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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Tommy Robinson Breaks The Law

Back from holiday overnight has come Stephen Yaxley Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, who has marked the event by flagrantly breaking the law at whichever airport his flight arrived. The area set aside for passport control - the one prominently marked “UK Border” - is always adorned with signs reminding those passing through that photography of any kind - still and video - is strictly prohibited.
Stephen Yaxley Lennon aka Tommy Robinson

That did not deter Lennon, who proceeded to not only video his encounter with the desk man who checked his passport, but then post it afterwards to show his adoring public that he was a victim of state oppression, or something. When he transits the UK Border, the automatic passport readers spit his document out, and then border officers stop him because his passport gets flagged up on their systems.
There are good reasons for this, as Lennon knows all too well: his criminal record, including passport fraud, means he can look forward to being flagged up for many years to come. But the need to play the victim clearly came first. “Just landed back in the uk. Usual at passports” he Tweeted, along with a video identifying the officer concerned.
The reaction was not all favourable. “Don’t mean this in a horrible way but do you think it could be because you have a criminal record mate?” asked one Tweeter. Another tried to point out gently that Lennon had broken the law with his Tweet: “Thought you couldn't film the people at border control?” You can’t.
Another Tweeter had come to a similar conclusion: “It's probably because you film them when it clearly says no cameras”. It clearly does, all the way through passport control. And then his significant previous got a mention: “Plus you have a criminal record re traveling on false passport”. A trip to the USA, wasn’t it? Most unfortunate.
And the same Tweeter, acknowledging the point about filming being prohibited, then added “Good point, according to Tommy we have no border control and let anyone in”. It’s true that many of those making supportive noises whined that followers of The Prophet would have been waved through (as if). But his past kept coming back: “Given that you have a history of passport fraud, I think you were handled very professionally and politely there”.
It came back time and again: “Didn't you get caught traveling to the US on a friends passport … maybe that's why?” The US rule that those with criminal records are not allowed in was clearly a handicap. But the law is the law, and if you want to break it, you can’t complain at the consequences. So the last pay-off should have been no surprise: “Poor snowflake Tommy, always the victim eh Tommy!” Quite.

Stephen Yaxley Lennon aka Tommy Robinson has no room to complain about being flagged up by the UK Border Agency. He has no excuse for breaking the law. And he’ll have no excuse when he gets his collar felt about the illegal filming.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Katie Hopkins Ship Abandons Mission

The people at Mail Online may allow themselves a brief sigh of relief: the mission by the group calling themselves “Defend Europe”, using a chartered ship called the C-Star, and enthusiastically supported by pro-am motormouth Katie Hopkins, has finally come to an end, abandoned in the face of hostility from the authorities in Egypt, Cyprus, Malta, Tunisia, and even Libya. It was a complete and utter failure.
Viewers may still want to look away now

That mission - to cruise the Mediterranean Sea and find migrants they could send back somewhere - has faced arrest at Port Suez, exposure in the Republic of Northern Cyprus when caught people smuggling, bans from several ports in Tunisia and Malta, and the ultimate humiliation of being chased away from the North African coast by the Libyan coastguard. Yet Ms Hopkins backed it, and by implication so did Mail Online.

Even before Defend Europe’s mission got started, its questionable connections had been exposed: “On 17 July a HOPE not hate investigation exposed that the owner of the C Star, a Mr Sven Tomas Egerstrom, was a convicted fraudster who was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail” reported HnH. And it got worse.

Those Mail Online and Ms Hopkins found themselves in bed with included David Duke, white supremacist and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Richard Spencer, arch anti-Semite, white supremacist and giver of Nazi salutes, Jared Taylor, white nationalist, segregationist and another white supremacist, Nazi website the Daily Stormer, and the convocation of the irredeemably batshit otherwise known as Breitbart.

Ms Hopkins also palled up to Peter Sweden, who has since been revealed to be Peter Imanuelsen, a purveyor of hate speech and a Holocaust denier. Still Mail Online continued to honour Ms Hopkins’ contract. Fundraising website Patreon removed several accounts related to Defend Europe “including leaders Martin Sellner and Patrick Lenart, and vocal supporter and activist Lauren Southern”. Anyone at Mail Online listening?
They certainly won't make Europe home. Or anywhere else

Defend Europe claimed to have “made friends” with the Libyan coastguard, until the HuffPost produced a recording which showed the Libyans had in fact ordered the C-Star out of the area. They held a press conference in France at the weekend to announce that their “successful mission” was being temporarily suspended.

