Author: Kitty S Jones

I’m a political activist with a strong interest in human rights. I’m also a strongly principled socialist. Much of my campaign work is in support of people with disability. I am also disabled: I have an autoimmune illness called lupus, with a sometimes life-threatening complication – a bleeding disorder called thrombocytopenia. Sometimes I long to go back to being the person I was before 2010. The Coalition claimed that the last government left a “mess”, but I remember being very well-sheltered from the consequences of the global banking crisis by the last government – enough to flourish and be myself. Now many of us are finding that our potential as human beings is being damaged and stifled because we are essentially focused on a struggle to survive, at a time of austerity cuts and welfare “reforms”. Maslow was right about basic needs and motivation: it’s impossible to achieve and fulfil our potential if we cannot meet our most fundamental survival needs adequately. What kind of government inflicts a framework of punishment via its policies on disadvantaged citizens? This is a government that tells us with a straight face that taking income from poor people will "incentivise" and "help" them into work. I have yet to hear of a case when a poor person was relieved of their poverty by being made even more poor. The Tories like hierarchical ranking in terms status and human worth. They like to decide who is “deserving” and “undeserving” of political consideration and inclusion. They like to impose an artificial framework of previously debunked Social Darwinism: a Tory rhetoric of division, where some people matter more than others. How do we, as conscientious campaigners, help the wider public see that there are no divisions based on some moral measurement, or character-type: there are simply people struggling and suffering in poverty, who are being dehumanised by a callous, vindictive Tory government that believes, and always has, that the only token of our human worth is wealth? Governments and all parties on the right have a terrible tradition of scapegoating those least able to fight back, blaming the powerless for all of the shortcomings of right-wing policies. The media have been complicit in this process, making “others” responsible for the consequences of Tory-led policies, yet these cruelly dehumanised social groups are the targeted casualties of those policies. I set up, and administrate support groups for ill and disabled people, those going through the disability benefits process, and provide support for many people being adversely affected by the terrible, cruel and distressing consequences of the Governments’ draconian “reforms”. In such bleak times, we tend to find that the only thing we really have of value is each other. It’s always worth remembering that none of us are alone. I don’t write because I enjoy it: most of the topics I post are depressing to research, and there’s an element of constantly having to face and reflect the relentless worst of current socio-political events. Nor do I get paid for articles and I’m not remotely famous. I’m an ordinary, struggling disabled person. But I am accurate, insightful and reflective, I can research and I can analyse. I write because I feel I must. To reflect what is happening, and to try and raise public awareness of the impact of Tory policies, especially on the most vulnerable and poorest citizens. Because we need this to change. All of us, regardless of whether or not you are currently affected by cuts, because the persecution and harm currently being inflicted on others taints us all as a society. I feel that the mainstream media has become increasingly unreliable over the past five years, reflecting a triumph for the dominant narrative of ultra social conservatism and neoliberalism. We certainly need to challenge this and re-frame the presented debates, too. The media tend to set the agenda and establish priorities, which often divert us from much more pressing social issues. Independent bloggers have a role as witnesses; recording events and experiences, gathering evidence, insights and truths that are accessible to as many people and organisations as possible. We have an undemocratic media and a government that reflect the interests of a minority – the wealthy and powerful 1%. We must constantly challenge that. Authoritarian Governments arise and flourish when a population disengages from political processes, and becomes passive, conformist and alienated from fundamental decision-making. I’m not a writer that aims for being popular or one that seeks agreement from an audience. But I do hope that my work finds resonance with people reading it. I’ve been labelled “controversial” on more than one occasion, and a “scaremonger.” But regardless of agreement, if any of my work inspires critical thinking, and invites reasoned debate, well, that’s good enough for me. “To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all” – Elie Wiesel I write to raise awareness, share information and to inspire and promote positive change where I can. I’ve never been able to be indifferent. We need to unite in the face of a government that is purposefully sowing seeds of division. Every human life has equal worth. We all deserve dignity and democratic inclusion. If we want to see positive social change, we also have to be the change we want to see. That means treating each other with equal respect and moving out of the Tory framework of ranks, counts and social taxonomy. We have to rebuild solidarity in the face of deliberate political attempts to undermine it. Divide and rule was always a Tory strategy. We need to fight back. This is an authoritarian government that is hell-bent on destroying all of the gains of our post-war settlement: dismantling the institutions, public services, civil rights and eroding the democratic norms that made the UK a developed, civilised and civilising country. Like many others, I do what I can, when I can, and in my own way. This blog is one way of reaching people. Please help me to reach more by sharing posts. Thanks. Kitty, 2012

The government's disinformation campaign has been facilitated by a complicit, biased, undemocratic media

Disinformation and new forms of propaganda can take many forms—from the use of false images, misleading headlines, to social media techniques that create an impression of consensus – that the ‘majority’ understands an issue in a certain way (also called ‘bandwaggon technique’). Polling can be misused, for example, to create an illusion of agreement in a population, and to draw on the conformity tendency or ‘herd mentality’ of the public.

Media agenda setting and framing of events may also contribute to the bandwaggon effect, and even subtle cues such as a broadcast presenter’s attitude and language towards election candidates can also influence voters.

For example, the many times we have heard the phrase “… let Jeremy Corbyn in” from broadcast media over the course of this election sends out a message that a Labour government would not be the norm, or the ‘preferred’ outcome of an election. The phrase also references and amplifies Theresa May’s chilling authoritarian comment that the Tories would “never allow [Jeremy Corbyn to be elected as Prime Minister] that to happen”. That is the intended subtext.

Sometimes, journalists quite openly reveal their own clear biases. This blatant lack of impartiality contravenes the UK’s norms of democracy and dismally fails to uphold public interest.

The comments, attitudes, gestures and facial expressions of presenters may also send out cues about party leaders deemed ‘suitability’ for office. Boris Johnson’s avoidance of difficult interviews was not because of cowardice. It was a tactical measure to avoid scrutiny, and to avoid being seen in a negative light. The interviews he did participate in were friendlier than other party leaders. Johnson had an easier time of it, by and large, during the election campaign.

