Spartacus News Online

George Osborne has earned more in two months than the average Briton does in 12 years.

Monday, 28th November, 2016

John Simkin

On 13 July 2016, following Theresa May's appointment as Prime Minister, George Osborne was sacked and replaced as Chancellor by Philip Hammond. I doubt if he is too upset to be out of a job that only paid £141,000-a-year.

Since leaving his post he has made a considerable amount of money speaking to his banker friends. Osborne made £70,000 speaking to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association in Washington, as well as nearly £30,000 for a speech at Stanford University.

While in America JP Morgan paid him £81,000 and £61,000 for two speeches in New York. Then three weeks ago Osborne was paid £80,000 by Palmex Derivatives. He has earned more in two months than the average Briton does in 12 years.

This means that he has received £320,000 in the last two months alone. Pro rata that’s nearly £2 million a year, £40,000-a-week, over £5,500-a-day.

D-Day landings put at threat because a spy's wife disliked British food

Classified files released today reveals that one of Britain's most important spies, Juan Pujol García, a Spaniard who was working for MI6 under the codename Garbo, came close to being betrayed to the Germans by his wife, because she hated the English weather and was disgusted by wartime British food.

During the Spanish Civil War he Pujol developed a hatred of fascism and in January 1941, he offered his services to the British Embassy in Madrid. However, his offer was rejected because of suspicions that he was a German agent.

Juan Pujol now went to see Wilhelm Leissner, of Abwehr. After "characteristically lengthy and involved negotiations" he was given the codename "Arabel" and sent to London "with a questionnaire, secret ink, money, cover addresses, and the German blessing." Fearing arrest if he went to England, he decided to go to Lisbon instead and using information from tourist guides, reference books, and British newspapers, which were widely available in neutral Portugal, began fabricating intelligence reports about the British Isles. Leissner was convinced by this information and he became a trusted agent.

Pujol once again approached the British authorities about working as a spy against Nazi Germany. By this time "Arabel" was well known to British intelligence through Ultra intercepts, and extensive efforts had extensive efforts had been made to track him down. "When MI5 realised that he had never set foot in England and had created a bogus network from scratch, it was an opportunity too good to miss... By January of 1944 he had sent some 400 secret letters to Germany and transmitted nearly 4,000 secret letters to Germany and transmitted nearly 4,000 messages by radio. The grateful Germans believed he had a network of fourteen sub-agents and eleven well-placed contacts, including one in the Ministry of Information, eventually awarded him the Iron Cross and paid him around £31,000 (more than £800,000 at today's values) to maintain his network."

John Masterman was the creator of the Double-Cross System (XX-Committee), an operation that attempted to turn "German agents against their masters and persuaded them to cooperate in sending false information back to Berlin." He was already aware of Pujol's activities and was amazed that he was "the sole inventor and begetter of this convoy" of messages and had been "responsible for a great expenditure of useless labour on the part of the enemy" and that he would "be a worthy collaborator than an unconscious competitor".

Juan Pujol was brought to London in April 1942 where he met Desmond Bristow and Tomás Harris, two agents involved in the Double-Cross System. Bristow later recalled: "Juan, a short man with slicked-back dark hair revealing a high forehead, and warm brown eyes with a slight mischievous glint, smiled as I shook his hand. The room was sparsely furnished, with just a table and four chairs set against a window overlooking the small back garden of the semi-detached house. I spent the next four hours translating the messages he had sent to the Abwehr into English. In the afternoon I started the preliminary debriefing. As the representative of MI6, it was my task for the next eight days to interrogate this enigmatic Catalan."

Bristow of Section V of MI6, the Iberian sector of the Counter-Intelligence Department told his boss, Kim Philby, that he was convinced that Pujol was genuine in his desire to work as a double agent for the British. Pujol was given the codename GARBO (because he was the greatest actor that MI6 had encountered). Tomás Harris became his case-officer. Christopher Andrew, the author of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) has argued: "The most inventive disinformation came from the Spanish double agent GARBO and his full-time case officer, Tomás Harris... who formed one of the most creative and successful agent-case-officer partnerships in MI5 history."

Pujol posed as the employee of a large fruit and vegetable importer who did much business with Spain and Portugal from Covent Garden market. "He spent seven days a week, averaging six to eight hours a day, drafting secret letters." His first project was Operation Torch, which was the first major Allied offensive of the war invasion of the Second World War. Planning the invasion of French North Africa began in July 1942. Pujol was one of eight double agents were used to pass disinformation to the enemy.

As MI5 wanted to use GARBO in later operations, it was agreed that he should send accurate details of the planned Allied invasion. However, it was arranged for these reports to be delayed in the post. They did not reach GARBO's case-officer until 7th November, a a few hours before the Allied landings and after the invasion force had already been spotted by the Germans. It did not occur to the Abwehr to blame GARBO for the delay or to suspect the involvement of British intelligence. His German case-officer told him: "Your last reports are all magnificent, but we are very sorry they arrived late."

By 1943 GARBO had convinced Abwehr that he had a network of highly productive sub-agents. It was claimed that the twenty-eight agents, were mostly in the UK but some of them were as far afield as North America and Ceylon. His imaginary list of agents included a soldier in the 9th Armoured Division, a NAAFI waiter, a Welsh fascist, a censor and a secretary in the Cabinet Office." The Germans believed that Pujol was their most successful agent. "Up to March 1943, when he acquired a wireless, all his reports were conveyed by secret writing in letters notionally carried by an airline employee working on the London-Lisbon run, but actually organised entirely by SIS (MI6), as was the transmission of his German case-officer's replies."

Juan Pujol
Juan Pujol García

Duff Cooper reported to Winston Churchill that "GARBO works on average from six to eight hours a day - drafting secret letters, enciphering, composing cover texts, writing them and planning for the future. Fortunately he has a facile and lurid style, great ingenuity and a passionate and quixotic zeal for his task." (14) As a result of receiving this information Churchill apparently said: "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."

Tomás Harris and GARBO played an important role in the deception plans for the D-Day landings. The key aims of the deception were: "(a) To induce the German Command to believe that the main assault and follow up will be in or east of the Pas de Calais area, thereby encouraging the enemy to maintain or increase the strength of his air and ground forces and his fortifications there at the expense of other areas, particularly of the Caen area in Normandy. (b) To keep the enemy in doubt as to the date and time of the actual assault. (c) During and after the main assault, to contain the largest possible German land and air forces in or east of the Pas de Calais for at least fourteen days."

Harris devised a plan of action for Pujol. He was to inform the Germans that the opening phase of the invasion was under way as the airborne landings started, and four hours before the seaborne landings began. "This, the XX-Committee reasoned, would be too later for the Germans to do anything to do anything to frustrate the attack, but would confirm that GARBO remained alert, active, and well-placed to obtain critically important intelligence."

This plan was put at risk when Pujol began to have problems with his wife, Araceli Gonzalez de Pujol. The couple and their infant son had been placed in an MI5 safe house, where Gonzalez became desperately lonely and disliked life in London. She complained about the weather and the food, arguing that there was “too many potatoes, not enough fish”. The declassified MI5 files indicates that she threatened to expose his work so that she could return to Spain.

Tomás Harris, devised a plan to keep her quiet. She was tricked into believing he had been imprisoned as a consequence of her threats, and was taken to visit him at MI5’s wartime interrogation centre, Camp 020. Eventually, she signed a statement saying she would stop agitating for permission to return to Spain and never again threaten to expose her husband’s role as a double agent.

Juan Pujol García now returned to the deception plans for the D-Day landings. Christopher Andrew has explained how the strategy worked: "During the first six months of 1944, working with Tomás Harris, he (GARBO) sent more than 500 messages to the Abwehr station in Madrid, which as German intercepts revealed, passed them to Berlin, many marked 'Urgent'... The final act in the pre-D-Day deception was entrusted, appropriately, to its greatest practitioners, GARBO and Tomás Harris".

