re representing the interests of all Jews. So if we want to embrace a more nuanced, pluralist vision of Jewishness, we must question this definition of antisemitism. If we want to open up a space to legitimately criticise Israel, we must challenge the way it's mobilised to quash dissent. But any effective attempt at either of these must be accompanied by honest introspection, by a willingness to challenge genuine antisemitism wherever we find it: even, and especially, in our own ranks.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Arab Awakening uk Eleanor Penny Wed, 14 Dec 2016 15:55:01 +0000 Eleanor Penny 107684 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Legal aid cuts are a major human rights issue https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/rachel-logan/amnesty-concludes-that-legal-aid-cuts-are-major-human-rights-issue <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Amnesty found that the recent sharp cuts to civil legal aid have hurt not only those people already in the most pain, but the integrity of the justice system itself.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-left"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/amnesty-main-logo.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/amnesty-main-logo.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="196" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Amnesty's report, Cuts that Hurt, turns the spotlight on the damage to human rights – and the lives of thousands of people – brought about by the rushed reforms to legal aid.</span></span></span></p> <p>The recent sharp cuts to civil legal aid have hurt not only those people already in the most pain, but the integrity of the justice system itself. That’s the grim conclusion of <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur45/4936/2016/en/" target="_blank">Amnesty’s year long research</a> into the impact of the&nbsp;Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) on access to justice in the UK.</p> <p>This might not be where people expect Amnesty International researchers to be – travelling up and down the UK from Brighton to Newcastle, speaking to people in its courtrooms, lawyers’ offices, in the local meeting rooms of those at the coal face trying to support the most vulnerable in our own supposedly world class justice system. But sadly, LASPO has turned civil justice in this country upside down. The reforms have had a devastating human rights impact here in the UK. Thousands of the most vulnerable, including children and people with learning difficulties, have been left without essential legal advice and support. The opportunity to secure rights - and to challenge wrongs - is at risk of becoming a luxury only available to those with a significant amount of money and the ability to navigate an often complex and frightening legal system alone. For those seeking to ensure that everyone has equal access to rights and that the UK fulfils its international human rights obligations, pressing for the government immediately to start work on its promised review of the cuts has become a national priority.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Undocumented migrants are sleeping in parks, on the streets, they are getting themselves into risky situations, relying on people they shouldn’t and going without food. Since the legal aid cuts, they can't rely on the justice system to help.</p><p>Before LASPO, legal aid was generally available to help people access justice in almost all areas of civil law, with a few exceptions. Now, the reverse is the case. Civil legal aid is only available for a tiny number of areas of work, other than where people can somehow access the narrow provision for ‘exceptional case funding’ through a special scheme. For example, if you are struggling with a family crisis or a housing, education, debt, immigration or welfare benefit difficulty, unless you are in a certain protected narrow category of situation, the only way to get any legal advice or support is if you can find help to apply for exceptional case funding and can satisfy its requirements.</p> <p>The effect has been catastrophic. There has been a 46% drop in the number of funded cases overall, with certain areas hit particularly hard. In welfare benefits cases, the drop has been a staggering 99%. Early advice - so critical to helping resolve people’s problems before they become disasters that cause huge pain and are more difficult expensive to solve - has vanished. What little legal assistance is still available is now unevenly spread across the country leaving vast “deserts” where there are no lawyers able to help anyone at all. Surviving not-for-profit providers are struggling to fill the gaps. Stretched to their maximum capacity and beyond, many are forced to turn away people who need help. As one immigration lawyer told Amnesty, this is:<span class="blockquote-new">“devastating. It feels wrong. Take young undocumented migrants, it means that they are sleeping in parks, on the streets, they are getting themselves into risky situations, relying on people they shouldn’t, they are going without food and they can’t challenge that, they can’t challenge their situation because they have no access to legal advice and in turn no access to justice”.</span>Not only has access to justice undoubtedly been severely restricted, but Amnesty’s second reluctant conclusion is that this policy shift has been discriminatory in effect – disproportionately hitting those already marginalised and disadvantaged in society.&nbsp; Migrants, children and young people, and people with disabilities and other vulnerabilities have been particularly badly hit, as have the poorest in the UK. As one lawyer told us,&nbsp;<span class="blockquote-new">“The idea that children and young people can represent themselves just does not work. This is such a vulnerable group. It’s not just that they don’t understand legal processes and legal concepts, which they don’t, but it’s also that they have no idea how to fill forms out properly, what to write, where to send paperwork, where to get advice and who to speak to. Without professional support they simply can’t access justice and they can’t engage with the legal process.”