The fallout from phone-hacking should also tackle media bias


1:30 pm - July 14th 2011

by Sue Marsh    


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There could have been no more astonishing conclusion than 6 UK political parties coming together unanimously in parliament to oppose the BSKYB bid and call for a full, judge-led enquiry. It was a mannerly affair, a consensual, constructive debate.

Nonetheless, just how far do politicians want this enquiry to go? Just how much power do they want the media to lose and by proxy, how much power are they prepared to see slip away themselves? Are they really ready to give up on the symbiotic relationship that has served them or destroyed them?

Are they really united in their desire to root out corruption and bias wherever it was allowed to multiply? I suggest from the reaction to Gordon Brown’s speech in Parliament yesterday that they are not.

I’ve read the transcript of Brown’s speech very carefully – several times over. He maintains that he has evidence to back up all of his claims – the problem is they were claims that went to the very heart of government – both his and our current coalition. It was uncomfortable evidence that suggests successive governments have been all but blackmailed by the press in order to push certain policy agendas in exchange for favour.

Anyone who finds this surprising or shocking must live in a different world to me. Anyone fighting any kind of injustice in society, probably has their own views on the influence of the media, but overwhelmingly we speak of “policy designed for the Daily Mail” and “Murdoch’s smear campaigns.”

If the Tory MPs screaming so distastefully at an ex-prime minister yesterday don’t think that the judicial review needs to look into these issues, then I doubt their commitment to really addressing alleged media corruption.

I’ve never understood why we allow our print media to support a particular political viewpoint. Why is it that just before an election, our media line up in their separate camps and decide to tell us who to vote for? If there is a point of law I’m unaware of, perhaps someone will enlighten me, but just how is it in the public interest to seek to influence the outcome of general elections? Why do we need them to tell us what to do?

An even more uncomfortable truth – and the truth that I believe Tory MPs found so unpalatable yesterday – is that our press, allowed to favour or destroy – are overwhelmingly right wing. It will always suit the right to have a “cosy” relationship with the press, who, largely share their agenda. It will never, ever be “cosy” for those on the left.

Oh my! But this is not popular at all! This is “partisan” this is just “sour grapes” from a tribal leftie. If there is a bias in our press, then we are to battle it selflessly, accept the will of a “free” market. Convenient isn’t it when you stand to benefit from that very bias!

If I had any say over this enquiry, I would be asking for political bias to be considered. I would ask if it were possible to stop our media from “choosing sides” in a general election and wondering if the same standards could be applied to print journalism as are applied to television journalism.

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About the author
Sue is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. She blogs on Diary of a Benefits Scounger and tweets from here.
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Reader comments


FFS. Every time I’ve debated this on the Right, I’ve had to wade through nonsense about “this is just a smoke screen for you to censor the right iwng press because you don’t agree with them” (which is nonsense – I believe passionately in a partisan press, and am suspicious of any claim of journalistic objectivity).

“OK” they concede, “but most of the left-wing Guardian-reading types would love to see the papers legally blocked from supporting whoever they like”

“No, that’s not true” I insist. I tend to believe that , for the most part, and contrary to RW stereotypes, the left broadly supports freedom of expression to the same degree as the Right.

This article is going to get rubbed in my face time and again.

From the article: “I’ve never understood how we allow our print media to support a particular political viewpoint”

That one sentence is everything that is wrong with a certain section of the Left. It is not for you or I or us to “allow” journalists or press barons to support a particular viewpoint, and the starting presumption that it is does more harm to the reputation of the left than the Murdoch press ever will.

I believe that a free press is vital.

I believe that freedom of speech is vital.

I don’t believe that they should be allowed to bug, bribe, coerce, blackmail, and lie.

But they should absolutely be allowed to state their opinions.

I think this should be extended to bloggers. I have detected a political bias in this blog. It should be taken down immediately.

“I’ve never understood why we allow our print media to support a particular political viewpoint.”

It’s called “free speech”. Along with the other two, the rule of law and freedom of association, a vital and essential part of a free society.

Not actually possible to have a free society without it (or them).

You don’t get to decide what I think, what I say, what I write down, how many copies I print of what I’ve written nor who I distribute those to whether for money or not.

A different business model might bring with it different editorial lines, but at the moment the focus is all on how we restrict the activities of those with the existing mega-owner buisness model.

Newspapers can be profitable. Local and regional papers can run at up to 40% profit but it is then creamed off for dividends. A more editorially balanced future lies, I suspect in journos and others setting up social enterprise/co-op models for their papers. I’ve written up this stuff at http://thoughcowardsflinch.com/2011/07/11/professional-pride-rh-tawney-and-the-future-of-the-media-a-reply-to-reuben-john-sunder-and-donnacha/ (though I have other stuff, more detailed, behind.

I’ve never understood why we allow our print media to support a particular political viewpoint.

Um… seriously?

@1

The argument is a perfectly simple one, and it is this: there is no reason – at least none grounded in liberal, democratic principle – why sheer wealth should allow a person or corporation the opportunity to purchase a megaphone and drown out the voices of millions in the national conversation.

Wealth does not grant one the democratic right to extraordinary powers to shape and direct national discourse, to the point where one is able to intimidate elected politicians. That is fundamentally undemocratic, or rather, anti-democratic.

Now, you will never be able to explain these straightforward points to many rightwingers, who have convinced themselves that massive disparities in wealth and power are perfectly compatible with democracy.

However, it is not these religious fanatics that you have to convince, but the relatively apolitical majority. These arguments will resonate with their basic sense of fairness and equality, and accord with the very dim view that most of them have of the tabloid press, as polls show.

It is not Sue’s job, or the job of anyone else on the left, to make you look good in front of whatever right-wing headbangers you choose to get into arguments with. The left does not have to justify itself to their half-witted prejudices.

@ 3 Rosie

I agree entirely…I think LC should set the example…and take itself down immediately.

I’ve never understood why we allow our print media to support a particular political viewpoint.

Um, freedom of speech?

@ 7 David Wearing

So, you’d happily stop all the right wing press from airing their views.

Does that also mean you would ban the BBC, Guardian and Indy? or are there views somehow OK, whilst the newspapers you disagree with are not?

There’s several words for that…hypocritical….totalitarian but a couple.

“I’ve never understood why we allow our print media to support a particular political viewpoint. Why is it that just before an election, our media line up in their separate camps and decide to tell us who to vote for? If there is a point of law I’m unaware of, perhaps someone will enlighten me, but just how is it in the public interest to seek to influence the outcome of general elections? Why do we need them to tell us what to do?”

Sue, I think you’re on dangerous ground here. We allow our print media to support a particular political viewpoint for the same reason that we allow blogs like this one, or your own blog, to support a particular political viewpoint; it’s a free country in which people have a right to express and disseminate their opinions.

When the next election rolls around, won’t *you* be trying to influence its outcome by writing and disseminating opinion pieces expressing a particular political viewpoint? I’d be surprised and disappointed if you didn’t. Don’t you very often ‘tell people what to do’ in calling on them to take action in support of a particular campaign? Yes, you do – and rightly so. Would you refuse, on principle, to publish one of your opinion pieces in a widely-circulated newspaper rather than on a (relatively) little-read blog? Surely not.

Of course you’re absolutely right that this freedom tends to favour the Right, because the wealthy and powerful individuals who are best placed to publish mass-circulation newspapers tend to be right-wingers. But I don’t see any way around that. If it’s OK for Liberal Conspiracy to publish the political views of Sue Marsh, then it’s OK for the Daily Mail to publish the political views of Richard Littlejohn.

From the article: “I’ve never understood how we allow our print media to support a particular political viewpoint”

As others have said – freedom of speech.

If it’s OK for the Socialist Worker, then it should be OK for the Daily Mail.

Before you query it, the reason that the broadcast media is held to tighter regulations is because there is a limit on broadcast spectrum and it’s allocation is indirectly controlled by the government, so it is important to ensure the spectrum is used in a politically neutral manner.

There is however no theoretical limit as to how many newspapers, magazines and websites can publish news – so no need to control their media biases.

@7: Good points, but I honestly can’t see how any such policy could be policed and enforced without undermining the principle of free speech.

It cannot be the role of government or the law to correct bias, except where it crosses over into outright dishonesty. (When it does, it should be punished – all too frequently, papers have got away with baldfaced lies, and this cannot be allowed to continue.)

I suspect that @5 is right, and different business models will do more to correct bias than any intervention by authority. So too will the increasing competition from new media, which is slowly killing the dead tree press anyway.

Wealth does not grant one the democratic right to extraordinary powers to shape and direct national discourse, to the point where one is able to intimidate elected politicians. That is fundamentally undemocratic, or rather, anti-democratic.

I’m inclined to agree with this in the sense that, if the size of a media organisation leads to undue influence on politicians, there should perhaps be a limit on the size of a media organisation to mitigate that risk.

But I sense that some people would not be happy unless there were no ‘right-wing’ newspapers of note at all.

@10

We have a system in place to ensure a degree of balance in the broadcast media. And this allows for a decent amount of lively debate between a range of different views, on Newsnight and Question Time, for example.

So why shouldn’t some thought be given to how a similar system might be brought to bear on the print media?

@10: @7 is misguided, but don’t misrepresent him – he’s quite clearly against ANY political endorsements by the press, so that would include the Guardian and Indy as well as the RW press.

But then, including the BBC on your list of lefty organisations shows that you’re out of your tree.

@15 – “And this allows for a decent amount of lively debate between a range of different views, on Newsnight and Question Time, for example.”

Christ on a bike, what version of those shows are you watching? QT in particular vomits up the most inane establishment drivel in the universe!

“I would ask if it were possible to stop our media from “choosing sides” in a general election…”

Er… no, no it isn’t. Stopping the media “choosing sides” is itself choosing a side.

“I’ve never understood why we allow our print media to support a particular political viewpoint.”

And, with this single sentence, this website changes from “Liberal Conspiracy” to “A Conspiracy Against Liberalism”.

19. Northern Worker

*The fallout from phone-hacking should also tackle media bias.*

So we stiffle free speech just because we don’t like someone else’s views? So we have MPs running the IPCC and censoring anything they don’t like? So we censor the BBC and Guardian for being left wing lovies? Or the Express or Telegraph for being right wing?

I don’t think so. It is an essential part of our culture that we allow people to have varying views – and that includes the media. People are not stupid; they can decipher the hidden agendas.

Frankly I’m getting terribly bored with all the hand-wringing and interviews with talking-heads on the TV news right now. None of this stuff is important compared to what else is going on: MPs voting to give nine billion of our money to the IMF, the government’s totally stupid energy policy (which will see millions reduced to poverty or freeze to death) and the ‘More Europe is the answer’ policies of Brussels to cover up the incompetence of the euro. It’s almost as if MPs want this distraction to tame the hostile press and gloss over the fact that it takes two to tango.

20. Richard P

“Tory MPs screaming so distastefully at an ex-prime minister”

I don’t think we want to get ourselves into an American-style position where we feel that current or former presidents or prime ministers deserve so much greater respect than politicians in general. It is no more or less distasteful for MPs to scream at an ex-prime minister than at any other fellow member of Parliament.

We have a system in place to ensure a degree of balance in the broadcast media. And this allows for a decent amount of lively debate between a range of different views, on Newsnight and Question Time, for example.

So why shouldn’t some thought be given to how a similar system might be brought to bear on the print media?

Because the idea of balance on Newsnight and Question Time is getting one person in per side regardless of the level of support for the side, which is bollocks, frankly, but it’s probably the least worse system.

And because people hand over their own money for the newspaper they prefer to read. Why should 2.6m readers of the News of the World have to put up with opinions you can find in the Observer, read by 300k?

22. Chaise Guevara

“Why do we need them to tell us what to do?”

Um, speak for yourself. And more importantly, stop acting as if other people’s freedom of expression (“telling you what to do” as you inaccurately put it) is somehow an infringement of your rights.

Lol, checkmate, I believe.

Surely if you believe this, then you should be leading by example as any brave free-thinker would. Start with the Guardian, Independent and Mirror, then you can push the others (start with the Star, it’s probably easier) to conform. After all, if you believe in something, you should ensure that you are clean first.

Because the idea of balance on Newsnight and Question Time is getting one person in per side regardless of the level of support for the side, which is bollocks, frankly, but it’s probably the least worse system

I agree with that. I’d also suggest that if you removed from billionaires and corporations the ability to buy up and dominate the national press with their own agenda, then the landscape of opinion which the BBC, ITN etc would have to reflect would start to look a little different

And because people hand over their own money for the newspaper they prefer to read. Why should 2.6m readers of the News of the World have to put up with opinions you can find in the Observer, read by 300k?

Yes, and the Today programme on Radio 4 gets 10 million listeners. BBC’s News At Ten gets 5 million. Polls show trust in broadcast news to be reasonably good, while its rock bottom for the tabloids.

I mean if you’re interested in what the public wants then you’d acknowledge that they consume far more of their news from independently regulated media, and trust it far more as well.

btw., I love this idea that the tabloids are vindicated by their readership figures. 80% of the adult population don’t buy them, and polls show that comparable majorities take a very dim view of the tabloids indeed. See the latest from YouGov. The gutter press fares well compared to other newspapers, but that does’t tell us very much about how they’re viewed by the public as a whole. They’re still very much a minority taste

Don’t silence this blog just because it has a political bias!

Watching LC shoot itself in the foot is priceless.

I quite like how many people like to give webtraffic to libcon in order to bash it.

!

I suspect my understanding of bias is different from Sue’s, or any other commentators’, so how would anyone suggest ensuring that the conformity that would be enforced does not turn out to be merely a personal view rather than true lack of bias.

After all, we can normally argue about which facts are relevant in a particular case, so to avoid any bias, all papers could do is print established facts (and all of them) – this would rule out most history (open to interpretation), wire reports (could easily be biased) and possibly even government statistics (since one side or the other doesn’t trust them).

I presume the crossword would survive, along with the football scores and perhaps election results. Everything else is probably biased to someone, somewhere.

I think you all miss my point.

Are all those who write for the Times right wing? Do they only employ Tories? Of course not! Yet as election time rolls round, the “paper” backs one party or another. How is that “free speech”? How does that allow the individual journalist to cover the news objectively?

No, that is someone’s boss telling them what to write for a few months to influence an election, then, normal service resumes!!

I would NEVER for one minute silence what a particular journalist wants to write or indeed stop papers from putting a slant on things, but supporting a political party? Telling people how to vote? Why? I still don’t get why you all think that’s acceptable.

Here’s an example. Just before the election, on a “quiet” news weekend, the right wing press decided to regurgitate a year old story of a serviceman receiving the Victoria Cross refusing to shake Gordon Brown’s hand. They reported it as though it had only happened that weekend. Having an opinion is one thing, using fair means or foul to support that opinion is corrupt.

btw., I love this idea that the tabloids are vindicated by their readership figures. 80% of the adult population don’t buy them, and polls show that comparable majorities take a very dim view of the tabloids indeed. See the latest from YouGov. The gutter press fares well compared to other newspapers, but that does’t tell us very much about how they’re viewed by the public as a whole. They’re still very much a minority taste

A “minority taste” that shared by 2.7m people in the case of the Sun, 1.2m in the case of the Daily Mirror, 2m in the case of the Daily Mail. I’m not saying those figures “vindicate” those papers. I’m asking, why should a third party have a say in what should be in those papers?

