Recent Media Articles

Why Ed Miliband will win his fight against the Daily Mail

by Sunny Hundal     October 1, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Today the Daily Mail dug in its heels by continuing to attack Ralph Miliband and his son.

But the Labour leader isn’t backing down. Here is the email he just sent to Labour members:

On Saturday and last night the Daily Mail printed stories about my Dad. The headlines called him “The man who hated Britain.”

There was a time when politicians stayed silent if this kind of thing happened, in the hope that it wouldn’t happen again. I will not do that. This isn’t about me and my family – this is about doing what’s right.

Speak up for decency in British politics, and add your name to mine.

It is perfectly legitimate for the Daily Mail to talk about my father’s politics but when they say that he hated Britain, I was not willing to put up with that.

My father loved Britain. After he arrived in Britain as a refugee from Nazi Germany, he joined the Royal Navy. He did so because he was determined to be part of the fight against the Nazis and to help his family hidden in Belgium. He was fighting for Britain.

Britain was a source of hope and comfort for my dad, not hatred. He loved Britain for the security it offered his family and the gentle decency of our nation. The simple truth is something has really gone wrong when a newspaper attacks the family of a politician – any politician – in this way. I won’t stay silent when it happens – that’s why I have written a reply in today’s Mail. I hope you take a moment to read it, and then say you won’t stay silent either. We can be better than this.

The New Labour rulebook would tell Miliband to avoid picking a fight with the Daily Mail because of its popularity with Middle England.

But this is not how Miliband does things.

For a start, Miliband’s team know the political power of the press has declined significantly along with their circulations. Plus, people’s attitudes have changed, they don’t take cues on who to vote for from newspaper proprietors like they used to. The inability of most of the press to deliver a majority for Cameron (despite Gordon Brown’s unpopularity) in 2010 finally killed the illusion that newspapers have a major influence on elections.

But there’s a broader point here too.

The Daily Mail is unwittingly helping Ed Miliband define himself. The Mail is a much-loathed newspaper across Britain (not just with lefties), and Miliband wants to define himself as being willing to take on major vested interests.

The Daily Mail is doing his job for him. If people see Miliband as being fearless against the Daily Mail, they won’t see him as ‘weak Ed’. He should keep the controversy going.

Lastly, the Mail’s strident invective makes it harder for the newspaper to influence the election in 2015. Everyone now knows it has already made up its mind about Miliband and they’ll see the coverage through that prism. This is why most newspapers wait until the very last to declare their support – to give the illusion they’re not biased towards one side.

The Mail has already revealed its hand and that makes it much harder for it to pretend to be a neutral observer of British politics until 2015. As a precedent, the Sun ditched Gordon Brown /Labour seven months before the election in 2010, but to its dismay saw polls move in favour of Brown after declaring he shouldn’t be elected.

The Mail is in a lose-lose situation here.

Why did the national media ignore the unprecedented NHS rally in Manchester?

by Guest     October 1, 2013 at 9:29 am

by Giselle Green

When you take part in a special event you can be forgiven for being so wrapped up in that you think it’s the most important thing happening at that moment and everyone should be aware of it.

When that event involves 50,000 people from across the country protesting about an issue that concerns every person in the country and causes massive disruption to one of the country’s major cities, you would certainly be forgiven for assuming everyone should be aware of it. You would be wrong.

Sunday’s massive anti-austerity rally through the centre of Manchester, which coincided with the start of the Tory Party conference, received shockingly scant coverage. I’m not one for conspiracy theories but you’ve got to wonder why the main BBC news that night gave the event just 20 seconds of airtime, contained no clips of organisers or participants, and had us believe it was just a load of protesters shouting “Tory scum”. This certainly was neither the tone nor the objective of the rally I attended.

Greater Manchester Police went out of their way to praise the “peaceful and lawful” crowd, which also makes you wonder why Sky News focused much of its fleeting report on a single arrest – which represented half of the total number of two arrests. ie. 0.004% of the crowd.

Good TV pictures no doubt but not reflecting the actual story. And, as in the BBC’s news report, the colourful pictures of demonstrators were used merely as wallpaper for a political correspondent to talk over and provide yet further details about the Tory conference. ITV News at Ten’s coverage isn’t even worth mentioning.

