Monthly Archives: April 2010

A Talk About Immigration

Yesterday I tried to point out that the whole notion that immigration was something that we were not as a society allowed to discuss was beyond ludicrious. I updated that post with today’s front page of the Daily Mail to demonstrate that the right-wing press are as keen as ever to portray immigration as the great unmentionable topic during this election. Here I am going to look at it in more detail, as well as looking at just what the truth is in respect to immigration in this country.

Firstly, the Daily Mail headline is absolutely laughable: ‘Politicians’ censorship of any debate on mass immigration explodes…’ and easily swept aside by the fact that immigration has been discussed at length by all three parties in something actually called ‘a debate’. Considering that these two live debates have been managed by ITV on one occasion and Sky on the other the idea that politicians have been ‘censoring’ the debate is a complete joke. The main reason people watch the TV debates I imagine is the fact that anything can happen on live TV, that they have a rare opportunity to view politicians without the stage-managed theatrics.

Moving on to the main headline it actually manages to be worse: ‘Demonised: The granny who dared to utter the I-word’. No point in going over old ground in dismissing the stupidity of the ‘you can’t talk about immigration’ claim, but look at the word ‘Demonised’. Who has really been demonised here? Gillian Duffy for being labelled a bigot in a personal, off-the-record remark by Gordon Brown who in public politely nodded and changed the subject as Gillian started rambling gibberish about foreigners like we are all supposed to (why is it socially unacceptable to challenge such remarks?). Or is it Gordon Brown who is being crucified by the press and has felt the need to offer a grovelling apology to Gillian Duffy despite the fact that her ramblings did seem to be bigoted? I think on the balance of evidence I’m going to suggest the only demonisation taking place here is the demonisation of anybody who tries to step outside the accepted right-wing narrative about immigration – which is: immigration is evil.

Consider Quentin Lett’s bizzare defence of Gillain Duffy which is headlined: ‘She was magnificent, she was eloquent. And she spoke, I suspect, for millions’. Am I alone in thinking that he must have read a completely different transcript, if the following is ‘magnificent’ and ‘eloquent’ then I really need to pick up a dictionary and check a couple of definitions:

…There are too many people now who aren’t vulnerable but they can claim and people who are vulnerable can’t get claim… You can’t say anything about the immigrants because you’re saying you’re – but all these eastern Europeans coming in, where are they flocking from?

Why then, is it so important for the Daily Mail to portray Gillian Duffy as ‘magnificent’ and ‘eloquent’? I suspect it is because here is a voter that just happens to be completely on message with the media narrative on immigration: vulnerable people are being screwed over because immigrants get all the benefits, but of course you can’t say anything about immigrants even though they’re all ‘flocking’ over here. Perfect. She is therefore the ideal proponent of the tabloid view of immigration and therefore if the Daily Mail gave the impression that she actually seemed confused, fearful and ignorant, it wouldn’t say a huge amount about the kind of person who understands, believes and repeats the tabloid narrative.

I understand that it is not productive to blame Gillian Duffy for having these views, she may well be a passive victim of consistent dishonesty from a poorly regulated press rather than the sort of bigot that buys a tabloid newspaper because it reinforces their view of immigration. It also isn’t her fault that she is being made into a faux martyr by the same dishonest newspapers. The only thing I can really do with regards to Gillian Duffy is shake my head in dissapointment that she has been fooled by the press into feeling the need to tackle Gordon Brown about foreigners coming over here.

The reason I am disappointed is that these inane mutterings have consequences for us all. I sometimes get smug comments on this site along the lines of: ‘Hey, you moan about people reading the Daily Mail to be angry, yet you do exactly the same! If you don’t like it, don’t read it, simple.’ However, it isn’t that simple because whether you read a tabloid newspaper or not, you cannot avoid being exposed to the poisenous narratives that they create.

Think of a tabloid reader as if they were a smoker and the tabloid newspaper is a cigerette. A lit cigerrete is hard to ignore, is has a fiery tip and billows smoke, the smoker inhales the poisenous smoke and then exhales it, often in the vicinity of others. You don’t have to be a smoker to inhale this second-hand smoke, nor do you have to be a smoker to see and smell the lit ciggerette. The tabloid press acts in the same way: the headlines scream at you from newstands, whilst any tabloid reader who inhales the message exhales it – frequently – in your company. We are all passive tabloid newspaper readers. The posenous stench is unavoidable.

Everytime you hear someone fearfully talk about the population hitting ’70million'; everytime you hear that immigrants / illegal immigrants / asylum seekers are ‘showered in benefits’ whilst ‘hard working taxpayers / pensioners’ are left without; everytime people say that there aren’t enough jobs because of immigrants; everytime you hear that local schools / hospitals are ‘full / stretched / overrun'; everytime you hear people moan about ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ or the ‘PC brigade’ or ‘political correctness gone mad'; everytime you hear someone talk about ‘open borders / no border controls / unlimited immigration’.

Everytime you hear these things you are the passive victim of a tabloid newspaper.

You may have never read a tabloid newspaper yet you and the rest of the country will have to sit through a third election debate this evening where the three candidates will compete to see who can be toughest on immigration. Once again, you are the passive victim of tabloid smoke being pumped out on immigration. You may not agree with Quentin Letts or Gillian Duffy yet whenever someone claims to speak for the ‘silent majority / average man on the street/ on behalf of the hard-working taxpayer’ the tabloid press attempts to steal your right to your own individual opinion. Your right to a proper democratic debate has been hijacked by the tabloid press, whether you read it or not, whether you even acknowledge its very existence is completely irrelevant.

It is difficult to change someone’s mind about an issue. I had an argument on Twitter today about whether I was being ‘dismissive’ of the opinions of people like Gillian Duffy, and whether I was wrong to give up trying to engage with such people to change their viewpoint. Firstly, in Gillian’s case I really don’t think this is her opinion, and secondly in my experience trying to argue against tabloid narratives is extremely difficult – hence why politics, religion and I imagine immigration are topics to be avoided at any dinner party because it’ll just turn into a row.

