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The Hard Left’s last gasp for power: tracing Jeremy Corbyn’s revolutionary socialism since 9/11

May 1, 1928 Communists in London celebrating May Day.

 

News that Andrew Murray, a “longstanding communist party member who joined Labour in December”, is running the Labour Party’s General Election campaign raises eyebrows. The Hard Left have taken over Labour.

Paul Anderson and Kevin Davey, authors of Moscow Gold: The Soviet Union And The British Left, look at UK’s Leninists since 9/11, and ask “if life in the mainstream will make or break revolutionary socialism”:

 

1. What is to be done?

By the end of the 1990s, to most observers of the British left, the Leninist era seemed to have come to an end. The Socialist Workers Party, quasi-Trotskyist and owner of a competent offset press in east London, still had some life about it, but not a lot. The Scottish Socialist Party – essentially the renegade Glasgow office of the Trotskyist Militant Tendency, which had been expelled by Labour in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with SWP and independent barnacles hanging on – had some support in urban western Scotland. And the hardline Communist Party of Britain, the main Stalinist splinter from the ‘official’ Communist Party of Great Britain (which had given up the ghost in 1991, 70 years after its launch with a giant subvention from Moscow), was still influential in a few trade unions. The CPB still had a daily paper, the Morning Star, though hardly anyone read it any more.

This is what Leninism had dwindled to, unless you also count the aloof cadre at New Left Review or the machinations of mayor of London Ken Livingstone’s office, in both of which veterans of another Trotskyist outfit, the International Marxist Group, latterly Socialist Action, had key roles. New Left Review a dry bi-monthly theoretical journal, had gone through several changes of tack since its 1960s and 1970s IMG-dominated heyday (if that’s the word), but the onetime followers of the Trotskyist guru Ernest Mandel – most notably Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn, were still very much on board. Livingstone had a later generation of IMGers in key staff positions, among them John Ross as chief economic adviser and Simon Fletcher as chief of staff. Mood music for this embattled rump was provided by the occasional jeremiad in the comment pages of the Guardian and in the London Review of Books.

On the best estimate, the membership of all the Leninist groups at the turn of the millennium totalled no more than 6,000 – of whom perhaps one-third were active.

Most were in the SWP, the CPB or Militant’s successor groups, with a few hundred scattered among more esoteric fractions, some of them crazy but most of them deadly dull: Socialist Action, so deeply embedded in the Labour hard left that even members found it difficult to distinguish themselves from centrist trade-union bureaucrats; the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, previously Socialist Organiser, notable for picking ideological fights on foreign policy with everyone else and then claiming to be victimised; the group that had once been the Revolutionary Communist Party, a slightly unorthodox Trotskyist group, but after a series of baffling changes of political direction under a variety of names was in the process of launching Sp!ked, a website devoted to provocative libertarianism; the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee), a weird sect that had emerged from a Stalinist fraction in the Turkish Communist Party and had spent most of the 1990s engaged in litigation over former assets of the real CPGB – fighting for flats above chip shops in Dagenham – but had also set up Weekly Worker, an entertaining newspaper, largely online, devoted to left sectarian quibbling.

Few would have predicted any kind of revival for the Leninist fragments. Yet that is what happened in the early years of the new century. The starting point was the creation of an electoral coalition to fight the 2001 general election against Tony Blair’s Labour government, the Socialist Alliance, by the SWP and the English successor-group to Militant, the Socialist Party of England and Wales (the unfortunately acronymed SPEW). Blair, said the comrades, had traded the promise of socialism for a destructive neoliberalism: it was time for a new left initiative. The SA attracted a few independents and started brightly, but got nowhere. All the same, the experience gave the SWP, with John Rees and Lindsey German at the helm, a taste for working with other organisations it not had for more than 20 years – even though they’d decided that SPEW wasn’t exactly an ideal partner.

Then came 9/11 – and everything changed.

 

2. War and peace

The destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center by Islamist terrorists on 11 September 2001 had a disorienting effect on the British left. A brief, shocked silence was rapidly followed by attempts to make sense of the outrage. On the Leninist left and among its sympathisers the narrative that it was payback for American imperialism in the Middle East was quick to emerge. The “root cause” of the attack was not Islamist fanaticism, they argued, but crusader power – US support for Israel, the punitive sanctions imposed on Iraq after the 1991 war against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, arms sales to Saudi Arabia, exploitation of the region’s oil. The British government was on the side of the imperialists – and it was crucial that the imperialists were defeated. (This is Lenin’s doctrine of “revolutionary defeatism”, developed in World War I, according to which the left in any country engaged in an imperialist war should support the defeat of its “own” ruling class in order to bring on the revolution.)

The analysis was simplistic and met deserved scorn from many left and liberal critics, but after Blair’s decision to support US military intervention in Afghanistan, the knee-jerk anti-imperialism of the Leninists gained a wider hearing. The SWP went all-out for the most opportunist popular front ever. The minuscule party – with an unstable membership of less than 2,000 – ditched SPEW and the Socialist Alliance to set up the Stop the War Coalition, with the aim of attracting the mosques to the anti-imperialist cause. It soon became an alliance of Trotskyist and Stalinist Leninists and the Islamists of the Muslim Association of Britain, with a sprinkling of Labour leftists (among them Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell), Greens, anarchists, CND (by now controlled by the hard left), Scottish and Welsh nationalists and Liberal Democrats.

Opposing the Blair government’s political and military support for the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001-02 was not popular: overturning the Taliban and catching Osama bin Laden were objectives shared by an overwhelming majority of Britons. But opposing Blair’s subsequent backing for the US invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein was different. The 9/11 link to Saddam was, to say the least, not persuasive – and the official rationale for the invasion shifted suspiciously from Saddam’s support for terror to weapons of mass destruction. Taking out Saddam by force seemed a massive risk. US President George Bush appeared to be preparing for an intervention that was at best opportunist, half-thought-through and dangerous – and Blair seemed to be tagging along uncritically. It was more complex than that, but Stop the War, with the SWP firmly in command and the CPB playing a key supporting role, found itself in the position of being the only organisation in place with the means to mobilise popular opposition to war. Its high point was the 15 February 2003 demonstration in London against intervention in Iraq, which attracted perhaps 1 million people.

It would be ludicrous to claim that many of the 15 February demonstrators were signed-up Leninists. But the Stop the War organisers and spokespeople for the movement for the most part were: Rees and German from the SWP; the organisation’s chair, Andrew Murray, a leading figure in the Stalinist Straight Left fraction of the 1970s and 1980s (a bizarre secretive group that operated both in the CPGB and the Labour Party), who had become a member of the CPB central committee and an official for the train drivers’ union Aslef; the Labour MP George Galloway (expelled from the party in autumn 2003 for bringing Labour into disrepute after calling on British troops to refuse to obey orders); Kate Hudson, chair of CND and a member of the CPB. And they had media support too – most importantly from the comment editor of the Guardian, Seumas Milne, another veteran of Straight Left.

The Leninist-Islamist alliance (minus most of the Labour hard left and the CPB, at least formally, but backed by many conservative Muslims) was subsequently the basis for a new electoral party, Respect (Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community, and Trade Unionism). German failed miserably as its candidate against Ken Livingstone in the 2004 London mayoral election; but Galloway won Bethnal Green and Bow on a Respect ticket in the 2005 general election. The Scottish Socialist Party, without Islamist support, also did well in the 2003 Scottish Parliament election, winning six seats.

The Leninist revival was, however, patchy and short-lived. It bore the seeds of its own destruction in the blurring of aspirations required by the anti-war popular front: deference both to Muslim moral conservatism and to Scottish nationalism north of the border.

Despite their organisational zeal and campaigning efforts, the micro-parties recruited fewer new members from Stop the War than they had expected, and the new recruits, though often as ardent and narrow-minded as any “class-against-class” communist of the early 1930s, chafed at the bit of party discipline.

While the high-ups in the SWP and CPB engaged in the Stop the War love-in with Islamists, pacifists, Greens, the Scottish National Party and the traditional Labour hard left, undermining their own arguments for a distinctive revolutionary party, the narcissism of small differences disorganised the movement on the ground – where it was amplified by articulate (if hardly independent-minded) novices radicalised by campus identity politics.

The Leninists’ embrace of Islamism was particularly problematic: if everyone could agree that Islamophobia was bad and it was easy enough for Galloway and leftist intellectuals to declare anti-imperialist solidarity with Islamists, the culture clash between Leninist and Islamist anti-imperialisms could not be avoided in campaigning activity, particularly where the rights of women and gay people were at stake. Meanwhile, in Scotland, the Leninist left could not find a narrative to rival that of the SNP.

3. Splitters!

In Scotland, the SSP’s Tommy Sheridan never got into bed with Galloway and Respect – in part because there was little in the way of Muslim radicalism in Scotland with which to ally – but the News of the World reported in 2006 that he had taken part in orgies at a dodgy sex club in Manchester. He sued the paper for libel and won damages, but his account of his actions was at odds with what he had told his SSP comrades, and he was soon charged with perjury for lying in court. Sheridan’s economy with the truth led to the SSP imploding: it lost all representation in Holyrood in 2007 as its followers transferred their support to the SNP, which became for the first time the largest party in the Scottish parliament. Sheridan was convicted of perjury and jailed in 2010.

In England and Wales, growing tensions between Galloway and the SWP – largely over the role of Islamists – led to a spectacular split in RESPECT. Rees and German were off-loaded by the SWP in 2009-10 and set up a website in lieu of a party, Counterfire, which adopted political positions barely distinguishable from those of the traditional Labour hard left except for its empathy for radical Islam, Iran and Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Galloway, who made a fool of himself in the reality-TV Celebrity Big Brother in early 2006, abandoned Bethnal Green and Bow and then failed to become the MP for Poplar and Limehouse in 2010. SPEW, the CPB and the RMT railworkers’ union set up No2EU as a left-Eurosceptic electoral alliance for the 2009 European Parliament elections: it secured less than 1 per cent of the vote. SPEW’s next initiative, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (supported by the SWP and RMT but not the CPB), stood in the 2010 general election but lost all its deposits with a similar, stubbornly insignificant, share of the vote.

Meanwhile, the Trotskyists in Ken Livingstone’s office received big pay-offs after he lost the London mayoral election in 2008. By then, only train-spotters could tell they remained Trotskyists, so deeply had they subsumed their identity in that of Labour’s hard left and Livingstone’s enthusiasm for attracting inward investment by giant global corporations.

Things got little better for the groupuscules after Labour’s general election defeat in 2010. Galloway made a spectacular comeback to win a by-election victory as a Respect candidate in Bradford West in 2012. But he did this without much Leninist support: his electoral base in Bradford was almost entirely Muslim, communal and largely conservative. The SWP went into meltdown when the leadership mishandled allegations of rape against one of their number, a nasty affair that lost the party nearly all of the members it had recruited during the Stop the War campaign.

The film-maker Ken Loach and others – many of them, like him, formerly of the Workers Revolutionary Party, once the biggest Trotskyist group in Britain but utterly discredited in the mid-1980s when its leader, Gerry Healy, was accused of serial sexual assaults – set up Left Unity, a supposedly new party which was not explicitly Leninist, though most of the members it attracted were old-left Leninist has-beens. Unsurprisingly, it failed to get off the ground.

TUSC staggered on, failing to win local council seats, and No2EU did even worse in the 2014 European elections than it had in 2009. Slightly more in tune with the times, Counterfire, the CPB and others opened a second popular front – the People’s Assembly Against Austerity – bringing together Labour, Green and trade union leftists, among them Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Despite its large meetings and occasional demonstrations, it had little public impact.

These false starts and falterings are not the whole story. The Leninist micro-parties may have got nowhere in 2010-15, but after the collapse of the SSP and RESPECT many individual Leninists, drawing on the hard-left networks in which they had embedded themselves, did much better in the trade union bureaucracies.

