View Full Version : British Elections

05-24-2015, 08:02 PM

Elections have come and gone. Heres some comment.

Unfree Elections – The Corporate Media, UK General Election And Predictable Outcomes

The famous physicist Albert Einstein was fond of Gedankenexperimenten – thought experiments – which tested his understanding of physics problems and stimulated solutions to them. For example, when he was a teenager, Einstein asked himself, 'What would the world look like if I rode on a beam of light?' Pursuing this question, he eventually came up with the Special Theory of Relativity and the most famous equation in science, E=mc2.

Imagine, then, this thought experiment. Consider how a general election might turn out if the media spectrum ran the whole gamut from the right - the BBC, Guardian and Independent, for example - to the hard right (the Mail, Sun, Express and so on). Some readers might object that the BBC, Guardian and the Independent are not right-wing at all, but centre or even left-liberal. But, as we have shown in numerous books and media alerts, these media organisations are embedded in powerful networks of big business, finance and establishment elites. Naturally, these are the one per cent - or even narrower - interests that corporate media largely serve and support. Such media do not even deserve to be called 'centre', if the term is to retain any meaning.

In this case, of course, a thought experiment is not required because reality carried out the experiment for us, with the results being all too obvious last Friday. The Tories were returned to Westminster with a 12-seat majority. Notably, they only had 37% support from a turnout of 66%. That means only 24% of the eligible electorate actually voted for a Tory government. Such is the undemocratic nature of the electoral system in the UK. The establishment wins every time.

As Neil Clark observes in an article for RT, there is a long history of British press scaremongering to prevent any threat to corporate and financial interests come election time. As usual, the Murdoch press led the way, with the Sun warning on April 30:

'A week today, Britain could be plunged into the abyss. A fragile left-wing Labour minority, led by Ed Miliband and his union paymasters and supported by the wreckers of the Scottish National Party, could take power... You can stop this. But only by voting Tory.'

The ludicrous warning about 'left-wing' Labour - a pro-business, pro-austerity party that has cut its roots from working people - was repeated across much of the press. Even the ostensible 'liberal' Independent, owned by the Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev, came out in support of the Tories.

After weeks of debate about the likelihood of a hung Parliament and permutations of possible coalitions, opinion pollsters and professional pundits expressed surprise at the relatively comfortable Tory win. But for investigative reporter Nafeez Ahmed, the outcome was predictable. In a piece titled 'How Big Money and Big Brother won the British Elections', published the day after the election, Ahmed noted:

'The ultimate determinant of which party won the elections was the money behind their political campaigns.'

The Tory party was the biggest recipient of donations, 'the bulk of which came from financiers associated with banks, the hedge fund industry, and big business.'

In summary:

'the most important precondition for victory in Britain's broken democracy is the party's subservience to corporate power.'

The BBC's 'Love Letter' To David Cameron

BBC News marked the Tories' return to power with what read like a hymn of praise to David Cameron on its website. The Tory leader had 'proved the doubters in his own party and beyond wrong by winning a majority of his own at the 2015 general election.' The puff piece claimed that Cameron's 'presentational skills were never in doubt' and pointed to 'his easy charm and ability to appear "prime ministerial" at news conferences and summits'. A photo caption told readers that:

'David Cameron took the traditional route to the top via Eton and Oxford.'

This was Tory PR dressed up as BBC journalism. The sycophancy was so laughable and transparent that it was rightly described on Twitter as:

'A beautiful example of Toady Tory journalism'

Another Twitter user noted:

'Anyone who thinks #BBC left-wing, read their love letter to David #Cameron http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2015-32592449 ... Dire excuse for journalism.'

