Cheryl James, Deepcut and the Army’s propaganda machine

English: Army Land near Deepcut barracks Entra...

English: Army Land near Deepcut barracks Entrance to open army land to the south east of this location – a rare occurrence in Surrey, to have such a wide area of open land – although it is here because of army training. Some of the land is also open to the public, except for the danger areas when the red flags are flying! In time, much of this land may be built upon for housing, as the army moves out. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The inquest into Cheryl James’s death at Deepcut showed the army in poor light. The story on its own was bad.[1] The press reported recruits were bullied and often sexually harassed. In some cases, they were sexually assaulted.[2] A few years after her death an officer was convicted of sexually abusing male recruits.[3] However, these were old news. What we did not know was the scope, severity, and scale of the abuse. Or, how officers[4] and senior officers[5] had handled these issues.[6] In a word, the Army faced a potential public relations disaster.[7]

What did they do to prevent a PR disaster?

On the surface, it appears they did nothing. The public would be excused in believing that the Army simply accepted the inquiry and what it would find. They would let the “chips fall where they may”. Such a view would miss the Army’s subtle public relations strategy. During the review the television show Army Girls was advertised extensively. A couple of weeks before the coroner retired to considered its findings, it was shown on Channel 4 starting on 7 April 2016.[8] The show presented the female recruit’s life as a positive, upbeat, if at times demanding, experience. Although the Army may not have decided the timetable, they did agree to the show as they would want to promote the changes since Cheryl James death in 1995.

Why do they need to tell their story?

Like the Police, the Army want to promote their image. The Police do this through a variety of means, none so effective as the quasi-reality documentary shows.[9] The Police court good publicity as it helps them police by consent. They also need it to encourage recruits to join. The Army needs recruits as well so they have to present an attractive image.[10] To promote their image, they will encourage television shows such as The Army Girls[11] and other public relations services.[12] The show give the human side of army life for female recruits and the public get an insight into the Army. The Army get publicity to attract female recruits. It also helps them shape public opinion.

The Curious case of the Private Eye Army Girls advert.

Good publicity helps to shape public opinion. An example of this approach was the Private Eye advertisement in late April. In early April, Private Eye had a detailed story about the inquiry. The story described serious failings such as senior officers unaware of bullying, the prolific sexual activity (800 used condoms were collected on one sweep alone), and the lax oversight of recruits mental and physical health.[13] The next issue, Private Eye contained a full page advertisement for Army Girls. As with any television show, the producers will time its opening to maximize its audience. However, it would also serve a secondary purpose, the Army’s purpose. The show and the adverts helped to shape the public opinion around the inquiry. So the next time you watch one of these shows, ask yourself “what are they trying to achieve with it?”

The Army Girls show that the Army has changed, or has it?

Despite the Deepcut revelations, the army have a positive message of change for the parents and the female recruits–until the next Cheryl James.[14]















[12] The Ministry of Defence spend around £50 million a year on public relations.

[13] Private Eye, issue 1415: 1-14  April 2016   The next issue, 1416 had the full page advertisement.

[14] The Army and the military in general want to present an image that will show they have changed since the Deepcut Four emerged. The Army and the military want to show they are no longer a misogynistic, sexist, institution where physical and sexual abuse are part of the culture tolerated, if not encouraged, by the senior officers. Their political masters have to demonstrate they have responded to the claims and they have changed the Army and the military to make I safer.

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Roger Ailes, “friends” and the media industry’s dirty laundry

Co-host of Fox and Friends Gretchen Carlson du...

Co-host of Fox and Friends Gretchen Carlson during an interview. Cropped and balanced. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roger Ailes is alleged to have sexually harassed women for the last 30 years and more recently while in charge of Fox News. He and 21st Century Fox have agreed to make a $20 Million payment to Gretchen Carlson to settle her sexual harassment lawsuit. Her employment claim was based on Ailes behaviour. To support her claims, she stated she would give recordings of conversations that capture his behaviour.

