2017 – The Omnishambles year

After the crazy year that was 2016 that saw Eric Cartman with a dodgy wig or Donald Trump as he is commonly known, Britain deciding to leave the European Union, and Leicester City winning the Premier league, it was a question of whether 2017 would continue to be mad or common sense would return.

That quickly went out of the window after North Korea fired a ballistic missile across the sea of Japan.  Considering that Kim Jong-Un is unstable and lacking in diplomacy what could wrong when Donald Trump waded in like a bar room loud mouth?   Naturally Trump had to raise the tensions another notch with his speech of ‘unleashing fire and fury,’ and referring to Jong-Un as the ‘rocket man.’

At times it seemed that Trump just seemed to wake up and decide to cause mayhem by getting on twitter.   Officially recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was one of many instances where he didn’t put his brain into gear first.  People accusing me of being a fascist?  I know I’ll re-tweet a Britain first comment without checking who they are and whether what they say is true or not.  After all truth can be an inconvenience can’t it?

Then of course there is the scandal of the suspicion that Trump colluded with Russians during the Presidential election.  It’s something that isn’t going away too soon with Steve Bannon to be questioned about it.

So far the Trump administration has been dysfunctional with people getting sacked such as Bannon, aides being caught lying, and sackings.  Then there are the problems in getting stuff through the senate.  The repeal of Obama care fell through when it was apparent that there was nothing put in place to replace it.

Even when Trump finally managed to get some success such as the tax reform bill that was achieved through utter chaos.  Last minute amendments were added in margins that it seemed as though Trump was hastily finishing that essay in the final minutes before it was due.

Back to the UK, there was equally as much chaos thanks to David Cameron losing everything on the roulette with his Brexit gamble.  After casually walking away to write his memoirs in his posh caravan, ‘the thick of its Nicola Murray,’ or Theresa May as she is commonly known took over as Prime Minister.

Article 50 was finally triggered after much debating as to when someone would press the button or hand over the envelope with a letter which was the case.  Of course to keep up the trail of incompetency only the most incompetent was picked to negotiate with the EU.  That task fell to David Davis who with his gurning smile looked like the match day mascot thrilled to be on the pitch with his footballing heroes.  He was as effective as a mascot as Davis was given some crayons and paper whilst the grown ups talked about the serious stuff.

Lying to your employer that you had done that important work only to admit that you hadn’t, would normally get you the sack.  Not if your David Davis who finally admitted to the House of Commons committee that he hadn’t nor was there any Brexit impact assessment work  done.  Rather than being held in contempt there was a little chortle from the panel.  The cheeky little scamp Davis hey?  Mind we’re still waiting for him to resign after declaring he would if Damian Green was forced to step down.  Green being the one who was found to have porn on his office computer.

Still Brexit means that we can change the colour of British passports to blue.  Something that we could have done all along whilst in the EU.  If that was the case maybe we can go back in time, change the colour to blue and we wouldn’t be in the mess that we are currently in.

General election

If 2017 was a football match then it certainly was a game of two halves for Jeremy Corbyn.  Seen as a liability by some (well mainly the right of the Labour party) there were pleas from the likes of the Guardian’s Nick Cohen to step down.  Incidentally the pleas were more from a stroppy five-year old who obviously knew better than the majority of the Labour membership who voted for Corbyn.

As the doomsayers were ready to say the last rites over the Labour party with murmurings of yet another leadership challenge, Theresa May decided to go for a walk.  During this stroll Theresa thought it would be a good idea to call a general election.  The Labour party was in disarray and this was an opportunity to increase the Tory majority and May’s stranglehold on the party.  Citing a Brexit mandate for the election  what could possibly go wrong?

It was though to be a decision of Nicola Murray proportions and equivalent of Corrie’s Alan Bradley chasing Rita Fairclough across a tram line in Blackpool.

Running a Presidential style campaign means having some kind of a personality and engaging with the crowd.  This was to be the first of many mistakes as Theresa May ran a omnishambles campaign that had to be the worst in living memory of any major political party leader.

