The Partisan Mainstream Media, and Bias-by-Omission

‘Tory rapist’ allegation: how hypocritical, virtue-signalling, point-scoring MPs and a selectively reporting, biased, partisan media combined to undermine further both the presumption of innocence and the rule of law.

Note: longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Sunday 09 August, 2020

Despite a plethora of stiff competition, ranging from Covid-19 to the post-Brexit trade talks and beyond, there really was only ever going to be one contender for the lead story on which our fearless Fourth Estate turned its forensic, objective and impartial gaze last weekend.  And that was the Conservative MP arrested in connection with an alleged sexual assault.

Although it ought to be axiomatic, I suppose that in the current atmosphere of febrile, intolerant, censorious Wokery where silence is automatically deemed to be conclusive evidence of acquiescence, I must for the avoidance of doubt declare right away an absolute abhorrence of any kind of unwanted sexual assault, or even attention.  Particularly in the workplace context of boss and subordinate, it’s often not so much an expression of sexual interest as an exercise of presumed status or power.  So, for the record, if the arrested Tory MP is eventually found guilty by due process of law, I want him both expelled from the Commons and imprisoned.

But equally, that should in no way impede the expression of legitimate reservations about how his arrest has been reported and subsequently treated.

Tory ex-minister arrested over rape‘ splashed the Sunday Times, notably omitting the word ‘alleged’ from its headline, and helpfully informing us firstly, that the man was an ex-minister and secondly, that the alleged assaults took place in Westminster, Lambeth and Hackney – both of which might be interpreted as narrowing the possibilities down somewhat.

From the Sunday Telegraph‘s headline, we learned, further, that the man was a ‘senior Conservative‘ – whatever that means these days – and was in his 50s.  It then took me only approximately 10 minutes to establish there are 89 male Tory MPs currently ‘in their 50s’, i.e., born between 3rd August 1960 and 2nd August 1970.  Without laboriously checking the parliamentary careers of each, to anyone interested in contemporary politics, it was obvious just from the list of names that not all were ‘former ministers’ by a long stretch.  One was, therefore, probably looking at a shortlist of no more than 30 possibles.  So much for anonymity.

Already, the Times, the Guardian, and the Financial Times were either demanding that the Tory MP in question be named, suspended, have the whip removed, or even sacked, or going further by additionally criticising both the party (and by extension the Government), for not having done so immediately.

This pressure intensified over the following days. ‘Row grows over failure to suspend Tory MP accused of rape‘, protested the Times.  ‘Tory MP arrested on rape charges should have whip withdrawn‘, scolded the Guardian, purporting to report the words of Labour MP Jess Phillips. ‘Tories criticised for not taking sexual misconduct claims seriously‘, chided the Financial Times. 

On Monday 3rd August’s edition of BBC Newsnight,  the ever-willing rent-a-quote Phillips let rip.  Living up to her uncomplimentary – but not entirely inaccurate – ‘Midlands Motormouth’ sobriquet, she condemned the Tories’ failure to name and suspend the accused MP, and declared Parliament was not doing everything it could to make itself a safe workplace.

Chief whip defends lack of action against Tory MP accused of rapefollowed in the Guardian on Tuesday 4th August.  As did the predictable call from ‘a coalition of women’s charities and unions‘ for the accused MP to be suspended while facing investigation, on the grounds that failing to do so represented ‘another example of minimising violence against women‘.

Then, on Wednesday 5th August, it was the turn of the Spectator‘s Isabel Hardman, with an implied criticism of the Tories’ parliamentary whips as ill-suited to deal with disciplinary issues like misconduct, particularly of a sexual nature.

Finally, on Saturday 8th August, the Times‘ Esther Webber contrived to add a bit more unsubstantiated innuendo to the pot, suggesting that the Conservative whips’ office had been aware of concerns relating to the alleged behaviour of the arrested MP dating back to 2010 – which would, of course, narrow the range of possible arrestees down even further, in excluding by definition anyone not elected before 2015.  So much for anonymity.     

However, there’s one rather large elephant in this particular room-full of indignation; one which both protesting politicians and harrumphing hacks alike overlooked, or perhaps more likely, chose to ignore.  It was hinted at early on in the imbroglio by Tory MP Michael Fabricant, but seemed to gain no traction whatsoever.

It is that, on 10th February 2016, the House of Commons itself voted to change its procedures so that any arrested MP would not be named or otherwise identified (which either suspension or removal of the whip would undoubtedly do).  Moreover, the proposition was passed with only one vote against (the then Labour MP and now recently ennobled John Mann), which implies that among those voting for the change was – yes, you’ve guessed it – Labour’s current Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence, one Jess Phillips MP.

Although the Commons’ decision to abandon naming an arrested MP appears superficially to confer on MPs rights which are not available to others, it’s easy to see the logic behind it.  Once the arrested MP was named and suspended, in such a relatively small workplace, the identity of the alleged victim would quickly emerge.  Is that what the ardent namers and shamers in Parliament and the Press want?  Or are they happy to throw the victim’s anonymity under the bus for the sake of some political point-scoring?  So much for anonymity.

Nor should it have gone largely unremarked that some of the MPs who were shouting the loudest for the accused Tory MP to be named and shamed are also usually among the first to argue for anonymity for alleged rape victims in other circumstances.  The double standards on display are nauseating.   

Yet not only did the Newsnight presenter not challenge Phillips with this inconsistency, much less suggest that, by condemning the application of the very procedure for which she had herself voted, she was guilty of both rank hypocrisy and blatant political opportunism.  From what I can see, in the reportage contained in all the supposedly ‘quality’ press articles linked to above, that 2016 decision of the Commons itself, to prohibit the naming of an arrested MP is mentioned nowhere.

To assume that every single political reporter or lobby correspondent involved in the production of all this material would have either been unaware of that 2016 change or had forgotten about it, especially on such a clearly sensitive subject, seems to be stretching credulity beyond its limit.  It’s hard, therefore, to dispel the suspicion that it was specifically and deliberately not mentioned, because that would have diluted or negated the narrative which the media wished to convey.  In other words, bias by omission.

Not that the media alone are deserving of criticism.  The ‘Conservative’ Party, which currently appears to be frightened of its own shadow, reacted by giving its now-familiar impression of a rabbit frozen in the headlights of an oncoming truck, and allowed the opportunistic ‘Liberal’-Left a virtual monopoly of comment. 

Where was any immediate statement to the media by any Tory MP that, with a police investigation under way, the matter was effectively sub judice, and that excessive both public speculation and premature assumptions of guilt could jeopardise a successful prosecution?  Were I the accused MP’s lawyer, I would have been screen-grabbing every tweet issued taking his guilt as a given and demanding his head, and compiling a portfolio of them to present as evidence prejudicing the possibility of a fair trial.

Why was four days of Trappist silence allowed to elapse before Boris Johnson managed to deliver a semi-apology for his party neither identifying nor suspending the arrested MP

Where, also, irrespective of the details of the present case, was any forceful riposte that the non-naming of any arrested MP is specifically the direct consequence that 2016 House of Commons decision for which many of the zealous self-appointed Pestfinders-General themselves voted?  Not to mention a sharp reminder that the presumption of innocence still applies until a guilty verdict by a jury?   

