The dark arts of political advertising as the clouds of a Brexit war gather

I was struck by an image today of Dominic Cummings, the master of the dark arts of campaigning and political advertising, now Johnson’s chief SPAD at No. 10, whom this author describes as a Svengali-like figure. In the 1895 du Maurier novel, Svengali is a figure who seduces, manipulates, dominates and exploits his victim. Behind the jovial, bumbling, jokey but false front of Boris Johnson’s pre-election campaigning (it seems), lurks this arch-manipulator. Perhaps he symbolises what Brexit is about, a fraud on the British people, no doubt sincerely believed in by huge numbers but cleverly sold in 2016 by this Vote Leave team now in power, a massive wrench to the country with no plausible, developed policy and programme, with a claim to being democratic while their behaviour demonstrates otherwise, and with behind them an actual policy of a further … Read more

Are Trump and Brexit two sides of a hard-right anti-democratic take-over bid?

Are Trump and Brexit two sides of a hard-right anti-democratic take-over bid? One has to ask the question, since in the pursuit of power and influence both groups seem to be using questionable techniques that could lead one to wonder quite where this is going. In the US there is an ongoing probe by the FBI-appointed special prosecutor Mueller into whether the Trump campaign indulged in illegal activities in collaboration with a hostile foreign power, Russia, to swing the 2016 Presidential election in Trump’s favour. In the UK, the Information Commissioner is examining the Brexit campaign’s exploitation of personal data potentially at the risk of data protection laws, while the Electoral Commission is looking into the possible by-passing of strict spending limits and whether there was interference in the campaign by Russian troll farms through social media. Some commentators are … Read more

Press regulation and unintended consequence of a new UK constitution?

As the dust settles a little from the crisis over press regulation, Britain’s journalists have been contemplating the implications of the system devised between the leaders of the major parties in the small hours of 18 March. There has also been a steady stream of concerned criticism from overseas. The enormity of what has been agreed is beginning to sink in and, just maybe, bringing forward some major unintended consequences. What started as a largely celebrity-led protest at media intrusion into private lives through such things as mobile phone hacking, as vocally expressed by the pressure group Hacked Off, has transformed itself into the issue of political control of the media. Regulation is intended to make sure that the unacceptable intrusion “can never happened again”, in the words of my MP today. It is curious that somehow the use of … Read more

How do we balance freedom of expression with press intrusion?

The current state of confusion over press regulation here in the UK presents me with a very useful opportunity to start this blog – the attempts by politicians to come up with a model of regulation that meets the assumed need for reform and also satisfies the various scruples about freedom of expression. One could choose to start a blog at any time but what is so good about this one is that it once again presents us with that most enduring of political dilemmas, the relationships between rights and responsibilities, between freedom and constraint and between the individual and the state. Freedom of expression has long been assumed to be a corner-stone of British democracy and the key right of the individual. One classic definition is that of John Stuart Mill who wrote in On Liberty (1859), “However, positive … Read more

%d bloggers like this: