Posts Tagged ‘Daily Mail’

Election 1997 20th anniversary: “Who the hell is Claire Curtis-Tansley?”

01/05/2017, 10:50:22 AM

In a series of pieces, Uncut writers look back at election day 1997. Atul Hatwal was a press officer at Millbank HQ and gives a personal take on the day.

By May 1st, party HQ at Millbank tower was almost empty. Most staff had been shipped out to key seats to knock doors in the last week.

The press desk was silent. The morning dragged by with a couple of international press  queries on timings but other than that I wiled away the time looking out of the window at the glorious blue sky and ringing people I knew in committee rooms in various key seats, bothering them for updates on whether the vote was coming out.

This wasn’t official business mind, just curiosity and something to do.

These were the days when pagers were modern and the internet was still called the information super-highway. The equivalent of Twitter was sitting, staring at Lotus notes (that’s what we had rather than Outlook) on a desktop screen, waiting for an e-mail to appear.

I was rostered to work the morning through to late afternoon; then some time-off before coming in for the evening shift at eight, on duty for results and at the party through to the morning.

The time-off wasn’t really time-off though – all staff working these sorts of shifts were expected to spend their downtime knocking up in a key seat.

Earlier in the week the whole key seat operation had been refocused with canvassers moved out to an entirely new list of seats with much higher Tory majorities.

At the time the decision was announced I had committed a minor heresy.

I asked one of the key seats team why we were shifting at such a late stage? What did we hope to achieve with 4 days of canvassing in seats that hadn’t been touched in years.


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Just because its in the Mail doesn’t make it wrong. Harman, Hewitt and Dromey need to provide some answers

24/02/2014, 05:02:08 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Another day, another front page from the Daily Mail on the links between the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) and the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) at a time when Harriet Harman, Patricia Hewitt and Jack Dromey held senior positions in the NCCL.

When the Daily Mail attacks Labour politicians there is a tendency to simply shrug the shoulders and move on. It’s in the nature of the beast, the Mail attacks the party because that’s what the Mail does. So what?

But that doesn’t mean everything it says is wrong.

In this case, the tone might be vituperative and the events almost faded into distant memory, but the Mail’s reports are backed up by hard evidence. Evidence that is difficult to ignore.

The most pointed allegations date from 1976 when Jack Dromey was a member of the NCCL executive and Patricia Hewitt was general secretary (Harriet Harman didn’t start working at the NCCL until 1978.)

In 1976 the NCCL made a submission to parliament on the Sexual Offences Act. In this paper are some extraordinary and inexplicable recommendations,

“(i) A person aged 14 or over should be legally capable of giving consent

(ii) A person aged under 10 should be presumed legally incapable of giving consent

(iii) Where both partners are aged 10 or over but under 14, a consenting sexual act should not be an offence.

(iv) Where one partner is aged 10 or over, the law should presume that consent was not present, unless it is demonstrated that it was genuinely given and the child understood the nature of the act.

(v) As the age of consent is arbitrary, we propose a an overlap of two years on either side of 14, so that, where the participants are 12 or over but under 16, a consenting sexual act will not be an offence.”

It might be that the NCCL’s parliamentary submissions were signed-off without recourse to the general secretary or the executive.

It might be that this particular paper was submitted without going through the proper processes, and Patricia Hewitt and Jack Dromey had no knowledge of it.

It might be any one of a range of reasons that could explain why they had nothing to do with the recommendations made in the NCCL’s parliamentary brief.


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Ed Miliband has been lucky a leader in the past few weeks, but he’d be wise not to push it

10/10/2013, 01:06:52 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The energy companies are giving Ed Miliband the fight he wanted. Scottish and Southern Energy’s 8% price hike plays right into his narrative.

The Daily Mail created another one: a battle which made Labour’s leader the defender of family and veterans. And coincidentally sucked media oxygen out of a Tory conference where Cameron and his ministers were already struggling to respond to Labour’s energy price freeze.

Recent weeks have added ballast to the Labour strategy of making Miliband a speaker of truth to power. The claim to have “stopped the rush to war,” however, over does it. This argument founders on the rocks of Labour’s conditional support for strikes on Syria.

The moulding of Miliband as justice champion finds a better fit when he references standing up to Rupert Murdoch. Whether, however, deliberations on the Leveson report will reach the outcome that Miliband initially insisted seems doubtful. And whether voters are still paying attention is as uncertain.

The energy firms and the Daily Mail have, therefore, been important contributors to the muscular Miliband that he is building. It might be thought lucky that the energy firms provided the angry response that he sought. And while no one would wish to see relatives pilloried, the Daily Mail brought about a situation in which Miliband was the voice of the mainstream, as everyone would defend their dad.


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In defence of porn (or at least, sensible public policy)

26/07/2013, 03:27:12 PM

by Sam Fowles

“Opting in” to porn is a band aid for a cancer. If our leaders truly care about the next generation they must forget about ineffectual pseudo censorship and tackle the underlying issues: a dearth of proper sex education and a public discourse that treats women as little more than wax models.