Which leads to another point worth making: that the importance of upholding the presumption of innocence is so readily either disregarded or dismissed is an increasingly disturbing feature of the Woke witch-hunt.

Ever since the advent of the #MeToo movement, no longer are the finger-pointers content to wait for due process to take its course; they demand instant condemnation and punishment of the presumed guilty perpetrator based on (often one single) accusation alone. Woe betide he or she who objects, especially if facing the likelihood of a viciously aggressive social-media pile-on. 

Is it too fanciful to suggest that the prevalence of the New Puritanism is conducive to the mainstream media feeling it can abandon impartial and accurate journalism for partisan activism with impunity?

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Brexit-Watch: Sunday 26 July 2020

Avoiding funding the EU’s ransom payment to Turkey for its blackmail over ‘refugees’, and avoiding the blame for any breakdown in Brexit talks.

Note: This article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Saturday 25 July 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length piece in response, nevertheless warrant a few paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

UK sets October deadline for post-Brexit trade deal as Michel Barnier warns agreement ‘unlikely’ Daily Telegraph

Setting a deadline for a deal and then extending it is seldom a good negotiating tactic.  It signals to the other party that you’re reluctant to walk away and might well be more desperate for a deal than you indicated, and thus encourage them to harden their stance.  Even at the start of this week, the virtual opposite was being trailed, and was being received favourably.

The UK’s negotiators have repeatedly, and rightly, made the point that, until Brussels, epitomised by Barnier, accepts that Britain will agree to nothing which is incompatible with its unshakeable determination to be a fully sovereign and independent country, economically and politically, then a deal will simply not be possible.

That this needs to be emphasised again and again is shown clearly by Barnier’s intransigent labelling as ‘unacceptable’ the denial of access to UK territorial waters to EU fishing vessels unless by arrangement, and his peremptory demand that any agreement must present ‘no risk’ to the EU fishing industry

These are the remarks, not of a realistic and practical negotiator, but of a blinkered ideological supranationalist. As long-time Brexiteer Sir John Redwood recently put it to talkRADIO: the EU had got used to the UK buckling at every point where the EU objected, and are finding it difficult to adjust to the idea that they can’t boss us around any more.

So while it was somewhat disturbing to see the report of the UK being prepared to offer emergency talks next week if discussions broke down without a deal by his weekend, it was also mildly reassuring to see that the prime purpose of this appeared to be, not to make any further concessions, but to ensure that the blame for any irretrievable breakdown, and thus the ending of Transition without a deal, would be laid squarely at the feet of the EU.    

Frost’s recent statement on the latest semi-extension in the headline-linked article goes a long way towards confirming that the principles intrinsic to the UK’s future as an economically and politically independent country need to be honoured in full in any agreement reached, and that the EU’s proposals so far do not do so.

That is good, but it’s also the bare minimum.  The only reason to pursue this course should be to show beyond doubt that any breakdown of talks leading to a WTO-based Brexit is the fault of the EU’s intransigence, and not the UK’s.  In no way, especially, should it be used as a means of making last-minute damaging concessions just because Johnson wobbles and loses his nerve.

 

UK taxpayer will pay millions after EU increases funding for Turkey Facts4EU

Throughout the years Britain was a full member of the EU, we got used to the occasional revelation of how we were, via various accounting or budgetary tricks,  paying over to Brussels either more cash than the Government wished the voters to know about, or funding schemes and causes which the electorate would undoubtedly have objected to, had they known.  One might have presumed, though, that after we had formally left the bloc and were merely in the Transition phase, such sleight-of-hand might have ceased.

Apparently not.  Because the UK appears to be on the hook for a contribution to the EU’s latest example of paying the Danegeld in the futile hope of getting rid of the Dane, in the shape of a €485 million top-up to the €6 billion already committed to Turkey as bribery for its holding alleged ‘refugees in Turkey instead of allowing them to enter the EU via Greece.

As Facts4EU points out, this liability arises primarily out of the free movement allowed between most EU member-states under the Schengen Agreement, once access to ‘borderless Europe’ has been gained.  But not only have many of those member-states arbitrarily suspended their adherence to Schengen by closing their national borders during the Covid19 crisis; the UK has never been a part of Schengen at all.  So why are we continuing to fund this in effect blackmail at all?  And why does the fact of it appear to be so assiduously obscured?

 

Possibilities for Early Harvest Measures in a UK-US Free Trade Agreement – Global Vision

Although they have somewhat slipped below the radar in comparison to those with the EU, the bilateral UK-US negotiations for a post-Brexit trade deal have continued.  As the end of Transition draws closer, and with it the chances of no agreement with the EU being concluded, then the more urgent it becomes to prevent the non-EU UK from potentially being adversely affected by US retaliatory tariffs against the EU for breaches of WTO rules.

Notwithstanding the low likelihood of a comprehensive UK-US FTA being concluded before the November US elections, there does appear to be significant scope for a preliminary agreement, or at least memorandum of understanding, which will exempt the UK from being caught up in a US-EU tariff war harming its aviation-related advanced manufacturing industry and its brand-unique exports like Scotch whisky.

In contrast to continuing to hold out an olive branch to an intractable Brussels by setting a new October deadline, our trade negotiation expertise should be shifted to look westwards across the Atlantic towards our allies, not south-eastwards across the Dover Strait towards our adversaries.

    

This EU summit fiasco is the final proof that we need a clean-break Brexit – Daily Telegraph (£)

Amid all the spin and self-congratulation about the EU’s agreement on its €750 billion’ recovery fund’ emerging from Brussels and its media cheerleaders in the early hours of last Monday morning, too few were focusing on its intrinsic further power-grab away from nation-states and by inference, from their electorates.

For the first time, the EU has acquired the power, via its unelected Commission, to tax member-states’ citizens directly, over the heads of their elected governments. For the first time, it can borrow against the EU budget to raise substantial funds on capital markets and also direct how they are allocated.

In the Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard rightly describes it asbordering on totalitarian in constitutional terms, mostly unchecked by meaningful parliamentary oversight.  In contrast, the money numbers, once the detail is unpicked, are so relatively small as to render it of limited effectiveness. The devil lies in the detail of who has control of it.

As Liam Halligan shows in the headline-linked article, were it still a member of the EU, or even in extended Transition, the UK as a major net contributor would be liable to pay billions of UK taxpayers’ money into this bottomless pit, on top of the £300 billion we’re already having to borrow to ameliorate the costs of the Johnson Government’s disastrously self-induced Covid19 recession.

We’re getting out just in time, which is why offering an extended October talks deadline for anything other than purely cosmetic purposes would be so potentially dangerous.

 

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Who Best to Spy on the Spies?

The background to the Lewis-Grayling Commons Intelligence & Security Committee chairmanship imbroglio, and some possible reasons for what really lies behind it.

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 17 July 2020

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

It’s one of the oldest questions in the world, relevant in dictatorships and democracies alike.  Literally meaning “Who will guard the guards themselves?“, it voices the perennial dilemma; who can best be trusted to watch over those whom we in turn trust to watch over us so as to keep us safe?

