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How badly does Ed Miliband want the job?




Ed Miliband has often remarked that he views his pitch for being Prime Minister being like a job interview. This is not a bad way of looking at the situation he finds himself in, one feels.

The “elevator pitch” is a construct where you’re supposed to sell yourself in the space of a short journey in an elevator. What would Ed Miliband have to do to convince you that he means business?

This question is not, “Would you like to be stuck in a lift with Ed Miliband?”  But that is undoubtedly how the BBC including Andrew Neil, Andrew Marr or David Dimbleby would like to ask it.

On Facebook yesterday, Ed presented his potted ‘here’s what I stand for in four minutes’ pitch.

It’s here in case you missed it.

Presumably advisers have recommended to Ed in interviews that he must look keen to do the job. But presumably there is a limit to looking ‘too keen': i.e. desperate.

Ed being given the job depends on what the other candidates are like: and Nigel Farage, Nick Clegg and David Cameron are not the world’s most capable candidates.

It’s said that most HR recruiters ‘google’ the candidates before shortlisting. Will Ed Miliband survive the stories about him eating a butty? Or being public enemy no. 1?

Does Ed Miliband have issues he wants to bring to the table?

Yes he does: repeal of the loathed Health and Social Care Act (2012), abolition of the despised bedroom tax, a penalty for tax avoidance, and so on.

Will the media give him a fair hearing?


Does Ed Miliband have a suitable background? Well, he got at least a II.1 – this is all anyone seems to care about these days. (I, for the record, think that the acquisition of a II.1 in itself is meaningless, but that’s purely a personal opinion.)

Would Ed take the job if offered it? Yes.

Will he have OK references? Not if you ask Andrew Marr, but if you ask somebody like James Bloodworth, Sunny Hundal, or Dr Éoin Clarke, yes.

Can Ed return something to his stakeholders? Possibly more than David Cameron can return to his. All Ed has to do is to win.

It’s going to be difficult. This general election on May 7th 2015 is incredibly unpredictable. The main factors, apart from Ed Miliband’s two critics, are whether the LibDem vote will collapse, how well UKIP might do, whether Scotland will be a ‘wipeout’, and so on.

But Ed Miliband’s government repealing the Health and Social Care Act (2012) is far more significant than whether he can eat a butty.

Why doesn’t Noel Edmonds buy the NHS?

Mr Blobby


In theory, it’s perfectly possible for one person to buy the entire NHS if rich enough.

I suppose HM The Queen could buy the NHS in theory.

Noel Edmonds suddenly popped up in a most unusual interview with Jeremy Paxman last night. He was talking about his ideas to buy the BBC.

In a way, the BBC, despite its fiascos such as the Jimmy Savile Scandal, is a ‘national treasure’. Likewise, the National Health Service is considered to be outstanding, by some, despite noteworthy scandals such as what was happening at Mid Staffs a few years ago.

Edmonds’ language that the BBC is ‘sleepwalking to destruction‘ is reminiscent of Isabel Oakeshott’s complaints about the NHS being ‘unsustainable’ last week.

In a tirade against the NHS, Oakeshott launched an eyewatering gobbledegook compilation of corporate memes on last week’s Question Time, which was as intellectually coherent as a typical response on the Jeremy Kyle show.

Edmonds refuses point blank to say who his ‘like-minded’ allies might be, reminiscent of the corporate veil so readily utilised by private companies utilised in areas of public interest.

The refusal of Jeremy Hunt in legislating for parity in transparency requirements through freedom of information legislation, in comparison to the alacrity with which the Coalition government has legislated on parity of providers in a health ‘market’, has gone from the ridiculous to the sublime.

It also threatens patient safety.

Curiously, as one of Edmonds’ justifications for taking over the BBC, Edmonds cited it would protect some channels from being shelved, and it could likewise get rid of BBC dead-wood.

Nobody in the private sector has ever justified taking over services in the NHS on the grounds that they would be cut in the NHS. That’s because the private sector are interested, whether they concede to it or not, in cherry picking – high volume low cost products and services.

In this conceptualisation, ‘Mr Blobby’ is the TV equivalent of a hernia operation.

One can only wonder how comprehensive Edmonds’ TV output would be: whether it might be more profitable to make lots of Top Gears than ‘Book of the Week’.

And it’s likely that Edmonds’ team will lead on strategic exports, to help with profits. The NHS has yet to identify what its principal export is likely to be.

But Douglas Alexander MP, on the same Question Time, is right.

