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Friday, 14 August 2020

Murdoch Rag Forced To Say Sorry

While alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, spurred on by the demonic insistence of chief Downing Street polecat Dominic Cummings, holds to his rule that none of his team resign, or even say sorry, his pals at the Murdoch press have at least been forced to issue an expression of regret over their routinely bad journalism.

After a night during which north-east Scotland experienced exceptionally heavy rainfall, transport networks had to cope with flooding and landslips last Wednesday morning. On the railways, ScotRail’s 0638 Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street service had been stopped by the signaller at Carmont, south-west of Stonehaven, due to reports of a landslip causing an obstruction further down the line.

As a result, the service was directed to return to Aberdeen. The train crossed over to the Down line, but a mile or so further on struck another landslip which derailed almost the whole train. Despite the small number of people on board, there were three fatalities: the driver, conductor, and a passenger. It was the first on-board passenger accident fatality for almost 13 years, underlining the railway’s excellent overall safety record.

That, though, did not divert those at the Murdoch Sun from their purpose, and Thursday’s Scottish edition carried an aerial photo of the crash aftermath, a photo of driver Brett McCullough, and the lurid headline “Storms Train Tragedy … Landslide crash kills 3 … Driver among victims … DEATH EXPRESS”. You want subtle? Away with ye.

By noon today, Press Gazette admitted that there had been severely adverse comment passed by many readers and observers, telling “IPSO has said it is dealing with a ‘high volume of complaints’ about the Scottish Sun's splash yesterday headlined ‘Death Express’ about the train derailment in Aberdeenshire that killed three people. ‘We are dealing with these under our normal procedures,’ it said”.

And to show that times have changed since the deeply unpleasant Kelvin McFilth declined to apologise for just about anything the Super Soaraway Currant Bun published while he sat in the editor’s chair, Scottish Sun editor Alan Muir decided to say sorry.

Wednesday was a tragic day for Scotland, and the headline on the front page of our paper in relation to the terrible train accident caused further distress … For that I am truly sorry … this time I made a mistake … At a time when family, friends and colleagues are grieving the loss of their loved ones, the last thing they need is something else to add to their grief … I got it wrong on this occasion and can only apologise for that”.

For many people, to be grown-up enough to say sorry would be a sign of strength. Not the Murdoch press: in the days when the Sun was shifting four million copies a day, as with Kel over Hillsborough, there would be nothing more than a doubling down of the abuse and no chance of recantation. What Muir has done today is to show weakness.

The kind of weakness that comes from circulation across the whole of the UK falling well below the one million mark, losing the top slot to the Daily Mail, and a parent group - News Corp - that only last week posted a thumping $1.5 billion loss.

No more braggadocio, no more swagger. But the message is the same. Don’t buy the Sun.

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A-Levels - Stupid Boy Clueless

The Westminster Government is presided over by alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson; his Education Secretary is former fireplace salesman Gavin “stupid boy” Williamson. Their opposite numbers in Scotland are Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney. And this year’s round of exam results have provided a superb opportunity to compare one administration’s credibility to that of the other.

The image he wants to project ...

As the BBC has reported, Scotland went first, and got it wrong first: “With no exams sat this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) ran a system based on teacher assessments. However, officials then applied a moderation technique which led to about 125,000 estimates being downgraded”. There was more.

There was particular criticism after Higher [Scottish equivalent of an ‘A’ Level] pass rates for pupils in the most deprived data zones were reduced by 15.2%, in comparison with 6.9% for pupils from the most affluent backgrounds … Ms Sturgeon said young people in more deprived areas might be concluding that ‘the system is stacked against them’, and that she was ‘not prepared to have that outcome’”. There was a U-Turn.

Swinney said sorry. Ms Sturgeon said sorry. They admitted they got it wrong. Fast forward to this week, andThere is anger among schools, colleges and students, after nearly 40% of A-level grades awarded on Thursday were lower than teachers' predictions … School and college leaders are calling for a review and say all fees for appeals should be waived”.

