Saturday, 12 December 2015

Tyson Fury and David Cameron - where is society’s sense of proportion?

Tyson Fury, a Gypsy, has said some offensive things and has been vilified by public opinion. David Cameron, the prime minister, said a deeply offensive thing and there has been comparatively little reaction. Where is society’s sense of proportion?

I first became aware of Tyson Fury, the self-styled “Gypsy King”, last month when he won a stunning victory against the long-time champion to become the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the world.

Fury is a 6 foot 9 inch giant from Manchester. He is the son of “Gypsy” John Fury, a bare-knuckle fighter, who named him after the fearsome Mike Tyson. He had a chaotic childhood with little schooling. He is a born-again Christian with a deep belief in the truth of the Bible.

I first had contact with the Gypsy community when I was a Criminal lawyer, some 25 years ago. I observed then the terrible prejudice that Gypsies face. Police, gaolers, lawyers, sometimes even the judiciary, did not even feel the need to hide their contempt. Not much has changed: Gypsies are the most discriminated against and marginalised group in our country.

I thought it was wonderful that Tyson Fury had brought some rare success and pride to his community.

But now, Fury has been branded a sexist and a homophobe. He has faced a police enquiry (now dropped) into his alleged homophobic remarks and over 130,000 people have signed a petition demanding that the BBC ban him from their flagship BBC Sports Personality of the Year. A BBC presenter has called him a “dickhead” on air (not to his face). The Guardian’s Michael White has described him as “mouthy and opinionated in an ugly and stupid way.” The same paper’s Gaby Hinsliff says his views are repugnant and he “has already lost in every way that counts.”

Sexism and homophobia are not binary, black and white concepts. There are shades of grey. All sexism and homophobia is wrong but some is worse than others. Not all sexist and homophobes are as extreme as the King of Saudi Arabia.

Fury is a sexist. He said: - “A woman’s best place is in the kitchen and on her back”. Such crass sexist comments are often heard in men-only environments from the Garrick Club, to the Rugby Club, to the pub. That does not make them in any way acceptable, of course, but it should give people a sense of proportion.

Moments after Fury became champion, he grabbed a microphone and sung his wife a romantic love song. I thought that was lovely.

A complaint was made to the police that Fury had “incited hatred towards homosexuals” by suggesting that all homosexuals are paedophiles. This allegation has been repeated across the media. No wonder people hate Fury.

However, Fury never said what is alleged. This is what he actually said: - “There are only three things that need to be accomplished before the Devil comes home. One of them is homosexuality being legal, one is abortion being legal and the other is paedophilia being legal.”  

Fury explains his view as stemming from his reading of the Bible. Millions of religious people hold similar views. Fury told journalists that his views are the same as the Pope’s. By all means attack the homophobia found in religion, but when attacking Fury for those same views, people need a sense of proportion.

Fury has defended himself vehemently. He denies sexism and homophobia. He has said: - “I don’t think gay people are paedophiles. Two adults consenting to love each other is a different matter to someone messing with a child.” 

When offensive remarks are made, it obviously matters who makes them. Fury is a boxer, not a headteacher, CEO or prime minister.

And in all the fury over Fury’s comments, people have ignored the fact that while some of his views deserve criticism, others deserve praise. 

From Fury’s own words, found online, he comes across as intelligent, intense and interesting. 

Fury is fiercely proud of his family and his community. He wants to do some good in the world in areas where he has seen so many lives blighted  - alcoholism, drug addiction and homelessness. He talks frankly about his own sometimes suicidal depression. And he talks a great deal about his belief in the Bible.

For me, the most striking thing that Fury says - many times - is his disdain for the material trappings of “success”.  Here are some typical quotes.

“…if we just were born to die for 70 years or 90 or 15 or 20, then what is the point of being born in the beginning. What is it for? To buy a house and a car and get old and die? For me, that would be a pointless life lived…you get caught up in worldly things i.e. wanting, wanting, wanting all the time. Throughout history…if a man had a billion, he’d want 10 billion. …When is enough enough?”

“My be all and end all is passing through here, trying to do a few good things on the way, helping people….It ain’t about winning the title for me…it’s not about all that sort of stuff and what they think success is. People think success is being rich and driving nice cars and being Mr Flash. Success isn’t that.” 

Sports journalist Barney Ronay writes: - “Success now is unlikely to change a relatively humble lifestyle….Fury can be, according to those who know him, a hospitable, gentle, funny, talkative, slightly disarming presence.”

Compare Tyson Fury with one of his opponents for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Lewis Hamilton, the Formula 1 world champion. Hamilton - “perfect” and bland - never expresses an opinion on anything and lives in tax exile enjoying the material rewards of success. Who is the better role model? 

Meanwhile, as I wrote last week, David Cameron called anyone who opposed his plan to bomb in Syria a “terrorist sympathiser”. That is similar to calling them traitors. And Cameron is the prime minister, not a boxer.

If as a society we had a proper sense of proportion, the front pages and the news on TV and radio should have been carrying powerful demands for the prime minister to withdraw such a gross slur and never repeat it again. 


But the media failed to understand how serious Cameron’s words were. And, anyway, they were busy attacking the Gypsy. Where is society’s sense of proportion?

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Some things in politics are much more important than party politics

Sport is “all about winning”, they say. But even in a brutal sport like boxing, there are rules. If the boxer you support, hits below the belt or bites off a part of the opponent’s ear, then only the most tunnel-visioned fan would celebrate their “victory”.

Politics is a brutal game too but again there are rules. However, there is no referee. The rules are supposed in theory to be enforced in this country by “civil society”. A vital part of a properly functioning civil society is a media which should expose breaches of the rules and through its immense power of communication enforce compliance.

Last week, the prime minister flagrantly breached the rules of acceptable behaviour in our democracy by calling those who opposed his plan to bomb in Syria, “terrorist sympathisers”. He refused many times to apologise on the floor of the Commons. Such an accusation goes well beyond the normal, robust hurling of political insults. 

David Cameron’s comment is reminiscent of those of the vile, bullying Senator Joseph McCarthy, who - together with his followers - accused those who opposed him of being “Communist sympathisers”. 

McCarthy operated during the Cold War. Cameron uses his McCarthyite slur during the War on Terror. When a powerful person accused opponents of sympathising with enemies of the State, they are telling others that they should discount arguments of those opponents because they are made from traitorous motives. 

Very few in our media seem to grasp how destructive to our political system Cameron’s remarks are. They seem to be quite unable to view politics other than through the prism of party politics. 

