Category: Media

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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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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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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The BBC Empire strikes back: will PM Boris Johnson back down?

A combination of Johnson’s vacillation, resistance, and ministerial appointments reflecting both, together with a probable reluctance to counter and overcome the BBC’s self-serving resistance campaign, make it highly likely that he will abandon pledges to reform its anachronistic and illiberal funding model 

Note: Based on, but both expanded and updated from, the articles originally published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 11th February 2020 and Tuesday 3rd March 2020, respectively 

Is Boris about to wimp out on the BBC licence fee?‘, I asked here on 17th February.  In the mere two and a half weeks since, the answer has hardened from ‘Hmm, maybe.’ to ‘Almost certainly.’

At that time, the original proposal, to decriminalise non-payment of the fee and possibly scrap the licence altogether, had already been downgraded to merely modifying (but, er, not before 2027) the licence fee model, and only a ‘consultation’ on decriminalisation. 

In that earlier 17th February blogpost, however, I recounted how only four months previously, the Institute of Economic Affairs had published its own ‘consultation’ in the form of its policy paper New Vision: Liberating the BBC from the licence fee, its main recommendations for transforming the corporation into a subscriber-owned mutual being summarised here.

I went on to describe the alternative explanation – for Johnson’s apparent reluctance, that is, to follow up on his initial resolve, despite evidence of substantial public support – which was suggested by academic David Sedgwick in his book The Fake News Factory: Tales from BBC-Land, and I speculated that the Cabinet and Government appointments emerging from  Johnson’s reshuffle seemed to bear this out. 

So what has happened since then?    

Well, neither popular dissatisfaction with the BBC, nor support for the drastic reform of its funding model, have subsided.  On 23rd February a new ComRes poll found 50 per cent of people saying the BBC is poor value for money, and support for abolishing the licence fee at 61 per cent.  In early December 2019, YouGov had found that 48 per cent of Britons trusted the BBC to tell the truth either not much or not at all, while only 44 percent trusted it to tell the truth a fair amount or a great deal.  In the year to November 2019, 200,000 people cancelled their TV licence, and the licence fee evasion rate continues to grow.

Trust in the BBC YouGov 01-Dec-2019

BBC 'licence-evasion' rate 2010-2018

Meanwhile, the BBC has started mobilising its forces for the fightback against what, given the evidence above, would for it undoubtedly be an existential threat.

Firstly, its main staff union, BECTU, is organising a ‘save the BBC’ petition.  

Note how merely considering decriminalisation of non-payment of the licence-fee is presented as ‘continuously attacking the BBC’.  If this isn’t with the BBC’s at least full support, if not even co-operation, I’d be astonished.  Secondly, there’s also a pro-BBC petition by the left-wing campaign group 38 DegreesAgain, I doubt if the BBC finds it unwelcome.

Secondly, BBC grandees are being wheeled out to promote the corporation’s own version of Project Fear.  Chairman Sir David Clementi led the predictable shroud-waving, conjuring up an apocalyptic vision of a Britain plunged into civilisation-threatening darkness should a distraught populace be deprived of Strictly Come Dancing, before wailing that scrapping the licence fee would ‘weaken the nation‘. 

How the nation would be weakened merely by some of its people no longer being coerced to pay for something they do not want was not immediately obvious.  Or, as Continental Telegraph‘s Tim Worstall succinctly put it, disingenuous tripe: in effect ‘Without the licence fee we’d stop making Strictly Come Dancing ‘coz we’d have no money, so we’d have to make Strictly Come Dancing in order to make money’.  

Clementi went to list examples of programmes and national sporting events which would, allegedly, not be accessible under a subscription model – a risible argument which in effect acknowledges that the BBC couldn’t make programmes of sufficient quality or appeal to persuade customers to part with their money voluntarily.  In which case, it should be asked, why should they be forced to fund it coercively?

The ‘endangering coverage of national sporting events’ claim has even less merit. Clementi completely failed to explain why, apparently, a subscription-funded BBC couldn’t bid against its rivals for the right to broadcast major national or sporting events.

Thirdly, the corporation’s reliably on-message MPs among dripping-Wet ‘One-Nation’ Tories are distraught.

The BBC is so much a broadcaster that people love, gushed political pipsqueak Huw Merriman, overlooking consistent opinion-polling reporting the exact opposite, and whose own article ironically ended with a poll in which fully 92 per cent of respondents wanted the licence fee scrapped.

Merriman poll TGraph licence fee scrapped

Merriman, incidentally, is the erstwhile sycophantic PPS bag-carrier to former Chancellor of the Exchequer and arch-Remainer Philip Hammond, content to act as his anti-Brexit plotting master’s mouthpiece, and thought to have been the anonymous PPS who forecasted that Parliament not approving Theresa May’s (non)-‘Withdrawal’ BRINO Agreement would ‘put Corbyn into No 10’.  Yet despite being a relative nonentity, he has managed to become Chair of the Commons All-Party Parliamentary Group on the BBC.  It’s likely stance on the licence fee question isn’t hard to guess.

Destroying the BBC would be ‘cultural vandalism’, hyperbolised loyal May-confidant Damian Green, studiously ignoring the fact that hardly anyone demands its specific ‘destruction’, merely the reform of its funding model to make it non-coercive.

Even ministers are backtracking furiously, running scared.  The next BBC boss will need to be a reformer, squawked former DCMS Secretary Nicky Morgan in one of those proverbial statements of the bleedin’ obvious, but curiously forgetting that it’s the Government that’s promising to require reform.

There are no ‘pre-ordained’ decisions, yapped Transport Secretary Grant ‘aka Michael Green’ Shapps, going on to label the BBC a ‘much loved national treasure’, but conveniently omitting to mention its 92 per cent ‘Bad’ rating on Trustpilot.

BBC rated Bad on Trustpilot

I suspect the strong probability is that, regardless of public opinion, a significant part of the Tory Parliamentary Party is already compromised.  And that’s before MPs start coming under pressure from astroturfing letter-writing campaigns to their local papers and similar phone-ins to their BBC local radio stations. 

In the meantime, the BBC remains able to treat its captive funders with undisguised contempt.

The Courts have refused an appeal against the decision not to grant a Judicial Review of its impartiality vis-à-vis the requirements of its Charter.  It backed its reporter who described the crowds celebrating in Parliament Square on Brexit Night as ‘too white’. Its Newsnight ‘expert on the deleterious effects of ‘austerity’’ was a far-Left activist. If its audiences hate its obsessively woke distortion of historical classics in the name of ‘diversity’, they can lump it.   

All these developments hardly suggest Johnson’s robust-sounding earlier pledges on the BBC’s iniquitous ‘licence-fee’ will be carried through swiftly and eagerly.  Or at all.  As early as 5th February, News-Watch’s David Keighley warned at The Conservative Woman that the licence fee ‘overhaul’ would be a damp squib.  Only last Saturday, the Taxpayers’ Alliance’s Sam Packer showed, also at The Conservative Woman, how the sock-puppet ‘consultation’ on decriminalisation will be manipulated to guarantee the result desired by both the BBC and its supporters within the Whitehall Blob.

So, to answer that question posed two and a half weeks ago: Yes, almost now a racing certainty.  Johnson will indeed wimp out.

