Shamocracy Podcast Episode 2

In episode 2 of the Shamocracy Podcast we discuss the Guardian Live event with Yanis Varoufakis, Tax Credits, the Labour U-turn on the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, the junior doctor contract changes, the leaked email detailing Blair’s support for the Iraq war a year before the war began, China’s visit to the UK, and what the government is doing with feed in tariffs for renewable energy. We recorded this episode on the 24th October.

Links for things we discuss in the podcast:
Guardian Live event with Yanis Varoufakis
800,000 people ‘lifted’ out of fuel poverty – by redefining it
2010 George Osborne debates 2015 George Osborne on the Fiscal Responsibility Bill
Corporate Welfare
Blair and Bush’s ‘Deal in Blood’
Saudi Arabia sees the end of the oil age coming

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Featured image: Brookings Institute (via Flickr)

The Shamocracy Podcast Episode 1

Welcome to the Shamocracy podcast! In this first episode we discuss the Labour and Tory conferences, TPP, Panorama’s Westminster VIP paedophile scandal and Snowden episodes, climate change and the UK government’s disastrous energy policy.

We recorded this episode on the 9th October. We’re still getting up to speed, in future we’ll be quicker to publish. Things move quickly in politics!

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Our response to Panorama: The VIP Paedophile Ring: What’s The Truth?

Four years ago, the BBC buried its own Newsnight investigation into Sir Jimmy Savile. In the time since, it has pushed the BBC whistleblowers who helped to expose Savile out of its ranks, while at the same time apparently concealing the alleged deep-rooted cover-up that took place within the corporation regarding Britain’s most notorious sex offender. You’d think the Beeb would be wary, then, of drifting once again into the murky waters of child abuse and alleged institutional whitewashing. But on Tuesday night, by choosing to air a new episode of Panorama, the BBC not only waded back into those waters, it made active steps towards hampering a very serious, wide-ranging police inquiry.

Panorama’s The VIP Paedophile Ring: What’s The Truth?, presented by Daniel Foggo, did not get to the bottom of its own question. The irony in that subheading – What’s the Truth? – is that this was a show that deliberately omitted numerous key details. Ignoring the various accounts of ex-police officers and other credible witnesses, the show focused solely on the shakier aspects of the nationwide investigation into VIP child abuse, electing to paint the case against as much stronger than the one for. Foggo called Leon Brittan a “poor man”, while the programme itself depicted victims as liars, and hinted that new Labour deputy Tom Watson was no more than an opportunist using the scandal for political gains. There was an attempt to discredit Exaro, the investigative news organisation that has brought the VIP paedophile scandal to public – and police – attention. This was, to anyone in the know, obviously nothing more than a hatchet job.

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Labour has the ammunition to win in 2020 – will it use it this time?

Which news item did you hear about this week – the fact that the NHS has been brought to its knees so severely that a third of UK GPs expect to quit in the next five years, or the fact that Jeremy Corbyn had help writing his Labour conference speech? The fact that the World Economic Forum has placed our ‘big picture’ economy 108th in the world table, below Haiti and Zimbabwe, or the proposal that Corbyn is a threat to what is claimed to be the fastest growing economy in the developed world? The fact that David Cameron’s government has been doing deals with human rights violator Saudi Arabia in secret, or that Corbyn borrowed a tie for Monday’s conference? Most likely, you heard the second story over the first in each case.

It’s obviously no accident: as we’ve highlighted before, the UK press predominantly supports the Conservatives, meaning news that reflects badly on David Cameron’s party isn’t as widely reported as that which affects Jeremy Corbyn’s. Increasingly, people are turning away from the mainstream media to alternative sources for their news, but not quite enough for the public opinion-at-large to change. The Tories wouldn’t have returned to power in 2015 otherwise, and the Labour party wouldn’t now be going through a crisis in search of lost votes. Unfortunately for fans of impartial news coverage, the right-wing control the conversation in this country. On Monday, Jeremy Corbyn made reference to that in his conference speech. Simply pointing out the bias against himself and his party, though, isn’t enough.

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Why do people like Jeremy Corbyn? Because he’s telling a damned good story

Well, what a week it’s been. Britain’s shiny new bus pass-wielding Karl Marx has already stolen food from war veterans, spat in the face of the Queen (aka Victoria WHO?), destroyed the sanctity of PMQs by daring to ask questions and offended every woman in the universe by giving only 16 of them well-paid, respectable positions in his cabinet. And yet, somehow people aren’t baying for his head on a pike – why? Because anyone who doesn’t get that a sizeable part of Jeremy Corbyn’s appeal is his uniquely mild version of not giving a shit what you think, isn’t fully tuned in to the fact that the new Labour leader is telling the best damned story British politics has seen for decades.