But, as the HuffPost pointed out, this was “an event slightly marred by the absence of their ship’s crew who were (and still are) stranded off the coast of Malta”. The mission, such as it was, served no purpose other than to allow deluded right-wing extremists, and some who were only moderately intolerant, to spray lots of money up the wall to no purpose.

It also served to show anyone and everyone in UK media exactly what kind of people Hatey Katie is prepared to pal up with: white supremacists, anti-Semites and Nazis. Mail Online has been silent about Ms Hopkins’ encouragement of Defend Europe and has pulled her dispatches from the Sicilian port of Catania.

Isn’t it about time they admitted defeat and cut her adrift for good, without waiting for that contract to run out? And before the next legal action hits them? Just a thought.

Brexit Talks Press Spin Pointless

The faith our free and fearless press has in its ability to bend reality to its will is truly a thing of wonder. Negotiations resume next week on the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU, the agenda is set, our side has effectively agreed to it, the negotiation will proceed on the EU’s terms, and yet there is the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate trying to pretend that we have the whip hand over the Rotten Eurocrats.
Thus we have the Mail telling “David Davis yesterday demanded that British goods are not forced off the Continent’s shelves the day after Brexit as he warned any disruption to trade would be disastrous for the EU … The Brexit Secretary pointed out that the EU’s £250billion annual exports to the UK are more than it sells to Brazil, Russia, India and China combined … He called for new arrangements ‘to the benefit of all’”.

His energies would be better directed at the negotiating table, where Michel Barnier and his team are not running to the press, but have set out their stall and are waiting to get down to the real and serious business. Instead of letting their readers know this reality, though, the likes of the Murdoch Sun peddle “Time is running out for EU to do a good deal with us over Brexit - as Europe risks signing its own death warrant”.

But then, that was from dishonest bigot Trevor Kavanagh, but it was not the only example. The paper’s non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn has added the similar claim “Brexit Secretary David Davis warns failing to secure a deal would be ‘disastrous’ for EU businesses”. Successive editorials push home the swaggering and delusional tone.
It is vital for Britain’s future prosperity that we cut a trade deal with EU - and it would save pointless clashes with Brussels if Mr Barnier cottoned on to thiswas yesterday’s effort, and today’s is in the same vein: “Remainers like to pretend the EU holds all the trump cards - but it’s in their best interests to work with us”. Readers are told that the German finance minister will ride to our rescue. And it’s all totally untrue.
We can see this from Michel Barnier’s Twitter feed, where he has set out the EU position, telling “3rd round of #Brexit negotiations with #UK begins next week. Focus on orderly withdrawal. #EU positions clear and transparent since day one”. Yet still this has provoked ignorant and misinformed reaction, not least from Iain Dale, of whom one might expect better: “Sorry, but I understood this was a negotiation, not a diktat”.
The term “position” means “negotiating position”. The knee-jerk reaction from respected commentators is enough to make one weep. That Barnier is talking negotiations is evident from his follow-up comment “Looking forward to discussing these papers with #UK. Essential to make progress on #citizensrights, settling accounts and #Ireland”. He looks forward to discussing the EU’s position. And he is ready, while the UK side is not.

Barnier describes nine position papers, all publicly available. They were prepared several weeks ago. The UK side belatedly offered up two papers yesterday. Yet all our free and fearless press can do is to tell their readers that we’ve got the dastardly Eurocrats on the run, and it’ll hurt them more than it will hurt us.

Our Government is manifestly unprepared for next week’s talks. That inconvenient fact may not sink in with the EU bashers for some time. But sink in it eventually will.

Sun Hate Speech Lies BUSTED

The Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun are clearly worried about the prospect of people having their collars felt for online hate speech, so much so that they are prepared to lie through their teeth about it. Right from the untrue headlineTwitter users could be arrested for ‘unfriendly’ tweets as part of the CPS’s clumsy crackdown on hate crime”, to an opinion piece packed with more lies, this is clearly a concerted campaign.
Tom Wells’ article tells “The Crown Prosecution Service has ruled hate crimes on social media must be taken as seriously as offline offences … But lawyers say the official definition of what constitutes an online hate crime is so wide that outspoken social media users could end up hauled into court”. How so?

