By Canterbury Labour / GE2019 / / 0 Comments

Our fourth election blog by Alison Dilnutt

 

There is one thing Canterbury Conservative candidate Anna Firth has said that I (sort of) agree with.  This election is a battle of the heart and soul, but not of our ‘country’, for us as a species. 

This election isn’t about Brexit, or the NHS, or the environment, it’s about who holds the power and it’s the oldest story in the book.  This election is about how information and communication – ‘news’ is used as a tool by the powerful to control ordinary people. 

And guess what?  It works. 

It may seem like an exaggeration to say we are at risk as a species, but this election is pivotal in so many ways.  Our identity, our free and precious health service, our hard-won democracy are in the balance.  Our very planet is in peril and those who want to protect it are up against the most powerful forces on earth, hell-bent on maintaining their wealth and influence. 

For a decade I taught Media Studies at Btec and A-Level in a local Further Education college.  To start, the subject was mocked as ‘sociology-lite’.  Later, as the subject grew in popularity and ordinary young people learnt tools to deconstruct the right-wing rhetoric in the newspapers and TV news, the government took notice. 

Media Studies was derided mainly in the very newspapers we studied as a ‘soft’ subject, a ‘mickey mouse’ subject.  A pointless, useless waste of time and effort when these young people could be learning something that would get them proper work.  Pressure was applied to headteachers and FE principles to shelve it in favour of ‘harder’ subjects.  Now those that study the media and criticise it are called ‘liberals’ and ‘snowflakes’.

In those pre-internet/social media days, analysing bias, misinformation and discrimination in the media now seems very straightforward, but the truth is nothing has really changed. 

The Media Reform Coalition recently published a report  which shows that ‘just three companies (News UK, Daily Mail Group and Reach) dominate 83% of the national newspaper market (up from 71% in 2015). When online readers are included, just five companies (News UK, Daily Mail Group, Reach, Guardian and Telegraph) dominate nearly 80% of the market. In the area of local news, just five companies (Gannett, Johnston Press, Trinity Mirror, Tindle and Archant) account for 80% of titles (back in 2015, six companies had the same share). Two companies have 46% of all commercial local analogue radio stations and two-thirds of all commercial digital stations’.

In terms of the digital landscape, Google dominates, and Instagram and WhatsApp are of course owned by Facebook. 

And if you think Twitter balances that out then think again.  While it might seem like a safe space especially after Twitter came out to ban paid for political ads, political parties are using targeted Tweets and armies of digital ‘bots’ to push up damaging hashtags and convince swing or undecided voters that people and parties are toxic.  There is no law on fact checking and no recourse bar Twitter itself taking down a Tweet or banning an account. 

As for the BBC, its News service has come under increased criticism and allegations of favouritism, bias and poor balance, some saying it has broken the core principles of its public service remit throughout the election.  But what would be worse is losing our public service broadcaster altogether – as with the NHS, our universal broadcaster must be protected and kept separate from political influence.  I fear, as with the NHS that under a Tory government, the BBC too will be broken up in a piecemeal way, one station or service at a time in a method that the mainstream media will argue ‘makes sense’.

In this digital landscape, and with foreign powers intent on influencing our media and political system, our framework of media regulation is not fit for purpose and desperately needs reform.  It could be argued that media malpractice, illegal influence and deliberate misinformation are putting the very legitimacy of the election result at risk.

The ability to deconstruct, analyse and properly scrutinise the media is not ‘soft’ nor is it ‘mickey mouse’, it is crucial for democracy.  Without this scrutiny, powerful media owners are free to manipulate voters, distort the truth and destroy democracy as we know it.

There is a reason Media Studies has been rubbished, derided and ridiculed.  There is a reason why right-wing governments have tried to get rid of subjects from the national curriculum that develop the skills to question, analyse and challenge dominant ideologies.  It is because those in power – who own or use the media to control the way ordinary people think, behave and vote, are scared.