After five long years of McCarthy striking fear throughout American society in the early 1950s, it was a TV journalist, Edward  R Murrow who played a crucial role in his downfall. That took moral courage of a high order. McCarthy had destroyed many people’s careers and worse.

Where in our media do we see a Murrow today?

Cameron has disgracefully and dangerously broken the rules of the political game and it is difficult to see who there is in our civil society who will do anything about it.

The situation is both depressing and very troubling. 

Some things in politics are much more important than party politics.


Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Questions for Cameron on bombing in Syria

We are fourteen years into a War on Terror and there is no end in sight. 

Since 9/11, the West has undertaken military activity against Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen and Mali.

It should not be controversial to suggest the West considers a new approach. The old one based on military action is not working.

Tomorrow, David Cameron will ask for the support of parliament to bomb so-called Islamic State in Syria. He argues that this will make people in the UK safer.

Jeremy Corbyn, who is not a pacifist but does believe that military action should be a last resort, will oppose Cameron. Corbyn does not deny the serious threat from IS. He argues that there are no good reasons to believe that the proposed military action will make people in the UK safer. On the contrary, it may make people less safe.

Corbyn thinks there is some link between the cause of terrorist attacks in the UK and Western attacks on Muslims abroad. Cameron seems to deny that there is any link at all. Those who share Corbyn’s view are often attacked as “apologists” but this is absurd - people should be able to distinguish between an explanation and a justification. 

Here are some questions that I believe Cameron should answer tomorrow.

  1. US, Russia and France are already bombing Raqqa, where IS have their headquarters. What have they achieved and what would the UK add?
  2. As the 7/7 bombers and most of those who carried out the Paris outrage, were “homegrown”, how will the bombing lessen the chance of a jihadi attack in the UK?
  3. Counter-radicalisation measures in the UK deny any link between jihadi attacks against the West and Western military action against Muslim countries. Does this not seriously undermine their likely effectiveness?
  4. He speaks of Assad’s “mass murder of his own people”. How is it intended to ensure that by attacking IS he does not strengthen Assad?
  5. What steps is he taking in relation to the funding of IS, including by private donors in Saudi Arabia? 
  6. It is widely agreed that ground troops will be needed. Does he categorically rule out sending UK troops? He has spoken of there being 70,000 Syrian opposition fighters who do not belong to extremist groups and who could be involved. What is the evidence for the existence of such a force?
  7. What lessons has he learnt from his own action in Libya? At the time he hailed it as a triumph but in fact it left a country gripped by anarchy and civil war and allowed jihadi to operate there whereas they had not so before.
  8. In light of the shooting down of the Russian plane by Turkey and the fact that the sky over Raqqa will be very crowded, what steps will be taken to prevent accidents?

I would be surprised if such questions were not asked. I hope they get proper answers.

This is not a left/right issue. Some of the most impressive Tory MPs intend to vote against Cameron. Some of them have demanded a free vote on the Tory side, as there will be on the Labour side. 


Cameron’s case looks weak. I am not convinced that it is really about saving lives on British streets. It looks more like a political, cultural, diplomatic desire to stand shoulder to shoulder with the US and France. That is not a bad reason if everything else makes sense - unfortunately, it does not look like it does.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

We need a public debate about the right balance between security and privacy

It is natural that after the outrage in Paris, people want all possible steps to be taken to prevent a similar event occurring in the UK. 

It is often said that the first duty of the State is to protect the lives of its citizens but this duty is not absolute. It is always balanced against other considerations. Many more people die in road accidents than in terrorist attacks. However, no government would ban cars or impose a 10 mile an hour speed limit; the costs to society would be too high.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, some are now calling for the Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB) also known as the Snoopers Charter, to be fast-tracked through parliament. It is at a time like this, when emotions are running high, that we need to be particularly careful.

We need to find the right balance between security and privacy. In other countries, such as the USA and Germany, there is a heated and passionate public debate. In the UK, sadly, there has been for the most part shoulder-shrugging apathy. I hope this can change.

There are real concerns that the IPB poses a significant danger to our freedom, privacy and way of life. Joseph Cannataci, the UN’ s special rapporteur on privacy has condemned the IPB as “heralding a golden age of surveillance” and “worse than scary”. 

It is not hyperbole to say that the proposals in IPB would allow levels of surveillance far in excess to those available to the Stasi or even imagined by George Orwell. 

IPB puts into law a range of activities, revealed by Edward Snowden,  which the Security Services have been undertaking for years and which were either illegal or of dubious legality. It is an indictment of the bodies overseeing the Security Services, that either they did not know what was going on or they did know, but allowed it to continue. 

No one in our society should be above the law. Some think that this does not apply to the Security Services. Such attitudes are dangerous and profoundly anti-democratic.

In 2015, technology gives the Security Services astonishing capabilities. Mass surveillance is easy. It is possible to track you through your phone, use your phone as a microphone to listen into your conversations, turn on the camera on your laptop, read your emails and know everything about your activity online. It is likely that even more pervasive forms of surveillance will be possible in 5, 10 and 20 years time.

Some people think the right to privacy is not particularly important. This is not the view of David Anderson QC, the widely respected Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation whose recent report is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the issues in this area. Privacy is essential to a free and healthy society. Anderson writes that we need privacy to develop as humans; to express individuality; to facilitate trust, friendship and intimacy; to secure other human rights; and to empower the individual against the State. 

You may have “nothing to hide” but would you want the possibility of being spied on 24/7? What about in the bathroom or the bedroom? Just the mere thought that you might be spied on, can lead to self-censorship and a loss of what it means to live in a free society.

Snowden was right to say - “Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide, is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

There is a real possibility that IPB will not even make us all safer. In fact, it could make us less safe. IPB will gather huge amounts of data which can then be hacked into – as in the recent Talk Talk data breach. Furthermore, a less altruistic insider than Snowden would be better able to steal huge amounts of data once it had all been gathered.

IPB would also require companies to leave a “back door” into encrypted material to let spies have access. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has warned this could have “very dire consequences” as it would undermine the whole system of encryption, which is vital for much of the internet to function. Cook points out that, in any event, terrorists would be able to exploit the back doors. 

IPB allows the authorities to instruct companies to hold for 12 months all the data they have for everyone. Such blanket retention of data is not allowed in any other EU or Commonwealth country or in the USA. 