Whereas Jeremy Corbyn looked at ease mingling with ordinary people and addressing huge crowds, Theresa May had the look of someone having to visit the dentist for a bit of root canal work.  It wasn’t as if the crowds that she had to endure where huge as it made a five a side team plus subs look packed.

Nevertheless Theresa ‘Nicola Murray,’ May continued with her robotic approach convinced that if she kept repeating ‘strong and stable,’ every two minutes it would be enough to convince voters.  Even then May still managed to mess that up by doing a huge U-turn over a proposed dementia tax that could see people potentially dipping into savings to ensure loved ones had the appropriate care.

As election day loomed May was now being seen as a liability by her own party.  Questions had to be seen first with a local Devon journalist shown the door for daring to ask something not seen.  It may also have been the reason why May didn’t take part in the leadership debate as Amber Rudd was sent in to bat for her.

It was like watching someone openly drown as May looked more and more uncomfortable.  At one point it all got a bit Withnail and I’s Uncle Monty with her Corbyn ‘standing in the corner naked,’ speech.

Despite the omnishambles of the campaign most still predicted a Conservative majority only they lost their majority to govern.  It ended up with May having to get the support of the ten DUP MPs to govern.  Somehow the ‘magic money,’ tree that she mocked Corbyn for was suddenly found to find the money for a £1 billion package for the region of Northern Ireland.

The unexpected increase of Labour seats and successful campaign stunned a lot of people including those within Corbyn’s own party.  Stephen Kinnock who had allowed a fly on the wall camera crew to follow him looked gutted as he saw the election results.  Now it was himself who had to look in the mirror as he had previously stated that Corbyn would have to do the same if Labour lost heavily.

For Theresa May it seemed that she wouldn’t be leader for long with a grinning George Osborne declaring her to be ‘a dead woman walking.’  The only saving grace was that there was no credible candidates and secondly it was better to let a damaged May take the flak for Brexit before getting another leader in time for the next election.

Even so there was still more humiliation for Theresa May who attempted to re-start her damaged image during the Conservative party conference.  A coughing fit, letters falling from the slogan that stated ‘building a country that works for everyone,’ and a comedian handing May her P45.  In all Theresa May looked like a middle-manager being promoted out of her depth.

It was another year of terrorist atrocities that at one point you dreaded any news alert in case another atrocity had taken place.  One of the horrific terrorist attacks took place at a Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.  Seeing the news reports it was hard to comprehend why somebody would want to hurt and kill people.

In memory of the victims and the survivors a memorial concert led by Ariana Grande was staged weeks later in Manchester.   Oasis’s ‘Don’t look back in anger,’ became an anthem to show support and a statement that people would not be cowed by terrorists.

The Grenfall tower block fire disaster was another awful image.  What made this even worse was that profit and the concerns of residents had casually been brushed aside prior to the fire.  It was recommended that a more expensive cladding on the tower block was used but instead used a cheaper alternative that meant that the fire accelerated quicker and led to more deaths.

As Kensington and Chelsea borough council is one of the richest and indeed gave a tax rebate to its richest residents and had £274 million in reserve made this made it all the more unforgivable.

The majority of Grenfall residents are still waiting to be re-homed and there are fears that the inquiry into the Grenfall fire disaster will be an attempt to brush it under the carpet.  For those in authority and that goes right up into previous Governments will not be held to account where profit was put before people.

It has unfortunately all the hall marks of Hillsborough were the victims families had to fight over twenty-five years to get anywhere near justice and accountability for what happened in Sheffield.  The fight too also goes on at what happened during the 1984 miners strike at Orgreaves.

Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey

More unsavoury allegations came out over Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein who sexually harassed and bullied actresses.  This incidentally was an open secret but nobody was prepared to hold him to account.

Kevin Spacey was another actor who was accused of acting inappropriately in 1986 and during his tenure at the Old Vic.  So much so that House of cards was postponed and it was announced he wouldn’t feature in the new series and was also axed from a film that he was due to star in.


