The BBC is dying… and nobody cares?

21/04/2016

Surprise: the government doesn’t like the BBC (shock horror!).  Another surprise: the government is going to destroy the BBC – indeed, that’s what it’s doing right now – and no one is lifting a finger to oppose this.  Presumably because no one knows about it.

That’s hardly surprising: As the New Statesman said:

The problem for our public service broadcaster is not that it lacks public support. On the contrary, the British people are passionately supportive of the BBC. The problem is that there are no newspapers, radio stations or television channels exposing just what is at stake. The traditional media is not on the pitch.

BBC executives have pursued a strategy of self-censorship; we can assume favouring a path of diplomacy. The popular press – notably the Murdoch papers – has most to gain from a US style broadcast market favoured by Whittingdale. We can expect little in the way of government scrutiny on their pages.

In George Osborne and Michael Gove – regarded by some as the two sharpest political operators in the Tory party – we have two of the most influential cabinet ministers in cahoots with Murdoch. Neither of whom has made any efforts to hide their admiration for him.

It’s BBC charter-renewal time again, and the Tory government wants to make sure that our “national broadcaster” doesn’t keep criticising it.  And it’s not just the Tories: it seems all the political parties are into the idea of de-fanging our BBC. Even the BBC, and its media friends/competitors have had little to say about John Whittingdale has said – that “he plans to have the government directly appoint most members of a new body to run the corporation” – that “only two or three members of a 13-strong unitary board, which would replace the discredited BBC Trust model, would be BBC executives while the rest would be government appointees” – effectively taking away the the BBC’s independence.  The BBC would become just another mouthpiece for the government’s spin, lies and propaganda.

But the politicos have forgotten about an important factor in this: Us.  The People of Britain.  The people who keep the politicians and their lick-spittle civil servants in their jobs.  As The New Statesman has it:

Nearly 400,000 of us have signed the 38 Degrees petition to protect our BBC. 177,000 of us made individual submissions to the government’s consultation on the BBC’s future. We are on the pitch – albeit against an elite outfit with unfair advantages. It is a perverse setting for a fair contest which raises serious questions about the plurality of the political sphere in Britain today.

The New Statesman goes on to tell us what the stakes are in this “game”:

First, its independence to decide on its channels, its programming and its news reporting. Interviewed for a Sunday newspaper last month, Whittingdale set out plans for the new body that will oversee the BBC to have a majority-Downing Street appointed board. People would be outraged to think that the government could hold such influence over news, programmes and the future of TV and radio channels. The revelation sits behind an online paywall having failed to make the BBC news bulletins.

Second, the money available to the BBC. Independent media consultants Enders Analysis have reported on the scale of cuts that the BBC has already faced – “a fall in total public service broadcast funding of at least 20% since 2010/2011”. Let us be under no illusion that without sustained public pressure, this erosion will be set to continue for the decade-long agreement that the government will deliver by year’s end.

Basically, the government wants to tell the BBC what it can and can’t report; if the Beeb dares to disobey, it will be beaten with the stick of “no-money-for-you-bigmouth”.

But the BBC has its fans out here in the real world.  According to a Yougov poll carried out for 38 Degrees, says the Guardian:

The government is not trusted by a majority of voters to protect the BBC during the forthcoming renewal of its charter, according to a poll that shows most people view the corporation as the most impartial and reliable news broadcaster in the UK.

A YouGov survey for the campaigning organisation 38 Degrees found that distrust of the government about its BBC reform plans is strongest among those aged over 60, the group most likely to be Tory supporters.

The poll, the first of its kind to look at attitudes to the BBC among older voters, found that 62% of over-60s are suspicious of government intentions, more than double the 27% who say they have faith in ministers to make the right decisions. The findings will raise increasing doubts among many Tory MPs about the political wisdom of meddling with an organisation seen by many of the party’s voters as a cherished part of British life.

Of all those questioned, 61% said the quality of the British media would deteriorate if commercial advertising were introduced on the BBC, against just 8% who think it would bring improvements.

Interesting, this reflection of over-60s.  The New Statesman also says:

people over 60 – a key political target group – do not trust the government to protect the BBC during the Charter renewal, with more than twice as many saying that they do not trust the government (62%) compared to those reporting that they do (27%)

David Babbs, executive director at 38 Degrees, which is heading a campaign to protect the BBC, said: “The BBC is a national treasure. But its future is at risk. Any government that damages the BBC will be on the wrong side of the British public. John Whittingdale’s proposed reforms are going down like a lead balloon with key groups of target voters.”

