Episode 15 – This week Tiernan discusses the BBC white paper, electoral fraud and the never fun subject of racism in politics and has a chat with Rebecca Omonira (@rebecca_omonira) about one of the hidden crises in the UK.
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– And next on the BBC in line with the government’s white paper asking us to make less popular content, here is Top Gear presenter Chris Evans trying to hum the same note for 45 minutes while the body of a dead rabbit decomposes in his lap.
Hello and welcome to this week’s Partly Political Broadcast. I’m Tiernan Douieb and I’m not a racist but I do really hate the 100m sprint, 1500m and the relay as they all seem pointless when sitting down is so nice.
By the time you hear this podcast you’ll either be gearing up to vote on Thursday, doing the appropriate stretches, getting prepared to think ‘who are they?’ about all the names you haven’t researched on the ballot, planning exactly how you’ll draw a cross. Two equally long lines? One long line, one short? All drawn at once without taking your pencil off the paper knowing full well no one can see you do it so they won’t judge? Or perhaps you’ll just embed the sort of religious wooden cross you’d show a vampire incase somehow Michael Howard sees it and then dies and you’ve saved all the villagers. Ultimately, whatever you do, don’t forget to vote for who you believe in. Which is why I’ll be voting for Odin, the Allfather.
Or you’ll be listening to this after Thursday, wondering why, again no one bothered to vote except all the people with the wrong opinions and you’ll spend at least 30 minutes contemplating which other country you should move to – my list always includes Iceland – before complaining how the polls got it wrong and so mislead you or got it right but only by misleading people.
On this week’s show there is some election stuff, but not this week’s election as that’d make too much sense. Also I interview Rebecca OH-Mon-Ira about the UK’s hidden crisis and it’s treatment of refugees. And of course I’ll be looking at all the Aunties that have been in the news including Auntie Beeb and er, Auntie Semitism. Ahem. Again, thanks thanks thanks and thanks again for listening to this show. I was at the ever lovely yet controversial to pronounce Machynllth festival this weekend and several of the lovely audience that turned up to hear me spout new jokes all said they all enjoyed the podcast, so hello to you if you’re listening. And also hello to the student who said they’d be using this for their coursework, and sorry in advance for the bad results you’ll get if you rely on some of the puns that have happened over the last 15 episodes. Please do keep spreading the word about the show. It makes it all the more worthwhile doing it if even more of you get listening. I’m not sure what to call you regular listeners? ParPolBro’s and Sis’s? That’s weak isn’t it. Partly Listeners? Hmm. That doesn’t sound good either. Team Partly? Ok I give up. Send your suggestions to email@example.com, or our Twitter or Facebook for what I should refer to you as please.
Also, just before we get started, if you are in London this week and listen to this before Thursday, and will need cheering up after you vote, I’m on at Andy Zaltzman’s Political Animal at the Udderbelly Southbank. I consider Andy and John Oliver’s Bugle podcast to be the sort of learned grandparent of this show and Political Animal is always a brilliant live show. Last time I gigged with Andy at the Udderbelly though was on election day last year, with Josie Long and we heard the 10pm exit poll predictions while we onstage. Really nothing like hearing that the Conservatives have won outright to ruin a comedy gig. Hopefully it won’t happen this Thursday but if it does well a) I’ll stop doing Andy Zaltzman’s shows on election nights and b) at least we’ll all be able to cry laugh together inside a theatre in a giant inflatable upside down purple cow. I’m also supporting Frankie Boyle on some of his work-in-progress shows in London on May 4th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th so check out his website & Twitter for the times and venues for those too.