There was to be no repeat of Leicester’s exploits as Chelsea won the Premier league quite comfortably.  Tottenham finished runner’s up whilst the ‘Wenger out,’ brigade was out in full force.  It shows how much money now talks in football that in years gone by winning the FA cup and finishing fifth would be deemed (as it should be) a successful season.  Instead some supporters are duped into thinking like accountants and thinking that Premier league placings are the be all and end all.  Instead of enjoying a bit of an adventure and glory, some Arsenal fans still wanted Wenger to be sacked.

It has to be said there are some Arsenal fans still showing faith Wenger as planes with banners flew over.  With signs of in and out it was as though the Arsenal faithful wanted Wenger to do the Hokey Cokey.

The demise of Barcelona was slightly premature as they made one of the greatest come backs of all time.  PSG led the Catalans 4-0 from the first leg as Barca scored three.  It was a relief for the Parisian’s as Cavani scored the vital away goal that seemed to knock the wind out of Barcelona’s sails.  Eighty-eight minutes was on the clock and it seemed nigh on impossible that Barcelona would get the three goals needed to get through to the quarters.

Neymar scored from a free kick, then won a penalty which he scored to make it 5-5 on aggregate.  Five minutes into injury time and mayhem broke out as Sergi scored with virtually the last kick of the tie.  It was an unbelievable game as the Camp Nou went loco.

Despite the victory Barcelona were to go out of the competition against Juventus whose 3-0 first leg win was enough to see them through to the semi-finals.  Barcelona could only draw 0-0 in the return.  Juventus would go on to lose 4-1 against Real Madrid in the Champions league final.  Incidentally the Madrid club would also go on to win La Liga.

For Luis Enrique who had ensured that the trophies still came in for Barcelona stood down after three years in charge.

Back to the Premier league and Liverpool it was to be a season that started off fast but fell apart half way through.  The red’s new signing Mane was in scintillating form as defence’s were unable to cope.  However the defending and a limited squad was Liverpool’s Achilles heel.  They were knocked out by Wolves in the fourth round of the FA cup but did manage to finish fourth and qualify for the Champions league after beating Hoffenheim in a qualifier.

As it stands Liverpool’s attack is second to none being a match for any team in Europe.  The rest of the team remains much to be desired.  In midfield it can be static and not quick enough to break the opposition when gaps appear.  They also need a defensive midfielder to help break up play as they wilt under the slightest pressure.  Defence is a concern although the signing of Van Dijk  will help a new goalkeeper surely has to be a priority this summer for the reds.

Nevertheless Liverpool are still in the Champions league with another possible adventure and dreams of repeating Istanbul by winning the European cup against all odds.  Football after all is still about dreaming.  Of course the FA cup appears to be the more realistic chance of silverware but there is a matter of a third round Merseyside derby against Everton at Anfield.

In the meantime Manchester City are walking away with the league being unbeaten so far with the only points dropped being a draw against Everton.

Castleford was the unexpected success of the sporting world as they won the rugby league leaders shield, winning the league by ten points.  Sadly they couldn’t overcome the final hurdle of becoming Super league Champions as they were beaten 24-6 at Old Trafford.  Still it was a magnificent achievement for a club that had never won the league and previously been battling at the wrong end of the table.


With the world appearing to be in turmoil, nostalgia appears to be the comfort blanket.  Stranger Things harks back to a simpler time of the 1980’s with numerous throw backs to 80’s films and cult references such as the goonies, ET, and in second series ghostbuster’s.  Nevertheless it was another good bit of drama.

Still with Netflix’s Better call Saul gets better and better and very much stands alone from Breaking Bad.  The relationship between Jimmy and Chuck is beautifully written and played whilst we see how Mike gets dragged in with Gus.  We even see the unscrupulous side of Jimmy as we realise that his charm is down to him being a hustler.

House of cards (prior to the Kevin Spacey scandal) seems to be on the turn.  Without giving away too much the main storyline was too unfeasible and hard to swallow that the Democratic party and the public would accept half the shenanigans.  That’s not to mention Claire Underwood not being tarnished by Frank’s dealings.

