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Wednesday 30 June 2021

England Beat Germany - But Not Press Racism

It had been 55 years since England had beaten what was then West Germany in the knockout phase of a major international football tournament: that win, in black and white and broadcast in 405-line VHF, had been the culmination of the successful World Cup campaign of 1966. But yesterday, timed perfectly for today’s front pages, that wait ended.

Raheem Sterling - another opening goal

And the deadlock was broken late in the game by Manchester City striker Raheem Sterling, netting his third goal of the (delayed) Euro 2020 tournament. Not that you would have guessed that from many of today’s front pages: Harry Kane making it 2-0 later still is the majority choice. With the Duke of Cambridge and his eldest son thrown in.

The Daily Mail has three white figures to celebrate: white fan, white player (Kane), and white Prince George. Sterling gets a rather smaller photo. Same at free sheet Metro (Kane, with Royals inset), the Telegraph (Kane, with manager Gareth Southgate inset), the Murdoch Times (Kane), the i Paper (Kane), and the Express (Kane, with Royals inset).

It was left to the FT to tell readers “Sterling effort”, the Guardian and Mirror to show the England team’s diversity, and the Daily Star, of all papers, to show the diversity of the fan base. So far, so predictable: the player who broke the stalemate, and who had already scored the winner in two group stage matches, was reduced to a bit part.

This had not gone unnoticed by former prosecutor Nazir Afzal, who asked the obvious question of all those mighty white front pages: “Was Raheem Sterling playing today?” But he then saw the front page of the Murdoch Sun, which put Sterling front and centre, albeit with the cringe-inducing headline “55 years of hurt never stopped us Raheeming!

Afzal mused “Credit to the Sun who don’t think he’s Obscene anymore, apparently”. It was one of the most glaringly obvious editorial U-Turns from a press establishment which has a long and not at all distinguished record of glaringly obvious editorial U-Turns.

This was, after all, the same paper that castigated Sterling for allegedly turning up a day late for training, following that with a racially-tinged attack on the player when he had the audacity to have a tattoo on his leg. That was later linked by the Sun to stabbings on the streets of London. The same paper has also dumped on Sterling for updating his Mum’s house, for going to an after party, and has smeared him as a “love rat”.

Moreover, Sterling has previously called out our free and fearless press for its negative portrayal of black footballers. In return, that press has attacked him for proposing to his girlfriend, shopping at Primark, and of course buying his Mum a house. Former player Ian Wright has concluded that media criticism of Sterling is “tinged with racism”.

And the Sun has been in the vanguard of those attacks. One should not be too easily swayed by their apparent Damascene conversion (which, if in future he misses a sitter in the same way as the Germans did yesterday, will not last so long). Those papers splashing on Kane and the Cambridges have shown us the true press mentality.

That’s just mighty white of them. What you will not read in the papers.

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Tuesday 29 June 2021

Lee Hurst - Bang Out Of Order

Despite our free and fearless press champing at the bit for any and all restrictions relating to the Covid-19 pandemic to be lifted as soon as they demand, we are not out of the woods yet: infection rates are rising steeply, and more worryingly, hospital admissions and deaths are showing signs of taking off once more. But for one group, this doesn’t matter.

Who Lee Hurst is ...
... and where he shouldn't be

That group is the UK equivalent of QAnon, the resident idiocy that claims it’s all a hoax, that vaccines are some kind of control software, and that all those scientists and advisors feeding information to the Government are Very Bad People Indeed. This brains trust held a rally in central London last weekend, where journalist Sally Beck observed “Outside Chris Whitty’s house. Protestors chanting ‘traitor’ and ‘murderer’”.

Fast forward 36 hours, and Prof Whitty was assaulted in St James’ Park. It was not the first time he had been accosted. There has been almost universal condemnation of the incident, but not from unfunny ex-comedian Lee Hurst, who declared “Whatever has happened to Chris Whitty is not enough”. Hurst has since been reported to Twitter. A lot.