So, very few people – including those whose narural political “home” is at the bosom of the Tories, don’t like the fast-and-loose game the government is playing with the BBC.  Not too clever.  The Tories rely on the older voter – but messing with the cherished Beeb, coupled with the complaints and confusion over when, if ever, pensions will pay out as advertised, is alienating its bedrock.  I can’t say I’m dismayed at the idea of Cameron and his fellow pig-lovers losing their jobs.  But I really do hope they don’t take the Beeb down with them.  The BBC churns out some awful material… but it is innovative too, sometimes.  That would be a real loss.

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Freepost address for the Conservative Party

10/02/2016

If you want to contact the Conservative Party about anything, but didn’t want to buy a stamp for the letter (maybe because you don’t earn a living wage, or your benefits have been sanctioned…), fear not!  On Facebook I found a Freepost address so you can send mail to the Tories without worrying about the cost of postage.  You still have to provide writing paper and envelope yourself… but every little bit helps, doesn’t it?

The address is:

Freepost RTHS-TLXL-XKXK
The Conservative Party
4 Matthew Parker Street
LONDON
SW1H 9HQ

I haven’t actually tried it myself, as I only just discovered it.  I think it would be great if anyone who writes to the address reports the success or failure of their attempt; so if the Freepost no longer works I can edit this blog post accordingly.  Similarly, if anyone knows of other Freepost addresses, or 0800 phone numbers so we can call them for free, I’ll gladly add them to this post.  Information sets us free.  And there’s something extra satisfying about sending an actual letter through the post rather than emails, don’t you think?

Please don’t use this address to send the government any offensive or hate mail.  That would possibly be a crime, and in no way do I encourage you to do so!  Thanks.

cameron-face-palm

Send the prime minister a letter today!  I’m sure Dave is looking forward to a robust conversation with the British electorate!


Boycott of Israeli goods is not antisemitism

09/09/2014

Since Israel and Egypt sealed the Gazan borders and besieged the Heights, an increasing number of people have started boycotting goods from Israel. And if you scrupulously sift your shopping for Israel-grown olives and Uzi machine pistols, British government members think you’re an anti-semite!

Warning of a “resurgent, mutating, lethal virus of antisemitism”, the Conservative chief whip Michael Gove also claimed those who compare Israel’s actions to Nazi war crimes are engaging in a form of Holocaust denial.

Gove made his intervention in a speech at the Holocaust Education Trust on Tuesday night, in response to findings that there had been a fivefold increase in antisemitic incidents in the wake of Israel’s latest conflict with Hamas.

Citing a historian, Professor Deborah Lipstadt, Gove said there appeared among some opponents of Israel’s actions to be a “deliberate attempt to devalue the unique significance of the Holocaust, and so remove the stigma from antisemitism”.

And even as this relativisation, trivialisation and perversion of the Holocaust goes on so prejudice towards the Jewish people grows.
The Tricycle theatre attempts to turn away donations which support the Jewish Film Festival because the money is Israeli and therefore tainted. In our supermarkets our citizens mount boycotts of Israeli produce, some going so far as to ransack the shelves, scatter goods and render them unsaleable. In some supermarkets the conflation of anti-Israeli agitation and straightforward antisemitism has resulted in kosher goods being withdrawn.

We need to speak out against this prejudice. We need to remind people that what began with a campaign against Jewish goods in the past ended with a campaign against Jewish lives. We need to spell out that this sort of prejudice starts with the Jews but never ends with the Jews. We need to stand united against hate. Now more than ever.

Gove referred to a number of antisemitic incidents that have occurred across Europe over the past few months, and complained that there had been been “insufficient indignation” about growing anti-Jewish prejudice.”
boycott-israel

I understand where Gove’s saying, up to the point. If a bunch of anti-semites are inspired to have a go at Jewish communities around the world, that is of course anti-semitic hate crime and should be punished. But equating the movement to boycott Israeli goods with antisemitism is flawed and insulting. The fact is, Israel and its “defence force” are committing outrageous attacks on those trapped in Gaza, and a number of fair-minded citizens of other countries are joining in the boycott – not because they hate Jews, but because they are disgusted at the way the Israeli government is acting. If Israel stopped its surprisingly Nazi-like attitude towards Jews in general and Gazans in particular, the so-called “anti-semite” boycott would largely end. Of course there are some more hard-line protesters, just as there are prejudiced IDF members who kill young Palestinians because they would “otherwise become Hamas or Islamic Jihad members.” FFS.

