The right wing media billionaires fixing the General Election

newspaper-printing blog

THE Sun’s infamous claim following the 1992 general election that “It’s the Sun Wot Won it” is widely known. 

And in almost half of all general elections since 1918 one newspaper or another has claimed to have swung the result.

So has June’s General Election already been decided by the opinion formers within our national newspapers?

And if so, who has made these decisions?

Former newspaper editor Roy Greenslade says: “Sadly, one key question not asked of people interviewed by the opinion pollsters, is their prime news provider. It would be fascinating to know whether they read a daily national newspaper and, if so, which title.”

It is easy to see without looking too far that most of our press supports Theresa May’s Tory Government, and also backed Brexit in last year’s referendum.

The big sellers, for example, all backed the Leave campaign and in doing so defined what Mrs May is determined to make the banner for this General Election.

Their power to shape opinion is both sinister and immense.

The Daily Mail (circulation: 1,544,084) has been rabid right wing Tory rag since it supported Hitler and Oswald Moseley’s Black Shirts back in the 1930s. Since the EU sceptic argument began to surface in the late 1980s, it consistently urged Britons to “Believe in Britain” and vote to leave the EU.

Last year The Sun (circulation: 1,450,523) told readers to “beleave in Britain” and back Brexit, arguing that a vote to Leave would allow voters to “reclaim our country”. It now tells us we must vote for a “strong leader” in Theresa May.

Its stablemate The Sunday Times (circulation: 777,834) also wanted Britain to leave. And today, along with its daily sister title The Times is backing the Conservatives in the General Election campaign.

Similar right wing newspapers: The Daily Express (circulation: 415,023), The Daily Telegraph (circulation: 490,800), and The Sunday Telegraph (circulation: 370,976), all supported a long-standing “crusade” to “get Britain out of Europe”.

And all now support Theresa May’s right wing Hard Brexit agenda.

Only the more left-wing British press backed the Remain campaign last year – The Guardian (circulation: 165,702), The Observer (circulation 189,091) and The Daily Mirror (circulation: 778,650).

They are likely to back Labour in the General Election, but all have been lukewarm to leader Jeremy Corbyn and sometimes have been downright hostile to his alternative policies.

But who is making these General Election opinion-forming decisions, and why?

Almost 80% of our press is owned by a handful of mostly foreign-based billionaires.

And the political position of a paper is set by its owner. Our press barons wield far more power and influence than all but a very few MPs and have, unsurprisingly, used it to further their own interests.

Rupert Murdoch’s candour at the Leveson Inquiry was revealing. He said that if someone wanted to know his opinion on a subject they should just read The Sun.

So who owns what and why do they favour the capitalist status quo?

The Sun, Sun on Sunday, Times and Sunday Times are all owned by Rupert Murdoch, a US-based billionaire who owns 24.9% of the British press and has supported the Tories since 2010, after a brief cosy-toes with Tony Blair and his New Labour brand.

Journalist Anthony Hilton once asked Murdoch why he opposed the European Union. He replied:

“That’s easy, when I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.”

Small wonder that David Cameron, George Osborne and latterly Theresa May are the first invitees to his swanky Park Lane cocktail parties.

The Daily Express, Sunday Express and Star newspapers are owned by billionaire pornographer Richard Desmond who has also supported the Tories since 2010.

“Richard Desmond was furious when, after a decade of greasing palms in Labour and the Tories, both decided not to grant him either a knighthood or a peerage”, writes media pundit Gavin Haynes.

The fallout from that colossal sulk was partly why he ended up giving a million pounds to UKIP just before the 2015 General Election. With May now in charge, he is set to revert back to the Conservatives.

The Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Metro are all owned by Lord Rothermere (owner of 27.3% of the British press) who lives in France and is non-domiciled for tax reasons. He too is a strong supporter of the Tories.

Lord Rothermere is usually hands-off, preferring to let editor Paul Dacre run things, in his own cavalier way – remember his vicious attack on Ed Miliband’s late father, during the 2015 General Election.

The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph are owned by reclusive property billionaires David and Frederick Barclay – former close friends of Margaret Thatcher – who live on a private island near Sark.

The Barclay brothers certainly have enough experience in electoral manipulation. In 2008, the 600 people who live on Sark voted against the Barclays’ chosen candidates for the island’s governing council. As a result, the Barclays sacked vast numbers of workers at the hotels on Sark they owned.

As Bob Dylan once wrote: “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.”

I believe we are witnessing a complete bankruptcy of freedom within our Fourth Estate.

And within that bankruptcy comes the manipulation of the electorate.

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

Thomas Carlyle attributed the origin of the term to Edmund Burke, who used it in a parliamentary debate in 1787 on the opening up of press reporting of the House of Commons.

He 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.

