Should lefties participate in right-wing media

Here’s a challenge to all lefties from former Lib Dem MP Norman Baker (I picked it up from his Facebook Page) – I’ll admit it is a dilemma that I have personally struggled with:-

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‘Now here’s a puzzle. People who share my liberal/leftie views make two complaints to me about the plentiful right-wing media here in the UK, from the Mail to the Sun, from the Torygraph to GB News.

The first complaint is that these outlets are biased against those on the left and exclude voices to balance the diet of right-wing material they churn out.
The second complaint is that people like me who have liberal leftie views should boycott these outlets as they are the spawn of the devil.
Notice the contradiction here?

Actually what people want, in the famous exhortation of Gavin Williamson (sorry, Sir Gavin) is for these outlets to “go away”. But they aren’t going to go away, are they?

My strongly held view is that if I can have an opportunity to put my views across – and they are my unfettered uncensored liberal views – to an audience that wouldn’t normally hear them, that is an opportunity that I should not turn down. If I want to change minds, it is ultimately more useful to write for the Mail or the Sun, which I do intermittently, rather than for the Guardian (though I write for them too sometimes).

Someone recently drew a comparison between me being on GB News and the participation of the Lib Dems in the Coalition between 2010 and 2015. That is an entirely fair and apposite comparison. Many took the view that the Lib Dems should not have gone into coalition with the Tories. Yet the alternative would have been a Tory-only government and I think people can see how disastrous those have been since 2015 and begun to see the beneficial effect of the Lib Dems in the pre-2015 arrangement.

It is always an easy course, and a satisfying one, to shout from the sidelines rather than deal with people whose views are quite different to your own. Purity is retained, but at the price of impotence. Of course the Lib Dems suffered hugely from being in the Coalition (though recent elections suggest that we are on our way back) and no doubt I annoy some people by engaging with the right-wing media.

But back to my puzzle. If some want to argue that people with leftie views like me should boycott such outlets, that’s fine. I respect that view, even if I disagree with it. But don’t then complain to me that all liberal leftie voices have been excluded from those outlets.’

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Of course, as a leftie, I don’t watch GB News or Talk TV as their purpose, at least to me, is to present news in a right of centre way; why would I watch right-wing propaganda dressed up as news? But I’m sure there are many who think of themselves as left-wing who read the Express or the Mail and do watch these news outlets, I even know some of them! To me, the quality/independence of news is far more important than the political slant TV stations or newspapers put on their news streams, but let’s have a look at ‘leftie’ Norman’s position.

He clearly holds the view that his engaging with right-wing TV and newspaper outlets is a good thing as he uses such engagements to try to challenge the right-wing thrust of the journalists and presenters. I suppose the big question is though, does anyone who tunes into or reads right-wing news outlets seriously take on board the views of lefties who happen to be there making a progressive challenge? I’m guessing not very much.

However, Norman is clearly engaging with that section of the electorate that ‘lefties’ often ignore; the working-class, right-wingers who delivered Farage’s/Johnson’s Brexit. They will predominately be white, very much not progressive and often will have been Labour voters/supporters in the past. The very part of the electorate that Johnson and Starmer are fighting tooth and nail over and why Starmer’s Labour Party has to look right of centre.

Labour, as a class-based party, has always had supporters/members who no one would claim to be progressives/lefties in any way; they’ve always been drawn towards right-wing media outlets as they were towards the right-wing Brexit. But can lefties participating in such outlets really make them think again? My view is only at the margins and at very narrow margins at that. So I get what Norman Baker is trying to do but am not at all convinced he will save many who read the Mail, Express or who watch GB News/Talk TV from the clutches of the right. Hat’s off for his trying though.

Oh and on the Coalition, for me the Lib Dem failures were:-

* Being seen to be ‘lying’ over tuition fees by progressives. No amount of ‘explanation’ over this will ever change this view and neither, in my view, should it.
* Voting for illiberal things when the Tories were utterly unreliable political partners who should not have been trusted one inch.

By the way, Baker is a good writer. I’ve read two of his books – And what do you do? about the Royal family and The Strange Death of David Kelly about the very odd death of a government scientist.