Right, on with all of this:
Channel 4 news, you know the one with the Jon Snow that knows something, have uncovered repeated electoral fraud by the Conservatives in the lead up to the 2015 general election. You might remember the Conservatives BattleBus from coverage at the time? Like a megabus shagged a blue whale, and then fed only on mixed nuts, the BattleBus carted Conservative activists to 29 seats which they went on to win 22 of. However the party spent more than £38,000 on accommodation for said activists because apparently they’re too posh to sleep on a coach. I bet they also didn’t eat the complimentary mega bus muffin as it wasn’t organic either. Apparently if the money spent had been declared by the local candidates they were campaigning for, rather than as part of the national campaign budget, they’d have exceeded the legal spending limit in 24 constituencies. The Conservatives insist the BattleBus was a national campaign but Channel 4 discovered they were operating at a local level for local candidates. The Conservative party press office has admitted it was an administrative error, you know the kind where you make the sort of error no one in your entire carefully plotted campaign can see despite all the work and checks that must’ve had to go into it. You know like when you spell ‘the’ as ‘teh’ or something, only for thousands and thousands of ‘the’s. The Electoral commission have just asked police and prosecutors for an extension in order to investigate this properly. It is a legal matter but I can’t seem to find any answers as to what will happen if they’re found guilty of electoral fraud. I’m guessing it might just be a fine but that’ll be up to the CPS. The Conservatives had a 12 seat majority in 2015, and this affects 22 seats. Would them spending less have made any difference? Possibly, possibly not. But there’s a slight chance that without administrative errors, we’d all be a lot happier right now.
The CCHQ also said that the party took the view that the BattleBus was part of the national return, especially as the party was below the limit on their national fund. And I wonder if this mistake sums up everything wrong with the Conservative party. Getting confused between local and national. It explains why they keep insisting local councils fund national services. Maybe we should all do the same too and in the next set of local elections, this Thursday or next year for the rest of you, think of it as national and whether or not you’d like a government who really can’t sort their admin out.
INTERVIEW PT 1 –
A few weeks ago I went to a panel discussion about the upcoming London mayoral elections. This one in particular was on the theme of moving and focused on London’s living costs, housing crisis and issues around immigration, the latter of which has been in the news now almost non-stop for two years. A combination of the horrific situation in Syria and a rise in groups like UKIP who’ve conveniently forgotten that bankers caused the crash in 2008 and instead like to point the finger at people coming here from abroad. It makes total sense right? If you’ve managed to survive a warzone by the skin of your teeth, own nothing and have come here with the hope of a better life and some humanity from people, you probably did travel back several years and collapse the entire world banking system resulting in the UK’s public services being dismantled by a government who insists on selling them off? Standard mate, standard.
Anyway, one of the people on the panel was journalist Rebecca Ohmonira. Rebecca does that old school type of investigative journalism that you don’t hear about so much anymore, where she goes and meets people and hears their stories. On that evening she discussed a number of things that I had no idea about including how current immigration policies leave some women trapped in domestic violence situations. It was an upsetting hearing about it, and upsetting knowing that it is a ‘hidden crisis’ and unknown about to many. So I annoyed Rebecca until she very kindly agreed to let me interview her for this show about that, and about just how the UK treats refugees. Have a listen:
Back to Rebecca in just a minute but first this bit that really, in 2016, I shouldn’t have to talk about anymore.
Followed quite closely by Horne and Corden, my least favourite double act is racism and politicians. Despite popularity waning over the 20th century, racism and politicians still keep staging unwanted comeback appearances even though the material is hugely out-dated and offensive, and there’s only a limited amount of die hard fans who want to see it. Over the last few weeks figures from both main parties have been spouting racist opinions with abandon like sprinklers filled with acidic piss. Labour have had to set up an investigation into anti-Semitism within their party, after inflammatory comments from MP Naz Shah, former London Mayor Ken Livingstone and Cllr Illyas Aziz all lead to their suspension. Meanwhile Zac Goldsmith’s campaign to become mayor has been accused of being Islamaphobic by, well, everyone that can read, including other members of the Conservative Party. I wonder if somewhere the Liberal Democrats are sitting around saying ‘We need to find something shitty to say about Buddhists to get in on this press action! Norman, quickly go on your facebook and type ‘Mediation’s for twats’! Hurry!’
