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Sunday 28 February 2021

Decolonising Drivel Deceives No-One

Once again, it is the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph that is trying its best to instil in readers’ minds the idea of a non-existent “Culture War”, this time claiming that unnamed Universities are behaving as if the Soviet Union were still extant. And once again, the mother of this particular invention is the Tel’s reality recreator supreme Christopher “No” Hope, who has been talking to Universities minister Michelle Donelan.

The discussion has been promoted to front page status today, readers being told “‘Soviet’ Universities are fictionalising history”. Here, Ms Donelan tells Hope “The so-called decolonisation of the curriculum is, in effect, censoring history. As a history student, I’m a vehement protector and champion of safeguarding our history. It otherwise becomes fiction, if you start editing it, taking bits out that we view as stains”. And there is more.

Michelle Donelan

A fundamental part of our history is about learning from it, not repeating the mistakes … if we’re going down this road of taking bits out … it’s a very dangerous and odd road to go down, and certainly it has no place in our universities, I would argue, and it has no place in academic study”. Then comes the Soviet Union metaphor.

Still no Hope, sorry

And it just doesn’t work when Governments try to remove elements of history. Look at the Soviet Union, look at China. There are multiple examples where it’s been tried. It doesn’t work. I’m in favour of adding stuff in to enrich our understanding of history … But most of the narrative is about removing elements, about whitewashing it and pretending it never happened, which is naive and almost irresponsible”. She certainly is.

Alex Stevens from the University of Kent had some advice for Ms Donelan. “Dear [Michelle Donelan] 'Adding stuff in to enrich our understanding' is *exactly* what decolonising the curriculum is doing at my university”. Edward Anderson from Northumbria Uni agreed.

When we decolonise curricula, it's almost always ADDING more stuff in: scholarship & perspectives from the Global South, source material of the colonised not just coloniser, etc. [Michelle Donelan] must know this, but chooses to peddle a straw man, fictitious idea of what uni's do”. So did Andrew Jowett from Coventry Uni. “She has no idea what she's talking about. It's not about 'taking things out' of the curriculum, it's about contextualising what is taught and ensuring other cultures and indigenous peoples are represented in the curriculum. Maybe she should attend a webinar on it”. Well, quite.

Priyamvada Gopal from the University of Cambridge, who you can tell as she’s a doctor, put her response to Ms Donelan directly. “Let's break this down for [Michelle Donelan]. When we 'decolonise', we put the 'offensive' bits BACK IN. To give a random example, we tell [the] story of Winston Churchill not just as unimpeachable war hero--but as a man of empire & race science. We don't pander to white snowflakery”.

Once again, we have a Government minister apparently not in command of their brief, with their ignorance amplified by a shameless propagandist for the sole purpose of riling up his paper’s base and demonising purveyors of inconvenient thought.

Michelle Donelan referred to the USSR. What she seems to have missed is that that is where she and our Government are heading. What you will not read in the papers.

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Saturday 27 February 2021

Jewish Chronicle’s Muslim Hypocrisy

Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, has been proclaiming a new spirit of friendship, telling his followers he is “Proud to be the first editor of the [Jewish Chronicle] to write such a piece for such a newspaper [al-Ittihad] - and to publish [Hamad al Kaabi]”. The JC, and al-Ittihad, the oldest newspaper in the UAE, have published articles by the editors of both papers alongside one another, the JC in English, and al-Ittihad in Arabic.

This follows the peace deal last year between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain. “History is made as friends celebrate Purim” proclaims the JC front page. Hamad al-Kaabi tells the JC’s readers “History shows that most of the problems and crises that the world has faced, and humanity has suffered, were caused by a widening gap between different peoples and cultures. A loss of communication with each other, and the spread of terrifying stereotypes, provides fertile soil for conflicts and hostility”. And there is more.

Hence, we look at the Abraham Accords as a reflection of the civilised outlooks we both champion”. Pollard, for his part, responds “The editors of Al-Ittihad and the 180-year-old Jewish Chronicle, two of the most iconic newspapers of their kind, have come together to demonstrate the beginning of our new friendship by writing for each other’s readers, and we have chosen the Jewish festival of Purim as the occasion … Even six months ago, who would ever have predicted such a thing?” It is, indeed, a momentous occasion.

However, and with Pollard and the JC there is all too often a however, while his editorial waxes lyrical about “two of the great Abrahamic faiths signalling their bonds and determination to work together”, the same issue of the JC shows that Pollard is not averse to publishing someone infamous for their Islamophobic bigotry.