As a result of his role in the success of the D-Day landings, Juan Pujol was awarded the OBE on 25th November 1944. Pujol feared that Nazis would seek revenge after the war. With the help of MI5, Pujol moved to Angola and faked his death from malaria in 1949. He then moved to Lagunillas, Venezuela, where he ran a bookstore and gift shop. In May 1984 the author, Nigel West, based on information provided by Tomás Harris, found him and after extensive interviews published a book about his experiences. Juan Pujol García died in Caracas on 10th October 1988. (28th September, 2016)

Reg Race and his campaign to oust Jeremy Corbyn

Spinwatch has pointed out two days after the EU Referendum result someone registered anonymously a new website, Saving Labour. The following day Hilary Benn resigned and this was soon followed by 63 fellow frontbench MPs. When the website eventually went live it stated on its home page that: "After the referendum, Britain is at a crossroads. Britain and Labour needs new, strong leadership for the months ahead. Tens of thousands of people have joined our campaign calling on Jeremy Corbyn to stand down and 81% of Labour MPs say he should go, but he has refused. There is now a leadership contest, so your immediate action will make a difference. Join our campaign to save Labour and save democracy."

The BBC reported that over the next few months the website became a key factor in trying to oust Jeremy Corbyn by "placing adverts, collecting data and imploring people to vote against him in Labour's leadership election.... Saving Labour has been responsible for recruiting more than 120,000 registered supporters and affiliated union members to vote against Mr Corbyn using online advertising... It has amassed details of 60,000 people on its own database in just two months".

After an investigation by the Daily Mirror, it was revealed that it was Reg Race who was the man behind the website. This was indeed a name from the past. I knew Race from his activities as a left-wing MP in the early 1980s when he was a close associate of Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn. Race was considered to be one of the "philosophers" of the left and while at the University of Kent he had completed a PhD on the reasons why the Labour Party had betrayed its socialist principles. Based on the ideas expressed in Ralph Miliband's book, Parliamentary Socialism: A Study of the Politics of Labour (1961), the title of his thesis was "Political agents and the development of bureaucraticisation and deradicalisation in the British Labour Party".

Reg Race was elected to the House of Commons in 1979. While in Parliament he criticised Conservative MPs for profiting by the sell-off of the state-owned energy company Amersham International, alleging that one Tory had made a "killing" from the deal. Race but lost his seat when his Wood Green constituency was abolished in 1983. He attempted to become the candidate for Sedgefield but was defeated by a young politician called Tony Blair.

In 1990 Race joined Jeremy Corbyn and Tony Benn in forming a group called Labour Party Socialists. However, over the next few years he abandoned his socialist beliefs. In 2001 Reg Race replaced Benn as the Labour Party candidate for Chesterfield. However, according to The Guardian he was no longer a left-wing firebrand but a "Blairite poodle". Unfortunately for Race, he lost the seat to the Liberal Democrat Paul Holmes.

It was at this point that he decided that he would abandon his political career and go into business. Along with his new wife, Amanda Moore, he established a company called Quality Health. The plan was to take advantage of the changes that were taking place in the National Health Service. Whereas previous Tory governments had privatised, New Labour had a policy of outsourcing.

Alan Milburn, the Secretary of State for Health, was very interested in this new policy. As with Race he held hard-left views as a young man but when he entered Parliament in 1992 he was immediately identified as one of the Labour party's modernisers. One of his early innovations was to advise health trusts to hire to conduct patient and staff surveys. In 2003 the Labour government made the annual surveys compulsory. Quality Health became one of a select band of "approved contractors" to the NHS.

Over the next few years Quality Health won contracts with 320 of the 487 NHS trusts across the UK. The company charges about £4,200 to complete each annual survey. Reg Race has proudly boasted that his company became "the largest provider of patient and staff surveys in the NHS". Quality Health also has contracts for "service reviews" of the work carried out by health trusts, as well as the National Patient Surveys.

Milburn left the post in June 2003 but those who followed him, John Reid (June, 2003 - May, 2005) and Patricia Hewitt (May 2005 - June 2007) continued with this policy. All three of them eventually left Parliament to take jobs with companies that benefited from these "outsourcing" policies. Milburn became adviser to private equity group Bridgepoint Capital. It was behind a number of health companies, including Alliance Medical, that were cashing in on these changes. Reid became a £50,000 a year consultant to G4S (in 1992, when in opposition, he condemned Norman Fowler, the former Tory Secretary State of Health for joining the G4S board). Hewitt found her experience valued by three companies that were winning business in the now opened-up health market: Alliance Boots, BT - which received billions of pounds from the NHS IT programme - and Cinven, the private equity group that bought Bupa's hospital.

According to an article published in the Daily Telegraph in 2007 Race "amassed a fortune working as a private contractor for the National Health Service" and has established a palatial home at Sutton Manor in the Derbyshire village of Sutton Scarsdale, near Chesterfield". Race also became "a substantial Labour Party donor".

Alan Johnson became Secretary of Health in June 2007. Spinwatch reported that "Reg Race faced controversy in 2008 when it emerged that he had a private meeting at the Department of Health with the then Secretary of State, Alan Johnson, having made the largest single donation, some £5,000, to Johnson's deputy leadership campaign the previous year".

In an interview he gave to the BBC, Reg Race was asked why he had attempted to keep his ownership of the website secret: "There's a group of us and lots of us don't want to be out there in terms of the media because they're in relatively vulnerable positions." Maybe, like Race, they have also benefited from the the legislation passed by the Tony Blair government and fears the kind of manifesto that might be favoured by a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn. Is it possible that Corbyn might end the system of NHS outsourcing that has enabled Race to make his fortune. (4th September, 2016)

Peterloo Massacre and Press Censorship

One hundred and ninety years ago today, John Tyas of The Times, was sent to report on a protest meeting held by the Manchester Patriotic Union Society. The main objective of this new organisation was to obtain parliamentary reform and it was decided to invite several leading campaigners to speak at a public meeting at St. Peter's Field in Manchester. on 16th August, 1819. The men were told that this was to be "a meeting of the county of Lancashire, than of Manchester alone. Tyas was the only reporter from a national newspaper at the meeting, and what he saw resulted in him being arrested and imprisoned. However, the government attempt by the government to suppress news of the event, ended in failure and was a major factor in the establishment of the Manchester Guardian.

The local magistrates were concerned that such a substantial gathering of reformers might end in a riot. The magistrates therefore decided to arrange for a large number of soldiers to be in Manchester on the day of the meeting. This included four squadrons of cavalry of the 15th Hussars (600 men), several hundred infantrymen, the Cheshire Yeomanry Cavalry (400 men), a detachment of the Royal Horse Artillery and two six-pounder guns and the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry (120 men) and all Manchester's special constables (400 men).

At about 11.00 a.m. on 16th August, 1819 William Hulton, the chairman, and nine other magistrates met at Mr. Buxton's house in Mount Street that overlooked St. Peter's Field. Although there was no trouble the magistrates became concerned by the growing size of the crowd. Estimations concerning the size of the crowd vary but Hulton came to the conclusion that there were at least 50,000 people in St. Peter's Field at midday. Hulton therefore took the decision to send Edward Clayton, the Boroughreeve and the special constables to clear a path through the crowd. The 400 special constables were therefore ordered to form two continuous lines between the hustings where the speeches were to take place, and Mr. Buxton's house where the magistrates were staying.

Print of the Peterloo Massacre published by Richard Carlile
Print of the Peterloo Massacre published by Richard Carlile

The main speakers at the meeting arrived at 1.20 p.m. This included Henry 'Orator' Hunt, Richard Carlile, John Knight, Joseph Johnson and Mary Fildes. Several of the newspaper reporters, including John Tyas (The Times), Edward Baines (Leeds Mercury), John Smith (Liverpool Mercury) and John Saxton (The Manchester Observer), joined the speakers on the hustings.

At 1.30 p.m. the magistrates came to the conclusion that "the town was in great danger". William Hulton therefore decided to instruct Joseph Nadin, Deputy Constable of Manchester, to arrest Henry Hunt and the other leaders of the demonstration. Nadin replied that this could not be done without the help of the military. Hulton then wrote two letters and sent them to Lieutenant Colonel L'Estrange, the commander of the military forces in Manchester and Major Thomas Trafford, the commander of the Manchester & Salford Yeomanry.

Major Trafford, who was positioned only a few yards away at Pickford's Yard, was the first to receive the order to arrest the men. Major Trafford chose Captain Hugh Birley, his second-in-command, to carry out the order. Local eyewitnesses claimed that most of the sixty men who Birley led into St. Peter's Field were drunk. Birley later insisted that the troop's erratic behaviour was caused by the horses being afraid of the crowd.