Let’s look at Labour first who’ve had the sort of bad press week that, well, let’s be honest, they have most weeks. Except this time it will be quite hard for them to shake accusations of anti-Semitism that have been building for quite some time. Back in March Labour suspended vice chair of their Woking group Vicky Kirby for posting on social media that Hitler was a Zionist god and that ‘Jews have big noses’, and activist Gerry Downing who said it was time to deal with the ‘Jewish Question’. Which if he’d just googled, he’d have found, like I did, a whole website called Ask A Rabbi which really helps. Then there have been accusations from the Oxford University Labour club of some of the student members having some kind of problem with Jews. Then in the past week it was discovered that MP Naz Shah shared posts on her Facebook wall which were even worse than those ‘follow your dreams’ motivational ones. What happens if you dream of going to space on a giant bee before getting married to a Dorito eh? What then?
No Naz Shah shared one post that said the Israeli population should be moved to the US, which simultaneously manages to offend both Israeli jews and racists in middle America all at once. Then she did another post equating Israelis to Nazis, causing her to be suspended from the party after writing an apology letter. This could’ve lead to the furore dying down but then Ken Livingstone defended Naz Shah saying her comments weren’t anti-Semitic as a real anti-Semite doesn’t just hate the Jews in Israel, they also hate their Jewish neighbour. Which firstly shows that Ken likes to defuse an explosive situation by adding extra bombs to the one about to go off and then telling everyone to come round and watch. And secondly that sentence doesn’t work. A real anti-Semite doesn’t just hate the Jews in Israel but also their Jewish neighbours? So it’s not racist if you only say it about people who can’t hear you? Does that work with everything? It’s not murder if you send the anthrax really far away to someone you picked out of a phone book, but if you’re friends with them on linked in, you’re in trouble? Ken then said that Hitler supported Zionism in the 1930’s which isn’t historically accurate in the slightest. When oh when oh when will people stop misrepresenting Hitler eh and accredit him for all the awful stuff he actually did? It’s so not fair.
Unfortunately Ken has a bit of a bad rap for these sorts of comments, after he called a Jewish reporter back in 2006 a ‘Nazi war criminal’ and you start to wonder if Livingstone is the only politician that would do his career a service by being less honest. Ken has now been suspended from the Labour party and since then three Labour councillors have been suspended too, also for facebook posts. Corbyn has said that Labour is absolutely against anti-Semitism and racism in any form, but the press aren’t as convinced, saying that Labour are riddled with anti-Semites and pointing to Corbyn having previously said that Hamas and Hezbollah are his ‘friends’. And all this before an election.
So let’s quickly go through this. Firstly accusing an entire party of over 200,000 people of anti-Semitism is the sort of offensive accusatory generalisation that caused all this at the start. Secondly Labour have a long history of fighting all racism, including anti-Semitism, as early as their involvement in the Battle of Cable Street in 1936 against Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts. And Jeremy Corbyn has been very active in fighting against racism his entire political career. However he has also been pro the rights of the Palestinian people and outwardly spoken against the actions of the Israeli government. And here’s the important bit. It is totally possible to be anti-Israeli government and pro-Palestine without being anti-Semitic. That’s what I do. I think the Israeli government have oppressed and killed Palestinian men, women and children for years and it’s something that needs to be called out and challenged. The Israeli government have repeatedly used disproportionate force on people in Gaza and are now breaking the Fourth Geneva Convention building on the land there which means it’s breaking UN codes of human rights. Back in 2012 the Deputy Prime Minister of Israel said that he unreservedly wanted to blow ‘Gaza back to the Middle Ages’, which is such a horrible and upsetting thing to say. Also in the Middle Ages Jewish and Muslim people lived together in peace under Saladin so more fool him.
It’s a long and complicated situation which requires a lot of time and reading to really understand, and if you watch the channel 4 interview with Jeremy Corbyn from July 2015 he says he referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as friends in a collective way as he wanted to persuade them to be involved in talks to bring peace to the area. Something the head of Mossad also said needs to happen. I do exactly the same at comedy gigs. I always tell the audience they are lovely even though, more often than not, I hate every single one of them. Anyway, Israel is one of the world’s most complicated political situations and there are many Jewish people that are also opposed to what the government are doing too.
