Monday, August 29, 2016

Party elitists vs ordinary members: The Labour civil war

Richard Burgon is the Labour MP for Leeds East and the shadow Justice Secretary. On the 27th of August 2016 he summed up what the Labour Party civil war is all about when he said:
"I believe it's important to stand up for Labour members. MPs are not 'a cut above' the membership. Myself and other MPs are just ordinary members who have been given the privilege of serving as representatives of our communities." 
Contempt for the membership

A look at the behaviour of the Labour Party establishment since September 2015 Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the party with an astonishing 59.5% of the vote in a four horse race provides plenty of proof of the contempt that a lot of Labour Party elitists have towards the ordinary members.

  • Certain coup-plotter MPs have taken to distorting events and outright lying in order to paint ordinary party members as a violent mob of bigoted brick-lobbing thugs. Angela Eagle is a particularly egregious offender in this regard having brazenly misrepresented the "notorious brick" incident, refused to correct allegations that she suffered homophobic abuse at a meeting she didn't even attend and outright lying about an even being cancelled due to "threats" when in reality the venue owner pulled the plug because he didn't want a political event in his hotel.
All of these actions demonstrate that the party hierarchy and the coup-plotters see themselves as a cut above the party membership. As far as they're concerned the will of 172 MPs completely outweighs the will of 250,000+ party members. Their opinions are well over 1,000 times as important as ordinary party members.

The deputy leader Tom Watson clearly expressed this contempt for the party membership when he described the decision to introduce a properly democratic One Member One Vote electoral system within the Labour Party as "a terrible error of judgement".

All of the above things demonstrate that certain Labour Party politicians see themselves as "a cut above" ordinary party members, but this disgusting elitist attitude is best demonstrated by the ongoing Labour Party purge.

The contrast between the standards of behaviour being applied to ordinary party members and people at the top of the party couldn't be starker.


Ordinary members are being purged from the party for all kinds of spurious reasons, perhaps the most of all being the woman who was slung out of the party for posting "I fucking love the Foo Fighters" on her personal Facebook wall. Many others have been suspended with no explanation of what they are supposed to have done wrong other than generic "comments on social media" or "comments on Twitter" meaning they have pretty much no means to appeal the suspension because they don't even know what they stand accused of saying.

The fact that Labour Party minions are trawling through people's social media activities to search for reasons to exclude them from voting in the leadership election is bad enough in its own right, but the contrast between the trivial "crimes" committed by purged Labour members and the unpunished behaviour of members of the party elite couldn't be stronger.

Here are a few examples:

  • The Labour Party MP Tom Blenkinsop turning his Twitter feed into a tide of cry-bully abuse in which he yelled "idiot" and "entryist" at anyone who disagreed with his appalling behaviour, including a life-long Labour voter - Not suspended
  • Another coup-supporting MP to turn his Twitter feed into a severely damaging tide of abuse against the party leadership and other party members is the Labour MP Ian Austin. He was also allowed to get away with telling the leader of his party to "sit down and shut up" when he was speaking about the damning findings of the Chilcot report.
It's absolutely clear that when it comes to abusive and disreputable behaviour, ordinary members are being held to a much higher standard than members of the party establishment who seem to be able to get away with pretty much whatever they like.


Another reason the Labour Party establishment have come up with for slinging ordinary members out of the party is "disloyalty". Several people have been purged for Twitter comments in favour of other political parties such as the Green Party dating from as far back as May 2014, long before they even became members of the Labour Party.

Contrast the ludicrous attitude that ordinary members who used to support other parties are unwelcome with what members of the Labour Party establishment have been allowed to get away with despite being high-profile members of the party.

It's utterly preposterous that Tweeting about having voted for the Green Party years before they even joined Labour is considered a "crime" that ordinary members must be suspended for, while people within the party establishment go completely unpunished for bankrolling rival political parties to the tune of £millions, appearing at rival party conferences and endorsing their political agendas, accepting Tory cash to campaign against the official party line and openly declaring that they'd rather Labour loses the next election to the Tories.

It's also worth considering the party establishment's attitude towards defectors from other parties.
  • During the Blair era numerous Tory politicians defected directly from the Tory party to Labour. Probably the most high profile was Shaun Woodward who defected to Labour in 1999 and was pretty much immediately put in charge of Labour's 2001 Election campaign. He was then rewarded by the party elite by being parachuted into the ultra-safe Labour seat of St Helens.
The fact that Labour has repeatedly accepted defectors from other parties shows how remarkable their double standards are. If you're party of the political club you can switch allegiance immediately, but if you're an ordinary person you can be barred from the Labour Party for having voted for another political party years previously.