 4. Part of the union

Assisted by the apathy of members and the complacency of their opponents – while building on the alliances forged in Stop the War and local campaigns – the hard left won several key positions, elected and appointed, on top of the handful it already held. The most important victory came in 2010. Unite, the giant general union born of a series of mergers with the TGWU, elected Len McCluskey as general secretary on a 15 per cent turnout. McCluskey, a self-declared former-supporter of Militant in Liverpool (although he was never a member and is much more a product of the 1970s CPGB union machine than of Trotskyism), won against a candidate supported by the SWP and other Leninists. He appointed Andrew Murray of the CPB and Stop the War as his chief of staff.

Over the next five years the hard left in the unions huffed and puffed, complaining that Ed Miliband, who they’d backed in 2010 for the Labour leadership, was a great disappointment. In 2013 there was a major falling-out between Miliband and McCluskey after complaints that Unite was trying to fix the Labour parliamentary selection in Falkirk. Miliband’s response to the unions throwing their weight around in internal Labour politics was a change to the party’s leadership election rules. In 2014, he eliminated the formal role of trade unions in the electoral college that had chosen Labour leaders since 1983: members of Labour-affiliated unions and registered supporters were given a vote in party leadership elections with the same weight as that of a standard full member.

Hardly anyone objected. The commentariat saw the move as Miliband taking on the union bosses in a new drive for “modernisation”. But Unite and others saw the change as an opportunity – and in 2015, after Labour lost the general election, the chickens came home to roost.

Unite and Leninist-influenced hard left networks in the unions played a significant role in the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Their intervention was mostly indirect. Unions in which the hard left was dominant splashed cash for propaganda and funded phone banks. Unite in particular invested heavily in the Corbyn campaign.

This support was contested and appears to have been grudging – McCluskey wanted to back Andy Burnham but was overturned by his executive. Corbyn’s leadership campaign director was Simon Fletcher, a longtime Socialist Action stalwart who had served as Ken Livingstone’s chief of staff before taking up a similar role with Corbyn. Activists from the People’s Assembly Against Austerity played an important part in organising public meetings for the Corbyn campaign, as did the Labour Representation Committee, a parallel initiative set up in 2004 that brought together the remnants of the Leninist left in the Labour Party and the unions that had survived two decades of expulsions of entryists.

Both the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and the LRC consider that Leninist parties should be allowed to operate freely inside Labour, and members of both – along with activists from TUSC and other far-left operations – have enthusiastically signed up to Momentum, the continuity Corbyn leadership campaign set up by his campaign manager Jon Lansman, a veteran of the early-1980s Bennite left who is a key player in the LRC.

As far as anyone knows, Corbyn himself never joined one of the Leninist groups, but throughout his political life he has drawn on their support and ideas. He basked in the political milieu they dominated, and was heavily involved in campaigns in which Stalinists and Trotskyists played major if not defining roles – the Chile Solidarity Campaign, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Liberation, Labour CND, Stop the War, the Labour Representation Committee and many more.

 

May 1, 1936 May Day Communist demonstration in Hyde Park, London.

 5. Imperial lather

More importantly, Leninist anti-imperialism continues to play a central role in shaping his thinking on foreign affairs: if there’s any guiding principle to Corbynism, it’s that the west – in other words, the US and the other “imperialist powers” – is always wrong. The west is by definition imperialist, whatever the aims or impact of its policies, from humanitarian intervention to regime change, from economic development to trade agreement, from the extension of democracy and human rights to formal alliances between states.

In this world, any opposition to the west that arises on the ground is understandable whatever form it takes, and is mostly viewed sympathetically. From the IRA to Hamas, from Cuba to Hezbollah, from North Korea to Venezuela, “anti-imperialists” are “friends” usually deserving solidarity – and a blind eye has to be turned to most of their flaws and their crimes.

As leader, Corbyn has appointed people from the Leninist periphery of hard-left Labour politics who share this worldview – let’s call them Leninoids, as they retain no formal relationship to organised groups – to key positions in the Labour Party, most importantly John McDonnell as shadow chancellor and Seumas Milne as chief spin-doctor. Back in the 1980s, McDonnell, along with Ken Livingstone, was part of the Labour Herald crew that was kept afloat by the Workers Revolutionary Party. Milne’s political sympathies have always been much more towards J V Stalin.

One of the strangest and most shocking characteristics of this boilerplate ‘anti-imperialism’ is a deeply ingrained deference to the Leninists’ old flame, Moscow. The hard left defended Vladimir Putin’s military intervention in Georgia in 2008 and excused Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its subsequent bloody interference in Ukraine. This left raised only a finger in protest at Putin’s cynical support of Bashar al-Assad in Syria – and its leading protagonists have long been favoured talking heads on Moscow’s international propaganda TV channel, RT. That Russia might itself harbour imperialist ambitions remains unthinkable for the last Leninists standing. Their crude anti-imperialist reflex gives Moscow a pass, just as it did for Saddam, and just as it continues to do for Iran and China.

It would be wrong to describe the elevation of a few backward-looking fossils as a Leninist revival. It is certainly not a Leninist takeover of Labour. Corbyn’s mindset is indebted to Leninism, but the Labour Party members and supporters who voted for him were and are people who wanted a change of tack on austerity and foreign military intervention. What they’ve  got isn’t what they wanted. Putting it crudely, a handful of Leninists past and present have been given key bureaucratic positions by a hard-left Leninist-fellow-travelling leadership. Or to frame it differently: in choosing his team, Corbyn took a leaf out of Livingstone’s book and co-opted Leninist organisational talent for reforming and social-democratic ends.

 6. Corbynismo o muerte?

It’s not the wisest move an aspiring prime minister could make, nor has it united the party, so the future of Corbyn’s fragile and fractious project is unpredictable. One thing is clear, however. Corbyn’s leadership of Labour is unlikely to regenerate the CPB, the SWP or any of the other micro-parties. It is much more probable that the sharp left turn for Labour that his leadership represents will deny Leninists their most potent recruiting argument, that Labour is selling out socialism and the working class. The more successful he is, the more difficult it will be to differentiate their brand – and if he sinks, their close association with him makes it likely that they go down with him.

Sadly, another Leninist mini-revival cannot be ruled out. The organisations are still there, ageing, battered and bruised, and there are plausible scenarios that they could exploit to their advantage. But nearly a century of experience suggests that Britain’s Leninists are on their last legs and going nowhere.

The best hope for the left in electoral politics remains Labour – even if there is a mountain to climb by 2020 and Corbyn fails to enthuse the voters. The party is easy to join and it is a movement for change. Most of its members are sane democratic socialists with no illusions about the scale of the challenge facing them. If you want thrills and spills in the here-and-now and Labour doesn’t appeal, you’re better-off doing your politics yourself than joining one of the self-appointed vanguard parties. You might get nowhere, you might win meaningful victories, but you won’t find yourself dragged into cadre servitude by a central committee that treats new recruits as expendable extras in a misconceived historical movie.

Because that is what British Leninism is today: a tawdry political re-enactment society. They can grow Lenin beards and pretend to be hipsters, or dye their hair red like Rosa Luxemburg’s. But it’s not a politics for today. It isn’t going to find the way forward. The raison d’etre of Leninism is to mislead, to misrepresent and to divide the left. It’s time to let 1917 go.

Reproduced with permission of the very good Little Atoms.

 

Read the book: Moscow Gold: The Soviet Union and the British Left.

Posted: 15th, May 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians | Comment


You Janus: John Prescott demands ‘cheap publicity stunts’ to damage Theresa May

Compare and contrast former deputy prime minister John Prescott’s views on TV debates.

 

Sky's TV debate campaign is cheap publicity for Murdoch. Gordon can beat Cameron any day of the week. Doesn't need to go on Sky to prove it

September 2 2009:

“Sky’s TV debate campaign is cheap publicity for Murdoch. Gordon can beat Cameron any day of the week. Doesn’t need to go on Sky to prove it.”

 

john prescott tv debates may

 

April 17 2017:

Empty seat her.

Is Mr Prescott’s view altered by the fact that in 2009 uninspiring anointed Prime Minister Gordon Brown was a poor performer on live TV and Labour could only lose – but in 2017 uninspiring anointed Prime Minister Theresa May is a poor performer on live TV and Labour can only gain?

 

 

Posted: 5th, May 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians | Comment


Kate Middleton’s topless photos undermine William and Harry’s celebrity careers

We first encountered pictures of Kate Middleton’s naked breasts when the French edition of celebrity magazine Closer published the grainy images captured on a long lens in 2012. Today the Mirror leads with news that Kate is seeking £1.3m in damages. So traumatic was it to see Kate’s baps in the tabs that in a French court lawyers for Kate and Prince William say the episode evokes haunting memories of Princess Diana’s “Paparazzi nightmare”.

Among other things, the images show Kate removing her bathing suit and slapping sunscreen to her husband’s back.

Six people are accused of beaching privacy: Closer magazine editor Laurence Pieau, La Provence Publishing Director Marc Auburtin, whose paper also published the snaps, Chief Executive Ernesto Mauri, and photographers Cyril Moreau, Dominique Jacovides and Valerie Suau, according to BBC News.

The Sun, which published pictures of a naked Prince Harry, sets a sympathetic scene:

Kate and William had escaped on holiday in France in September 2012, a little more than a year into their marriage, when the images were taken.

So much, then, for “Workshy Wills“, the Sun’s nickname for the Prince, who last month was telling us all to loosen up. He was “escaping” not skiving. Wills and the other two parts of the Golden Triangle of Palace PR – Prince Harry and Kate – are not the epitome of an unaccountable elite, but in it with us.

The British Press are all on the Windsors side in this one, partly because some organs enjoy watching Britishers making the French squirm and partly because the story can illustrate their own sense of decency, righteousness and strict moral code. It’s not often the gutter press get to look down on something lower, so the likes of the Sun, Star, Mail and Mirror are not going to pass up the opportunity to posture, salute and preen.

But what;s wrong with the photos?

Kate and Wills – the couple who showoff family photos of their children, let us look around their palaces in TV documentaries designed to show their ordinariness, jet about the world adopting worthy interventionist causes, talk to showbiz magazines and cut through the pomp and ermine to get closer to the people – crave all the trappings of celebrities. With no Empire and no political role, it is through celebrity that Kate and Wills, and so too the Royals at large, can achieve a sense of authority. The topless photos are just part of the celebrification. The French see that. We don’t.

When push comes to shove, Kate and Wills have pulled up the red rope. They aren’t the UK’s Kim and Kanye or even Posh and Becks. They are not special by anything other than birth. If we see that then the fall out from their reaction to topless photos might cause more Royal pain in the long run.

 

Posted: 3rd, May 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Royal Family | Comment


ITV live news reporter has malfunction on camera

Have a heart for the live TV reporter padding out the known facts in the London drizzle. ITV goes live to its man in Westminster. Come in, Rohit Kachroo, who has Type 1 Diabetes (it was related to that):

 

I’ve been there. I was on the radio once and utterly lost my train of thought. He did well to maintain his cool. And it does make you wonder why he has to be live on the scene at all? Very rarely does the TV reporter’s location ever add to the story? After all, they are there long after the incident on which they’re reporting has passed.

Posted: 28th, April 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, TV & Radio | Comments (2)


Madeleine McCann: the Met’s 10th anniversary PR exercise ‘COULD’ be news

Madeleine McCann: 10th anniversary news round-up.

The Daily Mail (front page): “MADDIE POLICE CHASING ‘CRITICAL LEAD'”.

 

maddie mccann daily mail

 

That Madeleine McCann remains front-page news 10 years after her vanishing – and after ten years of no evidence of what happened to her emerging – is remarkable. As for the news, we learn that police are “chasing a critical leader”. How critical? Well, it “could crack the Madeleine McCann case”. So only potentially critical, then.

What of the “mysterious new clues”, then, that “could explain why the three-year-old vanished in May 2007″?

We hear from Mark Rowley, a Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner, who tells us that the “latest lead” is “worth pursuing”. He says: “It could provide an answer, but until we’ve gone though it I won’t know whether we are going to get there or not.”