Several Jewish members of Labour wrote an open letter to the Guardian saying they do not believe the Labour Party is anti-semitic as a whole and that these accusations are part of a campaign against Labour. Something that’s been repeated by Diane Abbot and Len McClusky. And that’s a tricky thing to say because yes Naz Shah’s facebook posts were found and released by rightwing Guido Fawkes blogger the appropriately named Paul Staines, as he often does and it’s usually with shit that he’s proudly stirred himself. Also a confrontation between MP John Mann and Ken Livingstone where Mann called Ken a ‘Nazi apologist’ in front of reporters on the stairs at the Westminster TV centre seemed very well set up to the extent you thought the ghost of Jeremy Beadle might appear. And the Labour MPs who’ve been most vocal about all of this are ones such as Wes Streeting who seems to be the Labour party’s personal troll mascot. But whether it’s rife within the party or not, the anti-Semitism in Labour needs to be dealt with as it can only benefit in the long run, otherwise it certainly won’t Passover. Eh? Geddit? Sorry. This is really hard to write about.
And now to the Conservatives who seemed to have enjoyed calling out Labour on it’s racism issues, with David Cameron mentioning it a few times. I suppose Dave would know all about anti-semitism after saying in 2008 that Gordon Brown’s plans for educational school trips to Auschwitz was a ‘headline grabbing gimmick’. I mean, if he thought a trip to a concentration camp was a gimmick, I’m glad he doesn’t work in advertising. ‘How about one free despiction of the Tianamen Square protest with every can of Tango?’ In 2014 David Cameron also failed to kick Aiden Burly out of the party despite him attending a party in France in an SS uniform while shouting Nazi slogans. Last week I mentioned Zac Goldsmith’s disgusting campaign for London mayor which has mostly included him suggesting that because Labour’s mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan is Muslim that he has terrorist connections. Zac has unsuccessfully linked Sadiq with certain extremists, all of which either date back to when Sadiq was a human rights lawyer and as a result, had to represent all sorts of people. Or they are leaders and heads of communities that Zac Goldsmith has also known and on occasion, vocally supported in the hope they’d vote Conservative, and as we’ve found out thanks to the internet, had pictures with. Goldsmith’s campaign also sent divisive letters to Hindi, Sikh and Tamil families playing on Sadiq’s muslim and Pakistani background meant he would be dangerous to them if he became mayor. I mean Sadiq is only 5’6” at best, I doubt he’s dangerous to anyone unless they have particularly weak shins. Saying that I’m only 5’5” and dangerous is my middle name. Though that is mostly due to over excitable parents. Then on Sunday Goldsmith wrote a piece for the Mail, that constantly tempered non-partisan news source – HA JOKES! – saying a vote for Sadiq would be a vote for Labour who ‘thinks terrorists are it’s friends’ juxtaposed next to a picture of the bus that was destroyed on 7/7. You know you’ve done something wrong when it’s called dog whistle politics by Baroness Warsi, a woman who’s ethics don’t stretch as far as her expenses. Hopefully Thursday’s voters of the brilliantly multi-cultural London will prove that this sort of campaign won’t work here. Or alternatively, with previous mayor Ken Livingstone’s recent statements and Boris Johnson’s history of calling black people ‘piccaninnies with watermelon smiles’ maybe it’s tradition that we have a racist mayor and Zac will get in after all? Oh god I hope not.
