Monthly Archives: April 2008

A Vain Search For Principle: The flexible friends that run the UK liberal media.

The article below was first published on the excellent web site Media Lens. (}
It deals with the myth of a broad media spectrum within the UK, it is a bit long but well worth a read. It centers on the announcement that Roger Alton, formerly editor of the Observer, will become editor of the Independent in June and looks at his record whilst at the Observer. It also deals with something I have often touched on at Organized Rage, i e that the British media fishes from a tiny elitist upper middle class pond when employing journalists, thus is totally unrepresentative of the mass of the people who live in the UK.


A Vain Search For Principle by David Edwards and David Cromwell

In a BBC interview in 1996, Andrew Marr, then of the Independent, described the ’spectrum’ of media available to the British public:

“We have a press which has, it seems to me, a relatively wide range of views – there is a pretty small ’c’ conservative majority, but there are left-wing papers, and there is a pretty large offering of views running from the far right to the far left, for those who want them.” ( Chomsky/interviews/9602-big-idea.html)

The “left-wing papers” Marr had in mind were the Guardian, the Observer, the Independent and the Independent on Sunday.

It is interesting to consider Marr‘s comments in light of the April 10 announcement that Roger Alton, formerly editor of the Observer, will become editor of the Independent in June. Alton resigned from the Observer last year after rumours of a ’civil war’ with the Guardian. There were also allegations that, in 2002, the Observer had suppressed important testimony on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction (see below) even as it was publishing false stories from intelligence sources. It was claimed that Alton’s political editor, Kamal Ahmed, had helped Blair’s aides with one of their infamous “dodgy dossiers” on Iraq’s WMD – Ahmed also resigned. Alton and Ahmed have both denied the claim. Geoffrey Levy wrote in the Daily Mail:

“Alton’s real mistake, it seems, was in supporting the Iraq war. This attitude never went down very well at Guardian House, and led to a more localised conflict, which has turned the two newspapers into what one senior journalist described as ‘hotbeds of fear and loathing’.” (Levy, ‘Fear and loathing in Farringdon Road,’ Daily Mail, October 25, 2007)

It is a bitter irony that Alton will soon be editing the Independent, which opposed the Iraq war.

In January 2006, Stephen Glover, the Independent’s media commentator, wrote of the Observer: “one looks in vain to its heart for that old voice of principle and conviction, as well as intellectual distinction. I am not sure that Mr Alton, charming and gifted man though he unquestionably is, believes in very much”. (Glover, ‘Colourful – and that’s not just the Observer editor’s language,’ The Independent, January 16, 2006)

So was the Observer under Alton really to the left of the media spectrum? In responding to the question of whether he would take the Independent further left, Alton commented recently:

“I wouldn’t have regarded myself as the most leftwing person… Left and right are effectively meaningless terms now. I wouldn’t define myself by those terms and I don’t think a newspaper should either.” (Stephen Brook, ‘Alton aims to make Indy “indispensable,”’ The Guardian, April 10, 2008)

He added:

“I would like to include a bit more luxury and have a sense of specialness.”

Certainly the words “left” and “right” are “effectively meaningless” in today’s media. But then it is the media’s self-assigned task to render just about every issue meaningless. As ever, Noam Chomsky is on hand to restore some common sense to the debate:

“If the left means anything, it means it’s concerned for the needs, welfare, and rights of the general population.” ( ZMag/july00barsamian.htm)

News Coverage And The Social Elite
The fact is that the general population is not well represented within elite journalism. In 2006, research conducted by the Sutton Trust found that 54% of Britain’s leading news journalists were educated in private schools, which account for 7% of the school population as a whole. In addition, 45% of the country’s leading journalists had attended Oxbridge. Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, asked:

“[Is] it healthy that those who are most influential in determining and interpreting the news agenda have educational backgrounds that are so different to the vast majority of the population?“

He also asked:

“Is news coverage preoccupied with the issues and interests of the social elite that journalists represent?” (The Educational Backgrounds of Leading Journalists, Sutton Trust, June 2006; Journalists-backgrounds-final-report.pdf)

Alton’s dismissal of ’left’ and ’right’ as meaningful terms is surely an example of exactly that. Lampl will not have been surprised to learn that Alton’s father was a distinguished Oxford don and that Alton was privately educated at Clifton College before attending Exeter College, Oxford.

