Why New Labour should pick a fight with The Sun


11:05 am - November 10th 2009

by Sunny Hundal    


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The conventional wisdom is that a political party shouldn’t pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel, even if it attacks them relentlessly. The White House has been pushing back at Fox News and yesterday Lord Mandelson said the row over Brown’s letter to the soldier’s mother row was being “orchestrated” by a paper that was actively campaigning against Labour.

For various reasons I think this is the correct position to take.

The left has to stop becoming scared of the media and push back.

Encouragng over-reach
I suspect that most sensible Britons will look at The Sun’s hysterical attack yesterday as politically motivated. Even some of his most outspoken critics were sympathetic. The Sun newspaper is, like its sister organ in the US, actively campaigning for the opposition and both have tied their flags to the mast. This means their audience already knows there is a political agenda, which somewhat neutralises them.

And both have been getting over-excited in an attempt to attack the governing party and that means further loss in legitimacy in public opinion. Pushing back even slightly, as Obama and Mandelson have done, will invite even further hysteria from them and make them over-excitable and lose more legitimacy and so on…

Bolsters the base
Neither Obama nor Brown have much to lose in potential voters since their opponents are already campaigning hard against them. But it does bolster their left-wing base that hates the media orgs passionately. It also helps develop a victim mentality which is needed to get the activists out and push back even harder. The Sun’s political influence on its voters is already over-stated and it has lost 35% of its circulation since 1997.

Less influence with other media
Arguably, the real impact both Fox and The Sun have is in driving the agenda in other media. The supposedly left-wing BBC went big on the non-story yesterday simply because its rivals were. Murdoch already ensures sister organisations work closely and yesterday Sky News was all over it.

But if you keep pointing out that these news agendas are politically driven, which they are, then any credible journalist should start taking that into account and offer less prominence to those stories. Some Fox News anchors have already apologised for lack of balance on their programmes, or stopped covering protests – knowing that more people are watching with precisely that in mind.

Right-wing hypocrisy
Any article cannot be complete without this title. Both in the US and here, right-wingers have been saying it is churlish and silly for politicians to pick fights with the media (in response to Obama and Labour). Apparently it encourages censorship. No it doesn’t: no one has dictated these organisations be shut down and I’d be against that.

But this discounts their own efforts to do the same. Tories in the UK have long complained that the BBC doesn’t follow their agenda closely enough. The readers (and most writers) on ConservativeHome and Spectator website are absolutely convinced the BBC is some socialist organisation bowing down to the wise words of Marx. They have repeatedly attack the BBC because lefties are always scared of hitting back.

In the US, Republicans have long attacked “the mainstream liberal media” for not agreeing with them – most recently John McCain attacking the New York Times and Fox News lying in saying “mainstream media” did not cover the tea-party protests.

Encourage direct communication
That political parties have to rely on media organisations with such blatantly partisan agendas is never good for a democracy. This is especially not good for any left-wing party that knows most private media will be ideologically opposed to its plans.

This is why Obama was intelligent enough to use new media to go directly to voters and encourage them to talk to their neighbours. His email list alone was 13 million strong – 10 million more than Fox News’ highest rated shows.

The Labour Party, Libdems and Greens all have to start thinking about developing infrastructure that goes over the heads of the traditional media. The Labour Party had one: the unions and local organising but they’ve been ignored for too long. Using the new media to get to activists and control some of the message should be their main priority – not keeping The Sun on side. These battles will accelerate that push. As several have said: now everyone buys ink by the barrel.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Media ,Our democracy ,Westminster

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Reader comments


Yes, but… it WAS sloppy, rude and offensive for Brown to scrawl out a misspelled barely legible note. And it WAS a news story, because it illustrates the cack-handed, casual and thoughtless approach of those in power.

Since when does “the left” equate with NuLabour anyway? I want them kicked out as much as any rabid Tory.

Sunny,

I fail to see the connection you are trying to make between yesterday’s story about Gordon Brown’s letter and Barak Obama’s election campaign.

In my view the Sun, the news media (especially radio) should be quite ashamed with themselves in how they have dwelled upon Gordon Brown’s letter. To be quite frank I don’t think the mother of the dead soldier has come out of this ‘smelling of roses’ either. Today we hear tales about her private conversation with Gordon Brown.

It might sound old fashioned, but I would prefer grieving relative be allowed to do just that and retain some dignity in place of celebrity. Celebrity conferred on grieving relatives burns brightly but ever so quickly – just look at how Cindy Shehan was feted then cast aside by the Democrats once George Bush was out of the way.

Back to the Sun – it’s an attempt to cast Goron Brown as a figure of ridicle or pity. The nasty side of politics – but if I remember correctly it wasn’t it Vince Cable who landed the first punch of this kind?

Any article cannot be complete without this title. Both in the US and here, right-wingers have been saying it is churlish and silly for politicians to pick fights with the media (in response to Obama and Labour). Apparently it encourages censorship. No it doesn’t: no one has dictated these organisations be shut down and I’d be against that.

But this discounts their own efforts to do the same. Tories in the UK have long complained that the BBC doesn’t follow their agenda closely enough. The readers (and most writers) on ConservativeHome and Spectator website are absolutely convinced the BBC is some socialist organisation bowing down to the wise words of Marx. They have repeatedly attack the BBC because lefties are always scared of hitting back.

In the US, Republicans have long attacked “the mainstream liberal media” for not agreeing with them – most recently John McCain attacking the New York Times and Fox News lying in saying “mainstream media” did not cover the tea-party protests.

And how did that approach work out for them? Wasn’t there an election quite recently or something?

There’s a good argument that attacking bias in the media is counter-productive in and of itself – Danny Finkelstein wrote something on it about McCain’s attitude towards media bias. “First pose yourself this question. Has railing against liberal media bias ever worked? Ever? The left used to rail against right wing talk show hosts and that didn’t work either, now did it?” Danny reckons this is because of cognitive dissonance – ie the media think they are being impartial, and won’t stop thinking this if you shout at them for being biased.