It's beyond doubt that a large number of people in the Labour Party establishment (politicians, party donors, advisers, party administrators ...) see themselves and their ilk as "a cut above" the ordinary members. The coup plot has proven their contempt for the will of the party membership clearly enough, but the abject hypocrisy of the ongoing Labour Party purge is absolute proof that these people have the same mentality as elitists across the political spectrum, that there should be one set of rules for the little people, and an altogether more lenient set of rules for members of the elite inner circle.

The battle for the future of the Labour Party isn't really so much about policy (Owen Smith is blatantly pilfering Corbyn's policies) and neither is it about personality (If Corbyn is "unelectable" because of his lack of media training then putting up a gaffe-prone blunderer who pretty much nobody has heard to challenge him is utterly ludicrous).

What it's really all about is whether the Labour Party membership believe that the party is best run by a managerialist elite who see themselves as a "a cut above the lower orders", or whether they think it's best run in the actual interests of the Labour Party members and voters.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Why Ed Balls should stick to practising his dance moves

It's no surprise that Ed Balls has come out of the woodwork to attack Jeremy Corbyn's policy of actually opposing the Tories instead of weakly imitating them, because he's from the right-wing Labour faction who still believe in the ludicrous fantasy that agreeing the Tories into submission is a viable electoral strategy.

Ed Balls has got some incredible brass neck to lecture anyone about "electibility" given that he is the guy who came up with Labour's catastrophically uninspiring austerity-lite strategy for the 2015 General Election and then lost his own seat in the resulting capitulation.

As well as laying into Jeremy Corbyn for actually trying to oppose the Tories, Ed Balls has also tried to cast the blame for 2015 onto Ed Miliband. Of course as 
party leader Ed Miliband bears some responsibility for what happened in 2015, but Ed Balls was the Labour shadow chancellor and the guy who was in charge of defining Labour's economic policies.

Balls tried to claim that the 2015 Electoral defeat came about because of some kind of lack of communication at the top of the Labour Party, but the only communication failure of any significance was the lack of people willing to point out to Balls that his austerity-lite strategy was ... well ... a load of balls.

Instead of choosing to repeatedly pointing out that Osborne had abjectly failed to eliminate the deficit with his austerity nonsense like he had promised to in 2010, and setting out an economically coherent "investment based recovery" strategy, Balls decided to meekly accept the ridiculous fiction that "let's cut our way to growth" is a sane economic policy and then weakly imitate George Osborne in the hope of wooing Tory voters.

Just think about it. How little confidence must someone have in their own abilities in order to try to gain economic credibility by imitating a massively over-promoted towel re-folder like George Osborne?

Austerity-lite failed because "we're not quite as malicious as the Tories" is not the kind of thing that appeals to anyone. Millions of traditional Labour voters chose to vote SNP, Green or just stay at home because Austerity-lite turned them off so much. Meanwhile this weak imitation of Tory economic policy was never going to attract many Tory voters, because why would anyone who believes in right-wing economic fairy tales vote for ersatz austerity from Labour when they could have the real deal from the Tories?

Labour's decision to try to weakly imitate the Tories rather than directly confront George Osborne's socially and economically destructive austerity agenda was an extraordinary failure*, and if anyone single person is the most to blame for this strategic ineptitude then it's clearly Ed Balls.

Balls lost Labour the 2015 General Election with his catastrophically uninspiring austerity-lite rubbish, he lost his own parliamentary seat, and he saw the traditional Scottish Labour heartlands evaporate away to nothing because the SNP gleefully took up the anti-austerity role to add into to the wave of fury over the way Labour politicians had cosied up to the Tories during the independence referendum debate.

Perhaps Ed Balls would be better off if he decided to stop making a fool of himself by pretending that his austerity-lite strategy was anything but a disaster and lecturing other people about "electibility", and concentrate on practising his dance moves so that he doesn't make a fool of himself on Strictly Come Dancing too.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


*Theresa May's failed immigration policies were another area where Labour could really have attacked the Tories, but they chose to imitate Tory rhetoric on immigration (remember that damned mug?). Instead of drawing public attention to Theresa May's catastrophic blend of malice and incompetence, they gave her a total free ride and set her up to become the next Prime Minister.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Labour Party purge is getting ridiculous

The Labour Party purge is getting absolutely ridiculous. Not content with banning 130,000 party members from participation in the leadership election out of a fear that they're likely to back Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party hierarchy has set about trawling through people's social media accounts looking for excuses to suspend them from the party.