For purposes of ‘niche marketing’, senior journalists are of course very keen to distance themselves from the idea that they represent elite interests. Instead, the focus is very much on high ethical ideals. Simon Kelner, Alton’s predecessor as Independent editor, explained in 2005 what the name ‘Independent’ meant to him:

“…there will be no retreat from the qualities that have underpinned The Independent since its launch. As we approach the general election, the role for an independent paper, one that is not driven by proprietorial agenda and that has no party allegiance, is as great as ever.” (Kelner, ‘The Independent: a new look for the original quality compact newspaper,’ The Independent, April 12, 2005)

This is the same myth propounded by Robert Fisk, who commented in 2003:

“I work for a British newspaper called The Independent; if you read it, you’ll find that we are.” (http://www.robert-

The reality is rather less glorious. Former New Statesman editor Peter Wilby wrote recently of Alton and Kelner’s close friendship:

“Both have political views that may be described as flexible or undogmatic, depending on how you look at it.

“True, one committed his paper to supporting the Iraq invasion, the other to opposing it. But given different circumstances, it is easy to imagine either of them deciding on the opposite course. Many friendships were ruptured by Iraq. That between Alton and Kelner survived – another example of how similar they are.” (Wilby, ‘It is. Is he?’ The Guardian, April 14, 2008; /14/theindependent.pressandpublishing)

The problem is that many people believe the Independent is a principled voice of left-leaning liberalism. Wilby quietly demolished this illusion:

“[T]he Independent’s founders never intended it to be a left-wing paper. Their preference, in the late 80s, was for Thatcherism with a human face. They expected to gain most readers from the Telegraph and Times. As it turned out, they found leftwing journalists more willing to join their venture and acquired more readers from the Guardian than from other papers. The editorial line remained pro-market and generally pro-foreign intervention, but compassionate towards the poor (in a vague sort of way) and leftish on social issues such as race, crime and smacking. Its position, in many respects, anticipated Blairism. Alton, who in 2006 described hostility to Blair as ‘quite baffling‘, could claim to echo the founders’ views more closely than Kelner has done.”

Writing in the Guardian, Stephen Brook noted that Kelner, now the Independent’s managing director and editor-in-chief, “has basically outsourced the Independent’s marketing department to Freud Communications, run by the well-connected Matthew Freud”:

“Freud will help to fashion the message that it connects directly with brand-conscious, upscale, young, high-earning readers.” (Brook, ‘Upward and onward for the Independent’s revolutionary,’ The Guardian, April 13, 2008)

The reality, then, is of a corporate cynicism that places advertising revenues attracted by “brand-conscious, upscale, young, high-earning readers” above the grave problems that afflict and threaten the “needs, welfare, and rights of the general population”. This is the actual and metaphorical bottom line.

Faithfully Reporting Claim And Counter-Claim – Observer-Style
As we discussed on March 5 ( /080305_flat_earth_news.php), in the autumn of 2002, former CIA analyst Mel Goodman told Observer correspondent Ed Vulliamy that the CIA believed Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction. Goodman was speaking out at a time when such revelations might have derailed Blair’s plans to go to war the following spring, with unknown consequences for Bush’s war plan. Over the next four months, Vulliamy submitted seven versions of the story for publication – The Observer, led by Alton, rejected all of them. We wrote to Vulliamy on February 27:

Dear Ed

Hope you’re well. I’ve been reading Nick Davies’s account of how your reports on Mel Goodman’s revelations were rejected seven times by the Observer. Did you try to publish the pieces elsewhere? Why did you not resign in protest at these obvious acts of censorship on such a crucial matter?

Best wishes

David Edwards

Vulliamy replied with what can only be described as an angst-ridden email, but insisted the contents were not for publication. We wrote again on February 28:

“Can I ask, also off the record (just out of human interest), what reasons did they give you for not publishing? You’re a major journalist on the paper, this was cast-iron testimony from a credible, named source – what on earth did they say?”

Vulliamy said he would answer our questions later (again, off the record). We received no further reply. We wrote again, and he again said he would reply. We wrote again on April 21 and he told us he was busy and again promised more later.

We also wrote to Roger Alton on April 21:

Hi Roger

We hope you’re well. Congratulations on becoming editor of the Independent.