Also, there was the impression given that those privately educated had done a little too well as a result of the system used to calculate grades: “For the top A* and A grades, independent schools in England saw the greatest improvement on last year - up 4.7 percentage points. This compares with a 1.7, 2 and 0.3 percentage points improvement for top grades for England's academies, comprehensives and colleges respectively”.

Cue Bozo The Clown, telling those disappointed that they could take a re-sit this autumn - by which time it will be too late - and claiming “I think overall we've got a very robust set of grades”. But it is already clear that the algorithm used to calculate grades will work against the best-performing students, as Sunder Katwala has observed (thread HERE).

I think A-level algorithm by design makes it impossible for any individual student to get A* grade if attend institution where predecessor students 2017-19 did not score A*. Being best student in subject for 4 years ruled out by design.Just get average grade of top 2017-19 pupils”. And Dan Davies figured out why private schools might benefit.

... versus the image that others see

As you can see from the example you gave a few tweets ago, because of this rounding convention the model will actually give out too few of the top grades. They get filled out by the small (private) schools who don't use the model and Ofqual didn't notice”. Williamson, though, “has ruled out following the example of Scotland which on Tuesday scrapped the results produced by its statistical model and said it would use teacher assessments to replace the exams cancelled during the coronavirus lockdown”.

So now the calls for him to go are reaching a crescendo. But even though the Private Pike of the Tory Party is out of his depth, the iron rule handed down by chief Downing Street polecat Dominic Cummings means he won’t resign. Because they just don’t care.

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Bozo Boosts Border Breakaway

Of all the actions which have fuelled the independence movement in Scotland, an intransigent, overbearing and patronising Westminster Government must rank near the top of the list. Along with the constant right-wing media refrain that without England pumping money into their economy, those Scots would by now be jolly well broke.

So it might be thought that politicians wanting to preserve the Union which has endured for over 300 years would steer clear of that sort of thing. But that thought would have been misplaced in the case of alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his cabinet of nodding dogs, who have decided on a campaign to ram the Union Flag down the throats of those ungrateful provincials north of the border.

This less than wonderful news was trumpeted by out-of-touch pundit Christopher “No” Hope of the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, telling “Boris Johnson to stamp major Scottish projects funded by UK Government with Union flag … The union flag will replace the European Union symbol, which has been used to denote when a bridge or road has been directly funded by Brussels from next year, when Britain has finally left the rules and regulations of the EU”. And who is behind this silliness?

The plan has been signed off by the new Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, Scottish secretary Alister Jack and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove. Mr Ross [said] that Tories north of the border needed to be ‘unashamed of our investment in Scotland’”. And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. One, this is a false equivalence.

The EU flag symbolises a club of nations working together by respect and consent. The Union Flag, on the other hand, all too easily comes over as a stamp of imposition - of what London has decreed. And Two, the very nature of the decision to stamp the Union Flag on future projects in Scotland merely reinforces the impression of imposition, being taken without reference to the devolved Government at Holyrood.

When Douglas Ross asserts “If they could have an EU flag on it, why not have the United Kingdom flag on it to show that here is an example of our two governments in Scotland, working together” he misses the key point that this all-important symbolism has been decided upon by the two Governments not working together at all.

Just how spiffing an idea this is can be seen by The National’s headline “Boris Johnson to plaster Union flag across UK-funded schemes in Scotland” and their article concluding with this reminder: “The news comes as yet another poll showed majority support for Scottish independence. YouGov put backing for self-determination on 53% after two Panelbase surveys put the figure at 54%. Some 57% of Scots also plan to vote SNP at next year’s Scottish Parliament election”. Which would give the SNP a majority at Holyrood.

Ms Sturgeon cheers on another Bozo own goal

Bozo The Clown has already alienated many in Northern Ireland’s Unionist community, and effectively made it a semi-detached part of the UK. Now he’s putting a few more points on the support for Scottish independence. Worse, clueless pundits like Hope are cheering him on, oblivious to political reality outside the Westminster bubble.