Some of the most notable examples include the Orgreave Justice campaigner and 45 year long Labour Party member John Dunn, the head of the Bakers' Union Ronnie Draper, a Unison rep and long-time Labour Party activist called Philip Lewis and a woman called Catherine Starr who was apparently suspended for liking a band called the Foo Fighters too much.

The Catherine Starr case was unusual because the letter of suspension actually included a date when the supposedly unacceptable comment was made, allowing her to track down the "abusive" comment to a post where she said "I fucking love the Foo Fighters". Huge numbers of people are being suspended with an explanation consisting of nothing more than "comments you posted on social media" making it pretty much impossible for people to track down the supposedly problematic comments.

There is clearly a lack of due process if people are being suspended from the party and barred from voting in the leadership election based on such vague allegations. If the Labour Party snoopers have evidence of abusive language they should include screen grabs of the comments deemed to be unacceptable, which is hardly difficult given the way that they're snooping through people's social media accounts.

Some people have raised concerns that snooping through the social media accounts of tens of thousands of Labour Party members in order to find excuses to suspend Jeremy Corbyn supporters is a deeply sinister thing to do. Others have argued that it's a tremendous waste of time and effort that could be better used on actually opposing the Tories. My biggest concern is the abject hypocrisy of it all.

You just have to look at the behaviour of some of the Labour Party members who are backing Owen Smith to see how rigged the whole purge is:

In March 2016 Catherine Starr posted a comment about how much she likes the Foo Fighters on her personal Facebook page. The Labour Party donor Michael Foster wrote an extraordinary article for the Daily Mail describing other Labour Party members as "Nazi stormtroopers" and a tide of other abusive comments and insults including "arrivistas", "a divisive, aggressive holier-than-thou cadre of hard-Left socialists", "bullies and arm-twisters", "economically illiterate people", "a mob", "second-rate minds", "the extreme left".

Catherine Starr has been purged and Michael Foster has suffered no consequences for his abusive diatribe.
In 2014 Dr Gemma Angel wrote a Twitter post detailing her reasons for voting for the Green Party at the European elections. Since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour Party leader she changed her allegiance and tried to join the Labour Party. In 2016 the unelected Labour Party peer David Sainsbury made a donation of £2,150,000 to the Liberal Democrats.
For a tweet supporting the Green Party from over two years ago Dr Gemma Angel was purged from the party. For handing over two million quid to a rival political party between April and June 2016 David Sainsbury has suffered no consequences. 

The fact that the Labour Party hierarchy have decided to trawl through the social media postings of Jeremy Corbyn supporters to look for (often incredibly tenuous) excuses to block them from membership is bad enough, but the fact that party politicians and donors are being allowed to get away with things that are very much worse demonstrates beyond doubt that the purge is being conducted in order to rig the election, rather than to rid the party of abusive people or those who clearly support other political parties.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


10 Economic fairy stories that people need to stop believing in

One of the big problems in the UK is the fact that the vast majority of the 93% of kids who go to state school end up with no economics education. This means that an awful lot of people are susceptible to the kind of ridiculous economic fairy stories that are pushed by right-wing politicians and their cheerleaders in the mainstream media.

In this article I'm going to quickly run through ten of them. I've already written articles critiquing several of these myths individually. Where this is the case I've linked to the full article underneath the section header.

1. Government finances are like a household budget
[Main Article]

This is one of the most pervasive right-wing economic myths. The Tories love it because it allows them to hoodwink economically uneducated people into supporting their economic policies by making them think they understand economic issues that are actually very much more complex.

If your family home has a printing press that can produce money out of nothing (like the Bank of England) then the government finances-household budget analogy is slightly less misleading, but it also means you're a bunch of money forging criminals, so hardly representative of the typical UK family.

Anyone who tells you that government finances are like a household budget is either economically illiterate, or they're someone who knows perfectly well that they're talking economic gibberish but they're deliberately lying to you because they're assuming you to be economically illiterate.

2. The private sector is more efficient than public ownership
[Main article]

There are so many examples of this being completely wrong it's impossible to list them all. Think of the G4S security fiasco at the 2012 Olympics when public sector workers like the army and police had to step in at the last moment to rectify a massive private sector blunder. The private company had months to prepare a security plan and failed, the public sector stepped in at the very last moment and succeeded.