Conservatives are migrating home for the summer, or at least returning to political home ground. David Cameron’s “war on porn” is, from this perspective, a PR coup. Convincing his more swivel eyed party members, aghast at the imminent prospect of gay marriage, that he’s just as rooted in the social values of the 1950s as he is the economic values of the 1930s.

But, as so often happens in public policy, in all the cacophony of (male) politicians and (male) tabloid editors reminding us all that they don’t like porn, two important questions have been ignored: What is the problem we’re trying to solve? And: Will our proposed solution be effective?

Unfortunately it seems like the answers are respectively: “Not sure” and “probably not”. There is a problem with sexual morality in this country. One in three girls report inappropriate sexual touching at school, 750 000 children per year witness domestic violence and a third of teenage girls have experienced sexual violence by a partner. However, it’s unclear whether the PM actually wants to tackle this incredibly significant issue or whether he just thinks porn is a bit icky. If it is the latter then he’s about to perpetrate a fairly serious affront to civil liberties in the name of a morality that Elizabeth Bennet would find constricting. If it is the former then his proposed solution just won’t work.

In terms of the practical aspects of how internet filters will actually work, Alex Hern gives a thorough overview of the problems in the New Statesman. In essence, the generation that this measure aims to prevent accessing porn highly internet literate. It’s virtually inevitable that a way around the filters will spread throughout the country in a matter of days.

In addition a significant amount of porn is user generated. This has a more insidious social effect than the stereotypical badly lit, excruciatingly scripted, commercially made porn. While one may make women feel like they must objectify and demean themselves in order to satisfy or get attention from men and men feel like they must demean and objectify the women in their lives in order to “be a man”, the other is the manifestation of that actually happening. Yet an “opt in” porn filter will have absolutely no effect on the social media sites through which this content is shared. Unless David Cameron wants to ban Facebook, Tumblr and Snapchat (in which case he can probably wave a merry goodbye to the Generation Y vote) an “opt in” mechanism for is essentially useless.


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Labour history uncut: “We’re bunkered!” The red scare election of ‘24

20/05/2013, 07:17:07 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

It was October 8th 1924 and Ramsay Macdonald was in high spirits. He noted in his diary,

“So the chapter ends after a great day when at the close we stood higher in the House of Commons than ever…We had knocked them all over the ring and they were ashamed of themselves”

Or to put it another way, “Good news everybody – our government has fallen,”

Parliament had voted for an inquiry into whether Labour pressure had caused the prosecution of the communist Workers Weekly editor, John Campbell, to be dropped. Macdonald had taken this to be a motion of censure, chucked himself out of office and called a new election for the 29th October.

He needn’t have, but there had been an election in each of the previous 2 years, so there was a certain symmetry to it at least.

Readers began to suspect a little bias in Shoot! comic

After a brief government characterised by caution and a gradual approach to social reform, Labour got its reward – accusations of communism and a campaign dominated by a virulent red scare.

The Times declared Labour’s commitment to establish a national network of electricity generating stations “a project dear to Lenin.” So think about that next time you’re boiling a kettle, you commie.

Conservative leaflets warned parents to be on their guard against “plausible men and women who invite their children to join Sunday school and clubs.” This was because such activities were, needless to say, a cover for children “to be baptised into the communistic faith.” Presumably the implausible men and women were absolutely fine.


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Mad Uncle Rupert unsettles anti-Leveson lobby journalists

16/10/2012, 03:41:33 PM

Whispers reach Uncut of disquiet in the lobby on the right approach to oppose Leveson.

The overwhelming majority of parliamentary journalists view the Leveson report as something to be feared and distrusted. The span of opinion ranges from Leveson’s anticipated proposals presaging the end of civilisation to simply sounding the death knell for freedom.

But signs are emerging of a split between the vituperative stance adopted by senior management at some of the leading anti-Leveson titles and the footsoldiers of the lobby.

A recent Mail editorial calling for the Leveson to investigate the BBC, following the Saville revelations, was seen to have made the right point in the wrong way.

The opening paragraph laced into anti-hacking campaigners, Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan and Max Mosley, branding them “three harpies from hell”. One hack at another paper, sympathetic to the  Mail’s position said,

“It was way too over the top. The point is about judging the BBC and the press by the same standard, but personalising it like this makes it seem like they’ve got a vendetta and undermines the case. People will think its sour grapes. Dacre needs to button it.”

Then over the weekend, Rupert Murdoch tweeted “Told UK’s Cameron receiving scumbag celebrities pushing for even more privacy laws.” Labelling victims of hacking that News International has had to pay substantial sums, as “scumbags” was widely viewed as a major mistake.  One journo murmured,

“He’s basically the mad uncle, locked in the attic, crashing about. Now he’s got twitter, the window is open and everyone in the outside world can hear him. Noone needs that.”

Another scribbler worried about the effect that the almost inevitable divestment of News Corporation’s British stable of papers will have on Rupert Murdoch’s behaviour,

“It’s alright for him. He knows he won’t even have any British newspapers to bother about soon, he can spout off as much as he likes. It’s the rest of us that will have to live with the consequences.”

With journalists from at least one paper under strict instructions to not even tweet about Leveson before the report is published, the signs are that the anti-Leveson lobby is feeling jittery.