CPS guidance says hate crimes must be motivated by hostility such as ‘ill-will, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike’”. The guidelines from which the Sun is quoting do not just apply to social media. Moreover, what is quoted is not the sole criterion on which a prosecution may proceed.

So far, so routine, but then to back up the Murdoch agenda has come an opinion piece from professional contrarian Brendan O’Neill, in which The Great Man veers across the dishonesty line in no style at all, right from the headline “The CPS’s decision to crack down on online mockery is a recipe for tyranny … In elevating online slights to the level of hate crime, the CPS has written a Snowflakes’ Charter” [Abuse of dissenters: check!].

YESTERDAY, this country crossed over to the dark side … We went from being a free-ish nation proud of its democratic traditions to one where officials talk openly about suppressing certain ‘views’ and ‘opinions’”. They do? Wow. Who knew?

The Crown Prosecution Service announced that online abuse, the hurling of barbs on Twitter and other platforms, would for the first time be treated as a hate crime”. No it didn’t. That’s a flat-out lie. But do go on. “Under new CPS guidelines - going into Stalinist detail about when online speech is criminal - virtual verbal mockery will be treated as seriously as a real-life scuffle in the street”. Whoops! Another flat-out lie.

This is what the CPS guidelines on social media say: “Satirical, or iconoclastic, or rude comment, the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, banter or humour, even if distasteful to some or painful to those subjected to it should and no doubt will continue at their customary level, quite undiminished by [section 127 of the Communications Act 2003]”. Not done his research, has he?

Have another go. “But Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, gave the game away with a Guardian column justifying this expansion of hate-policing online”. Another flat-out lie. There is no expansion of anything being signalled.
This does not deter O’Neill in his search to justify another fat paycheque: “The CPS guidelines should worry us all. They will open up a Pandora’s Box of authoritarianism … In elevating online slights to the level of hate crime, the CPS has written a Snowflakes’ Charter”. The guidelines do no such thing.

Still, onwards and, er, onwards, eh? “The CPS says it is any crime motivated by ‘hostility’ towards another person on the basis of their disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender status … But get this. It defines hostility as ‘ill-will, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike’”. Another flat-out lie. Can he pull another porkie? He can make it two more, actually.

We don’t need more laws. We don’t need more state intrusion into the realm of speech”. No new laws are being introduced, or even proposed. Nor is any “state intrusion”. One has to wonder if this article was fact-checked before publication. But I digress.

This is what the guidelines say about hostility: “Hostility is not defined in the legislation. Consideration should be given to ordinary dictionary definitions, which include ill-will, ill-feeling, spite, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment, and dislike”. The guidelines do NOT define the term. This is unforgivably shoddy research.

And, as the man said, there’s more: “We live in a world in which more and more beliefs and opinions are being redefined as ‘hateful’ … Consider the ever-expanding use of the term ‘phobia’ … Criticise Islam too stingingly and you are Islamophobic … Question whether men can become women, as feminists Germaine Greer and Julie Bindel have done, and you are transphobic. Religious critics of gay marriage are branded homophobic”. Try reading those guidelines you’re slagging off.

The guidelines specifically talk not only of hostility, but also intent and malevolence. O’Neill has to insert a logic leap to transform this into mere “criticism”. He also proceeds to sell the pass by letting the world know who he’s really batting for here.

The potential for people who simply have old-fashioned or politically incorrect views to be branded hate criminals is palpable - and awful … In his brilliant book Censored, Paul Coleman describes how hate-crime laws across Europe have been used to punish moral and religious opinions … Evangelical pastors have been arrested for criticising homosexuality … People have been fined for ridiculing Islamic practices”.

Paul Coleman is Senior Counsel and Deputy Director of ADF International. Who they? Well, ADF stands for Alliance Defending Freedom. It is a conservative Christian organisation which advocates forreligious freedom, sanctity of life, and marriage and family”. It has been characterised not only as anti-LGBT, but virulently so.

So Brendan O’Neill, with the encouragement of the Murdoch mafiosi, is not only peddling a whole pack of lies, but also standing with the intolerant Christian right. While lecturing the world about free speech - and tolerance. You really couldn’t make it up.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Ofcom Tells BBC Basher To Shove Off

Since the beginning of April this year, Ofcom has had regulatory responsibility for the BBC, superseding the BBC Trust. This followed a series of what were classified failings by those shouting loudly enough, which usually means the Tories and their pals in the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate, all of whom dislike any organisation which declines to serve the news up in a way that meets with their approval.
Sadly for The Blue Team, merely subjecting the hated Beeb regulation by Ofcom was not enough. There had to be more, although what exactly that means was not at first told. But then came the bid by the Murdoch mafiosi for the 61% of Sky that they do not yet own, and thus a superb opportunity for culture secretary Karen Bradley to be proactive - and get Ofcom to look over there at the BBC, instead of noticing all the Murdoch misbehaviour.