Game of Thrones is moving towards the end and appears very much movie like.  It seems weird that it is ahead of the Martin’s books but doesn’t appear to be the worst for it.

On this side of the pond there were still great dramas most notably Black Mirror and it’s San Junipero episode standing out as one of its best.  Channel four’s replacement of the series Philip K Dick ‘Electric Dreams,’ was also another good bit of drama.

Elsewhere Doctor Who got a female Doctor with Jodie Whittaker generating as the next Time Lord.  For some reason this got the Daily Mail into a tizz that a fictional alien character would be played by a woman.

What 2018 will bring nobody knows but as the last two years have been turbulent it will probably follow suit.



The good, the bad, and the ugly of Spotify and streaming.

Buying an album was always a rite of passage.  From purchasing your first album to the excited trepidation of waiting for the long-awaited release of your favourite artist.  In some ways going down to whichever record store it was in some ways akin to going the match. There is the hype of the reviews as they dissect the album and then finally the day it is released when you get a chance to see if it lives up to your expectations.

Sometimes it can be the sheer high of listening to something that is on another level and a feeling that the band or singer has done it again. There can be that extra heart beat moment of knowing that this is something special. Equally it can be a damp squib, a stomach lurching feeling of seeing your team go two goals down within ten minutes in a cup final. Even though you know it’s rubbish you convince yourself that it will get better after a few more listens but sadly it doesn’t.

Discovering an album can be just simply judging it be the cover or listening to a song that you take a plunge. A mate may even recommend a band that you wished you had discovered years ago. It’s the sheer joy of discovering a new artist and expanding your own tastes.

Now music is not only more accessible but can be instantly be obtained.  The internet and indeed the speed of downloading has changed how we listen and obtain music.  Gone are the days of copying a mate’s CD onto tape  now you can do it from your lap top.

Of course it caused a furore as piracy rose due to illegal downloads but the likes of apple not only made downloading legit but changed how we listen to music.

In some respects it went back to the early days of popular music where the importance for an artist was to make that catchy song.  A successful tune could pave the way in terms of making money and obtaining new fans.  It was why Pink Floyd were unsure what direction they had to take when Syd Barrett left as he was the one (at the time) who the rest of Floyd felt had the ability to write that unique song.

As music evolved an album became something serious that had to be listened from the beginning to the start.  Ironically Pink Floyd developed albums such as the dark side of the moon that was meant to be a journey and not a case of picking selected tracks.

With apple and later Spotify this all changed.  If you hear a song on the radio you can download it instantly.  The choice is yours as you can download the tracks that you like.  That warbling, self-indulgent track, well I am not listening to that.  Even if the artist intends for the album to be listened in full you don’t have to.

Technology has changed how we listen and in some respects means more choice.  Whereas once there was only the radio to discover music and word of mouth, this can be done via Spotify.  It can be done via playlists, recommendations or simply genres.  The only difference now is that people no longer go out and buy the album only add it to their favourites list or include it in their own playlists.

This of course causes problems as infamously highlighted by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke who decried that Spotify was underselling musicians.  It is certainly true that royalties are not that great and now musicians tend to make the money by touring or performing at festivals.

Critics have highlighted concerns about new artists not being given the opportunity to develop and that there is nothing new on the scene.  In some respects that is certainly true in the sense the media can’t cite a movement such as punk, grunge, or even Brit Pop.  Indeed the last Indie band to make an impact probably has to be the Arctic Monkeys.  Yet their popularity was down to using social media.

Despite the criticism of Spotify it does provide an opportunity to discover new music and artists.  From this I have discovered the Thee oh sees, got back into listening to funk with Curtis Mayfield, and garage blues such as the Kills.

The joy of producing my own mix tape has been revived as I can set  up playlists which means having a diverse range from Megadeth to Otis Reading with bits of blues and even disco mixed in between.

