The Daily Telegraph supporting Boris Johnson? Surely not! For many, Andrew Gilligan’s promotion to the paper came as a relief. No longer would his hysterical opinions be broadcast to the capital’s retreating commuters as a point of course.
But when self-proclaimed Labour supporters take to its pages to shaft their own party less than a month before a crucial election, we can no longer be passive.
Lynton Crosby, the hard-right Tory campaign director, emailed the Tory members this weekend.
In an attempt to string out the mayoral tax row, Crosby invokes a number of sources, including the Telegraph, Lib Dem Brian Paddick and The Times. No surprises there. But Crosby also lists apparently ‘Labour’ commentators. “This isn’t just my view,” he writes. “See what others, including Labour activists, are now saying about Ken Livingstone’s hypocrisy.”
The Labour members he lists are Atul Hatwal, Jonathan Roberts, and Dan Hodges (who is quoted supporting Andrew Gilligan, who, like Hodges and Boris Johnson, is paid by the Telegraph).
It is time to call this what it is: Labour members undermining the Labour campaign for the mayor of London by doing and saying things the Tories want them to do.
They are acting as agents of the Tories’ line and the Tories’ strategy by throwing hand-grenades around our own trenches, rather than targeting the opposition.
Describing these figures as Labour activists is a insult to the hard work of the thousands of volunteers who have brought bread and butter issues such as transport fares up the agenda. And I’ll sort out a VIP ticket to my ward’s next canvassing session for any proven sighting of Dan Hodges on the doorstep.
None of these people have shown any interest in Labour winning this election. When the polls have shown the election to be on a knife-edge, they stay eerily silent. And then we see them pile in behind a newly negative and unpleasant Tory campaign. Self-describing tribalists like Hodges know too that when you’re close to an election, you can only pick your side. They have picked theirs: that of the Tory mayor.
Whilst Labour and its members are piling everything into this campaign, some people prefer to indulge themselves and their egos.
We only have to read the introduction of Crosby’s email to see the Tories’ vulnerability in this election. He is worried that his main election argument has gone into a tailspin. “Today, the national media are focusing on what disclosure means for the future direction of British politics and others are saying that it is a sideshow – just politicians spatting,” he says, adding that “These claims may serve Ken Livingstone’s purpose…”
He should be worried – his strategy has veered off into a different debate: whether total disclosure is healthy for British public life. He and Johnson have poisoned the well. Many commentators are urging for the debate to move on.
Even Tory ex-minister John Redwood now says the tax debate is “crowding out the more important matters of what Ken or Boris would do to the Council Tax, the policing, and the transport of London,” he argues.
Johnson’s campaign is trying to divert Londoners’ attention from understanding that they will be £1,000 or more better off with Labour’s Ken Livingstone, through the reduction of fares and other key pledges – or, put another way, they will be £1,000 or more worse off with Johnson and the Conservatives.
If we can get this message out, then Ken will win. In a cynical attempt to deceive the electorate, the Tories have made a song and dance distraction.
Crosby’s strategy can be taken down. Real Labour activists will be doing just this in the coming weeks. Those few Labour members who continue to snipe must accept that they are simply the Tories’ useful idiots.
This article first appeared at Next Generation Labour.
Harry’s Place is a political blog that has earned itself a controversial reputation over the years. Posted on the blog’s masthead is the following quote by George Orwell: “
Yet even a cursory examination of the blog’s history would leave any objective person in no doubt that the stock in trade of Harry’s Place is personal smear, defamatory attack and Islamophobia.
Among the long list of predominately left wing politicians and progressive voices who’ve come in for attack by Harry’s Place over recent months and years are:
Jenny Tonge, former Liberal Democrat MP and now Baroness.
Andy Slaughter, Labour MP for Hammersmith.
Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP for Islington North.
Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London.
John Pilger, journalist and filmmaker.
Mehdi Hassan, political editor of the New Statesman.
Seumas Milne, associate editor and columnist with the Guardian
Ken Loach, filmmaker.
Organisations that have come under attack by Harry’s Place include Amnesty International; Muslim Association of Britain; Human Rights Watch; University and College Union; Islamic Forum of Europe; Liberty; Interpal; Cage Prisoners; The Guardian; Viva Palestina; Islamophobia Watch, Spinwatch; Socialist Workers Party; Respect; Palestine Solidarity Campaign; and Stop the War Coalition.
What the above and most of the many others who’ve come in for attack by Harry’s Place have in common is their criticism of
Earlier this year a former regular contributor to Harry’s Place, Terry Fitzgerald, was tried and convicted of racially aggravated harassment against Ken Livingstone’s former political adviser, Lee Jasper.
In 2008 The Spectator magazine was the subject of a legal action over an article that appeared in its pages claiming that Islam Expo, a biennial Islamic exhibition, was a supporter of clerical fascism, genocide and racism. The basis of the Spectator magazine article was a piece that originally appeared on Harry’s Place.
The website serves as a platform for individuals with strong pro-Israel views. Following judge Richard Goldstone’s report on the war crimes committed during
Think about that. How many of the world’s armies– especially those engaged in all-too-frequent combat– are concerned enough about ethics to develop such a code, and to include philosophers in the process?