That’s three “coulds” on the front page alone. So much for the “critical lead”. Rowley says – without irony – “I’m not going to discuss…because it is very much a live investigation”.

The Mirror makes “COULD” part of its front-page lead. It could just as easily says ‘Could Not”.

daily mirror maddy mccann

 

Millions of pounds invested in the search for answers and still none are forthcoming. Ten years of looking and the Met are in full PR mode. They “don’t want to spoil it by putting titbits of information our publicly,” says Rowley as he chucks a tasty morsel to the Press. Indeed, this isn’t a hunt for alleged VIP sex criminals. There will be no televised raids and no airport arrests. So can Rowley tell us anything? “We don’ have evidence telling us if Madeleine is alive or dead.” says Rowley, “but as a team we are realistic about what we might be dealing with.”

As the Met gets realistic about theories, the Mail moves on to look at the parents. Over pages 4 and 15, we get “10 YEARS OF PAIN”.

Pages 14-15: “Maddie’s bedroom is piled high with a decade of unopened gifts. Kate’s given up work to care or their twins – while Gerry’s now a world-renowned heart doctor. As police reveal a ‘significant’ new line of inquiry… 10 YEARS OF HOPE AND HEARTBREAK”.

What a parent looking after their own children has to do with the case is moot, moreover the husband’s job. But this story always was laced with a middle-class thread. The blonde child. The medical professional parents. The upmarket holiday camp destination. It all overshadows the fact that police only might have a significant new line of enquiry. We don’t know. They don’t know. All we know is that Kate McCann is a “fitness fanatic” who “finds finds comfort in daily work-outs at he gym”; Gerry McCann “was recently praised for saving the life of former footballer Alan Birchenall after he suffered a heart attack and ‘died’  for seven minutes”; and “they have coped in different ways with the tragedy”.

 

daily express maddy mccann

 

Daily Express (front page): “VITAL NEWS CLUES IN MADDY HUNT.”

No. They could be critical clues. They might not be of any value at all. The Express notes that Operation Grange, the police investigation, has cost £11m.

Page 5: “Yard reveals ‘critical lines of inquiry’ in Maddy case.” It did. And it didn’t. The Met mentioned the leads and then said they were secret.

The paper does have some news, though. We learn that in 2013, “officers identified four people as possible suspects but they have now been ruled out.”

The Telegraph prefers to lead with a question: “Madeleine McCann: Are the police any closer to knowing the truth?” As Betteridge’s law of headlines states: “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”

This is Mark Rowley’s statement in full – delivered to deadline. The Met calls it “AC Mark Rowley reflects on the tenth anniversary of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.” It reads like mixture of school report and therapeutic journey:

As an investigation team we are only too aware of the significance of dates and anniversaries. Whatever the inquiry, we want to get answers for everyone involved.

The disappearance of Madeleine McCann is no different in that respect but of course the circumstances and the huge public interest, make this a unique case for us as police officers to deal with. In a missing child inquiry every day is agony and an anniversary brings this into sharp focus. Our thoughts are with Madeleine’s family at this time – as it is with any family in a missing person’s inquiry – and that drives our commitment to do everything we can for her.

On 3rd May 2017, it will be 10 years since Madeleine vanished from her apartment in Praia Da Luz, a small town on the Algarve. In the immediate hours following her disappearance, an extensive search commenced involving the local police, community and tourists. This led to an investigation that has involved police services across Europe and beyond, experts in many fields, the world’s media and the public, which continues to this day. The image of Madeleine remains instantly recognisable in many countries across the world.

The Met’s dedicated team of four detectives, continues to work closely on the outstanding enquiries along with colleagues of the Portuguese Policia Judiciária. Our relationship with the Policia Judiciária is good. We continue to work together and this is helping us to move forward the investigation.

We don’t have evidence telling us if Madeleine is alive or dead. It is a missing person’s inquiry but as a team we are realistic about what we might be dealing with – especially as months turn to years.

Now is a time we can reflect on an investigation which captured an unprecedented amount of media coverage and interest. The enormity of scale and the complexity of such a case brings along its own challenges, not least learning to work with colleagues who operate under a very different legal system. The inquiry has been, and continues to be helped and supported by many organisations and individuals. We acknowledge the difference these contributions have made to the investigation and would like it known that we appreciate all the support we have and continue to receive.

Since the Met was instructed by the Home Office to review the case in 2011, we have reviewed all the material gathered from multiple sources since 2007. This amounted to over 40,000 documents out of which thousands of enquiries were generated. We continue to receive information on a daily basis, all of which is assessed and actioned for enquiries to be conducted.

We have appealed on four BBC Crimewatch programmes since April 2012. This included an age progression image which resulted in hundreds of calls about alleged sightings of Madeleine; an appeal for the identity of possibly relevant individuals through description or Efit; and information sought relating to suspicious behaviour or offences of burglary. These programmes collectively produced a fantastic response from the public. The thousands of calls and information enabled detectives to progress a number of enquiries. This was in addition to over 3,000 holiday photographs from the public in response to an earlier appeal.

The team has looked at in excess of 600 individuals who were identified as being potentially significant to the disappearance. In 2013 the team identified four individuals they declared to be suspects in the case. This led to interviews at a police station in Faro facilitated by the local Policia Judiciária and the search of a large area of wasteland which is close to Madeleine’s apartment in Praia Da Luz. The enquiries did not find any evidence to further implicate the individuals in the disappearance and so they are no longer subject of further investigation.

We will not comment on other parts of our investigation – it does not help the teams investigating to give a commentary on those aspects. I am pleased to say that our relationship with the Portuguese investigators is better than ever and this is paying dividends in the progress all of us are making.

We are often asked about funding and you can see that we are now a much smaller team. We know we have the funding to look at the focused enquiry we are pursuing.

Of course we always want information and we can’t rule out making new appeals if that is required. However, right now, new appeals or prompts to the public are not in the interest of what we are trying to achieve.

He says publicly.

As detectives, we will always be extremely disappointed when we are unable to provide an explanation of what happened. However the work carried out by Portuguese and Met officers in reviewing material and reopening the investigation has been successful in taking a number of lines of interest to their conclusion. That work has provided important answers.

Answers? But there was only ever one question: what happened to Madeleine McCann?

Right now we are committed to taking the current inquiry as far as we possibly can and we are confident that will happen. Ultimately this, and the previous work, gives all of us the very best chance of getting the answers – although we must, of course, remember that no investigation can guarantee to provide a definitive conclusion.

However the Met, jointly with colleagues from the Policia Judiciária continue the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann with focus and determination.

No progress, then. The Met is looking back – just as it always has done.

Posted: 26th, April 2017 | In: Broadsheets, Key Posts, Madeleine McCann, News, Reviews, Tabloids | Comment


The righteous fight to give David Moyes a slap

Sunderland manager David Moyes is sorry for telling a BBC Sport reporter she “might get a slap” with her line of questioning. Following Sunderland’s 0-0 draw with Burnley, journalist Vicki Sparks asked the former Everton and Manchester United coach if the knowing club owner Ellis Short was looking on from the stands made him feel uncomfortable.

“No, none at all,” said Moyes. With the BBC cameras no longer filming, he continued: “Just getting a wee bit naughty at the end there so just watch yourself. You still might get a slap even though you’re a woman.”

But someone was filming on a camera phone.

 

 

Sparks made no complaints. But others were upset. The Sunderland spokesman tells us: “David and the reporter spoke to one another subsequently and the matter was resolved amicably.”

Vivki Sparks, a woman in a man’s world, where undemanding, bland, blokey banter is the rule, is robust. Let’s hope Moyes’ questionable humour doesn’t stymie her journalism and she keeps asking challenging questions. She’s not there to do David Moyes’ PR – there’s already a silo of clubby ex-pros sat on the BBC’s cosy Match Of The Day chairs to deliver anodyne match summaries and big up their mates. She’s also not there to be the BBC’s token ‘bird’ who needs looking after and watching lest a footballer say something inappropriate to her delicate ears. She’s a journalist after a story. That someone else chose to make her the story is odd.

And it isn’t over. The Football Association has invited David Moyes in for a light interrogation. They want to know if Moyes is a sexist. What they might be better off asking is why football is now so corporate that an off-the-record chat can blow up into a scandal. A pundit on Sky News this morning said Moyes “deserved to be reputationally damaged”, making this not a story of being civil to one another and gender equality – “even thought you’re a woman” is a crass comment –  but about branding.

Fans of rival clubs might laugh. One popular chant aimed at Sunderland fans chimes, “You all beat up your women, you’re all the fu**ing same.” So much for cheeky irreverence. Football is the nation’s role model. Mind your language. Football’s not a fun leisure pursuit and a chance to let off steam. It’s very serious stuff.

Posted: 4th, April 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Sports | Comment


Turning Reker Ahmed’s attack into a moralising Hate Crime

The asylum seeker fighting for life after being beaten up in Croydon, South London, is 17-year-old Reker Ahmed. Initial reports stated that an 8-strong gang of youths kicked the Iranian unconscious after first asking him where he was from. The narrative was that the victim was targeted because he and the two friends with whom he was waiting for a bus just before midnight were asylum seekers. Politicians were quick to wrap the nasty incident into a story about Brexit. Leading Labour politicians blamed the Government and Brexit voters for creating an environment where this sort of thing is allowed to happen. It wasn’t violent thugs looking for a soft target. It was right-wing racists looking for migrants. It was not spontaneous. It was pre-meditated.

And then the facts started to emerge. Sort of.

Reker Ahmed suffered a fractured skull and blood clot on his brain. He’s in hospital.

The Metro said it wasn’t 8 people who chased and kicked Reker Ahmed Asylum in the head. Reker was “beaten by [a] mob of 20 people”. The Telegraph was quick to trump that with: “Mob of up to 30 joined ‘appalling’ attack on Croydon asylum seeker.” Why ‘appalling’ should be in inverted commas is unclear. Is the country now so dangerous that Telegraph readers need steerage when it comes to understanding ultra violence?

Police have been knocking on doors. Five people have been charged with violent disorder. The accused named so far are: brother and sister Danyelle, 24 and Daryl Davis, 20 (violent disorder); brothers Jack Walder (violent disorder) and his brother George Walker, who is charged with violent disorder and racially aggravated grievous bodily harm; and Barry Potts (violent disorder). All are local to the Croydon area.

Police have also charged a 23 year old man, a 17 year old girl and a 19-year-old man on suspicion of attempted murder and violent disorder.

In all 11 arrests have been made. Others are being sought to help with police enquiries.

 

suspects croydon

Three people the Met police wish to identify and question.

 

Jacqui Hughes, prosecuting at Croydon Magistrates’ Court, sets the scene:

“Some people, including the defendants, come out of the Goat pub and approached the three victims and asked where they were from. George Walder then began punching the victim to the face. People from a white Vauxhall Corsa car pulled up and started chasing the victims.

“George Walder chased them across a roundabout to a bus stop where Mr Ahmed was punched and kicked. Mustafa and Mohammed ran off toward Bridal Road. Barry Potts was amongst those chasing across the roundabout and a fight broke out again. More people came out of the pub including the defendants and others. A large fight continued and Mr (Recker) Ahmed was punched and kicked. It dies down and people return to the pub and Jack Walder is seen putting on chains around his neck that he wasn’t wearing before. CCTV shows the group punch and kick him. Mr (Recker) Ahmed was missing two gold chains and a gold coloured watch.

“A large group continued to chase the victims down Shrublands Avenue. Mr (Recker) Ahmed is caught and thrown to the ground. People started punching and kicking him. Mustafa and Mohammed go into a nearby garden and throw stones at the group. This appeared to be an unprovoked and motiveless attack based solely on his ethnicity.”

Not a violent mugging, then? Not gang-bangers out for kicks, literally?

Det Supt Jane Corrigan says: “The gang actually asked where he was from before launching their attack, which is why we are treating this as racially motivated.” But maybe it wasn’t. Corrigan adds: “We are working with the local pub to try and establish where they all came from and what led to this horrible incident.”