Now, you might think that someone who successfully ran an undercover operation to get elected as Chair of the House of Commons Intelligence and Security scrutiny committee – thus defeating in the process the reliably compliant stooge whom the Government had hoped to shoehorn into the post – without anyone from the Government knowing or its parliamentary whips finding out, thereby demonstrating both a fine understanding of intrigue and the ability to keep a secret, would possess the ideal qualifications for the job.

Boris Johnson’s Government, however, disagrees.  Because its reaction to New Forest East Conservative MP Julian Lewis’s securing the chairmanship of this important and influential scrutiny committee, by secretly nominating himself and then caucusing with Opposition who subsequently voted for him, was petulantly to accuse of him of duplicity and even withdraw the Tory whip, thus effectively sacking him from the party.

What could have prompted such a fit of childish pique?  Resentment at having been outmanoeuvred, coupled with a sense of entitlement that such a key chairmanship ought axiomatically to be in government hands? Perhaps. Exposure to public view of what was clearly a massive failure of parliamentary management?  Maybe.

Or was it frustration because the unsuccessful government nominee, Chris Grayling, widely known as “Failing Grayling” for being unusually accident-prone and for an unimpressive record both as Transport Secretary and Justice Secretary, but who was also Boris Johnson’s campaign manager in his party leadership bid, had been impliedly promised the chairmanship as a reward?

It can’t be a matter of much dispute that Lewis is eminently more qualified for the role than Grayling, who has been criticised for his lack of experience of Intelligence and Security matters by even his fellow Tory MPs.  In contrast, Lewis, in the manner of Right-leaning long-standing backbenchers whom the Conservative Party’s ‘liberal’ hierarchy finds embarrassing and routinely keeps hidden on the back benches, has tended to make Defence, Intelligence and Security his specialist subject.

Lewis is also a confirmed Eurosceptic and Brexiteer, which may also be a clue as to why his chairmanship seems to be so discomforting to the Party hierarchy, as will be explored further below.

Julian Lewis

In the immediate aftermath, the ‘Conservative’ Party’s anger shows no sign of abating. The much-diminished Jacob Rees-Mogg has accused Lewis of ‘playing ducks and drakes’ with Labour MPs – a curious charge if Number Ten still denies any intention to shoehorn Grayling into the Committee chairmanship – and yesterday refused to rule out the Government blocking Lewis ascension to the role.

Johnson has been warned by senior Tory backbench MPs not to try and remove Lewis from the chairmanship of the Intelligence and Security Committee, or even from membership of it. Clearly, their rebellion earlier this week against the Government for not going either far enough or fast enough on the removal of Huawei from our telecommunications infrastructure has emboldened them.

In the meantime, Lewis has provided his own version of events, stressing that-

  1. the chairmanship of the Committee is a parliamentary appointment and not within the gift of the PM:
  1. he did not give any undertaking to support Grayling: and
  1. contrary to Number Ten’s denial of any interference, it evidently preferred to have Grayling as Chair of the Committee, as Lewis himself received a text asking if he would vote for him.

And as he wryly observes, if it wasn’t the Government’s intention to parachute Grayling as its preferred candidate into the chairmanship, then its decision to deprive himself of the Tory whip for not voting for Grayling looks like a massive over-reaction.

2020.07.16 Julian Lewis statement

So what’s going on?

Well, Eurosceptic and Brexiteer Lewis, I suspect, would be far more likely as Chair to probe and interrogate the Government on the security and intelligence implications of any continuing below-the-radar co-operation and tie-in to with the EU.  And that, of course, might lead to similar probing on any continuing below-the-radar tie-up with the EU’s developing Defence Union and the PESCO mechanism.  Perhaps Grayling, having been rewarded for running Johnson’s successful leadership campaign, could have been trusted to ensure the Committee did not enquire too closely into such matters?

Grayling had also been thought to be much less likely to pressure the Government for an early public release of the 2018 report on alleged Russian interference in British democracy, (although personally, I’ve always suspected this allegation to be yet another desperate attempt by the anti-Brexit, Continuity-Remainer faction of Britain’s political and media establishment to delegitimise both the vote for Brexit and those of subsequent general elections confirming it).

However, the fall-out in that direction from his failure to secure the chairmanship has already started.  In what’s possibly a pre-emptive move, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday accused the Russian State of hacking UK vaccine research and attempting to influence last December’s general election.

Theoretically, the ‘Conservative’ Party might possibly try to thwart the Lewis chairmanship of the Intelligence and Security Committee, on the spurious grounds that for such a pivotal appointment to be held by an Independent MP not affiliated to any party, much less the governing party, is inappropriate.  In doing so, however, it would risk making itself look even more petulant and dictatorial, as well as making others wonder just what it might be trying to hide.

Its best course would be for the Government to accept a self-inflicted defeat, for MPs to press for the restoration to Lewis of the whip, and for the party console itself that a key Commons committee was in the hands of the MP best suited to the job.

Homo scit exterriti custodes spectemus – only a man who knows guards can watch the guards.

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Brexit-Watch: Friday 17 July 2020

Beware the resistance of the Whitehall Continuity-Remainer Blob  

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Thursday 16 July 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

It’s time to agree to withdraw from the Withdrawal Agreement Centre for Brexit Policy

The relief and praise in equal measure which greeted Boris Johnson’s ‘renegotiation’ of the seemingly renegotiation-immune EU Withdrawal Agreement were justified – but only partly.  Despite the modification he achieved, its numerous flaws which his predecessor Theresa May signed up to out of either dullard ignorance or Remainer perversity persist.

Notwithstanding the current negotiations being conducted on our future trading relationship with the EU, provisions in the Withdrawal Agreement relating to, inter alia, the continued applicability of EU law, customs/border procedures, and Defence/Intelligence/Security issues, will, unless changed, effectively ensure the EU will continue pulling strings in Britain for years to come.

The Centre for Brexit Policy’s comprehensive report, on how various areas will continue to be adversely affected by Brussels’ malign influence, support its conclusion that the Withdrawal Agreement as currently structured cannot be allowed to stand, and must be replaced.

Interestingly, this proposal is being supported by one or two of the former Brexit Party MEPs who defected back to the ‘Conservative’ Party before the last election because they disagreed with the former’s position that the Withdrawal Agreement was fundamentally deficient and needed wholesale renegotiation, not modification. Depressingly, though, it’s difficult if not impossible to imagine Johnson’s inept and struggling government conjuring up the political courage even to address this, let alone do anything about it.

 

Michel Barnier tells Mark Francois that Brexit is pointlessDaily Telegraph (£) 

‘Resistance is futile’ seems to be the subtext of Barnier’s message.  Now, to be fair, Tory Brexiteer MP Francois is a bit of a buffoon – although one who attracts far more odium from his detractors than does the equally buffoon-ish Euro-fanatic Guy Verhofstadt – but I suspect he’s achieved the essentially mischief-making purpose of his original missive to Barnier, by provoking precisely the kind of haughty, ponderous, humourless response that so typifies the Eurocrat grandee.