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Is Boris about to wimp out on the BBC ‘licence-fee’?

With Johnson’s dramatic announcements of his intent, both to decriminalise non-payment of the BBC licence-fee and even to consider its outright abolition, already starting to be hastily softened and diluted, it’s justifiable to ask whether both won’t eventually be abandoned under pressure                

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman earlier on Tuesday 11 February 2020

It all began so well.  On 14 December, under 48 hours after his stunning election victory, Prime Minister Boris Johnson initiated moves to decriminalise non-payment of the coercive, regressive, household TV-signal receivability poll-tax inaccurately known as the BBC ‘licence-fee’. 

It was hardly unexpected.  During the final week of the election campaign, Johnson had already condemned the iniquity of people being forced to fund the BBC despite having no wish to consume its output, and had raised the prospect at least of its outright abolition.  

He correctly branded it a tax – as had the House of Lords as long ago as 2006 when it determined that it was indeed a tax and not the ‘service-fee’ which the BBC disingenuously claimed and continues to claim – and his chief strategist Dominic Cummings was reported to be working on proposals for alternative ways for the Corporation to fund itself.  

As relevant as these considerations are, they’re in some ways almost secondary: because abolition of the licence-fee, or at the very minimum, decriminalisation of its non-payment, should, on principle alone, be so uncontroversial as to incontestable, given that a BBC TV licence is mandatory on pain of fine or even imprisonment, even if the householder wishes to consume only non-BBC output.

It’s a statist, authoritarian funding model, more suited to a dreary 1960s socialist semi-dictatorship than a modern liberal democracy with competitive free markets.  In a multi-platform, multi-provider broadcast environment, where we access hundreds of TV and radio channels, on computers, tablets or smartphones, inside or outside, at home or travelling, at any time, the BBC’s household TV-signal receivability poll-tax is anachronistic and outmoded to the point of obsolescence. It’s increasingly unenforceable, and ultimately doomed.

As an analogy, imagine being forced to pay Waitrose an annual £157 ‘trolley-tax’, just for the ability to choose always to shop elsewhere.  Imagine being forced to pay British Airways an annual £157 ‘flight-tax’, just for the ability to choose always to fly FlyBe or Easyjet.  Well, that’s the BBC ‘licence-fee’.

In the days following Johnson’s 14 December announcement, with ministers already instructed to boycott the BBC’s flagship Today Programme over credible allegations of its consistent anti-Brexit and anti-Conservative biases, it received widespread praise and approval from voters and commentariat alike, by no means all of them slavish Tory-supporters or Boris-worshippers.

A Savanta-ComRes poll found that BBC News was less trusted than ITV News on perceptions of impartiality and accuracy: that two-thirds of respondents believed the licence-fee should be either scrapped or substantially reformed: and that half of all under-55s would prefer to receive news free from commercial broadcasters funded by advertising, rather than pay for it via the BBC licence-fee.

The BBC is trapped in a Remainer-London bubble of its own making, wrote LBC broadcaster Iain Dale in The Daily Telegraph.  The licence-fee days of a BBC that drips with anti-Brexit bias are numbered, declared Ross Clark in The Sun.  The ‘diversity’-obsessed BBC is now mortifyingly out of touch with modern Britain, chided Sherelle Jacobs, again in The Daily Telegraph.  The paying public think the BBC’s ‘values’ stink, rasped former Labour and now SDP-voter Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times.

This notable unanimity between public and punditocracy continued into the New Year, the apparently imminent decriminalisation of the licence-fee given impetus, it seemed, by the announcement of the departure of the BBC’s Director-General.

Exit stage left, Lord Hall of the British Bias Corporation, observed BBC NewsWatch’s David Keighley at The Conservative WomanIn the age of Netflix, the licence-fee can’t be justified, averred Stephen Canning at the free-market championing 1828.com.  In the 21st century, we should be able to imagine life without the BBC licence-fee, insisted the Daily Telegraph’s Charles Moore.  The BBC is panicking at the public’s rejection of its left-‘liberal’ world-view, said Janet Daley, also in the Daily Telegraph.

Then came the Brexit Weekend of 31st January – 1st February, when the BBC, far from demonstrating any acknowledgement of, much less contrition for, the precipitous decline in its audiences’ toleration of its coercive funding model and of its inherent institutional bias, simply doubled down on its contempt for its captive customers, as I described in detail here a week or so ago.  And then promptly compounded it by announcing, on Monday 3rd February, an increase in its so-called ‘licence-fee’.

Only a month before, a Public First poll found 75 per cent of respondents supporting abolition of the licence-fee outright, and 60 per cent favouring the decriminalisation of non-payment, indicating both greater dissatisfaction with the BBC and greater willingness to see its funding reformed than reflected in the Saventa-ComRes poll mentioned earlier.

Rarely can a set of political circumstances have been so propitious for a recently elected government to implement a pre-election pledge for an easy win, to widespread approval.  So we waited for what seemed the inevitable announcement.

And then something changed.

In the week after Brexit Weekend, a rather more hesitant, cautious, non-committal tone has started to emerge from certain Conservative Party figures and Government sources. It was very noticeable during an extended interview on Talk Radio between host Mike Graham and John Whittingdale MP, the former Tory Culture Secretary. 

By way of background, it’s worth recalling that Whittingdale was Culture Secretary at the time of the last BBC Charter Review in 2016; but also that, having previously voiced some disobliging opinions about the BBC in general –

  1. anticipating its demise as ‘a tempting prospect’;
  2. criticising it for abusing its privileged position and protected funding by merely chasing ratings rather than producing new content; and
  3. describing the licence-fee as ‘worse than the poll tax’,

he was sacked by Theresa May in her first Cabinet reshuffle after becoming PM after it had mysteriously – or perhaps fortuitously – emerged earlier in that Charter Review year of 2016 that he had had a previous relationship with a sex worker, his sacking prompting an outpouring of Twitter-joy by prominent BBC lefty-luvvies who might well have had good reason to fear a different BBC funding model reliant on persuading customers voluntarily to part company with their hard-earned cash.

Pro-BBC lefties 2016 Whittingdale

His discussion with Mike Graham on Wednesday 5th February is very much more emollient and less critical than his previous opinions. Instead, he comes out with stuff like this:

“there are serious issues to address for the BBC, in that the broadcasting world is changing very rapidly, there is now a huge choice available which simply didn’t exist before”

“the BBC clearly needs to reconsider at this point what its place is and what it change it needs to make”

“in terms of the licence, I mean all that’s being announced today is a consultation about whether or not to decriminalise, which is something that we looked at before, but which we said should be kept under review, but I think that in the longer term there is a case for asking whether or not the licence is still an appropriate means of financing the BBC”

By all means listen to the interview and study the transcript for yourself: but to me it suggests a party and government starting to row back from its implied promises, and almost leaving it to the BBC itself to decide its future funding method.

On the same day, current Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan – she who declined to stand again as MP for Loughborough because of the time pressures of politics on her private family life, but nevertheless accepted a Peerage from Johnson so as to remain Culture Secretary for a mere few weeks but then adorn the Lords’ red benches for life –  agreed that the BBC licence-fee could indeed disappear.

But, er, not before 2027.