But he was in no mood to compromise on his message of undiluted stupidity. “I’m not putting any caveats into the Chris Whitty story. Fk him and his #FullPay, care home murdering scummy pals”. Would Sir care to dig himself deeper? Sure thing: “If there was no video footage of Chris Whitty we would have been told he was beaten up”.

A Tweeter known as Frankie McCrankie tagged the Metropolitan Police, just for good measure. Hurst was not happy. “Frankie is a grass. That’s why Frankie hides his real name”. But he did know that, somehow, this was all about THE ELITE. “Keep supporting the elite with your slave rags, social distancing and quarantining folks”.

By this point, Hurst’s campaign was developing not necessarily to his advantage. But he was right, and they, er, weren’t. So off he went again. “The bedwetting Trolls are out on force today”. Shouldn’t that be IN force? Who knows, and, indeed, who cares?

What Sunder Katwala cared about was that someone with a significant social media following appeared to be condoning, or even potentially inciting, violence: “I would have thought this could cross a threshold of criminality. It clearly demonstrates that Hurst has extreme views, and that he is actively seeking to legitimise violence against public officials”. Russ Jackson, meanwhile, had an inkling of how we got to this point.

How we all laughed at the US QAnon conspiracy theorists, arrogantly assuming it could never happen here … This is the result of the UK Govt & media adopting wholesale Steve Bannon's strategy of 'flooding the zone' with hard-right populist nationalist anti-woke culture war ‘shit’”. It is significant that Gammon Broadcasting News (“Bacon’s News Channel”) is the only media outlet trying to “both sides” this one.

And Brian Moore let Hurst know why his intervention was so crass: “Whitty's father was dragged out of his car and murdered by terrorists in Athens. Lee Hurst is ignorant and a coward”. His father had been deputy director of the British Council in Athens. He was killed by members of Abu Nidal’s gang. That makes Sunday’s assault even less excusable.

Some people are on social media. They think Lee Hurst’s career is all over. It is now.

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Batley And Spen - Hello Lefties

In the run-up to the 2019 General Election, a story I’ve told before, Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips, her seat being a safe Labour hold, ventured north to help out those facing a more serious challenge from the Tories. She door-knocked in Haslington, part of the Crewe and Nantwich constituency, in support of Laura Smith. Later that day, she looked in on Stoke on Trent North to support Ruth Smeeth.

No-one is going to pretend that Laura Smith and Ruth Smeeth inhabit the same point on the Labour spectrum: one is firmly on the left, the other more soft left. But Ms Phillips was not picking and choosing depending on how left or centrist they were: they were Labour candidates, she was Labour, all were standing on the manifesto agreed beforehand, and that was that. It is a lesson some on the left are most reluctant to take on board.

Which brings us to the Batley and Spen by-election, taking place this Thursday, and a campaign that Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater is finding difficult and often not pleasant going, not least because some who claim to be Labour are actually willing her to lose.

Why this should be is not difficult to understand: party leader Keir Starmer has been a disappointment to many of those who knocked doors in late 2019, and took a significant amount of abuse for so doing. He has given the impression that a war on the Labour left is not only a priority, but also a vote winner. The thought as to which wing of the party provides all those activists who canvass and leaflet is not allowed to enter.

Moreover, it is maddeningly difficult to get the current Labour top team to spell out what the party now stands for. But while that may cause some supporters not to turn out to canvass or leaflet, it should never, but never, make them support the opposition.

That opposition is not just the Tories, who are in effect just sitting pretty and waiting to have the constituency delivered to them on a split vote, but more significantly George Galloway, who recently urged his fellow Scots to vote Tory, and has been hanging out with the likes of former Brexit Party Oberscheissenführer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage.

Galloway is doing his man of the people act well: he is also benefiting from a campaign of aggression aimed at Ms Leadbeater, which may be coming from his supporters, but is not supported by him, although he is the prime beneficiary of it. Those with long memories of Galloway interventions may recall something similar happening in 2005.

He opposed sitting Labour MP Oona King in Bethnal Green and Bow. Ms King “described the contest as ‘one of the dirtiest ..we have ever seen in British politics’ and complained of ‘quite disturbing’ anti-semitic and racial abuse”. Ms Leadbeater has faced a campaign of homophobic abuse, including some of those non-attributable leaflets.