Nicola Sturgeon will be wielding her clicky pen with renewed confidence this morning.

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Thursday, 13 August 2020

Priti Patel Migrant Dead Cat No Shock Horror

The UK has suffered the highest Covid-19 death toll of any European nation, the track and trace app was a shambolic waste of money, hundreds of millions have been spent on PPE that isn’t fit for purpose, the economy has been hit harder than any other in the G7, the long-delayed Russia Report showed the extent to which London has become a laundromat for dirty money. And so the latest Tory dead cat was slung on the table.

Who was the bringer of this ex-feline? Step forward supposed Home Secretary Priti Patel, who has done away with the idea of nuance and subtlety, and gone straight for the less than totally coherent right-wing populist rant, as Steven Swinford of the Times has noted today. “Patel Patel told Tory MPs the asylum system is ‘broken’ and said she will be bringing forward new laws that will ‘send the left into meltdown’”.

Oh goody. The test of a good law is how many Rotten Lefties™ can be triggered by its introduction. And there’s more. “She said the system is being exploited by ‘leftie-supporting lawyers’ and also criticised ‘judicial activism’”. Lawyers being instructed by their clients, and Judges interpreting the laws that Governments like hers have put on the statute book is somehow A Very Bad Thing Indeed. Can it get worse? Sadly, it can.

Swinford again: “new laws to reform the asylum system which will be met with strong opposition. The ‘fair borders bill’ is intended to stop cases being drawn out”. That’s “fair” as used by Astroturf lobby groups like the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance. Oh, and look out, here’s a follow-on dead cat aimed at those ghastly foreigners.

Priti Patel also made clear that Britain will not pay extra money to France to help stem the flow of migrants until it agrees to take back more of them. She said Britain has already given France significant sums to tackle crisis & said it needs to use existing resources”. To whom do the French authorities answer? Hint: it ain’t Ms Patel.

Swinford’s Times article is paywalled, but Mail Online has already lifted the story (see how that works, Rupe?) and revealed that Ms Patel’s latest initiative came “In a Zoom call with hardline backbenchers”. But the reality was that “In Dover on Thursday morning more suspected migrants arrived on Border Force's patrol boat Speedwell. They were taken ashore by immigration officials where they will be assessed for symptoms of coronavirus, as is protocol … 71 migrants arrived in the UK on Wednesday, travelling aboard six boats”.

But not to worry, Ms Patel has a “Clandestine Channel Threat Commander” who has put his foot down with a firm hand and let it be known that “These crossings are dangerous and unnecessary and I am determined to stop them … We will continue to go after the heinous criminals and organised crime networks putting people's lives at risk”.

Like everything else, the Tories blame someone else for their inability to reform the immigration and asylum system to their liking, despite having been in power for the past ten years. Judges, lawyers, Rotten Lefties™, the French, the EU, activists, people who read the Guardian and FT, the BBC, Channel 4 - it was someone else wot done it.

Everyone’s out of step bar the Tories. And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

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Ben And Jerry’s Plus Femi Equals Racism

No doubt those involved will claim it is mere coincidence that a row over people who are not white crossing the Channel in overcrowded inflatables has resulted in a group of overwhelmingly white Brexiteers on one side, and one pro-EU campaigner who is not white on the other. Surely it is only about FREEZE PEACH? I mean, wanting that mythical national sovereignty back can’t be racist in any way at all. Or can it?

Femi Oluwole

Firstly, consider the background: the corporate Twitter feed for Ben and Jerry’s UK chided our supposed Home Secretary Priti Patel over her attitude to those so desperate that they have paid a significant part of their savings in exchange for a place in an inflatable boat, so they can cross the Channel to the UK. Femi Oluwole has stood with Ben and Jerry’s.

