Category: Propaganda

Rabbinical Executive of United European Jews write to Jeremy Corbyn dismissing UK media commentary as ‘propaganda’

Corbyn

Yesterday a Director of the UK Rabbinical Executive Board wrote a letter to Jeremy Corbyn which, it said, represented the views of the United European Jews organisation (UEJ). The letter said that the organisation “reject and condemn in no uncertain terms” the recent comments in the media, claiming that the “majority of British Jews are gripped by anxiety” at the prospect of a Labour government. The letter states that the media commentary does not represent the views of mainstream Chareidi  Jews who live in the UK.

The letter continues: “We believe that such assertions are due to propaganda with a political and ideological agenda”, which, the group add, “is an agenda diametrically opposed to fundamental  Jewish values, as well as the opinions of tens of thousands of Jews in our community”.

The Rabbinical Executive’s letter goes on to thank the Labour party leader for his “numerous acts of solidarity with the Jewish community over many years”.

A press released by UEJ describes the organisation:

United European Jews is a pan-European organisation that performs research and advocacy concerning topics of Judaism, Jewish identity, and antisemitism. The institute was founded by Rabbi Mayer Weinberger of Belgium in conjunction with Jewish faith leaders throughout Europe.

We engage in educational activities which spread information and catalyze action. UEJ offers a view of Jewish identity that at its core is representative of the mainstream 70,000 chareidi Jews that live in the UK, who do not identify with Israeli nationalism or politics as elemental to their Jewish identity.

We advocate the traditional Orthodox Jewish idea that Jewish identity is defined only by Jewish religious doctrine and is independent of foreign nationalist components. As British Jews, our home and country is the United Kingdom, and our religion is Judaism.

Here is the letter in full:

Letter corbyn

It will be very interesting to see if the media in the UK report on this letter, rather than continuing the concerted attempts to stage manage our democracy.

I would personally like to thank the Rabbinical Executive Board for such a candid, kindly and hope-inspiring letter to a candid, kindly and hope-inspiring politician.

Earlier this year, a similar letter was sent that condemned attempts to report that a  meeting between Corbyn and representatives of London’s Charedi Jewish community had been abandoned because of ‘outrage’ among the community.

The letter also records “our gratitude for your numerous acts of solidarity with the Jewish Community over many years” and thanked Corbyn for his support with recent concerns regarding a coroner who was unsympathetic and unaccommodating to Jewish faith and burial custom

Corbyn’s letter seen by the Gazette, said: “Coroner Hassell’s approach goes against our Jewish and Muslim residents’ faith and is preventing them from grieving for their lost loved ones.”

The letter, co-signed by Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South & Finsbury, and Islington councillor Richard Watts, notes that other coroner services, including Salford and Bolton’s Coroner Services, use magnetic resonance imaging scans in autopsies, removing the need for “invasive post-mortem techniques that go against a number of religious practices”.

“We regret that Coroner Hassell’s conduct … to date has caused significant upset and undue trauma for people who are already suffering so much and simply want to grieve,’ it states. 

Corbyn said: ‘I have been approached by the Jewish and Muslim communities in Islington and I’m very concerned about the stress families are going through in not being able to complete burials in line with their faiths. I fully support their efforts to ensure public services respect their religious beliefs and traditions – and the coroner service should be no exception.”

2nd letter Jewish

Related

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

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

Over 200 Jewish Labour supporters say: Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is a Crucial Ally in the Fight against Antisemitism

34 Orthodox Rabbis reject allegations against ‘respected leader’ Jeremy Corbyn

Joseph Finlay, Jeremy Corbyn is an Anti-Racist, Not an Anti-Semite

 Fifty Times Jeremy Corbyn Stood with Jewish People

Anna Boyle, 40 Examples of Corbyn Opposing Antisemitism

 



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Opinion polls are being used to influence public opinion rather than simply measuring it

The wide variation of poll results on how the the two leaders were viewed following the ITV debate last night, and how the media cherry pick statistics to fit their framing and narratives of significant issues and events.

It’s curious that neither the BBC nor the ITV mentioned the other poll results. That would have provided a rather more “impartial” and democratic account of how people responded to the event.

I think we need to question exactly who the BBC and ITV are delivering “the news” for.

The ‘snap poll’, published by YouGov that the BBC and several other media outlets have drawn on to inform their ‘analysis’ of the leaders’ debate, found ‘viewers split on who won ITV general election debate‘ and states that Boris Johnson narrowly won among 1.646 respondents polled. It was apparently Sky news who commissioned that particular poll.

However, the date and time on the page highlighting the poll result is one hour and ten minutes before the debate started at 8pm.

The page has been archived here – and the SKWAWKBOX has made a video of the open page to show that the image above has not been doctored and that the page address is genuine. Read the rest of the article here.

YouGov has been contacted with a request for an explanation of the apparent anomaly. It will be interesting to see the poll company’s response.

Polls are controversial. Some of the major concerns that surround the current polling landscape: Are the polls accurate and scientific? Reliable? Can the questions be manipulated to get a particular answer? Can polls be used to influence rather than simply measure public opinion and voting behaviour? I think the last two concerns are the greatest, and threaten our democracy.

The outcomes of both political and marketing polls — and whether or not the public trusts the results — are influenced by many factors, including polling technology and methodology, how the question is worded, the perception of who is asking the question, when and how the polling sample is drawn, and who agrees to take the poll (the responders) and who decides not to (the non-responders).

 Burkean Conservative, Peter Hitchens, has said:

“Opinion polls are a device for influencing public opinion, not a device for measuring it. Crack that, and it all makes sense.”

It certainly does

Hitchens goes on to say that the establishment and the media are responsible for manipulation, based on the misuse of statistics. The overall purpose is to “bring about the thing it claims is already happening” (the “bandwaggon effect”).

In his book The Broken Compass, Hitchens cites contemporary examples of the media attacking Gordon Brown and the “predicted” win of the Conservative Party at the 2010 general election, although Hitchens also described Brown, as a “dismal Marxoid.”  Hitchens’ comments are based on his time as a reporter at Westminster. He says that political journalists are uninterested in serious political debate, and describes how a media reporting bias is attempting to facilitate a Tory general election win. 

Remarkably, as a social Conservative, Hitchens states one of his motivations for writing the book was to frustrate this exercise.