And so it came to pass that Ms Bradley issued a stern missive to Ofcom. She was concerned! “While a number of existing BBC Trust quotas for radio have been retained in the draft operating licence, there are some significant omissions … In my view some of the most critical aspects of our Charter reforms seem to have been left to retrospective review … The government reached very clear policy conclusions and the Charter sets out a new vision for the BBC which requires them to be more distinctive, more collaborative and more diverse”. Her conclusion was short but to the point.
I would be grateful for a response which clarifies your position and the rationale for these decisions in the operating framework, and confirms Ofcom’s continued commitment to hold the BBC to account and deliver the government’s ambitions and expectations for the BBC”. The letter, though, had to be made public. And others immediately smelt a rat.

For Labour, Tom Watson also smelt interference, and observed “For a secretary of state to try to influence Ofcom in such a heavy-handed way is a serious mistake. I hope Karen Bradley will realise, on reflection, that she should let Ofcom get on with its job and get on with her own”. An unstated Murdoch Sky bid hint there.

And as the Guardian has noted, “The minister’s letter drew a firm response from the chair of Ofcom, Dame Patricia Hodgson, who said in a reply to Bradley that it was important that the regulator was ‘transparently independent’”. After all, there was plenty to occupy Ofcom on the Sky front, much of which was happening Stateside.
The source of the disquiet, to no surprise at all, is Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse), which has generated such recent headlines asA former guest who appeared regularly on the Fox News channel says a senior producer solicited sex in exchange for a paid job at the network” and “Per Fox News Spokesperson, Eric Bolling has been suspended. An investigation will be conducted by law firm Paul Weiss”.

Bolling was accused of sending “lewd messages” to women colleagues. The channel is also accused of being behind illegal eavesdropping. Also, Karen Bradley doesn’t seem to want to ask the Murdochs whether it’s son James’ more enlightened approach that will rule over a 100% Murdoch Sky, or Rupert’s two-fingers-up-to-critics one.

But she does want to stick her nose in on the BBC. Priorities, priorities.

Big Ben Campaign HAS FAILED

Falling sales, faltering advertising revenue, and now failing influence: the iron belief of the Daily Mail’s legendarily foul mouthed editor Paul Dacre that he could somehow bend politicians to his will with no more than a thundering front page assault was put on notice as long ago as 1997, when he instructed his readers to hold their noses and vote Tory, only to see many of them help sweep New Labour into power.

And now that iron belief has been well and truly busted: after last week’s sudden realisation at the Northcliffe House bunker that the chimes of Big Ben were to fall silent for all of four years, in order to allow long-overdue restoration work to be carried out, and the successive days’ front page leads suggesting the Mail would stop the silencing in its tracks, has come the realisation that it was all in vain.

Big Ben chimed at noon today, as a crowd gathered in Parliament Square and around 20 MPs with nothing better to occupy their time looked on forlornly, and that was that for the next four years. Fact. End of story. That has not stopped a last defiant tirade from the Mail, which has told readers “Crowds expected at Parliament Square at midday to hear bells for last time … Plans to silence Big Ben for four years met with outpouring of anger by public”.

Yeah, right. There have been perhaps a thousand onlookers in Parliament Square, and very little anger. That number will have been a tiny fraction of the tourists milling around central London today. Still, on with the Phil Space copy and the compulsory getting out of the ritual onion: “As Big Ben is silenced for up to four years today, MPs are set to gather outside Parliament with ‘heads bowed’”. The campaign has failed. Get over it.

That has not deterred the Sun’s non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn, who has claimed anexclusive” for “Dropping a clanger … Commons boss vows to fight to get Big Ben’s bongs back as bell falls silent for renovations”. Readers are told “Efforts are continuing to shorten Big Ben’s silence”, but no evidence is ponied up, and none will be.

Then we are told “But the move has sparked an angry backlash, led by PM Theresa May”. So angry, in fact, that the PM is working in her constituency today. In any case, where’s the “exclusive”? You’ll love this. “Commons leader Andrea Leadsom last night pledged to ensure Big Ben is heard during the work … She said: ‘It is right that the House of Commons Commission has the opportunity to review the decision’”. And that’s it.