Barnier has once again unwittingly revealed firstly, his total inability to understand how any country could possibly not want to remain part of the institutionally anti-democratic pan-European supranational project for which he evinces a near-sacerdotal reverence, and secondly, the EU’s continuing negotiating intransigence that sees him still insisting, even at this stage, that the UK must abide by the cherished ‘level playing field’ on EU (over)-regulation. It’s a bit rich of him to be accusing the UK of a ‘lack of respect’.

He shows why continuing negotiation is in effect a dialogue of the deaf, and why we would be better off cutting our losses, announcing that no further purpose is served by persisting in the charade, and devoting all our resources to preparing for the end of Transition without an agreement in place.

 

UK faces extra €2 billion EU pensions bill – Euractiv

To which demand the first response should surely be the question: why?

When the UK agreed to pay roughly €39 billion in a combination of severance and contribution to future liabilities under the original Withdrawal Agreement, included in that amount was approximately €9.75 billion for future EU staff pension liabilities. However, the EU’s estimate of those specific liabilities has suddenly jumped by about 22 per cent in one year, as a result of which we are being asked to stump up an extra €2 billion.  If that can happen to one element of our severance settlement, it raises the question of whether it could also happen to others, and whether a one-off payment somehow has the potential to morph into a never-ending commitment.

Given that the Withdrawal Agreement, for all its faults, was signed, why are we liable at all, when we have already legally left? And why was the amount not capped in the negotiations at the original €9.75 billion, to prevent us from being gouged for further increases? We should have no hesitation in either refusing, or securing a valuable concession elsewhere as the price of agreeing.

 

Brexiteers be alert – Whitehall is still trying to scupper a real Brexit – Briefings for Britain

Accustomed as we should be by now to the machinations of the irredeemably Europhile Westminster and Whitehall Remainer Blob which, four years on from the 2016 EU Referendum, continues to try and thwart or at least dilute its outcome, the Blob’s capacity to open a new front in its ongoing war against democracy should never be underestimated.

If you can’t stop it, review it” comes straight out Sir Humphrey’s (or perhaps Sir Mark’s before his welcome but overdue departure) playbook.  With the Department of Trade and Industry fully engaged in actually negotiating new, non-EU, trade-deals, the timing of the announcement of a review into the DTI’s modelling of trade deals looks anything but coincidence.  The suspicion of bureaucratic sleight-of-hand is heightened by the appointment, as chairman of the review, of an economist described as ‘close to very vocal Remainers‘.

The membership of the new agricultural commission to advise on food standards and trade policy looks similarly compromised, being stuffed full of the same people who, pre-Referendum, were prominent in scaremongering about produce standards and food imports in the event of leaving the EU.

Additionally, talk has emerged of the DTI joining the Department for International Development (aka Overseas Aid) in being merged into the Foreign Office, long regarded, and with reason, as the epicentre of Whitehall’s Remainer Resistance,  and with a dismal record of achievement when it was responsible for trade prior to the formation of the DTI.  How Sir Humphrey would approve!

Johnson, or at least Cummings, should be all over this like a rash, killing it stone dead. That the former isn’t, given the profound disappointment he is turning out to be as PM, isn’t surprising.  That the latter isn’t is worrying.  Is another Chequers-type BRINO in the making?

 

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Prêt-à-Parler?

It’s hardly surprising that Parler is suddenly growing markedly in popularity as an alternative to Twitter in micro-blogging.  Here’s why. 

To anyone active on political social-media, the increasing frustration and anger in recent months at Big-Tech’s more and more overt censorship, in various forms, of conservative, classical-liberal and libertarian opinion should come as no surprise.

It’s been there in subtle ways ever since the 2016 votes for Brexit and Trump.  But it’s in the last three months or so that the acceleration of Twitter in particular into a cesspit of predominantly Remainer, Left and Woke grievance and vituperation seems to have exploded, especially with our own December 2019 election, COVID-19, the imminence of full and final Brexit, and the explosion of hard-Left Black Lives Matter/Antifa violent protest.

To give just a few of the more prominent examples, Twitter has taken upon itself to start what it disingenuously describes as ‘fact-checking’ Trump tweets which are political rhetoric or opinion rather than factual; but it doesn’t do the same to his political opponents.  It’s permanently banned, among others,  Father Ted creator Graham Linehan for tweeting ‘Men aren’t women’; but the militant trans agenda gets a free pass.

Earlier this year Twitter suspended Tory backbench MP Sir Bill Cash, who has been involved with David Keighley of News-Watch on a judicial review of the BBC’s adherence to the impartiality requirements of its Charter.  No reason was given for the suspension, imposed for allegedly ‘violating Twitter’s rules’, although the platform refused to say which rules had allegedly been violated or how. (The suspension has since been lifted.) 

For the record, I find some of Trump’s tweets counter-productively crass, and I’ve never been a particular fan of the Linehan who has a record of bullying people he disagrees with on Twitter anyway; so there was a fleeting touch of schadenfreude at him being hoist with his own petard when Twitter suspended him.

But whether one agrees or disagrees with the political opinions of all three is immaterial.  The real test of our belief in free speech is whether we uphold and defend it, not just for the people and speech we do agree with, but also for the people and speech we don’t agree with.  On that criterion, Twitter’s actions against Trump, Linehan and Cash were not only authoritarian and illiberal in their own right; they were moreover hypocritical and biased, in that it indulges and tolerates equally questionable speech from their opponents. 

Nor is the censorship confined to prominent people.  Small-C conservative, classical-liberal or libertarian tweeters report being subjected to straightforward follower attrition, the more insidious shadowbanning whereby Twitter seems to restrict the reach of accounts and make them hard to find, and artificial lowering of the number of Retweets or Likes on tweets popular with their followership.

Personally, Twitter relieved me of about 1,000 followers almost overnight in late 2018 for reasons that were, and remain, unclear.  Since then, my rate of follower acquisition has been a fraction of what it was before that reduction, and I’ve now lost count of the Direct Messages from people telling me that Twitter had arbitrarily unfollowed them from me so that my tweets just disappeared from their feeds, and that it had been very hard for them to find me again in order to re-follow.

Below are the monthly changes in my own followership over the past 15 months.  Notice the abrupt change in the last three months, just as concerns about Twitter’s flagrant left-bias seem to have really accelerated exponentially?

Twitter Follower Attrition Table

The fascinating metrics from the analytics, though, are that visits to the account’s profile are roughly 20% down (because it’s being made difficult to find?), while the number of engagements/impressions is substantially up.

Twitter also seems to be promoting left-viewpoint tweets up the order on subject or hashtag searches, too. Although I’m no fan of Boris Johnson or his ‘Conservative’ Party, this is especially noticeable on major set-pieces like Prime Minister’s Questions or a significant speech or intervention by a conservative politician.

Then, just in recent days, Twitter has taken its Woke speech-control to a whole new level, issuing the following edict on the forms of NewSpeak which in future it will promote (and no doubt soon police and enforce) on its platform.  Presumably our days of using “Whitehall” as convenient code and shorthand for all the Government ministries and departments in central London are numbered.