Shifting the existing culture of tabloid narratives is going to be tough, and clearly we have to focus on education the young in media literacy (I teach some sessions on this for the FE college I work in) so that they have a greater awareness that the majority of tabloid newspaper stories are extemely dishonest and designed to further an agenda that has nothing to do with news. One thing I have noticed teaching in areas with virtually no immigration is just how much hostility young people have to immigrants, even though they live in an area in which it just isn’t an issue.

Consider the following points taken from research into various immigration issues in the UK:

The main result of the empirical analysis is that there is no strong evidence of large adverse effects of immigration on employment or wages of existing workers. In this respect our findings are consistent with empirical results from international research. There is some weak evidence of negative effects on employment but these are small and for most groups of the population it is impossible to reject the absence of any effect with the data used here. Insofar as there is evidence of any effect on wages, it suggests that immigration enhances wage growth1.

These figures report the total number of international migrants – that is, without any separation by country of birth. In accordance with the United Nations defi nition, these figures also include British nationals returning after ayear or more abroad2.

A Home Office research study found that, in 1999/2000, first generation migrants in the UK contributed £31.2 billion in taxes and consumed £28.8 billion in benefits and public services – a net fiscal contribution of £2.5 billion3.

Work by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research suggests that around 17 per cent of economic growth in 2004 and 2005 is attributable to immigration4

The Treasury estimates that between Q3 2001 and mid-2006 migration added 0.5 per cent per annum to the working age population and therefore supported growth in economic output. On this basis, migration contributed around £6 billion to output growth in 20065.

More recent work by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found that migration has a positive and growing impact on the public finances. By 2003-04 it was estimated that migrants contributed 10 percent of government receipts and accounted for 9.1 per cent of government expenditure10.

There is no theoretical reason why immigration need either depress native wages or increase native unemployment. Given that there is a strong long-run correlation between the size of the labour force and employment, there is no “lump of labour”; it is not true to say that there are only a fixed number of jobs to go round6.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has performed an extensive and thorough statistical analysis of claimant count data, the Annual Labour Force Survey and the Workers Registration Scheme (WRS). This analysis found no discernible statistical evidence that A8 migration has resulted in an increase in the claimant count rate since May 20047.

we have found no discernible statistical evidence to suggest that A8 migration has been a contributor to the rise in claimant unemployment in the UK9.

Vacancies, including those in sectors where migrants are concentrated have been and remain historically high. The magnitude of vacancies in the UK in a given month is far greater than the inflow of A8 migrants8.

Most new migrants have no entitlement to social housing… Foreign-born populations who have arrived in the UK during the last five years are overwhelmingly housed in the private rental sector, and not in social housing. New migrants to the UK over the last five years make up less than two per cent of the total of those in social housing; some 90 per cent of those who live in social housing are UK born12.

Our findings suggest that areas that have higher levels of recent immigration than others are not more likely to vote for the BNP. In fact, the more immigration an area has experienced, the lower its support for the far right. Rather, the evidence points to political and socio-economic exclusion as drivers of BNP support11.

Think back to these points when each party leader talks about the importance of ‘reducing’ or ‘controlling’ or ‘capping’ immigration and consider whether these pledges are being in the best interest of the country. Or, whether they are being made to mollify a huge electoral swathe of people addicted to tabloid smoke. Not to mention whether the politicians are keen to appease the creators of this smoke: the right-wing tabloid press whose dishonest, hateful and shameful reporting has led to this ‘issue’ taking center stage in the first place.

We all know that any politician or political party brave enough to have a real debate about immigration would be absolutely crucifed by the right-wing press. Yet, we must also realise that whether we inhale it first-hand, or passively inhale it from others, we are all being subjected to the same poisenous message and if we don’t want to be poisened we all have to fight for change. A passive smoker no longer enters a pub for a few drinks and comes out stinking of smoke. Imagine a world in which we could enter a pub and not inhale the stench of tabloid lies either. As I said on Twitter earlier: we cannot have a real debate on immigration as long as the tabloid press exists in its current form. It is that simple.


For more on this topic also see the excellent Tabloid Watch.

References

1, Dustmann, C. Fabbri, F. Preston, I. and Wadsworth, J. (2003) The local labour market effects of immigration in the UK. Home Office Online Report 06/03 [pdf]. Accessed 29 April 2010: http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/14331/1/14331.pdf

2, A Cross-Departmental Submission to the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs (2007) The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Immigration. Accessed 29 April 2010: http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm72/7237/7237.pdf

3, IBID

4, IBID

5, IBID

6, Blanchflower, D. Saleheen, J. and Shadforth, C. (2007) The Impact of the Recent Migration from Eastern Europe on the UK Economy. Bank of England. Accessed 29 April 2010: http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/speeches/2007/speech297.pdf

7, A Cross-Departmental Submission to the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs (2007) The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Immigration. Accessed 29 April 2010: http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm72/7237/7237.pdf

8, IBID

9, Gilpin, N. Henty M. Lemos, S. Portes, J. and Bullen, C. (2006) The impact of free movement of workers from Central and Eastern Europe on the UK labour market. Department for Work and Pensions, Working Paper No. 29. Accessed 29 April 2010: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/wp29.pdf

10, Reed, H. and Latorre, M. (2009) The Economic Impacts of Migration on the UK Labour Market. Accessed 29 April 2010: http://www.ippr.org.uk/publicationsandreports/publication.asp?id=649

11, IPPR (2010) Exploring the Roots of BNP Support. Accessed 29 April 2010: http://www.ippr.org.uk/publicationsandreports/publication.asp?id=743

12, Rutter, J. and Latorre, M. (2009) Social housing allocation and immigrant communities. Accessed 29 April 2009: http://www.ippr.org.uk/publicationsandreports/publication.asp?id=689

‘You Can’t Talk About Immigration’

‘You can’t talk about immigration’. I seem to be hearing this phrase all the damn time lately.

Isn’t the world a strange place sometimes. I could have sworn that a huge amount of time this election has been spent talking about immigration. I was absolutely certain that both TV debates featured all three leaders arguing about who had the toughest approach to immigration. I was even pretty sure one of the debates was supposed to be about international affairs, not domestic affairs like immigration. I was pretty certain that the BNP and UKIP centre their entire political ideology around immigration, whilst the Conservative Party are planning to introduce a cap on immigrants, Labour are creating a Australian-style points-based system and the Liberal Democrats are creating an amnesty for illegal immigrants whilst peppering new arrivals to emptier parts of the country.