Now of course
’s enemies will claim it is all just for show– a PR stunt. Such people lack the most fundamental understanding of Israeli society. The difficult matter of balancing Israel ’s security with the objective of minimizing harm to non-combatants is one that most Israelis take very seriously. Israel
Zitver here is defending the actions is of the Israeli Defense Forces during Operation Cast Lead, the same army that according to Goldstone, targeted the “people of
It should be noted that Richard Goldstone controversially later resiled from some of the report’s initial conclusions. However fellow members of the special UN fact finding mission to
Harry’s Place also served as a catalyst for the launch of CiF Watch, a website allegedly dedicated ‘to monitoring and exposing antisemitism on the Guardian newspaper’s ‘Comment is Free’ blog’. However, as with Harry’s Place, its main task appears to be to be the smearing of anti-Zionists and voices critical of
Another of HP’s main contributors is David Toube, who used to post articles under the name David T.
Toube was threatened with legal action by George Galloway and Kevin Ovenden over repeated articles traducing the character and reputation of both as trustees of Viva Palestina, a charitable organisation which has succeeded since its formation in 2009 in taking 5 humanitarian convoys to Gaza, comprised of tens of thousands of pounds worth of children’s toys, food, medicines and other essential humanitarian supplies. In particular, Toube has repeatedly sought to paint the former Respect MP, George Galloway, as ‘funding terrorism’. It is an accusation with absolutely no basis in fact and is designed to prevent and obstruct the provision of desperately needed humanitarian aid to the besieged people of
Useful background information on David Toube and his blogging activities can be found here: http://neilclark66.blogspot.com/2007/10/outing-of-david-t.html
Since threatened with legal action, David Toube posts articles on Harry’s Place under the pseudonym ‘Habibi’. The blog itself also took the step of relocating its registration from the
Other regular contributors are
Here for example is Standing taking Andy Newman to task for daring to criticize HP for hosting convicted racist thug Terry Fitz, while attempting to blame the victim of racism, Lee Jasper: http://hurryupharry.org/2011/04/04/andy-newman-lee-jasper-and-the-disgrace-of-socialist-unity/.
Sarah is a particularly interesting case. Unlike either Standing or Ezra – both out and out foaming at the mouth, rancid reactionaries – Sarah projects herself as the voice of reason, a lone voice of sanity in a sewer of
If this was really just about settlement goods, I wouldn’t have gone to
to counter-demonstrate. I’m perfectly receptive to stories such asthis, and I realize that some Israelis also choose to boycott such products, and that many are concerned at London ’s moves to outlaw such boycotts. Neither in fact am I strongly opposed to such products being labelledmore clearly . But although the Ahava campaign might seem limited and acceptable, the overall BDS campaign is intent on targeting every kind of contact with Israel – cultural, sporting, academic. Israel
Harry’s Place clearly views its place in the blogsphere with regard to Muslims, the antiwar movement, and those who support Palestinian human rights much as Senator Joe McCarthy viewed his in the
No respecter of reputation, probity or the truth, its contributors eagerly slander anyone whose political views it disagrees with, using pseudonyms as both a sword and a shield to protect them from the legal consequences that would otherwise result.
It is a sewer of racism and reaction that is committed to providing unfailing support to a state, Israel, which is engaged in apartheid and ethnic cleansing in
Who at the BBC thought it was a good idea to link a piece on Radio Four’s prestigious Today programme about the terrorist attack on New York ten years ago with the increase in Muslim population in Luton? You can listen to it here.
What possible connection could there be, unless you seek to insinuate that there is a connection between the mainstream Islamic population and acts of violent terrorism?
They didn’t rely upon insinuation though, they had Tommy Robinson (Yaxley-Lennon) of the EDL to explain his views in the most soft-ball interview since Blue Peter profiled someone who looked after injured kittens.
Let us look at the reality of the EDL, from the Evening Standard:
Darrell Copeland, 44, charged a line of police and smashed Sergeant James Lloyd in the face as the officers struggled to control demonstrators from the far-Right group.
Copeland, who had been drinking, struggled violently as he was arrested, headbutting a window, threatening to do the same to police and shouting anti-Muslim abuse, City of Westminster magistrates’ court was told.
He was held in custody after Saturday’s protest until his court appearance, when he admitted assault. District Judge Daphne Wickham heard that Copeland, from Milton Keynes, had previously been jailed for racist abuse.
Victoria Forbes, prosecuting, said he had joined EDL demonstrators at Aldgate station, where they chanted: “Let’s go f**king mental,” as officers tried to control the crowd.
Or as John Humphries unhelpfully editorialised for the BBC:
”They are not so much an English Defence league as an ‘Englishness” Defence League”
On the same piece, a Muslim from Luton observed that in an uncertain world many people might turn to Islam. John Humphries observed “This is really rather chilling”
By Bob Pitt, from Islamophobia Watch
Nick Cohen has a piece in today’s Observer in which he points out that, while Anders Breivik was an admirer of the English Defence League, the Norwegian killer “did not only listen to British far rightists screaming out their hatreds in the madhouses of the blogosphere, but peppered his manifesto with citations of articles in the Daily Telegraph and other respectable conservative newspapers”.
Strictly speaking, most of the references to Telegraph reports in Breivik’s 2083 manifesto are by Fjordman and other “counter-jihadist” bloggers whose articles Breivik reproduces in his document. I can identify only two reports from the Telegraph cited by Breivik himself (this and this). His thinking was in fact influenced much more by the Mail, whose articles he cites on numerous occasions throughout his manifesto (the links can be found here).
But the point Cohen is making is basically correct – the mainstream right-wing press in the UK does provide both an inspiration and a cover of legitimacy for the anti-migrant, anti-Muslim ravings of the far right, including murderous fringe elements like Breivik. He is also correct in pointing out that the liberal media contribute to this Islamophobic narrative by giving disproportionate coverage to tiny extremist groups like Muslims Against Crusades
What is missing from Cohen’s analysis, however, is an assessment of his own role in all this. Because the truth is that his journalism has itself played a not inconsiderable part in stoking the baseless but widespread fears of an Islamic takeover of the west that motivated Breivik’s killing spree.