Beginning in 2014, according to a person familiar with the lawsuit, Carlson brought her iPhone to meetings in Ailes’s office and secretly recorded him saying the kinds of things he’d been saying to her all along. “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago, and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better. Sometimes problems are easier to solve” that way, he said in one conversation. “I’m sure you can do sweet nothings when you want to,” he said another time.[1]

The recordings appear pivotal to the Company and Ailes agreeing to settle.[2]

Be my “friend” since every media executive has a “friend.”

When her story became public other women came forward. What emerged is that Fox News had settled other lawsuits about Ailes and women. In particular, it was alleged that one of his claims to encourage women to gratify him sexually was to explain needed to be his “friend”. As Kellie Boyle explained, he would ask if the woman would be willing to be his “friend” as other men in the industry had their “friends”.

He said, “That’s the way it works,” and he started naming other women he’d had. He said that’s how all these men in media and politics work — everyone’s got their friend. I said, “Would I have to be friends with anybody else?” And he said, “Well, you might have to give a blow job every once in a while.” I told him I was going to have to think about this. He said, “No, if you don’t do it now, you know that means you won’t.”[3]

The story suggests that the media industry has an institutional problem.[4] If Ailes claim is true and there is no reason to suggest it isn’t then other media executives behave the same way. Moreover, it would also suggest why the media have shied away from reporting, or investigating this story.[5] Ailes knows their “dirty laundry”. If threatened, he could make sure that such information finds its way into the public domain. It is how the industry operates. The information about “friends” gives Ailes tremendous power to harm those proprietors, editors, and executives who might investigate him.

The only difference is that Ailes got caught.

It speaks to the moral cowardice that other media executives have shied away from this story. They claim to act in the public interest, to uphold the best traditions, and they avoid the story. The price is too high. They live in glass houses and they do not want anyone throwing stones. They know that Ailes even out of Fox News remains a powerful and dangerous figure. He can ruin reputations, damage companies, and hurt people with his disclosures. For that reason, they have weighed the balance and decided against anything more than a superficial reporting of the allegations, cases, and evidence. In particular, there will not be a wider investigation across the industry. No matter the country, the media rarely wash their own dirty laundry in public.[6]

The next time you turn on Fox News (or any news outlet) keep this in mind: Ailes may be gone but the culture remains.








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Keith Vaz and Political Coercion: Why now?

English: Keith Vaz, British Labour politician,...

English: Keith Vaz, British Labour politician, at a march against knife crime in Hyde Park, London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The news for Keith Vaz is devastating.[1] In the Sunday Mirror [2]it is reported that he is alleged to have hired male prostitutes for sex. The allegations[3] suggest that he is experienced in procuring their sexual services. The reports indicate that the behaviour has been going on for some time.

As we know from previous scandals, the party Whips are often aware of such behaviour. They need to be aware to protect the party. If they can help the MP, they help the party. A party with MPs in the news for sexual impropriety, ethical lapses, and the appearance of potential criminality is rarely successful at the polls.

Beneath the surface lies a vicious culture.

We have to consider the twilight political world where information is used privately for influence and advantage. In this world, political operatives, journalists, and even the police trade information for influence and to influence events. To influence events, they have to influence the main actors. For some this influence is simply called political deal making. For others, it is brutal political combat. You get an advantage and you exploit it for your benefit before they do it to you. For a dwindling majority, the political twilight world is akin to political blackmail for it thwarts the public’s democratic mandate. For the establishment, this majority is the necessary naïve electorate who foolishly believe in honesty, fair dealing, and the democratic process. If politicians are subject to moral or political coercion, then they cannot claim they represent the public. Instead, they represent the interests of those who control the information through which political and moral coercion is exercised.

How does it work? What Whips do is also what Editors do.

Tim Fortescue[4] explained how it worked.