In his book Flat Earth News, Nick Davies describes how the Observer’s Ed Vulliamy told him about his autumn 2002 conversations with former CIA analyst Mel Goodman. It seems Goodman was willing to go on the record in telling Vulliamy that the CIA believed Iraq had +no+ weapons of mass destruction. Vulliamy says he submitted seven versions of this story to the Observer over a period of four months and it was rejected every time. Is this true? If so, why did the Observer reject the story? Was this not a crucial story offered at a crucial time by a highly credible journalist citing credible sources?

Best wishes
David Edwards and David Cromwell

Alton replied on April 25:

Hi there … Thank you for your good wishes … I do not start there for some months though and am not the editor of the Independent now

As for your other point, so it was my old pal Ed who grassed me up eh?? Lordluvaduck, what a surprise … like Falstaff and Prince Hal eh??

Now, I don’t know anything about this tale … while I think an editor should read, or try to read, all the 250,000 – odd words that go into an edition of the Observer, I would not expect them to read all the several million words that are submitted eaxh week … as I understand it, this story was not used by the desk, on journalistic grounds, and indeed this was a decision taken by a very anti-war executive ..

There was an article setting all this out in a recent edition of Press Gazette, which I am sure you can easily find…

Yours sincerely

Roger Alton

How remarkable that Alton is unaware of the Mel Goodman “tale”. We can find nothing in Press Gazette that explains why seven versions of Vulliamy’s article were rejected over four months. We approached several of the journalists involved for comment on this bizarre response, none was forthcoming.

In 2004, we asked Alton about the Observer’s performance on Iraq in 2004. He responded:

“I think our reporting on Iraq was exceptionally fair. Journalism is by definition a first draft of history. It is rough and ready, people doing their best under trying circumstances often. We faithfully reported claim and counter claim in the build up to Iraq. With exceptional journalists like Peter Beaumont, Jason Burke, and Ed Vulliamy our news, feature and commentary coverage was fair, thorough and unbiased.” (Email to Media Lens, August 17, 2004)

Ironic words in light of what we know now. A year earlier, a journalist at the Observer, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote to us:

“Your media alerts and website have afforded me great solace and insight over the last eighteen months – making me feel less alone and more angry as the wretched failure of the ‘fourth estate’ to hold our ‘leaders’ to account becomes increasingly apparent.” (Email to Media Lens, March 2003)

On reflection, it seems incredibly naïve to imagine that free speech will flourish under corporate capitalism. It is true that we do not face the kind of physical threats offered by a totalitarian system – but so what? For most people, the threat of serious damage to a lucrative, high status career is enough to ensure their silence.

In the last decade of corresponding with journalists we have found that they often do behave as though they were living in a police state, or at least in a state policed by corporate power. Many are privately supportive and helpful. Indeed, many journalists who might be expected to be fierce opponents of our work, are in fact enraged by the mendacity and destructiveness of the media employing them. But they tell us their comments must be off the record; that they are not willing to comment over the internet (which is surely monitored); that they will help us only on condition that their names be concealed. Could it be more obvious that journalists do not feel free to write the truth about Alton and Kelner, and much else, because of the likely professional consequences?

Above, we cited the biting criticisms of Alton made by the Independent’s Stephen Glover in 2006. Hugo Rifkind of the Times recalled these comments this month and noted that Glover had also written that the Observer under Alton was “bursting with stuff I do not want to read”.

“And, his new Editor may surmise, would not wish to write”, Rifkind commented wryly, hinting that Glover may pay a price for his earlier candour. (Rifkind, ‘Write and wrong,’ The Times, April 11, 2008)

We spend our time well when we recall that Alton and Kelner have edited two of the Great White Hopes of the British liberal press – newspapers which many people believe are deeply concerned about the needs, welfare, and rights of the general population.

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to Roger Alton

Write to Simon Kelner

Write to Ed Vulliamy

Please send a copy of your emails to us

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The Media Lens book ‘Guardians of Power: The Myth Of The Liberal Media’ by David Edwards and David Cromwell (Pluto Books, London) was published in 2006. John Pilger described it as: “The most important book about journalism I can remember.” For further details, including reviews, interviews and extracts, please click here:

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Filed under media, media-class-prejudice, the-indepenndent The-left, UK

Do not be fooled! the BNP is a fascist organization and racist to the core.