Admittedly, this has been a relatively recent development in Cohen’s journalistic career. Up until the Iraq war, which he enthusiastically supported, Cohen hadn’t shown the slightest interest in anything remotely connected with Islam or Islamism. But the role played by the Muslim Association of Britain in organising the mass opposition movement to that war suddenly awoke Cohen to the realisation that political Islam not only poses an existential threat to western civilisation but is also assisted by those non-Muslims who refuse to accept Cohen’s paranoid delusions on that score.
So, according to Cohen, a large part of liberal opinion has capitulated to “a movement of contemporary imperialism – Islamism” which “wants an empire from the Philippines to Gibraltar – and which is tyrannical, homophobic, misogynist, racist and homicidal to boot”. And it’s not just liberals who are aiding the Islamists in their plot to take over the world. Cohen has denounced “appeasers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who sponsored Islamists working to create a sexist, racist, homophobic and totalitarian empire”. Anders Breivik would undoubtedly endorse every word of this.
Now, Cohen would argue that his denunciations are directed against Islamism rather than Islam. But the Islamists he condemns include Yusuf al-Qaradawi, whose Al Jazeera broadcasts attract an audience of tens of millions and who is widely regarded as a leading reformist influence within Islam. In Cohen’s world-view even Tariq Ramadan represents a threat – when Ramadan received a friendly reception on his visit to the US last year, Cohen wrote that it ”showed that today a type of fellow-travelling with radical Islam has spread from Europe to America”. And in the UK itself, Cohen would have us believe, the leaders of such mainstream organisations and institutions as the Muslim Council of Britain and the East London Mosque are headed by those evil Islamists who are bent on world conquest.
This is where Cohen’s distinction between Islamism and Islam breaks down. For, if a major figure like Qaradawi is, as Cohen claims, a barbarian intent on killing homosexuals and genitally mutilating young girls, if a liberal Muslim intellectual like Ramadan embodies the threat from “radical Islam”, if the MCB and the East London Mosque are led by dangerous extremists whose objective is to establish an Islamic empire – then you can only conclude that the Muslim communities in which these individuals and organisations are rooted must surely be suspect too.
This is certainly the conclusion drawn by Breivik’s former friends in the English Defence League. It is the long campaign of demonisation waged against the East London Mosque by mainstream journalists like Cohen, along with his co-thinkers Andrew Gilligan and Martin Bright, that has inspired the EDL to mount an intimidatory demonstration in Tower Hamlets on 3 September. If the ELM is indeed a nest of “Islamic fundamentalists”, the EDL reasons, then the tens of thousands of local Muslims who support it must represent no less of a threat.
If a British Breivik emerges from the “counter-jihad” movement in the UK and commits similar atrocities here, it won’t just be the right-wing press that is to blame for stoking hysteria about “Islamisation” and its “appeasers”. Liberal journalists like Nick Cohen will have to take their share of the responsibility too.
With the tragedy in Norway surely grounds for a serious police investigation in this country into the activities of the EDL, it should not be forgotten that the Islamophobia preached by this far right organisation is in tune with much of the Islamophobic propaganda that appears on Harry’s Place.
Back in March we highlighted the endorsement of Harry’s Placed by the so-called LGBT division of the EDL. Now, with HP currently grandstanding on the Norwegian tragedy, we do so again.
Why does Harry’s Place believe that they would receive the dubious honour of a recommendation by the EDL?
The Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) has condemned the recent move by the Home Secretary in detaining and proceeding to deport Sheikh Raed Salah, who came to the United Kingdom at the invitation of the Palestinian Forum in Britain and the Middle East Monitor Online.
The reasons quoted that the Sheikh constitutes a threat to the public, is demeaning to say the least, to any rational mind. Considering that the Sheikh was allowed to enter the UK and to address a few audiences without any restriction indicates that there was no meaningful threat.
MAB calls on the British government to release Sheikh Raed Salah immediately and to allow him to continue his programme in addressing the British people. He should be judged on what he says and not on allegations of what he stands for or has alleged to have said.
Omer El-Hamdoon, President of the Muslim Association of Britain said: “At a time when many parts of the Middle East is politically unstable, with revolutions and demands for change, it would be wise of the British Government to have a more balanced role in providing real solutions to address the peace process. Detaining and deporting individuals doesn’t support this role.
“Rather, a more open and transparent discussion is the way forward to achieve better stability in the World at large; and the Middle East in particular; which aids in extinguishing the flame of violent extremist which is fuelled by violent conflict over the World.”[Ends]
from Islamophobia Watch
Sunday’s The Big Questions on BBC TV was devoted to the issue “Does Britain have a problem with Muslims?” The very title illustrates how Islamophobic discourse has entered the mainstream. Can anyone imagine the BBC broadcasting a programme that addressed the question “Does Britain have a problem with Jews?” or “Does Britain have a problem with Blacks?”
Host Nicky Campbell set the tone with his opening remarks: “Osama bin Laden may be dead but his followers live on. On Friday the Pakistan Taliban killed 80 people in revenge for his death. Now Britain is a centre for the spread of Islamist ideology too, which not only poses a security risk but also inflames tensions between our communities. So our one big question this morning is: does Britain have a problem with Muslims?”
