Tony Benn is turning in his grave over the treachery of his son

Benns

IN an act of Machiavellian treachery rarely seen at the top of the Labour Party, Hilary Benn has been acting in a sinister leadership coup attempt against Jeremy Corbyn.

It emerged just four hours ago that Mr Benn, the shadow Foreign Secretary, called fellow members of the shadow cabinet during Friday and Saturday suggesting he will ask Corbyn to stand down if there is significant support for a move against the leader.

He also asked shadow cabinet colleagues to join him in resigning if the Labour leader ignores that request.

But in an uncharacteristic move, Jeremy Corbyn acted swiftly to stop Mr Benn’s attempts and immediately sacked him as Foreign Secretary.

Mr Corbyn informed Benn, the son of his former mentor, Tony Benn, at 1am on Sunday that he was sacking him because he had lost the Labour leader’s trust, a spokesman for the party leader said.

The spokesman said Mr Corbyn had “lost confidence” in Mr Benn.

The Labour leader is facing a no confidence vote over claims he fought a “lacklustre” campaign in the EU vote.

Mr Corbyn, speaking earlier on Saturday at a speech in London, had acknowledged rumblings of discontent about his leadership.

“Yes, there are some people in the Labour party, and the parliamentary Labour party in particular, who probably want someone else to be the leader – I think they’ve made that abundantly clear,” he said.

Sources close to the leadership indicated that Benn had been a marked man for many months.

The MP for Leeds Central dismayed Mr Corbyn, when he made a passionate speech in favour of British bombing in Syria in December.

By Christmas, the relationship had broken down to such an extent that sources in the leader’s office briefed they would sack Benn in the New Year reshuffle.

Benn stayed in place after protestations from other shadow ministers, but only after days of uncertainty over his position.

Rumours that Benn would be ousted in a future Labour reshuffle had circulated in Westminster since then. However, today’s development will be a major jolt to the shadow cabinet.

It is yet to be seen whether it will only strengthen the resolve of some to launch a unified assault on Mr Corbyn’s leadership or quieten down the rebels.

So at 5am on Sunday – less than 18 hours after I published Eight Labour MPs who should hang their heads in Shame, I am turning again to defend Mr Corbyn and try and shine a light on people intent on removing him for their own narrow political ends.

One thing is certain, Hilary’s father the late and great Tony Benn, an MP for 38 years and former president of the Stop the War Coalition, would be turning in his grave over his son’s recent actions.

Tony Benn, had diametrically opposite views on many issues – the most obvious being war and nature of nuclear weapons – to his right wing son.

Hilary Benn has always been very sensitive to comparisons to his late father’s socialist and humanitarian views.

Now he has not only betrayed his father’s loyalty to Mr Corbyn, but also his father’s memory.

For while Tony Benn often rebelled against the Labour leadership – most prominently against Tony Blair – he always did openly and often vocally from his seat in the House of Commons.

He did not go round in the darkened hours telephoning colleagues to arrange a coup.

But Mr Corbyn still has a number of allies within the parliamentary party, led by John McDonnell, Andy McDonald, Dennis Skinner, Jon Trickett, Catherine Smith, Graham Morris and Diane Abbot.

Last night Welsh Labour MPs called on their colleagues in Westminster to dismiss the motion of no confidence in their leader.

Paul Flynn called on colleagues critical of Mr Corbyn to “shut up”.

Jo Stevens, MP for Cardiff Central, said the move was “self-indulgent”.

Ms Stevens, said she believed it was “terribly unfair” to blame the referendum result on the Labour party.

“Two-thirds of Labour voters, according to the polls, voted to Remain,” she said. She suggested that the support for Remain among SNP voters was “identical”.

“So our situation is no different,” she said.

“I think we should be focusing entirely on what the country now needs.

“Our responsibility as a party is to ensure we go into these negotiations protecting the rights that EU membership gave us – human rights, consumer rights, environmental rights, and most importantly, our rights at work.

“They have to be safeguarded. We fought for them for many, many decades and we’ve got to make sure that they stay.”

Newport West MP Paul Flynn agreed, saying of some colleagues’ criticism of Jeremy Corbyn: “I wish they’d shut up and get on with the job that we have to represent our own people.”

“If you go ahead and undermine Jeremy, the only result will be two Labour parties because the party in the country is not going to accept a group of parliamentarians overthrowing a decision taken by huge majority by the rank and file of the party,” he added.

Later last night fellow MPs Richard Burgon (Leeds East) and Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) both tweeted their support for Mr Corbyn.

 

Eight Labour MPs who should hang their heads in shame

plotters

IN an act of narrow self-interest and political opportunism, eight right wing Labour MPs are using the Brexit vote as a chance to knife their leader Jeremy Corbyn in the back.

MPs Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey yesterday submitted a motion of no confidence against Mr Corbyn to the Parliamentary Labour Party chairman, John Cryer.

Mr Cryer will decide whether it is debated. If accepted, a secret ballot of Labour MPs could be held on Tuesday.

This morning, six other Labour MPs were on record as backing the motion, another 47 are said to have signed support.

The letter, sent to John Cryer, chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) will result in a discussion about Corbyn’s leadership at the next PLP meeting on Monday. It could then lead to a secret ballot of MPs on Tuesday.

Mr Corbyn, a long-time Eurosceptic, defended his conduct in the Euro referendum campaign amid criticisms that he offered no more than lukewarm support for remain, blaming government austerity cuts for alienating voters.

“I’m carrying on. I’m making the case for unity, I’m making the case of what Labour can offer to Britain, of decent housing for people, of good secure jobs for people, of trade with Europe and of course with other parts of the world,” he said last night. “Because if we don’t get the trade issue right we’ve got a real problem in this country.”

Asked about the vote of no confidence, he said: “Margaret [Hodge] is obviously entitled to do what she wishes to do. I would ask her to think for a moment. A Tory prime minister resigned, Britain’s voted to leave the European Union, there are massive political issues to be addressed.

“Is it really a good idea to start a big debate in the Labour party when I was elected less than a year ago with a very large mandate, not from MPs – I fully concede and understand that – but from the party members as a whole?”

The move to oust Mr Corbyn is outrageous, and more than 145,000 ordinary Labour members and supporters have already signed an online petition of total confidence in Mr Corbyn – who already has a mandate as leader from the vast majority of party members.

Yet the  MPs have no mandate whatsoever and most have been plotting their move for a long time.

Indeed six of the eight MPs I named in my investigation back in January entitled The Enemy Within – the 28 Labour MPs who Oppose Mr Corbyn.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell accuses many of the would-be assassins of being linked to the Blairite campaign group Progress.