Then you've got the publicly operated East Coast Mainline rail franchise that was outperforming all the private franchises so dramatically that the Tories quickly bundled it back into private ownership to avoid the embarrassment.

If private ownership really is so much more efficient than public ownership, ask yourself why the military wasn't one of the first things to be privatised. Ask yourself why countries at war tend to bring private industries under public management.

3. House price inflation is good for the economy and creates growth

I'm sure you'll have seen plenty of news items focusing on house prices. When house prices fall the media report it as if it's some kind of terrible tragedy, and when house prices rise they often paint it as evidence that the economy is recovering. This is completely wrong-headed.

There's no major problem if house prices increase more or less in line with average earnings, but that's clearly not been the case for decades. The more house price inflation outpaces earnings, the bigger the percentage of people's incomes end up going on mortgage repayments rather than being spent on genuinely productive economic activities like setting up businesses, investment and consumption.

The higher the rate of house price inflation, the more skewed towards house price speculation the economy becomes. 

Things have got so bad in the UK that four times as much money is created by the private banks to channel into house price speculation than is lent to businesses outside of the financial sector that actually produce things and provide services. The more house prices inflate, the more incentive there is for the banks to pour even more money into the housing bubble rather than into the sectors of the real economy that actually generate real economic activity.

4. Austerity is necessary and not just an ideologically driven choice
[Main article]

"Let's cut our way to growth" is an absolutely ridiculous policy from a macroeconomic perspective. The majority of economists recognise that severe spending cuts are harmful to the economy, and more and more people are waking up to the fact that austerity is a con job that uses debt-fearmongering as a cover for policies designed to ensure a huge transfer of wealth from the poor and ordinary to the tiny super-rich minority.

5. Everyone maximising their self-interest promotes wellbeing

This is one of the central ideas that underpins the right-wing economic models that have become accepted as the economic orthodoxy since the 1980s, and it's utterly ridiculous.

The concept that humans are rationally self-interested beings who will always act in their own self-interest is utterly ridiculous. Rational self interest is an impossible concept because in situations with multiple choices (like supermarket shopping) the number of different combinations of choices mean that a rational analysis would take thousands of years to complete, so people just use heuristics to make their decisions. 

A look at the concept of information asymmetry demonstrates how wrong-headed the idea of humans as perfectly rational economic agents is, because without a perfect supply of information, perfect rationality is clearly impossible to achieve.

Another glaring problem is that the concept of people as purely rational self-interested economic agents is the way it conflicts so dramatically with what we know about reality. If we were all perfectly selfish economic automota, then stuff like charity, empathy, voluntary activities and philanthropy simply wouldn't exist.

The problem goes further than the fact that humans don't and can't act as purely self-interested individuals. The idea that if only we were all just entirely selfish, then general wellbeing would be promoted is staggeringly backwards. If only everyone would stop giving to charity or volunteering in their community then the world would be a better place? Who actually believes this drivel?

6. It is a good idea to get China to finance our infrastructure projects
[Main article]

Even before it was revealed that one of the Chinese stakeholders in the bid to construct the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant is accused of espionage in the US, George Osborne's own father-in-law described the deal concocted by Cameron and Osborne as "one of the worst deals ever" for energy consumers and the UK taxpayer.

I'm not going to go into any more detail on this because it really boggles my mind that there's anyone out there who thinks that the UK is better off bribing the Chinese into building our infrastructure for us is a better idea than building it ourselves.

7. Impoverishing people on benefits makes them find jobs

The idea that the benefits system is too generous and that people will just go out and find jobs if the welfare system is slashed is one of the most pervasive right-wing economic myths.

The first problem is that many people on benefits are simply incapable of work. Cutting the benefits paid to the severely disabled and terminally ill doesn't make them more likely to find work, it just makes their already difficult situation much worse.

Another problem is that an awful lot of benefits go to the working poor. Stuff like working tax credits and in-work benefits accounts for a much bigger slice of the welfare system than unemployment benefits. Additionally an ever increasing slice of the vast housing benefit budget goes to the working-poor, whose employers pay such pitifully low wages that they can't even afford to cover their housing costs. 

Slashing Working Tax Credits, Housing Benefit, Statutory Sick Pay, maternity and paternity pay and other in-work benefits, whilst harking on about "making work pay" is obscene political propaganda from the Tories, but lots of people actually buy into it because they're unwilling to differentiate between the benefits paid to the unemployed, and benefits paid to the working poor.