In other words, for the remaining 7 years of the current 10-year Charter period, the funding model based on the coercive, regressive, household TV-signal receivability tax would be sacrosanct.  Bizarrely, Morgan suggested that this showed the government was ‘taking heed of public opinion’.  She then went on to echo Whittingdale by confirming that what was being launched was merely a ‘consultation’ on whether non-payment of the licence-fee should be decriminalised.  Cue sound of ball landing in long grass. 

Three days later, Morgan was back, this time with the revelation that the licence fee might not in fact be scrapped outright, but replaced by ‘tiered levels of access’ in which viewers could choose the level of services they required. Significantly absent was any mention of no payment being required from those who don’t wish to consume BBC output at all; presumably, therefore, under this ‘tiered levels of access’ model, there would still be a minimum level payable anyway, so it would still be both coercive and amount to a regressive tax, as now.

It’s reasonable to wonder why the Government needs its own ‘consultation’ at all.  The work has already been done. Only 4 months ago, the Institute of Economic Affairs published its policy-paper ‘New Vision: Liberating the BBC from the licence-fee“, whose main recommendations, transforming the Corporation into a subscriber-owned Mutual, summarised here, were –        

  1. The nature of the broadcast market has changed to such a degree that public service broadcasting, the current definition of which used by Ofcom is no longer coherent, should no longer be delivered largely by one institution.
  2. Niche providers are often better than the BBC at ensuring the broadcasting of good quality content to meet minority tastes.
  3. The fact that the market for broadcasting is now an international industry means that many artistic, educational and cultural programmes, which might not have been economic in the past, may now be economic and not need subsidy.
  4. Changes in technology mean that the current approach to financing, owning and regulating the BBC is no longer tenable.
  5. The BBC should be financed by subscription and owned by its subscribers, enabling it to determine different subscription models for different markets
  6. The BBC should lose its legal privileges and be treated in the same way as al other news and media organisations for competition and other purposes

Johnson professes himself a fan of ‘oven-ready’ solutions.  This is one he could prepare and serve right away, restricted only by the time it takes to pass legislation revoking the current BBC Charter and allow the BBC a reasonable, but not excessive, duration in which to transition to its new funding model.    

Since Johnson won the election, there have been several disturbing hints that he might be resiling from some of the positions he previously appeared to espouse robustly. Immigration reduction, HS2 and Huawei all come to mind, and that’s before the tentative ‘squeeze the rich’ Budget proposals. trailed and rightly excoriated as disincentivising and un-conservative over the weekend of 8-9 February.

Now it starts to look as if the Biased BBC and its iniquitous ‘licence-fee’ might be going the same way.  Superficially, it’s difficult to see why, given the public support the proposal enjoyed and continues to enjoy.  In footballing terms, Johnson has the ball at his feet with an open goal gaping in front of him, and the crowd roaring him on.  Has he –      

  1. panicked at the first contact with the enemy; or
  2. gone native after institutional capture by a BBC-Whitehall pincer movement; or 
  3. never ever had any genuine intention of decriminalisation or abolition anyway?

Or is there something more profound, even darker and more cynical, at work?

In his new book “The Fake News Factory – Tales from BBC-Land”, a searing excoriation of the BBC, its bias, and its abuse of the power derived from its uniquely privileged position and jealously-guarded protected funding, author David Sedgwick suggests a possible answer.

It is that Boris’ Johnson’s recent sabre-rattling about the BBC has much more to do with his personal annoyance at how it has intruded on his private life, most notably during the recent election campaign, than it has to do with any principles-originating conviction that its current coercive funding model is illiberal, authoritarian, and a wrong that must be righted. 

Brexit apart, suggests Sedgwick, as a metropolitan ‘liberal’-‘progressive’ Conservative, Johnson is, politically, largely in tune with the left-of-centre, state-interventionist, Green, socio-culturally Woke institutional groupthink of the BBC, on whose propaganda the political class relies heavily to get its message across.  And that, with this worldview predominant in the Conservative Party in its current iteration, not much can be expected of it in taking the behemoth of the BBC on.

More recent developments certainly seem to bear this out.  In Johnson’s recent Cabinet and Government reshuffle, the post of Culture and Media Secretary, carrying responsibility for the BBC, went as predicted to ‘rising star’ Oliver DowdenRemainer, Cameroon, ex-SpAd & party-insider.  With at least one careerist eye no doubt fixed on future promotion, the prospect of him rocking the BBC boat looks remote. 

Appointed as a Minister of State alonside him was none other than former Culture and Media Secretary John Whittingdale, whose hedging and non-committal remarks about the BBC ‘licence-fee’ to Talk Radio‘s Mike Graham were described earlier.

To complete the hat-trick, elected as Chairman of the Commons Select Committee to scrutinse the DCMS was Tory MP Julian Knight, whose first contribution to the ‘licence-fee’ debate was to suggest that imprisonment for non-payment should be replaced by stiffer fines.  Given that most ‘licence-fee dodgers’, as he put it, who get convicted don’t pay because of financial hardship – not surprising with the ‘licence-fee’ being a regressive tax – all that bigger fines would do is increase the number of people given a criminal record.  Brilliant.  The idea of abolishing the regressive tax instead had clearly not occurred to him.

These three appointments, and the developments preceding them, hardly suggest that Johnson’s robust-sounding pledges on the BBC’s iniquitous ‘licence-fee’ will be carried through swiftly and eagerly.  Or at all.  To answer the question posed in the title: Yes, almost certainly – Johnson will indeed wimp out. 

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Boris and Dom: playing a hostile media like a violin

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Chief of Staff Dominic Cummings are exploiting the ability of new-media to reverse the power-relationship between the Government and the traditional mainstream press 

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman earlier on Thursday 6 February 2020

Cast your mind back to the immediate aftermath of Trump’s formal Inauguration ceremony as the 45th POTUS in Washington DC on Friday 20th January 2017, and the furore over the size of the crowd. That started when Trump took to Twitter to castigate the overwhelmingly hostile Liberal – i.e., left-wing in US political parlance – media for deliberately under-reporting both the number of spectators, which he put at 1½ million, and the size of the TV audience, which he claimed was the biggest in history.

Donald Trump Is Sworn In As 45th President Of The United States

Outrage duly ensued. For virtually the entire next two weeks, the media devoted nearly all of its resources and reporting to proving him wrong. TV stations were bombarded with requests for their respective audience viewing figures, so that they could be aggregated. Fact-checkers enjoyed a rush of business. Crowd-size scientists were swiftly engaged. The talking heads in the news studios debated endlessly how many people the eastern half of the Mall, extending from the steps of the Capitol to the Washington Monument, could theoretically hold. Camera footage from helicopters was obtained, to estimate crowd densities and apply these to the measured area of known spaces.

Helicopter area & crowd images, Washington Mall

While the Liberal media’s attention was focused almost exclusively on desperately trying for its anti-Trump Gotcha! moment, however, Trump’s attention was elsewhere. During those two weeks he initiated the process of reviewing, de-fanging and ultimately de-funding the Environmental Protection Agency, whose ideological capture by the Green movement and the ‘Climate-Change’ Industrial-Complex had helped to advance the eco-socialist agendas of both during the Obama years. Only The Guardian appeared to pick it up. By the time the mass of the US media cottoned on to it in the second half of March, and predictably clutched its pearls in a collective attack of the vapours, the process was well under way and virtually irreversible.