Despite the depressingly poor national TV coverage, I expected to wake up the following morning to front page photos like this:

A quick flick through the newspapers brought nothing of the kind. With the exception of the Daily Mirror (which carried photos, an article and a leader comment), I spotted not a single word in the Mail, Express or Sun, just a photo in the Times, describing protesters as “health workers”, and a paltry few, easy-to-miss words in the Telegraph.

Worryingly even the Guardian had merely a minuscule article, ironically preferring to give far greater prominence to a far smaller protest against health care reforms – on the other side of the Atlantic, in Washington. The Independent, FT and others opted for the image of a single fusilier heckling the Tories inside the conference hall rather than the fifty thousand people heckling outside. 

I am seriously at a loss to explain the total media disinterest.

A demonstration by 2,500 cyclists over the summer in London received far greater coverage. And imagine the column inches and TV exposure that would be given if fifty thousand bankers marched through the City of London protesting against a cap on their bonuses?

As a former BBC Radio 4 news producer, I can only wonder if news values have changed over the past decade. Are we jaded by old-fashioned, anti-government demonstrations? Were there not enough protesters? Were they the wrong type of protesters? Is there a media conspiracy, as many have been suggesting on twitter? Of course we all know where the political allegiances of the press lie, but this media silence went beyond the normal party lines.

I genuinely don’t have the answers and would really like someone to answer the question – who and why decided that journalists shouldn’t properly report news of national importance on their own doorstep on Sunday?

Giselle Green is Head of Press for the National Health Action Party and a former BBC Radio news producer

By normalising the veil, we are playing into the hands of Islamists

by Guest     September 22, 2013 at 1:34 pm

by Suhayl Saadi

In ‘Lifting the Veil…’ (The Guardian, 21.9.13), it is admirable that Zoe Williams lets (a selected cohort of) Muslim women have their voice. It is obvious, as Williams may be suggesting, that the obsession of the political and media classes in the UK and USA with every nuance of ‘Muslims’ serves as both distraction from systemic economic criminality and a perennial divide-and-rule tactic.
Sadly and typically, though, the article errs by omission and plays into the hands of three Far Rights – the White Supremacist Far Right exemplified by the EDL et al, the Islamist Supremacist Far Right generated by Saudi Arabia and its allies and the fundamentalist capitalist Far Right represented by most of our ruling political class. The comparison drawn by Williams between women who adopt these various Douglas Fairbanks Junior coutures and the urban youth subculture of ‘Goths’ therefore is utterly inappropriate.
Can we not see what has happened since the early 1980s? The goalposts keep changing, so that Williams allows (for want of a better term) ‘women who sport hijabs’ to pose as some kind of normative middle ground. This is exactly what has happened in the UK state’s dealings with ‘subaltern’ groups domestically and it is a reflection of the specific architectures of control deployed during the days of the British Empire.

It is no accident that this process has mirrored the systemic shift to the Right in terms of the overall economic discourse. It is due, in part, to a political disconnection between feminism, anti-racism and economic critique.

And so, conveniently, by default, the public discourse in this country continues to be modulated between the three Right-wing, oppressive poles – fundamentalist capitalism, white supremacism and religious supremacism – while nice white liberals (some of whom are my best friends) flounder. 

Saudi Arabia is the worst thing that has happened to Muslim societies since the Black Death.
For 40 years, billions of petrodollars have furthered the Saudi imperial project, which subsists in a structural coalition between the Al Saud family and the Sunni theocracy of the Arabian peninsula. Originally, this was, of course, in large part a creation of the British Empire.

What we see in Muslim societies globally emphatically is not a reflection of a need to keep “a connection with [our] conservative culture”. Islamism is not a conservative ideology; there is nothing ‘traditional’ or ‘authentic’ about it; it is a revolutionary, post-modern totalitarian ideology.
Perhaps, for a change, we would do well to ask the Left in Muslim countries what they think of Islamism? The Left in Muslim countries is under no illusions, does not mince its words or actions and regularly gets murdered by (in some places, state-sponsored) Islamist paramilitary death squads whose modus operandum most closely resembles that of the Contras in Central America. Now we see what is happening in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria, Libya and even Turkey.