Worst of all, the male aggression being meted out to Ms Leadbeater - in the constituency where her sister Jo Cox was brutally murdered by a neo-Nazi just five years ago - appears not to be being seriously challenged by Galloway, whose campaign is attracting favourable coverage from those on the left opposed to Starmer’s leadership.

I asked the question earlier as to whether Galloway, in view of his Parliamentary voting record, was a serious candidate. Those on the left who have effectively given him a free pass have not yet addressed this issue. It is high time they did so.

Meanwhile, consider this: if it was wrong for one wing of the Labour Party to deliberately undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership in the run-up to the 2017 General Election - and it was - then it is equally wrong to deliberately undermine the candidature of Kim Leadbeater. If you are Labour, you should support her, and what you should not, repeat not, REPEAT NOT be doing is to trot out sympathetic coverage of George Galloway.

You oppose what Starmer is doing as party leader - fine. But to will the party to lose a Parliamentary by-election as a way of weakening his leadership is wrong. The time to argue over the effectiveness, or otherwise, of the current party leadership is not during a by-election campaign. The Tories wouldn’t do it. Nor should Labour.

You oppose Labour, then you are not Labour. Someone needs to give their head a shake.

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Monday 28 June 2021

Martha And The Media Muffins

While the downfall of hapless and increasingly unpopular former Health Secretary Matt Hancock continues, one person who, although totally blameless, has been singled out for stalkerish behaviour and harassment by our free and fearless press is Martha Hoyer Millar. Because she is Hancock’s unfortunate, and it seems now former, wife.

Along with the equally unfortunate Oliver Tress, husband of Gina Coladangelo, Ms Hoyer Millar has been dragged into l’Affair ‘Ancoque by default. But unlike her, Tress has thus far managed to evade the hacks and snappers, perhaps because the prurient interest of those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet invariably goes after the spurned woman, but not because they make easier targets, you understand.

And talking of the prurient interest, the Murdoch Sun, which had somehow obtained the incriminating CCTV footage from inside Hancock’s office, was on the case, telling readers “MATT Hancock’s wife has been pictured wearing her wedding ring - seen for the first time after it revealed the Health Secretary dumped her after his affair”. There was more.

Martha, who has been married to the MP for 15 years, was seen in a floral dress barely 48 hours after news of the scandal broke”. So? She can wear what she intercoursing well chooses, a thought that had not been allowed to enter the otherwise vacant cranial area of Mail Online hacks, who gasped “Hancock's humiliated wife STILL wears ring: Mother-of-three is seen Sunday with wedding band on after it emerged cheating ex-Health Secretary walked out on their 15-year marriage the night before scandal broke”. Enough already.

What neither the Mail, nor Sun - or any of the other publications splashing pap shots of Ms Hoyer Millar across their pages - have told readers is the unprincipled and creepy behaviour in which those obtaining them have been indulging. Ms Hoyer Millar leaves the house, she is confronted by a battery of long lenses and flashguns. Snappers are falling over one another as they see only currency symbols, not human beings.

To an extent, they are not the chief culprits in this orgy of unwarranted intrusion: that dubious honour attaches to their paymasters at the Baby Shard, Northcliffe House and elsewhere. Those paymasters are the cause of the pavement scrum: imagine being on the receiving end of all that - with the shouts from hacks thrown in.

And then another thought enters: we supposedly have a press regulator in the UK, or rather, we have IPSO, which was built up as being “the toughest press regulator in the Western world”, but is in reality a paper tiger, a sham, a press establishment poodle which has done nothing about this kind of behaviour, and will continue to do nothing.

The monstering, stalking and harassing of innocent victims, treating them as if it was their fault that a cabinet minister goes off with an aide, will continue to be shrugged off with the inevitable cry of FREEZE PEACH. The bad behaviour will be excused as merely the sign of functioning democracy, an open society, a sense of healthy journalistic inquiry.