The only difference that I have noticed is that in the past year I have scarcely bought any albums.  Being old school I would have bought the Thee oh sees album but for whatever reason I haven’t got round to it and listen on Spotify.  Don’t get me wrong I still love buying albums albeit CDs.  There is still that excitement of holding it in your hand and examining the inside sleeve but it’s just that the way I consume music has moved on.

Of course the field has changed for musicians although they probably still rely on radio airplay to get a track promoted.  There is that much choice to listen to your preferred tastes whereas previously the radio held much clout on what was listened to.  Now anyone can delve into their preferred choices.

It’s not just music that has changed on how we consume it but television as well.  With faster broadband speeds the opportunity to download TV shows and films has led to the rise of Netflix’s and Amazon prime.  With a choice of quality shows you can now watch whenever you want and even binge watch the set in one go.

Never mind having to find to follow a show at a set date and time you don’t even have to worry about DVD’s.  The rise of streaming probably helped lead to the demise of Blockbuster’s as you don’t need to venture out of your living room or be disappointed if all the copies have been rented out.

Added to which there is catch up TV such as BBC I player that means you can watch your favourite programme at a time that is convenient for you.  It is not just BBC programmes but ITV, Channel Four, and Sky to name but a few.

Even radio offers you the choice to listen to programmes that you miss.  Right now I am listening to 6 music’s Huey Morgan show because it is convenient for me.  If it wasn’t available then there is no way I would be able to listen live on Saturday.

Of course this works both ways as it provides the opportunity for the media to increase its audiences right across the spectrum and that is the good side of streaming and downloading music or television shows.  There is more choice now than there ever is and more control for the listener or the viewer.

It is inevitable that there is going to be some sort of impact especially piracy.  Sky seems to be suffering simply because people find ways of streaming matches to watch their team rather than pay the high price of a subscription.

Music too it could be argued is suffering from downloading and streaming.  Bands are finding it harder to get their music heard and albums are no longer listened in the way they were once intended.

Nevertheless there is a demand for it and the reason for that and I am willing to hold my hand is that it is accessible.  There is more choice and still a chance to discover new music.  What the future holds who knows.  People will always love music and maybe styles will change.

At present musicians performing live seems to be the best way of making of money and it probably won’t be long before the likes of Amazon Prime, Apple, Facebook, and maybe even Netflix’s may consider streaming a live show so that everyone can enjoy that moment of that band or singer performing live.  After all there are many who would probably have paid to see a live showing of Led Zeppelin’s reunion a few years back.  Maybe that will be the next step for music.




Why there is no such thing as impartial media as the 2017 election shows.

With the general election only a few weeks away it is just as well Teresa May has got the media on her side.  So far her performances on the campaign trail have been poor.  Journalists have had to submit questions with a local reporter being swiftly shown the door in Devon for having the audacity to ask one extra question that wasn’t on the list.

Everything has been stage-managed with May even playing the jingoism card by accusing the EU of trying to interfere because they fear how she won’t stand any nonsense from those pesky Europeans.

The Conservative sound bites have also had the impact of a clumsy theatrical dive of a footballer trying to get a penalty as May once again gets ‘strong and stable government,’ into a sentence with the shout of bingo as the final cliché has been spoken.

Then there is the embarrassment of the hacking of the NHS computer database with the hackers holding personal details to ransom.  If it had been a Labour government it would have been a guarantee that they would have got crucified especially as they were fully aware that the security was weak but were not prepared to stump up the cash.

Journalism and the news media have been far from impartial for it to be to be too much of a surprise.  There are too many vested interests with media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch intent on their news outlet to press forward their views on the public.  If there is anything that goes or threatens their interests then you can guarantee an attack on that person or institution.

The attacks on Jeremy Corbyn are nothing short of sinister even before this campaign.  It is as though the likes of Murdoch won’t take any chances by continually attacking him.  Whether its questioning his patriotism by not bowing properly enough, labelling him as weak, or simply Corbyn’s dress sense it has been a drip, drip, drip attack that people slowly absorb.  Headlines such as ‘Corb snubs the Queen,’ or even the subtle Sunday Times headline ‘Corbyn sparks Labour civil war,’ or ‘Corbyn Union pals pledge strike chaos,’ all give the impression of someone struggling to keep control and not knowing what they are doing.  Of course you will hear people say that you can’t trust the papers but with the constant negative headlines there are some that believe that they must be some truth.

