SKWAWKBOX review of 2018

2018 has been a year in which the media Establishment has focused on Brexit while the Tories used the smokescreen to continue their assault on the UK’s vulnerable and the country’s essential social structures.

But it has also been a year in which the same Establishment plumbed new depths in terms of desperation – to cover for Tory chaos and to smear the Labour Party and its leader, whether by direct attacks in the media or through the attempts by so-called ‘centrists’ to to attack Jeremy Corbyn personally or to blame him and his leadership for the government’s Brexit incompetence.

As a result, it has been a year in which Labour supporters have toughened and become battle-hardened as they saw their opponents sink to depths that made the smears of the previous two years look like a warm-up – and they learned even more deeply the importance of solidarity.

The proponents of those smears hoped to break the spirit of the left – bringing about the ‘peak Corbyn’ they have been trying to claim since Labour’s 2017 general election surge stunned them. But instead they’ve tempered and toughened it, as the left developed new abilities and awareness to combat and resist the Establishment’s assault.

This blog, which runs entirely on goodwill donations from its readers, has played its role in helping the left weather the storm and come out stronger.

The blog published 1,464 articles, an average of over four per day. Below are some of the highlights – or lowlights – of the year from a SKWAWKBOX perspective, as a look back at some of the key events and articles of each month.

January – Tory ‘campaigning’ sparks derision

If a week is a long time in politics, a year can seem an age – but 2018 started with a familiar look as Theresa May’s attempted political campaigning showed she and her party had learned nothing from her 2017 general election disaster.

May visited a ward in Sutton that voted 70% Tory – and received a torrid reception as residents told her it was a good thing their kids weren’t around.

The Tories then showed their social media incompetence by tweeting about the visit but tagging in an Australian MP with the same name as the local Tory one – forgetting to edit out a seriously-underwhelmed young woman from video footage.

The media also showed their usual face with a smear against Labour supposedly discriminating against white people – which the SKWAWKBOX debunked – and the BBC cut off Barry Gardiner just as he was exposing the government.

Among other exclusive news:

  • right-wing Unite challenger Gerard Coyne’s ‘claims’ against the union were revealed and debunked, in analysis later upheld by the senior judge adjudicating his complaint
  • the shame and scale of the Tories’ latest winter NHS crisis was exposed – queues of over two hundred people waiting for emergency ambulances

February – ‘nazi’ Brexit supporter exposed

Rees-Mogg supporter Paul Townsley

The biggest story of the month – two SKWAWKBOX exclusives shamelessly nicked, without credit, by the mainstream press – was the exposure of the white-shirted Jacob Rees-Mogg supporter who steamed into protesters at a Rees-Mogg appearance in Bristol.

The Brexiteer’s supporters had attempted to claim that left-wing protesters had been violent, but video published by the blog showed that one of Rees-Mogg’s fans was behind the physical altercation – and that the man was a local martial arts instructor who had been photographed wearing a nazi uniform at one of his school’s parties.

In the same month MP Ben Bradley – then a vice-chair of the Tory party – was hilariously forced to tweet an abject apology after libelling Jeremy Corbyn on the social media platform. Bradley had accused Corbyn of selling secrets to Czechoslovakia during the Cold War – sadly not even the most nonsensical media hatchet-job of the year – but his ‘please retweet’ post became the Tories’ most ‘successful’ social media post ever, at least in terms of shares.

Among other SKWAWKBOX exclusives:

  • the dishonourable behaviour of the BBC was exposed – although the journalist at the centre of it was eventually promoted rather than being dismissed or disciplined
  • the truth behind then-general secretary of the Labour Party Iain McNicol’s resignation was revealed
  • a London council leader, who had claimed to have been bullied out of her position in what was a foretaste of the shameful escalation in the antisemitism accusations against Labour, was shown to have been preparing attack ‘dossiers‘ against her political opponents
  • centrist MP Stella Creasy’s racist post to a parliamentary WhatsApp group was exposed

March – MPs steal school meals from mouths of poor children

March saw the single biggest story of the year on the SKWAWKBOX as the nation reacted with outrage to a vote by mainly Tory MPs to block free school meals for millions of poor pupils.