Police officers and other officials, who need only to be middle-ranking, would have the power under IPB to access metadata, which, for example, includes the time and the sender or recipient of emails and the addresses of websites visited. This metadata could be obtained without any warrant or judicial involvement at all. 

Theresa May suggests that metadata is bland and uninformative - “the equivalent of a standard phone bill”. Snowden strongly disagrees. He says metadata can tell you a huge amount about a person - "Metadata is extraordinarily intrusive.”

Many people are not concerned about increased surveillance because they trust the authorities to use their powers for appropriate purposes.  Anderson recognised that this question is central by entitling his recent report “A Question of Trust”.  

It is always dangerous to entrust great power to anyone without a powerful system of oversight to ensure that the power is not abused. Power does corrupt. Furthermore, the powers in IPB would be available to all future governments. Some feel uncomfortable about the current government having them, others will feel the same way about a future Corbyn government. What about a Johnson or Farage government?

The authorities have certainly abused their powers historically. There are many examples. After the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the police spied upon his parents. Undercover officers notoriously abused their position when spying on environmentalists. MPs have been spied on including Caroline Lucas and Harriet Harman. A long list of groups which are non-violent, but which oppose the interests of the Establishment, have been spied on. 

Snowden reported spies in the USA using people’s own cameras to watch them having sex.

Certain groups have particular concerns about IPB, such as those involved in legitimate democratic protest and those who have historically had the confidentiality of their communications protected, such as doctors, lawyers and MPs.

The most intrusive powers in IPB are limited to the Security Services and need both the authorisation of the Home Secretary and also the approval of a judge. Theresa May calls this a double-lock. However, the judges’ role is limited to “judicial review grounds”. This means the judge does not actually consider the substance of the request. The organisation Liberty describe the judge’s role under IPB as a mere rubber-stamping exercise.

Given the secret way the powers under IPB are exercised, the reality is that most people would have no way of proving that powers had been abused. A proper, rigorous form of oversight would protect whistle-blowers and punish those who abused their power. IPB does the opposite. It effectively criminalises whistleblowing and protects those carrying out the surveillance.

IPB needs to be looked at in the context of what else this government is seeking to make law. They want to scrap the Human Rights Act, the main legislative protection for our privacy rights.

And, in a brazen use of power, whilst they seek more powers to know the people’s secrets, the government wants to restrict the Freedom of Information Act, so that it is more difficult for the people to know the government’s secrets.

If we do not get the balance of this legislation right,  Anderson warned “we risk sleep-walking into a world which - though possibly safer - would be indefinably but appreciably poorer.”  


We badly need a proper public debate about the right balance between security and privacy. We should beware handing the terrorists a victory by allowing their actions to lead to us abandoning essential components of a free society.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Today, the Lords must stop Tory attempt to rig electoral system

Yesterday, the unelected Lords did their democratic duty by their vote on the tax credit cuts, which David Cameron had denied he would make before the election. There are important constitutional issues raised. The most obvious is that politicians should not lie to the electorate. Today, the Lords must block the Tories shameful attempt to rig the electoral system itself. 

Jeremy Corbyn spoke about this issue in his Conference Speech: -
"Just before the summer, the Tories sneaked out a plan to strike millions of people off the electoral register this December - a year earlier than the advice of the independent Electoral Commission.

"It means millions could lose their right to vote. It's more than 400,000 people in London. It's 70,000 people in Glasgow. Thousands in every town and city.

"We know why the Tories are doing it. They want to gerrymander next year's mayoral election in London by denying hundreds of thousands of Londoners their right to vote.

"They want to do the same for the Assembly elections in Wales. And they want to gerrymander electoral boundaries across the country by ensuring new constituencies are decided on the basis of the missing electors when the Boundary Commission starts its work in April 2016.” 

The media barely mentioned this at the time. Imagine how they would have reacted if such a grave accusation had been made against a newly elected Corbyn government.

This issue relates to the transition from the previous method of compiling the Electoral Register to the new method called Individual Electoral Registration (IER). The timetable in the original legislation was for the transition to IER to end in December 2016. However, the Tories are trying to bring the date forward to December 2015. Corbyn was warning of the likely consequences.

The Boundary Commission work referred to by Corbyn relates to drawing up new constituencies. If this work is done on the basis of millions missing from Electoral Register, then it will affect the fairness of the 2020 election and beyond.

The Electoral Commission are independent experts and they have advised strongly against the Tory plan. Their reasons are clearly set out in the dry document, Assessment of Progress with the Transition to Individual Electoral Registration June 2015.

Here are some extracts from the Electoral Commission’s advice to peers today.

“We are disappointed at the Government’s announcement and still recommend that the end of transition should take place in December 2016 as set out in law. We therefore recommend that Parliament does not approve this order. 

The Commission believes that there should be a compelling case for bringing forward the end of the transition. [And there is not such a compelling case]

On 1 December 2015, should Parliament approve the Government’s order, any of the 1.9 million entries on the register that have not been individually registered or already removed through the annual canvass process will be deleted from the register.”

There is no doubt that deleting all or some of the 1.9 million entries referred to by the Electoral Commission will benefit the Tories and harm Labour. IER particularly affects those in rented accommodation, younger and poorer voters and also students - universities no longer register automatically those in halls of residence, for example.

Today the airwaves are full of Tories invoking democracy. Their protestations ring particularly hollow on a day when they are trying to force through parliament a measure designed to rig the Electoral Register in their favour in the teeth of advice from the independent experts, the Electoral Commission.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Suffragettes; which side would you have been on? Power of nonsense arguments

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right 
- Tom Paine 1737-1809

It was not until 1928, that women were able to vote in the UK on the same basis as men. In the decades before the First World War, most people - women as well as men - were opposed to women having the vote. 

What arguments were used to oppose giving women the vote? There were no good arguments. So, those who were opposed to this happening, came up with plenty of nonsense arguments.  Nonsense arguments can be just as effective as good arguments.

Sometimes, those putting forward these nonsense arguments, did so cynically, knowing very well that the arguments were nonsense and also knowing they could not simply state the truth, that men wanted to deny women the vote so as to maintain men’s power.

Other times, those putting forward these nonsense arguments completely believed in them. It is very easy for people to convince themselves that something is true, if it is in their own interest for it to be true.

Here are some of the nonsense arguments used against giving women the vote.

In a debate in the House of Commons on 25 April 1906, Mr Samuel Evans said: -
“All really sensible men…think women have their own honourable position in life…accorded to them by nature, and their proper sphere is the home…If women were to be entitled to privileges of citizenship, they ought to share its responsibilities. Would it be desirable that women should have to go to battle?”