Someone will have the opportunity to review the decision. And what d’you think they will do with that opportunity, take no action at all or suddenly decide that the Dacre Doggies and Murdoch goons know best, and reverse it? There will be no reversal. No change of mind. No pandering to the obscenely overpaid, swaggering, sneering, boorish, misinformed know-all dinosaurs scrabbling around the dunghill that is Grubstreet.

There are plenty of other clock and bell combinations around London chiming the hour. And the public, whose opinion our free and fearless press didn’t bother asking before ranting on their behalf, overwhelmingly couldn’t give a fig about Big Ben’s bongs.

All of which means Toby Young is not the only Bellend in town right now.

Katie Hopkins Flouts The Law

Head of the CPS Alison Saunders has signalled a crackdown on social media hate crime, telling Guardian readers “Left unchallenged, even low-level offending can subsequently fuel the kind of dangerous hostility that has been plastered across our media in recent days. That is why countering it is a priority for the CPS … Whether shouted in their face on the street, daubed on their wall or tweeted into their living room, the impact of hateful abuse on a victim can be equally devastating”. Who could she be meaning?
Viewers may want to look away now

That was not hard to deduce, after pro-am motormouth Katie Hopkins, back from being feted by the more delusional part of the US right-wing, decided to indulge in a little borderline incitement against her favourite target, followers of The Prophet, as well as suggesting we start another war on her say-so.
Governments were cracking down on van hire operations, which does not seem such a bad thing, given the white van attacks in places like London and Barcelona used hired vehicles - as did the Westminster Bridge attacker. But Ms Hopkins wants her devoted followers to know that this is just namby-pamby, wishy-washy poo.
Hatey Katie sneers in their silly faces! “Now Mohammed, are you hiring this van for the purpose of running over innocent women & children in the street to please your god. Yes or no”. Gosh, that was so impressive, well, to her anyway, that she instantly promoted it to Pinned Tweet status. And there was more. “NEW: govt approved HURTZ van hire authorisation”. Hirers could tick “shady business” or “Jihad” as reasons for hiring.
Laugh? I thought I’d never start. Also on her mock form was “Christian - former religion of Western Europe”. Because some people don’t understand that Western Europe does not have an official religion. But she does need to avoid getting sued (again), and so let everyone know “Respectfully @Hertz and @PilotPenUK have nothing to do with my satire. They either sold me a pen, or let me wear the headset of Jedi power”.
Incitement against Muslims is now satire! All those 60s pioneers of the genre missed out big time. Still, she wanted us to know that this Government crackdown was rubbish, and so had her mock hire form done properly, with the observation “A very British response to watching our women & children slaughtered by jihadi maniacs in hired vans”. No men were killed in Barcelona? And what is her preferred solution to the problem she has identified?
As if you need to ask. “We used to send young men to fight for our country. Now our babies die because we don’t”. And where does Ms Hopkins propose they go and fight? On what pretext? Can’t she get it in to her head that the last time we did that, the consequence was ISIS, which is most likely behind the current wave of vehicle attacks? How much bloodshed does she want others to indulge in to satisfy her bigotry?

Still, good to see that the CPS had someone in mind when those guidelines on hate speech were being drawn up. Fortunately, when it comes to combating terrorism, others are in charge of the situation. And Katie Hopkins is not. Just rejoice at that news.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Tommy Robinson’s Popularity ISN’T

[Update at end of post]

As part of his drive to promote a book claiming to give a reliable interpretation of the Qur’an, which has mainly been authored by someone else and has, as far as is known, had no input from any Islamic scholars or clergy, former EDL head man Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who calls himself Tommy Robinson, has decided to organise an event in Manchester to promote his work, and of course Himself Personally Now.
Stephen Yaxley Lennon aka Tommy Robinson

This has involved not only promoting himself - not difficult, he’s had plenty of practice - but also securing a venue where he can meet his adoring public. But here a problem has entered: not all the public, and certainly not those in Manchester, are as adoring as others. Moreover, Yaxley Lennon’s peddling of hatred towards followers of The Prophet , and his past in the EDL, means that where he turns up, so, inevitably, does trouble.
Yes, that's the Britain First duo on the left. But he's not racist, honestly

