Thursday, 22 May 2008

An image problem

Speaking of class war, I've got a piece on Comment is Free about the image problem of "social housing". It's turned into a bit of a row about class etc.

Taking on the toffs

The consensus among the pundits seems to be that attacking the Tories for being posh - or "toffs" - is a legitimate tactic for Labour but has been ineptly done in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election.
Steve Richards says as much in the Independent today while in yesterday's Guardian Jonathan Freedland says that it would be ok if only Labour were truly meritocratic.

What always gets me is that people who defend public school privilege accuse their opponents of being anti-aspirational. Buying advantages is not about aspiration, it's about the keeping the already advantaged ahead of the aspiring. It is the opposite of meritocratic.

p.s. I've just come across a blog called class warfare which declares that it adheres to the Orwellian maxim: "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

The right to silence

The Guardian reports that investigative journalist Shiv Malik is in court contesting a police "production order" that requires him to hand over material from "former Islamist radical" Hassan Butt.

Malik argues that to hand over the material would effectively end his ability to act as an investigative journalist, as well as putting his life at risk.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

You've bin misled

Mixed in with a story about Gordon Brown saying he will stay at least until the general election, the Telegraph tries to have a go over "bin taxes", the sort of thing it likes to rouse (upper) middle England about.
He denied that pilot schemes for bin taxes would lead to a national roll-out of the plans.

He said: “This is not a national scheme. We’ve got no commitment to go any further. There is no national scheme here.”

Yesterday the Government response to a select committee report on bin taxes suggested there would be no pilots in place if there was not the chance that the scheme would be expanded nationally.

Surely, pilot schemes don't represent a commitment to go further. Surely, a chance of a scheme being extended nationally is not the same as a national scheme.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Hari again

In a blog piece on the Independent site, Johann Hari again makes a very good point about the "gross inequality" between the media's respective treatments of Labour and the Tories:
I have increasingly come to believe that the likes of Peter Oborne and Fraser Nelson did not condemn “spin” and “cronyism” because they genuinely find them distasteful. They seem to have no problem with them in Tories. No: these concepts apparently were, for great chunks of the British press, just a partisan stick with which to disingenuously beat a Labour government.

Monday, 12 May 2008

He says he's confident

Five out of ten for this story from the BBC:
Prime Minister Gordon Brown is confident he will still be the leader of the Labour Party at the next general election, Downing Street has insisted.
As it's the Beeb, naturally it takes the story from the government's point of view, rather than that of Frank Field, who suggested otherwise. But at least it attributes the claim that Brown is confident to someone else, instead of making the assertion itself.

Meanwhile, the BBC seems as determined as the press to show unflattering pictures of Brown, which is part of his problem. Or is his problem that it is so easily done?

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Hurray for Hari

I don't normally take much notice of Johann Hari after he got it so wrong on the Iraq war, but in the Independent today he says that:
In the US and Britain, there is a campaign to smear anybody who tries to describe the plight of the Palestinian people. It is an attempt to intimidate and silence – and to a large degree, it works.

It's impossible to disagree, even on Israel's "birthday".

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Was it spin?

I've done a piece for the New Statesman today, revealing that:
Tony Blair's former chief of spin, Alastair Campbell, may after all have sexed-up the notorious 45 minutes WMD claim when the case for invading Iraq was being made.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Sarkozy gets my vote

Nicolas Sarkozy has withdrawn his backing of Tony Blair to become the first president of the European Union, senior sources have told the BBC.

It is thought he feels EU opposition to the former UK prime minister is too strong because he backed the Iraq war.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Super sceptics

In the Observer, Will Hutton writes about the superclass, who are more powerfull - certainly collectively - than individual governments. He indirectly shows why Rupert Murdoch's papers are anti-EU:
Euroscepticism is the superclass's best friend, as is undermining all forms of multilateral collaboration.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Not lobbygate yet

I've done a piece for the Guardian, about an Information Tribunal ruling (pdf) requiring a government department to disclose details of meetings with business lobbyists, including the CBI.

It will be interesting to see what the government doesn't want us to see, if/when the documents are released.

PR Week has also covered the story.

Ingesting poision

In a long piece in the Independent, Mary Dejevsky asks if Alexander Litvinenko was really murdered and suggests that his death may have been part of a nuclear smuggling plot that went wrong.

She cites an article in the New York Sun by US investigative journalist Edward Jay Epstein:
Edward Jay Epstein is not someone whose journalism should be dismissed lightly. He is, to be sure, something of a professional sceptic, but that does not make him wrong. He has in the past exposed stories published in The New York Times as having been essentially dictated by the political establishment. How right he was about the cosy relationship between that venerable newspaper and the Administration was evident from its obsequious coverage of Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction – a humungous error that eventually produced an abject apology.