Mr Cremer said: -
“There are times and periods in women’s lives when they require rest not only for mind but for body and to drag them into the political arena under those conditions would be cruel indeed.”

And from the Commons debate on 28 March 1912: -

Mr Harold Baker: -
“The question is…the enfranchisement of politically inert masses who take no interest in politics and do not desire to do so…The vote is a badge, not of superiority, but of difference, a difference of masculine character and coercive power…”

Viscount Helmsley: -
“…the mental equilibrium of the female sex is not as stable as the mental equilibrium of the male sex. The argument has very strong scientific backing.
I believe that the normal man and the normal woman both have the same instinct that man should be the governing one of the two and I think that the undoubted dislike that women have for men who are effeminate and which men have for masculine women is nothing more or less than the expression of this instinct…”

The Prime Minister, Mr Asquith: -
“The question [is] why should you deny to a woman of genius the vote, which you give to her gardener? [The answer is] you are dealing not with individuals but with the masses…[any] gain would be more than neutralised by the injurious consequences…to the status and influence of women as a whole."

Mr Stewart: -
“Men are under the potent influence of women already. They are controlled in childhood and cherished in old age. And between childhood and old age they are more subject to their influence than at any other period of life…[Women] can [already] win any election or carry any measure they set their minds to…”

Mr MacCullum Scott: -
“The argument against Woman Suffrage which has always impressed me most is the physical force argument. …women as physical force units are not equal to men… Therefore, if you include women when you are counting heads, the result is not reliable as an index of the physical force in the country…By giving votes to women you are destroying the value of a General Election.”

Other commonly used nonsense arguments as to why women should not be allowed the vote were
  • Married women would only double or annul their husband’s votes 
  • Voting would destroy chivalry
  • Voting would stop women getting married and having children 
  • Women are too precious and innocent to be involved in public life

These nonsense arguments might be laughable now but at the time they were made in earnest and many people found them persuasive. 

Not everyone, of course. Here is the Labour MP Philip Snowden in the 1912 debate, identifying the nonsense arguments for what they were: -“The opposition to the enfranchisement of women is not argument; it is a masculine prejudice.”

Many, like the Suffragettes, who opposed the nonsense arguments of their time, were dismissed as either ridiculous crazies or as dangerous extremists. 

In 2015, the malign power of nonsense arguments is as strong as ever. They are used to justify all sorts of arrangements which suit the powerful. I will consider some contemporary nonsense arguments in future pieces.

And the powerful still dismiss the people who challenge their nonsense arguments as ridiculous crazies or as dangerous extremists.

Sadly, our media is no more helpful in combatting nonsense arguments than it was at the time of the fight for votes for women. 


There is only one way the power of nonsense arguments can be combatted. As many people as possible, need to be alert and engaged and able to identify such dangerous nonsense for themselves.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

What links poverty, living wage, asylum-seeker, centre-ground, affordable and annexe?

“When I use a word”, Humpty Dumpty said to Alice, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean.”

Today the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, declared that a school built over nine miles away from an existing Grammar School is not a new school but is an annexe of the existing school. It is currently lawful to build annexes to existing Grammar Schools but not to build new Grammar Schools. So, Morgan’s decision that  the word “annexe” means something that it clearly does not, allows her to avoid the difficulty of a vote in parliament to reintroduce Grammar Schools - a vote that would split the Tory Party and which she might well lose. 

Morgan’s linguistic trickery puts her in good company in this government. Iain Duncan-Smith improved the government’s record on poverty at a cynical stroke by redefining the word “poverty”. 

George Osborne announced a new National “Living Wage” which - combined with his attack on tax credits - leave millions worse off and with an income significantly below the previously accepted level of the Living Wage. 

Theresa May, in her deeply nasty and unsettling speech at the Tory conference, deliberately undermined the true meanings of “asylum seeker” and “refugee”. 

David Cameron has described property as “affordable” when only those on well above average incomes can afford them. And he has laid claim to the “centre-ground” despite this government being the most right wing since the 1930s.

Orwell’s 1984 is all about a dystopia where one of the main tools of control is the manipulation of language itself by those in power. The behaviour of these Tory politicians is frankly sinister.

Perhaps worse are all those media outlets that fail to report on this twisting of words. A properly functioning democracy requires a media that has basic standards of decency and honesty. I worry about our democracy.

GUEST POST Calling out Laura Kuenssberg by William Bolton

This may seem like a trivial thing, but it exposes the language and the mindset of an establishment – a BBC that stubbornly refuses to accept that Labour party members and supporters are allowed to have their own views, and that they are allowed to vote and decide who should be the leader of the Labour Party.  

On Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg unilaterally decided that the leader of the Labour party, elected with an astonishing 60% of the vote, could not be described as mainstream Labour, whilst anonymous Blairite MPs, who mustered less than 5% of the vote for their candidate at the election, could and should be described by her as “mainstream Labour”. 

Background: there’s a very annoying recent tradition on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that literally the second after any leading politician has stopped speaking on the top-rated 8.10am interview slot with John Humphries, the supposedly “neutral” political editor is interviewed by the same Humphries to interpret for our benefit what the politician we have been listening to actually meant.  

On Tuesday, Kuenssberg was providing instant reaction to an interview with Diane Abbott, shadow international development secretary, about the Labour leadership’s U-turn on George Osborne’s budget surplus legislation. Kuenssberg clearly decided it was legitimate to portray Diane Abbott as not representative of the ‘mainstream’ Labour party, but that unidentified Blairite MPs supposedly in fury about the U-turn were.  Here she is on the Radio 4 podcast at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06gqx6b (skip to 2:19:10).

Yet the preferred candidates of these supposedly ‘mainstream Labour’ MPs mustered a derisory vote in the recent leadership election, and lost badly.  Many of them were then offered places in the shadow cabinet, which they turned down.  The Blairites in the parliamentary Labour party are not mainstream Labour;  they are right wing rebels – extremists, in a very real way - entitled to their views, but not entitled to be called ‘mainstream Labour’ by the BBC.

Let’s be charitable and assume it is possible that Kuenssberg can’t see how biased her language is.  Her bias is a purely a result of her failing to get out more – failing to talk to enough people outside the Westminster bubble, and so she has simply has no idea where the ‘mainstream’ is, and what it thinks. 

A less attractive scenario is that Kuenssberg is in fact a more zealous guardian of the Overton window than the political editor she replaced, creepy former President of the Oxford University Conservative Association Nick Robinson.  

