Philip Battenberg was buried yesterday. Many people who didn’t know him told fond stories and claimed his devotion to duty was an example to be followed.

This is to ignore his casual bigotry, his failure as a parent and his continuing unconstitutional interference in politics. It’s very clear he and his family are conservatives who, along with government appointees control the honours system within a patronage structure that is not open to the poor, working classes and minorities. As such they ensure continued institutional denial of access, which cements the divisions in our society between the “haves” – who are “in the know” and the rest of us – the “have-nots”.

Instead of closing down the backward and repressive Gordonstoun concentration camp (his son called it ‘Colditz with kilts’), he sent the heir to the throne there, instead of to a progressive co-ed modern school. Thus began his own children’s psychologically nightmarish upbringing which killed off any maternal relationship,sabotaged their marriages and possibly influenced another son’s choice of friends and lifestyle.

I don’t really believe Prince Philip was a racist who hated non-whites. But his colonial-era superiority and lack of mutual respect for the people lining the pavements sent the wrong signals from the head of the very family supposed to be “setting an example” and offering a “role model”.

Access and connections still determine social, political and business success, underpinning the corrupt relationships which open up contracts, directorships, and even family links. Only money or power such as newspaper or media ownership can now procure access to the establishment elite. Its survival depends on having a subjugated, demoralised low-wage labour force to deliver the profits and growth which feed it. No amount of Duke of Edinburgh awards – his only legacy – are ever going to change that.

My 1960 copy – in paperback for the masses

Bruce Whitehead is a freelance writer in Edinburgh

In “The Gathering Storm”, writing about the build up to the second world war, Winston Churchill talks about the communist strategy of inflitrating a weak socialist regime, citing the Russian Kerensky period prior to the November 1917 Bolshevik takeover, and relating how in 1936 the same thing was being attempted in Spain. Could the same be said of the 23-year post-handover 2-systems sham that has led inexorably to the current chilling showdown in Hong Kong?

The parallels with 1936 are everywhere: resurgent fascist sentiments after a socialist failure (Mosley after Ramsay MacDonald), then a conservative failure (Baldwin and Chamberlain) followed by a belated national repudiation of fascism and desperate mobilisation measures to resist (visas for HongKong Chinese, stepping up patrols to monitor Russian aircraft incursions of UK airspace, a re-think on Huawei). For 1930s Italy, Germany and Japan, read present-day China, Putin’s lifetime power grab in Russia, an infestation of pond life such as Orban (Hungary), Bolsonaro (Brasil), Duda (Poland)… and of course Trump. And remember how 1930s post-depression US isolationism plus UK fecklessness encouraged totalitarian aggression in Abyssinia, Austria, Manchuria and Czechoslovakia. Think of Putin in Georgia and Crimea, and Israel moving into Palestinian territories illegally which started this Wednesday.

Boris Johnson’s admirers like to style him as a new Churchill, but his party’s long standing appeasement of China (Cameron’s lavish 2015 UK state visit) and willingness to trade its manifest human rights abuses for access to floods of cheap goods and services (5G; a cut-price Hinkley Point C nuclear power station) show the Conservatives’ true mettle: weak words of gentle rebuke as Beijing’s immaculate ranks of automaton goose-stepping butcher-soldiers advance on Kowloon Port.

And what does Her Majesty’s Opposition have in reply? A lawyer who says the passion of the global Black Lives Matter movement is “just a moment”; who urges teachers unions they should return to schools without test and trace; who backs landlords over renters; who, as DPP at first refused to prosecute police for the manslaughter of Ian Tomlinson, saying his death was from natural causes; who sacks his education spokeswoman for a minor mistake. Ruthless and forensic? Hapless and shambolic more like.

It’s instructive to read Churchill’s account of how Stanley Baldwin snubbed him for a cabinet job in 1935, a rejection which saved him from the taint of Baldwin’s appeasement strategy that enabled WW2, and allowed him to lead the victorious resistance to Hitler. And, as in 1936, we may only have a few years in which to avert a global nightmare scenario. Is it too fanciful to hope that this time, a similar catastrophe could be avoided by the return to power of the only politician with the foresight, vote-boosting potential and decency to recognise the mistakes made and negotiate a genuine “peace in our time” – also currently languishing on the back benches: Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP?