Indeed, the last time he was involved in a gathering in Manchester, as the BBC reported, “Eight people have been arrested following a march by protesters in central Manchester opposing extremism … Bottles and flares were thrown as the UK Against Hate group and counter-demonstrators clashed and police said the protest ‘turned nasty’”. Mayor Andy Burnham was particularly severe on Yaxley Lennon’s “UK Against Hate”.
These EDL-types who came today need to have a look at themselves … To those saying they weren't EDL - I honestly don't care … I care about our Police being unnecessarily distracted when they are worn out & still working hard to investigate a major incident”. The gathering took place in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing.
Nevertheless, “An Evening With Tommy Robinson” was duly advertised earlier this month. Yaxley Lennon took to Facebook to tell “Thank you for the tremendous support you have shown for this event. At this rate we will sell out within two weeks so if you do not have a ticket I urge you to buy now to avoid disappointment”. A link was provided.

So, almost two weeks later, has the event, which will not be held until early November, sold out as predicted? Seemingly not. Worse, there appears to be a problem with the proposed venue. But it’s still going ahead. Apparently.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham - not impressed

“My Manchester event on November 3rd will now be moved to a secret location. Everybody who has bought a ticket do not worry they are still valid, and tickets are still on sale. 50% of tickets have now sold, we will reveal the new venue location 7 days prior to the event which will be in city centre Manchester. This is an all ticket event with no pay on the door”. So it hasn’t sold out. And the subterfuge won’t stop protests.
After all, giving the opposition seven days’ notice, and telling them well in advance that the event will be held somewhere in Manchester city centre, means that anyone wanting to use it as an excuse to kick off will be there, ready and waiting.

And if Stephen Yaxley Lennon is so “against hate”, it has to be asked why he devotes so much time to dispensing hatred towards a significant part of the population - and encouraging others to join him in his endeavours. I’ll just leave that one there.

[UPDATE 21 August 1720 hours: as has been pointed out by several commenters on Twitter, sales of Yaxley Lennon's new book are also not going as well as some are claiming. Amid the fantasy claims of hundreds of thousands being sold, the reality of real-world information from Amazon makes for more realistic, and much more sobering, reading.
Although "Mohammed's Koran: why Muslims kill for Islam" is indeed shown as a #1 best seller, this is only in the "Koran" category. And the total sales up to the point a screen shot was taken this afternoon, was 1113.

Still, helps to keep all concerned out of trouble, eh? Real world intervenes once more]

Tories Sell Bank To Asset Strippers

While most pundits and their editors were looking at Brexit, events in places like Barcelona, and the continuing shambles that is the Presidency of Combover Crybaby Donald Trump, our own Government has flogged off a public asset to a company known for one business skill above all others - asset stripping. Moreover, they were warned about it months ago. But it was clearly a good time to bury controversial news.
The Green Investment Bank has been sold to Australian group Macquarie, which was confirmed as preferred bidder before the end of last year. An official press release made suitably optimistic noises: “The £2.3 billion deal ensures that all the taxpayer funding invested in GIB since its creation, including set-up costs, has been returned with a gain of approximately £186 million”. And the GIB’s future had been secured.

Macquarie was “an ambitious new owner committed to growing the business”. Moreover, “moving [the GIB] into the private sector now would free it from the constraints of public sector ownership allowing it to increase investment in our green infrastructure as we transition to a green economy. GIB’s independent Board supported the government’s decision to sell the business to Macquarie”. Also, we should not worry.

This was because “The green ‘special share’ held by the Green Purposes Company Limited also comes into force now. Five independent trustees have the power to approve or reject any proposed changes to GIG’s green purposes in the future” and “The government will continue to hold an interest in a portfolio of a small number of GIB’s existing green infrastructure investments”. And then came the but. A big but.

Greenpeace Energy Desk noted thatThe UK’s Green Investment Bank has created 14 new companies ahead of its expected privatisation this month … The move has sparked concerns that the bank is being prepared to have its core assets sold off, essentially dissolving the British government’s key mechanism for driving private investment into developing green energy sectors”. And it got worse.

Remember that “special share”? Well, “According to Sepi Golzari-Munro, a GIB expert who analysed the documents, the UK government’s ‘special share’ - designed to ensure the GIB stays fit for purpose - would be rendered moot if there are no assets or investments to keep green”. Macquarie, it is noted, has acquired the nickname of “The Vampire Kangaroo”. Also, “Lord Greg Barker, former Conservative energy minister, has called for the sale to be cancelled, while former business secretary Vince Cable has warned of the dangers of the deal”. But the mainstream press has been largely silent.

