Red Len and the Morning Mouthpiece

Posted on April 22, 2013

Guido reports that Len McCluskey, the newly re-elected general secretary of Unite, has issued an edict demanding that the union’s branches subsidise the struggling Morning Star. The Star has the dubious distinction of being the only paper I can think of to run a “Fighting Fund” just in order to stay afloat. It’s almost like extreme left ideas are unpopular, and those who propose them are incompetent, but I’m sure there’s another explanation for their permanent state of near bankruptcy.

So what did Red Len get in return for the bail-out? Well, let’s have a look at the Morning Star’s recent coverage during the Unite leadership election.

There are the fawning letters headlined: “Plenty of reasons to back McCluskey“, “McCluskey brings fight to Tories and employers“, and “McCluskey shows he can deal with our enemies’ hard talk“.

Plus the 1,300 word report of Len McCluskey explaining err why Len McCluskey is the right candidate. Then there’s the coverage of the branch element of the election process itself, most notably “Branches give massive support to McCluskey” – published before the ballot papers went out to individual members.

They may not believe in greed or the profit motive – but some would suggest principles are a commodity the hard left are still more than happy to sell.

Moving to Conservative Home

Posted on April 15, 2013

I’m very excited to announce that I have accepted the role of Executive Editor of Conservative Home.

As Paul Goodman, the new Editor, writes today, I will be joining the site in a few weeks as part of the new team following Tim Montgomerie’s departure to The Times.

ConHome has always been a huge influence on my political campaigning and blogging, as I know it has for many others on the centre right around the country, so I’m very much looking forward to making my own contribution to its future at an important time in British politics. Over the last eight years, Tim has had a huge impact on many people, me included, and we have a big job on our hands to live up to his example.

All of you as readers of CrashBangWallace have made this possible through your support, your feedback and your (constructive) criticism, so I would like to thank you. When I started this blog I did so to communicate libertarian ideas and to have some fun – both of which I hope I’ve achieved.

I never anticipated the reach and readership this site would secure, and I certainly never imagined political blogging might one day become my job. Now that it is going to, I hope you will continue to read my writing over at ConHome whether you’re a capital-C Conservative, a small-c conservative, a libertarian or just interested in politics and ideas. I’ll still be writing on fundamental issues of freedom and the political topics of the day, as well as exploring new, wider topics.

I will maintain this site as an occasional outlet for non-ConHome political writing, a resource linking to my work elsewhere and an archive of CrashBangWallace blogposts. I will of course still be tweeting at @WallaceME, too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the last two and half years of blogs as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them – and that you’ll continue to follow my work at its new home.

Thank you again – keep on fighting.

Gosh, crikey – Hugh Grant breaks Leveson’s ethics proposals

Posted on March 14, 2013

As the self-appointed arbiter of media standards in the UK, Hugh Grant has a lot of opinions about what is and isn’t ethical journalism. Apparently the Guardian is perfectly ethical, while papers which report on, I don’t know, sex scandals involving English celebrity romcom actors are beyond the pale. Who knows how he settled on that view?

However he came by his moral code carved in stone doesn’t matter, he’s marched down the mountain and has spent several months using the tablets to lay about any who stand in his way.

Except perhaps he should read what they say before using them to clobber others. Take today’s tweet from the Media Moses:

That’s quite a big claim – that Rupert Murdoch personally ordered the Times Editor to order the Prime Minister to follow a specific policy and set of actions, which the PM immediately obeyed. What starts as a “rumour” has become, by the end of the tweet, supposedly solid fact that “Murdoch rules.”

Surely an ethical reporter would have given some evidence, quoted a source or even given any reason at all to believe it?

In fact, I seem to recall that the Leveson report had something to say about exactly that:

“45. A new regulatory body should consider encouraging the press to be as transparent as possible in relation to the sources used for stories, including providing any information that would help readers to assess the reliability of information from a source”

In short, Hugh Grant is promoting adopting the Leveson proposals by, err, going dead against Leveson’s proposals on evidence and sourcing. His “rumour” could have come from Tom Watson. It could have come from one of Murdoch’s own competitors. For that matter, Hugh Grant could just have made it up – but he has merrily injected it into the public debate, with no evidence or source in sight.