She adds: “I genuinely don’t think people have gone out that night with the intention to commit this horrific attack. You’ve got a really difficult mix of youth, the time of night, alcohol, and it only takes one person to say something that could spark off something massive – which is what I think has happened on this evening. This is a random attack and the suspect and victims aren’t known to each other that we are aware of.”

In other words, the “institutionally racist” police service doesn’t know why Reker Ahmed was attacked and savagely beaten.

But here comes London Mayor Sadiq Khan to add his view. “Hate crime has no place in London, Britain or anywhere else,” he says, to say nothing of kicking a young innocent man in the head – which he doesn’t.  “Our communities will not be divided by those who seek to sow hate. And we will always take a zero tolerance approach to hate crimes of any type. Anyone who witnesses a hate crime should report it to the police immediately.”

A hate crime is a wonderfully nebulous thing. If you “think” it’s a hate crime, then it is one. Why is a new crime is needed when “violent disorder” and “attempted murder” seem to be do just fine? The suspicion is that hate crime means just what those in power want it to mean. Officials can use hate crime to tell the rest of how to behave. It’s a moral code dressed up as law to corral us into ‘acceptable’ forms of behaviour, speech and thought. The headline crime is not that an innocent man was badly beaten, but that when striking up conversation with their victim, the alleged criminals asked him where he was from. There is no word of what else they said, if they yelled “Get the asylum seeker” or some such phrase as they gave chase.

A friend was mugged in London not too long ago, The attacker asked him for the time. As he looked down at his watch, he was punched in the face. The attacker, now joined by two others, demanded the watch. Is it stretching things too far to suppose Reker Ahmed’s alleged attackers rather liked the look of his bling and the question “Where are you from?” was part of their modus operandi to getting it?

We don’t know. But call it a hate crime and a nasty incident is politicised and becomes a warning to us all.

Posted: 3rd, April 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Reviews | Comment


The Mail’s Legs-It cover triggers a race to the bottom

When Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon had a chat in Glasgow, the Daily Mail noticed that both women had legs. It wasn’t just a meeting between two leaders of British political parties; it was a beauty contest. It was also an eye-catching front-page headline and photo. If newspapers set out to be relevant and capture their readers’ attentions, the Mail did a fine job of it.

But many leading voices – most of whom don’t much like the Mail and don’t buy it – were quick to accuse the paper of “sexism”.

 

legs sturgeon may daily record scotland

 

Reaction to the Mail’s cover has been loud. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn looked beyond mere policy and leadership to decry the picture’s “sexism”. “This sexism must be consigned to history,” Corbyn tweeted. Labour MP Harriet Harman found the Mail’s headline “Moronic!” She checked her calendar and added with not a muon of wit, “And we are in 2017!”

Conservative MP and former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan accused the paper of “appalling sexism”.

 

womack daily mail

 

Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the The Green Party of England and Wales, ruled that the cover was “treating women with contempt”. She went further than most and complained to IPSO,  the Independent Press Standards Organisation. To her mind the over was “breaking the Editors’ Code”.

The Editors’ Code of Practice covers:

Accuracy
Privacy
Harassment
Intrusion into grief or shock
Reporting Suicide
Children in sex cases
Hospitals
Reporting of Crime
Clandestine devices and subterfuge
Victims of sexual assault
Discrimination
Financial journalism
Confidential sources
Witness payments in criminal trials
Payments to criminals
The Public Interest

Which of those topics deals with a picture of two clothed women and a silly comment on their legs? You can try and guess but you’d be hard pressed to nail it. Helpfully, Womack says the Mail broke clause 12 of the code which says editors must “avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability”.

Of course, drawing attention to the leaders’ legs story gives Womack a chance to draw attention to herself. Like all other ‘Outraged of Westminster’ moaners, Womack uses the Mail to showcase her own clean lines. The paper must love it. At a time of falling circulations, the Mail is one newspaper still able to rile and matter. People really do care what it says.

The Mail online even features a report on its own front page:

 

mail legs

 

And what of Theresa May, the poor woman being objectified by the nasty Mail? She called the cover “a bit of fun”. Which it is.

In next week’s Mail: “Put ’em away Jeremy!”

Posted: 29th, March 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians, Tabloids | Comment


Chelsea ‘nark’ sets the police on rude Manchester United supporters

Looking for offence in dust is a full-time job. Today brings news that one sensitive Chelsea fan has given full throat to his upset that Manchester United fans referred to the Blues as “Chelsea rent boys” during the teams’ recent FA Cup match.

Rent boys is an old-fashioned term, for sure, but it is entirely in keeping with the way football fans model chants to the tunes of 1960s songs. The correct and up-to-date term is “male sex worker”. And it’s not even a term of abuse. It’s a career choice and should be legalised and taxed.

manchester united

 

The Sun says a police officer told the complainant that the chant “Chelsea rent boys” is “unacceptable” – but not for the reasons mentioned above. It’s because calling Chelsea fans “Chelsea rent boys” is offensive and intended to cause upset.

Writing in the Sun, Mick Hume wonders: “What next? Chelsea fans probed for animal welfare offences for shouting ‘sheep, sheep, sheep-s******s’ at supporters of less fashionable provincial clubs?”

Winding up the opposition is part and parcel of the game. The FA says it is bent on “eradicating all discriminatory and offensive chanting from football”. Mick adds: “But equating discrimination and offence is like giving a player a red card for nutmegging an opponent.”

We’d advocate going for the full Cruyff turn. Go beyond those arcane and sanitised rent-boy chants. That one only upset one Chelsea fan. It’s time fans upped their game.

PS: Stand up for free speech and the right to be offensive by buying Boy Mick Hume’s book here.

 

Posted: 28th, March 2017 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Key Posts, manchester united, News, Sports | Comment


Irony Overload: Labour MP Yvette Cooper wants to save us from online anti-Semites and other virtual haters

Yvette Cooper wants to set you free from fake news, horrible words and unpleasant images online. The UK Home Affairs Select Committee, which Cooper chairs, challenged directors of big social media companies – Facebook’s Simon Milner, Google’s Peter Barron and Twitter’s Nick Pickles – to explain why their businesses engage in “commercial prostitution” by allowing ad placements alongside nasty videos made by, amongst others, neo-Nazis and white supremacist David Duke, whose video Jews admit organising white genocide Labour MP Cooper called antisemitic and shocking. “I think most people would be appalled by that video and think that it goes against all standards of common decency in the United Kingdom,” said Cooper.

The charge is that in equipping nasty videos with ads, the likes of YouTube (owned by Google) is funding hate because the publisher takes a slice of the ad revenue. But if hate’s not a crime, the problem is one of taste not law?

Overlooking the sensational news that a Labour MP is now an expert in spotting anti-semitism, and just marvel at an MP of any hue deciding and defining the limits of good taste.

Google’s Matt Brittin told the committee, “I want to start by saying sorry” for allowing tax-payer funded Government adverts to feature alongside extremist material on YouTube. Cooper seized on it. “They are right to apologise for failing to stop extremists making profits from hatred, and for making profits themselves from advertising on these videos,” she said. “They need to say whether they will be paying back any of that advertising revenue. And to answer our questions on what more they are doing to root out extremism or illegal activity on YouTube. Because they are still failing to do enough to remove illegal or hate filled content from YouTube.”

And there it was again, that casual merging of what is illegal and what is legal and nasty. Not all unpleasant things are criminal, nor should they be made so.

Bannon helped Cooper out. “There is no clear definition of hate speech in British law,” he explained at length. “We have our own guidelines around hate speech. The guideline that we follow, which is very close to the law, is that a general expression against a country, for example, wouldn’t qualify as hate speech, but if you are promoting or advocating violence against a particular group based on their race or ethnicity, that would constitute hate speech. … I am not going to defend the content of the video; I found it abhorrent and offensive. However, the important question, which relates to wider issues of freedom of expression, is whether that content is illegal and whether it breaks our guidelines. Our policy and legal experts arrived at the conclusion that it didn’t. I think everyone in this room would agree that it was deeply distasteful.”

Cooper replied: “How on earth is the phrase, ‘Jews admit organising white genocide’, as well as being clearly false, not a statement that is a malicious or hateful comment about a group of people solely based on race, religion or the other protected characteristics that your own guidelines and community standards say are unacceptable?’

Guidelines are not laws, Yvette. Google is free to set its own rules. As is the Commons. So when Labour MP Tam Dalyell, aka Sir Thomas Dalyell of the Binns, 11th Baronet (9 August 1932 – 26 January 2017), warned in dead-tree magazine Vanity Fair of a “cabal of Jewish advisers” unduly influencing Tony Blair, he wasn’t censored and banned. When Tam told the Zayed Centre, an organisation “established in fulfilment of the vision of his highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan” – that “there were 400,000 Jews in Britain who enjoyed a very strong and stunning influence” he was not sacked.

The then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, whose Jewish ancestry (one grandparent too many, apparently) caused Dalyell to sense something sinister in his blood, offered the grown up response: “These remarks are too unworthy to be worth a comment.”

When old-Etonian Dalyell died, tributes were fulsome. Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “The Labour movement has lost a giant… As Father of the House his wisdom was passed on to countless MPs.” Current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Jew-sniffer had been a “good friend and comrade”. Other “friends” of Corbyn work at Hamas, whose mantra is the annihilation of Jews. As one Guardian writer notes, “Corbyn has associated with the worst type of antisemites: Holocaust deniers, men who think Jews made bread from Christian blood or were behind the 9/11 atrocities. No blood libel was too bloody for them. He keeps saying he’s not a racist, but he’s happy to keep racist company.”

James Bloodworth wondered: “Why is no one asking about Jeremy Corbyn’s worrying connections?” Having stated his belief that Corbyn is no anti-Semite, Bloodworth looked at context:

Corbyn wrote a letter defending Stephen Sizer, the vicar disciplined by the Church of England for linking to an article on social media entitled 9/11: Israel Did It. [He] Presented a call-in programme on Press TV, a propaganda channel of the Iranian government which was banned by Ofcom and which regularly hosts Holocaust deniers.

Is Corbyn advertising these people by being among them? Should he be blocked from doing so, lest his meeting with bigots be seen as an endorsement in the same way anyone watching an advert for Marks and Spencer’s on a jihadi recruitment drive fall into thinking M&S is enlarging its underwear range and selling thermal suicide vests in all sizes? Should Labour Party members get their money back when the context gets nasty?

Or are well robust grown ups, who enjoy freedom of expression and the right to offend, who baulk at the idea of State censors demanding we adhere to their interpretation of “common decency”, those prudes who trammel free speech and treat people as a problem to police and patrol?

Let’s trust that we are.

Posted: 21st, March 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians, Reviews | Comment


Anti-Trump swastika billboard in Phoenix road is more stupid that anything you’ll see in the White House

Phoenix billboard Nazis Trump

 

Let’s be clear: whoever erected the billboard calling Donald Trump a Nazi understands neither democracy nor history. The billboard on the 1000 block of Phoenix’s Grand Avenue is, according to reports, the work of Karen Fiorito. For those of you not au fait with the name ‘Karen’, Fox News tells us she’s a “female artist”. She is not a male artist, nor is she a coffee table.

“I got the opportunity to have a platform to say something, and I took that opportunity, and I take full responsibility for it,” Fiorito says. Shame that what she says is so crass and lazy.

Her portrait of Donald Trump sat before the nuclear mushroom clouds is the stuff of teenage angst. But the real misstep is the dollar signs that bear some resemblance to swastikas on each side of the orange lunk’s head. Irony of ironies, the other side of the same billboard carries the message “unity”, something history tells us Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were very much in favour of.

Her drawing is all about division. It’s childish, self-satisfied and regressive. It’s entirely in keeping with the shrill reaction to Trump’s presidency. It screams that the people – millions and millions of people – who voted for Trump, rejecting Hillary Clinton’s paternalism and the technocratic oligarchs who see democracy as something to be kept from the ‘low-information’ poor, are fascists akin to the Black Shirts. Taking the greatest evil and slapping it on a poster to attack someone who is not this age’s Hitler – really, he isn’t; read some books other than the one that reinforces your prejudices – demeans the Holocaust’s victims, negates actual Nazism and monsters the tens of millions of Americans who exercised their right to vote.