This is not about consumer ‘choice’; we are not talking here about brands of tiles or toilet rolls. It is about Saudi imperialism and social control and the strategic alliance, baptised, presumably in oil, geostrategic advantage and kickbacks, between that entity and our ruling elites in the UK and USA.

The sooner guilty white liberals and the visible ‘Left’ in Britain begin focusing on all of that, with no holds barred, the better.

This is how we can convince Britons about climate change

by Leo Barasi     September 13, 2013 at 1:58 pm

I’ve been arguing for a while that there’s been too little done to explain to the British public why they should care about climate change. If the problem is seen only to affect animals and people in other countries, campaigners will struggle to win mass support for action to tackle climate change. It has to be made real and personal, or many people just won’t care enough.

But that raises a difficult question. If people don’t already think that climate change will affect them and their family, how do you persuade them they should care?

Fortunately, a mega poll by MORI for Defra provides some answers and the starting point for what a campaign could look like.

According to the UK Climate Risk Assessment, the two most important climate risks facing the UK are flooding and summer heatwaves; I will focus on these as the possible bases for a campaign. However, the poll shows a radical difference in how they are perceived.

It won’t come as much of a surprise that most people in the UK think that flooding is the main risk from climate change (bear with me – it gets more interesting).

The chart below shows the proportion who think flooding has already become more frequent and the proportion who think it will become more frequent by 2050 – and the same for heatwaves. Flooding easily wins out:

Perhaps this is a product of how heatwaves and floods are distributed. Different parts of the country suffer floods at different times, and most serious incidents get news coverage – while heatwaves tend to hit the country in one go, so coverage is more concentrated. So floods may just be in the news more often*.

But I don’t think that’s the full explanation, and here’s where it starts to get interesting.

A later question asked respondents to move on from considering the likelihood, and to say how concerned they’d be if the UK actually experienced these changes. The results are similar: far more people would be worried by more flooding – in fact, more people say they wouldn’t be concerned by heatwaves than that they would be:

So, even if a campaign succeeded in convincing more people that, as it were, summer is coming, most people wouldn’t be that bothered by the prospect. The point is superbly encapsulated in ITN’s presentation of the deadly heatwave this summer. A few hundred people may be dying, but overall everyone’s basking in it and generally having a nice time:

I take two main conclusions from this for campaigns about UK responses to climate change.

Firstly, if someone were to start a campaign now about why people in the UK should want action on climate change, the obvious choice would be flooding. People believe it’s already happening, that it’s going to get worse, and that its worsening would be a major problem. While the poll also shows most people don’t think they personally are at risk from flooding, they’re still concerned and there’s nothing else that has so much legitimacy at the moment.

However, this isn’t to say campaigners should forget about heatwaves. Because another question shows that the conjuction fallacy is affecting the results**. The principle of this fallacy is that people often think that a specific condition, described in detail, is more likely than a broader condition, which is not described in detail, but which the specific condition is an example of.

In this case, we’ve already seen that people don’t think heatwaves are very likely. But when you give them more details about what you mean – make it real – by spelling out the impacts of a heatwave, the proportion who think it’s likely becomes much greater. There’s no equivalent change with flooding, perhaps because most people have already thought about what it means:

Even with this effect, heatwaves are still seen as less likely – but the gap is much smaller, and the following question that tests concern about these specific impacts finds no difference between the described-in-detail floods and heatwaves.

So the case may not yet have been won for why people in the UK should really care about tackling climate change, and flooding looks like the strongest ground for developing the argument further, with the potential to be credible and effective. But with some work to demonstrate the connection between the principle and what it means in practice, there’s no reason heatwaves can’t ultimately be part of a campaign as well.

Ten ways to win your online petition-driven campaign (at

by Guest     August 28, 2013 at 9:10 am

by Katherine Sladden

Since launching in the UK in May 2012, – the world’s largest petition site – has seen its UK user base grow to almost 3 million people, starting, joining and winning campaigns on issues they care about.