The panel was scarcely an improvement. The only representative Muslim figure was Salma Yaqoob. Alongside her we had right-wing journalist Ann Leslie, who took the opportunity to refer to veiled women as wearing “bin bags”, Quilliam’s Maajid Nawaz and Taj Hargey of MECO. If the BBC had set out to find two of the least representative and most widely despised individuals within the British Muslim community they couldn’t have come up with anyone much better than Nawaz and Hargey, with the possible exception of Anjem Choudary. Indeed, it came as a surprise that Choudary wasn’t on the programme. Sure enough, half way through Nicky Campbell announced that it had been decided not to invite Choudary … and then read out an email statement from the idiot instead.
Thankfully, this was counterbalanced by some excellent contributions from the audience. True, we had to put up with a lot of nonsense from Davis Lewin of the neocon campaign group the Henry Jackson Society, including a slanderous attack on Salma Yaqoob. But there were good interventions from Saleem Chagtai, Myriam Francois Cerrah, Chris Allen and Yusuf Al-Khoei. Overall, the result was to present a much more positive view of British Muslims than you might have expected at the start of the programme.
Which didn’t please the anti-Muslim racists of the English Defence League one bit. A thread about the programme on their Facebook page attracted over 400 comments, the overwhelming majority of which were filled with the most vicious bigotry towards Muslims, including open threats of violence. Some examples can be consulted here. Screenshots of the whole “debate” can be found at Exposing the English Defence League, who point out: “The violent, racist, islamophobic, threatening rhetoric currently being published by the EDL on social networking is a must check out if you want to see them as they REALLY are.”
The ban on the wearing in public of the veil by Muslim women in France, which has just come into effect, brings shame to the French people and marks the latest stage in the process whereby Enlightenment values are being used to provide philosophical and political cover for the continuing isolation and stigmatisation of Muslims at home whilst bombing them overseas. It is a policy being carried out in the name of progress but which in truth is the cultural front in the ongoing war being waged by the West to assert and maintain its global hegemony.
The prospect of the French police arresting Muslim women who dare defy the ban recalls images of the Nazis doing likewise to Orthodox Jews throughout occupied Europe during the Second World War. It is a ban which damns secularism as a religion of intolerance in its own right and which institutionalises racist attacks on a vulnerable minority group.
Latest opinion polls in France show that a majority are in favour of the ban. But this in no way should be taken as a positive endorsement or justification for the legislation being implemented. On the contrary it reflects the traction which right wing, racist ideas have gained within mainstream French society, just as they did within Germany as the Nazis gained influence, and just as they have throughout history within the societies of imperialist and colonial states committed to the demonisation of the cultures, ethnic groups and religious beliefs of those peoples who’ve been marked out for colonisation and their resources for exploitation.
Islamophobia is now established as the acceptable form of racism for both liberals and conservatives alike throughout Western Europe and the English speaking world, reflected in the ease in which under the rubric of humanitarian intervention or security Muslim countries are attacked and their sovereignty violated. The French ban follows David Cameron’s speech at an international security conference in Munich earlier this year, when the British prime minister singled out the Muslim community for attack on the basis of the political radicalisation of a minority of its members, particularly young men. No mention of course was made of the role of British and European foreign policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in this radicalisation. Neither was any reference drawn between Britain’s role in helping prop up autocratic dictatorships throughout the Arab world, in supporting Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, and the impact on Muslims at home.
The real imperative behind these spate of government sanctioned attacks on Europe’s Muslims is the desire to maintain control over the region which contains the bulk of the world’s energy resources and therefore carries major strategic importance in the continuing struggle waged by the West to repulse any threat to its domination. A concomitant of this global struggle has been the waging of a culture war at home in order to curry either passive or active support for its inherent brutality within mainstream society.
That the current president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, should have the gall to present himself as the upholder of the progressive values of the French Republic is nothing short of an obscenity. From the very first day of his election, Sarkozy has sought to replace Britain as America’s closest ally in Europe. The alacrity with which he led the charge to western military intervention in Libya, and his continuation of France’s racist foreign policy vis-à-vis its former colonial possessions of Haiti and throughout Africa, has been complimented by his domestic assault on the social wage, pensions and rights of French workers over the past four years. Of the two million Muslim women living in France it is estimated that a mere 0.2 percent wear the veil. It is a statistic which indicts this legislation as an opportunist attempt by a French political class running in fear of a resurgent Right to gain support by embracing Islamophobic nostrums of Islam as an alien religion and a regressive culture with Muslims as the enemy within.
The stated reason for the ban, namely to effect social integration, is undermined by its focus on one religious and cultural group within French society. Social integration is a product of toleration and acceptance and not in the banning of cultural modes of dress or symbols in public.
The principle is simple: no Muslim woman should be forced to wear the veil in public or forced not to wear it. Anything else is an act of oppression and must be resisted not only by Muslims but by the left and all who consider themselves progressive.
It is no exaggeration to state that the implementation of this legislation takes European civilisation a dangerous step closer towards the cruel embrace of the barbarism of its all too recent history.
from Islamophobia watch.
The Harry’s Place website has become increasingly unhinged over the years, it looks like they have finally met their soul-mates.
Nine campaigners have today called on the Chair of the Press Complaints Commission to instigate a full investigation into allegations of systematic anti-Muslim editorial bias at the Daily Star newspaper.