It’s hardly “ethical reporting”, is it, Hugh?

The Sun’s rebuke for Prezza

Posted on February 18, 2013

Lord Prescott loves to play the political grandee – using Twitter to imply he is setting the running for his colleagues in the Commons. Unfortunately, just like the meat in a cut-price cottage pie, the reality doesn’t necessarily match the hype.

On Saturday night, the Sun’s Dave Wooding retweeted Prezza’s message urging “every member of the Shadow Cabinet” to “think twice before writing for the Sun”, followed by two telling updates on the contents of the latest Sun on Sunday:

PrezzaWooding

Ouch…

The Guardian teaches economics “through the medium of dance”

Posted on February 12, 2013

Apologies for the radio silence from CrashBangWallace for the last few days – an unfortunate karaoke accident (genuinely) left me laid up for a week, but I’m pleased to say I’m back up and about now.

To get back into the swing of things, how about a bit of classic Guardianista absurdity?

As part of Fairtrade Fortnight, the Guardian Teacher Network has produced a handy guide on “How to teach Fairtrade“. Naturally, they couldn’t just settle for boring old lessons – oh no:

Where in the world is food grown? explores where Traidcraft buys its Fairtrade commodities, including sugar, rice, raisins, honey, quinoa and blueberries. To work on the concepts through the medium of dance, see these helpful teachers’ notes for an activity where key-stage-2-aged children create a Fairtrade dance to tell the story of a sugar farming community which wants their sugar to be Fairtrade.

Yes, someone out there actually uses the phrase “through the medium of dance” with a straight face.

Do they really believe that getting 11-year-olds to sway like a field of sugar cane will fully communicate the upsides and downsides of the Fairtrade system?

Presumably the next step will be to teach kids through the medium of beatboxing about the starvation caused by subsidies, protectionist tariff barriers and the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.

UK Uncut have made a fatal error

Posted on December 10, 2012

UK Uncut has a pretty simple mission. They think corporate taxes should be higher than they are. Therefore they protest at the shops and outlets of the brands they have judged are not paying enough. The objective is to force the companies to cough up over and above their legal requirements out of a combination of shame and commercial inconvenience.

It’s a pretty messy approach, catching customers and ordinary staff in slanging matches which should really be between activists and Chief Executives. It has also led to UK Uncutters getting remarkably outraged about the idea that a company might have the right to not allow them on their property.

Last week, the movement had its first major victory. Starbuck’s buckled under the pressure and agreed to pay £20 million to the taxman which it does not legally owe. It was a jubilant moment for the high tax pressure group, but within days they have managed to turn their first victory into what may very possibly be their last.

Successful political campaigning is about stick and carrot, pleasure and pain. I want you to change your position, and to persuade you to do so I need to do two things: 1) make your current position extremely uncomfortable and 2) make the new position I am proposing much more attractive.

UK Uncut have done the first thing pretty well. Aided by the Guardian, which itself uses some complex but entirely legal jiggery pokery to keep its tax bill at a minimum, they have driven large amounts of negative media exposure for the firms they target at the same time as besieging their shops and cafes until they are forced to close. Like the Sith, they may be using their powers in the pursuit of the wrong ends, but you can’t deny their Force is strong.

So, having hammered Starbucks into submission and extracted voluntary payments into the Exchequer as planned, the next step would naturally be to congratulate them. End the boycott and move on to other targets, now the precedent has been set, proving to others that doing what you ask will bring rewards.

But, instead, on Saturday HMRC’s little helpers were back at Starbucks’ door – shouting at customers, grappling with police and making a general nuisance of themselves. Just as they did before the baristas opened their wallet.