For whatever reason, successive Conservative governments have emphasised how unaffordable the NHS is. As somebody in the Question Time studio audience rightly pointed out, is it the case that the NHS is unaffordable or unfunded properly?

The NHS is funded out of general taxation currently, and to all intents and purposes many argue that the TV licence is a form of indirect taxation. But they are clearly different funding strategies.

Edmonds admitted, “Oh God No! I hope the BBC’s Charter isn’t renewed.”

Likewise, many have asked for the sacred cow for the NHS to be sacrified.

But – “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”

Do you think the media tries actively to hide people living very well with early dementia?

Do you think the media tries actively to hide people living very well with early dementia?

Don’t shoot the messenger, but this is effectively a question which Norman McNamara, well known campaigner and a person living with dementia, asked on a public forum as follows.


But when you think about it, you rarely get ‘success’ stories about or written by people living well with an early dementia.

This phenomenon, to be fair, might be part of a wider picture, of the media tending to focus on bad news stories, or “shocks”.

Not to generalise, but often irresponsible journalists have tended to sensationalise news stories anyway, “not letting facts get in the way of a good story”.

It is thought that there are currently about 900,000 people currently living with dementia in the UK. Some of them are living well by the law of averages?

But the question asked poses wider issues of more potential concern. Does the public need to be ‘scared’ in order to donate to a cause?

Might it be effective to use the words “bomb”, “timebomb” and “flood” to shock people into action through donation to a dementia charity?

The focus of efforts can of course be the elusive “cure”, with proponents arguing that cures for dementia have been denied resource monies compared to, for example, the cancer charities.

It can also be argued that there is a genuine shock in the story, that it would be quite inappropriate to sanitise the dementia narrative. For example, almost every week there’s a new revelation about cuts in social care.

As it happens, I had been thinking about a similar issue: on the nature of the term “dementia friendly communities”.

A friend of mine, whose mother lives with dementia, said to me: “Whenever I see that a café is ‘dementia friendly’, I get immediately reassured.”

On the other hand, another close friend of mine, living with dementia, said: “I find the concept of dementia friendly communities intensely patronising.”

When I asked her why, she said it is simply inappropriate to think of people with dementia as one huge group as they have differing needs and abilities.

Maybe the term ‘community’ is meant to reflect this diversity though?

I am physically disabled, and I have often thought about whether I would welcome a national policy called “disabled friendly communities”.

In a way, giving a whole group of people a label negates personhood and individual identity. On the other hand, criticism of the term might be overly politically correct, and one should be intuitively positive about any initiative which is inclusive for people in society?

The late Tony Benn used to explain his views on equality in terms of not forcing people to be equal. Benn argued that a more useful way to conceptualise the situation was to think of removing obstacles that made people more unequal.

But I feel the question that Norman poses is an appropriate one. If we are to embrace truly the notion of a ‘dementia friendly communities’, we need to embrace the idea too that some people with dementia are inspirational and can be leaders themselves.

The notion of presenting people living well with dementia is therefore a very important one, and to omit them from the narrative would be a very dangerous pursuit.

That is, it would be if such a pursuit were deliberate: presumption of innocence, and all that.

The BBC’s current political editor, Nick Robinson, calls this ‘bias by omission’, and, whilst we share rather different political perspectives perhaps, on this I feel Norman and Nick are together right.

Will the war over NHS privatisation be won on the social media or on Question Time?

In his lecture for the LSE recently called “These European Elections Matter”, Nigel Farage explained how the 1999 European Elections had been a ‘gamechanger’. This election had apparently returned three MEPs, and Farage explained that this result had only been achieved through the method of proportional representation. Farage concluded that, despite no MPs, this had meant UKIP was suddenly being involved in contemporary political debates on the BBC such as “Question Time” or “Any Questions”.

The situation how the UK entered Europe is almost a counterpoint to the situation why people want the NHS to leave behind market dynamics. The United Kingdom referendum of 1975 was a post-legislative referendum held on 5 June 1975 in the United Kingdom to gauge support for the country’s continued membership of the European Economic Community (EEC), often known as the Common Market at the time, which it had entered in 1973 under the Conservative government of Edward Heath. Labour’s manifesto for the October 1974 general election promised that the people would decide “through the ballot box” whether to remain in the EEC. The electorate expressed significant support for EEC membership, with 67% in favour on a 65% turnout. This was the first referendum that was held throughout the entire United Kingdom.