So it began, one Tweeter whose bio included “#NoMasks #Brexit #Trump #ALM” moaning “What benefit is [Femi Oluwole] to this country he’s 29 and never had a job? He’s just an activist”. Ever ask that about Darren Grimes or Tom Harwood? No, thought not. Alan Ahern (“Londoner (when London was an English city) - Despise animal cruelty. Watford FC. Anti EU and PC bollocks. Atheist. #brexit”) added “And, right on schedule, another bandwagon for Femi to jump on to. How ironic that he shows his support for a company which treats their migrant workers so badly”. Like he cares about migrant workers.

One Tweeter whose bio includes “Keen Brexiteer and patriot … All Brexiteers matter” sniped “Femi has an incredible record of being on the wrong side of absolutely everything. Fair play to him”. David Brady (“All Lives Matter”) added “Femi stands with Unilever, deforeststion [sic], migrant worker exploitation, tax evasion. All because the woke marketing dept for an ice cream subsidiary virtue signalled about illegal immigrants”.

Phil I’Anson (claims Covid-19 killed less than a “bad flu winter”) was also on the migrant worker temporary sympathy bandwagon: “Yeah that’s fine just ignore this”. John Bell (“Political activist. Member of Conservative Party”) observed “Ben & Jerry's Useful Idiot stands with the exploiters of migrant labour”. Almost like an organised pile-on.

Brexiteers suddenly like the Guardian!

And so it went on, with Sam Murray (“Brexiteer Tory. Thatcherite”) weighing in with “They aren't going to hire you Femi, just go and get a job FFS”. This was the same line trotted out by a “Mum … Brexiteer” who exclaimed “Femi!!!! Now I know where you went after your failed EU romp, glad you have a job at Ben n Jerry's, it's better than nothing I guess”.

Did any of them bother to ask what Femi is doing right now work wise? Or did they just decide that the black bloke must be unemployed because he had enough time to pose with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s and they couldn’t be arsed looking further? It was the kind of thought that taxed Will Black sufficiently to ask the obvious question.

As ironic as I find it seeing lots of aggressive ranters who can barely write calling law graduate ‘thick’, I can't help noticing that they are ALL white. If Britain was as full of diversity as they claim, why is it only white men attacking Femi? A real mystery”. Well, there are a few women in there too, but his point stands.

White Brexiteers attacking a black man for defending black and brown people? Maybe it’s another of those unfortunate coincidences. More likely it’s more unfortunate racism.

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Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Tory MP’s Racist Facebook Shame

Politicians enjoy false equivalences, and Ashfield’s new Tory MP Lee Anderson exhumed a particularly stupid one yesterday: talking to the deeply repellant Mike Graham on Murdoch property TalkRADIO earlier, he declared that lead Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker should invite refugees into his home, because he wants the Government to show compassion to them. This had the usual right-wing suspects cooing in agreement.

Lee Anderson and his pal Bozo

To no surprise at all, that included the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, who declared “During the election campaign it became obvious that should he win, Ashfield Tory candidate Lee Anderson would be right up there amongst the most plain-talking Tory MPs. … Anderson is now living up to that reputation”.

Sadly, though, The Great Guido has failed to do his homework on the less savoury side of this new and “straight talking” MP. But Alex Tiffin certainly has. And what he has found is that Anderson is presiding over a cesspit of bigotry in his invitation-only Facebook group, including Islamophobia, anti-black racism, and a smattering of anti-Semitism.

Perhaps Tory MP for Ashfield [Lee Anderson] would like to explain why he's not calling out his friends suggesting [Dawn Butler] is taken out and shot” he muses, going on to point out that “This is on his PERSONAL Facebook page” and emphasising “For context, not just anyone can friend Lee Anderson MP on Facebook, he has to send a request himself. Therefore, he's sent requests to the very people now being racist and has said nothing after 24 hours of racism and abuse, despite being on FB since”. What say Anderson?

There was a terse “Don't know the individual who made the comment, I profoundly disagree with every word he has commented and I have immediately removed him from accessing my page. Owing to the hundreds of comments I get do not see every comment and am grateful to you for highlighting this with me”. In reply. But there was more.