The Manchester & Salford Yeomanry entered St. Peter's Field along the path cleared by the special constables. As the yeomanry moved closer to the hustings, members of the crowd began to link arms to stop them arresting Henry Hunt and the other leaders. Others attempted to close the pathway that had been created by the special constables. Some of the yeomanry now began to use their sabres to cut their way through the crowd.

Print of St. Peter's Massacre
Print of St. Peter's Massacre

When Captain Hugh Birley and his men reached the hustings they arrested Henry Hunt, John Knight, Joseph Johnson, George Swift, John Saxton, John Tyas, John Moorhouse and Robert Wild. As well as the speakers and the organisers of the meeting, Birley also arrested the newspaper reporters on the hustings.

Lieutenant Colonel L'Estrange reported to William Hulton at 1.50 p.m. When he asked Hulton what was happening he replied: "Good God, Sir, don't you see they are attacking the Yeomanry? Disperse them." L'Estrange now ordered Lieutenant Jolliffe and the 15th Hussars to rescue the Manchester & Salford Yeomanry. By 2.00 p.m. the soldiers had cleared most of the crowd from St. Peter's Field. In the process, 18 people were killed and about 500, including 100 women, were wounded.

Richard Carlile managed to avoid being arrested and after being hidden by local radicals, he took the first mail coach to London. The following day placards for Sherwin's Political Register began appearing in London with the words: "Horrid Massacres at Manchester". A full report of the meeting appeared in the next edition of the newspaper. The authorities responded by raiding Carlile's shop in Fleet Street and confiscating his complete stock of newspapers and pamphlets.

Poster entitled Manchester Heroes was published in 1819
Poster entitled Manchester Heroes was published in 1819

Moderate reformers in Manchester were appalled by the decisions of the magistrates and the behaviour of the soldiers. Several of them wrote accounts of what they had witnessed. Archibald Prentice sent his report to several London newspapers. When John Edward Taylor discovered that John Tyas of The Times, had been arrested and imprisoned, he feared that this was an attempt by the government to suppress news of the event. Taylor therefore sent his report to Thomas Barnes, the editor of The Times. The article that was highly critical of the magistrates and the yeomanry was published two days later.

Tyas was eventually released from prison. The Times mounted a campaign against the action of the magistrates at St. Peter's Field. In one editorial the newspaper told its readers "a hundred of the King's unarmed subjects have been sabred by a body of cavalry in the streets of a town of which most of them were inhabitants, and in the presence of those Magistrates whose sworn duty it is to protect and preserve the life of the meanest Englishmen." As these comments came from an establishment newspaper, the authorities found this criticism particularly damaging.

Other journalists at the meeting were not treated as well as Tyas. Richard Carlile wrote an article on the Peterloo Massacre in the next edition of The Republican. Carlile not only described how the military had charged the crowd but also criticised the government for its role in the incident. Under the seditious libel laws, it was offence to publish material that might encourage people to hate the government. The authorities also disapproved of Carlile publishing books by Tom Paine, including Age of Reason, a book that was extremely critical of the Church of England. In October 1819, Carlile was found guilty of blasphemy and seditious libel and was sentenced to three years in Dorchester Gaol.

Carlile was also fined £1,500 and when he refused to pay, his Fleet Street offices were raided and his stock was confiscated. Carlile was determined not to be silenced. While he was in prison he continued to write material for The Republican, which was now being published by his wife. Due to the publicity created by Carlile's trial, the circulation of The Republican increased dramatically and was now outselling pro-government newspapers such as The Times.

James Wroe was at the meeting and he described the attack on the crowd in the next edition of the Manchester Observer. Wroe is believed to be the first person to describe the incident as the Peterloo Massacre. Wroe also produced a series of pamphlets entitled The Peterloo Massacre: A Faithful Narrative of the Events. The pamphlets, which appeared for fourteen consecutive weeks from 28th August, price twopence, had a large circulation, and played an important role in the propaganda war against the authorities. The government wanted revenge and Wroe was arrested and charged with producing a seditious publication. He was found guilty and sentenced to twelve months in prison, plus a £100 fine.

After the Peterloo Massacre Viscount Sidmouth, the Home Secretary, sent a letter of congratulations to the Manchester magistrates for the action they had taken. Lord Liverpool and his Tory government responded to the Peterloo Massace by introducing new legislation. When Parliament reassembled on 23rd November, 1819, Lord Sidmouth, the government 's Home Secretary, announced details of what later became known as the Six Acts.

By the 30th December, 1819, Parliament had debated and passed six measures that it hoped would suppress the reform movement. This included the Seditious Meetings Prevention Act - a measure which prohibited the holding of public meetings of more than fifty people without the consent of a sheriff or magistrate.

The trial of the organisers of the St. Peter's Field meeting took place in York between 16th and 27th March, 1820. The men were charged with "assembling with unlawful banners at an unlawful meeting for the purpose of exciting discontent". Henry Hunt was found guilty and was sent to Ilchester Gaol for two years and six months. Joseph Johnson, Samuel Bamford and Joseph Healey were each sentenced to one year in Lincoln Prison.

John Edward Taylor was a successful businessman who was radicalized by the Peterloo Massacre. Taylor felt that the newspapers did not accurately record the outrage that the people felt about what happened at St. Peter's Fields. Taylor's political friends agreed and it was decided to form their own newspaper. Eleven men, all involved in the textile industry, raised £1,050 for the venture. It was decided to call the newspaper the Manchester Guardian. A prospectus was published which explained the aims and objectives of the proposed newspaper: "It will zealously enforce the principles of civil and religious Liberty, it will warmly advocate the cause of Reform; it will endeavour to assist in the diffusion of just principles of Political Economy."

The first four-page edition appeared on Saturday 5th May, 1821 and cost 7d. Of this sum, 4d was a tax imposed by the government. The Manchester Guardian, like other newspapers at the time, also had to pay a duty of 3d a lb. on paper and three shillings and sixpence on every advertisement that was included. These taxes severely restricted the number of people who could afford to buy newspapers.

Two aspects of the Six Acts was to prevent the publication of radical newspapers. The Basphemous and Seditious Libels Act was a measure which provided much stronger punishments, including banishment for publications judged to be blaspemous or sedtious. The Newspaper and Stamp Duties Act was an attempt to subjected certain radical publications which had previously avoided stamp duty by publishing opinion and not news, to such duty.

A Stamp Tax was first imposed on British newspapers in 1712. The tax was gradually increased until in 1815 it had reached 4d. a copy. As few people could afford to pay 6d. or 7d. for a newspaper, the tax restricted the circulation of most of these journals to people with fairly high incomes. During this period most working people were earning less than 10 shillings a week and this therefore severely reduced the number of people who could afford to buy radical newspapers. Campaigners against the stamp tax such as William Cobbett and Leigh Hunt described it as a "tax on knowledge".

Chartists such as Henry Hetherington, James Watson, John Cleave, George Julian Harney and James O'Brien joined Richard Carlile in the fight against stamp duty. As these radical publishers refused to pay stamp-duty on their newspapers, this resulted in fines and periods of imprisonment. In 1835 the two leading unstamped radical newspapers, the Poor Man's Guardian, and The Cleave's Police Gazette, were selling more copies in a day than The Times sold all week. It was estimated at the time that the circulation of leading six unstamped newspapers had now reached 200,000.

In the House of Commons, John Roebuck led the campaign against taxes on newspapers. In 1836 the campaigners had their first success when the 4d. tax on newspapers was reduced to 1d. The same year Parliament agreed to remove the tax on pamphlets. The campaigned continued and in 1849 a group of publishers led by Henry Hetherington formed the Newspaper Stamp Abolition Committee. However, it was not until 1855 that the newspaper stamp duty was finally abolished. (16th August, 2016)

Thomas Paine was right about the House of Lords

Tom Paine stated in his book, The Rights of Man (1791): "What is government more than the management of the affairs of a Nation? It is not, and from its nature cannot be, the property of any particular man or family, but the whole community. The romantic and barbarous distinction of men into Kings and subjects, though it may suit the condition of courtiers, cannot that of citizens."

The abolition of the House of Lords has been advocated by the left ever since Paine wrote his book over 220 years ago. It became a major issue in 1884 when the un-elected chamber blocked moves by William Gladstone and his Liberal government to give the vote to all adult males. After lengthy negotiations Gladstone eventually accepted changes and the 1884 Reform Act was passed by the lords. However, this legislation meant that all women and 40% of adult men were still without the vote.