Another major problem is that the concept of equilibrium unemployment is central to right-wing economic orthodoxy. They actually believe that there is an ideal rate of unemployment and design their economic policies to ensure that there's always a pool of unemployed workers. The idea of deliberately maintaining a standing army of unemployed people to drive down the wages and working conditions of those with jobs is bad enough, but it's utterly appalling to then say that we have to slash the pitiful subsistence incomes they live on in order to force them into work, when the policy is to keep them out of work.

One last problem is that the government's own evidence shows that impoverishing people in order to make them look for work is totally ineffective. In fact it actually creates more barriers to employment (inability to pay transport costs, printing CVs, cleaning clothes ...).

8. Driving down wages is good for the economy

UK workers have suffered a 10.4% decrease in their average real terms incomes since 2007 which is a decline only matched in severity by Greece in the rest of the developed world. The Tories have actually tried to make out that repressing wages is good for the economy as they tried to justify their 1% cap on wage increases for public sector workers (whilst accepting an 11% pay raise for themselves of course).

Slashing wages is bad for the economy because lower wages means lower aggregate demand in the economy. The only way that demand can be kept up when wages are falling is if people avoid cutting back by incurring private debt. Anyone who thinks that cutting wages and stimulating an even bigger private debt bubble than the one that preceded the 2007-08 financial sector meltdown is a good idea really hasn't been thinking very hard about economic issues at all.

9. Government spending crowds out the private sector

The idea that government investment crowds out the private sector is difficult enough to justify in economic good times, but in a economic situation where the private banks are unwilling to lend to businesses because they see much greater returns gambling on the house price bubble or playing the global derivatives casino it's utterly senseless.

Just look at the decline in house building since the 1970s. The Thatcher government basically put an end to government house building, and if crowding out theory is correct, the private sector should have taken up the government share in the market which would have kept the number of new builds per year more or less the same. In fact if you combine crowding out with the myth of private sector efficiency there should actually have been a huge house building boom since the 1980s. What has actually happened is an extraordinary slump with new builds falling to the lowest level since the 1920s under David Cameron's government. The private sector didn't build more houses, they simply sat back and enjoyed a huge unearned bonanza as the supply of new houses dwindled and increasing demand resulted in skyrocketing prices.

Crowding out theory clearly didn't even work in pre-crisis period, but in the post-crisis economy it's absolute gibberish when the banks are refusing to lend to productive sectors of the economy.

10. Government money creation always creates inflation

This myth is easily accepted by the masses because wheelbarrows full of cash to buy a loaf of bread in Wiemar Germany has been part of the history curriculum for millions of UK school kids. It's easy to perpetuate the myth that money creation creates hyperinflation when you can hark back to stuff like that, but it's basically just economic fearmongering because it relies on a complete misunderstanding of where money actually comes from (it's actually created out of nothing by the private banks) and a failure to consider the different ways in which the money could be spent.

It is true that money creation can lead to inflation, but it clearly depends where the newly created money is directed. The private banks create money out of nothing every time they make a loan and this led to a huge house price bubble. After the 2007-08 economic collapse the monetary system was not reformed and we're now seeing the development of another, even bigger house price bubble.

When the Bank of England created £375 billion in quantitative easing cash to prop up the insolvent financial sector it did not create a large spike in general inflation, it's purpose was to stave off deflation in financial sector assets that are mainly held by the wealthy. As a result of it the values of the assets held by the rich were significantly inflated, while the values of pension funds and savings deflated.

The type of inflation caused by money creation clearly depends on where the targeted money is directed into the economy.

If the government created money to just hand it out to the public that would likely cause price inflation in goods and services, but imagine if the government created £50 billion to invest in ensuring that every business and household in the UK gets free access to high-speed broadband. This spending would obviously have a significant economic effect but whether it causes inflation or deflation would depend on which area of the economy you were to look at. Such a scheme would create a large number of relatively high-skilled jobs meaning an earnings boost. It would create increased demand for materials which would have various economic repercussions, and it would also clearly cause a collapse in the value of companies providing home broadband services.

Anyone trying to claim that money creation to invest in infrastructure and services would create hyperinflation is clearly trying to con you, probably because they prefer money creation schemes that inflate the assets of the rich, rather than money creation schemes that benefit all of society.