The PM having a friendly selfie moment on This Morning

Johnson was somehow unable to find time to be interviewed by BBC1’s Conservative but nonetheless formidable Andrew Neil. He had no problem squeezing in a breezy and fawning chat with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby on ITV.

Can’t imagine why. Informative to see what ‘rigorous scrutiny’ from the British media looks like, however.

The media’s complicity in a strategic disinformation campaign

The case of Jack Williment-Barr, the four-year-old boy (pictured above) who was forced to sleep on a hospital floor as he waited in A&E, has brought public focus on the state of the chronically underfunded NHS just days before the election. The story appeared in the Daily Mirror. But it has also put focus on the other key trend of the election campaign: false and misleading claims that have circulated on social media and been amplified significantly by the mainstream press.

The image of Jack lying on a pile of coats has been at the centre of two major controversial disinformation campaigns. Jack’s story and the shocking image that highlighted the shocking state of the NHS have now been subjected to dishonest political re-edits, twice over. It is inconceivable that these re-edits have originated from anywhere other than the Conservative headquarters.

First, journalists who claimed to have been briefed by ‘senior Conservatives’ misreported that Matt Hancock’s adviser had been punched by one of 100 activists who arrived after the health secretary came to the hospital in an attempt to deal with the ongoing story. It turned out that there was no such punch, and that the adviser had simply accidently walked into the hand of one of the very small number of protesters who were at the hospital. He was pointing at something.

Hancock visited the hospital as a ‘damage management’ exercise following Boris Johnson’s earlier refusal to look at a photo of Jack on the floor of the hospital presented to him by Joe Pike, an ITV journalist. He took the phone from Pike, to avoid a difficult discussion about the government’s chronic underfunding of the NHS.

In the second re-edit, thousands of people shared a story that claimed to prove the photo of Jack was ‘staged’ by ‘Labour activists’, and that his mother had placed him on the floor specifically to take a photo. Once again, the claim was false; once again, it was amplified across social media by key journalists and political editors before any of them had bothered checking the provenance of the claim, or the facts of the case from the hospital itself.

None of this was true.

So Hancock was sent to Leeds General Infirmary, where the original photograph was taken. “Health Secretary has been despatched to Leeds to try to sort this out after PM’s awkward reaction earlier,” the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg tweeted.

Soon after he arrived, reports came from many of the country’s leading political journalists that Hancock’s aide had been attacked. Reports including ITV political editor Robert Peston, Laura Kuenssberg and others. This certainly looked like a very well co-ordinated disinformation campaign.

There were also reports that claimed “100 activists” had arrived and that their journey had been “paid for by the Labour Party.”

Some indicated that they had been told the news by Conservatives, and later indicated that the claims had been checked with “multiple sources.”

That will be just Matt Hancock, then.

It very quickly became clear that all of those claims were false. A video of the incident appeared shortly after that made very clear that there were only a few activists, and that the punch had not actually happened at all. 

Then, the same evening, the second misleading narrative took hold. A flurry of tweets began, boosting two stories that were eerily written using the same wording.

The first and most prominent disinformation item claimed to be sourced from a senior nurse who worked at the hospital, though it got the name of it wrong. It said that the photo had been staged by Jack’s mother, and that he immediately got back on a trolley after it was taken.

The second, which appeared to start slightly later, was credited to a “paediatric nurse.” It used a range of seeming medical jargon to definitively suggest that “no child would be treated in such a way,” and that therefore the image was either fake or misleading.

In both cases, a flurry of accounts took the text of the tweet and re-shared it, oddly, as if it was their own comment. It also made its way onto Twitter, where it was similarly shared without context.

Taken together, the story was shared tens of thousands of times onto different social media sites. Many have suggested that bots have been used.

The original viral post on a medical secretary’s Facebook account said, “I am a nurse myself” and cited a “good friend of mine” at Leeds General. It claimed the boy in the photo “was in fact put there by his mother who then took photos on her mobile phone and then uploaded it to media outlets”. The post dismissed the pictures of the ill boy as “another Momentum propaganda story”, despite the fact the hospital had already apologised for his treatment.

She later claimed her account had been hacked.

It didn’t matter that the hospital had confirmed the incident happened and apologised to the family, or that the nurses who supposedly served as the source for either story were anonymous and almost certainly not real. The story was shared as if it was fact and was amplified by Conservative MPs and senior journalists.

In some cases, those people have taken down those tweets. But worryingly, others are still live, and still being interacted with by readers.

Neither of the claims are remotely factual. Again, the hospital involved has confirmed that the incident happened, and that the event the photograph shows is real.

Responsible and publicly trusted reporters, such as Kuenssberg and Peston have a fundamental duty to make sure the comments they are putting out in the public domain have been verified and fact checked.

The hospital statement had already summed it the situation up – the hospital admitted there was no bed, the expectations of the family fell woefully short of the high standards of the NHS and as such an apology was issued.

The standards of journalism fell woefully short of the high expectations of the UK media. Throughout the election campaign, it’s clearly evident that the mainstream media has demonstrated that we cannot trust it to deliver impartial commentaries or fact checked news. 

However, the BBC did address the despicable misinformation campaign, but not during peak viewing hours: 

 

Laura Kuenssberg’s controversial, possibly illegal comments on the postal vote

Laura Kuenssberg: “the postal votes, of course, have already arrived. The parties, they’re not meant to look at them, but they do kind of get a hint. And, on both sides, people are telling me that the postal votes that are in are looking very grim for Labour…”.

The Electoral Commission says: 1.9 Ballot papers will be kept face down throughout a postal vote opening session. Anyone attending an opening session must not attempt to see how individual ballot papers have been marked. It follows therefore that keeping a tally of how ballot papers have been marked is not allowed.

1.10 In addition, anyone attending a postal vote opening must not attempt to look at identifying marks or numbers on ballot papers, disclose how any particular ballot paper has been marked or pass on any such information gained from the session. Anyone found guilty of breaching these requirements can face an unlimited fine, or may be imprisoned for up to six months.”