A year or so ago BBC Parliament replayed the ’92 election. What was really striking about the responses from the Labour politicians was a universal whinge about the horrible media. And that was how it came across – a whinge. It was probably supposed to be a clarion call for good old-fashioned British something or other, but it just sounded like ‘It’s not faiiirrr!’ You can argue that Labour could manage a campaign against the Sun without it sounding like whinging, but nothing that’s been said so far convinces me of that.

4. Dick the Prick

Bit of an acrimonious divorce – all very Heather Mills

I don’t think it’s wise for the most visible people in the Labour Party to be seen whingeing about press coverage, although nothing wrong with ordinary members and even backbenchers (maybe even the odd junior minister) pointing out how the Sun have used this grieving mother to further their own agenda (even if she is happy for them to do that – and I certainly don’t think anyone should be criticising her – I still don’t think it is right.)

Generally I think this is backfiring on the Sun in terms of politics (though I’ve no doubt it is selling papers), because every voter I’ve spoken to whose mind is not already made up about the next GE thinks the Sun is wrong on this and sympathises with Gordon Brown. Even many on the internet (which is saying something!)

5 – agreed. I don’t have much time for Brown, and even I felt sorry for him over this. However, pity is not a useful emotion for Prime Ministers to attract.

The editor of Liberal Conspiracy said; “Pushing back even slightly, will invite even further hysteria from them and make them over-excitable and lose more legitimacy and so on…” Oh, the irony.

#1 – One can have another interpretation, it was a more personal touch from a prime minister with poor eyesight, he chose to write a handwritten letter rather than send a standard official letter typed by a secretary and signed by him without even being read.

You see events can often have different interpretations. How they are framed is important. When the media is being blatantly dishonest and hysterical then every event is given the worst possible interpretation. If Gordon Brown today saved a toddler from a rottweiller attack it would be reported as “Brown kills family pet”. The media has collectively decided that it is time for a change of government and nothing Brown does will be able to change that.

The only logical response is the “fuck you” response and spend the remaining days doing as much as possible – the stuff that has been the aim of Labour party for a long while but hitherto left on the sidelines as stuff that is electorally unpopular or alienates vested interests and thus not worth risking. The biggest dissapointment for me about Brown has precisely been his failure to do this, and his naiveity in playing a game where the odds are stacked against him. Instead he should respond by writing an open letter to the sun (handwritten for irony) announcing that he intends to change libel law to allow class action lawsuits on behalf of groups that have been libelled. Every Hedge fund in the city will then be lining up to fund lawsuits from refugee charities amongst others as a result.

Tim J – A whinge about “the media” in general is different to picking a fight about a different story, the fight about this story.

Sunny – Agree wholeheartedly.

The word that seems to be on everyone’s keyboards here is “pity”, there seems to be consensus that this is not a desirable attitude. How then can we counter this except by attacking the Sun?

If the Sun have brought about pity it is because of the sheer vicious cruelty of their actions. Gordon Brown, writes a personally handwritten letter to the family of every soldier who dies in Afganistan, what more commitment does he need to show? Would it really be better if Gordon Brown sent out a laser printed template letter?

Creating a fuss over supposed spelling mistakes in the hand written letter of a man with 20% vision in his one good eye is just plain nasty, and I think we should say so.

Of course you are right. The Sun, and their backing of Cameron is Labours biggest weapon against the tories.

The Suns influence is history, and more and more people are becoming a bit cynical about their politics.

When you make rash, pathetic attacks like this, you do little more than convince voters that you are some rabid, thoughtless media attack dog – and that any point you make should be taken with “a pinch of salt”.

Be it criticism of Brown or support of certain Cameron policies.

If you read the reactions on The Sun, Sky news, Mail (all staunchly tory) the backing is totally behind Brown and condemning of not only the Sun, but the poor women they convinced/payed to support their own policy.

Personally, it’s the most despicable story since Hillsbrough. And just like then, they have totally misread the public mood on Brown.

Attacking him on policy fine.

Outright bullying him because he writes his own letters. Not fine.

Recording private messages by a PM, and printing them for profits. Sick.

Most people realise now that The Suns backing of “our boys” is being totally exploited to take pot shots at the government.

And all they have achieved in their attack is humanizing Brown a bit, and even make people respect him a bit more on the war.

9 – If the fight is to be over this story, then it’s a stupid fight. There was always a very easy way to shut this story down – offer an unqualified apology.

“I am sorry that I spelt your son’s name wrong. It was an unforgivable thing to do and I apologise.”

By going down the ‘sorry if you can’t read my handwriting’ route, coupled with the ‘this is a partisan attack by an anti-Labour paper’ Brown has ensured that the story will continue to run. And it is, by its very nature, a bad story for Brown. Shut it down, and move on – the longer this story stays live, the worse it is for Brown and for Labour.

As a sidenote, I think it is a dangerous tactic to put up the ‘struggles with his poor eyesight’ line so shortly after stating on television that his eyesight is not deteriorating and does not impact on his ability to do the job.

12. Biffy Dunderdale

I deeply disrespect Gordon Brown and the Left in general. However, this story is a non-story. It reflects poorly on anyone pushing it. Brown may be idiotic, deluded, psychologically flawed, vindictive, out of touch, wedded to a destructive ideology and ruthless but this spelling mistake was just that – a mistake. End of.

If the widow wants to take him to task about forcing soldiers to fight with hardly any equipment, then fine. She’d have my support. But this is wrong-headed, phoney and ultimately self-damaging.

‘It also helps develop a victim mentality which is needed to get the activists out and push back even harder. ‘

Yeah, just what we need. A victim mentality. That’ll rally the troops.

‘Using the new media to get to activists and control some of the message should be their main priority – not keeping The Sun on side.’

Or the could do something vaguely left-wing: repealing some of the authoritarian policies they’ve imposed over the last decade or so, for instance. Prosecute those who took us into an illegal war. Sack those who fiddled their expenses. You know, something of substance rather than rebranding the same shit they’ve been getting away with since 1997.

And the real story about the letter isn’t that Brown spells like a five year old but that New Labour sent soldiers to die in the first place.

If the widow wants to take him to task about forcing soldiers to fight with hardly any equipment, then fine. She’d have my support

It’d still be made-up emotive nonsense (the whole ‘not-enough-kit’ thing being engineered by army brass who want more money and toys, plus Tories using it as an excuse to bash Labour at any price), but at least it’d be vaguely on the level of decency.