</span></p> <p>The cuts have entrenched socio-economic inequalities in the justice system. Those living in poverty are more likely to face legal problems in those areas of life now excluded from the scope of legal aid (like housing and welfare benefits), and are also necessarily more affected because they cannot afford to pay for the help then need. While Amnesty spoke to large numbers of people who has been in that situation what was just as troubling was the unknown – the number of people who are impossible to find because they are not getting any support of any kind. There’s just no way to know how big that invisible majority is. There is also no real safety net &nbsp;– &nbsp;the exceptional case-funding scheme just doesn’t work in practice to protect people’s rights.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The cuts have entrenched socio-economic inequalities in the justice system.&nbsp;</p> <p>What’s particularly shocking is that the government was quite open when LASPO was introduced that the cuts were explicitly made without it having done detailed research into the impact they were likely to have on people’s rights and daily lives. What few impact assessments were carried out were woefully inadequate. Amnesty is quite clear that the government did not do enough work to be able to understand whether the outcome was likely to be proportionate to its financial aims and would not undermine human rights protections in the UK. Numerous UN bodies have now concluded the UK is failing to meet its obligations. But no number of international warnings or disputes about the extent of human rights commitments can capture the human cost.</p> <p>We can’t settle for this. Legal aid has always been the guarantee of equal access to the law, of rights that are meaningful and effective. It’s well past time for the government to fulfil the promise it made to review the impact of these reforms. With every day that passes, the structural damage to access to justice increases, and we risk passing the point of no return.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Rachel Logan Wed, 14 Dec 2016 13:30:45 +0000 Rachel Logan 107635 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The busybody state is on the rise – and it is ticking us all off https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/josie-appleton/busybody-state <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In this extract from<em> </em>her new book <em>Officious, </em>Josie Appleton outlines the rise of the tick-box, tut, tut state and the threat it poses to civil society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/officious.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/officious.jpg" alt="" title="" width="397" height="612" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>A decade ago a political campaign group could set up a stall in a British town or city centre and hand out leaflets, sell magazines or obtain signatures. Now, the chances are that they would be approached in a matter of minutes and asked to move on. The justification would vary. They may be told that they require council approval for their leaflets or a charity collections licence. They may be told that stalls and structures are prohibited, or that these structures require a risk assessment or that it is prohibited to sell (or even give away) unauthorised publications. The specific form of paperwork demanded has a relatively arbitrary quality. What matters is that independent action is seen as illegitimate.</p> <p>In Anglo-Saxon countries there is now a new and distinctive form of state. This is not any longer a welfare state, nor is it a nanny state (as some on the right would have it). It’s a busybody state. A state that is pushing and poking into social life, disrupting the things that people are trying to do, surveying and spying upon them.</p> <p>The busybody state is a concept that begins from people’s everyday experience encountering the new official in public spaces. This everyday experience is embodied in a genre of YouTube videos in which cyclists, photographers or buskers are shown locked in a dispute with a badged official who is seeking to prevent them from continuing with their activity. The busybody’s intervention appears as unnecessary and unreasonable; the busker’s recalcitrant response as a defence of the essential legitimacy of free public action.</p> <p>Some might see this as the eternal problem of ‘red tape’, but this is quite different to classical bureaucracy. Classical bureaucracy was about efficiency, public function: performing a task with a swift click, click. The busybody state is defined by an attachment to bureaucratic procedures for their own sake: the rule for the sake of a rule, the form for the sake of a form. Its insignias are the official badge, the policy, the code and the procedure. It is defined by a growing body of largely incomprehensible, inefficient, rules and regulations, which appear to be set against social life as a whole.</p> <p>The logic of officious regulation is not to represent an elite class interest. It is notable that officious rules do not target a particular class or group, but fall equally upon everyone: skateboarding children, political activists handing out leaflets, friends having a drink in the park. The officious disdain towards the public is not a snobbery or class alliance, but a general bearing towards the population at large. The officious rule is turned not against a particular group, and it expresses no alliance with any social interest or moral position. The target is social life in toto.</p> <p>Specifically, the target of the officious rule is <em>unregulated life</em>, anything that people have done or chosen for themselves using their own judgement or initiative, or any relationship based on spontaneity and mutual trust. Pockets of spontaneity attract the officious like moths to a candle. The areas of life which were previously freest of regulation have become the particular focus for new rules.&nbsp;</p> <p>For the first time in history, this is not a case of one class set against another, but of officiousness against civil society. It is no longer the elite versus the working classes but the officious against free social life itself.