It will be excused by all those who objected so vehemently to the Leveson Inquiry, and yet more vehemently to Part 2 of that Inquiry going ahead. Sales and clicks will continue to trump decency every time, whatever the consequences. And that’s not good enough.

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Sunday 27 June 2021

Is Sarah Vine Telling Us Something?

In the immediate aftermath of the scandal - with now former Health Secretary Matt Hancock finally resigning, along with being thrown out of the marital home by his long-suffering wife, as he pledges his allegiance to Gina Coladangelo - has come the analysis. Talk of the pressures of ministerial duty, the inevitable distractions, the collisions between people who end up being more than friends, and the rupture of family relationships.

For the increasingly wayward Mail on Sunday, this picking over of the inevitably messy aftermath is made easier, as the paper can call on the services of singularly unappealing self-promotion specialist Sarah “Vain” Vine, who knows what it’s like being married to a Government minister - because her husband is Michael “Oiky” Gove.

So it is no surprise that Ms Vine’s column in today’s MoS discusses l’Affair ‘Ancoque. What is surprising, not to mention eyebrow-raising, is the headline chosen for the piece: “The problem with the wife who's been with you for ever is that she knows you're not the Master of the Universe you purport to be”. Equally surprising is that the first couple she discusses are Young Dave and wife Samantha - with whom Ms Vine fell out big time over Brexit.

But the message she wants us all to take from the Camerons’ marriage is clear. “It didn’t matter how powerful he was … he always made space for her … Rather like the Duchess of Cambridge is to Prince William, she was his barometer, his weather vane, his anchor … Every time he seemed in danger of drifting away on a cloud of self-importance … she would bring him back down to earth, and not always gently”. There was more.

Ms Vine claims that Young Dave was always going to leave Downing Street sooner rather than later, that Samantha and the children were more important to him. From there, she segues effortlessly into “I’ve been thinking about the nature of political marriages. And how rarely, if ever, they manage to thrive under the pressures of public life”. Really? Do go on.

Not mentioned in his wife's column. At all

She goes on to tell of “the eternal lot of the political spouse: keeping the home fires burning so the ‘Big I Am’ can do more important stuff … The old ‘behind every great man there’s a woman drowning in dirty laundry’ is a cliche. But it’s true. It is very hard to do these high-level, high-pressure, high-stakes jobs unless you have someone prepared to take up the reins in every other department of your life”. Yes? Yes yes? Yes yes yes?

But the problem is that inevitably sets you on different tracks. You become so entrenched in your respective roles that you begin to drift apart”. Who can she be talking about? “The problem with the wife who has known you since way before you were king of the world is that she sees through your facade. She knows your fears and your insecurities. She knows that, deep down inside, you are not the Master of the Universe you purport to be. And some people don’t like to be reminded of that”. Ah, that’s who she’s talking about.

There is one name that is not being mentioned here, one that Ms Vine, back in the day, had no problem in mentioning, ad infinitum, and indeed ad nauseam. That name is Michael Gove. And in this article, the human manifestation of Elmer Fudd is nowhere to be seen. Which is why the impression is given that Ms Vine is not just talking about the departing Health Secretary, but sending a very pointed message to “Oiky”.

Why she might feel the need to do that is not known. But I suspect it may be before long.

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Saturday 26 June 2021

Another Murdoch Libel Hushed Up

In June last year, it was announced thatAt last night's digital AGM, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) confirmed Krishnendu Majumdar as its new Chair. In doing so, Majumdar becomes the first person of colour to be appointed to the role in BAFTA’s 73 year history and the youngest chair in 35 years”. The Emmy winning and Bafta nominated TV producer was also, whisper it quietly, considered fair game by the press.

Krishnendu Majumdar ((c) Harry Richards Photography)

So it came to pass that in the wake of Noel Clarke being accused of sexual misconduct, and both his membership of the Academy and Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema award being suspended, the Murdoch Times published something about Majumdar that was not only not true, but defamatory. The offending article appeared in early May.