All the early left-wing organizations, the Social Democratic Federation, the Fabian Society, and the Independent Labour Party, argued for an elected second-chamber. On 27th February 1900, representatives of all the socialist groups in Britain formed the Labour Party under the leadership of Keir Hardie. Until he died fifteen years later, Hardie argued for the removal of an institution that he saw as a "betrayal of the core democratic principle that those who make the laws of the land should be elected by those who must obey those laws".

The Liberal Party also became hostile to the House of Lords after it attempted to block reforms initiated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George. This included the People's Budget, which imposed higher taxes on unearned income, and the Old Age Pensions Act. Lloyd George reacted by touring the country making speeches in working-class areas on behalf of the budget and portraying the nobility as men who were using their privileged position to stop the poor from receiving their old age pensions. After a long struggle with the Lords the government finally got his budget through parliament.

With the House of Lords extremely unpopular with the British people, the Liberal government decided to take action to reduce its powers. The 1911 Parliament Act drastically cut the powers of the Lords. They were no longer allowed to prevent the passage of "money bills" and it also restricted their ability to delay other legislation to three sessions of parliament.

The Labour Party has always said it wants to abolish the Lords but never acted upon it. Martin Pugh, the author of Speak for Britain: A New History of the Labour Party (2011) points out: "In 1922 the party had almost no representation in the House of Lords and was officially committed to abolishing the hereditary peerage." Arthur Ponsonby introduced a bill to abolish hereditary titles altogether but there were already signs of compromise.

Labour Party poster (1910)
Labour Party poster (1910)

"While Tory propaganda strove to depict Labour as subversive and anti-Establishment, leading politicians were busy defusing the charge." Leading Labour politicians such as Ramsay MacDonald, John R. Clynes, George Barnes, Jimmy Thomas, Philip Snowden and Arthur Henderson attended royal weddings and Buckingham Palace garden parties. The idea of abolishing the House of Lords was quietly dropped and after the 1929 General Election MacDonald appointed a member of the upper chamber, Earl De La Warr, to his government, even though he admitted he was not a party member.

Attempts were made to reintroduce this policy. At the 1933 Labour Party Conference Stafford Cripps advocated that the next Labour government would immediately abolish the House of Lords, and pass an Emergency Act "to take over or regulate the financial machine, and put into force any measure that the situation may require for the immediate control or socialisation of industry and for safeguarding the supply of food and other necessaries." Cripps pointed out that it was completely unacceptable to continue a system that allows the rich to veto laws that they do not like. However, this important motion was never voted on.

Clement Attlee became the new leader of the Labour Party in 1935 and showed no interest in abolishing the House of Lords. Harold Laski continued to denounce it as "an indefensible anarchronism" and that its existence was not "compatible with the objective of Socialism". Attlee was unimpressed with this argument and when he became prime minister following the 1945 General Election he created no fewer than eighty-two hereditary peerages. He symbolised Labour's new stance by accepting an earldom when he retired in 1955.

In the 1977 Labour Party Conference decided by 6,248,000 votes to 91,000 to include the abolition of the House of Lords in Labour's election manifesto. Constitutionally any conference resolution that received two-thirds of the vote had to be included in the manifesto. James Callaghan, ignored the constitution and the abolition of the Lords did not go into the 1979 manifesto. On his retirement in 1987, he was elevated to the House of Lords as Baron Callaghan.

In March, 1994, Tony Blair was introduced to Michael Levy at a dinner party at the Israeli embassy in London by diplomat Gideon Meir. Levy was a retired businessman who now spent his time raising money for Jewish pressure-groups. Levy has been described by The Jerusalem Post as "undoubtedly the notional leader of British Jewry".

After this meeting, Levy acquired a new job, raising money for Blair. According to Robin Ramsay, the author of The Rise of New Labour, Levy raised over £7 million for Blair. In an article by John Lloyd published in the New Statesman on 27th February, 1998, the main suppliers of this money included Sir Emmanuel Kaye, a millionaire British industrialist and former funder of the Conservative Party, Sir Trevor Chin (Lex Garages and RAC), Maurice Hatter (IMO Precision Group) Alexander Bernstein (Granada Group) and Robert Gavron (Octopus Publishing).

In April, 1994, John Smith died and Blair won the leadership contest. With Levy’s money, Blair appointed Jonathan Powell as his Chief of Staff. A retired diplomat, Powell was not a member of the Labour Party. In fact, his brother, Charles Powell, was a leading advisor to Margaret Thatcher when she was in government. Alastair Campbell was the other man brought into his private office with Levy’s money. Powell and Campbell were later to become key figures in the later invasion of Iraq. It is of course a pure coincidence that this decision reflected the thinking of Israel’s government.

During his first term of office, Blair created 203 life peers. Many of these were people who had provided funds for Blair. This included his chief fundraiser, Baron Levy, of Mill Hill. He made his maiden speech on 3rd December 1997, but since then he has not spoken in a debate at the House of Lords. Blair was accused in 1999 by William Hague, the Leader of the Conservative Party and the Leader of the Opposition, of replacing the House of Lords with a "house of cronies." However, it was not until 2005 that Blair's appointments gave the Labour Party a majority in the House of Lords. It is claimed that by the time he resigned in 2007, Blair's Labour Party received over £100 million from Lord Levy and his friends.

Clement Attlee defended the House of Lords by describing it as being "like a glass of champagne that has stood for five days". Attlee was making the point that the second chamber was full of exhausted old politicians. However, Blair has changed the institution into one of the main methods of rewarding party donors.

Despite backing reform of the House of Lords, David Cameron nominated 245 peers during his time in office, working out at an average of 39 a year. New analysis by academics shows that Cameron created lifetime peerages at a quicker rate than any prime minister in history, including Tony Blair, who only managed an average of 38 a year.

In his resignation list Cameron handed out honours to 48 former colleagues and allies, as well as naming 13 new Tory peers. Ian Taylor, a major Tory donor and president and CEO of energy trader Vitol, was on the original list, but was removed after Private Eye revealed that he had strong links with Saddam Hussein. In 2007 his company pleaded guilty to grand larceny in New York over payment of $13m in kickbacks to officials in Hussein's government. In February 2016 Vitol was fined €300,000 by a Paris court over linked Iraq corruption charges.

In 2013 Taylor announced a major liquid natural gas deal with Rosneft, the Russian company run by Igor Sechin, a key ally of Vladimir Putin and considered to be the second most powerful person in Russia. Vitrol also has extensive deals with Russian gas giant Gazprom. It is believed that Taylor has been using his close relationship with Cameron to campaign against the idea that sanctions should be imposed on Russia.

One name that did remain on the list was Andrew Fraser, the Conservative party treasurer. However, his real name is Alexander Macdonell Fraser, who has given more than £2.5m the the party. The former banker is director at various hedge and investment funds. Fraser is a member of Cameron’s “leader’s group” – an elite club of businessmen who had special access to the then prime minister and other ministers for meals and events. Fraser is estimated to be the fifth biggest individual donor to the party within the last parliamentary cycle. The two most generous donors, James Lupton and Michael Farmer, have already been bestowed peerages. The fourth on the list, Michael Hintze, has been handed a knighthood.

Although they like their titles they rarely take part in debates. However, they do like clocking-in to get their daily allowances. Baron Farmer, who has a net worth of £150 million, described the £300 daily allowance for Members of the House of Lords as "inadequate". (Monday, 7th August, 2016)

Jeremy Hunt and the Dementia Scandal

In 2012 David Cameron made dementia a national priority for England. Dementia affects 850,000 people in the UK, resulting in the loss of brain cells. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s. Early symptoms include problems with memory and thinking. As the disease progresses, people can experience difficulty with walking, balance and swallowing.

Soon after being appointed health secretary, Jeremy Hunt claimed that “by 2020, the UK should be the most dementia friendly country in the world”. Hunt argued: “A dementia diagnosis can bring fear and heartache, but I want Britain to be the best place in the world to live well with dementia. Last parliament we made massive strides on diagnosis rates and research – the global race is now on to find a cure for dementia and I want the UK to win it."

The Dementia Society was encouraged by these statements and reported: "It is hugely encouraging that in just two months as Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt has also recognised the importance of improving care for the hundreds of thousands of people living with the condition today and moving us towards a cure and better treatments in the future."