Whether we like it or not, politics today (particularly large scale elections) is far less about board rooms or seminar rooms, and far more about living rooms. Without an engaged populace at the base of a campaign to fervently scream and flag wave for your corner, without people who truly believe in what you’re selling, you’re not a politician. You may be an intellectual, but not a politician.

How then do you engage people in a topic as frequently dry and tedious as political debate? The answer (unfortunately), for the most part, is you don’t. For we, the proud proletariat, are far more likely to engage our minds using straightforward narrative rather than prolonged discussion. Most of us prefer a sitcom to PM’s questions, a soap opera over a live party election hustings. That’s because these stories offer us a satisfyingly easy choice: one side is good, one side is bad. It’s clear, it’s simple, it’s easy to know who to root for. It’s not, say, Ed Miliband’s confusing stance on immigration.

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The opposite of what you’ve heard is true – anyone other than Jeremy Corbyn will spell Labour’s doom

Bookies’ favourite, frontrunner in the polls, backed even by voters in Scotland – it seems now nothing and no one is going to stop Jeremy Corbyn becoming the next Labour leader. Not that some haven’t tried: the right-wing media troika of The Sun, the Daily Mail and The Telegraph have done their bit by scraping the barrel to paint Corbyn as a heartless husband and anti-Semite, but mostly it’s been those within Corbyn’s own party delivering the worst blows. The leadership rivals have pitched in of course – Liz Kendall has called Corbyn a potential “disaster” for Labour, while Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper share the opinion that Corbyn would turn Labour into a mere “party of protest”. Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, meanwhile, have all conjured up their own apocalyptic visions of Labour under Corbyn.

By now, you’ve probably heard the ‘Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable’ line (which, as the man himself pointed out, can hardly be true when he’s been voted in eight times as an MP already) so many times you’ve lost count. We’ll see in 2020 (providing the current government makes it that far) how true this argument is, but right now the fact is that Corbyn is quite the opposite of ‘unelectable’. If social media chatter and sell-out crowds weren’t evidence enough, a recent poll suggests that, to the general public, Corbyn is actually considered the most electable of the Labour leader candidates. According to Survation, should he win the leadership bid, Corbyn would be the Labour head that supporters of rival parties would be most likely to vote for in the next election.

This should be music to the ears of Labour officials desperate to reclaim the votes they lost in 2015; with reports suggesting some ex-Labour voters may never return, the party needs all the help it can get. And, with Labour’s perceived fiscal irresponsibility proving to be one of the main reasons voters shied away from Labour in May, the chances of the party will not be helped by a leader that refuses to correct the false notion that Labour crashed the economy in 2008. While Corbyn has vehemently denied the Labour crash lie, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall have been apologetic, chastising their own party for something that never happened. Yvette Cooper has joined Corbyn in rejecting the Labour crash narrative, but sided with Burnham and Kendall in abstaining from voting against the Welfare Reform bill – designed to correct the alleged mistakes of the last Labour government, and opposed by Corbyn – all the same.

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What a difference a month makes

First they ignore you,
then they laugh at you,
then they fight you,
then you win.

– Mahatma Ghandi

On the 15th July, the Telegraph comment desk published an article encouraging its readers to register as Labour supporters and vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership election. The idea was that a Corbyn win would surely spell disaster for the Labour party, as the Overton window has shifted too far to the right to accommodate Corbyn’s socialist policies.

Well, what a difference a month makes: far from appearing confident that Corbyn would “destroy the Labour Party”, The Telegraph now appears to be encouraging tactical voting to knock Corbyn out of the Labour leadership battle. Ben Riley-Smith, Telegraph political correspondent, writes how the other candidates are calling for second and third preferences to be shared between them in an effort to out-maneuver Corbyn, while another Telegraph article reports on Tory calculations that Corbyn’s policies would cost British households £2,400 a year (which apparently is worse than the £24,000 per household the Tories have already given to the banks.)

Perhaps it is the recent polls which show cross-party support for Corbyn that have the Establishment trembling, and that the usual tactics of character assassination and mockery seem so petty they only serve make him stronger. Corbyn represents a movement the Establishment were perhaps blind to see coming, and one that they aren’t quite sure how to handle.