Are all those who write for the Times right wing? Do they only employ Tories? Of course not! Yet as election time rolls round, the “paper” backs one party or another. How is that “free speech”? How does that allow the individual journalist to cover the news objectively?

I’m not sure you understand quite how a newspaper works. The overall editorial stance of a newspaper can be very different to the opinions of its columnists – read Mary Riddell in the Telegraph, or David Aaronavitch in the Times by way of example. The existence of an editorial view hardly blocks objectivity in reporting.

I’ve caught up with all the comments now. Did most of you really read this to mean that the Mail and Sun should be banned?

Of course you didn’t. Of course none of you thought that was what I meant. The level of outrage and spluttering does make me wonder though.

If a rich man can buy a newspaper to push his own agenda do you not think he will? why are people so worried about limiting that? No-one’s suggesting the journalists should be restricted, just the power of a corrupt handful to influence opinion, possibly only within a certain timescale of an election. Hardly Korean.

The comments largely just confirm what I wrote in my article “God forbid the tabloids should be treated like the television media” etc etc “It could never work without stopping free speech”

Well that’s OK then, we’ll just carry on as we are. But those wanting things to stay the same are simply enforcing a bias that on the whole suits them.

If you doubt me, imagine the bias was in Labour’s favour and tell me Conservatives would not be spitting with white fury, totally convinced that the system was unfair.

As for those who claim Newsnight or Ch4News are “leftie” just confirms everything I said even more. Our press is so right wing, even a balanced programme offends

Just out of interest, Sue, how would you measure objectivity or balance in a newspaper?

If you doubt me, imagine the bias was in Labour’s favour and tell me Conservatives would not be spitting with white fury, totally convinced that the system was unfair.

In 2001, the only newspapers to endorse the Tories were the Mail and the Telegraph. Every other paper, from the Sunday Times to the Daily Express, endorsed Labour. I don’t remember the Tories calling for the law to be changed.

35. Chaise Guevara

@ Sue Marsh

“I would NEVER for one minute silence what a particular journalist wants to write or indeed stop papers from putting a slant on things, but supporting a political party? Telling people how to vote? Why? I still don’t get why you all think that’s acceptable. ”

You appear to have changed your mind mid-paragraph. If you would prevent papers from supporting a party, then the first part of the above is simply untrue. If you consider that papers supporting a particular party is “unacceptable” but would not prevent them from doing so, what is it you’re actually demanding?

Oh, and can you please stop with this “telling us how to vote” nonsense? Other people have opinions and are entitled to disseminate them. That is not the same thing as ordering you about. I know “Vote Tory” is in the imperative tense, but it hardly counts as an order when they’ve got no way of making you comply.

36. Chaise Guevara

@ 32 Sue

“I’ve caught up with all the comments now. Did most of you really read this to mean that the Mail and Sun should be banned?

Of course you didn’t. Of course none of you thought that was what I meant. ”

In the OP, you wrote: “I’ve never understood why we allow our print media to support a particular political viewpoint.” It’s hard to interpret that as anything other than a demand that newspapers be forced, by law, to stick to strictly neutral journalism.

Tim J – I probably don’t understand well. However, I did used to love getting the Times on a Saturday. I found it balanced, interesting, well reported and generally exemplary. I loved the magazine too. I read Matthew Parris as avidly as I did Bob Crampton.

A few months before the election, after Murdoch endorsed the Tories it all changed. Starting with a vacuous double page spread on SamCam it went downhill from there. Journalists I’d previously enjoyed and respected changed tone totally. Articles suddenly carried a heavy bias, and yet another “bastion of free speech” became a Murdoch poodle.

Why is that OK, I still don’t understand?

Chaise – But that’s not banning them is it?

Oh come on Tim, that was one election!!! Over what? 300 years?

Chaise – I don’t know which paper you take, but if it’s the Sun, Mirror or News of the World I think you’ll find that the “endorsement” come election time does have a very considerable effect. It is of course in your interest to deny that, but as someone who canvasses, I play a little game sometimes “Guess the paper by the comments on the doorstep” Rarely get one wrong.

So to be clear, all I’m talking about is papers significantly changing their editorial stance at election time to “back” a particular political party en masse. Also going to PMs with “shopping lists” they expect to be filled to win favour.

Anyone disagreeing with either of those points is surely the one restricting true freedom of speech?

Sue,

You are simply suggesting that newspapers are not allowed to offer endorsements to political parties in election periods then?

It was not how your original piece read, but is at first glance a more reasonable point.

Apart from the bloody fact that you are still limiting freedom of speech – and also, it is a silly idea. Would you also ban Sunny from suggesting you vote Liberal Democrat whilst other contributers urged voting Green or Labour (well, not sure if many urged so much as begruged…)? Would you in effect mean only the parties themselves could tell you how to vote? How would newspaper columnists be able to debate particular policies without effectively endorsing one party or another – so critical thinking in the press at election time would also disappear.

Perhaps you are talking only of editorial line, but if you are, it is still possible (as you point out with the Times, although I think that was a final retreat from the Labour position to be honest) to have an unstated line in reporting or commentary, which would be more pernicious because it would be undeclared. The idea is unworkable – the one possible solution (print media may not declare explicit support for a political party at election time) actually makes the problem of bias and manipulation worse.

42. Chaise Guevara

@ Sue

“Chaise – But that’s not banning them is it?”

No – but did most people say you would ban them? I know Tyler did, but did anyone else?

Sue,

So to be clear, all I’m talking about is papers significantly changing their editorial stance at election time to “back” a particular political party en masse. Also going to PMs with “shopping lists” they expect to be filled to win favour.

Anyone disagreeing with either of those points is surely the one restricting true freedom of speech?

Neither of those is against freedom of speech. Maybe democracy, but not freedom of speech.

Sue,

I venture that no one thinks you want to ban the right-wing newspapers. Rather, you want to dictate their content. The right-wing press have a notoriously right-wing bias. This leads their readers (who, as we have learned, are not quite so well endowed with the power of rational thought as we are) to have right-wing thoughts. Or at least, it gives them the impression that their right-wing thoughts are acceptable. They are not acceptable! Thus, the papers’ right-wing bias should be made into a left-wing bia–sorry, sorry, I mean–should be made into a neutral bias, and the thoughts of the unwashed masses will follow suit.

Problem solved.

Oh come on Tim, that was one election!!! Over what? 300 years?

So was 2010. In 2005, newspapers were mostly pro-Labour, in 1997 they were overwhelmingly pro-Labour, in 1992 they were mixed, but tending Tory, in the 1980s they were mostly Tory, in the 70s they were mixed. What point are you trying to make?

46. Chaise Guevara

@ Sue Marsh

” I don’t know which paper you take, but if it’s the Sun, Mirror or News of the World I think you’ll find that the “endorsement” come election time does have a very considerable effect.”

Of course it does, but what’s that got to do with the price of fish? A paper might convince you to vote one way, but that’s not the same as commanding you to do so.

“It is of course in your interest to deny that”

Excuse me? Please explain this comment. Do you think I’m Rupert Murdoch wearing a fake nose or something?

“So to be clear, all I’m talking about is papers significantly changing their editorial stance at election time to “back” a particular political party en masse.”

OK, but that’s a very different proposition than you put forward in the OP.

“Also going to PMs with “shopping lists” they expect to be filled to win favour. ”

Under what law would you prevent papers from informing politicians of their preferences? And how would it mesh with free speech?

“Anyone disagreeing with either of those points is surely the one restricting true freedom of speech?”

I think anyone disagreeing with the second one is actively defending free speech, to be honest.

Wot vimothy said @44.

Tim J – you know the point!! the media has been overwhelmingly right wing since the dawn of time .

Vimothy – Your point is the same one I answered that says why can’t they just be treated like TV media? I haven’t read a good answer to that other than “people buy them”

Nonetheless (though it is a bad poll as I don’t know any of your political persuasions) you are, it seems, all content with a society that says “Rich man buys paper, rich man tends to be right wing, rich man then sets out to influence as much thought as possible to get what he wants through any means.”

I did say I wouldn’t hold my breath at the end of the article. I didn’t think for a moment that we could have a sensible debate about this without people screaming “dictatorship” or “you’re limiting free speech” – I said as much in my article.

I don’t want to censor journalists, just the rich old men who tell them what to write.

Tim J – you know the point!! the media has been overwhelmingly right wing since the dawn of time .

Ah. I thought the point was that the media shouldn’t be allowed to be politically biased. I hasn’t realised that that only cut one way.

And in any event, in terms of newspaper endorsements (which is what you’re mostly complaining about after all), that’s not really the case. Some papers always support the Tories (the Mail and the Telegraph, and almost always the Express). Some always support Labour (the Mirror, and until recently the Guardian). Some float about on the wishy-washy left but never endorse the Tories (the Independent) and most of the rest float between the main two parties. The Sun, for instance, has endorsed the Tories six times, and Labour six times.

No, come on, this isn’t intended to be a serious piece, is it? Newspapers are private businesses and people make free individual decisions to read or not read them, and cast their ballots freely and in secret, having taken into account not just what they read in the papers but a range of information from a variety of sources. What possible basis could you have for interfering with that process? Just that you don’t like the views the newspapers express and regard it as makign it less likely people will elect a government you agree with?! I mean, really? That’s what you think?

“If a rich man can buy a newspaper to push his own agenda do you not think he will? why are people so worried about limiting that?”

I can see a case for *certain* limits, e.g. on the number of titles one person could own. But there’s a point of principle here: you and I and Rupert Murdoch and the Communist Party are all perfectly entitled to publish blogs and newspapers and leaflets and magazines expressing any point of view we like, including the view that everyone should go out and vote for a particular party come polling day.

I think you are misreading some of the comments here as self-serving attempts by right-wingers to defend a status quo that suits them. Looking at the names of contributors, though, I think many of these comments (mine included) are coming from liberal lefties who are just trying to be consistent: if Sunny’s entitled to choose what views get expressed on this blog, other people are entitled to choose what views get expressed in their publications.

Maybe if you had some specific proposals to put forward we’d all find it easier to see what you do and don’t think should change?

Sue,

Vimothy – Your point is the same one I answered that says why can’t they just be treated like TV media? I haven’t read a good answer to that other than “people buy them”

Surely the onus is on you to justify why someone who isn’t the newspaper’s owner, editor, journalist or consumer, has a say in the content of the newspaper? I haven’t seen such a justification, except for “I don’t like the content”.

Nonetheless (though it is a bad poll as I don’t know any of your political persuasions) you are, it seems, all content with a society that says “Rich man buys paper, rich man tends to be right wing, rich man then sets out to influence as much thought as possible to get what he wants through any means.”

I’m not content – I’d rather people didn’t buy the Daily Mail, but I don’t presume to have the right to tell the people at the Daily Mail what should be in it. I’ll criticise it, but I don’t think there should be a law against it.

I didn’t think for a moment that we could have a sensible debate about this without people screaming “dictatorship” or “you’re limiting free speech” – I said as much in my article.

You’re the first person to mention dictatorship, so that seems unfair. As for complaining about being accused of “limiting free speech”, are you serious?

“I’ve never understood why we allow our print media to support a particular political viewpoint.”

53. Paul Newman

In the early nineties the BBC, Guardian and Indy were united with a broader cultural media. This was located in the Theatre ,the music industry and the arts establishment where left wingery is still the default position.Over time this bias undermined Thatcher and her memory far more completely than any Mail or Sun story.
I was wondering what scope there was for bringing political bias in the creative arts generally under some sort of over arching censorship. I `m all for it !

Usual suspect trolls go out of their way to not understand a simple point shock.

55. Paul Newman

UK liberty ,the point about TV was the lack of entry to the market. That does not apply to printed media and in the future should not to on line and broadcast materiel
The question is then, why are people prevented from buying and watching whatever TV with whatever slant they prefer?
Many on the left who have any real commitment to free thinking are asking that question and there is only one answer.It is quite unacceptable that we should be forced to finance the BBC to promote its editorial line in a near monopoly.

Free media

.

Sue, I think you’ve taken the wrong approach. Issues of democracy and media plurality should be the approach to dealing with this problem rather than trying to dictate the kind of content people can publish.

We need far better laws to deal with libel and defamation.
We need protection from the domination of our media by powerful organisations or individuals.
We need a system of politics that is more resistant to the behind-the-scenes influence of wealthy and powerful people or organisations over the better needs of the rest of us.
People in the media need to be made more accountable.
Nobody should be above the law.

Sue,

Your point is the same one I answered that says why can’t they just be treated like TV media? I haven’t read a good answer to that other than “people buy them”

I’m afraid I’m having trouble parsing this statement. Can you explain? The BBC has an obvious liberal bias and has millions of viewers, many of whom are wealthier and less stupid than the droogs who read the red tops. Are you saying that it should be made more neutral as well? No, of course not. Reality has a liberal bias. If the BBC cannot be liberal, then it cannot represent reality. And if it cannot represent reality, what use is it?

And we don’t have to stop with the press. Does our education system tilt right or left? What papers do teachers read? If they are indoctrinating our children with right-wing biases, I want to know. Name them and shame them.

When assessing your proposal, I suggest asking Lenin’s question: “Who—whom?” You don’t take control of the Russian Empire by accident, without some knowledge of the Machiavellian art of politics. Lenin was no fool. And he would doubtless point out to you that your proposal makes your friends stronger and your enemies weaker. A coincidence, perhaps? But I’m sure you have the best of intentions.

That said, I don’t want to be too critical. I think you’ve been refreshingly honest here, Sue. If liberals are going to tell people how to behave, why shouldn’t they also tell them how to think? The law of parsimony says we’re all heading in this direction anyway. Reality itself is on your side. Eventually, everyone else will want to get with the programme too.

58. blackwillow1

Without Evil, there would be no Good.
Without Right, there would be no left.

I take your point about limits on the level of ownership, but if we started interfering with editorial bias, we might as declare ourselves to be the British Communist Republic. China, the old Soviet bloc, these are examples of a press without bias. You can only have that by enforcing it, the end result being that Orwell wrote 1984, not as a novel, but a manifesto of brutality and dictatorship. I’m a socialist, I believe that the right wing are both dangerous and dishonest, but if they did’nt exist as a couterbalance to my general viewpoint, well, can anyone say beyond all doubt that they would never take advantage of their unchallenged position? All that we know of human nature, throughout history, suggests the final outcome would not be fair or democratic.

59. theophrastus

“I’ve never understood why we allow our print media to support a particular political viewpoint.”

You are physically disabled. Clearly, you are intellectually and morally disabled, too. I shall never take another word you write seriously ever again. If LC had any integrity, it would ban you forthwith; but, more likely, I will banned for saying this.

