Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Even under a Jewish leader, the British Labour Party is hesitant about condemning antisemitism
Karl Max was a Jewish antisemite so not much has changed
This week a voice was raised against the scourge of anti-Semitism. It was the voice of Ed Miliband, the Labour leader. On Tuesday he posted an article on his Facebook page in which said: “We need a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism in the UK and to reaffirm our revulsion to it in all its forms. The Labour Party has always been at the forefront of fighting intolerance. We will continue to be so.”
A clear and principled statement. Except, it wasn’t a clear and principled statement, but a statement born of political calculation. A week earlier, Miliband had received a high-profile rebuke from Labour supporter Maureen Lipman. “Just when the anti-Semitism in France, Denmark, Norway, Hungary is mounting savagely, just when our cemeteries and synagogues and shops are once again under threat” she wrote in Standpoint magazine, “in steps Mr Miliband to demand that the government recognise the state of Palestine.” Lipman’s comments, in particular her concern about the Labour leader’s silence over anti-Semitic attacks, were quickly echoed by other senior members of the Jewish community.
So 24 hours later that silence was suddenly broken. Reporters at the Jewish Chronicle and Jewish News were phoned with quotes condemning a recent attack on Luciana Berger, the Jewish Labour MP. And a couple of days later, Miliband’s Facebook article appeared.
In 12 weeks’ time our national leaders will gather to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. And the only Jewish man among their number will be someone who had to be harangued by Beatrice from the BT ads before he would raise himself to condemn a virulent anti-Semitic attack on one of his own members of parliament.
This tension between idealism and pragmatism has always defined our politics. I have sat in plenty of rooms where hard choices between the two have had to be made, and argued for the latter as much – if not more than – the former. I remember being told before the 1997 election to shelve a campaign in support of housing succession rights for gay couples because “we don’t want to get into that area right now”. And agreeing to do so with shamefully little complaint.
But sooner or later a line has to be drawn. And surely anti-Semitism is the place to draw it.
How did we get here? How did we go from saying “let us remember their sacrifice” to “let us remember their sacrifice so long as we can find space on the news grid”? From pledging “zero tolerance” to pledging “zero tolerance unless it can be justified by political expedience”?
David Cameron and Ed Miliband are decent men. Their instincts are to take a stand against extremism. But they are also politically cautious men. And caution is no antidote to blind prejudice. Zero tolerance must be a watchword. Not just another sound bite.
British feminists abandon their principles for money
Feminist T-shirt women paid below 'living wage': After MoS exposé of £45 Miliband top, we reveal truth behind feminists' shameless defence of 'sweatshops'
The women paid 62p an hour in Mauritius making £45 ‘feminist’ T-shirts earn less than the ‘living wage’ set by the government of the Indian Ocean island.
After our revelations last week about the ‘sweatshop’ conditions endured by workers producing the garments, The Mail on Sunday has discovered that the women’s pay falls far short of the £1.47 an hour set by the official statistics office, and designed to provide a decent, basic level of income.
Unions and campaigners last night condemned high street chain Whistles and Left-wing women’s rights group The Fawcett Society for refusing to withdraw the T-shirt, made by women living 16 to a room.
Whistles was described as ‘sticking its head in the sand’ by one major union following The Mail on Sunday’s revelations about the conditions in which the ‘This Is What A Feminist Looks Like’ T-shirts are made at the Compagnie Mauricienne de Textile [CMT] workcamp.
The new revelations came as:
Whistles announced that the women earn more than the Mauritian minimum wage - 44p an hour - but the government admits this has not been reviewed since 1984 and is ‘outdated’.
We established that fewer than eight per cent of the workforce belong to a union, despite Whistles and The Fawcett Society claiming the women had union representation.
Our journalists were followed and spied upon by guards from CMT as they travelled around Mauritius.
Rosie Boycott, founder of feminist magazine Spare Rib, writes in today’s MoS that The Fawcett Society should be ‘ashamed’ and has ‘betrayed the cause of feminism’.
The story divided opinion on the Left, with one reader on The Guardian’s website saying: ‘I hate the Mail as much as the next Guardian reader... but they are right about this.’
Labour leader Ed Miliband, his deputy Harriet Harman, and Nick Clegg were all photographed for Elle magazine in the shirts.
After our exclusive story last week, the shirts were withdrawn from sale in Whistles while it conducted an investigation.
Two days later, the shirts were back on shelves when the store, the charity and the magazine all declared they were satisfied the factory conditions at CMT conformed to ‘ethical standards’.
Significantly, the statement did not contradict the women’s rate of pay or living conditions, it merely said they are paid above the minimum wage and had union representation.
But even the Mauritian government’s director of labour, Edley Armoogum, admitted: ‘The minimum wage has not been reviewed since 1984, it has only received small increases in line with inflation.