The old adage is true – knowledge is power.  With the General Election only hours away it is crucial that each and every one of us makes a concerted effort to become better informed. 

Here’s my checklist of what you can do to fight back against these media giants, stand up for democracy and stay sane on the countdown to the GE.

  • Forget how many likes/followers/friends you have. It’s all meaningless
  • Check the sources of stories you read and facts behind them – get better informed
  • Challenge misinformed people with verified facts and evidence
  • Don’t repeat, retweet or repost any stories that cannot be verified
  • Beware the hashtag – Twitter bots are there to get damaging stories and misinformation trending. Don’t help them.
  • Visit or call any family members or friends you know only get their ‘facts’ from traditional media (newspapers/radio/TV) and talk to them about the key issues armed with verified facts and evidence
  • If you are being trolled on Twitter block and report
  • If you come across a bot on Twitter (usually no profile pic and very few followers) block them
  • Actively share/re-post/Tweet/talk about positive facts and stories about our candidate, our party and our manifesto
  • Take a break – have a walk in the woods and turn everything off!

My parents are a good example.  My dad (86) is a life-long socialist and was a TGWU branch secretary.  My mum (79) a dedicated liberal thinker and a classic swing voter.  They read the Daily Mail every day ‘for the crossword’ and the Sunday Times at the weekend ‘for the magazine’.  Had my sister, myself and my eldest son not had conversations with them, I am convinced their view of Johnson would have been ‘silly harmless old buffoon’, that Brexit meant they ‘took back control’ and probably that dipping in and out of private health care ‘helped the NHS’.  All narratives peddled by the dominant media.  I’m pleased to say, uncomfortable as it was to challenge and unpick these adopted untruths, they have a more informed view now and are both going to vote for Labour on Thursday.

It might seem that standing up to billionaire run corporations is an insurmountable task and a battle we are not equipped to fight.  I do believe, however that our people powered movement, fuelled as it is with compassion, a love of equality and the sense of duty to our communities will win ultimately.  It’s down to us to do all we can to resist the tide of misinformation and seek out and highlight the truth whenever and wherever we can.

You can read the Media Reform Coalition’s assessment of political parties manifesto pledges for media reform here.  You can follow the Media Reform Coalition here @mediareformUK

 

By Canterbury Labour / GE2019 / / 0 Comments

Our third election blog post by Canterbury Labour Party member Mike Blamires.  Edited by Ali Dilnutt

We have a climate emergency. 

Drastic changes must be made to how we travel, and slashing our use of cars is at the forefront.  With an announcement today from the British Heart Foundation that air pollution is damaging our hearts to the equivalent of smoking 150 cigarettes a year, the evidence of how poisonous our air has become couldn’t be more stark.

One move we must make is to get traffic out of our city centres and the go-to solution for most councils is to build or expand a park and ride bus service.  But this does not address the core problem – we have too many cars, we make too many car journeys, we are car dependent and that has to change.

In Canterbury, our Wincheap Water Meadows are under threat from the creation of more park and ride spaces.  This is the solution our Tory council have found to encourage the use of public transport.  Clean, accessible, integrated public transport is vital if we are to combat the very real climate crisis we face.  But at what cost to our existing environment?

Wincheap Water Meadows and Hambrook Marshes would be significantly impacted by the development of a new car park.  This impact wouldn’t be just the destruction of plants, mature trees and the habitat which supports the diverse wildlife there, but also people’s enjoyment of a beautiful and peaceful public space.

Then there’s the issue of flooding.  The river Stour has burst its banks already in recent weeks, the water flooding out across the marshes preventing further flooding downstream.  If there was a carpark there, it would have been submerged and a significant volume of water would have been forced elsewhere. 

Marshes such as the one in Wincheap must form an important part of our planning for the future and the Labour Party manifesto sets out promises to protect and restore our natural environment, alongside bold plans to create a cleaner public transport system. 

The reality is that once Wincheap marshes are covered in concrete, there will be no restoration or recovery – they will be lost.