The current obsession with predicting election results doesn’t add much to our democratic practices. Polls give an apparency of “data-driven journalism” but it produces a reductive “horse-race” narrative, in which political and policy context is mostly ignored with the numbers, accurate or not, pretty much being framed as all that matters. This trivialises our democracy and obscures the importance of critical thinking and crucially, stifles informed choices regarding policies in influencing the public’s voting decisions. 

Roger Pielke Jr, professor of Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, says: Rather than trying to see the future, political science might serve us better by helping citizens to create that future by clarifying the choices we face and their possible consequences for policy.”

“In treating politics like a sporting event, we diminish the partisanship, the choices, and the fundamental values that lie at the core of politics. I fear that data journalists have diminished our politics.” 

When political opinion polls and the media appear to support one political party over another, there can be little doubt that this is intended to have some influence on the psychology of voters, because it’s akin to declaring election winners before the election is actually held. It works rather like a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is based on the bandwaggon propaganda technique. The basic idea behind the bandwagon approach is to appeal to the conformist tendency of the public, and the need to feel a part of wider society; to feel included.  The message the propagandist puts forward is that “everyone” or “most people”are doing/voting/behaving like this, or that almost “everyone” supports this or that person/cause. 

So bandwaggon propaganda is based on individuals rallying to the perceived majority opinion, because of a fairly widespread psychological need for feeling we are part of a social ingroup, and a general tendency towards normative compliance and social conformity.

And at a time when the strategically engineered and toxic social divisions of political outgrouping is widespread and affecting citizens’ fundamental sense of identity and self worth, this type of insidious call for a normative compliance and artificial consensus creates a false sense of security for some. 

Bandwaggon techniques work much better when the public is unaware that professional manipulators are at work.

We know that political opinion polls are certainly not always an accurate reflection of public opinion. Samples of the population selected to participate may be biased. For example, asking Daily Mail readers who they will vote for will almost certainly produce a majority right wing set of responses. However, if you ask the same question on Twitter, you are much more likely to get a Labour majority.

In the UK, some of the major polls cited widely in the media are run by:

  • Survation, pollster to The Mail on SundayDaily MirrorDaily Record and Sky News. They say: “Survation also have an active strategy and campaign advisory business helping clients better understand customers & members, appreciate & help shape public opinion. We help our clients improve customer engagement and effectiveness of campaigns – be they charitable, political or commercial.” 
  • ComRes, retained pollster for the BBC and The Independent. It says on their site: ComRes provides specialist research and insight to support reputation management, public policy and communications. For more than a decade we have used the latest developments in market and opinion research to inform strategies, change behaviours and define debates.
  • Ipsos MORI (formerly MORI). Ipsos MORI’s Social Research Institute works extensively for the government of the United Kingdom, looking at public attitudes to key public services, and so informing social policy. Issues such as identity, social cohesion, loyalty, physical capital and the impact of place on attitudes are all key themes of the Institute’s work. The company also specialises in mass media, brand loyalty, marketing and advertising research.
  • YouGov. – Stephan Shakespeare, the firm’s founder and CEO from 2010, once stood as a Conservative candidate for Colchester; he was also a Conservative Party pollster. The other founder, and CEO until 2010, is Nadhim Zahawi a British Conservative Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Stratford-on-Avon since 2010.
  • ICM. They have this to say: Understanding choice means you know how your audience feels, thinks and behaves. And how you can change that. We help influence choice in three areas. How do you energise your brand and communications? How do you improve your customers’ experience of you? How do you understand and influence citizens?  
  • Populus, official The Times’ pollster. They say“Our Reputation & Strategy team works with the boards of global companies and public institutions to help them understand, influence, and improve their reputations. We are specialists in reputation. We understand why it matters, how to measure it, what drives it, who influences it, how to align it with existing activity, and what you should do to improve it.”
  • TNS-BMRB. TNS changed their name to Kantar Public UK: a leading agency providing research and consultancy to UK policymakers and contracted to work for the government. The company is structured around specific areas of marketing expertise: Brand & Communication; Innovation & Product Development; Retail & Shopper; Customer Experience; Employee Engagement; Qualitative; Automotive; and Political & Social.

The bandwagon effect is part of a larger group of cognitive biases or errors in thinking that influence the judgements and decisions that people make. Cognitive biases are often designed to help people think and reason more quickly – “mental shortcuts” – but they often introduce miscalculations and mistakes. These cognitive biases are being manipulated by behavioural economists, the government, polling companies and the media.

Individuals may highly influenced by the pressure and norms exerted by groups. When it seems like the majority of the group is doing a certain thing, not doing that thing becomes increasingly difficult. The bandwagon effect is essentially the manipulation of a type of groupthink process The government know this and are designing communications strategies which play to this heuristic.

All of the polling  companies are commissioned and operate within a taken-for-granted neoliberal context, supporting various actors within the “global market place” paradigm, including governments, and therefore have a distinct ideological leaning and very clearly defined economic interests in maintaining the status quo.

“Behavioural economics shows that people don’t want to challenge the status quo. So if we see a poll telling us ‘what the majority thinks’, we will have a tendency to follow the herd.” Crawford Hollingworth, founder, The Behavioural Architects.

fake 2

 


 

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Further calls for inquiry into psyops initiative following an apology for smearing Jeremy Corbyn

The Institute for Statecraft and its offshoot, the Integrity Initiative, constitute a secret propaganda network tied to the UK security services and the broader establishment. They bring together high-ranking military and intelligence personnel, journalists and academics to manufacture and disseminate propaganda serving the geopolitical and economic aims of the UK and those of its allies.

Created by the NATO-affiliated, UK-funded Institute for Statecraft in 2015, the Integrity Initiative was unmasked last November after Anonymous hackers released a volume of documents detailing a web of politicians, journalists, military personnel, scientists and academics involved in purportedly fighting ‘Russian disinformation.’ 

The Integrity Initiative is run by military intelligence and communication specialists.

The highly secretive, government-bankrolled “network of networks” has found itself under scrutiny for smearing Her Majesty’s opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn as a ‘Kremlin stooge’ – ostensibly as part of its crusade against ‘Russian disinformation.’ It was also revealed that the infowars unit developed secretive “clusters” of friendly journalists and “key influencers” throughout Europe who use social media to ‘hit back against disinformation.’ The Initiative has received more than £2.2million from the Foreign Office in two years to – in one minister’s words – “defend democracy against disinformation.”

It would be closer to the truth to say that the Initiative defends disinformation against democracy.