This is a fatal error. The message UK Uncut have sent is that if you do what they ask in response to their beating you with the stick, they will put the carrot away and hit you some more.

Other UK Uncut targets will have been watching closely. When Starbucks took the plunge, they will have wondered if they should follow suit – particularly if it would be worthwhile to save them the disruption caused by these fiscal versions of Mary Whitehouse.

The lesson they will take now is precisely the opposite. Why bother bowing to UK Uncut’s demands if your reward is more punishment, more heckling and more trouble? Unless their tactics change, I suspect we won’t see anyone else do what UK Uncut want for quite some time to come.

More BBC Bolsheviks

Posted on December 06, 2012

Steve Baker MP, one of the libertarians on the green benches, has an interesting report over at the Commentator about the BBC. He has complained to the Corporation that a recent BBC News piece about the ways in which China’s murderous totalitarianism is supposedly superior to democracy neglected to mention that the author, Martin Jacques, was formerly a senior figure in the Communist Party.

Needless to say, Auntie replied to say that she sees no reason why it might be misleading to portray Jacques simply as an “economist”, with no mention of his political affiliations.

Steve’s article is worth a read – and I suspect this won’t be the last we’ll hear of the case.

Furthermore, it seems Martin Jacques isn’t the only fan of communist revolutionaries who walks the BBC’s corridors.

Newsnight’s famously lefty Economics Editor, Paul Mason, was tweeting away earlier this week celebrating the fact that moving the Beeb’s HQ to the West End meant the arrival of “6000 unionised media workers…in Soho” would push the media world to the Left.

His comparison of choice was to call New Broadcasting House the “Putilov Factory of [the] media economy” – after the St Petersburg factory widely credited as the hub from which communist ideas spread in the run-up to the Russian Revolution.

It’s a slightly odd choice of heroes to worship – we’d best hope that the impact he hopes the NUJ will have on London’s media won’t be as negative as the impact the Putilovites had on long-suffering Russians.

For that matter, let’s hope the Beeboids don’t suffer the same fate as their Putilov predecessors. Having sparked the revolution, the factory’s workers soon became disillusioned and denounced the Soviet state as a “dictatorship”.

Their reward for criticising the masters they put into power was for 200 of them to be executed by Lenin’s secret police. Perhaps the BBC’s Bolsheviks should be careful what they wish for.

Thanks, Brian, but no thanks

Posted on November 28, 2012

It would be in my interests for Brian Leveson to support statutory regulation of the press tomorrow.

As Guido Fawkes writes in the Wall Street Journal today, putting a legislative leash around the neck of the mainstream media will only have one effect – to drive a truth-hungry public to online outlets and blogs for real news and honest insight.

This has always happened. When the Warsaw Pact countries and the Soviet Union censored what could be published, people shipped in or built their own presses and produced samizdat – illicit, underground news-sheets and books that circulated in secret. It is notable that the Russian word “samizdat” literally means “self-published”.

Samizdats were never expected to be subject to balance, they were explicitly written from a particular perspective and, most of all, they gloried in saying whatever they wanted – not saying what others demanded they say.

If, 50 years ago, people’s hunger for a free speaking press was sufficient that they were willing to transport and conceal large pieces of industrial machinery, the internet will have a far easier job of it.

Information is a commodity in its own right. It can be bought and sold, it can be given away or stolen, its price can be increased or devalued. And just the same as any other commodity, the one thing that cannot be done to it is successful prohibition.

The problem – and those who dislike our free press do view it as a problem – is the twin, trickster forces of supply and demand. The more people are interested in something, the higher its price rises and the harder it is to keep secret. The harder you try to keep it secret, the larger the incentive becomes to leak it – be it for cash or cachet.

This is what happened with MPs’ expenses. Yes, Heather Brooke fought a brilliant legal battle for the public’s right to know, but the scandal really broke when the censorship practiced by Commons authorities created such a high-paying Black Market that an insider was willing to sell the data to the Daily Telegraph.