“They all come from a sort of a narrow right-wing clique within the Labour Party based around the organisation Progress,” he said.

“I don’t think they’ve really ever accepted Jeremy’s mandate. I’m afraid they have to recognise that Jeremy got elected with the largest mandate of any political leader from any political party in our history.

“I’m afraid they haven’t respected that leadership election result.”

So let’s shine a searchlight on these shifty eight MPs and expose their real agenda, which has little or nothing to do with the European referendum or its Brexit outcome:

Margaret Hodge (Barking)

A senior Labour MP and the prime mover of the motion to oust Mr Corbyn. She is a Blairite. She also voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

As chairwoman of the Commons public accounts committee she is the party’s fiercest critic of tax avoidance but today it was revealed she was handed more than £1.5million in shares from a tax haven.

The Times reported the multi-millionaire had benefited from a controversial scheme that lets wealthy Britons move undeclared assets back to the UK without facing criminal action.

  • One of my original list of 28 Labour MPs who Oppose Mr Corbyn
  • On an official list – leaked from Labour HQ – of MPs ‘most hostile’ to Jeremy Corbyn

Ann Coffey (Stockport)

Co-mover of the motion and a solid Brownite. She voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

  • One of my original list of 28 Labour MPs who Oppose Mr Corbyn
  • On an official list – leaked from Labour HQ – of MPs ‘most hostile’ to Jeremy Corbyn

Ben Bradshaw (Exeter)

A Blairite and vocal right winger, openly hostile and an ongoing critic of Mr Corbyn. He voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

  • One of my original list of 28 Labour MPs who Oppose Mr Corbyn

Chris Leslie (Nottingham East)

Another Brownite and vocal critic of Mr Corbyn. He voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

  • One of my original list of 28 Labour MPs who Oppose Mr Corbyn
  • On an official list – leaked from Labour HQ – of MPs ‘most hostile’ to Jeremy Corbyn

Frank Field (Birkenhead)

A senior right wing Blairite MP and probably the fiercest open critic of Mr Corbyn. Voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

  • One of my original list of 28 Labour MPs who Oppose Mr Corbyn

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness)

Another Blairite and prominent among the attack dogs on Mr Corbyn. He is the former chairman of the Progress group. He voted for bombing Syria. In January he resigned in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s so called ‘purge’ of right wing MPs from his front bench team. Has previously openly mocked Mr Corbyn. In March he tweeted that Mr Corbyn’s performance at the despatch box had been: “A fucking disaster”.

  • One of my original list of 28 Labour MPs who Oppose Mr Corbyn

Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon)

The son of former Labour leader and multi-millionaire European commissioners Neil and Glenys Kinnock. He is married to Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Danish Prime Minister, and as a fervent Euro campaigner probably had more to lose from the Brexit vote. His father Neil Kinnock has been opposed to Mr Corbyn’s politics for more than 30 years.

Back in March Stephen publicly gave notice of a leadership challenge if Labour failed to come second in the Scottish parliament election (Labour came third) and if Mr Corbyn failed to mobilise Labour voters for Remain.

He is viewed as a potential leadership contender from the right wing of the party.

Angela Smith (Penistone & Stocksbridge)

Another vocal right winger and former party whip. She voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times

In March she gave notice of a leadership challenge and accused Mr Corbyn of “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” after failing to “skewer” David Cameron over the Budget.

“If Corbyn is not prepared to buckle down and show proper leadership he should just go, and give us a chance to get a leader who can properly take on the Tories,” she said.

But Mr Corbyn still has a number of allies within the parliamentary party, led by John McDonnell, Andy McDonald, Dennis Skinner, Jon Trickett, Catherine Smith, Graham Morris and Diane Abbot.

Outside parliament, former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, has been a close ally of Mr Corbyn for three decades, and gave warning to the plotters.

“If your local MP is undermining Jeremy Corbyn, opposing the anti-austerity measures that we want, people should have a right to say: ‘I’d like to have an MP who reflects my view.’ It shouldn’t be a job for life,” he said.

He reiterated his support for automatic reselection, saying it was one of the things he disagrees with Mr Corbyn on.

“The Parliamentary Labour Party does not represent the party outside,” he added.

The remarks by Mr Livingstone fuel suspicions among Labour MPs who oppose Mr Corbyn’s leadership that their time in Westminster may be numbered.

The redrawing the parliamentary boundaries, as part of plans to shrink the size of the Commons from 650 MPs to 600, will provide the opportunity to move against some right wing Labour MPs.

Under the Labour rules for boundary changes, existing MPs have the right to be reselected for a new seat if they can claim a “substantial territorial interest” of at least 40% in the new seat.

But reselection battles could be triggered under the current rules in many of the 206 Labour-held seats in England.

Just 36 will remain unchanged while in 54 of the seats the proposed boundary changes will be larger than 40% of the territory of the constituency, potentially opening them up to new candidates.

  • An hour after publishing this piece, Caroline Flint (Don Valley) – another from my List 28 – was interviewed on Radio Five Live. She celebrated the capitalist free market and denigrated Jeremy Corbyn as a failed leader.

 

 

So Who is Frying the BBC Fish?

THERE’S a very strange drama unfolding at the BBC.

It’s a slow burning political thriller in which the final episode has yet to be written.

The latest trailer for this drama was unveiled on Sunday evening when David Cameron’s Conservative government came under unprecedented attack at the BAFTA TV awards, where the BBC swept the board with double wins for the Mark Rylance drama Wolf Hall.

The tone for the evening was set by Wolf Hall director Peter Kosminsky, who was given a standing ovation by the audience of TV stars and industry executives when he accused the government of trying to “eviscerate” the BBC and Channel 4.

Mr Kosminsky said: “In the week in which our secretary of state John Whittingdale described the disappearance of the BBC as a tempting prospect, I’d like to say a few words in defence of that organisation.

“It’s not their BBC, it’s your BBC. In many ways, the BBC and Channel 4, which they are also attempting to eviscerate, are the envy of the world and we should stand up and fight for it, not let it go by default.

“If we don’t, blink and it will be gone. No more Wolf Halls, no more ground-breaking Dispatches [on Channel 4], just a broadcasting landscape where the only determinate of whether it gets made is whether it lines the pockets of shareholders.

“This is really scary stuff, folks, and not something I thought I would see in my lifetime in this country. All of this is under threat right now, make no mistake. It’s time to stand up and say no to this dangerous nonsense.”