Twitter Engineering NewSpeak

Sometimes if feels as though Trump’s Executive Order modifying Section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act 1996 so as to designate the social media giants as publishers rather than the mere ‘platforms’ they claim to be – the effect of which would be to bring them under the scope the First Amendment’s prohibitions on the restriction of free speech – can’t come into full legal effect fast enough.     

Anyway, sharing the increasing frustration at all this, just under two weeks ago, and like many others then and since, I joined the alternative platform Parler, with its absolute commitment to non-censorship and free speech.  Reportedly, it had 300,000 new sign-ups from UK Twitter users alone over the weekend of 21st-22nd June, growing from 1 million to 1.5 million users in only a week

Although the Parler user interface is still somewhat clunky, and the platform could benefit from a few improvements, it’s nevertheless perfectly functional. A big plus the 1,000-character limit, which is much better than Twitter’s 280.  That often means only one post rather than what, on Twitter, would require a two or three tweet thread. Although I know of one or two users who have junked Twitter accounts with over 25,000 followers to move across completely, most still have both running in parallel for the moment.

In contrast to Twitter’s shadowbanning and sometimes outright censoring of conservative views, not to mention steady erosion of followers, the early Parler impression is so far living up to its free speech reputation.  Although an initial surge obviously isn’t representative, acquiring 1,000 followers in only 10 days is nevertheless a satisfying contrast to the last 18 months on Twitter.  Many familiar, reciprocal-follow faces from Twitter are there; one of the pleasures of the last two weeks’ experience has been finding a new raft of them every day, including some of social media’s best ‘climate-change’-sceptics.

The more supercilious elements of the left-‘liberal’ elite Establishment’s mainstream media, conveniently ignoring the number of centre-right and even centrist MPs and journalists using the platform, are already trying falsely to portray Parler as merely a safe-space echo-chamber for ‘far-right’ ‘hate speech’, though evidently based on a highly selective and partisan representation relying on only one or two examples.  It suggests that Parler might have them worried.

You will find there, not only me, but some of my fellow-writers at The Conservative Woman:

  • TCW itself as @TheConWom
  • Co-Editor Kathy Gyngell as @KathyConWom
  • Karen Harradine as @KarenHWriter
  • Andrew Cadman as @Andrewccadman
  • and Yours Truly as @LibertarianRebel

Come and join us there on Parler.

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Brexit-Watch: Monday 29 June 2020

Brussels still hankers after British fish

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Saturday 27 June 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

Frost outlines the areas he won’t sacrifice as he faces BarnierDaily Express

It’s reassuring that our chief Brexit negotiator David Frost is again insisting that, on three specific policy areas which can be grouped under the generic heading of sovereignty – the law, the courts, and fishing – there can and will be no concessions to Brussels.  As always, however, the devil is in the details.

In the context of the article, ‘the law’ means the ‘level playing field’ issue under which Brussels, for its own self-serving protectionist reasons, wants Britain to guarantee to maintain a business-regulatory regime equivalent to the EU’s.  Needless to say, the UK’s Continuity-Remainer big-business lobby has latched on to this and is pushing it, although thankfully with apparently limited success.

An independent legal regime and judicial system is a key manifestation of sovereignty.  Yet the EU has continued to try and bind the post-Brexit UK as closely as possible within the pan-EU corpus juris and thus keep domestic business-regulation germane to our EU exports under the jurisdiction of the integration-biased European Court of Justice.  Again, Frost’s repeated refusal to give ground on this is welcome.

The fishing issue is dealt with below, but the potential fly in the ointment in all this is Johnson’s increasing personal participation in the talks. His making disadvantageous concessions just for the sake of a deal, either out of his habitual distaste for fine detail or a desire to appease opponents of No-Deal purely for domestic political reasons, can’t be ruled out.  Hopefully, though, even he realises his stock has fallen so low because of his Government’s mis-handling of the COVID19 outbreak that he can’t afford to be seen to botch Brexit by fudge as well.

 

Britain still top dog in Europe for financial services investment – City A.M.

Well, that wasn’t in the anti-Brexit fanatics’ Project Fear script, was it?  Britain remaining the European country most attractive for foreign direct investment (FDI), suffering the least decline in inward FDI of all European countries in 2019, and beating the rest of Europe as the most attractive destination for financial services FDI post-COVID19 by a margin of 40% to a mere 8%. 

It isn’t hard to see why. Firstly, there’s the EU’s inherent ideological commitment to imposing regulatory harmonisation rather than accepting regulatory equivalence, and the fact that London is already pre-eminent in financial services, which tends to create a clustering effect.  Secondly, as I’ve previously pointed out, there’s the EU’s intention to introduce a disastrous pan-EU Financial Transactions Tax, already tried by Sweden but abandoned because of its innate flaws, distortions and disincentives. Why would any financial services business pick Europe over London?  

 

Recovery: we must embrace this opportunity for systemic trade renewalGlobal Vision

Major exporter Alastair MacMillan is undoubtedly in saying that the urgent need for recovery from the self-inflicted damage caused by the Johnson Government’s panicked shutdown of the economy requires trading flexibility and innovation, not an extension of the Brexit transition period.

In fact, extending the transition period would not merely be unproductive but counter-productive. As our own economy struggles to recover, we would continue to be liable, both for current EU contributions and any additional ones the EU demanded as part of its own COVID19 recovery package, without any input into determining either their scale or qualification criteria.

That the EU much dislikes Britain now negotiating its own trade deals as an independent country, and is institutionally incapable of thinking innovatively on matters such as tariff definitions, is glaringly evident. We should be actively resisting any such obstructionism, and pushing for maximum flexibility at every stage.

 

The EU is attempting to capsize post-Brexit fishingGet Britain Out

There appears to be an attempt by Brussels to effectively retain control over access to UK territorial waters, under the spurious guise of conservation of a species whose rising numbers no longer merit it to anything like its previous extent.  Considering the degree to which the EU’s fishing industry is dependent on such access, this looks like a blatant subterfuge, and should be dismissed out of hand.

The scale of leverage Britain enjoys over that dependence is such that it’s being suggested it should be partly traded away in return for major EU concessions on ‘rules of origin’ trade rules. Given that the EU has a history of either accepting concessions while offering non-equivalent ones in return, or of demanding even more, that too should be approached warily.  Time and time again Brussels has shown that it is neither honest broker nor reliable interlocutor.

Rightly or wrongly, fishing and the sovereignty of its national territorial waters are symbolic issues, by which Johnson will be judged whether he has either succeeded in extricating Britain from the authoritarian, rapacious maw of the EU or capitulated to it, however disingenuously the surrender would be spun.  We would be unwise to bet against the latter outcome.

 

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Brexit-Watch: Friday 19 June 2020

Barmier from Barnier with a jibe at London

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Wednesday 17 June 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

London should not be a European financial hub after Brexit, says Michel BarnierTelegraph (£)

This smacks more of either petulant obstructionism or even desperation from Barnier, rather than a credible threat.  However, it’s rather disturbing to see some UK commentators appearing to fall for it, by suggesting we should sacrifice both what’s left of our EU-decimated fishing industry and autonomy over our sovereign territorial waters in return for financial services.