The jury is out.  Either way Laura Kuenssberg needs to raise her game quickly, and do her important job better.  She must consider how she can use her role to serve the public - to spread rather than suppress understanding of what is going on.  

Friday, 9 October 2015

Cameron, Bin Laden and the media

In his conference speech this week, David Cameron said this - “ Thousands of words have been written about the new Labour leader. But you only really need to know one thing: he thinks the death of Osama bin Laden was a “tragedy”.”

Cameron then went on to use this “fact” to launch a searing personal attack on Jeremy Corbyn: “we cannot let that man inflict his security-threatening, terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating ideology on the country we love.”

The crowd in the hall were rapturous. 

But Cameron had knowingly quoted Corbyn out of context. He had twisted his words to give a false impression of what he had said. 

Cameron took Corbyn’s words from an interview Corbyn gave to an Iranian TV station in 2011.

This is what Corbyn said: - “There was no attempt whatsoever that I can see to arrest [bin Laden], to put him on trial, to go through that process….This was an assassination attempt, and is yet another tragedy, upon a tragedy, upon a tragedy…The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy. Tens of thousands of people have died….”

Corbyn went on to say:- ”the solution has got to be law not war”.

Corbyn’s view is hardly extreme - let alone “security-threatening, terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating”. 

Barack Obama is quoted by Mark Bowden who wrote a book about the killing of Bin Laden as saying to him: - "Frankly, my belief was if we had captured him, that I would be in a pretty strong position, politically, here, to argue that displaying due process and rule of law would be our best weapon against al-Qaida, in preventing him from appearing as a martyr….the full rights of criminal defendants would showcase America’s commitment to justice for even the worst of the worst.”

And in December 2001 Boris Johnson, wrote in the Telegraph that a trial of Bin Laden would assert “reason over madness and revenge….He should be put on trial, because a trial would be the profoundest and most eloquent statement of the difference between our values and his. He wanted to kill as many innocent people as he could. We want justice.”

Cameron’s cynical and malicious twisting of Corbyn’s words is bad enough. 

But even worse are all those media outlets that repeated - often gleefully -Cameron’s attack without properly explaining what Corbyn had actually said. A properly functioning democracy requires a media that has basic standards of decency and honesty. I worry about our democracy.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Thanks to Corbyn the country can now, at last, properly debate issues like Trident

The great 18th century democratic revolutionary, Tom Paine, wrote: - “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right.” Jeremy Corbyn is now challenging the received wisdom over a whole range of issues. He is making people think. 

Corbyn is also forcing the country’s politico-media elite to engage in debate on issues which they have effectively kept off the public agenda for decades. They will find it increasingly hard to dismiss challenges to the status quo by simply dismissing the people making them as flaky, mad and extreme. They will be forced to engage with the actual arguments. 

Corbyn is a twenty first century equivalent of those brave people who challenged the consensus of their own day that slavery was acceptable, that it was right that only rich men could vote, that women were second class citizens, that non-white races were inferior, that gays should be locked up.

A good example of what Corbyn is doing is the issue of whether the Trident replacement is a good idea for our country.  Should Britain retain an “independent nuclear deterrent”?

In the last election campaign, the Tory and Labour front-benches were united in favour of replacing Trident. The media were supportive. There was no real public debate except in Scotland, where the weapons are based and where the SNP are opposed to them. 

Those in favour of renewal of Trident have generally taken the attitude in public that the case for renewal is so obvious that they would not waste their time engaging with those who are too na├»ve, foolish or pacifist to see it. 

Corbyn faces opposition from both inside and outside the Labour party. David Cameron’s response has been to say that Corbyn’s views show that he is “unfit for office”. 

Now that Corbyn is leader of his party, Cameron and others are unlikely to be able to close off debate by name-calling. They will be forced to engage.

People will judge the issue on the arguments. Whether people are ultimately persuaded by them or not, Corbyn has plenty of arguments that cannot be dismissed as mad or dangerous.

Here are some of them. 

1. Can the weapon system really be used independently of the USA? If so, the two countries are not always in step. They were not in 1939 or over the Falklands. What if there is a President Trump?

2. Why do we need these weapons for our security when the vast majority of countries in the world do not?

3. These weapons are useless against terrorists. Post-Cold War, is there any at all likely scenario in which they could be of any practical use?

4. Do these weapons in fact make us less safe against IS type terrorism, as there is always the risk of a security breach? 

5. The weapons always carry the risk of accidents.

6. The SNP is against having nuclear weapons in Scotland. Would people in the South East of England feel differently if the weapons were based there?

7.  If the £100 billion cost of the new weapons was all kept in the defence budget, could it not be spent more productively to ensure our security? There are people in the military who think the money would be better spent on conventional weapons.

8.  If, alternatively, some or all of the £100 billion cost was used outside the defence budget, it could make a significant difference to the prosperity and well-being of the country.

9.  The moral arguments against using WMD against civilian populations.

10. Should we ignore the words of former Tory Defence Minister, Michael Portillo? Earlier this year, he said: - “You're probably familiar with these men who are worried about their own virility and buy large sports cars, and this I think is a case in point. [As the army and navy] have become smaller, so the status symbol of having nuclear weapons becomes more important, at least to some people. Our independent nuclear deterrent is not independent and doesn't constitute a deterrent against anybody that we regard as an enemy. It is a waste of money and it is a diversion of funds that might otherwise be spent on perfectly useful and useable weapons and troops. But some people have not caught up with this reality.”
And what about the famously bellicose Tony Blair? In his memoirs, he said of Trident: “The expense is huge and the utility … non-existent in terms of military use.” He said he could clearly see the force of the “common sense and practical argument” against Trident, but in the end he thought that giving it up would be “too big a downgrading of our status as a nation”.

Maybe it is all about concerns over virility/status and not really about defence, as claimed, at all. Or maybe we really do need to keep nuclear weapons because without them we can never be safe. Thanks to Jeremy Corbyn, we will now have a proper debate. That’s progress.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

A new kind of politics. My letter to Jeremy Corbyn on his election.

Dear Jeremy,                                                                                       12 September 2015

Many congratulations on your election as leader of the Party. I support your aims and I am writing to you with a proposal that I believe can help you achieve them. This proposal is rooted in the belief that everyone matters in a democracy and everyone has political concerns. It should help encourage political engagement, democratise the political agenda, reduce press distortion and blunt opposition attacks on you. It would be a powerful symbol of a “new kind of politics”.