And the real story about the letter isn’t that Brown spells like a five year old but that New Labour sent soldiers to die in the first place.

They’re *soldiers*. That’s *what they’re for*. If you don’t want to run the risk of dying in a war, then *don’t become a soldier*. This is pretty straightforward.

That’s your answer? Equipment is just ‘toys’ and soldiers there there to die because ‘that’s what they are for’?

“First pose yourself this question. Has railing against liberal media bias ever worked? Ever? The left used to rail against right wing talk show hosts and that didn’t work either, now did it?”

Tim – I’ve cited you some examples of it actually working.

And in fact it has worked in the States too – with WashPo and NYt recently saying they accepted they didn’t spend enough time listening to right-wing talking points (obv I disagree).

And here too, I’ve pointed out several examples where the BBC has subtly changed its stance in the face of right-wing criticism.

So yes, whinging works, which is why right-wingers continue to do it.

And the left should complain too, IMO. It works. In this case they should push back hard against the Sun,

They’re *soldiers*. That’s *what they’re for*. If you don’t want to run the risk of dying in a war, then *don’t become a soldier*. This is pretty straightforward.

I don’t know what party you back, but if you think talk like that will help Labour, I’d personally much rather you kept it to yourself.

16 – I think we’re looking at differing definitions of what works. If the aim of the ‘whinging’ is to get some publications/broadcasters to change some specific aspects of their reporting, then yes, that probably can work. What Finkelstein is saying (and that was a quotation!) is that it doesn’t work as a political tactic.

That’s why I mentioned 1992 – Labour were right that the media was hostile, and that it was a factor in their defeat. But whinging about that didn’t help. In 1997, when the Fink was a Tory strategist, complaining about the bumsucky media relationship with Tony Blair didn’t work either. Also, as I said above, I think this is the wrong story to fight back over anyway. The fundamentals of it are just too negative for Brown.

I’m more tolerant of political bias from a source that funds itself from its own efforts that one funded from a tax forced on the entire population (the BBC). Impartiality should begin with the organisation we are forced to pay for.

And as for john b’s comment “They’re *soldiers*. That’s *what they’re for*.”. That just shows what an utter piece of scum you are. I wonder how many other socialists share your view? More than a few I suspect

Tim J – “I am sorry that I spelt your son’s name wrong. It was an unforgivable thing to do and I apologise.”

When he said that he didn’t know it was going to end up in the Sun, had Gordon been more defensive the Sun would have just attacked from another angle.

I don’t buy the view that this is one we should move on from, it is a vicious and cruel behavoir by the Sun and they need to be condemned for it.

The Sun is a deserving target but a campaign is pointless. It changes nothing and just makes us look whiney.

Brown was quite happy to set loose his attack and smear “dogs” earlier this year in creating false and deeply hurtful allegations against his political opponents. He has brought himself into the sty and needs to shut up and handle it

@17, non-partisan, rationalist left. & I’m fully aware it won’t help any party, because People Are Sentimentalist Idiots, but that doesn’t stop it being true.

A soldier’s job is to kill the enemy while running the risk of being killed [*]. If it wasn’t, they wouldn’t be soldiers, they’d be policemen or aid workers, or whatever the hell else you think the army is for that isn’t killing the enemy while running the risk of being killed. So viewing it as a political scandal, rather than a sad-for-the-family but inevitable outcome, when soldiers get killed is completely ludicrous.

[*] well, really it’s to be bored for 99% of the time and kill and/or be killed for 1% of the time, in the same kind of way that an airline pilot’s job is structured. And not killing civilians whilst killing the enemy is pretty important for western armies these days. But you get the idea.

There is bias, and then there is being unfair and dishonest. The sun has a lengthy history of both.

Jeez, I didn’t expect pointing out *obviously true facts* [1] would create such a fuss; it’s like going to a Christian messageboard and talking about evolution…

[1] not ‘a view’. ‘a view’ would be ‘soldiers are paid to kill and to die, so we should have fewer of them and fewer wars’ or ‘soldiers are paid to kill and to die, and we need lots of them so we can win wars against people who would do far worse things’, or ‘soldiers are paid to kill and to die, so we should pay them well and appreciate the risks they run on our behalf’. Those are all views. The first half of the sentence is just a fact.

john b, as you are clearly so comfortable and confident in your views on soldiers why dont you publish your full name and I’ll ensure they get some more coverage

thanks

john b, as you are clearly so comfortable and confident in your views on soldiers why dont you publish your full name and I’ll ensure they get some more coverage

thanks

20 – He didn’t say that, and that’s the problem.

Ignoring the merits of this argument (and as I said above, I feel very sorry for Brown over this. He obviously didn’t intend any offence and he is obviously trying to make amends. Unfortunately, this episode also shows up all of his emotional intelligence flaws. I winced when I read his ‘I have acted at all times in good faith’ line – can’t he see just how bizarrely wooden that is?) this is about Labour trying to get through this episode as little damaged as possible. The best way to do that is to close this story down asap and move on.

If you really are spoiling for a fight with the Sun, do it over something that doesn’t remind everyone of a story where you look bad. Because fighting back over this story makes everyone go ‘what’s this about – oh yes, the PM getting that dead soldier’s name wrong in a letter to his mum.’ Whatever the rights and wrongs of the details of the story, that’s not a good line to hang it on.

@26, yeah, don’t bother engaging with the argument, just post threats. Classy. D’you want to explain why I’m wrong, or are you so riled precisely because you can’t?

Tim J, I don’t see how you can make an informed judgement on Brown’s ’emotional intelligence’ based upon media stories and TV appearances. It’s the sort of thing you’d only be able to know if you knew him personally. Make judgements on policy, not image.

john b

You totally disrespect the value of soldiers lives. Regardless of the worth of the causes we make them fight for, they have the courage to enter a profession knowing full well their lives may be at risk fighting on behalf of a government we elected. And your words imply their loss is their problem, their concern and not anyone else’s.

And as for you, you dont even have the courage to put your name against your statements.