“For anyone with any sense, who was in trouble, would come to the whips and tell them the truth, and say now, I’m in a jam, can you help? It might be debt, it might be… a scandal involving small boys, or any kind of scandal in which, erm er, a member seemed likely to be mixed up in, they’d come and ask if we could help and if we could, we did. And we would do everything we can because we would store up brownie points… and if I mean, that sounds a pretty, pretty nasty reason, but it’s one of the reasons because if we could get a chap out of trouble then, he will do as we ask forever more.” [Emphasis added][1]

The information can be used by the Whips to control their members. They can leak it to the press to punish a member if necessary. In this role, the press retains their ability to influence people and thereby events. We know that the Sun has a safe full of such information to which they rely on occasion to influence people.[5] What we see in public does not reflect what is being done in private. We are held captive to Arcana Imperii, the information the powerful use to rule yet the public never see.[6]

Can the UK ever escape a political culture of blackmail?

With Mr Vaz in a sensitive post regarding policing, the allegations raise some disturbing questions. Did the police know of his behaviour? When did the press become aware of it? When did the Whips know of it?

Was his public role influenced by his private information? Any party appearing before his committee would want to be able to influence his behaviour to influence the committee. They would have an incentive to learn his secrets and to exploit them. Moreover, they would have more to gain by keeping the secret and not disclosing it. Why is the information about his behaviour being disclosed now? When we can answer that question we begin to understand how politics works in the UK. We need to know how those who arranged for the story knew that he was vulnerable? Was he unaware that he was vulnerable in this way?

So the most important question to ask is the most chilling.

Who has benefited from being able to exploit this previously secret knowledge?




[1] (Paragraph 10)


[1] I have purposefully omitted his family. They will be relieved. The double life, the lies, the deception, the hypocrisy are at an end. They can get on with their lives. If Keith Vaz had *any* concern for his family, he would have never engaged in this behaviour or created the double life.


[3] These remain allegations until confirmed. Mr Vaz has not confirmed them nor has he commented publicly on them beyond referring them to his solicitor. However, his chairmanship of the Home Affairs Select Committee would be untenable if they are true.

[4] He was a senior Whip, 1971-1973 in the Heath government.

[5] Even if sources are boasting about the safe, that it does not contain as much or as sensitive material as they claim, it indicates an ethos, an attitude, and behaviour of how they work. These journalists, editors, and proprietors have no qualms about using it to their advantage as and when needed. They hold this to exercise political and moral coercion. If not, why do they hold it?


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Murdoch, a pitiful tyrant

A full-page apology ad published in British ne...

A full-page apology ad published in British newspapers by News International. The letter, signed by Rupert Murdoch, begins: “The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself.” Sweney, Mark (14 July 2011). “Phone hacking: NI plans full page apology in national press”. The Guardian (UK) . . Retrieved 15 July 2011 . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To many people, Rupert Murdoch appears as a powerful figure. He appears able to punish his enemies and help his friends. Such power is what many people desire. Others fear his power for what he can do to them. Others pursue him in the hopes he will use his power for their ends. He has amassed great wealth and influence. He is by any measure within popular culture a powerful and successful man. Yet, he has paid a terrible price for his power, success, and status.

Xenophon’s insights are timeless

What brought me to that answer is Xenophon’s Hiero, or Tyrannicus.[1] In this short dialogue, Simonides, a poet, discusses the nature of tyranny with a tyrant, Hiero. In that dialogue, Hiero bemoans his state for he is without love, trust, or friendship. Even though he appears to have what he wants, he can find little pleasure. The tyrant may have large meals but worries he does not have enough to impress. He cannot travel abroad for fear of a plot at home. He cannot call the city his fatherland for he has usurped his position. He cannot trust his advisors to tell him the truth. When he goes out in public he requires a bodyguard. When he wants to pursue a beloved he worries whether he is loved for what he has and not who he is. By contrast, the private man has none of these worries. The private man, at least to the tyrant, appears happier.

Like the tyrant, people fear to speak the truth to Rupert Murdoch.

When we look at Murdoch we see that he resembles Hiero more than the private man. This does not mean that he is a tyrant, it is to suggest that he occupies an analogous role. If we consider the way in which he has amassed and retained his wealth, influence, and status, we see the similarities. In his success, he has relied, in no small part, on the malfeasance of others. When the malfeasance has emerged, Murdoch has claimed ignorance.[2] What this suggests that people were not telling him the truth.

When you change, your religion, citizenship, and wives, what remains?

