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by Paul Embery
Monday, 26
October 2020

Will there ever be another Frank Bough?

If Frank Bough had been born half a century later, we almost certainly would never have heard of him. The former TV presenter, whose death at the age of 87 was announced at the weekend, lived the early part of his life in a two-up, two-down terraced house in a working-class area of Stoke-on-Trent, the son of an upholsterer. After winning a scholarship to Oxford, where he read history, Bough completed his national service before forging a career at the BBC.

In an era when a seemingly ready supply of distinguished presenters hailing from genuinely working-class backgrounds trundled off the production line at the Beeb, Bough’s path to the top wasn’t especially unusual. His fellow Grandstand hosts David Coleman and Des Lynam (both of Irish immigrant stock) followed a similar trajectory, as did a number of big-name BBC newsreaders of the time, among them Richard Baker (son of a Willesden plasterer), Angela Rippon (grew up in a Plymouth council house) and John Humphrys (raised in a poor district of Cardiff). ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Thursday, 8
October 2020

McCluskey is playing right into Starmer’s hands

I have no doubt if things start to move in different directions and ordinary working people start saying, ‘Well, I’m not sure what Labour stands for,’ then my activists will ask me, ‘Why are we giving so much money?’”

That was Unite general secretary Len McCluskey’s warning shot to Sir Keir Starmer following the union’s decision to reduce its financial contributions to the Labour party by a reported 10%.

McCluskey was especially critical of the party leadership’s decision to apologise and pay damages to members of staff who had co-operated with a BBC Panorama investigation on anti-Semitism, but he made clear that his discontent with Sir Keir and his team runs much deeper than that particular grievance. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Friday, 11
September 2020

Full employment is making a timely comeback

Whatever his shortcomings, Gordon Brown was always more attuned to the history and politics of the labour movement than most of his New Labour colleagues. So it is no surprise that he, and not Tony Blair or any other senior figure from that period of the party’s history, should be the one to launch the Alliance for Full Employment — an initiative designed to persuade government to give greater support to workers and businesses hit hardest by Covid-19.

It is encouraging — for those of us rooted in the movement, at least — to hear the language of full employment being deployed again so boldly. But the challenge will be to ensure that it lasts beyond the current crisis and takes its rightful place again as a central and permanent feature of Labour campaigning. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Thursday, 2
July 2020

Dear Harry, maybe go back to ribbon-cutting?

It wasn’t dissimilar to a hostage video. Back pressed to a bare wall, no giveaway landmarks or objects within camera shot, reading from a script (the identity of whose author we can only guess), Prince Harry trotted out a stream of platitudes designed to convince us that, you know, racism is a bad thing and the world would be better off without it.

He even said sorry. Not, mind, for that Nazi uniform thing, or the time when he referred to army comrades as ‘Paki’ and ‘raghead’ — youthful indiscretions for which we should of course forgive him. (Let’s be frank, if these things had happened today, the prince would be condemned to live out his existence on Saint Helena). No, Harry was “sorry that we haven’t got the world to the place that you deserve it to be”. Well, I guess we can forgive him for that, too. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Monday, 15
June 2020

When will the trade unions speak up?

It is inevitable that, as the West’s culture war thunders on, we will read yet more reports of individuals being hounded from their jobs, and in some cases forced to withdraw from public life, for saying the ‘wrong’ thing (or even, as sometimes seems to be the case these days, merely for failing to say the ‘right’ thing).

The hyper-sensitivity over issues of identity and race that already bedevilled so many of our institutions and workplaces has further intensified in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests and the attendant row over statues.

There is, it seems, no room for disagreement or nuanced debate in some quarters. Those who refuse to support the Black Lives Matter movement, warts and all, are, in some cases, risking their whole careers and reputations. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Thursday, 4
June 2020

Ben and Jerry’s: your moral saviour

Is there any creed more unedifying than woke capitalism? Is there any spectacle more nauseating than mighty corporations jumping on a passing bandwagon of rage in an attempt to flaunt their ‘progressive’ credentials?

The George Floyd killing has exposed this phenomenon in all its cloying sanctimony, as big capital falls over itself to impress upon us — as if we didn’t already know — that racism is bad.

Firms have calculated that, in the era of the Twitterstorm and corporate boycott, staying out of politics is no longer an option. And if they are going to dive into the world of online social activism, then, well, what option but to embrace the political ideology that dominates therein, namely liberal wokedom? To do otherwise would, they believe, almost certainly be to risk reputational damage and a dent in profits. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Thursday, 28
May 2020

Supporters of Emily Maitlis should be careful what they wish for

Of course Emily Maitlis’s Newsnight monologue demonstrated unacceptable bias. One isn’t required to be a defender of Dominic Cummings to believe that a presenter on the BBC’s flagship news programme should not be permitted to flout established rules on impartiality by making deeply partisan statements about live and contentious political issues.

Neither is one required to be any kind of Conservative to conclude that what the Beeb’s own Andrew Marr once described as the corporation’s ‘cultural liberal bias’ not only causes it to fail in its rightful duty to sufficiently reflect the viewpoint of large swathes of our nation, but may eventually prove to be its downfall. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Friday, 24
January 2020

OK Lisa Nandy, I’ll give you my vote

With the Labour leadership contest now well advanced, I guess it’s time for members and supporters of the party — of which I am one — to nail their colours to the mast. So I do so today — though I’m afraid with all the enthusiasm as it is possible to muster when you hold the view that none of the contenders truly recognises the scale of the calamity that befell the party in December, nor has demonstrated the brave and bold thinking necessary to reconnect us with the millions in our one-time heartlands who have given up on us.

Rebecca Long-Bailey

She is continuity Corbynism, wedded to a manifesto that was rejected emphatically and, like many of the party’s more hardline activists, too heavily focused on fighting to recast the Labour party in her own image rather than rebuilding the Red Wall. A ‘one more heave’ approach would spell doom for Labour. Anyone who thinks our support has reached a nadir in our traditional strongholds had better think again. In some of the constituencies that we managed to retain, our majority is now wafer-thin. Without a significant change of direction, some of these places will fall next time out. ...  Continue reading