Feel the EdinBern!

14 February 2020

Bernie 2020 Abroad

Bruce Whitehead wants an army of Scots on the phones to stop Trump in November

I’VE LOST the habit of tuning in to the BBC Today radio programme, but occasionally I am weak, so on it goes. And what nicer way to wake up yesterday than to the earthy tones of a Bronx New Yorker rasping out from my wee radio. It was Larry Sanders – not the famous sitcom character actor who played Sienfeld – but the brother of the man Who Must Save the World from Donald Trump – Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders in July 2019.

The former BBC North America correspondent Justin Webb giggled with glee that Larry sounded just like his more famous brother, before collecting his journalistic integrity together and asking some serious questions about the campaign. Larry is touring the UK to organise support among Democrat voters abroad to nominate Bernie as their candidate for this year’s US presidential election.

Webb asked how Bernie (or Bern-ard as Larry calls his famous sibling – you emphasise the last syllable) could possibly do any better than Jeremy Corbyn did on a similar platform offering both climate and social justice. Larry reminded Webb that unlike Corbyn, Sanders has enjoyed a consistently high personal approval rating amongst voters.

This is certainly true, but Trump is doing much, much better since the Democrats’ unwise impeachment bid boosted his support. But the risk is that, as we saw in the UK, smears and concerted campaigns by media, political and lobby groups can tarnish reputations – even if in Trump’s case, his backers don’t seem to care. And even though in Corbyn’s case, the central allegations of antisemitism did not translate in a large number of lost votes, the perception was of a weak leader, unable or unwilling to robustly reject and counter the false smears and witch hunts.

Corbyn never recovered from this problem, and the same has already been tried against Bernie Sanders. He’s been accused of not being a proper Jew, only an ethnic one; he’s been called antisemitic for supporting Palestinian human rights. Brother Larry isn’t worried; he knows that their shared family tragedy – many of their relatives were slaughtered in Nazi camps – should protect Bernie from any serious ramping up of the smears.

Larry Sanders and team at Edinburgh’s Augustine Church, 13/2/20

But the vast suffering of the Jewish people didn’t stop the factional campaigns against British Holocaust survivors who spoke up to warn of the dangers of false smears against the Labour Party. So I was glad to make this point to Larry and his Bernie Abroad team following a discussion at Edinburgh’s Augustine Church on Thursday. I urged them not to be complacent about further smear attempts, and suggested that if Bernie starts to surge in the primaries, or if he wins the Democrat nomination, in the presidential race, the barbs could easily resume, and much more viciously.

“It would piss off pussy-grabber Trump no end to see thousands of votes secured for the Democrats by Scottish socialists who normally vote for Labour, SNP and Greens in the land of his cherished golf”

Still, we were there to discuss common issues between UK, Scottish and US politics, and much time was spent on independence, climate change and local government democracy (or the lack of it). I did find it ironic that another speaker, the former BBC journalist Lesley Riddoch blithely skewed off topic onto her independence hobby horse, sneering at unionists in the room for their belief in a Scotland-Remain stance – in the UK – when she herself supports such a position for Scotland in the EU!

I pointed out that Bernard Sanders himself is a unionist – for 50 states across the Atlantic Ocean. And I suggested that the roomful of 200 people might be recruited to form a Scots army against Trump, ready on the phones to get Bernie on the ticket and win the presidency. We can start by getting Bernie nominated through the Global Primary (which he won against Hilary Clinton in 2016) and then switch to canvassing all US voters using free phone apps using voter data from election officials. It would piss off pussy-grabber Trump no end to see thousands of votes secured for the Democrats by Scottish socialists who normally vote for Labour, SNP and Greens in the land of his cherished golf!

