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Current location: Scotland
Member since: Mon Sep 7, 2009, 12:57 AM
Number of posts: 5,083

Journal Archives

American dirty tricks are corroding British democracy

Super PACs in the US are notorious for smear campaigns and disinformation – now we're seeing them in the UK election. Be careful where you take your phone.
How they are shaping this election

Up and down the country, we’re beginning to see something a lot like Super PACs shaping this UK election.

They aren’t all on the same side. By far the biggest spender on Facebook ads is the pro-EU group Best for Britain, which has thrown nearly three-quarters of a million pounds at sponsored posts over the past year. The legal limit for non-party spending on election campaigning for the year before the vote is £480,000 – though, as Best for Britain points out, many of its ads are non-partisan voter registration messages, which don’t count.

On the other side of the Brexit rift, Leave.EU quickly established almost as much Facebook traction as Labour. With nearly a million Facebook likes, the group – founded by the millionaires Arron Banks and Richard Tice – pillories pro-EU politicians. Like America’s most notorious Super PACs, it courts controversy, incites rage and drives debate.

In a recent post – shared 7,000 times – the pro-Tory group reused an image of refugees from a notorious poster unveiled by Nigel Farage during the Brexit referendum, an image widely compared to Nazi propaganda.


Johnson Threatening To Review Channel 4's Licence After Replacing Him With Ice Sculpture in Debate

Boris Johnson Is Threatening To Review Channel 4's Broadcasting Licence After They Replaced Him With An Ice Sculpture At Thursday's Debate

A Conservative source told BuzzFeed News that if they win the coming election they will reassess the channel’s public service broadcasting licence.
In a dramatic escalation of the war of words between the Tories and Channel 4 that will likely provoke outcry, a Conservative source told BuzzFeed News that if they win the coming election they will reassess the channel’s public service broadcasting licence.

“If we are re-elected we will have to review Channel 4’s Public Services Broadcasting obligations,” the source said.

“Broadcasting organisations are rightly held to a higher standard — and particularly Channel 4 which has a special role enshrined in legislation. Any review would of course look at whether its remit should be better focused so it is serving the public in the best way possible.”

The inflammatory move came after Channel 4 said it would empty-chair the prime minister and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage at its climate change leaders’ debate, after the two leaders declined to take part.


Johnson didn't turn up, claiming a "diary clash". Gove visited the debate venue asking to be included, but the other party leaders said that was unacceptable because he wasn't a party leader. There followed the worst sort of gaslighting as Gove claimed repeatedly that the Tories had been "excluded" from the debate.

Michael Gove

Tonight I went to Channel 4 to talk about climate change but Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon refused to debate a Conservative #climatedebate

[Twitter video]

So if the courts displease this government in waiting, their role will be curtailed. If devolved administrations prove too awkward, their powers will be stripped, and if a broadcaster doesn't do their bidding, then it faces the chop.

I think there's a word for this style of government, but I can't quite place it.

Best song of the election: Radio Free Zeitgeist Presents "The Windmills of Your Mind"

Twitter version with subtitles:
Radio Free Zeitgeist @ZeitgeistFree

"Like a drunk albino walrus, always groping women's thighs...."

[Twitter video]

Jonathan Miller, writer and director, dies aged 85

Polymath also had career in medicine and was member of Beyond the Fringe comedy team
He rose to prominence in the 1960s as part of the irreverent satirical show, Beyond the Fringe alongside Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett.

He studied medicine at Cambridge, qualifying as a doctor in 1959. He combined his early stage appearances with hospital rounds. But he was soon in demand as a theatre director, in both London and New York, and also worked with the BBC presenting cultural programmes and adapting plays for television.

He directed a series of critically acclaimed operas in the 1980s and 90s.

Oliver Mears, director of opera at the Royal Opera House, said: “Jonathan Miller was one of the most important figures in British theatre and opera of the past half century. Combining a supreme intellect with a consistently irreverent perspective, formed from his experiences in both comedy and medicine, Miller shone a unique light on our art form.”


Perhaps not a name that will be familiar to the younger generations, but his star shone bright from his time as a member of the Beyond the Fringe team, which was highly influential in satire and comedy when it stormed both sides of the Atlantic, onwards.

He'll be missed.

Boris Johnson 'to curb legal challenges over Brexit' in extraordinary attack on the courts

Boris Johnson is planning an extraordinary attack on the courts if he wins the general election, prompting accusations he is determined to prevent a repeat of judges thwarting Conservative Brexit plans.

