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Monday, 16 October 2017

Uber Britannia - You’re Having A Laugh

The disconnect between the revenue and profit declared in the UK by driver and rider matching service Uber is something that Zelo Street has covered recently - at least, the figures declared for its operation in London. From this, it was clear that tax avoidance on a significant scale was going on, with much of the revenue, and all of the VAT, either not being paid, or being paid elsewhere. So what of the rest of the country?
Uber has some sort of presence in around 70 towns and cities across the UK. These come under the aegis of a company called Uber Britannia Ltd., which has recently made its accounts available. These show so little revenue that it is clear someone is having a laugh with the authorities. Worse, those figures suggest Uber cannot possibly be maintaining an office in many of those towns and cities where it now operates.

How so? Consider the numbers for 2016: revenue has increased from just over £376,000 to over £1,021,100. After administration expenses of just over £941,000, that leaves a paltry £80,000 in operating profit before tax. And Uber Britannia is paying a mere £13,212 in Corporation Tax. This company is operating in around 70 towns and cities, and has around 10,000 drivers on its books, yet its profits are no more than £80,000.

Averaged out, it means a typical Uber operation outside London is making no more than just over £1,000 in profit. But it’s when the administration costs are broken down that we see the real mickey-taking being done here. Those total just over £941,000 - now divide that up between those 70 operations and you get little more than £13,000 each. A town or city can run its Uber operation for just over £13,000 - for a whole year?
Where is the office located that takes the bookings and then farms them out to drivers? For just over £13,000 a year, there isn’t one. But you know why that might be - the app does not need there to be an office. That, as Uber’s cheerleaders out there on the right will happily tell you, is so 20th Century. The inconvenient fact, that it’s part of the rules, does not, for Uber, seem to matter. For their mindset, the end justifies the means.

Where is all the revenue going that those 10,000 drivers generate? But you know the answer to that one as well. Either they’re getting not unadjacent to stuff all, or they aren’t getting it via Uber Britannia. If that gross revenue amount of £1,021,000 represents the 20% cut from 10,000 drivers, those drivers are averaging no more than £400 each. They would have to make sixty to eighty times that just to stay afloat.

As in London, most of the drivers’ income is not appearing on a UK Uber balance sheet. It’s being channelled through Uber BV, a company based in the Netherlands, which enables Uber to be, as the spin goes, more tax efficient. So while all those black cab drivers shell out their taxes, Uber ponies up no more in profit for 70 town and city operations than that gathered from a dozen proper taxis.

The bending of the rules beyond their limit of elasticity by Uber is not confined to London. And they expect TfL to just wave them back into the capital because they’re cheap and popular? Someone here is having a laugh. And that’s not good enough.

Sven’s Fake Sheikh Revenge

The activities of Mazher Mahmood, aka the “Fake Sheikh”, have featured previously on Zelo Street, especially after he was caught lying over the attempted sting of singer Tulisa Contostavlos and the case collapsed. Maz went to jail for that one, and ever since, there has been a slowly mounting pile of evidence suggesting several of the convictions obtained through his stings were unsafe and should be set aside.
Worse for Maz were the estimated £800 million worth of civil claims likely to arise from his past pretence to being a journalist, rather than “a criminal with an NUJ card”. Watching all this unfold have been people like John Alford, whose potential ruin Maz and his pals were caught on camera laughing about, as a result of the sting which ended his acting career. For the Fake Sheikh’s crew, finishing a career was all a big game for them.

Well, the civil claims against Maz are getting into their stride right now, with one of the first beneficiaries being former England football manager Sven Goran Eriksson. We know this as the Mail has actually reported it - although in the Sport section. Their piece tells “Sven-Goran Eriksson has received a damages pay-out over the sting which he says was the reason for his five-year tenure as England manager ending”. And there is more.

The 69-year said he had won a civil claim over undercover News of the World journalist Mazher Mahmood’s ‘Fake Sheikh’ sting on him in 2006. The Swede did not disclose the level of damages but told Sportsmail that the damages against Mahmood - who was jailed 12 months ago for perverting the course of justice - could not fully compensate him for the loss of ‘the best job you can have’”. The story was familiar to Maz watchers.
Mahmood met Eriksson on a boat in Dubai in January 2006 and recorded him saying he would leave to manage Aston Villa if England won the World Cup in Germany later that year … The FA announced within weeks that he would leave his job after the 2006 World Cup … The former executive director of the FA, David Davies, said in his autobiography that the governing body’s chief executive Brian Barwick was determined to announce after the controversy that Eriksson would be parting company with England”.