Government proposals to appoint a majority of members on a new BBC board threatened its independence, Mr Kosminsky said, and would turn it into a state broadcaster “a bit like … those bastions of democracy Russia and North Korea”.

He said the government wanted to tell the BBC what programmes to make and when to schedule them.

Mr Rylance later joined in the criticism, saying: “Woe to any government or corporation that tries to get between the British people and their love of a good joke, a true story, a good song, a fact or fiction, good sports commentating, newscasters who can hold themselves together as they tell stories about terrible tragedies in Paris, people who can help you bake cakes.

“We’re a nation of storytellers, were admired around the world for it. Tonight I was struck with the quality of storytelling in the country and I agree with Peter, times are hard.”

Ian Hislop and Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood were among other stars to speak out on behalf of the BBC.

Mr Hislop, accepting the comedy and comedy entertainment award for BBC1’s Have I Got News For You, said: “The BBC have allowed Have I Got News For You to be rude about governments … and rude about the BBC, which is a privilege you are given with public service broadcasting and not on state television.

“I have an idea that John Whittingdale’s ideal show would be the prime minister as host [of Have I Got News For You], the defence secretary and the home secretary as the two team captains.

“It is a ludicrous idea what he is proposing. But I think that like most of the really terrible ideas that this government has come up with, in about three weeks they will decide that they didn’t mean it and they will row back,” he added.

Revel Horwood spoke out after Strictly Come Dancing, which has been criticised by Mr Whittingdale and may be forced out of its primetime slot, beat ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent to the best entertainment prize.

“If they are in charge of anything entertainment-wise, it would be a complete disaster; we don’t want them in charge of any decisions, creatively,” he said.

“The scheduling is created around our audience. It’s a family entertainment show. You’d never schedule it at 1am would you? That would be ridiculous. I would hate to see it move.”

Without giving away too much of the plot of this steamy drama too early, the gnashing of teeth at the BAFTA awards does in some way explain why the BBC’s political reporting has been so biased in favour of the Conservatives.

Blackmail and bullying by the government has taken its toll on a Corporation still reeling from the Jimmy Savile and paedophile revelations about some of its presenters.

And it is there for all to see in red and blue.

Soon after Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party last September, the BBC was accused of an ‘anti Corbyn bias’ and challenged with a 61,000 strong petition demanding that they stop using the prefix ‘left-wing’ when reporting on events related to his leadership.

Even before he won a stunning 59.5% of the vote, ensuring the largest democratic mandate of any Labour leader in modern history, Mr Corbyn was subject to what a source from his leadership campaign described as a ‘complete hatchet job’.

Former BBC political editor, Nick Robinson, even wrote to his colleagues over concerns about the Corporation’s bias against Mr Corbyn, and Channel 4’s Michael Crick issued a stunning rebuke to broadcasters referring to non-left MPs as ‘moderates’.

Despite these protestations the BBC’s agenda did not change.

In January this year, Mr Corbyn’s so-called ‘revenge reshuffle’ led to the revelation, that BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Daily Politics presenter Andrew Neil and so-called ‘moderate’ Labour MP Stephen Doughty planned his live resignation on their programme hours before it began.

Despite the fact that a live on-air resignation could be considered dramatic broadcasting, it beggars belief how it is the job of the BBC’s political editor to be of service to an evidently resentful shadow cabinet member intent on weakening the Labour leadership.

A few hours later the producer of the programme bizarrely admitted in a BBC blog that Neil, Kuenssberg and himself manipulated the news to negatively impact Mr Corbyn during Prime Minister’s Questions that week.

In the blog, the producer – Andrew Alexander – admitted that the BBC team were not just reporting the day’s news but trying to influence it:

“We knew his resignation just before PMQs would be a dramatic moment with big political impact,” he wrote.

“We took a moment to watch the story ripple out across news outlets and social media. Within minutes we heard David Cameron refer to the resignation during his exchanges with Jeremy Corbyn.”

As a fellow journalist of some 30 years standing, I found this admission shocking, but also symptomatic of degraded and biased journalism.

What we are told as ‘fact’ is now a fiction hi-jacked by big business ownership of our media.

These are the same big businesses which support a Conservative government and in turn influence draconian monetarist and capitalist policy at every turn.

Almost 78 per cent of our press and broadcast media is owned by a handful of mostly foreign-based billionaires.

The nature of media organisation is set by its owner.

Newspapers and broadcasters exercise power and influence in many ways. And one of their most powerful forms of influence is the ability to effectively set the political agenda for the other media and more widely, in parliament, the workplace, the home and the pub.

So-called editorial independence is a sham. Proprietors choose editors who they know share their views.

And now their sights are firmly set on a privatised BBC.

It seems it is ripe for the taking.

BBC News forms a major department of the Corporation, and for years has received complaints of bias in favour of the Conservative Establishment.

The commentator Mehdi Hasan in the New Statesman pointed out the right-wing backgrounds of many BBC presenters and journalists.

Guardian columnist Owen Jones is also of the opinion that the BBC is biased towards the right, owing to numerous key posts being filled by Conservatives.

A study by Cardiff University academics, funded by the BBC Trust, and published in August 2013, examined the BBC’s coverage of a broad range of issues.

One of the findings was the dominance of party political sources.

In coverage of immigration, the EU and religion, these accounted for 49.4% of all source appearances in 2007 and 54.8% in 2012.

The data also showed that the Conservative Party received significantly more airtime than the Labour Party.

In 2012 Conservative leader David Cameron outnumbered Labour leader Ed Miliband in appearances by a factor of nearly four to one (53 to 15), while Conservative cabinet members and ministers outnumbered their Labour counterparts by more than four to one (67 to 15).

Former Director General of the BBC, Greg Dyke, has criticised the BBC as part of a “Westminster conspiracy” to maintain the British political system.

And so the drama unfolds…

Matters moved up a gear this past week when a 38 Degrees petition to sack Ms Kuenssberg, following her outlandishly politically biased reporting on the 5 May elections, was signed by more than 35,000 people in less than five days.

The fact that a very small number of people on social media used abusive and sexist language in calling for the BBC’s first female political editor to go, seemed at first like flotsam on the political wind.

Then suddenly, on Tuesday, 38 Degrees executive director David Babbs announced that the petition had been taken down with the agreement of the person who had posted it.

He said: “I am really concerned that a petition hosted on the 38 Degrees website has been hijacked, and used as a focal point for sexist and hateful abuse made towards Laura Kuenssberg on Twitter.