Yet The Fawcett Society – which vows to fight against low and unequal pay for women – triumphantly tweeted: ‘Latest T-shirt update: evidence we have seen categorically refutes assertion they were produced in a sweatshop.’
Later they added: ‘Oh well, guess we’ll have to get by without those 11 million Daily Mail readers, aww shucks!’
The Mail on Sunday understands that no one from Whistles, Elle or The Fawcett Society has travelled to Mauritius to investigate our story, although Whistles indicated yesterday that an inspection is planned by a ‘senior member’ of its team. Instead, the company relied on an audit of conditions, carried out last month.
The Fawcett Society said they were initially assured that the 300 T-shirts would be produced in the UK and were ‘surprised’ to discover they were produced in Mauritius.
International trade union IndustriALL added: ‘Whistles is sticking its head in the sand. The government-mandated minimum wage has not been revised for 30 years. It’s currently 4,300 rupees a month [£86] which is below the poverty line It is no surprise that women work enormous extra hours to supplement their poverty wages.
'A company sourcing from a factory with any indication of exploitation should not try to hide behind a smokescreen.’
CMT boss Francois Woo last week confirmed that the migrant women from Bangladesh, India and Vietnam were paid £120 a month basic wage – equivalent to 62p an hour.
The company claims that the dormitory accommodation and three meals a day they provide effectively brings the women’s salaries up to £210, but even that falls far short of the £290 voluntary living wage set by the Mauritian government. To achieve that, the women should be paid £1.47 an hour – not 62p.
The claim by Whistles – whose chief executive Jane Shepherdson is believed to earn £300,000 a year – that the workers had union representation was also questioned by Jane Ragoo, president of the island’s Trade Unions Consultative Congress.
David Cameron was mocked for refusing five requests from women’s magazine Elle to pose for a photograph in the ‘This Is What A Feminist Looks Like’ T-shirt. Yet last week, The Mail on Sunday found leading figures from Whistles, The Fawcett Society and Elle were just as reluctant to be photographed in their own T-shirt – despite continuing to sell them.
We, too, made five requests each to Whistles chief executive Jane Shepherdson, Elle editor-in-chief Lorraine Candy, the Fawcett Society’s chief executive Miranda Seymour-Smith and her deputy Eva Neitzert.
Ms Candy refused to pose, while the others ignored our requests.
We also called at Ms Shepherdson’s and Ms Candy’s North London homes, taking a T-shirt along with us, but the answer was still no.
Emerging from her smart townhouse with her husband, Ms Shepherdson refused to answer any questions about the issue, or acknowledge our reporter.
The only union within CMT is the Textile Manufacturing and Allied Industries Workers Union, which official figures show has 1,052 members in the whole of Mauritius.
That is just eight per cent of the 13,000 CMT workers, even if it had no other members elsewhere. Legally a union can only demand collective bargaining power if it represents 30 per cent of staff, but companies can grant the same right to smaller unions.
The union is led by Fayzal Ally Beegun, who accompanied the MoS on our tour of the factory last week. At that time, he described the conditions as a ‘sweatshop’ and condemned the pay and conditions. Since then, our efforts to contact him have been in vain, but CMT issued a letter he wrote claiming the quotes attributed to him were ‘totally false’.
Jane Ragoo said the CMT has stopped her approaching foreign workers about joining an independent union. She described the accommodation complex as ‘like a prison’.
In a statement last week, Mr Woo denied the factory was a ‘sweatshop’, and claimed the women who represent 80 per cent of his workforce had access to leisure facilities.
But on our tour, it was only in the men’s block that we saw a gym, library, TV room and sports pitches. Security guards at a CMT factory in Curepipe yesterday herded workers inside their dormitories to stop them from talking to our reporters.
Neighbour Lallman Lutch, 62, told us: ‘Normally the women are allowed outside on Saturday but my friend told me they were locking them in to stop them talking to journalists. They say it is like a prison.’
CMT has a chequered history, but says it has improved conditions in recent years. In 2005, riot police fired tear gas as 300 Chinese workers protested that a colleague had been effectively worked to death.
Whistles said it had nothing to add to its statement last week insisting it was ‘committed to ethical sourcing’ adding that an audit last month found that ‘all employees are paid above the government-mandated minimum wage; employees are paid according to their skills and period of service; there is no forced labour; there is a policy for freedom of association and collective bargaining; there are regular workers’ meetings.’
The Fawcett Society and Elle refused to answer our questions.
British huntress condemned
She made her name by giving outspoken advice on what not to wear. But now Susannah Constantine is the one being criticised – over some very controversial accessories brandished by her young daughter.
Keen hunter Miss Constantine shared a picture of ten-year-old Cece proudly clutching a dead duck and with her face smeared with blood to mark her first kill.