Update: The Torygraph has since published an editorial calling for Jeremy Corbyn to be stopped, with brilliant one liners like “He would end austerity in the public finances, which would put Britain well outside the mainstream of economic thinking.” We aren’t sure which mainstream the Telegraph is looking at, but it sure isn’t the one where two thirds of economists said austerity harmed the economy.


Featured image: Bob Peters (via Flickr)

How long will the Tories last?

The Tories have reached 100 days in full control of HM Government, and it’s been a pretty terrifying time for anyone who cares about the future of this country and our planet. Cameron and co have been implementing policies left, right and centre – many of which were never in the manifesto – and moving at breakneck speed to sell off the last of our public assets and strip us of privacy and democratic power. They’ve dropped any remaining “Green crap”, and handed tax breaks to dirty energy, all the while blaming everything that’s going wrong on the desperate migrants at Calais and people struggling on poverty wages and benefits.

With so much objectively bad policy being implemented, respected individuals and groups are beginning to speak up. While experts and academics are often hesitant to speak out against the government, there comes a point where enough is enough, when the ruling party stands to tear our country apart at the seams. The question now, as Cameron’s Conservatives mark 100 ignominious days in power, is how long this government can even last. Continue reading

Seeing the plight of Britain in Carol Ann Duffy’s Everyman

He spends the majority of the play with one shoe on and one shoe off. He is Everyman, eponymous character of the classic English morality play, updated by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, whose production is currently on show at the National Theatre. The main theme of the late 15th century text has always been overtly religious, a play about salvation in the eyes of God – literally in his eyes, in front of him, as Everyman tries to save himself and prove that his life merits an extension as God’s minion, Death, stalks behind. Along the way, various virtues (Kindred, Fellowship) appear, none of which can save the doomed Everyman from paying the ultimate price for a life of turpitude. Consider this angle the bare foot (well, Everyman wears a sock, but that’s no matter); the foot that Everyman will crush glass with as a demonstration of his worth; the foot that will forever be rooted in the play’s piety.

But it’s the other foot that interests me more, the one clad for the majority of the show in a fancy designer shoe. This is the foot, the aspect of this new adaptation, if you will, which has seen me seek out Shamocracy again, this time to ask them to put straight politics aside for an article and allow me to try and shine a light on one of the great art works of the 21st century, one which speaks to the site’s core principals by way of scathing attacks on late-capitalism, vanity, greed, materialism and the narcissistic nature of The Self.

The story of the play has remained the same since its inception: Everyman, in his final hours on Earth, must give God an account of what his life amounted to. This modern-day Everyman just happens to be a wealthy banker, though, a self-righteous prick, prat and cunt; a man who welcomes in his 40th birthday with a table-line (of Last Supper length) of coke while his eclectic friends cheer him on. He is a bastion of rich excess: a high-flying, city-slicking playboy; a London elite; a man interested in only his own pleasure, in only pleasuring himself, in only the own pleasure of The Self.

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Defenders of Ted Heath beware: you and I know nothing

Just over six months ago, I began researching an almost unbelievable-sounding story. I hadn’t heard anything about it prior to a January episode of The Trews, entitled ‘Is The Establishment Riddled With Paedophiles?’; but after reading the title alone, the curious journalist in me naturally wanted to dig. Still, I assumed reading up on this so-called Westminster child abuse scandal, or ‘VIP abuse scandal’ as it’s also known, wouldn’t lead to much. Surely the idea that powerful figures – a network of high-ranking politicians, civil servants and prominent celebrities – had been committing child abuse on an industrial scale and going unpunished for it over decades was just some Icke-ian conspiracy theory.

At the end of a long weekend of research, I emerged numbed with an article dense with allegations of rape, torture and murder of children by British establishment figures, the facts all drawn from reputable sources. This wasn’t investigative journalism – I simply trawled the internet and found articles from the Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail, Sky News, the Mirror, Telegraph, all detailing chilling tales from alleged victims and witnesses, from ex-police and crusading MPs. It was information that had been largely kept quiet, and that for the most part hadn’t been pushed as a big story.

Now it’s six months later, and it appears the mainstream media and public-at-large are finally taking notice of whatever you want to call this horrible affair. And the name that’s changed it all is undoubtedly Sir Edward Heath’s. During my research, I found Heath’s name kept coming up, even if none of the accusations could be verified. So, was I surprised when it was announced this week that Heath was included in the ongoing police investigation into child sex abuse, an investigation which includes 76 politicians both living and dead? No.

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