Labour – Taking ‘right’ & struggling to be progressive

Whilst I’ve always considered myself to be of the left in terms of UK politics – I’m a Social Liberal and a retired trade union officer – I’ve never been tempted to support the Labour Party.

Under Corbyn Labour was in some ways of the left but in others – support for Brexit comes to mind – they were backing a right-wing policy. Now under Starmer (Corbyn’s former Brexit Shadow Minister) they’ve tracked even further right and are now in ERG policy territory with regard to Brexit having said a BIG NO to any involvement with the EU under any circumstances in the future! I’m sure there are still some Tories out there who are more open to being influenced on this matter!

But as I’ve said on numerous occasions Labour’s only real aim is to try to recapture the white, right-wing, working-class voters who left them and delivered us both Brexit and Johnson in 2019. That’s why Starmer always tries to put forward a right of centre agenda; no radicalism, certainly no socialism and don’t mention that dreaded word ‘progressive’ as none of that brings them back to Labour.

So where does that leave the socialists, radicals and progressives who are still within Labour’s tent? It probably means they have to cover their ears for fear of their Leader offending them!

The advantage that Starmer has as he tries to negotiate his way along a road talking ‘right’ but with some pulling him ‘left’ is that many Labour supporters will back his party no matter what it stands for; it’s a tribal, working-class, family thing. Having said that some who had never voted Tory before did so to give Johnson his 2019 majority so the crack that appeared back then is one that Labour has been desperately trying to paper over. The fear being that if the party does not look and sound ‘of the right’ not only will it not get back those who went over to the Tories in 2019 but more could follow!

So all this is why Labour looks to be an unattractive offer to progressives, radicals and left of centre moderates who are more likely to settle in the Lib Dems or Greens, with the socialists moving to more fringe parties of the left.

I’m not sure where Starmer hitches his wagon politically, maybe in the general direction of what I would define as that area of politics which the Owenite faction of the now-defunct ‘Continuing SDP’ once positioned itself – centrist-right? I’m not suggesting that Starmer’s personality is the same as Owen’s I might add.

That we are even having a conversation of this kind should indicate to us all that our politics is in a right old mess with the obvious point being that politically incompatible people are in Labour’s broad church pulling in totally different directions. This is of course a product of our warped electoral system which breads two major parties who both cover far too much political ground. In turn, when these two parties become unstable, particularly when they both go off the rails in the same/similar time period, we get them offering extreme policies and/or bizarre/incapable leaders to the nation.

To close I’ll say this, Corbyn was rejected mostly because of his perceived tax and spend agenda (personally I saw him as a 2nd Division Leader) but in Johnson, who well beat Corbyn via Labour’s right-wingers voting Tory, we have a tax and spend leader with bells on. You could not make it up!

Decency?

Not a word I’m guessing that many folk would associate with Boris Johnson yet it was uttered by an elector who’d supported/voted for his leadership of the Tories at the last General Election. The context of the remark was indeed remarkable, to me anyway, in that the person using the word was seemingly saying that they had expected decency from Johnson.

What struck me about this was why on earth would anyone expect decency from Johnson? And thereby hangs the cult of Johnson who often seems to be imagined as a person significantly different from the one we see on our TV screens day after day.

There’s nothing new about political cults of course as it’s only very recently that we lived through the cult of Corbyn. Thatcher had a cultish following too of course. And what about Churchill and even Lloyd-George?

Johnson’s cult following is clearly associated with Brexit, itself a fantasy never to deliver all the ‘wonderous’ things its proponents promised. That he wrote out two EU scenarios, one pro, one anti, and then decided which one he was going to run with says a lot about the man. Of course, he ran with the one which he calculated would take him into power. It worked too.

Now, I often turn to look at what Jim Hancock is thinking when I’m considering important UK issues. He rarely disappoints even though I don’t always share his conclusions. Here’s Jim on the present melt-down of Johnson’s Government over Partygate:-

www.jimhancock.co.uk/police-to-pms-rescue/

Well, what do you think of Jim’s take on Johnson/Partygate? To me, he’s got a pretty good angle on it all. I was particularly interested in the Bury Tory MP defecting to Labour. Considering what he’s previously voted for the MP is clearly of the right and I could not see him being spoken of as a One Nation Tory in any sense when he was in that party. On that basis, Labour has gained a defector who may well sit, if slightly uncomfortably, with the present right of centre leaning Labour leadership but my guess is that many local Labour members in Bury will privately be horrified if he’s been promised a run at the Bury Sth seat in the next General Election for Labour.