In a letter to Baroness Buscombe, Chair of the PCC, they call upon the PCC to urgently investigate the issue of anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic bias in the Daily Star and in other newspapers. The letter, initiated by the campaigning group, One Society Many Cultures, follows widespread concern arising from allegations made in the resignation letter of former Daily Star journalist, Richard Peppiatt. In his resignation letter to owner Richard Desmond he stated that the paper deliberately sanctioned an anti-Muslim bias, and that unfounded stories were promoted to achieve this aim.
Sabby Dhalu, Secretary of One Society Many Cultures and one of the signatories to the letter to the PCC said:
“ These accusations of anti-Muslim bias are of grave concern, especially as they come from an insider, who knows the workings of the Daily Star. The PCC should immediately investigate the claims Richard Peppiatt has made in his resignation letter.
The negative coverage of Muslims across much of the national press has been evident for some time and has been the subject of widespread concern that it is whipping up Islamophobia and undermining community cohesion. Whilst there has been some academic work that has shown anti-Muslim bias in the national press, this is the first time a whistleblower, from inside a national paper has come forward and exposed the unpleasantly biased workings of the newsroom of one of the UK’s daily papers.
The PCC has a duty to all of us to investigate these accusations. If the PCC finds that the Daily Star has distorted facts and intentionally mislead readers to whip up anti muslim sentiments, then we will expect the PCC to take appropriate action against the paper.
Dear Baroness Buscombe,
In recent years, we have become increasingly concerned about the portrayal of Islam and Muslims in the British press. For some time, there has been a widely held suspicion that some papers have specifically manufactured stories about Muslims and the Islamic faith. It is our view that these stories have had a profoundly negative impact on the social cohesion of our society and threaten the positive contribution multiculturalism makes across our country.
Until now, establishing corporate responsibility within national newspapers for the large numbers of false and malicious stories has not been possible. However, the letter from Richard Peppiatt resigning from Richard Desmond’s Northern and Shell Group makes serious allegations about the lengths the Daily Star will go to in creating inaccurate, untrue and manufactured stories about Muslims living in Britain.
The resignation letter of Richard Peppiatt alleges that there is a culture of anti Islamic attitudes inside the Daily Star. Additionally, the accusations made by Richard Peppiatt, if true, add significantly to the findings to the 2007 report by the Mayor of London which showed that in one weeks analysis of the national print media, 91% of stories on Islam or Muslims were negative.
Among the other examples the report highlighted were fabricated news reports of Christmas being banned in one town to avoid offending Muslims and the claim that Nat West Bank had withdrawn children’s piggy banks following threats from ‘Muslim extremists’.
The Press Complaints Commission’s Code of Conduct is unambiguous on the responsibilities of Editors and newspapers in reporting accurately. In section 1(i) Accuracy, it states
The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures
In section 12(i) Discrimination of the same code, the PCC clearly sets out the responsibilities of editors in reporting on matters of race and religion, it says
The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
The information alleged in Richard Peppiatt’s resignation letter, if true, shows that Richmond Desmond and the Northern and Shell Group of papers have failed to comply with Section 12(i) of the PCC Editors Code of Conduct.
Not withstanding that Richard Peppiatt’s allegations are denied by the Daily Star, there is now an overwhelming case for the PCC to hold an independent enquiry into the specific allegations made in Richard Peppiatt’s resignation letter. Specifically, we believe that the PCC must rigorously investigate the allegations that the Daily Star has manufactured stories about Muslims and Islam.
In addition, we believe the PCC sponsored enquiry needs to go further in establishing the true nature and scale of Islamophobia in the national press. It is now nearly 5 years since the last report into the portrayal of Muslims and Islam by newspapers. In our view, since that report in 2007, the situation has deteriorated, with even greater negative emphasis on British Muslims and Islam.
Britain has a long established tradition of press freedom. It is not our aim to see those freedoms removed. However, with freedom must come responsibility, and it is clear that the national press are today failing in their duty to fairly and accurately report on British Muslims and Islam. The only way to re-establish trust from a significant section of our society is for the PCC to hold a full and independent investigation into the specific accusations made by Richard Peppiatt coupled with a broader look at the portrayal of Islam by the national press
Diane Abbott MP
Claude Moraes MEP
Edie Friedman, Executive Director Jewish Council For Racial Equality
Anas Altikriti and Mohammed Sawahla, British Muslim Initiative
Bruce Kent, Vice Chair, Pax Christi
Billy Hayes, General Secretary, Communication Workers Union
Sabby Dhalu, Secretary, One Society Many Cultures & Joint Secretary, Unite Against Fascism
Martin Smith, Love Music Hate Racism
Dear Mr Desmond,
You probably don’t know me, but I know you. For the last two years I’ve been a reporter at the Daily Star, and for two years I’ve felt the weight of your ownership rest heavy on the shoulders of everyone, from the editor to the bloke who empties the bins.
Wait! I know you’re probably reaching for your phone to have me marched out of the building. But please, save on your bill. I quit.
The decision came inside my local newsstand, whilst picking up the morning papers. As I chatted with Mohammed, the Muslim owner, his blinking eyes settled on my pile of print, and then, slowly, rose to meet my face.
“English Defence League to become a political party” growled out from the countertop.
Squirming, I abandoned the change in my pocket and flung a note in his direction, the clatter of the till a welcome relief from the silence that had engulfed us. I slunk off toward the tube.
If he was hurt that my 25p had funded such hate-mongering, he’d be rightly appalled that I’d sat in the war cabinet itself as this incendiary tale was twisted and bent to fit an agenda seemingly decided before the EDL’s leader Tommy Robinson had even been interviewed.
Asked if his group were to become a political party I was told the ex-BNP goon had replied: “Not for now.”
