I know many of you can't access articles behind The Times' paywall, but they asked me to explain what drove me to take the fight to Michael Fallon on the Marr programme yesterday, and below is the article I have written for them.
It's a lot to do with my upbringing and the way I've always believed in standing up to bullies, and it's also the fact that - when you're confronted with an opponent who trades in lies and hypocrisy - the only thing you can do is expose them for what they are.
I hope you enjoy the article, and please as ever let me know your thoughts.
When I was growing up in Guildford, I discovered a hole in the fence at the bottom of the playground at my secondary modern. If I climbed out, I could walk over some wasteland that backed on to our estate, and I was home fifteen minutes quicker than if I left by the school gate.
There was only one problem. This was also where the school’s biggest girl gang liked to hang out, and nine times out of ten, I’d have to run the gauntlet past them on my short-cut home.
Usually, the abuse was just verbal but occasionally I’d get back to my mum and brothers with a few clumps of hair pulled out, and some scratches and bruises where fists or kicks had landed. But without fail, the next day, I’d still be climbing through that hole in the fence at 3.30pm and taking my chances.
I wasn’t a glutton for punishment. I just couldn’t bear the idea of going the long way round, feeling like a coward, and knowing the bullies had got the better of me. So I stuck it out.
I’ve always taken that same approach in politics, and believe me, the level of bullying in Westminster can sometimes make that gang at school look like the Hare Krishnas. But I’ll always try and stand up to it, just like I did when I was a scrappy teenager.
And that gut reaction to fight back rather than run away is what snapped in me yesterday on the Andrew Marr show when I found myself up against Michael Fallon.
Michael prides himself on being the Tories’ lead attack dog. Throughout the 2015 election, if Labour had a good announcement to make, Michael would be unleashed to bark some gratuitous personal abuse at Ed Miliband just to distract the attention of the media. And he’s performing exactly the same role, with even more ferocity, in this election.
Labour could cry foul about the tactics, but this is a game without a referee. We could get down in the gutter and launch our own personal attacks, as New Labour spin-doctors all too often did in the past, but that is something Jeremy Corbyn won’t tolerate, and I admire him for that.
Or we could do what I did yesterday and point out the hypocrisy of Fallon and his fellow attack dogs, shaming them for their double standards. And let’s be clear, when it comes to exposing the two-faced nature of Michael’s recent charges against Labour, we are spoilt for choice.
When he claims the Tories are as committed as Labour to tackling tax avoidance, we could point out that he was the director in charge of pay and bonuses at the Tullett Prebon brokerage in 2009, when they publicly announced they would help staff relocate overseas to avoid Labour’s bonus tax.
When he claims Labour is unpatriotic when it comes to our armed forces, we could question the patriotism in putting our brave servicemen and women in harm’s way in Syria when there is no strategy to get them out again, and when there are still diplomatic options left to pursue.
And when he questions why Jeremy Corbyn was meeting Irish nationalists 34 years ago in an effort to broker peace in Ulster, and says that doing so makes him soft on terrorists, we could ask – as I did yesterday – about Michael's visit to Damascus less than ten years ago to celebrate Bashar Assad’s re-election, and whether, by his own standards, that makes him soft on tyrants.
But there is one other hypocrisy which matters more than all of these others in terms of the choice the voters face on 8 June.
Michael Fallon routinely says that Labour’s sums don’t add up and that we can’t pay for our spending commitments. And yet yesterday, on both the armed forces and social housing, he could not say where a single penny of new money would come from to fund the Tory pledges, falling back on the old chestnut that the proceeds of growth and mythical efficiency savings will provide the booty.
Where Labour is prepared to list line-by-line each of our spending commitments, say exactly how they will be paid for, and take the hit from certain quarters over the taxes we intend to raise to do so, the Tories just continue to ignore the funding gap for their own promises, and tell the bare-faced lie that they have “no plans” to fill it by raising National Insurance.