Yesterday came the inevitablecorrection”: “In 'Bafta boss Krishnendu Majumdar worked with scandal star Noel Clarke on diversity' (News, May 3), we reported concerns that Krishnendu Majumdar’s close links with Noel Clarke and their work together to promote diversity could have hampered Bafta’s handling of the sex allegations against Clarke. We accept that this suggestion is incorrect. There are no close links between the men”.

And so? “We apologise to Mr Majumdar and Bafta for the distress”. The magpies of Northcliffe House had lifted the article, republishing the libel. So Mail Online has now toldAn article on 3 May reported claims in The Times that BAFTA chairman Krishnendu Majumdar had close links to Noel Clarke, the actor facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. We now accept that the reference to close links was incorrect … We are happy to make this clear and apologise to BAFTA and Mr Majumdar”.

So who among our free and fearless press would like to report this news? Come on, let’s be having you, there must be some space left over from the prurient coverage of ministerial hypocrite Matt Hancock and the gratuitous doorstepping of his poor wife.

Sadly, all that can be heard is the distant sound of crickets. The story has made the pages of Variety, which has told readersBAFTA chair Krishnendu Majumdar has received an apology from two British newspapers, The Times of London and Mail Online, for falsely claiming he had ‘close links’ with disgraced actor and director Noel Clarke”.

Deadline has also reported the news: “UK broadsheet the Times has issued an apology to BAFTA and its chair Krishnendu Majumdar … The Mail Online has also agreed to issue a similar apology … after picking up on the original report”. The Hollywood Reporter has addedBAFTA, which issued legal complaints against both publications, says 'The Times' has also paid damages and costs, and that the 'Mail Online' is expected to follow suit”.

But among those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet, it’s a no comment all round. Not even Press Gazette has (yet) mentioned the story. Even the racist element: as Bafta has noted regarding the case, the Timesalso implied that because both the Chair and Clarke are men of colour, this also influenced the decision to present Clarke with the OBCC award. Both claims were baseless”. Casual racism is also not news today.

Once again, the Murdoch press is caught dabbling in racial smears. And once again, the iron law of press Omertà means they all keep schtum about it. That’s not good enough.

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Friday 25 June 2021

Hancock And Media Hypocrisy

The Murdoch Sun has claimed a “World Exclusive” for its front page splash this morning, which tells readers of “HANCOCK’S AFFAIR WITH AIDE … Health Sec’s fling during Covid … He hired Gina as top advisor … Snogs in office … cheats on wife”. As Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point. And beyond that front page, there is more.

The supporting article, by Rob Pattinson and the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, the pretend journalist who has somehow been appointed the paper’s political editor, tells “HEALTH Secretary Matt Hancock has been having a secret affair with his closest aide … He cheated on his wife with Gina Coladangelo, 43, who he hired last year with taxpayers’ money, as Covid gripped Britain”. Gina Coladangelo? Is that a real name?

But do go on. “Mr Hancock, 42, and millionaire lobbyist Gina were caught on camera in a steamy clinch at his Whitehall office. Whistleblowers revealed the Health Secretary had been ­spotted cheating on his wife of 15 years with married Ms ­Coladangelo. He was seen kissing her at the Department of Health’s London HQ during office hours last month as the mutant strain began spreading”. All very dramatic. And it gets worse.

Hancock infamously became terribly righteous with Prof Neil Ferguson over the latter’s meetings with someone else’s wife earlier in the pandemic. Prof Ferguson resigned. Hancock, to no surprise at all, has apologised, but will not. Alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has declared the matter to be closed.

Quite apart from confirming that in Bozo land there are no resignations, the story, such as it is, throws up uncomfortable questions for our free and fearless press, not least the leaking of CCTV footage from inside Hancock’s department, along with laws on data protection which may have been broken, to the Murdoch mafiosi.

But worse still is the more than strong rumour that Bozo himself has been unable to keep his pants zipped up, even during the pandemic. Add to that his significant previous with Jennifer Arcuri, and the probability that it was another Bozo awayday that caused the widely-reported bust-up with his then girlfriend Carrie Symonds (the latter dismissed by the right-wing press because the neighbours who reported it had voted Remain).