The leaks indicated that the organisation played a central role in shaping media narratives after Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were mysteriously poisoned in Salisbury last March. It’s notable that many of the draconian anti-Russia measures that the group advocated as far back as 2015 were swiftly implemented following the Skripal affair – even as Whitehall refused to back up its blame frame with evidence. That the Initiative serves a highly political ‘strategic comms’ role is beyond doubt. 

The Integrity Initiative is a self declared ‘charity’, funded by the UK Foreign Office, British Army and Ministry of Defence, which has been described by the Sunday Mail as a right wing infowars unit. But let’s call it  what it is: a right wing establishment’s black ops propaganda unit. 

The Labour party has made renewed calls for an investigation into the government-funded Integrity Initiative (II) after it emerged that the group had now apologised to Jeremy Corbyn – and apparently admitted violating charity law.

Leaders of the highly controversial Integrity Initiative, which a registered Scottish charity, said they had written to the Labour leader after personal attacks on Corbyn were retweeted on the unit’s Twitter feed. The publicly funded subsidiary of the Institute for Statecraft (IFS), apparently accused him of aiding Russia, possibly ‘unwittingly.’

In the wake of the tweets, which were exposed by the Sunday Mail, among others, four months ago, the II and its supporters denied Corbyn had been unfairly targeted.  

However, it emerged yesterday that an apology had been given, with the IFS’s founder Chris Donnelly apparently admitting that the activities breached both Foreign Office rules and Scottish charity law. The group are registered at a Fife address. 

The HQ of the Institute for Statecraft in Fife (Image: Sunday Mail)

Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “It is right and proper that this organisation has apologised but there are still further serious questions to be answered here. 

“This is a charity registered in Scotland and overseen by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, funded by UK Government contributions. It should never have been spewing out political attacks on the Labour Party and the Labour movement. 

“Such clear political attacks shouldn’t be coming from any charity. We need to know why the Foreign Office has been funding it. 

“This cannot be allowed to pass. We need a full inquiry into the actions of this organisation and its links to the Conservative Government.” 

Findlay has previously said: “The tale of the Integrity Initiative gets murkier and murkier – now we see it exposed that they have been tutored by someone who was behind some of the worst fake news circulating during the disaster in Iraq.

“The UK Parliament and Scotland’s charity regulator OSCR must now take a serious look at the activities and funding of this so-called charity, who appear to be nothing more than a propaganda front.”

The II, which has received £2million in public funding, had already been the subject of an Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) investigation. The OSCR was unavailable for comment yesterday and has yet to complete its inquiry.  

However, quotes published by The Times, show Donnelly appearing to admit that the OSCR’s rules had been broken. 

He said: “We put out something like 26,000 tweets.  

“About 400 made reference to some political party or politician, and they were roughly equal between the main political parties, but we should not have sent [them] because the Foreign Office does not allow us to make any party political comment, nor does Scottish charity law. 

“That was a mistake and we wrote letters of apology to Jeremy Corbyn. I have been special adviser to two Tory defence secretaries, and for Labour’s John Reid and George Robertson, so we are as apolitical as we could be.”  

It emerged that the charity had connections to strategic comms guru John Rendon, whose Rendon Group was hired by the CIA in the 90s to run a PR campaign against Saddam Hussein and is said to have been behind stories of ‘Iraqi weapons of mass destruction’.  

Hacked documents revealed that Rendon, who calls himself an “information warrior” and “perception manager”, was a speaker at a £45,000 seminar to “educate core team and clusters” for the Integrity Initiative.

Donnelly is an honorary colonel in military intelligence. Another member of the board, Dan Lafayeedney, was an SAS soldier in 1978 and director Stephen Dalziel worked in military intelligence. 

The Labour Party has already called for an independent investigation. Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan at first promised a full investigation but later attempted to dismiss the scandal as “Russian disinformation”. Integrity Initiative officials argued that other tweets had been critical of politicians of other parties. However, the weight of criticism was aimed at HM’s opposition leader.  

Labour’s Chris Williamson has previously said: “One of the most worrying aspects of the Integrity Initiative’s activities is this seemingly covert effort to move the country on to a war footing. 

“The involvement of someone like John Rendon is extremely concerning as this seems to be exactly the sort of thing that he specialises in.

“A lot of the focus has been on Brexit over the last few weeks but this isn’t an issue that the Labour Party are willing to let go of.

“We will be asking for more debate in Parliament and more answers from the Foreign Office in order to find out exactly what has been going on here.”

At the time the hacked documents emerged in the media, Professor David Miller of University of Bristol’s School for Policy Studies, said: “It’s extraordinary that the Foreign Office would be funding a Scottish charity to counter Russian propaganda which ends up attacking Her Majesty’s opposition.”

 


 

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Defending disinformation against democracy: the Integrity Initiative

Inside the Integrity Initiative, the UK gov’s information war on the public with Journalists Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton and Professor David Miller.

The Institute for Statecraft and its offshoot, the Integrity Initiative, constitute a secret propaganda network tied to the UK security services. They bring together high-ranking military and intelligence personnel, journalists and academics to manufacture and disseminate propaganda serving the geopolitical and economic aims of the UK and those of its allies.

The Integrity Initiative is a self declared ‘charity’, funded by the UK Foreign Office, British Army and Ministry of Defence, which has been described by the Sunday Mail as a right wing infowars unit.

The Institute for Statecraft, which “led” the Integrity Initiative, was traced to this mill in Fife (Image: Sunday Mail.)

Created by the NATO-affiliated, UK-funded Institute for Statecraft in 2015, the Integrity Initiative was unmasked in November after Anonymous hackers released a volume of documents detailing a web of politicians, journalists, military personnel, scientists and academics involved in purportedly fighting ‘Russian disinformation.’

The highly secretive, government-bankrolled “network of networks” has found itself under scrutiny for smearing Her Majesty’s opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn as a ‘Kremlin stooge’ – ostensibly as part of its crusade against ‘Russian disinformation.’ The Initiative has received more than £2.2million from the Foreign Office in two years to – in one minister’s words – “defend democracy against disinformation.”

The latest leaks indicate that the organisation played a central role in shaping media narratives after Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were mysteriously poisoned in Salisbury last March. It’s notable that many of the draconian anti-Russia measures that the group advocated as far back as 2015 were swiftly implemented following the Skripal affair – even as London refused to back up its blame frame with evidence.

Within days of the Skripal poisonings, the Institute solicited its services to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), offering to “study social media activity in respect of the events that took place, how news spread, and evaluate how the incident is being perceived” in a number of countries.

