Warning: file_get_contents() [function.file-get-contents]: URL file-access is disabled in the server configuration in /homepages/12/d83843876/htdocs/newlife/wp-content/themes/supernova-pro/lib/functions/supernova-query.php on line 657

Warning: file_get_contents(http://grant-adamson.me.uk/wp-content/themes/supernova-pro/lib/admin/inc/webfonts.json) [function.file-get-contents]: failed to open stream: no suitable wrapper could be found in /homepages/12/d83843876/htdocs/newlife/wp-content/themes/supernova-pro/lib/functions/supernova-query.php on line 657

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /homepages/12/d83843876/htdocs/newlife/wp-content/themes/supernova-pro/lib/functions/supernova-query.php on line 678
Categories

Wordblog revived

incorporating New Life

Guardian’

Time to start fighting to withdraw May’s Article 50 letter

A Guardian headline this morning, “Believe it or not, Nigel Farage can now be an inspiration for remainers” is intended to provoke. It is not that but Johathan Freedland’s opinion piece under it that makes me angry.

He writes:

Why shouldn’t remainers draw inspiration from those who refused to accept the 1975 referendum ratifying Britain’s entry into the European club and agitated tirelessly for a second vote? Surely the dogged persistence of a Nigel Farage, Bill Cash or John Redwood is a model for the 48% to follow.

My 75th birthday was six days ago. I don’t have the time to play such a long game.

Freedland continues:

…that still leaves the possibility of an even harder Brexit – and pro-Europeans’ task now is to resist it. Admitting that several rooms are on fire doesn’t free you from the obligation to stop the entire house burning to the ground.

In practice, that means limiting the damage. It could mean arguing for greater access to European markets, even if that entails some jurisdiction by the European court of justice. Or urging new immigration rules that don’t seal up the border to all outsiders.

He completely ignores the possibility that many, including myself are fighting for – revocation of the Article 50 notice. It would be messy, nasty but we have a democracy where people have the freedom and right to change their mind.

The argument that the deed is done and there is no turning back has no strong basis. Yes the British Government and those seeking a Commons vote during the Supreme Court hearing assumed an Article 50 could not be withdrawn.

It is only the European Court that can decide whether or not that is true. A case seeking to clarify this is underway in Dublin.

The man who drafted the clause, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, believes it [revocation] is possible. Sky news reported:

Lord Kerr said: “You can withdraw the notification (Article 50) that she (Theresa May) is going to submit in March.

“Legally it would be perfectly possible to take it back.

“Politically of course, our partners might not be too thrilled if they’d wasted 18 months, 20 months negotiating with us, but I suspect it would be possible to get political agreement where you carry on as before.

“That looks at present an extremely unlikely contingency, but it is there as a possibility.”

As he points out it would become a political rather than a legal question.

Matt Kelly, editor of the European,  The New European this week speaks for me when he writes:

If people start losing their jobs, their homes, if food prices soar, if the quick trade deals they promised us fail to materialise, the will of the people may change.

And when (no need for ifs on this one) the real cracks start to show in political parties as riven by conflict over Europe today as they have even been, the charade that prompted this whole debacle will be daylight clear, and the will of the people may change.

And if the will of the people changes, it will find a way – as it always does – to be heard.

The how of a reversal is harder to define just now. But obstructing that will of the people would be nothing short of anti-democratic.

Article 50 is, definitely, NOT irreversible. Donald Tusk says so. Lord Kerr, who wrote the article, says so. The price of a reversal will be a political one. We believe that’s fair. It’s politics that got us into this mess, and if politics has taught us anything in the last twelve months, it’s this: Nobody knows anything.

Stay angry. Fight Brexit.

I am angry. It is urgent as I don’t want to fight to my dying day, which seems to be what Johnathan Freedland advocates. It is about the British Isles being a place fit for future generations.

 

Guardian too quick to accept the inevitability of Brexit

I am disappointed by the Guardian’s editorial position over the aftermath of the referendum. It has effectively thrown in the towel and accepted Theresa May’s “Brexit means Brexit” line. Here is an extract from today’s leader:

Almost half of those who voted sought to continue our membership. The Guardian was one of the most determined voices on this side of the divide. But we, like the rest of the 48%, must now respect the verdict that we dreaded. You assumed that British pragmatism would triumph….

…we need time. Britain voted against membership; we did not vote for an alternative. The public has not fully confronted the choice it faces between turning its back on the single market, or accepting continued EU migration in whatever form.