That silence included very little reporting of the Urgent Question granted to MP Caroline Lucas, which she used “to highlight serious concerns raised by a number of people, including former Business Secretary Vince Cable, that the company set to buy the GIB is likely to strip it of its assets, leaving it unfit for purpose”.

Taking climate change and green issues seriously does not sit comfortably with flogging off the GIB to a well known group of asset strippers. Creating new companies to make aset stripping that little bit easier looks worse. What you will not read in the right-wing press.

Sun Hard Brexit Fantasy BUSTED

Great excitement has been generated by a report telling us that what is termed “Hard Brexit” - in other words, one not requiring any kind of deal with the EU - would be potentially of great benefit to the UK. The report claims that the annual “uplift” to the economy could be as much as £135 billion. And then we discover that the principal author of this work of not-really-fiction-honestly is Patrick Minford.
Don't go, I was just getting started ...

Minford was one of those loudly cheering on the adoption by the Thatcher Government of the monetary medicine prescribed by Professor Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago. The medicine was initially taken, inflation leapt to a peak of almost 20%, and unemployment rocketed to over 3 million. We were informed, equally loudly, by the right-wing press that “if it isn’t hurting, it isn’t working”.

None of this is allowed to enter at the Murdoch Sun, which has today championed Minford’s alleged meisterwerk. First has come an article allegedly by Dover’s Tory MP Charlie Elphicke, telling “The EU would be mad to spurn our offer of tariff-free trade and should shake on post-Brexit deal - or be stuck with a £13.2bn bill … THIS week our Government offered Brussels the deal of the decade.They would be crazy to turn it down”.

The £13.2 billion is the claimed amount of tariffs the EU would pay if they were to decline the offer of tariff-free trade. Meanwhile, the Sun’s editorial leads on praising Minford, asserting that we “Trust the man on the right side of history”. This re-evaluation of Minford’s alleged achievements requires a significant degree of creativity.

This begins with “IN 1981 Britain stood on the brink … Inflation and unemployment were rocketing, productivity collapsed and a heavy recession threatened to topple the Government … That year, 364 of the country’s top economists wrote to The Times to tell Margaret Thatcher her Budget was a disaster, compared with fewer than half a dozen who backed the PM … But the latter were ultimately proved right as Maggie went on to transform the country. One of those backers was Patrick Minford”.

The Sun manages not to tell us that there had already been two years of the measures Minford had advocated to bring the economy to that brink, and also misses the fact that the Friedman medicine was gradually abandoned. Moreover, North Sea oil revenue was there to paper over the cracks. Minford was not proved right at all.

But hey ho, have another go. “Minford also found himself in a tiny minority 35 years later as George Osborne’s Project Fear warned of an immediate collapse of the economy if we voted for Brexit … It never came and Minford again found himself on the winning side”. No-one said there would be an immediate collapse, or anything like it. But there is now a gradual economic slowdown - which was predicted.

And there is one all too obvious corollary to the idea of unilaterally scrapping tariffs: cheaper imported goods immediately become more popular than anything produced at home, leading to a balance of payments imbalance which would then result in a run on Sterling and, if maintained for any number of years, national bankruptcy.

Still, minor point, eh? Moreover, Patrick Minford has not only not been as accurate in his analysis as the Sun claims, he’s been woefully wrong more than once in recent years.

Take his advocacy of the Poll Tax - dressed up by the Thatcher Government as the “Community Charge” - of which he claimed at the timethe Community Charge has much to commend it. Opponents underestimate the political maturity of the electorate”. That was in June 1990. By the end of the year, his heroine Mrs T had been consigned to the dustbin of history - by the revolt against that same measure. And Europe.

Could it get worse? It certainly could: Minford admitted last year thatOver time, if we left the EU, it seems likely that we would mostly eliminate manufacturing, leaving mainly industries such as design, marketing and hi-tech. But this shouldn’t scare us”. Yes, all those car plants would disappear, and the jobs with them. And then there’s Airbus. And BAe. And the train builders at Derby. And lots more.

The Murdoch goons ought to know about that howler. Because he made it in an article for, er, the Sun. On the right side of history? Come off it. Patrick Minford is another of those cranks peddling outmoded economic ideas who has been passed by by the real world.