People from across the political spectrum may regret these losses and some might argue they are the price to pay for progress.  It is clear, however, that party politics have a role to play in the quality of our lives and the lives of future generations of Canterbury citizens.

Environmental Stewardship is a grand old Conservative value enshrined in David Cameron’s Tory Oak Tree logo, but in practice, action appears to be lacking.  In Canterbury, it is the Tory Councillors from the rural wards outside of Canterbury (apart from Neil Baker) who are prepared to be rigid in their thinking and are likely to vote for a park and ride next to Wincheap Water Meadows and the Hambrook Marshes that have long been an iconic resource for Canterbury people. 

Rosie Duffield, our local Labour candidate has been vocal about her support to save this precious marsh land.  She already made a video at the Meadows to highlight the threat and also appeared on local radio to argue the case for both these locations.

Vote for Rosie on December the 12th and you will vote for a candidate that understands that our climate emergency means it’s not business as usual and we need Real Change to tackle it.

The next Canterbury Council meeting to discuss the park and ride development at Wincheap will be on January 8th 2020 at 7pm at the Guildhall in Canterbury.  All welcome.

You can read more about the campaign to save the marshes here.

You can follow the Facebook campaign to save the marshes here.

You can sign the petition to support the campaign to Save Wincheap Marshes here.

You can write to Conservative Councillors with your objections to the development of the marshes here.

By Canterbury Labour / GE2019 / 0 Comments

Our second GE2019 blog post by Rory Heap – Disability Officer, Canterbury CLP

As a disabled person myself, and as the Disability Officer for this Constituency Labour Party, I have a lot of contact with disabled people, some of whom are Labour party members, some of whom are not.

What we all have in common is a profound hatred of Tory party austerity and their systematic attacks on disabled people.

I take great delight, therefore, in summarising below just some of the brilliant policies that have

lightened my heart when reading the great ‘It’s Time for Real Change’ Labour Party manifesto.

Labour will:

  • Repeal the Social Care Act 2012 – an act which has been the gateway for inequality and discriminatory treatment of those most vulnerable in our communities.
  • Build a comprehensive National Care Service, and
    • provide community-based, person-centred support, underpinned by the principles of ethical care and independent living
    • provide free personal care, beginning with investments to ensure that older people have their personal care needs met, with the ambition to extend this provision to all working-age adults
  • Provide additional care packages – this means support for those with Autism and people with Learning Disabilities to move out from inappropriate and often distant inpatient hospital settings and provide support in their own homes and communities
  • Lead on Disability Equality by supporting the principle of ‘nothing about us without us’.
    • Champion the social model of disability throughout government
    • Ensure that disabled people can be independent and equal in society, with choice and control over their own lives
    • Transform the workplace for disabled people by requiring that all employers be trained to better support them
    • Update the Equality Act to introduce new specific duties including disability leave, separate from sick leave
  • Lead on Social Security by
    • Scrapping Universal Credit
    • Design an alternative system that treats people with dignity and respect and ends poverty by guaranteeing a minimum standard of living
    • Stop the de-humanising Work Capability and PIP Assessments, which repeatedly and falsely find ill or disabled people fit to work
    • Increase Employment and Support Allowance by £30 per week for those in the work-related activity group
    • Raise the basic rate of support for children with disabilities to the level of Child Tax Credits
    • Ensure that severely disabled people without a formal carer receive extra support to enable them to meet the extra costs they inevitably face

So many disabled people will be uplifted to read these heartening additions to our manifesto.  And so many will be materially benefited when Labour are successful at the General Election and when our brilliant leadership will begin the process of transforming our society into one that really cares.  Only Labour can deliver a manifesto that promises not just to support those with disabilities and SEN but sets out plans to invest in people to give them equality of opportunity, no matter what their circumstances are.

Vote Labour on the 12th December!

You can access Labour’s manifesto promises on Disability and Social Care in accessible format here.