There has never been as such a referendum on whether the market should be forced to leave the NHS, but many feel that this is an equally totemic issue. It’s quite possible that the 2015 general election on May 7th, will have a low turnout generally if all the main political parties fail to capture the imagination of the general public. Using a market entry analogy, the question is how UKIP and NHAP enter the market of politics. It’s possible that UKIP could manage to come top in the European elections, though this is yet to be seen. UKIP are not opposed to UK in some sort of market with Europe, whilst wishing to not be embroiled in ‘spending £7 million a day for something undemocratic and unaccountable from Brussels’. Likewise, NHAP (National Health Action Party) is also concerned about the lack of democracy and accountability which appears to have become a pervasive theme in English NHS policy, and wish the NHS not to be fettered by the markets (for example European competition law). UKIP appear virtually weekly on Question Time, so the question is in part how can health issues compete for air time? Labour could even benefit from their greater presence in explaining their health policy, which is supposedly to escape the free market and TTIP. And NHAP could hold Labour to account on this issue, and other significant issues such as NHS reconfigurations and PFI. Conversely, UKIP is all for free trade.

Dr Lucy Reynolds soldiers on. As an academic in the highly prestigious London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Reynolds has developed an understanding of health policy which is unrivalled by many. Lucy has been quite successful in getting her well informed views across in the social media.

Dr Lucy Reynolds doesn’t have the luxury of Question Time.

Nigel Farage’s main complaint about Question Time is one of hostility to his party’s stance:

“I am one of the few people who can’t really complain about the editorial policy of Question Time having been on it 26 times since I was first elected in 1999. In terms of the coverage it gives Ukip I have found it fair and in the past few years the programme has even started accepting Ukip panellists other than me! But there have been a couple of programmes in which my colleagues and I have faced a hostile audience which in no way represents how Ukip is normally received or which are representative of the opinion polls. I am not pointing the finger of blame at the QT team but the question I want to ask is whether the Question Time audiences being exploited by the hard left?”

Even when Question Time was recently hosted at Lewisham, the number of questions on the NHS was kept to a bare minimum. This has been a general trend with this flagship TV programme, although the producers consistently cite that they can only air debates on questions proposed by audience members. However, occasionally dissent does ‘break though’ unpredictably. There have been over 86,000 ‘hits’ for a lady in the audience in Lewisham QT here


If it feels as if Nigel Farage is rarely off Question Time, that’s because he isn’t. Farage appeared more times on the programme than any other politician in the last four years. Top performers on #BBCQT include Nigel Farage, Vince Cable, Ken Clarke, Caroline Flint, Peter Hain, Caroline Lucas, Theresa May, and Shirley Williams. The arguments for Farage appealing to producers are that he is charismatic, inspires debate and helps them to fufil their requirement to give representation to smaller parties. But surely the same can be said for some experts in health policy?

Dr Louise Irvine (@drmarielouise), a GP in New Cross, south east London, and chair of the ‘Save Lewisham A&E’ campaign, has recently announced she will be standing for the National Health Action Party in the European Parliament elections on the 22 May 2014. Dr Irvine has said the NHS was under threat from an impending EU-US trade deal and the Government’s policies of ‘top down reorganisation, cuts and privatisation’.

She said: ‘I want to use this election to raise awareness of the imminent danger posed to the NHS by the EU/US trade agreement which will allow American companies to carve up the NHS and make the privatisation process irreversible.

‘I also want to alert the public to the gravity of the threat to the NHS from this Government with its programme of cuts, hospital closures and privatisation and to send a powerful message to politicians in Westminster and Brussels that people will not stand by and let their NHS be destroyed.

‘If elected, I will strive to ensure that EU regulations don’t adversely affect the NHS and are always in the best interests of the health of British people. The health of the nation spans all areas of policy from the environment to the economy.’

Dr Irvine is not only the “new kid on the block”. Rufus Hound is planning to run for the European Parliament to campaign against the privatisation of the NHS, saying he wants to preserve “one of the single greatest achievements of any civilisation”. In an impassioned blog post, he accused the Conservatives of wanting to sell off the health service to party donors – claiming that the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was “killing the NHS so that his owners can bleed you dry”.

The NHA was set up by Dr Richard Taylor, a former independent MP, to campaign against the Government’s Health and Social Care Act, introduced under the previous health secretary, Andrew Lansley. The party plans to field 50 candidates in the 2015 general election. Dr Clive Peedell (@cpeedell) has also been talking to the social media to get the NHAP’s message across’ he is one of the co-leaders.

The Max Keiser/Clive Peedell interview is here.