After the 2007-08 financial sector meltdown the "too big to fail" banks still utterly dominate the UK market; bankers salaries and bonuses are way higher than before the crisis; ordinary British workers have suffered a collapse in the value of their wages as bad as in Greece; private banks still have a monopoly on money creation and are still using the money they create to inflate speculative housing bubbles; and the Tory government has simply repackaged the hard-right economic dogma that caused the financial sector crisis as their Austerity snake oil elixir to supposedly cure the sickness.

The unacceptable response to the financial sector meltdown has come about because far too many people accept the facile and completely inaccurate economic fairy stories propagated by the Tory party and their chums in the mainstream media. 

If the British public do not learn to stop believing in economic fairy stories like these, there's little hope of any kind of change in direction away from the kind of hard-right economic dogma that created the conditions where the 2007-08 financial sector meltdown became inevitable, which means another meltdown at some point and yet another effort to rebrand the causes of the meltdown as the solution to the meltdown.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


NOTE: This article was inspired by a comment from a guy called Simon Cohen in the comments section on the Guardian website who came up with a list of 10 economic myths that need busting. I kept several of the myths he suggested, but changed others.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Owen Smith's hypocrisy and delusion over Scottish labour

Kezia Dugdale was the deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party when they lost 40 of their 41 Westminster seats in 2015. She was then promoted to party leader in 2016 and went on to lead Scottish Labour to their most appalling Scottish Parliament performance in history, coming in third behind the widely despised Tories and not even winning her own constituency seat.

During a Labour leadership debate in Scotland Owen Smith tried to imply that anyone who doesn't agree that that's a "brilliant" and "fantastic" performance is an "entryist"! He then had the absolute gall to whine at the audience who laughed at his glowing appraisal of Dugdale's performance for not supporting their party leader. The absolute hypocrisy of the figurehead of the Anyone But Corbyn coup chastising other people for lack of loyalty to their party leader is absolutely astounding.

The people who laughed were laughing at the absurdity of Owen Smith's glowing appraisal of Dugdale's performance as party leader. It's not like they actually participated in a pre-planned, incredibly poorly-timed and ineptly executed coup-plot against their party leader like Owen Smith did.

It's difficult to just skip past such a searing display of hypocrisy from Owen Smith, but there is a more important issue.  Smith's comments about "entryism"
 just goes to show how utterly out of touch the guy is with what is going on in Scotland. He's banging on about the problem of supposedly undesirable people joining the party, when the real glaring problem is that once loyal Labour members and supporters have been deserting the party in droves.

In 1999 Labour won the first Scottish parliament election with 38.8% of the constituency vote. In 2003 they stayed as the main party in the Scottish government after securing 34.6% of the constituency vote. Fast forward to 2016 and Labour secured just 22.6% of the constituency vote and came in third behind the Tories. The performance was so bad that their own leader Kezia Dugdale failed to win a constituency seat and had to sneak in on the regional list!

The Labour Party leadership doesn't need to be angrily dismissing people as "entryists" if they refuse to accept the bizarrely rose-tinted claim that the current Scottish leader is doing a "wonderful job", they need to urgently accept that something is going terribly wrong with Scottish Labour and start thinking about what they intend to do to rectify the problem.

Pretending that everything is "wonderful" in Scottish Labour under Kezia Dugdale's leadership is very much like the behaviour of an alcoholic denying that they have a drink problem. The first step towards recovery comes when the person with the problem stops reacting angrily and defensively every time anyone alludes to it, and accepts that the problem actually exists.

Scottish Labour driving almost half of their voters away from the party in less than two decades is an incredibly serious problem. Finishing behind the Tories in the 2016 Scottish parliament elections is a clear indication of how severe the problem has now got. If things continue along this trajectory Scottish Labour is going to fade away and become a very minor player in Scottish politics, perhaps even being overtaken by the growing Scottish Green Party and the Lib-Dems (who are now flatlining, which is better than still shedding huge numbers of votes like Labour).

Owen Smith and anyone else trying to furiously defend the Scottish Labour leader when the symptoms of terrible decline are now so completely obvious is clearly living in some kind of closed ideological bubble. Reality-denying ideological bubble dwellers are a serious problem because they will obviously resist any efforts to resolve the problems, because people who are in denial tend to strenuously refuse treatment for the problems that they have deluded themselves into believing that they don't have.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The independent media revolution

There is an independent media revolution going on. The mainstream press have been very slow to cotton onto the fact that independent media is having an ever increasing influence on the spectrum of political debate, but they seem to be catching up a little bit now.