But further up the newsprint chain it appears a story, too good to allow the mere spectre of reality to restrain, was spotted. It almost never came to this. I nearly walked out last summer when the Daily Star got all flushed about taxpayer-funded Muslim-only loos.
A newsworthy tale were said toilets Muslim-only. Or taxpayer-funded. Undeterred by the nuisance of truth, we omitted a few facts, plucked a couple of quotes, and suddenly anyone would think a Rochdale shopping centre had hired Osama Bin Laden to stand by the taps, handing out paper towels.
I was personally tasked with writing a gloating follow-up declaring our postmodern victory in “blocking” the non-existent Islamic cisterns of evil.
Not that my involvement in stirring up a bit of light-hearted Islamaphobia stopped there. Many a morning I’ve hit my speed dial button to Muslim rent-a-rant Anjem Choudary to see if he fancied pulling together a few lines about whipping drunks or stoning homosexuals.
Our caustic “us and them” narrative needs nailing home every day or two, and when asked to wield the hammer I was too scared for my career, and my bank account, to refuse.
“If you won’t write it, we’ll get someone who will,” was the sneer du jour, my eyes directed toward a teetering pile of CVs. I won’t claim I’ve simply been coshed into submission; I’ve necked the celeb party champagne and pocketed all the freebies, relying on hangovers to block out the rest.
Neither can I erase that as a young hack keen to prove his worth I threw myself into working at the Daily Star with gusto. On order I dressed up as a John Lennon, a vampire, a Mexican, Noel Gallagher, Saint George (twice), Santa Claus, Aleksandr the Meerkat, the Stig, and a transvestite Alex Reid.
I’ve been spraytanned, waxed, and in a kilt clutching roses trawled a Glasgow council estate trying to propose to Susan Boyle (I did. She said no).
When I was ordered to wear a burkha in public for the day, I asked: “Just a head scarf or full veil?” Even after being ambushed by anti-terror cops when panicked Londoners reported “a bloke pretending to be a Muslim woman”, I didn’t complain. Mercifully, I’d discovered some backbone by the time I was told to find some burkha-clad shoppers (spot the trend?) to pose with for a picture – dressed in just a pair of skintight M&S underpants.
Forget journalistic merit, I heard this was just an ill-conceived ploy to land an advertising contract with the chain. Admittedly, that was unusual. Often we hacks write vacuous puff pieces about things you own. Few would deny there’s one hell of an incestuous orgy of cross-promotion to leer at down at Northern & Shell HQ.
Never mind that it insults the intelligence of amoebas when your readers are breathlessly informed the week’s telly highlights include OK! TV and the Vanessa Feltz Show.
I suspect you see a perfect circle. I see a downward spiral. I see a cascade of shit pirouetting from your penthouse office, caking each layer of management, splattering all in between.
Daily Star favourite Kelly Brook recently said in an interview: “I do Google myself. Not that often, though, and the stories are always rubbish. “There was a story that I’d seen a hypnotherapist to help me cut down on the time I take to get ready to go out. Where do they get it from?”
Maybe I should answer that one. I made it up. Not that it was my choice; I was told to. At 6pm and staring at a blank page I simply plucked it from my arse. Not that it was all bad. I pocketed a £150 bonus. You may have read some of my other earth-shattering exclusives.
‘Michael Jackson to attend Jade Goody’s funeral’. (He didn’t.) ‘Robbie pops ‘pill at heroes concert’. (He didn’t either.) ‘Matt Lucas on suicide watch’. (He wasn’t.) ‘Jordan turns to Buddha.’ (She might have, but I doubt it.)
I know showbiz is the sand on which your readership is built. And while I didn’t write tittle-tattle dreaming of Pulitzers, I never knew I’d fear a Booker Prize nomination instead.
You own the Daily Star, and it’s your right to assign whatever news values to it you choose. On the awe-inspiring day millions took to the streets of Egypt to demand freedom, your paper splashed on “Jordan … the movie.”
A snub to history? Certainly. An affront to journalism? Most definitely. Your undeniable right? Yes, sir.
But what brings me here today is those times you dispense with those skewed news values entirely by printing stories which couldn’t stand up to a gnat’s fart.
It’s those times when you morph from being a newspaper owner into the inventor of a handy product for lining rabbit hutches. While the Daily Star isn’t the only paper with a case to answer, I reckon it’s certainly the ugliest duckling of an unsightly flock.
Its endemic lack of self-perception really is something to behold. It only takes a comedian to make an ironic gag about racism and your red top is on hand to whip up a storm, demanding the culprit commit hara-kiri beside Stephen Lawrence’s shrine.
Yet turn the page and Muslims are branded “beardies” or “fanatics”, and black-on-black killings (“Bob-slayings”, as I’ve cringingly heard them called in your newsroom) can be resigned to a handful of words, shoehorned beneath a garish advert.
Outraged, we brand other celebrities sexist, demanding such dinosaurs be castrated on the steps of the Natural History Museum.
Then with our anger sated it’s back to task, arranging the day’s news based on the size of the subjects’ breasts.
Were this the behaviour of an actual person they would be diagnosed schizophrenic and bundled into the nearest white van. But because the mouthpiece is a newspaper, it’s all supposed to be ok. Well, here’s some breaking news – it’s far, far worse. When looking for the source of this hypocritical behaviour, I didn’t have to go far.
The Daily Star seems to set out its editorial stall as a newspaper written for, and fighting for, the (preferably white) working class.