I was glad to share my ideas among Larry’s team – and now, you. Make no mistake: Trump is intent on trashing the global climate after quitting the Paris Climate Agreement. He also wants war with Iran and only Europe is stopping him from starting another Bush-style oil and gas takeover there for his pals at Haliburton, Kellogg and other US Klondyker firms. If you want to help Bernie save the world, visit Bernie2020Abroad.Org and sign up. Feel the EdinBern!!

Bruce Whitehead is a freelance journalist who lives in Edinburgh. He was previously an oil and shipping analyst, a broadcast journalist with ITN, BBC and CNN, and has written for Scottish newspapers

On the cusp of a momentous election, the only liberal Sunday paper has failed to endorse the only liberal party: Labour

WITH FRIENDS like the Observer, what Labour leader needs enemies? On the brink of an election which could consign the UK to a new Dark Age, the only national broadsheet showing a scintilla of desire for a fairer society has bottled it in the final editorial before the polls open.

The charge-sheet begins with a false claim that Corbyn has “abdicated leadership” by failing to back Remain; in fact, Corbyn was “up and down the country like a 25 year old” campaigning for it, according to Angela Eagle, before she was bullied into being a stalking horse for a failed coup attempt.

The Observer editorial fails to understand the basic principles of an equal society, which is to guarantee things like pensions for all rather than means-testing. Worse, a supposedly traditionally socialist newspaper questions the viability of taxing the wealthiest corporations to pay for first-class public services and a humane welfare state.

But the clearest abdication of ethical journalism by this ancient, respected pillar of the British press comes in the repetition of the false smear against 500,000 socialist Labour members, that their party is somehow institutionally antisemitic because of a few dozen alleged cases of antisemitism amounting to less than 0.1% of the party membership.

A paper as respected as the Observer might be expected to investigate the truth of the vile allegations thrown around by the Jewish Labour Movement. It might look for specific cases, evidence, truth, objectivity, balance and context. It might have found, for example, that for all the claims of the former Labour MP Luciana Berger that Labour members were behind the vile campaign of abuse which she suffered, NONE of the six convicted were members of the party. Not only had they no connection with the party which the Observer is quite happy to smear, the abusers turned out to be far right extremists.

The Observer might have looked into the 200 complaints filed by the Labour MP Margaret Hodge; only 20 of these turned out to be about Labour members; not all were upheld.

Copyright: BBC

The list of failed Observations goes on. BBC Panorama featured a host of disgruntled former employees of Iain McNicol, the Labour general secretary who refused to implement fully the recommendations of the Chakrabarti Report. These former staffers claimed interference in the antisemitism disciplinary process by members of Corbyn’s staff after McNicol’s successor, Jennie Formby acted swiftly to double the resources of the disputes committee. It later emerged that the opposite had happened, and that attempts had been made to smear senior Labour figures by improperly seeking their input on some cases. When these staff were dismissed, they fell into the arms of Panorama presenter John Ware, another passionate anti-Corbyn journalist, pouring out their false claims. Not a trace of this scandal reached the pages of the Observer.

The Observer did get one claim more or less right. Corbyn did object to the removal of a mural which at first glance seemed to depict poor people being opressed by the likes of Rockefeller, Carnegie, JP Morgan et al. When Luciana Berger pointed out to Corbyn that some Jewish people might feel the likenesses of the bankers could be seen as offensive antisemitic charicatures, he immediately apologised and explained: he’d only casually glanced at the mural and didn’t see notice the potential for offence. For a liberal and ethical newspaper of the Observer’s stature to throw in such casual inaccuracies only four days before the possible catastrophe of a Johnson hard-Brexit government, is disappointing.

The only explanation can be that its fanatically anti-Corbyn columnist Nick Cohen has been allowed to write the paper’s general election endorsement himself. Not only does Cohen hate Corbyn, he also denounces anyone else who defends Corbyn, like Michael Rosen, the Jewish broadcaster who dared to Tweet that the chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis didn’t speak for him when he attacked Labour over antisemitism. Not only does Cohen hate Rosen, he also hates the associate editor of the Daily Mirror, Kevin Maguire, who had the temerity to share Rosen’s post.