The blog simply published the names of those who had shamed the nation by backing an unutterably callous government measure – but the anger of the country saw the post go viral and MPs scrambling to justify themselves.

The scandal of hungry schoolchildren – so desperately hungry that they’re unable to study and teachers are buying them food from their own pockets in a desperate attempt to help – is now widely known, but tragically unchanged and even worsening as the government’s benefits cruelty forces millions into poverty.

In other news, the SKWAWKBOX sent a polite email enquiry to a handful of Labour MPs – who promptly ran to their friends in the mainstream media with the help of their colleagues, to accuse the blog of ‘bullying’ them. All for asking a polite question and including, as per normal journalistic practice, a deadline for a response so their comments could be included in the article.

Also in March, the blog exclusively revealed the first of what were to be several battles among the left through the year over slates of candidates for key party positions – and Momentum founder Jon Lansman’s eventual decision to withdraw his application to be Labour general secretary

Among other SKWAWKBOX exclusives:

  • the blog revealed research by Jewish counter-antisemitism groups not friendly to the Labour Party, showing that antisemitism among Labour supporters had gone down since Corbyn became leader, contrary to claims by media and centrists of a surge
  • the growing support among NEC members for Jennie Formby’s candidacy for the vacant general secretary position was revealed

April – a landmark case of abuse (yet again) by right against left

Wes Streeting, left, and Diane Abbott

In April, the SKWAWKBOX exclusively exposed the ‘disgraceful’ behaviour of centrist Labour MP Wes Streeting toward Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, who had shouted in her face in a Commons corridor – in front of several witnesses – and behaved so badly that the veteran Abbott was left ‘shell-shocked’.

Streeting called the revelations ‘lies’ and threatened the SKWAWKBOX with a lawyers’ letter, but the story was solid and the blog told Streeting it was happy to resolve the matter in court. Streeting did not follow through on his threat.

Among other SKWAWKBOX exclusives:

  • the blog revealed that right-wing Labour MP – and women’s PLP chair – Jess Phillips had lost the confidence of the party’s black and ethnic minority MPS
  • exposed attempts by the BBC to cover for then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s lies about the source of the Salisbury nerve agent
  • exposed a second lie by Johnson about the chemical weapon
  • debunked the false claims by Establishment media that the nerve agent could only be produced by ‘state actors’, as a prominent US chemistry professor explained that almost any commercial laboratory could make it

May – Establishment bigotry, cover-ups and fake news

The Windrush

May seemed to be silly season for the Tories and included one of their most embarrassing fake news failures, as they photoshopped one of their politicians – and his dog, for good measure – into a photo of campaigners on the street. The sheer hilarity of their incompetence spawned multiple ‘tributes’ on social media.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson was left red-faced as TV presenter Richard Madely terminated a televised interview after the Tory persistently refused to give a meaningful answer to a question, while Speaker John Bercow was captured on video throwing shade at the woeful Andrea Leadsom.

More seriously, Theresa May broke centuries-old parliamentary conventions to hide information about the Windrush scandal she oversaw as Home Secretary and then as PM, while the ‘MSM’ went into fake-news overdrive to misrepresent Labour’s performance in the month’s local elections.

On the red wing of the Establishment, the Labour Friends of Israel group made an abhorrent attempt to blame innocent Palestinians for their own murder by soldiers during the annual Nakba protests – and then, extraordinarily, threw one of its own members under a bus to try to rescue its reputation after the SKWAWKBOX revealed that the names of some MPs had been added to its membership list without their consent.

The Establishment was also caught out as the identity of one of their most obvious – and incompetent – Tory plants on the BBC’s Question Time programme was revealed.