Presumably there was no room in this 'love letter' to remind readers of Cameron's inglorious role in Nato's bombing of Libya in 2011.The illegal Western 'intervention' for regime change was built, as ever, on a campaign of disinformation and propaganda. Today, the suffering of Libya is immeasurable; not least as seen in the desperate plight of those fleeing across the Mediterranean and, all too often, drowning in the attempt. This is a ****ing indictiment of Western policy. If there truly was a left media in this country, Cameron's record on Libya alone would have been scrutinised by journalists, his decisions challenged, and the consequences of those disastrous decisions for the suffering Libyans laid bare. Instead, in its shameful silence, the corporate media have effectively exonerated Cameron for his crimes.

Elsewhere on the BBC, there was extensive coverage of the 70th anniversary of VE Day, with militarism and imperialism not far below the surface. Along with the election coverage, it was all symptomatic of the sickness of a society under relentless establishment propaganda bombardment.

Meanwhile, the Guardian's own love affair with that old war criminal Tony Blair shows no signs of abating. Blair's piece of vacuous post-election 'comment' was heavily billed at the top of the Guardian website. He had the nerve to declare that 'Labour must be the party of ambition as well as compassion'. Compassion, of course, was in short supply during Blair's extended stay in power.

Apparently, Blair's hands have not been dipped in sufficient blood to prevent him being regarded as a credible commentator by Britain's flagship newspaper of liberal journalism. Should we describe this as surreal – or worse? This surely desecrates the memory of those who died in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and elsewhere because of the many shameful decisions taken by Blair and the governments he led. But when we live under occupation by a troll army of corporate news media, war-criminal politicians are never beyond the pale; as long as they are our war-criminal politicians.

Another feature of life under this corporate media occupation is that those at the top of the political system are interchangeable. It hardly matters that Ed Miliband resigned in the wake of Labour's pitiful showing in the election. Likewise, with Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. Other figureheads will be appointed who uphold corporate-friendly, establishment-bolstering policies, with the requisite smattering of largely empty rhetoric about 'tackling inequality' and 'protecting public services'.

The Independent even had the gall to assert in an editorial that:

'Their two successors would do well to start thinking about a truly progressive coalition of their two parties.'

The reader is supposed to swallow the myth that, in a political system hammered into shape by corporate interests, 'mainstream' parties could possibly deliver anything 'truly progressive'. But this low standard of journalism, indeed media deception, is par for the course. Likewise, a newly elected government – even, as in this case, the return to power of the same dominant party – is presented by the corporate media as having a fresh chance to prove itself. Every time this happens we are supposed to forget the state's relentless promotion of the destructive aims of big business, while the majority of the public are squeezed and the poor, weak and vulnerable trampled upon.

One recent Guardian editorial took seriously the prospect that an unalloyed Tory government will live up to 'Mr Cameron's professed wish to unify rather than divide.' How much more evidence does the Guardian need that Tory talk of 'unity' – 'We're all in this together' – is a cruel sham? Unforgivably, even now the paper fails to point to the chasm between Tory propaganda and reality. Instead, the Guardian editors are giving the Tories yet another chance to demonstrate their bona fides by setting three 'tests' for them – on Europe, the future of the UK, and the challenge 'to do far more to bring the country back together economically.' As John McEnroe might have said, 'You cannot be serious.'

Nowhere does the Guardian mention the Climate Armageddon towards which we are headed, and which puts these three 'tests' in the shade. So much for the Guardian's much-vaunted commitment to put climate 'front and centre' of the paper.

As for Labour's capitulation to corporate power, the Guardian has nothing to say and can do little better than come up with such anodyne remarks as:

'Labour must again learn to tell stories, in a voice – and perhaps an accent – that speaks to the individual ear, and the country as a whole.'

It gets even worse, with inane comments that presumably came across as profound at editorial meetings:

'In part, this is about ditching jargon, resolving the uneasy inheritance of the New Labour years and finding a new facility to deploy moral arguments instead of the dismal lexicon of technocracy.'