</p> <p>The domain of civil society loses its independent and self-constituting quality. A public activity can be carried out only once it has been authorised, once you have been through the requisite procedures and obtained the necessary accreditation: a busking or leafleting licence, a child protection training course, criminal records vetting. Once it was assumed that everything was allowed unless explicitly prohibited; now it is more often assumed that everything is prohibited unless specifically allowed. The unauthorised action has become implicitly illegitimate, in some cases criminal.</p> <p>There is a widely recognised public discussion about ‘meddling officials’ and ‘pointless red tape’. Although this is more associated with the right-wing popular press, it is present too on left-wing protest sites, and the key elements would be recognised by anybody who attempts to act in public spaces or to take part in local activities or volunteering organisations.</p> <p>The officious state is defined by distinct forms of legal regulation, surveillance, and criminal punishment. The classical institutions of the bourgeois state have undergone substantial modification, with institutions tending to blur and merge into one another. Institutions lose their distinctive cultures and missions and become part of the amorphous realm of <em>officialdom</em>, which is defined not by a particular public mission but primarily by the extension of bureaucratic procedures over social life. It becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish some police officers from private security guards or council officials, as all move into the same zone of behaviour policing, collaborate together and sit on the same policy boards.</p> <p>The officious state represents a new form of political authority. Every previous form of authority represented social interests in some way, some public constituency or political position which might be more or less popular or elitist. The distinct feature of officious regulation is its absolute detachment from all elements of social interest: it appears to come from nowhere and represent no-one. It represents the negation of social life and social meaning, and is as hostile to elite institutions as it is to working-class culture. The busybody doesn’t represent this or that political camp, but rather the <em>third party </em>which rises up over established social forms. War veterans must queue up with political activists to gain their charity collection licence; foxhunters are targeted as equally as football supporters. Officious authority rises up only in counter-position to the shady, dubious citizenry.</p> <p>The busybody state is grounded on nothing other than its distinction from the citizenry. The only thing commending a new official is his or her <em>possession of a badge</em>: it is the badge that endows them with their being, marking them out as special, not an ordinary person, and with powers over ordinary people. An official now is increasingly defined not by the particular institution they represent, or their performance of a public function, but merely in their possession of a badge.</p> <p>The rise of the officious state fundamentally transforms the lines of political conflict and allegiance. There is a new commonality of interest between varied groups who may previously have been in different political camps, such as foxhunters and football supporters, war veterans and political activists. When these very different groups enter into scuffles with official regulation they are all at base defending the same principle: the legitimacy of the domain of civil society and of their own free activity.</p> <p>This context presents a new demand of social theory: to make conscious the commonality underlying apparently disparate conflicts between social groups and bureaucratic authority. This means a new politics defending the terrain of the unregulated or spontaneous, social relations or activities that are initiated on their own account and maintained on their own terms. The task is to grasp the underlying dynamics of officious regulation, and to affirm life against the code, independence against incorporation, sincerity against the tick-box.</p> <p>At stake is nothing less than the existence of free social life itself.</p> <p><em><strong>This is an adapted extract from Officious – Rise of the Busybody State, <a href="http://www.zero-books.net/books/officious">published by Zero Books</a></strong><strong>.</strong></em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Josie Appleton Tue, 13 Dec 2016 17:07:19 +0000 Josie Appleton 107650 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Jumping aboard the gravy train https://www.opendemocracy.net/openjustice/geoffrey-bindman/crisis-in-justice-system <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>While commercial law firms continue to declare annual profits amounting to hundreds of millions, cuts to legal aid mean many people are suffering. Why not redress this imbalance?&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/William_Bach,_Baron_Bach_Pentagon_011026-D-9880W-096.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559248/William_Bach,_Baron_Bach_Pentagon_011026-D-9880W-096.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lord Bach is leading the Labour Party's commission on access to justice. Photo: Robert D. Ward/Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The commission on access to justice initiated a year ago by the Labour party under the leadership of Lord Bach, a former justice minister and shadow attorney-general, has issued an interim report: “<a href="http://www.fabians.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Access-to-Justice_final_web.pdf">The Crisis in the Justice System in England and Wales”</a></p><p>The crisis has been building over several years and there is no magic solution. Yet Bach makes a good start by identifying the problems and charting the direction of travel towards the realisation of the ideals embodied in Magna Carta and developed in the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949. It promises a final report in another year.</p> <p>In his introduction Bach cites Magna Carta’s famous chapter 40: "To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay, justice or right." This chapter remains part of our law to this day. The 1949 Act was intended to give effect to the principle, re-affirmed by the Law Society in its evidence to the Bach commission, that "nobody should be unable to enforce or defend a right for want of the advice and representation they need to do so effectively." Justice demands a level playing field. <span class="mag-quote-center">Justice demands a level playing field.