In short, as neat a way as you’re likely to find, outside the pages of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, of neutralising the enemy’s strength by turning it against itself.

I was reminded of this on Monday afternoon, as the row broke about No 10 Downing Street’s Director of Communications allegedly denying some accredited journalists access to Lobby briefings, the long-established system of privileged access enjoyed by the political correspondents of the major traditional newspapers and broadcasters.

For anyone who hadn’t followed the initial stages of this saga on Media Guido, the Lobby briefings were recently moved from the House of Commons to No 9 Downing Street, ostensibly on security grounds, but accompanied by some “inner Lobby” hacks being selectively invited to special briefings, with others excluded. On Monday afternoon, though, the entire Lobby walked out in protest, although the circumstances are, to put it mildly, disputed.

As Dan Johnson of The Article points out, the Lobby doth perhaps protest too much. The system is itself antiquated, is incompatible with the growth and increasing influence of New Media, functions as a restrictive-practice closed-shop run for the benefit of its members, and thus secures them competitive advantage over their rivals.

All true, but what struck me was the immediate Press reaction, and then the consequential implications for the way government communicates with the voting public, and vice versa. 

Just as with their American media counterparts three years ago, outrage and hyperbole duly ensued. Huffing and puffing (appropriately, you might think, from The Huffington Post) was the order of the day. 

Not very long elapsed before references to “Goebbels” and “fascism” were being bandied about, the principle of Reductio ad Hitlerum never being particularly far away when the Fourth Estate feels its dignity slighted. The incident represented a ‘frightening attempt by Johnson to exclude unsympathetic press’ apparently. . .

. . . although how a government that wanted to ‘exclude unsympathetic press‘ would have included BBC News, ITV News, Sky News & the Guardian in the specially-selected inner group invited to stay for the specialist briefing was not immediately obvious.

I suspect Dominic Cummings is the mastermind behind this, is taking a leaf out of the Trump media-playbook, and is doing it brilliantly.

For all their complaining, some sections of the traditional, established (and Establishment) media really have only themselves to blame if their past few years’ conduct is, as appears to be the case, leading ordinary people to accord their account of Monday afternoon’s events in Downing Street no greater credibility than the Government’s own version.

One gets an increasing impression of a general public sick and tired of significant parts of the journalistic profession eschewing proper factual and impartial reporting and analysis in favour of slanting, opining and trying to tell it what and how to think. Not to mention sneering at, demonising and insulting it whenever its opinion dares to differ from the homogeneous groupthink of those same parts of the media’s incestuous left-‘liberal’ metropolitanism.

Take the BBC’s discharge of its Charter obligations over the past few days. How did it choose to mark Brexit Day?

By using its CBBC Children’s wing to pump out a bitter, aloof, anti-Brexit and demos-phobic sneer at the entire country, hosted by alleged ‘comedian’ Nish Kumar, most noted for telling his white audience to ‘go home and kill your racist Brexit-voting parents’, and so egregious that it was condemned even by the BBC’s own premier political interviewer.

Kumar kill your racist parents

By refusing to broadcast the elected Prime Minister’s speech to the nation on the cusp of its most significant constitutional change in half a century, while covering the event in a way that left little room for doubt as to where its sympathies lie. 

BBC Studio Brexit Night

By sending a reporter to the celebrations in Parliament Square to ask participants whether the crowd wasn’t ’too white’. LBC’s Julia Hartley Brewer’s comment speaks for itself.

By reporting the crowd in Parliament Square as ‘a few hundred’. After which I decided, having been there, to try a little ‘crowd-science’ for myself. Measuring on Google Earth, the celebration area being used was roughly 6,500m2. Where my fellow-revellers and I were, the density was probably 3 people per m2, but let’s say 2.5 people per m2 on average. That equates to possibly 15,000 people,  maybe 18,000, but certainly not less than 12,000. Rather more than ‘a few hundred’, anyway.

Finally, on Monday, and with quite impeccable timing in view of the opprobrium rightly heaped on it over Brexit Weekend, the BBC announced an increase in its so-called ‘licence fee’ – or, to label it more accurately, its coercive, regressive, household TV-signal receivability tax.

The impression of an organisation knowing it has lost the trust of its audience and therefore doubling-down with impunity on its contempt for it, is hard to dispel. As is equally, though, the impression of anti-BBC opinion specifically and anti-media opinion generally, perhaps the previously restrained expression of dissatisfaction with both,  having ramped up exponentially after last weekend.

I suspect Dominic Cummings knows this, and is choosing his moment carefully, judging that the public may now be more reluctant to support the media in a spat with government than for a very long time: and also that, if the mainstream established Press thinks that this is the time to go to war with Downing Street, then it’s making a big mistake.

He has a point. 60 per cent of poll respondents support the decriminalisation of non-payment of the BBC ‘licence-fee’, and no fewer than 75 per cent want to see it scrapped altogether. The BBC’s risible denials of its institutional pro-Left, pro-Remain bias in its selection of Question Time panellists have been comprehensively demolished. As Daniel Hannan argues, the self-important broadcasters of the traditional mainstream media are yet to realise how irrelevant they now are

No 10 Downing Street cut the BBC out of its production of Boris Johnson’s Brexit Day address completely, preferring to use its own in-house videographer and then distribute it via social-media simultaneously with making it available to the mainstream TV news channels. It’s this – apart from the content of course, which must have been anathema to the BBC – which is apparently thought to be a significant factor in the BBC refusing to broadcast it.

This has been coming for years. It’s over a decade ago now that Peter Wilby, former editor of both the Independent on Sunday and the New Statesman, led the chorus of old-media criticism directed at then Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan’s demolition of then Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the European Parliament, which became such a hit on YouTube.

Wilby went on record afterwards as saying –

The online success of Daniel Hannan’s speech…………proves what we knew: the internet lacks quality control.

Prompting Hannan’s memorable reply –  

“Yup. That’s the thing about the internet: it turns the quality filters off. Until very recently, few of us could get political news direct from source. It had to be interpreted for us by a BBC man with a microphone or a newspaper’s political correspondent. Now, though, people can make their own minds up. The message has been disintermediated.

What Mr Wilby seems to mean when he complains that the internet “lacks quality control” is not that my speech was ungrammatical, or shoddily constructed, but that its content was disagreeable. The quality filters he evidently has in mind would screen out points of view that he considers unacceptable.”

Finally, the mainstream media is becoming less and less crucial to the communication process between government and governed, with social media engagement figures climbing rapidly. 

2020.02.03 Leave.EU social media engagement

Cummings, I’d surmise, is only too aware of this, hence the apparent willingness to treat the mainstream media with considerably less deference than it feels entitled to as of right, based on its assumption of its historic dominance continuing. New channels of inter-communication between electors and elected, however, risk its decline in significance accelerating.

In the same way that Trump often does, Number Ten is playing a hostile media like a violin, And it’s working.

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The Curious Case of Peston’s Paramour

Note: Revised version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Wednesday 2nd October 2019

Right from the outset, both the story, and even its layout, looked fishy.