My proposal is for a monthly programme on which you would have conversations with voters and non-voters, selected to make a genuinely representative sample. It is crucial that the selection is rigorous and transparent. Each of those chosen would have 5 minutes of one-to-one conversation with you. The programme would come from a different part of the UK each month. It would be shown live on YouTube. I set out more details of the proposal below.

You would have proper conversations with people who come from the entire range of UK society. This in itself would be a marked contrast with the current position where it is rare for a senior politician to be questioned on live TV by anyone other than a well-off, middle-aged, London-based Oxbridge graduate.

I have been told by people in the industry that the combination of Reality TV and politics should mean high viewing figures.

This proposal is democratic and modern. It would help you connect with the people of the UK and help them connect with you.

In particular, this proposal should improve democracy and help you in the following ways.

Encourage political engagement

One of the great achievements of your campaign has been the engagement of many who were previously alienated from or apathetic about politics. Viewers of the programme would see you engaging with the concerns of people they could identify with.

Democratise the political agenda

Currently the national political agenda is largely set by editors on Fleet Street and at the broadcasters. On the programme, people would raise with you the issues that matter to them. These issues would then find their way on to the national political agenda through social media and other means.

Reduce press distortion

You are faced with an overwhelmingly hostile press. The programme would allow you to communicate directly with the viewing public without the press distorting your message.

Blunt opposition attacks

You would have conversations with many who would be suspicious of or hostile to you and your political aims. By genuinely engaging with them and discussing their concerns, you will be able to address the false narrative your opponents are already seeking to define you by.

These are the detailed proposals for the programme to be shown on YouTube: -
  • Each participant would have five minutes for a one-to-one conversation with you.
  • There would be ten participants per episode.
  • Programme would be monthly in a different area each month, so that after one year all the UK would be covered.
  • You and each participant would sit as equals, as with a conventional interview.
  • No one should try and control the agenda. It will be up to the participants.
  • It would be shown live (with a short time delay to guard against illegal or offensive language).
  • There would be no one chairing and no studio audience. Just a voiceover at start and finish and when participants change over.
  • Participants would not apply to take part. They would be selected by an expert organisation such as a polling company. The millions who are not registered to vote must be included.
  • The detailed selection criteria will be published. The aim would be to select a representative sample of all people of voting age living in the area covered by that month’s programme. You may wish to include 16 and 17 year olds.
  • If someone selected did not want to take part, then someone else in the area fitting the same criteria would be selected.  However, “shy” people who are selected should be given encouragement and support to participate, without any improper pressure.
  • Programme’s governance would be at arm’s length from the Labour Party. It would be the responsibility of a body, which itself would be representative of the public. 

I developed this idea because I was concerned about the health of our democracy. I would, ideally, like to see all political leaders use it. However, it clearly has particular benefits for a leader whose views are opposed by the media.

I have no financial interest in this proposal. I would like to be consulted if it is taken forward. I have had many useful conversations with a wide range of people over the last few years. I have also had a great deal of positive interest on Twitter where I am @TomLondon6.

I hope this proposal is of interest and look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards

Tom London


Friday, 4 September 2015

A democratic YouTube programme for Jeremy Corbyn's "new kind of politics".


If Jeremy Corbyn is elected as Labour leader, I will send him a letter on the lines of the draft below. It is my proposal for a ground-breaking democratic YouTube programme where he will meet a genuinely representative selection of the public for proper conversations. It would be a "new kind of politics".

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Jeremy

I support your aims and I am writing to you with a proposal that I believe can help you achieve them. This proposal should help encourage political engagement, democratise the political agenda, reduce press distortion and blunt opposition attacks on you. It would be a powerful symbol of a “new kind of politics”.

My proposal is for a monthly programme on which you would have conversations with voters and non-voters, whom will have been selected so that together they form a genuinely representative sample. It is crucial that the selection is rigorous and transparent. Each of those chosen would have 5 minutes of one-to-one conversation with you. The programme would come from a different part of the UK each month. It would be shown live on YouTube. I set out more details of the proposal below.

You would have proper conversations with people who come from the entire range of UK society. This in itself would be a marked contrast with the current position where it is rare for a senior politician to be questioned on live TV by anyone other than a well-off, middle-aged, London-based Oxbridge graduate.

I have been told by people in the industry that the combination of Reality TV and politics should mean high viewing figures.

This proposal is democratic and modern. It would help you connect with the people of the UK and help them connect with you.

In particular, this proposal should help you in the following ways.

Encourage political engagement

One of the great achievements of your campaign has been the engagement of many who were previously alienated from or apathetic about politics. As participants in the show would be genuinely representative of society, this group would be represented in every episode. The programme would let you be seen to be engaging with their concerns.

Democratise the political agenda

Currently the national political agenda is largely set by editors on Fleet Street and at the broadcasters. On the programme, people would raise with you the issues that matter to them. These issues would then find their way on to the national political agenda through social media and other means.

Reduce press distortion

You are faced with an overwhelmingly hostile press. The programme would allow you to communicate directly with the viewing public without the press distorting your message.

Blunt opposition attacks

You would have conversations with many who would be suspicious of or hostile to you and your political aims. By genuinely engaging with them and discussing their concerns, you will be able to address the false narrative your opponents are already seeking to define you by.

These are the detailed proposals for the programme: -
  • Each participant would have five minutes for a one-to-one conversation with you.
  • There would be ten participants per episode.
  • Programme would be monthly in a different area each month, so that after one year all the UK would be covered.
  • You and each participant would sit as equals, as with a conventional interview.
  • No one should try and control the agenda. It will be up to the participants.
  • It would be shown live (with a short time delay to guard against illegal or offensive language).
  • There would be no one chairing and no studio audience. Just a voiceover at start and finish and when participants change over.
  • Participants would not apply to take part. They would be selected. The job of selection would be given to an expert organisation such as a polling company. They must include the hard to reach e.g. the millions who are not registered to vote.
  • The process of selection will be rigorous and transparent. The detailed selection criteria will be published. The aim would be to select a representative sample of all people of voting age living in the area covered by that month’s programme. You may wish to include 16 and 17 year olds.
  • If someone selected did not want to take part, then someone else in the area fitting the same criteria would be selected.  However, “shy” people who are selected should be given encouragement and support to participate. This would be without any pressure at all as to what issue(s) they raise with you. 
  • Programme’s governance would be at arm’s length from the Labour Party. It would be the responsibility of a body, which itself would be representative of the public. 