</span></p> <p>This of course does not mean that those who can afford to pay for advice and representation should be relieved of the need to do so. A means test is reasonable but the steady erosion of legal aid, both as to financial eligibility and the scope of the scheme, has severely undermined the principle of universal access to justice. </p> <p>The proportion of the population remaining eligible for legal aid has steadily declined and many areas of law, such as housing, welfare, debt, immigration, medical negligence and family law, which affect not only the poorest but also the prime minister’s ”just managing”, have been virtually excluded from legal aid altogether. The Legal Aid Sentencing and Prosecution of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) made drastic cuts. In the last five years there has been a reduction of 34% in the spending of the Ministry of Justice. Yet at the same time, court fees have been prohibitively increased and tribunal fees introduced, preventing many who cannot pay them from pursuing their claims at all, however meritorious they might be. The stark reduction in the number of cases demonstrates this. </p> <p>In an attempt to mitigate the damage caused by the <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2012/10/contents/enacted" target="_blank">Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012</a>, the Legal Aid Agency was empowered to grant funding exceptionally in cases of hardship. Bach says this has failed because the criteria are too strict. From October 2013 until June 2015 only eight children and 28 young adults were granted legal aid under this scheme.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">For every £1 of legal aid expenditure on housing advice, the state potentially saves £2.34; and for every £1 spent on benefits advice, the state potentially saves £8.80.</p> <p>Bach also criticises the inadequacy of public legal education and the closure of not-for-profit legal advice services, the number of which has fallen from around 3,226 in 2005 to 1,462 in 2015. The Commission is also unhappy with the bureaucracy of the Legal Aid Agency, whose administrative costs are said to have increased by £2.1 million while its overall budget has been cut by 25%.</p> <p>Bach is unduly tentative in not advocating reversal of the LASPO cuts, or expanding the legal aid budget. A promise to “make access to justice a reality” cannot be made good without increased funding. </p> <p>In fact, the report makes a very strong case for increasing legal aid funding, as well as funding for advice centres and law centres and for legal education, in order to save public expenditure on other services. If the abstract notion of justice is not enough to persuade government, surely the prospect of saving public money should be. The report cites evidence from Citizens Advice that for every £1 of legal aid expenditure on housing advice, the state potentially saves £2.34; and for every £1 spent on benefits advice, the state potentially saves £8.80. Research by the New Economics Foundation, says the report, estimates that the social return for advice given by law centres could be up to £10 for every £1 spent. It is self-evident that legal advice and the threat of litigation pre-empt social dislocation and ill-health which impose financial burdens on local government and the NHS. In its further work, the Commission would do well to carry out a thorough examination of the economic benefits of access to justice. Labour lawyers have long called for this to be done.</p> <p>Bach rightly emphasises the potential benefits of technology in improving access to justice. The Ministry of Justice is already committed to substantial investment in an online court and undoubtedly much can be done to speed up and streamline court procedures and reduce costly hearings, but the report also points to evidence from the Legal Education Foundation that only 50% of those entitled to legal aid before 2013 would be willing and able to operate online. Experience teaches us that savings promised from technological advances do not always materialise. Nor can technology be relied on to replace live representation. The poor litigant dependant on a soulless computer screen is no match for the resourceful and determined human lawyer (or team of lawyers) wielded by his corporate adversary.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Public cynicism about the lawyers’ gravy train is understandable, but the legal aid lawyers are not on board.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Legal Aid and Advice Act is, with the NHS, a pillar of the welfare state and a stellar achievement of the first government after the second world war. The annual cost of legal aid, was £2.1 billion in 2010 but is now £1.6 billion. Planned expenditure on the NHS in 2016/2017 is £120.6 billion having grown every year. Governments claim that is far greater than any other country spends on legal aid, but Bach shows that comparisons are misleading.</p> <h2>Why is legal aid so unfairly denied the funding it needs?</h2> <p>Of course doctors are more popular than lawyers, and ill-health may well be a more obviously pressing problem for more people than injustice is perceived to be. Governments are protected from criticism when they cut legal aid by the popular but false belief, fed by some elements in the media, that legal aid is little more than a gravy train for lawyers, who prosper at public expense. </p> <p>The elephant in the room, which the Bach commission has so far ignored but needs to grapple with, is that there is indeed&nbsp; immense prosperity in the legal profession. Public cynicism about the lawyers’ gravy train is understandable, but the legal aid lawyers are not on board. Those who ride the train are the commercial lawyers in and around the City of London. One example is Linklaters, one of the largest “magic circle” firms, which has recently reported profits for 2015/16 of £438 million. Of this sum, the 13 member executive board shares £19.6 million. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Michael Gove, in his brief reign as Lord Chancellor, failed to persuade these lawyers to disgorge some of their excess profits in support of publicly funded legal services. He then bravely promised to impose a levy but failed to do so. His successor has so far remained silent on the subject.