When, late that Saturday evening, the Sunday Times splashed with the revelation by its Deputy Political Editor that its new Style Magazine columnist Charlotte Edwardes was using her very first column to accuse Boris Johnson of squeezing her thigh beneath the table at a private lunch, the doubts arose immediately.

For a start, only at the foot of the fourth paragraph was it clarified that the allegation was no fewer than 20 years old. Could that have been to make that rather important detail invisible to a non-paywall reader?

Set against the apparent 20-year delay in going public on the accusation, the timing of its eventual revelation looks intriguing. Because if the alleged assault was as discomforting as Edwardes suggests – and there is no reason to believe that, if it indeed took place, it was not discomforting – then she does seems to have missed a remarkable number of opportunities to bring it to wider attention.     

Since the time when Edwardes claims she was assaulted by Johnson in 1999, it’s possible to identify at least 11 politically-significant occasions on which she could reasonably have reported it to the general public, and thus amplify in the public domain the issue of his suitability or otherwise for office. She could, for example, have disclosed it –

  1. when Johnson successfully stood for election as MP for Henley in 2001. She didn’t.
  1. when he successfully stood for re-election as MP for Henley in 2005. She didn’t.
  1. when he successfully stood for election as Mayor of London in May 2008. She didn’t.
  1. when he successfully stood for re-election as Mayor of London in 2012. She didn’t.
  1. when he was selected as the candidate in 2014, and successfully stood for election as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in 2015 . She didn’t.
  1. when he successfully stood for re-election as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in May/June 2017. She didn’t.
  1. when Michael Fallon resigned, and Damian Green was accused, both over historic – 15 years and 3 years respectively – allegations of “inappropriate touching” of women, in November 2017, in the wake of the #MeToo scandal. She didn’t.
  1. when Johnson and his wife announced their separation and intending divorce, in September 2018. She didn’t.
  1. when he confirmed his bid for the Tory leadership, in May 2019. She didn’t.
  1. when the blazing row with his girlfriend, to which the Police were called, was front-page news for several days in June 2019. She didn’t.
  1. when he was successfully elected as Tory Party Leader, in July 2019. She didn’t.

At this point, one might well ask: if Johnson was such a danger to women as Edwardes claims to have felt, why did she apparently not feel compelled to use her privileged position in the media to alert other women who might conceivably find themselves vulnerable to a similar assault?

Instead, the revelation has appeared only now, for the first day of Johnson’s first Conservative Party Conference as Leader. And, moreover, in the approaching culmination of his struggle to extricate Britain from the European Union, in fulfilment of the largest ever popular democratic mandate in UK political history, in the teeth of intransigent opposition from a recalcitrant, Remainer-dominated and election-averse Parliament, a judicially-activist Supreme Court, and a substantially pro-EU hostile media.

If that is merely a coincidence, then it’s certainly a quite astonishing one. And potentially a very convenient one, too, for several of the various elements of the anti-Brexit Establishment who increasingly seem willing to resort to any tactics to stop Brexit.

It could, for example, be very convenient for Amber Rudd, ex-Cabinet ardent-Remainer, who has resigned the Conservative Whip, and who, only 2 days prior to Edwardes’ revelations, was reportedly positioning herself as our prospective interim, caretaker Prime Minister in the risibly mis-named all-Remainer “Government of National Unity” being proposed by the similarly all-Remainer Rebel Alliance attempting to coalesce in the Commons around a Parliamentary coup to oust Johnson as PM. ALR readers will no doubt form their own judgement.

Two general points about the current climate of multiple attacks on Johnson from various sources are perhaps worth noting.

First, what we’re seeing from the anti-Johnson-as-proxy-for-anti-Brexit camp is neither new, nor even original. Shenanigans and procedural chicanery in the legislature: synthetic outrage in the media: febrile talk of impeachment: and now, decades-old sex allegations. They’re taking their tactics from exactly the same playbook as the Democrats and wider US “Liberal”-Left, echoed by their reliably on-message media amen-corner, are deploying against Trump. It’s a measure of their bubble-insularity and remoteness that the possibility it might be counter-productive just doesn’t seem to occur to them.

Second, despite desperate efforts by the marinaded in anti-Brexit groupthink mainstream media, with BBC News and Sky News as ever to the fore, to give the original story legs and keep it going, as far as the non-mainstream media online political audience and community is concerned, it seems to have succumbed, to widespread derision, within 48 hours.

2019.09.30 Me on Boris & Peston's Paramour

Contrary to what I suspect the aim of the story was, people aren’t outraged, or even much fussed, about Johnson’s inveterate eye for the ladies, being far more interested in whether he delivers Brexit on time.

Social media may have its faults, and its corporate inclination to left-“liberal” censorship is a growing worry, but the power it can give even 280-character citizen-journalists to, in the jargon, disintermediate the media, and thereby disrupt and counter their desired narrative, is not to be denied.

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The Not-So-Green Greta’s Ark

Both on the water and off it, Greta Thunberg’s attention-grabbing transatlantic voyage just ended has been nowhere near either so Green, or so altruistic, as it’s been trumpeted       

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 20th August 2019

On Wednesday, 14th August, in a blaze of unremittingly fawning publicity and uncritical adulation of which even Moses descending from Mount Sinai with the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments would have been envious,  the good ship Mazilia – or, as I prefer to call it in view of its quasi-religious mission, ‘Greta’s Ark’ – set sail from  Plymouth bound for New York, carrying no less a personage, if you believe the Green hype, than the Eco-Messiah and putative Saviour of the World, diminutive, pig-tailed teenage ‘climate activist’ Greta Thunberg.

Greta's Ark

There’s much about this stunt and its main protagonist to mock. But just for the purposes of this article, ignore for a moment both the appalling cynicism in egregiously exploiting a clearly troubled and vulnerable child to advance an eco-totalitarian political agenda, and the fact that very few us can whistle up a $4 million, 18-metre yacht from Prince Albert of Monaco at short notice, and then spend two weeks crossing the Atlantic to assuage our enviro-guilt, rather than catching a 7-hour flight.

And instead, consider just one question: 

Precisely how Green has been The Blessed Greta’s supposedly planet-saving maritime odyssey?

Initially, let’s hopefully forestall any potential criticism for mixing up the terminology. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a colourless, odourless 0.04% trace gas essential to all plant life on Earth. It’s also invisible – though that, apparently, has not stopped Greta’s mother, a well-known Left-‘Liberal’ activist called Malena Ernman, from claiming her daughter is actually able to see CO2 with the naked eye. Truly do the righteous have bestowed upon them gifts denied to the rest of us.

Carbon (C) on the other hand, is the predominant element in coal. Which is why the Green movement always uses the language of ‘carbon’-footprint or ‘carbon’-free, when they actually mean CO2. Because in the public mind, carbon is nasty black stuff, isn’t it, while wanting, on spurious scientific grounds, to reduce the Earth’s capacity for plant and crop growth perhaps isn’t a good look.

First, how did Greta actually get to Plymouth? On foot? By bike? On a magic carpet borne aloft by unicorns? Or perhaps, more prosaically, not by ‘carbon’-free means at all, but by using the same fossil-fuel powered transport that we’re enjoined to eschew on pain of eternal eco-damnation?