If Gove wants the boycott to stop, he will get the government to harden its line against against current Israeli anti-Palestinian activity. But remember, this is the same Michael Gove who approved three schools run by creationists leading to concerns about whether Department for Education (DfE) requirements not to teach creationism or intelligent design as science would be met. The same Gove who claimed more than £7,000 on a house bought with his wife Sarah Vine in 2002; shortly afterwards he reportedly ‘flipped’ his designated second home, a property for which he claimed around £13,000 to cover stamp duty. Gove also claimed for a cot mattress, despite children’s items being banned under the Commons rule. Gove said he would repay the claim for the cot mattress, but maintained that his other claims were “below the acceptable threshold costs for furniture” and that moving house was necessary “to effectively discharge my parliamentary duties”. While he was moving between homes, on one occasion he stayed at the Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa following a constituency engagement, charging the taxpayer more than £500 per night’s stay. Gove’s second home was not in his constituency, but in Elstead, in the South West Surrey constituency. The same Gove who has been the subject of repeated criticism for alleged attempts to avoid the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. The criticism surrounds Gove’s use of various private email accounts to send emails that allegedly relate to his departmental responsibilities. The allegations suggest that Mr Gove and his advisers believed they could avoid their correspondence being subject to Freedom of Information requests, as they believed that their private email accounts were not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. In September 2011, the Financial Times reported that Gove had used an undisclosed private email account – called “Mrs Blurt” – to discuss government business with advisers. In March 2012 the Information Commissioner ruled that because emails the Financial Times had requested contained public information they could be the subject of a Freedom of Information request and ordered the information requested by the paper to be disclosed. Gove was also advised to cease the practice of using private email accounts to conduct government business. Gove disputed the Information Commissioner’s ruling, something that cost taxpayers £12,540, and proceeded to tribunal, but the appeal was subsequently withdrawn. The same Gove who, with his advisors, destroyed email correspondence in order to avoid Freedom of Information requests. The allegation was denied by Gove’s department who stated that deleting email was simply part of good computer housekeeping. Yeah right.

He has also used social netwoking websites to smear opponents anonymously. In February 2013 The Guardian launched investigations into connections between Gove’s ministerial advisers and what they described as “allegations that members of his department have used the social networking site Twitter to launch highly personal attacks on journalists and political opponents and to conduct a Tory propaganda campaign paid for by the taxpayer.” The article suggested that an anonymous Twitter account called @toryeducation was regularly used to attack critical stories about both Gove and his department and to launch highly personal attacks on opponents of Gove and his policies.

It was further suggested that the knowledge of imminent but unpublished government policy demonstrated by the Twitter account called @toryeducation indicated that it was very likely to come from within the Education Department, implying the involvement of special advisers paid for by taxpayers.[103][104] Issuing party political material and indulging in personal attacks would both be clear breaches of the special advisers’ code and the civil service code

Evil Michael Gove.  Starve his supporters please

Evil Michael Gove. Starve his supporters please

Ignore Gove. Boycott Israel. Here’s an unfortunately small list of Israeli goods affected:
boycott-Israel-1

Check out the site – http://boycottisraeltoday.wordpress.com/boycott-israel/ – for more info on Israel’s products to boycott. And remember, it’s not antisemitic to oppose Israel’s “foreign policy” (basically bullying its enemies). Some Jews are good, some are bad. It’s just a shame that Israel is led politically by vicious, cruel people.

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Gerry Adams released after 4 days of questioning

05/05/2014

Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, has been released after 4 days’ questioning about the abduction and murder of Jean McConville, who had been falsely identified as a police informant or “tout”. The Guardian newspaper reported:

Adams will refocus on election campaigning on Monday as the political fall-out from his release from police custody continues to reverberate around Stormont and beyond.

The republican party is holding a European election rally in Belfast tonight, with a similar event planned in Dublin on Tuesday, as Adams resumes the canvassing activities he claims his detention was designed to thwart.

Michael McConville, son of Jean, claims he was “threatened” by Adams after the Sinn Fein president was released. McConville told the BBC “Today” programme: “Gerry Adams says to me, ‘Michael, you are getting a letter of support from the republican people’. He says, ‘if you release the names I hope you are ready for the backlash’.