Sven was positively restrained in his response to the Fake Sheikh sting: “We won the case but I lost my job. They did it to put me in big, big trouble before the World Cup. You have to respect the press. It’s good that they can write what they want to. But that made [me] sad and angry and I lost my job. It took a year but we won our case”.

Football watchers, who will have heard all the excuses advanced for the Murdochs, including all the money they have brought to the English game, may manage a wry smile at the same organisation setting out to deliberately hobble the national side in this way. Others will have already figured out that Eriksson’s settlement, if it had to take into account his loss of both earnings and marketability, will have been a big one.

And press reform campaigners will once again point out that Mazher Mahmood’s close relationship with the Police, along with his unprincipled dishonesty, is another compelling reason why Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry must be commenced without further delay.

Monty’s Marr Bias Claim BUSTED

After the Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun claimed that the BBC exhibited bias in the way they selected guests for Sunday programmes like The Andy Marr Show (tm), and raised very little interest, even from their fellow travellers in the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate, their cause needed someone to make a suitably pointless gesture in support. They did not have long to wait.
Yes, you've fouled up yet again, Monty

The inmates of the Baby Shard bunker were duly rewarded: cometh the hour, cometh the clueless pundit, as Tim Montgomerie performed his customary party trick of shooting from the hip without doing his homework, and ended up covered in rather more than confusion. His first mistake was to take the Sun’s claims as data, which as any fule kno, is never a good idea. But off he tweeted anyway.
Showing the Sun’s graphic, Monty sneered “BBC ‘balance’”. The Marr Show’s long-suffering editor Rob Burley attempted to reason with him: “I can believe, Tim, that you endorse this. It counts Benedict Cumberbatch as a Remain supporter. He was talking about acting. It's nonsense”. No, that didn’t impress: “That’s one person, one stat. What about the tens/hundreds of others?”. David Aaronovitch then joined in.
That’s for you to answer Tim. Have you seen the breakdown? Is it reliable?”. What say Monty to that? “I watch #Marr. It’s the same pre-referendum, anti-Brexit types, still dominant”. Kevin Schofield of Politics Home joined the fray. “Like Richard Tice, Chris Grayling (and John McDonnell!)?” And then The Great Man sold the pass: “Anecdote is not data Kevin”. YOU JUST USED ANECDOTE YOURSELF. Doh!
Meanwhile, Gerry Hassan had an interesting point: “For these figures is John McDonnell counted in pro-EU or Brexit groups? Really should be a dont know [group] for likes of him & Corbyn”. Burley replied “The Sun count McDonnell - who argues for Brexit now - as Remain”. Monty blundered in: “Correctly. Since the elxn, Labour is attempting to play politics above the #euref instruction”. What “instruction”? A non-binding referendum?
Aaronovitch had seen enough. “If McDonnell is counted as anti-Brexit then the whole exercise is utter bollocks, Tim. Whoever did it should be ashamed”. All Monty could do was to fall back on quoting from the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog - that Corbyn said he would vote Remain now. But Corbyn was not the subject of the discussion - McDonnell was. Aaronovitch had one last try.
The question concerned McDonnell. [And] you willl have seen Dennis Skinner’s recent unequivocal assertion that Corbyn will have been for Brexit”. The Sun’s selective use of information was not convincing Monty’s fellow pundits and writers. But perhaps this was nothing more than The Great Man getting tetchy at not having been invited on the Marr Show paper review as often as he believes is merited.

Whatever the reasoning, Tim Montgomerie has once again proved himself to be the Austen Chamberlain of the punditerati: “He always played the game, and he always lost”.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Brexit - Tomorrow’s Spin Today

While many politics watchers digest today’s exhibition of punditry and interviewing, those spinning against any form of accommodation with the EU have been honing tomorrow’s press agenda, which will then be taken up by the broadcasters, in some cases without questioning its reasoning or veracity. And that’s just what those stirring this particular pot want - because tomorrow’s EU storyline is built on sand.
No John, it's THEM targeting YOU

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was subjected to the inquisition of the host on The Andy Marr Show (tm), where he declared that his party would not countenance what is being described as a “No deal Brexit”, a fall-back to WTO rules on tariffs. His stance was clear: to remain in the room - just as Mrs T did so many times, let’s not forget - and negotiate a deal beneficial to both ourselves and the EU27 countries.
Behold the all-powerful dispenser of editorial lines to take

That sounds a straightforward and reasonably principled stance. But for those out there on the right, who have the connections to the press, it is nothing more than something to be twisted and spun to suit their ends. So it was that the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog duly twisted and span. This included both their current and former members, as well as one suitably clueless hanger-on.
He certainly is

After McDonnell declared he would not countenance “no deal”, out came the Fawkes whopper: “Labour would accept any EU deal, however punishing. Great negotiating tactic guys”. No, he didn’t say that. But that is the line being pushed to their press pals taking shape right there. It also chimes with the petulant snippiness of Staines’ former tame gofer, the flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, now at the Murdoch Sun.
The lie is told ...

