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Showing posts with label Jeremy Paxman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jeremy Paxman. Show all posts

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The UK political establishment – an arse with three cheeks? Coalition plus fake Labour Opposition? George Galloway thinks so …

Last night’s Newsnight addressed some vital questions about the giant rotten borough that the United Kingdom has now become, using as a springboard for the discussion the fact of George Galloway’s bombshell victory in Bradford, which caught Labour, the Coalition and the Westminster Village media pundits by surprise.

Jeremy Paxman had as his guests George Galloway, Will Self, Diane Abbott and Mark Field. The programme centred around Galloway and Will Self – Abbott and Young effortlessly demonstrated the utter irrelevance of Her Majesty’s Coalition Government and Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to the reality of life in this Disunited Kingdom.

There was no LibDem, since they now don’t matter in any real sense, although Will Self oddly seemed to be representing a kind of LibDemmery – “I voted for them – I wouldn’t say I backed them!”.

Diane Abbott, probably a rich woman now from her long, cosy occupancy of a well-paid media sofa with Michael Portillo on the Andrew Neil show, still fancies that she somehow represents the ordinary people of England in these desperate economically and socially challenging times, living in that strange fantasy political dreamland inhabited by other rich Labour people.  Mark Field effortlessly epitomised the other party of privilege, private education and wealth, oozing the easy charm that cloaks the  brutal realpolitik of the Tory Party.

I have edited both of them out from my first clip selection: nothing they said mattered – they were the straight men, so to speak in the harsh social comedy duos of the stand-up comics, Galloway and Self, there as foils for the main action. (The full clip follows below.)

The discussion had a delightful opening sequence. Paxman, after a measured and calm introduction, then went for George Galloway in his normal, simplistic attack mode, which relies on politicians being polite and submissive in response, and relying on the advice their image consultants and spin doctors careful crafted for them, which of course results in them being eaten alive.

Interviewees who rely on their own experience, intellect and force of character therefore come as a rude shock to Paxman – one recalls our own First Minister, Alex Salmond reacting with tolerant amusement before demolishing Paxo, and I remember one Welsh academic who ate him alive some years ago by not playing his game.

Having floored Paxman and kicked him around the canvas a bit to demonstrate who was boss, George Galloway then made some vitally important observations, prompted by Will Self’s rather despairing but accurate analysis of the limits of Galloway’s real influence on the political process.

I would summarise the core of the discussion as follows -

Conventional three-party politics are breaking down in the UK, driven by distrust in UK political institutions caused by scandals on expenses, banking, cash for access, cronyism, corruption in the media and police and the manifest economic, foreign policy and social incompetence of two successive governments.

The growth of alternative forms of direct political action – “new ways of doing politics that don’t involve the political parties” -  in the form of demonstrations, alternative media groups and campaigning organisations such as 38 Degrees.

The gross inequalities in UK society, and the actions of successive governments that have widened them, rather than narrowed or eliminated them, coupled with active discrimination against the most vulnerable in UK society, and discrimination in favour of wealth and privilege.

The limitations and relative powerlessness of such groups to influence really big issues and legislation, still dominated and controlled by the Parliamentary system and the three big parties plus the unelected House of Lords.

Both Jeremy Paxman and Will Self – albeit driven by very different motives – forced George Galloway to acknowledge what his limitations had been -  and would be - in the Parliamentary system. He was compelled to defend his low voting record in his previous incarnation as an MP for Bethnal Green, in the opening acrimonious exchange with Paxo, by acknowledging that his vote wouldn’t have mattered, and to admit to Will Self that the same would essentially apply to his new position as Bradford MP.

Will Self referred to the phenomenon of political clan politics in Bradford – Bradree or Braduree, as good old Tammany-style politics, then telling said that there was a Braduree system operating at UK level – the political class offering sinecures in a closed loop. Galloway’s response referred to a parallel universe of privilege, wealth and private education, using the affable Mark Field as his example, saying he “might be from Mars to the streets of Manningham”. He defended himself against accusations of ethnic politics by citing the fact that the University ward of Bradford West - ethnically diverse and reacting to real issues rather than ethnic politics - had voted for him. But, asked by Self how he was going to reverse the policies, he said he could not reverse them but would “speak out” for his constituents. Will Self’s gentle rejoinder was that he would essentially be “sideswiping” Parliamentary politics as a lone MP.