Now back to Rebecca:
INTERVIEW PT 2
Many thanks to Rebecca for talking to me. You can find Rebecca on Twitter @rebecca_omonira. Rebecca writes for a number of publications but the one she asked me to tell you to check out is lacuna.org a human rights magazine, which I’ve checked out several times since our chat and it’s a fascinating and useful website. Also Rebecca mentioned Southall Black Sisters who are on Twitter @sbsisters and their website is Southall Black Sisters.org.uk. Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group are at kilburnunemployed.blogspot.com. Sisters Uncut who Abi Wilkinson mentioned a few weeks ago, are on Twitter @sistersuncut or sistersuncut.org, the Women’s Budget group at on Twitter @womensbudgetgrp or wbg.org.uk and Women For Refugee Women are on Twitter @4refugeewomen or refugeewomen.co.uk. That’s a lot of links isn’t it? I will tweet them all from the @parpolbro Twitter account and I’ll pop them on the Facebook too as I think I’ve forgotten a few. And as Rebecca says, you probably have groups more local to you, so as there’s no Partly Big Society this week, why not check out groups near you and let me know if there’s any we can tweet about or mention on the show and I’ll give them a plug on our social media pages. Plan stan?
Next week I’ll be talking to Dr Evan Harris from Hacked Off who I interviewed last week and was both really interesting and made me realise just how little I understood the entire Leveson trial. I’ve got a few more interviewees lined up but I’m always interested to hear from you if you’ve got anyone you’d like me to chat to or any issues you’d like to hear explained. As always, the email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
BBC WHITE PAPER
The Government is going to release it’s BBC White paper at some point this month. While that just sounds like it’ll be some fancy A4 sheets with the Broadcasting Corporation’s logo at the top, instead it’s a charter that clearly explains how much John Whittingdale the Culture Secretary hates Auntie Beeb and in how many ways. While none of this is 100% guaranteed rumours suggest that it will include suggesting the channel stop putting its most popular shows in prime time slots as it’s unfair to the competition such as ITV having to go head to head with the likes of Doctor Who, Sherlock or in the case of Channel 5, anything at all that moves and has sound. Whittingdale has expressed that he isn’t sure if the channel should be all things to all people or have more precisely targeted output. You know, like it clearly doesn’t do with BBC2, BBC4, Cbeebies, CBBC, or the online BBC3. Perhaps they should even more subsections and have a channel for every year of your age with unpopular shows for everyone. I’m 35, and it’s 7pm so I can’t wait to tune into ‘Britain’s Worst Humming Sounds’. The BBC may also be stopped from advertising its own shows across it’s services, meaning that you’ll just to have to guess when something new is starting on TV or worse, if they change all the timings we may never be able to successfully avoid the One Show ever again. On top of all that, Whittingdale says he wants to end the iPlayer loophole which isn’t where you can somehow accidentally move the top selection bar while trying to type in a program’s name on the search screen sending you back to the start. Nope it means the iPlayer will be password protected so only licence fee payers can use it. Which does to an extent make sense, except that a lot of young people use iPlayer, especially now BBC3 is online and it’s not your average 14 year old that pays the fee.
The current royal charter is up this year and the newly appointed one will be for 11 years, but with a mid-term review five years in just to check it’s destroying itself properly. If this all goes through as planned the next five years could see the BBC putting on less and less popular and nuanced shows until the viewership hugely declines and the government can prove it’s not working and sell everything to Rupert Murdoch so he can replace BBC4 with just a 24 hour loop of him slow dancing with Jerry Hall. And as a result of a lack of competition ITV, Sky and others won’t even bother trying and we’ll just have endless re-runs of Animals Sing The Most Tragic Ballads and a panel show about panel shows about panel shows. I mean, I say that, but I’m pretty sure that’s on Dave already.
And that is the end of this week’s show. Sorry there was no weekly question. I couldn’t think of one and to be honest, I didn’t really try very hard. Hopefully there’ll be one next week. As I say every week if you enjoy this show please tell other people to have a listen, let us know your thoughts about it on Twitter @parpolbro or parpolbro on Facebook or on the stupidly long email email@example.com and please review us on iTunes.
You may have noticed some new beats in the background of the show in the last few eps. That’s cos my brother The Last Skeptik has yet another new beat tape out in the next few weeks, Your Beattape Sucks Vol.2. Do go check that out then you can download and play it, and do your own impressions of me not knowing anything about politics over the top of it.
This week’s show was brought to you by reasonable amounts nationally but if I’d done them locally they’d be totes illegal. Tee hee.