I was pretty certain that the Daily Mail runs huge amounts of stories about immigration, as does the Express, the Sun and other tabloid newspapers. These tabloids and some of the broadsheets also point out that if we reach a population of 70million because of immigration bad things will happen and life in Britain may well end. Immigration, immigration, immigration. One of the key issues of this election. Everyone is talking about it. When prospective and current PMs go on Radio 1 it is the main issue that young voters want to bring up. As far as I can perceive: everyone wants to know what is going to be done about immigration, and they are not shy to talk about it.

Yet it turns out I am badly mistaken, because of course ‘You can’t talk about immigration.’ As Gillian Duffy so eloquently put it:

You can’t say anything about the immigrants because you’re saying that you’re … but all these eastern European what are coming in, where are they flocking from?

It is easy to simply mock Gillian Duffy for answering her own question, but if you look at it more carefully the more bigoted the question comes. For she isn’t using ‘Eastern European’ to refer specifically to people from that part of Europe, rather she is using it as a catch-all term for foreigners of no distinct country, hence why she asks ‘where are they flocking from?’.

Think of the way that ‘Paki’ and ‘Pakistani’ became used as a derogatory term to describe anyone Asian. I think ‘Eastern European’ is being used in the same way here, with the same argument to defend it: it isn’t racist to refer to national groups. I get the feeling that ‘fucking Eastern Europeans’ is fast becoming the new ‘fucking Pakis’. Both phrases are borne out of ignorance: ‘I do not care where you came from, I only care and am upset by the fact that you are here, please kindly fuck off’.

The ineloquence of Gillian Duffy seems to stem from what tabloid newspapers have tried so hard to create; a kind of unthinking acceptance that the country is overrun with immigrants. What happens is that people like Gillian pick up the general narrative but can’t quite remember the details, largely – I like to think – because their brain subconciously rejects them as bollocks. Look at the way she talks about claiming benefits for example:

But there’s too many people now who aren’t vulnerable but they can claim and people who are vulnerable can’t get claim, can’t get it.

You can see she is trying to regurgitate the narrative that she has been fed, but it doesn’t come out quite right. You can see she is trying to say that immigrants get all the benefits whilst people in need get nothing, yet something prevented her. Maybe when people write about what a genius Littlejohn is, and how he can put into words what the rest of us cannot, perhaps there is some truth in this. Perhaps if Littlejohn had been responding to this statement he would have been able to quickly draw agreement from Gillian: ‘You mean that we’re showering immigrants with benefits whilst British taxpayers, pensioners and vulnerable people suffer?’ Littlejohn might reply. ‘Yes, that is exactly it’ Gillian would presumably exclaim, marvelling at Littlejohn’s mastery of basic narratives.

This seems to be supported by her next point that ‘you can’t say anything about the immigrants…’ is just classic tabloid rubbish, as above: we don’t seem to be talking about any other ‘issue’ in this election and the topic is front page material almost every week for most tabloids. The rise of the BNP is blamed on the fact that we ‘don’t have proper debates about immigration’ or that immigration is a ‘taboo subject’. Yet it isn’t, it is a subject that can be discussed by people like Gillian Duffy on national TV, using the exact language above and Gordon Brown is the one being dragged over hot coals for having the decency and honesty to call her a bigot.

If anything shows how skewered this issue has become is that newspapers are now running with the ‘Political Correctness gone mad’ angle: ‘look, you can’t even make barely literate slurs against foreigners anymore, It’s PC gone mad’. Newspapers use it as evidence that any attempt at open debate is crushed by the PC brigade, rather than Gordon Brown being compassionate and walking away before Gillian went on to say something really offensive.

It is not racist to discuss immigration, however, when someone knows nothing about the subject and resorts to attempting to repeat shit they have read in a newspaper, then I’m going out on a limb and saying: they are a bigot. They might not be an overt racist voting BNP and secretly admiring Hitler, they might simply be what I think Gillian is: just not that smart, another simple person being sold a big steaming tabloid narrative that immigrants get it all whilst those really in need – British people – are bumped to the back of the queue.

But irrespective of how bigoted Gillian Duffy is or isn’t can we all just agree on one thing: not only can you talk freely about immigration in the UK, you can also freely talk absolute shite about it. In fact I would go even further than that: in the UK you can sell thousands of newspapers and earn thousands of pounds as a writer simply by constantly talking shit about immigration.


UPDATE:

The Daily Mail has predictably and depressingly completely proved my point with their headline today:

gillian duffy

You see, even when you mention the ‘I-word’ on the front page of a national newspaper with a criculation of over 2 million people, you still cannot talk about immigration.

Head, meet desk.

Your Local Candidates: who are they?

This election is supposed to be exciting because we have seen the leaders on TV having a carefully staged discussion. A discussion that allowed some pretty inane questions to be asked and answered without any further questioning from the person asking the question or others in the audience. It says a lot about the state of British politics that such a rigid and unrevealing ‘debate’ has caused such a stir amongst the voting and non-voting public.

Whether it has actually changed anything remains to be seen in terms of votes cast on May the 6th, but I imagine for many of us we are more interested in meeting our local candidates, and here for me lies the problem: so far in this election I have not met any of my local candidates.

This isn’t to say they haven’t been visible locally or even called on my house whilst I am out, it is merely to say I haven’t heard of anything happening locally and I haven’t answered my door to a single candidate. I have received a Plaid Cymru leaflet from Danny Clark, a Liberal Democrat leaflet from Jackie Radford and a Conservative leaflet from Emma Moore (I think I got something from Labour but have misplaced it). All of it pretty uninspiring and in Emma Moore’s case, a disgraceful mish-mash of lies, implied racism and contradictory drivel.

So, how am I or any other voter supposed to choose between candidates based on one leaflet? Perhaps the problem is that many politicians feel just as apathetic about politics as the general public. If they know that an area normally votes Labour, irrespective of whether Labour has abandoned its roots by making the rich richer as well as getting involved in illegal wars and torture, then they send out a leaflet to simply go through the motions, they do not expect any vast change in voting patterns, so they do not bother really trying to win votes.