Observer calls for UK to sign a blank cheque to Brussels and abandon Brits living on continent for fear of upsetting EU. Pathetic” he whined at a paper voicing opinions inconvenient to him. There was no talk of a blank cheque, and none of abandoning Brits in other EU member states. That’s just lying, plain and simple. But that is how the right-wing Europhobic mindset works. Paranoia and outrage are the currencies in play here.
... it gets added to a similar lie ...

This line is already being taken up by supposedly mainstream pundits, including the Mail on Sunday’s not at all celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges, who has asked “Why isn't Marr pointing out if McDonnell won't countenance no deal it means accepting whatever EU demands”, even though he forgot the question mark (again).
... and the resulting Kool-Aid is duly imbibed

The dishonesty and stupidity here is plain to see - Hodges is a former Trade Union official, so knows the difference between “negotiation”, which McDonnell stressed in his Marr Show interview, and “submission”, which is what he is assuming. But he is also a close acquaintance of The Great Guido and a paid-up member of the Pundit Establishment.

Later this week, you will see the anti-EU right-wing assert repeatedly that Labour would accept any deal, suck up any punishment meted out, sign any blank cheque supposedly demanded by Brussels. And after one paper has run the claim, especially if it’s a major seller like the Sun or Mail, it will rapidly become received wisdom.

Of course, our free and fearless press could just stop taking their stories from self-interested liars and their otherwise clueless hangers-on. But that might involve doing some proper journalism, and for too many in the Fourth Estate, that will just not do.

Julia Hartley Dooda’s Weinstein Meltdown

As if being reduced to a laughing stock after claiming live on air that Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond should be tried for treason were not enough, self-promotion artist Julia Hartley Brewer has decided, of her own volition, to double down and make herself look even worse, such is the insatiable appetite for attention of those who would be best advised not going round and openly seeking to attract it.
We all know who you are, thanks

Ms Hartley Dooda’s schtick is, as with so many of the Pundit Establishment, to first ask what the hot topic du jour may be, and duly declare herself to be an expert in the field. The pitfalls of such an approach should be obvious but, well, if at first you don’t succeed, then just go right ahead and suck some more seed instead.
So it was that she weighed up the situation, assessed the actual evidence to hand, and disregarded most of it in favour of saying something that would bring More And Better Attention Opportunities For Herself Personally Now. “If I were a Hollywood starlet & I didn't have my own sordid story to tell about Harvey Weinstein, I'd probably make one up now” she trilled, thereby pissing off rather more than Hollywood starlets.
Would Madam care to retract and say sorry for that outburst? You jest. After Quartz told their followers “Almost no one has been thanked at the Oscars more than Harvey Weinstein”, Ms Hartley Dooda decided this meant there was a cover-up, asserting “Everyone knew. And everyone joined in the cover up”. The inconvenient fact, that Weinstein had been involved in a lot of successful films, was not allowed to enter.
No, she was sure they all knew. And just to let anyone still awake know that she knew this, we were told “Harvey Weinstein has been expelled from the Academy board because we all now know what they've all known & didn't care about for decades”. So how does she fare on something like, oh I dunno, phone hacking? Is there the same certainty that they all knew it was going on (clue: they all did know what was going on)?
Guess what’s coming. Yes, in an exchange last year with the Mirror’s Kevin Maguire, she tried to equate the deeds of Damian McBride to those of Andy Coulson: “but Damian's misdeeds were while he was in Labour govt's employ, Coulson's were for different employer. Different”. Yes, different is the word. McBride may have defamed someone - Coulson got guilty of breaking the law and went to jail.
And before you ask, Leveson was an irrelevance, because she said so. Meanwhile, how to keep on kicking all those who she claimed had covered up for Harvey Weinstein? That was a tricky one, until Ms Hartley Dooda read Piers Morgan’s latest thoughts. “This is the same Academy that happily awarded an Oscar to Roman Polanski, who raped a 13 year old girl”. Yep, blame Roman Polanski. That’ll convince, er, nobody.