These forces are inevitable, irresistible and they won’t be changed by legislating to make our press unfree. If the Daily Telegraph hadn’t been in a position to buy and publish MPs’ expenses, then someone else would have done so – on the internet, offshore and out of reach of the fat, black marker pens of Westminster’s quiet censors.

For goodness’ sake, the net filtering out forbidden commodities isn’t even tight enough to catch guns, grenades and tonnes of drugs – can anyone really believe it could be made tight enough to catch something as small and as fleet of foot as knowledge?

So I, and Guido, and a thousand other blogs yet to be born would be in a pretty good position should Brian Leveson persuade the Government to end three hundred years of British press freedom. Advertising would increase, traffic would boom, and everyone would be able to feel every shade of smug about their latest Google Analytics numbers.

But you won’t find me cheering for it. What would be the attraction of being a more widely read, or even a richer, libertarian in a country that has become less free? No, I’d rather miss out on the opportunity, thank you very much, Brian.

We should elect the BBC Director General

Posted on November 11, 2012

The scandal rushing through the offices and studios of the BBC has many sources – horrifying historic sex offences on a staggering scale, poor journalism making it to air due to an apparent panic within Newsnight and a disastrous failure of management at the very top have all played their part.

The results of the crisis are clear to see. The Director General has gone under the professional guillotine. Newsnight’s future is in doubt. Less than half of the public, who fund the Corporation, now think it is trustworthy (according to a ComRes poll carried out before the erroneous report aired and Entwhistle resigned). Infighting has gone public, with various famous faces slugging it out in the press.

The question now is how to solve this mess.

Simply hoping that the next DG, and all of his or her successors, will have a better approach to crisis management than the beleaguered George Entwhistle, is not enough. As the misappointment of “Incurious George” showed, the current system cannot guarantee it will always pick the right candidate.

Not only is the appointment process flawed. Entwhistle’s flailing attempts to hide behind protocol and process rather than step up and deal with the scandal showed that the position itself has a fatal lack of legitimacy and authority.

The next Director General must be selected through a process which is transparent, which openly tests their abilities and policies, and which confers on the winner a genuine authority and legitimacy. In short, the Director General of the BBC should be elected by the licence fee paying public – an electorate who, through a recall power, should also be able to sack them if they so wish.

Only that way will we end the oddity of the people’s broadcaster (and its multi-billion pound budget) being run by an anonymous suit anointed by Lord Patten for reasons unknown. Only that way will we prevent a re-run of the farce in which the Editor-In-Chief of a publicly-owned Corporation seems surprised that the public expect him to answer to them when things go wrong. Only that way will the people be willing to place their trust once more in the BBC’s discredited leadership.

George Monbiot’s imaginary banker

Posted on October 16, 2012

It is easy, as they say, to start believing your own spin. Perhaps in time such a disease creeps over everyone in the public eye, as they increasingly come to live up (or down) to the shorthand summary of themselves which they once invented for marketing purposes.

Whether it comes for us all or not, it has certainly come for the Guardian’s George Monbiot. Two weeks ago, George tweeted this:

The immediate reaction was to point out that if you can’t remember who did it, it obviously wasn’t that “famous”.

However, weeks have now passed, and the name of this wicked “head of a bank” still hasn’t emerged. Not one of Monbiot’s 52,281 twitter followers could name him, and the article which he presumably intended to use the anecdote has yet to appear.

For that matter, fish-keeping friends tell me that the size of a tank you’d need in order to keep a pike would be umanageably huge.

Could it be that this “famous”, Bond-villain, “head of a bank” didn’t in fact exist? Could it be – whisper it – that George Monbiot’s memory has started matching up to his view of the world, even when it didn’t actually happen?

Perhaps I’m wrong – and if anyone can find me proof of the “head of a bank [who] famously kept a pike in a tank in his office and would feed it live goldfish” then I will donate £50 to Greenpeace. I get a feeling my £50 is quite safe.