After receiving the government’s endorsement, the Integrity Initiative launched Operation Iris,’ enlisting the “global investigative solutions” company Harod Associates to analyse social media activity related to the Skripal incident. 

The latest release of hacked documents also revealed a curious link between the Integrity Initiative and Skripal himself – a connection made all the more suspicious by the group’s central role in coordinating a determined and evidence-free  campaign to implicate and punish Moscow for the alleged nerve-agent attack.

One document from July 2018 contains contact details for Pablo Miller, Skripal’s MI6 recruiter, handler and (conveniently) neighbour in Salisbury. Miller, it seems, had been invited to a function hosted by the Institute. The plot sickens.

I have wondered what happened to Yulia Skripal. Worryingly, she has dropped off the media radar.

David Miller, Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bristol School for Policy Studies, has said that despite being ignored by the media, leaks from Integrity Initiative have paralysed the operations of this UK-funded covert influence network, and could ultimately lead to its dismantling.

Miller also believes that: “People have a right to know how the Government are spending their money, and the views being promoted in their name.”

I agree. I think it’s obscene that our money is being spent on covert military grade psyop operations designed specifically to micromanage our perceptions of reality and to stage-manage our democracy. 

He adds: “This [leak] has made a mess of [Integrity Initiative’s] operations, they are spending most of their time now trying to fire-fight on the coverage this is getting. And they are not doing essentially what they are being paid to do, which is to counter the Russians.

“The British government is getting bad value for money, if it was ever getting ‘better’ value.”

As part of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media, which studies Western attempts to control media coverage of key international events, Miller has played a crucial role in studying the four tranches of data anonymously uploaded and sourced from the previously little-known group, which has been backed by the UK Foreign Office, NATO and Facebook, to the tune of over £1 million per year.

The documents, whose authenticity has not been denied by government, contain details of psyops against public figures, of the manipulation of media coverage from leading outlets, and have also revealed worldwide networks of prominent journalists and academics, secretly engaged to discredit, at every turn, pro-Moscow points of view and left wing political developments.

Despite the refusal by all of those named to either admit their connection or to say that there was nothing untoward in their activities, Miller believes that the exposure has made it more difficult for them to push and publish anti-Russian content.

The Integrity Initiative has waged an information and propaganda war on the public. Yet nothing has been done to address the scandal surrounding this McCarthyist UK government-funded think tank, which has attacked Jeremy Corbyn and the anti-war left and laundered disinformation through the corporate media under the guise of ‘countering Russia’. 

“Most of the people named are trying to pretend that this is not all of great significance, but the revelation of the involvement of the government in manipulating other countries, and the political process in the UK, is extremely damaging for them,”  Miller says. 

Miller has also said that Parliament needs to conduct a more sustained inquiry into Integrity Initiative, and Jeremy Corbyn smears. 

For Miller, the “cardinal sin” from a UK perspective was the smearing of the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, as a potential ‘Kremlin ally’ in Whitehall, which means that a state-paid intelligence operation has been manipulating domestic politics.

Miller also points to the absence of coverage of what he calls a “real, genuine scandal” in top news sources, which, he says, are themselves implicated in the scandal fallout.

Miller also sates that, at the very least, this exposure should lead to a crucial national dialogue about the role intelligence agencies should play in public life and in influencing politics.

Why, it’s as if the role of MI6 in the faked Zinoviev letter has habituated the Establishment to maintain the status quo at all cost, including the stage-managing of our democracy, using anti-Russian sentiment as a template. It’s also apparently become such normalised behaviour that it’s hiding in plain view.

“Integrity Initiative are beyond the realms of sense. The activities they are engaged in are morally and ethically dubious, and will certainly – as we can see already – backfire on them,” Miller continued.

“This will result hopefully in the ending of this operation, and if we are lucky, a sensible discussion in parliament about controlling the future of British covert operations.”

Funding shot up to £2.6 million in 2018-19, with £1.96 million from the FCO and the rest from the US State Department, NATO and the American neoconservative Smith Richardson Foundation. Facebook, which plays in integral role in imposing censorship on behalf of the US, donated £100,000. See: UK Integrity Initiative heavily involved in Skripal affair.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry has said: “It is one of the cardinal rules of British public life that official resources should not be used for party political purposes.

“So, it is simply outrageous that the clearly mis-named ‘Integrity Initiative’ – funded by the Foreign Office to the tune of £2.25 million over the past two years – has routinely been using its Twitter feed to disseminate personal attacks and smears against the Leader of the Opposition, the Labour Party and Labour officials.”

Andrew Fisher, an aide to the Labour leader, said: “This astonishing story really deserves attention.”

Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “Such clear political attacks and propaganda shouldn’t be coming from any charity.

“We need to know why the Foreign Office have been funding it.”

Isn’t it obvious?

Surveillance capitalism: citizens as a means to an end

So far I haven’t seen anyone make the connection between the exposure of the Integrity Initiative and the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Or the fact that the government hired several murky companies plying the same methods as Cambridge Analytica in their election campaign, spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of citizens’ money so the Conservatives could target them with personalised dark ads and psyop-crafted strategic comms

As soon as the Conservatives casually announced their ‘behaviour change’ agenda back in 2010, and instituted the ‘Nudge Unit’, a scandal of the type surrounding  Cambridge Analytica/SCL was inevitable. How could anyone expect that an increasingly authoritarian government, somewhat defined by resistance to change, would resist the temptation to draw on ‘behavioural science’ techniques to manipulate citizens’ perceptions, cognitions, behaviours, choices, and ultimately, their voting decisions?

‘Surveillance capitalism’ was the term coined in 2015 by Harvard academic Shoshanna Zuboff to describe this large-scale surveillance and modification of human behaviour for profit. It involves the predictive analysis of big datasets describing the lives, choices and behaviours of tens or hundreds of millions of people, allowing correlations and patterns to be identified, information about individuals inferred and analysised, and future behaviour and decisions to be predicted. This is then used to influence behaviours through personalised and ‘dynamic’ targeted advertising. 

This whole process is refined by an experimental approach – testing a range of variations of adverts on different demographics to determine what works best. Every time we log on we potentially become the unwitting and thus non consenting subject of trials designed to determine how to most effectively extract money from us or to persuade us of something. The common denominator is the covert use of powerful behavioural modification strategies: psyops. 