Even the media that profess to be left such as the Guardian can’t help but be aghast and look at ways at undermining Corbyn.  The likes of Polly Toynbee who wail at the lack of leadership and his policies not being credible to Nick Cohen throwing his toys out of the pram due to the audacity of Labour members daring to vote for who they want as leader and not his choice is breathtaking.  Again it gives the impression that Corbyn is a bumbling fool that doesn’t live in the real world.

The slightest mistake or controversy is magnified and used to hammer the fact that Corbyn is unsuitable to be Prime Minister.  Take for example Diane Abbott getting her figures completely messed up about the cost of extra Policing if Labour was elected Government.  It was further fuel that a Labour government didn’t really know it’s figures and would not only deliver but put the country into debt.  Recently Abbott was also mocked by getting lost on stage after addressing the Police federation conference.

Nothing though was made of Amber Rudd being openly mocked by Police at the same federation conference when claiming officers were on £40,000 a year when questioned about Officers using food banks.  To make matters worse Rudd dug the hole further by trying to deflect the blame by saying ‘so I’m told,’ despite it being her business being the Home Secretary.

Philip Hammond also made another blunder by getting the cost of HS2 wrong by £20 billion on BBC’s radio 4 Today programme after ironically questioning Labour’s figures.  Again nothing major was made of this gaffe.  Nothing about whether you can trust a May government when her chancellor can’t even get his figures right or kindling the hysteria that a Conservative government would be incompetent.  Instead it was casually brushed over.

It has had the required impact on the British public who view Jeremy Corbyn as an unreliable maverick at best.  Take for example a member of the public who was asked what they thought of Labour’s manifesto.  The man in question liked the policies and believed it would benefit the UK as a whole.  However when the journalist asked if that meant he would be voting Labour the man paused before saying ‘I won’t be voting for that Jeremy Corbyn he’s not suitable to be leader,’ and with that casually strolled off.

That member of the public is not the only person to hold that type of view.  One person stated that they ‘didn’t like that Jeremy Corbyn.’  When asked why they were unable to elaborate or provide a reasonable argument as to why Jeremy Corbyn is unsuitable to be leader they couldn’t as their opinion had been influenced by the newspaper headlines.

The media has from the outset done everything to undermine Corbyn.  From the brash, vulgar, sneering headlines questioning Corbyn’s patriotism to subtly implying that Corbyn does not have a clue and will plunge the country into chaos if he is handed the keys to number ten.

Even the tones of the questions at Labour MPs or officials are constantly negative despite the responses.  It will turn to the cost and querying as to whether it is realistic.  The Conservatives are of course asked difficult questions but then spun to something where they can talk positively about another policy.

Of course Jeremy Corbyn should be held accountable and questioned by the media as should Teresa May and other political leaders.  However newspapers and other media outlets should be impartial and doing their job of reporting and presenting the facts to the public.  There equally should be none of this sensational nonsense that somehow makes every tragedy somehow a drama.

A news outlets job should be to present the facts and let people decide from their reports.  Everyone in a position of responsibility should be robustly challenged and there should certainly be none of the mocking and biased headlines that are casually fired at will.  If there was true impartiality then a newspaper or any media outlet would not declare any support for any of the political parties.  The fact that they do and this includes the media professing to be left-wing shows that they have a vested interest.

For those considered to be part of the establishment or simply rich the Conservative party represents their interests.  Consequently they ensure that the media outlets that they own represent their views.  If Corbyn is perceived as a threat then they will do their utmost to convince people that he can’t be trusted.

Even when Labour lands a significant blow such as Emily Thornberry embarrassing Michael Fallon on Andrew Marr, (Thornberry reminded him that he was present at a reception celebrating the election of the Syrian President Assad in 2007) it doesn’t warrant much of a mention within the press.