I hope this proposal is of interest and look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards

Tom London


Thursday, 20 August 2015

Next Labour leader must find a way to communicate with voters direct without the press mediating

Whoever becomes Labour leader should pin up the Sun front page from the last election in a place where it will act as a daily reminder of the destructive power of the press. That front page was dominated by a grotesque - and familiar - picture of Ed Miliband. The Sun’s message to its millions of readers was that this man could not be trusted with the country. This assertion was not based on Miliband’s words or deeds but on the evidence of how he once ate a bacon sandwich. There is no doubt that that message - repeated in the press many times - was effective.

In elections, perception is more important than reality. Even if they prove to be a brilliant leader and they go into the next election with excellent policies, the new Labour leader will lose unless they can find a way to communicate with voters without the press distorting and undermining their message.

Most political information does not come direct to voters from politicians but - even in the internet age - it comes to them mediated by the national press and broadcasters.  To a great extent it is the press who set the political agenda in the UK and the broadcasters - most importantly the BBC -reflect that agenda. Ownership of the press in the UK is dominated by a handful of billionaires and the papers are overwhelmingly pro-Tory and anti-Labour.

Many people scoff derisively at the idea that the press has a powerful influence in shaping people’s political views.This is odd. After all, no one doubts the power to influence behaviour of the billions spent annually on advertising and PR. Essentially, the same process is at work.

On issue after issue at the last election, Labour saw their messages distorted by the press - from their repeated denials that “Labour overspending” caused the global financial crash, to their promotion of popular policies on zero hours contracts, the rental market, ending non-dom status and reimposing the 50p tax rate. As the press twisted and fabricated, Labour was left frustrated and unable to effectively get their messages across to the voters.

The new Labour leader needs to find a way to deal with the press which is different from how either Tony Blair or Ed Miliband did so.

Blair dealt with the press very effectively but at a price. Rupert Murdoch and others knew Blair was no threat to their power or that of the so-called 1% more widely. The new Labour leader is unlikely to agree to such a bargain.

Miliband’s approach was the opposite to Blair’s. He took on Murdoch and the Mail and other rich and powerful forces. Unfortunately, his approach, whilst certainly bold, also now seems foolhardy. In a head-on fight, the press will always win.

Miliband’s successor needs a comprehensive strategy to ensure their messages reach voters direct, without being distorted by the press. There are a number of ways this could be done. I set out the outline of just one of those ways.

The leader should appear on a monthly live TV programme. It would come from a different area of the UK each month. For every episode, ten members of the public from that area would be selected, by an independent company, to form a representative sample of all potential voters in the area. The Labour leader would then meet the ten individually. Each would have a five minute one-to-one conversation with the leader on live TV.

The programme would give a platform to people who are currently invisible in the national political debate - such as 18 and 88 year olds; and those struggling with illness, poverty pay or unemployment. A representative sample of the electorate would include supporters of all parties and also those who feel apathetic or alienated from politics. Viewers would see two people sat as equals, no chairperson, no audience, no set agenda. The members of the public would raise whatever issues matter to them.

The programme would be a mix of Reality TV and a traditional political interview. It would be the antithesis of the micromanaged sterile 2015 election campaign where politicians never risked an unscripted encounter with a member of the public.

The format would allow the new Labour leader to have proper conversations with a great variety of people from across the UK - not just the middle-aged, well-off, London-based types who so dominate the national political conversation.

There would be some bruising encounters and that would be no bad thing. It would be good to see Jeremy Corbyn, for example, engaging with diehard Tories.

People would see the Labour leader listening and engaging with people like themselves and at the same time the leader would get their own messages across - direct and unmediated to the viewing public.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Truth about BBC bias

Shortly after the election, on the day that John Whittingdale was appointed as the minister with responsibility for the BBC, a Telegraph leader quoted a Downing Street source as saying Whittingdale would “sort out” the BBC. We are beginning to see what that might mean.

The BBC has powerful enemies and chief among them are the press barons. For decades now the newspapers they control and their political ally the Tory Party have kept up a constant attack on the BBC, alleging that it is a giant left-wing conspiracy. As any advertiser, PR professional or, indeed, totalitarian government knows, if you repeat something enough times, people will come to believe it and ignore the evidence to the contrary.

The evidence shows that the BBC is biased towards the right.

The only substantial academic research into BBC bias in the last decade or so was that published by Cardiff University in 2013. Its conclusion was clear – “The BBC tends to reproduce a Conservative, pro-business version of the world, not a left-wing, anti-business agenda.”

Robert Peston, the BBC’s Economics editor said last year that BBC News is “completely obsessed” by the agenda set by newspapers and too often follows the lead of the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph – this means, of course, following a Tory agenda.

A significant amount of prime BBC airtime is given over to “what the papers say” and to the views of Fleet Street journalists. At the election, over 71% of national newspapers (measured by readership) supported Tories or UKIP. Only the Guardian and Mirror supported Labour.

In the election campaign itself, the BBC favoured the Tories in a number of ways including
·         Excessive coverage of “threat” of a Labour-SNP deal. This was to the exasperated fury of Labour and the Lib Dems because this was precisely the issue that the Tories wanted the BBC to concentrate on.
·         Insufficient analysis of Tory claims such as that Labour over-spending caused 2008 Crash or that last-minute Tory billion pound spending pledges were properly costed
·         Failure to press and highlight the fact that Tories £12 billion promised welfare cuts were completely unspecified

The BBC’s pro-Tory bias is part of a wider bias, which might best be called Establishment bias. Examples of this would include
·         How little coverage there is of issues of importance to the 13 million people living in poverty in UK
·         Lack of coverage of the highly significant issues arising out of the Snowden revelations
·         Scant coverage of tax-dodging by the super-rich and multinationals. (Consider the respect the BBC gives to Taxpayers Alliance compared to UKUncut or Occupy)
·         Absurdly sycophantic coverage of the Royals

There are, I think, a number of possible explanations for the BBC’s right wing bias.

Whereas many BBC employees may consider themselves on the liberal left, many of those in senior positions in the BBC are Tories. However, it is probably wrong to put too much stress on this as a cause of bias; hopefully, these people do their professional best to put aside their own personal political views.

More significant, I believe, is the unconscious bias that exists at the BBC due to the fact that the relevant people are in the main drawn from the same narrow slice of society – middle-aged, middle-class, well-off and often privately educated and/or Oxbridge or Russell Group university. Whereas the top rate of tax or the threat of a Mansion Tax are of personal interest to this group, the pressing issues facing the millions in poverty are not.