“That is totally unacceptable and, with the agreement of the petition starter, we’ve taken the petition down to prevent it being used in this way. There is no place in the 38 Degrees family for sexism or any form of discrimination or hate speech.”

Having both signed and endorsed the petition myself, I was taken aback by this.

I had read many of the comments on the 38 Degrees site, and of the scores of comments I read through, only one was sexist. That one was quite unpleasant, but totally unrepresentative.

It seems astonishing that a tiny and unrepresentative number of people can get a petition scrapped which had been signed by many thousands of genuine people.

The only people who claim to have seen this widespread sexism is 38 Degrees, who have not produced any public evidence of this.

Laura Kuenssberg is the most openly biased journalist I have witnessed on the BBC over the past three decades.

But she is by no means alone. Of course by targeting her we are only drawing attention to a particularly egregious symptom of the terrible disease of a rampantly right wing corporate and state media.

Nobody believes that removing her would solve the problem.

Nobody seriously believes the BBC actually would remove her even if the petition reached a million. It is purely a campaigning tool to highlight the injustice of media control, access and bias.

But behind all of this Game of Thrones is one man, billionaire media mogul and the man behind Sky TV, The Sun newspaper and The Times.

His name rings like that of Rasputin or Goebbels: Rupert Murdoch.

He is the man credited with winning the Conservative Party three General Elections in 1983, 1987 and 1992, and credited with the ascendancy of Tony Blair.

After flirting with Blair’s New Labour for a decade, Murdoch found a comfier bed fellow in David Cameron and became king maker again in 2010 and 2015.

Last June he gave David Cameron’s new Conservative Cabinet his personal stamp of approval, opining that the Prime Minister’s picks for his inner circle were “surprisingly good”.

Four years after the phone hacking scandal, which rocked the media and political establishment and saw the closure of Murdoch’s News of the World, the kingmaker is back at the centre of power in the UK.

Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of ad group WPP, said of the media mogul: “He certainly hasn’t been diminished. If anything, he has more vim and vigour than ever. He is just as powerful a figure and in the future will be even more so.”

At the start of 2015, the head of the company that controls more than a third of British newspaper assets, as well as 40% of Sky, still faced the possibility of corporate charges on both sides of the Atlantic, while many of his employees faced criminal charges for paying public officials.

While nine journalists were convicted over hacking, none where convicted over corrupt payments to public officials, and Murdoch has seen corporate charges dropped on both sides of the Atlantic.

After splitting the two arms of his media empire into a film/television and publishing businesses, ostensibly to prevent the phone hacking scandal tarnishing his more lucrative 21st Century Fox franchise, Murdoch has watched as both companies have grown in value on the stock exchange. He has also elevated both of his sons, Lachlan and James, into the top jobs at each company over the past year.

Even the decision to close the 168-year-old News of the World has resulted in a far cheaper seven-day operation for The Sun, which, though facing an advertising and circulation decline, is still the UK’s biggest selling tabloid.

He may have spent $500million (£336million) on settling hacking claims, closed a national newspaper and lost several of his staff but, after four years, Rupert Murdoch appears to have emerged a winner.

He is rumoured to be considering a returned offer for the whole of Sky he does not own but his interest in Time Warner, the US media giant behind the Harry Potter films and the CNN news network, suggests he may now have far bigger fish to fry.

And the biggest fish on this side of the water is the BBC.

 

The Enemy Within – the 28 Labour MPs who Oppose Mr Corbyn

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things: of shoes, and ships and sealing-wax, of cabbages and kings… and Jeremy Corbyn’s enemies.”

RIGHTLY or wrongly our print and broadcast media have been tied into knots over Jeremy Corbyn’s so-called ‘Revenge Reshuffle’ and the ensuing sackings and resignations from Labour’s front bench team.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell accuses many of the rebels involved in these shenanigans of being linked to the Blairite campaign group Progress.

“We have had a few junior members resign and of course that’s their right but they do all come from a sort of a narrow right-wing clique within the Labour Party based around the organisation Progress.

“I don’t think they’ve really ever accepted Jeremy’s mandate. I’m afraid they have to recognise that Jeremy got elected with the largest mandate of any political leader from any political party in our history.

“I’m afraid they haven’t respected that leadership election result.”

But this watershed for Mr Corbyn’s Parliamentary Labour Party was always a matter of time.

Those right wingers who have taken the fight to their leader believe they were right to do so. But they can hardly complain when he fights back.

Which leaves them with a simple choice: follow the leader and the refreshing new direction the Labour Party is following – supported by half a million paid up members – or resign from the front bench and other positions of responsibility.

Such actions would produce clear red water between Mr Corbyn and his Westminster detractors and neutralise the betrayal narrative.

Take Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk for example, who courted media attention by suggesting that the floods in the north of England would have been preventable if the government were not so generous with foreign aid, particularly to Bangladesh.

Views that would not be out of place in UKIP or the Conservative Party.

Mr Danczuk has certainly been the most vocal opponent of Mr Corbyn.

In the House of Commons he voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

He even suggested he would stand as a stalking horse candidate later this year in a leadership election bid to oust Mr Corbyn.

But poor Mr Danczuk was suddenly discredited and had the Labour Party whip withdrawn over sexual predator allegations after it was revealed he sent sexually explicit text messages to a teenage girl.

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone says that Labour MPs rebelling against Mr Corbyn need to get behind the leader and has defended his earlier calls for disciplinary procedures against them.

“If Labour looks divided it undermines our chances of defeating the Tories,” he said.

“These MPs like Danczuk, who at least does it honestly on the record unlike some others who are doing nasty snidey things anonymously.”

“They have to decide, ‘do you want another five years of a Tory government or do you actually want to get in behind Jeremy.”

Mr Livingstone, who has been a close ally of Mr Corbyn for three decades, said: “If your local MP is undermining Jeremy Corbyn, opposing the anti-austerity measures that we want, people should have a right to say: ‘I’d like to have an MP who reflects my view.’ It shouldn’t be a job for life.”

He reiterated his support for automatic reselection, saying it was one of the things he disagrees with Mr Corbyn on.

“The Parliamentary Labour Party does not represent the party outside,” he added.

The remarks by Mr Livingstone fuel suspicions among Labour MPs who oppose Mr Corbyn’s leadership that their time in Westminster may be numbered.

The redrawing the parliamentary boundaries, as part of plans to shrink the size of the Commons from 650 MPs to 600, will provide the opportunity to move against some right wing Labour MPs.

Under the Labour rules for boundary changes, existing MPs have the right to be reselected for a new seat if they can claim a “substantial territorial interest” of at least 40% in the new seat.