Yes, while Stephen Pollard has been promoting friendship with Muslims with one hand, he has, with the other, published Doug Murray The K. The same one who saidConditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board … All immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop” and talked of “the opportunist infection of Islam … The liberal West is crumbling before the violence, intimidation and thuggery of Islam”.

Murray’s JC article, which is ostensibly written in defence of BBC presenter Emma Barnett, has a routine swipe at the Muslim Council of Britain, a favourite target for our free and fearless press: “For over a decade, the group has been deemed so radical that consecutive UK governments will have no dealings with it. In the 2010s, the then-Labour government cut off all dialogue with the MCB because of its links to extremism”.

Doug wants us to know that the signatories of a complaint about Ms Barnett include “Diane Abbott, Naz Shah (the Labour MP who has her own track-record of overt antisemitism [?]) and the embittered Tory peer Baroness Warsi [kick another Muslim: check!]”. He adds “Of course, these activists know what they are doing. They want to make sure that groups like the MCB have a free ride”. That spirit of friendship isn’t going too well, is it?

How long will it be before readers of al-Ittihad read Murray’s latest slice of Muslim bashing? One cannot see them perusing that without stopping and thinking about the JC.

Followers of the Abrahamic religions working together is good. Potential duplicity isn’t.

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Alex Salmond And The English Press

One part of our free and fearless press has been getting itself terribly worked up over events about which its hacks know little and care even less: the Barclay brother (now singular) empire, meaning the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph and the alt-right Spectator magazine, have become terribly judgmental about the split between former SNP allies Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond.

This obsession manifested itself in the pointless legal challenge from the Speccy, where the mag sprayed lots of money up the wall, came away empty handed, and could still find itself in contempt of court. A further manifestation was the Speccy’s ultimate boss Andrew Neil in the Daily Mail, proclaiming “Censorship, bullying, threats of jail ... how Nicola Sturgeon's storm troops turned Scotland into a banana republic without the bananas”.

At the Tel, last week brought the supremely clueless and hopelessly over-promoted All-star Heath to the fore, announcingThe useless and authoritarian SNP is turning Scotland into a failed state”. He falsely claims that the Judge in the Spectator case “sided with the magazine”, details Salmond’s allegations against his successor, and declares “Imagine if the latter allegation in particular had been made in England”. England. Not the UK.

Leaving for a moment the Oh What A Giveaway slip made by Heath - that the Westminster Parliament is really England first, with the rest of the UK grudgingly considered later - he knows, from coverage of alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, what would have happened if such claims had been made south of the border - he and his pals in the press, Bozo boosters one and all, would have swept them under the carpet.

Thus the hypocrisy, allied to the dishonest retelling of a pointless court case. But what is the point of all this froth? Simples. There is an election coming up in May, and the SNP is riding high in the polls. Gains for Ms Sturgeon and her allies will bolster the case for Scottish independence. So the London-centric establishment ropes in useful Scots idiots like Brillo and Speccy editor Fraser Nelson so put the boot in.

The problem is that they are no more effective than the ridiculous Heath blustering “I dread the consequences for Scotland of absorption into a declining EU” and channelling Enoch Powell with “the horror show in Holyrood over the past few weeks fills me with foreboding”.

As to the idea that allegations made in England would be pounced upon by the press pack, LBC host James O’Brien has seen through that one, noting “Either George Eustice forgot about this letter from George Eustice *or* he lied to [Cathy Newman] on Channel 4 News. Hardly reported at all. Respect to Martyn [Oates, from BBC South West]. Maybe right-wing newspapers only care about ministerial codes in Scotland?

And to put the lid on it, Dan Vevers of the Scottish Sun - yes, a Murdoch journalist - noted after the Salmond Show had ended that “Alex Salmond confirms he has no documentary evidence that suggests Nicola Sturgeon was involved in the plot he alleges among top SNP officials”. Which rather pisses on the Westminster press’ firework.

The SNP bashing is mainly little more than the English press establishment showing its paranoia at being unable to cut through to Scottish voters, while wanting to distract from the dishonesty and corruption endemic at Westminster. I’ll just leave that one there.

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Friday 26 February 2021

Dooda Covid-19 Miracle Cure ISN’T

The UK is now less than four weeks away from an anniversary that few will celebrate with any relish: the 23rd of next month marks a year since alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson appeared on TV and solemnly instructed the country “You must stay home”. Now that we are on the third period of Covid-19 restrictions, some out there are proving highly susceptible to those peddling miracle cures.