Whether Bozo was PM at the time or not, papers like the Sun have never taken the kind of judgmental line that they did with Hancock. Nor are any of them explaining with any conviction why their readers, many of whom have been able to even hug loved ones for more than a year now, should put up with politicians who shit on their own rules.

Worst of all, the right-leaning part of our free and fearless press will splash Hancock all over their front pages, telling readers about “steamy clinches” and what rules have been broken, will leer at Hancock’s unfortunate wife and let us know whether or not she’s still wearing her wedding ring, and then, come the next test of electoral popularity, with dump all over all the other parties and urge their readers to vote for the philandering SOBs.

And then they wonder why the public doesn’t trust them. I’ll just leave that one there.

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So Farewell Then Andrew Neil

Signing off from yesterday evening’s edition of Brill-O-Vision™, former Murdoch editor Andrew Neil told viewers of Gammon Broadcasting News (“Bacon’s News Channel”) “That’s it for tonight, and from me for the next few weeks, but I leave you in the safe and professional hands of Colin Brazier. I’ll be back before the summer is out, and popping up before then when you least expect it. So stay tuned”. And there was more.

But before I take this break, let me say this. Yes, we had a bit of a rocky start in the launch of GB News - we’re a start-up! They’re always a bit rocky, these start-ups, but we are up and running, as you can see. We get better every day, and there’s clearly an appetite for what we’re doing. In under two short weeks we’ve already built a loyal audience which has beaten all of our expectations. It’s often bigger than the other news channels, and it’s growing. That’s the real story about GB News to date”. But enough.

While he continues to boast about ratings, Brillo is (albeit temporarily) quitting after just nine shows (two sets of Monday to Thursday, plus a launch night special on June 13). He has railed at so-called “cancel culture”, but has now cancelled, er, himself. And that “growing” audience isn’t. His nominated stand in, Colin Brazier, had an audience of just 35,000 last Friday for the show he co-hosts with Mercy Muroki.

The numbers coming in from overnights.tv show that GB News scored a peak viewer rating of over 160,000 on Monday June 14. A week later, that peak had halved. So Brillo scored 95,000 viewers when the football was on the other evening? Big deal. There is no competition at 2000 hours: Channel 4 News has finished, and the BBC and ITV main news bulletins don’t air until 2200 hours, with Newsnight to come later.

Moreover, both BBC News Channel and Sky News have no flagship shows in that time slot. Most of the country is watching soaps, drama, sitcoms or sport. While Brillo shuffles off to St Pancras International to begin the trek back to his upmarket Petite Maison in Grasse, he knows that GB News is not getting enough viewers to make it viable.

The GB News predictions show that: numbers between 135,000 and 150,000 were being pitched before the channel launched. Heck, there was even an expectation of securing more than 100,000 “superfans” prepared to pay extra for exclusive content. And all the while, Stop Funding Hate and Ripples are working through that roster of advertisers.

Diehard fans of GB News have variously claimed that they are looking forward to seeing Brazier step in, that it won’t stop them tuning in, that it’s a deserved sabbatical after all that effort getting the channel “off the ground”, and of course that Brexit won, and anyone who criticises GB News is a Bitter Remoaner who should get over it.

But it’s clear from Brillo’s demeanour last night that he’s badly stressed. The pool of talent that GB News has assembled is shallower than the proverbial puddle, the likes of Dan Wootton have been shown to be out of their depth, the technical backup has been woeful - because it’s being done on the cheap - and no amount of braggadocio will paper over the cracks.

Some pundits gave GB News 12 months. That is now looking hopelessly optimistic.

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Thursday 24 June 2021

Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Stupid Boy

Tomorrow is OBON Day, which may sound rather like the acronym OBN used by Private Eye magazine - which stands for Order of the Brown Nose - but means something rather different. OBON means One Britain One Nation, and OBON day is meant to instil pride in Britishness. Which means Northern Ireland has already been forgotten.