“I’ve never understood why we allow our print media to support a particular political viewpoint.”

Does that apply to online editions of newspapers, Sue?

If not, why not?

If so, does it apply also to internet political blogs?

If not, why not?

“how is it in the public interest to seek to influence the outcome of general elections? Why do we need them to tell us what to do?”

We don’t. But they are allowed to say who they think one should vote for, just as you, I, and everyone else are allowed to do so. And we are free to agree or disagree with each other’s opinions.

What a stupid article. Does Sue Marsh propose to put herself up as the person responsible for vetting articles for bias? Ms Marsh has an obvious political bias, having stood as a Labour councillor. Should she therefore be allowed to publish her views, appear on the radio, put articles on blog sites, as much of what she says is biased towards one party.

Stalin Marsh is obviously against freedom of speech and freedom of the press. How on earth can she put herself up as a Labour councillor?

62. Chaise Guevara

Sue, along with my objections to the meat of this article, I also don’t think it’s particularly cool of you to paint everyone else in this conversation as ranting lunatics – screaming and spluttering with outrage as we apparently are – rather than, y’know, people who happen to think that you’re wrong.

63. Chaise Guevara

“Usual suspect trolls go out of their way to not understand a simple point shock.”

Timewaster posts content-free statement then accuses everyone else of trolling debacle.

With all due respect, this is the maddest response to the hacking scandal that I have so far come across

65. Chaise Guevara

Sue

“Nonetheless (though it is a bad poll as I don’t know any of your political persuasions) you are, it seems, all content with a society that says “Rich man buys paper, rich man tends to be right wing, rich man then sets out to influence as much thought as possible to get what he wants through any means.””

Does the phrase “false dichotomy” mean anything to you? Supporting freedom of expression doesn’t mean you have to be in favour of media monopolies.

@ David Wearing,

“The Today programme on Radio 4 gets 10 million listeners. BBC’s News At Ten gets 5 million. Polls show trust in broadcast news to be reasonably good, while its rock bottom for the tabloids. I mean if you’re interested in what the public wants then you’d acknowledge that they consume far more of their news from independently regulated media, and trust it far more as well.”

“I love this idea that the tabloids are vindicated by their readership figures. 80% of the adult population don’t buy them, and polls show that comparable majorities take a very dim view of the tabloids indeed…. They’re still very much a minority taste.”

So let’s see… the tabloids aren’t trusted and they are still very much a minority taste – they aren’t, for instance, read by nearly as many people as listen to or watch the BBC…

….and yet according to your first post they somehow manage to ‘drown out the voices of millions’ with a ‘megaphone’. A megaphone which hardly anyone is listening to or takes any notice of.

You’re winging this one a bit, aren’t you?

I quite agree with restricting media ownership, and Murdoch has long owned far too much and utterly abused his power. He deserves to get nailed for this, and has long deserved it. But that is a different matter from the idea that print media should not be allowed to express political opinions. For one thing, the latter raises a question mark over blogs like this.

For another, in practical terms I don’t see how it would work. You would have to sack most political columnists for a start or render them all so muzzled as to be blandly indistinguishable. Newspapers and radio don’t work like television programming – the reader determines what they read, in what order. Television and radio, even with a remote to hand, is a more passive experience than reading even a lousy tabloid.

Some illuminating insights here from the Indy on what contributes to ‘media bias’: “Robert Fisk on why I had to leave The Times”:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/press/robert-fisk-why-i-had-to-leave-the-times-2311569.html

Sue – why is it that the right-wing Sun sells better than the left-wing Mirror? Why does the right-wing Telegraph sell better than the left-wing Guardian? Nobody forces people to buy the right-wing papers.

69. Charlieman

@57. vimothy: “The BBC has an obvious liberal bias and has millions of viewers, many of whom are wealthier and less stupid than the droogs who read the red tops. Are you saying that it should be made more neutral as well? No, of course not. Reality has a liberal bias. If the BBC cannot be liberal, then it cannot represent reality. And if it cannot represent reality, what use is it?”

Thanks for that, although I wouldn’t be as vitriolic as Vimothy about red top readers. I’d add that the BBC has to provide coverage and space for opinions that cover the political and social spectra. In order to do this, the BBC culture must be biased to the liberal end of the liberal/authoritarian axis. A for instance: Paul Mason’s politics are a long way from those of most viewers, but he presents interesting arguments that might not be heard if the BBC was less liberal. When the BBC culture allows journalists to deliver imbalanced broadcasts, the BBC deserves a thorough kicking; imbalanced news coverage from a state broadcaster, uncorrected, can become an arm of authoritarianism; at the same time, the BBC has to be allowed to make mistakes.

“I’ve never understood why we allow our print media to support a particular political viewpoint. ”

Call me old fashioned, but is it something to do with being a free country?

Tim J – you know the point!! the media has been overwhelmingly right wing since the dawn of time .

False:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRrepublican.htm

If corpses could think, the radicals and reformers of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, along with the likes of Roy Jenkins (are we going to bring back theatre censorship too?), would be rolling in their graves reading this post.

If a rich man can buy a newspaper to push his own agenda do you not think he will? why are people so worried about limiting that? No-one’s suggesting the journalists should be restricted, just the power of a corrupt handful to influence opinion, possibly only within a certain timescale of an election. Hardly Korean.

Now this is a reasonable problem that needs addressing, but impinging on freedom of speech is not the solution. The solution is workers democracy. Give journalists democratic control over the papers they work in. Bring on socialism.

reuben:

With all due respect, this is the maddest response to the hacking scandal that I have so far come across

It’s not original – it’s basically the same argument that Hugh Grant made in response to Jon (sp?) Gaunt on Question Time last week.

@63,

Vacuous moron persists in missing point scandal.

73. Robert the crip

What it show is what a shower of shit has run this country, Brown told us it was the tea lady and the adviser it was everyone’s fault but his, he has had problems along this line a few times.

Madviseror told me, hold on they aradviseror they do not run the dam country.

Now those advisors hit back saying hold on mate you were leader, you were the prime minister we told you it was up to you to do as you wished, but as we know with brown he has a problem he dithers, he did it with the non election, he did it again with the press. same as Blair Brown took my New Labour, well why the hell did you not sack him and carry on, or was the rush to get to America to see Bush to get your fortune started.

It’s not the press it’s the people who run this country, they need to have balls.

74. benandjerry

[deleted]

Having read all the comments here, you’ve all made me think about the issue much more.

I’m not an expert in journalism and the piece was, written for my own blog. I accept all the comments that insist “free speech is free speech”. If we can’t address the inherent bias of a society where wealth tends to favour the right wing and therefore own and control our press, then we can at least make sure they don’t lie or defame or slander.

On balance I think those who suggest more control over breaking the law, slander etc offer the only sensible way forward, I was simply trying to start a debate about the issue. If we’re really going to look at how our press has let us down, then I think everything should be on the table.

However, to whoever it was that says I am blinkered, I don’t think I am. I am quite happy to evolve my views when good arguments are made, and some very good arguments have been made on this thread.

Like much else the Capitalist model of the media is self censoring for the benefit of the right wing. To have the money to set up and promote a Newspaper you need funds. (A lot of funds. The Times loses sheds of money each year.) Either you have lots of personal money, or you rely on adverts. If you rely on adverts they tend to come from other business, who tend to be owned by business men who have a particular view of the world. Therefore, they won’t associate themselves with anything they don’t agree with. So that just leaves personal wealth. Chances are if you have it, you have acquired it through acapitalist enterprises. So same applies.

This issue is going to get a whole lot worse since the supreme court in the US has ruled that corporations have the same rights as individuals, and so they can denote as much money to political campaigns as they like. What is more they don’t have to declare that they funded a particular campaign. Bare in mind that these are the same people who think unions should be open and transparent.

As we can see form our regular moronic , brown shirt trolls they love the idea of the richest buying the megaphone and drowning out everybody else. No surprise there then, brown shirts hate real freedom.

“why is it that the right-wing Sun sells better than the left-wing Mirror? Why does the right-wing Telegraph sell better than the left-wing Guardian? Nobody forces people to buy the right-wing papers.”

YAWN Straw man argument.

I love it when the trolls go down the free market route. Seeing as if their beloved market applied, The Daily Mail would have gone bust in the 1950s, and The Times would have gone bust years ago but for wealthy individuals propping them up for propaganda purposes.

Don’t take any notice of the brown shirt trolls Sue,

They support a capitalist system of media because it removes views that they don’t like. ‘manufactured consent. it always works for the benefit of the Right wing ,and acts like an invisible govt censor. It is why brownshirts love the privatised state. Everything is in the hands of a view rich people who control everything.

In a corporate state, the corporate media are the state media.

“I’ve never understood why we allow our print media to support a particular political viewpoint.”

I know I’m repeating what a lot of people have said already – but that’s called “freedom of speech”.

The difficulty (beyond the phone hacking scandal) is what you do when an organisation like News International comes in with many billions of dollars, buys up multiple newspapers and TV channels, and completely blasts any idea of a level playing field for free speech to kingdom come. My view is that you have to maintain freedom of speech absolutely, but you have to have very strong regulation of the funding mechanisms / market share of individual players.

There’s also the issue of what you do when certain newspapers move from offering a biased opinion (fine) into offering clearly deliberate lies. You need a version of the PCC with teeth for that…

Richard @68:

The corporate press is inherently right wing. Many of these papers didn’t start off right wing; they became right wing when they became profit-oriented corporations. Right wing politics lowers their tax rate, so they promote right wing politics.

“It is why brownshirts love the privatised state.”

Do you actually know who the brownshirts were?

Sue @ 74

‘I was simply trying to start a debate’

Then say so – your article doesn’t as far as I can see. It’s a fair enough debate to have, but your post is – well – rubbish.

the inherent bias of a society where wealth tends to favour the right wing and therefore own and control our press

And yet, when I look back at the Britain of 1961, I see a society that was much, much more conservative in every way. How to explain this? Over time, we seem to get more and more liberal. Is it chance? The natural trajectory of history? Whatever the case, the tentacles of our right-wing press barons seem to have a peculiarly short reach.

@66

You’re winging this one a bit, aren’t you?

Not really, Lamia. You just need to be able to hold a couple of thoughts in your head simultaneously. Shouldn’t be too hard if you apply yourself.

Because of the different ways in which broadcast and print media are regulated, the latter has a particular ability to influence and shape debate which the former does not have. If you like, one is active and one is passive. Broadcast media can only passively reflect the balance of existing views, while print media has the power to be pro-active in helping to shape what the balance of views is, to set the agenda, and so forth.

As I said above:

if you removed from billionaires and corporations the ability to buy up and dominate the national press with their own agenda, then the landscape of opinion which the BBC, ITN etc would have to reflect would start to look a little different

If the influence of the corporate press was limited to its readership then that wouldn’t be so bad, though it would still be undemocratic. The real issue is that its influence (grounded in its own very narrow set of interests) permeates into the rest of British politics.

Clearly that capacity to influence is restricted to those who can afford to own newspapers, not to the rest of us. But if you want to argue that you and I have an equal ability to shape discourse and set the political agenda as Rupert Murdoch, then please, be my guest.

[deleted]

86. Editorial Explosion

BOOM!

@ Sally,

“In a corporate state, the corporate media are the state media.”

Oh dear. You appear to think that the ‘corporate’ in fascism has something to do with corporate’ ‘ businesses. I recommend you read ‘Il Corporatismo’ by Mussolini, then get back to us. ‘Corporatism’ has very different meanings in the two contexts; your use of ‘brown-shirts’ in this context suggests you aren’t aware of that.

@ Sue,

Credit to you for taking on board the comments and re-assessing your earlier thoughts. I agree it is the law-breaking of the media that is the main problem.

[deleted]

89. Mr S. Pill

I think the idea of papers following the same rules at election time is a decent one, but utterly unenforcable (define “newspaper”, then ponder about online & blogs etc etc), and that’s pretty much my thoughts on the OP. I don’t think Sue is saying we should ban the right wing press.

Unfortunately we live in a world where the rich control what media the rest of us get. That is a problem of capitalism and does not require any form of censorship to fix, which as numerous commentators have mentioned would go against our liberal ways of thought, rather it requires a total overhaul of how our society operates.

Now the chances of us moving from a free-market capitalist economy to something more equitable are slim, but I hope that in the next few hundred years human beings will come up with something. I wouldn’t be Left if I wasn’t an optimist 😉

90. Mr S. Pill

Oh and whoever said media owndership should be limited, I agree with that idea as well (it kind of is at the moment anyway but more could be done I think).

And a spreadsheet that also includes all the circulation figures, which is fascinating:

https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AonYZs4MzlZbdGJNNS1EeE1WRlBOT1hNMGU3amVnM0E#gid=0

@ David Wearing,

“Because of the different ways in which broadcast and print media are regulated, the latter has a particular ability to influence and shape debate which the former does not have. If you like, one is active and one is passive. Broadcast media can only passively reflect the balance of existing views, while print media has the power to be pro-active in helping to shape what the balance of views is, to set the agenda, and so forth.”

I’m sorry but that won’t do. You yourself, David, have dismissed the tabloid media as (1) being untrusted, ignored by most, and not listened to by the vast majority of people. And also (2) dominating public debate with a megaphone. That contradiction is still there in what you yourself have said. It is like saying, “He’s so silly that I don’t know why anyone listens to him. Hardly any one listens to him anyway, because he’s so silly.’ It’s using two arguments for added effect when they actually undermine rather than reinforce each other.

“if you want to argue that you and I have an equal ability to shape discourse and set the political agenda as Rupert Murdoch, then please, be my guest.”

With respect, that is a strawman. Murdoch’s power has come from the ability to blackmail people within the establishment due to the criminal behaviour of his journalists. It has NOT been down to its ability to express a political preference, which is the topic we were all discussing.

The Sun, for instance, has usually jumped sides with the prevailing wind, and then boasted afterwards of its great power, but that has been largely an illusion. It has never turned round negative public opinion and saved a sitting government, not least because as you point the tabloid media has such limited readership anyway, as do the broadsheets. The power it has had has been over politicians, not the general public, and that is now fading as newspapers shrink and the internet, where blogs like this exist, flourishes. Journalists (of all types) no longer have the monopoly on news they once had.

As for broadcast media being passive and limited in their bias, how about Fox News? Even the relatively neutral BBC has its own biases, as its own members have admitted in recent years. And you can shape debate as much by what you omit to mention as by what you choose to focus on. And TV and radio broadcasters do just that in their programming. they don’t simply provide some neautral forum for others. And if you really think Question Time offers quality debate, well…

@84, scrutiny implies accuracy in criticism. I’ve seen nothing of the sort. Instead we’ve had a queue of knuckle-draggers jump on a juicy quote to avoid actually having to deal with the topic.

“With respect, that is a strawman” No it is not.

But please to tell us how Murdoch has the same clout as I do, I could do with a good laugh.

“The Sun, for instance, has usually jumped sides with the prevailing wind,”

The Sun may have changed parties, but it has stayed loyal to right wing market clap trap. It is only after Blair remade the Labour party by removing most of What Murdoch did not like that he supported Blair. And I do say Blair, not Labour.