So it was that self-promoting TalkRADIO host Julia Hartley Brewer read an article in the Daily Mail, failed to perform the most basic checks upon its veracity, and told her adoring audience “Ivermectin, a drug used to treat lice and scabies drug [sic], could cut Covid deaths by up to 75%, new research suggests. What are we waiting for?

Sadly for Ms Hartley Dooda, this appears to be yet another example of people seeing something that looks too good to be true - because it is too good to be true. So let’s start at the very beginning, as it’s a very good place to start, with the Mail’s supposed exposé.

A cheap and safe drug widely used against parasites cuts Covid infections, hospitalisations and deaths by about 75 per cent, a study shows. More than 30 trials across the world found that ivermectin causes ‘repeated, consistent, large magnitude improvements in clinical outcomes’ at all stages of the disease”. Do go on.

The peer-reviewed study, to be published in the US journal Frontiers of Pharmacology, says the evidence is so strong that the drug - used to treat head lice and scabies - should become a standard therapy everywhere, so hastening the global recovery”. And, as Fred Flintstone might have said, hold it … HOLD IT!

A search for “Frontiers of Pharmacology” returns, er, no results at all. This, presumably, is a reference to Frontiers IN Pharmacology, one of many Frontiers series titles. Wikipedia tells us thatFrontiers journals have a controversial reputation”, and, indeed, devotes a whole section of its entry for Frontiers Journals to “Controversies”, including this gem: “As of 2013, the overall rejection rate was 20% of all submitted manuscripts, compared to the top-tier, paywalled Nature journal, which rejected 90% of them”.

And this is what Merck, a former patent holder for the drug, said earlier this month. “Company scientists continue to carefully examine the findings of all available and emerging studies of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19 for evidence of efficacy and safety. It is important to note that, to-date, our analysis has identified: No scientific basis for a potential therapeutic effect against COVID-19 from pre-clinical studies; No meaningful evidence for clinical activity or clinical efficacy in patients with COVID-19 disease, and; A concerning lack of safety data in the majority of studies”.

There was more. “We do not believe that the data available support the safety and efficacy of ivermectin beyond the doses and populations indicated in the regulatory agency-approved prescribing information”. Which does NOT include prescribing ivermectin for treatment of Covid-19. David Rose, who penned the Mail article, could have found that out in a few minutes. So could Ms Hartley Dooda. That’s a most unfortunate omission.

The KBF wackos and other denialists will lap this up. For everyone else, there’s reality.

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Thursday 25 February 2021

Spectator Scots Legal Triumph WASN’T

Fraser Nelson, editor of the increasingly alt-right Spectator magazine, appeared before the inquisition of Emily Maitlis on BBC Newsnight to proclaim the importance of his publication’s appearance at the High Court of Justiciary last week. Ms Maitlis did not appear convinced by Nelson’s creative reinterpretation of events. She was right not to be.

This is how the Speccy set the scene in the retelling: “Last week, The Spectator went to the High Court in Edinburgh to seek clarification on the publication of Alex Salmond's written testimony to the Parliamentary Inquiry into how the Scottish Government handled complaints against him. We published his evidence on our website in January as a public service. By contrast, and to our surprise, the Inquiry decided that it was unable to consider this evidence, apparently due to a court order protecting the anonymity of complainers”.

After judgment was handed down, the magazine declared that “We welcome Lady Dorrian’s written judgment today which confirms that - as we always believed - the court had no intention of obstructing a legitimate parliamentary inquiry established to investigate government behaviour and hold it to account. We believe there is no reason why all key and relevant evidence should not now be published”. But this is a mildly selective take.

What the judgment notes, and the Speccy manages to miss, is this: “The application arises following the publication by the applicant on 9 January 2020 of an article entitled: Full text; Alex Salmond’s submission to the Hamilton inquiry … The Crown Office has written to the applicant suggesting that the publication of the article may constitute contempt of court, in that if read along with other evidence which has already been published by the committee, it creates a risk of jigsaw identification of a complainer”. Whoops!

And as James Doleman, who reported on the hearing, later noted, “The second part of the Spectator's submission was to ask the judge to rule out that possibility, an issue they dropped after the morning session of the hearing not going well for them … Nothing in this judgment rules out that possibility”. Fraser Nelson didn’t mention that on Newsnight.

He was also scathing about the Speccy’svictory”. “Lady Dorrian is pretty clear that counsel for the Spectator's interpretation of the order was, as she said at the time ‘absurd’, but has added a clarification just to be sure … So bit of a waste of money for Andrew Neil and the gang. Can't see it affecting the Holyrood enquiries proceedings very much either”.

So was it any kind of win for the Spectator? “It's not, it's a judge saying 'the order is very clear, but as you seem incapable of understanding it, I'll add a sentence for you’”.