Look Uncle Arthur, I'm in the news again

So who is behind it? As the BBC has reported, “One Britain One Nation (OBON) Day, at which children are encouraged to sing a patriotic song, is being promoted by retired police officer Kash Singh … The Department for Education - which has responsibility for schools in England - said it supported the ‘broad aims’ of the day but it was not endorsing any specific materials produced by the campaign”. Ah, but that’s not quite the whole story.

Earlier this week, in response to Tory MP Philip Davies, who continues to be suffered by voters in the Shipley constituency, Gavin “Stupid Boy” Williamson, who claims to be Education Secretary, gave his personal backing to the campaign, although the DfE later modified this by telling “The department has not asked people to sing songs or endorsed any specific materials for One Britain One Nation day”. And it got worse.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she first assumed the UK government's endorsement of the idea was a ‘spoof’ when she saw it [many schools in Scotland will have closed for the Summer break by tomorrow]”. Also, “A spokesperson for the Labour-run Welsh government, responsible for schools in Wales, said: ‘Education is a devolved matter and the Welsh government has not been engaged in this project.’

Apparently, only schools in the Bradford area are likely to take part in this stunt, which has caused Andrew Vine at the Yorkshire Post, a few miles away in Leeds, to muse “THERE is something deeply disturbing about the notion of children all over the country being shepherded into school halls tomorrow and made to sing a supposedly patriotic song”.

You'll have to speak up, I'm a bit Mutt And Jeff

Do go on. “That’s because it calls to mind those chilling images from totalitarian regimes - both past and present - where children for whom schooling is less a matter of education than indoctrination are compelled to sing a daily song in praise of the motherland and its glorious leader”. Luke Harding at the Guardian had some examples of the genre.

For North Korea, it is a rousing anthem with a bold opening line: “Let morning shine on the silver and gold of our land.” For Vladimir Putin, it’s a chanson-like melody, Where does the motherland begin?, from his favourite Soviet spy film … There have been inevitable comparisons with the Hitler Youth and with the school song sung by millions of young East German communist pioneers: ‘Uns’re Heimat’, or ‘Our homeland’”.

Kash Singh’s enthusiasm and sincerity is not being questioned: the problem is that having school-age children sing so-called “patriotic songs” has a seriously bad recent history, stirring memories of totalitarian régimes that prevailed across mainland Europe from the 1920s right through to the fall of eastern European Communist Governments at the end of the 80s - as well as those that linger on in countries like North Korea.

That is why OBON Day has brought a response which combines outrage and derision. And that’s why Gavin Williamson is full value for his nickname. Stupid boy, indeed.

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Wednesday 23 June 2021

Tory Councillor Says Let’s Spread Covid

The iron rule of alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s Government - unofficial, but increasingly obvious - is that no-one resigns. And no-one gets sacked. No display of ineptitude, no breaking of the Ministerial Code, no whiff of corruption is allowed to sway the Tories. And it looks rather similar at local Government level.

Tory Councillor Marc Asquith

Here in the North West, Cheshire East is our local council, having been formed from Crewe and Nantwich, Congleton, and Macclesfield councils. Meetings of councillors have, during the Pandemic, been held online. But central Government had allowed the law making that provision to expire. So this week’s Cheshire East meeting was “in person”.

Enter one Marc Asquith, who represents mainly rural Chelford. He’d taken a Covid test and on Monday this week, he apparently discovered he had tested positive. So he emailed his fellow Councillors to give them the news. But with a rather nasty twist.

Colleagues, I appear to have tested positive for Covid-19 this evening”, he admitted. But then he continued “However, given that I have had the two jabs, I am not concerned … Since I have a skin condition, I do not wear a mask but rather a visor, I plan to attend tomorrow as required … Those of you that are shielding may wish to keep social distancing from me”. Social distancing? The blowback was not long in coming.

Phil McCann from the BBC told “This councillor says he will be at tomorrow’s (Tuesday’s) full [Cheshire East] council meeting in person, despite testing positive for coronavirus … The council’s chief executive has told him that ‘on no account’ should be attend. It’s provoked outrage, disbelief and some confusion from some councillors who’ve got in touch with me late tonight”. Shadow health minister Justin Madders responded simply “Wow”.