No wonder Fallon and his Treasury colleagues have refused to let the independent Office of Budget Responsibility conduct an official audit of both the Labour and Tory manifestos in order to tell the British people which party’s sums truly add up.
Instead, their tactics are clear: keep slinging mud at Jeremy Corbyn; tell people it’s unpatriotic and dangerous to vote Labour; make popular promises that they cannot afford and will never deliver; smack down any critics; and hope that any real scrutiny of the facts, the policies and their record gets buried until they’ve secured another five years in power.
It’s both a shameful and a shameless way to do politics; it’s Michael Fallon all over; and, with just three weeks to go, it’s high time the Labour Party started biting back.
Nick Vamos, CPS Head of Special Crime, said: "We have considered files of evidence from 14 police forces in respect of allegations relating to Conservative Party candidates' expenditure during the 2015 General Election campaign.
"We considered whether candidates and election agents working in constituencies that were visited by the Party's 'Battle Bus' may have committed a criminal offence by not declaring related expenditure on their local returns. Instead, as the Electoral Commission found in its report, these costs were recorded as national expenditure by the Party.
"We reviewed the files in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and have concluded the tests in the Code are not met and no criminal charges have been authorised.
"Under the Representation of the People Act, every candidate and agent must sign a declaration on the expenses return that to the best of their knowledge and belief it is a complete and correct return as required by law. It is an offence to knowingly make a false declaration. In order to bring a charge, it must be proved that a suspect knew the return was inaccurate and acted dishonestly in signing the declaration. Although there is evidence to suggest the returns may have been inaccurate, there is insufficient evidence to prove to the criminal standard that any candidate or agent was dishonest.
"The Act also makes it a technical offence for an election agent to fail to deliver a true return. By omitting any 'Battle Bus' costs, the returns may have been inaccurate. However, it is clear agents were told by Conservative Party headquarters that the costs were part of the national campaign and it would not be possible to prove any agent acted knowingly or dishonestly. Therefore we have concluded it is not in the public interest to charge anyone referred to us with this offence.
"Our evaluation of the evidence is consistent with that of the Electoral Commission. While the role of the Commission is to regulate political finances and campaign spending, the role of the CPS is to consider whether any individual should face criminal charges, which is a different matter with different consideration and tests.
"One file, from Kent Police, was only recently received by the CPS, and remains under consideration. No inference as to whether any criminal charge may or may not be authorised in relation to this file should be drawn from this fact and we will announce our decision as soon as possible once we have considered the evidence in this matter."
Notes to Editorshttp://www.cps.gov.uk/news/latest_news/cps-statement-on-election-expenses/
NEWS RELEASE: Rights groups demand more transparency over Facebook’s ‘insights’ into young users
Facebook should immediately release all documents describing how it collected and analyzed psychological information it recently collected about its youngest users, some as young as 14, and college students, Public Citizen and a coalition of 25 groups said in a letter to the corporation today.
The groups are concerned about how this information might have been used or may be used in the future by marketers and others to take advantage of young people’s emotions, all without users’ knowledge. Marketing companies and Facebook have secretly moved to tap into teens’ emotions and developmental vulnerabilities strictly for profit, the letter says. The groups want to know how the data was used, when it was used, how many users were impacted and the names of the companies that received the data.
“What began as a way for college students to keep in touch has morphed into a platform for brand-saturated marketing and psychological manipulation,” said Kristen Strader, campaign coordinator for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert campaign. “It is incumbent upon Facebook as a cultural leader to protect, not exploit, the privacy of young people, especially when their vulnerable emotions are involved.”
According to The Australian newspaper, Facebook presented research to one of its advertisers that shows it collects sensitive data regarding young users’ emotions and “mood shifts.” The research detailed how Facebook can analyse sensitive user data in real time to determine how young users are communicating emotion, and at which points during the week they are doing so, the letter continued. Facebook’s research was conducted without users’ knowledge, which raises ethical concerns.