Using Nazi death camps to buttress your anti-human argument that the electorate voted for Trump because they were duped by Russian newbots and he spoke to their slack-jawed inherent racism co-opts the murdered millions into your monocular world view. It’s a hideous abuse.

In a game of Spot the Bigot, I’d point to the one screaming ‘Hitler!’ at everyone whose view they don’t agree with.

This lazy reductivism abates any need for reflection and the need to work out how progressive Left-wing politics mutated into a cloying, narcissistic hissy fit of entitlement, and why it is that the working classes seized their chance to storm the citadel and hope for a rosy-fingered dawn.

Posted: 19th, March 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians, Reviews | Comment (1)


The myth of Millwall’s racist abuse at Spurs

When Spurs played Millwall in the FA Cup – final score: 6-0 – the Guardian heard ‘racist’ abuse from the South Londoners. So bad was it that rather than lead with a match report or news on Harry Kane’s injury, the Guardian opted to tell readers that the FA is investigating the ‘racist chants’. ‘FA is aware of chants and awaiting reports from referee and police,’ the paper announces. Once more lowbrow football is in the dock for racism. Yippee!

 

spurs son millwall racism the guardian

 

Given that this is about Spurs, where the ‘self-styled ‘Yid Army’ hold sway, you might suppose the Millwall berks opted for a spout of anti-Semitism. But you’d be wrong. The alleged racism was directed at Tottenham’s South Korean forward Son Heung-Min. The Mirror says, ‘Chants of “DVD” and “three for a fiver”, apparently in reference to the sale of pirated films, coursed through the away end each time Son touched the ball in the last-eight clash.’

The Guardian tells its readers, who don’t partake of white working-class leisure pursuits and buy the Guardian because of its platoon of black and Asian board members (number of non-white faces in the paper’s twelve-strong boardroom: nil): ‘The reference to selling DVDs is considered to be a racist slur when directed at an Asian person.’

Millwall fans are so regressive. Piracy is all about downloads and streaming from Russia and Israel nowadays, lads. If you want to goad and upset the opposition’s most threatening player with a tasteless chant, why not lampoon his countrymen’s appetite for dog meat? You can try this chant:

Son, Son, Wherever You May Be
You eat dogs in your country!
It could be worse, you could be Scouse,
Eating rats in your council house!

On second thoughts, best not to. Manchester United fans used to sing that tune about Park Ji Sung, a player they loved. He never complained. He’s a robust adult who saw it for what it was: a friendly bout of un-PC banter. It’s just that given United’s love of branding, the song’s most likely copyrighted and singing it will require a licence and large fee.

Better to echo what Spurs fans serenade Son with:

“He’ll shoot, he’ll score, he’ll eat your Labrador.”

Over in the Mail, we read that those Millwall chants about knock-off films and video games spoilt everything. The paper notes:

Millwall supporters should’ve been celebrating their wonderful FA Cup run but racist chants of ‘DVD’ and ‘three for a fiver’ towards Tottenham’s Son Heung-min ruined it.

Those would be the same multi-cultural Millwall fans who were watching their multi-cultural club get thrashed and Son score a hat-trick? The Mail thinks Millwall’s ‘racist’ fans should have been celebrating their team’s annihilation rather than trying to upset Son and Spurs.

Says the Mail:

Millwall’s supporters wonder why no-one likes them but showed exactly the reason with the disgraceful abuse directed at Tottenham forward Son Heung-min during their FA Cup quarter-final defeat.

What utter balls. Millwall fans don’t wonder why no-one like them – they celebrate the fact. It’s part of their identity to cock a snook at authority. Their chants are supposed to be vulgar, offensive and tasteless.

So dumb is the entire story of racism at White Hart Lane that the Indy can’t even decide what is and what isn’t racist. ‘Millwall could face FA action after fans appear to racially abuse Tottenham striker Son Heung-min,’ it says. For those of us who can recall the 1970s and 1980, when racism at football was loud, nasty and obvious – just as it was in society – the verbals aimed at Son are weaker than Millwall’s performance in the match.

To the people who seek out racism in dust, who view fans as suspects and seek to buttress their own superior morals in commands to ‘Kick It Out’, who investigate every word for offence – who reduce Son, an energetic, tough and skilled footballer to the role of victim – we wonder what planet they’re from and who invited them to join this one?

 

Posted: 13th, March 2017 | In: Back pages, Key Posts, News, Sports, Spurs | Comments (15)


Manchester United’s thought police ban a fan for a tweet

Manchester United have extended the rule governing football fans – Rule 1: sit down; shut up (unless it’s for the national anthem) – to censoring what supporters can say when they’re not at the match. Football fans have long been subjected to new forms of control. Portrayed as a mob inherently given to violence and a moral threat to society, deserving for tear gas, metal cages, water cannon and ID cards, Manchester United have taken up the State’s cosh against their own fans.

When one Manchester United season ticket holder heard the club were adding 300 places for disabled fans, causing 2,600 season ticket holders to be relocated elsewhere inside Old Trafford, he tweeted: ”Fuck em, gona go ticket office, and tell them they are retards, cheeky cunts.”

Somehow Manchester United’s moralists saw the tweet and wrote to the fan, who is a season ticket holder. They told him they’d revoked his season ticket for the remainder of this season – with a refund of £190 – and suspended him from watching his club home and away matches for the next three years.

The letter told him: “Manchester United is wholly committed to equality, diversity and inclusion. The club will continue to address any inappropriate or discriminatory behaviour that we are made aware of.”

We should all be concerned when a football club polices what we say on social media. The fan is being banned for speaking freely. That’s what we do in a free society. Inside the stadium, the club can keep order as it sees fit. We might not like being told to sit down and not sing that but we’re on their property, so we wear it. But when did the internet come part of the club’s remit?

Moreover, silencing unwholesome thoughts and censoring the wrong words amplifies the offence into a cause. Was the fan actually going to abuse disabled supporters? We don’t know. What we say and what we do are not one and the same. So, what was his crime?

The club’s reaction to a tweet has become a way to showcase its own sound morals, a spot of PR from the marketeers who run the game. But it also reveals the club’s malicious mistrust of its own fans, a malevolent mob in need of civilising.

If you go looking for offensive words at the football, you can be sure to find them. But most if it – however cruel and stupid – can be ignored or dealt with by other supporters.

If anti-discrimination were still a progressive force, the club would encourage dialogue.

What’s troubling is that the authorities that lay at the heart of racism and all forms of discrimination when campaigning for equality was brutal and brave, remain the bastions of all that is right and proper. They still don’t listen. They just tell.

Football used be be about fun, escape and letting off steam. It was a leisure pursuit. Now it’s a symbol of your moral code and your words are policed by your own club.

We should tweet what we want to.

 

Posted: 10th, March 2017 | In: Key Posts, manchester united, News, Sports | Comment


The European Union bans free speech for MEPs

News for those of you who think the vote for Brexit is not a glorious triumph for democracy – it was. The European Union will enforce a new rule that says any elected MEP giving full throat to ‘hate speech’ in the debating chamber will be fined up to €9,000. The live feed carrying their hateful words to the impressionable masses will be switched off.

Of course, hate speech is free speech. Shorn of the right to offend, debate dies. With contrary views censored, debate is moulded into suffocating propaganda. Censorship is more sinister than any MEP’s opinion, however daft, brave, rude, rebellious, uncertain, outrageous or risky.

But some people don’t get it that stymieing free speech is anti-human and reveals a deep mistrust of the electorate, people viewed as a race riot in waiting. UK Labour MEP Richard Corbett supports the rule. He tells the Associated Press: ‘What if this became not isolated incidents, but specific, where people could say, “Hey, this is a fantastic platform. It’s broad, it’s live-streamed. It can be recorded and repeated. Let’s use it for something more vociferous, more spectacular.”’

I’m more worried by what people are saying now rather than trying to regulate what others are thinking and might say. To paraphrase Corbett, ‘Let’s ban what we don’t agree with. Let’s make martyrs of dissenters. Let’s stop the tyranny of free speech. Let’s reveal our authoritarian, totalitarian-tendency, deep-seated fear of the demos by preventing them from seeing and hearing their elected representatives saying the wrong sort of things. Let’s kill off the disastrous democratic experiment by turning the chamber into a pious promulgator of moral righteousness. Let’s crush freedom.’

Posted: 3rd, March 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians, Reviews | Comment


Jimmy Savile’s sex-free sex den at High Royds Hospital

Fancy a peek inside ‘Jimmy Savile’s sex den’? This is where the ‘shamed star preyed on victims’. The Daily Star’s wrong, of course. Savile wasn’t shamed. Sir Jimmy was buried with full honours. The great and good lined up to praise the “colourful character”, the embodiment of “diligence and decency” who will be “greatly missed“. Savile was not shamed. He was dug up, possibly beaten with sticks and buried a good deal deeper down than the normal six feet, but the Papal knight died a State- approved hero.

Savile’s ‘sex den’ is the abandoned High Royds Hospital in Menston, West Yorkshire. Savile was a depraved, gibbering loon who hid in plain sight. He didn’t need a sex den. He had a caravan, a BBC studio pass and an NHS-issued gown.

Reading on we learn that the sex den featured no actual sex. The Star reports:

It was here sexual predator Savile targeted a number of women during the get-together in 1988. The party was to celebrate the centenary of the hospital, according to a 2014 report.

More of an office party than a sex den, then?

An investigation found that the monster had cupped women’s boobs and put his hand up one victim’s skirt during the event.

All nasty, pervy, leery, criminal and sad. But not what anyone would call a sex den, least of all the Star, whose Television X stablemate broadcasts hardcore pornography with such titles as Sexual Predator 1. 

As for Savile, well, the Star continues: ‘But the women didn’t make a formal complaint because sexual assault was considered an “occupational hazard”, the report said.’

Maybe that should be investigated – why nurses were seen as fair game?

Over in the Mirror, the sex den is gone. We are in the former hospital ‘where Jimmy Savile groped nurses and asked for a room in case he “pulled”‘. We see photographs by Kieran Young, 20, who posts as Exploring Lancashire.

“I had been here a few times previous but never found a way in,” he says. “I’ve always love the look of Victorian buildings so this really took my eye so I kept going back to get in. After five or six attempts I finally got in with a friend. My pictures encapsulate the past while also showing the morbid reality of the present.”

They’re good. We like looking over disused building, which given their massive size and emptiness often look haunting and sinister. Was Savile the worst thing to have occurred at West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, later Menston Mental Hospital and finally High Royds Psychiatric Hospital, where up to the 1960s inmates were buried in unmarked graves? Who listened to the poor and vulnerable back then? Who listens to them now?

A staff member is quoted talking about Savile in 2014: “He was just very free with his hands, so hands going round people, round their waist but then upwards, cupping under breasts, hands up the skirt. We just laughed it off, said ‘Dirty old man’ and didn’t go near him for the rest of the day. I can’t imagine that if we had said anything to anybody, or the police, that anybody would take it seriously, I don’t think, at that time. It was just an occupational hazard of being a woman.”

It sounds like Savile wasn’t the only man free with his hands. But he’s the focus of the Mail’s report, even if the paper does spell his name wrong.

 

jimmy savile nurse

 

The Mail issues an invitation: ‘Look inside an abandoned psychiatric hospital with a truly dark past: Jimmy Saville [sic] once prowled these corridors to launch sickening attacks on nurses.’

He more walked and jogged than prowled. That was the thing with Jimmy Savile – he was there for all to see, often dressed in a shining gold tracksuit and neon hair. He was hard to miss. But no-one was listening.

Posted: 26th, February 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Reviews, Tabloids | Comment


Denmark stages blasphemy trial after man burns the Koran

If you burn a book in Denmark you can be hauled before the Beak. In the fourth blasphemy case in Denmark’s entire history – the first in 46 years – a 42-year-old idiot who filmed himself burning a copy of the Koran in his back garden and posted it on Facebook is to have his moment in court.