But to come back to my original theme about how voters perceive Johnson, a suppose you need to have bought into the cult to get why his supporters see him so very differently from those of us outside of it. But, decent? Really?!!!!!

Brexiteers punish the BBC for helping them deliver Brexit!

There’s probably no one who is more despairing about the BBC’s news and current affairs output in recent years than me. Indeed, I’ve been calling this once great public service broadcaster the Brexit Broadcasting Company for the past 6 years as its obsession with Farage and his like was a significant reason, at least to my mind, for Brexit being delivered. Of course, Labour’s right-wing, working-class voters were the other significant reason.

Left of centre progressives, like me, have good reason to want the BBC to be reformed so that it can retake the ground it once held as a suburb and fearless public service broadcaster. BUT incredibly the very Brexiteer politicians who must have been cheering the BBC from the rooftops during its biased coverage of the now-infamous referendum and the lead up to it have turned on the BBC in an attempt to bring it to their right-wing political heal. Their reason; the BBC are too left-wing! What?????

The BBC needs to be an institution feared by all politicians as it is not there to cheerlead any of them but to hold them all to account. The government of the UK (any government) is not held to account at all well in my view and frankly neither are the opposition. How many times have you heard leading politicians say something on the TV news which is pretty much the opposite of what they’d said previously? It happens a lot but superficial news coverage often lets them get away with it. I get it with commercial news and current affairs stations as they’ll often only play with headline news items but it’s taken Channel 4 News to step up to be what the BBC used to be. I shudder to think how superficial UK news output, in general, would be without Channel 4 News, and you know it often hits home as politicians fear and even boycott it.

So why have the Brexiteers turned against the BBC? Well as Brexit has pretty much proved to be the economic and trading setback it was always likely to be and the BBC has been edging towards being critical of it the Brexiteers have taken the hump. Anything their ears find unacceptable is leftie nonsense; facts have no place in the mad world of the Brexiteers. And again Starmer’s lot find themselves compromised and fence-sitting as Labour knows only too well that if they look too anti-Brexit those right-wing, working-class, white voters will stick with the Tories. Trying to be anti-Tory but pro-Brexit and pro-right wing continues to dog Labour as it’s an unholy compromise position to be in.

So will the right-wing succeed in finishing off the BBC? Frankly, it depends on who is Johnson’s successor and how far they are prepared to go to shut down opposition in the UK. We are drifting towards an authoritarian state where the right to protest is curtailed. Control of the media to make it compliant is a path we are sadly already on and if like me, you fear politicians being able to direct the media then we have a lot to be concerned about………

A New Year message from Kia Strummer – Leader of the UK’s Supportive Opposition

Well, where to start? OK, probably best to term this an apology rather than pretending to be upbeat.

Labour has been in a mess for a long time now but we do like a good bit of internal warfare as it helps the Tories and frankly, they need all the help they can get presently. If you look back we’ve helped the Tories with Brexit by trying very hard not to oppose them whilst taking our place on the Brexit fence leaning both ways at the same time. I think we succeeded in that aim very well but that fence was very uncomfortable.

Our real battle with the Tories (the only one really) is for those pesky white, right-wing, working-class voters who used to back Labour but who deserted us in their droves because of our Brexit, or Lexit as we like to call it, stance. We’ve been seen as the ‘muddle in the middle’ by those Brexit backing voters, stuck between the pro-EU Libs and Brexit loving Tories. But we want those right-wingers back where they should be within Labour and we’re prepared to do all that’s required to get them back.

So here are my questions – Do we need to sound more right-wing, even more than Labour does already? We could get Rachel Reeves to re-run her 2013 idea to be harder on benefits than the Tories if that would do the trick? Or how about Labour going back to its socialist roots in a right-wing way? Jez Corbyn tried that in a left-wing way and it went down like a brick budgie with the right-wingers who beggared off to the Tories. Please, please, I’m begging you; let me know your ideas to get right of centre voters back in their Labour home.