This effectively leaves the 4,109,592 people (many of them Guardian readers) who have signed the parliamentary petition for a new referendum  without a voice in mainstream media.

We can respect the vote but it is not binding on parliament or the prime minister, whichever has to decide. The decision is a sovereign one and it has not been made yet as David Cameron has kicked the can down the road to his successor.

Nick Clegg has called for an election before Article 50 is triggered in an article for the Guardian today.

On another page, the paper reports an anonymous group of clients has instructed solicitors at Mishcon de Reya to try to ensure article 50 is not triggered without an act of parliament. It reports:

One of the grounds of a likely challenge to the referendum is that it is merely advisory and the royal prerogative cannot be used to undermine parliamentary statute.

Another legal challenge is being crowdfunded. It very quickly hit its target and is not accepting further money at the moment.

Tony Blair also weighed in yesterday suggesting the will of the people could change. This is the Sun’s view:

REMINIAC SNEERING Tony Blair sparked fury yesterday by hinting Britain should be allowed a second Referendum because people are entitled to change their minds.

Ten days after the referendum there is a growing realisation that the alternative of remaining in the EU is a viable option. The decision on triggering Article 50 has not been made and if parliament is truly sovereign  it may never be made.

The Guardian has called this one too early.

Westminster journalists failed to grasp what was happening to Labour Party

Media commentator Roy Greenslade’s blog post this morning is as predictable as its headline: “Jeremy Corbyn’s first day and press coverage, predictably, is hostile.”

Writing in the Guardian, it is not surprising that he did not analyse the paper’s coverage beyond the editorial. But it is the handing over of two important comment slots to writers who are not part of the Westminster village that seems to be to be significant.

Gary Younge, freshly back in the UK after 12 years in the USA, is given a front page spot and it is clear why none of his parliamentary new colleagues could have written it. He says:

Party grandees thought his [Corbyn’s] presence would offer a debate about austerity; few assumed he would win it. His candidacy was supposed to be decorative but never viable.

From the moment it was clear that assumption was flawed, the political and media class shifted from disbelief to derision to panic, apparently unaware that his growing support was as much a repudiation of them as an embrace of him. Former Labour leaders and mainstream commentators belittled his supporters as immature, deluded, self-indulgent and unrealistic, only to express surprise when they could not win them over. As such this reckoning was a long time coming. For the past couple of decades the Labour leadership has looked upon the various nascent social movements that have emerged – against war, austerity, tuition fees, racism and inequality – with at best indifference and at times contempt. They saw its participants, many of whom were or had been committed Labour voters, not as potential allies but constant irritants.

Yes, Guardian and Observer writers must be included those who were unaware that they were being “repudiated”.

The main comment space inside the paper is handed over to Zoe Williams who writes under the headline: “By ripping up the rulebook, Corbyn is redefining our politics. Whether or not he can win power Labour’s leader has a chance to give opposition a new meaning.” I mentioned this article in my previous post, suggesting it reflected the views of many who voted for Corbyn.

It looks as if there was a rapid recognition among Guardian editorial chiefs that given their record in the past few weeks, these prominent comment spaces could not credibly be given to the Westminster reporters whose lack of understanding of what was happening has been apparent in recent weeks.

It has long been held by many journalists that their specialist colleagues get too close to their subjects to be reliable reporters. That has certainly happened in this case. On the other hand specialist reporters are needed for their understanding of their subjects and the Westminster reporters will recover quickly.

Is Guardian print edition loosing sight of its readers?

Today’s Guardian illustrates the way in which its drive to make itself the world-leading online news source is impacting on its UK print edition.

Guardian front page June 2, 2015It leads on a great story, the result of very good investigative journalism by Guardian America web journalists about the killing of unarmed black people by police. The problem is that it is essentially a US domestic story which is worthy of a place in the UK print edition but not as the lead.

Not only is it the lead but it takes the whole of the front page which has no reference to any UK news. It then turns inside to take the whole of one of the “National” news pages.

Editorial decision-making appears for have forgotten the old adage that news value diminishes with distance. For some time the Guardian news pages seem to be governed by a an editorial conference somewhere in the mid-Atlantic. Decisions on comment pieces seem to still based in the UK.

I looked but could not find a story which emanated yesterday in the UK which is directly relevant to British readers – US defence secretary warns against UK armed forces cuts, which I heard on BBC Radio 4.