To give them credit, Dr Marie Louise Irvine and Rufus Hound offer us a chance to discuss the NHS, in the same way Nigel Farage and, say, Patrick O’Flynn (@oflynnexpress) offer us a chance to discuss our membership of Europe. The criticism is that they represent single issues and do not have a coherent corpus of policies across the full range of policy areas, and indeed have no realistic chance of forming a government. But paradoxically they both do offer a chance for domestic policy to operate in such a way Portcullis House doesn’t become another neoliberal outpost of the Federal United States of Europe. In the NHS’ case, socialism might only survive if it is not engulfed with yet more Atlantic Bridge-type stuff next parliament. But UKIP would not probably stop that. Who knows if Labour would be able to either in reality.

Why are the BBC so reluctant to cover the #NHS299 of ‘hardworking people’ today in Manchester?

Around 60,000 arrived today in Manchester for the first day of the Conservative Party conference to protest against austerity cuts and NHS changes. There was not a single arrest, at the time of publication of this blogpost.

The central accusation is that the executive members of the Conservative Party were able to legislate, with the help of Liberal Democrat votes, in the House of Commons and House of Lords for an act of parliament which made it very easy for contracts to be awarded to the private sector not the NHS or public sector. The cap allowed for income to be generated privately was massively uplifted.

It is specifically proposed that both legislative measures allowed the privatisation of the NHS through effectively outsourcing it. Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Secretary of State, has described this as making the NHS more like the US market, and has promised many times to reverse the marketisation and to repeal the Health and Social Care Act (2012). The ‘National Hospital Sell-Off’ (NHS), as it has now become described, was tweeted today by Burnham today to be “now advancing like a juggernaut. In last year alone, 81 major contracts – worth £4.5 billion – put out to market. #nhs299“.

The march set off at midday and passed through the centre of the city. It will end with speeches at a rally in Whitworth Park. Greater Manchester Police said that the mile long protest was one of the largest they had ever watched over, and that no arrests have been made.

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said beforehand: “The march and rally will allow thousands of ordinary people to show the government exactly what they think of their policies. Austerity is having a devastating effect on our communities and services, with 21,000 NHS jobs lost over the last three months alone. The NHS is one of Britain’s finest achievements and we will not allow ministers to destroy, through cuts and privatisation, what has taken generations to build.” Burnham has further embellished the central accusation by saying the biggest NHS ‘top down reorganisation’, not democratically called for, put profit before people.

As the march set off at noon, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis was joined by  Andy Burnham MP and health workers from George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton, which is under threat of privatisation. Campaigners ensured that Twitter hashtag #NHS299 was trending right across the UK – emphasising the importance of the news, but getting the message across in the national media was exceptionally difficult due to lack of coverage from the BBC. 90 minutes after the first marchers had moved off, coaches were still reported to be arriving in Manchester, with the official Twitter account for the demonstration reporting that the front section was “holding at Albert Square for a bit to allow people to catch up”.



The BBC and 'Ding Dong – The Witch is Dead'" – Thatcher, the state, free market choice and competition

It is of course a favourite of Christmas pasts, present, and possibly future?

Currently, this video of “Ding, Dong – The Witch is Dead” has had 1,173,398 views.

The BBC has got caught up in a huge row, regarding what to do with the playing of the single, “Ding Dong – the Witch is Dead” tomorrow, as described here:

“The Wizard of Oz song at the centre of an anti-Margaret Thatcher campaign will not be played in full on the Official Chart Show. Instead a five-second clip of the 51-second song will be aired as part of a Newsbeat report, Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper said. Sales of Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead have soared since the former Prime Minister’s death on Monday, aged 87. Mr Cooper called the decision “a difficult compromise”. The song is set to take the number three spot in Sunday’s countdown, according to the Official Charts Company.”

Nick Cohen (@NickCohen4) was seething in the Guardian today:

“The worst that can be said of the Tory press and the BBC is that they have now sunk to the level of the Chinese Communist party. Since MGM released The Wizard of Oz in 1939, few have found the Munchkins’ chorus – “Ding dong! The Wicked Witch is dead/ Wake up sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed” – obscene or subversive in the least.

But Britain’s surreal conservatives did not want the BBC to ban the song because its words were libellous or a breach of the criminal law. They hated the song not because of what it said but because the intention of the left wingers who bought it was to celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher.

The silencing of the Munchkins must rank as one of the most inept acts of censorship Britain has seen. The days when the Radio 1 playlist made or broke a song’s chances went with the invention of the web. Neither the Daily Mail nor the parliamentary Conservative party appeared to know that if you want to ban a single today, you need to compel YouTube and iTunes to take it down.”