Other similarities are apparent. We know he changed his religion to suit his business needs. He appears without a religious conviction. In matters of love, he has married for the fourth time with wives more a business decision than one of love. He has changed his citizenship to suit his business needs so that he knows no country as home. Like Hiero, he has had to gloss over the way he amassed and sustains his wealth, status and influence.

Shocked, outraged but no desire to repent. Why?

When he learned of Milly Dowler he was shocked.[3] Yet, that did not lead hi to reflect on his responsibility or seek to reform. He paid the family for their pain. With the Daniel Morgan murder case, where his employees have been shown to have interfered with investigations, he seems unaware of it[4]. He is a salutary lesson for what his success has required. Like Hiero, he knows that for all his success, he is a pitiful figure.


[2] See his response to question 167

[3] See his response to question 196


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Murdoch, Fox News and the digital demographic cancer

English: FOX News Channel newsroom

English: FOX News Channel newsroom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For many observers, Rupert Murdoch escaped the UK phone hacking scandal in good shape. He split his empire between television entertainment from his newspaper and publishing.[1] The split appeared to improve both companies and increased profits. Yet, a cancer was metastasizing. A digital demographic cancer is eating away at Fox News and News Corp. Despite the desperate pivot to digital, News Corp’s earnings are being driven increasingly by non-news and information related areas.[2]

Rebekah Brooks and the digital dilemma.

Rebekah Brooks returned to News Corp to reverse declining circulation.[3]  She was to provide a digital strategy to improve News Corp’s position.[4] The Sun [5] is losing the digital battle with the Daily Mail [6] The charts tell the story.[7] News Corp digital strategy reflects an inability to see the news media differently than it is today. Murdoch missed the digital news shift and the rise of social media platforms. Twitter and Facebook are the preferred news platforms for younger viewers.[8] Who has time to watch Fox News when social media content is packaged and pushed via algorithms? Ailes was correct that people watch TV because they are too lazy to think.[9] What he and Murdoch missed is that algorithms will do the thinking.

Roger Ailes and the demographic decline.

Fox News is slowly dying. Murdoch and sons knew it had a cancer. The cancer was Roger Ailes. The trigger was not sexual harassment for they had no qualms about his behaviour for 20 years.[10] Instead, they faced the hard truth that he was not the future. The core audience average age is 68.[11] The channel is losing audience share and influence to media outlets who pursue a different, more radical agenda. These outlets rely on a different media/advertising model. They can broadcast more content through social media channels, with greater speed and responsiveness, as demanded by the new social media consumers.[12]

Path dependency in an age of social media platforms.

Brooks, Murdoch, and Ailes, are captives of their platforms and their thinking. Ailes believes that the medium does not matter as long as the political personalities are right. He is half right. The problem is that the politics, and personalities, have moved to a new platform. They are the vastly profitable buggy whip makers who did not grasp what the automobile was doing to their market.[13] As the market shifts, they are choosing the second or third best option.[14] They want advertising revenue without realizing that the market is now inverted. The platform does not make the material viral nor can they capture viral marketing on their platform to repackage it. Instead, it is the content that drives the advertising, which finds a platform. If it is in a newspaper, it is already yesterday’s digital news. The advertising reacts to the audience shares more than the material’s intrinsic nature or the platform. Buying an online advertiser or an online news company is not going to change it.[15]

A moderate Fox News requires Murdoch to leave.

Removing Ailes is not enough. Neither is Megyn Kelly their saviour.[16] Fox News profits path dependency constrains them. Any post-Ailes pivot will require Rupert ceding control to his son, perhaps *the* demographic problem.




[2] News Corp Chief Financial Officer Bedi Singh said in a call with analysts that domestic advertising revenue at the Journal fell 12% in the quarter year-over-year, “with declines in print partially offset by modest growth in digital.”

Curiously, this is the same message they had the year previously.

Circulation and subscription revenues fell 3% across the news unit.

However, overall revenues for the company rose 2% to $2.28bn as the book publishing and real estate divisions offset dwindling print revenue.