Nor could I find the story that plans to offer parents 30-hours free childcare have unravelled with David Cameron admitting the roll-out could take longer than planned. The link is to the Daily Mirror.

Another important story for UK readers, European Commission president Jean-Claude Junker saying Cameron’s UK referendum was designed to keep the UK in the EU, is in the print edition but buried in a story on human rights. The heading was: PM prepared to break with Europe over human rights.

Readers were much better served on this story by the Daily Telegraph under the heading: Britain will not vote to leave EU, says Junker.

I can understand why the Guardian want to make the most of what must have been a costly five-month investigation which led to today’s lead, but not why they gave it so much prominence.

The web editors seem to be more in tune with their readers. When I checked this morning the shoot to kill story was not mentioned on the UK or Australian home pages. It was prominent on the US home page and had a strong reference on the international site.

It is a confusing and difficult time for newspapers and their websites as Roy Grenslade, the Guardian media blogger, points  out today in a post headed, Global newspaper industry’s business model undergoes ‘seismic shift’.

A bit late, the Guardian says choosing new labour leader now is ‘daft’

Blogging, as a form of journalism, can be lonely. Like all writers you look for the validation of others and when there is little you feel self-doubt: did I just get it wrong?

I was starting to get that feeling about my post of May 11, “Labour should get on with opposition rather than fighting over leadership“.

Today, May 21, the Guardian comes to much the same view in its first leader, saying:

In the Guardian’s view it is an outrage that Labour MPs are deciding the shape of this important contest so prematurely. No candidate has published a detailed argument about why Labour lost and how it can win. None has had more than a brief chance to take an argument to the public through the media or into the new Commons. No one actually knows what they really think about the big hard issues, yet the contest is being irrevocably moulded all the same. An essential process risks being sacrificed to the abuses of machine politics.

The paper suggests Alan Johnson as an interim leader. His name had come into my mind but I did not write it, thinking there might be someone else I had not considered.

Seumas Milne, in a column, takes the same topic and concludes:

One way or another, the wider Labour party needs to take back control of its own contest. If the politics currently paraded by the main candidates wins out, Labour’s prospects in a country where hostility to the Westminster elite has already redrawn the electoral map look bleak. Union disaffiliation could then become a reality and eventually trigger a party split. Where Labour goes now will affect us all.

To put it bluntly, the leader is right when it says:

Choosing the leader now is pretty daft.

‘An election of closed doors and closed minds’

My headline is part of the introduction to yesterday’s Observer media column by Peter Preston, former editor of the Guardian. The closed doors hide politicians who are refusing to the meet the electorate and the closed minds are found if you, “wade through the digital comment at the bottom of so many election pieces and you stumble into web swamps heaving with hate”.

Preston points out that in 2010 national newspaper day sales were 10.9m: now they are 7.6. In the same period membership of political parties has shrunk from 1.3% of the electorate to 0.8%.

He writes:

And a combative Guardian piece on Tory NHS performance from a former deputy editor of the Indie (and Cameron speechwriter) prompts one reader to howl apocalypse: “I don’t like mendacious tracts in my newspaper of choice requiring me to weave through them like someone avoiding dog shit on the pavement.”

“Ian Birrell should be writing for the SunMailTimes,” snarls another, who actually takes the name “Hatetories”. Apparently today’s version of democratic freedom means avoiding reading something you don’t agree with.

This, he suggests, is a change. Once Conservatives represented 20% of the Guardian readership and when the Sun “won it” for John Major in 1992 fewer than half its readers voted Tory.

I have looked at the comments in the Guardian a few times recently and have been shocked that so many bigots apparently read the paper’s website. It would interesting to know how many of the commenters buy the paper or its digital edition and how many of them are not paying but contributing indirectly by boosting page hits and advertising revenue.

The Guardian, like the Daily Mail with its hugely successful website, had an interest in attracting everyone including bigots.

 

 

Extraordinary election journalism from the Guardian

Today’s Guardian front page splash is an extraordinary piece of election journalism. It runs under a very long narrative headline:

From the Mail? In you go. From the Sun? Very welcome. From the Telegraph? That’s fine, have a seat at the front. From the Guardian? No way. Electioneering, Tory-style

Front page, April 23,

Front page, April 23,

The story is accompanied by a picture of Boris Johnson and David Cameron, at the nursery event from which the Guardian was excluded, holding up hands stained UKIP purple rather than Toy blue (but that might be printing fault). The nearest journalistic parallel I can think of is the stories which used to appear fairly regularly in regional papers, when they were banned from football matches because a team did not like their coverage.