In a statement on Twitter, the watchdog said: ‘It may be an offence to communicate any information obtained at postal vote opening sessions, including about votes cast, before a poll has closed. ‘Anyone with information to suggest this has happened should report it immediately to the police.’

Kuenssberg told viewers on Wednesday – with just hours to go before the polling stations opened – that while parties were not supposed to look at voting papers when they were verified – but not counted – at opening sessions, they did “get a hint” of how they were doing and it was not looking good for Labour.

Her comments, however, came across as a statement of fact, rather than a hint.

She said: “The forecast is that it’s going to be wet and cold tomorrow. The postal votes, of course, have already arrived. The parties – they’re not meant to look at it, but they do kind of get a hint – and on both sides people are telling me that the postal votes that are in are looking pretty grim for Labour in a lot of parts of the country.

“Of course, postal voters tend to skew to elderly voters and people who vote early … but the kind of younger generation who we know skew much more to the Labour party, you might expect to turn out to the polls tomorrow. But in this winter election, turnout is just another one of these factors that we just can’t predict.”

Kuenssberg’s remarks, made during an interview on the BBC’s Politics Live programme, was widely shared on social media on the final day of an election campaign that has seen unprecedented criticism of the media. It led to suggestions that she could potentially have breached the Representation of the People Act, which prevents the reporting of how people voted until after polls close.

A spokesperson for the broadcaster made clear they did not believe there were any issues with the on-air comments. “The BBC does not believe it, or its political editor, has breached electoral law,” they said.

Ballot papers are kept face down while votes are opened and it is forbidden to attempt to see how ballots have been marked or to keep a count. Postal votes are not counted until 10pm on the day of the election.

The broadcasting regulator Ofcom has strict electoral rules around broadcasting or publishing the results of votes or opinion polls on election day before 10pm over concerns that doing so could influence voters’ decisions.  

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that Waltham Forest council in east London has been scrambling to deliver postal votes that should have been out by last Friday, after an administrative error delayed the process.

The problem affected 1,470 voters in three constituencies, including Chingford and Woodford Green, which Iain Duncan Smith won for the Conservatives with a majority of 2,438 at the last election and which is a key target for Labour.

The council could not say how many voters were affected in each constituency but said all but one form had now been delivered.

It said 1,364 forms had been hand-delivered by the end of Monday and 105 more had been couriered to voters outside London on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A council spokesman said the borough had dealt with 27,993 postal votes for this election. He apologised for the error and said the Electoral Commission had been notified.

He added: “Completed postal votes will get to us if they are posted by last post on Wednesday 11 December. They can also be handed to staff at any polling station in the constituency on the day of the general election.”

Given the context of this error, it’s very easy to see why many people have a growing concern that this election may be rigged.

The fake narratives and lies in the Conservatives’ and Liberal democrats’ social media campaigns

Almost all of the Conservative Party’s recent Facebook adverts promote claims labelled as misleading or untrue by one of the platform’s third-party fact-checking partners, a First Draft investigation has found.

Nearly 90% of the ads posted in the first days of December push figures already challenged by Full Fact, the UK’s leading fact-checking organisation. The non-partisan, independent charity works with the tech giant to assess posts which have been reported as misleading or false by users in the UK.

Facebook recently announced that posts from political organisations and political adverts are exempt from fact-checking, meaning parties and candidates can promote inaccurate claims without scrutiny.

Online ads have become a controversial central theme of elections, where parties can reach voters with micro-targeted messages that are ‘psychographically tailored’ according to the data held on individuals, concerning their postcode, hobbies, site and online buying preferences and other private information collected by data analysts, but these categories are not in public view in the Ad Library. (See: The government hired several murky companies plying the same methods as Cambridge Analytica in their election campaign.)

The so-called “dark ads” have emerged as a method of advertising that utilises data obtained by the likes of Facebook and Google, among other platforms to ‘customise’ and tailor messages in political campaigns.

They can be served directly to users of Facebook and via Google’s widely used double-click technology which serves ads to millions of websites, including political ads.

It should not be left to US internet companies to safeguard UK elections. Our election laws are decades out of date, and our next Parliament should take urgent steps to secure the accountability and transparency we need to protect our democracy.

Will Moy, chief executive of Full Fact, told First Draft: “Full Fact plays an independent role in Facebook’s Third Party Fact Checking programme, which doesn’t currently cover ads or content from political figures or parties.

“But Full Fact continues to regularly scrutinise claims by all political parties, including manifestos and debates during this election campaign.”

The Conservatives massively stepped up their ad campaign on Facebook, running almost 7,000 ads and spending more than £50,000 between November 27 and December 3, according to the latest figures from Facebook’s Ad Library.

First Draft accessed the Facebook Ad Library API to download all 6,749 ads from the Conservative Party between December 1 and December 4. Some 88% (5,952) of the most widely promoted ads featured claims about the NHS, income tax cuts, and the Labour Party which had already been labelled misleading or untrue by Full Fact.

Not every ad includes the misleading claim directly in its image or caption. At least 54% (3,646) of the total ads served link to a webpage carrying the misleading claims.

When ITV News asked senior Conservative Michael Gove about the ads, he said: “I’m not aware of any adverts that we publish that have been misleading.”

The central Conservative Party press office have not responded to requests for comment.

A Facebook spokesperson told ITV News: “We don’t believe a private company like Facebook should censor politicians. Our approach is instead to introduce unprecedented levels of transparency so anyone can see every political advert and who it’s from.”

The misleading ads include:

Moy, director of Full Fact, said: “This election candidates and campaigns on all sides are asking voters for their trust. Serious parties and politicians should not be recycling debunked claims or targeting individuals with bad information – we all deserve better than that.”

Facebook, however, expects that the public will somehow determine for themselves the truth of claims made in adverts. It’s a view that is evidently shared by the BBC regarding claims made in party manifestos.