Yet as a proprietor you recently dropped out of the Press Complaints Commission, leaving those self-same people with no viable recourse if they find themselves libelled or defamed on your pages.
Your red top drones on about British jobs for British workers, yet your own reporters’ pay has been on ice so long it was last seen living in an igloo and hunting seals.
A great swathe of your readership lives in the north of England, yet you employ just one staff reporter outside London. One. I guess it makes the same sense to you up there in your ivory tower as it does to me down here on my high horse. I get it, I do.
Because no one has time for subtlety of language, of thought, when they’re scrabbling to pump out a national newspaper with fewer staff hacks than it takes to man a yacht.
When you assign budgets thinner than your employee-issue loo roll there’s little option but for Daily Star editors to build a newspaper from cut-and-paste-jobs off the Daily Mail website, all tied together with gormless press releases. But when that cheap-and-cheerful journalism gives the oxygen of publicity to corrosive groups like the EDL – safe in the knowledge it’s free news about which they’ll never complain – it’s time to lay down my pen.
You may have heard the phrase, “The flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil sets off a tornado in Texas.” Well, try this: “The lies of a newspaper in London can get a bloke’s head caved in down an alley in Bradford.”
If you can’t see that words matter, you should go back to running porn magazines. But if you do, yet still allow your editors to use inciteful over insightful language, then far from standing up for Britain, you’re a menace against all things that make it great.
I may have been just a lowly hack in your business empire, void of the power to make you change your ways, but there is still one thing that I can do; that I was trained to do; that I love to do: write about it.
The murky waters of Tower Hamlets politics have been further muddied over the last week by accusations of homophobia by Labour councillor Anne Lynch [pictured], which have been repeated as fact by Rachel Sanders on Labour List in a desperate attempt to implicate the independent mayor, Lutfur Rahman through guilt by association.
Tower Hamlets Respect Party chair Carole Swords beleives that there are some in the Labour Party who have jumped to conclusions about homophobia, and given the climate of Islamophobia, they should be more reflective:
“Completely unjustified accusations were levelled against Muslim members of the public gallery at last week’s council meeting by a Labour councillor. That councillor claimed a homophobic comment was made, an allegation vehemently denied by those against whom this accusation was made. When some of the public remonstrated with that councillor, she then claimed she was being threatened. Now the chair of the local Labour Party, Carli Harper-Penman, has not only repeated these unfounded allegations against Muslim members of the public, she has sought to smear the Mayor Lutfur Rahman that he failed to act on the basis of these allegations.
“Given these claims were contested and not one council officer heard the comments despite their presence in the public gallery, both he and the council’s chief legal officer Isabella Freeman acted perfectly appropriately. The same cannot be said of the Labour chairman of the council who cleared the public gallery on the basis of these unsupported allegations. I conclude that Labour is motivated by a desire to smear sections of the Muslim community who do not support Labour and the Mayor and his administration. This is quite disgusting but sadly entirely consistent with the campaign of denigration systematically carried out by sections of the Labour Party for many months if not years.”
Councillor Fozol Miah has written to Kevan Collins, the Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Council pointing out that the allegations of a homophobic comment are very serious, and that Councillor Anna Lynch’s account of the incident is not corroborated by other people who were there:
I have seen a letter sent to you by Carli Harper-Penman. I have to say I am disgusted by the contents of that letter.
Councillor Lynch claimed she heard a homophobic comment. This was vehemently denied by all those in the vicinity of where she claimed the comment came from. Officers present also said they heard no such comment. Councillor Lynch then claimed that she was threatened and/or intimidated by someone because of the comments she had made. Again, absolutely no evidence of this was forthcoming.
We take homophobia very seriously and we would not hesitate to condemn any homophobic comments or actions, but we have seen and heard no evidence that any such event too place last Wednesday. The same applies to any threat that might be made to a councillor. We would condemn any such action but we have seen no evidence that such an action took place. In the absence of such evidence, these allegations constitute a slur against at least a section of the public who attended the council’s budget setting meeting, as is their democratic right.
Although we in the Respect Party have had our disagreements with the Assistant Chief Executive Legal Services in the past, on this occasion, I believe that she acted entirely correctly. However the chairman of the council, on the other hand, acted quite wrongly to clear the public gallery in the face of these unsubstantiated allegations. Our democracy is limited enough without this kind of high-handed action which I believe owed more to Labour playing political games. It is the chairman of the council who owes an apology to the public he ejected from the meeting.
I very much hope that Councillor Harper-Penman’s letter will be rejected by you for the political shenanigans it represents.
Councillor Fozol Miah, Town Hall, Mulberry Place, London E14 2BG
A further letter has been written by someone who was in the public gallery, complaining to Isabella Freeman, Chief Legal Officer of Tower Hamlets Council about the behaviour of Councillor Anna Lynch:
Dear Ms Freeman,
I am writing to register a complaint against Councillor Anna Lynch regarding her behaviour at yesterday’s Council Budget Meeting.
Councillor Lynch falsely accused a group of us in the public gallery of calling out ‘poofta’ , whilst Councillor Peter Golds was addressing the chamber. I believe that her accusation was based purely on prejudice, as she haphazardly selected a Muslim group to blame. It was deeply insulting and shameful to be accused of such heinous behaviour.
It was subsequently confirmed by other members of the public and council officers that they didn’t hear such a remark being made. We thought the issue had been resolved at that point.
However, during the recess she approached some police officers at the corridor and told them that she was being threatened by members of the public; the police took no notice of her allegations, as it lacked any substance.