Julia Hartley Dooda has offended countless victims of sexual assault and worse. On top of that, she’s made accusations of a cover-up she’ll never be able to prove. But this further display of idiocy means she’s still getting attention. And that’s all that matters.

Kavanagh’s Illegal Gay Outing

The need for the right-leaning part of our free and fearless press to find more and better excuses for running cheap personal smear jobs on politicians and celebrities they happen to dislike was nowhere seen to better advantage than when the Murdoch press was caught using illegally gathered information to take out a party leadership candidate - except that the contest happened more than a decade ago.
After the Lib Dems unwisely moved against Charles Kennedy in 2006, several of their MPs declared an interest in the leadership. The Murdoch mafiosi immediately went into dirt digging mode: they had already taken out Mark Oaten via an exposé in the late and not at all lamented Screws, and soon homed in on Simon Hughes. He apparently volunteered to give a confessional interview to veteran Murdoch enforcer Trevor Kavanagh.

Except, as a Byline Media piece has made plain, Hughes’ actions were far from voluntary: the Sun had illegally obtained call information for his phone, which revealed that he had called a gay chatline. And, although Kavanagh has since protested that the his story had not come about as a result of phone hacking, that’s only because the Sun’s illegally obtained information enabled it to crack the story without hacking being needed.

The Screws was also on Hughes’ case, and had hacked his mobile voicemail. They just weren’t as quick as the Sun to stand up their story. And what is fascinating about contemporary accounts is that none question how the information was being obtained. Even the Guardian merely toldThe Sun - or its Murdoch Sunday sister, the NoW - had proof he used a gay chatline. It pounced. So when Mr Hughes said yesterday he had ‘chosen’ to speak out in the Sun he was stretching a point”.
They got the leverage, but not the illegality. In fact, they got the leverage twice, another piece musingWhatever the reasoning, he surely would not have chosen the Sun, a paper unable to mention homosexuality without sly innuendo and thinly-veiled repugnance (‘Another one bites the pillow’, it says today) to out himself”.

It was only at the time of the Leveson Inquiry that questions were asked. The Guardian again: “Hughes said he did not know how the Sun had obtained the telephone records but that he believed the paper had no public interest in his sexuality. ‘It was a character assassination, not backed up by anything,’ he added”. And Kavanagh was plain evasive.

Kavanagh indicated that he did not know the source of the Sun's information about Hughes's use of a gay chatline. He said: ‘I don't know where the original tip for the story came from. I am sure it was not obtained through phone hacking’”. If he was so sure it was not a phone hacking product, how come he did not know what it was from?

What the latest revelations show is that, perhaps, questions were not being asked about other illegal information gathering activities at the time, as so much attention was focused on phone hacking. And what they will then show is that, despite being caught using illegally obtained information to use as leverage on a target, Trevor Kavanagh will retain his place on the board of sham press regulator IPSO.

Our free and fearless press - as bent now as it has ever been. No change there, then.

Top Six - October 15

So what’s hot, and what’s not, in the past week’s blogging? Here are the six most popular posts on Zelo Street for the past seven days, counting down in reverse order, because, well, I have shopping stuff to do later. So there.
6 Spectator Backs Football Hooligans Brendan O’Neill was given a platform by Fraser Nelson to eulogise the Football Lads Alliance. He claimed this was a working class movement, without realising what the term “Lads” means in this context.

5 Julia Hartley Dooda’s Brexit Meltdown By ranting that Philip Hammond should be tried for treason, another pundit showed that they had lost the plot.

4 Kensington - Another Nail In The Uber Coffin The crash on Exhibition Road, where several pedestrians were injured, looked like another Uber shunt - the driver claimed to be working for them. And trying to run off after the crash made it look worse.

3 Corbyn PMQs Spin BUSTED Jezza bested Theresa May at PMQs once more, so the Tories’ pals in the press and new media pretended it wasn’t happening.

2 Football Lads Alliance BUSTED The claim that this group was only about opposing extremism - any extremism - was given the lie when the Islamophobia surfaced.

1 FLA Bans Tommy Robinson Stephen Yaxley Lennon got very upset when a former SAS trooper told him to stay away from the FLA’s gatherings.