Voices crying in the wilderness do matter, but only democratic politics changes things – that’s my firm view. One has only to look at CND, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, now just past the 54th anniversary of its founding. It pains me to say it – and others feel strongly that I shouldn’t say it – that despite the huge efforts and personal sacrifice of thousands of people, often at the price of their safety and liberty over half a century, CND has achieved essentially nothing, in terms of its core aim – nuclear disarmament.

Each of the three major UK parties remain committed to WMDs, to Trident and the so-called ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent as a central plank of NATO.

The UK and the world has remained at risk of nuclear Armageddon since the start of the atomic age on 6th August 1945 – just after my tenth birthday – when the Hiroshima bomb was dropped, followed three days later by the Nagasaki bomb, indiscriminately killing, burning and maiming hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children and leaving a lethal legacy for many more.

In contrast, the independence of Scotland will achieve unilateral nuclear disarmament for Scotland, and may well force the reluctant rump of the former United Kingdom into abandoning their nuclear folly. This can only result in a reduction of nuclear tensions globally, and may well serve as a beacon of sense to the rest of the world.

This, when it is achieved – as it must be achieved, and will be achieved – will have been achieved by the ballot box, by the will of the Scottish electorate engaged in democratic politics and by the Scottish National Party.

(It is worth noting that Scotland and the Scottish National Party’s massive victory were treated as a footnote in the analysis offered by this programme.)

Galloway, a flawed, brilliant populist politician, a formidable orator, albeit one who has dissipated his talents, perhaps a bit of a political carpetbagger, nonetheless has his heart in the right place, and has the right human, international values.

He summed up the political system of the UK in his own inimitable way as an arse with three cheeks – The Tories, the LibDems and the Labour Party.

But it should be remembered that Galloway very recently was prepared to stand for election to become a pimple on one of those cheeks – the Labour Party in Holyrood.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Tom Gallagher in Scottish Review on the Paxman/Salmond interview

When this blog was posted,(Thursday, 29 October 2009) Barack Obama had been President for just under a year and Alex Salmond and the SNP were still a minority government.  Tom Gallagher popped up again yesterday in Scottish review, defending the notorious Paxman interview. This clip is now approaching 9000 hits, high by my modest standards, and there seems to be pretty much a consensus in the comment – and elsewhere in the media- about this little episode, which reflected no credit on Paxman, but did the SNP a lot of good. (Interesting to note Gallagher was attacking the Bannockburn theme way back in 2009.)

Why should Alex Salmond be caressed with a feather duster by Paxo?

Tom Gallagher got one thing right, although not as he doubtless intended it -

Lots of people are scrambling around trying to find the elusive artefacts of Britishness which will enable them to derail the nationalist juggernaut. It occurred to me that the mercurial and choleric Mr Paxman exemplified one of the strands that have defined Britishness in the eyes of the rest of the world.TOM GALLAGER

It would be too kind to call the unionist opposition a juggernaut so far – more of a rickety empire wagon with the wheels coming off – but the Paxman interview undoubtedly caused to to jolt dangerously as it ran into yet another Paxo rut …


Thursday, 29 October 2009

Prof. Tom Gallagher, Alex Salmond - and the NED?
I sent the following letter to the Herald as a response to yet another misconceived attack by Professor Tom Gallagher of the Bradford University Peace Studies department. It wasn't published, and, in fairness to the Herald, I was really responding to Prof Gallagher's earlier attacks on Alex Salmond, and not the ridiculous charge of Anglophobia directed against him yesterday, and to that degree, I was 'off thread'.
Today's letters include a number of robust and effective responses to the Professor Gallagher, and I am content that balance has been served, however I reproduce my unpublished letter below because it refers to something that tends to be skated over in embarrassment by the Scottish media, and I am bound to say on occasion by the SNP itself, namely the hostility by America to Scotland's ambitions for independence on strategic - and covert - foreign policy grounds.
America's appalling - and murderous - record of interfering in democratic processes in other nations, notably in Latin America, is well known, or at least it should be to anyone who has not had their head firmly in the sand for the last half a century or so. In the Reagan era, a certain embarrassment set in over the egregious nature of the CIA's brutal suppression of democratic regimes, and an organisation was set up to sanitise this arm of America's foreign policy, called the National Endowment for Democracy.
The criticisms of this organisation are numerous, coming both from Americans and from the rest of the world. It has two aspects - a smiling public aspect of good works and worthy initiatives, and another, secret aspect of covert operations and the channelling of money to politicians and groups deemed to be favourable to American interest in countries that are deemed to be strategically important to America, which means just about anywhere on the globe. It uses a complex, concealed money trail as the conduit for these funds.
It also sponsors carefully selected academics from other countries deemed to be sympathetic to its public aims, and what ambitious academic could quibble with the aims of a foundation that endows democracy?