What makes some petitions fly and why do some not catch the imagination? Here are my ten top tips for using the site to win your campaign.

1. Tell your story
When Nic Hughes died of cancer and his life insurance company refused his family’s claim, his best friend Kester wanted to fight for justice. Kester didn’t bother explaining the in-and -outs of the insurance claim, he simply told the story of his incredible friend and the family he left behind. It was enough to get 60,000 backers who helped secure a pay-out for the Hughes family. Not everyone loves causes – but we all love a story. Tell yours.

2. Don’t be so formal
“We the undersigned” is the least engaging first sentence ever. The best petitions on read like a news story not a policy briefing. Be engaging and use simple language – it won’t just be your supporters that understand the issue better, it will probably be more convincing to the decision makers to.

3. It’s not a petition, it’s a community
Everyone that signs your petition is someone saying ‘I agree with you and I want to help’. Get them to help you. You can email the people that sign your petition through so think about what you can ask them to do. Kester got his supporters to call up the insurance company, Caroline got women to dress up as historical figures and turn up outside the Bank of England. You’ll often be surprised by the enthusiasm of your supporters.

4. Don’t get hung up on numbers
Thanks to the government’s e-petition site, 100,000 signers has become a defacto figure for petition success. The parliamentary debate idea is a myth (lots of petitions lower than 100k have been discussed; while lots at 100k haven’t). It’s not the numbers on your petition that matter, it’s the campaign that goes with it. The vast majority of winning campaigns on have far less than 100k supporters.

5. It’s not all about Twitter
Forget Stephen Fry’s Twitter feed (as lovely as he is) building movements online is about storytelling, Facebook and email. If you really want to get your campaign trending on Twitter or get a bunch of new signers – send an email. Twitter is where you can speak to media and celebs but Facebook and email are better for new signers and engagement. Use them all.

6. Find the little big thing
When the Bank of England announced that Elizabeth Fry would no longer be on a five pound note Caroline Criado Perez thought it said something profound about how women’s’ achievements are celebrated. She won her now infamous campaign and by doing so inspired a huge media debate about sexism. Big issues are important, but can be tough to make sound urgent. Think about the little thing that makes the big thing come to life.

7. React fast
When Jo, a sexual abuse survivor, heard that a lawyer and judge had referred to an abuse victim as “predatory” she started a petition. It was up and running before the press have even picked up the story. By that afternoon she had thousands of supporters, the next day she was telling her story to the media and soon charities and the Prime Minister spoke out in support. Less than 48 hours later she had won her campaign.

8. Put yourself in the target’s shoes to change their mind
Take some time to think about who is the most important decision maker you are trying to reach and what motivates them – their brand, customers, voters. Then break down your campaign to target each of those elements.

9. Celebrate every win
What motivates supporters is winning. If you get a result, even if it is small, tell them and celebrate it. Releasing the power you have to make change is addictive and gets people coming back for more.

10. Victory comes in lots of forms: be agile
IDS doesn’t live on £53 per week. Lucy hasn’t won her campaign to get topless images off Page 3 – but both campaigns have had impact in different ways. For one week in April the debate on welfare shifted – while for twelve months media sexsim has been highlighted through Lucy’s campaign. Embrace progress, report it back to supporters and keep campaigning.

Ed West interview: debating the ‘illusions’ of a diverse society

by Sunny Hundal     August 25, 2013 at 7:06 pm

The centre-right commentator Ed West, previously at the Telegraph, has written a book on diversity and immigration. I thought it would be useful to do an email interview and ask him about some of his assertions.

Sunny: Briefly, what is the main point you make in your new book?

Ed West:
That is the social costs of large-scale immigration tend to outweigh the benefits after a certain fairly early point, and that greater ethnic, religious and cultural diversity places a strain on society by reducing trust. This has a negative impact on all sorts of things, most of which are tend to be the historical property of the Left; in particular our willingness to share public goods with fellow citizens.

I think a lot of people on the Left agree with this to a certain extent, but because anti-racism is the most important tenet of their moral being they would rather an analysis that explained it away as something that can be countered, whether by government efforts of attempts to change hearts and minds. This is where I would disagree with them.