Among other exclusives, the SKWAWKBOX:

  • broke the ‘gang-rape’ comments made by a trainer used by the right-wing Labour First group – and the criticism by members of a right-wing MP for his defence of the so-called ‘moderate’
  • revealed racism complaints against well-known right-wing Labour MP John Spellar
  • exposed the vile racist joke shared on Facebook by a Tory councillor, leading to her suspension

June – compassion and cruelty

As the country marked the sombre anniversary of the Grenfell tragedy – with dozens of affected families still homeless – an image of Jeremy Corbyn reminded the country why it needs a Labour government.

Predictably and cynically, the Establishment attacked the image – after initially ignoring it – and claimed it was a staged ‘photo opportunity’, but the testimony of witnesses confirmed how spontaneous and candid it had been.

The moving, harrowing testimony of Michael Dowden to the Grenfell inquiry showed afresh the scale of the impact of the disaster, not only on survivors and families but also on first responders – and it reminded the nation of the SKWAWKBOX’s most-read article of 2017, video of Johnson telling London Assembly members who questioned him about his cuts to fire services to ‘get stuffed’:

In Labour news, the SKWAWKBOX exposed the dishonesty of claims by centrist protesters at the inaugural Labour Live event to have been ‘thrown out’ by security after an embarrassing stunt. The claims were untrue, in spite of the protesters’ ‘vile’ behaviour toward others attending the event.

Among its other exclusives, the blog also:

  • revealed proof that former leadership challenger Owen Smith had unlawfully shared Labour members’ data with right-wing Unite challenger Gerard Coyne
  • broke the ‘earthquake’ suspension of a key West Midlands right-winger by the Labour Party
  • exposed the scandal of the deselection of all black councillors in Enfield by a right-wing ‘coup’ – one of several exclusives about the scandal in the London borough recycled by the mainstream press, of course without crediting the source

July – mainstream cover-ups and fake news

Jeremy Corbyn speaks to cheering crowds – muted by the BBC

July was a(nother) month characterised by cover-ups and outright fake news by the Establishment media.

The BBC and other ‘MSM’ ignored Theresa May’s personal involvement in a decision to block an inquiry’s access to key witnesses in the ‘rendition for torture’ scandal.

When hundreds of thousands in Trafalgar Square erupted in cheers for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the BBC muted and voiced over its coverage, hiding the scale of the tumultuous welcome from viewers. The same outlets also declined to broadcast his speech to the crowd, which had received a huge response.

When an illicit recording was leaked of Labour National Executive Committee (NEC) member Peter Willsman, the media – and of course a queue of ‘centrists’ – claimed it showed Willman making antisemitic comments and demanded his removal or resignation. Momentum shamefully dropped the veteran member from its slate of candidates in the NEC elections. The SKWAWKBOX’s publication and analysis of the full available audio showed this to be nonsense.

In another under-reported incident, Speaker John Bercow was forced to suspend proceedings in the House of Commons after (then) new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, installed after a string of front-bench Tory resignations, broke parliamentary procedures by depriving MPs of information.

The mainstream media also largely ignored German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s wry face as Theresa May, desperate to avoid exposure of her incompetence, refused to allow Merkel to answer a question posed to her by a journalist about May’s ‘Chequers’ proposals.

Some of the news exclusively broken by the blog in June included:

  • the NEC investigation into the Enfield selection-rigging scandal
  • the truth about complaints concerning right-wing MP Ian Austin’s behaviour toward colleagues
  • a revealing data breach by ex-Labour MP John Woodcock

August – terrorist smears and growing desperation

Louise Ellman telling of her horror at the supposed discovery that Corbyn attended an event she attended herself

August was the month in which the smears against Jeremy Corbyn concerning a wreath-laying in Tunis were re-used – supposedly as ‘news’, even though they had been covered a couple of years before – as the Establishment’s desperation to undermine Labour’s strength intensified.

The SKWAWKBOX was at the forefront of debunking these smears, in a series of articles – leading to a bizarre claim by the ‘MSM’ that articles had been deleted by this blog, even though the articles remain online to this day.