Our personal data is being used to construct ‘persuasion profiles’, using sets of estimates – based on probabilities – on the effectiveness of particular influence-strategies on individuals, which are also based on past responses to these strategies. Some of these companies are also experimenting with biometrics.

We are led to believe that it is other states that seek to meddle in the UK’s elections. The use of data analytics and psychological profiling to target people on social media with political content, has had a profound political impact, but it remains largely unappreciated. Political campaigning has shifted from being a public process to being a private, personalised series of micro-monitoring strategies, enabled by access to the apparatus and mechanisms of surveillance capitalism. It’s a process that has led to the government regarding citizens as a means to an end – that being simply maintaining power, upholding the status quo.

The Snowden leaks in 2013 concerning GCHQ and the NSA’s covert activities made controversial headlines around the world. GCHQ’s stated aim was to compile a profile of the internet habits of every user on the web.  The Investigatory Powers Act, commonly known as the “snooper’s charter, permits the security and intelligence agencies legal authority to acquire personal datasets from technology companies in bulk, and the UK government is reported to be exploring an agreement with the US that would give British intelligence agencies better access to these databases.

Data sharing between surveillance companies and state security and intelligence agencies is well established. In the US, tech companies have been forced to hand over data about their users to the NSA for some time. When Yahoo refused, they were threatened with a $250,000 fine, every day, with the fine doubling every week that their non-compliance continued, faced with the prospect of financial ruin, they acquiesced.

Clearly, monitoring and surveillance practices have changed the relationship between the citizen and the state, shifting the balance of power and distorting democracy.

It cannot be right for either private companies or governments to use citizens as Pavlovian dogs. Such personalised psychological persuasive strategies seriously undermine the human autonomy that is central to human dignity and democracy.  

Related

 Documents of the “Integrity Initiative” Part 4  – Anonymous (4 January 2019)

The chilling manipulations of the Institute for Statecraft are straight out of the cold war playbook – Chris Williamson, Morning Star Online

Social media is being used to stage manage our democracy using nudgebased strategies

Disinformation and ‘fake news’: Interim Repor–  House of Commons
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee 

The Art of Deception: Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations – The Intercept

Controversial GCHQ Unit Engaged in Domestic Law Enforcement, Online Propaganda, Psychology Research – Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman

The government hired several murky companies plying the same methods as Cambridge Analytica in their election campaign


 

I don’t make any money from my work. I have a very limited income. But you can help if you like, by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others affected by the Conservative’s welfare ‘reforms’. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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The Conservatives really can’t read simple graphs

The Conservatives clearly need some lessons in how to read graphs. Well it’s either that or they have  become extremely at ease with gaslighting the UK public, editing our collective perceptions, accounts, experiences and social history, while presenting evidence that contradicts their lies, unabashed. 

Last week I reported Dominic Raab’s  oblivion to the fact that despite his grand claims that wages were rising faster than they did over the last decade (most of which featured a Conservative government), the graph he posted as evidence actually demonstrated that real wages are lower today than 10 years ago, when Labour were in office. After being mocked a lot, he subsequently deleted his rather foolish Tweet. 


Now James Cleverly is at it. It’s curious that he also presents the evidence that his headline is fake news:

me cleverlyaide cleverly

 

I wonder when Cleverly – who really should change his surname to ‘Sillysausagerly’ or even ‘pork pies’ – will delete the evidence of his foolish moment?

He claims he could clearly read Jeremy Corbyn’s lips in parliament last week too.

But he seems incapable of recognising what is right in front of him.

I deeply suspect he was being Conservative with the truth yet again.

 


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My furious response to Helen Whately’s malicious communication asking me to join the Tory party

Image result for helen whatley

Helen Whatley

I was absolutely shocked and appalled to receive the following targeted and malicious Integrity Initiative styled strategic communication from the Conservative party:

From: Helen Whately MP, Conservative Party Vice Chair, Women
Sent: 20 December 2018 00:50
To: suejones
Subject: Don’t stand for thisTory psyop 1

Ordinarily I write fairly measured, factual and challenging responses when the Conservatives have previously contacted me. However I am far too angry on this occasion to be polite.

Here is my rapid response: 

No. I wont be standing for this.

How DARE you send this utter crap to my inbox. Firstly, it was ALLEGED that the leader of HM’s opposition made that comment. My friend is deaf and can lip read extremely well. He says that Jeremy Corbyn mumbled “stupid people”. I scrutinised the video footage and agree that he said he did say “stupid people”. Other people who can lip read on social media have said the same. Your party’s orchestrated outrage and howling spite was completely wasted on me.

Your own party’s behaviour was an absolutely disgusting and disrespectful pantomime in parliament, with MPs and Ministers mocking, howling and braying like uncouth, malicious barnyard animals, as usual. You behaved in fact exactly like very authoritarian and stupid people.

I made my own mind up, so you’re wasting your time trying to make it up for me. Here is my own view of the Conservatives’ latest dead cat strategy, along with that of one surprisingly reasonable Conservative MP: https://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2018/12/19/a-conservative-mp-defends-jeremy-corbyn-as-he-responds-to-conservatives-dead-cat-strategy-allegations-of-sexism/

As for your claims about female employment, and wages, I made my own mind up about that too, by looking at the empirical evidence, and your claims are utter rubbish: https://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2018/12/13/about-the-governments-claims-on-real-wages-being-the-highest-since-2011/

That is why the ONS and statistical authority has constantly had need to officially rebuke this government for telling lies and misusing statistical data.

This is not the kind of action that I would expect from a party that was principled and genuinely fighting sexism: Tories reinstate MPs suspended over sex allegations for confidence vote: Labour calls restoration of Andrew Griffiths and Charlie Elphicke ‘betrayal of women’. 

Nor would I expect a genuinely principled party fighting sexism to impose the 2 child policy, the rape clause, the condition that social security is paid to one person in a household – usually males – rather than being split to protect women and children from potentially abusive partners.

You know, people can actually see the chasmic gap between what you say you do and what you actually do. Feigned principles fool no one for long.

Just so you know, I will NEVER join the Tory party, particularly after the way I have witnessed how you have treated ill and disabled people, because of YOUR party’s vile, punitive, patronising and despicably mean spirited policies. Many people worked for years and contributed to the Treasury until they couldn’t any more, and then got treated as if they are some kind of fraud just for becoming seriously ill. Welfare is not your money to cut: social security is paid for by the public FOR the public. 