</p> <p>A levy remains in my view fully justified, though it is of course true that the City lawyers are liable to tax at up to 45% of their high earnings. The Law Society’s March 2016 report on the “Economic Value of the Legal Services Sector” puts its value currently at £25.7 billion, a figure which had grown by £1.9 billion in 2014 - 15 alone. With or without a levy, the government could devote some of the tax paid by lawyers on this very large sum to improving legal aid. </p> <p>My own career as a legal aid lawyer began in a mood of optimism in the 1950s. Witnessing growing inequality in access to justice in the subsequent half-century has been painful. The Bach commission needs to be bold if it is to produce a viable blueprint for a fair system of justice.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openjustice/charlotte-threipland/does-britain-still-uphold-rule-of-law">Does Britain still uphold the rule of law?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openjustice/geoffrey-bindman/crowdfunding-and-access-to-justice">Crowdfunding and access to justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/geoffrey-bindman/mr-gove-and-legal-levy-proposal">Mr Gove and the legal levy proposal</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openJustice uk openJustice Geoffrey Bindman Tue, 13 Dec 2016 13:03:40 +0000 Geoffrey Bindman 107633 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Scotland must take this chance to stand up for women’s reproductive rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/alys-mumford/scotland-must-take-this-chance-to-stand-up-for-women-s-reproductive-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Women’s and human rights organisations in Scotland are calling for a Scottish approach to abortion. <em><br /></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/davidsons1-730x480.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/davidsons1-730x480.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Davidson's chemist, Killin. Women in rural areas often suffer from current laws, which force more travel than necessary. Image, Killin.info</span></span></span></p> <p>It’s been a depressing year for anyone who cares about a woman’s right to choose (ok, it’s been a depressing year for everyone, but bear with me). </p> <p>2016 has seen women imprisoned in Northern Ireland for accessing safe abortion pills online, or for helping other women to. Women in Poland have had to take to the streets to prevent a blanket ban on abortion even in cases of rape. And this month, senators in Ohio made progress towards a ban on abortion after 6 weeks – a time period in which many women don’t even discover they are pregnant, let alone have time to consider their options. </p> <p>So folk in Scotland might be forgiven for simply thanking their lucky stars that we’re not dealing with that here. But the fact remains that in Scotland, the law we have inherited from Westminster means that it is currently illegal to procure an abortion, except where certain conditions are met. One of these conditions is the agreement of two doctors – the most paternalistic aspect of abortion law, and one which undermines women’s autonomy and decision-making about her own body and circumstances. </p> <p>The 1967 act which sets out this, and other, requirements around abortion remains a landmark piece of legislation, which has made a huge difference to women’s lives in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland, of course, where the 1967 act doesn’t apply and women are currently being prosecuted under an Act from 1861). But underpinning the act is a belief that sexual and reproductive health is an area of medical and state control. It is a product of its time, and while it has achieved its aim, for the most part, of ending back street abortions, it doesn’t, and never intended to, give women the right to have an abortion. </p> <p>That abortion sits within the criminal justice system rather than healthcare is an insult to the notion of women’s equality and rights. Abortion must be decriminalised, and the Scottish government now has the chance to take the lead in the UK on women’s reproductive rights. The Scotland Act 2016 gave the powers over abortion law to the Scottish government, and if they stick to their publicly stated plan not to alter the 1967 act (almost 50 years old, if you hadn’t noticed), they will be missing a huge opportunity to enable women’s right to choose.</p> <p>The call to decriminalise abortion isn’t just theoretical or designed simply to make a point. Criminalisation means that in order to end an unwanted pregnancy legally, women must obtain the agreement of two doctors, a unique requirement in routine medical procedures. The current laws also mean that abortions at all stages of pregnancy must be administered in approved healthcare facilities, meaning that women can’t access abortion drugs through a pharmacy, as is common throughout Europe during the first trimester.</p> <p>For many women in Scotland, particularly those from rural areas, this condition means that abortions frequently occur on their journeys home, having been forced to travel to hospital or clinic simply to swallow a pill. The fact that when women suffer miscarriages and need to take this same pill they are able to do this at home shows that it is not for reasons of safety that women taking medication to induce an abortion must do so away from home. </p> <p>Abortion, while often discussed in terms of a necessary evil – think Hilary Clinton’s famous ‘abortion should be safe, legal…and rare’ line – is in fact a straightforward issue of women’s equality. It both affects and is affected by other issues like economic inequality and violence against women. And, of course, as with all issues of inequality, barriers to accessing abortions are particularly damaging for people already facing increased stigma or lack of education around sexual health such as young women, disabled women, women from BME communities and LBTI women and men. </p> <p>There are clear links between unplanned pregnancy and abortion rates, and areas of deprivation. Work done by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that young women’s decisions about whether or not to continue a pregnancy are dependent on the economic and social context of their lives. Women must be free to choose whether to continue a pregnancy without this decision being primarily motivated by poverty or inequality.