In this day and age with the internet and social media making people more aware than previously of what is happening in the world you would think there would be more cynicism regarding the press.  However with the constant negative headlines whether it is hearing the news on TV, radio, or newspaper, people are influenced and with regards to Corbyn feel that he is to be mistrusted.

The media is very much an important tool and if you have it behind you then it can help the most mediocre politician.  Crude as Teresa May’s slogans are the constant drip, drip of the Conservatives providing a ‘strong and stable government,’ whilst ‘Corbyn is ineffective,’ will seep into people’s minds come polling day.

It is a pity that we don’t have a real fair and impartial press that holds all political parties to account thus allowing the population to make a considered judgement from the facts.  Certainly the media in its current guise cannot be relied on.


Can we trust the news?


Noam Chomsky in the documentary manufacturing consent believes that it is the primary function of the mass media to mobilise public support for the special interests that dominate the Government and private sector.

Chomsky is asked to elaborate on this theme and believes that the concentrated network of major corporations control the media with two groups to be influenced. The first two groups Chomsky illustrates are twenty percent of the population who are perceived to be well-educated such as Doctors, teachers, writers, etc who are supposed to vote. The other eighty percent is to follow orders, not to think, or pay any attention and it is this group that Chomsky believes that pays the costs.

This he feels can be seen in the tabloid press which focuses on the celebs of the day, scandals, and popular television shows such as the X factor or Coronation Street. Its aim is to offer a distraction from the real issues of the day and as a result prevent people from questioning things or getting involved.

Nevertheless it can be argued that the popular press do try to manipulate its readership depending on its political stance. For example during the wave of ‘austerity cuts,’ people on benefits are targeted as feckless scroungers. Anger is raised with headlines such as the Daily Express screeching that there are four million scroungers in Britain,’ whilst the Daily Mail is outraged that ‘seventy five of incapacity claimants are fit to work.’

Instantly people are not questioning the cuts or the tax dodging activities of major companies but the vulnerable and the needy. There are no questions why some people are working but with their pay so low have to claim tax credits. Nor are there questions about the cost of living rising so high that the use of food banks is on the increase. An interesting point is made by the former Lib Dem PM Sarah Teather who believes the attacks on people on benefits is more of a tactical strategy to gain popular electoral support for next year’s elections.

Reading between the headlines

The general view within the popular press is that the majority of its readers only look at the headlines. Consequently you can imply something to garner support such as this headline from the Daily Star a couple of years back ‘Asylum cheaters let off with £70 million.’

By reading the story more closely it was down to the Home Office making the mistakes with overpayments going directly to the hostel owners who provide accommodation to asylum seekers and therefore have no influence on the payments. It was also found that Home Office staff had also been wrongly over paid.

However by reading the initial headline you would assume that asylum seekers have deliberately connived and plotted to obtain money dishonestly.

The Sun newspaper has only recently just stopped the practice of using their page three girls to sell their editorial opinion as the model’s own. Tim Ireland on bloggerheads exposes the propaganda used to pursue the paper’s political stance. For example one model praises Tony Blair for taking action in Iraq whilst another praises a Government initiative. This practice stopped in July 2013 but shows the lengths some media outlets use to promote their own agenda.

Influences on Government

If it wasn’t already known how much influence that Murdoch had on the Government then the Leveson inquiry made that abundantly clear. Jack Straw when speaking at the inquiry stated ‘What I perceive of Mr Murdoch’s approach, particularly with the Sun and the News of the World, was that he reckoned that his political influence would be greater, if as it were, his support was available in return for what he thought he could get out of it.
‘And I don’t mean some deal, because I’ve seen no evidence of a deal. But he thought there was something in it.’
This came about after the phone hacking scandal that saw the end of the News of the World. The actual scale of the hacking was breathtaking as the phones of celebrities was hacked and even more shockingly the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, victims of 9/11 were also alleged to have been hacked.