And that’s the end of another blogtastic week, blog pickers. Not ‘arf!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Tories - The Party Of Uber

While driver and rider matching service Uber was getting established in London, putting on thousands of new drivers and behaving, shall we say, creatively when it came to observing Private Hire regulations, there was always the suspicion that the Tory Party, which had so shamelessly courted the taxi trade when they wanted their votes in the 2012 Mayoral Election, was not exactly a disinterested party to the expansion.
Even the accusations of there being a Tory “chumocracy” backing Uber’s rise were never nailed down. But that was then, and this is now: the Tories are now unequivocally the party shilling for Uber. We know this as they have deliberately turned TfL’s decision not to grant the firm a renewal of their licence into a political issue, one where they are using the ban to attack Labour and especially current London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Under the heading “GIVE LONDON A CHOICE”, the Tories tell anyone listeningSign our petition calling on Sadiq Khan to rethink the Uber ban”, demonstrating their woeful ignorance of reality. As any fule kno, TfL made the decision not to renew Uber’s licence, and Khan was not involved. He merely supported the decision that they made.

But on they go: “While we agree Uber must address safety concerns and that it is important there is a level playing field across the private hire market, we don't believe a blanket ban is the solution … This will only cause massive inconvenience to millions of Londoners, while showing the world that London is closed to business and innovation”.
And how do they reach that conclusion? “We believe Londoners want competition and innovation that provides choice, lower prices and the opportunity for extra income for tens of thousands of people”. What does this really mean? As even the Evening Standard has conceded, Londoners have choice without Uber, and would have more choice if a co-operative app were developed, as I discussed at the time.

There is choice, competition and income generating opportunity already. But what was the one I missed? Ah yes - lower prices! Not for the Tories the inconvenience of having to confront the loss-leading (Uber is shipping hundreds of millions of US Dollars a year), poverty pay for drivers (many earning less than the living wage), and rampant tax avoidance by Uber (VAT not paid in the UK, and very little Corporation Tax either).
No, all the Tories can say is “We back the majority of people who want the taxi trade to have fair competition - not protection - where the rules are upheld fairly on both sides”. Except most Londoners think the ban was right. And to conclude “Once again, Labour are taking it too far and ordinary working people will pay the price for it” is just coming it.

The Tories couldn’t care less about “ordinary working people” - all they want is to get chauffeured around London for next to nothing, and stuff the consequences.

Londoners are, in reality, coming round to the same view the taxi trade had already formed - the capital can get along without Uber and its little Wild West Show.

Tommy Robinson - Islam Cowardice?

We know that Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, talks a lot about Islam. His outpourings suggest great knowledge of The Prophet; he has co-authored a book which claims to analyse the Qur’an. So it might be thought that he would have no problem debating the subject with an Islamic scholar - a one-on-one discussion on a subject which, for many of his followers, he has significant expertise.
Stephen Yaxley Lennon aka Tommy Robinson

But recent events suggest that this thought may have been sadly misplaced: Lennon has had several opportunities to discuss Islam with scholars of the religion, yet for some reason, none of these have been taken up by The Great Man. Why that might be is not known, but what it known is that when someone with an in-depth knowledge of the Qur’an shows up, Lennon is nowhere to be seen - so far.

Here on Zelo Street, many of these invitations have been discovered, and just three selected to demonstrate that even someone who is prepared to make a 300 mile round trip to violate someone’s privacy (twice) may be of less than perfect courage.
Ali Dawah challenged Lennon after being mistakenly identified as someone “caught on camera telling people to go to Syria for jihad”. Lennon got that wrong. Dawah mused “hopefully one day I will come across you for a nice discussion and expose you on camera once and for all”. He is yet to see his suggestion taken up.

The people at Smile 2 Jannah have also come away empty handed from their efforts to get Lennon to debate with them. When it was suggested to them “he has continuously backed down from having a debate … Obviously we know the reason of why he does back down, because he knows if he sits for a debate his lies will be exposed”, their reply was simply “He has been challenged by us, but he is avoiding us … He feels threatened by people of knowledge”. And then there was the challenge of Nabeel Azeez.
The founder of Becoming the Alpha Muslim has set out in some detail how he tried to set up a debate with Lennon, then reschedule it after the first attempt fell through. His conclusions chime with other unsuccessful attempts to secure a debate.

Here’s what he had to say: “Tommy Robinson has violated a gentleman’s agreement and backed out of our debate at the last minute … The debate was to take place online on May 3rd, moderated by Thor Holt of the Write with Courage! podcast, and uploaded on to the Union Magazine Youtube channel for public viewing … This is the second time Tommy has been a no-show. The debate was initially scheduled for April 3rd but according to his executive assistant, Hel Gower, they didn’t even schedule it”.
Nabeel Azeez

Azeez has detailed evidence showing that Lennon was apparently up for a debate, to be later uploaded to YouTube and made into a podcast. Twice he was ready to debate, and twice he didn’t show. But he was more than happy to roam the country with camera crew in tow to set up confrontations on his own terms.