@31 they freely choose to enter a profession where they have to kill or be killed according to the whims of the government. I don’t understand why I’m expected to respect that, any more than I respect Somali pirates (who are certainly courageous).

john b

So now you compare our fallen soldiers with Somali Pirates? Somali Pirates fight for cash and not to protect the society you live in (or indeed that anyone lives in).

Our soldiers enter a profession to fight on our society’s behalf. To fight even for the rights of immature and silly men like yourselves to say deeply stupid things without being locked up.

You are a gutless and stupid man. Why won’t you reveal your name?

30 – because if, when confronted with accusations of insensitivity and callousness when writing a condolence letter, your defence is that you ‘acted at all times in good faith’ you clearly have no idea how to communicate with people.

I’m not making any sort of medical diagnosis – merely pointing out that one of Brown’s biggest flaws is his failure to connect with people.

@32:

Absolutely nothing done by British soldiers since 1945 has had any impact whatsoever on my ability to say deeply stupid things without being locked up, or indeed of any benefit at all to anyone living in mainland Britain [*].

However, I’m deeply grateful to the soldiers who fought to protect our rights when this was last required, and would be first in the queue to sign up in the (admittedly unlikely) event that it were required again.

[*] Falkland Islanders and Ulster Protestants might feel differently.

#33

Whilst I too think John’s comment underestimated the value of soldiers’ lives (as well as making it seem like every soldier signs up to die when they start work, which they don’t), I wouldn’t bend over backwards to give my name to someone who was acting in such a threatening manner, either.

I’m finding myself agreeing with Tim J a lot in this thread, which is perhaps a little odd. Brown has very different strengths from most successful modern-day politicians, and media handling & personal communication are not amongst them. However, I do think he is a deeply honest person, and that the reason he wouldn’t put the story to bed by saying “I apologise” and hanging up is that he doesn’t think that is the whole story, and he wants to represent the issues faithfully (hence he finds himself in the position where at times in the transcript of the call, he is arguing about the facts even though he really doesn’t want to argue with a grieving mother).

(Now expect lots of comments picking me up on that and saying “no, liar mcbroon mcbottler is a lying liar”)

Andy Jarm is right.

How on earth would a soldier who signed up to the army after 2005 be able to predict we would be in a war in Iraq or Afghanistan at some point during their career. War was completely unforseeable in 2005.

And it is completely unreasonable to expect the armed forces to fight wars. It is not their purpose. Aren’t they there to provide cover for the firefighters if they strike and to give young men something to do?

Andy @ 33

“Our soldiers enter a profession to fight on our society’s behalf.”

Absolute bollocks. Young men join the army for lots of reasons, mainly for their own personal gain. There is nothing wrong with that, nor should they be castigated, or abused for that, but on the other hand, lets not pretend they have joined for some high and mighty principle. These guys earn far more in the infantry than anyone with similar qualifications could ever hope to in ‘Civy Street’ and often come from unemployment blackspots. The reasons behind this are for another discussion, but the idea that many of these guys turn down lucrative jobs to ‘serve our society’ is plainly wrong.

There are undoubtedly branches of the armed services where recruits do have significant options open to them, but the infantry? No, I don’t think so.

Tim J, Tim F and Sunny are making some good points, but dear God, some of the other stuff here…

Andy Jarm – I served in the army in Afghanistan last year and whilst I find John B’s views on the equipment shortage to be wrong and rather immaturely expressed, as a soldier I neither need nor appreciate the kind of verbal threats you are hurling at John. If you want to threaten someone, pal, try threatening me.

‘Shatterface’, for you to be expressing outrage- outrage, Sir- on behalf of soldiers is a quite hilarious piece of hypocrisy given that your libellous comment accusing me of condoning serious war crimes in Afghanistan was deleted by Sunny with the memorable words ‘you withdraw that or you shut the fuck up’. Again, I don’t know of a single soldier who needs the support of someone like you, so take your phoney indignation somewhere else.

John B, you have a right to say what you want, but casualty evacuation helicopters are not ‘toys’ to those of us who have had to use them, and it is time for you to grow up a little.

We had a good discussion of the military in the comments to Dave Osler’s recent post on Joe Glenton: people were polite and listened to each other even when they held differing views. If you lot want to show how much you care about the casualties in Afghanistan, you will kindly stop using them as rhetorical props in a blog flamewar.

@39, thanks for that.

On Afghanistan I’m aware the UK forces are short of evacuation helicopters in particular (for complex reasons to do with long lead-times and kit that didn’t work than penny pinching, and hence that it isn’t particularly fair to blame on the PM or even on his predecessor), and that this has led to some unnecessary troop deaths – although a long way from the majority in the conflict.

It was glib of me not to split that real point from the more general (and I’d argue more salient) issues that: everyone who has to do a job, of more or less any kind, would find it easier with more and better kit and will enthusiastically point that out to anyone who’ll listen; that any manager who gets items on their wishlist turned down will then blame anything that goes wrong on their absence; that public sector managers generally measure their importance by budget; and that in the case of military kit the newspapers have built mostly-fictional stories around the above since the Boer War at least.

40 – I’d argue that it was the ‘shortage of kit/gross political mismanagement’ story that started foreign reporting altogether. Read William Howard Russell for the Times in the Crimea.

‘Shatterface’, for you to be expressing outrage- outrage, Sir- on behalf of soldiers is a quite hilarious piece of hypocrisy given that your libellous comment accusing me of condoning serious war crimes in Afghanistan was deleted by Sunny with the memorable words ‘you withdraw that or you shut the fuck up’. Again, I don’t know of a single soldier who needs the support of someone like you, so take your phoney indignation somewhere else.’

I asked you a straight *question* to which you responded with legal threats.

And since it was a *question*, not a statement, it doesn’t qualify as ‘libellous’.

Unlike your bald statement that I had committed libel, which is, of course, libellous.

On the other hand since I don’t expect the State to fight my battles for me I’m not threatening to sue.

John, you really don’t know much at all about Afghanistan, defence procurement or the military.