As part of the airbrushing of the Thatcherite approach to life generally, Ken Clarke has been touring the studios to imply that Mrs T stopped him from implementing some of his more “radical reforms” of the NHS in the 1980s. The implication of this is that Thatcher would have balked herself at the current outsourcing of the NHS through section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act, taking the NHS a step further along the route of privatisation? Yet, the regulations of section 75 Health and Social Care Act have been hastily rewritten to give a camouflage of integration for drafting which essentially says that all contracts must be put out to competitive tendering except for the generally unlikely of situations. The legal profession is currently with their ‘backs to the wall’, with the introduction of competitive tendering. As the NHS continues in its subtle draining of resources compared to increasing demands of the population and of technological developments, ‘free choice’ in the NHS has been cushioned with the sweet pill of ‘we cannot pay for everything’, meaning a competitive market where there are winners. And there are losers.

That is choice in action. None of this fluffy saving your local hospital, as you might have been enticed to believe through legislative instruments such as the Localism Act. A choice when money talks; the customer is King. Never mind the fact there are some services in medicine, NHS, which can’t be cherrypicked as readily as others, such as hernia operations. Sod the fact that mergers and acquisitions of a plc is more profitable than an immigration and asylum case from Zimbabwe, that is the market in action. Get real.

Of course, I am being utterly ironic, in case my sarcasm does not convey well through the medium of the blogosphere. But here we an ideology of the market talks driven by money, where it is hard to get in the way of consumer choice. The BBC we keep on being told is not actually part of the State, and is independent from the State. And yet, we have this perplexing situation where the BBC does not cover legal aid cuts, apart from a noddy guide right at the end on how to self-litigate, and does not cover the NHS reforms, apart from a completely unhelpful guide on how you can be relieved that your GP will not ‘look any different’.

So, if the BBC is not part of the state, why is it given “special treatment”? The Conservative ethos is about parity, rather than “equality” which is a rather left-wing word. To use the NHS analogy, why has the Government not made more of an effort to remove “barriers to entry” for competition? Why does the BBC retain the “licence fee”, which in any other sector would be considered a “state subsidy”? If it is not actually the State, is there not a danger that the BBC has become too close to the state, even if it is officially independent?

The problem is that the “Ding Dong – the Witch is Dead” is not defamatory across all jurisdictions in this age characterised by globalisation of media. It is a central tenet of English law that freedom of expression is a qualified cherished human right. Nor can a convincing case be brought to my knowledge that it contravenes the Public Order Act in this jurisdiction – you can for example freely play the video from YouTube above, download it from iPlayer, play it on Spotify. It is tricky for invoke the ‘moral outrage’ argument, as there is arguably substantially a greater degree of moral outrage that 40% of work capacity decisions made by ATOS have to be overturned on legal review. It may be a song which is in “very poor taste”, but we have only very recently visited how the English law does not sanction affairs which are in such taste (see for example the Twitter joke trial).

If any publicity is good publicity, is it possible that this decision by the BBC has made more people about the existence of the song than otherwise would have been possible. By playing 3 seconds of it is to deny genuine choice of the consumer, of this neoliberal market which, despite the recent airbrushing, Thatcher was most definitely fond of. Thatcher was in favour of a smaller state, which makes the pill that “the nation’s broadcaster”, the BBC, has decided not to play the song in full so ironic. If this were a test of Thatcherite principles, the single would have been played in full without any questions asked. And if people didn’t buy enough “I love Margaret Thatcher” copies to displace it, that’s tough.

The Naked Scientists (Sunday Programme) may be 'off air' from the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire following December 2012






Dr Chris Smith, Founder and Presenter of the Naked Scientists, produced this announcement on the Facebook ‘The Naked Scientists’ page yesterday morning.

EAST “SAYING GOODBYE” TO NAKED SCIENTISTS – As it stands, the Naked Scientists will no longer be aired by the BBC in the east of England from January. Schedules are being altered and it has not been possible to obtain an alternative slot, bringing to an end almost 10 years of our being a unique example of a specialist science show on BBC local and regional radio. We apologise deeply to those people who listen to our radio broadcasts and who will be deprived.  We are, however, very keen to try to preserve our relationship with you all, and the BBC in the east, but so far we have not been successful in our attempts to negotiate a viable proposal that is time efficient and sustainable. Listeners are urged to direct their suggestions and ideas to the BBC’s Feedback programme – – and to the BBC Trust – Meanwhile, thank you for your support over the last 10 years and we hope that you will continue to support us in our other endeavours.