But reselection battles could be triggered under the current rules in many of the 206 Labour-held seats in England.

Just 36 will remain unchanged while in 54 of the seats the proposed boundary changes will be larger than 40% of the territory of the constituency, potentially opening them up to new candidates.

However, although the voices of dissent within the Parliamentary Labour Party are amplified by the right wing media, an investigation has found that out of 231 MPs, only 28 of them could be regarded as a real threat to Mr Corbyn’s leadership.

Who are they?

For the first time we can name the so-called ‘Enemy Within’… the Labour MPs that Mr Corbyn has most to fear:

Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West – Majority: 5,651)

Voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

Alan Johnson (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle – Majority: 9,333)

A Blairite and vehement opponent of Mr Corbyn, but he is set to retire before the 2020 General Election.

Alison McGovern (Wirral South – Majority: 4,599)

A Blairite and chair of the Progress group. Voted for bombing Syria. Resigned last week from Mr Corbyn’s front bench team.

Ann Coffey (Stockport – Majority: 10,061)

Brownite. Voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times

Ben Bradshaw (Exeter – Majority: 7,183)

Blairite and vocal right winger. Voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

Caroline Flint (Don Valley – Majority: 8,885)

Blairite. Touted as a possible future leadership contender. Voted for bombing Syria.

Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle North – Majority: 10,153)

Did not vote to bomb Syria but resigned from Labour Shadow Cabinet last week citing division among Labour MPs

Chris Leslie (Nottingham East – Majority: 11,894)

Brownite. Voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times

Chuka Umunna (Streatham – Majority: 13,934)

A Blairite and former leadership contender. Voted for bombing Syria.

Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central – Majority: 12,435)

Blairite. A vice chair of the Progress group. Voted for bombing Syria.

Frank Field (Birkenhead – Majority: 20,652)

A Blairite with a huge parliamentary majority. Voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times. A vocal critic of Mr Corbyn.

Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston – Majority: 2,706)

Blairite. Voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

Graham Jones (Hyndburn – Majority: 4,400)

Voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East – Majority: 14,333)

Voted for bombing Syria. Although in the Shadow Cabinet, a leaked email reveals her private fears that Mr Corbyn’s “hard-Left agenda” is out of touch with the views of voters. She earlier told activists in her constituency that Mr Corbyn would cause ‘division within the party’, and make Labour unelectable.

Helen Jones (Warrington North – Majority: 6,771)

Voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

Ian Austin (Dudley North – Majority: 4,181)

Brownite. Voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

Jamie Reed (Copeland – Majority: 3,833)

Blairite. Voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

Jenny Chapman (Darlington – Majority: 3,158)

Blairite. A vice chair of the Progress group.Voted for bombing Syria.

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness – Majority: 795)

Blairite. Former chair of the Progress group. Small parliamentary majority. Voted for bombing Syria. Last week resigned in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s so called ‘purge’ of right wing MPs from his front page team. Has previously openly mocked Mr Corbyn.

Kevan Jones (North Durham – Majority: 12,076)

Brownite. Quit the Labour front bench last week and was described by John McDonnell as being “part of a narrow right wing clique”. He also voted for bombing Syria.

Liz Kendall (Leicester West – Majority: 7,203)

Leadership contender. Blairite. A vice chair of the Progress group.

Voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

Margaret Hodge (Barking – Majority: 16,555)

Blairite. Voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

Mary Creagh (Wakefield – Majority: 2,613)

Voted for bombing Syria and a high profile vocal critic of Mr Corbyn.

Michael Dugher (Barnsley East – Majority: 12,034)

Voted for bombing Syria. A vocal critic of Mr Corbyn and was sacked from his front bench team last week.

Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East – Majority: 10,767)

Sacked from Labour Front Bench last week for briefing against Mr Corbyn. Voted for bombing Syria.

Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden – Majority: 16,922)

A Blairite who voted for bombing Syria.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth – Majority: 7,453)

Publicly quit the Labour front bench on live TV last week and described by John McDonnell as being “part of a narrow right wing clique”. Also voted for bombing Syria.

Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central – Majority: 5,179)

Blairite. A vice chair of the Progress group. Touted as a possible future leadership contender. Voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

In addition the following senior Labour MPs have sharp ideological differences with Mr Corbyn, but for reasons of party loyalty are not seen as a threat:

Angela Eagle (Wallasey), Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood), and Gloria De Piero (Ashfield) are all Blairites and each voted for bombing Syria but are reportedly happy in the Shadow Cabinet

The same is true of former Cabinet ministers Blairite Margaret Beckett (Derby South) and Brownite Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) who both voted for bombing Syria.

Liam Byrne (Birmingham Hodge Hill) the founder of the Progress group, who was once bracketed with Tristram Hunt as an opponent of Mr Corbyn, has yet to rebel against his leader.

Footnote: For a good background to the reshuffle and the Labour rebels, read this from Evolve Politics: http://evolvepolitics.com/labours-right-wing-dissent-only-strengthens-the-tories-and-whats-worse-thats-their-aim/

 

 

Labour Party Tops Half a Million Members Under Corbyn

THE media’s coverage of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party is the “worst” any politician has received, John McDonnell said this week.

The Shadow Chancellor said that the way broadcasters and the press had treated the Labour leader was “appalling” and complained that the only media outlet to support Mr Corbyn since September had been the Morning Star, the socialist newspaper.

“Even the liberal left Guardian opposed us and undermined us at every opportunity,” added Mr McDonnell.

He said the coverage of the Labour leader was an example of the “establishment using its power in the media to try and destroy an individual and what he stands for”.

But Mr McDonnell insisted it would not succeed in weakening support for his and Mr Corbyn’s policies and instead predicted it would have the opposite effect.

Now new figures support this view with the party boasting more than 575,000 members, the highest figure for 40 years.

More people have joined the Labour Party since last year’s General Election than are members of the Conservatives.

By contrast, total Tory membership is around 150,000 people, according to the latest available figures, down from over 253,000 during the 2005 leadership contest.

Total Full Membership of the Labour Party is now 405,352 – more than Tony Blair enjoyed at the 1997 election.

Add to this more than 170,000 Registered Supporters and the Labour Party now has a membership in excess of 575,000. This is the highest party membership figure since 1976.

The membership surge has allowed the party to pay off its £24.5 million debts and abandon its forced move out of Westminster.

Iain McNicol, Labour Party General Secretary hailed the “huge accomplishment” for the party, saying it could now “move forward, away from the cloud of debt that has been hanging over us for so many years”.