Murdoch it appeared had too much of an influence on politicians. For example the Fox news network is so right-wing that it is now seen as a joke. However this has not stopped Murdoch who before the hacking scandal wanted the BBC to be broken up with his son hypocritically comparing the BBC to George Orwell’s 1984. ‘As Orwell foretold, to let the state enjoy a near-monopoly of information is to guarantee manipulation and distortion.’ This incidentally all fell to the wayside as did his bid to take full control of BSkyB.

Of course this works both ways as the majority of newspapers backed the Government’s stance over the 2003 war in Iraq with one headline screeching that Brit’s were ‘forty five minutes from doom!’

Then when it was found that Iraq did not appear to have any weapons of mass destruction (even when they presumably checked underneath Saddam Hussein’s bed) it became a war of liberation, despite the fact that prior to the first Gulf War, in 1990, the Government where quite happy to do business with Saddam Hussein.

Indeed you can as far back as the 1984 miners strike and the Printers dispute in 1986 were the majority of the media were not only openly hostile to the strikers but biased towards the Government.

Forget the fact that the miners and printers were fighting not just for their livelihoods but the very communities themselves. Indeed there were a large percentage of mines that still had plenty of coal to make themselves economically viable for at least the next twenty years.

Media coverage gave the impression that miners and printers were attacking the ‘valiant,’ Police Force who were doing their best of keeping law and order. No mention of the Police attacking peaceful pickets or running amok amongst small mining towns, or of the fact that mysteriously their lapels with the Officers number were missing, or of miners being beaten up in custody. The battle of Orgreaves is a case in point.


It has taken twenty-three years for the truth to be acknowledged when David Cameron in 2012 apologized for the failure that caused Hillsborough and the attempted cover up. Documents from the independent Hillsborough panel found that there was a failure of the authorities to protect people and an attempt to blame the fans.

This was seen with high-ranking officials in the South Yorkshire Police and the Conservative MP Irvine Patrick who fed stories to the media and led to the Sun’s disgusting headline ‘the truth.’ It was in short a disgraceful attempt to cover up the incompetence of the authorities. As a result the newspaper is boycotted and reviled in Merseyside for its lies.

Coverage and bias

Criticism has also been hurled at the BBC and other established media establishments of not being impartial and failing to cover major events in depths. For example the protest against the cuts in the NHS during the anti – austerity rally in Manchester 2013 was scarcely covered, albeit a couple of minutes of airtime on the BBC.

This despite the fact that fifty thousand people had travelled down to the City centre of Manchester, were the Conservative party was holding its annual conference. There where no clips of organisers or protestors to explain the reason why they were protesting, apart from the shout of ‘Tory scum,’ which could give the viewer the impression that it was a just bunch of bolshy left-wing militants stirring up trouble.

Sky news focused on the only arrest of the demonstration even though Greater Manchester Police praised the peaceful and lawful manner of protestors.

Pictures of the actual march were used as wallpaper whilst the political commentator of the BBC talked about the Conservative party conference. The event failed to arouse much interest in the newspapers with only a few column inches at best.

The media coverage during the student protests against tuition fees in early November 2010 was all focused on the violence. However another demonstration two weeks later saw students unnecessarily kettled and then for no apparent reason Police horses charged the protestors.

There was scarcely any coverage apart from the Guardian that used the clip caught by one of the kettled demonstrators. Nor was there any debate about whether kettling was necessary and why the Police felt that it was necessary to charge an already contained crowd with Police horses.

The rise of Social media

With the rise of social media such as twitter, blogs, and access to other news outlets there is a variety of choice in trying to obtain the truth somewhere. For example most phones have cameras and smart phones are now becoming the norm. This means as in the case of the above clip of the Police charging students that the story can get out by people who are actually on the ground.

In turn this means that the traditional press are being forced to follow the story if it becomes big because they cannot allow their rivals to gain an advantage.

Once you were pretty much limited to the popular press for news whereas now there is a lot more choice to get the real story. In essence social media has the potential to make us all journalists and to question more. Maybe the likes of Murdoch who was described by Tunku Varadarajan, the editor of newsweek international as ‘the man whose name is synonymous with unethical newspapers,’ influence might start to wane.

Brian Benjamin