He later put out a slightly longer statement. Meanwhile, McCann noted “Labour’s response to all this - [Cheshire East] leader [Sam Corcoran] told [BBC Radio Stoke] it was ‘madness’, former Crewe & Nantwich MP and now cllr [Laura Smith] said she was ‘disgusted’”. Ms Smith confirmed this: “Too right I am disgusted. Here is my reply to his previous email trying to brush it all off #resign”. What say the Tories to that one?

As the BBC has reported, after being instructed not to attend the council meeting, Asquith “said his plan to attend when he believed he had Covid-19 had been ‘a bad decision and I sought to rectify it as soon as I could this morning’” but also “said that as ‘no actual harm was done... I don't think it calls for a resignation’ … The Conservatives said the councillor had ‘apologised for his poor judgement’”. So he won’t be resigning, then.

It wasn’t the only thing that Asquith got wrong: “Mr Asquith told the BBC earlier he had been ‘advised that the test result was actually negative’, and that he had been ‘mistaken’ and misread a home testing kit”. But at least he apologised, which his fellow Tories in Westminster sometimes find too much to even contemplate doing.

The iron Tory rule of no resignations holds, even locally. Bozo will be pleased.

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Tuesday 22 June 2021

GB News - The Audience Vanishes

Away from the sound and fury of those in the right-leaning part of our free and fearless press generating wave after wave of righteous condemnation over the nascent advertising boycott of Gammon Broadcasting News (“Bacon’s News Channel”), culminating in a pack of lies from the loathsome Toby Young in the Mail on Sunday, egregious even by his low standards, few have asked the question: how many viewers are actually tuning in?

While Tobes distracts his readers by claiming “it might be right-of-centre but there's nothing racist about it” about Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) while missing that FNC’s top rated host Tucker Carlson has been shamelessly plugging the Great Replacement Theory - beloved of white supremacists - the real news about GB News is that, advertiser boycott or no, it needs to pull in viewers to remain viable.

The viewer numbers envisaged were mentioned in an article by Adam Sherwin for iNews early last month, along with how they might be monetised: “The GB News business model envisages turning its audience into a ‘community’, which will pay a monthly fee to access additional content behind a digital paywall … Insiders believe around 135,000 ‘superfans’ … could pay a fee of £5 a month for the privilege”. There was more.

It was conceded that “GB News, which will air on Freeview, Sky and all other main platforms, cannot rely on advertising revenue alone”. However, “The channel believes it can improve on the daily audience of about 110,000 viewers a day which watches Sky News”. Improve on it to the extent of having 135,000 paying “superfans”.

But, as I pointed out at the time, 135,000 people stumping up £5 a month will only generate around £8 million a year, and GB News probably needs around £30 million a year to remain afloat. And, as presenter Victoria Derbyshire has revealed, the viewing figures for last Friday - after the launch night novelty had worn off - make grim reading.

GB News’ breakfast offering that day drew an audience of 56,000, fewer than Sky News Breakfast, fewer than 10% of ITV Good Morning Britain’s audience, and around 4% of that for BBC Breakfast. Worse still, Brazier & Muroki, GB News’ mid-morning offering, drew a paltry 36,000 viewers. Even the claimed 100,000 plus for former Murdoch editor Andrew Neil’s evening hour was short of that dreamed-of 135,000 figure.

Worse, some of those viewing are only doing so to record the gaffes, or monitor the advertisers as part of behind-the-scenes lobbying to suggest that those advertisers plug their wares elsewhere. Worse still, there has not yet been any effort to make the all-important pitch to those thus far mythical “superfans” for £5 a month subscriptions.

And yet worse is the suggestion that the advertiser exodus has continued, but with those pulling their advertising doing so with little or no fanfare, so as to avoid the welter of abuse and even menace thrown at them by the right-wing press - and Brillo himself.

There is, of course, a solution to shortfalls in viewer engagement and advertising revenue: those who already sank £60 million into GB News can just sink a little more.

Where have all the viewers gone, [not so] long time passing … where have all the viewers gone, far, far away. GB News’ campaign is developing not necessarily to its advantage.

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