Professor Tom Gallagher is a Research Fellow of the National Endowment for Democracy.

Dear Sir,
Tom Gallagher (Letters 28th October) remains entirely consistent, if increasingly intemperate, in his attacks on Alex Salmond, the SNP, and his interpretation of what he calls “ethnic politics”. He seems to wilfully ignore the fact that all political parties are engaged in ethnic politics, and have to embrace within their policies and their activities the realities of ethnicity, ethnic groupings, religious belief and its complex relationship to national identity, colour, and ethnicity.
Alex Salmond faces the reality of a Scotland where three large faith groups exist, together with a large secular block that professes no faith. He faces the reality of faith schools within the state sector for two Christian faiths, but not currently for the Muslim faith. I am personally opposed to faith schools, and believe that they can contribute to ethnic division in communities, but unless we are prepared to dismantle them for Christian religions, I cannot see how in equity we can deny them to Muslims. The vital thing is that they should not be faith schools of the fundamentalist, Christian Zionist type that Blair endowed, nor the extreme Islamicist type that propagate a violent version of Islam that is alien to the vast majority of Muslims
However, Professor Gallagher, as an acknowledged expert on ethnicity and religion as it affects politics, seems to be highly selective in what he attacks, and he displays a remarkable capacity to ignore the rampant militarism, religiosity and celebration of imperial values that characterises Britishness, and seems totally blind to an even more militaristic religious nationalism displayed by America. Perhaps the fact that he is a research fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington D.C. contributes to his myopia in this regard, because the NED is a very odd body indeed.
Founded in the Reagan era, this organisation was designed to sanitise the brutal suppression of Latin America democracies by the CIA – its purpose was, in the words of former CIA operative Philip Agee, “seeking to promote free, fair, transparent democratic elections, but in such a way that power went to the elites and not to the people.” We can see its dubious operations in Afghanistan and its spectacular failure in Iraq.
Alex Salmond and the SNP are resolutely anti-nuclear, and committed to the removal of weapons of mass destruction from Scotland. One would expect this to sit well with a Professor of Peace Studies, but perhaps not so well with a Research Fellow of the NED, an organisation that uses a complex system of directing money to shadowy political forces in ways that make it impossible to “follow the money”.
Scottish nationalism represents a threat to the kind of American foreign policy epitomised by the Bush, Cheney and Blair years, a bitter destructive era that we may be painfully emerging from under Obama. Prof. Gallagher can find better targets than celebrations of Bannockburn if he wishes to further this vital process.
Yours faithfully,
Peter Curran


Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Paxman with Alex Salmond - " certainly the picture of the patronising Englishman" - Irish Times

Paxo never learns - like the UK, he's past his sell by date, out of touch with the constitutional realities. As Mark Hennessy of the Irish Times dryly observes "Most people watching that  interview with Jeremy Paxman - I'm sure Alex Salmond would be very, very glad if he was to get more interviews like that by English presenters. It's certainly the picture of the patronising Englishman, and that's going to feed into the debate both in Scotland and indeed in the attitudes that perhaps will be taken abroad when people are looking at this from an outside audience."

Paxman's opening remarks - " ... what his country might be like if he get's his way and manages to bust up the United Kingdom. ..... But fear not: while Moses, sorry - Alex Salmond - didn't quite promise a land flowing with milk and honey, he did claim it would be a beacon of what he called progressiveness."  Not quite the respect agenda that David Cameron or indeed the BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation is supposed to be pursuing with the First Minister of Scotland - nor was the comparison of Alex Salmond to Robert Mugabe later in the interview.