The argument that ‘lead times’ have inhibited the purchase of Chinook helicopters for casevac is simply wrong, since there have been complaints of shortages for three years and it does not take three years to buy a damn helicopter and train up the aircrew. Perhaps the reference to ‘kit that didn’t work’ means the purchase of the ‘special forces’ Chinooks with faulty navigation equipment. If so, firstly that catastrophe is the direct responsibility of the MoD in the Blair government, which rendered the helicopters unusable by buying ‘cheaper’ cockpit software rather than the manufacturers’ equipment. Secondly, it does not constitute an adequate reason for not buying further Chinooks to use in a military campaign that has been going for over three years. If the ‘kit that didn’t work’ reference means the problem with Merlins, they won’t even be out there until (perhaps) 2011.

MoD rules quite rightly mean I can’t refer to the detail of my own experiences out there. But if you were a little less interested in proving yourself right about everything, you might just reflect that I can measure what the newspapers say about Afghanistan against the experiences that I and my friends had out there.

There was nothing mythical about the stories of equipment shortages in the Boer War or indeed the early years of the First and Second World Wars, and you will not find a reputable military historian who says otherwise. I’d recommend reading the Grey report into defence procurement were it not so likely that you’d pronounce yourself to know far more than the author.

As I say, you could seriously do with growing up, and a first step would be to acknowledge that you are not an expert on every subject known to man.

No, ‘Shatterface’, you did not ask a question but made a statement accusing me of supporting a particularly nasty crime: which Sunny deleted. I didn’t threaten libel because there was no need- Sunny could be trusted to take down such a ‘disgusting comment’ (in his words) without any threats.

Stop lying, stop whining, and above all stop posturing as the outraged defender of soldiers who neither need nor want your silly comments. Go and play your Playstation wargames instead, little boy.

To clear up any ambiguity in the comment above: I didn’t threaten a libel action, btw, though the comment was clearly libellous- as I say, Sunny (or Robert) are not the kind of people who would leave that kind of rubbish up anyway.

Off to watch ‘Citizen Kane’ on the big screen- have fun here.

@Dan:

My understanding of the helicopter question (because I researched this a while ago, because while I’m not an expert on every subject known to man I’m both good at, and diligent about researching the things that I talk about) is that:

1) all the British armed forces’ current helicopters that aren’t deployed in Afghanistan are unsuitable for use in Afghanistan (Pumas too puny, Sea Kings ancient and aquatic, Lynx not load carriers).

2) there aren’t any helicopters suitable to buy that could have been bought and delivered in the last 3 years that would be suitable for use in Afghanistan (Chinook line closed 5 years ago, and it’s taking Boeing 3 years to re-open the line for Canada’s recent order; Blackhawks too small and completely different from rest of UK fleet *and* the line closed 2 years ago).

…so the problem isn’t that there’s no will to solve the problem, it’s that there’s pretty much nothing to be done, especially if the long-term strategy isn’t “in 5 years time when our new helicopters arrive, we’ll still be in a situation where we need an enormous evacuation helicopter fleet in Afghanistan”.

Perhaps there are areas where I’m wrong on this that you can identify without breaking MOD rules?

On the more general point, “I’m right cos I was there, although I can’t say anything about why I’m right” isn’t an argument I can really engage with either way, so let’s leave it there. It’s possible that, unlike every other institution I’ve ever had any dealings with at all, the military is immune from griping about not having enough money for ‘would be nice’ rather than ‘is essential’ resources (/people/kit/whatever).

No, ‘Shatterface’, you did not ask a question but made a statement accusing me of supporting a particularly nasty crime: which Sunny deleted. I didn’t threaten libel because there was no need- Sunny could be trusted to take down such a ‘disgusting comment’ (in his words) without any threats.’

Well that’s two false statements in one paragraph.

The ‘statement’ was asking whether or not you had said something on an earlier thread (which is a question and was identified by this symbol ‘?’, which is known as a question mark or sometimes a query), and your threats to sue resulted in a long series of sarky exchanges between myself and another poster opposed to British libel laws, the last of which had the punchline ‘BarackRoomLawyer’ (all one word).

I remember it well since I have since registered that name elsewhere.

Oh and enjoy the movie.

(‘Rosebud’ is the sled he had as a kid.)

Sunny H – “The Sun has lost 35% of its circulation since 1997”.
Not too surprised since it has been pushing NuLabor down our throats for 12 years.

Labour both old and new do not have any knowledge or respect for 3 entities, the military, business, and democratic due diligence.
The vast majority of people I meet of all political persuasions ruefully admit that Brown’s government is the most incompetent in living memory.
This is a very big statement since the UK has not been blessed with a record of good government since WW11.
Also at least 10% openly state they will vote BNP. I wonder why?

‘Also at least 10% openly state they will vote BNP. I wonder why?’

No, they said they would *consider* voting BNP.

But yes, Sunny’s numbers rather undermine his argument.

Shatterface.
No I really meant that 10% of the people I meet state totally that they will vote for the BNP and this covers men and women.

Dan and John b.

I suspect the closest that either of you got to the military was watching Blackhawk Down at the Odeon. No soldier that I know, and I know a few, would waste time arguing over the finer details of equipment when someone else was comparing soldiers to Somali pirates and saying their death was what they joined up for.

I suspect the closest that either of you got to the military was watching Blackhawk Down at the Odeon.

Oh dear…

54. The Grim Reaper

I’m a right-of-centre libertarian myself, and I honestly think it’s time for the Left to step out of its default mode. Namely, of being relentlessly and permanently defensive of itself. The Left fights for a number of good values – equality between people, helping reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, and so on. All too often though, they have good intentions but very poor solutions for dealing with the issues of the day. The solutions which would have worked in the 1970s won’t work in this day and age – the world has changed since then, and the Left seems to have been left behind. Time to move into the 21st century…

As for The Sun newspaper, I suggest an alternative solution. How about the rest of the media grow some balls of their own instead? I notice that the Mail Online – which might usually lead on a story like this – is being extremely reticent and quiet about it. Unusual, to say the least. What the media needs to do is merely report it as a side-story, or ignore it altogether. Report on something else – and Lord only knows there are enough important news subjects to report on right now!

55. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

They wouldn’t have a leg to stand on for one simple reason.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-L6U0ZQE32E

Murdoch and NL have spent the last 12 years colluding to create fictitious narratives for the proles to lap up. If you believe for a second NL didn’t want the bnp lurking or that they didn’t want people believing that up is down on issues like crime and globalisation, I’ve got a lovely bridge you might be interested in.