Perhaps Stephen Yaxley Lennon could tell us why these debates never happen. After all, he wouldn’t be frightened of coming off second best, with his knowledge. Or would he?

Dan Hodges Anti-Semitism Hypocrisy

Obsession can become self-destructive, consuming the obsessive to the exclusion of all contact with reality. It can do more than merely cloud judgment, blinding those thus possessed to their distance from credibility. It can be a sad sight when played out in public. That is where the Mail on Sunday’s not even slightly celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges is right now, not that he is yet prepared to realise it.
He's desperate, Dan

Desperate Dan’s obsession is anti-Semitism, and in particular its presence within the Labour Party. Where more rational political observers see a handful of heavily publicised cases in a party of half a million members, Hodges has already extrapolated this to become an infestation which most in the party support, accept, or even participate in. He has become immune to reason on the subject.
Hence The Great Man’s Twitter meltdown yesterday, where reasoning with him proved impossible, even for the likes of Ian Dunt, whose exasperation showed as he observed “you've jumped from a tweet on Tories to basically accusing me of making excuses for anti-semitism”. Hodges’ reply was real stuck record stuff: “You said the Tories are an affront to civilised values, and Labour aren't. Labour are, unless you view virulent anti-Semitism as acceptable”. Now it’s not only present, but virulent.
It got worse: Hodges then claimed “Most on the Left support or tolerate it”. Who is this “most on the Left”? Does he have anything to back that up? As if you need to ask. We must take his word as reality, or at least the reality which he inhabits.
Dunt was yet more exasperated at that claim. “Jesus Dan” he exclaimed, to which Hodges just kept droning on: “You're not seriously now going to try and argue that Labour anti-Semitism isn't  tolerated within the party”. Dunt tried reasoning (not, as it turned out, a good idea): “You just said ‘most of the left’ support or tolerate anti-semitism. Do you know how nuts that sounds?” Would Hodges see sense? “So if that's not the case, why is the Labour Party infested with anti-semitism. If it isn't tolerated”. So that’s a no, then.
Another Tweeter tried his luck. “I'm against any form of discrimination, and this smear against Corbyn being antisemitic has no substance”. No, Dan wasn’t having that: “‘I'm against any form of discrimination. Except Labour anti-Semitism. Which I will dismiss as a smear’”. So he was challenged to pony up some evidence. “Provide me with ONE form of evidence”. What say Dan? “He doesn't support it. But he tolerates it”. Record’s stuck.
But, helpfully, Matthew Black was on hand to burst the Hodges bubble. “Re anti-semitism, how come you shared a platform (The Spectator) with rabid anti-semite & Golden Dawn supporter, Taki Theodoracopulos?” On top of that, how come he writes for the Sunday sister paper of the Daily Mail, which wheeled out a shed load of anti-Semitic tropes to attack the reputation of Ed Miliband’s late father?

Dan Hodges’ obsession is eating up his credibility. His hypocrisy is consuming what’s left. But he’s getting an obscene amount of money for peddling that obsession, so that’s all right, then.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Toby Young Demands Government Waste

The high principles of the loathsome Toby Young have a remarkable flexibility: he is an ardent conservative and free marketeer, yet in order to keep himself in the style to which he has become accustomed, he has gracefully accepted a position paid out of public funds. He is also a ferocious opponent of Government waste, but has just made a pitch for more of it. Such is the world of today’s pragmatic conservatism.
Yes Tobes, you've been rumbled again

Tobes has decided that, as he is head of the New Schools Network, which promotes his favourite subject, Free Schools, that there should be more of them. In pursuit of this objective, he has hit on a measure of school examination attainment called Progress 8. This, he has declared in a routine slice of shameless propagandising for the Spectator magazine, justifies the establishment of more Free Schools.

After all, he claims, “There are now three times as many in the country’s most deprived areas as in the least deprived”, and as for those opposed to his grand vision for the promotion of Himself Personally Now, well, “The Labour Party and the teaching unions will continue to bang on about free schools being a middle class vanity project, but the results speak for themselves”. Well, up to a point, Lord Copper.
That misses all the failures, the occasional incidence of forthright criminality, the skewing of books by having friendly local authorities provide accommodation on, shall we say, favourable terms, the ability of Free Schools to bust national pay restraint and cream off teachers from the state sector, and the gloss provided by something that is new, different and momentarily exciting. Plus a problem Tobes has inadvertently mentioned himself.

Last April, in response to the ASCL’s comment “‘Creating surplus places: an inefficient use of public money’: our comment on today’s free schools report”, he told that “Over 80% of free schools opened or approved to open since 2014 have been in areas where there's a demographic need for new places”. Think about that for a moment.