Subsequently, she entered the public gallery and provoked a young man and he called her ‘a liar’. I believe she did this to substantiate her false allegation of being threatened. She then proceeded to inform the Chair of the Council that she had been threatened.
The Chair of the Council then asked Shiraz Haque, a respected businessman and community leader, to leave the public gallery, as he believed he had threatened Councillor Lynch. After an uproar from the public gallery, the Chair realised that Mr Haque wasn’t culpable of the accusation and he decided to ask another member of the public to leave. The Chair had no control of the meeting and indiscriminately chose members of the public to evict.
During my time as a community activist, I have led many deputations and petitions to the council. I have attended many council meetings and have never witnessed such mischievous behaviour from a councillor. The meeting descended into a travesty due to the actions of Councillor Lynch. Members of the public took valuable time out of their schedule to participate in local democracy. For many members it was the first council meeting they had attended. What they witnessed was an utter disgrace.
I am demanding a written apology from Councillor Lynch for her false allegations and role in descending the meeting into chaos. I trust you will forward my complaint on to the standards committee.
Mahbub Alam (Mamun)
CC: Mayor Lutfur Rahman, Dr Kevan Collins
Clearly given the seriousness of these allegations, then there needs to be an inquiry. If it is true that Councillor Lynch has made false allegations, then she is playing a dangerous game in seeking to stoke up antagonisms in the borough. Homophobia is far too serious an issue to be used as a political football.
Nick Lowles, from Hope Not Hate blog comments on the alarming support for the EDL by the Star:
It would appear that the Daily Star is cosying up to the English Defence League again. Yesterday, the newspaper ran a front page story with the headline: English Defence League to become political party. Today it carries a full-page piece on page four claiming the EDL leader is under 24-hour guard after threats to his life. It quoted EDL leader, Stephen Lennon, at length and ended by claiming that 99% of its readers would back the EDL as a political party.
This would be dangerous enough a as simple news article but it appears that the Daily Star is actually creating the story. According to the bemused EDL leadership last night they had never told the newspaper that they were planning to become a political party and that the journalists had either misunderstood or spun the story for their own ends.
Not that the EDL leadership are complaining. They are loving the attention the Daily Star is giving them.
The Daily Star is playing a very dangerous game. It appears to be deliberately inflating the intentions of the EDL with the intention of actually creating the political party they want. By aligning itself with the EDL the Daily Star editor is aligning herself to racists, drug dealers and criminals.
See also Ian Burrell, who suggests that it is not the proprietor, Richard Desmond, but Daily Star editor, Dawn Neesom cultivating the relationship with the EDL.
See also Islamophobia watch.
It is surely no coincidence that David Cameron’s speech today claiming that multi-culturalism has failed was on the same day as the English Defence League’s rally in Luton.
Hope Not Hate has been providing running commentary of today’s events in Luton, where the EDL turnout was lower than expected by either the EDL or police.
Nick Lowles’s commentary on David Cameron is a must read:
I have to say that at first I thought it was a sick joke. On the day that thousands of right-wing extremists plan to march against Muslims in Luton, David Cameron decides to launch his own attack on multiculturalism and in particular the behaviour of some Muslims. I have not read in full details what he is planning to say today but the headlines play directly into the hands of the English Defence League.
I really hope today passes off peacefully. There are 2,000 officers on duty today, with many more in reserve, but this still might not be enough. The EDL are expecting in excess of 5,000 supporters to descend on the town, where they will be met by anti-fascist protesters at one end of the town and a large mobilisation of the local Muslim community at the other. Throw in groups of far-right activists, some from abroad, who are not aligned to the EDL but are making their way here for a fight, such as the Swedes I bumped into last night who know little about the EDL but were simply here for trouble.
On the other side there will be a big mobilisation from Anjem Choudary’s Al-Muhajiroun extremists. Luton is their base and there seems little chance that they will miss the chance to perform in front of the world’s media. He had a hundred out on a protest outside the Egyptian embassy yesterday so we can only expect many more today. Obviously they will be heavily outnumbered by the EDL but it could take only a handful of waving inflammatory signs to incite a violent reaction from the right-wing hooligans.
The policing for today leaves a lot to be desired and the more I hear about the tactics and attitudes of the local police operation the more I am concerned. The route the police have given the EDL will take them within a few minutes’ walk of the main Muslim neighbourhood in the town and where locals, including Choudary’s gang, are meeting. Unlike Leicester and Bradford, where the police went out of their way to reassure local communities, Bedfordshire police appear to have bent over backwards to accommodate the EDL’s demands much to the annoyance of many in Luton.
Barriers and road blocks are being erected across the town. Dozens of shops have been boarded up and there is palpable tension in the air. There has been some amazing work by individuals and groups over the past few weeks to promote a peaceful Luton and try to reassure local people. Let’s hope that they emerge victorious from today and the town can slowly return to normal and heal the wounds caused by the EDL’s protest. I fear though that Cameron’s speech, and the way it is being reported, has only added fuel to the fire.
Anthony Painter has another good article here about Cameron’s ill-advised remarks:
Essentially, the focus on ‘state multiculturalism’ was tipping a wink to Islamaphobic Britain. Whether it was intentional or unintentional, the impact is the same. Rather than building cultural bridges it burns them instead; so actually it has the opposite impact to creating a more unified nation.
These speeches where politicians say ‘it’s about time that we were stopped being so passive in face of extremism’ are ten a penny. Each one serves to charge the racial, cultural, and religious atmosphere a little more. The EDL licks its lips. Al-Muhajiroun rubs its hands. Loose language costs lives.