I believe that this is both a false dichotomy, and an empty threat.  Compare the amount of EU-related financial business going through London with that going through, say, Frankfurt, which is the only even possible alternative. There’s no comparison.  And in any event, the EU’s intention to introduce a disastrous pan-EU Financial Transactions Tax would act as a massive disincentive for business to move from London to Frankfurt.

On this, Bottler Boris needs to hold his nerve and hold the line. 

 

Any more Brexit delays would be an affront to democracyDaily Express

In focusing on the nuts and bolts details of the negotiation process, it’s easy to overlook the underlying electoral politics.  Arguably, they mattered less while the Tories were continuing to post polling-leads in double digits, despite misgivings about their mishandling of the COVID19 crisis.  Now, however, with Keir Starmer providing more effective opposition to a visibly struggling Johnson, and with widespread reservations over the Tories’ timidity over exiting lockdown, they start to matter more.

Against this background, the Centre for Brexit Policy has released its new paper entitled Do Not Delay Brexit – The View from the Red Wallwhich backs up its Chairman Owen Paterson’s Express article by showing the extent to which the Tories’ December 2019 election landslide was largely due to ex-Labour voters in the Midlands and the North trusting the Conservatives to deliver a genuine Brexit.

The significance of this, of course, is that, with the opinion polls now tighter, and the proponents of an extension to the Brexit transition period trying to leverage the Coronavirus outbreak as justification for it, a failure to complete the implementation of Brexit on time will rebound adversely on the Tories electorally.  They would do well not to rely on the next election being 4½ years away and think they can take their recently acquired new electorate for granted.   

 

The Economic Case Against Extending the Brexit Transition –  Briefings for Britain

The case against extending the Brexit transition period isn’t only political.  As economist Julian Jessop points out, any theoretical adverse impact from the completion of Brexit on time, even based on exiting on WTO terms if a Free Trade Agreement cannot be reached, is dwarfed by the economic impact of COVID19 and the tremendous costs Johnson’s government has incurred in trying to mitigate it.

As Jessop also points out, the global economic downturn from COVID19 has also slashed borrowing costs still further, to the point where some gilts yields are negative.  This means that any additional Government borrowing as a result of completing Brexit on time may actually have been made cheaper by the Coronavirus crisis, apart from becoming relatively less significant when set against the extent of COVID19 borrowing as a whole.  There is simply no convincing case for deferring completion of Brexit on economic grounds.

 

Free trade is the key to Britain’s success. We can’t let our farmers and fishermen hold us backThe Times (£) 

The fact that this article is far more about farming than it is about fishing, which gets a mention only in regard to a possible trade-off against financial services, made me wonder if the Times‘ sub-editors took a small liberty with the headline to garner more clicks, fishing being such a touchstone issue.

Whether the case or not, the premise for that trade-off is questionable; firstly because the EU’s ability to hold the UK and City of London to ransom over financial services is limited, as I explain in the first link commented on in this article, and secondly because Brussels is now reported to be backing down on access rights to British waters anyway.

The validity of an argument linking farming with fishing, as though they were but two sides of the same coin, looks suspect in any event. Even taking into account the self-sufficiency case for, and the anti-protectionism case against, giving farming and agriculture special treatment, the two aren’t the same.  Fishing isn’t just a trade issue; given that it involves the ‘ownership’ of national territorial waters, it’s far more a sovereignty issue that it is merely one of trade and commerce, and if Johnson has succeeded in forcing Brussels to accept that it is ‘off the table’, that can only be a good thing.

 

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Brexit-Watch: Friday 12 June 2020

The EU has reason to fear the implications of Britain’s historic Hong Kong connections in negotiations over future UK-EU trade relations   

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 05 June 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

EU: Trade with China Trumps Freedom for Hong KongGatestone Institute

It should by now be clear that, having either deliberately released the COVID19 virus or negligently allowed to it escape (the jury is still out on that one, so take your pick), China intends to take advantage of the rest of the world being both distracted by it and intimidated by its dependency on China for PPE, to advance the Chinese Communist Party’s own agenda.

So far, the UK has reacted honourably to the Chinese threat to Hong Kong’s freedoms by suggesting the grant of a 12-month UK visa, as a ‘pathway to citizenship’, for the roughly 3 million Hong Kong residents who qualify for British National (Overseas) status.  The EU, on the other hand, shows no inclination to do anything which might jeopardise its trade links with China.

The UK must resist any moves by the EU in Brexit negotiations to capitalise on a potential future reduction in UK-China trade by being even more intransigent on future UK-EU trade relations.  The EU has more to lose.  Not only would the arrival in Britain of up to 3 million from one of the most dynamic and entrepreneurial economies on Earth be a welcome boost to Britain’s post-COVID19 recovery; the prospect of Hong Kong-style low tax, free market, small-state attitudes growing and thriving only 22 miles off the declining, sclerotic EU mainland would put the fear of God into it. 

 

History will judge Brexit on how the fisheries issue is settledGlobal Vision

This Brexit-Watch series has mentioned on several previous occasions how British commercial fishing has a symbolic, almost talismanic, political status as a proxy for Britain’s surrender of economic and territorial sovereignty since joining the then EEC in 1973, even if that status is out of proportion to the industry’s economic significance.

So the article author Hjörtur Guðmundsson is right to warn that the UK must maintain its stance of refusing to lump fishing in with all other aspects of a UK-EU trade deal – assuming one can be reached at all, which looks increasingly doubtful, though not necessarily harmful – and instead continue to insist that it be treated separately.  UK chief negotiator David Frost has so far also been adamant that EU intransigence on access to UK fishing waters will heighten the risk of the UK walking away from a trade deal, and this pressure too should be maintained.  Playing hardball may be paying off.

The greatest danger here, paradoxically, may arise from Johnson’s reported intention to involve himself more closely in the minutiae of negotiation.  Never a details man at the best of times, the risk that, amid some typically Boris bluff’n’bluster, a disadvantageous trade-off or concession might be made purely to achieve a deal for political purposes but whose baleful effects could reverberate, couldn’t be discounted.  In that case, Brexit would indeed be judged on how the fisheries issue was settled, and Johnson would be in the dock. 

 

No-deal Brexit holds fewer fears for a Covid-ravaged economy – Financial Times (£)

Even the irreconcilably Continuity-Remainer FT tacitly, albeit reluctantly, acknowledges what many have been saying ever since COVID19 first appeared on the horizon.  Set against the costs to the UK economy of the pandemic, or more accurately, the costs of the Government –

  1. putting the economy into the deep freeze;
  2. placing millions on the State payroll;
  3. borrowing upwards of £300 billion; and
  4. restricting civil liberties to an extent unprecedented even in wartime,

all of which it was panicked into taking in response, the costs in comparison of a No-Deal Brexit pale into insignificance.

Not only would the likely scale of the inevitable-in-any-event decline in economic output ameliorate any adverse economic consequences of reverting to WTO terms on a No-Deal final exit, but COVID19-induced unemployment might even be lessened by the recruitment of personnel needed to operate new border controls.

The FT of course quotes the usual anti-Brexit Jeremiahs in abundance, but for it to admit it may not be all doom and gloom is quite something. It’s an ill wind. . . .