The Naked Scientists is a huge project, evidenced through their unique website.

Currently, “The Naked Scientists” present a one-hour audience-interactive science radio talk show broadcast live by the BBC in the East of England (“BBC Radio Cambridgeshire”), on Sunday evenings at 6 pm. This is due to finish at the end of December 2012, according to an announcement made by Dr Chris Smith on “The Sue Marchant Show” last Thursday 1 November 2012 (this show is currently, for one day only, available on the BBC iPlayer).

This particular series on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire was created and is edited by Cambridge University Pathology Department consultant virologist Dr Chris Smith. He hosts the show with other scientists.  Each episode of the main Naked Scientists programme is one hour long and includes a digest of topical science news stories, audience questions answered live on the air and interviews with guest scientists. Questions have ranged from everyday chemistry to quantum physics. These individuals join the hosts in the studio to talk about their work and to take questions live from listeners. Previous featured guests include the discoverer of the DNA fingerprint, Alec Jeffreys, the Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees, and the co-discoverer of DNA structure, James D. Watson. The show also features on-location reports and interviews, and an interactive segment called Kitchen Science where listeners are encouraged to attempt a science experiment at home during the show.

Objectively, the decision to take this particular show off the air is a very odd one. Cambridge itself has given birth to more Nobel Prizes in medicine than some countries, and its research has recently been top of the global rankings. All local radio schedules have their fair share of mediocre programming, but the output of The Naked Scientists has been consistently excellent. It is therefore all-the-more surprising that the BBC, itself a flagship institution, should wish to make an unnecessary saving of one hour like this, possibly to make yet room for more music and chat, in clear breach of its public sector broadcasting remit at a time when it will wish to secure Licence Fee funding. There is no such similar programme in the local schedules, and one can therefore hope that the BBC will respond to feedback that it should preserve its jewel in its crown.

Within the sector, it is well known that The Naked Scientists have proven ability and excellence in science communication: The Naked Scientists have won 7 national and international awards for science communication since 2006. Furthermore, The Naked Scientists project is very well respected amongst the major scientific funding bodies, having received funding and awards from the Wellcome Trust, the Natural Environment Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Cambridge University including the Isaac Newton Trust, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Please direct your thoughts in an email to, if you would like to give any feedback on the value of this popular show; you could also include (“BBC Trust”) and in your emails.

Out of the BBC or Daily Mail, please give me the Daily Mail any day!


Graphic from the Max Farquhar blog.


I’m surrounded by lefties – I’d say virtually all of my 3000 friends on Facebook are Labour voters, and possibly the vast majority of my nearly 6000 followers on Twitter are Labour voters too. Therefore, I am well aware how everyone has loved to mock the Daily Mail, as almost a ‘rite of passage’ for my party. However, I must say I really like the Daily Mail. I certainly feel that it now offers a more interesting and open discussion of policy matters than the BBC. There is no doubt that the BBC abuses its dominant position in subtle ways – it has a dominant presence on the internet, and in TV and radio; and it has such enormous reputation that it gets away with a lot. It gets away with rampant imbalance and bias against the Labour Party, and often makes basic accuracy mistakes.

The BBC has been implicit in furthering the lie that the Labour Party increased the deficit due to rampant recklessness. The fact is that a major cash injection had to be produced in 2009 to resuscitate a dying economy due to the global financial crash; without this injection virtually all senior economists concede that the UK economy would have entered a deep depression. As it was, the Conservatives, with the Liberal Democrats under Nick Clegg, withdrew investment and embarked on a policy of austerity, thus guaranteeing the slide into depression of the UK economy earlier this year. Sir Mervyn King does not like to emphasise this, which is odd given that he is supposed to be independent. Nick Clegg even this morning used his Andrew Marr to further the lie that Labour had ‘made a mistake’ akin to his fraudulent lie of making a pledge which the Liberal Democrats could not afford. Even Danny Alexander, according to James Forsyth’s article in the Spectator this morning, conceded that he warned against making this promise which the Liberal Democrats could not afford on The Sunday Politics show.

Apart from live interviews which the BBC uses to maintain balance, the reporting of the BBC of domestic news has been staggeringly misleading, either innocently, negligently or fraudulently. There has been no coverage of the welfare benefit reforms to the point that the public understands what is going on, the public have little comprehension that the NHS has been privatised and this had not been the policy prior to the 2010 general election, and the public do not know that many sectors have been taken out of scope in legal aid and that many law centres have shut down. This is in sharp contrast to the Daily Mail, curiously enough. For example, the Daily Mail “broke” the story last week that doctors are to be offered cash ‘bribes’ to slash the number of patients they send to hospital.