McConville said that “could” have meant a backlash against the peace process but said he took it to mean the “backlash from republican people”. He reasserted: “I took it as a threat.”

I think it may be a good idea to take a deep breath, step back and think about the situation as a whole. For many years Adams was the leader of Sinn Fein at a time when a whiff of IRA was enough to get you locked up.

The IRA’s “bullet and ballot box” strategy meant that Sinn Fein’s politicians had to be above serious allegations. No doubt Adam’s had great support in the IRA, but it’s too surreal for me to accept that Adams gave individual kill orders.

The days of the Provisional IRA are over. I’m sure the PIRA could muster well-armed, well-positioned support if events justified it, but the “Real” IRA and its mostly criminal support are giving Republicanism a bad name. Maybe it’s time for the Provos to clean up their house? It will lend Sinn Fein support it’s been losing lately, and it will act as a cautionary tale. The PIRA is being quiet, but it could make one hell of a noise if the leader requires it. Then again, a few well-placed gunshots could end the insurrection – and the PIRA are famous for their bullet delivery.

So, are the Provos down and out? I doubt it. They have many dedicated soldiers, they have large undeclared arms caches. Over the years of peace, the PIRA have lost mainstream support, which has been transferred to Sinn Fein, often described gleefully by the British press as “The IRA’s political wing.” Let’s turn that expression on its head: The PIRA is Sinn Fein’s military wing. If IRA leadership feel that Sinn Fein is being cornered “they may declare the “bullet and ballot-box” experiment over. Is that what Cameron wants to be remembered for?

When the PIRA decided to play the “bullets and ballot box” game, they knew that their politicians had to be whiter than white. Gerry Adams etc would be rotting in jail otherwise. Questioning Adams for days on the back of what can’t be more than hearsay evidence is a ridiculous fishing expedition. Is Cameron & Co really be that stupid. By the look of it: Yes.


“Historic” or “Historical”… which is it, Mr Guardian?

11/04/2014
Tory MP Nigel Evans.  Not a rapist, historic or historical...

Tory MP Nigel Evans. Not a rapist, historic or historical…

I’m a tad confused by the way the media is using the terms “historic” and “historical”. If we turn to wise Google and ask it to define:historic, it tells us:

famous or important in history, or potentially so.
“the area’s numerous historic sites”
synonyms: famous, famed, important, significant, notable, celebrated, renowned, momentous, consequential, outstanding, extraordinary, memorable, unforgettable, remarkable, landmark, groundbreaking, epoch-making, red-letter, of importance, of significance, of consequence, earth-shaking, earth-shattering

whereas define:historical produces:

a. Of or relating to the character of history. b. Based on or concerned with events in history. c. Used in the past: historical costumes

So something like the Potsdam conference, for instance, would be called historic, whereas the false rape allegations against Tory MP Nigel Evans would be historical. Right?

Well, I thought it was pretty simple. But then we see in the Guardian that the Evans rape allegations are called “historic allegations”. WTF? Google just told me…

So, what is it? Historic or historical? Some folk might think me mad using the Grauniad to argue such a point. But it ain’t just them: historic and historical seem to have become interchangeable terms so far as the papers are concerned. At least, that’s how it appoears to me…

Please, if anyone can explain wtf is going on, tell us in Comments. Serious and ridiculous explanations are equally welcome. Someone must know what’s going on in the editors’ heads, right? Right?

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Parliament still stinks of corruption and probably will forever

05/04/2014

The way culture minister Maria Miller has been let off charges of fiddling her expenses and threatening the parliamentary standards commissioner in an attempt to stop her investigation shows that the British Parliament is as corrupt as ever.  And the corruption goes right to the top: the prime minister is supporting Miller despite the evidence of her foulness.

When Kathryn Hudson, the standards commissioner, was investigating the complaint against Miller, the culture minister told her that her investigation was illegal, saying she was acting in a way that was “unwarranted, unfair and contrary to all standards of due process and legality”, and Miller threatened to report Hudson to a House of Commons committee that would punish her.  Miller’s threats didn’t stop Hudson from doing her job, and the commissioner reported that Miller had fraudulently claimed £45,000 expenses as well as threatening the commissioner and doing everything she could to pervert the course of the investigation.  But the House of Commons standards committee ruled that Miller should repay just £5,800 – the committee was going to order an even lower amount of money, and it was Miller herself who suggested the sum of £5,800! ; It also said Miller should apologize to the parliamentary standards commissioner for her conduct – an “apology” that Miller made in a Commons statement that took 30 seconds to read and which she clearly didn’t mean.