That unilateral scrapping of tariffs isn’t going to happen. And the world is not flat.

Top Six - August 20

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 places to go and people to see later. So there.
6 Sarah Champion - You’re A Fool By allowing her name to appear on the by-line of an article in the Murdoch Sun, the Rotherham MP allowed herself to be used as part of the paper’s viciously racist agenda.

5 Julia Hartley Dooda - Uber Bossy The 21st Century’s Lady Bracknell was gratuitously rude to her minicab driver - and the reason she did it was all wrong, anyway.

4 Uber And TfL - It’s Literally Criminal Second week on the Top Six for this post. New FoI disclosures show without doubt that Uber should have their London license revoked - and TfL needs shaking up.

3 Murdoch And The Jewish Question The Sun’s faithful retainer Trevor Kavanagh went full 1930s racist as he calmly talked of “The Muslim Problem”. Just like “The Jewish Question”, except it was OK because bashing Muslims is regarded as acceptable at the Baby Shard bunker - and elsewhere in the Murdoch empire’ management.

2 Guido Fawked - Chapman Gaslighting BUSTED The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog were chosen by their masters in the press establishment to administer a punishment beating to former hack James Chapman.

1 The Vindictiveness Of Leon Daniels While TfL’s head of surface transport appears to have behaved in a shockingly disproportionate manner towards a humble cabbie who taunted him, he has plenty of questions of his own to answer.

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

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Brendan O’Neill Barcelona Bunk

After the van attack on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, which left 13 dead and scores more injured, someone out there on the Muslim-hating right noticed that this story, and the discussion around it, had now supplanted the Charlottesville march by white supremacists, and its aftermath. As the someone was Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked, so titled because it should have been long ago, a false equivalence would not be far behind.
So it has come to pass, as O’Neill makes the bogus assertionIt’s clear now: the left only hates certain kinds of neo-fascism”. It’s all, predictably, the left’s fault. “If the extremists are white and fond of the swastika, they’ll be roundly condemned, organised against, transformed into a focal point for the activities of a flagging left” he starts.

Then comes the switch. “But if they’re Muslims, if it’s a misogynistic, homophobic caliphate they want to build, if their targets are ‘kuffars’ rather than pinkos or black people, they will be frowned upon, of course, but never raged against. Never organised against. They will be treated more forgivingly, and explicitly so”. Hence the five dead attackers, eh?

And, of course, the demand that we look over there. “Even before the barbarism in Barcelona, even before that Islamist terrorist mowed down scores of people, killing 13, the discussion about Charlottesville had become unhinged. What was in truth a nasty but small demonstration by white-power losers was transformed into the second coming of the Third Reich”. It was nasty, but it certainly wasn’t small.

Against this allegedly teensy group, O’Neill pits his real target. “Yes, there are extremists in the West who have declared war on our fellow citizens, our liberties and our democracy. But they aren’t American hillbillies who once tried to read Mein Kampf - they’re Islamists, Muslims who subscribe to an extraordinarily intolerant interpretation of their religion and who increasingly think little of slaughtering anybody whose values run counter to theirs”.

Following that, he has a Prison Planet moment: “Islamists, if we add Barcelona, have killed more than 460 people in Europe in the past three years. Four-hundred-and-sixty. Let that sink in”. Oklahoma City 158 dead, Iran Air 655 290 dead, and the point is? Why don’t we throw in all the hundreds of thousands slaughtered in the series of interventions by the supposedly civilised West in the Middle East in the recent past?

Hell, even if we only go back to the US-UK backed Iranian coup of 1953, that takes in the Iran-Iraq war where the West was egging on Saddam Hussain, and the 2003 war whose legitimacy is highly questionable. If we include all the interventions in Afghanistan, then the body count really starts to rack up. And here’s O’Neill getting all righteous.

That’s without the mildly inconvenient fact that Charlottesville is symptomatic of a deeper racial problem in the USA - along with the current President’s inability to address it. It bears no similarity to what is being done in the name of Islam by the easily led acting on behalf of ISIS. But O’Neill only wants “an honest discussion about the Islamist problem”.

Not the Muslim Problem, then: by this much has he moved on from Trevor Kavanagh’s viciously racist attack last week. If Brendan O’Neill wants an honest debate, he could start by cutting the hyperbole and false equivalence. He will not. Far better for the refugees from the RCP to demonise in accordance with the press’ dictates. It makes more money.