But Scots are long past being offended by a relic of empire - a UK dinosaur - like Paxman. Like our First Minister, we are amused by him, and will find Paxo a place on the sofa of a chat show in the new Scottish Broadcasting Corporation to remind us of days past ...

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

How the English see Scotland’s independence–and their own …

When the first reports of the poll conducted on how the English perceive independence – Scotland’s and their own – I expected the haggis to hit the fan, with instant attempts by unionists to spin the result. The first BBC News report I saw confirmed my fears. Here is the clip, brief, but very much to the point – the unionist point, that is …

Since we can safely assume that neither Laura Bicker nor Catriona Shearer – the epitome of a sonsy Scottish lassie – wrote their own scripts, someone behind the scenes in the Beeb had put a quick, superficial spin on a result that, by any criteria, should have given unionists concern, not comfort. But unionists have not been able to face reality for some time now, and are in the deep denial that grips all of the unionist political parties and the British Establishment.

Catriona launches in briskly and selectively on the poll results. “ … suggest that fewer than 1 in 5 English people think England would be better off without Scotland, and just about a third of them want to see an independent England.

Q1 Should Scotland be independent?

YES 36%, NO 48%, DON’T KNOW 15%

The comment options now facing Laura Bicker, or more probably the news editor were

a) Let the figures speak for themselves

b) Offer the pro and anti independence possible interpretations


c) Select a single perspective and present it as fact

The BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation, in its Scottish incarnation, chose the last one. Bias? Probably not, except subliminally …

Here are the two perspectives as I see them -


A minority of English people, about a third, want Scottish independence.

Almost half are against it.

About one in seven don’t know.


Over one third of English people want Scotland to be independent.

A little under half don’t want Scotland to be independent.

More than one in seven are undecided.

These figures are about the same as Scots polled on the same question.

Reporting on this, Laura Bicker is impeccably neutral, and her comments would fit either perspective. Then comes the next question -

Q2 Should England be independent?

YES 36% NO 57% DON’T KNOW 7%

Laura sees this as “ … a more resounding result.” Well, yes – half of the don’t knows have moved to NO.

So far, so good. But then Laura decides to tell us “What this poll teaches us …” and here the BBC moves straight into unionist high gear.

What this poll teaches us is that the myth, that the English simply want rid of us – that they the want to cut a line at Hadrian’s Wall and let us float off into our own future, simply isn’t true.”

The poll teaches us nothing of the kind, Laura - there is no such myth, except the one created by the unionist establishment mindset, formed partly out of paranoia about just that eventuality, but mainly to set up a straw man of an imagined nationalist position just so it could be knocked down.

What I believe, and what I think most nationalist believe, is that the English people, unlike the UK Establishment and the UK unionist parties, are wakening from a long, complacent sleep, in the face of the disintegrating UK democracy, the corruption of UK Government, and what has been done to them by thirteen years of carpetbagging Scottish Labour politicians of the Blair, Brown, Darling, Douglas Alexander mould, the Jim Murphy, Danny Alexander and Michael Moore new breed, and the suicidal, doctrinaire and destructive policies of the rich men of the ConLib Coalition – Cameron, Moore, Haig, Lansley, Osborne, etc.

They are not yet all awake, but 36% are, and 15% are rubbing the sleep from their eyes and considering the new world they find themselves in. That 36% has grown from only 16% not too long ago, and that is the significance of this poll: that the English people are progressively moving in the same direction as the Scots – towards independence.

It’s called a trend, stupid! I call it an inevitable historical process, the Zeitgeist – the spirit of the age, the age of power to the people.


However, BBC Scotland may have got it wrong in a brief, one-minute news item, but an extended edition of Newsnight gave a reasonably full and objective coverage of the poll, the issues it raises, and the real dimensions and implications of Scottish and English nationalism.