The Argent Newspaper Group recently accepted an advert from the fascist British National Party which led to it being published in many local papers in London and the south east, including the Ham & High which has a large Jewish readership. David Landau, a leading Jewish anti fascist activist was originally asked to write a piece in response to this by the Socialist Worker. However its editorial board rejected his article on the most spurious grounds, which basically amount to him not being a member of the SWP.* (nor I might add a useful fool)

Organized Rage does not demand a party badge, nor do we run a democratic centralist check list before we publish peoples work. We simply ask one question, is there a need for this information to be in the public domain. David’s article is below.

Mick Hall

Do not be fooled, the BNP is a fascist organization and racist to the core.

By David Landau

“Of course we must teach the truth to the hardcore…..when it comes to 
influencing the public, forget about racial differences, genetics, Zionism, 
historical revisionism and so on……we must at all times present them with an image 
of moderate reasonableness”      Nick Griffin Chairman of the BNP writing in the Patriot, Spring 1999.

Last week the Argent newspaper group, who produce local newspapers across 
London and the South East, took an advertisement from the BNP with a picture of a 
white nuclear family saying ‘People Like You Vote BNP – British National 
Party Putting Londoners First’.  We know that they are very selective about which 
Londoners they want to ‘put first’.  But the it seems that the Argent Group were not 
simply seduced by the money, but fooled into thinking that the BNP is just another 
party participating in the political process.

The fact that the BNP is just a 
newish manifestation of an old party going back to the British Brothers League 
through the British Union of Fascists through the National Front was 
completely lost on them.  They now seem to have seen the error of their ways and have 
agreed to put the money made on this advertisement to charity.

 Part of this rumour of respectability is the suggestion that the BNP isn’t 
anti-Semitic any more.  The fact that their leader Nick Griffin used to be an 
outspoken Holocaust denier, who compared believing that 6 million were murdered 
with believing that the earth is flat can be put aside as a youthful 
indiscretion.  They have apparently changed their ways. 

They even have a Jewish 
councillor in the person of Pat Richardson (nee Feldman) in Epping Forest.

 To understand this we need to recognize that anti-Semitism plays a different 
role in fascist thinking than other forms of racism.  Anti-Semitism has been 
an organizing principle of most fascists.  Jews are the Bankers and the 
Bolsheviks who conspire together to control the world in which the rest of us are 
pawns and victims of their evil plans.  These ideas borrow heavily from medieval 
Christian ideas about Jews as Christ Killers and Usurers. 

This conspiracy theory has been upset by the rise of Islamaphobia.  For many 
fascists, and Nick Griffin and other leaders of the BNP are part of this wing, 
the central organizing principle is now Islamaphobia.  It is the Oil Sheikhs 
and the Terrorists who are calling the shots, dividing the world against 
itself and threatening ‘our’ Christian way of life.  Leaflets and papers by the BNP 
portray Muslims praying outside a church on the village green and bombed  buses.

the London elections their main leaflet contrasts a picture of an all white 
street Coronation party with protesting Muslim women in veils.  

Griffin himself wrote a 15 page document explaining to his supporters why 
Islam is the main enemy now.  He explains how it would be a mistake to see 
Islamic fundamentalism as an ally, as some fascist organizations do, – my enemy’s 
enemy is not necessarily my friend. But this is a big give away – the Jews are 
still one of the enemies.  How the two enemies are related is something that I 
don’t think they have a theory about.

The second factor is that whereas Islamaphobia is now respectable and falls 
from the lips of the politicians and front pages of the newspapers, 
anti-Semitism in the public arena at least, is taboo, although there is still plenty of it 

The third issue is Zionism and the state of Israel. Ruth Smeed of the Board 
of Deputies of British Jews said recently in the Guardian “The BNP website is 
now one of the most Zionists on the web – it goes further than any of the 
mainstream parties in its support for Israel”. In what passes for fascist thought, 
Zionism, Jews and Judaism are usually all rolled together as one thing. 