It was intended as a system of support and protection from absolute poverty, not a system to administer punishment based on traditional Tory prejudices. Or as a source of pocket money for millionaires.

I’ll be voting Labour. Stick your spin “bulletin”, your rotten dead cat strategy and rehearsed strategic comms. where the sun doesn’t shine and rotate it all. Don’t ever insult my intelligence with rubbish like this ever again.

I will be reporting this strategic, profoundly undemocratic and malicious communication, by the way, to the Electoral Commission and other relevant agencies. 

Sincerely.

PS. Your email to me, a long standing Labour party member and campaigner, was almost as big a balls-up as this one:  Tories apologise after couple receive letter addressed to ‘Mr Youmustbe F******joking’.

 


 

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A Conservative MP defends Jeremy Corbyn as he responds to Conservative’s dead cat strategy – allegations of ‘sexism’

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was accused of calling Prime Minister Theresa May a “stupid woman” in parliament today. 

Corbyn was seen after the alleged event on parliamentary footage muttering after he sat down following an exchange with a particularly vindictive May at the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session during which she peevishly mocked him for not calling a vote of confidence in the government, turning the debate quite literally into utterly disrespectful pantomime.

A number of Conservative MPs demanded that Speaker of the House John Bercow  intervened but he refused, stating that he hadn’t heard Corbyn utter the alleged phrase. That resulted in Conservative MP and Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom aggressively critcising Bercow, saying the speaker had not apologised for calling her a “stupid woman” earlier in the year. 

Some of the media claimed that ‘lip speakers’ said Corbyn had said “stupid woman”. The BBC said that this was unanimously agreed among lip readers. However it isn’t:

alison

Corbyn stated: “I referred to those who I believe were seeking to turn a debate about the national crisis facing our country into a pantomime as ‘stupid people’,’ he said. ‘I did not use the words ‘stupid woman’ about the Prime Minister or anyone else, and am completely opposed to the use of sexist or misogynist language in absolutely any form at all.”

It’s very true that the Conservatives, taking their cue from the prime minister, turned PMQs into an utterly disrespectful, diversionary and vindictive pantomime, complete with the usual spiteful smirks, and barn yard braying that the Conservatives have normalised in the Commons . You can see the clip of the pantomime here 

Professional lip readers have been divided on what they think he said.

Desmond Swayne MP

One Conservative MP, Desmond Swayne, has actually defended Corbyn, saying that condemning what an MP might have said under their breath is entering the “realms of thought crime”.

He said: “What unnerved me was the enthusiasm with which colleagues preyed-in-aid the skills of lip-readers to work out exactly what he said.

“I sometimes whisper things under my breath: They are my private thoughts, perhaps to be shared with a close neighbour only, that’s why I whisper them rather than stating them out loud for the record.

“The notion that we should be watched by lip-readers to see what we are whispering, so that we can be hauled before the authorities (in this case Mr Speaker), is deeply worrying.

“This is dangerous territory: we are on a slippery slope to the ‘thought crime’ of which George Orwell so eloquently warned in his novel 1984. We should make it compulsory New Year reading for all MPs.”

I thought the Conservatives were actually using 1984 as a manual.

Swayne is right. No-one in the media seems worried that a man mumbling something  to himself that no-one actually heard warrants the authoritarian response of employing lip readers to police the thoughts and quiet mutterings of the leader of the opposition. The abuse and rudeness he has to confront day after day in the Commons is conveniently ignored, of course. Shame on the majority of mainstream media outlets for printing from the Tory PR crib sheet without question.

Around 200 Tory MPs clamoured to make a point of order, amid howls of outrage and shrieked demands for an apology.

It’s extraordinary that the government have become the first in the UK to be found in contempt of parliament, they have systematically avoided accountability, they have conducted Commons debates behaving disruptively, maliciously, without decorum, showing the utmost disrespect towards opposition parties and the general public. 

The Labour leader’s spokesman had said afterwards that Corbyn had said ‘stupid people’, referring generally to Conservative MPs who were not taking the issues being debated seriously. That’s an understatement, the Conservatives were behaving as they usually do, as vindictive, baying barn yard bullies.

He said he had confirmed the word spoken with the Labour leader personally, adding: “He did not call her a stupid woman and so I don’t think there’s any basis for an apology.” before adding the following insightful words: “Anyone interested in the crisis facing the country?”

It’s a dead cat

Dead cat strategy refers to the introduction of a dramatic, shocking, or sensationalist topic to divert discourse away from a more damaging topic. Not to be confused with Wag the Dog, which is a 1997 black comedy film where a spin doctor and a Hollywood producer fabricate a war to distract voters from a presidential sex scandal. It was produced and directed by Barry Levinson. Wag the Dog was released one month before the outbreak of the Lewinsky scandal and the subsequent bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan by the Clinton administration in August 1998, which prompted the media to draw comparisons between the film and reality. The comparison was made again in December 1998 when the administration initiated a bombing campaign of Iraq just prior to Clinton’s impeachment over the Lewinsky scandal.

Diversionary strategies are just what the term implies: tactics used to try to derail and silence an argument rather than address it. It’s a somewhat overused strategy by the Tories, it typically involves diverting the discussion by attempting to aggressively shame an opponent or critic complete with complicit crib sheeted multiple media echoes and variations of “Shame on you”. 

Raise the issue of racism, and the Conservatives will call you racist. Highlight some example of bullying and you are ‘the real bully’. Express concern about low wages for the working majority and you are accused of waging ‘class warfare’. Black is white, up is down, and nowhere does this actually make sense.

The Conservatives have become masters of public spin campaigns to distract or neutralise legitimate debate about issues.

 


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Emily Thornberry’s letter about the Integrity Initiative’s propaganda initiative

I recently wrote an article related to the tweet above, about the covert government-funded unit which has been systematically and strategically attacking the official opposition, seriously undermining democracy in the UK.  

Last month (5 November), Anonymous Europe obtained a large number of documents relating to the activities of the ‘Integrity Initiative’ project, which was launched back in autumn, 2015. The project is funded by the British government and has been established by the Institute for Statecraft.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that the hack has had zero substantive coverage in the UK, US or European press since a number of journalists were also implicated in playing a role to fulfil the project’s aims, but it was picked up by Russian media. 

The Institute for Statecraft is affiliated with the NATO HQ Public Diplomacy Division and the Home Office-funded ‘Prevent’ programme, among other things. Statecraft’s Security Economics director, Dr Shima D Keene, collaborated with John A. S. Ardis on a paper about information warfare. Anonymous published the documents, which have unearthed the massive UK-led psyop to create a ‘large-scale information secret service’ in Europe, the US and Canada.