However, all of the candidates have put contact information on their leaflets and this includes a website. So I visit them to see what else I can find out.

The Liberal Democrat Candidate website is pretty uninspiring on a local level, just six mainly short paragraphs of information about Jackie and an invitation to click on the Liberal Democrats website. No details of what Jackie is up to, whether I can see her or whether she’ll be in my area in the run up to the election. I find out a bit more about what Jackie has done in her career, but I don’t find out anything more about the kind of person Jackie is.

The Conservative Candidate website is a more personal affair, with more details and a few photos of Emma and South Wales. However, the political priorities are the same as on the leaflet so I’m still not finding out a great deal more. She does have a Facebook page, and this does get updated quite regularly with comments on a range of matters. It is these opinion pieces that give me a better idea of what kind of views she has – this is the kind of stuff as a voter I’m looking for.

The Plaid Cymru Candidate website is not at all personal and you have to dig around to find the one paragraph dedicated to Danny, and no contact details are given (nor are they on the leaflet) this is a huge minus for this candidate. If I cannot easily contact you when you want my vote, what chance I have got if you actually get in?

I guess my point is, on a local level I am still as much in the dark as I have been during previous elections. I might have seen the three party leaders on TV, but on a local level I know nothing more about the actual person I would be voting for to represent my area.

After my previous post on Emma Moore’s leaflet campaign I emailed Emma to offer her a right to reply, to which she has not responded. I also emailed both the Liberal Democrats and Labour. The Liberal Democrats responded quickly that they would be forwarding the email on to the relevant team, but I have heard nothing since. Labour have yet to issue any kind of response. I’m pretty disappointed with this, and it seems to dent any spirit of public activism.

I spent a couple of hours of my time pulling apart some lies being delivered to thousands of houses by the Conservative candidate and I don’t have a single proper response from the three main parties on this matter. As a user of social media perhaps my expectations are too high. I kind of expect my candidate to have a blog, a Twitter page, a decent website and I expect them to check their emails regularly. I kind of expect to get a real feel for the candidate through the open sharing of their views on a range of matters. Apart from Emma’s Facebook page I don’t get any of this from the candidates. I am no wiser than before.

It is clear politics is changing and social media will play a huge part in this – I genuinely believe we will start to learn an awful lot more about local candidates in the next few years as we expect them to share more of themselves with voters. However, at the moment most of us will have to make do with staged TV debates in a studio far, far away.

Emma Moore, Conservative Candidate for Ogmore and her dishonest leaflets

On Saturday morning I received a personal message (addressed ‘Dear Resident’) from Emma Moore, my local Conservative candidate for Ogmore. In this personal message she outlines ‘why we need change in Britain today’, and I was immediately struck by a a series of tabloid lies being wheeled out by Emma in an attempt to gain my support. I therefore decided to take some action and post on it. So here we go, tabloid lie number one:

The Conservatives would review the effects of Labour’s misguided laws – such as those which results in a grandmother being tagged for selling Goldfish to an underage customer

Oh dear. Emma Moore is using a story about a grandmother being tagged for ‘admitting causing suffering to a cockatiel’ and for selling goldfish to a person under 161. So of course the tabloids like the Daily Express and Daily Mail used this as ‘proof’ that Britain had gone mad because they buried the animal cruelty bits and tried to pretend the punishment was just for selling a fish to an underage child – which, we should not forget is still a crime and I thought the Conservatives were traditionally tough on criminals?

Unfortunately for Emma Moore an ‘and’ follows the above quotation and she continues:

terrorists not being deported as it would be against their ‘rights’

Ah yes, the tabloid obsession with ‘rights’, notice the use of inverted commas around ‘rights’, making it clear that Emma doesn’t believe terrorists have any ‘rights’. Presumably she is happy to have extraordinary rendition and torture because people we label terrorists shouldn’t have ‘rights’.

As has been pointed out before, the tabloids have an agenda to discredit the human rights act, the very thing that attempts to guarantee every individual basic human rights irrespective of the colour of their skin, the religion they may or may not follow, whatever crimes they may have been accused of, their sexuality and so forth. It is the basis of trying to create a world in which everyone is guaranteed not to be abused by any state that signs up to the charter. This doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but here we are being told that ‘rights’ for certain groups are bad.

However, as the Guardian reported in 2009 the majority of tabloid scare stories blaming the lack of deportation of a criminal in most cases has nothing to do with human rights and more to do with legal loopholes and other complicated aspects of international law. Rarely does human rights have any impact on deportation, and if it does it is because the country to which they may be deported is likely to kill or cause unnecessary suffering to the deportee. We are supposed to be a civilised country, we have no form of capital punishment, so should we really deport criminals or ‘terrorists’ to a certain death sentence? To do so undermines the morality of us all, it would appeal only to the basest instincts of a minority of people in Britain – the dark instincts which the Human Rights Act is designed to keep in check2.

So far from Emma Moore we’ve had two tabloid myths repeated, but she’s happy to keep ploughing the ‘aren’t you outraged’ furrow and moves onto bail:

Simple things have been overlooked. Can you believe it is not illegal to breach bail?

Now, I’m moving outside of my comfort zone here, but from what I have read bail – like most aspects of law – is quite a complex subject and Emma is trying to oversimplify it. From what I have read it is true that the ‘breach of bail conditions is not an offence as such’, but a ‘constable may arrest a person who is believed to be likely to breach or has breached any condition of their bail’3. Furthermore, there are two aspects to breaching bail: firstly, the breaching of bail conditions (moving house, breaching a curfew, moving within areas that are off limits, approaching witnesses etc); and secondly the failure to attend court at the set time without a reasonable excuse – this is a separate criminal offence under the Bail Act 19764.

I’m not going to pretend to fully understand the intricacies of bail, but I know that the subject is far more complex than Emma is suggesting and that because breaching bail conditions normally results in arrest and the reconsideration of whether bail will be granted a second time I’m not overly sure what making it a criminal offence will actually achieve. Sadly, Emma doesn’t make any attempt to inform me.