It is 
this wrong equation which is part and parcel of them seeing Jews and Muslims 
as intrinsic enemies, which of course we are not.  For some fascists Israel 
lies at the heart of the evil Jewish conspiracy.  But on the other hand we have 
a state which is fiercely nationalistic, whose Government is underpinned by an 
ideology which wants an exclusive Jewish state if this were possible and a 
state controlled on behalf of its Jewish population in actuality.  So the BNP 
leaders, most prominently Lee Barnes, present Israel as a model to aspire 
towards, an example which British Nationalists should follow.  But it would be a 
huge mistake to assume that this means that the BNP leadership or rank and file 
love the Jews.  Ruth Smeed beware.

Others whose anti-Zionism merges with anti-Semitism are horrified with this 
turn.  Israel Shamir, who claims once to have been Jewish and whose work is 
greatly admired by Gilhad Atzmon polemicized against Barnes thus “I do not feel 
at ease accusing you and your comrades of betraying the Britons and joining 
with the Jews, but if I’d keep mum, stones wouldn’t”. 

Again there are lessons 
about friends and enemies which the left needs to learn.  

To conclude, the BNP remain a fascist organization and racist to the core.  
Currently Islamaphobia plays a central role along with attacks on migrants of 
every kind. Anti-Semitism is hidden but rumbles away at the heart of the 
beast.  Jews, Muslims, people of all faiths and non, migrants and settled 
communities have a common cause with workers as a whole in ensuring their upward path is 
halted and that they are thrown down and dashed on the rocks.



* Letter from Socialist Worker rejecting David Landau’s article.

Dear David,

 Thanks for submitting the ‘Ham and High’ article as requested, and the work 
you have done. 

However, I’m afraid the editorial board has decided not to run it in 
Socialist Worker. 

It was felt that due to past and present disagreements you were not the 
appropriate person to write for the paper.

I’m sorry to have inconvenienced you.



Filed under anti-Semitism, BNP, democratic freedoms, fascism, Nazi, Organized Rage

SA dockers refusal to unload Zimbabwe arms shipment, immeasurably more important than than huffing and puffing by world leaders.

We should not underestimate the importance of the action taken by South African dockers against the Chinese vessel the An Yue Jiang, which had docked in the South African port of Durban’s carrying a cargo of seventy seven tonnes of weapons for Robert Mugabe government in Zimbabwe.

Despite the South African president Thabo Mbeki and his African National Congress (ANC) government decaring the seventy seven tonnes of weapons for the Mugabe government aboard the An Yue Jiang were legal cargo and would be transported 1000 miles overland northwards to Zimbabwe. The Durban dockers and port police refused to unload the cargo.

The South African government gave customs clearance for the weapons, which include more than three million rounds of AK-47 rifle ammunition, 1500 rocket-propelled grenades and more than 3000 mortar rounds and launchers. But Randall Howard, general secretary of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), to which the Durban dockers belong, warned: “As far as we are concerned, the containers will not be offloaded. The ship must return to China. If they the Mbeki government bring replacement labour to do the work, our members will not stand and look at them and smile.”

South Africa’s police trade union warned Mbeki, widely seen as sympathetic to Mugabe, against using policemen as “scab” labour.
“The dockers have good reasons for not offloading the ship,” said Benz Soko, spokesman for the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru). “We understand their objection.”

South Africa is seen as the one country that could bring the Mugabe government to its knees and force it to hold truly free and fair elections that could see opposition movements take power. They would be faced with reconstructing a country with 1650% inflation, 82% unemployment and the world’s lowest life expectancy among women – 34 years, against nearly 60 at independence in 1980.*

The An Yue Jiang eventually left the port of Durban with its cargo of arms intact in its hold, its whereabouts is currently not known. The Mozambiquen and Angolian governments followed the example set by the South African dockers and refused the ship entry into their ports. If the An Yue Jiang is unable to find a port in southern Africa to offload its consignment of Chinese weapons and ammunition for onward transport to Zimbabwe it is thought the Chinese government will order it to return home.

The refusal of the SA dockers and police to unload the vessal may yet come to be seen as a turning point in the struggle to bring an end to the 29 year Mugabe regime; and will come to be regarded as immeasurably more important than all the huffing and puffing by so-called world leaders and news media.* 

* Additional information from Tim O.

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Filed under democratic accountability, of capitalism, Organized Rage, South-Africa, unacceptable face of capitalism, Zimbabwe

Todays mainstream media reeks of the Al Murray syndrome.