Labour and 'moral arguments'? The mind boggles at the lack of insight that sees those words committed to posterity after all that Labour has done; not least the immoral arguments and deceits that launched the illegal invasion of Iraq. Attempting to brush the 'supreme international crime' under the carpet with the weasel words 'the uneasy inheritance of the New Labour years' is appalling. One wonders whether any senior Guardian staff have sufficient self-awareness, and the remnant shreds of dignity, to be squirming uneasily after the paper's earlier declared support for Ed Miliband.

The embarrassment about Miliband was felt elsewhere too. Russell Brand promptly broadcast what sounded like a climbdown on his Trews YouTube channel, saying that he had 'got caught up in some mad The Thick Of It' moment. He as much as admitted that he had been swayed too easily by those around him:

'People were telling me, journalists, people who know loads about politics....'

Given that Brand's eve-of-election argument to support Labour echoed that of Guardian columnist Owen Jones, it's not hard to guess who he was referring to here. Perhaps Brand might consider a no-holds-barred approach in future, and bravely expose the role of BBC News and the Guardian in preventing the revolution he, and many others, would like to see.

'The Faulty Logic Of The Lesser-Evil Argument'

In Scotland, voters were able to vote for a major party that had explicitly rejected the 'austerity' mantra relayed endlessly by the unholy Tory-Lib Dem-Labour triumvirate. 56 out of the 59 Westminster constituencies north of the border voted for MPs from the Scottish National Party. Labour, who traditionally enjoyed strong support in the 'heartland' of Scotland, were almost entirely wiped out there, with just one Labour MP elected (one Lib Dem and one Tory made up the remaining Scottish seats).

As blogger John Hilley wrote:

'Despairing people in England and Wales can take comfort from the tsunami of resistance that's been unleashed in Scotland. Bereft of meaningful choices, the crushing of Labour may be hard to take, but the Miliband lifeboat was really just another pirate neoliberal ship, corporate owned and dutifully captained. Take heart from its sinking, and remember all those "radical" apologists who tried to sell it as a seaworthy vessel for meaningful change.'

Hilley added:

'We also need a new assault on every part of the establishment-serving media, from the simpering Guardian to the gutter Sun.'

This election has made that clearer than ever before. Western politicians are fond of extolling Western 'democracy' and decrying electoral 'charades' in other nations, especially those lined up for possible future 'intervention'. But there can be no truly 'free' elections in the West while corporate media shape and control what passes for news and debate, effectively limiting the choice of policies and politicians available to the public.

Jonathan Cook, a former Guardian journalist who is now independent, nailed the meaning of the general election outcome. First, he demolished the 'lesser evil' argument that is trotted out each time an election approaches:

'The faulty logic of the lesser-evil argument is apparent the moment we consider the Blair case. If there is no political cost for committing the ultimate war crime, because the other guys are worse, what real leverage can the electorate ever have on the political system? The "left" vote will always gravitate to the slightly less nasty party of capital. No change is really possible. In fact, over time the political centre of gravity is likely to shift – as has in fact happened – ever more to the right, as the corporations accrete ever greater power.'

The reality is that any party hoping to claim power has first to 'seduce' the corporations which, of course, includes the major news media. As Cook observed:

'Without most of the media on your side, no party stands a chance of winning because the media subtly controls the narrative of the election: what count as "the issues", how the leaders and their platforms are presented, what and who is considered credible.'

Genuine change, made ever more necessary by the urgent threat of climate instability, requires no less than a revolution. This can never come from constantly recycling the 'lesser evil' argument. Central to this revolution is disentangling ourselves from the skewed, elite-serving perspective of the corporate media. Cook expressed it well:

'We cannot imagine a different world, a different economic system, a different media landscape, because our intellectual horizons have been so totally restricted by the media conglomerates that control our newspapers, our TV and radio stations, the films we watch, the video games we play, the music we listen to. We are so imaginatively confined we cannot even see the narrow walls within which our minds are allowed to wander.'

This is why Media Lens believes that it is crucial to challenge the corporate media, to boost the public's understanding of the reality of corporate news, and to promote independent journalism which is genuinely in the public interest.