 

 

The story, by feature writer Marina Hyde (licensed to comment), quickly broadens into an attack on Cameron’s campaign and his avoidance of meeting anyone not selected by his large team of minders. She writes (on the website the headline has become, ‘Lethal weapon’ Boris unveiled as giant voter defence shield for Cameron):

Of all the unedifying sights I’ve seen so far this campaign, the sorriest has to be Cameron’s entourage forming a protective huddle round him on a busy platform at Bedford station on Wednesday morning, while the prime minister’s eyes darted nervously about, wondering where his late-running train was. He wore the anxious air of a man who absolutely does not wish to be approached, and his fellow passengers could only have clocked it. He made eye contact with no one, and no one came up to him, until a lone woman asked for a picture. He didn’t seem to know quite what to say, essaying a half-arsed, “Fifteen days to go!” “I’m off to spend the day with Boris, which is always an entertainment …” he concluded, sounding like it was always a massive ballache.

Among the general election campaigns I have watched, 2015 is marked by the least contact between politicians and voters, other than those known to be supporters. How can it be, that politicians, who are asking to go to the House of Commons to heckle and be heckled at prime minister’s questions, are so afraid of queries from the electorate?

Marina Hyde does cast some light on how the electorate is being sidelined. she writes:

As for his [Cameron’s] vast road crew … students of political esoterica may care to know that the Tory operatives have a whole badge system going on this election. There are countless people whose job seems to be to busy themselves being busy (what was it Jaap Stam said about the Neville brothers?). Each has a small circular metal badge on their lapel. Some are yellow, some are green, some are red. There may be other colours.

Perhaps they’re medals – the purple hearts of stage management. I’d guess that they have their roots – like most desperately self-parodic elements of British life – in the petty, endlessly pointless hierarchies of a minor public school shortly after the end of empire.

The Guardian had yet to decide how, or if, it will advise readers to vote. My guess is it will be, anything to keep the Conservatives out unless the alternative is UKIP.

Stealth version of Suffolk’s New Strategic Direction?

The idea that reports of the death of Suffolk County Council’s New Strategic Direction were greatly exaggerated is gaining ground. The language has changed but services are still be moved out of the council’s direct control at a pace.

James Hargrave raised the thought first in a blog post which I followed-up (previous post). Then today the Guardian’s Society Daily picked-up on what we had both written.

And this afternoon Mark Valladares, a leading Lib Dem blogger who live near Stowmarket, posted his view under the heading, Suffolk’s New Strategic Disguise: if at first you don’t succeed…

He concludes:

…you may be able to make a Conservative stop, but you can’t necessarily make them think. And the same people who either thought that the New Strategic Direction was a good thing, or were too feckless to question it, have now concluded that, for all intents and purposes, a somewhat pared back version is still fit for purpose.

So, what are they up to now?…

That is what we would like to know. NSD Mark II or the Stealth model?

 

Note: I read what I expected on Mark Valladares blog. His heading has been corrected above by changing “Direction” to “Disguise”.

Do events in Suffolk signal end of ‘big society’ local government reform?

Is it all over for local government reform? asks Patrick Butler in the Guardian’s Joe Public blog. He looks as what has been happening in Suffolk and other places and concludes with another question:

It’s a big issue for Labour politicians, too: will newly resurgent Labour-run councils, faced with some of the most drastic cuts, pursue municipal reform or retreat into their electoral comfort zone?

On Conservative Suffolk he writes:

Suffolk was a role model for its “big society” approach to service delivery.

But how can the government persuade council leaders and their employees that salvation lies this way? Local politicians and chief executives will look at the wreckage of Suffolk – and the careers of those dragged down with the ship – and wonder if it is worth the risk.

There will be forensic scrutiny of why the New Strategic Direction crashed so dismally: Suffolk’s arrogance; the poor communication; lack of trust; difficulty of pursuing organisational change while trying to deliver huge cuts and imposed with reckless speed by ministers.

And yet strip away the big society posturing, and at the heart of the direction was a belief not just that public services could and should be more efficient and responsive to local communities but that in the age of austerity, the council had a duty – an imperative even – to seek better ways of delivering them.