Hunt’s announcement was followed with some strange decisions. For example, we have a growing understanding of lifestyle factors that can increase the risk of dementia in later life. The public health budgets that could help combat some of the lifestyle factors that could increase the likelihood of dementia have been cut by £230m, and the government is doing little on alcohol pricing, sugar, salt or food labelling.

If we are going to deal with this problem, the NHS has to deliver better care and support for people with dementia we need an adequately staffed and trained workforce. But since 2010, we have cut at least £800m from the social care budget, leading to around 900,000 people with care needs unmet and only 5% of carers receiving any statutory support.

After meetings with pharmaceutical companies making new drugs for dementia, Jeremy Hunt, decided that GPs were not diagnosing enough cases. He therefore decided to offer them £55 per new diagnosis via screening. As Private Eye has pointed out, this policy has been a disaster: "The trouble is, the positive diagnoses of the screening tests are wrong 80% of the time. Take 100 people over 65 and six will have dementia. If you screen them all, 23 will have a false positive. Only when the press found people were selling up and moving into care homes when they thought they had dementia, only to find they had mild cognitive impairment, did Hunt ditch the bribe." (25th July, 2016)

The Media and Jeremy Corbyn

I first became interested in politics in 1963 and I soon discovered that the British media was extremely hostile to left-wing ideas. However, I thought at the time the some aspects of the media, especially the Guardian and the BBC, would at least provide some sort of fairness in its reporting. That might have been true in my youth but not in today's world.

Most of the time you do not notice it. It is only when you have situations where the status quo is really being threatened that this becomes clear. In reality, in times of crisis, mainstream media organizations will always report the news in a way that is beneficial to the ruling elite.

In his book on the the 1926 General Strike, the historian Christopher Farman, studied the way the media dealt with this important industrial dispute. John Colin Campbell Davidson, the Chairman of the Conservative Party, was given responsibility for the way the media should report the strike. "As soon as it became evident that newspaper production would be affected by the strike, Davidson arranged to bring the British Broadcasting Company under his effective control... no news was broadcast during the crisis until it had first been personality vetted by Davidson... Each of the five daily news bulletins plus a daily 'appreciation of the situation', which took the place of newspaper editorials, were drafted by Gladstone Murray in conjunction with Munro and then submitted to Davidson for his approval before being transmitted from the BBC's London station at Savoy Hill."

This propaganda operation was highly successful and very few people realised the BBC was distorting the news. This was even true of people who should have known better. The left-wing Labour Party MP, Ellen Wilkinson, had a letter published in the Radio Times thanking the BBC for the "admirable part their organization has played during the recent happily-ended strike". Wilkinson then went on to argue: "By the sending out of trustworthy news, and by the prompt denial of false rumours, the pulse of the country was kept calm and healthy... Both sides of the dispute ought to be grateful to the organizers of this new means of spreading intelligence."

John Reith, the BBC's managing director, was someone who did know the way the news had been distorted during the strike. Reith was very unhappy about the situation as he made clear in a confidential letter that he wrote to senior BBC staff at the end of the dispute. "The attitude of the BBC during the crisis caused pain and indignation to many subscribers. I travelled by car over two thousand miles during the strike and addressed very many meetings. Everywhere the complaints were bitter that a national service subscribed to by every class should have given only one side during the dispute. Personally, I feel like asking the Postmaster-General for my licence fee back."

If the BBC does not follow the party line it will be punished. Although it acted as the main cheerleader for the Iraq War, it created great controversy when its reporter, Andrew Gilligan, claimed on BBC Radio 4's The Today Programme, that a British government briefing paper on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction had been "sexed up" in order to exaggerate the WMD capabilities of Saddam Hussein.

We now know that the BBC report was accurate, but following the publication of the Hutton Report, that questioned the reliability of Gilligan's evidence, he was forced to resign. So also was Greg Dyke, the Director-General of the BBC and Gavyn Davies, the chairman of the BBC. This was a warning to any other BBC journalist not to criticise governments too strongly.

It seems in recent months that we are facing another political crisis that needs a united media offensive against a common enemy. This is of course the emergence of a highly dangerous politician, Jeremy Corbyn. A report into this has just been carried out by the London School of Economics and Political Science. In its report, Journalistic Representations of Jeremy Corbyn in the Mainstream Press: From Watchdog to Attackdog, it heavily criticises the way Corbyn has been treated in the media.

"The study set out to empirically analyse the nature of the media representation of Jeremy Corbyn in 8 British newspapers from 1 September – 1 November 2015. First, it distinguishes between critical reporting and what we call antagonistic reporting. Second, it aims to demonstrate and assess the ways in which the British press systematically delegitimised Jeremy Corbyn as a political leader. The results of this study show that Jeremy Corbyn was represented unfairly by the British press through a process of vilification that went well beyond the normal limits of fair debate and disagreement in a democracy."

The report points out that media organizations appear to be nearly in complete agreement on the merits of Jeremy Corbyn: "Journalists and commentators describe the Labour leader and his political ideas as ‘loony’, ‘unrealistic’, or ‘outdated’. Right wing newspapers, such as The Daily Telegraph, and tabloids like The Daily Express and The Sun, emphasised the supposed ‘radicalism’ and ‘insane’ nature of his political proposals. Besides describing left wing ideas as loony, they are also seen as unrealistic and highly unlikely to deliver an election victory to Labour, something the left wing and liberal newspapers also picks up on."

Modern painting of the Forum where meetings of the Public Assembly took place.

One of the concerns of this report is the role played by so-called left of cenre newspapers such as the the The Daily Mirror (see table above). The report argues that, 56% of the articles analysed about Corbyn do not give Corbyn a voice at all. The media is also criticised for giving a more prominent voice to Labour opponents of Corbyn. "In many newspapers the voice of Labour sources that are against Corbyn outweigh those that are supporting him. This is especially the case in The Independent, The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Express, but also in the left wing tabloid The Daily Mirror."

Understandably, most of the newspapers ignored this study. It was good to see The Independent was brave enough to publish details of the Journalistic Representations of Jeremy Corbyn in the Mainstream Press: From Watchdog to Attackdog. "Three-quarters of newspaper stories about Jeremy Corbyn in the first months of his leadership either distorted or failed to represent his actual views on subjects, a study has found. The media researchers found that in 52 per cent of articles about the Labour leader, his own views were not included – while in a further 22 per cent they were “present but taken out of context” or otherwise distorted. In just 15 per cent of 812 articles analysed, Mr Corbyn’s views were present but challenged, and in only 11 per cent were they present without alteration."

As readers of The Guardian are only too aware, it is not only the right-wing newspapers that are involved in the campaign against the Labour leader. As its letters page show, Private Eye readers have also been upset by its anti-Corbyn reporting. However, it found it difficult not to highlight the Guardian's efforts against the Labour leader. It claims that its coverage has not been as hostile as it would like it to be. It quotes a Guardian journalist as saying: "There's a lot of censorship and self-censorship. It's like Henry II and Thomas Beckett. No one quite knows what the editor wants them to do."

Modern painting of the Forum where meetings of the Public Assembly took place.

The magazine examines a Guardian editorial where it said that Corbyn was "no longer leading at all" because he had lost the support of his colleagues, but it "couldn't find the courage to state plainly that he should resign". Private Eye argues that the reason for this is the "Guardian's marketing department handed senior journalists a survey of 5,000 Labour-supporting readers, which showed they support Corbyn overwhelmingly".

This is clearly a problem for the Guardian as it continues to lose readers at an alarming-rate and it is no doubt partly due to its move to the right over the last few years. This is no surprise when you look at who owns the Guardian. It constantly talks about being owned by the Scott Trust. In reality, the ownership structure of the newspaper changed in 2008. As Jonathan Cook points out: "Though not a trust at all, but simply a profit-making company, it is still referred to frequently as ‘The Scott Trust,’ promulgating the widely-held but mistaken belief in the Guardian’s inherently benign ownership structure… The problem, of course, is that the Guardian functions under the same sort of corporate structure as any other major media company."