“The power it has had has been over politicians, not the general public, ”

So why did the Sun say “it was the sun what won it” then?

The more you talk the more rubbish you come up with.

Matt W, those links are very interesting – thank you

Because of the different ways in which broadcast and print media are regulated, the latter has a particular ability to influence and shape debate which the former does not have.

Yeah, right. Call me back when we reinstate the death penalty and seal our borders.

Here is one of the signal characteristics of the British political debate. You have one side that always wins and another side that always loses. Yet the side that always wins is convinced that its position is precarious, that hands are in its pockets, that its people are at risk, that its enemies are evil savages hiding behind every tree and lamppost.

In other words, the winning side is 180 degrees from reality. It’s basically in the grip of full blown paranoia, as well as being armed to the teeth. How do you placate the heavily armed paranoid? With great care.

98. Paul Newman

The “Right wing Press” is a convenient excuse for the left. Kinnock was not an inadequate winge-bag he had no chance with that “right wing press”. Foot was not a shambling relic it was that”right wing press” .Major should not have won, it must have been …. In fact it was that no-one trusted Labour with the Economy.
It is a way of left wingers avoiding confronting their fond delusions. For example they know in their hearts of hearts they got the wrong Milliband cue “right wing press”.
In fact there is no mass hypnosis the Mirror is as available as the Mail for purchase. Its just that in various ways, socially, economically and culturally the country is majority right wing.You could equally say it is majority left wing in various ways. The Progressive Internationalist left socially liberal left however, is a minority .
Currently the pitch is tilted in the direction of the Guardian by virtue of its State bung in the form of public sector job ads.The left also controls the BBC,the subsidised arts.It is losing its grip on the music industry and comedy except on Radio 4 where the superannuated Sandy Tosvig plies her grim trade in class based sneers.
I cannot see any possible justification for taking one area of our cultural life and forcing into leftist straight jacket .It already has a tilted table .

Fun Question- What new deeply unfair conspiracy will replace Murdoch whereby every failure is the fault of the”right wing press” ? I can`t wait

[deleted]

100. Charlieman

@74. Sue Marsh: “If we can’t address the inherent bias of a society where wealth tends to favour the right wing and therefore own and control our press, then we can at least make sure they don’t lie or defame or slander.”

Following the logic of the final clause: exactly, that is where reform is required. If a common citizen feels that s/he has been abused in a national newspaper or a blog, there needs to be a quick and cheap arbitration system. When quick and cheap does not suffice, quicker and cheaper and accessible legal processes are necessary.

The accused are always in a shitty position. If the accused (reporter side) is “poor”, the story will be published irrespective of personal complaints. If the accused has money, the story will be published “in spite of legal arguments”.


Statements like “…own and control our press…” are factually incorrect and unhelpful. Please reflect on the free speech arguments in this thread.

101. Mr S. Pill

@97

So there’s no right-wing press? So the Telegraph, Times, Sun, Daily Mail, Express, Star are all left-wing??

Awesome!!

[deleted]

“The corporate press is inherently right wing. Many of these papers didn’t start off right wing; they became right wing when they became profit-oriented corporations. Right wing politics lowers their tax rate, so they promote right wing politics.”

The Daily Mirror was once the biggest selling paper in the country. What caused people to change?

The implicit assumption seems to be that people are stupid and are brainwashed by the papers they read. On the contrary, it is more likely that they choose papers that reflect their prejudices. It is noticeable that the right-wing Mail often puts the boot into fat cats and bankers.

(By the way Sue I wouldn’t pay any attention to Sally. She has been trolling around here for a couple of years now. As you can probably tell her deliberately Dave Spart style OTT and antagonistic postings are designed to wind people up. I have for a long time have had her down as a Tory supporter having a laugh and am glad Sunny allows her to remain to provide entertainment)

[deleted]

106. Citizen Smudge

I’m not sure that editorial endorsement at elections is the point. While the whole media – especially the broadcasters – make a big issue of which party gets the support of which newspaper, I’m not sure it makes that much difference given the saturation coverage General Elections get. More insiduous is the day-in day-out political agenda-setting coverage which overall, by both measures of volume (sheer amount and loudness) inevitably affects what people think and what they care about. I’m sorry but the loudest, the most partisan and the most incessant newspaper content comes from the right. And let’s not kid ourselves – Blair got elected by promising to adopt the Mail/Sun agenda while sneaking in the odd progressive move which he couldn’t even feel able to shout about. So to say the right-leaning papers supported Blair is not evidence of their own open-mindedness but of their raw power. There are innumerable examples of stupid stories which these papers take up which actually become popularly believed – take the “elf and safety” issue – which characterises dullard and dictatorial public officials routinely killing the joy of millions of ordinary Britons with their restrictive rules and regulations in utter defiance of the risk-taking approach that pervades the private sector. Except of course that any close reading of these stories reveals that it often has nothing to do with council offers, dumb and lazy teachers but the unwillingness of the private sector insurance industry to provide cover. Yet once elected Cameron appoints Lord Young to compile a report – the report compiles all the stories that have been written and confirms the issue and proposes action to deal with a non-problem. A complete waste of everyone’s time and money – but the papers can report their campaigns as a success. Government effort expended for no benefit at all. Look at the attempts to deal with “red tape” over DECADES! So the stories have real political consequences and provide much of the information which underpins people’s political opinions. If democracy is to mean anything it is a debate about what the problems are and how to fix them – but that debate is a horribly unequal one when you factor in the right of newspaper proprietors/editors/journalists to be the gatekeepers to the public discourse which forms the bedrock of our democracy. So free speech for some is NO speech for others.

One further point is the lack of accountability of media – especially newspaper power. Decision-makers at the BBC for instance take full part in public life and are often interviewed about their motivations and decisions. When did Paul Dacre last give an interview? The NOTW crew have been dragged to the Select Committee but I can’t recall a single interview with Brooks or the Murdochs on say the Today Programme. (Compare that to Prime Ministers and Chancellors) Rupert M has given an interview tonight with – wait for it – The Wall Street Journal – which he owns. How very brave. Desmond is similarly invisible at the Express group (and now has pulled Express and Star out of the laughable PCC) and the Mirror Group are the same. Ditto the Barclays at the Telegraph. So the power media barons wield is considerable and perhaps more significantly – it goes very much unchallenged.

107. Charlieman

@100. Mr S. Pill: “Awesome!!”

The awkwardism is that Murdochs’ ownership of Times newspapers delivers thoughtful content. Murdochs employ contrary thinkers, and Murdochs should look after contrary thinkers.

@ 75:

“This issue is going to get a whole lot worse since the supreme court in the US has ruled that corporations have the same rights as individuals, and so they can denote as much money to political campaigns as they like. What is more they don’t have to declare that they funded a particular campaign.”

You mean the US Supreme Court that has no jurisdiction in Britain? Yeah, I can imagine that their decisions will make things a whole lot worse for us…

@ The Mods:

Is there any reason why Sally hasn’t been banned yet? All she ever posts is semi-coherrent, paranoid rambling about “brown-shirt trolls” that adds absolutely nothing to the debate. Whatever happened to “abusive… comments may be deleted”?

109. Chaise Guevara

@71

“Vacuous moron persists in missing point scandal.”

Sigh. Are you going to get around to explaining this frabjous point that has somehow eluded everyone but your devastatingly intelligent self? Or are you seriously just here to troll?

@49

The Sun, for instance, has endorsed the Tories six times, and Labour six times.

You’re forgetting a couple of rather salient points here however. Firstly, part of Murdoch’s switch to support Blair was because the Tories had obviously run out of steam – hoist on their own petard of “back to basics”, combined with the recession – fallout from the Thatcher years. Murdoch’s a right-winger to the core, but even that is trumped by the fact that he can’t stand the idea of backing a loser.

Secondly, as Sally rightly points out, Murdoch’s support was really for Blair rather than Labour as a whole. Even then that support was always in the balance because Thatcherite Tories (in terms of membership as well as leadership) and Murdoch are fellow travellers, whereas he has very little in common with the rank-and-file of the Labour Party. Case in point – every time a vaguely social-democratic-sounding policy was floated, the Sun and the Times went into full-throated opprobrium, practically daring Blair not to nip such policies in the bud or face the consequences.

111. Chaise Guevara

@ 82 Vimothy

“And yet, when I look back at the Britain of 1961, I see a society that was much, much more conservative in every way. How to explain this? Over time, we seem to get more and more liberal. Is it chance? The natural trajectory of history? Whatever the case, the tentacles of our right-wing press barons seem to have a peculiarly short reach.”

Be wary with this one. I’m inclined to agree with you, as it happens, but bear in mind that if this sort of thing is circular, recent history would obviously look like there was a trend towards liberalism if you happened to be looking from the liberal peak of the circle (I know, circles don’t have peaks, can’t think of a better word right now).

Go back 50 years in Western history and you’ll find appalling attitudes towards homosexuality. Go back hundreds of years more and you’ll find cultures that thought homosexuality was fine. Attitudes towards race, gender and religious freedom have similarly shifted back and forth. Illiberal attitudes towards narcotics are an essentially modern phenomenon.

Like I say, I reckon you’re right that society is generally getting more liberal. Democracy helps. And I doubt that attitudes on race, gender and sexuality could ever go back to where they were in the truly bad old days as a result of our society evolving naturally (as opposed to, for example, the very remote possibility of us being conquered by a fundamentalist society at some point in the future). But it could easily regress more mildly in the next twenty years, say.

Paul Newman

Here are some fun facts for you – themselves drawn from the more respectable end of the ‘right-wing press’ (The Economist), to ensure there’s no leftie bias:

“Under Labour, fear of crime climbed until by 2007 it had become the issue that pollsters identified as the main complaint among voters… The heightened fears are a puzzle to criminologists, who point out that over the past 15 years Britain has experienced a steady, deep fall in crime. The statistics are notoriously hard to interpret, but according to the British Crime Survey, the Home Office’s most reliable measure though still far from perfect, crime overall has dropped by 45% since its peak in 1995.”

“Parents have probably never been more worried about their offspring, but the truth is that children seem to be less at risk now than in the past. The number of killings of under-15s has “collapsed” since the 1970s, according to Colin Pritchard of Bournemouth University. Professor Pritchard calculates that in 1974 Britain was the third-biggest killer of children in the rich world. By his reckoning it is now 17th, following a 70% drop in child homicides.”

“the average voter reckons that four out of ten teenagers have children… whereas in fact perhaps three in a hundred do”

You don’t have to be some sort of conspiracy kook to think that this might have something to do with the ‘right-wing press’ relentlessly pursuing a ‘Broken Britain’, chavs-gone-wild, I-blame-all-these-bleeding-heart-liberals narrative. Where else would these manifestly false beliefs be coming from? So what’s so absurd about the idea that the right-wing press might be influencing people’s perceptions in other areas – e.g. of the prevalence of benefit fraud, the size of the tax burden, etc etc?

113. Charlieman

@107 XXX: “All she [Sally] ever posts is semi-coherrent, paranoid rambling about “brown-shirt trolls” that adds absolutely nothing to the debate.”

It is tradition on LC to ignore Sally rants. When she is not bellowing about brown shirts (an outfit that absolutely works with my gorgeous Arian blue eyes), I worry about who else takes Sally seriously.

“I’m sorry but the loudest, the most partisan and the most incessant newspaper content comes from the right.”

But why does the right-wing press have so many readers? Everybody who reads The Sun is free to buy the Daily Mirror if they want a different viewpoint. Similarely the Guardian is there for Telegraph readers. Granted there isn’t a mid-market left-wing equivalent to the Mail but perhaps there isn’t a gap in the market for one?

110 – it is also noticeable that attitudes to immigration and law and order remain firmly authoritarian, albeit opposition to immigration has less to do with racism than before (and it should be highlighted that even Polly Toynbee has argued for immigration restrictions).

116. So Much For Subtlety

79. jungle

The corporate press is inherently right wing. Many of these papers didn’t start off right wing; they became right wing when they became profit-oriented corporations. Right wing politics lowers their tax rate, so they promote right wing politics.

Well there is an easy way to test this – the Guardian is now owned by a profit-oriented company. They abolished their Trust and reincorporated themselves as an offshore Caribbean-based corporation. And so not paying wads of tax which I am sure we can all agree was a total co-incidence.

Has it got any more right wing since then?

Newspapers are in fact inherently left wing. It is the nature of journalists. It takes a strong proprietor to force them to the right. Usually a first generation one at that. A family trust, a charitable trust, unclear share holders, even many share holders, state ownership, anything else, means the paper follows the views of its workers (failed sociology graduates by and large) not its readers.

SMFS @115

Newspapers are in fact inherently left wing.

Fucking bollox. Where does that shite come from?

Chaise,

In time series analysis we often decompose a series into various component trends. Something like GDP has a general trend over time as well as cyclical variations about that trend representing the business cycle. So when you look at a series you could pick one observation at the cycle peak and another observation at the cycle trough and conclude that the trend is downwards, even though the long-run trend is anything but.

So, using this analogy, the secular trend of the series is towards ever greater liberalism over time, although there are cyclical variations about that trend that might suggest at any moment that liberalism is decreasing or increasing.

i think it would be hard to argue that the secular trend isn’t towards more liberalism (i.e. the function is monotonically increasing). Britain in 2011 was more liberal than in 1911, which was more liberal than 1811, which was more liberal than 1711, and so on.

Moreover, to the extent that there are cyclical fluctuations in the growth rate of liberalism, these are, just like the typical business cycle, small in amplitude relative to the growth process itself.

Here are some fun facts for you

Fun indeed. Here are some more: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/rp99/rp99-111.pdf

Over the last 100 years, crime increased by 4700%. 4700%. What a statistic!

On the other hand, it’s true that crime fell in the 90s–for the first time in a hundred years. And yet the right-wing rag reading cretins keep going on about it. Crime this, crime that. Criminologists are mystified. Why aren’t the proles more grateful?

Colour me unsurprised. I would like to go back to the crime rates we had in 1911. So, I suspect, would most of my compatriots. Since we control the press, the government, and the corporate sector, I expect this will be happening some time tomorrow afternoon…?

“They abolished their Trust”

Where do you get this nonsense?

121. Man in the street

“I’ve never understood why we allow our print media to support a particular political viewpoint.”

The most idiotic sentence I’ve read in weeks, if I’m being generous.

122. blackwillow1

@114: “Even Polly Toynbee has argued for immigration restrictions”. And you stated the most likely reason for that,”opposition to immigration has less to do with racism than before”. Because it’s become associated with unemployment, housing, the benefits bill and numerous other issues. Those of a liberal mind, yet holding some views that do’nt sit well with the liberal ideal of inclusive society, have started to express their authoritarian opinions, that are usually expressed amongst close friends only, in a more public arena. In order not to be outdone on the rant-o-meter, the right wing ramp it up a bit, thus increasing the volume on two levels. Those who allow themselves to be influenced by press opinion find that they are less likely to be criticised for any right wing sentiment they may make known.