The Liberal Democrats have also been accused of misleading voters ahead of polling day, using inaccurate graphs and leaflets masquerading as local newspapers, which featured in their posted leaflets.

The Lib Dems have also been accused of using misleading graphs in Facebook ads. First Draft found hundreds of Lib Dem Facebook ads use graphs to falsely claim they are the only party to beat Labour, the Conservatives or the SNP “in seats like yours”.

Facebook does not provide data on where the ads have been targeted but some Twitter users have complained that they have received ads which reflect voting pattern statistics that are inaccurate for their constituency.

At least 16.5% of the Lib Dems 7,295 ads since the campaign began feature such claims.

First Draft has not been able to find misleading claims in Facebook adverts from the Labour Party, which has promoted far fewer ads than the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats.

However, Full Fact recently described as “not credible” one claim that the average family would save £6,700 under Labour policies. Labour’s Liz McInnes has used this claim in a Facebook ad.

Fact Check say: “More than three quarters of the supposed “savings” come from just two large costs, rail season tickets and childcare, neither of which comes close to reflecting what an average family actually pays. In England, two fifths of families don’t pay anything for childcare; only 5% of people use a train more than three times a week.

However: “Some of the smaller figures seem fair estimates of savings that might come about if Labour’s policies were implemented, but they overstate the extra costs families have faced since 2010.”

And: “We haven’t seen the workings behind this figure, which Labour says is from a House of Commons Library analysis.”

There’s a world of difference between contested figures and deliberate intent to mislead the public, as the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have set out to do.

The Tories’ ambition is a one party state

The Tories have been brazen in their contempt for democratic process and norms. For example, it has been plain from their increasing reliance on statutory instruments (SI) to sidestep debate and voting in the Commons, in order to push through controversial and unpopular draconian policies. 

When the House of Lords overturned Osborne’s nasty raid on the working poor’s tax credits (itself enacted by statutory instrument, in case the Commons vote it down), he reacted with the oblique but unmistakable threat to flood the Lords with so many new Tory peers so that such a defiance of his authority could not be repeated.

The Conservatives’ utter contempt for both international and national human rights legislative frameworks is another worrying symptom of authoritarianism. The UK is the first state to have prompted investigation into how it upholds the human rights of disabled people. The inquiry report concluded that the government have systematically and gravely violated the human rights of disabled people via their punitive policies. The government continue to deny this, and in the meantime, the public has tended to look the other way while ill and disabled people die prematurely through neglect, loss of support and other austerity related cuts that were disproportionately targeted at one of the most vulnerable communities.

The way in which the Tories have treated marginalised communities has expressed clearly their traditional prejudices, leading to direct discrimination and oppressive policies, while those with the least need – the millionaires – have been lavished with tax cuts and other hand outs from our public funds.

The highly controversial welfare ‘reforms’ were hammered through the scrutiny stage into legislative process by Cameron’s claim to an archaic Commons proviso: ‘financial privilege’. The public are still waiting to see the risk register following the Health and Social Care bill, despite the government being ordered to place it in the public domain by the Information Commissioner and the court.

Then there was Johnson’s illegal prorogation of Parliament- normally a standard procedure in the calendar of Parliament, but the prerogative was clearly used for controversial political objectives by the PM.

The prorogation was an improper and unlawful attempt to evade parliamentary scrutiny of Johnson’s Brexit plans in advance of the UK’s departure from the European Union on 31 October 2019; individuals and groups who opposed the prorogation included opposition MPs, UK constitutional law scholars, and John Major, the former Conservative Prime Minister. The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, called the decision a “constitutional outrage”.  

Page 48 of the Conservative manifesto

Stefan Enchelmaier, Professor of European Law at the University of Oxford, “almost missed” the mention of the Human Rights Act (HRA) in the Conservative manifesto. Probably, most people have. That is probably the point.

Buried on page 48, the 2019 manifesto contains a single mention of the party’s pledge to “update” the 1998 HRA, which brings the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into domestic law. It doesn’t specify what the ‘update’ will look like, or when it will happen (beyond “after Brexit,” which isn’t much of a clue). The language is euphemistic and vague, indicating that the ‘update’ will “ensure that there is a proper balance between the rights of individuals, our vital national security and effective government.” This is not a pledge intended to draw attention.

The attempt at hiding this pledge marks a change. David Cameron’s 2015 manifesto, which also promised the infamous “in-out referendum,” committed—five times over; three in bold—to “scrap” the Human Rights Act (HRA) and introduce a British Bill of fRights. This pledge came despite the failure of the 2010 coalition’s especially set-up Bill of Rights Commission to agree on its content, and by the end of 2015, there was still no British Bill of Rights. In December 2016, it was announced that HRA repeal was delayed until after Brexit; and the 2017 Tory manifesto pledged to remain signed up to the ECHR “for the duration of this parliament.” For now, that is.

During this time, some prominent Conservatives politicised the HRA as “Labour’s.” Others, such as Dominic Grieve defended it.

This is a bit strange given it passed with overwhelming cross-party support in 1998.

Furthermore, the ECHR itself was shaped to a considerable degree by Winston Churchill and Tory lawyer David Maxwell-Fyfe . More recently, the Conservatives have used a narrative of the legal sovereignty issue into the Brexit debate, BUT leaving the EU does not entail leaving the ECHR. They are two different organisations completely.

Tory statements on human rights have often been inflammatory, like Cameron saying he felt “physically sick” at the thought of prisoners’ right to vote. Then there were the lies that were used to portray human rights in a negative light – like the “pet cat” Theresa May said prevented a deportation (in reality, Judge Gleeson had found that the deportee was in a stable relationship, and was therefore allowed to stay under the HRA, and that the couple also kept a cat).

Helen Mountfield, barrister, legal scholar and principal of Mansfield College, Oxford said: “There has really been a populist misrepresentation of what the law is.” She is suggesting that politicians and the populist press have in part intentionally fuelled the perception that the HRA is “a rogue’s charter.”