Over the last few years the Scott Trust has been removing journalists with a liberal background, such as former editor Alan Rusbridger, and replacing them with right-wing businessmen. Nafeez Ahmed, an investigative reporter fired by the Guardian for his work exposing the connection between Israel’s attacks on Gaza and its interests in Gaza’s natural resources, has carried out research into the new board members. For example, he takes a close look at the CV of Anthony Salz: "A senior investment banker and executive vice chairman of Rothschild, and a director at NM Rothschild and Sons. He was a key legal adviser to Guinness during the notorious share-rigging scandal, helped Rupert Murdoch form BSkyB, and was vice chair of the BBC’s Board of Governors before it was replaced by the BBC Trust. He was also lead non-executive director of the board at the Department for Education under arch-neoconservative Michael Gove. Until 2006, Salz led a highly successful 30 year career as a corporate lawyer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, where he was head and senior managing partner since 1996."

It is no wonder that the Guardian can no longer be trusted to report the news in a responsible way and will no doubt lose most of its left-wing readers in the near future. They will in future rely on online sources such as The Canary for their information. Even those with less committed political views will be more cautious about accepting the truth of material in mainstream publications.

The scale of the attack on Corbyn has increased since Peter Mandelson called for Corbyn to be removed on the morning after the EU Referendum took place. Although his critics often say Corbyn is a man of integrity he is "unelectable". This seems to have entered the public consciousness. Nearly every conversation I have had on the subject involves people saying that Corbyn is a "decent man but is unelectable".

Modern painting of the Forum where meetings of the Public Assembly took place.

However, the evidence does not show that this is the case. Corbyn seems to be popular with the Labour membership for in September 2015 he won 59.5% of first-preference votes, out of an electorate of 554,272. Corbyn has pointed out that the media and mainstream politicians have not yet fully grasped the changes that are taking place in society. "The media and many of us, simply didn’t understand the views of young people in our country. They were turned off by the way politics was being conducted. We have to and must change that. The fight back gathers speed and gathers pace".

The Labour Party has always had a problem of a hostile media during election campaigns. This has not stopped them winning in 1945, 1950, 1964 and 1970. Of course, if you are willing to put forward the sort of centrist political programme favoured by Tony Blair, you can even get some of the newspapers to support you. The important question is has the coming of the internet changed the way we understand the world. If that is the case, then the ruling elite should start to get worried. (17th July, 2016)

Rupert Murdoch appoints a new prime minister.

The European Union referendum result came as a great shock to nearly all political commentators in the UK. It was in fact the greatest surprise in politics since the 1945 General Election when the man who was widely seen as the most important figure in the nation's victory, Winston Churchill, suffered a landslide defeat against a Labour Party, who went into the contest proclaiming it was a socialist movement.

In its manifesto, Let us Face the Future, it made it clear that "the Labour Party is a Socialist Party, and proud of it. Its ultimate purpose at home is the establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain - free, democratic, efficient, progressive, public-spirited, its material resources organized in the service of the British people.... Housing will be one of the greatest and one of the earliest tests of a Government's real determination to put the nation first. Labour's pledge is firm and direct - it will proceed with a housing programme with the maximum practical speed until every family in this island has a good standard of accommodation. That may well mean centralizing and pooling of building materials and components by the State, together with price control. If that is necessary to get the houses as it was necessary to get the guns and planes, Labour is ready."

The Conservative Party and its friends in the media tried very hard to portray the Labour Party as a communist threat. In one radio broadcast by Churchill, Clement Attlee was compared to Adolf Hitler who, if elected would introduce some sort of Nazi system of government. "I must tell you that a socialist policy is abhorrent to British ideas on freedom. There is to be one State, to which all are to be obedient in every act of their lives. This State, once in power, will prescribe for everyone: where they are to work, what they are to work at, where they may go and what they may say, what views they are to hold, where their wives are to queue up for the State ration, and what education their children are to receive. A socialist state could not afford to suffer opposition - no socialist system can be established without a political police. They (the Labour government) would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo."

This over-the-top scare campaign backfired and most Labour Party candidates later acknowledged that the broadcast won them votes. The same thing happened when George Osborne claimed that if the country voted to leave the EU he would have to slash public spending and increase taxes in an emergency Budget to tackle a £30bn black hole. The chancellor told us this could include raising income and inheritance taxes and cutting the NHS budget.

However, the scare campaigns of Churchill and Osborne were not the main reasons that they lost both elections. The most important factor was the way the elections were reported in the press. In the 1945 General Election, the Labour Party received the support of three popular newspapers, Daily Herald, News Chronicle and The Daily Mirror. For the first and only time in history, the party enjoyed virtual parity of readership with the Tories in terms of national daily newspaper sales.

During the war these newspapers published articles by socialist writers such as William Mellor, J. B. Priestley, G. D. H. Cole, H. G. Wells, Hannen Swaffer, Vernon Bartlett, Evelyn Sharp, Margaret Storm Jameson and Morgan Philips Price. It has been pointed out that throughout the war Michael Foot, used his "his Herald column... he argued that for the first time... the Labour Party... was about "to embark on the task of achieving socialism by full parliamentary and democratic means."

The newspaper industry has traditionally played an important factor in elections. We all remember the headline, It's The Sun Wot Won It, after the 1992 General Election. (6) This followed a campaign against the Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, that culminated in the election day headline, "If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights."

Modern painting of the Forum where meetings of the Public Assembly took place.
The Sun (11th April, 1992)

Kelvin MacKenzie, the editor of The Sun, had used the newspaper to support Margaret Thatcher since she became party leader in 1975. During the 1983 General Election MacKenzie ran a front page featuring an unflattering photograph of Michael Foot, then nearly 70 years old, alongside the headline "Do You Really Want This Old Fool To Run Britain?". A year later, the paper was staunch in its support for the re-election of Ronald Reagan as president in the USA; he was 74 years old.

Tony Blair, a young Labour MP for Sedgefield, was one of those who believed that Rupert Murdoch had the power to select future prime ministers. When he became leader of the Labour Party in 1994 he appointed Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson, to his team with the instructions to get the support of Murdoch's media empire. The following year, Blair flew halfway round the world to address Murdoch and his News International executives on Hayman Island.

It is not known what promises were made but on 18th March, 1997, The Sun told its readers to vote Labour. It explained that it was switching sides after more than 20 years of unswerving support for the Tory party. In a front page article headlined "The Sun Backs Blair", the newspaper, which has a daily readership of more than 10 million, stated Tony Blair should be the next prime minister.

Modern painting of the Forum where meetings of the Public Assembly took place.
The Sun (18th March, 1997)

At the Leveson Inquiry Blair attempted to explain his relationship with Murdoch. He said he wanted to persuade the Murdoch media empire against "tearing us to pieces". Blair added: "If you look back over time there's nothing wrong and indeed it would, it would be strange frankly if senior people in the media and senior politicians didn't have that close interaction." He added that "I don't know a policy that we changed as a result of Rupert Murdoch."

Lance Price, who became Blair's special advisor in 1998, remembers it slightly differently: "I have never met Mr Murdoch, but at times when I worked at Downing Street he seemed like the 24th member of the cabinet. His voice was rarely heard (but, then, the same could have been said of many of the other 23) but his presence was always felt. No big decision could ever be made inside No 10 without taking account of the likely reaction of three men - Gordon Brown, John Prescott and Rupert Murdoch. On all the really big decisions, anybody else could safely be ignored."

Price, who later became Blair's Director of Communications explained: "All discussions... with Rupert Murdoch and with Irwin Stelzer, his representative on earth, were handled at the very highest level. For the rest of us, the continued support of the News International titles was supposed to be self-evident proof of the value of this special relationship. The Sun and The Times, in particular, received innumerable 'scoops' and favours. In return, New Labour got very sympathetic coverage from newspapers that are bought and read by classic swing voters - on the face of it, too good a deal to pass up. In fact, New Labour gave away too much and received too little that it couldn't have expected to get anyway."

One example of how the two men worked closely together was over the Iraq War. One analyst estimated that all 175 newspapers owned by Murdoch shared his enthusiasm for the invasion. Paul Dacre, the editor of The Daily Mail during the war told the Leveson Inquiry: "I’m not sure that the Blair government – or Tony Blair - would have been able to take the British people to war if it hadn’t been for the implacable support provided by the Murdoch papers. There’s no doubt that came from Mr Murdoch himself.”

Alastair Campbell wrote in his diary on 11th March 2003, a week before the Commons debate in which MPs voted to deploy British troops to Iraq, that Murdoch intervened to try to persuade Blair to move more quickly towards war. "TB (Tony Blair) took a call from Murdoch who was pressing on timings, saying how News International would support us, etc... Both TB and I felt it was prompted by Washington, and another example of their over-crude diplomacy. Murdoch was pushing all the Republican buttons, how the longer we waited the harder it got."