What Toby Young admitted there is that as much as 20% of Free School places have been provided where they are not needed. Had any local authority done that, not only he, but also the whole of the right-wing press and new media, including groups like the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, would have come down on them like the proverbial tonne of bricks. And they would have been absolutely right to do so.
But if it’s Tobes’ pet project - indeed, the whole raison d’ĂȘtre of his current job - then wasting public funds is fine. We have a funding crisis in schools right now, and here is an alleged conservative and free marketeer demanding that public money is sprayed up the wall on a concept that has been shown time and again to be an inefficient allocation of that money. Waste is fine as long as it props up Tobes’ ideology.

The Free Schools concept damaged educational standards in Sweden, from where the concept was imported. Thus far, it has only damaged the public finances. For this, and that is has not yet fouled up young Britons’ futures, we should count ourselves lucky.

Press Delusion Laid Bare

Some who call themselves journalists get a hard time from this blog, but to imagine that this is an attack on the profession as a whole is to misunderstand where it is coming from. There is much good journalism out there, and moreover, there are many journalists who slave away at the coalface of news for a relatively modest return.
For them, work is a combination of more demands, fewer resources, even fewer pay rises, and the ever-present threat of being culled in the next round of staff cuts. The message, transmitted through the removal of staff canteens, ending of Christmas parties, reduction in perks, and yes, an ever-dwindling head count, is that the press is under financial pressure as never before. There just isn’t the money in the industry any more.

So one can only imagine the reaction of all those hard-pressed and poorly-paid hacks to the idea that the industry in which they work, and which is pleading poverty to the outside world, has no problem spraying significant sums of money up the wall on pointless legal actions. But that is exactly what the press is doing, while most of its number is declining to report this exhibition of largesse. So what’s the story?

Ah well. Ever since the proposals from Part 1 of the Leveson Inquiry, and the Royal Charter on press regulation, the press establishment has been reacting in the manner of a petulant child refusing to behave in a civilised manner. Not only will they not have anything to do with proposals that might make press regulation properly independent, they are also hell-bent on allowing anyone else from indulging in such practices.

This mindset, the iron law of old Fleet Street, is what brought the press establishment to court this week, to spray more of that scarce money up the wall as it battered its collective heads in Don Quixote-like manner against the reality of law. Worse, the lesson from its defeat has gone unlearned, with that same press establishment emerging from its bunker to tell the world that it fully intends to spray yet more money up the wall.

What on earth was going on? Here we encounter the News Media Association, a body which advocates and propagandises for the press establishment. So vulnerable do these poor dears imagine themselves to be that their assembled megaphones are not enough: they need a propaganda arm too, just as they need to maintain their grip on sham press regulator IPSO. The NMA is the group which lost in court this week.

Their beef was with the recognition by the Press Recognition Panel of truly independent press regulator IMPRESS. Not content with their members running a raft of knocking copy which smeared Impress as the poodle of Max Mosley, and sneering at the titles choosing to be regulated by it, the press establishment is now seeking to hobble its competitor by means of the law. And in this endeavour it was soundly beaten this week.

As the Guardian has reported (as so often, most of the press has declined to cover the story), the NMA “said the Press Recognition Panel (PRP), which was set up under a royal charter after the Leveson inquiry, should not have given Impress formal approval a year ago … The NMA said the PRP had misinterpreted and misapplied the charter, but Lady Justice Rafferty and Mr Justice Popplewell, sitting in London, rejected its case on Thursday”. The 86th, and final, paragraph of the judgment gives a hint why.
We have not found it necessary, for the resolution of this application, to rehearse and announce a view on the arguments of IMPRESS, the interested party, save by one or two  references. That economy should not be taken as conveying any view of the merits of its  submissions, rather that our conclusions on all heads of complaint by NMA is dispositive of this application. We would reject it”.

The Guardian again: “Ben Jaffey QC, for the PRP, said the decision to grant recognition, which the judges refused to quash, was ‘unimpugnable’. It was taken after three rounds of open consultation during which NMA more than once advanced its views … Impress was an independent self-regulatory body and its funding was settled in agreement with the industry within the meaning of the charter, he added”.

The press establishment, through the NMA, has sought to hinder, if not halt, the process through which Impress was recognised under the Royal Charter. Their reasoning, which may be correct, is that if Impress’ place is secure, and proven so to be, then the pressure for Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act to be commenced would be ratcheted up to a level that same establishment might be hard pressed to dissipate.