It’s noteworthy that the Conservatives’ new promise to “update” the HRA is hidden away in a paragraph that,rather worryingly, promises other sorts of constitutional review, including looking at “the relationship between the government, parliament and the courts.” Basically the Tories want to place themselves above the law. It’s usually one of the first acts of a despotic regime when they gain office. Amending existing human rights laws is another

The Tories are being intentionally unclear so that later they can do what they want. Given their past record, we can say that they mean to ‘weaken’ the commitments that we have to the ECHR. Some of Cameron’s plans entailed making human rights ‘relevant’ and relative. It would be down to a minister to decide if a case would be heard, the decision would be on an individual basis. This profoundly undermines the universality of human rights.If only some rights are upheld, it flies in the face of the fundamental principle that everyone has the same fundamental rights

The Tory proposal is likely address when, where and by whom those rights can be enjoyed and who can be held to account for their violation. It won’t be the government.

Whatever the eventual shape of the HRA, the systematic attacks on it are symptomatic of a troubling trend: populist attempts to undermine the perceived legitimacy of the rule of law.

The “Enemies of the People” headline used by the Daily Mail after the case on triggering Article 50 in 2017 demonstrates the government are fine with attacking the independent Judiciary. So this is about destroying the mechanisms of government accountability and operating within the law. It is an attack on our institutions, and the dignity and wellbeing of citizens.

We’ve already seen the government’s utter contempt for the human rights of disabled people and some ethnic communities. Their manifesto promises to confiscate the belongings of Roma, Gypsies and travellers, and to move them from their homes.

The Tories are far worse than ‘anti-progressive.’ They are brutal, cruel authoritarian eugenicists. It’s written between the lines of their narratives of ‘deserving and undeserving’ it’s embedded in their the myth of meritocracy. It drips from their disdain for a public they think can’t spell Pinocchio, or aren’t ‘clever’ enough to escape a burning multi-storey building. They think they are better than others and that gives them the right to rule. On their own terms.

That’s not a democracy, by the way.

Nor is the government’s almost total control over our mainstream media, who no longer serve the public interest.

 


My work is unfunded and I don’t make any money from it. But you can support Politics and Insights and contribute by making a donation which will help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others.

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David Graeber speaks about dangers of ‘fanning the flames’ of antisemitism controversy for Jews

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The mural commemorating the battle of Cable Street

David Graeber is a Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and is also involved in social and political activism. His books includDebt: the First 5000 Years and Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion and Desire

In September this year, Graeber wrote an article that was originally published on the OpenDemocracy site – For the first time in my life, I’m frightened to be Jewish.

He says: “I am 58 years old, and for the first time in my life, I am frightened to be Jewish.

“We live in a time when racism is being normalized, when Nazis parade in the streets in Europe and America; Jew baiters like Hungary’s Orban are treated as respectable players on the international scene, “white nationalist” propagandist Steve Bannon can openly coordinate scare-mongering tactics with Boris Johnson in London at the same time as in Pittsburg, murderers deluded by white nationalist propaganda are literally mowing Jews down with automatic weapons.

“How is it, then, that our political class has come to a consensus that the greatest threat to Britain’s Jewish community is a lifelong anti-racist accused of not being assiduous enough in disciplining party members who make offensive comments on the internet?”

He later says: “The problem is that exploiting Jewish issues in ways guaranteed to create rancor, panic, and resentment is itself a form of antisemitism. (This is true whether or not the architects are fully aware of what they’re doing.) It creates terror in the Jewish community. It deprives us of our strongest allies.”

That is the left.

You can read Graeber’s candid, excellent and thoughtful article in full here.

Graeber has also made this video:

 

Related

Marginalisation of left leaning Jewish groups demonstrates political exploitation of the antisemitism controversy by the right wing

Michael Rosen discusses antisemitism

An open letter to the Chief Rabbi from an Imam, about Jeremy Corbyn

Letter endorsing Jeremy Corbyn, signed by key public figures and Jewish academics

Techniques of neutralisation: Cameron says keep calm and carry on climbing Allport’s ladder

 


My work is unfunded and I don’t make any money from it. But you can support Politics and Insights and contribute by making a donation which will help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others.

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Is hypocritical PM a ‘terrorist sympathiser’? He called for Osama Bin Laden to face trial in 2001.

Boris

Boris  Johnson, a grubby liar and hypocrite.

Yesterday, I was the person who spent just two minutes researching Boris Johnson’s position and previous comments in the media on Osama Bin Laden. While researching, I found the Telegraph article that the Johnson wrote in 2001. The Conservatives have condemned Jeremy Corbyn’s statement that Bin Laden should have faced a trial. 

Grubby, nasty quote mining and giant unverifiable inductive leaps over the amoral void, by habitual hypocrits and liars. That sums up Conservative propaganda.

In 2011, a special forces raid on the al-Qaida chief’s Pakistan compound resulted in Bin Laden and four others being shot dead.

George Osborne, among other Conservatives, claimed a Labour Party led by Corbyn would “pose a threat to national security” because, he claimed, Corbyn “sympathises with terrorists”.

This claim has been made by the Tory party many times. 

David Cameron has described Jeremy Corbyn a “security threat” and “terrorist sympathiser”. In the Corbyn interview from which Cameron quoted without context, the Labour leader had already described the New York bombings as a “tragedy”, and was explaining that the “tragedy” of Bin Laden’s death was that he was assassinated and did not face trial.

More recently, an unscrupulous and dishonest Boris Johnson accused Jeremy Corbyn of seeking to “legitimate the actions of terrorists” in his speech after the 2017 Manchester bombing, 

However, in 2001, Boris Johnson said that he also supported Bin Laden facing a trial. Curiously, no-one has yet called him a terrorist sympathiser or a threat to national security. The media have slavishy amplified the Conservatives’ propaganda without any fact checking whatsoever.