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05-24-2015, 08:17 PM

Another viewpoint

Groundhog Day Comes Round Again

Let me start by saying without equivocation that I was wrong. I am genuinely grateful to the many persons on Twitter who were quick to point this out to me this morning. I believed, in my heart, that the Tory Party could never again win a Westminster majority. They have done so. You couldn’t be much wronger than that.

I never for a moment imagined that Big Money and Big Lies could so successfully scare, cajole and diddle the electorate of this country. I grew up in a Britain both better-educated and more honest than the one we have today. Perhaps that is why I could not see this possibility. I have not seen, in my lifetime, a campaign so dishonest, so crude, so based in fear and so redolent of third-world and banana republic political tactics.

Actually, I think Mr Cameron is even more surprised than I am. I do not think he ever thought that he would achieve such a result. I’m not even certain he wanted it, as the Liberal Democrats were a very useful alibi for not doing all kinds of conservative things he himself secretly didn’t want to do, and for doing all kinds of left-liberal things he secretly did want to do.

How and why did this happen?

Most of you will know the witty and rather profound film ‘Groundhog Day’, in which an obnoxious TV presenter is forced to live the same day over and over again, until he understands that he himself is required to change for the better. When he does (and the moment of realisation, involving a joyous quotation from Chekhov, is surprisingly moving), the calendar at last begins to move again.

This morning I felt as if I were stuck in such a film, and that I had woken up once more to the same unappealing day, indeed to the same unappealing decade, but also that there was nothing I could ever do to release myself from it. No doubt I have done many things in this life for which I thoroughly deserve to be punished but millions of other people are trapped with me in a political calendar which never, ever turns.

The problem with Britain’s political Groundhog day is this. Every five years or so, the conservative patriotic people of Britain are somehow dragooned into a ceremony in which they vote for a party which pretends to sympathise with them.

It then turns out that it doesn’t actually do so, that in fact it believes in a series of left-wing and radical policies which are the near-exact opposite of what those voters want.

Five years of growing disenchantment pass, featuring new concessions to the EU, more political correctness, more education gimmicks designed to avoid the reintroduction of academic selection, a continuing failure to cope with or even acknowledge the levels of disorder and dishonesty, and a quiet debauching of the currency.

Somehow, at the next election, those voters are persuaded, frightened or otherwise bamboozled into voting once again for the Tory Groundhog.

And the next morning they awake and find themselves in the same five-year-long gap between promise and reality.

The crudest and cheapest methods seem sufficient to rob them of any memory that they have been fooled before. The crudest and cheapest of these is the supposed danger of rule by a Labour Party all of whose policies were long ago adopted in detail by the Tory Party. The difference between the two is that Labour is at least open about its passion for foreign rule, equality and diversity, confiscatory taxation, unsound public finances, mass immigration, terrible schools and lax criminal justice.

Labour , by the way, has to promise its own fake programme of social transformation to its own deluded electorate, who harbour the same lingering illusion that their party possesses actual principles, and will pursue them in office. Indeed, I imagine that for Labour supporters a matching Groundhog Day is constantly unreeling. That is a matter for them.

The truth is that both major parties are now just commercial organisations, who raise money wherever they can get it to buy their way into office through unscrupulous election campaigns. They then presumably reward their donors once they are in office. The electorate are a constitutional necessity for this process, but otherwise their fears, hopes and desires are largely irrelevant. They are to be fooled and distracted with scares (‘The other lot will privatise the NHS!’ ‘The other lot will nationalise your children’s toys and then wreck the economy!’ ) or with loss-leader cut-rate offers, like supermarkets (‘Vote for us and get a cheap mortgage!!’ ‘Vote for us and have your rent frozen!’) . Even if these wild pledges are implemented, the customer will pay for them through higher taxes elsewhere, just as with supermarket loss-leaders.