As Tiffin has pointed out, other abusive comments about Ms Butler stayed up, as well as the Islamophobia aimed at London Mayor Sadiq Khan, including “Respect our rules and country or fuck off somewhere else”, “he has his own Muslim agenda that’s why he can’t do his job properly”, and “not only will statues be pulled down but Christian churches and well [sic] all find ourselves on prayer mats and on our knees praying to Allah”.

Could it get any worse? Sadly for Anderson, it could, as Tiffin goes on to show: “Tory MP Lee Anderson's friends also like to be Antisemitic about Jewish Labour members in London”. One of them commented “It’s because the Jewish Labour members mainly in London don’t want to be equal they want control and you know what they can have it”. Tired anti-Semitic trope suggesting Jews control everything.

And for those complaining about FREEZE PEACH, remember this: the comments unearthed by Alex Tiffin are not just some random outpouring on social media - they have been made, and have remained up, in a group whose members are only there through the express approval of a Tory MP. That is what makes it totally out of order.

Will the Tory Party censure their new man for that? Don’t bet on it.

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Brillo Ben And Jerry’s Blowback

Twitter. Some find it difficult to talk about. Others find it difficult to do. And in the latter category this morning are a number of routinely clueless Tory MPs, some of them of senior rank, and … Andrew Neil. The former Murdoch stalwart and long-term editor of the Sunday Times, now overseeing the increasingly alt-right Spectator magazine but also given a berth by the BBC, does well in broadcast interviews, but not social media.

Part of this is that those responding to his questions live on TV must pony up a response there and then; on Twitter, respondents have time to formulate a bon mot to fire back at Brillo, and more often than not, leave him covered in rather more than confusion.

The latest example of this phenomenon came as a result of someone at Ben and Jerry’s - yes, the Ice Cream brand - taking Priti Patel, who is alleged to be Home Secretary, to task over the Government’s hostile attitude to refugees. “Hey @PritiPatel, we think the real crisis is our lack of humanity for people fleeing war, climate change and torture” they chided her. And the response was staggeringly petulant.

Priti is working day and night to bring an end to these small boat crossings, which are facilitated by international criminal gangs and are rightly of serious concern to the British people. If that means upsetting the social media team for a brand of overpriced junk food, then so be it”. James (not so) Cleverly then waded in on Ms Patel’s behalf.

Can I have a large scoop of statistically inaccurate virtue signalling with my grossly overpriced ice cream please” he sniggered. LBC host James O’Brien felt obliged to rebuke him: “The largest recession in the G7, the highest excess death rate in Europe, A-Levels in meltdown, unemployment rocketing, catastrophic Brexit imminent and *government ministers* are shouting at ice cream on Twitter”. And then came Brillo.

Stop posing as some kind of hippy ice cream play. You’re now wholly owned by a massive global conglomerate called Unilever. Perhaps if it paid the taxes HMRC thinks you should pay we could afford to accommodate many more asylum seekers”.

Dan Davies? Paging Dan Davies! Is Dan Davies in the Twitter building? He certainly is: “Stop posing as some kind of tax justice crusader. You're the chairman of Press Holdings Media Group, owned via a Jersey corporation by Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay. Ask them to bring the ownership of their UK businesses onshore and maybe HMRC wouldn't have to beg ice cream”. BOOM! OUCH! Anyone else fancy putting the boot in?

Certainly. “Odd, you conflate a paucity of tax receipts for the UK government's poor and mean spirited handling of migrants, but have criticised politicians who have made clear their intentions to increase corporate tax receipts, which way do you want it, you can't have it both ways … Complaining about lack of social responsibility after a career in the employ of the infamous tax dodging Barclay brothers is a exercise in hypocrisy. It's more two faced and sanctimonious than Neil attacking people who wear hairpieces”. DOUBLE OUCH!

A corporate social media account shows how to do Twitter effectively. Representatives of our Government refuse to learn the lesson. And neither does a supposed media titan.

It might have been a Brillo Twitter intervention. But it wasn’t a very brill one.

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