More significant still, in my view, is the frankly depressing way in which the BBC follows the agenda set by Fleet Street. I have quoted Robert Peston on this above. It is, in fact, easy to observe this happening almost every day. Jim Messina, the Tory’s US election guru has commented on how much it is the papers who set the political agenda in the UK.

Too often the BBC seems to think that the front pages of the newspapers reflect public opinion whereas often, on the contrary, the papers are trying to shape public opinion.

Douglas Beattie, a former BBC journalist, has written – “Senior editors plough their way through bundles of the day’s papers before ever committing themselves to covering a story and often end up reflecting what has already been printed, not only in the Mail, but the Times, Sun and Telegraph too.”

There also seems to be an element of what looks like a kind of bullying taking place. The press excoriates the BBC if it dares to stray too far from what they consider an acceptable agenda.

Finally, there is the possibility that the BBC is biased towards the Tories in order to try and appease them and so stave off a threat from them. It is true that the Tories pose a real threat to BBC’s continuing existence in anything like its current form, whereas Labour do not.

The Guardian has reported – “Senior Tories piled pressure on the BBC, during the election campaign by commenting on its coverage and on its future as it approaches negotiations over its next charter.”

A number of Labour sources have alleged that the Tories threatened the BBC with dire consequences during the election campaign. Nick Robinson reported that David Cameron threatened to close the BBC down after the election. He said he was unsure whether it was a joke or a threat but says it was “yet another bit of pressure” on the BBC. He said that it was interpreted by BBC staff as a veiled threat. Cameron was essentially saying “don’t forget who’s boss here.”

Over the decades the BBC’s independence and integrity have been challenged many times and most notably by the sacking of Alasdair Milne, the Hutton Report, the bruising 2010 settlement and now the events since the election in May.

The Tories and the press will find may sticks to beat the BBC with. The BBC should not allow the allegation of left wing bias to be one of them. It is not true.

This is not to say that the BBC’s right wing bias is acceptable. It is absolutely not.


Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Facts about UK newspapers - owned by billionaires & supporting the Tories

In the words of A J Liebling, renowned American journalist - "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one". So it is worth noting that: -
1. 47.5% of combined print & online press is owned by just two billionaires - Rothermere and Murdoch
2. 75.1% is owned by just six billionaires

Billions of pounds are spent on advertising and PR annually because they are powerful tools to change behaviour. The same equally applies to newspapers and voting. So it is also worth noting that:-
1.  71.5% of combined print & online press supported Tories, Tory-led coalition or UKIP at election
2. 21.3% supported Labour

(Contrary to the Tory mythology about the BBC, it amplifies rather than  counteracts the political bias of the press.  As Robert Peston has said, BBC News is "completely obsessed by the agenda set by the newspapers....If we think the Mail and Telegraph will lead with this, we should. It's part of the culture.")

Below are three tables compiled from publicly available information.

UK national paper(s)
Average
weekly
print readership
NRS
Website only
Comscore
Combined print and website
(removing duplicates)

% of total
Effective owner/s

Info
about
owner/s
Political support
General
Election 2015
Daily Mail &
Mail on
Sunday
  8,724,000
5,691,000
13,255,000

 17.6%
Lord Rother-mere
Billionaire.Lives in France.
Non-Dom.
Alleged tax avoider.
Tories
The Sun &
Sun on Sunday
10,344,000
 339,000

10,602,000

 14.1%
(Scotland alone estimate
1.2%)
Rupert Murdoch
Billionaire. Lives in US.
Alleged tax avoider.
Tories except in Scotland where SNP
Metro
  7,315,000
  992,000
  8,108,000

 10.8%
Lord Rother-
Mere
Billionaire.
Lives in France.
Non-Dom.
Alleged tax avoider.
Tories
Mirror & Sunday Mirror
 5,346,000
2,222,000
  7,329,000

   9.7%
Trinity Mirror plc
Public Limited Company.
Labour
Guardian & Observer
 2,349,000
5,171,000
  6,998.000

   9.3%
Scott Trust Ltd
A company with purpose to secure Guardian’s independence
Labour
Telegraph & Sunday Telegraph
2,709,000
4,277,000
  6,577,000

   8.7%
David and Frederick Barclay
Billionaires.
Live on private island near Sark.
Alleged tax avoiders.
Tories
London Evening Standard
3,801,000
649,000
  4,340,000

    5.8%
Alexander & Evgeny Lebedev
Alexander is a billionaire, ex-KGB and lives in Russia. His son, Evgeny lives in UK
Tories
The Independent & Independenton Sunday
& i
2,034,000






2,479,000





  4,316,000
(Indy alone estimate
  2,500,000)

  5.7%
(Indy alone estimate
  3.3%)
Alexander & Evgeny Lebedev
Alexander is a billionaire, ex-KGB and lives in Russia. His son, Evgeny lives in the UK
Indy -Tory/Lib-Dem

Indy on Sunday &
i - no endorse-ment
The Times &
Sunday Times
3,540,000
239,000
  3,748,000

  5.0%
Rupert Murdoch
Billionaire.
Lives in US.
Alleged tax avoider.
Tories
Express &
Sunday Express
 2,298,000
849,000
. 3,110,000

  4.1%
Richard Desmond
Billionaire pornographer.
Alleged tax avoider
UKIP
Star &  Star on Sunday
2,171,000
567,000



. 2,722,000

  3.6%
Richard Desmond
Billionaire pornographer.
Alleged tax avoider
No endors-ment
Financial Times
2,200,000
(PwC Nov 2011)

285,000
subscribers

  2,485,000
Estimate
  3.3%

Pearson PLC
Public limited company
Tory/
LibDem
Daily Record & Sunday Mail
 1,326,000
451,000

  1,724,000
 
  2.3%
Trinity Mirror plc
Public limited company
Labour
TOTAL


75,314,000







Effective Owner(s)
%  of combined print and online
Lord Rothermere
28.4      
Rupert Murdoch
19.1      
Trinity Mirror plc
12.0      
Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev
11.5     
Scott Trust
  9.3    
David and Frederick Barclay
  8.7      
Richard Desmond
  7.7    
Pearson plc
  3.3      



Political Support at General Election 2015

Tory
 60.8%
Tory led coalition with Lib Dems
   6.6%
UKIP
   4.1%
Labour
  21.3%
SNP
    1.2%
No endorsement
    6.0%