When writing about middle class people who are in the news, a UK journalist would never consider prefixing that they lived on a Barratt’s, or a Wimpey Estate, yet when it comes to the working class they have returned to putting the prefix ‘council estate,’ when describing where some working class people live. The implication being that it is a bad thing to grow up or live on a Council estate, this is not me being over sensitive, there really is no other conclusion one can draw from the use of these words. That this has once again become common practice having died out in the 1960s-70s; and such prejudicial copy manages to get by the papers sub-editors, can only be because they are either all ignorant of what it is like to live on an average council estate. [little different from on an owner occupier estate] Or the writer is displaying subjective middle class prejudices against working class people that are so prevalent throughout the newsroom, that no one in it sees how insulting the use of this prefix is. As none of them understand what life is like living on a Council estate, instead they have a media created cartoon image in their minds as to how many working class people live.

We should not be that surprised at this, as a recent article by one of the UKs leading journalists Peter Wilby pointed out that the UKs daily newspapers have become a bastion of middle class privilege, and journalism has become more socially exclusive than at any time since World War Two. With only three percent of journalists coming from what can loosely be termed the unskilled working classes. In a 2003 survey 96% of journalist were middle class and White, which as Wilby points out is a damming statistic as most daily papers are published in London, a metropolis which is one of the most multi ethnic cities on earth.

The educational charity The Sutton Trust looked at the country’s leading 100 journalists and found that over half attended Public Schools and 45% went to Oxford or Cambridge University. The end result of these exclusive, class based employment practices within the media is having an extremely detrimental effect, for the exclusion of people from a working class background is prevalent throughout the industry, whether it be newspaper, TV or radio.

Thus working class regional accents are excluded from the airwaves, true there are the odd exceptions but they are mainly people within the upper age bracket who came into the profession in the 1960s and 70s. Once these people retire they are not being replaced by people from a similar background, there slots are filled by the middle classes offspring. From gardening programs to cookery, drama, soaps, comedy and news, the front of camera is middle class home counties to the core, as are the accents. About the only place you can be guaranteed to find people from working class backgrounds is sports coverage, especially football, where the pundits having played the game still come from the working classes.

As I said in a previous article, British Television has gone back to the days of “gor blimy gov, thank you very kindly.” When working class people are portrayed on our screens, they are increasingly being played by middle class actors as either stupid chavs, layabouts, criminals, incompetent half wits or victims of their own class, in much the same way as black people used to be portrayed. There are a number of programs that epitomize the wretchedness and class prejudice that is so prevalent in the media today. Al Murray’s Happy Hour stands out as the worst of many, yet actors musicians and journalists line up to appear on this infantile program, oblivious that by doing so they are party to insulting a large section of the community they live amongst.

The ‘Landlord’ in the ‘Happy Hour’ is portrayed as a crude working class bigot and is played by middle class actor and ‘comedian’ Alastair “Al” Murray, the son of Lt.-Col. Ingram Bernard Hay Murray and his wife Juliet Anne Thackeray Ritchie, through whom he is a great-great-great-great-grandson of William Makepeace Thackeray, his grandfather was UK diplomat Sir Ralph Murray. Al Murray attended Bedford Public School and is a graduate of Oxford University. Yet on screen he masquerades as a half witted sexist lout who speaks with an estuary English accent, the likes of which has never been heard any where between Dagenham and Southend. What makes me puke is comics and actors like Murray when out of character portray themselves as ‘right on’ people who show respect to all, yet in their work they seem to believe they have a right to insult ordinary decent people for no better reason than these people are working classes.

The type of middle class comedy actors that Murray represents, look down their noses at Jim Davidson and his ilk for their racist and sexist jokes, but they fail to see that they are following in his tradition by attacking individuals who have little means to hit back. I look forward to the day when instead of laughing along and shuffling their feet young workers will put the pub landlord firmly on his arse.


Filed under all-murray, media-class-prejudice, Organized Rage, Pub-landlord, Socialism/Politics/UK/EU/Democratic accountability/Left

London Strategic Voter; A progressive web site well worth a visit.