I suspect the closest that either of you got to the military was watching Blackhawk Down at the Odeon

Oh dear. You, like shatterface, are going to face some serious arse-whooping unless you read Dan Hardie’s comments above properly.

Also at least 10% openly state they will vote BNP. I wonder why?

Yeah? And about double that would support the Green Party. So I’ll take their policies and ideas instead thanks.

Murdoch’s New York Post is so nice to work for. From Media matters.

The New York Post editor fired after speaking out against a cartoon depicting the author of the president’s stimulus package as a dead chimpanzee has sued the paper. And as part of her complaint, Sandra Guzman levels some remarkable, embarrassing, and potentially damaging allegations.

Guzman has filed a complaint against News Corporation, the New York Post and the paper’s editor in chief Col Allan in the Southern District Court of New York, alleging harassment as well as “unlawful employment practices and retaliation.”

As part of the 38-page complaint, Guzman paints the Post newsroom as a male-dominated frat house and Allan in particular as sexist, offensive and domineering. Guzman alleges that she and others were routinely subjugated to misogynistic behavior. She says that hiring practices at the paper — as well as her firing — were driven by racial prejudices rather than merit.

And she recounts the paper’s D.C. bureau chief stating that the publication’s goal was to “destroy [President] Barack Obama.”

“On one occasion when Ms. Guzman and three female employees of the Post were sharing drinks at an after-work function. Defendant Allan approached the group of women, pulled out his blackberry and asked them ‘What do you think of this?’ On his blackberry was a picture of a naked man lewdly and openly displaying his penis. When Ms. Guzman and the other female employees expressed their shock and disgust at being made to view the picture, Defendant Allan just smirked… [N]o investigation was ever conducted and the Company failed to take any steps to address her complaints.”

“On another occasion, upon information and belief, Defendant Allan approached a female employee during a party at the Post, rubbed his penis up against her and made sexually suggestive comments about her body, including her breasts, causing that female employee to feel extremely uncomfortable and fearing to be alone with him.”

Guzman alleges that while at the paper, misogynistic and racist behavior was directed at her specifically. According to the complaint, she was called “sexy” and “beautiful” and referred to as “Cha Cha #1” by Les Goodstein, the senior vice president of NewsCorp. After doing an interview with Major League Baseball star Pedro Martinez, she says Allan asked her whether the pitcher “had been carrying a gun or a machete during the interview” — a line Guzman said was racist and offensive.

“A White male senior editor sexually propositioned a young female Copy Assistant, telling her that ‘If you give me a blowjob, I will give you a permanent reporter job.'”

“The last five employees who were recently terminated by Paul Carlucci, the Publisher of the Post…. Have all been black and/or women of color.”

And this is the company that Murdoch Junior was telling us last month should replace the BBC as the worlds trusted news provider.

This Prime Minister is a backstabber and incompetent and as Cameron put it

anything this PM endorses falls apart finally.

And whether we like it or not – we live in a world where the PM matters and no matter how the fabian boy spin it this PM is incompetent.

59. Chris Baldwin

The witch hunt against Brown over this nothing matter is one of the most evil things I’ve ever seen the tabloids do. Words can’t express how much I despise The Sun.

What the Sun has done is disgusting and harping on one man’s disability is just sick and I wonder if they would react the same way if suddenly, god forbid, someone from the Murdoch clan became disabled.

Interesting points, perhaps.

But I’m tired of reading yet another recommendation to look at what Obama/the Dems are doing, because a) vastly different political culture in the US and b) you are guilty of wishful thinking if you think that Brown can successfully ape any of Obama’s methods – Brown is simply not a very competent communicator.

The media attacks against Brown are cruel and will be never-ending until he is out of office. However, whatever sympathy Brown has got over this is very temporary, especially since there is a widespread perception that Brown, particularly while he was Chancellor, was not a good friend to the armed forces.

I’ll be surprised if The Sun actually aimed to score obvious points against Brown with such stories; instead I think they are trying to turn down the political temperature for Brown even further than it already is – there’s already quite a whiff of the inevitable decline of Major around Brown, The Sun’s trying to make it inevitable, rather than force an immediate departure.

I’ll hold my hands up – I’m not an optimist, but then I don’t want Brown to win, I’d just rather not see the Tories get in. I don’t think there’s any cause for optimism because this controversy is just yet another example of how Brown can never win a general election. During his honeymoon period his ratings were average, then they settled at lukewarm at best, now they are…well, abysmal.

@56 learn to read. The pirates analogy was very clearly just pointing out that bravery isn’t in itself good, in response to Andy’s assertion that it was; if you’d’ve punched me for that, that merely proves you’re an ignorant twat (Somali pirates are brave. They’re also murderous and wrong. British troops are also brave. They’re not murderous and wrong. Hence, respecting British troops is justifiable, but not on the sole grounds of their bravery).

On your first point, which at least has some of the trappings of a point – GWB was popular among US troops for many years. This merely proves that, just as for people in general, soldiers aren’t necessarily perfect judges of who’s doing right by them and who’s screwing them over…

Idiot troll “I’ll be surprised if The Sun actually aimed to score obvious points against Brown with such stories; ”

My gawd, you must be a complete twat if you believe that.

And as for all this ‘friend of the armed forces’ bullshit, The Sun is the least of the friends of the armed forces because they are the biggest supporters of sending the troops off to die in the neo con colonial wars.

The truth is that the vast majority of the military are tories, particularly at officer level as been shown by all the old farts lining up to tell us how tory they all are, and how much they love Call me Dave., and they don’t like Labour Govts. It is therefore very unwise for Labour Govts to send troops off to war unless really, really necessary because the international right wing always criticises the actions of left leaning govts at war.

The Republicans never stopped attacking FDR during the second world war ,and they did the same during Vietnam, even negotiating behind The Dem presidents back with the then communist leaders urging them to not sign up to a deal because they would offer them a better one when Nixon was elected in 1968. If a Left wing opposition did this it would be called treason , but is ok as long as you are a Conservative.