It was reasonably well-structured, and Paxman more or less behaved himself, but found it hard to conceal his real sympathies, not to mention his hostility – thinly - disguised, to Joan McAlpine’s calm, reasoned, highly relevant and courteous contributions, especially when she tried to place events in a historical context. In contrast he allowed complete licence to the ramblings of Rory Stewart and Michael Portillo about ‘British’ tolerance and ‘British’ opposition to fanaticism, which in their minds equates to people power and nationalism.

The analytical sections of this Newsnight special were excellent, mainly because they were a Paxman-free zone. However, it is odd that Newsnight Scotland had to be sacrificed to permit this extended edition of Newsnight to be scheduled – they could easily have dumped the Michael Caine documentary that followed, a re-hash of stuff that has been covered endlessly and tediously before.


The facts are that a growing percentage of the Scottish and English populations now want independence, and the 36% or so, when looked at in the context of the undecided – the don’t knows – is highly significant for the survival of the UK, for Scotland and England. Why?

Because this is a committed, vocal and politically active and very substantial minority, in tune with the great global movements towards people power, and the overthrow of old hegemonies and the dictatorship of money, militarism and privileged elites. In contrast, the majority are representative of a complacent status quo, not as politically and intellectually active.

The Force is with the nationalists – the wind of change blows and is unstoppable.

Saor Alba!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Alex Salmond effortlessly deals with Paxman's predictable questions

Paxman deploys his usual repertoire of sarcasm, simplistic questioning and patronising manner. Alex has heard it all before, and deals with him rather in the way Spencer Tracy dealt with Ernest Borgnine in Bad Day at Black Rock - effortlessly and with one hand. The same old unionist script from Paxman, now a caricature of himself, like an old variety artist flogging the same tired old act round the Moss Empire circuit.

Some blog readers expected me to run the Newsnight Scotland Iain Gray interview. It was unutterably boring, and to listen to Gray’s evasion and excuses all over again is just embarrassing and is just to much to ask. So I passed gratefully on to the First Minister …

Of course, Paxman could have listened to John Swinney. But he didn't want to be confused by the facts. Fortunately Scottish voters do care about facts ...

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Paxman gets a Welsh spear right up him – and he doesn’t like it …

Jeremy Paxman's hostility to all things Celtic, Scottish and Welsh is notorious, but he met his match in a formidable Welshman, Dr. Eurfyl ap Gwilym, Welsh Plaid Cymru politician, and Deputy Chairman of the Principality Building Society.

Paxman had his usual simple and deeply superficial agenda when dealing with Welsh or Scottish nationalists - portray them as mendicants, dependent on British handouts, happy to take the English shilling while aspiring to romantic and unrealistic dreams of independence.

Paxman's repertoire includes repetition of his core questions, usually yes/no-type questions, a patronising manner that rapidly descends into bullying if he meets any resistance, and rapid, brutal agenda shifts if he encounters real arguments he can't handle.

Unfortunately for him, none of these worked with the well-informed, dignified and calmly assertive Eurfyl, who was not going to be intimidated by an English media creature who manifestly had not done his homework. In spite of the fact that Paxman had the Treasury report that he had misunderstood and was misquoting from in front of him and Dr. Eurfyl didn't, he was reduced to muttering incoherence, shuffling his papers with increasing agitation as the magisterial Welshman repeatedly put him on the back foot with a series of killer-diller ripostes.

The received wisdom for many years has been that politicians facing the Paxman's of this world  should be polite to the point of obsequiousness, allowing the interruptions, and giving way to the bullying. This is inculcated in politicians by their spin doctors - don't alienate the media man, we need his goodwill. It is a craven posture, one that has devalued political debate, turning into a kind of Ladybird Book of Politics, with simplistic soundbites and superfical policy statements.

Dr. Eurfyl ap Gwilym would have none of it. He maintained his calm, unruffled dignity, rooted in his being a successful businessman, in command of his facts, and a pragmatic realists, albeit one with a dream of Welsh independence. He disposed of the dragon Paxman without breaking intellectual sweat, and without losing his impeccable Welsh dignity and courtesy for a second. Paxman's behavioural body gloss flaked off, and the curtain was whipped away from the Wizard of Newsnight, revealing an ill-prepared and ultimately deeply ill-at-ease little man behind the bluster and the bravado.

He got a Welsh sword right up his ****, and in the words of Corporal Jones, he didn’t like it up ‘im …