Next, Greta’s Ark required the assistance of other vessels to un-dock it and tow it out of Plymouth. Curiously, this was accomplished, not by several longboats manned by brawny matelots lustily belting out a traditional sea-shanty as they heaved away at the oars, but by a couple of RIBs. These may have electric engines, but ‘carbon’-free their production ain’t.

Let’s look at the supposedly ‘zero-emissions’, ‘carbon’-free yacht itself. It’s actually built of carbon fibre. (Remember, we sceptics aren’t the ones who started the misuse of scientific terminology for political effect). Now, the production process for building a carbon-fibre yacht is estimated to be around 14 times as energy-intensive, and thus in ‘carbon’, i.e., CO2, emissions, as that for building one of equivalent length in steel. Not only that: the epoxy resins used in Greta’s Ark’s construction are different and are all organic materials made from petroleum and significant amounts of natural gas.

Some intriguing revelations about the crewing arrangements emerged soon after departure. It turns out that the westbound crossing crew will be flying back from New York to Europe, while the replacement crew will be flying from Europe to New York for the eastbound return passage.

2019.08.16 Lomborg Greta's Ark crew flights

So that’s several transatlantic flights for Greta’s Ark westbound crew to return from New York, plus several more for its replacement eastbound crew to get to New York. I’m guessing those flights won’t be in Economy, either. So what’s their ‘carbon’-footprint? Why can’t she just fly to New York with her father? Or even address the United Nations via Skype? Not all that Green after all, evidently.

Even though this eco-boondoggle has its own website on which the yacht’s progress can be tracked, some of us prefer to use independent sources of information for verification. So it was some surprise to see that, last Friday, on the Marine Traffic website, it appeared that the yacht’s position had stopped being reported at 0132 BST on Thursday morning, a mere 9½ hours after leaving Plymouth, and still identifiably within the English Channel’s Western Approaches.

Greta Ark posn Marine Traffic Saturday 17-Aug-2019

Which at the time struck me as slightly odd: as did the fact that, as far as I know, there were no news broadcasts from the air filming the yacht at sea. Given the obsequious near-24/7 coverage pre-departure, wouldn’t one have expected at least Sky News and the BBC to have arranged that, when the yacht was still only about 1½ to 2 hours flying time at most from either Cornwall or Brittany?

Add up the ‘carbon’-intensive construction of the boat and the ‘carbon’-footprint of all those crew flights, and suddenly this venture doesn’t look anything like as Green as it’s cracked up to be. But in this grotesque inversion of the fable of The Emperor’s New Clothes, woe betide us if we say so.

It sheds an interesting light on making an immature 16 year-old with a problematic mental history the poster-girl for incipient eco-totalitarianism that Green-Left inclined adults – many of whom insist in a different context that 16 year-olds are mature young adults with well-formed political views who should have the right to vote – are in contrast saying of the 16 year-old Greta Thunberg: “She’s just a child! You can’t criticise her!” 

But this is to note only at basic level the effective weaponisation of Thunberg. Despite her history of cognitive, emotional and developmental disorders, her celebrity parents have encouraged the view that her mental health problems are owed to the world’s alleged environmental crises. In other words, if she has some kind of obsessive disorder, then it’s all our fault. It’s a valid question to ask, therefore, why those who have nominated her to speak have chosen to hide from criticism behind such a fragile figure.

Behind her is a well-connected and well-off family whose business is ‘climate change’, and, linked to them, is a rather more publicity-shy cabal of Green lobbyists, PR-hustlers, eco-academics, and a think-tank founded by a wealthy ex-minister in Sweden’s Social Democratic government with links to the country’s energy companies.

Along with investors and those energy companies, they are all preparing to profit from the biggest Green financial bonanza of government contracts in history: the greening of Western economies. And Thunberg, via her parents and whether they realise it or not, is the fortuitously discovered poster-girl, the face of, and vehicle for, their carefully-devised political and business strategy. 

For them, ‘saving the planet’ in effect means government contracts to print money by selling the rest of us extremely expensive energy. Thunberg is being used to ease the transition to a Green crony-corporatism of technocracy not democracy, and profit not redistribution, deploying Green-energy lobbyists employing populist tactics and a children’s crusade to bypass elected representatives.      

But the sacerdotal reverence with which this entire cynically exploitative eco-stunt has been and is being treated, and the invective heaped on those who dare challenge it, either on its own ostensible purposes or its underlying motives, is in many ways an ideal metaphor for how deep-Green ideology has now acquired all the characteristics of a, albeit post-Christian and secular, religious cult.

Like other pre-Enlightenment belief systems, it posits a prelapsarian state of grace, a pristine, innocent, nature-harmonious Rousseau-ean past which has been corrupted by modernity, industrialisation and capitalism, notwithstanding their having wrought in just 250 years an improvement in the human condition unprecedented in previous millennia.

It holds that the restoration of environmental equilibrium, the reversal of Man’s Fall from the Garden of Eden, requires, above all, sacrifice and submission to an elite, who will dispense indulgences  – in the form of ‘carbon’-credits – to the fallen, absolving them of their eco-sins, while intolerantly silencing and excommunicating the heretics.

Coincidentally, perhaps, from Salt Lake City, Utah, the true aims of the deep-Green ideology for which Thunberg is such a superficially compelling poster-child for the gullible have started to emerge.

There, this week, the United Nations is hosting its 68th “Civil Society Meeting” of some 5,000 attendees drawn from some 300+ NGOs and representatives from 80 countries – no qualms about ‘carbon’-footprints for them, obviously – currently busy devising strategies how to better promote and impose UN “sustainability goals” in their communities.

Or, in other words, radical Green policies to redistribute wealth and power from individuals, communities and national legislatures to un-elected, unaccountable and authoritarian global bodies. The strategies on the agenda include:

  • Banning all cars;
  • Reorganising the suburbs;
  • Equating single-family housing with white supremacy;
  • Ending private choice in home construction;
  • Building green “municipal” government housing;
  • Banning all fossil fuels;
  • Rationing energy;
  • Curtailing air travel;
  • Banning meat consumption;
  • Controlling population.

If the contradictions behind the Odyssey of Greta’s Ark help more people to see more clearly the true – not nature and planet conserving, but power, wealth and freedom grabbing and coercively redistributing destroying – aims of the simultaneously enviro-authoritarian and Green-corporatist ideology she’s being calculatedly exploited into promoting, then it may yet prove beneficial. Though mercifully not in the sinister way it’s intended to.

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Singing The Conservatives’ Euro-Blues: The Flawed Peterborough By-Election

Despite having been significantly disadvantaged by it, the Tories have been virtually silent about the credible allegations of electoral fraud surrounding the curious Peterborough by-election   

Note: Updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Wednesday 12th June 2019

Do you remember the general tenor of media reaction after the European Parliament Elections just five weeks ago? Admittedly, the (now permanently mis-labelled) “Liberal”-“Democrats” did reasonably well in them: but despite coming a distant second on 19 per cent to The Brexit Party’s 30 per cent, the overwhelmingly-dominant media narrative in reporting the results was “Lib-Dem surge”, or even – stretching mathematics far beyond anything Archimedes might have envisaged – “the Lib Dems were the real winners”.