Away from Tunis, right-wing Labour MP Louise Ellman appeared extensively on television to express her shock and amazement that Jeremy Corbyn had introduced a parliamentary event featuring holocaust survivor Hajo Meyer – right up until the SKWAWKBOX revealed that she had been at the same event herself and for longer than Corbyn.

There was a major embarrassment to Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, when the SKWAWKBOX exclusively revealed that he had threatened to increase public criticism of the party if he wasn’t allocated a more favourable speaking slot at the party’s annual conference. Watson did not get his way – and was immediately seen in the media hyping up the antisemitism smear. The story was later regurgitated by the mainstream media as an exclusive’ – without credit to the source, naturally.

The SKWAWKBOX also exposed Tory callousness when it broke the exclusive news that a desperate woman had set fire to herself in the housing office of Barnet council. This was one of dozens of times the SKWAWKBOX was accused of fake news by those desperate to maintain the media cover-up – and as usual the news turned out to be entirely, tragically true.

Among the blog’s exclusives in July were:

  • the Labour Party letter to Margaret Hodge proving that, contrary to the MP’s claims, she had expressed regret to the party’s parliamentary whips for her appalling – and self-contradicting – smears against Jeremy Corbyn
  • the huge revelation that a councillor’s resignation letter – part of a clearly-‘choreographed’ campaign to promote smears against the local and national Labour Party – had been written by an assistant to Wirral’s Blairite council leader
  • comments from a Jewish councillor in Frank Field’s constituency condemning his nonsensical claims of antisemitism and abuse

September – conference and more centrist dishonesty

A mass show of solidarity with Palestinians during Labour’s conference

Labour moved to Liverpool for the party’s annual conference, the smears and attacks intensified yet again – and revelations by the SKWAWKBOX thwarted centrist plans to try to disrupt the event.

A large group of senior rabbis signed a letter of support for Jeremy Corbyn. Such a challenge to the Establishment’s preferred narrative was bound to be attacked – and it was dismissed as a fake, but the SKWAWKBOX proved its authenticity, forcing the media to pull back quietly from the claim.

But the SKWAWKBOX went further, proving that a prominent paper had possessed proof the letter was genuine – but only published it after the SKWAWKBOX contacted the paper to ask it to explain why it had sat on the evidence and allowed fake news to continue.

Liverpool Riverside constituency party publicly rejected claims of antisemitism by its MP – the same Louise Ellman caught being ‘appalled to find out’ about Corbyn’s attendance at an event she was at.

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson further sullied what was left of his reputation when he was discovered chumming around with Tory-supporting, Corbyn-obsessed Daily Mail commentator Dan Hodges.

The SKWAWKBOX broke exclusive, early news of the clean sweep achieved by the left ‘slate’ of candidates in the party’s vital NEC elections.

Exclusive video released by the SKWAWKBOX showed that a meeting at which right-wing MP John Mann claimed his local members had shown him ‘unequivocal’ support had in fact featured a walk-out by members appalled at the conduct of Mann’s allies.

During the conference delegates staged a mass show of solidarity with oppressed Palestinians, waving Palestinian flags all over the conference hall. Predictably, the display of solidarity was condemned by some commentators as antisemitic.

By now ex-Labour MP Frank Field’s local party wrote a letter condemning the ‘inappropriate’ and ‘unaccountable’ MP – their vote of no confidence in him before his departure had been exclusively revealed by the SKWAWKBOX – and unsurprisingly ignored by the mainstream media narrative.

Among the SKWAWBOX’s other exclusives in September, the blog revealed:

  • news that right-wing MP and LFI leader Joan Ryan faced a motion of no-confidence by her local members – which she dramatically lost after failing to block the vote
  • the death-threats and attempted assault against a left-wing Enfield North member during the no-confidence vote meeting – making a nonsense of the mainstream narrative that the left is abusive
  • that the Wirral councillor the Times had used to support the latest smears against left-wingers in the Merseyside borough had not been present at the alleged events
  • that phones and dial-ins had been banned by the NEC following the leaked recording of Peter Willsman

October – more smears, left discord and fake news from the Chancellor

In October, a dispute materialised between Momentum on one side and other left groups on the other, after Momentum and Jon Lansman initially declined to support a popular member of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) in the vital election of NCC (National Constitutional Committee) members, because of anticipated opposition from right-wing Jewish groups.