I did some fact checking because I was sick of seeing the Conservatives’ deceitful and ruthless quote mining of Jeremy Corbyn’s comments, which are taken out of context then used to prop up outrageous political claims such as “Corbyn hates the UK”. The Tories are so full of this kind of unscrupulous, flimsy propaganda shit. They’ve got away with it for far too long. This is not the standard of political discourse and debate we should expect to see in a healthy democracy. The Tories have raced to the bottom of the pit marked “amoral”, dragging a mostly unresistant media with them.

I posted Boris Johnson’s Op-Ed article in the Daily Telegraph on December 13, 2001 – just three months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks – on Twitter, to expose his sheer hypocrisy and dishonesty. It went viral.

Job done. Exposing lies and hypocrisy used to be the job of our paid journalists, but that is no longer the case here in the UK, with few notable exceptions.

RT  have run an article on this issue. I don’t expect that the UK media will.

Another under-reported matter is that Boris Johnson called for the “break up” of the NHS back in 2002. The Prime Minister made the speech in 2002 while a backbench Tory MP, criticising Labour’s refusal to consider breaking up the NHS. It comes as Donald Trump flies into the UK amid concerns of a US trade deal which would damage the health service. Johnson has previously said that the government should examine “the experience of other countries that have a far better record of health care provision … because they do not rely exclusively on a top-down monopolistic health service of the kind we have in this country.”

That’s Tory-speak for privatisation. The so-called libertarian right wing see the NHS as the last bastion of a collectivist tradition that they want to eradicate completely from British society. 

NHS

They loathe it because they see it as a form of decadence, and as antithetical to the fundamentalist principles of ‘competition; and the vulture capitalist’s right to make money out of anything – an idea that has driven more than four decades of neoliberal elitist ‘reform.’

Some of the Tories have direct connections to companies that want to make money out of NHS privatisation (see above). I wonder if that has some bearing on their view.  

Boris Johnson probably didn’t want you to see this. Or perhaps he simply has a very poor long term memory.

Boris Johnson was blocked from accessing state secrets as foreign secretary because Downing Street felt he was a security risk

The Conservatives have repeatedly claimed that HM’s opposition leader is a “risk to national security”, but don’t produce any evidence of this.

However, the party had to restrict Boris Johnson’s access to intelligence because he was such a liability:

  • Theresa May tried to restrict Boris Johnson’s access to secret intelligence when he was foreign secretary.
  • The then prime minister wanted Johnson not to be shown some secret intelligence when he was appointed in July 2016, BBC News reported.
  • Sources said Downing Street’s decision was based on a variety of factors, including a lack of trust in Johnson, and personal enmity between him and May
  • The report followed claims in 2017 that British spy chiefs were “wary” of sharing information with Johnson because they didn’t trust him.

Theresa May repeatedly withheld sensitive intelligence from Boris Johnson when he was foreign secretary, because they believed he would leak the information.

May wanted the then foreign secretary to not to be shown certain sensitive secret intelligence when he was appointed in July 2016, BBC News reported, citing multiple security sources.

Downing Street’s move is said to have worried security chiefs at the time because of the foreign secretary’s role in authorising sensitive operations.

Johnson was aware of Downing Street’s decision at the time and was “very unhappy about it,” it was reported. Sources close to Johnson insisted there was no row about information access and claimed he saw everything he needed to for his role.

Johnson first visited the headquarters of MI6, the government’s foreign intelligence service, as foreign secretary three months after his appointment when he was shown around by its chief Alex Younger.

Johnson praised the work of the security services and said: “Even from my relatively short period as foreign secretary I can testify to how vital the work they do is.”

But at the same time a row was taking place about whether Johnson should have access to all the intelligence produced by the UK’s spies, the BBC reported, despite the fact ministerial responsibility lay with Johnson for MI6 and GCHQ, another branch of the intelligence service.

The New Statesman reported at the time that multiple diplomats had doubts over Johnson’s personal style as foreign secretary.

A month previously, he had said the ISIS stronghold of Sirte, the Libyan city, could be “the next Dubai” once they “clear the dead bodies away.” It may be a sentence that would be appropriate down the pub with a few of the boys, but it isn’t a statement that reflects a prime minister of calibre.

 Boris Johnson is not fit to be prime minister. 

People like me have increasingly taken on the role of public interest journalism and research to fill the void, and most of us are unpaid.

I became too ill to work in 2010. I have lupus, which is progressive, and in my case, has many and complex symptoms. The illness has had a huge impact on my mobility, for example, and my immunity to infection. I rely on the state support that I paid into over my working life, but frequently struggle to get by, like far too many others.

I don’t like asking people for money. I rarely do, though like other independent writers, I have a donate button at the foot of most of my articles. I write first and foremost because I feel I must. We need reliable sources of information in an era of fake news and authoritarian state propaganda. Our mainstream media has badly let the UK public down. It does not hold the government to account, as a rule. This has seriously undermined the UK’s democracy. 

However, if you feel you would like to support my site so I can keep on keeping on, you can always make a donation. The smallest amount is always valued. It helps me pay for my site, for a WordPress plan that doesn’t allow advertising, and my broadband bills. I also have to pay to access research sometimes.

I would also thank those who have made generous donations over the last few years to support my work and help me keep going.

Much love and solidarity X

#VoteLabour2019

 


 

My work is unfunded and I don’t make any money from it. But you can support Politics and Insights and contribute by making a donation which will help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others.

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The problem with Jeremy Corbyn? The ranting incoherence of the mass media

Corbyn

 

My son Jake asked me yesterday:”What is it with the Guardian’s existential insecurity and deep political cognitive dissonance? (Yep, he’s a philosophy student). He said “they’re all over the place. What’s that about?” He said that he expected the unintelligible mob-mouthing from the headlines of the right wing rags such as the Express and Sun, but felt the disease has spread to what he had previously considered the “reasonably reasonable media.”  

He commented that even the Guardian and Independent have now succumbed to bouts of “febrile tutting, compulsive McCarthyist curtain twitching, spasmodic sneering and barnyard braying” at HM’s leader of the opposition The “mass hysteria, he says, has become a “shape-shifting reactionist wreck of contradiction, screeching mob mentality headlines, demanding ever- impossible, unreasonable  standards  of just one politician: Jeremy Corbyn.”