He said moving into the black would put the party in a stronger position to make long-term financial decisions.

Significantly, it means the Labour Party headquarters will not be forced to decamp three miles away to Kensington – as had been planned.

Having its base so far away from Parliament and the Leader’s office would have been a logistical nightmare.

Instead the Party HQ remains a five-minute walk away from the Houses of Parliament at Southside in Victoria Street, just around the corner from the party’s former base in Brewers Green.

Labour’s membership leap has been driven by a surge in joiners during and since the party’s leadership election, which saw Jeremy Corbyn become leader of the party.

Figures released by the party in November showed more than 62,000 people had joined the party since Mr Corbyn’s own election as leader two months earlier – a figure higher than the 47,000 people who are members of UKIP and the 61,000 in the Liberal Democrats.

The composition of the Labour Party is changing too. The average age of the party membership fell by 11 years over the last six months – from 53 to 42 – and more women than men joined.

“Let’s get these new members involved in campaigning, helping relay our roots in communities, being involved in a digital revolution in the party that allows members to feel that they’re more included in the decisions we make,” said Deputy Leader Tom Watson.

This is a far cry from the dim days of 2006, when under Tony Blair’s leadership, warnings were made that Labour Party membership could disappear within seven years if the rate of decline at the time continued.

Jon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham and a former Downing Street aide, said in December 2006 that the party had lost 160,000 members between 2000 and 2006 – the equivalent of one every 20 minutes.

He warned Labour must rally members and re-engage with the electorate through community campaigning, saying: “You need to build it from the bottom up. Activity on the streets, a local presence, continuously, year on year and not just at election times.”

And as recently as February last year a similar warning was made that if electoral defeats and a loss of membership continued then Labour’s ‘core’ support would soon be reduced to London and several other big metropolitan areas.

For a long time Labour have ignored this collapse in support. First they denied it. Then they suggested that it didn’t really matter.

Then, under Ed Miliband’s leadership, they were reduced to hoping that these voters would somehow return by May when faced with the prospect of another Tory government.

And of course the rest is history.

Now fast forward to January 2016 and more than half a million paid up members and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party show that Labour’s new direction is more popular than anyone could have imagined.

It appears that the more the media spin against Mr Corbyn’s leadership, the more the general public react by becoming members.

“All the spin and bias has proved to be counterproductive because the more attacks on Jeremy, the more members we recruit,” added John McDonnell.

If the past eight months has showed us anything, it is not to trust political pundits or the right wing media – and to believe that another world is possible.

Footnote: After publishing the above blog post, this was reported in The Guardian. Well worth reading: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jan/13/revealed-how-jeremy-corbyn-has-reshaped-the-labour-party

 

 

Fairness, Compassion and Equality can Finally Overturn the Scourge of Capitalist Greed

WHILE the political pundits in the Westminster village are twisted into knots over Jeremy Corbyn’s so-called ‘Revenge Reshuffle” and BBC duplicity over the resignation of one minor minister, it is time to reset our focus to something much more important.

Put simply, the ongoing scourge of ordinary people by the most arrogant, privileged and right wing government of my lifetime.

For decades our country – and most of Western Europe – has been sleep-walking into a world of personal greed, arrogance and self-importance with totems such as The X Factor, tanning studios, Top Gear, designer clothes labels and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Human kindness, gentleness, peace, society and social justice have been jettisoned for a ‘winner takes all’ mentality and a scapegoating of the homeless, those claiming benefits, Muslims, asylum seekers and the poor in general.

All of this is underpinned by our malicious right wing press who smear and pillory anyone who dares question the status quo or suggest alternatives.

The press barons and their big business buddies are terrified of those alternatives, because they threaten a smug status quo which means that the five richest families in the UK now own more wealth than the poorest 20% of the population.

The combined wealth of the 1,000 richest men and women in Britain has more than doubled in the last 10 years. The wealthiest 1,000 individuals and families now have a combined fortune of £547.126 billion, up from £249.615 billion in 2005, despite the world economy being gripped by a punishing recession over much of the last decade.

Meanwhile, thousands of families survive on the breadline, make weekly use of food banks or starve due to draconian benefits sanctions.

When Cameron’s far right Conservative Party was elected in May this year I genuinely feared for our collective futures.

Here we had the election of a UK government compiled of self-seeking rich elitists who care more about their mansions and banking friends than about people.

And their shopping list for change is truly terrifying as this is unshackled Conservative government promises to:

  • Rip up the Human Rights Act, which underpins our legal system and protects all our basic freedoms and those of persecuted minorities.
  • Spend £100 billion on replacing Trident with new nuclear weapons, which at the push of a button could wipe out millions of lives and pollute our planet for tens of thousands of years.
  • Make £12.8 billion of cuts to welfare, leaving the poorest, the oldest and the weakest in our society facing the bleakest of futures.
  • Begin a phased end to council housing, thus pushing up rents in the private sector and making families homeless. Once again – as under Thatcher – we will see a surge in rough sleeping and begging.
  • Will enact tougher sanctions on migrants, involve the UK in further illegal wars in the Middle East and trigger an increase in racism, terrorism and Islamophobia.
  • Extend zero hours contracts, thus massaging the unemployment figures and leaving thousands of the poorest people without any job security.
  • Legislate for more private schools which will imbed the class system even deeper in our society, rather focus on improving our state schooling system.
  • Escalate and accelerate the privatisation of the NHS, so medical care will depend on wealth rather than need.
  • Redraw constituency boundaries so these same corrupt capitalist elitists stay in power for another 20 more years.

Following Cameron’s election victory I said the Left “must begin now to unify around a leader or leadership we can all trust, organise and start the fightback, or we wave farewell to any hope for a fairer and better future.”

Well the fightback has begun. And I must admit I never thought it possible.

But none of us expected Jeremy Corbyn!

Over last summer this gentle political firebrand packed out meetings and hustings the length and breadth of this country with his simple messages of an end to austerity, an end to nuclear weapons and an end to needless wars over oil in the Middle East and beyond.