</p> <p>Women’s unpaid labour in caring is a key reason behind women’s inequality in the labour market; impacting on their career progression, income, and family choices. While of course we must campaign to end discrimination, close the gender pay gap and value unpaid care, while economic inequality persists, women must be able to make decisions about whether and when to have children. </p> <p>Choosing to have children or not should be one of women’s most basic human rights. And, like all areas of reproductive choices, it is one which is frequently targeting by perpetrators of domestic abuse. Women can be forced to continue or abort pregnancies against their will, as well as suffering other tactics of ‘reproductive coercion’ such as sabotaging birth control methods. Currently practitioners in Scotland don’t have to routinely enquire about the possibility of domestic abuse in abortion services, as they do in other areas of healthcare. Women pregnant as a result of rape often take longer to seek abortion, in part due to fact that pregnancy signs are often masked by symptoms of the psychological effects of rape such as PTSD and eating or sleeping disorders. </p> <p>And access to later term abortions in Scotland is shockingly bad. Normally, women seeking abortions after 18-20 weeks for ‘non-medical’ reasons – any reason other than grave risk to the mother, or severe foetal abnormalities – must travel to England in order to receive treatment. The reality of this can mean 3 days away from home, work and families, a stressful and tiring journey, and cost (which you can claim back if your health board offers it, and if you can figure out the complex system). 80% of abortion providers support expansion of abortion provision up to the legal limit of 24 weeks, and it’s not really clear why this hasn’t happened yet – with religion, resources and ‘institutional inertia’ all being cited as possible reasons. </p> <p>As well as standardising services across Scotland, and making key changes like allowing midwife-led services and modernising practices, now is a clear moment for the Scottish government to buck the trend of regression of women’s rights. It must improve services, yes, but it must also go much further. Remove abortion from criminal law; make it clear that abortion is an issue of equality; waive NHS fees for women travelling from Northern Ireland; and enshrine a woman’s right to really choose.&nbsp; </p> <p><em>Read <a href="https://www.engender.org.uk/content/publications/Our-bodies-our-choice---the-case-for-a-Scottish-approach-to-abortion.pdf">the full report </a>from women's and human rights organisations in Scotland.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/liz-cooper/abortion-rights-victory-for-women-in-spain">Abortion rights: victory for women in Spain </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/naureen-shameen/future-of-abortion-rights-in-islam">The future of abortion rights in Islam</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Alys Mumford Mon, 12 Dec 2016 19:32:19 +0000 Alys Mumford 107614 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We need European regulation of Facebook and Google https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/leighton-andrews/we-need-european-regulation-of-facebook-and-google <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It's time for the EU to step in and regulate the world's two biggest media outlets.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-12-12 at 15.58.29.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-12-12 at 15.58.29.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="222" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Over the weekend, Facebook sent me a link to a video they had made of my activity on their site over the last year. To my mind, that was more proof, if any were needed, that Facebook is a media company, despite all its protestations. </p><p>A study by <a href="http://www.endersanalysis.com/content/publication/uk-digital-ad-forecast-2016-2018-strong-uneven-growth">Enders Analysis</a> last month found that Facebook and Google accounted for 90% of the growth in UK digital advertising in 2016. Earlier studies have shown the duopoly accounting for <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/6c6b74a4-3920-11e6-9a05-82a9b15a8ee7">up to 85%</a> of US digital advertising revenues. Even though Facebook recently found itself under pressure after admitting it had <a href="https://news.fastcompany.com/facebook-admits-it-miscalculated-key-marketer-and-publisher-metrics-4025162">miscalculated its metrics</a> it seems unlikely advertisers are going to give up on these platforms. The ad revenue of old media has declined in direct proportion to the growth of ad revenue for Google and Facebook.</p> <p>As well as their dominance of advertising, the two ‘titans’, as Professor Diane Coyle <a href="https://www.tse-fr.eu/sites/default/files/TSE/documents/ChaireJJL/wp/platforms_dcoyle.pdf">calls them</a> have become the dominant news distributors as well. 44% of US adults get their news via Facebook according to the <a href="http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/">Pew Research Centre</a> having taken over as the top news referrer from Google in 2015 according to the <a href="/fortune.com/2015/08/18/facebook-google">traffic analytics site</a>. </p> <p>Facebook and Google are now the dominant media powers in the world. Up till now, they have resisted being treated as media companies despite the sheer and unparalleled power they exert. They argue that they are widening the base of user-generated content and its distribution, bringing communities together, providing platforms for media companies to reach new audiences, and are thus promoting competition. Well, they are now of such a size that it is impossible to argue that their dominance does not raise worrying issues about media pluralism. There is a wide and growing range of other media organisations, civil society activists and academics who believe that media pluralism is under threat, that there are new issues of power, concentration and dominance