For a brief period, two ‘left’ slates were presented to members – but eventually Momentum backed down and a unified slate was put forward. It went on to win a clean sweep for the left.

The SKWAWKBOX exposed the creation of a completely fake ‘Labour’ account to make an antisemitic tweet and allow Labour’s opponents to smear the party – and exclusively revealed the extensive attempts of a well-known anti-Labour ‘troll’ account to shore up the fake’s supposed authenticity.

Tory Chancellor Phil Hammond tried to claim in his budget speech that the Tories had funded a huge growth in affordable housing – but was caught out by the SKWAWKBOX as his numbers fell apart.

The blog exposed lies by the Home Office about the roll-out of pepper spray use to all UK prisons – a still highly controversial topic because of the improper use of the sprays.

The BBC continued an dismal year by failing completely in its impartiality obligations during party conference season – while various ‘MSM’ journalists shamefully exploited the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre to attack Jeremy Corbyn.

In independent media news, the NUJ chapter at the Guardian newspaper disgraced itself by objecting to Canary editor Kerry-Anne Mendoza’s invitation to speak at a Black History Month event organised by the union’s BAME group. The union then disgraced itself by bullying Mendoza and cancelling the invitation – who instead showed the spirit of the woman the speech is given in honour of, by organising the inaugural Independent Claudia Jones lecture, which was a triumph.

Some other October exclusives:

  • the revelation that former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale had not been told by the party, contrary to media claims, that it would fund her defence against a defamation claim brought for comments she made in a private capacity
  • an extensive two-part interview with then-candidate – and now Welsh Labour leader and First Minister – Mark Drakeford

November – govt collapse and (of course) more smears

A grim-faced May in the Commons

November marked an acceleration in the collapse of the Tory government and of Establishment hopes of obscuring it.

Theresa May lost three Commons votes in a row as the dismal reality of her Brexit ‘deal’ became inescapable – and her MPs finally triggered a no-confidence vote against her which, as the SKWAWKBOX had predicted, she won but not convincingly, leaving her an unsalvageable lame duck.

The Tories capitulated – and showed contempt for democracy – by tamely accepting Labour and SNP amendments to Hammond’s Budget without attempting to defend their finance bill. This ought to trigger the immediate dissolution of the government, but all too typically the Tories simply hid and the Establishment media helped avert attention.

As the BBC and other media were telling the country that a general election could only be triggered by an unachievable two-thirds majority of MPs, the SKWAWKBOX revealed the details of the law that mean only a ‘50% plus 1’ vote is required.

May continued to shame the nation, twisting through multiple contortions to avoid admitting that her deal would give the EU a veto over any attempt by the UK to leave the so-called ‘backstop’ arrangement.

Tory MP Claire Perry was allowed by the BBC to make a ridiculous smear against Jeremy Corbyn on the BBC’s Question Time, but the Corporation had no convincing excuse for doing so.

Most of the ‘MSM’ propagated outright fake news claiming that the Metropolitan Police were investigating the Labour Party over antisemitism. The BBC did so moments after playing an interview with the Met’s Commissioner in which she expressly told listeners that this was not true – a scandal captured by the SKWAWKBOX.

Right-wing MP Ian Austin had claimed Labour’s investigation into his abusive behaviour toward fellow MPs had simply been dropped – and this was widely reported by the ‘MSM’. It was untrue – he had been formally reprimanded, but this was only known because the SKWAWKBOX exclusively revealed the reprimand letter.

The SKWAWKBOX exposed a well-known troll account inventing biographical information for a fake account set up to smear the Labour Party.