[3] The article during the early apparent success of the paywall subscription service paints an upbeat message that masked the deeper problems. Issues such as customer service remained a hidden problem.

[4] and This shows low share rates for News Corp papers. They are playing catch up. Old thinking reflects pervious business models. The subscription model for cable and newspapers are based on the model where a company can hack a rival’s system and offer free hacking tools to sabotage a rival’s profitability. All charges that News Corp have denied.



[7] The Sun

Mobile comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors 3,091,277
Smartphone comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors 2,512,828
Tablet ABC PAV (Publication active views) PAV (Publication active views)
Tablet comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors 637,927
Facebook /thesun Likes Likes 2,307,880
Twitter @TheSunNewspaper Followers Followers 1,160,000

Daily Mail

Mobile comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors


Smartphone comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors


Tablet ABC PAV (Publication active views) 25,433
Tablet comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors 4,727,789
Facebook /DailyMail Likes Likes 4,935,153
Twitter @mailonline Followers Followers 1,740,000



[9] In a 1970 memo, the plan for putting the GOP on TV news seems prescient.

Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication. The reason: People are lazy. With television you just sit—watch—listen. The thinking is done for you. Emphasis added




[13] The point is that the legacy issues and the path dependency doomed buggy whip industry not that it could not adapt or that parts of the carriage industry could not adapt.

[14] This story puts a brave face on a dire digital situation for the Sun and more widely for News Corp.

[15] They also purchased Storyful.


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Ivanka, America and Trump’s incest comments

English: Ivanka Trump at the Vanity Fair kicko...

English: Ivanka Trump at the Vanity Fair kickoff part for the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One person who has not spoken publicly about Donald Trump’s comments about Ivanka is Ivanka. She may have responded privately or by inference, yet we do not know what she thinks.[1] We know that Ivanka is close to her father. She is closer to him than his other children and she often acts as his surrogate.[2] The relationship appears psychologically complex to the point it calls into question their psychological and emotional health.[3] It could be argued that the relationship borders on “covert incest” [4] as the public comments and intimate petting appear inappropriate.[5]

How will she explain those comments to her children?

When interviewed, Ivanka said that she would not let her children see the negative advertisements about her father. She will shield them from such comments for they are hurtful.[6] The unasked, and unanswered follow-up question, though, is how will she explain her father’s comments to her children? If her husband made such comments about her own children, how would she react?[7]

What can Ivanka do in such a situation?

Ivanka is in an invidious position. She cannot publicly rebuke her father even though such comments amount to a form of sexual harassment. As she has admitted, she lives within his shadow.[8] As Trump runs his empire, like a patriarch of old, Ivanka knows that to cross him would be sever herself from the family. The family and business blur to the point where there is no difference.[9] As a friend commented, the Trump empire rotates around Donald. It is all about him and the children are accessories to his success.[10] To cross him would destroy her brands and her personal life. As such, is it a relationship she is free to leave?

How far has America’s public morality declined?

One wonders why Trump’s comments and behaviour on The Howard Stern Show and the View were not a cause for scandal.[11] He seems impervious to moderation or shame as he appears to believe he speaks the truth. Yet, as we know from Oedipus Rex, such a truth, while perhaps personally liberating, has political and societal consequences.

Clayton Williams must be shaking his head in disbelief

In 1990 Clayton Williams made an off the cuff remark.  The remark, that women should “relax and enjoy it [rape]”, caused a political and societal furore, which helped to end his political career. He had been tipped to win the Texas governorship.[12] Today, 26 years later, America seems singularly unconcerned that a Presidential candidate that can talk candidly of incest with his daughter.[13] One could argue that rape involves violence and the other is not violent. Yet, both are a coercive and abusive relationship. They both reflect an unhealthy view of women. The comments violate the normal societal constraints that allow a society, or a person, to call itself decent. With Trump have we lost any sense of decency? 

[1] See for example, her response to the question here:

“On whether she ever admonishes her father for his more outrageous assertions and personal insults: “Well, I’m his daughter. In a political capacity, I don’t. It’s his campaign. I don’t feel that’s my role. But I would challenge him as a child. That’s what children do. [My daughter] Arabella challenges me every day. People ask me, do I ever disagree with my father? It would be a little strange if I didn’t.””