Of course, after Blair left office, Murdoch's media empire ceased supporting the Labour Party. In the 2010 General Election campaign Murdoch's newspapers supported the Conservative Party. On the day of the election The Sun produced an altered version of the anti-Kinnock headline featuring Labour prime minister Gordon Brown and the words "If Brown wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights" next to an image of Brown's head in a lightbulb.

The same thing happened in the 2015 General Election when the Murdoch empire targeted Ed Milliband. According to The Guardian: "One study found that the Sun, Murdoch's biggest-selling title, was more virulently anti-Labour in this campaign than it was in the run up to the 1992 election when Neil Kinnock was depicted in a lightbulb on polling day. What makes it more significant is that it comes in an era of declining newspaper sales and worries about their relevance in the digital age. It is likely that whoever replaces Milliband as Labour leader will be even more wary of threatening Murdoch or any other press baron with increased regulation and the breakup of their empires." Murdoch therefore can claim that his newspapers have supported every winning candidate since the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

Murdoch can also claim he won the EU Referendum, with most of his newspapers supporting a leave vote. Some commentators believe that The Sun article on 13th June, 2016, had an important impact on the electorate. It ran the headline "BeLEAVE in Britain" as its front page splash and accompanied it with a lengthy editorial saying that ending the 43-year relationship will "make Britain even greater".

Modern painting of the Forum where meetings of the Public Assembly took place.
The Sun (13th June, 2016)

The referendum result was the culmination of a long campaign by Murdoch's newspapers. Anthony Hilton, who worked for Murdoch at the Sunday Times, has an interesting story to tell on this subject. "I once asked Rupert Murdoch why he was so opposed to the European Union". He replied: "'That’s easy. When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice."

However, it is doubtful if he could have won the EU referendum on his own. As he could not always guarantee a Conservative Party victory at general elections. In both cases he needed the support of other Tory newspapers. As Alastair Campbell pointed out: "The Mail, Sun, Express and Star in particular, and to a lesser extent the Telegraph and, on a bad day, the Times, are becoming propaganda sheets for one side of the argument. The Mail, whose evil (I use the word advisedly), cowardly and hypocritical editor, Paul Dacre, pockets vast EU grants on his vast Scottish estate, nonetheless allows barely a syllable in his paper that might reflect well on Europe. Rupert Murdoch has rediscovered his mojo and is now enjoying making sure every ounce of Sun ink is used to shape opinion in the direction he wants. Then the Barclays control the Telegraph from their Channel Island tax exile, and Richard Desmond’s Express papers feed a relentless diet of anti-EU front-page splashes as titillating and far-fetched as the stuff in the porn mags that helped create his fortune. By this bizarre collection of folk, or so they hope, public opinion is formed.


As Campbell points out, the position of the anti-EU Paul Dacre is rather strange. The West Highland Free Press reported in 2014 that "Paul Dacre, has landed more than a quarter of a million pounds in EU subsidies for his sporting estate in Wester Ross. Mr Dacre has owned the 14,000-acre Langwell Estate near Ullapool since 2009 and it is heavily marketed to attract shooting and fishing parties. The lodge has recently undergone major renovation. According to the Farm Subsidy website which tracks EU payments, Langwell received EU grants to the value of 300,408 euros in 2012, 287,000 euros of which was paid under the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development which is supposed to support 'diversification of the rural economy'. Another 13,000 euros was received in Direct Farm Payments."

Modern painting of the Forum where meetings of the Public Assembly took place.

Richard Desmond, the owner of Express Newspapers, like Murdoch, is a long term opponent of the European Union, and has donated large sums of money over the years to the UK Independence Party. He also gave money to the Labour Party when Tony Blair was prime minister. It was his newspapers that first started the campaign to get out of the EU in November 2010.

Desmond's newspapers campaigned heavily on issues such as immigration in the run-up to the 2015 General Election and was extremely hostile to Labour's pro-EU stance. However, as a businessman, he was not really a supporter of the UK leaving the EU. He told the Financial Times in 2015 that he thought it might hurt the British economy and was not sure how he would vote in the referendum.

Jonathan Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere, the owner of DMG Media (Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Metro, etc.) also suffered from Britain's vote to leave the EU. His company's share price fall overnight from 647p to 587p. However, after a few days normal service was resumed when the Daily Mail warned that "immigration could surge in the coming years as Europeans seek to enter the UK before Brexit takes effect."

As Ian Burrell pointed out, the newspaper has a problem about reporting on Europe: "Its very essence is its sharply defined ideology. And the paper’s historic distrust of Europe dovetails conveniently with its dislike of the Prime Minister, who it subjects to relentless personal attacks. Stories that support the Remain campaign are reported in the Mail with disdain, accompanied by a campaigning 'Planet Fear' red stamp logo."

The same is true of Sir David Rowat Barclay and Sir Frederick Hugh Barclay, the owners of The Telegraph Media Group, whose investments are valued at £6.5 billion. David's son, Aidan Barclay, who manages their UK businesses, was given the problem of dealing with this dilemma. According to Private Eye, Cameron tried offering the newspaper large amounts of government advertising in return for editorials in support of staying in the EU.

Ten days before the vote, a survey of subscriber readers revealed that the vast majority of the people who buy the printed newspaper wanted to quit the EU. The magazine pointed out: "During the campaign they (the Barclay brothers) had received a series of pleading phone calls from Downing Street urging them to back Remain, and they were reluctant to snub the PM - not least for fear of missing out on their longed-for-gongs. But they were equally fearful of provoking a mass subscription cancellation... Nor did they want to fall out with their columnist Boris Johnson, who might soon have been PM (and in a position to do them favours)."

The Sunday Telegraph (19th June) and The Daily Telegraph (21st June) finally came off the fence and advised its readers to vote to leave the EU. Like other newspaper proprietors, the Barclay brothers were convinced that when it came to the ballot, the British public would be too scared to vote leave. Dan Hodges wrote in the Mail on Sunday: "Whether they are prepared for it or not, Leave are certainly losing... If 43 years in the European Union hasn't turned the UK into a Eurosceptic nation, that shift is unlikely to occur in the next 26 days. The defining issue of British politics is no longer whether the Brexit camp can win, but how they choose to lose."

The right-wing press were convinced that David Cameron would achieve a narrow victory but as his authority had been undermined he would have resigned and be replaced by either Boris Johnson or Michael Gove. However, the newspapers completely underestimated its influence over its readers. Everyday they were printing anti-EU stories. Even that might not have been enough but they had got used to voting as they were told in elections.

Polly Toynbee, the pro-EU Guardian journalist, as she has done for many years, completely misunderstood the mood of the British public: "On Friday I'll get my country back. Britain will vote Remain... I think I know this country isn't the Leave campaign's ingrown place of phobias, conspiracies, fear of foreigners and all the politics of paranoid isolation."

People like Toynbee who campaigned for a EU remain vote like to portray their working-class opponents as racists and uneducated. However, as Tony Travers, an academic from the London School of Economics, has pointed out: "It is a response to 50 or 60 years of economic change from which some people have managed to gain, and others have found it harder, and in some cases a lot harder, to benefit from the new world."

Cameron did not resign and the newspaper owners became worried about the dangers of a Johnson administration and encouraged Gove to betray him. Tory MPs reacted to this by refusing to nominate Gove for the leadership contest and instead it was Andrea Leadsom who was selected to face Theresa May.

Modern painting of the Forum where meetings of the Public Assembly took place.
Peter Brooks, The Times (8th July, 2016)

These Euro-sceptic MPs clearly had not been aware that several journalists were carrying out an investigation into her pre-parliamentary career since 2014. This mainly concerned her relationship with her brother-in-law Peter de Putron, who has sponsored her rise to fame. Embarrassingly, his name appeared in the files of wealth management company Kleinwort Benson that were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Further investigation showed that Leadsom's brother-in-law, had donated £816,000 to her party via a company called Gloucester Research. "The group was critical of attempts by the EU to impose tighter regulations on hedge funds, and in a policy paper accused Brussels of being biased against London’s financial industry."