 

Free trade with America will see our farmers prosper Centre for Brexit Policy

Considering how the iniquities of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, and the importance of the UK re-acquiring the ability as an independent sovereign nation to conclude trade deals, were among the significant issues aired during the 2016 EU Referendum campaign, it’s sometimes surprising how they appear to have receded in the public mind since then.

Yet, as this article by former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson makes clear, the calls to maintain EU-amenable levels of trade protectionism, particularly as regards agricultural products, have not gone away, merely re-surfaced under ‘animal hygiene’ or ‘animal welfare’ labels.

To end being told by countries, into whose legislatures we have no democratic input, what regulations we must apply domestically is one of the reasons we voted to leave the EU.  Paterson is undoubtedly correct to say that free trade, policed by reputable global organisations overseeing regulatory equivalence rather than imposing regulatory harmonisation, offers us a better chance of benefiting from our decision while improving animal welfare than does the alternative of continued trade-protectionism.

 

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If Not Now, Then When?

How many more instances of the out-of-control BBC’s blatant bias does the Johnson Government need to make it finally resolve to tackle it?

Note: longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 02 June 2020   

In an excellent article on 21 May at The Conservative Woman, News-Watch’s David Keighley forensically demolished, point by point, the bias-driven inaccuracies and assumptions in the BBC’s now-infamous 27 April edition of Panorama.  He correctly located the programme firmly within the Coronavirus iteration of Project Fear which the Corporation had been running, and still was – or even still is. 

Anyone who watched it will remember how every failure by the NHS, and even by its semi-autonomous linked agencies, in dealing with the COVID19 pandemic was invariably deemed to be exclusively the fault of the Government – even where it had no direct control or even involvement – in what was in effect a Party Political Broadcast on behalf of the Labour Party

Which makes the Government’s over-timid response, understandably touched on only briefly in David Keighley’s article, all the more deserving of criticism.  It could manage little, if anything, more than a half-hearted squeak of protest delivered by Culture and Media Secretary Oliver Dowden, whom I’ve previously criticised as an ineffectual, paleo-Cameroon careerist, and who increasingly comes across as a twerp to rival even his (politically) late and unlamented namesake Oliver Letwin.

MoS headline Sun 03-May-2020 Dowden-BBC

In the light of subsequent events, it’s worth re-visiting and analysing Dowden’s weak, anodyne and platitudinous admonition to the BBC’s Director-General Tony Hall in more detail.

First, there’s the excessive “Dear Tony” familiarity; at the risk of being stuffy, I’d suggest this is singularly inappropriate in the current circumstances, and does nothing to dispel the impression of what ought to be a formal arm’s-length relationship in the public interest being conducted more like a friendly exchange between fellow-members of the same like-minded elite.

Dowden urges Hall to ‘uphold the highest standards in relation to integrity and impartiality‘.  At the risk, this time, of being pedantic, the use of ‘uphold‘’ here implies that those ‘highest standards of integrity and impartiality‘ are in fact the norm from which the Panorama programme was merely an isolated, uncharacteristic, aberration.  That might come as a surprise to the 69 per cent of respondents to the late December 2019 Savanta-ComRes poll who said they trusted the BBC less even than ITV News on impartiality and accuracy.

Dowden concludes by referring to the need to maintain ‘public confidence‘ in ‘the BBC’s long-standing reputation for fair and balanced reporting‘.  That, in turn, might come as a surprise to the 75 per cent of respondents to the (also late-December) Public First poll supporting abolition of the ‘licence fee’ outright, and the 60 per cent favouring the decriminalisation of non-payment.

As for the Mail‘s headline, Dowden’s pleadings represented, not so much a ‘blast’ as a half-hearted pretence at a gentle rap over the knuckles.  They virtually invited a contemptuous response from the BBC.  It has not been long in coming.

The Corporation remains unapologetic about its practice, especially noticeable in that edition of Panorama but by no means restricted to it, of habitually presenting as ‘impartial’ ‘experts’ people who turn out on closer investigation to be fiercely partisan, hard-Left, committed anti-conservatism activists with a distinct political agenda. Even Sky News has been shamed into improving itself a little on this score; but not the BBC. 

It participated enthusiastically in, almost to the extent of heading up, the media lynch-mob in its witch-hunt against Dominic Cummings.  Acres have already been written on this, to which I don’t propose to add; except to point TCW readers to former BBC staffer Robin Aitken’s excellent Daily Telegraph article. summarising the underlying background.  Two statements, in particular, stand out, and they explain a great deal:

he is the BBC’s single most dangerous opponent, because he is one of the very few people on the Right who clearly understands that the BBC presents an obstacle to everything that conservatives believe in

and

the BBC hold Cummings and the Prime Minister responsible for Brexit, which for an organisation that led the battle to prevent the referendum result ever taking effect (and very nearly succeeded), is a very bitter charge indeed.’

Which brings us to L’Affaire Maitlis. This has also not lacked for apposite comment.  Like David Sedgwick’s at Comment Central, Charles Moore’s analysis at the Daily Telegraph could leave even the most sceptical reader in no doubt that Maitlis’ partisan monologue at the start of Tuesday 26 May’s Newsnight was a gross breach of BBC impartiality, (and so presumably must also have been a gross breach of her contract of employment?)

As Moore suggested, there was a dual purpose to Maitlis’ diatribe, which incidentally can’t be explained away as spontaneous: it was read from a teleprompter, so must have been pre-scripted, which therefore also means it must have been subject to BBC editorial control.  The first aim was simply to hector the audience, but the second, ancillary aim was to virtue-signal to Maitlis’ like-minded professional and social milieux, to reassure them that she too holds the ‘correct’ metropolitan left-‘liberal’ opinions prevalent in their circle.  

Less remarked on, though, was the hint of deception, or at least complicity in deception, by Maitlis’ colleagues and therefore, by inference, the BBC itself.  Remember, Maitlis had signed off from the Tuesday edition with the promise See you tomorrow‘; but, as speculation over the reason for her non-appearance on the following (Wednesday) evening’s edition grew, her Newsnight friend, colleague and Editor Katie Razzall tweeted thus:

But by 9.32.pm on that Wednesday evening, Razzall as Editor must surely have known what we the audience then didn’t, because it emerged publicly only on the Thursday morning: that the BBC, far from ‘suspending’ Maitlis, had in effect surrendered to her imperious demand to be given a night (in the end, two) off, because she was ‘furious’ at it for having the cheek actually to reprimand her, however gently (and inadequately), for her blatant breach of its impartiality requirement as her employer.  Razzall, therefore, looks to have taken the opportunity to appear supportive and principled, but in reality, was arguably just being disingenuous, if not two-faced.

As might have been predicted (and was probably inevitable), the ineffectiveness of the BBC’s excessively kid-gloves response was shown starkly only a few days later when Maitlis, far from being chastised, doubled-down and offered a repeat performance.       

Taking everything into account, the tweet below is hard to find fault with.

When Number Ten is reportedly ‘incandescent’ over Maitlis’ diatribes,  and 40,000 people went to the trouble of lodging a formal complaint about it with the BBC in a mere two days, it’s hard to imagine just how much more provocation Johnson’s Government actually needs before finally resolving to address the BBC question.  Yet, judging by Dowden’s limp reaction earlier in May, the answer seems to be: ‘quite a lot’.