I’m certainly no racist, but I ca’nt ignore the fact that immigration is a considerable problem that needs to be addressed. The colour, creed or ethnic roots do’nt come into it, the fact that the system meant to regulate and control the situation is, to put it mildly, a complete bloody shambles. I know that my own feelings on this are influenced by my own thinking, but I also know many people who are, no apologies for saying this, a bit thick. That’s why we appear to be getting more liberal in our ways, yet more hardnosed in our opinions.

123. Paul Newman

Chaise – Attitudes have become more “Liberal” but Marxism in intellectual life is so diminished it is hard to imagine its ubiquitous grip on the past. The planned economy has been forgotten and dropping Clause 4 was only a push on a rotting weak door.Life in the relatively right wing US is also more Liberal .The UK has been more Liberal than the left wing non-Nordic States of the Continent .
The Nation without the Labour Party would have been more like America without the Conservative Party it would have been a lot more like East Germany. Let us give thanks for the defeat of the left.
Not every Liberalisation has been a triumph. In Education much of the baby boomer assumptions are in retreat. The EU is so far adrift from its citizens that it can have no long term future, certainly as its architects hoped
Redistribution ( see tax rates in the 60s and 70s ) is now in its gross form, off the agenda. The wish to sweep Nations away has been sent back with its tail between its legs by European wide fury at mass immigration and loss of sovereignty. The problem of dependence is now accepted the ” Throw money at it ” policies of New Labour having delivered little for much loss in prosperity and have been shown to be unsustainable. The dream of state mansions for all, died years ago and current reforms are catching up with need and opinion on Council housing .Unions are now a strictly Public Sector activity. Hooray for the right !

..and what of racism and homophobia .I am not a racist ( I have a mixed race family, something I scarcely register ) I have close friends who are gay, again so what ?
I am on the other hand , opposed to current levels of immigration, against the EU unless it reverts to being a Common Market,against high taxes and big state solutions . I am opposed to the state encroachment into sub state freedom, attached to traditions and broadly sceptical and pessimistic about Liberal approaches to crime education family and much more.
Problem -If you want to count racism’s ebb and homophobia`s end as a victory of the left then Peter Hitchens is on the left and so am I .
I `m not sure we couldn`t have managed without you thanks . You debated it ,everyone else just got on with it.

GO – Am I nervous about letting my children out alone ( vastly more so than my parents were with me ) because a diet of tabloid scare stories has given me an unreasonable fear ? I `m not sure .
You are long way from proving to me that the change has been caused by dupes like myself reading the NOTW ( which I have never read)

124. So Much For Subtlety

116. Jim

Fucking bollox. Where does that shite come from?

Observing the real world.

119. Jimmy

Where do you get this nonsense?

It was widely reported. Why are you unaware of it?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Trust

In October 2008 it was announced that the trust was being wound up and its assets transferred to a new limited company named The Scott Trust Limited.[2]

The purpose of this change was to facilitate the avoidance of a capital gains tax liability arising on the disposal of the trust’s interest in AutoTrader. Not being a company, the trust did not qualify for the Substantial Shareholdings Exemption on the disposal of a wholly owned trading subsidiary, but by forming the Scott Trust Ltd and dissolving the trust and distributing its assets to the new company from which the disposal was made the company was able to avoid over £100 million in tax.

But then the Scott Trust was always a tax dodge:

The Trust was established in 1936 by John Scott, owner of the Manchester Guardian (as it then was) and the Manchester Evening News. After the deaths in quick succession of his father C. P. Scott and brother Edward, and consequent threat of death duties, John Scott wished to prevent future death duties forcing the closure or sale of the newspapers, and to protect the liberal editorial line of the Guardian from interference by future proprietors.

The Trust was dissolved and reformed in 1948, as it was thought that the Trust, under the terms of the original Trust Deed, had become liable to tax due to changes in the law. At this time John Scott also gave up his exclusive right to appoint trustees; the trustees would henceforth appoint new members themselves. Five months after the signing of the new Trust Deed, John Scott died. After three years of legal argument, the Inland Revenue gave up its claim for death duty.

125. So Much For Subtlety

111. G.O.

You don’t have to be some sort of conspiracy kook to think that this might have something to do with the ‘right-wing press’ relentlessly pursuing a ‘Broken Britain’, chavs-gone-wild, I-blame-all-these-bleeding-heart-liberals narrative. Where else would these manifestly false beliefs be coming from? So what’s so absurd about the idea that the right-wing press might be influencing people’s perceptions in other areas – e.g. of the prevalence of benefit fraud, the size of the tax burden, etc etc?

Or, alternatively, they come from reality. The Economist says the figures are hard to interpret. That means the government is doing a snow-job and lying with statistics again. As we all know. But even if we take the figures on face value, all you need to understand is how people actually feel. Especially people who, you know, don’t live in broadleafed suburbia miles away from crime. Here is the simple facts – someone who was mugged in 1980 is likely to be afraid of crime for some time to come. It is not something you get over overnight. Someone who was not mugged in 1996 may still feel optimist about crime in 2011, but someone who was mugged in 1994 may well not. Especially if they are old. Fear of crime is a lagging indicator – basically old people die and take the attitudes they have formed from a lifetime of experience with them. Young people have limited experience so far. So if the past was law abiding old people will think it is still law abiding, if the past was a crime-filled-hell-hole, as modern Britain is, they will continue to think of it that way even after a minor drop in the crime rate. But young people only know the here and now. If crime remains low, public opinion will shift as people who remember the 1980s die.

“A Conspiracy Against Liberalism”.

Great. I was thinking of a good way to describe this blog. This is perfect.

If you have a free press then it is free to have political views.
It is not “overwhelmingly right-wing” unless your definition of “right-wing” includes the Daily Mirror and The Guardian. In three out of the last four elections the Murdoch press supported Labour (do you define “New Labour” as right-wing?)

I get the feeling some people come to this blog every day just to show off their new name for the blog.

OMG someone on libcon said something I don’t like! I know, I’ll look really clever if I come up with a pun on Liberal Conspiracy! LOLZ111!!

@ Sally #94

““The power it has had has been over politicians, not the general public, ”

So why did the Sun say “it was the sun what won it” then?”

Logic fail. Since when did the Sun making a self-aggrandising claim about itself make that claim true?

130. Richard W

127. Sunny Hundal

” I get the feeling some people come to this blog every day just to show off their celeverness in coming up with a new name for the blog.

OMG someone on libcon said something I don’t like! I know, I’ll look really clever if I come up with a pun on Liberal Conspiracy! LOLZ111!! ”

At the same time declaring their undying love of free speech. You see, most people do not believe in free speech no matter what they claim. What they believe in is the easy stuff and that is speech that they agree with. However, they are much less keen on speech where they disagree with what is being expressed. A Littlejohn rant would be defended as fair comment. Yet, the same people would be bursting with outrage when some religious loons demonstrate against British soldiers and call on the authorities to silence them. So they do not believe in free speech, they believe in a cocoon reinforcing their worldview.

Vimothy/Chaise: society has got more *liberal* since the 1960s, but not necessarily more *left-wing*. The UK is less egalitarian now than it was then, in terms of net incomes, gross incomes, and social mobility.

SMFS: on the Scott Trust, you’re right in specific facts, but massively wrong in your interpretation. Scott Trust Limited is limited for guarantee, not for profit, and explicitly maintains in its articles of incorporation that its sole purpose is to ensure the continuation of the Guardian, not to deliver a return to shareholders.

Also SMFS “Especially people who, you know, don’t live in broadleafed suburbia miles away from crime” – hmm. IMX the people who are most terrified of crime are people who live in leafy suburbia and read the Mail or Express, and wouldn’t consider venturing into Lambeth or Tower Hamlets because of the EVIL GANGS they’ve read about. Meanwhile, people who live in inner-city areas (and I’ve spent most of my adult life in them) recognise that inner-cities are mostly fine and being scared of crime is mostly silly.

119. Jimmy:

>“They abolished their Trust”
>
>Where do you get this nonsense?

Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Trust :

“In October 2008 it was announced that the trust was being wound up and its assets transferred to a new limited company named The Scott Trust Limited.[2]

The purpose of this change was to facilitate the avoidance of a capital gains tax liability arising on the disposal of the trust’s interest in AutoTrader.”

So the point of this arrangement is doing legal tax avoidance.

134. Paul Newman

Would that be your inner city experience at Oxbridge or Public School John.? Check you for carrying extra curricular improving literature into clubs did they?
Social mobility is not a left wing cause, never has been. If we had better social mobility, who would vote for the Labour Party?

On the fear of crime, firstly the figures are untrustworthy, especially on violent crime ,on which there has been least, if any improvement. Reporting of low level crime is pointless. Crime against property has become extremely difficult, with Plant and typical big ticket items tracked and identifiable portable valuables rare and cars alarmed and , if attractive, tracked Serious property theft is almost impossible none of which has anything to do with the Police .The Police are hardly worth informing.
We still have very high crime rates and it is still far less likely that you will go to prison having committed a crime here than the rest of Europe.The idea that community service will help will get a horse laugh from anyone who has done it
(Thats my experience).

I think people are just more fearful.People change, they have become better at empathy but cowardly disloyal and selfish. The assumption that moral progress in a broadly empathetic female direction has no cost is not proven.
Is this really a morally better place than in the 1940s.Dennis Potter put it well from a bitter lefty perspective .
” Stood alone against the Nazis, came home and tried to build a better world and since then…its got shittier and shittier and shittier….” Something in that.

Max – No, that’s no response. Children say “that’s just rubbish”

No-one commented on the serious allegations Gordon Brown made of blackmail for instance, but I assume “Liberals” must therefore not care if one rich man can pull the strings of Prime Ministers?

G.O. Brilliant post.

137. Mr Eugenides

I never understand why some people continually rail against the “right-wing” media. Let’s look at the facts: four broadsheets, two on the right and two on the left. Four major tabloids, let’s say: three (Sun, Mail, Star) right wing, one (Mirror) left-wing. (In Scotland, add one left wing paper to each category.) Three major TV news outlets: one soft-left (BBC), two (Sky, ITV) broadly neutral.

Not exactly the vast rightwing conspiracy of your nightmares.

SMFS:

“…a crime-filled-hell-hole, as modern Britain is, they will continue to think of it that way even after a minor drop in the crime rate. But young people only know the here and now. If crime remains low…”

Just out of interest, do you personally expect crime to remain low in this ‘crime-filled hell-hole’?

I’m sure there’s something in what you say about people’s perceptions being fixed by past experiences, but then why are people becoming *more* fearful of crime? Why do think crime is *higher* now than it was when they had those experiences? Surely you’re not suggesting that people’s perception of a rise in crime in the late 00s is a delayed reaction to the rise that was actually going on 15 or 20 years earlier?

Just in case anyone hasn’t seen it – the brilliant ‘Daily Mail Song’.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eBT6OSr1TI

Says it all really.

GO – I’d forgotten the Daily Mail song. I love it.

[deleted]

@ RichardYou see, most people do not believe in free speech no matter what they claim.

Including the editor of this blog it would appear……………

I pointed out his folly in reposting ill thought through polemical nonsense intended for another audience and he deleted my comment. I accept that this place is his property to do with as he wishes but one of Sunny’s few redeeming qualities is that he has not, in the past, been quick to wield the red pen.

If that changes LC will get very boring very quickly.

Everyone seems to think that a necessary restriction on free speech is shouting fire in a crowded theatre when there really isn’t a fire. The news doesn’t do this but it comes damn close. Extending the metaphor you can imagine tabloids and other right-wing media to be the guy that starts saying loudly:
“Look at the furnishings in here, TINDER DRY they are, if there was a single spark in here, WHOOSH! We wouldn’t have a chance…
I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but did you notice those shifty looking kids outside twiddling LIGHTERS in their hands eyeing up the theatre? Makes me worried what they’re getting up too, why ain’t they out working?…
Now that Fire door is tiny! If there was a FIRE we’d either burn to death or die in the crush, I bet the theatre owners have been spending all the money on themselves or disability access rather than important things that people like us will require…
Is anyone else’s throat getting tight? It’s almost like I’m breathing in SMOKE, from a FIRE in here…
Don’t worry though, I’m sure if you all call FIREMAN Cameron/Blair/Brown he’ll save us from the inevitable conflagration. (But not fireman Clegg, his wife’s foreign and he once said something which we’ll use to imply that he’s a brit-hating nazi-sympathiser)”
So I can see where Sue’s coming from, if I don’t actually agree.

Scott Trust Limited is limited for guarantee, not for profit, and explicitly maintains in its articles of incorporation that its sole purpose is to ensure the continuation of the Guardian, not to deliver a return to shareholders.

Yes, but the reason behind the abolition of the Scott Trust and its rebadging as a Limited Company was explicitly to avoid potential Inheritance Tax liabilities. It was entirely driven by tax avoidance. I’m, obviously, all in favour of that, but it does seem a touch odd given the Guardian’s own clearly expressed views on the subject.

145. Chaise Guevara

@ 134 Sue Marsh

“No-one commented on the serious allegations Gordon Brown made of blackmail for instance, but I assume “Liberals” must therefore not care if one rich man can pull the strings of Prime Ministers?”

Your false dichotomies are getting really, really weak now. People are criticising you because of the attack on freedom of speech you made in the OP. The mature thing to do would be address that. Instead, you’ve decided to insult everyone who disagrees with you while repeatedly punching a straw man.

I think I can speak for most here when I say that while I believe in freedom of speech, even for rich right-wingers, I do not believe in media monopolies or the use of corrupt and illegal practices to control public policy. These are not mutually incompatible, so stop pretending they are.

Sue,

Max – No, that’s no response. Children say “that’s just rubbish”

No-one commented on the serious allegations Gordon Brown made of blackmail for instance, but I assume “Liberals” must therefore not care if one rich man can pull the strings of Prime Ministers?

Well, I was going to but I didn’t want to appear as if I was attacking / going on at you.

(Brown did not mention blackmail.)

Gordon Brown had plenty of opportunity – 13 years in government, ten as Chancellor, three as Prime Minister – to deal with the allegations of unlawful behaviour of journalists and private investigators. The Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport raised such issues in 2003. The ICO laid two reports before Parliament in 2006: What Price Privacy? and What Price Privacy Now? in May and December respectively.

After the dreadful invasion of privacy of his son in 2006, Brown had Rebekah Brooks over for dinners and sleepovers. Oh those evil people with whom Brown was ‘forced’ to party with.

Brown said, “I have set out the record of my desire to have a judicial inquiry. It was opposed by the police, opposed by the Home Office and opposed by the civil service, and it was not supported by the Select Committee of the day.”

He was the PM for god’s sake! Mr Brown’s claim that his proposal was blocked by the civil service was rejected by Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, who argued that he could have overruled his advice.

