The three-ply tissue in Rupert Murdoch’s press empire has published an article showing that it considers newsworthy the mundane fact that SKWAWKBOX editor Steve Walker is chair of a CLP (constituency Labour party) not far from the Liverpool venue currently hosting Labour’s annual conference:
The article’s author, Henry Zeffman, states:
A local Labour Party about seven miles from the party’s conference venue is run by a major figure in the so-called alt-left.
Steve Walker, 53, runs a postal business but is better known nationally as the creator of Skwawkbox, a pugnacious and increasingly influential blog that champions Mr Corbyn and the Labour left more generally. He has been the chairman of Garston and Halewood constituency Labour Party for more than a year. The seat’s MP since 1997, Maria Eagle, served briefly in Mr Corbyn’s first shadow cabinet before quitting and calling for a change in leadership after the EU referendum.
In March more than 40 MPs accused Mr Walker of bullying after he demanded that MPs who attended a rally against antisemitism provide evidence of when they had challenged other forms of racism.
Of course, there are several of the typical ‘MSM’ canards in there. There is no ‘alt-left’, the term being an attempt by the Establishment to suggest equivalence with the fascist ‘alt-right’. The alt-right likes nazi salutes, segregation and racism, while the supposed alt-left likes free healthcare, equality and protections for the vulnerable. But there you go.
Of course, it’s kind of the Murdoch rag to suggest the SKWAWKBOX is ‘a major figure‘ and ‘increasingly influential’ – while the article goes on to quote a local ‘opponent‘ as calling Steve Walker ‘nice as pie‘ – but clearly the overall intention of the piece is not to be complimentary.
Small wonder. Mr Zeffman has been prominent in attempts to portray Labour as an antisemitic party, while the SKWAWKBOX has provided a platform for some of the many Jewish people who want nothing to do with such smears. Mr Zeffman and a co-author were also recently criticised earlier this month for claiming an ‘exclusive’ about Tom Watson’s dissatisfaction with his conference speaking slot when this blog had broken the news – and more – a month earlier.
But the article is also interesting because of what went before it. The author wrote to another member of the Garston & Halewood (GH) ‘exec’ a couple of weeks ago, asking to meet for a coffee and chat to find out more about the campaigning activities of GH. The tone of the direct message was sugar-sweet – you might almost call it ‘nice as pie’ – but the exec member declined, as GH has a collective policy when it comes to the media.
A week or so later, a strikingly similar message popped up in the direct message ‘requests’ on the SKWAWKBOX Twitter account:
The message was ignored – after considerable laughter and asides along the lines of ‘pull the other one’. Sure enough, suspicions that any conversation would be used to fuel some kind of attack piece appear to have been well founded.
But it’s an interesting example of a fairly common approach – perhaps they teach it at journalism school – of using a ‘friendly’ tone to make the approach, regardless how much it’s at odds with the purpose of the approach.
The overall thinness of the article demonstrates how little there was actually to say about a blogger being chair of a CLP – if anything it shows that the job of a chair, to manage meetings impartially and to treat members with respect, is taken seriously. The idea that the chair ‘runs’ the ‘local Labour party’ also indicates a lack of understanding of the role of a CLP chair. But the section about the ‘more than 40 MPs’ is of interest.
The comments in the Times piece about the ‘demand’ for evidence from MPs about anti-racism campaigning are telling in this regard. The exact words and tone of the SKWAWKBOX’s approach to the MPs in question are a matter of public record – because they were published on this blog at the time:
The email, sent to a handful of MPs at the same time, read:
We’ll be running a piece later today on MPs’ participation in last night’s demonstration and their overall activity in terms of combating racism.
Please advise any comment about your participation last night that you wish to have included and provide examples of the following:
1. you publicly denouncing Islamophobia
2. you publicly denouncing racism toward black people and other ethnic minorities
3. Examples of you participating in public demonstrations against Islamophobia and racism toward black and other ethnic groups
By 5pm please, to ensure it can be included at publication.
The purpose of the article was made clear. The tone was perfectly polite but not sugary or misleading and, in keeping with normal practice, it named a deadline so the MPs knew when to respond by if they wanted their comments included when the article went up – but it’s a request for comment. Of course, the MPs chose instead to gather signatures against the ‘bullying’ and to run with it to the Huffington Post – which contacted the SKWAWKBOX a mere thirty-two minutes before publishing an attack-piece.
Such details and nuance are conspicuous by their absence from today’s Times article, of course.
Which approach is actually journalism is for the reader to decide – but if you ever receive any ‘nice as pie’ messages from representatives of mainstream publications, the exercise of caution, along with a little laughter if you feel so inclined, is recommended.
Still, all in all it’s a useful indication of the discomfiture of the Establishment – and its media – that the new left media creates. If you’d like to support the continuation of that phenomenon, please see below.
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