The burning, which took place in Jutland in December 2015, was published on a Facebook page called “Yes to freedom – no to Islam”.

Forget Islam. Freedom’s already gone when you can get arrested or burning your own book in your own garden.  Prosecutor Jan Reckendorff  explains why this bellend is in court. “It is the prosecution’s view that circumstances involving the burning of holy books such as the Bible and the Quran can in certain cases be a violation of the blasphemy clause, which covers public scorn or mockery of religion,” he opines.

You can’t mock religion in Denmark. What horror!

The courts have turned a fool who seeks to cause offence into a martyr.

Is the West so fragile, so lacking in direction and authority that a minor incident is deemed a threat to society? Or is the assumption that if this mentally negligibly anti-thinker is not censured there will be riots and anarchy? The Danish authorities’ sad attitude to a sad act tells us something: they fear the people. In the dust of one local oddball they see a trigger that unleashes anarchy and legitimises a typically unhinged reaction from Islamists. Intolerance from one side serves and feeds off intolerance from the other, leaving the West and its enemies locked in a deathless embrace, each mouthing the same mantra at the people they don’t trust: ‘I’m doing this to keep you safe.’

* As for the other cases hear in Denmark’s law courts: ‘The Local reports the other three cases involved four people distributing posters mocking Jewish religious beliefs in 1938, two people partaking in a fake baptism in 1946, and two radio presenters airing a song which mocked Christianity in 1971.’ The ridicule we can take. The criminalising of thought we cannot.

Posted: 25th, February 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Reviews | Comment


Fake News: European Union Baroque Orchestra quitting UK over immigration

Looking beyond fake news, we turn to the Guardian, which tells us about yet another casualty of the Brexit vote. The headline is to the point: ‘Top orchestra quits Britain over Brexit migration clampdown.’ The musicians are so worried by ‘looming restrictions on travel’ they are all moving to Belgium.

The Guardian hammers the point home: ‘One of Britain’s most successful orchestras is moving to Belgium amid fears that its musicians may be among the victims of a post-Brexit crackdown on immigration.’

One clue that this story might not be as it’s presented appears in the orchestra’s name: the European Union Baroque Orchestra. It’s been based in Oxfordshire since 1985.

 

European Union Baroque Orchestra

 

The Guardian says the London-based ‘highly influential European Union Youth Orchestra (EUYO), could also leave the UK.  Marshall Marcus, chief executive of the EUYO, says: “For some time we have been forming our plan to be ready to relocate, if and when this becomes necessary. Or indeed simply advantageous.”

That’s the second clue as to the value of this anti-Brexit story. The orchestra is located in the place where it gets the most advantageous terms – inside the EU.

So what else do we know about the EU Baroque Orchestra? On its website we learn that it’s an ‘Official Cultural Ambassador for the EU’.

Its activities are open to young musicians from all 28 EU member states. EUBO renews its personnel 100% each year.

For 28 years, between 1985 and 2013, EUBO was funded annually through various European Commission Culture programmes, most recently and aptly with Operating Grants as a Cultural Ambassador for the EU.

It’s not about immigration. It’s about an orchestra funded by the European Union to promote the EU’s activities moving to a country that actually pays for it and is part of the EU. The site continues:

Since 2014 a change in the EU’s cultural funding policy meant that funding from the EU was only available for projects under the EU’s new Creative Europe programme.

EUBO’s application for Creative Europe funding in 2014 was unsuccessful. EUBO decided to re-apply in September 2015 and managed to maintain a reduced programme of activities during 2014, the unfunded period.

EUBO’s second and revised application entitled EUBO Mobile Baroque Academy [EMBA] was successful. The project was found to meet the aims and criteria of the Creative Europe programme. The training orchestra EUBO remains at the core of the activities. The project is organised in partnership with nine other organisations across nine EU Member States for the period 2015 to 2018…

EUBO’s Honorary Patrons are the Culture Ministers of all of the 28 EU Member States.

It might well be a pity that a cultural outfit is leaving the UK, but the European Union Baroque Orchestra is not moving to Brussels because the UK’s become anti-migrant and anti-foreigner. Maybe the orchestra is moving to be closer to the money?

Posted: 20th, February 2017 | In: Broadsheets, Key Posts, News | Comment


Cambridge student who burned cash saved homeless man’s life

Helping us know why an 18-year-old set light to a £20 note in the streets of Cambridge is a delighted Press. Above a picture of a £20 note – so helping Guardian readers know one should they encounter it lit or otherwise – the paper explains from the off that the berk ‘burning cash’ was a member of ‘Cambridge University Conservative Association’, an organisation the paper calls ‘prestigious’ but which I’d brand ‘ghastly’, in keeping with all student politics.

The Mail tells its readers the money burner was ‘drunk‘. No blood test needed. The paper knows a drunk when it sees one on a Snapchat video. The Mail soon names the wally as one Ronald Coyne, who now only ‘tried to set fire to a £20 note in front of a homeless man’.

Like the Guardian, the Mail politicises the pillock’s antics by telling its readers in the third paragraph that Coyne is a ‘relative of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’. Brother? Son? In the 30th paragraph, readers learn: ‘He is believed to be the nephew of the First Minster’s sister-in-law’s ex-husband.’

 

cambridge student cash burning-6

 

As you work out if that makes Master Coyne closer in blood to Sturgeon than Kevin Bacon or a bacon bap, the Telegraph tells its readers in a shouty headline: ‘Cambridge University student who boasted of being related to Nicola Sturgeon filmed burning £20 note in front of homeless person.’ So keen is the Tele to work the Sturgeon angle into its story that whilst her name features in the opening line – ‘Cambridge University student who claims he is a direct relative of Nicola Sturgeon…’ – you have to wait until paragraph two to hear of Coyne. Sturgeon is name-checked five times in the article.

There’s no mention of Sturgeon in the Tab’s report, although it does note: ‘It has been rumoured that burning a £50 note in front of a homeless person is one of the initiation ceremonies of Oxford’s notorious Bullingdon club.’ Whether that’s before of after they defile a dead pig and toss a pot through a restaurant window is left un-investigated.

Having gone off on a fact-free tangent, the Tab notes that the ‘motivations of the student, other than odiousness, are unclear’. Helpfully an unnamed source is on hand to call Coyne an ‘arsehole’.

By now you’re wondering about the video. Here it is.

 

 

Over in the Sun, we get to hear about the other man in the frame, Ryan Davies. The rough sleeper says Coyne first offered him the note.

Ryan, an unemployed crane operator who has been homeless for three months, thought his luck was in – until the Pembroke College student, who has distant links to SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, set the money alight.

He said: “There were some people going past and I was asking them for spare change. I’m homeless. I asked one man for spare change. I was polite about it as I always am. I couldn’t believe my luck. But then he pulled it back and lit it and said ‘I’ll give you some change, I’ve changed it into fire.””He says let’s see what I’ve got and pulls out a £20 note and went to pass it to me.”

Is the Sun on the side of beggars? In 2016, the paper told its readers:

Revealed: Just one in 5 beggars are homeless… as one boasts she’s using cash for new kitchen

SUN INVESTIGATION: Just 1 in 5 on our streets are homeless and one office worker even admitted to begging after work … to buy a new kitchen

 


cambridge student cash burning-2

 

cambridge student cash burning-3

 

cambridge student cash burning-4

 

Can bad press turn people against a certain type of person? The Sun says it can:

 A CAMBRIDGE student was attacked on his bike in suspected retribution for Nicola Sturgeon’s relative goading a homeless man. One college has even warned students against wearing gowns in public – in case they inflame further violence.

 

cambridge students cash burning

 

And what of the argument that says it’s wrong to give beggars money? The Sun reported in 2016:

Charities last night urged people NOT to hand out money in the street.

Jeremy Swain, chief executive of London-based homelessness charity Thames Reach, said: “The evidence is indisputable that the overwhelming majority of people begging on the streets spend their begging money on crack cocaine, heroin and super-strength booze.

Nottingham Council advised:

 

PRess

begging

 

The Mail reported:

Thames Reach, a large-scale organisation with more than 350 staff, said that most people who beg on the street have some form of accommodation to go to.

Its spokesman Mike Nicholas said: ‘Giving to people who beg is not a benign act. It can have fatal consequences.
‘Many people asking for your money are caught up in a desperate cycle of begging from the public, buying drugs from a dealer and then taking these drugs.’ He added: ‘There are many services seeking to help people sleeping rough. Please work with them, not against them.’

Can we sympathise with Coyne? After all, it’s not as if beggars, people more likely to sleep on a newspaper than buy one, enjoy a favourable Press. No, say bleeding hearts. As the Standard reports:

Calls to have him kicked out of the university have quickly gathered momentum with more than 19,000 people signing a change.org petition by 5pm on Sunday.

Students always did have too much time on their hands.

 

Posted: 16th, February 2017 | In: Broadsheets, Key Posts, News, Reviews, Tabloids | Comment


Liverpool bans the Sun but the elite escape and fans remain suspects

What are we to make of Liverpool Football Club’s ban on Sun journalists attending matches in an official capacity and press conferences? The Sun is also banned from conducting exclusive interviews with Liverpool FC managers or players.

The ban is rooted, of course, in the Sun’s infamous front-page coverage of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which the paper amplified the State’s and the police’s lies that the 96 people killed at the match were architects of their own demise. The dead were framed and defiled when the media and police colluded in the State’s assault on football fans.

 

hillsborough the sun the truth

 

A spokesman for Total Eclipse of the S*n – the group states ‘It is our belief that the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster should never be forgotten. It is our belief that The Sun newspaper should never be forgiven’ –  tells the Liverpool Echo: “Further to conversations with LFC directors we are happy to inform you that S*n journalists are no longer enjoy access to all club premises.”

The Sun behaved badly. But did we swallow its lies? Did we believe the police? Did the ‘working class scum stuffed into cages’ by the State, paying for a “slum sport watched by slum people in slum stadiums” take it as fact that police had been urinated on, the dead had been robbed and the Liverpool fans were guilty?

 

Hillsborough-daily-star

 

In 2012, a Guardian its told readers:

There is no bitterness on my part that the public took 23 years to wake up to our nightmare. Their ignorance was their faith in the media and in the police. This has suffered a huge blow and the fact surely cannot go unnoticed by Lord Justice Leverson. I also hope, as a southerner, that the people of Liverpool will no longer be subjected to the lazy, callous stereotypes peddled off the back of the Sun’s lies.

Lies become reasons for censorship and to slap the tabloids down. Tabloid readers must be protected from their own ignorance. And – irony of ironies – the Guardian is happy for the State to police the liars it fed. Hillsborough did not happen in a bubble. The Sun was appalling but it did not have a hand in the killing. It did not send for the dogs instead of the ambulances. It was not the coroner declaring people dead before they were dead.

The deaths were accidental. But they were the result of a top-down policy that portrayed and treated football fans as scum.

 

The Sun the truth Hillsborough

 

Margaret Thatcher’s Government wanted fans – what one Tory called “the yob class” – to carry ID cards. (One doctor present at Hillsborough said the only difference ID cards could have made that day was to make it easier to identify the young corpses.) In June 1986, Thatcher gave ‘thanks to the police’ for ‘bringing good behaviour and good crowd behaviour to football over this last year’. Baron Peter Hill-Norton, admiral of the fleet, said football was “a slum game played by louts in front of hooligans”. Football fans were the Untermenschen on which all new methods of control could be tested. The police and State presented football as a public order issue.

One week after the horror The Economist told readers that the ‘common view’ of football was of a sport ‘irredeemably tied to the old industrial north, yobs and slum cultures of the stricken inner cities – everything, in fact, that modern Britain aspires to put behind it.’

Knowing that Hillsborough happened in the context of so many wrongs, you still want the State and its police force to control the Press, to dictate the message?