Labour MP John Mann, whose complaint caused the inquiry into Miller, said on Friday night that politicians should no longer act in judgement over themselves.  But that’s not going to happen, is it?  The prime minister David Cameron has repeatedly supported Miller, and it has emerged that he lied during the investigation, stating that independent members of the Commons standards committee had the “casting vote” in deciding whether to censure Miller.  The committee consists of three lay members and 10 MPs.  The prime minister’s office is now saying that Cameron “made a mistake”; they’re hardly going to admit that he lied  to parliament!

Thomas Docherty, the Dunfermline and West Fife MP, has written to the Metropolitan police calling for an investigation into Miller’s expenses. Docherty wrote: “Given the widely differing conclusions of the commission and the committee regarding the serious allegations made about Mrs Miller and the fact that both the commission and committee feel that Mrs Miller did not co-operate with the inquiry, I believe this matter warrants further investigation and I believe the Metropolitan police are the appropriate body to carry out such an investigation.”  So will the police investigate Miller?  Hah!  Of course they won’t.  The Metropolitan Police Commissioner wants the government to give him water cannons, and he won’t get them if he investigates Cameron’s new girlfriend will he?

Even if the growing pressure does force Cameron to sack her, Miller won’t face any more disciplinary action.  It’s disgusting how these politicians are able to set themselves above the law.  And just as disgusting how they feel entitled to claim such large amounts of expenses while simultaneously cutting benefits, forcing disabled people to work when their doctors say they shouldn’t, and imposing a bedroom tax that has driven people to suicide.  Governments are often greedy and cruel, Conservative governments especially: but the current government is openly evil.  And the system that allows it to be evil will never change as it is the evil ones who run the system!  Unless, of course, we change the system for them.  Not that I would ever advocate violent revolution!  😉

 
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“Billionaires’ Row” farce shows the truth behind the bedroom tax

02/02/2014

The government’s bedroom tax punishes the poor who have “unused” rooms in their homes; yet the rich are allowed to own whole streets of empty houses while the country’s homelessness problem gets worse and worse.

Look at the “Billionaires’Row” scandal reported by the Guardian. At least £350m worth of property is sitting unused in The Bishops Avenue, the so-called Billionaires Row, in the London borough of Barnet. The vacant and often ruined properties include 10 mansions previously owned on behalf of the Saudi royal family that have not been lived in for up to 25 years. Local housing and community activist Phoenix Rainbow said it showed “gross mismanagement of the space we have in this country”.

Clive Betts MP, chair of the Commons communities and local government select committee, said the situation in the avenue was “an astounding and stark example of the empty homes problem”. He called for councils to be given powers to treble rates on empty homes after a certain period. Betts said: “People can claim to do what they want with the property they own, but how must those living in cramped and poor accommodation feel when they see some of the most palatial, beautiful, properties with incredible amounts of space going to waste?

“This is a government obsessed by under-occupation of two-bed council houses in London occupied by people with nowhere else to go. But in the same city you have mansions unoccupied with no action being taken.”

Labour’s policy is a 100% council tax levy on empty homes; it estimates there are 50,000 empty homes in London.

Local authorities have the power to take punitive action against absentee landlords who leave houses empty, but the “punitive” action takes the form of council tax hikes that the owners of The Bishop’s Avenue would laugh at. On The Bishops Avenue the fine would be just £1,416.20 a year. And in any case local authorities have little interest in dealing with the problem despite the disparities between the treatment of the rich and the poor, revealed by the numbers of homeless people sleeping rough and the bedroom tax on the poor. Barnet council’s Conservative leader, Richard Cornelius, said: “The Bishops Avenue is in its own little bubble and frankly has little connection with the rest of Barnet. I would rather spend public money bringing family houses back into use than get involved in battles with the lawyers of billionaires.”

Of course, this does not impress those who want something done about homelessness. David Ireland, chief executive of the Homes from Empty Homes campaign, said “There are countless people in inadequate housing and here are homes on The Bishops Avenue that could be used. I call on the local authority to use empty property management orders or enforced sale of these properties. If they showed they were willing to do that it would force other owners to take action.”

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