The Fourth Estate was a civil watchdog to keep an eye on those in power, and provided the philosophical argument for defining the public citizenry and the nation-state as two separate entities with differing interests.

But this position has now been hi-jacked by corrupt big business ownership of our media and the aforementioned media moguls.

If we accept the premise of the Fourth Estate, we also have to ask ourselves if the “national” and the “public” interest are the same thing.

But in today’s capitalist world both are divided along class lines.

In this context, the national interest is about state secrecy and keeping things from us. On the other hand, the public interest is about disclosure and our right to know.

For instance, if we look at who trained and funded the ISIS terrorists and which countries now sustain them to carry out attacks, such as those on Paris and Beirut, the press has not been forthcoming in its reporting. Instead it focuses on Muslims, refugees, border controls, divisions within the Labour Party and the “need” to keep bombing Syria.

Sounds like Conservative Party rhetoric to you?

Well it is… formed and shaped by the same billionaires who own our media.

This separation between the people and the state becomes more important when the economic interests of the powerful so frequently dominate society.

The same interests being challenged so forcefully by Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.

Today, the state is the executive branch of the ruling class and its big business paymasters.

Our newspapers like to paint their own role as heroic – they are the brave defenders of democracy who hold our elected representatives to account.

But too often, far from protecting our democracy, our papers subvert it.

Since 2010, the press barons pushed the highly contentious argument that there is no alternative to Austerity and largely ignored the stories of the widening social divisions and the swelling numbers at food banks – the 21st century’s soup kitchens.

And editorial independence is a sham. Proprietors choose editors who they know share their views.

Likewise, the mechanisms through which owners can, and do, interfere with or shape content to promote particular viewpoints are not difficult to identify; they range from directly dictating the line a newspaper should follow on particular issues, to appointing senior staff with a shared political outlook, as well as forms of indirect influence over the ethos of the organisation which may prompt journalists to engage in ‘self-censorship’.

The Fourth Estate is now more powerful than ever, but it is no longer the once heralded “civil watchdog to keep an eye on those in power”.

It is now fake news and spin to maintain the capitalist status quo and the power of the super rich.

Trust has broken down threefold, between people and politicians, media and people, journalists and politicians, with the latter now observing each other with deep distrust and mutual antipathy.

A vicious circle has established itself.

Do we want these people deciding out future?

We need real media democracy in this country to allow a diversity of voices to be heard.

We must help generate that informed consent by providing the public with high-quality, well-researched and incisive journalism…. by the people and for the people!

So get involved… support the work of new media organisations such as: Media Diversified, Novara Media, Corporate Watch, Common Space, Media Lens, Bella Caledonia, Vox Political, Evolve Politics, Real Media, Reel News, Manchester Mule, Salford Star and many more.

The right wing British press will do all they can to ensure a Conservative victory at the General Election… only we can stop them!

  • You may find these other blog postings interesting:

Paris, Isis, Syria and The Bankruptcy of the Fourth Estate

The Loaded Language of the British Press

The Crippled Estate of BBC Spin

So Who is Frying the BBC Fish?

 

 