Having watched with care what has happened in Suffolk for a few months, my first reaction is that I am not sure the Conservatives here are as ready to abandon all their plans so completely as is being suggested.

Yes, they will talk more, listen more but still have cuts to make. I do believe that we may be able to find a constructive way out of the wreckage.

The biggest problem is that heavy funding cuts and reform of the way local services are delivered do not sit happily together. There are approaches which will deliver the same or better services at lower costs in the long term, but the transition does not come cheap.

People are happy to volunteer to improve services, but they are not happy to meet the redundant worker they have replaced in the shop or pub.

There is also a feeling that what Butler describes as the “nascent social enterprise movement” is an alternative bureaucracy in waiting. They talk in a jargon ridden language just like the people in council offices and that does not engender confidence.

If reform is to work it has to be rooted in genuine support from communities that feel the projects are their own. Finding a way through the cuts without devastating services is tough and it is going to require genuine co-operation not just from Joe Public but between politicians of of all colours. Are the politicians ready for that?

For all its faults the Suffolk experiment has parted the curtains to reveal that there is a possibility of doing things better. It has raised aspirations and made people think about ways in which they may be achieved, although the ways are often not those of the council cabinet.

East newspaper journalists face job cuts when most needed

At a time when the “localism” drive by central and local government is making high quality reporting and comment vital, the regional press is in a sorry decline, a shadow of its former self.

Today the BBC reports that journalists at Archant Norfolk which publishes the Eastern Daily Press, the Norwich Evening News and a string of weeklies are to ballot on industrial action over plans to cut up to 20 jobs.

In Norfolk a pork pie maker and blogger invited a former Archant journalist to write on what is happening to her local papers. The guest blogger writes:

A few recent examples of the good work regional newspapers can do include the EDP’s campaigns to save RAF Marham, applying pressure for the A11 to be dualled and fighting for better broadband to bring inward investment to the county.

But it’s not just about the big campaigns, it’s also about the little things. If you’re setting up a new business, the chances are you want to advertise it in the papers and you may well benefit from editorial coverage as well.

If public bodies are making cuts (aren’t they all?) who’s going to tell you about it and who’s going to give you a voice to shout about it?

Who’s going to tell you about crime, both major and minor, on your doorstep? Who’s going to tell you about events in your neighbourhood?

Who’s going to highlight the ordinary people who do extraordinary things to help charities and the community?

Who’s going to tell you the quirky little stories that make you smile over your cornflakes?

This reflects what Roy Greenslade, media commentator, former editor and blogger wrote recently about a dispute at another newspaper group in another party of the country. Greenslade, who loves print and has ink in his blood, wrote:

The net is the future, print is not.

I am often described as a doom-monger, a facile criticism. My analysis of the decline of newspapers is based on figures going back 50 years. It is further informed by the accelerating decline since the rise of the internet.

I know there will be printed papers around for a long time. What concerns me is that journalists won’t be.

I want to see the growth of relationships between a skilled professional journalistic cadre and concerned citizens.

Like Roy, I love print. That is where I started my working life, the smell of hot metal in my nose. Now I see online as the future although newspapers will still be around after I have gone.

That relationship between paid journalists and concerned citizens is developing as was neatly demonstrated by one of Greenslade’s Guardian colleagues today.

Patrick Butler (@patrickjbutler), a writer on social affairs, tweeted:

Struck by quality and consistency of political blogs in Suffolk: @andrewga @IpswichSpy @onlygeek @DeardenPhillips

It is nice to be included and I could add more good Suffolk blogs, some of them overtly party-political and others not.

One reason why Butler is reading the Suffolk blogs is that things of national interest have been happening in the county, most of them related to the county council. He needs information and opinion and he is able to get it from blogs as well as traditional print sources.

A concern that many of us have is that the traditional print media in Suffolk has been cut to the bone and overworked journalists are clearly having difficulty in doing the job they would like to be doing, to meet the demands of the community

To some extent bloggers are starting to fill the gap and answer the thirst for information. One day last week when a big story broke Wordblog (only three months old in its present form) had a thousand visitors.

Whether Archant which also owns most papers in Suffolk, including the East Anglian Daily Times and the Evening Star, will attempt to cut journalists here as well as in Norfolk I don’t know. It is difficult to see how they could as they have already cut to the bone.

In the meantime it is clear that online community journalism is strengthening with extremely local news sites developing and more bloggers coming on the scene.