not adequately captured in existing competition rules or tests, and that action is needed. The immediate forum for that action, ironically given 2016’s events, is probably the European Union and its Digital Single Market agenda. </p> <p>What is needed is the necessary a strategic alliance between other media companies, civil society organisations and academic specialists to drive an agenda forward to address the powers of internet intermediaries, in terms of content rules, competition issues and their dominance of the advertising markets which as we have seen has had the effect of undermining the newspaper industry in particular. There also needs to be consensus on key planks of any legislative initiatives. My worry is that other media companies may be more concerned with the deals that they can strike with the dominant internet intermediaries: or may be that there is nervousness about a legislative approach which could be counter-productive, such as action taken in Spain to <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2014/12/11/spanish-practices-close-google-news-in-spain/#7fa76609a0a0.">impose copyright</a> on Google News which simply led to Google News ceasing to operate there.</p> <p>Twenty years ago I was the BBC’s head of public affairs. The BBC and other free-to-air broadcasters were concerned about the emerging digital platforms and their potential controls of access to new digital services: along with others, we set in train a campaign on conditional access systems which resulted in the European Parliament, with its new co-decision powers under the Maastricht Treaty, and using the new Maastricht-granted responsibility for the EU to intervene in the field of culture, agreeing amendments to the Television Standards Directive which passed into law despite being opposed by both the UK Government and the EU Commission. These granted all broadcasters access on ‘a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis’ to TV decoders and platforms. Subsequent campaigning delivered amendments to the recitals of the 1997 TV without Frontiers Directive in respect of public and private free-to-air channels’ access to decoders and also recognition of the need to protect public access to major sporting events. At the same time there was a successful campaign to drive forward protections for public service broadcasters in the Treaty of Amsterdam.</p> <p>Now, it is certainly more complicated lobbying in an EU of 28 member states, than one of twelve or fifteen. But action is needed – and sometimes the process of making legislation, messy as it is, is as important as the passage of it. Indeed, the threat of legislation can sometimes change the behaviours of dominant players.</p> <p>So let me make a few suggestions. First, I wholly support the idea that at a national level &nbsp;there needs to be remedial action, such as a levy on internet intermediaries’ revenue (effectively on advertising income) to support plurality in media, as suggested by the <a href="http://www.mediareform.org.uk/blog/support-new-news-providers-via-levy-digital-giants">Media Reform Coalition.</a> This underlines the case for endorsing EU Commission proposals to empower national regulators to impose levies on online platforms targeting their countries. </p> <p>Second, we need some form of confidential independent regulatory scrutiny of proprietary data, including that held by Internet Intermediaries, as suggested by <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/mediapolicyproject/files/2016/01/LSE-MPP-Policy-Brief-14-Monitoring-Media-Plurality-after-Convergence-FINAL.pdf">Tambini and Labo</a>: this is as important to the interests of advertisers as it is to news outlets themselves: there is industry cooperation to collect TV and radio data, so why not internet data? </p> <p>Third, we need to begin a more serious debate on algorithmic accountability. The impression is sometimes given that this is an area which is too challenging to regulate. In fact, regulation is entirely possible. It simply requires the relevant technical expertise – and political will. </p> <p>My fourth proposal would be legislative action to consider imposing ‘due prominence’ – a concept developed in respect of electronic programme guides on digital television – for material produced by genuine originating news organisations in Facebook’s News Feed and similar systems, which would ensure as a minimum that the branding of the originating news outlet is incorporated within the Feed rather than the situation, as at present, where Facebook re-brands everything to fit its own standard. </p> <p>Finally, there needs to be effective recognition that certain Internet Intermediaries or Online Platforms are media organisations and should at least carry responsibilities in respect of protection of minors and prevention of hate speech. That requires an extension of the scope of the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive and a clear definition of specific Internet Intermediaries. It may be that another legislative route would be to revise the e-Commerce Directive, which, as the European Commission noted in its <a href="http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1466514160026&amp;uri=CELEX:52016DC0288">Communication on Online Platforms</a> ‘was designed at a time when online platforms did not have the characteristics and scale they have today’. </p> <p>Moving forward, there needs to be a coordinated and sustainable lobby at a European level, involving media organisations, advertisers, civic society organisations, and academic specialists interested in media policy to create the space for legislative action </p> <ul><li>- In defence of facts on digital advertising metrics</li><li>- In defence of facts in news reporting and/or attribution </li><li>- In defence of the rule of law (for example German hate speech laws)</li></ul> <p>Assuming Brexit goes ahead, and the UK does want a relationship akin to the EEA, then it’s likely it will have to adhere in practice to EU Media laws. EU legislation may be our last, best hope for effective action. There’s a thing.