Sunny: Arguably, many other changes across British society in the last 30 years – de-industrialisation, mass unemployment, increased individualism and liberalism, higher geographical mobility, globalisation etc have reduced trust too. Where’s the evidence that immigration is behind it all?

Yes, all of those things cause lower trust (the decline of religion too is a massive factor). Anything that brings freedom will bring atomisation, they’re two sides of the same coin. In regards to diversity reducing trust, there have been a number of studies; the most widely quoted is Robert Putnam’s, but there are various others, by academics at MIT, Harvard and the Home Office. There are (a smaller) number of studies showing that it doesn’t make an impact, but social sciences will always bring these contradictory studies, and I think the weight of evidence is in favour of the former group. (But that may be just my own personal biases.)

Looking at it logically, it would be astonishing if greater ethnic, religious and other types of diversity didn’t reduce trust, considering that by its very nature religions developed to bind a group of people together. Ethnicity like religion is also formed by membership of a particular culture.

Sometimes this is not neccessarily a bad thing; the converse to the modern liberal society are clannish ones, where people are very closely bonded towards their own kin but very distrusting of outsiders. Ethnic groups developed as extended clans and in ancient slave-owning societies slaves from the same ethnic groups were kept apart because, even when the language barrier was overcome and a lingua franca was understood, they were believed to be too dangerously cohesive for the owners. Tests of prisoner’s dilemma today between members of the same and different ethnic groups consistently show this still to be true – people around the world are more likely to turn over some from a different group.

I’m not saying this will be the case with everyone. A great deal of our feelings of trust and neighbourliness are affected by things like wealth and also general fear levels (and liberals tend to have lower fear levels than conservatives, which is why they’re often nicer people). Wealthy and/or liberal people are less affected by the downsides of diversity, but because wealthy and liberal people tend to be more vocal and prominent in this debate as in many others it’s easy to forget that they are not the norm.

Sunny: Let’s assume there are lower levels of trust among Britons. Regardless of whether you believe if this was caused by immigrants, what do you suggest we do about it?

I think there is a wider question about social capital, the term popularised by Robert Putnam but a lot older, which was sort of ignored for a while but is now taken up a lot of people, like David Goodhart, David Willetts, Jonathan Haidt and (most recently) Jesse Norman with his book on Edmund Burke (and also the Blue Labour/Red Tory people). Goodhart describes himself as a post-liberal, which is a pretty good phrase, because it says that he’s accepted the social reforms of the 60s in terms of women’s and gay rights, and anti-racism, but there are different challenges now.

They come from different angles but the general idea is that liberal individualism has been taken too far and fails to take account that humans are social animals and don’t generally act or think like indviduals. Both the Left and Right have embraced this, in the latter case with a sort of market fundamentalism. We’re not rational, isolated individuals who calculate only our own best interests, we have families, friends, wider communities, fellow religous believers, compatriots whose interests we wish to look after (and should look after).

The Left has sort of fallen out love with many of these institutions – the family, church, country – because it seems them as oppressive or homophobic or racist, which they can be, but they’re also often not and provide means of support for the most vulnerable. Modern libertarians tend to dislike these institution because they hold back the individual but a society run along the lines of some of Ayn Rand’s disciples would be a living hell for the poor or those not blessed without specific talents. Unfortunately I think our chancellor is probably a disciple.

Haidt (a liberal) says the biggest failing of the modern Left is that it fails to see that many of its reforms reduce social capital, and that the victims tend to be poorer. I think people on the Left are in denial about the impact that the decline in traditional two-parent families has on the very poor, and will perform cartwheels to deny it (although the evidence is hard to fix on, because it’s hard to look at which way the causal arrow is going).

On the other hand conservatives are in denial about the money-orientated signals that the free-market gives out, and how it does (whatever the Blessed Margaret’s intention) make people more selfish; they’re also deluded if they think that the problem is people on benefits rather than low wages and the working poor, and the social catastrophe that is housing inflation. Tackling all those issues would probably help. And did I mention immigration?