He thought I should gather together evidence of contradictions to highlight his point, but found someone had already done an outstanding job of that.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Colin Millar’s extraordinary gallery of empirical evidence.

And yes, Jake’s observations are absolutely right.

9,406 views 

There is a possibility Jeremy Corbyn will be Prime Minister of the UK by the end of next week. There is no better time to highlight how, no matter what Corbyn does or whatever position he takes, his critics will attack him – even if they totally contradict themselves (thread). 

Corbyn opposes the exploitation of foreign sweatshop-workers – Labour MPs compare him to Nigel Farage:

John Rentoul

@JohnRentoul

Astonishing. McDonald’s a decent co making good food that most voters enjoy, & Labour says no http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/politics/7081614/Jeremy-Corbyn-and-cronies-snub-McDonalds-from-Labour-conference.html 

Latest News headlines, exclusives and opinion | The Sun

thesun.co.uk

149 people are talking about this

Corbyn is not like Trump, says James O’Brien:

James O’Brien

@mrjamesob

I’m no fan but it’s really, really not. Trump attacks the ones telling the truth; Corbyn attacks the ones peddling racist lies. https://twitter.com/montie/status/1044916199761616896 

Tim Montgomerie

@montie

Hard to tell the difference between Trump and Corbyn in their constant attacks on the free press

1,567 people are talking about this

Corbyn is even worse than Trump, says James O’Brien:

 

Anti-Semitism row is allowing Corbyn to hide from the media’ Anti-Semitism is to Corbynites what fake news is to Trump, says guest columnist James O’Brien

Jeremy Corbyn is simply too principled:

spiked@spikedonline

“This week we have had a chilling insight into Corbyn’s authoritarianism. For a politician to make open threats against the press is deeply disturbing. He cares nothing for free speech or press freedom.”

Brendan O’Neill on the Corbynista threat to liberty

Embedded video

218 people are talking about this

Corbyn is no threat whatsoever to life as we know it (Brendan O’Neill):

spiked@spikedonline

“There’s a great irony to the Czech spy story: Corbyn insists he wasn’t involved with the Stalinists and yet he has responded in a quite Stalinist way to this story.”

Brendan O’Neill on Sky

Embedded video

167 people are talking about this

Jeremy Corbyn has no interest in power (Nick Cohen):

But conversely, Nick Cohen also believes Corbyn isn’t radically left-wing enough:

 

What Labour needs now is a takeover by real left-wing radicals | The Spectator

To say that the Labour party is in crisis because it is ‘too left-wing’ is to miss the point spectacularly. With eyes wide open, and all democratic…

Dan Hodges now, saying Corbyn is too keen for Brexit:

(((Dan Hodges)))

@DPJHodges

The reason Corbyn is adopting a more aggressively pro-Brexit stance is the same reason he’s aggressively rejecting the IHRA definition. He’s calculated he can take Labour Remainer votes for granted. They’ll sulk a bit, then say “but the food-banks”, and vote for him.

607 people are talking about this

Before Hodges criticises Corbyn for not wanting Brexit at all:

 

Mitch Benn: Corbyn isn’t brave enough to change his mind on Brexit:

Mitch Benn🇬🇧🇪🇺

@MitchBenn

Corbyn doesn’t have the guts to allow his position on Brexit to be challenged and the membership don’t have the guts to make him.

261 people are talking about this

Mitch Benn: Ok, Corbyn has changed his mind on Brexit – what a coward! 

 

 

Mitch Benn: Has the penny finally dropped for Jeremy?

Ok, this is intriguing…

Corbyn was wrong not to oppose Theresa May’s Brexit plan (Philip Collins):

Corbyn was wrong not to support Theresa May’s Brexit Plan (Philip Collins):

Labour must stop trying to frustrate Brexit It will take a speechwriter of iron discipline to resist the metaphor of renaissance. When the prime minister describes the British position on the European ..

Peter Mandleson: By not opposing Tory Brexit, Corbyn is betraying the national interest:

 

Colin adds: I don’t have soundcloud, but you can buy my book – detailing the best football rivalry you have never fully appreciated:amazon.co.uk/Frying-Pan-Spa…

Oh yeah, and you can vote Labour on 12 December to help fix this country. 

 

 


 

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Research shows ‘unprecedented’ rise in infant mortality linked to poverty in England

slide1

Slide from my presentation on neoliberalism, the still face paradigm and poverty at Beyond the Therapy Room psychology conference, 2019.

According to new research, an unprecedented rise in infant mortality in England is linked to poverty, according to new research. An additional 570 infant deaths, compared to what would have been expected based on historical trends, were recorded in the country from 2014-2017. Around one-third of those deaths, which related to children under the age of one, were linked to rising poverty.

The results of the new study by researchers from the University of Liverpool, University of Leeds and Newcastle University, which analysed data from 2000-2017, have now been released. In their report, published in BMJ Open, the researchers note that infant mortality rates often act as an indicator of the changing overall health of societies, as well as an early warning system for future adverse trends.

Rising infant mortality is unusual in wealthy, high income countries, and international statistics show that infant mortality has continued to decline in most wealthy countries in recent years. 

But in England, social security cuts in the last decade have taken their toll on the poorest communities.

In the study, the researchers grouped 324 local authorities into five categories (quintiles) based on their level of income deprivation, with Quintile 1 being the most affluent and Quintile 5 the most deprived.

Inferential testing – using a statistical model –  was used to quantify the association between regional changes in child poverty  and infant mortality during the same period. 

The researchers found that “a sustained and unprecedented rise” in infant mortality in England from 2014-2017 was not experienced evenly across the population.

In the most deprived local authorities, the previously declining trend in infant mortality had reversed and mortality increased. This led to an additional 24 infant deaths per 100,000 live births per year, relative to the previous trend.

There was no significant change from the pre-existing trend in the most affluent local authorities. As a result, inequalities in infant mortality increased, with the gap between the most and the least deprived local authority areas widening by 52 deaths per 100,000 births.