At least on the timing of any action, a decision to keep the powder dry for the moment, looks sound.  It makes sense to keep the file labelled ‘BBC’ in the pending tray, albeit at the top, until COVID19 and Brexit are safely out of the way.  But then. . . .

Tactics, though, are all-important.  It was both misguided and inept of Dowden to restrict his remarks to the issue of lack of impartiality; the ‘bias’ allegation is by definition inherently subjective, and the Corporation has a range of strategies for deflecting and then smothering it, including enticing its critics into an endless ‘he said, but we said’ squabble, which ultimately gets nowhere.  For the Government to try and upbraid the BBC for its political bias is the non-military equivalent of fighting a battle on ground of the enemy’s choosing.

Had the hapless Dowden been more astute, and even remotely serious, he would have threatened ‘Dear Tony‘ with immediate decriminalisation of non-payment of the ‘licence-fee’, or even an urgent, unscheduled mid-period Charter Review to abolish it.  Instead, his entreaties were all smokescreen and displacement activity.

There is a much better route, and much stronger case, available based on the BBC’s iniquitous compulsory ‘licence-fee’.  It’s true that much of  the UK’s mainstream media, whether broadcast or print, is biased.  But the BBC is uniquely egregious on that score because we are forced on pain of fine or imprisonment to pay for it regardless of whether we want to consume its output or not: unlike, say, Sky News or The Times, where we can simply choose not to purchase their product, or cease subscribing to it.             

The Daily Telegraph‘s Madeleine Grant hit the nail on the head in linking the two, correctly saying that, unless the BBC rapidly both repudiates and eliminates the shamelessly partisan personal editorialising of the type epitomised by Maitlis on Newsnight, it cannot continue receiving any kind of coercive funding.  

Time, though, is running out.  On Monday 25 May, The Times reported the BBC’s proposal that the wealthy may in future be charged more for their TV licence.  This is outrageous, in the sense that no-one should be coercively charged anything for a product they don’t wish to consume, especially the deceitfully mis-labelled ‘TV-licence’ which is, in fact, a regressive poll-tax; but making ‘the wealthy’ pay more for it both reduces its regressivity and plays to class-envy, thus taking some of the sting out of the criticism of it as a concept.

The Maitlis episode as culmination of ever more flagrant BBC bias has given Johnson ample justification for pushing ahead with decriminalising non-payment of the BBC’s iniquitous ‘licence fee’, on the wholly legitimate grounds that people of whatever means should not be forced to pay for this. With trust in the media being significantly lower, rarely can the circumstances have been so propitious.

But so they were, almost as much, over the period of the General Election and then formal exit from the EU in December and January.  Despite all the anti-BBC Boris-bluster then, nothing has actually been done, the ball has been dropped, and it needs to be picked up again. Don’t hold your breath, though. The danger has to be that, once again, the faux-‘Conservatives’ will back down.

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Brexit-Watch: Friday 22 May 2020

No extensions to Brexit transition. The deadline must stay.

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Thursday 21 May 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant press articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

The country cannot afford to extend the Brexit deadlineCentre for Brexit Policy

In its full paper to which the headline piece is a summary and introduction, the CfBP shows that extending the Transition period for 2 years would cost the UK economy £380 billion.

At any time, this represents a penalty which no democratic government should impose on its people unnecessarily and in effect in defiance of the mandate given to it by the people when asked. 

But this is not ‘any time’.  We are starting to emerge, painfully and hesitantly, from a Government-imposed COVID-19 lockdown of the economy which may not even have been necessary, which has seen the State intervene in the economy to a massive degree, and which will already burden the taxpayers with the costs of servicing and repaying at least £300 billion of additional borrowing.

On both economic and democratic grounds, there is scant, if any, justification for extending Transition and thus delaying full Brexit still further, even if that means, in the light of the EU’s continuing intransigence over a future trade deal, exiting to WTO terms.

 

Shameless arch-Remainers launch shock Brexit plot and urge Barnier to actExpress

It comes no surprise that the instigators of the latest plea to Barnier and the Brussels Eurocrats, intended to delay or preferably stop Brexit using COVID-19 as a transparently disingenuous excuse, comprise the usual suspects from the arch-Remainer, anti-democratic, minority parties of the ‘Liberal’, State-Socialist and Green Left.

Davey, Blackford, Savile Roberts, Lucas comp

The plotters’ claims of ‘significant opposition to the UK Government’s refusal to consider extending the timetable’ are tenuous at best.  Recent polling shows a majority in favour of ending Transition by 31 December or even earlier, particularly in the blue-collar electorate Red Wall constituencies which deserted Labour at last December’s election. Nowhere other than London is an extension favoured.

Moreover, the supplicants’ reference to the alleged backing for an extension from the (both Remainer and Socialist) Scottish and Welsh governments is irrelevant.  As both Brexit and trade negotiations are competences reserved to the UK’s national government, and thus indisputably outside the scope of devolved matters, the regional administrations in Edinburgh and Cardiff have no political equivalent of locus standi in them.  They, and their Westminster MP mouthpieces, should be ignored.

 

UK tells EU it will take ‘any measures necessary’ to protect fishing watersTelegraph (£)

This welcome, if long overdue, pledge was included in the negotiating documents released by the Government last Tuesday, 19 May.  Given the considerable political significance notwithstanding the fishing industry’s marginal economic importance, of the UK regaining ultimate control of fishing rights applying in its own territorial waters as part of any trade talks, any retreat from such a robust promise should carry dire political consequences.

What ‘any measures necessary’ means, however, is left vague; the phrase will carry weight in negotiations only if it is made clear from the outset that it excludes undesirable concessions as a trade-off in other areas which are less politically visible.

Also welcome is the news of impending tariff reductions on up to 60 per cent of global imports, holding out the possibility of both food and household appliances being cheaper to consumers under new trade arrangements.

Finally, the opportunity appears to have at last been taken to reject the EU’s persistent negotiating intransigence, in which it has shamefully been supported by the die-hard Continuity-Remainer rump in the Whitehall, Westminster and media Establishments. Frost’s letter to Barnier embedded below is the letter which should have been written and sent 3 years ago.

 

In a crisis EU centralisation accelerates; Britain must not get left with the billGlobal Vision

Former Director of Special Projects for the successful Vote Leave campaign, Dr Lee Rotherham, locates the current drive for pan-European strategies on healthcare, ‘climate-change’ and taxation in response to COVID-19, being promoted assiduously by the Merkel-Macron, Franco-German axis, firmly within the EU’s history of exploiting international crises to increase integration and accrete unaccountable centralised power to itself at the expense of sovereign democratic nation-states.

Notwithstanding the setback handed to both the EU’s latest power-grab and the ECB bond-buying programme by the German Constitutional Court, the latest drives towards integration carry the inevitable connotation of higher contributions from member-states. The UK is already exposed through its European Investment Bank liabilities, and any extension to the Transition period would involve fresh UK contributions into the next multi-annual budgetary planning system.

Another reason – as if one were even needed – for refusing any extension and exiting Transition on time.

 

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