The alarm has been raised over proposals in the Tory manifesto to curb the power of people to mount legal challenges – after historic defeats over the triggering of Article 50 and the unlawful shutdown of parliament.

A little-noticed section also hints at expanding the use of the royal prerogative to allow, it is claimed, the next government to ram through plans for the future relationship with the EU without proper scrutiny by MPs.

The moves appear designed to prevent a repeat of the damaging setbacks inflicted by the courts on both Theresa May, over invoking Article 50 without MPs’ approval, and Mr Johnson himself, over the prorogation of parliament.


A reminder of what's at stake if the Tories win an overall majority in the coming election.

The stage was set for what would amount to the fulfilment of the most recent parliament's attempted coup by the passing of Theresa May's Great Repeal Act 2017, which included provisions for Henry VIII powers that would allow the government to enact legislation without full parliamentary scrutiny.

Sayeeda Warsi on Tory Islamophobia: 'It feels like I'm in an abusive relationship'

The Tories promised an investigation into anti-Muslim prejudice in the party – then watered it down. How high does the problem go? Disillusioned insiders – and the former party chair – speak out

In June, a message pinged on Tory peer Sayeeda Warsi’s phone. “Right, sorted out that Conservative party Islamophobia investigation!” it read triumphantly. The sender? Sajid Javid, who was then home secretary.

Earlier that evening, during a televised Tory leadership debate, Javid had bounced his fellow contenders, including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, into apparently agreeing to the Conservatives holding an independent inquiry into Islamophobia.

For Lady Warsi, who had tirelessly campaigned against Islamophobia for years, having been the country’s first female Muslim cabinet minister, it was a moment she had longed to see. Unable to contain her delight, she tweeted her thanks to Javid, who now serves as chancellor. “It’s a shame,” she added, “that it’s taken four years and a leadership contest to finally drag my colleagues kicking and screaming to address this issue.”
Now, however, it appears that that commitment has been watered down. Earlier this month, days after Gove insisted that the Tories would “absolutely” hold an independent inquiry into Islamophobia before the end of the year, Johnson performed a U-turn. It would instead be a “general investigation into prejudice of all kinds”.


Instances of various forms of racism among Tory Party members - from sitting councillors to MPs to the Cabinet and Johnson himself - keep coming to light, but there doesn't seem to be the constant media drumbeat that's directed at Labour about these issues.

It's hard not to feel cynically that part of the reason the party won't address these issues more decisively is because for some of those whose votes it's courting, they're a selling point, not a problem.

'I set trends dem man copy': Michael Gove mocks Stormzy Labour support

Michael Gove has mocked Stormzy for expressing his support for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn in the forthcoming election.

Gove told Talk Radio: “I think we again know that Stormzy, when he took to the stage at Glastonbury wearing a stab vest, he made clear what his political views were then.”

During his headline set at the 2019 festival, Stormzy wore a stab vest painted with a monochrome Union Jack. The garment was customised by Banksy and hailed as “a perfect image of our moment” by the Guardian’s art critic, Jonathan Jones. “Stormzy’s tense and provocative stage-garb exploited the flag’s visual strength in a new way. Amid all the stage razzmatazz, he wore the banner of a divided and frightened nation.”

Gove added: “He is a far, far better rapper than he is a political analyst.”

Labour’s Angela Rayner tweeted: “And Michael Gove is crap at both”, adding a winking emoji. Gove responded: “I set trends dem man copy.”


I didn't think my opinion of Gove could get any worse. What's next? Blackface and a reprise of the Black and White Minstrels on the campaign stump?

Anyway, there's one trend Stormzy appears to have had a hand in sparking that might rub Gove's nose in this latest mess:

General election: Voter registration spikes by 236 per cent on day Stormzy endorses Labour

Voter registration saw a 236 per cent spike on the day Stormzy tweeted in support of Labour (Monday 25 November).

The grime star wrote that he believed Boris Johnson to be a “sinister man” with a “long record of lying and policies that have absolutely no regard for the people that our government should be committed to helping and empowering”.

According to a performance breakdown on the GOV.UK website, 366,000 people registered to vote on Monday, compared to 109,000 the day before.

Some 150,000 of those registration applications were from people under the age of 25, while 114,000 were from those aged 25 to 34.