The kind of open defiance we have seen from the military would never happen under a tory govt and any officer who did speak out would be castigated by the right wing press for doing so.

sally,

My point was that even The Sun wouldn’t be surprised to discover that one story by itself would probably prove insufficient to bring about Brown’s resignation – The Sun’s game is to chip away constantly at Brown until he’s out. Perhaps I should have rephrased my point “I’d be surprised if The Sun actually thought that this one story by itself would achieve it’s aims in campaigning against Brown”, simply because this will be one of many anti-Brown stories between now and the election. Happy?

As for ‘friend of the armed forces’, did I even suggest that The Sun was a genuine friend to the armed forces?

My point was that there is a widespread public perception that this govt has been a bit slow in providing for our armed forces. Look, you may not like it that many people, including non-Sun readers, think that, but if you don’t deal with that then you are just sticking your head in the sand.

“It is therefore very unwise for Labour Govts to send troops off to war unless really, really necessary because the international right wing always criticises the actions of left leaning govts at war”…er, I think the actual danger is sending troops off to war without adequately resourcing them. Not been watching the news?!

That the military would tend to be right wing is stating the bleeding obvious. But as for open defiance, you insinuate that the military make a habit of this with Labour govts – please tell give me an instance of when this last happened or are you just speaking solely in terms of the present Labour govt?!

Sally

Where did you see the open defiance from the armed forces except for Gen. Guthrie.

Bringing armed forces into politics is usually not a good idea and you seem to have no problems playing politics with it. So, is the party more important than the country and its responsibility towards the world?

But coherence and loony left usually live in two different worlds and its no exception on liberal conspiracy. This armed forces fought well without complaints under Blair and decent defence secretaries but they despise Brown and his acolytes and rightly so. But they serve his commands none the less.

How could anyone defend Brown and his handling of armed forces especially after the territorial army fiasco. And the defence secretary fell on his sword to save the GREAT LEADER who did not have the balls to challenge Blair for leadership or go and win a fucking election.

Sad aren’t you?

The loony left and their ideologies are the reason why labour would lose this election along with the control freak, backstabbing incompetent leader Gordon Brown and his acolyte in chief the fabian poster boy – Ed Balls.

Checked out the Ofsted Stories — I guess even social workers are against Brown’s government.

The idiotic nature of the loony left is killing the left in terms of achieving anything real.

Grow up – politics is about persuading and winning arguments. Left has done a lot in the past decade and a half on both sides of the Atlantic – so much so that we do not find it surprising when a Tory leader talks about compassion and society in a tory conference. But obviously loony left would not be persuaded unless the centre left is forced out of power do that the centre right can take over. What the hell is wrong with people?

When it comes to defence, the best Secretary of Defence considered by many , including the military, was Dennis Healey. During the Indonesian conflict, Healey refused to allow the use of the RAF to bomb the Indonesians.
Healey puts his expertise down to having served in WW2 and spent 6 years as the Secretary of Defence. As he said ” I spent , the first two years making mistakes, the next two years correcting the mistakes and the last two being effective.”

Roy Mason was also very effective in N.Ireland . Martin McGuiness is quoted as saying “Mason kicked the f…… shit out of us”. Callaghan and D Owen was also highly respected by the military. The problem for Labour is that they have no MPs who were former NCOs who can bring some practical experience to the issues of conflict. The rapid turnover over of ministers cannot be helpful.

Part of the problem arises with the Tories post, 1992. Many experienced NCOs and officers left the military in the mid 90s. In the mid 90s, a Guards and Special forces officer told me he considerd that the Guards did not have sufficient ammunition to maintain adequate levels of marksmanship and he dreaded to think about the standards in the gunners and engineers; a major reason why he left the army.

There also apears to have been a complete loss of expertise by governments gained in 1979-89 in Afghanistan by the FCO, intelligence and special forces community. We only seem to be realising now part of the problem is the ethnic make up of Afghanistan.

Perhaps it is time that we expected the Secretaries of Defence and Foreign Affairs to remain in post for at least 4 years. Part of the problem is that the Labour cabinet does not include people with practical experience. If it included engineers with background in mining, construction or the oil industry they would appreciate the importance of obtaining the correct equipment. Equipment which may suitable in temperate climes would not necessarily be adequate for a desert in summer or an Artic winter. No company would tolerate waiting 3 years for a piece of equipment to get an oil field or mine fully operational. Look at the effort shown in the TV series ” Ice Road Truckers ” when they have to supply a mine in the Canadian Arctic.

Brown and his circle do not appreciate the technical problems in Afghanistan, do not listen to the people with the expertise and are incapable of making the decisions in the time required. As Wellington said after Waterloo, ” It was close run thing”. If Blucher had turned up a few hours later, Napoleon may have won.

you are guilty of wishful thinking if you think that Brown can successfully ape any of Obama’s methods – Brown is simply not a very competent communicator.

I’m not saying Brown is a good communicator at all. I’ve said repeatedly in the past that he’s terrible.

However I am saying the left and the Labour party need to drop the thinking that they need to get the likes of the Sun on side.

It’s amusing to see Guido Fawkes today desperately trying to push back against this and defend the Sun. What a twat.

http://order-order.com/2009/11/10/labour-looks-in-the-mirror-and-knows-it-has-lost/

@ Sunny,

Fair enough, I agree – Labour may not be in such a mess if it wasn’t for them making decisions in the past on the basis of what would have gone down well with the Sun.

“Also at least 10% openly state they will vote BNP. I wonder why?”

Yeah? And about double that would support the Green Party. So I’ll take their policies and ideas instead thanks.

I would estimate that the BNP will increase its % vote more than the Greens in the next general election. It is also probable that they will also increase it more than the LibDems. All from a lower base, but still relevant to Britain’s recapture of its 1970’s title as “the sick (and also poor) man of Europe”.

I am apolitical, but after living and working in 21 countries, I still love my country.
I also believe ALL the political parties are crap and by taking the best of Westminster we would still find it difficult to find a competent government.
But this government tops the slagheap. As in 1996 I believe any person who loves this country would want this government out.
Unfortunately the party system tends to support a totally blinkered percentage of the population to the party cause, who ignore their parties’ obvious (to thinking people) faults and incompetencies.