“Because Facebook plays such a powerful role in the lives of teens, it must adopt a policy that respects and protects them,” said Dr. Kathryn Montgomery, professor of communication at American University and a consultant to the Center for Digital Democracy. “This should include not only strong safeguards for its advertising and data practices, but also clear limits on the kinds of research it conducts for marketing purposes. Under no circumstances should marketers be using emotional states, stress levels, biometric information or other highly sensitive data to target users. And this should apply to both young people and adults.”
Jim Killock, Executive Director of UK-based digital rights campaigners, Open Rights Group explained why they had signed on
“We need more transparency about supposed research projects that are used to create valuable insights, which can be sold to the highest bidder. This is exploiting children and young people, who may not be aware of how Facebook are using and selling their data.”
The public, its users and elected officials have a right to know how pervasive this research was, who was affected and how the company will ensure it does not occur again, the groups said. The only way to fully address those concerns is to publicly release the internal document and related materials, accompanied by a more detailed explanation from Facebook of what was intended, what happened and the company’s actual practices, the letter says.
Read the letter: https://www.citizen.org/system/files/case_documents/letter-to-facebook_2.pdf
Winner of the Liberty Human Rights Campaigner of the Year Award 2012
Labour will transform education for the many not the few
Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, will today outline Labour’s transformational plan to invest in a National Education Service to ensure no one is held back and create a more skilled workforce and productive economy.
Labour’s plan to increase schools funding and introduce free, lifelong education in colleges is at the heart of its commitment to create a society run for the many not the few.
Jeremy will be joined by Angela Rayner, Shadow Education Secretary, and Rebecca Long-Bailey, Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary, at a college in Leeds on Wednesday to announce the details of the plan.
Labour’s key pledges are:
The plans will be funded from the £19.4 billion that will be raised by reversing the Conservative Party’s cuts to corporation tax. Labour has previously announced extending free school meals to all primary age children will be funded by levying VAT on private school fees.
Jeremy Corbyn said:
“People of all ages are being held back by a lack of funding for education, and this in turn is holding back the economy by depriving industry of the untapped talent of thousands of people.
“The Conservatives have spent seven years starving schools of funding, meaning headteachers are having to send begging letters to parents to ask for money. They have also cut support for students and forced colleges to increase fees. It’s created a downward spiral that is bad for the people being held back and bad for the economy.
“Labour will do things differently. Our new National Education Service will transform our schools and education system to ensure a future for the many not the few. We will reverse the Conservatives’ tax giveaways to big business and put money back where it belongs, in our schools, our colleges and our communities.”
Angela Rayner said:
“Our plans for a new National Education Service show there is a clear choice at this election. Between the Tories who have broken their promises to parents and children, or a Labour party with a real plan for education for the many not the few.
“We will invest in schools and in our young people, ensuring no primary pupils go hungry during the day, reducing class sizes so children can learn and teachers can teach, and restoring the maintenance allowance and grants for students in both further and higher education.”
Notes to editors:
Shared from Labour Press
Opinion: Theresa May is playing a political game with her election campaign with over paid foreign spin doctor Sir Lynton Crosby, knighted by the Tories and David Cameron after his successfull 2015 UK General Election campaign, controlling the show.
Is she going to pull a rabbit out of the hat at the 11th hour?
Could be but as we all know you can #NeverTrustATory.
Tuesday the Labour Party officially launched its General Election 2017 campaign with a stonking honest show as always.
Whether the Tories will continue to steal bits and pieces of Labour's policies is unclear.
They are already trying a tack using a reduction in expensive energy prices to woo voters by stealing an Ed Miliband election campaign policy of 2015 they derided.
Still the Tory are consistently not to be trusted and we should all know that by now.
Tuesday Labour's John McDonnell has posted online;
Theresa May has once again failed to rule out more National Insurance Contribution - John McDonnellJohn McDonnell,
Jennie Formby: Labour's new general secretary