Peter de Putron wrote out cheques to the Conservative party totalling £200,000 in 2010, £66,600 in 2011, £129,800 in 2012, and £204,760 in 2013. The details emerged following a leak of the identities of thousands of wealthy offshore clients who bank with a major Channel Isles private bank. In April 2014, she was appointed as Economic Secretary to the Treasury.

Putron also donated a total of £680,000 to Open Europe, a think-tank which wants to see reform of the EU. This may have been responsible for Leadsom changing her mind about the EU. Speaking in 2013, she told the Hansard Society's Annual Parliamentary Affairs Lecture: "I'm going to nail my colours to the mast here: I don't think the UK should leave the EU. I think it would be a disaster for our economy and it would lead to a decade of economic and political uncertainty at a time when the tectonic plates of global success are moving. Economic success is the vital underpinning of every happy nation. The well-being we all crave goes hand in hand with economic success."

As Private Eye has pointed out, Peter de Putron might have been keen to leave the EU for business reasons. "Leadsom has had plenty of financial backing from the offshore hedge fund run by her brother-in-law Peter de Putron, as has the EU-sceptic Open Europe thinktank she has championed... What result the Guernsey-based donor hopes for is not known. But plenty of other hedgies want out so they can escape EU regulation of their funds (inexplicably confident that a British Tory government would be kinder to them)."

Andrea Leadsom campaign for the leadership did not last long and she resigned yesterday, stating that she did not have enough support for her cause, with only a quarter of the votes from the parliamentary party. It was two Murdoch owned newspapers that brought her down. On Saturday, The Times had reported an interview where she claimed that having children gave her an advantage over Theresa May. She was immediately criticized by senior Conservative politicians for her "vile" and "insulting" comments.

When it seemed that she could survive this mistake, the Sunday Times claimed that 20 Tory MPs would quit the party if Leadsom won the leadership contest. They quoted fellow Cabinet ministers as saying that she "was unsuitable for Downing Street". It is now believed that this story was completely made up and no Tories were threatening to resign.

The next day Leadsom announced she was withdrawing from the leadership race. Once again Rupert Murdoch played a vital role in selecting the prime minister. This is not because he was so determined to have Theresa May but feared the consequences of allowing Conservative Party members to vote for Leadsom. Can you imagine the political crisis the Tory government would have faced if they were being led by Leadsom when the media began focusing on her relationship with her brother-in-law, Peter de Putron? (12th July, 2016)

More young black men are being shot dead by police than were lynched by the Ku Klux Klan.

Two unarmed black men were killed by police in Louisiana and Minnesota last week sparking further outcry over systemic racism in law enforcement. So far this year 123 black people have been shot dead by police.

Despite making up only 2% of the total population, African American males between the ages of 15 and 34. Their rate of police-involved deaths was five times higher than for white men of the same age.

In 2015, the number of black people shot dead by police was 258. 38 of those casualties were unarmed. Protestors have compared these figures to those black people who were lynched by white mobs in the days before the growth of the civil rights movement.

After the establishment of the Ku Klux Klan in 1867 the number of lynchings of African American increased dramatically. The main objective of the KKK was to maintain white supremacy in the South, which they felt was under threat after their defeat in the Civil War.

It has been estimated that between 1880 and 1920, an average of two African Americans a week were lynched in the United States. The worst year was 1892, when 161 black people were lynched. This figure is lower than the number of young black men being killed today.

In 1884 Ida Wells, editor of Free Speech, a small newspaper in Memphis, carried out an investigation into lynching. She discovered during a short period 728 black men and women had been lynched by white mobs. Of these deaths, two-thirds were for small offences such as public drunkenness and shoplifting.

On 9th March, 1892, three African American businessmen were lynched in Memphis. When Wells wrote an article condemning the lynchers, a white mob destroyed her printing press. They declared that they intended to lynch her but fortunately she was visiting Philadelphia at the time.

Unable to return to her home, Ida Wells was recruited by the progressive newspaper, New York Age. She continued her campaign against lynching and Jim Crow laws and in 1893 and 1894 made lecture tours of Britain. While there in 1894 she helped to establish the British Anti-Lynching Committee. Members included James Keir Hardie, Thomas Burt, John Clifford, Isabella Ford, Tom Mann, Joseph Pease, C. P. Scott, Ben Tillett and Mary Humphrey Ward.

George Henry White, the last former slave to serve in Congress and the only African American in the House of Representatives, proposed a bill in January, 1901 that would have made lynching of American citizens a federal crime. He argued that any person participating actively in or acting as an accessory in a lynching should be convicted of treason. Despite his passionate plea, the bill was easily defeated.

The NAACP also fought a long campaign against lynching. In 1919 it published Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States: 1889-1918. The NAACP also paid for large adverts in major newspapers presenting the facts about lynching. To show that the members of the organization would not be intimidated, it held its 1920 annual conference in Atlanta, considered at the time to be one of the most active Ku Klux Klan areas in America.

There was a decline in lynching during the First World War but more than seventy blacks were murdered in this way in the year after the war ended. Ten black soldiers, several still in their army uniforms, were amongst those lynched. Between 1919 and 1922, a further 239 blacks were lynched by white mobs and many more were killed by individual acts of violence and unrecorded lynchings. In none of these cases was a white person punished for these crimes. Several trade unionists were also lynched. This included Frank Little (1917) and Wesley Everest (1919), two members of the Industrial Workers of the World.

Copper Trust to the Press: "It's all right, pal; just tell them he was a traitor." Solidarity (11th August, 1917)
Copper Trust to the Press: "It's all right, pal; just tell
them he was a traitor." Solidarity (11th August, 1917)

The sociologist, Arthur Franklin Raper was commissioned in 1930 to produce a report on lynching. He discovered that "3,724 people were lynched in the United States from 1889 through to 1930. Over four-fifths of these were Negroes, less than one-sixth of whom were accused of rape. Practically all of the lynchers were native whites. The fact that a number of the victims were tortured, mutilated, dragged, or burned suggests the presence of sadistic tendencies among the lynchers. Of the tens of thousands of lynchers and onlookers, only 49 were indicted and only 4 have been sentenced."

The NAACP hoped that the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 would bring an end to lynching. Two African American campaigners against lynching, Mary McLeod Bethune and Walter Francis White, had been actively involved in helping Roosevelt to obtain victory. The president's wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, had also been a long-time opponent of lynching.

Robert F. Wagner and Edward Costigan agreed to draft a bill that would punish the crime of lynching. In 1935 attempts were made to persuade President Franklin D. Roosevelt to support the Costigan-Wagner bill. However, Roosevelt refused to speak out in favour of the bill that would punish sheriffs who failed to protect their prisoners from lynch mobs. He argued that the white voters in the South would never forgive him if he supported the bill and he would therefore lose the next election.

Even the appearance in the newspapers of the lynching of Rubin Stacy failed to change Roosevelt's mind on the subject. Six deputies were escorting Stacy to Dade County jail in Miami on 19th July, 1935, when he was taken by a white mob and hanged by the side of the home of Marion Jones, the woman who had made the original complaint against him. The New York Times later revealed that "subsequent investigation revealed that Stacy, a homeless tenant farmer, had gone to the house to ask for food; the woman became frightened and screamed when she saw Stacy's face."

The Costian-Wagner Act received support from many members of Congress but the Southern opposition managed to defeat it. However, the national debate that took place over the issue helped to bring attention to the crime of lynching.

In 1937 Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher from New York, saw a photograph of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith. Meeropol later recalled how the photograph "haunted me for days" and inspired the writing of the poem, Strange Fruit. Meeropol, a member of the American Communist Party, using the pseudonym, Lewis Allan, published the poem in the Marxist journal, New Masses.

Copper Trust to the Press: "It's all right, pal; just tell them he was a traitor." Solidarity (11th August, 1917)
The lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith (1930)

After seeing Billie Holiday perform at the club, Café Society, in New York City, Meeropol showed her the poem. Holiday liked it and after working on it with Sonny White made turned into a song. The record made it to No. 16 on the charts in July 1939. However, the song was denounced by Time Magazine as "a prime piece of musical propaganda" for the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP).

Between 1865 and 1965 over 2400 African Americans were lynched in the United States. Even after the passing of the Civil Rights Act (1964) lynchings continued in the Deep South. However, it now seems that now the American authorities have developed a new way of terrorizing young black men. (11th July, 2016)

Spartacus News (January 2015-June 2015)

Spartacus News (2nd July, 2016-February 2016)