The declared goal of the project is to “counteract Russian propaganda” and Moscow’s hybrid warfare (a military strategy that employs political warfare and blends conventional warfare, ‘irregular’ warfare and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods, such as fake news, diplomacy, lawfare and foreign electoral intervention). 

The Integrity Initiative consists of representatives of political, military, academic and journalistic communities with the think tank in London at the head of it.

On 26 November, Integrity Initiative published a statement on the Russian media coverage of the hack. In it they said:

“The Integrity Initiative was set up in autumn 2015 by The Institute for Statecraft in cooperation with the Free University of Brussels (VUB) to bring to the attention of politicians, policy-makers, opinion leaders and other interested parties the threat posed by Russia to democratic institutions in the United Kingdom, across Europe and North America.”

“The Integrity Initiative aims to unite people who understand the threat, in order to provide a coordinated Western response to Russian disinformation and other elements of hybrid warfare.”

In the wake of the leaks, which also detail Government grant applications, the Foreign Office have been forced to confirm they provided massive funding to the Integrity Initiative.

In response to a parliamentary question by Chris Williamson, Europe Minister Alan Duncan said: “In financial year 2017-18, the FCO funded the Institute for Statecraft’s Integrity Initiative £296,500.

“This financial year, the FCO are funding a further £1,961,000. Both have been funded through grant agreements.” 

Apparently, the Institute launched the Integrity Initiative in 2015 to “defend democracy against disinformation.” However, the evidence uncovered strongly suggests that it’s rather more of an attempt to defend disinformation against democracy.   

In the Commons yesterday, Emily Thornberry asked Alan Duncan why taxpayers money had been used by the so-called ‘Integrity Initiative’ to disseminate political attacks [on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party] from its Twitter site.

Duncan insisted that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) funding did not support the Integrity Initiative’s Twitter operation, which raises some interesting questions. See Thornberry’s letter demanding answers below:


I’m very much looking forward to the response.


 

I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you. 

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Damian Hinds rebuked for misusing statistics and being conservative with the truth

The statistics watchdog today issued a stern rebuke to Damian Hinds (pictured last week at the Tory Party conference in Birmingham) accusing his department of misleading the public over school funding and standards

Education Secretary David Hinds’ careful use of numbers doesn’t add up

The chair of the UK’s statistics watchdog has written to education secretary Damian Hinds for the fourth time this year, raising “serious concerns” about his department’s use of school funding statistics.

The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) launched an investigation into the Department for Education over a minister’s claim that it was spending “record amounts” on school funding, after it emerged that the figures included billions of pounds of university and private school fees.

The figures cited by the DfE and school standards minister Nick Gibb, in defending the government’s spending on education, included the money paid out by university students on tuition fees and money that parents spent on private school fees.

Sir David Norgrove, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, wrote to Hinds this morning, chastising him for repeatedly using misleading statistics to support misleading claims.

Hetan Shah, CEO of the Royal Statistical Society, described the rebuke as “blistering”, and said it was “amazing” for Sir David to send such a letter to a minister. 

“Extraordinary that [the Uk Statistical Authority] has felt it necessary to seek the secretary of state’s reassurance that his department remains committed to the statutory code of practice for statistics and, secondary that [the DfE] will start behaving in a manner that ‘does not mislead’,” he tweeted. 

The row erupted last week after the DfE and Gibb cited figures saying that the UK was the third-highest spender on education as a proportion of economic output in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of wealthy nations.

His comments came after more than 2,000 headteachers marched to Downing Street to protest at funding cuts. Headteachers also accused the government of eroding trust. Jules White, the head of Tanbridge House school in West Sussex and leader of the Worth Less? group, which has lobbied for fairer funding, said: “Parents and the wider public have a right to know the facts and the government cannot have it both ways; you cannot slash our budgets and then pretend all’s well. 

“The constant use of misinformation is placing an intolerable strain on headteachers’ relationships with the DfE. Trust is being eroded. We respectfully request the DfE to publicly set the record straight and, much more crucially, work with the chancellor to make a real-terms investment in our schools in the upcoming budget. ”

Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “If trust goes, there is little left for the profession to hold on to. Failing to face up to the truth will cheat an entire generation. The chancellor must now step up and rescue education funding. It is in the national interest.”

Mary Bousted, joint leader of the NEU teaching union, branded the DfE’s use of figures as “appalling.”  

Hinds has defended the department’s use of figures today in a letter to the Statistics Authority, and pledged to work closely with it to ensure that “all departmental statistics to be both factually accurate and used in the right context”.

The shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, said the UKSA letter represented a “humiliating rebuke” for Conservative ministers and called on the government to come clean over the crisis in school funding.

The intervention by the UKSA follows a row last week over a claim by the DfE and the schools standards minister, Nick Gibb, that the UK’s spending on education was the third highest in the world.

Complaints were made to the UKSA after it emerged in a BBC report that the OECD figures on which the claim was based included university student tuition fees as well as fees paid by private school pupils.

Hinds wrote to MPs over the weekend defending his department’s claims, but following its investigation, the UKSA ruled the figure “included a wide range of education expenditure unrelated to publicly funded schools … rather than a comparison of school spending alone. 

The result was to give a more favourable picture. Yet the context would clearly lead readers to expect that the figures referred to spending on schools

An accompanying letter by Ed Humpherson, UKSA’s director general for regulation, to the DfE’s chief statistician piled on the criticism.

“The way statistics have been presented gives a potentially misleading picture of changes in schools funding,” he wrote. “It is important that the department present statistics and data professionally and I encourage you to continue to work with communication teams to minimise the risk of misleading the public.”

The UKSA complained about a DfE tweet on school funding featuring a graph with a truncated axis which had the effect of “exaggerating” school spending figures. The information was also presented in cash terms rather than real terms.

It also criticised Gibb’s claim that in an international survey of reading abilities of nine-year-olds, England had leaped up the rankings last year after decades of falling standards, moving from 19th out of 50 countries to 8th. “This is not correct,” Norgrove pointed out. “Figures published last year show the increase was from 10th place in 2011 to 8th place in 2016.”

The UKSA also ruled on a complaint from shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, about the DfE’s oft-repeated claim that there were now “1.9 million more young people studying in good or outstanding schools”. The authority said the figure did not give a full picture and should be set in the context of increasing pupil numbers, changes to the inspection framework and out-of-date inspections.