His messages caught the hearts and minds of millions:

  1. The UK’s financial deficit should be paid off – but not through spending cuts and not to an arbitrary deadline. Instead, a Corbyn government would fund its reduction via higher taxes for the rich and a crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion. “Quantitative easing for people” could be used to invest in housing, energy, transport and digital projects.
  2. Britain’s railways should be renationalised. Energy companies should also be under public ownership. He is “totally opposed” to fracking. However, he says deep-mine coal pits in the north of England could be reopened.
  3. Far more allotments would be good for the UK and councils and builders “should be doing their best to ensure that every new development includes some allotment space”.
  4. Talking to militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah is necessary to win peace in the Middle East. And arms embargo should be imposed on Israel to give Palestinian refugees a “right of return”.
  5. Replacing Trident would be a costly mistake. Jeremy Corbyn believes the project’s £100 billion price tag could be better spent “on our national well-being“.
  6. A National Education Service modelled on the NHS should be established. Under Mr Corbyn, state-funded academies and free schools would be forced to return to local authority control while university tuition fees would be scrapped and replaced with grants. He would look at ending the charitable status of public schools, although he accepts this would be complicated and might not happen immediately.
  7. The air strikes against ISIS in Syria are a crass mistake. Mr Corbyn wants to see “illegal wars” replaced with a “foreign policy that prioritises justice and assistance”. This would ameliorate refugee crises. In turn, the arms trade should be restricted.
  8. Rent controls should be re-introduced, linking private rents to local earnings, and more council houses should be built. Mr Corbyn also believes that council tenants’ right to buy their homes should be extended to private sector renters.
  9. Remaining in the European Union but with changes. Mr Corbyn wants to stay to fight for a “better Europe”. He also opposes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal.
  10. Ireland should be united and returned to Irish rule. Mr Corbyn has long supported British withdrawal from Northern Ireland.
  11. Protect trade unions in the face of Conservative plans to overturn almost 100 years of workers’ rights with new legislation.
  12. A national maximum wage should be introduced to cap the salaries of high earners. He would also introduce a windfall tax on former state assets such as the Royal Bank of Scotland.
  13. Every child should have the chance to learn a musical instrument or act on stage. Mr Corbyn’s arts policy also includes directing a greater proportion of funding to local projects, widening access and despite this weeks’ shenanigans, protecting the BBC.
  14. Private Finance Initiative deals with the NHS should be ended by using government funds to buy them out.

All in all, a brave new world indeed and those Corbyn messages are forever true.

And at last we have a political leader who can offer a true progressive alternative and a way forward for us all. So let’s now all unite and spend 2016 fighting together for that better tomorrow.

Fairness, compassion and equality can finally overturn the scourge of capitalist greed.

 

The Crippled Estate of BBC Spin

THERE is quite a storm raging around the hallowed sanctuary of the British Broadcasting Corporation today.

As a hard news journalist of some 30 years standing I am angry at the events which have unfolded, but not at all surprised.

It is a few weeks since I blogged on The Bankruptcy of the Fourth Estate https://seagullnic.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/paris-isis-syria-and-the-bankruptcy-of-the-fourth-estate/ and The Loaded Language of the British Press https://seagullnic.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/the-loaded-language-of-the-british-press/ and it feels that today a few of those journalist chickens have come home to roost.

So let’s bring you up to speed.

Soon after Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party last September, the BBC was accused of an ‘anti Corbyn bias’ and challenged with a 61,000 strong petition demanding that they stop using the prefix ‘left-wing’ when reporting on events related to his leadership.

But even before he won a stunning 59.5% of the vote, ensuring the largest democratic mandate of any Labour leader in modern history, Mr Corbyn was subject to daily bias from the UK Media. And heading this assault of loaded reporting was the publicly funded BBC.

Former BBC political editor, Nick Robinson, even wrote to his colleagues over concerns about the Corporation’s bias against Mr Corbyn, and Channel 4’s Michael Crick issued a hard-hitting rebuke to broadcasters referring to non-left MPs as ‘moderates’.

Despite these protestations, the BBC’s agenda has not changed. Yesterday, Mr Corbyn’s so-called ‘revenge reshuffle’ led to the revelation, that BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Daily Politics presenter Andrew Neil and so-called ‘moderate’ Labour MP Stephen Doughty planned his live resignation on their programme hours before it began.

Any right-minded person must surely ask: how it is the job of the BBC’s political editor to be of service to a malcontent shadow cabinet member intent on weakening the Labour leadership?

The truth was soon to come to light… Last night, the producer of the programme bizarrely admitted in a BBC blog – now deleted, but appended here – that Neil, Kuenssberg and himself manipulated the news to create an impact during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

In the blog, the producer – Andrew Alexander – admitted that the BBC team were not just reporting the day’s news but trying to influence it: “This was a story where we could make an impact… We knew his resignation just before PMQs would be a dramatic moment with big political impact,” he wrote.

“We took a moment to watch the story ripple out across news outlets and social media. Within minutes we heard David Cameron refer to the resignation during his exchanges with Jeremy Corbyn.”

As a fellow journalist I find this admission shocking, but also symptomatic of degraded and biased practise.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I believe we are now witnessing a bankruptcy of freedom within our Fourth Estate.

For the uninitiated, the Fourth Estate commonly refers to the news media or “the press”.

Edmund Burke, first used the term in a parliamentary debate in 1787 on the opening up of press reporting in the House of Commons. Burke described the journalists’ role in representing the interests of “the people” in relation to the business and political elites who claim to be doing things in our names.

But my belief is that position has now been hi-jacked by big business ownership of our media.

These are the same big businesses which support a Conservative government and in turn influence draconian monetarist and capitalist policy at every turn.

Almost 78 per cent of our press is owned by a handful of mostly foreign-based billionaires.

The nature of a media organisation is set by its owner.

Newspapers and broadcasters exercise power and influence in many ways. And one of their most powerful forms of influence is the ability to effectively set the political agenda for the other media and more widely, in parliament, the workplace, the home and the pub.

So-called editorial independence is a sham. Proprietors choose editors who they know share their views.

I witnessed this at first hand when Margaret Thatcher’s close friends the Barclay Brothers bought Scotland’s flagship daily newspaper The Scotsman in 1996.

Within a few months, the new owners had Andrew Neil installed as Editor-in-Chief of The Scotsman and its sister title Scotland on Sunday.

Neil already had a track record.

The former Conservative Party researcher was Editor of The Sunday Times from 1983 until 1994. The Sunday Times during this period campaigned for an already discredited claim that AIDS was not an infectious disease and was not caused by HIV.

So when he took up the reins at The Scotsman we all had a fear of what might be coming next.

So it was here that my job as an award-winning Chief Investigative Reporter and Neil’s as my ultimate line manager crossed.

Although the memory of him striding orange bronzed through the oak-panelled corridors of the paper’s headquarters at Edinburgh’s North Bridge, with his red braces straining at his chest, still brings a shiver; it is his loaded editorial as an editor which will remain longest.