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Where next for Labour on hacking? Follow the money Ed

15/07/2011, 09:46:57 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The wreckage of Rupert Murdoch’s empire floats in the political waters. MPs and journalists view a landscape transformed. But as the initial storm surge from hacking slows, Labour faces some tough new political choices.

Where next in the campaign?

By common consent Ed Miliband has had a good war. Should he now step back and let the Levenson Inquiry go about its business? Or should he keep on keeping on?

Around Miliband, two camps have rapidly emerged.

On one side are those advocating a Glee strategy – don’t stop believing.

If News International can be brought to its knees, what about the Daily Mail?

The Daily Mail is unique in eliciting the same reaction from Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell as the left of the Labour party. For this group, it is a once in a generation opportunity to fix one of Labour’s most implacable enemies and help create genuinely more open political debate.

The voices on this side of the divide include Ed Miliband’s base – his early and most enthusiastic supporters, new politics think-tankers and those yearning to move on from the technocratic managerialism of New Labour.

Belief is intoxicating. They want the moral crusade to keep rolling. This is the Ed they voted for.

On the other side are the old media hands.  They have been out of their comfort zone for the past two weeks. Their world view involves dealing with the media to get Labour’s message across. War on News International was unthinkable ten days ago. War on the Daily Mail makes them feel ill.

Come what may, at some point, Labour is going to have to deal with the media.

The fall of News International might have taken them by surprise, but that doesn’t change the fundamentals of media management where some type of working relationship is essential, even with the enemy.

This group includes rafts of former advisers, members of the shadow cabinet and Labour-leaning journalists.  It’s no coincidence that this nexus was also the source of Miliband’s recent leadership crisis.

But in the debate on resolving this dilemna, something’s been missing.

Neither camp has provided a cogent analysis as to why News International’s position collapsed so quickly. (more…)

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Sally Bercow’s crime is being a woman

12/11/2010, 04:00:36 PM

by Simone Webb

Read this list of criticisms levelled at a woman: she expresses opinions too stridently, especially on twitter; she slept around and drank too much when she was younger; she should be “reined in” by her husband; and her voice is apparently too high pitched.

Although this could be a list from another century (apart from the line about twitter) it is actually from the twenty-first, and all aimed at one woman. She is a Labour activist, erstwhile member of Ed Balls’ leadership campaign team, and the victim of countless attacks from the right wing press. Oh, and she’s married to John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons.

People in the public eye will always receive a certain amount of vitriol, but Sally Bercow seems to get more than her fair share. The Daily Mail is the primary offender: Sally is “bizarre”, “swivel-eyed”, “confessed to one-night stands”, “[indulged] in casual sex”.

And that’s only the press: Conservative politicians, according to the Daily Mail, have asked John Bercow to “rein in” his wife, while Nadine Dorries MP has said that he ought to “tell her to pipe down”. (more…)

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It’s time to accept the dull & boring facts, says Tom Harris

16/08/2010, 04:30:01 PM

I blame Nixon. And Lew Grade.

Until Watergate, everyone believed their government was up to no good, but they could never quite prove it. You can hardly blame anyone for buying into the Kennedy conspiracy. And when JFK’s younger brother and Martin Luther King were felled by assassins’ bullets within months of each other in 1968, the public could be forgiven for believing they were bit players in a Hollywood movie. There was no doubting who the bad guys were.

Then Woodward and Bernstein had to go and publish evidence that the government were, after all, the bad guys. The cultural message was received loud and clear throughout the world. Official cover-ups have become such a central part of our entertainment industry that it is now simply not on to suggest that conspiracies are more fiction than fact.

 Then there was Capricorn One (you were wondering when Lew Grade would come into it, weren’t you?), and suddenly the media were giving publicity to brain-addled hippies who had proved that Apollo had been faked using evidence procured by going through Buzz Aldrin’s bins.

Today, the front page of the Daily Mail proclaims that just one in five people believe the official story that Dr David Kelly committed suicide. When I was studying journalism I was taught that when a dog bites a man, that’s not news. When most people believe that the official story is hiding foul play, I’m afraid I see that as a dog biting a man. People want to believe in conspiracies because in doing so, they make life much more interesting than it actually is. More like a movie, in fact. And who wouldn’t want to live in that glamorous world instead of this one?


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Ken Clarke’s not wrong on prisons; he just doesn’t mean it, says Nick Palmer

06/07/2010, 09:00:12 AM

The response to Ken Clarke’s recent speech has been bemusement all round, and no doubt the old stager likes it that way.

The right has always argued for locking more people up, led by the tabloids and urged on by David Cameron and others during the campaign. How pathetic that Labour only added 20,000 prison places in 13 years. How disgraceful that we were letting some prisoners out early because of overcrowding. Why not use prison ships? Army camps? Offshore islands?

Meanwhile, the left has long been uncomfortable with Labour’s record on this. How disgusting that we were pandering to the Daily Mail. How appalling that we had the highest imprisonment rate in Europe. Why weren’t we rehabilitating prisoners instead of having them fester in jails? (more…)

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