 

Hillsborough home

 

Have the elites apologised for demonising football fans? Did you think it odd that the United Nations – no kidding – voiced its worry when Chelsea fans stopped a black man from boarding a train in Paris? On the day that story broke, the Guardian produced nine stories on it. One of the Guardian’s myriad reports on the nastiness said it was typical of football and football fans because it’s  ‘all about feeling that you’re part of one group and are opposed to another group, [which is] the mentality of the racist’.

Bash the Sun by all means but ask yourself what’s changed? Why are football fans still treated as suspects?

In 2012, the Sun apologised for its ‘blackest day’. But it failed to put the results of the inquest into the disaster that cleared the dead of blame on the front page. The victims had been “unlawfully killed”. A mere 27 years of campaigning for justice by their families, the victims had been forced to prove their innocence. Hideous. They still await justice in any true sense of the word. All the dead, the injured, the hurt and their loved ones got was to see the police lies demolished in a court of law. Time ticks on and still no-one has been placed in the dock.

As we await justice, maybe Liverpool FC should ban the police and all politicians from the ground, the people who ask not what they can do for Hillsborough but what the disaster can do for them? Maybe Liverpool should ban the Sun’s publisher’s, too? That would mean banning News Corp., the company that owns 39.1% of BSkyB, which in February 2015, successfully bid £4.2bn for a package of 120 premier league games across the three seasons from 2016. News Corp wants to take control of BSkyB. If it does, will Liverpool ban it, too?

Banning the Sun is easy. It costs nothing. Banning the cameras costs big.

 

hillsborough

 

A Sun spokesperson has responded to the ban: “The Sun and Liverpool FC have had a solid working relationship for the 28 years since the Hillsborough tragedy. Banning journalists from a club is bad for fans and bad for football.”

Banning things is par for the course at football grounds today. Don’t sing that. Don’t stand up. Put that down. The cages are gone but the fans are watched even more closely.

Posted: 15th, February 2017 | In: Key Posts, Liverpool, News, Reviews, Sports | Comment


Zakaria Bulhan: the tabloids’ favourite Somali-born Muslim terrorist who wasn’t

Zakaria Bulhan, 19, stood in the dock at the Old Bailey and admitted killing US tourist Darlene Horton and wounding five others – Lillie Selletin, David Imber, Martin Hoenisch, Bernard Hepplewhite and Yovel Lewronski – (all strangers to him) on 3 August 2016. Yesterday Bulhan pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and charges of wounding. Bulhan has been handed an unlimited hospital order.

Mr Justice Spencer told Bulhan:

“It is quite clear that when you committed these dreadful crimes you were not in your right mind. You were in the grip of mental illness. These were crimes which caused enormous public concern because, from their timing, it was feared initially that they might be the work of a terrorist fanatic. As it turned out they were not, although that is no consolation to your victims.”

So how does the media report an unusual crime that was front-page news? Is it a tale of knife crime, ‘broken Britain’ or mental health care? No. Parts of the media make Islam and otherness central to the story.

 

zaakria bulhan

 

The Star (page 5) says Bulhan ‘mumbled “Allah, Allah, Allah“‘ after he was Tasered by police and bundled to the ground.

The Mail doesn’t mention the story at all.

The Sun doesn’t report on Bulhan.

 

zakaria-bulhan daily mirror

 

The Mirror mentions the story on page 10. ‘Crazed killer is locked up,’ runs the headline in the fourth story down in a sidebar. Bulhan is ‘a teenager who killed a US tourist’. It does not mention what the man of ‘Somali origin’ with paranoid schizophrenia ‘mumbled’.

The Express covers the story on page 10. Bulhan is the “knife rampage killer’. The story begins: ‘A paranoid schizophrenic stabbed an American tourist to death…’  In the third paragraph, the paper says Bulhan is a ‘Norwegian-born Somali Muslim‘. You might say he’s a Norwegian. But his nationality had nothing to do with his crime. So why mention his religion, which also had nothing to do with the case?

Whereas the Star heard Bulhan ‘mumbling’ the Arabic word for ‘God’, the Express says, ‘They [Armed police] heard him chanting Allah! Allah!” as they Tasered him and found an Islamic leaflet in one of his pockets.’

Mumbling or chanting? And what was on the leaflet? We’re not told.

The tabloids got it wrong with Bulhan. Islamic terrorism played no part in his crime. His religion, place of birth and roots all played no part in his crime. A cynic might think the Press is disappointed by this. But surely papers will get face the problem that writing about mental health lacks the punch and pull of Islamic terrorism, stick to the facts and correct any mistakes made? Surely papers won’t manipulate the story to fit an agenda?

But they do. And it’s ugly.

On August 9, the Mail reported:

Was ‘devout Muslim’ Russell Square knifeman radicalised? Police to trawl ‘impressionable’ attacker’s PC for links to ISIS as neighbour claims mental illness is a ‘scapegoat’

Answer: no. He was not radicalised. He was not in ISIS. He was not a devout Muslim.

The Mail continued:

Counter-terror police will today forensically study computers belonging to the Russell Square knifeman as a neighbour claimed the ‘impressionable’ teenager could have been inspired by ISIS.

He wasn’t.

The Mail called him a ‘migrant‘ on its front page.

daily mail islam

 

The Sun called him a ‘Somali’. He isn’t. He’s Norwegian.

 

zakaria-bulhan-killing

 

daily-mail-bulhan-islam

 

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The Sun wondered if Bulhan was a jihadi who had read books.

 

 

zakaria bulhan

 

He wasn’t. He isn’t.

It’s worth looking at Justice Spencer’s sentencing statement in full, lest we missed the Muslim angle. Express readers get an insight into why Bulhan had ‘Islamic literature’ in his pocket.

4. You are 19 years of age, with no previous convictions. Your parents emigrated from Somalia to Norway in 1994, and that is where you were born. In 2003, when you were 5 years old, your mother came to the United Kingdom and you have been living in this country with her ever since, with your brother and sister.

Bulhan was five years old when he arrived in the UK. His family entered the country legally.

Although your mother and father had separated you saw him regularly too. You left school at 16 but retook your GCSE examinations at college and did well in your studies. You became concerned yourself about your mental health and consulted your general practitioner from 2015 onwards. You were referred for assessment by psychiatric services and you were seen by your local early intervention service on 20th April 2016. You were diagnosed with an anxiety and depressive disorder but it was not thought at that time that you were presenting with any psychotic symptoms.

Can we have a discussion abut mental health services?

5. Sadly your mental state deteriorated sharply over the next few months. You started hearing voices frequently and became convinced that you were possessed by devils, that people were conspiring against you, and that that your life was in danger.

At the end of July 2016 your mother and younger brother went to Holland to visit family members which meant that you were living alone at the family home in Tooting. You became convinced that your neighbours wanted to kill you. You went to stay with your father and he tried to look after you. He took you to the mosque on successive days up to the evening of 3rd August, hoping you might receive some form of counselling.

Did Bulhan pick up that aforesaid leaflet at the mosque, the one the Express delivered fully loaded?

When you were at evening prayers that day and a phone rang you got up and ran out of the mosque. Your father waited for you to come back and tried to find you, and tried to contact your mother in Holland for help, but all
to no avail.

6. Your movements thereafter that evening have been traced to a degree. It is clear from the CCTV clips that you were moving around the streets in a distracted and bizarre way. At some stage you acquired a large kitchen knife. You probably took it from a shop counter. At about 10.20pm you entered Russell Square. It was busy with pedestrians heading home after an evening in London’s West End. Among them were many visitors to London from overseas.

13. You were chased by members of the public. When you stopped in Bedford Place one witness described you as standing aggressively, holding the knife, uttering sounds in what appeared to be a form of incantation, although your voice and expression were not aggressive. An armed response unit attended very soon afterwards. You were told to stand still but instead you screamed and ran away. Eventually you were tasered and brought to the floor.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 8th, February 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Reviews, Tabloids | Comment


John Bercow: anti-Trump apostate or jumped-up fool?

Is House of Commons Speaker John Bercow an apostate or a jumped-up pillock who overstepped his brief when he declared that Donald Trump should be banned from addressing Parliament? Maybe he’s both.

The Mail (front page) says Bercow ‘sparked fury’ when he told MPs of his opposition to “sexist and racist” Trump sullying the hallowed halls of Parliament with his presence. The paper quotes a ‘Whitehall source’ who calls Bercow “insulting” and in danger of damaging the so-called Special relationship between the UK and USA. Although the same source adds that Trump doesn’t “even know who Bercow is”.

A Mail writer says Bercow ‘let loose a volley of self-important rudeness’.

 

bercow trump

‘I am anti-Trump there for I am’

 

The Mail quotes another source mocking Bercow’s ability to straddle a high horse with such short legs. The paper shows Bercow welcoming such embodiments of enlightenment and protectors of the democratic flame as the emir of Kuwait and the president of China.

The Express (front page) calls it ‘Outrageous’.

The Sun (buried on page 5) says Bercow ‘was cheered by Labour and SNP MPs’.

And the Mirror (front pages) thunders: “Racist Trump banned from speaking in Parliament.’ On Page 2, the Mirror says, ‘Bercow was praised for standing up to Donald Trumps’s questionable values and blocking him from Parliament’. Whereas the Mail can find only people to belittle Bercow, the Mirror finds only voices to exalt him. ‘Tory MPs sat in stoney silence as their former colleague tore into Mr Trump,’ says the paper.

The trouble is that Bercow doesn’t have the right to peak for the nation. His grandstanding was just that. If the Commons values democracy, as surely it must, the man 62 millions American chose for their leader should be respected. Bercow is the Speaker. He is not The Guard. His role is to be versed in the Commons’ rules and officiate during bouts.

Of course, Trump a useful fool. Being anti-Trump means that you stand for something. He defines you by what you are not. But what are you? Being anti-Trump is not enough. It’s easy and it’s lazy. Its invites bigger questions: why don’t you trust the electorate? Who do you represent if not the voters? If you prefer bans over debate, why do you sit in debating chamber?

It’s easy to take issue with Trump. It’s less simple to explain what you would do instead.

Posted: 7th, February 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians, Tabloids | Comment


Hacked emails reveal David Beckham swears like a footballer

In what the Sun calls ‘leaked emails’ David Beckham allegedly wrote about his disappointment at receiving an OBE and not a knighthood in the kind of language you’d expect from a footballer. He allegedly called the Honours Committee “unappreciative c***s”. The stars are the Sun’s work and without a ‘t’ or ‘ck’ we cannot be certain as to the degree of Becks’ upset. He also allegedly wrote, “Unless it’s a knighthood f*** off.” That’s an easier puzzler.

 

beckham emails leaked

 

Beckham also allegedly queried the value of an OBE, given that one was awarded to Katherine Jenkins, the photogenic singer. ‘Katherine Jenkins OBE for what?’ mused Beckham allegedly. ‘Singing at the rugby and going to see the troops plus taking coke. F***ing joke.’ Her manager says Katherine OBE does lots of charity work and is deserving of her gong. Her manager is ‘Professor Jonathan Shalit’. According to Wikipedia, Shalit was awarded an Honorary Professorship in 2012 by Henley Business School and Reading University in recognition of his contribution to the arts, music and broadcasting.’

Gongs and titles, eh?

beckham emails leaked

 

The Mail says Beckham was all set to get his knighthood from those “c***s” in 2014. He didn’t because of ‘warnings from HM Revenue and Customs’ to ‘sort out his finances’. No, not warned to relocate to France or Luxembourg and keep away from the taxman’s reach. The Mail says it was down to Beckham’s ‘involvement in an alleged tax avoidance scheme’. The Mail also notes that the emails were not ‘leaked’ from the servers of Doyen Global, a company run by Beckham’s PR chief Simon Oliviera, but ‘hacked’.

So Beckham’s the victim,then.

The Mirror says he is. It leads with news that Becks is the victim of a ‘Blackmail plot’. The emails were made public only after Doyen Global ‘ignored demands for cash’. The Mirror pits itself as Beckham’s champion – and thus against its rival the Sun – highlighting his ‘Good work’, role as his daughter’s’ HERO’ and dedicates a column to the subject ‘Lunacy he’s not already Sir David’.