Those less charitably disposed towards the Speccy and its management might be more inclined to conclude that Nelson and Neil are SNP haters eyeing a chance to put the boot in on the Rotten Lefties™, desperately trying to keep their crusade in the public eye in the face of being forced to pull their initial article for fear of being in contempt of court.

The court judgment clearly says that it is for the Parliamentary Inquiry to decide how to proceed” sniffs the Speccy, without telling readers the obvious corollary - that this was already the case, and that their court appearance has changed nothing.

I said Fraser Nelson was a creative reinterpreter of events. Now you know what I meant.

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Wednesday 24 February 2021

Labour’s Liverpool Louse-Up

When setting out his stall for the party’s leadership election last year, Keir Starmer wanted the world to know that the days of turning candidate selection into a game where centrally imposed hopefuls were parachuted into pole position was over. “We must recruit a truly representative set of candidates for future elections. Labour must be at the forefront of championing diversity” he asserted. And there was more. Much more.

Our greatest campaigning asset is our network of committed staff, members and activists”. In conclusion, he declared that “The selections for Labour candidates needs to be more democratic and we should end NEC impositions of candidates. Local Party members should select their candidates for every election”. No disagreement there.

Anna Rothery - Liverpool's first black Lord Mayor

After all, he will be all too aware of what has happened in the past, notably under Tony Blair’s leadership. The attempt to fix the London Mayoralty for Frank Dobson, who may not have really wanted the job, was scuppered when Ken Livingstone stood as an independent and won. Tone and his pals also didn’t emerge too well from what looked like attempts to prevent Rhodri Morgan leading Labour in the Welsh Assembly.

So what happened yesterday in Liverpool should have been off limits for Starmer’s Labour Party. An all-female shortlist for the City’s Mayor, to replace Joe Anderson, including probable favourite Anna Rothery, who was backed by several MPs, one other city Mayor, academics, activists, business people and three Trades Unions, was cast aside.

No reason was given. Nor was any reason given for the follow-up decree: that none of the three would be invited to reapply. Opposition parties, normally relegated to also-ran status on Merseyside, and already scenting a potential upset after Anderson’s effectively forced withdrawal, are now in full cry. As are many local Labour members.

The BBC has reportedThe Labour Party has scrapped its list of candidates to stand in Liverpool's mayoral election in May … Three women councillors had been shortlisted to replace Joe Anderson, with ballot papers due to be sent to members … Last week, the party announced it was ‘pausing’ the selection process and delayed sending out the ballots … No explanation has yet been given for the decision”. And it got worse.

Liam Thorp at the Liverpool Echo, which has reported all manner of Labour shenanigans over the years, observed “it goes without saying really that this is a total and utter mess from the Labour Party who have handled things appallingly … Whatever the situation and we don't know exactly what it is (mainly because they won't say), this is no way to treat people … But it’s also no way to treat the party members in the city who have been left confused and angry and with no explanations”. And worse still.

Nominations will close tomorrow, which suggests someone has been lined up - in other words, a centrally-imposed stitch-up. With party membership in freefall, many activists disenchanted, and Liverpool one of the few parts of the country to remain a Labour stronghold, what would have been the sensible thing to do? What would the Keir Starmer of February last year have done? What would Nietzsche have done?

Small wonder Ms Rothery and her supporters have smelt a rat, and are considering legal action. A control freak Labour Party didn’t work in the past. And it won’t work now.

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Tuesday 23 February 2021

Lockdown Easing - NOT SO FAST

That combination of herd mentality and inability to interrogate sources, or even perform the most basic of investigations, and desire to bring their readers good news about the Covid-19 pandemic, has led our free and fearless press to an all too predictable scramble to say that it will all be over by the occasion of the Summer Solstice.

So keen to see a way for life to return to the kind of normality that will not inconvenience Themselves Personally Now, the assembled hacks and pundits have failed to stop and think about the underlying reality: the June 21st date is the very earliest point where all restrictions could be lifted, and the virus could all too easily return to wreak further deadly havoc. After all, it has, whisper it quietly, not actually gone away, and nor will it.

So while the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, still pretending to be a real journalist as political editor of the Murdoch Sun, and his opposite number Jason Groves at the Daily Mail, moan about how many months any ending of restrictions is going to take, Sam Coates at Sky News has noticed that SAGE’s latest advice is not quite so upbeat.