I wish Ann Treneman’s sketch from the Times was freely available online – she was spot on with her satire of Brown as a downtrodden hero misunderstood by everyone but himself and overruled by his advisers. He’s pathetic. Cameron was rather more accurate earlier in the day: they all ignored it until it became a problem too big to ignore:

the issue of the Information Commissioner’s reports—particularly the two reports he mentions [see above – ukl] —really is a rebuke not just to the previous Government but to the then Opposition. We too should have made more of those reports, which included some very important detail about what was going wrong in data handling, data theft and the rest of it. We must ensure that the inquiry asks the question, “Why were they ignored, and what are we going to do about it now?”

There were only a few MPs to consistently and for years try to make a big deal of this: Chris Bryant and Tom Watson for example. The MPs who had the power to do anything about it – including Brown – looked the other way.

Chaise @110,

Go back 50 years in Western history and you’ll find appalling attitudes towards homosexuality. Go back hundreds of years more and you’ll find cultures that thought homosexuality was fine. Attitudes towards race, gender and religious freedom have similarly shifted back and forth. Illiberal attitudes towards narcotics are an essentially modern phenomenon.

Chaise – attititudes towards race and gender have shifted, but there has been no freedom in how we express them. Ancient Sparta may have been enthusiastically homosexual in the right circumstances (it was effectively an aristocratic privilege – being a gay Helot would presumably have been hell) but there was no real choice about this – it was the social norm. Likewise the Romans may not have been concerned about race in the modern understanding (physical appearance – at least one emperor was clearly Arabic (we have his skull…) and others are thought to have been black) but try being a Barbarian (non-Roman or Greek) and then you’d find out what discrimination was. Applying modern categorisations to the past makes it look more liberal, but that is only because we are failing to understand how illiberal their socities really were. And no society in the past was liberal to women as a whole remember.

The religion thing is slightly odd – the imposition of exclusive monotheisms might appear to reduce liberalism and choice, but it in effect simply nationalised (sorry – rather a gross simplification, but still quite apt) the illiberality, so that rather than the illiberal attitudes of control being expressed and controlled locally (by head of family, tribe or community) they were expressed and controlled by professional religious experts, whose rulings on homosexuality, race etc actually tend to reflect the society in which they are in (easy example – for some reason, in northwest Europe, with its high numbers of swine, the Biblical prohibition on eating pigs was not really noticed, but that on eating horses (and homosexuality) was promoted).

Like I say, I reckon you’re right that society is generally getting more liberal. Democracy helps. And I doubt that attitudes on race, gender and sexuality could ever go back to where they were in the truly bad old days as a result of our society evolving naturally (as opposed to, for example, the very remote possibility of us being conquered by a fundamentalist society at some point in the future). But it could easily regress more mildly in the next twenty years, say.

It could always regress as a whole, but I don’t think there is a moral authority capable of forcing regression – the fall out from phone-hacking has perhaps destroyed any moral authority that the tabloid press could really muster (especially when the Mirror gets caught up in it). There could be increasing numbers of illiberal people, but I doubt it – liberalism wins one person at a time, whilst illiberalism can only really win by forcing itself on masses of people. It would take state oppression (not, to be honest, likely from any party other than perhaps the Greens or BNP (in very different ways)) to force illiberalism.

Tim J,

Yes, but the reason behind the abolition of the Scott Trust and its rebadging as a Limited Company was explicitly to avoid potential Inheritance Tax liabilities. It was entirely driven by tax avoidance. I’m, obviously, all in favour of that, but it does seem a touch odd given the Guardian’s own clearly expressed views on the subject.

Only if you accept the proposition that the paper has to reflect the views of the owners. If I acquired the Guardian I wouldn’t try to make it reflect my views – it would be less loss-making if it retained its readership I suspect. Something similiar actually seems to have happened at the Independent. Even in News International, the Times and the Sun would not agree about things, and there the Murdoch’s do seem to have been too influential over editorial policy.

Sue Marsh – can you please quote where and when Gordon Brown made an allegation of blackmail? If you are saying, and I have missed, that the last Prime Minister was blackmailed by the Sun, then you need to back that statement up with a quote from him. If not, then you are making yourself look increasingly silly and desperate. You are throwing out off the wall comments because I suspect you cannot rationally answer the comments that have been made.

You seem to have wrongly assumed that because the vast majority of people are disgusted at the criminal activities of a small number of journalists, they will support the restriction of freedom of speech. Ironically your stance would be most effective at closing down a paper like the Guardian, where much of the content has a political stance, and would be restricted to articles about sport and the weather. Poor old Polly Toynbee would have to switch to being the Royal correspondent, or be out of a job.

150. Flowerpower

I don’t see why people persist in their outrage at Sue Marsh’s suggestion. She’s made it plain what she is saying – i.e. that newspapers should be subject to the same political impartiality requirements as broadcasters already are.

This isn’t necessarily a threat to freedom of speech – after all, the BBC, Sky, ITV, C4 etc manage to broadcast a lot of strongly held and passionately delivered opinions.

I don’t happen to agree with Sue’s plan – I’m against it for both in principle and for practical reasons, but it’s not, per se, such a crazy suggestion, otherwise we wouldn’t already be doing it for radio and tv companies.

John B and others,

I’m not sure what it would mean for society to become more liberal but less left wing. It may be less egalitarian, but I’m not sure what that has to do with anything. What’s more, if you keep inviting poor people to live in the country, why is it surprising to find lots of poor people living in the country?

The idea that being scared of crime is silly, is in fact silly. Being scared of spiders is silly. Being scared of crime is totally rational. I live in a large northern city. There are large swathes of it where you just don’t go after dark or at the weekends, unless it’s raining heavily. As long as you can internalise these rules, you’ll probably be fine. (I say probably, because it’s quite hard to judge where thhe no-go areas are—I know two people who were beaten to death for being in the wrong places at the wrong times.) But why should we have to accept this? Why can’t we demand total freedom from human predation? One hundred years ago, the government provided it. Today, the government has no intentions of controlling crime, or our streets.

Just because the Economist can produce some figures that show the first derivative of the crime rate had a negative sign during the ‘90s, I have to say—well, I don’t give a fsck. It’s like being told, “Oh we’re still going to stab you, but a slightly slower rate than we stabbed you in the ‘80s, which was the fastest rate we stabbed you in recorded history”. Yeah, nice one. Also, this is coincident with the following argument: “By the way, have you noticed how many people are in prison today? And crime is still occurring! Obviously prison doesn’t work: perhaps we should let more of these guys out.”

Don’t patronise us. Just because you’re happy with absurd levels of crime, which are slightly lower than some arbitrarily large level that obtained in the very recent past, doesn’t mean the rest of us should be. Imagine if crime were committed by government militia or racist gangs, liberals would be all over it. Victims of crime would be cause celebres, criminals would be lambasted by right thinking society, students and Guardian readers would organise marches, judges would hand down fearsome sentences. But no, unfortunately we don’t live in that world. In the world we do live in, we have to be grateful that we’re not being victimised at as fast a rate as we were in the late ‘80s, that criminals are locked up at all (where they can get high and play computer games), and know that we’re ultimately to blame anyway. Well, gee—thx.

flowerpower @149,

This isn’t necessarily a threat to freedom of speech – after all, the BBC, Sky, ITV, C4 etc manage to broadcast a lot of strongly held and passionately delivered opinions.

I think that any extension of the authority of the state over what can be said is actually a threat to the freedom of speech. However reasonable it sounds, it restricts the right of something which is not controlled by the state to say what it likes.

[deleted]

@ 146:

“There could be increasing numbers of illiberal people, but I doubt it – liberalism wins one person at a time, whilst illiberalism can only really win by forcing itself on masses of people. It would take state oppression (not, to be honest, likely from any party other than perhaps the Greens or BNP (in very different ways)) to force illiberalism.”

Not necessarily; these things can change over time without any real government intervention. Eighteenth-century England, for example, was considerably freer when it came to sexual matters than Victorian England, for example, but I don’t recall any government actions forcing this change on people.

It should be illegal for the press to lie, misrepresent and make definitive statements without proof from a neutral legitimate source to back it up, and to present exceptions as the norm. Of course they’re entitled to state their own opinions, but they shouldn’t be entitled to their own facts. That is propaganda.

If for instance a right wing columnist would like the abolition of incapacity benefit because he can afford private healthcare and insurance and couldn’t care less about the wellbeing of others, and would rather live in a society where the weak die slow than have any of his tax money go towards looking after the sick, he should be allowed to give his opinion that incapacity benefit should be abolished, but it should not be illegal to claim or imply that incapacity fraud is rife to justify his heartlessness, because it’s simply not true.

There should be a limit to free speech for the press. The limit should be that they are not allowed to not lie or be deceitful. If a right-wing columnist wants to write an article calling for the abolition of incapacity benefit he should have to by law put the correct fact that the official estimate from the DWP is that incapacity benefit fraud is less than one percent.

But let’s face it the reason right-wingers get so excited about the thought of press regulation is because they know their whole world view is based on lies magical thinking and wishful thinking and if people were not propagandised, conservatism would die. When a right-winger talks about free speech what it really means is the freedom to lie and deceive.

“There should be a limit to free speech for the press. The limit should be that they are not allowed to not lie or be deceitful.”

Gosh that *is* interesting.

And who gets to decide what is a lie or what is deceitful?

As an example, Johann Hari (a left wing, not right wing) columnist declared that speculation in commodities futures raised the current price of food, thus starving people.

A Nobel Laureate in Economics, Paul Krugman, has pointed out that speculation in futures cannot raise current food prices. To do that you need to have haording of current food supplies.

They cannot both be right. Who gets to decide who is allowed to write and who is not?

157. Flowerpower

151 Watchman

I think that any extension of the authority of the state over what can be said is actually a threat to the freedom of speech. However reasonable it sounds, it restricts the right of something which is not controlled by the state to say what it likes.

I absolutely agree….. which is why I’m against Sue’s scheme. My point merely was that wrongheaded though she may be, her idea doesn’t make her a totally illiberal totalitarian, as some commenters have suggested. My understanding of her argument was that she was happy that newspapers should print any opinions they like, but she’d prefer it if they didn’t endorse parties at election time. No particularly big deal.

“Who gets to decide who is allowed to write and who is not?”

An independent body should scrutinise all press articles to enforce decent standards. If they find an article has come to a false conclusion they should have the power to have it corrected in the newspaper, with a full explanation to why it is wrong.

Hari and Krugman should have to by law back up their arguments with evidence from legitmate and non-partisan sources and explain how they came to their conclusions, that should avoid columnists coming to false conclusions I think.

@ 157 Robert
Who selects the independent commission? We have had the PCC for years and one of its members has just been arrested. On the other hand I shouldn’t trust one that you selected because your demand that Krugman (a Nobel Laureate, and centre-left so hardly one of Tim W’s stooges) backs up a statement of the transparently obvious “with evidence from legitimate and non-partisan sources” “and explain how they came to their conclusions”, suggests that you are unaware that a non-partisan economist is an oxymoron and that Krugman is one of the most legitimate sources in the world (even when I disagree with him). Any genuinely non-partisan commission would be to the right of both Krugman and Hari.
A false conclusion may be reached by accident. I am more worried about deliberate lies and deliberately misleading half-truths (which have been a major cause for concern for at least a century as may be seen from complaints dating back before the Great War0.

An independent body should scrutinise all press articles to enforce decent standards.

Funnily enough, I was doing some research on another topic in the British Library a few years back and came across a pamphlet written by Tony Benn in the late seventies arguing for more or less precisely this. An independent body made up of politicians, trade unionists and (I think) journalists, who should review the media to enforce standards.

It struck me then as the sort of idea that could only have emerged out of the paranoia of the time.

161. Watchman

XXX @ 143,

Not necessarily; these things can change over time without any real government intervention. Eighteenth-century England, for example, was considerably freer when it came to sexual matters than Victorian England, for example, but I don’t recall any government actions forcing this change on people.

I’m not sure that I’d agree – homosexuality was equally unlikely to be acceptable in either society. Eighteenth-century England was indeed happier to accept a more public acknowledgement of acceptable sexual activity than the Victorian era (as indeed, the 1920s were to the 1950s). But the Victorian period happily accepted the teachings of Darwin in a way the eighteenth century with its comfortably-entrenched (and virulently anti-Catholic) Anglicanism would never have been able to do so.

Perhaps it is fair to say that liberalism, as in what you can socially express about your actions, fluctuates – but I’m sure it has in my lifetime (compare 1983 with 1992, 2001 and 2010 and I am sure the level of acceptable public sex or however we want to describe was higher in 1992 and 2010), although I would still argue it is generally increasing. But liberalism, as in tolerance of difference was clearly greater in the Victorian period than the eighteenth century – non-Anglican MPs, lessening prosecution of homosexuality, greater consideration of the wishes of Irish Catholics etc. They even extended the franchise several times… The Victorians may have been uptight (although read some of the less classic literature…) but they were less outright discriminatory (which is not to say there were not some horrid examples…).

162. Watchman

There’s a few things training in history should be compulsory for, and anyone trying to justifiably write a statement as stupid as this should therefore have to undertake it:

Hari and Krugman should have to by law back up their arguments with evidence from legitmate and non-partisan sources and explain how they came to their conclusions, that should avoid columnists coming to false conclusions I think.

And who will define the legitimate and non-partisan sources? Where do you find a non-partisan source, since every question asked has implicit biases and by its nature excludes other questions.

As with Sue’s orginial post, you seem to think there is a possibility on unbiased facts. There is no such thing – there is merely facts, the provenance of which always have to be considered. Even a number is biased, as it is merely the answer to a question which is phrased in a human mind – and human’s are not capable of not being biased.

You could make printing an obvious falsehood a crime, but that would be very difficult to prove and in your example of the right-wing commentator commenting on benefit fraud, would not work if they did not use numbers and some benefit fraud existed. I actually think what that would do would be to make commentators refuse to use actual numbers and evidence in case it was wrong, and instead fall back on general statements and appeals to emotion – effectively reducing them all to Richard Littlejohns. Not really what we want…

@John 77
@161 Watchman

Good points. So the price of free speech is allowing press barons the freedom to order their newspaper columnists to lie and misrepresent daily to push their agendas, like for instance the newspapers who want the rid of sickness benefits who present the minority of fraudulent cases as the norm and lie about it incessantly to make it seem almost everyone on sickness benefit is a benefits cheat when in reality the fraud rate is about 1 percent? Newspapers being able to lie with impunity is incompatible with democracy it distorts the democratic process, because a section off the population are making decisions based on faulty information, maybe my sugestion was too simplistic but surely there must be a way to prevent this anti-democratic behaviour.

“Newspapers being able to lie with impunity is incompatible with democracy it distorts the democratic process, because a section off the population are making decisions based on faulty information, maybe my sugestion was too simplistic but surely there must be a way to prevent this anti-democratic behaviour.”

Let#s just try and point out another problem with this:

“Politicians being able to lie with impunity is incompatible with democracy it distorts the democratic process, because a section off the population are making decisions based on faulty information, maybe my sugestion was too simplistic but surely there must be a way to prevent this anti-democratic behaviour.”

And if you think you can get politicians to stop lying I’ve a nice bridge you might be interested in.

