Who Watches The Watchmen?

The sad state of press bias

Most people form their views from the media. Unfortunately for the electorate, the media is bogged down with their own biases, making reliable information hard to come by. British papers exaggerate, demonise, and fan the flames of hot button issues. One common cry is the harsh way the media treats Mr Corbyn, with the biased BBC and Murdoch press working tirelessly to discredit him. As this blog has discussed in the past, Mr Corbyn isn’t entirely blameless in the failure to reach out to voters. As Professor Steven Fielding of the University of Nottingham pointed out in Left Foot Forward, a left-leaning political blog, the electoral strategy of Mr Corbyn is backwards.

That doesn’t make the claim of media bias untrue. Ed Miliband knew the feeling of the media’s sharp tongue well. There has almost always been more papers which support the Tories in circulation than support Labour. This was true in 1945, where just over half supported the Tories, and 35% of papers in circulation backed Labour. And it’s true today. There was a marked shift against Labour since 1974, it swung in favour of Labour under Tony Blair, and swung back against Labour in 2010 (only 15% of the papers in circulation backed Gordon Brown versus the 71% that backed David Cameron). Continue reading

School’s Out

Grammar schools aren’t the way to better schools.

Theresa May’s ascension to the highest office in the land has gotten many optimistic that new grammar schools are just on the horizon. Ms May, after all, backed plans to expand the grammar school within her own constituency, and supported parents having more choice of academically selective schools.

The debate surrounding the existence and expansion of grammar schools has been a hallmark of Education Secretaries since the 1960s, despite moves by governments to close these institutions. Lady Thatcher oversaw more grammar school closures than Labour’s Tony Crosland. Tony Blair’s best attempts to draw a line under the issue in 1998, with a compromise of allowing the maintenance of existing grammar schools but preventing the creation of new ones, has done little to silence the debate surrounding their reintroduction; a debate made all the more pressing by a grammar school in Tonbridge, Kent opening up an annexe ten miles away in October 2015. Many current grammar school are already expanding their intakes, and the decision at Tonbridge may encourage other satellites by existing grammar schools. The move may be a popular one. 51% of British adults support the idea of allowing new grammar schools to open, according to polling company ComRes. Continue reading

The Shadow Of Iraq

Chilcot finally sheds some light on the fateful events of March 18th, 2003.

In 1999, the Blair Doctrine was declared in front of a Chicago audience. If intervention could do more good than harm, nations should go to war. That speech was given in the context of the Kosovo conflict, but the ideas also underpinned Blair’s rationalisation for Iraq. As Jason Ralph has argued, Blair sincerely believes that the war, which was presented as an act of collective security, was a continuation of the internationalist doctrine he laid out.

Blair still claims going to war was the right thing to do. At an inquiry in 2010, he said when giving evidence:

It’s a decision. And the decision I had to take was, given Saddam’s history, given his use of chemical weapons, given the over one million people whose deaths he had caused, given 10 years of breaking UN resolutions, could we take the risk of this man reconstituting his weapons programmes or is that a risk that it would be irresponsible to take? The reason why it is so important … is because, today, we are going to be faced with exactly the same types of decisions.

He declared the same things post Chilcot. Its a view coloured by the post 9/11 world, as Mr Blair argued himself. It’s a view that persists in drone strikes on would be terrorists. The nightmares of children who grow up fearing blue sky in that section of the world is a small price to save lives tomorrow.

Of course, the costs of the Iraq war are much greater. Since Britain marched to war in 2003, with the press on Fleet Street beating the drum, body counts climb. Innocent blood was spilt on the sands of the region, and millions were forced to leave their homes. 179 British military personnel are dead. Iraq has been thrown into the abyss of instability. ISIS rose from the ashes of al-Qaeda in the American prison of Camp Bucca, Iraq. The removal of infrastructure in the Iraqi government, even in the face of sectarian violence, made a vacuum militias were all too happy to fill, in regions left behind. The war stoked the flames of new conflicts that would tear nations apart. When Mr Blair spoke to troops in 2003, he claimed it was a defining moment of our century. He was right about that.

Continue reading

Blinkered

Labour’s membership are skewing the party away from the views of its voters.

British politics is entering turbulent times. Nowhere can this turbulence be felt more strongly than within the Labour party. A string of resignations and a thumping vote of no confidence has sent the party into a tailspin. Mr Corbyn has dug in as leader and refuses to resign. Continue reading

Red Star Fading Over Labour

Labour’s leader is at loggerheads with the party because of Europe. Britain’s denial of an effective opposition will continue.

Nearly two weeks on, anyone expecting a respite from the impact of Brexit on British politics will be disappointed. While the Tories gear themselves up for a leadership contest, and the Lib Dems capitalise on the anger felt by the 48% who backed remain (gaining 15,000 members in the process), Labour chose this time to oust their leader, Jeremy Corbyn. A string of resignations hit his shadow cabinet. Then members he appointed to the the second one began to resign. Still, Mr Corbyn has dug himself in, telling the people of his party that if they have an issue they should challenge him openly to a leadership election. The coup against Mr Corbyn, meanwhile, is citing his lacklustre performance as reason they failed to gain a remain victory. Continue reading