At the time of his appointment, Edinburgh was suffering from a huge homelessness problem, with many poor souls rough sleeping in shop doorways at night and begging on the pavements by day. This is turn had fuelled a growing problem of young male prostitution – teenage guys selling their bodies just to earn enough to eat and maybe rent a flat.

I witnessed the problems every day as I strolled around the city centre and each evening as I walked to Waverley Street Station to catch my train home.

So, I suggested that a colleague and I should sleep rough in the city for a couple of nights to report first hand on the problems, and in doing so shame the authorities into taking some action to ameliorate them.

Neil was quick to put the idea down as “dangerous” and “foolhardy”.

But he wasted no time in using his next two weekly columns in The Scotsman to call for the city council to “hose” the homeless rough sleepers from the shop doorways amid a spurious claim that they were driving tourists away from Edinburgh’s famed Princes Street.

This one incident, for me, sums up Andrew Neil.

More than 60 members of staff voted with their feet and left The Scotsman during Neil’s first year in charge. In that time, a once proud newspaper was transformed into a pale pro Union broadsheet imitation of the Daily Mail.

Although Laura Kuenssberg was a young trainee journalist at the time I worked in the Scottish press our paths never crossed.

But her reputation as a privileged career driven reporter was being born.

The daughter of wealthy Scottish businessman Nick Kuenssberg and his wife Sally, her maternal grandfather was Lord Robertson who was a High Court of Justiciary judge. Her great-uncle was Sir James Robertson, the last colonial Governor-General of Nigeria.

Following this family tradition Laura’s sister Joanna was recently appointed the British High Commissioner in Mozambique

Kuenssberg grew up in Glasgow and attended Laurel Bank School, a fee paying independent girls’ school. She studied history at the University of Edinburgh, followed by a journalism course at Georgetown University in Washington DC, where she worked for NBC News.

After returning to UK, her career progressed quickly through the BBC and at rivals ITV. During this time she was praised for her reporting and blogging by the Conservative Home website.

In July 2015 she was appointed the BBC’s Political Editor, the first woman to hold the position – as successor to  Nick Robinson.

Her tenure has been dogged by many criticisms of bias against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Today, a Change.Org petition was launched demanding that the Producer of Daily Politics along with Andrew Neil/Laura Kuenssberg be Sacked. The petition, which had more than 5,000 signatures at the time of writing states: On the Daily Politics it appears the producer Andrew Alexander and Laura Kuenssberg conspired to arrange the resignation live on air of Stephen Doughty MP. This appears to have been done for max damage to the Labour leader and to create news, rather than report it. If these individuals did indeed conspire in this manner then they along with Andrew Neil should resign or be sacked. In signing this petition you are asking the BBC to consider their positions. 

You can sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/bbc-we-demand-producer-of-daily-politics-along-with-andrew-neil-laura-kuenssberg-be-sacked

BBC News forms a major department of the Corporation, but for years has received complaints of bias in favour of the conservative Establishment.

The commentator Mehdi Hasan in the New Statesman pointed out the right-wing backgrounds of many BBC presenters and journalists.

Guardian columnist Owen Jones is also of the opinion that the BBC is biased towards the right, owing to numerous key posts being filled by Conservatives.

A study by Cardiff University academics, funded by the BBC Trust, and published in August 2013, examined the BBC’s coverage of a broad range of issues.

One of the findings was the dominance of party political sources.

In coverage of immigration, the EU and religion, these accounted for 49.4% of all source appearances in 2007 and 54.8% in 2012.

The data also showed that the Conservative Party received significantly more airtime than the Labour Party.

In 2012 Conservative leader David Cameron outnumbered Labour leader Ed Miliband in appearances by a factor of nearly four to one (53 to 15), while Conservative cabinet members and ministers outnumbered their Labour counterparts by more than four to one (67 to 15).

Former Director General of the BBC, Greg Dyke, has criticised the BBC as part of a “Westminster conspiracy” to maintain the British political system.

 

The deleted blog by BBC producer Andrew Alexander:

Resignation! Making the news on the Daily Politics

Thursday 07 January 2016, 15:17

Andrew Alexander is an output editor for the Daily and Sunday Politics series

Wednesday is always an important day for the Daily Politics because we carry Prime Minister’s Questions live, which brings with it our biggest audience of the week and, we hope, a decent story.

As I arrived at Millbank at 7am it was clear that Jeremy Corbyn’s cabinet reshuffle, which had ended before 1am, was going to dominate at Westminster.

When the programme editor phoned in we agreed that in addition to covering other major stories, including the junior doctors’ strike, fallout from the reshuffle was likely to continue throughout the morning and this was a story where we could make an impact.

When the producers arrived at 8am they began putting out texts and calls to Labour MPs we thought were likely to react strongly to the sacking of several shadow ministers for “disloyalty”.

Just before 9am we learned from Laura Kuenssberg, who comes on the programme every Wednesday ahead of PMQs, that she was speaking to one junior shadow minister who was considering resigning. I wonder, mused our presenter Andrew Neil, if they would consider doing it live on the show?

The question was put to Laura, who thought it was a great idea. Considering it a long shot we carried on the usual work of building the show, and continued speaking to Labour MPs who were confirming reports of a string of shadow ministers considering their positions.

Within the hour we heard that Laura had sealed the deal: the shadow foreign minister Stephen Doughty would resign live in the studio.

Although he himself would probably acknowledge he isn’t a household name, we knew his resignation just before PMQs would be a dramatic moment with big political impact. We took the presenters aside to brief them on the interview while our colleagues on the news desk arranged for a camera crew to film him and Laura arriving in the studio for the TV news packages.

There’s always a bit of nervous energy in the studio and the gallery just before we go on air at 11.30am, but I’d say it was a notch higher than usual this week. By this point we weren’t worried about someone else getting the story as we had Stephen Doughty safely in our green room. Our only fear was that he might pull his punches when the moment came.

When it did, with about five minutes to go before PMQs, he was precise, measured and quietly devastating – telling Andrew that “I’ve just written to Jeremy Corbyn to resign from the front bench” and accusing Mr Corbyn’s team of “unpleasant operations” and telling “lies”.

As Andrew Neil handed from the studio to the Commons chamber we took a moment to watch the story ripple out across news outlets and social media. Within minutes we heard David Cameron refer to the resignation during his exchanges with Jeremy Corbyn.

During our regular debrief after coming off air at 1pm we agreed our job is always most enjoyable when a big story is breaking – but even more so when it’s breaking on the programme.

* Credit to Evolve Politics – www.evolvepolitics.com