Emma Moore isn’t finished with bail yet though:

In most cases bail is offered automatically, even for relatively serious crimes, only for some people to commit more crime whilst awaiting trial.

Here is where the tabloid world of crime starts to contradict itself, for only a couple of paragraphs earlier we were being shocked at the harsh sentence handed out when a goldfish is sold to an underage customer, now we’re being told that ‘relatively serious’ crimes allow the accused to get automatic bail. Well, which is it? Do we have a system that penalises even the most petty offence harshly, or a system that is too weak to deal with those accused of ‘relatively serious’ offences? You cannot have both Emma, unless your paranoia makes you imagine that the criminal justice system is more interested in persecuting goldfish selling grandmothers than hardened criminals. Considering the justice system remains independent from the government I’m not sure you’d be able to argue this point5.

Furthermore, bail is normally granted unless:

Once charged, the police must release you on bail unless the custody officer reasonably believes that:

  • There is doubt about your name or address; or
  • Detention is necessary to protect you or somebody else; or
  • You will fail to attend court or will interfere with witnesses or the administration of justice.

That seems to leave a significant level of discretion for those involved with the case to refuse bail. Whilst it is true that bail is granted in the majority of cases, it must be remembered that the majority of alledged crimes are not actually serious. If the allegded crime was serious and any member of the public was in danger, then bail could easily be refused. I understand that sometimes this system isn’t perfect, because a certain element of human judgement is involved and human beings are not perfect, nor can the behaviour of other human beings be predicted accurately. However, as far as I am aware no-one else seems to be putting the bail system at the heart of their election manifesto, presumably because their are real problems to tackle. Emma seems more concerned with scaring me into voting for her, rather than winning my support by tackling the real issues. At least she is clearly on-message with the rest of the Conservative Party and the Tory press.

Next up, a very predictable and depressing attack:

We would scrap the European Human Rights Act… stopping ridiculous compensation claims like prisoners getting money for not having heroin supplied to them in jail and being ‘forced’ to go cold turkey.

Wow, you’re selling me the Conservative dream Emma! A vote for the Conservatives, is a vote to scrap your basic, fundamental human rights. I know, a vote for the Conservatives has always meant this, but at least they used to be subtle about it. Now they actually think it should be a policy they can show off. As for the heroin story, yes, you guessed it, it is taken from the Daily Mail: ‘Drug addicted prisoners receive compensation for being forced to go cold turkey’ (I suspect that Emma is a Daily Mail reader).

Like most stories in the Daily Mail, it is also palpably untrue, as a serving prisoner points out on his blog in a post about prison myths:

One such lie, a myth in the making, is that hundreds of prisoners were awarded compensation after being refused heroin. It speaks to the sanity of Mail readers that they could ever think this could be true, but there you are. The case in question was actually about de-toxing from heroin. In the community, detox via the NHS is supported with a regimen of drugs which lessen the pains of the process. But in prisons, this support was absent, forcing the detoxers to suffer. The compensation came about because of this inexplicable disparity in treatment, which led to their being caused unnecessary suffering. Feel free to object to that, as you please, but it had bugger all to do with being refused heroin.

It is terribly depressing to think that the Daily Mail is not just directly attempting to force a Conservative government on us for the next four years, but also that their lies are indirectly being fed to people in my constituency. People who will not have immediately spotted the lies because they don’t spend their spare time writing or reading this blog and others. That there is little more to her opening statement than the above tabloid lies says a lot about the Conservative tactic of scaring people into voting for them. I can understand this from their point of view because their policies are directed at maintaining and increasing the wealth of the richest 6% of the country, and these policies are hardly likely to convince many in this area of Wales to vote for them.

And one final point, Emma Moore, if I may direct this at you personally. Under the heading ‘Safer Communities’ you have three bullet points; I have serious issues with two of them.

Firstly, you state that you want to ‘Have a dedicated border police to crack down on immigration and visa offences’. How exactly is this point related to ‘Safer communities’ unless you’re trying to link the idea that immigrants make a community inherently unsafe? I find you wedging immigrants between serious crime and drug-related crime, under the heading you have chosen, deeply offensive and it smacks of racism. You actually seem to be stating that our communities would be safer if we cracked down ‘on immigration and visa offences’. Do you seriously not understand how racist that sounds? Immigrants are human beings who seek a different way of life in a different country for a huge variety of reasons, they are human beings, the same as us all9. Yet here you are stating that they make our communities unsafe. I wonder how safe immigrants will be if you do scrap the European Bill of Human Rights.

Secondly, you state you want to ‘increase drug treatment programmes to tackle addiction-driven crime’. Sounds like a good idea, in fact this is exactly the kind of programme that the prisoners were refused when they sought compensation for being denied this treatment. You know, the story you used as an example of the UK’s crazy compensation culture. You manage to completely contradict yourself in the space of a few paragraphs and if you actually spent an hour looking into your ‘evidence’ you probably would have spotted just how stupid you were being here.

It staggers me that you would not even conduct the most basic research before publishing a leaflet and posting presumably thousands of them through doors all around this constituency. You have so little respect for your prospective voters that you feed us this tabloid drivel as ‘evidence’ of why we should vote for you, yet even your own pamphlet inadvertently undermines your own arguments.

I have emailed you a link to this article and offer you the right of reply, I will publish it underneath this post. So, if you want to argue any of your points further then I will publish them here. I am still considering printing this on leaflets and doing my own mailshot because I am that disgusted with your leaflet.

UPDATE 1 – 25th April, 2pm

I appreciate the early comments and take on board my perhaps simplistic idealism with regards to the Human Rights Act, however, I stand by my assertion that to alter or scrap the act requires judgements to be made about who deserves and who doesn’t deserve human rights. If history has taught us one thing, it is that governments and human beings in general are not the right people to make these judgements. It is only safe and fair to ensure that everyone has basic human rights, irrespective of how testing that can be at times.

Secondly, in response to how long this took me, well, under 2 hours with Google at my side. I would like to spend more time tidying up what I have written, considering my points a little more and attempting to write something better but as a one-man-band with other commitments I have to be satisfied with off-the-cuff posts like this. Still, I think I have demonstrated that it wouldn’t have taken Emma Moore long to research her stories and consider her prospective voters.