“GPs have been promised financial incentives of up to £26,000 for their surgery if they take certain measures to reduce referrals. Every time a doctor sends a patient to hospital for a scan, consultation or operation, the local NHS trust is charged for the cost of their treatment.”

The Daily Mail has also led through the journalism of Sonia Poulton on the trauma experienced by disabled citizens like me through this coalition government. Sonia recently reported on the Paralympics thus:

“This year, despite widespread revulsion and opposition, David Cameron’s Coalition has forced through some of the most punishing and harsh measures – via the Welfare Reform Bill – that disabled people have experienced in my lifetime. Financial life-lines have been severed and state-assistance stripped back, and in some cases completely withdrawn, as disabled people are forced into a system that will lessen personal independence and increase state dependence. This will almost certainly result in ‘disabled homes’ up and down the country.”

Sonia has even written to Ed Miliband about the disaster of the injustice of the work capability assessments, reproduced in this article:

“Dear Mr. Miliband,

I am prompted to write to you having just watched these two programmes on the subject of ‘fit to work’ testing for sick and disabled people: Channel 4?s Dispatches (‘Britain On The Sick’) and BBC2?s Panorama (‘Disabled or Faking it?’).

This year, as a writer, I have been made painfully aware of how distressing, unreliable and costly – both physically and emotionally – the Work Capability Assessment is for those undertaking it. The financial cost to the country is another concern altogether.”

It is worth looking at this quite carefully. Only this week, Michael Gove heaped praise on the Daily Mail in arguing the case for the E-Bacc in replacing the GCSE examination. The Conservatives are therefore very mindful of what the Daily Mail writes for its reasons, much more than it cares about the Labour Party Press Office says (stating the blindingly obvious). The BBC is playing an altogether deceitful game in furthering the political agenda of the Conservative Party, and knows that it has a massive outreach. However, it has a guaranteed source of income through the licence fee. Many people I know resent that the licence fee is being used to give such a distorted view of political thinking on BBC domestic news. However, the Daily Mail really does a golden market opportunity here. Whilst the death of newspapers has perhaps been somewhat exaggerated, the circulation of the Daily Mail remains good. It will benefit from a greater number of people who wish to read its papers, and it is very likely that the declining popularity of the Sun has been for a fundamental mistrust by the majority of reasonable voters in its output, accelerated by Kelvin Mackenzie and the propagation of smears over Hillsborough. The Daily Mail instead has a golden opportunity to make a lot of money, if many disenfranchised voters, who do not particularly like any of the political parties, wish to engage with resentment of the incompetence of ATOS in delivering assessments or the resentment of the privatisation of the NHS which they did not vote for.

I believe that Labour members, like me, should not underestimate the enormous value that the Daily Mail has been in recent times in discussing real issues involving domestic policies in a way that the BBC never would. This is an important thing for Labour to realise, and to get more people in the general public to engage with these important issues. I personally believe that, whilst much prominence has been given to the ‘it’s the economy stupid’ school of thinking, both main parties are in fact mistrusted on economic incompetence, and there is a new model army of armchair protestors against NHS privatisation and the way this government has treated disabled citizens.



A discredited government which the country is disgusted at

If you were a trader in shares of Osborne plc, on the basis of this afternoon’s session in the Commons, you’d be urging your fellow commodity sellers to cheer the mantra of ‘Sell, Sell, Sell’. David Cameron and George Osborne has made a very grave error of judgment, as the pathology in the culture of the banking industry is not just restricted to the LIBOR fraud from Barclays. Don’t let the BBC deceive you – the Government has been proven to be a moral cesspit, and the country is completely exasperated.

Bob Diamond in a incoherent set of responses yesterday in the Commons Select Committee, best described as ‘implausible’, was unable to explain why senior ‘LIBOR’ setters, who had apparently been doing the job for decades, were oblivious to the emails from traders publicly wishing the LIBOR rate to be fixed. He had no explanation why it took so long to get to senior management, and provided that the compliance officers had had a duty to report criminal malpractices. This is reminiscent of the “shock” experienced by Rupert Murdoch when he found out about the morally repugnant phone hacking which had apparently occurred at News International. The problem is that ignorance is no defence in our law at least, where company directors are, despite promoting the success of the company, are supposed to act with due care, skill and diligence.