Overall from 2014-2017, there were a total of 572 “excess infant deaths” compared to what would have been expected based on historical trends, the report says.

The researchers estimate that each 1% increase in child poverty was significantly associated with an extra 5.8 infant deaths per 100,000 live births.

The findings suggest that about one-third of the increases in infant mortality between 2014 and 2017 may be attributed to rising child poverty, equivalent to an extra 172 infant deaths.

Professor David Taylor-Robinson of the University of Liverpool, the lead author on the research, said the study “provides evidence that the unprecedented rise in infant mortality disproportionately affected the poorest areas of the country, leaving the more affluent areas unaffected”.

“Our analysis also linked the recent increase in infant mortality in England with rising child poverty, suggesting that about a third of the increase in infant mortality from 2014-17 may be attributed to rising child poverty. 

“These findings are really concerning given that child poverty is rising. It is time for the government to reverse this trend establishing a welfare system that protects children from poverty.” 

Taylor-Robinson said child poverty has “a myriad of adverse impacts on other aspects of child health that will have repercussions for decades to come”.

“In the context of increasing health inequalities in England, policies that reduce poverty and social inequalities are likely to reduce the occurrence of infant mortality and that of many other adverse child health outcomes,” he added. 

Cuts to social security 

The report notes the impact of “sustained reductions” in social security benefits in England in the last decade. It states: 

“Since 2010, there have been sustained reductions in the welfare benefits available to families with children, including the abolition of child benefit and child tax credit for the third child or more; reductions in the value of tax credits and below-inflation up-rating of most working-age benefits; housing benefit reforms including the under occupancy charge (most commonly referred to as ‘bedroom tax’) and introduction of universal credit; and household caps on total benefit receipt (regardless of how many children are in the household).

“These welfare changes have disproportionately affected the most deprived local authorities and regions and have led to a rise in child poverty.”

Dr Paul Norman of the University of Leeds, who also worked on the research, noted that the findings show “an unprecedented rise in the deaths of children under one year of age”.

He said the researchers’ next step is “to examine the gestational age and the number of weeks at which infants die, to learn more about when key interventions may be needed or when they are being missed”.

“This will inform the urgent action needed by national and local governments, and help drive the health and social care policies needed to reduce infant mortality rates,” Norman said. 

The facts and figures from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) show the reality of child poverty in the UK, and which groups are affected most:CPAG Infographics July 2019 v1-04

Related

Studies find higher premature mortality rates are correlated with Conservative governments

Austerity is “economic murder” says Cambridge researcher

Suicides reach a ten year high and are linked with welfare “reforms

Conservative governments are bad for your health

 


I don’t make any money from my work. But you can support Politics and Insights and contribute by making a donation which will help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated, and helps to keep my articles free and accessible to all – thank you. 

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Matt Hancock mocked and scorned at his own hustings

 

A leaked video reveals that the West Suffolk Conservative MP and Health Secretary, Matt Hancock was roundly mocked as outraged constituents objected loudly to his appalling comments to divert attention from his party’s lies. Hancock has been MP for West Suffolk since 2010.  

Hancock raises scornful responses from constituents as he tries to reiterate the government’s lie about plans to employ 50,000 more nurses. He was shouted down. 

Clearly rattled, Hancock then falls back on the worn out Tory default position – slander the opposition as a desperate diversion strategy.

No-one fell for it. Instead, the insufferable Hancock drowned out by an outraged audience until the microphone was finally taken away from him.

Probably an act of kindness for all concerned, under the circumstances.

cock

 


 

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Letter: As economists we believe the Labour party deserves to form the next UK government

A letter to the Financial Times from David G Blanchflower and others, with 163 economists as signatories:

The UK economy needs reform. For too long it has prioritised consumption over investment, short-term financial returns over long-term innovation, rising asset values over rising wages, and deficit reduction over the quality of public services.

The results are now plain. We have had 10 years of near zero productivity growth. Corporate investment has stagnated. Average earnings are still lower than in 2008. A gulf has arisen between London and the South East and the rest of the country. And public services are under intolerable strain — which the economic costs of a hard Brexit would only make worse. We now moreover face the urgent imperative of acting on the climate and environmental crisis.

Given private sector reluctance, what the UK economy needs is a serious injection of public investment, which can in turn leverage private finance attracted by the expectation of higher demand. Such investment needs to be directed into the large-scale and rapid decarbonisation of energy, transport, housing, industry and farming; the support of innovation- and export-oriented businesses; and public services. It is clear that this will require an active and green industrial strategy, aimed at improving productivity and spreading investment across the country. 

Experience elsewhere (not least in Germany) suggests a National Investment Bank would greatly help. With long-term real interest rates now negative, it makes basic economic sense for the government to borrow for this, spreading the cost over the generations who will benefit from the assets. As the IMF has acknowledged, when interest payments are low and investment raises economic growth, public debt is sustainable.

At the same time, we need a serious attempt to raise wages and productivity. A higher minimum wage can help do this, alongside tighter regulation of the worst practices in the gig economy. Bringing workers on to company boards and giving them a stake in their companies, as most European countries do in some form, will also help. The UK’s outlier rate of corporation tax can clearly be raised, not least for the highly profitable digital companies.

As economists, and people who work in various fields of economic policy, we have looked closely at the economic prospectuses of the political parties. It seems clear to us that the Labour party has not only understood the deep problems we face, but has devised serious proposals for dealing with them.

We believe it deserves to form the next government.
David G Blanchflower, Bruce V Rauner,

Professor of Economics, Dartmouth College; Professor of Economics. University of Stirling; former member, Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee.

Victoria Chick Emeritus Professor of Economics, University College London.

Lord Meghnad Desai Emeritus Professor of Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Stephany Griffith-Jones Emeritus Professorial Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex; Financial Markets Director, Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University.

Simon Wren-Lewis Emeritus Professor of Economics and Fellow of Merton College, University of Oxford. On behalf of 163 signatories. 

The letter and a complete list of signatories is here.

 


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