With regards to Emma Moore, I am still awaiting a response. I have passed this post to the local Liberal Democrats, but am still awaiting a Labour leaflet to get contact details of who their candidate is.


1, See Enemies of Reason: ‘The Proof at last‘ and ‘April Fool‘ for more details on how the tabloids skewed this story and the Express even laughably campaigned to ‘free her now’.

2, See Guardian: ‘Bad Press: human rights myths exposed‘.

3, See wikicrimeline: ‘Breach of bail conditions‘.

4, See Your Rights: ‘The rights of defendants‘.

5, See Wikipedia: ‘Separation of powers‘.

6, See Your Rights: ‘The rights of defendants‘.

7, See The Daily Mail: ‘Drug addicted prisoners receive compensation for being forced to go cold turkey‘.

8, See Ben’s Prison Blog (written through sending written blog posts via the Royal Mail to a friend on the outside who uploads them to his blog): ‘Myths in the making’.

9, See Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!: ‘We need to change the rhetoric on immigration‘. And Angry Mob: ‘Deport me, I’m not even integrating‘.

Ignoring the evidence on immigration, part 2

A while back I wrote about the destitute Gurkhas who moved to the UK expecting help and support but actually found out that they were not entitled to benefits, housing and so forth. I argued that as the story was in the Daily Mail it should demonstrate to Mail readers that the idea that immigrants get force-fed money, gifted free cars and a lovely 6 bedroom house is a complete myth. If even Gurkhas don’t get anything, then what are the chances of unpopular migrants getting more than them? However, Mail readers of course just whinged on in the comments about how unfair that other immigrants and asylum seekers got all this free stuff and the Gurkhas didn’t.

Without any suggestion that they even considered the possibility that they had swallowed a tabloid myth whole, and that Gurkhas were just receiving exactly the same benefits and other migrants receive when they enter the UK: bugger all.

Today the Daily Mail has printed another story about people coming to the UK and not receiving benefits, only this time it is a returning British citizen:

A British grandmother who returned home destitute after living in Spain for 23 years has complained after being barred from claiming benefits.

Lorraine Marsland, 52, says officials are classing her alongside asylum seekers even though she was born here and holds a British passport.

Since arriving in Britain in January with her grandson Dylan, she has been denied housing benefit, child benefit, and Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Naturally, rather than see this as yet further evidence that Britain is not a soft touch when it comes to dishing out benefits, Mail readers see it as yet further evidence that is she only was a proper asylum seeker she’d be getting it all:

But if she was Eastern European or any other EU national apart from British, she would be getting benefits.

– Karen, London, 23/4/2010 16:35 Click to rate Rating 2257

She should have said she came from Timbuctoo and didn’t speak any English, they would have been falling over backwards to help her.

– Pat Sweeney, Lanark, Scotland, 23/4/2010 16:35 Click to rate Rating 2159

Those are currently the two highest rated comments, but all is not lost as other highly-rated comments include:

You haven’t lived here for twenty three years so why should we the tax payers have to support you?

– M.A., B’ham, England, 23/4/2010 16:37 Click to rate Rating 1793

‘I looked up the law they quoted and it included asylum seekers. I was just stunned. I’m a British citizen, I’ve got a British passport, I’ve paid taxes.

So, you moved from the UK to Spain and have lived there for most of your life. All was well until you lost your job and money. Then you decided to come back to the UK and let the taxpayers pay for the rent on your council/housing association home, council tax, and benefits on top. OF COURSE YOU SHOULD BE TREATED LIKE AN ASYLUM SEEKER, YOU HAVENT PAID ANYTHING INTO THE SYSTEM OVER HERE, MAYBE YOU SHOULD HAVE STAYED IN SPAIN!

– Rudi Mentry, Right here – Right now!!, 23/4/2010 16:34 Click to rate Rating 1544

And even more encouraging is the comment with the highest negative rating:

I find this story absolutely unbelievable! This woman holds a British passport and is british born and bred.

Lorraine…My advise to you is to claim asylum and they will give you anything you want….Home, car, furniture and money, just like they do with all the other asylum seekers that land in the UK. If you can’t beat them then join them!

I wish you the best of British!

– Trish, Sydney, Australia, 23/4/2010 16:16 Click to rate Rating 88

This is interesting because of course this is exactly what the Daily Mail is implying with this article; they spend a huge amount of their time feeding the myth that all asylum seekers and immigrants are getting everything they desire, but look who isn’t: British People. It’s all the fault of the PC-Brigade and the human rights brigade that only guarantee the rights of filthy foreigners and is set up to ATTACK DECENT TAXPAYING WHITE PEOPLE.

Yet here, the person swallowing this giant turd whole is negatively rated. I take just a smidgen of hope from that. Perhaps the constant attacks on the Liberal Democrats have made people sit up and take notice of the fact that the Daily Mail has an agenda and will print any old rubbish to push that agenda.

Some Important pre-election links

It has been a very busy week for the blogosphere and Twitter, given the wealth of bullshit being printed by Tory-supporting newspapers.

One of the best round-ups of this can be found over on Tabloidwatch and makes essential reading, also pay Die Dog or Shite the Licence a visit for his take on this story. Enemies of Reason also has an important post on the matter, as well as a brilliant selection of worthwhile articles to read that almost makes this post rather pointless.

Beau Bo D’Or has created some graphics highlighting the importance of disobeying Rupert Murdoch at this election. He is not advocating voting for any particular party, but just not voting for the Murdoch-backed Conservative Party:

Disobey Murdoch

Johann Hari has been in fine form (not that he ever isn’t) with some important articles on the election: ‘The forces that have been blocking British democracy are becoming visible in this election‘; ‘If you’re looking for class war, you can find it – in David Cameron’s policies‘ and ‘The great bloody hole in the British election campaign – Afghanistan‘ – all essential reading.

Five Chinese Crackers has screen grabbed an Express headline declaring that David Cameron has already won the 2010 election.

Finally, if you’re not on Twitter I think now is the time to seriously consider joining. The amount of interesting articles I’ve read this week that I have only found from following people on Twitter has been immense. Twitter is helping to drive the truth forward, and has managed to destroy the Tory-press’ amazing smears this week within minutes of their publication. You can follow me on Twitter here.