And speaking of Jez Corbyn, it was a huge laugh for Labour right-wingers when we were trying to look like we were backing him whilst we were actually trying to do him in as our leader. There were many social democrat-type MPs singing the Jez/Momentum tune so as not to be deselected and constituency Labour parties across the UK were pretty much all fooled by some terrible acting. But seriously the right is back in control of Labour again, at least until the next round of left V right which may well be just around the corner. So Labour needs to look and feel Tory whilst not being seen as Tory at all, maybe we could aim to be One Nation (Tory) Labour? Someone dig out Ted Heath’s policies, please.

So Labour is clear, in 2022 we’ll be swinging more to the right and less to the left, in fact, if we can drop anything remotely leftie from our policies then so much the better. Yes I know, Labour is always stuck in the past, refighting old battles with Thatcher and Blair but by becoming One Nation Labour we can go back to the halcyon days of the 3 day week and put the 1970s to rights. If that doesn’t get the white, working-class, right-wingers back nothing will!

So that’s Labour’s plan. Like it? Got any right of centre policies you think Labour should adopt? Why not drop me a line via a handwritten letter, very 1970s!

PS. I recently thought of that iconic 1979 Liberal poster, the one with David Steel (he was a bit of a leftie I’m told) in the middle of Thatcher and Jim Callaghan. Well, a remake of that classic poster could have the Labour Leader (not sure how long I’ll last in the job) in the middle with Tory and Lib Dem leaders on either side. Those Libs are still lefties so Tim Farron tells me, so with a new Labour slogan – Go muddle in the middle – all will end well for our reinvented Ted Heath-type Labour Party. What could go wrong?

What kind of Tory Government have we actually got?

With some of the highest rates of taxation in living memory, it makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

I’m sure I heard one Tory describe the present Conservative Government, a while back, as a benign Ted Heath type. Yes, I found that hard to accept too.

Interestingly, I’ve also heard folks speculate on Johnson not actually being a Tory at all because of his spend, spend, spend approach to the economy and yes, some of that speculation has come from Tory supporters.

Then of course you see the more traditional Tory approach in the recent taking of £20 per week back from those receiving Universal Credit. Now that seems more like the Conservative Party we’re used to. Yes, I know they gave it out in the first place, on a temporary basis due to Covid, but with significantly rising inflation removing it instead of confirming its permanence has quite simply made the poor poorer.

Acting appallingly towards refugees crossing the Channel; that’s plumbing new depths which traditional Conservatives of my Dad’s generation would never have contemplated no matter how bad their right-wing rhetoric against such unfortunate people may have sounded.

The endless dithering over Covid measures on the other hand seems so not Tory in nature, as traditionally they have liked to be seen as stable and decisive.

But what about ‘levelling-up’? It’s an odd thing for Tories to promote particularly if they actually meant it to be anything more than the political slogan which sadly it is. Surely Conservatism is all about protecting the middle and particularly upper/ruling classes from the working class? I guess it’s the recent re-emergence of working-class Tories who have deserted the Labour Party which is driving this pretend ‘levelling-up’ agenda.

From my perspective, all these contradictions are the result of the Tories getting lost in their own self-made fog and fantasy of Brexit, their pandering to populist right-wing wish lists, them lacking (in common with other UK political parties) strong leaders and finding themselves very poorly equipped to deal with the pandemic.

At the very time the UK needed a strong government it got ditherers. What my dear old Dad would have made of this I don’t know. He was from working-class Tory-supporting roots, although if you reminded him that his family used to live in a council house he always looked uncomfortable having made it to become middle-class. But my point is though that he had standards that were generally those of a decent person (I’m putting to one side here his utterly appalling anti-semitism!) and he’d seen through Johnson many years ago. Dad died in 2009 and he was bemoaning the decline in standards in public life and in the Conservative Party for maybe 10 years prior to that.

To my mind, the present Conservative government is all over the place politically but with a populist entertainer as their leader should we be surprised? It makes John Major look quite the statesman with hindsight does it not?