All he believes are his eyes and his eyes, they just tell him lies

blair

YOU usually only get the true measure of a person when you meet them face to face.
And so it was for me when I first interviewed erstwhile Prime Minister Tony Blair, soon after his election victory in 1997.
I had briefly met Mr Blair two years earlier in Glasgow while he was celebrating Labour’s landslide wins in the local council elections. He was triumphant, beaming and pressing flesh in every direction. The Scottish faithful loved him.
I had helped elect him and his Labour Government on 1 May 1997, thus ending 18 years of Thatcherism and Majorism and the class-ridden Tory ruination of our country.
Like millions of others I was now hopeful for a brighter and more socially equal future… after all, things could only get better!
So when, in early December I was asked by my news editor at the Sunday Sun (a North of England Sunday tabloid, not to be confused with the rag the Sun on Sunday!) if I would like to interview the new Prime Minister on his return to his Sedgefield constituency, I jumped at the chance.
On a sunny Saturday morning, armed with a hand-held tape recorder and full of questions I made my way to the Labour Club in Trimdon in County Durham.
The club was full with the local faithful and many more had gathered outside. Here was the return of the conquering hero.
Looking tall in a dark suit, white shirt and equally dark blue tie, Mr Blair addressed the audience inside the club about his hopes and plans for a New Labour Britain. It was typical political rhetoric, the type I had heard many times from other party leaders. But Blair was convincing and comfortable in the knowledge that he was among friends.
He finished to a standing ovation and began to mingle with party activists.
I approached his agent John Burton and requested a few minutes of the PM’s time for an interview which I could guarantee we would run the next day.
Ten minutes later John tapped me on the shoulder and told me Mr Blair was ready for ‘a chat’.
So I faced our new leader, introduced myself and asked him about his proposed cuts in benefits to lone parents. He noticeably winced at this first question, and in words which would not be alien to David Cameron, he said: “I think most people understand that we have got to reform the system. Because if you are spending more on benefits than you are on schools, hospitals and law and order put together, there is a problem.”
Asked if stalwarts in his constituency shared many fellow Labour MPs’ fears over benefit cuts, he became slightly more agitated.
He said: “Look, I have always said that whenever you are doing change then it is always difficult to begin with. We have got to make these reforms and I think people will accept them as changes we have to make.”
Then in words which could have come straight from Conservative Central Office he gave a stark indication that the disabled and sick would be the next to face an overhaul of their benefits.
“We spend more on disabled and incapacity benefits than we do on the entire school system in the UK,” he told me, before adding: “Benefit fraud – estimated at £4 to £5 billion a year – is enough to build 100 large hospitals.
“If we achieve these reforms then it will be a magnificent legacy that the New Labour Government has left us in a new millennium.”
We talked for another ten minutes before the Prime Minister moved away to the safety of his constituency friends.
This was my political watershed. Personally I felt my interview with Mr Blair was enlightening for many reasons.
Primarily because during the course of the conversation, Mr Blair avoided any eye contact and instead looked right through me, as if reading from an auto cue.
Secondly, because these were not the words, or message to the poorest in our society, that I was expecting from a new Labour Prime Minister. A Prime Minister charged with turning back almost two decades of Conservative pillage and division.
And finally, when all else failed, Mr Blair seemed to rely on cheap soundbites and a pre-learned script.
There was not one ounce of sincerity in anything he said.
He had lost me!
And over the next four years, the actions and policies of Mr Blair’s New Labour Government confirmed my worst fears.
While I still voted Labour in the June 2001 General Election, I had lost all confidence in this light blue successor to Thatcher or any dreams of a more socially fair country.
The events of post 9/11, Mr Blair’s unswerving support of the moronic George W Bush, the illegal invasion of Afghanistan and the lies over the justification for war against Saddam Hussein and Iraq, finally nailed it.
I felt that like many, I had been caught in a web of lies and propaganda and lost in a smokescreen of rhetoric and deceit.
The poor were poorer, the rich got richer, and the innocent victims of Blair’s wars lay charred and dead.
So by 2005, for the first time in my life I did NOT vote for any party or political leader.
That was nine years ago. Now sadly, just two weeks after the sad death of one true democratic socialist Tony Benn, I am still casting around for something and someone to believe in.
The fight for peace, social justice and the protection of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society must continue, but I don’t believe one of our major political parties now has the will to do that.

I Ain’t Gonna Work on Maggie’s Farm No More (Last thoughts on Thatcher)

thatcherGETTING older gives a few new perspectives on life and self.

I was raised in the cosy middle-class environs of Sussex as the only son of a hard working father and loving mother.

I guess my father’s often right wing doctrines influenced my own, and as a teenager and college student I followed those politics quite radically.

At 21 years-old, against a typical 1970’s university backwash of Trotskyism and Marxism, I was regional vice-chairman of the Federation of Conservatives Students. I was a proud radical Tory, brushed shoulders with Michael Portillo, shared a whisky with former PM Ted Heath and fought hard in Thatcher’s election victory of 1979.

That remains the eternal shame of my youth.

But life influences and chalk face experiences over 34 years changed all that… it changed me as a person, socially, spiritually and politically.

I remember the year Thatcher was first elected, a more socially aware friend of mine warned: “There will be war in three years!”

How right she was!

In 1982 we were at war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, ostensibly to liberate islanders loyal to the British Crown, but in reality because we had discovered huge reserves of oil in the South Atlantic a few years earlier!

But it was what I discovered 14 years later as a newspaper journalist, which cast the Falklands War and Thatcher in a new light.

Not only was our prized battleship cruiser HMS Sheffield sunk while carrying nuclear depth charges, but against all international treaties to keep the South Atlantic nuclear free, Thatcher had deployed a British nuclear-armed submarine into the area.

The orders were clear: if the Argentines sunk another of our flagships, a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Cordoba was to be considered.
Just think for a minute where that might have led in 1982, at the height of the Cold War. Thatcher was prepared to risk a global Armageddon to secure her political ends.
Thankfully that scenario did not come to pass.

But it was at home where my opinions of Thatcher and her politics changed me forever.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s I lived and worked as a teacher in the small mining village of Darton near Barnsley.

Most of my pupils were the sons and daughters or miners. I played cricket each weekend with miners. My neighbours were miners. I went to football matches at Oakwell with miners. And I bought my first house from a miner.

The sound of the local pit hooter and the rattle of coal trucks woke me each morning and the coal dust got into my clothes and my life.

But what struck me then and has stayed with me ever since was the sense of community and friendship which imbued every aspect of life in that village.