The Angry Mob

I’ve been meaning to write about the title of my blog for some time because it appears a few people just don’t understand it. The premise is simple: I took the title from the Kaiser Chief song ‘Angry Mob’ that included the lyrics:

We are the angry mob
We read the papers everyday day
We like who like
We hate who we hate
But we’re also easily swayed

Therefore the Angry Mob does not refer to me, the writer of this blog, nor does it mean that I am more than one person. Some people seem to think that Angry Mob was chosen because it refers to a group of people writing about the tabloids. No, it refers to the tabloid readers, the mob who read the tabloids solely to have their buttons pushed, to be fed who to like and who to hate.

I chose the title of the blog after working with an organisation that had the Daily Mail delivered everyday. I had never paid much attention to tabloid journalism before then, I thought it was all irrelevant, beyond a joke and that no-one could really take it seriously. However, seeing the same people crowd around each new copy of the Daily Mail at the start of the day really opens your eyes to the reality of what tabloid newspapers do.

Barely a day would start without the same people getting instantly angry about one minority group after another: ‘bloody immigrants’, ‘bloody gypsies’, ‘bloody gays’, ‘bloody fat cats’, ‘bloody young people’, ‘have you seen how much they get’… and so on.

Two things struck me:

  • 1, you don’t have to be an abhorrent person to repeat abhorrent views
  • 2, you can have a strong view of a group of people or issue about which you know nothing

I therefore began reading the Daily Mail with increasing disgust at the lies, hatred and just pure negativity that dripped from each story. Britain was broken, we need to return to a mythical vision of the 1950s seemed to the be the overarching ideology around which the newspaper was based. Attacks on women, gays, ethnic minorities, the disabled, the poor and the young were regularly wheeled out as evidence that things in Britain were really bad and getting worse.

Yet I just didn’t recognise the world being painted. It bore no relation to where I had lived, or where I currently live. It didn’t bear any relation to the world in which my colleagues lived, which in some senses shone light on the issue: if they don’t know any immigrants, how can they counter what they read in the paper? But that is perhaps missing the point: it seemed to me that they took a perverse pleasure in being angry. They enjoyed picking up the Daily Mail because they wanted to put the world to rights amongst friends at the start of the working day. They didn’t want to stop and think about whether they were rightfully angry, they just assumed that was the case.

In a strange way the Daily Mail provided them with some kind of comforting familiarity. No matter what was happening in their personal life – positive or negative – they could rest assured the good old Daily Mail would give them the chance to rant about something. And this happened every day, I would sit quietly at my desk and listen to the morning rant against whichever target the Daily Mail had picked that day.

I once made the mistake of trying to interject during one of these rants, only to immediately regret the futility of such action. I remember it so clearly, it was during the Mail scare stories on ‘increasing’ knife crime and the reader commented: ‘It’s awful, and it’s always them* doing the stabbing and committing the crime’ (meaning ethnic minorities). At this point I quietly pointed out that you can’t possibly say that all crime and knife crime is carried out by ethnic minorities, as we know recent cases for example have involved white offenders. ‘Oh I know they said.’ Followed by a reflective pause: ‘But it is though isn’t it?’.

At which point I sat stunned at the act of self-deception and the power of having no experience of a certain issue and allowing yourself to fully swallow the Daily Mail perception / deception. Instead of replying or arguing further, I created Angry Mob. A blog title not about me, but about the Angry Mob buying tabloid newspapers to give them an excuse to vent hatred towards other people.

And this brings me rambling to the point of talking about this now; the recent attacks on Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. People, including myself, are curious as to how this will pan out: will it destroy the Liberal Democrats’ election bid, or it will it boost it? Tabloids regularly change their targets of attack and readers are happy to go along with them. However, not many people outside of the hardened readers really take them seriously and a significant proportion of people see being the victim of a Daily Mail smear campaign as a badge of honour. If your values conflict with the values of the Daily Mail, then your values are obviously worth supporting.

I don’t believe the tabloids are a fraction as powerful as they used to be, and I believe that social media is starting to have a significant impact on people’s willingness to do what they want. Twitter for example, isn’t as much as a mob as is depicted. Rather it is a system that allows you to interact with people with whom you share common values, beliefs and opinions. Because it is easy to follow people who are like yourself gives you confidence that you’re not alone, you’re not necessarily wrong and that you shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid to stand up for what you believe in. You might be surrounded by tabloid reading racists, your parents could be die-hard Richard Littlejohn fans; but it doesn’t matter if you’re able to share ideas, opinions and arguments with people who don’t think this those that physically surround you.

A simple retort to this idealised view would be to point out that a collection of people agreeing with you does not mean your views are correct or even desirable (Facists can just as easily unite on Twitter as Liberals). But this ignores how Twitter works: generally you exchange evidence as much as opinion. If you write rubbish on Twitter it is easy to link to articles that demonstrate that you’re writing rubbish. If you use Twitter you often have a blog, again, blogging is evidence based, linked and sourced in order to avoid being destroyed by other bloggers. This makes Twitter a better barometer of informed opinion because the uninformed are easy to weed out or correct through the sharing of evidence.

It gives me great hope that Twitter seems to be disliked by the Daily Mail, precisely for the same reason that the Liberal Democrats should be pleased to be attacked by the Daily Mail: because neither shares the abhorrent values of the Daily Mail. Increasingly it seems people are prepared to choose hope over fear and evidence-based reasoning over stereotypes, conditioned irrationality and misplaced faith. The Daily Mail and the Conservative Party can continue to demand we be ever tougher on crime as a society; with longer sentences, more prison spaces and more people sent to prison. Yet we can see that such an approach just doesn’t work; it might please the Daily Mail (which is why Labour tried it) but it doesn’t reduce crime and upon release prisoners are highly likely to re-offend, so what exactly has been achieved?

It seems to me that people are fed up with the same tired old policies, wheeled out by politicians who are not ordinarily the right people to be making these decisions. Take for example the Labour government ignoring the evidence from drug experts when classifying cannabis, they ignored the experts and listened to the Daily Mail. They choose irrational fear over evidence.