Sunny: It seems to me that the other factors you mention have reduced social capital much more than immigration. So why focus on that? And other than restricting immigration, how would you increase social capital?

Personally I think that’s unlikely – the evidence seems to suggest that immigration and diversity are big factors in trust and societal well-being (which was strangely skirted over by the Spirit Level, although I dont doubt that trust and equality have a fair amount of interaction). But even if its not the biggest factor, even so – rather than asking why focus on that, I would ask why not? In what other area would you say we shouldnt even look at the downsides? If a pretty radical social change has downsides and on an intellectual level they’re ignored (which they were for a long time – on a non-intellectual level anti-immigration rhetoric has always been around but I would argue the tabloids have less influence than Radio 4), then you have to ask yourself why.

My personal interest was stoked by what I saw as intellectual cowardice, lots of people were unhappy about what was happening, many of the arguments in favour of immigration and diversity seem pretty tenuous, but no one wants to see themselves as morally tinged with racism, and once you get beyond the straightforward economic arguments then some sort of self-examination on that issue is unavoidable.

I think anyone on the Right who raises this as an issue is going to be accused of stirring things up for personal and political gain, but I think if you find it difficult to imagine that other people have sincerely held views different to yours, the only possible explanation can be malice. (Of course there are politicians and media people who will always try to inspire hatred for personal benefit, there’s no question of that, but lots of people have sincere beliefs and try to articulate them responsibly).

There’s also a sort of utopian side to the anti-racist movement that says any problems with a multi-racial society are caused by a lack of anti-racism measures, and people delibaretly stirring things up. I would just argue that by its very structure very diverse socities are more fragile and prone to discord and that’s why everyone since the Persians has had a system of multiculturalism in place to keep that in check.

You can buy Ed West’s book on Amazon: The Diversity Illusion – What We Got Wrong About Immigration & How to Set It Right – from or other sites.

The Centre for Policy Studies and their bizarre report on BBC bias

by Tim Fenton     August 16, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Earlier this week, the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) gave a heads-up that it was about to release a study that would show, by means of rigorous statistical analysis, that the BBC was just as biased to the left as the CPS and its supporters had always said.

This was good news for the organisation: it would have been most unfortunate had it come out the other way. Presumably, they want to see it cut down to size because the way it serves up news is not in accordance with right-leaning ideological standards.

But, as I pointed out at the time, the use of the Guardian and Telegraph as equivalent left-of-centre and right-of-centre comparators effectively invalidates the whole exercise on the spot. No evidence is offered in support of this contention, and I doubt that any ever will.

Just because the Guardian, or any other publication, is not right-wing does not make it left-wing, and excusing the characterisation bysaying “yeah, but everybody knows that” does not cut it. Nor does the simplistic categorisation of the Telegraph as right-wing sufficiently explain its highly selective journalism, which in any case often attacks those on the right, as well as the left (pace Nadine Dorries).

Then we get to the list of think tanks, which the CPS report has ranked in an order which, it is alleged, goes from Left-leaning to Right-leaning. This, too, is fatally flawed: how otherwise can the Global Warming Policy Foundation be found to the left of the Fabian Society? And how does the IEA get to be more left leaning than the Social Market Foundation and Centre Forum?

It gets worse: the ASI and Henry Jackson Society are shown as being less right-leaning than IPPR, which, the last time I looked, was centre-left in orientation. In fact, in their preview of the report, the CPS calls IPPR left leaning.

So forget all the number crunching, I think this analysis is built on sand.

No matter, though, the pundits at places like the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs love it, typical of the responses being that from Janet Daley, scoffing “The BBC says anyone who accuses it of bias – is biased”.

She calls the CPS report “impeccably researched”, and then includes the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) in the list of think tanks covered by it. The CPS report does not include the TPA in its list of think tanks, and nor does it so much as mention it in passing. Good of Ms Daley to let us know that she didn’t bother reading the report half as thoroughly as she’d like her readers to think.

A longer version is here.

What Jacob Rees-Mogg knew before he went to dinner with Traditional Britain

by Guest     August 9, 2013 at 3:39 pm

by Gerry Gable

Last night I was interviewed on Newsnight over the revelation that the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg had been the guest speaker at the annual dinner of the far-right Traditional Britain Group in May.