She also responded indirectly when the issue was raised directly.

“Notoriously, appearing on the View in 2006 with Ivanka sitting beside him, Trump announced: “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

Ivanka gamely shook her head, tongue firmly in cheek, as if to say, “Yep, that’s my dad!” (This was before she became someone who tweeted out #ITWiseWords, including quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt about self-worth).”


[3] One recalls that Bill Clinton had a less than psychologically healthy relationship with his mother and that showed in his ability to empathize with other people. In a curious parallel, Chelsea Clinton remarked on that she shared the emotional sensitivity of her father Bill Clinton. .

“Chelsea Clinton and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky. “She’s always aware of everyone around her and ensuring that everyone is enjoying the moment,” says Chelsea. “It’s an awareness that in some ways reminds me of my dad, and his ability to increase the joy of the room.””

Consider this view of Bill Clinton’s behaviour and his success as a politician who could “feel your pain” because he had lived with the pain of abuse. The abuse, perhaps, made him acutely sensitive to the emotions of others.

“”He was abused,” Clinton told Franks. “When a mother does what she does, it affects you forever.”

Clinton continued: “I am not going into it, but I’ll say that when this happens in children, it scars you. You keep looking in all the wrong places for the parent who abused you.”

Franks does not specify the nature of the abuse in the the book passage and writes that the then-first lady “declined to give me details.””




[7] The Atlantic article speculated on this point as well.

One can only imagine Ivanka the Mompreneur’s potential displeasure if her husband, Jared Kushner, spent their daughter’s teenage years crowing about her hotness, and his desire to date her, if not for the for taboos on incest.

[8] In 2003, he told Howard Stern,

“You know who’s one of the great beauties of the world, according to everybody? And I helped create her? Ivanka. My daughter, Ivanka. She’s six feet tall, she’s got the best body. She made a lot of money as a model—a tremendous amount.”

[9] “The Trump Organization has a unique culture. Everyone calls the boss “Mr. Trump.” Employees often eat lunch at the Trump Grill, in the lobby of Trump Tower, which offers a dish called Ivanka’s Salad. The higher you get in the company, the more the family and business blur. Michael Cohen, the executive vice-president of the Trump Organization, told the Jewish Chronicle, “To those of us who are close to Mr. Trump, he is more than our boss. He is our patriarch.””

[10] “A Trump family friend told me, “It’s a close family in many ways—except it’s all about Donald all the time.” He went on, “Donald only thinks of himself. When you say, ‘Donald, it’s raining today,’ he says, ‘It doesn’t matter, I’m indoors.’ ”



[13] For Clayton Williams the comments were never forgotten or forgiven. In 2008, he raised funds for the McCain campaign. When he wanted to host a fundraiser at his home, the comment was publicized, so the campaign severed their ties with him.

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Alexis Jay and the legal assassins

Alexis Jay is the fourth chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). The three previous chairs were from the legal profession. The last chair Justice Goddard resigned. Critics have suggested she lacked the necessary skills to meet the task. In particular, she was considered to be a poor judge[1], which raises the question of why she was chosen. Leaving that question aside, we need to consider the problem of legal assassins.

What is clear is that Justice Goddard was unprepared for the legal challenges she would face. The same holds for Alexis Jay. Even though Jay has been on the panel for the past two years and dealt successfully with the Rotherham case, she has never faced the legal challenges that await her.

In the Rotherham case, there were no QCs arguing back or contesting her claims, her investigation, her method, or her motives. To the extent that Rotherham Council resisted it was more as muted criticism of a defeated opponent bitter in defeat. She will face institutions and QCs that are experienced at legal and bureaucratic infighting. She will face legal assassins. Men and women trained and experience in destroying victims and defending institutions. The QCs and Barristers she will face are well versed in these issues since they have been contesting them for the past 60 years on the side of the very institutions and people she is trying to hold to account.