Euro-election final results 28-May-2019

Something similar was seen in the wake of Thursday 6th June’s Peterborough by-election, in which Labour managed, by the wafer-thin margin of 683 votes, to retain the seat, which had fallen vacant because of a successful Recall Petition by voters against its disgraced previous MP. The result has since been attacked as potentially fraudulent due to electoral fraud based on abuse of postal-voting, but more on that later.

Actual Peterborough result via Sky

From sections of the initial media coverage, you could have been forgiven for thinking that Labour had actually captured the seat, defying expectations, and against all the odds. “Labour shows Farage the exit”, rejoiced one Guardian commentator. “A major blow to Farage’s ambitions – the Brexit Party has a major problem”, burbled one report in the Daily Telegraph. “Nigel Farage’s swift exit is significant as Brexit Party bid fails”, exulted Sky News.

Less remarked upon, if at all, was the fact that the Brexit Party was formally launched only on 12th April 2019, which made coming from non-existence to within a whisker of winning a by-election and securing its first MP in a mere 8 weeks unprecedented. In comparison, the Labour Party took six years, from its formation in 1900 until 1906, to acquire its first MP.

Or that the Labour vote had collapsed from 48 per cent of the vote in 2017 to only 31 per cent, haemorrhaging 17 per cent in under two years. Or that the “Conservative” vote had also collapsed, suffering an even steeper 26 per cent decline, falling from 47 per cent to only 21 per cent between 2017 and 2019.

Those figures aren’t inconsistent with polling since the local elections in early May. The collapse in both Tory and Labour votes does look to be getting entrenched – when was the last time both “main” parties were regularly polling at around only 20%? The UK’s major political re-alignment that I highlighted as long ago last August is definitely under way, with the new divisions solidifying. A two-party system seems to be morphing into a four-party system, raising the prospect of coalitions being much more likely to secure House of Commons majorities.        

Also downplayed was the advantage Labour enjoyed from its long-standing voter database and historic voting records, and its more superior on-the-ground organisation. I suspect that once the Brexit Party is on an equal footing with the established parties in those areas, we will see the effects.

In fact, merely entering the Peterborough vote-shares into the Electoral Calculus predictor of Westminster seats shows the Brexit Party as the second largest party in Parliament, and on nearly six times as many seats as the Tories. So quite where the two “main” parties apparent complacency, one in unexpected victory and the other in significant defeat, was coming from, was a mystery.

Electoral Calculus HOC off actual result Peterborough by-elex 06-Jun-2019

It soon became apparent that the Peterborough result was an outlier in several respects. First, it had defied most psephological predictions.

Peterborough by-elex prediction Election Maps UK 05-Jun-2019

Second the size of the Labour vote looked an outlier against the general run of polling. In the 2016 EU Referendum, Peterborough voted 61:39 for Leave. The estimate of its vote, contained within that for the East of England region, in the EU Parliament elections on 23rd May showed the Brexit Party on 32 per cent against Labour’s 22 per cent. The differences from the YouGov poll of Westminster voting-intention taken on the same day look marked.

Peterborough by-elex vs nearest Westminster poll

It didn’t take long for indications to start emerging of where the reasons for the apparent anomaly might lie. The lights started flashing amber even before the count, when the unusually high proportion of the turnout – which at 48 per cent overall was itself unusually high for a by-election – accounted for by postal votes was revealed, namely no less than 39 per cent, double the national average, and about 50 per cent higher than the largest ratio of postal votes to overall turnout previously recorded. Also noted was the 69 per cent return rate for postal ballots issued, which again looked unusually high.

Commentators soon picked up that among Labour’s local campaign team was one Tariq Mahmood, a convicted vote-rigger, as well as the appointment by Jeremy Corbyn to his Party HQ staff of one Marsha-Jane Thompson, herself possessed of a criminal conviction for electoral fraud.

Separately, a row soon broke out about the newly-elected Labour MP Lisa Forbes’ record of anti-Semitic racism, to the extent that some Labour MPs were calling for her suspension even before she had taken up her seat.

Pressure mounted on the Electoral Commission to mount a formal investigation, Peterborough Council was forced to launch its own investigation after numerous complaints, and the Brexit Party has now formally demanded an investigation into the numerous allegations of vote-rigging

A comprehensive summary of all these events and their background can be read here.

Yet on this, intriguingly, the “Conservative” Party has hitherto been noticeably silent, until finally, leadership contender Jeremy Hunt conceded on Wednesday 26th June that the Party must take steps to combat electoral fraud.

Up till then, the Tories appeared to be virtually ignoring the mounting evidence of Labour’s potentially criminal electoral-fraud via postal-vote abuse. One might reasonably have expected them, if not to raise objections immediately, then at least to have been joining in the growing expressions of concern and suspicion. After all, their candidate was affected by it too.

Is it right to assume they’re relatively untroubled about it, either because they also hope to profit from it themselves in some areas, or because they’re content to tolerate it as long as it adversely affects mostly the Brexit Party, which is as big a threat to them as it is to Labour?

Or is it something else? Do they still retain the hope, even intention, to try and get Theresa May’s Remain-Lite, Brexit-in-name-only, “Withdrawal” Agreement” through the House of Commons using Labour votes, irrespective of who wins the leadership contest and thus becomes Prime Minister? And therefore don’t want to be instrumental, or even prominent, in having the Peterborough by-election annulled and re-run, which would almost certainly see a Brexit Party MP in Parliament?

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Just Very Auspicious Coincidences? Or Something More?

Note: Amended, longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Saturday 12th January 2019

Both the Cock-Up and the Coincidence theories of history – especially where the history, even the very recent one, of politics is concerned – are usually more persuasive than the Conspiracy theory of it. But you’d surely have to be very phlegmatic about it indeed not to wonder if the astonishing convenience, for the Remainer Establishment-Elite’s anti-Brexit cause, of this week’s events in and around Parliament can be put down entirely to coincidence.

First, the largely synthetic outrage at last Monday, 7th January’s, “far-right Brexiteer attack” on Anna Soubry. Now, she’s on record, while being interviewed by Sky News’ Kay Burley on an earlier occasion, as calling even mildly protesting Brexiteers outside Parliament “racists and fascists”. . . 

. . .but that, of course, was forgotten by Britain’s overwhelmingly anti-Brexit media in its orgy of confected indignation.

There were some very odd aspects about this “attack”. The perpetrators were in fact a minuscule bunch of merely obnoxious rather than menacing name-callers, naturally reviled by Remainers, but also disavowed by many Leavers as embarrassing to the overall Brexit cause: and from the videos I’ve watched, there’s precious little, if any, evidence to support in any way whatsoever Soubry’s implied allegations that she was physically assaulted, or even that she was impeded.

Yet if the demonstrators’’ action was spontaneous, as they claimed, isn’t it a quite remarkable coincidence that both EU shill and pro-Remain social-media darling Femi Olewole and hard-Left street-agitator cum occasional journalist Owen Jones just happened to be on hand to witness and report the proceedings?

Just who – or what – was the man in the black jacket appearing to take quite a prominent role, but also captured on smartphone video filming speakers and hecklers at Speaker’s Corner just a day or so earlier? And then filmed slipping something into the pocket of Soubry’s minder, who was just in front of Soubry, as he appeared to accost him but then drew back in what (at 00:48) looked like a classic Le Carré brush-pass?