If one of my charges misbehaved at school you could be sure his or her parents would know about it and he or she would be disciplined at home.
If I was ever ill in bed, a neighbour would knock at the door and ask if I needed any groceries or would leave a casserole of stew.
If the snow was deep we would all help clear each-others’ drives or pathways.
If anyone had a party in the street, the whole street would be invited, no exceptions.  And those parties were real parties with Yorkshire beer, pies, gravy and puddings.
And if my girlfriend had to walk home late at night, I wouldn’t fear for her safety.
It was a time of the greatest friendship and community I have ever known.

I moved away for misled career aspirations in 1983.

One year later, Thatcher’s brutal decision to crush the trade union movement at any cost laid waste to this community and countless more like them.
It was never to recover.

For those not familiar with this time and place, watch the movie Billy Elliot or the BBC TV series Our Friends in the North to gain a little perspective.

All that was wonderful had been lost forever due to Tory greed and Thatcher’s need for unbridled power.

We had a nation divided against itself where the rich got richer while the rest fought for the scraps.

A whole street’s belief in Sunday’s roast beef
Gets dashed against the Co-op
To either cut down on beer or the kids new gear
It’s a big decision in a town called malice.

(Paul Weller)

My politics were changing fast.

In 1987 and 1988 I was in hospital in Cardiff undergoing surgery for a malignant cancer in the right shoulder and right lung.

It was a time of personal trauma, but also the making of new and lasting friendships.
Many of my new friends were former miners from the South Wales valleys. Many were suffering from lung cancer due to a lifetime working among coal dust.
But it was their tales of how Thatcher crushed the miners’ strike that will always stay with me.
Sure they blamed Scargill for getting some of the NUM tactics wrong. But it was Thatcher whom they blamed for the decimation of their lives and families.
I learned how she used MI5 and the Met Police and every dirty trick imaginable to tarnish the personal reputations of the striking miners, even down to the conspiratorial murder of a taxi driver.

When I had fully recovered from the cancer in the mid-1990s, I was prompted to travel back to my old village near Barnsley to see how things had changed.
What met me was post-apocalyptic!

All vestiges of the coal mining past had gone, the shops had steal shutters on their windows, litter blew around the main street and grey youths gathered on corners with eyes that seemed devoid of hope.

The ghost of a steam train – echoes down my track
It’s at the moment bound for nowhere –
Just going round and round
Playground kids and creaking swings –
Lost laughter in the breeze
I could go on for hours and I probably will –
But I’d sooner put some joy back
In this town called malice.

(Paul Weller)

It was a scene I later witnessed in Northumberland and County Durham where three generations of families had been unemployed since 1984.

Their former pit communities had crumbled into decay, with all manner of social problems: derelict housing, crumbling schools, drug dependency, street crime, high rates of teenage suicide and homelessness.
These villages remain, with three buses a day to their nearest towns and any chance of a better life, the lasting memory to Thatcher.

I could also ramble on about the abuse of power I discovered as a journalist with Thatcher’s henchmen… personal battles with the liars Jonathan Aitken and Jeffery Archer, the criminal ruination of anyone who stood against her, the machinations of the Duke of Argyll and Lord Willie Whitelaw and much, much more.
But then my brief story would become a book… and maybe one day it will!

For me Thatcher’s memory lies in the coal dust of the communities she destroyed.

I hold no emotion over her passing earlier this year, but I do fear that in the current Prime Minister David Cameron we are seeing Thatcher revisited.

But sadly my personal politics have moved so far to the left, that there is not one political party I feel able to vote for anymore… not even the Labour Party, whose socialist credentials were surrendered by Tony Blair almost 20 years ago.

I now feel massive empathy with Russell Brand when he recently wrote: The only reason to vote is if the vote represents power or change. I don’t think it does. I fervently believe that we deserve more from our democratic system than the few derisory tit-bits tossed from the carousel of the mighty, when they hop a few inches left or right…

“The US government gave a trillion dollars to bail out the big five banks over the past year. Banks that have grown by 30% since the crisis and are experiencing record profits and giving their execs record bonuses. How about, hang on to your hats because here comes a naïve suggestion, don’t give them that money, use it to create one million jobs at fifty grand a year for people who teach, nurse or protect…

“If we all collude and collaborate together we can design a new system that makes the current one obsolete.

The reality is there are alternatives. That is the terrifying truth that the media, government and big business work so hard to conceal.

I don’t mind getting my hands dirty because my hands are dirty already. I don’t mind giving my life to this because I’m only alive because of the compassion and love of others. Men and women strong enough to defy this system and live according to higher laws.

This is a journey we can all go on together, all of us. We can include everyone and fear no one. A system that serves the planet and the people. I’d vote for that.”

A system so far from the evil of Thatcherism that I would join Brand’s journey and enjoy spending my latter years fighting for it.

Come the revolution!