Before social media

Back in 1997 a young Tony Blair stormed to power with one of the biggest landslide victories in British history. A lot of people within the current Labour Party hark back to the Blairite era as if Blairism is some kind of magical election winning formula, but they're apparently incapable of understanding that Blair's formula for success simply isn't fit for purpose in the 21st Century.

Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell worked out a strategy for stage managing the mainstream media news agenda, and to be fair to them it was spectacularly successful. They drip-fed press releases to the mainstream media that were essentially pre-written stories, and relied on lazy mainstream media hacks to "churnalise" the hand-picked stories of the day. If they wanted the public to hear a particular snazzy little sound bite, or think about a specific statistic, the Labour Party spin doctors fed them into the mainstream media machine and waited for it to churn out item after item about it.

The Blairite model worked a treat in the 1990s because it was common for people to rely on just a few mainstream media news sources for their information. People generally stuck to the same newspaper, and had the same entrenched habits in relation to broadcast news too. In those days it was relatively easy to stage manage the news agenda because if the newspapers, the BBC and commercial radio stations and the TV news shows all recycled the hand-picked stories, then there was obviously very little scope for alternative takes on the news agenda to reach mainstream audiences.

The spread of the Internet and the growth in social media platforms has led to a huge change in the way that people consume political news. Blairite efforts to stage manage the news agenda simply can't work any more because people don't just read one newspaper or listen to one radio station anymore. These days anyone with a social media account is bombarded with news stories from a kaleidoscope of different sources.

The early Internet age

In the early days alternative media sources generally flew well under the mainstream media radar.

As social media use gradually became established as a social norm the press did address the subject, but often from a very pompous perspective. Leftie liberal columnists sneered at social media users from above, and right-wing tabloid columnists sneered at it with a great big chip on their shoulder, but few of them had the foresight to recognise that social media would soon end completely revolutionising the way that journalism works.

Thinking back to those early days of social media and the sneering editorials from the mainstream press pack, it's impossible not to appreciate the irony that all mainstream media publications and the overwhelming majority of mainstream journalists have Twitter and/or Facebook profiles these days.

Burn it, burn it with fire

Mainstream journalists gradually begun to realise that there is a growing demographic of people who rely on social media as their primary news source.

The initial reaction was one of abject horror at the realisation that their role as gatekeepers of the news agenda was under existential threat.

This terrified reaction was exemplified by a November 2014 "debate" on the BBC Daily Politics show featuring five mainstream media journalists bitterly slagging off social media, without a single representative to actually argue the case for social media!

The Daily Politics piece focused on a misleading infographic contrasting several completely accurate pictures of sparsely attended parliamentary debates on important subjects with jam-packed debates claiming to be from parliamentary sessions about MPs pay and perks.

The BBC correctly identified the fact that the jam-packed images of parliament were not what they were claimed to be, but completely failed to explain the important context that the images had originally been misleadingly used by mainstream media outlets (the Telegraph and the BBC) to illustrate online articles about MPs expenses debates!

They were so busy tearing into social media for being irresponsible, and pleading with their audience to stick with established news formats, that they forgot to even mention that the misleading images that they were spitting blood about actually originated in the mainstream press!

Changing attitudes

After over five years of running Another Angry Voice, and at least a couple of years of being one of the most visible non-mainstream UK political writers on Facebook, I finally got my first ever mention on the BBC when Kerry-Anne Mendoza (the editor of The Canary) gave me a shout out on Newsnight in August 2016 during a piece about the right-wing bias of the mainstream press.

Here is an extracts from the interview:

"What we're trying to do, and becoming increasingly successful in doing, is challenging some of these dominant [mainstream media] narratives. We have a situation in this country where 81% of the mainstream media is owned by six corporations and most of the journalists who staff them went to a handful of universities and graduated about six inches to the left or the right of each other politically. So this little gap between them becomes the minuscule arena for political debate in this country, and anyone who operates outside of that is either mocked, ignored, ridiculed or derided as some sort of mad, bad and dangerous person ... and that's a crisis."
The host Kirsty Wark was determined not to give Kerry-Anne an easy time, rudely interrupting her on more than one occasion, brazenly misrepresenting the above quotation as a determination to "back Jeremy Corbyn to the hilt" and then hurling the accusation that she is "not in any way objective", which is quite something from a BBC presenter for several reasons.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, anyone who claims that they or their organisation is completely unbiased is lying to you because the only form of pure neutrality is complete apathy. Kirsty Wark has as much of an agenda as Kerry-Anne Mendoza, but she is capable of deluding herself that she's speaking from a pillar of unbiased objectivity because she's floating along with the mainstream media tide, rather than actively swimming against it.