In some of its other exclusives, the SKWAWKBOX revealed:

  • the Guardian’s fake news about a Momentum Brexit poll
  • the motion of no confidence brought by an Enfield CLP against Enfield’s right-wing council leader, who is under investigation by the Labour Party
  • a written commitment from ‘centrist’ Stephen Kinnock to vote against May’s deal

December – Christmas spirit and govt chaos

For the first time in UK history, the government was found in contempt of Parliament for refusing to publish legal advice about its Brexit deal, after Jeremy Corbyn dramatically secured a vote on the issue. When the advice was eventually published, it showed that May had lied to the DUP about the implications for Northern Ireland.

As the Tories insisted the government would not back out of a vote on the deal, the SKWAWKBOX warned readers that it was preparing to do so with the support of its media allies.

As the Tories bluffed about their huge payments to a shady group undermining democracy, the Labour Party secured an urgent debate in Parliament and skewered the government.

As MPs departed on prolonged Christmas holidays, one MP had other ideas. The SKWAWKBOX exclusively revealed that Jeremy Corbyn had attended a centre for homeless people in a visit so closely guarded even close aides had been unaware of it. He was not alone – other members of his team supported the same homelessness charity throughout the festive period.

Corbyn also demonstrated his focus on people when he challenged a BBC reporter for obsessive questions about Brexit when so many people are suffering – but the reporter, oblivious, ploughed on regardless.

When the Establishment tried desperately to distract from government chaos by whipping up a furore about Corbyn’s supposed ‘stupid woman’ during PMQs, the SKWAWKBOX published video analysis showing he had said, as he claimed, ‘stupid people’. As indeed they were.

Other December exclusives:

  • a revealing conversation with “people’s vote” gloominary Alastair Campbell – who refused to answer questions about the effects of a new EU referendum

All this and more the SKWAWKBOX brought to its readers against the prevailing Establishment narrative.

In a year in which the Labour left needed to become toughened and tempered, the SKWAWKBOX helped by debunking numerous smears and breaking information to encourage and inform the left and counter the Tories.

Here’s to a 2019 in which a battle-scarred but tougher Labour Party, now beyond reasonable dispute the government in waiting that the country desperately needs, ends the blight of Tory government and moves into Downing Street – for the many and not the few.

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  1. An excellent review of your hard work Steve and from me many thanks for those efforts , long may they continue ( tho I wish they were not necessary ) .When seen in it’s entirety over a years length it really rams home just how colossal the “Establishments ” efforts have been in trying to destroy Labour and it’s Democratic Socialist Leadership, it’s quite sobering in fact.
    My one New Yrs wish is to hope for mandatory re-selection as the norm.

  2. You deserve a big pat on the back Steve; your work has been exemplary. Your review points up a number of things but one that sticks out to me is that momentum have not exactly covered themselves in glory and on the two big issues you point up where they have been forced to back down from idiotic (not to say non-transparent and undemocratic) decisions, Skwawkbox has played a vital role. I was made aware today that certain momentum twitter accounts are in the hands of nutters from the AWL and there’s a whole lot of other things that concern me about the organisation/company or whatever it actually is. Similarly a friend in South Thanet CLP contacted me last week in some distress about the deselection of the PPC at the behest of Guido Fawkes and pals, whilst apparently the so called momentum “left” on the NEC had not lifted a finger to stop this happening. The attacks on Corbyn and the left are only going to intensify in the coming months and we will need to be prepared to take a more adversarial stance with those who are using issues like Brexit and antisemitism (and they’ll no doubt find others) as cover for their ultimate aim of removing the leader, purging the left and restoring “normal service” – two party rule in Britain that favours the few rather than the many. Keep up the good work in 2019!

  3. Thank you Steve for everything you do, even posting tonight! You’re a star for the work you do and highlighting all the rotten things happening in this country! We can’t rely on the normal media so it’s very much appreciated.Happy new year to you and yours and keep up the excellent work!

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