“I am sure you share my concerns that instances such as these do not help to promote trust and confidence in official data, and indeed risk undermining them,” said David Norgrove.

The education secretary responded to the UKSA saying his department was “looking into the precise issues raised” but he went on to largely defend the disputed claims.

Here are both letters:

Header

The Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP
Secretary of State for Education
(via email)

8 October 2018

Dear Secretary of State

I am writing to raise with you serious concerns about the Department for Education’s presentation and use of statistics. 

The UK Statistics Authority has had cause to publicly write to the Department with concerns on four occasions in the past year. 1 

I regret that the Department does not yet appear to have resolved issues with its use of statistics. Last week, the Minister of State for School Standards wrote that, in an international survey of reading abilities of nine-year-olds, England “leapfrogged up the rankings last year, after decades of falling standards, going from 19th out of 50 countries to 8th.”2. This is not correct. Figures published last year show the increase was from 10th place in 2011 to 8th place in 2016. 

My attention has also been drawn to a recent tweet and blog issued by the Department regarding education funding. 3 As the Authority’s Director General for Regulation has noted in a letter to the Department today, figures were presented in such a way as to misrepresent changes in school funding. In the tweet, school spending figures were exaggerated by using a truncated axis, and by not adjusting for per pupil spend. In the blog about government funding of schools (which I note your Department has now updated), an international comparison of spend which included a wide range of education expenditure unrelated to publicly funded schools was used, rather than a comparison of school spending alone. The result was to give a more favourable picture. Yet the context would clearly lead readers to expect that the figures referred to spending on schools. 

The Shadow Secretary of State for Education has written to express concerns about your use of a figure that appears to show a substantial increase in the number of children in high performing schools, as judged by OFSTED. While accurate as far as it goes, this figure does not give a full picture. It should be set in the context of increasing pupil numbers, changes to the inspection framework and some inspections that are now long in the past, as an earlier letter to the Department from the Office of Statistics Regulation pointed out. 

I am sure you share my concerns that instances such as these do not help to promote trust and confidence in official data, and indeed risk undermining them.

I seek your reassurance that the Department remains committed to the principles and practices defined in the statutory Code of Practice for Statistics. In particular, I urge the Department to involve the analysts closely in the development of its communications, to ensure that data are properly presented in a way that does not mislead. 

I have asked the Authority’s Director-General for Regulation, Ed Humpherson to speak with Jonathan Slater, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education, and to Neil McIvor, Head of Profession for Statistics at the Department for Education, about what the Department might do to improve its practice. 

I am copying this letter to the Minister of State for School Standards, to Mr Slater and Mr McIvor, and to John Pullinger, the National Statistician. 

  Yours sincerely
Sir David
  Sir David Norgrove

1 Letter from Ed Humpherson to Head of Profession (March 2018) National Pupil Database Access
Letter from Sir David Norgrove to Shadow Secretary of State for Education (March 2018), School Funding
Letter from Ed Humpherson to Head of Profession (January 2018) International Reading Literacy Study
Letter from Ed Humpherson to Jonathan Slater (November 2017) Department for Education breaches of the Code of Practice

2 The Telegraph (27 September 2018): Our whizzpopping phonics revolution is transforming literacy in schools
3 Department for Education (28 September 2018): Tweet regarding school funding
Department for Education (28 September 2018): Education in the Media: Funding

 

response
Dear David,

Thank you for your letter. 

I appreciate you drawing your concerns to my attention and very much welcome the work by the UKSA to ensure communication of statistics across Government meets the highest standards. We are keen to work closely with the UKSA and we want all departmental statistics to be both factually accurate and used in the right context.

We are looking into the precise issues that you raise, and the Permanent Secretary will write to the UKSA shortly with a more detailed response. It may be helpful though to respond on the points of substance, including for the public including for the public
record.

Taking funding first – we need to be clear about different types of funding and spending. However, several statistics in the OECD’s 2018 report comparing expenditure in 2015 (which as you know are the latest comparative data published by the OECD) demonstrate the UK as being among the higher spenders on education at primary and secondary level, whether you look at spend as a share of GDP, spend as a share of government spending or spend per pupil. It is true to say that the OECD has ranked the UK as the third highest for total education spending – the figure which includes tertiary and private education for every country. A more direct statistic about school spending
specifically is that among G7 nations the UK government spent the highest percentage of its GDP on institutions delivering primary and secondary education.

On overall school funding, core funding is rising to £43.5bn by 2019-20. Of course, I recognise that pupil numbers are rising, we are asking schools to do more and schools are facing cost pressures. I am on record setting this out with a range of different audiences and agree that context is important.

Moving on to the survey of reading abilities, it is true to say that we have achieved our highest score in PIRLS since it first began in 2001 – in 2016 we were placed joint 8th. We agree that we could have been clearer that the improvement from 19th to 8th was between 2006 and 2016. We have put a great deal of emphasis on the teaching of phonics, introducing the phonics screening check in 2012, and since then many more six year olds are on track to be fluent readers.

Regarding the 1.9m statistic, I believe it is important to establish that the proportion of children in schools whose last Ofsted judgement was Good or Outstanding has risen from 66% in 2010 to 86% in March 2018; to make this more intelligible we tend to use the number of children rather than a percentage figure – hence we express it as 1.9m more children in Good or Outstanding schools. 

Our methodology is published at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/children-in-good-or-outstandingschools-august-2018As you know, Ofsted use a range of triggers for a reinspection, such as an unexpected fall in exam performance.

Naturally we want to ensure we always present those factually accurate statements, and all others, in line with your Code of Practice for Statistics and I look forward to working with your team further on that. More widely, in the interests of making sure the public debate is well-informed, I hope that others who produce and use statistics which become regularly cited will also aspire to the highest standards of data integrity, and that the UKSA can play a role in challenging where data could easily be open to misinterpretation.

Thank you once again and please be assured of my, and my department’s, continued commitment to working with you on the integrity of statistics and informing the public debate.

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Related

A list of official rebukes for Tory lies

Esther Mcvey forced to apologise for being conservative with the truth

It’s truly priceless that Iain Duncan Smith can accuse anyone of misrepresenting statistics with a straight face.

 


 

I don’t make any money from my work. I’m disabled through illness and on a very low income. But you can make a donation to help me continue to research and write free, informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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