No such questions of course troubled the media, which, with the BBC as usual in the vanguard, seized the opportunity provided by the incident to run an anti-Brexit slant at the top of virtually every news and current affairs programme for the next 24 hours. The tenor of it escalated rapidly to imply that every single one of the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the EU was a dangerous and potentially violent street-thug, prevented from visiting physical harm upon our impeccably-democratic legislators only by distance, the public-spirited consciences of aforementioned Olweole and Jones, and the fearless vigilance of the impartial media like themselves.

Anti-Brexit MPs (and that’s most of them, remember) soon joined in. Dozens of MPs demanded better police protection – protection, that is, from people for whom hurling a few intemperate epithets at manifesto-overturning politicians is about the last option they still have left, now that their democratic vote, which, they were assured would be implemented, is being blatantly ignored and even overturned.

Unsurprisingly, most of the MPs condemning the protesters for yelling “Nazi” and “Liar!” at Soubry have themselves uttered hardly a word of condemnation as 17.4 million Leave voters have been called that and much more for 2½ years. Where were those dozens of MPs now demanding that the Police provide better protection for them when Jacob Rees-Mogg’s and his young family were similarly insulted, threatened and intimidated by thuggish hard-Left protesters?

They have found it quite acceptable for Brexit voters to be dismissed as racist, fascist and xenophobic by Remain-backing, left-‘liberal’ metropolitan middle-class journalists in elegantly-crafted columns in The Guardian: yet when uncomplimentary labels are aimed at them by gruff working-class types in rough-sounding speech, they deem that to be a threat to their own security. The hypocrisy and double-standards there were, and are, nauseating.how political class insulates itself from dissent

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UPDATE: After first publication of this blogpost at The Conservative Woman, the alleged leader of the anti-Soubry protest, James Goddard, was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence. Some aspects of this are disturbing.

Firstly, Soubry was clearly neither assaulted nor even impeded. Secondly, Goddard may not be either an elegant or eloquent orator, but if calling politicians liars, or the same things with which Soubry herself regularly damns her political opponents and her critics, are public order offences, then we are all at risk.

Thirdly, though possibly wrong, I was under the impression that an arrest under the Public Order Act must take place immediately a possible breach of the Act is apprehended: not 5 days later after political pressure has been exerted. And fourthly, as was pointed out by Spiked‘s Brendan O’Neill:

“What kind of country criminalises the insulting of politicians? An un-free one. Speech should never be a police matter. Including heated speech, angry speech, protesting speech. . . .however unpleasant it might have been”.  

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Fast forward now to Wednesday 9th January’s Parliamentary shenanigans, which revolved around the Business Of The House motion tabled by the Government covering the procedure for – not the substance of – the second stage of the Commons debate on Theresa May’s misnamed “Withdrawal” Agreement. Business Of The House motions are not amendable, although some MPs do try it on, and a significant body of Parliamentary precedent exists to support the convention.

Out of several attempted amendments to Wednesday’s Business Of The House motion, Speaker Bercow, quite properly therefore rejected three. He then chose, however, to accept one – that tabled by resolute anti-Brexiteer ‘Conservative’ Dominic Grieve, the effect of which was to require the Government, in the event of Theresa May’s “Withdrawal” Agreement being defeated – as it almost certainly will be  – when it comes to a vote in the House next Tuesday, 14th January, to table an alternative Brexit plan within just three Commons sitting days, and the intention of which was to eliminate any possibility of a No-Deal Brexit by the Government simply running down the clock until 29th March.

Bercow accepted the Grieve amendment against not only both Parliamentary precedent and the sound arguments put forward in numerous Points of Order, but also against the legal/constitutional advice of his own Parliamentary Clerks, whose expertise on this subject is acknowledged by all sides of the House.

It was as if Bercow, whose has scarcely bothered to conceal his contempt for the Brexit vote even when sitting in the supposedly-impartial Speaker’s Chair, had been waiting for his big chance to scupper any possibility of a WTO/No-Deal Brexit, and, courtesy of Grieve, seized it.

What another remarkable coincidence. One of the normally-rejected amendments to a Business Of The House motion just happens to be put forward by arch-Remainer Grieve, and subsequently just happens to be allowed and not rejected by Remainer Bercow.

Just three weeks previously, Bercow had summoned the Government to the House to demand that it make its highly-adverse legal advice on May’s BRINO-Deal public. On Wednesday he refused to make his own Clerks’ legal advice on procedure public, and moreover physically made off with it. Despite stiff competition in the current Parliament, it’s hard to imagine any greater, more blatant, hypocrisy than Bercow’s.

The Grieve amendment was passed with the help of 17 of the usual ‘Conservative’ Party suspects who persistently parade with pride their Continuity-Remain credentials, and who find no problem in voting against the manifesto on which they were content to stand for Parliament and get elected.

And who, in addition, eagerly participated in arguably the most nauseating spectacle of a nauseating week – the blatantly anti-democratic diehard Remainers on both sides of the Commons aisle gloating how, courtesy of Bercow and Grieve, they have taken back control of Brexit for Parliament from the Executive, and boasting disingenuously that, after all, they’re only doing what Leave-voters claim to want.

Which is arguably the foulest lie of the lot. We voted for Brexit in order to leave the EU and thereafter have our affairs decided by Parliament as a consequence of having left: not to give control to Parliament to let it override the Referendum decision and not leave at all.

What would be the statistical probability of a minor, almost artificial-looking, outside-Parliament scuffle and name-calling just happening to be witnessed by two prominent anti-Brexiteers with media access, allowing a 24-hour anti-Brexit media narrative just happening to be run for the specific 24 hours preceding an unconstitutional anti-Brexit Parliamentary amendment by an anti-Brexit MP just happening to be improperly accepted by an anti-Brexit Speaker, leading to an anti-Brexit measure being voted by an anti-Brexit Parliament?

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UPDATE: It emerged on Sunday 13th January that the remarkably-convenient coincidence, for the Continuity-Remainers’ anti-Brexit cause, of Speaker Bercow just happening to select Grieve’s No-Deal Brexit wrecking amendment as the one with which, against the professional advice of his Parliamentary Clerks, to break long-standing Commons precedent via procedural chicanery, was in fact no coincidence at all, but pre-arranged collusion. Grieve and Bercow, it was revealed, had met in secret just hours before the Speaker allowed his wrecking amendment.

Grieve also emerged as the instigator and ringleader of a Remainer backbenchers’ plot to seize control of the Brexit Parliamentary and legislative processes, via changing the Commons debating rules so that motions proposed by backbenchers would take precedence over government business. That would enable MPs to suspend article 50, put Brexit on hold, and could even lead to the referendum result being overturned. Once again a prior meeting between Bercow and Grieve figured in the revelations. 

If both stories are true – and there seems no reason to believe that they aren’t – then Bercow’s action, taken against the advice of his professional Parliamentary Clerks, in overthrowing Commons precedent to allow Grieve’s anti No-Deal Brexit wrecking amendment to the Government’s Business of the House motion, was merely just the enabler, the facilitator, the device by which the route to ensure the killing-off of Brexit by Remainer-majority backbenchers was prised open. Not so much a procedural innovation as a constitutional coup d’état.            

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Far from merely wondering whether this past week’s events were had been pre-scripted, to contemplate otherwise now looks impossible.

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