If you still believe in the myth of BBC objectivity just speak to someone Scottish about what the BBC's independence referendum coverage was like, or consider the fact that an academic study found that the BBC Six O'Clock news was extraordinarily biased against Jeremy Corbyn during the first week of the Anyone But Corbyn coup attempt, or consider the fact that just a couple of years ago the BBC ran a piece contrasting social media with the establishment media with five mainstream media representatives and nobody from social media at all!

The thing that has undeniably changed since 2014 is that the reach of alternative media is now getting so big that the mainstream media can't simply ignore us anymore. Kerry-Anne Mendoza put it into perspective during the Newsnight interview when she pointed out that despite not even being a year old, The Canary has already surpassed long established political news sources like The Spectator, New Statesman and The Economist in web traffic. There is an independent media revolution going on, and a lot of mainstream journalists have clearly been caught off guard by it.

Continued hostility

There are clearly an awful lot of mainstream journalists who feel threatened by the growth of independent media. This attitude can be seen in the sneering contempt for The Canary that has become oh-so-fashionable. The idea that the arguments of the myriad different writers who contribute to The Canary can all be glibly dismissed because "The Canary is just biased leftie rubbish" is an intellectually lazy attitude that is being spread by right-wing hacks like Michael Deaton in the Daily Telegraph. 

This kind of ridicule is endlessly repeated by mainstream media rote learners who consider such glib dismissals to be dynamite debate winning tactics, rather than cognitively lazy drivel that actually demonstrates a fear of considering and attempting to critique things that exist outside of the comforting mainstream media spectrum of debate.

The interruptions and blatant misrepresentations from Kirsty Wark during the Newsnight interview were another demonstration of this hostility to independent journalism from mainstream journalists who can see the tide changing, but really don't like the threat it represents to the established way of doing things.

The independent media revolution

There are ever increasing numbers of people who choose to obtain their political news from independent sites where the writers can write what they like without fear of reprisals from the editor, media mogul owner or advertisers.

Several high profile journalists like Paul Mason on the left and Peter Oborne on the right have abandoned their lucrative mainstream media platforms for the greater degree of editorial freedom afforded by independence. 

The mediascape is evolving increasingly quickly and it seems inevitable that independent journalists are going to continue playing an ever increasing role in confronting the established, press baron and corporate advertiser approved mainstream media narratives.

Aside from the conversion of big-hitters like Paul Mason ans Peter Oborne, the ongoing independent media revolution has allowed people like me (who would likely never have found the opportunity to write for a mainstream newspaper) and countless others to actually have a voice.

Of course the content is hit and miss. Some of the articles in the Canary are as poor as others are excellent. Of course my self-edited blog features regular spelling errors and formatting problems. But I challenge anyone to point me to a newspaper or television channel where the content is 100% faultless.

Whatever the news source, it's inevitable that the quality of the content is going to be variable, but at least if you're reading my blog, Tom Pride, Craig Murray, Wings Over ScotlandJohnny Void, Vox Political or some writer on The Canary you know that we're expressing our own free opinions, rather than some compromised opinion that has to comply with the political agenda of some sociopathic tax-dodging press baron, bullying editor or the multitude of multinational corporations that advertise in their propaganda sheets.

If you want to help to support this shift away from a news agenda dominated by complacent hacks who churn out copy for billionaire media moguls (being careful not to offend their advertisers or the foibles of their editors) you can get involved.

If you would like to see a change towards genuinely independent journalism, where journalists have the editorial freedom to say things the way they see them, then you could consider setting up small monthly subscriptions to support the work of the independent journalists you like.

By setting up a small monthly donation to some of the independent writers and websites that you enjoy, you could help to support the media diversification that is absolutely necessary in order to stop the political agenda being dictated by the BBC (who will always remain biased in favour of the government of the day who get to hold their purse strings) and a tiny bunch of (savagely right-wing) billionaire media moguls.

millions of people have quit reading newspapers over the last decade. If just a small fraction of them were to set aside the equivalent of 50p a day or whatever to support the independent journalists and websites they like, the cumulative amount would be an enormous boost to independent media.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.