The little girl is also shown holding guns and taking part in hunts in a series of photos dating back almost a year and published on her and her mother’s public Instagram profiles. The photographs are accompanied by captions such as ‘First duck’ and ‘No food left after Christmas. Cece off to save the day’.
But Miss Constantine has been condemned by animal rights campaigners, who claimed the pictures call into question her abilities as a mother and branded the decision to let a child hunt ‘depressing’, ‘irresponsible’ and ‘dangerous’.
Miss Constantine – who found fame alongside Trinny Woodall as one half of television fashion advisers Trinny and Susannah – began hunting at the age of seven around the Leicestershire village of Knipton where she grew up.
The daughter of a Coldstream Guard, Miss Constantine boarded from the age of 11 at the £6,950-a-term St Mary’s School in Oxfordshire and was once labelled a ‘snob’ by Carol Vorderman.
She has dated Viscount Linley and Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, and is now married to Danish businessman Sten Bertelsen, with whom she has three children – Joe, 15, Esme, 13, and Cece.
But the 52-year-old’s privileged background and lifelong passion for hunting has done little to appease her critics, with a spokesman for Animal Aid saying there is ‘no justification for putting a weapon into the hands of a child’. The many young American shooters would be surprised by that edict
The sentiment was echoed by a spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who said: ‘Susannah’s mothering skills have to be called into question, as she’s evidently failed to convey the most basic lesson of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.’
Michael Stephenson, of the League Against Cruel Sports, added: ‘We believe parents have a responsibility to teach their kids to respect and enjoy wildlife. We don’t believe children should be killing wildlife full stop and have always expressed concern at children being exposed to blood sports.’
Miss Constantine has long been vocal about her love of hunting.
In an interview as far back as 1990, she said: ‘I am fit because I hunt every weekend with the Belvoir in Leicestershire, where my parents live and I was brought up … it is relaxing because when you’re in the saddle you have to concentrate entirely on what you are doing’.
Miss Constantine declined to comment when contacted about the picture of her daughter, saying: ‘It was a private day.’
The squeeze on free speech in Australia
Britain's Tim Black interviews The Australian’s Chris Mitchell
It’s fair to say that the engagingly gruff, gravel-voiced Chris Mitchell, editor-in-chief of the Australian and a journalist of some 40 years standing, is concerned about the state of press freedom in Australia.
‘The two recent Labor governments, under prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, posed quite a serious threat to press freedom’, he tells me. ‘As those two governments got themselves into increasing trouble - internally, too, given two prime ministers were overthrown in internal coups - they became increasingly determined to hold inquiries into media freedoms, to try to limit them. And they did so for pretty venal political reasons.’
These ‘pretty venal political reasons’ are not difficult to fathom. An increasingly embattled government wanted to have a pop back at its press-based critics. It wanted to blunt the barbs, curb the criticisms, and, ultimately, exert a greater degree of control over its public image. That seems to have been the familiarly authoritarian motivation behind the Convergence Review, launched in 2010 to explore the regulation of the media as a whole, from broadcast to newer online media.
But here’s the surprising thing, the development that makes the Convergence Review look positively principled. In 2011, Gillard’s Labor government launched a second review, the Independent Media Inquiry (IMI) led by a retired judge Ray Finkelstein – think Lord Justice Leveson, but without charisma. And what was the prompt for this second inquiry, which, like the Convergence Review, was effectively exploring press regulation? It must have been something big, something that implicated Australian journalism, right? Wrong. Incredibly, it was the phone-hacking scandal in, er, the UK, which prompted Gillard to launch an inquiry into the Australian press.
Yes, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which owned the News of the World, the paper at the centre UK phone-hacking scandal, also owns several Aussie papers, including the Australian, but they are still completely different staffs in completely different countries, with completely different readerships. Mitchell still sounds angry about what amounted to naked opportunism on the part of Gillard’s administration: ‘[The government] wanted to harness ill feeling towards News Corp after the phone-hacking inquiry in the UK. They wanted to gain some sort of public sympathy for media regulation in Australia on the pretext that phone hacking could be happening down here, too.’
And was it? Mitchell is dismissive. ‘Of course there never was phone hacking here for very easy technical reasons - the telephony regime is very different in Australia to that of the UK.’ In other words, it just wouldn’t be feasible.
Mitchell is in no doubt of the government’s motives: ‘The Finkelstein Inquiry and the subsequent regulatory system was a naked political grab for more power over the media.’ And here’s the irony: the Finkelstein Inquiry proved far more effective than the Leveson Inquiry in securing a new, more restrictive system of press regulation, complete with a revamped, souped-up Australian Press Council. According to one commentator, the Chinese Communist Party looked on with envy when Finkelstein released his recommendations. ‘So even though there was phone hacking in the UK, you guys didn’t end up with as tough a regulatory regime as we did’, says Mitchell.