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/aaron-bastani/why-trade-unions-need-to-get-serious-about-new-media-in-2017">Why trade unions need to get serious about new media in 2017</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Leighton Andrews Mon, 12 Dec 2016 16:23:56 +0000 Leighton Andrews 107609 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Immigration isn't responsible for falling living standards https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/tess-finch-lees/immigration-isnt-responsible-for-falling-living-standards <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Casey report is a decoy. We shouldn't draw disingenuous links between falling living standards and fear of immigration.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/16518699695_1c60d53aff_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Photo: Neil Moralee. Flickr. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/16518699695_1c60d53aff_z.jpg" alt="Photo: Neil Moralee. Flickr. Some rights reserved." title="Photo: Neil Moralee. Flickr. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="438" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Photo: Neil Moralee. Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>“The British people have spoken, so f**k off back home”. Those were the words used by a thug who recently racially abused a Sikh woman where I live. The fact that the woman was British and home is around the corner was a mere fact that didn’t get in the way of an unbridled act of hatred.</p><p dir="ltr">A <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37193140">UN report</a> lambasted the EU referendum campaign for using divisive, anti-immigrant rhetoric. It criticised politicians for entrenching prejudices and emboldening individuals to carry out acts of intimidation towards minority communities. UKIP’s immigrant invasion poster still haunts my 8 year old who lives in fear of deportation.</p><p dir="ltr">Rather than trying to tame the monster they helped spawn by invoking anti-immigration rhetoric in the EU referendum, the Tories, not to be out flanked by UKIP, are feeding it. The constant drip feed of dog whistling, whether it’s Amber Rudd’s lists or Theresa May’s “Christmas is under threat”, every utterance evokes a wave of nausea. Every attack unpicks another seam in the increasingly fragile fabric that binds our communities together.</p><p>We’ve been here before. Shortly after 7/7 I was giving a lecture when a participant arrived late. He had been jumped on by a gang of “skin heads” who shouted “Go home p*ki” while beating him up. He was a cockney atheist bus driver, albeit with a deep tan.</p><p dir="ltr">Having worked at the frontline of race relations for 20 years, I see the Casey report on integration for the dead cat that it is. Another ennobled government tsar parachuted in to confirm that Muslims, not austerity or Brexit, are to blame for Britain’s woes. Islam is the political scapegoat of choice, which is good news for blacks, dogs and Irish.</p><p dir="ltr">Politicians have long since employed the dead cat strategy. In a desperate attempt to divert attention away from the fact that the Iraq invasion made Britain (and the world) less safe, Tony Blair found an easy target in Islam. Scaremongering reports were commissioned confirming that Muslims, a) don’t integrate, b) don’t speak the language and 3) are therefore, all potential jihadists. The solution? A Britishness test and English classes. Ed Miliband also called for language tests, even though the 2011 census showed that only 0.3% of the total population didn’t speak any English.</p><p dir="ltr">The only good thing to emerge from Brexit is evidence that integration has been a success in Britain. The areas with the highest level of immigration voted predominately to Remain, because close contact with “foreigners” expunges fears of “otherness”. Instead, they see real people making valuable contributions to their community, without whom GP surgeries and schools would have to close. People who pay their taxes, while esurient corporate bosses pay themselves 140 times more than their shop floor workers and legally avoid tax.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s no accident, I believe, that the Casey report coincided with Bank of England boss, Mark Carney’s lecture this week. He warned that globalisation is associated with low wages, insecure employment, stateless corporations and “staggering wealth inequalities”. He cautioned that, unless wealth is distributed more fairly, those left behind will reject open markets altogether.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s these left behind people, struggling in austerity Britain, that predominately voted to Leave and, according to the <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-economic-impact-uk-autumn-statement-debt-loss-household-1250-institute-for-fiscal-studies-a7437131.html">IFS</a>, are also the people likely to pay the lion’s share of the predicted £50bn Brexit bill. The report describes this as a lost decade with living standards the worst since the 1920s, which is a “dreadful and extraordinary” situation.</p><p dir="ltr">Britain is at breaking point alright, but it’s not because of immigrants. This is a mess entirely of the Tories’ making. Brexit is the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the British people. It was predicated on the lie that the NHS would get £350m a week more and put immigrants in the frame (literally) for hardships generated by years of austerity and under investment. David Cameron gambled this country’s economic stability and our children’s future in return for his 5 minutes of power. In so doing, providing the far right a platform to peddle prejudice and fear.</p><p dir="ltr">The trouble with going down UKIP’s rat infested alley is that it leads to economic Armageddon. Immigrants didn’t cause the global financial crash but our economic recovery is dependent on them. &nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/19/the-migration-fuelling-george-osbornes-comeback-country">A recent study by the OBR showed net migration added 0.6% to the output of the economy</a> and claimed that, “without continuing high levels of net migration, even deeper spending cuts and higher taxes would be needed”. Diane Abbott is right not to dance to UKIP’s tune. Labour must communicate the social and economic benefits of immigration and not be diverted by Tory dead cats.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Tess Finch-Lees Mon, 12 Dec 2016 13:45:55 +0000 Tess Finch-Lees 107596 at https://www.opendemocracy.net