 

beckham emails leaked

 

He’s no victim, says Jan Moir. The Mail writer dips her quill in vinegar and says, ‘Now we know the reality behind the facade’. Isn’t it a tad harsh to judge a man’s life on the value of a few emails? No, says Moir. “We know now the real Beckham is foul-mouth, determined egotist who uses his work for charities as part of an increasingly desperate campaign to win a knighthood.’

He’d make a good editor.

And so what if grandstanding over charity work is based on self-promotion? If people get help, do we care that he gets a knighthood, a gong so precious they gave one to avid charity worker Jimmy Savile?

 

Posted: 6th, February 2017 | In: Celebrities, Key Posts, News, Tabloids | Comment


Donald Trump: God save the Queen from common muck

Donald Trump continues to set the news agenda, his presidency a political take on ‘Stay Tuned’ TV cliffhangers. President Trump’s ill-conceived travel ban dominates the news. But the Daily Mirror has a new angle. It books itself into one of The Donald’s five-star hotels – the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC – and sets about looking at the labels on the luxuries therein.

Full disclosure: I’ve stayed in a Trump hotel, his tower in Toronto. And, aside from my iPhone getting nicked from the room, found it pretty good, from the linen to the pink ‘Trump’ baseball hats left for each guest. And, no, hair was not attached to the complimentary lids.

 

Donald Trump

 

The Mirror’s Christopher Bucktin got the tough job of stock taking at Trump Inns. He found lots of ‘imports but few US goods’ at ‘Hotel Hypocrite’. He found Samsung TVs (made in Mexico), shower caps (made in China), cups (Germany) and a fridge (Switzerland).

Having quoted one hotel guest who lambasts Trump for picking the cheapest goods, Bucktin makes a false step. ‘We also fund him cashing in in his most hated religions – Islam,’ he writes.

Cashing in? How so?

In the bedside drawer ‘I came across a Gideon Bible’, a move akin to finding your own arse with your own hand. By the Bible is a note: ‘If you would like to continue your spiritual journey, we also offer the following: Talmud, Quran, Gita, Avesta, Tripitaka, Shri Guru, Grantha Sahib and Book of Mormon.” A call to housekeeping confirmed guests were able to have the holy book of Islam brought to their room in Arabic and English, with a prayer rug and a compass pointing to Mecca.’

The swine!

So how was he cashing in? There is no word that the mat, book and compass incur a surcharge. Bucktin explains: ‘Trump the hotelier welcomes Muslims – if they are loaded with dollars.’ He treats all customers the same. He does not discriminate. Just like Hitler, then.

And what if they’re workers? We don’t know if any staff at the hotel are Muslim. Maybe Trump welcomes Muslims so he can pay them, too?

Attacking Trump, the accidental president whose bad for liberty, is not too hard a task so why make a bad job of the facts? The Mirror says rooms ‘start at an average of £500 per night’. A quick look at the hotel’s website tells us a room can be had for $400 a night all in. Not cheap. But not £500.

 

Queen Donald Trump: The Don becomes Her Majesty and Vice Versa in these unsettling pictures

 

Over pages 6 and 7, the Mirror looks at the protest’s against Trump’s executive order banning travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries. It notes the on-line petition calling for Parliament to cancel Trump’s State visit lest it “embarrass” the Queen. Over 1.5m people support feudalism and the monarchy. Who knew?

‘Prevent Donald Trump’, runs the petition text, ‘from making a state visit to the United Kingdom. Donald Trump should be allowed to enter the UK in his capacity as head of the US government, but he should not be invited to make an official state visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.’

Can Trump achieve what Prince Andrew, Prince Charles, the Duke of Edinburgh, Fergie, a grandson dressed as Nazi, an uncle who was a Nazi, walking about with a crown on your noggin’ and riding in a gold coach failed to do? Can Her Majesty feel embarrassed? “[Trump’s] misogyny and vulgarity disqualifies him from being received by the queen,” says the petition’s writer. Over one million people think Trump is too common for Her Majesty. What a snooty view. Look how superior we are to Trump and his supporters. No red carpet for him. He has hotels; she has palaces. He has Bibles; she is Defender of the Faith. He has voters; she has subjects. He has borders; she has Empire. He has Tiffany; she has diamonds as big as your face.

The paper notes that outside Whitehall, protestors demanded Theresa May condemn Trump.

And then come the inevitable celebrity endorsement. ‘Bianca Jagger, Lily Allen and Gary Lineker, who was with two of his sons’, were all there. ‘America united to condemn Donald Trump,’ says the paper. All of it? Odd not to hear one word in support of Trump’s ban. ‘Hollywood stars’ spoke out against Trump.

It’s all pretty much what Trump wants, no? The media present one side of the debate. Check. The celebrities vent forth. Check. People who don’t like the fact he was democratically elected in a legal vote use polls and numbers to try and derail him. Check.

More Trump on the Sun’s cover. ‘PM: No Trump U-turn.’ Over pages 8 and 9, the Sun spots Gary Lineker and Lily Allen in the 10,000 people outside Downing Street.

The paper quotes MPs likening Trump to Hitler. “The Holocaust didn’t start with the gas chambers,” says SNP Carol Monaghan, one of many keen to use the murders of 6 million Jews to score a political point. Boris Johnson told the Commons the comparison “demeans the horror of the 1930s”. It does. Trump is not plotting and fomenting genocide. He’s not that organised.

‘Protest march? It’s a waste of time,’ writes the Sun’s Clare Foges. Maybe. Maybe not. It; good for filling pages and spotting famous faces. Foges adds: ‘Strangely there was not the same outcry when Obama banned refugees from Iraq for six months in 2011.’ She spots hypocrisy and ‘anguished luvvies’ in a ‘pitch of hysteria’. Protest is for losers. “Save your breath,’ says the Star, which one sided with the protesting EDL.

Does this ‘hysteria’ over Trump whitewash crimes of other politicians, like Tony Blair, Hillary Clinton and Obama?

One of those ‘luvvies’ occupies the Mail’s front page. It’s Gary Lineker and a son. The Mail says May is ‘right to ignore the hysteria’ and the ‘twitter-obsessed, virtue-signalling student union politicians running today’s Labour Party’. The matter of US security, says the paper, is ‘a question for US politicians’.

And a question for Daily Express readers, too. An impressive 99% of them ‘agree with Trump’s tough migrant stance’. Well, those who voted in one of the paper’s polls do, which has still to bring in that 100% result. Of course, 100% could be achieved by there being just one caller keen to spend 50p on a premium-rate phone line – that’s 5p less than the paper costs. But at 99% the poll looks busy and representative.

And the Express has another. Today it asks readers: ‘Is Donald Trump right to bring in the travel ban?’ Anyone in doubt as to how to vote can see the headline hanging above the question: ‘Trump fury is just liberal left hysteria.’

The vote is open to liberal left hysterics with 50p to burn. Like everything about Trump, it’s fair and fair can be.

Queen Donald Trump: The Don becomes Her Majesty and Vice Versa in these unsettling pictures

Posted: 31st, January 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians, Tabloids | Comment


Daily Mirror uses John Hurt’s death to bury Theresa May and Donald Trump’s Special Relationship

When Donald Trump was voted in, the Daily Mirror was aghast that he’d called Theresa May after dialling so many other leaders. It was a”poor start to the Special Relationship”. May was “at the back of the queue of world leaders”. The President-elect had issued a snub.

 

donald trump theresa may daily mirror

 

Donald TRump daily mirror

 

So how did the Mirror report the news that May is the first world leader to meet President Trump?

Was it front-page news?

 

donald-trump-may-daily-mirror

 

And every other paper?

 

trum-mp-may trump-may-the-times trump-may-the-daily-star trump-may-the-daily-express trump-may-the-daily-telegraph trump-may-the-daily-mail

 

Such are the facts.

 

Posted: 28th, January 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians, Tabloids | Comments (3)


Brexit the Daily Express and the 55 Tufton Street gang

So keen are migrant workers to pay UK taxes, the Daily Express says “more than 1 million citizen” of them will “rush in” before the country leaves the European Union.

Well, maybe they will. Maybe they won’t.

 

daily express migrants brexit

 

The headline figure is the opinion of Richard Tice, billed as “co-chairman of the Leave Means Leave campaign”. Why there should be a campaign to implement something decided by a free and legal vote is off. And how Tice came to be the voice for it is not investigated.

But it’s exists. And the Express is all ears, keen to support Tice’s views and guesstimates on its front page. Indeed, this is the third time this January Mr Tice’s views have reached Express readers.

Who is he? What is Leave Means Leave? The Express doesn’t say much about the group based at 55 Tufton Street, London. The Independent has a little, reporting on February 10 2016:

The address where Eurosceptics and climate change sceptics rub shoulders – The offices of 55 Tufton Street in Westminister [sic] are home to no fewer than eight right-of-centre organisations

 

tufton steet

 

After the clanger in the headline, the Indy has some insight on goings on at 55 Tufton Street.

But this low-profile four-storey block, a stone’s throw from Parliament, is home to no fewer than eight right-of-centre organisations dedicated to pulling Britain out of Europe and undermining the battle to curb global warming.

We get some names, most of which the Daily Express seems to have on speed dial:

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson is one of the key figures at 55 Tufton Street, after he moved his climate-sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation to the premises.

This puts the foundation in the same building as the TaxPayers’ Alliance, the bullishly effective low-tax pressure group…

We’re told that  55 Tufton Street is owned by Richard Smith. Who is he?

Richard Smith is probably best known for flying David Cameron to his home in Shobdon, Herefordshire in 2007 – shortly after the then leader of the Opposition proposed taxes on unnecessary flights… His company, HR Smith Group, owns number 55 Tufton Street… He is also a trustee of the Politics and Economics Research Trust, the charitable arm of the Taxpayers Alliance.

At the time of writing, the Indy said you could find the following organisations at 55 Tufton Street: Global Warming Policy Foundation, Global Vision, The European Foundation, Civitas, Taxpayers’ Alliance, Business for Britain, Big Brother Watch and UK2020.

You may well wonder why London-based think tanks carry so much weight in the media? If their thoughts trigger debate, we should know more about how their treatises came to be.

Richard North claims:

…55 Tufton Street is a nest of vipers. It harbours groups which form a nexus of influence which dominates the fringes of right-wing Conservatism. And it provides the spiritual home of those who believe they are entitled to run the “leave” campaign.

Adding:

…the referendum is an opportunity to rethink how we do political research in this country, working towards the idea of virtual think-ranks, freed from the stultifying grip of the Tufton Street Gang, and the intellectual constraints that it brings.

So to the Express‘ story, which does little more than repeat Mr Trice’s claims. Over pages 4 and 5, we get “Fears over EU migration in run-up top Brexit”. Tice says we could “easily see one million to 1.25 million extra EU migrants move to Britain” if “freedom of movement for EU citizens continues over the  next two years”.

 

daily express migrants

 

Will these “rushing” foreigners be allowed to hold British passports or continue to work here after the country leaves the EU? Dunno. How much will they pay in tax? Dunno. Will all the jobs they do be low-paid? Dunno.

Few facts, then. But the Express has heard enough. “Mr Tice says that estimate is a conservative one based on National Insurance registrations,” it reports. One million could be millions of rushing foreigners.

Tice’s guess ‘does not take into account the extra pull factor of Britain’s looming departure from the EU, making this the “last chance saloon” for people to secure better prospects offered in the UK than elsewhere in the bloc”.

How many will see it as their last chance to leave the UK and secure better prospects in the bloc? Dunno.

Lest readers still not have got the message that foreigners are to be feared, the Express presses f7 and conjures up one of its other sources of fact: MigrationWatchm, an outfit not hymned for its love of immigration.

Have loaded the argument the Express invites readers to vote in a premium-rate phone line poll which asks, “Should Britain act NOW to control immigration.”

Vote now and vote often.

Posted: 24th, January 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Tabloids | Comment