Section 40 could trigger a domino effect, as increasingly hard pressed publishers decide that cold financial reality dictates they throw in the towel on IPSO and either join Impress, or set up their own Charter-compliant press regulator.

What the NMA is doing is to enforce the will of the wealthiest publishers - the Murdoch mafiosi and especially the Rothermere press, personified by the implacable defiance of the Daily Mail’s legendarily foul mouthed editor Paul Dacre.

That defiance has, whisper it quietly, led the NMA to the decision to go back to court, no matter how pointless the exercise. “IMPRESS is a state-sponsored regulator” states their press release dishonestly, before confirming that it is all about seeing off Section 40: “IMPRESS cannot and never will be a regulator for the UK newspaper industry which remains wholly opposed to Section 40”. And their next action?

We will be seeking leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal”. Do you hear that, all you hacks toiling away for little reward in the service of NMA members? Your bosses say they have no money for pay rises, but are prepared to spray hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions, up the wall in one last desperate stand against the tide of public opinion, formed after observing the decades of misbehaviour and lawbreaking.

It is not just the refusal to recognise their own malpractice, not merely the hypocritical opposition to the Royal Charter (if it was such a bad idea, why go down the same road?), not only the attempts to stop Impress gaining recognition, not solely the barrage of dishonest and spiteful attacks on press reform campaigners, and rather more than the refusal to tell readers what they were up to. It is about more than all of those.

It is the sheer incredulity of a press establishment prepared to waste eye-watering amounts of money on a pointless cause, while simultaneously pleading poverty, that for many of their own employees and freelances will stick in the craw. If anyone needed to know what groups like Hacked Off were on about, here is the answer in spades.

Our free and fearless press, like the last of the wild west, is out of time in a world which is would rather not understand. It is morally bankrupt. And if it keeps on wilfully wasting its members’ money, some of them may be more than that very soon. Sad, really.

Julia Hartley Dooda’s Brexit Meltdown

While talks between Britain and the EU make little progress, with departure from the European Club even being thrown into doubt, realisation is taking hold among the more vehement Brexit supporters that this jolly adventure might not be all it was cracked up to be. They, though, cannot be at fault for the foul-up, or for encouraging it from the sidelines, so someone else must get it in the neck for not being responsible.
Yes, we know who you are, thanks

This customarily perverted logic has led to many out there on the right deciding that the only person in the Government trying to stop the economy imploding, as Sterling heads south and more companies start to move jobs out of the country, should be the one to carry the can. So it is that Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond is being framed as the scapegoat for the intellectual shortcomings of the Press and Pundit Establishment.
And nowhere can this idiocy be seen to better effect than in the visible meltdown of self-promotion artist Julia Hartley Brewer, who has gone off the end of the pier in no style at all, approvingly quoting the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog - who are trying to take the heat of Bozza - claiming “Hammond's article does more to undermine No10's negotiating position than Boris' article”.
That, sadly, is crap (Michael White’s riposte, “Guido wouldn’t know a ‘negotiating position’ from a pork sausage”, is much more to the point). Still, on goes Ms Hartley Dooda, now approvingly quoting the Daily Mail via the Fawkes massive: “Daily Mail on 'dismal, defeatist, relentlessly negative, inordinately self-satisfied lugubrious appeaser Mr Hammond’”. “Appeaser”. The paper that lionised the Third Reich.
But Ms Hartley Dooda was darned sure that Spreadsheet Phil was The One Wot Done It. So, grasping at yet another straw, she quoted right-wing rant site CapX - not that she only gets her “news” from places that serve it up as she imagines the world to be, you understand - and announced triumphantly “This. This. This. The Treasury is in full-blown stubborn remoaner mode”. I once ate at Est Est Est, too. But she wasn’t finished. Yet.
Meltdown point was fast approaching: the combination of grim reality and paranoia was about to cause the dam to burst. First came the rumble and the cracking of masonry, as she ranted “Whether you're a Leaver or Remainer, how can anyone think Hammond can remain as Chancellor when he undermines British interests daily?”.
And then it happened. “Philip Hammond shouldn't just be sacked, he should be tried for treason”. With that, Julia Hartley Dooda had not only sold the pass, but revealed that her previously tenuous grip on reality had been prised from her fingers. Hammond is one of the few people in Government trying his best not to sell Britain down the river - if she wants to go after someone who really is undermining British interests, there are plenty of more deserving candidates, not least of which is Herself Personally Now.

When declining to behave like a cross between a headless chicken and a demented lemming is considered treasonous, we really are through the looking glass.