I explained that I had forewarned the MP, explaining the nature of the group. Despite the TBG’s claim to be “perfectly normal conservatives”, in reality it gathers together far-right extremists including antisemites, racists, fascists, national socialists and members of the British National Party and the breakaway British Democratic Party.

You can read more about the TBG in our story here yesterday and articles from Searchlight referenced in it.

Among the TBG’s young fogies is a violent young man called Matt Tait who readers may recall was part of a gang of BNP thugs who beat up two Asian youngsters during the 2010 general election campaign in Barking, east London.

A few days before the TBG’s annual general meeting in London on 18 May, Searchlight had learned from two of its undercover team that Rees-Mogg had been invited to address the dinner the night before. I spent three days trying to speak to both Rees-Mogg and the chairman of the Conservative Party to warn them that accepting the invitation would be very damaging.

The day before the dinner Rees-Mogg phoned me and we had a polite discussion. I have been asked since whether I thought he was ill-informed or naïve. I firmly believe that he is one of the least naïve MPs in the Commons, but it would appear that other that what I told him, no one else he consulted was able to give him any hard information about the TBG. That is odd to say the least because in a book published in 2011, The Conservative Party and the Extreme Right 1945-75, Dr Mark Pitchford said the Conservative Party’s central office had a department to monitor such groups. They probably still do.

Rees-Mogg is very much a genuine traditional Tory and told me, after listening to my explanations about the people running the TBG, that he had given his word that he would speak at the dinner, and did not wish to break his promise and let them down at such short notice. I emphasised that I thought his presence would be used against his party and himself.

It appears that later that day he spoke to Gregory Lauder-Frost, the TBG’s vice-president, and told him he had spoken to me and was thinking of withdrawing. Lauder-Frost, a serial liar, used the “red” card, saying I was a communist, as was Searchlight, and was not a reliable source, so Rees-Mogg confirmed his attendance. Today’s Times reveals that he also spoke to Simon Heffer, the right-wing journalist and biographer of Enoch Powell, who has himself addressed the TBG.

Our sources told us that during the dinner Rees-Mogg realised all was not well politically so he confined his speech to traditional conservatism and said nothing that could be construed as support for the TBG and its more extreme views. The TBG itself said yesterday: “Only one person present asked about immigration levels etc and Mr Rees-Mogg gave an assimilationist response.”

That night and over the following days, people at the dinner engaged in animated phone and online discussions, many saying the invitation to Rees-Mogg was a bad decision (by tforge tech everette). In the June-July issue of Searchlight we reported that he had spoken but many considered his speech was a let-down and he had not endorsed their extreme views.

The BBC Newsnight team yesterday wanted me to do an interview with both hands tied behind my back. I had given them everything we had written about the TBG, including profiles of many of its key figures, and informed them that we had never received even a hint of any legal action. Nevertheless the BBC would let me name anybody associated with the TBG.

It would have been more helpful if the BBC had shown some balance. This is perhaps part of the same trend in BBC current affairs that gave the criminal leader of the English Defence League the softest possible interview on Newsnight two years ago and more recently on the Today programme. 

This was cross-posted from the Searchlight blog today, where there is a longer version.

See a different side to the Pakistan we keep hearing about

by Guest     August 7, 2013 at 3:51 pm

by Anwar Akhtar

Power shortages, food crisis, water shortages and a military obsessed with cold war doctrines and strategic power games. About 60 million people in Pakistan (one in three) live in poverty, half of adults – including two out of three women – are illiterate.

One in eleven children die before their fifth birthday, with 12,000 women dying in childbirth every year, and almost half of children under five suffer from stunted growth, which can affect brain development.

I am a British Pakistani who cares deeply for Pakistan. We should be prepared to speak out much more frequently about the huge injustices and hate crimes against Pakistan’s minority communities. How sectarian organisations use religion as cover for oppression of women. Civil rights and equality apply to everybody.

By looking at the work of brave civil rights activists in Pakistan, opposing violence against women, challenging corruption or working on education and health programmes, we can also inspire young people to raise their ambitions about what can be done through social activism in Britain.