Well, as usual when the tory trolls are out to defend their elite masters we don’t get any sense.

We have the usual word ‘freedom’ banded about, without any understanding of real freedom. As we can see, tory trolls hide behind a false premise. They talk a lot about freedom to say what you want. Except for me, who apparently should be banned. Quite funny that the same trolls who talk about freedom want to ban me. But the model they support is really about giving their elite masters the biggest sound system to drown out any voice that they don’t like. It is corporate self censoring.

Murdoch’s tabloids are clever I will give them that. They speak the language of the working man , while all the time pushing the politics of the billionaire. They scream accountability of our politicians, while secretly blackmailing them to do what they want.

The Right wing corporate media puts Pravda to shame in it’s lies, and propaganda. Fox News looks exactly like the news would look if Hitler had won the war.

When Tim is making his argument that the free market is the great solution to everything, I point out Murdoch. Nothing shows the idiocy of markets than Murdochs empire.

How can the media be reformed then Sally?

@162 Robert
Your response to “I am more worried about deliberate lies and deliberately misleading half-truths” is “So the price of free speech is allowing press barons the freedom to order their newspaper columnists to lie and misrepresent daily to push their agendas …”
To which I repeat “I am more worried about deliberate lies and deliberately misleading half-truths”
Please look in the mirror

This post has been picked up by Alex Massie, who really is a liberal.

“I think Liberal Conspiracy should drop the “liberal” bit if they keep publishing tommyrot of this sort”.

Alex massie should mind his own business.

There are plenty of publications that pander to brownshirts.

“There are plenty of publications that pander to brownshirts.”

Yes Sally: as we keep trying to point out, “Liberal” Conspiracy seems to be one of them.

“I don’t like what you’re saying so you cannot say it” is brownshirt sort of behaviour.

Bribing police officers, bribing politicians, spying on the relatives of dead soldiers and missing girls. You are obviously much more in tune with brownshirts than me.

Yeah – of course Tim W has been using his mobile to ‘phone from Portugal Met police Officers that he has never met to offer them bribes.
Didn’t he say that Scandium was the commodity that had the lowest price rise in the last decade or so?
So the bribes he has paid to politicians have cut his income by some 40%?!?

173. Paul Newman

Fascism was basically a left wing revolutionary movement, did you know the first time Mussolini was called El Duce it was as the El Duce of Italian Socialists? He was the editor of Avanti and attended the Socialist Congress.
Fascism had elements of Nationalism of course but by that logic you could blame the Conservative Party for the PLO and the IRA .
Compared to his continental counterparts Mosely was silly vain and insubstantial figure but he had been a prominent Labour MP and his policies reflected that left wing background, for example Nationalised Banks, an idea with much currency of late.
The Fascists ( a word derived from Fascii , or Union ) hated the Communists but then the Communists hated the Fabians and the People front of Judea hated the Judean People`s Front.It was a typically bitter civil war of the left.
At the time of the Mail`s backing for the black shirts Mussolini was a generally popular figure and the retrospective judgement on this is absurd
It is especially absurd coming form people who gave active support and took money from the brutal Soviet Regime who funded Trade Unions who in turn funded the Labour Party certainly into the 70s when we had known the truth about it since the war.
Its not as if this blood-lust was a dirty secret it was proudly maintained in academic and Labour Party circles. Clause 4 did not get there by accident you know and the knee jerk anti Americanism still goes on.
In the final analysis Facsism was resisted , not by whining lefties but by a strong and independent Britain guided by the greatest Conservative, Winston Churchill

“Facsism was resisted , not by whining lefties but by a strong and independent Britain guided by the greatest Conservative, Winston Churchill”

The same Churchill, who for most of the 1930’s sat on the back benches warning about fascism, and was shouted down by the tory landed class, who supported Hitler, and even after war had broken out wanted to put Halifax as prime Minister, and appease Hitler.

Thankfully, the Labour party would have non of it, and said they would not serve with Halifax. But still the tory party plotted, so where did Hess fly to when he came here? A Landed tory estate, that is where.

Sally is rewriting history to suit herself as usual – the “tory landed class” was mostly in the House of Lords and of those in the Commons, a large proportion (possibly a majority but I don’t have the data to hand) supported Churchill (or, in one case, was Churchill).

@173: “The same Churchill, who for most of the 1930?s sat on the back benches warning about fascism”

Try checking out: Hope and Glory: Britain 1900-2000, by Peter Clarke (Penguin, 2nd rev ed 2004)

Churchill was kept on the back benches because he was widely regarded as a pain in the proverbial by many of his political colleagues, not especially because he warned about the threat from Nazi Germany, but because he championed concerted opposition on the Conservative benches to Baldwin’s India bill, which aimed to give limited internal self-government to India – so much for Churchill’s democratic values – and then he supported Edward VIII against the mounting pressures for his eventual abdication in December 1936.

Lloyd George, the last Liberal PM, visited Germany to meet with Hitler in August 1936. Here is a video clip of that meeting:
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=e_ApfE3Wjxg

On his return to Britain, Lloyd George wrote an article for the Daily Express on 17 November 1936:

“I have just returned from a visit to Germany. In so short time one can only form impressions or at least check impressions which years of distant observation through the telescope of the Press and constant inquiry from those who have seen things at a closer range had already made on one’s mind. I have now seen the famous German Leader and also something of the great change he has effected. Whatever one may think of his methods – and they are certainly not those of a parliamentary country – there can be no doubt that he has achieved a marvellous transformation in the spirit of the people, in their attitude towards each other, and in their social and economic outlook. . .

“What Hitler said at Nuremberg is true. The Germans will resist to the death every invader at their own country, but they have no longer the desire themselves to invade any other land. . .

“The establishment of a German hegemony in Europe which was the aim and dream of the old pre-war militarism, is not even on the horizon of Nazism. …”
http://www.icons-multimedia.com/ClientsArea/HoH/LIBARC/ARCHIVE/Chapters/Stabiliz/Foreign/LloydGeo.html

The fact is that the Nazi government in Germany gained internal popularity there by massively reducing unemployment through a public works programme, initially to build autobahns, sports stadiums and public buildings before turning to producing armaments from 1936 onwards.

The Nazis – and the fascists in Britain – presented themselves as “leftists”. We have independent evidence for this from George Orwell who attended a public meeting in Barnsley in 1936 to listen to Oswald Mosley, founder of the British Union of Fascists in 1932. Mosley had been a cabinet minister in Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour government.

172 newman Well said, on another laobur blog ,someone defended Karen bucks comments that the Tories don’t want poor people to breed by quoting Keith Jospeh saying something similar 38 years ago

Im reminded of the sun having the Headline in 1987 “why I’m voting labour by adolf hitler” and if you think the sun was wrong for saying Hitler supported labour ,well look at what oswald Mosley (ex labour party member) said” not that different form what he suggested 38 years earlier

The only re writing of history has been done by the tory party.

Who magically now love Churchill. But they had no time for him in the 1930’s. He was shouted down as he warned of the Nazi threat. The tory party would have you believe that they were all Churchill’s then. They were not.

Sally: “But they had no time for him in the 1930?s. He was shouted down as he warned of the Nazi threat. The tory party would have you believe that they were all Churchill’s then. ”

Do try reading Peter Clarke: Hope and Glory: 1900-2000 (Penguin 2004)

On rearmament by Britain: “The fact is that the rearmament programme was seriously begun under Baldwin, pushed along more slowly than Churchill wanted, but more quickly than the opposition advocated. Defence spending, pegged at about 2.5 per cent of GNP until 1935, increased to 3.8 per cent by 1937.” (Peter Clarke: Hope and Glory: Britain 1900-2000 (Penguin Books))

This is start of the Guardian’s report of 4 March 1935 on the Baldwin government’s rearmament White Paper:

“In a major reversal of rearmament policy Britain today announced new expansion plans for its army, navy and air force. The plans, in a defence white paper, are to demonstrate that Britain does not take lightly Germany’s continuing rearmament.

“The white paper calls for an enlarged fleet, improved defences for warships against air attack, more aircraft for the RAF and new coastal and anti-aircraft defences. The emphasis on air defence follows fears that Britain is an easy target for cross-Channel air raids. . . ”
http://century.guardian.co.uk/1930-1939/Story/0,,126998,00.html

The Conservatives won the November 1935 general election with a landslide, attracting more than half of the votes cast. George Lansbury, the Labour leader, was a declared pacifist who opposed rearmament. He lost his seat at the election so Attlee, his deputy, became Labour leader in his place.

Btw on 26 April 1968, Mosley wrote to The Times: “I am not and never have been a man of the right. My position was on the left and is now in the centre of politics.”

Typically blatant and stupid lies – every Tory is more than 72 years old?!
The Labour Party voted against rearmament: the Tories wanted us to be equipped to fight Hitler but Labour did not want us to be able to fight the National Socialist German Workers Party.
Hess landed on a small farm owned by none of Scotland’s landed gentry.
Rewriting of history is a left-wing trait as instanced by George Orwell in 1948 (the title of the book is “1984”) describing the imaginary “Ministry of Truth” under the IngSoc government, but modelled on the actual practice in Soviet Russia and Communist China (to the extent of deleting faces from group photographs). It is much more difficult for a right-wing government that believes in individual freedom

181. Richard W

” In the final analysis Facsism was resisted , not by whining lefties but by a strong and independent Britain guided by the greatest Conservative, Winston Churchill. ”

Counterfactual history is a fascinating subject. So what would have happened if the Nazis had invaded Britain? To a man and woman the British ruling class would have collaborated with them. They would have fallen over themselves to come to an arrangement with the invaders. ‘ Got to make the best of a bad situation and all that old boy. ‘ The aristocracy would have been having balls in honour of our new overlords. All over the country police forces would have collaborated with the Nazis. ‘ Got to keep order you understand.’ Businessmen large and especially the small would be fighting over gaining favour with the invaders. It would not be the local Conservative association members out resisting the Nazis. Meanwhile the ordinary people with nothing would be the ones resisting the Nazis and blowing their trucks etc up. The same people who actually fight wars. Moreover, the collaborators would be condemning their fellow countrymen for resisting. Where would Winston be? Down on the beaches? Umm, more likely the US or Canada.

182. Richard W

179. John77

” Hess landed on a small farm owned by none of Scotland’s landed gentry. ”

He was looking for the Duke of Hamilton’s estate. Hess had met him in Germany and believed he could get the Duke to speak to the King who would order Churchill to end the war. The Nazis did not have a very sophisticated idea how power actually operated in Britain. They genuinely believed the monarchy was more powerful than it really was and that Churchill was manipulated by Jews in the media, City and Parliament. If only Hess could speak to the king, the king would call a halt to hostilities.

After Neville Chamberlain resigned in May 1940, the choice for his successoras PM was between Lord Halifax in the Lords and Churchill in the Commons. Labour in the Commons were insisting on Churchill.

On coming into the premiership, Churchill learned that the Foreign Office were keeping open communications, through Swedish diplomatic channels, to the German government. Churchill ordered the channels closed down with the full approval of Labour members of the coalition government. There was to be no negotiated peace settlement.
John Lukacs: Five Days in London – May 1940 (Yale UP)

France fell in June 1940 and the Battle of Britain ensued in the late summer of 1940. As the result of that, German Luftwaffe manpower casualties were more than twice those of the RAF so the planned invasion of Britain was postponed and then abandoned as the German high command (sensibly) deemed air supremacy essential for a successful invasion. The Luftwaffe gave up daylight bombing of Britain and switched to night time bombing of London and other cities instead – hence the London Blitz in the winter of 1940.

The strategic consequence of the Battle of Britain was to keep open the option of a western front. Stupidly, Hitler decided to invade the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 – the more sensible option from his perspective would have been to first consolidate hold of western Europe, where the Nazis had many sympathisers.

In what alternate universe does Richard W exist?
In this universe, the “upper classes” were a disproportionately large number of volunteers to fight the Nazis and of the casualties in the armed forces. This is a demonstrable fact which you can check by going round and looking at a few War Memorials. Traditionally, it was the yeoman farmers (i.e. the guys who owned the land that they cultivated) who were liable to military service not the landless peasants. There is documentary evidence for this going back for nearly three thousand years (shortage of documents earlier than that).
When Winston was demoted from the Cabinet in WWI he reclaimed his commission and took a front-rank command in fighting the Germans. It required a direct order from the King to stop Winston from joining the Normandy invasion.
How stupid does Richard W think we are?

@ 181
You are not disputing what I actually said, which was correcting the absolutely false statement by Sally.
You seem to be saying that I should ignore reality and concentrate on what someone wanted to happen.
I think that reality matters – I’m just a mathematician who thinks 2+2 = 4 if you are operating in a number system with a modulus > 3

For interest: Battle of Britain flypast on 70th anniversary:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyJx3PQgwJA

Foreign fighter pilots who came to Britain and joined in the battle (often illegally):

Australia (32 pilots)
Barbados (1)
Belgium (28)
Canada (112)
Czechoslovakia (88)
France (13)
Ireland (10)
Jamaica (1)
Newfoundland (now a province of Canada) (1)
New Zealand (127)
Poland (145)
Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) (3)
South Africa (25)
US (9)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4257084.stm

In all, some 3,000 pilots flew fighters for the RAF in the battle and almost 600 were killed as a result. Btw about twice as many Hurricane fighter planes were engaged in the Battle as the later famous Spitfires.

Battle of Britain: in men and machines
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11029903

Spitfire Ace 1 of 4 – First Of The Few
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3742264430725368338

187. Richard W

@ 183. John77

Signing up to, umm, ‘ fight’ as an officer is different from what would have happened in the event of an invasion. In that scenario the same class would have capitulated and collaborated with the Nazis, just like the people with the same socioeconomic did all over Europe when the Nazis invaded.

It is not Eton’s finest who were being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is working class boys from all over the country not farmers sons.

” When Winston was demoted from the Cabinet in WWI he reclaimed his commission and took a front-rank command in fighting the Germans. ”

Not Private Churchill then? Strange how the officers all tended to come from wealthier backgrounds and the cannon fodder from poorer backgrounds. What a coincidence.

More than 16 tines as many Poles as Americans. I knew one (I went to school with his son). Stalin murdered Poland’s army officers but some of their Air Force officers escaped and played a significant part in winning the Battle of Britain where most of our British pilots started fighting with minimal training and had similar life expectancy to infantry lieutenants in the trenches in WWI. It was not just their own fighting skills but helping novice pilots to survive their first mission, whereafter they had a better idea of what air war involved.
Of course Polish Air Force Officers were upper or middle class

@186
How stupid do you think I am? Well, I am not and nor are most readers of Liberal Conspiracy.
An officer with a commission, temporarily in abeyance while he is a government minister cannot enlist as a private.
The mortality rate for officers in WWI was far higher than for privates – are you able to read or do you just choose not to do so when the facts contradict your ridiculous claims? The life expectancy for second lieutenants in 1917 was THREE WEEKS. joined the RAF, Mussolini led a workers party, the Yugoslav royalists led the resistance, as did the Greek royalists, Romania changed sides as soon as the young King reached an age to assert himself, the King of Denmark led his people by donning the Star of David when the Nazis tried to separate the Danish Jews with this label – I have run out of space on this comment, so a quick summary is that Richard W is wrong and either utterly ignorant or a deliberate liar.