Recently I have blogged a couple of times about London’s May 1st Mayoral election, in the process I came across a very handy progressive web site called London Strategic Voter when one of their number visited Organized Rage. (

This web site is well worth a visit as it gives a run down of the parties, candidates and the electoral process and by typing in ones post code it gives a brief account of how best to use your vote in both the Mayoral and Assembly elections. Apparently the people who run the site had a successful forum running at the 2006 London borough elections and if there is a demand for it, they hope to get a discussion forum going for the 2008 Mayoral election. In the main it is not telling people who to vote for but simply explaining their options and how to vote tactically.

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Filed under 2008-London-mayoral-and-assembly-elections, Democracy/Elections/democratic accountability/organized, UK

Many UK police forces refuse to dismiss officers who are convicted of drunk driving.

There is an interesting story in the Guardian today that is unlikely to gain legs unless it gets a lift from the bloggersphere.* It seems many of the UK’s police forces are refusing to dismiss there officers if they are convicted of drink driving. Despite Home Office guidelines that say they should be sacked due to the seriousness of this offense.

According to the Guardian who made a series of requests for the information under the Freedom of Information Act, there are wide differences in the manner in which the United Kingdom’s police forces deal with officers convicted of drink-driving, or related offenses such as failing to provide a breath or blood specimen.

Some, such as Nottinghamshire, Thames Valley and Essex, demand the resignation of every officer convicted of the offense if they do not volunteer their resignations, while others, such as West Midlands, demand the resignation of the overwhelming majority of those caught drink-driving.

The two worst offenders for taking no action against their officers who are convicted of these offenses are Northumbria Police and the Police Service of Northern Ireland in which the majority of officers convicted of the offense have been allowed to continue serving or to retire early on full pension. One wonders just how much has changed within the north of Ireland police, beyond changing its name from the RUC to PSNI.

So the next time a police care speeds past you with its blue lights flashing, give it a wide berth as its driver may have a conviction for drunk driving.


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Filed under drunk-driving, north of Ireland-Polıtıcs, PSNI, UK, victims

German Green Party return to the safety of their middle class comfort zone.

Like their Irish counterparts, who are junior partners in a conservative coalition government led by the right of centre Fianna Fáil Party, the German Green Party in the Hamburg region has signed a deal with the conservative Christian Democratic Union, (CDU) which will take them into the regional government led by Hamburg’s CDU Mayor Ole von Beust. (The CDU is the party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel)

The landmark coalition agreement signed on Thursday, April 17, in Hamburg’s City Hall, follows five weeks of intensive political negotiations that centered on energy and environmental issues, or so we are told. It is expected to be formally approved by party executives at the end of the month.
“In politics as in normal life, it is important to have the strength and the courage to walk new paths,” said Hamburg’s CDU Mayor Ole von Beust. “It’s not an experiment but a chance … Even if it may seem unusual to many, I’m convinced it’ll be a success for Hamburg.”
The Hamburg CDU leader Von Beust lost his absolute majority in the Feb. 24 State elections and his party has since then been on the search for a suitable coalition partner. 
The Greens have typically partnered with the SPD and the CDU has traditionally found an ally in the free-market liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), but the addition of fifth party, the Left Party, has forced political camps to rethink their well practiced two-party alliances.
For both the CDU and the Greens in Hamburg, “it’s just about opening up new options in the new five-party system,” wrote the Financial Times Deutschland on Friday. “For chancellor and CDU chairwoman Angela Merkel, nothing less than securing her chancellorship beyond the election year 2009 and the likely end of the grand coalition [of the CDU and SPD] are at stake. For this goal, serious conflicts are simply papered over, particularly in the areas of economic and energy policy.”

“Now older and wiser, the children who had once run away from the middle-class are coming back,” opined the Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Friday from Munich. “The Greens are becoming the junior partner of the party that they once considered to represent the bleak, stale, unenlightened middle-class.

Berlin’s Tagesspiegel considers the milestone coalition “a break in Germany’s party history.”
“If it’s successful, the Hamburg coalition will contribute to the de-ideologization of German politics, so that it’s no longer membership in a political camp but agreement on individual issues that will determine how governments are built,” wrote the paper on Friday.
“For the voters, that means that politics is becoming less predictable and more complicated.”

Many of us on the left, especially those of us who come from the working classes have always had our doubts about the Greens, not least because they have always refused to stand down for a left candidate who had a better chance of being elected. It seems once the Greens had a taste of political power that aphrodisiac replaced political principles and loyalty to a broad progressive coalition.


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