If the Liberal Democrats get into power as a result fo this election there is one thing that we can be certain about: they will not need to pander to any of the tabloid press during their reign because their election would have nothing to do with them. When they have already had their leader treated as if he was the devil, what notice would they take of the Daily Mail and co on other issues?

It seems to me we will only have true democracy in this country when policies are selected and driven forward because they are in the best interests of the country, and drawn up by those in the best position to make those decisions. The current system allows any ray of hope or fairness to be crushed by newspaper smears; as politicians back down to appease the editors they have always needed to get elected or to serve another term.

Vote for the party whose policies you like*: the rest is just hype or smears.


* Incidentally, if people voted just based on policies the results would be as follows (according to 161,465 completed surveys):

  • Green Party 27%
  • Liberal Democrats 18.11%
  • Labour 17.70%
  • Conservatives 16.50%
  • UKIP 10.85%
  • BNP 9.84%

Now that result would really drive the Daily Mail mad…

Not Even the Daily Mail can Defend Conservative Policies

The founder of the Daily Mail – Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe – started the Daily Mail as a nationalistic newspaper designed to stand ‘for the power, the supremacy and the greatness of the British Empire’. David Lloyd George referred to Northcliffe as ‘one of the biggest intriguers and most unscrupulous people in the country’ and earned the wrath of Northcliffe and the Daily Mail when he refused Northcliffe’s list of people who should be in his new government.

When the Daily Mail wants a certain outcome it isn’t afraid to dispense with even the vaguest pretence of being a newspaper and is happy to become a propaganda machine for the Conservative Party. Just look at the attacks against the Liberal Democrats:

The political process requires an active, questioning and investigative press. What it doesn’t need it a newspaper offering up dishonest attacks aimed at discrediting one political party in favour of another. The Daily Mail has consistently attacked Gordon Brown, but never to the extent that Clegg is now being attacked, largely because Brown was never perceived as a real threat. Cameron and the Conservatives have pretty much escaped scrutiny. Even when the Daily Mail reports that London is the most unequal city in the Western world with the top 10% being worth a staggering 273 times more than the poorest 10% they do not mention Conservative plans to scrap the 50p tax rate for those top earners, nor do they mention the scrapping of the ‘mansion tax’. Yet any other issue is immediately linked in some way to the Liberal Democrats, even though they haven’t been in power for so long they couldn’t possibly have caused or contributed to any of the current problems.

This election does bring hope of real change, and perhaps a belief that power can reside outside of either Labour or the Conservatives. The Conservatives were voted out of office in 1997 in a landslide of utter disgust, and Labour are facing a similar defeat in this election. However, it would be strange to hand the reins back to the Conservatives when they are no better than the shower of elitist shit that was dispensed with and rejected so overwhelmingly in 1997.

The Daily Mail know the Conservatives cannot win the election through policies – as their policies are only going to benefit the richest 6% – and David Cameron seems insistent on not actually discussing on elaborating on policy, just an endless stream of meaningless soundbites. They know that they cannot polish an electoral turd or sell the Conservatives as a great hope. So they do what they know best: discredit, bully, attack, lie, skewer and most importantly ramp up as much fear as possible so that people are scared into voting Conservative as the lesser evil.

I wonder if this time it will work, as surely there must be a backlash against being told who to vote for by a newspaper that – outside of its ignorant readership – is universally reviled and hated? Only time will tell, but I sincerely hope people vote for the policies they agree with, not vote for the person that the Daily Mail tells them to.

Leo McKinstry: A Challenge

Leo McKinstry today makes the following assertions:

The great myth of the pro-immigration lobby is to pretend that newcomers have been the engine of economic prosperity. True, many have made a wonderful contribution to this country.

But the fact is that any economic gains have been outweighed by the colossal costs to the public sector in housing, education, healthcare and social security. As a host of authoritative studies shows, migrants are more likely to be in receipt of benefits than the British-born population.

It is one of the reasons why our public finances have sunk into massive deficits during a period of unprecedented immigration…

He provides no evidence for any of these assertions. No link or naming of his ‘authorative studies’, no reports demonstrating that migrants take more from the state than they pay in taxes. No evidence, just lazy racist stereotyping ready to be lapped up by other lazy racists. Expect the BNP to be using this article as yet more ‘evidence’ of the terrible ‘truth’ about immigration.

A cursory Google search leads you to evidence that suggests the reason Leo McKinstry hasn’t provided any evidence (apart from the obvious excuse that as a tabloid hack, he simply never has to) is because he is just making it up. For example, Camden council’s immigrant myths and fact section contains the following:

Migrants contribute 10 per cent more in taxes than they consume in benefits and public services. Migrants contributed £2.5 billion more to the state than they received in benefits and state services, according to the Home Office’s own figures.

Quite how this net contribution has helped ‘sink’ the public finances is beyond me.

Leo McKinstry will in all likelihood never read this blog post. But if he does, I challenge him to provide any credible evidence to back up his claims.

That such an utterly baseless, untrue article can be published solely to incite racial hatred, intolerance and the rise of fascism in the UK says everyone you need to know about the effectiveness of the Press Complaints Commission.

That immigration has become one of the key battlegrounds over which the election is being fought should be to the eternal shame of the tabloid media. But we all know, they have no shame.

You Cannot Convince Everyone

Possibly the most humourous part of David Cameron’s TV appearance in the Leaders Debate was his ‘I met a black man in Plymouth’ story, where he claimed that a 40-year-old man had in fact served with the navy for 30 years – making him 10 when he joined. However, it gets worse, even the Daily Mail are running the real story of this man, who is a bit upset and perplexed about David Cameron putting words into his mouth:

‘He said I spent 30 years in the Navy. I was actually in for six years, as a marine engineer serving on HMS Intrepid and HMS Berwick.’

‘At least he took 10 years off my age.’

Still, not everyone is convinced David Cameron did mess up, take this Mail commenter for example:

Sounds like a Labour set up. He probable did say those things to David Cameron so that when he was quoted he could claim Cameron lied. Typical underhanded Labour tactic.

– David, London UK, 18/4/2010 14:11
Click to rate Rating 26

And at least 26 people agree with him.