In other news:
John Crace

Sajid has just said no one has ever accused leadership of Tory party if Islamophobia. Er.... Boris and letterboxes

Josh Halliday

NEW Sajid Javid refuses SEVEN times to say whether he would use the terms 'bank-robber' and 'letterboxes' to describe hijab-wearing women as Boris Johnson did in a Telegraph article.

Arron Banks' private messages leaked by hacker

The Twitter account of Arron Banks, the founder of the pro-Brexit campaign Leave.EU, has been hacked.

The perpetrator has leaked thousands of his private messages to and from dozens of other people spanning several years.

In a statement, Mr Banks accused Twitter of taking too long to tackle the issue and said the social network had "deliberately chosen" to leave his personal information online.

Twitter said it had "taken steps to secure the compromised account".

"We will continue to take firm enforcement action in line with our policy which strictly prohibits the distribution on our service of materials obtained through hacking," Twitter said in a statement.


The stable door is well open, and a number of Banks' messages have already been posted on social media - unfortunately, along with some spoofs which will muddy the waters. The legality of re-posting any of the messages is unclear, though some of them have been made available on the Twitter hashtag #arronbanksleaks. Some journalists, including Carole Cadwalladr, who've started sifting through them have described them as "explosive".

Carole Cadwalladr

#arronbanksleaks Right. I've just been sent the first set of direct messages from the file. They're pretty explosive. What are the ethics/legals on this, world?

Ironically, one avenue Banks may have to prevent disclosure of his correspondence is EU legislation. The EU's Brexit Coordinator Guy Verhoftadt tweeted:

Guy Verhofstadt

Arron Banks is angry that his personal data has been breached. I believe the Brits have a good saying for this: What goes around comes around...

Who may be implicated and how much of all this will see the light of day with sufficient prominence and volume to have any effect on the election, we'll have to wait and see, though with pressure on the government to release the report on Russian electoral interference continuing, there may be some jumpy spads, politicians and journalists around at the moment.

How passing Johnson's agreement could still end in a no-deal Brexit

Experts warn the cliff edge would reappear in 2020

... Over recent weeks experts have warned that Johnson’s deal would not in fact take no deal off the table at all. That while it would remove the immediate risk, taking Britain into a standstill transition period, it would not prevent a different version of no deal down the line. This is because the deal handles withdrawal issues but does not firmly establish the future trading relationship. The transition gives us less than a year to negotiate that and the PM has insisted he will not seek to extend it.

If time does run out, what would happen? How would this “no deal two” differ from the no deal we have been warned about, and how serious would it be? Having discussed the issue with leading experts, they are increasingly worried about the risk.

Cabinet ministers of course are keen to downplay it. Home Secretary Priti Patel only this week suggested that a vote for Johnson was a vote to leave with a deal. The government insists that it can negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement before the planned transition runs out at the end of 2020. The PM has said we can have a “super Canada plus” deal, like the EU’s deal with Canada but with add-ons, ready in time.

Yet many experienced figures are far less relaxed. Indeed they are alarmed about the dangers ahead. For Philip Rycroft, formerly permanent secretary in the Brexit department, “the prime minister, having endeavoured to get out of one time trap, is walking straight into another one, because by saying ‘I’m not going to seek an extension,’ he’s putting the power over time in the hands of those he’s negotiating with.” For another former official of similar stature, “If you look at the dynamics of the coming year under a majority Johnson government and with the 27’s position as I believe it to be,” then Britain falling off a second cliff edge “is clearly a substantial risk in late 2020.” In fact, “to be honest, I think it’s quite likely.” For David Gauke meanwhile, now an independent candidate but until recently a Conservative cabinet minister, “Johnson is boxing himself in… a Free Trade Agreement will not be agreed and ratified” in time.


Johnson campaigning on a false prospectus that's almost guaranteed to unravel when faced with reality - well, there's a novelty.

Donald Trump confirms pre-election UK visit

US President Donald Trump has confirmed he will travel to London 10 days before the UK general election.

He will be in the capital with the first lady for the Nato summit between 2 and 4 December.

Mr Trump will also attend a reception at Buckingham Palace, which will be hosted by the Queen.

The president has previously been criticised for voicing his opinions of British political leaders, including Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.

The White House said in a statement that the president "looks forward to meeting" the other Nato leaders and would "emphasize the need for the Nato alliance to ensure its readiness for the threats of tomorrow".


If Trump repeats his previous strong support for Johnson during this visit, it may not be a move the Tories' campaign managers appreciate.
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