Power does not like to be held to account and the laws that QCs wield so well are structured to sustain the status quo against such claims. As the Hillsborough survivors and victims’ families found, the legal system was their greatest barrier for it sustained the Police in their silence and sadism. The QC could claim they were “only following legal instruction” yet that raises the question does a QC have a moral duty to explain that legal instruction will fail?

Jay faces QCs and institutions that have no concerns about following a morally flawed legal strategy. Their goal is to defend their clients even at the expense of the inquiry. If the inquiry collapses it will serve their clients, individual or institutional, for they have no desire to see their clients be held to account in any way except on their terms. The difference with a criminal trial where legal combat between two arguments is judged by cold reason and an inquiry is that the goal is not guilt or innocence, it is to hold the parties to account. To hold an institution does not require legal combat. However, the legal assassins hired for this purpose will ensure that it does become and remain legal combat so that they can control the field of battle.

Jay has the unenviable task of trying to shift the battleground even as she tries to manage a complex and complicated Inquiry. I hope she succeeds; I doubt the forces arrayed against her will let her.

[1] See for example this survey see also

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Why Theresa May will fail

Theresa May

Theresa May (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Theresa May faces an impossible task, a task that all statesmen want to avoid for it is the highest difficulty. She has to reconcile a divided people to a new path, a path that offers doubtful rewards and uncertain chances of success as it leaves behind known risks and benefits.

She will introduce a new UK that will navigate life outside of the EU. The political landscape will be reshaped by this departure as laws and institutions must be changed to accommodate the exit. The exit’s effects are far-reaching yet barely understood and it is within this uncertainty she has to plot a course. In this task, she has to carry with her the people as well as the regime as it is now constituted even as it too will be shaped by the change. The relationships within the UK, especially the one with Scotland, will need to reconsidered.

In leading the people, parliament, and her party, she will have to weave a web of state that reconciles the various competing, conflicting, and complementary parties. The web has to understand the tensions within and across each strand. The vote to leave the EU has made the task extraordinarily difficult. She is caught between two camps. She has for enemies the parties who did well under the old EU conditions. Within the EU exit camp she will have lukewarm defenders who will either not believe her sincerity or worry about her ability to deliver the exit. The parties who favour exit have the vote on their side, however, they know that the laws, the desire for precedent and continuity favour Remain. The public and parliament are less likely to believe in the promises of EU exit until they see them. Throughout this process, especially within Parliament, members of the Remain campaign will fight a rear guard campaign almost like partisans against an occupying force. Her defenders within the Leave campaign cannot show any gains except for illusory promises and postures. Her burden is lifted to the extent that the ministers who have to negotiate the exit are seen as responsible. However, when they make outrageous claims such as EU immigrants will be sent back in a reverse surge, she becomes their hostage.

May has made others responsible for delivering the exit, but this will only protect her temporarily for she has to manage the vote’s economic, political, social consequences. The consequences have begun to divide society. The division reflect a society disillusioned and discouraged by the process. As she prepares for the next general election, she knows a failure to deliver the exit will be fatal for her and her party. More worryingly, a failure will reveal the democratic voice to be useless. If she cannot ensure that the consequences are not felt equally or equitably, then cannot overcome the systemic inequality that they reflect. In that moment, she will realize she cannot weave together a web of politics that will create a true common good.





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Ted Cruz: The death of a political career foretold

Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th President of the U...

Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th President of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On 20 July 2016, Ted Cruz killed his dream. He had wanted to become the President of the United States (POTUS). He wanted to be the Republican Party’s nominee. Now, neither of those goals will ever be fulfilled. When Senator Cruz failed to endorse Donald Trump, the Party’s nominated candidate, he failed as a politician. In that decision, done during the prime time, he gained a measure of revenge. He had suffered personal insults from Trump. His wife received personal insults from Trump. His father was smeared by Trump. For these slights and his deep ideological and political disagreements with Trump, he decided to damage Trump. In this decision, he put his personal ambition before the party. He put his personal honour above being a politician. This is a fatal mistake for anyone who wants to be POTUS as other candidates have shown.