Dated February 7th, the opening paragraph shows what Cole, Groves and their pals in the press cohort aren’t telling their readers. And it makes for grim reading. “Four scenarios have been modelled that differ in the speed of easing restrictions from current levels to minimal measures. All four scenarios modelled lead to a substantial resurgence in hospital admissions and deaths”. That’s in addition to the 130,000 or so deaths we already have.

There is more. “The scale and timing of these resurgences are critically dependent on very uncertain modelled assumptions, including real world vaccine effectiveness against severe disease and infection … Given this uncertainty, it would be inadvisable to tie changes in policy to dates instead of data”. Easing could happen later. A lot later.

It gets worse. “Unless vaccine efficacy is significantly better than assumed here, it is highly likely that hospital occupancy would be higher than that seen in January 2021, if all restrictions are lifted by the start of May”. Then a reminder: “As restrictions are relaxed virus transmission will increase. The more slowly restrictions are relaxed, the greater the number of hospitalisations and deaths prevented by vaccination and hence it would be less likely that restrictions would need to be reimposed later to avoid hospitals being put under extreme pressure”. The watchword has to be Caution.

Hence “It would take several weeks after lifting one set of restrictions to determine whether it is safe to take the next step”, and another reminder - “Maintaining baseline measures to reduce transmission once restrictions are lifted is almost certain to save many lives and minimise the threat to hospital capacity”. Face coverings. Distancing. Hand washing.

It is possible that vaccination will reduce transmission, as well as preventing anything more than mild symptoms in the vast majority of the population. So in that case, SAGE is being unduly cautious. But being incautious has not served alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his pals so well up until now. So caution it is going to be.

That means the press needs to get real about timescales, and stop trying to push the Government into moves which could see tens of thousands more needless deaths. Once again, we see the exercise of power without responsibility. And that’s not good enough.

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Monday 22 February 2021

Come Back Diane Abbott, All Is Forgiven

It was a part of the 2017 General Election campaign that those out there on the right sneered and car-called about, and for weeks and months after the event, when Diane Abbott, then Labour’s shadow home secretary, got her figures wrong while being lightly grilled by LBC’s Gammon Emeritus Nick Ferrari. How they all laughed!

Nadhim Zahawi

The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, the odious Quentin Letts (let’s not) and the Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun were in their element. They then failed to notice then Foreign Secretary Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson making a complete Horlicks of an answer to Eddie Mair soon afterwards.

Not that there was any sexism or racism to add to their blindly partisan agenda, you understand. Anyone else doing the same thing would be instantly, and similarly, castigated - except they wouldn’t, as vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi demonstrated this morning. He was appearing before the inquisition of Sky News’ Niall Ferguson, who posited “With all schools reopening on March 8th, the number of infections will increase”.

What say the minister? “All of that goes into the gradual cautious reopening of schools, and then gradually reopening the rest of the economy. As we vaccinate more people, it is not a coincidence that the 8th of March is the date that we have focused on because if you take the mid-April date when we will have given at least one dose to all over-50s … if you go three weeks after the middle of April, that takes you to the first week of March”.

Eh? “That Phase One is 99% of mortality [?], so it’s no coincidence that we are opening schools after three weeks of protecting the over-50s”. March is the new May! Perhaps Tory MPs who serve in Bozo’s Government have been prohibited from using the word “May”, so as to make his predecessor an Un-Person. Or maybe the heated stables double as a Tardis. But in the real world, Zahawi joins Priti Patel in the Basic Numbers Fail Club.

Worse, Zahawi then trotted out the same line on BBC Breakfast. Jonathan Lis watched the video and told his followers “Your regular reminder that Diane Abbott was subjected to torrents of abuse because she once jumbled up her figures on police numbers. Zahawi’s just affirmed the government is tackling Covid with time travel”. He was not alone.

After Peter Stefanovic observed “Vaccines Minister now on #BBCBreakfast saying ‘On 8 March which is 3 weeks after the middle of April where we will have offered the vaccine to all over 50s we will see schools reopening’. He said the same on #SkyNews”. Another Angry Woman added “Please imagine, for a moment, that Diane Abbott did this”.

Meenal Viz, who you can tell as she’s a doctor, was on the same page. “‘It's no coincidence that the 8th of March is three weeks after the middle of April’. Imagine if Diane Abbott said that…?” Mike Williams was there too. “Continued Tory incompetence is accepted and even embraced, while Diane Abbott still gets mocked years after making a calculation error”. And Labour Councillor Lynn Denham had the obvious conclusion.

If Diane Abbott had said this it would be relentlessly replayed on every media channel”. So it would. As an example, The Great Guido is, instead, kicking Keir Starmer. Twice. Tory ineptitude is fine. For the entitled and partisan in and around our free and fearless press.

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