On the debate about soldiers: the only situation I could ever envisage myself serving in the armed forces would be if our nation was actually under threat from a foreign army. I could never serve in the armed forces otherwise for the following reason: the British political establishment (or that of pretty much any other nation as far as I can see) cannot be trusted to direct our armed forces in line with basic human decency, simple moral principles and in line with international law.

I could not sign up to serve in an organisation with the knowledge that part of my duty would be to go away and kill people in foreign lands to secure the strategic aims of the state.

I would go so far as to say that given the actual political situation, it is wrong to join the armed forces.

Another idiot troll “Bringing armed forces into politics is usually not a good idea and you seem to have no problems playing politics with it. ”

This is classic tory tactics. Politicize the armed forces by attacking the govt for its handling of the war and then when Labour supporters fight back claim they are being political.

The tories have supposedly supported the Iraq war during the Blair govt. Although you would never have known it because they have constantly carped and criticized from their armchairs when they know full well that the whole thing was being run from Washington. but funnily enough they never critized the Republicans who where running the war (funny that?)

But as usual with the hypocrite tories, it is only ever the left that politicize anything. Of course the Right do it all the time but they just never admit it.

Andy Jarm, try to read this: I served as a soldier in Afghanistan last year, and am likely to go out again. So when I hear you say that the closest I came to war was watching a movie: fuck you, you shitty little coward.

I was nearly getting blown up outside Gereshk last September while you were watching TV. Don’t issue any more threats to John B. You and the almost equally disgusting ‘Shatterface’ can end your self-appointed status as defenders of the British Army now. As a soldier, I don’t want the support of pricks like you.

JohnB – re the helicopters:

‘2) there aren’t any helicopters suitable to buy that could have been bought and delivered in the last 3 years that would be suitable for use in Afghanistan (Chinook line closed 5 years ago, and it’s taking Boeing 3 years to re-open the line for Canada’s recent order; Blackhawks too small and completely different from rest of UK fleet *and* the line closed 2 years ago).’

Blackhawks aren’t too small for casevac and are in fact being used right now for that purpose by the US Air Force. As you would know if you either did some online research or, erm, spoke to someone who’d been out there, under the current system Chinooks and Blackhawks are both used for casevac duties. British and US medical teams fly in Chinooks; smaller US pararescue teams use Blackhawks. The Joint Operations Centre in Bastion will send Blackhawks out for casevac missions ahead of Chinooks if, for example, the designated Landing Zone is too small to take a Chinook or if there are believed to be land mines nearby, as is the case in much of Afghanistan. (The down draught from Chinooks can set mines off: this killed two soldiers in 3 Para’s tour in 2006).

As the above ought to show you: does it not give you at least some pause for thought that you are arguing about casualty evacuation in Afghanistan with someone who was *a medic involved in evacuating casualties in Afghanistan*? Is there not a slim chance that I know what I’m talking about here?

It seems to me that the Uk should no longer get involved in these American adventures because the modern British army is no longer capable of dealing with the losses it takes.

I never thought I would see the day when so many soldiers and families were complaining about being sent to war. What do they think they get paid for? If they don’t want to go of to war, don’t join up. I for one would not blame you one bit because it is quite obvious that you will be fighting on behalf of Anglo American oil companies and the Neo con agenda.

But to listen to all the generals and other members of the armed forces complain on a daily basis, the Taliban must be delighted. A few more hits and we will be out.

Whichever rightwing humourist writes the ‘Sally’ parodies has my admiration. Is it Tim Worstall?

Sally,

*Another idiot troll*: “never thought I would see the day when so many soldiers and families were complaining about being sent to war”

That felt good!

Okay, ‘Shatterface’, the only remaining question is whether you are a liar or a delusional sort who actually believes his lies.

You say:
‘’The ’statement’ was asking whether or not you had said something on an earlier thread (which is a question and was identified by this symbol ‘?’, which is known as a question mark or sometimes a query)….’
Er, no. Your libellous statement was that I had said a particularly vicious crime wasn’t a big deal if soldiers had done it. Sunny removed your comment with the following! words: ‘IF you’re going to say someone condoned rape, when it’s based on a bunch of bullshit – then you either retract or you shut the fuck up. It’s really that simple. I don’t give a fuck whether you like the army or not…That despicable comment has been deleted.’

But maybe both Sunny and I are telling fibs, eh?

Alas, ‘Shatterface’, you yourself said! ‘I retract my accusation that Dan condoned… ’.

You admitted then that you made an accusation, and now you lie about it. Okay, liar.

You continue: ‘your threats to sue resulted in a long series of sarky exchanges between myself and another poster opposed to British libel laws, the last of which had the punchline ‘BarackRoomLawyer’ (all one word).

I actually said! ‘Sunny, thank you for getting rid of the libellous comment by Shatterface. If the same comment had been made about someone hostile to Liberal Conspiracy, then it’s quite likely that he might have sued for libel, and unfortunately in this case there would not have been a defence.’

No threats there. Sunny can confirm that in my private emails with him I at no point threatened to sue Lib Con for libel.

So the minor point is that you’re a liar.

The more important point is that British casualties in Afghanistan are real people, not little rhetorical straw men to be trotted out by a disgusting individual like you, who in other threads is quite happy to insult soldiers. Every time you do that, ‘Shatterface’, it’s going to be another little episode of humiliation for you.

Sally –

If I am Tory then I guess labour is doomed. I have voted labour since I have been 18, did doorsteps for them and have actually campaigned and been involved in campaigns for left parties pretty much since my Uni days. In more than one country —

But I am no loony left like you – This Prime Minister and his government is a tragedy. You really think we are in Afghanistan just because of America. Sound like the Germans and The French.

And he backstabbed Blair who i reckon was one of the better Prime Ministers since the 1950s

I wonder who the real idiot is here


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    Why New Labour should pick a fight with The Sun – my article today – http://bit.ly/3GDvtQ

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    Why Labour should pick a fight with the Sun – Labour List http://bit.ly/2o2YuT

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    I'm wholly in favour of Labour party gunning for the Sun and giving the BBC a kicking while at it: http://bit.ly/1wYvSl

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    @krishgm looks like Mandelson has been reading my articles: http://bit.ly/1wYvSl

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