By playing our part in this ludicrous pantomime, we license it to continue forever. I have thought for years that the key to ending it was simple and obvious. We could revenge ourselves on these fakes by refusing to vote for them. The arrival of new parties, UKIP on one side, the Greens on the other, made such a revolt and redemption even easier.

But I must now admit that the people of this country actually seem to prefer to live the same experience over and over again, and seem astonishingly ready to believe the crudest propaganda. I seethe with frustrated amazement at the Tory claim to have fixed the economy, so blazingly untrue that in commercial advertising it would get them into serious trouble with the authorities.

Ailing GDP figures just before the election were barely mentioned in the media, but easily-obtained statistics on productivity, trade, manufacturing and construction, are all bad and the Tories have missed their own target (whether wise or not)on deficit reduction. In any case, the Tory record on the economy is dreadful.

The idea that they are economically competent in general simply doesn’t stand up to examination. Leave aside Winston Churchill’s disastrous decision to force us back on the Gold Standard , have we all forgotten the ERM catastrophe, in which a Tory government threw £27 Billion into the sea for nothing, because their best brains had mistakenly lashed sterling to the EU’s exchange rate ? What about the irresponsible Reggie Maudling boom of the early 1960s (Maudling left a note for his Labour successor , Jim Callaghan, saying ‘Sorry to leave it in such a mess, old cock’ which was almost certainly what Liam Byrne had in mind when he left his famous note saying ‘Sorry there’s no money’. What of Harold Macmillan’s decision to spend wildly in 1958 which caused his entire Treasury team to resign in protest , the irresponsible Tony Barber boom of the early 1970s, and of course the devastation of manufacturing industry in the early years of the Thatcher government? Now we have a dangerous housing bubble, official money-printing and the organised theft from savers by the abolition of interest on deposits. I’m not actually saying Labour are much better, or any better, but to vote Tory because you think the economy is safe in their hands is actually daft.

As for the Scottish scare, this is if anything even more shocking. Mr Cameron’s macho mishandling of the referendum, refusing an option for Devo Max, came close to bringing about a pro-secession vote. So did his generally cack-handed management of the campaign. Then, his partisan and petty pursuit of ‘English votes for English laws’ (plus his discourteous gloating about the Queen allegedly ‘purring’ at the result) infuriated Scottish voters who had until then taken the ‘vow’ of maximum concessions seriously. It probably precipitated the landslide to the SNP (one of the few occasions when this expression ‘landslide’has been justified). I have written here about Michael Portillo’s interesting admission that he no longer clung to traditional Unionism. I think we have every reason to suspect that many others in the Tory Party would privately be quite happy to say goodbye to Scotland.

A Tory Party really concerned about the loss of Scotland would have done as Norman Tebbit suggested, and urged its supporters to vote Labour to stop the SNP. Instead, to the dismay of elder statesmen and experts such as Michael Forsyth, it talked up the SNP, paying elaborate compliments to Nicola Sturgeon after the leaders’ debate (George Osborne and Michael Gove were observed doing this) . To claim, while behaving in this fashion, that the Tory Party is a bulwark against the SNP and Labour is in their clutches is absurd. The SNP are delighted by the Tory victory, which makes it all but certain that they will get a repeat landslide in next year’s Scottish general election, with a manifesto commitment to a second referendum, which I think they will then win. Let us see how Mr Cameron now copes with the SNP’s sweeping victory, for which he must take so much of the blame.

At least the Sun newspaper was brazenly open about its ludicrous inconsistency, campaigning for a Tory (and supposedly Unionist) victory south of the border, and for the unquestionably separatist SNP north of it.

As for the famous EU referendum, who really thinks that the propaganda forces which got Mr Cameron his unexpected majority won’t also be activated to achieve a huge vote to stay in the EU? And then the issue will be closed forever.

What is the point of saying all this now, when it’s all over? Because it is true, and because to speak the truth is valuable in itself, at all times.


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