On 28 July 2012, Rachel Reeves claimed that the Chancellor made a conscious decision to exclude LIBOR from the Financial Services Bill in its current form, even when he must have known that a massive FSA investigation into the scandal. It is hard to know how corporate governance mechanisms have failed so dramatically in News International and Barclays, but there is nothing more off-putting to a corporate investor than a large company, albeit running profitably, committing openly criminal activity to pursue its aims.

This afternoon, Ed Balls utterly annihilated George Osborne’s speech, like taking candy from a baby. Balls effectively told him to ‘put up or shut up’, asking him effectively to prove his nasty allegations or desist from making them. The involvement of the Bank of England over LIBOR and the gilt markets is far from clear, and the only way to achieve a solution on this is an independent judicial-inquiry. It is a complete non-argument to say that it is too time-consuming and too costly, as those might have been the same grounds of opposition for the Leveson Inquiry which has gone a long way to showing that the pathology was substantially more than some ‘rogue reporters’. The parliamentary select committee is not able to examine witnesses with the skill of a lawyer, or QC, and probably yesterday afternoon was the best advertisement yet for a judicial-led inquiry.

While this issue runs-and-runs, there can only be lasting damage for David Cameron, whose personal poll ratings are at an all-time low. There will be no closure from a parliamentary inquiry, aided and abetted by the Liberal Democrats who are expected to be electorally obliterated in 2015. The most damaging label for David Cameron is that of the Flashman identity, of a man completely ‘out-of-touch’. The judiciary is the only lifeline for restoring the credibility of the legislature, and a judiciary-led inquiry is the only way for MPs as a collective group to restore their damaged reputation. Cameron is damaged signficantly, the country is most unimpressed, and this could prove to be fatal for this government.

Owen Jones and the case for engagement at #NetrootsUK


Source: @JonWorth, tweet



Pervasive in yesterday’s successful #NetrootsUK day at Congress House here in London was how people could feel part of Society. Not a Big Society, just Society. Nick Clegg and David Cameron have given ‘divide-and-rule’ a whole new dimension instead, by pitting the public sector workers against the private sector, by pitting indigenous people against immigrants, by pitting younger people against older people, and by pitting the disabled population against the non-disabled population; they have not supported the unemployment and disabled, but actively sought to stigmatise them through their policies.

For Nick Clegg and David Cameron, this is particularly deceitful as they have senior experience in public relations. As Nick Cohen writes this morning in the Guardian, any Keynesian policy to reverse now the shocking decline of Britain would take years to implement, and indeed Lord Skidelsky, who is the official biographer of John Maynard Keynes, feels that Vince Cable is not a Keynesian (George Osborne is clearly not).

The case for engagement is even more compelling, when many people feel utterly disenfranchised by the Tory-led BBC. The routine news coverage of the BBC borders on a Pravda-esque approach to journalism (an image I thank James Macintyre for). Without the social media, it would have been impossible for disabled campaigners Sue Marsh (@suey2y) and Kaliya Franklin (@bendygirl) to get their messages across about the lies which the government, with the assistance of the BBC, have been spreading about disabled people, as evidenced in the Spartacus Report.

That is what made Owen Jones’ speech at the #Netroots conference so special, in my view. But it was very special for another reason. Ed Miliband, in his final hustings at Haverstock Hill Comprehensive School, poignantly warned us that we must not view the Unions as the evil uncle of Labour. What truly appalled me was to see an army of young ‘activists’ in their 20s, armed with their iPhones and Blackberries, saying that the Unions are ‘irrelevant’ to them. The Unions are in fact the largest democratic movement in the UK with over 3.5 million members. Union membership is not closed to Labour. Crucially, the Unions campaign very actively for the enforcement of rights of citizens, particularly in employment. The fact that Thompsons Solicitors, an eminent law firm, is on the ground floor of the building #Netroots was hosted in for the second year-in-a-row is a testament to that. John, who helped to organise yesterday’s event superbly in my mind, took time to explain his ‘Stop employment wrongs‘ project which he had been working on. This is incredibly relevant to members of the Society I wish to live in.

That Society, symbolised by allegations of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and a fine to banks for the #LIBOR scandal, at worst is a society driven by shareholders with only thing in mind – their shareholder dividend – is utterly galling. Yes, maybe I’d like a stop to the ‘something for nothing society’ – maybe the Tory-led BBC would like to launch a campaign on millionaires in the cabinet paying more tax on their dividends, as strictly speaking that is income rather than wealth for the economic moral-purists.


Owen’s talk in full which I recorded from the front row yesterday afternoon

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