@187: “More than 16 times as many Poles as Americans.”

America was dragged into the European war on 11 December 1941 against popular prevailing sentiment there. See the account in William Shirer: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (chp.25) on sentiments in Congress after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941:

“My own impression in Washington at that moment was that it might be difficult for President Roosevelt to get Congress to declare war on Germany. There seemed to be a strong feeling in both Houses as well as in the Army and Navy that the country ought to concentrate its efforts on defeating Japan and not take on the additional burden of fighting Germany at the same time.”

Britain had declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939. Germany declared war on America on 11 December 1941.

@ 189 Bob B
Yes
Have you told Hollywood or 99.9% of young US citizens?
The USA made a fortune out of selling overpriced ships and armaments to the UK.

@190: “Have you told Hollywood or 99.9% of young US citizens?”

In times past, I was much engaged in online debates in many US based forums and blogs. From that experience, Americans know about Pearl Harbor, of course, but are very unclear as to how exactly America became engaged in the war in Europe. They tend to have this idea that America somehow took the initiative in liberating Europe from the Nazis. But William Shirer is a top notch American source on the Third Reich having been based as a journalist in Berlin until shortly before Pearl Harbor.

Lukacs, an American historian, set out to argue for the historic importance of that decision in May 1940 by Churchill’s war cabinet not to make a peace settlement with Nazi Germany.

The ensuing Battle of Britain was considered by Von Runstedt, C-in-C West in the German high command at the end of the war in Europe, to have been the decisive strategic battle of the war – because it meant that there remained open the possibility of a western front which the Third Reich had to guard against. Without that threat, the Third Reich could have concentrated its considerable military might on the eastern front to gain “lebensraum”, supposedly one of its principal initial war aims.

This speech by Charles Lindbergh (the pioneering aviator), at Des Moines on 11 September 1941, is a clear indication showing how many Americans at home felt about being dragged into another European war:

“The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration.”
http://www.charleslindbergh.com/americanfirst/speech.asp

I quote that bit because it is often alleged that Churchill was kept on the Conservative backbenches during the 1930s because of latent antisemitism as well as fascist sympathies on the part of the Conservatives.

For reasons I’ve set out above, that is demonstrable nonsense IMO – not least because of Lloyd George’s amazingly high personal regard for Hitler and what the Nazis had achieved in restoring Germany’s economy. The sensible perspective IMO is to assess what policies made that possible without in any way endorsing the one party Nazi state, the camps, the virulent antisemitism, the euthenasia of those with disabilities, the master race stuff and all the rest of the Nazi ideology.

The economies of both Britain and Germany performed relatively well after the trough of the slump in 1931-2 compared with most other industrialised countries and it is instructive to understand why.

193. Paul Newman

Interesting stuff , especially from Bob B but on all sides really.

194. Richard W

Our greatest shame.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MunichAgreement_.jpg

The 15 guilty men otherwise known as the appeasers.

Neville Chamberlain (Conservative)
Sir Samuel Hoare ( Conservative)
Stanley Baldwin ( Conservative)
Lord Halifax ( Conservative)
Sir Kingsley Wood ( Conservative)
David Margesson (Conservative)
Sir Thomas Inskip ( Conservative)
Earl Stanhope ( Conservative)
W. S. Morrison ( Conservative)
Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith ( farmers union MP so Conservative)
Sir John Simon (Liberal and later Conservative)
Sir Horace Wilson ( civil servant, Chamberlain lackey)
Leslie Burgin ( Liberal)
Ernest Brown ( Liberal)
Ramsay MacDonald ( Labour)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guilty_Men

“Interesting stuff , especially from Bob B but on all sides really.”

Thanks – but my main, perhaps only advantage is sheer age and having managed to live through this epic period so far.

It is aguably true that the time of the Battle of Britain was our “finest hour” but in believing that Britain’s declaration of war on Germany on 3 September 1939 was in response to a moral imperative, we need to remember also that by the end, WW2 had killed between 40 and 50 million people and inflicted much misery by displacing millions of people from their homelands.

My understanding is that Churchill’s calculation was that a peace settlement in May 1940 would have ultimately meant a Europe effectively under the control of a permanent hegemony of either Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.

@193: “The 15 guilty men otherwise known as the appeasers.”

IMO that is rubbish. Baldwin as PM started the rearamament programme in March 1935 – see the link to the Guardian report @178. At the time, the Labour Party was opposed to any rearmament on principle.

The Munich agreement of September 1938 ceded the Sudetenland (with its mostly German speaking population) in Czecho-Slovakia to Germany. The unilateral response of the British government when German troops marched into what remained of Czecho-Slovakia in March 1939 was to offer a treaty to Poland to guarantee its territorial integrity. That treaty was the basis of Britain’s ultimatum to Germany at the beginning of September 1939 to withdraw its invasion forces and the subsequent declaration of war on Germany when there was no response.

Even by 1939, Britain’s army was poorly equipped because – wisely as it turned out – rearmament resources had been increasingly directed to air defence and then to the Royal Navy, leaving the army as a cinderella operation.

Britain was not placed to fight a land war in continental Europe – as Dunkirk demonstrated in May 1940. In 1939, we didn’t have much of a bomber force either but, as events showed, we did have an effective system of command and control for air defences which gave the RAF an ultimately decisive edge over the much larger Luftwaffe. The other important factor was that we were building fighter planes at a much faster rate during the Battle of Britain than Germany was replacing its lost aircraft. Britain was in greater need of fighter pilots than fighter planes.

As I keep pointing out, Britain’s population at the start of the war was about 40 millions, compared with the combined populations of Germany and Austria at 79 millions. That mattered.

“Not Private Churchill then? Strange how the officers all tended to come from wealthier backgrounds and the cannon fodder from poorer backgrounds. What a coincidence.”

No, not a coincidence at all. Britain was, after all, a feudal country. Where people got to own land in exchange for agreeing to be officers to fight for the King. This was the basis of economic life From, oooooh, about 500, 600 AD right through to the 1500s or so.

I agree that we’ve found better ways of doing it than that , but that was indeed the historical link. Own land, be an officer: be an officer, own land, at a time when land was the only form of wealth.

That the society should still have parts of it that operate the same way just isn’t all that surprising. It is the landed gentry who sign up as the Army’s officer class.

193 Ramsey mcdonald died inearly 1937 how could he be an appeaser,
the fact that Micheal foot was happy to blame the tories going to munich in 1939, over looks the fact that he launched a scathing attack on the tory back benches like Churchill who weren’t infavor of disarming us When foot first stood for parlaiment in the 1935 election,, it was hypacritical of foot during the war to call them the guilty men ,when he wanted us disarmed ,something he convieniantly forgot, and that was the same foot who did nothing during the war, but go telected to aprliament in 1945 and htemn gave fascisst like powers to union barrons to make every one join a union and those union bosses got rid of the rule that they had tostand for re election and become leaders for life,

IMO Michael Foot’s “guilty men” narrative was intended to cover over the opposition of the Labour party to rearmament on principle – it was a logically absurd position to oppose both “rearmament” and “appeasement” as though the British government had only to say the word and Hitler and the Nazis would have backed down.

A few years ago I went to a talk by someone local who had been in the army at Dunkirk in April 1940. He described the military command situation there as confused and chaotic.

Ordered into a situation which proved to be indefensible – small arms versus tanks and other heavy weapons – he and comrades were were obliged to surrender en masse so they spent the rest of the war in a German POW camp. In 1939, Britain didn’t have an army capable of fighting a land war in continental Europe. That wasn’t a secret. Hitler and the German high command were well aware that Britain was incapable of military interventions in Czecho-Slovakia in September 1938 or in Poland a year later.

Recall that the Soviets had signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany in late August 1939, just prior to the German invasion of Poland, and then a “Friendship Treaty” on 28 September 1939 to divide up Poland when Britain and France were already at war. Recall too the Katyn Forest massacre of Poland’s intelligensia by the Soviets between April and May 1940.

The “appeasers” were part of a generation in politics in Britain who had mostly experienced the horrorific slaughter of WW1 in trench warfare and wanted to avoid another European conflict if possible – British plus Commonwealth and Empire casualties in WW1 were approximately twice those of WW2.

WW1 in populist mythology was supposedly the “war to end all wars”, hence that infamous King and country debate in the Oxford Union: on 9 February 1933 of the resolution: “‘That this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country’. It was passed by 275 votes to 153, and became one of the most well-known and notorious debates conducted in the Union.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_King_and_Country_debate

Ever since WW2, accusations of appeasement have been flung about in Britain’s political debates to justify downright bad military interventions by Britain, such as Suez in 1956 and the Iraq invasion in April 2003. Beware.

“He was looking for the Duke of Hamilton’s estate. Hess had met him in Germany and believed he could get the Duke to speak to the King who would order Churchill to end the war”

Yup, the same Duke of Hamilton who before he inherited his title was a conservative and Unionist MP. The Royal family would have been delighted to play Vichy royalty to the Nazis. After all, Hitler hated Communism which had removed and executed their family relatives in Russia. And Hitler was anti Jewish, which chimed with much of the Conservative upper classes.

Also, when the govt boxes were opened on the issue of Hess, a lot of documentation was missing, and had been sent to the Royal archives at Windsor which is not subject to any laws about disclosure. The facts about a lot of what happened with Hess has been covered up. I believe Hess came here with the full backing of Hitler, to sign a peace deal. Churchill would be removed from office. Halifax would become Prime Minister and the Royals and landed classes would have become effectively British Vichy Nazis.

Hess believed he had come to Britain with the understanding that he was under The Kings personnel protection. While in prison he repeatedly asked his MI6 interviewers for messages be taken to George V1

“About five years ago at the request of the Imperial war museum I gave their representative a taped interview about my war time memories. They agreed to let me have a duplicate tape which duly arrived from London. Much to my surprise the tape came suddenly to an abrupt end when I began my description of Hess’s arrival. This has made me wonder whether there is someone in authority, either with instructions or acting on his own initiative, who is giving orders to keep the lid on information connected with the Hess affair. If so it is high time that the lid was taken off. Should there be an unrevealed secret the British people, and particularly those of us who spent six years of our young lives containing the aspirations of the German tyranny, have a right to know it.”

Wing commander C Hector MacLean 1999.

@198:

That might, at best, establish some deep conspiracy between the Duke of Hamilton and Rudolf Hess but if the intent of Hess’ flight on 10 May 1941 was really to bring about a peace settlement between Germany and Britain then it was a manifest failure:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolf_Hess

There are many reports about the state of Hess’ mental health – from the entry in wikipedia:

Hess was interviewed by psychiatrist John Rawlings Rees, who had worked at the Tavistock Clinic prior to becoming a Brigadier in the British Army. Rees concluded that he was not insane, but certainly mentally ill and suffering from depression — probably due to the failure of his mission. Hess’ diaries from his imprisonment in Britain after 1941 make many references to visits from Rees, whom he did not like and accused of poisoning him and “mesmerizing” him. Rees took part in the Nuremberg Trials of 1945.

Taken by surprise, Hitler had Hess’ staff arrested. Questioning revealed that Hess was not motivated by disloyalty, but had simply cracked under the strain of the war. The official statement from the German government said that Hess had fallen victim to hallucinations brought on by old injuries from the previous war.

If Hess believed that the Duke of Hamilton would persuade the King to sack Churchill he was clearly wrong because the Duke did not. It takes Sally to condemn a man for what a deluded foreigner *thought* he might do, but did not.
“The Royal family would have been delighted to play Vichy royalty to the Nazis.” is one of Sally’s more obviously absurd delusions: it is well documented that the members of the Royal family who were of fighting age actively fought the Nazis (the Duke of Kent, George VI’s younger brother was killed on active service).

As the German invasion of the Soviet Union, starting on 22 June, followed shortly after Hess’ personal peace mission to Britain on 10 May, there was ample and credible scope for Soviet stoked conspiracy theories.

Had the mission been successful in bringing about a peace settlement between Britain and Germany, that would have substantially diminished the possibility of a western front and would have enabled Nazi Germany to concentrate more military resources on attacking the Soviet Union.

There was a logic to Hess’ mission but, in the event, there was no peace settlement. In Britain, Hess was regarded as being close to being a nut case rather than as a credible envoy.

Hess’s mission was a failure because thankfully Churchill stopped it in its tracks. And yes, we all know the PR job that was done on the Royals” looking the East end in the face.” Guilty conscience perhaps? History was certainly rewritten. Why have so many documents on this gone missing?

But for a couple of months around the time of Hess’s trip their was an attempt for the appeasers in the tory party to do a deal with Hitler, and yes it failed. But that does not mean it did not take place. Tory MP Alan Clark said just before his death that their was a window of opportunity around that time for Britain to sue for peace and he said he wished that had happened. Churchill told Stalin in 1944 that Hess had come to Britain to have an audience with the King

. Hess was kept in jail for the rest of his life despite campaigns to release him, lead by former tory prime minister Alec Douglas Home, Jewish journalist Bernard Levin, Lord Chalfont, Lord Shawcross, tory Mp Airy Nieve, , in 1979, and continued by his widow after he was killed by the IRA. In 1986, The Russians suddenly said they would be prepared to release Hess and within a couple of weeks he had mysteriously died.

CIA agents have said the believed Hess was killed by the British, to stop his release. Rhodri Morgan, labour MP said on a Dutch tv show that he was told by Group Captain Geoffrey Osborne fomely the AIR Attache at the British Embassy in Bonn that Hess was bumped off by the Brits. Morgan was then approached by a British diplomat who became quite aggressive. Osborne then suddenly retracted his claim.

Funny years late how Blair, tried to stop Morgan from being Wales first Minister.

TORY STOOGE “it is well documented that the members of the Royal family who were of fighting age actively fought the Nazis (the Duke of Kent, George VI’s younger brother was killed on active service).”

George V1 young bothers death is a whole new can of worms, that i have not got time to go into now. But needless to say that a rather mysterious plane crash, that some might say was rather convenient.

Once the peace plan had failed many of the tory appeasers fell in line, and many of then went on to have honourable war records fighting the tyranny. But that does no mean that there was not a plot to overthrown Churchill and sue for peace.

Sally’s ridiculous attempts to rewrite history go so far as to attribute to Alan Clarke personally his quotation of Hitler’s conversation with Martin Bormann.
Her other smears are just that – smears with no evidence
I suggest that we should ignore any further remarks that she makes.

“I’ve never understood why we allow our print media to support a particular political viewpoint”

You’re kidding right?

a) Who are “we” in this instance
b) you sound as if you’re happy with TV or internet news supporting a viewpoint or viewpoints (next you’ll be telling me that the BBC is impartial or ‘conservative’
c) how do you propose the press works? Reckon anyone else has every given the subject any thought? no?

An assignment for you: put the words “Bias” and “BBC” into google and do some reading)


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