Richard Nixon swallowed his pride to gain the prize. Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) had to extinguish a gargantuan ego to accept being Vice President to a man he considered his political inferior. They knew is that to become POTUS you have to put that ambition first, not personal dignity, not your wife’s honour. To be POTUS a candidate requires extraordinary political discipline. Bill Clinton epitomized personal indiscipline yet, he never shirked any task, no matter how humiliating for himself or his family, to become POTUS. To paraphrase the Shawshank Redemption, you have to crawl through miles of shit to achieve that ultimate prize.

What Cruz has done is failed as what a politician must achieve that by serving the party he would serve his own ambition. His speech will not derail Trump’s candidacy. He will not gain the nomination. He has gained revenge by cutting off his nose to spite his face. Had he delivered a powerful speech, attacked Hillary, and endorsed Trump he could have proved to everyone why he was the better candidate.

He could have come out of this disaster of a convention as a powerful alternative, a statesman, the party’s future. In that moment he could have shown Trump, the party, and America what statesmanship means. He could have done this with a powerful speech that, by its brilliance, would have overshadowed Trump’s pettiness, petulance, and vindictiveness. Instead, he showed us his limitations on a national stage.

Cruz diminished himself and sabotaged his chance to be the Party’s next nominee. No matter what happens with Trump, win or lose, Cruz will not be the nominee. He betrayed the party. For if he derails Trump, then he has hurt the party. If Trump wins, then his speech looks to be one from a spiteful, petty, sore loser.

Cruz has avenged his honour, his wife’s honour, and his father’s honour. He has lost his dignity and his chance to be the Party’s nominee. A man of powerful talent, a man of political skill, a man who would have been POTUS but for a moment he will always regret. Ted Cruz RIP.

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Murdoch’s Moral Malaise?

Rupert Murdoch has a problem. His organisations seem to lack a moral centre. Perhaps it is the nature of the businesses he runs. Perhaps it is the nature of the people he hires. Perhaps it is something deeper, an organisational malaise.

Five years ago he said in the wake of the phone hacking scandals he had faced his most humbling day. In response to the criminal investigations and civil claims, he closed the News of the World newspaper which had been at the centre of the phone hacking.

In the ensuing Leveson inquiry we learned more about his organisation. More to the point, we learned more about UK journalism’s moral ethos. To say that it was riven with deceit, betrayal, bullying, would be to put it mildly. At the centre of it, perhaps the king of it, was Rupert Murdoch’s papers in particular the News of the World. It pushed the boundaries. It took the risks. It had the highest circulation of any UK newspaper. Their business model: to harvest misery, misdeeds, and moral failures of others; succeeded for it allowed the public the vicarious experience or audience and judge. The public could consume moral turpitude and enjoy the frisson of moral superiority. Murdoch’s papers habituated the public to what was base and avoid that which was noble for anything could be made tawdry, cheap and nasty. Yet in all this moral torpor, the focus never turned to the immoral heart within the newspaper or its parent organisation.

We know that the News of the World senior management team were bullies. The Employment Tribunal ruled they had bullied an employee who suffered from mental health issues. Yet that was not enough for the Editor in charge to be disciplined. It would seem it is the cost of doing business. The employment ethos is the survival of the fittest. The strong rule the weak and if you are weak you need to leave before you are forced to leave.

Recently we have heard the news that alleges that Roger Ailes sexually harassed women over the past thirty years. After story broke, more women came forward to describe similar experiences. Fox Media appears to be sympathetic if not tolerant to behaviour that would encourage men to harass women. Some might excuse the behaviour as light hearted erotically charged banter. The banter makes an on camera partnership sparkle, which draws viewers. Such a view overlooks the deeper organisational abuse of power.

In the two organisations, we find endemic abuse of power. The organisation indulges such behaviour as the appropriate power dynamic. If you are powerful, you can say or do, what you like without fear of consequences. The ultimate organisational power is impunity. Fox News might argue that all complaints are investigated and they have robust policies. Yet, that begs the question. If the policies are robust and complaints investigated, why do they recur? Perhaps, the place to look is at the moral malaise at the top.

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