I have visited numerous welfare organisations in Pakistan, such as the Citizens Foundation, the Edhi Foundation and the Simorgh Women’s project. I have seen many of the same values at work as those that are rooted in our British identity. Organisations such as the Salvation Army, Barnardo’s and the suffragettes were, not so long ago, dealing with challenges and social evils similar to those that Pakistan faces today.

I want to promote cross-cultural dialogue and trust in the UK and Pakistan, by profiling the many different faces of Pakistan, supporting those working in the arts, welfare, education, human rights, civil society and citizen journalism. To build stronger links between Pakistani social projects, Britain and the British Pakistani community.

People trying to improve society in Britain have actually got a lot in common with people working to do the same in Pakistan.

The RSA and (a site I run) launched Pakistan Calling, a film project to promote cross-cultural dialogue.

The films depict Pakistani civil society organisations and individuals attempting to tackle the country’s many problems, and also Pakistan’s many links with Britain. Pakistan Calling is not just aimed at the British Pakistani community, but anybody who has an interest in Pakistan and issues of identity, culture and citizenship.

So I ask readers at Liberal Conspiracy to take some time, to watch the films and help spread the word about the civil rights, education and welfare organisations, whose work the films feature, as one positive way to help civil rights and social justice groups in Pakistan today.

Another way to help would be to join or subscribe to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Films making up Pakistan Calling include I Am Agha, the story of one of Pakistan’s 1.5 million street children, an exclusive interview with Channel 4’s Jon Snow on Pakistan in the media, Midnight’s Grandchildren by the Asian Dub Foundation on identity, race and religion, and Tehmina Durrani on women’s rights in Pakistan.

Anwar is Director of a culture and news site with a focus on South Asia and Britain, he is part of and an associate of , Manchester based regeneration practice. Twitter @aakhtar

If anything, internet openness is showing what women have to put up with

by Robert Sharp     August 5, 2013 at 1:59 pm

This post by sexologist Jill McDeviitt is quite astonishing. It chronicles her rage at being sent an entirely inappropriate e-mail by a man she had never met, and his subsequent approach to her parents when she threatened to publish the e-mail on her blog.

It is yet another story of how men send women inappropriate, disgusting and/or downright illegal messages over the Internet – an issue that we have been discussing all week.

What I found particularly revelatory is when she describes how her parents behaved, when the man (he was the husband of someone who worked with Jill’s step-mother) contacted them:

I’m left to marvel not just at your individual misogyny, but also the infantilizing sexism that exists in the back corners and in the cobwebs of the brains of everyone involved.

Receiving a repugnant email from you, a strange man, is bad enough. But what makes this case so compelling is how you were able to entangle my normally feminist and self-aware family, illuminating just how deep tolerance of predatory men goes in our society.

I suspect many women, and people from ethnic minorities, already know what it is like to be denied the benefit of the doubt in this manner.

But as a white, middle-class male, such experiences are alien to me. In fact, it is literally unimaginable: I cannot really conceive of how such a situation could possibly arise for me. Its fascinating to have an insight into the unfairness that some women are subjected to, and to understand their indignation at having to put up with it.

And the reason that such behaviour continues in this enlightened age is precisely that people like me find it difficult, or even impossible, to imagine. The mental chain of events that took place in McDevitt’s anecdote are not unique. It was a similar combination of disbelief and sexist assumptions that allowed Jimmy Saville and Stuart Hall to perpetrate their abuse. We need more stories like Jill’s, to cure ourselves of our incredulity.

In the debate about sexism and Tweeted rape threats, there is a certain strain of thought that says that the technology is too open and needs to be censored. But the only reason we are hearing about this unacceptable behaviour is because of the new technology.

If Jill McDevitt had received a telephone call and not an e-mail, she would not have been able to expose the unpleasant person and his ridiculous words. Frankly, it is unlikely many people would have believed her version of what was said. It would have been assumed that she was over-reacting. He would have received the benefit of the doubt.

This is how we wake up to the misogyny in our midst. It has always been there, but it is the new communications technology that is shining a light into this recess of our society.

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