So what has been the result of the Labor-sponsored spate of inquiries into the media? ‘We ended up with an unsatisfactory regime of third-party complaints against newspaper companies. It’s opened the doors to activist groups who don’t like certain kinds of stories but are not directly affected by those stories to lodge complaints which will be adjudicated upon - complaints which wouldn’t be heard under the British regime.’
This system of snitching to the state, or rather its press-council proxy, is especially evident on the issue of climate change. As Mitchell and his paper, the Australian, discovered to their cost in July, it is now possible for a group of climate-change alarmists to use the Australian Press Council to challenge the Australian over its coverage of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s assessment of global temperature rise. Even more absurdly, the Press Council also reprimanded the Australian for not giving an environmentalist’s retort due prominence on its letter pages. As Mitchell puts it, ‘There’s a view in Australia that this newspaper in particular shouldn’t report on climate change in any sceptical way. We tend to run a lot of stories on climate change, most of them fairly conventional, but we also open our pages to those who take a different view. And there’s a lot of people on the conventional side who would censor us on that.’
The result of the steady onslaught against the press Down Under seems to be increasing conformism, a case of tell the ‘right’ story, or else. And what’s interesting is that this conformist push is coming not from right-wing autocrats, but from those who tend to think of themselves as liberal and progressive. Think for example of the case of Andrew Bolt, the columnist-cum-provocateur. In September 2010, nine people complained about three columns Bolt wrote criticising the phenomenon of white people bigging up their ethnic ancestry, or ‘blacking up’, to further their political careers. In September the following year, a court decided that Bolt had contravened Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. That is, Bolt was found guilty of expressing the wrong opinion.
Things did look up for a while following Labor’s election defeat at the hands of the Liberals in 2013, and the subsequent appointment of the seemingly principled George Brandis as new prime minister Tony Abbott’s attorney general. Brandis not only promised to reform the Racial Discrimination Act, but, in conversation with spiked editor Brendan O’Neill in April, spoke of his love of Voltaire and John Stuart Mill and the true measure of free-speech credentials: ‘Defend the right of people to say things you would devote your political life to opposing. That’s the test.’
And yet now, with the federal government’s decision to ditch its plans to reform the Racial Discrimination Act, even that flicker of promise has been extinguished. The conformist net of liberal-progressive opinion is being drawn ever tighter. It is this that seems to undergird the drive for greater state controls on the press, the sense that the media must espouse the right-thinkers’ worldview - or at least that of the Guardian. ‘Yeah’, says Mitchell, ‘there is a general tendency among those people who are at home with public broadcasters or traditionally progressive newspapers to think of themselves as having higher moral values than the rest of society. And they have tended to use the push for press regulation to impose judgements upon the media that are contestable.’
But conformism backed up by a tougher regulatory regime is not the only threat to press freedom as Mitchell sees it. There is also the growth of the PR industry, which ‘exerts control over what journalists can and can’t write’.
‘I think that this manifests itself across science reporting, across reporting on the share market, and so on’, he says. ‘For example there’s a very strong regime now to stop company directors from talking to journalists on the grounds they might influence the share prices of their companies, etc. So this gives the corporate spindoctor a great deal of power over the investigative journalist in the financial sector. And in government, it’s far worse than it is in the sciences or the financial sector. In government we now have a situation where the number of people involved in federal bureaucracy - they’re not civil servants, they’re people attached to political staff - is about 700 while the number of journalists working in that area is probably less than a third of that. So for every working journalist reporting on federal politics there’s about three spindoctors trying to hide the truth from that person.’
Mitchell is clear-sighted about what is really at stake in the debates and arguments over press freedom. That is, when a campaigner for press-regulation complains about the influence of a section of the media, what they are really complaining about is a section of the public. ‘What’s happened in the UK and here is that there is a left-liberal revulsion against the ordinary man or woman in the street. There’s a sort of morally self-satisfied view that our media is better than your media, and that there is nothing quite so shocking as a popular newspaper. I would say that the view that has emerged in our country and in the UK during the phone-hacking furore has allowed the progressive left to espouse policies that are quite draconian and anti-free speech under the guise of having better and more acceptable values.’
So the liberal suspicion of the press is underpinned by a liberal suspicion of the public, I suggest. ‘I think that’s right. It is inherently anti-democratic’, Mitchell says. ‘A long time ago, one of most successful Labor prime ministers in history, Bob Hawke, used to say that the electorate never gets it wrong and that the electorate always works you out. And I think that’s pretty much right. In my 42 years as a newspaper journalist, I’ve only rarely seen an election where I’ve thought they’ll turn harshly next time because it’s gone a bit wrong. Generally, the wisdom of crowds works well and it’s something elite opinion isn’t comfortable with. Elite opinion isn’t comfortable with the wisdom of the crowds — it’s comfortable with elite opinion.’
Trust in the wisdom of crowds is one very good reason for a more raucous press, not a more regulated one.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.