The Observer was right about something else. Corbyn was bafflingly wrong not to apologise for any hurt caused by the antisemitism row during his Prince Andrew-scale autowreck interview with Andrew Neil. In his stubborn, sulky mode, Jeremy sometimes seems like Eyore, refusing to give an inch. His logic was probably that, since he rejected the claims of an institutional culture of antisemitism, he ought not to apologise for it. In that thought process he was right; the relatively tiny number of antisemitism allegations do not qualify as institutional or cultural in scale. But in human empathy terms, as he eventually realised, he was wrong, because an apology was also being demanded for the small number of valid cases. The apology when it eventually came, on ITV This Morning was excruciating and annoying to those of us who support him, who abhor antisemitism, but recognise the need to say sorry if offence might have been given or taken, whether intended or not.

But if this aberration justifies a demolition editorial from the leading liberal paper, on the final Sunday before a watershed election which could destroy our welfare system, trade, and economy for a generation, we may see a headline next Sunday borrowed from Kelvin MacKenzie:

It’s the Observer What Done It.

Bruce Whitehead is a freelance journalist

Where’s the BBC Trust?

6 December 2019

http://By ElectricStaple – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

As Twitter blazes with “BBCBias” claims, a former producer considers the evidence

By Bruce Whitehead

FRAN UNSWORTH, now the BBC’s head of news, once rang me up at Independent Radio News in London where I was ekeing out a living as a freelance. She wanted to know the name of the journalist who had jumped the queue of hacks waiting outside Broadcasting House to fire questions at the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Ken Clarke, who’d just been interviewed on Today. Apparently the journalist in question had flashed a BBC pass at the doorman to get in, scooping his colleagues by getting first crack at Ken in the warm and dry foyer (it was freezing that morning).

Frans Unsworth, BBC news chief – Copyright:

I sheepishly admitted it was me. I’d been moonlighting, like lots of journalists starting out, putting in shifts wherever I could to get experience, and had cheekily used my BBC pass to get out of the cold and steal a march on the others, even though I was on duty for IRN. Unsworth gave me a dressing down, tried not to laugh at my gutter press methods, and threatened to have me banned if I ever pulled such a stunt again. Looking back, it was the kind of naughty derring-do you might hope to hear from Emily Maitliss or Nick Robinson, on Desert Island Discs. Alas.

This week the same woman was put up by the Beeb to defend it against the Twitter tsunami of #BBCbias allegations. Unsworth told Guardian readers some people were ignoring the BBC’s massive successful coverage of the election, which she said was consistently rated higher than its competitors (she didn’t say where this rating came from).

Such people were focusing on the “couple of” mistakes in editing Boris Johnson at the Cenotaph, and the laughter at his debating points. In response, Unsworth said she’d ramped up the BBC’s falsehood-filters, like the Reality Check service, Really Simple Guide, Policy Guide, Your Questions Answered and lastly the “irreverent” late-night Electioncast, featuring the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg. After delivering withering daily report-cards on politicians, she’s been persuaded to lounge around in radio cars or studios on the campaign trail, exchanging late-night gossip and weak humour with her colleagues. As she appears on news programmes with the biggest audiences, Kuenssberg has taken the brunt of the deluge of bias claims. Her record is not pretty.

I first recall doing a double take at her reporting four years ago, when she orchestrated the on-air resignation of a Labour front-bencher. A now-deleted BBC blog post by the producer of The Daily Politics breathlessly told how presenter Andrew Neil egged-on Kuenssberg to get shadow foreign office minister Stephen Doughty to resign on air, after he was miffed that a colleague, Pat McFadden had been dumped for disloyalty. The show’s producer, Andrew Alexander put it like this:

Within the hour we heard that Laura had sealed the deal: the shadow foreign minister Stephen Doughty would resign live in the studio. We knew his resignation just before PMQs would be a dramatic moment with big political impact.

Yeah, but this isn’t a dramatic programme, it’s The Daily Politics. The drama’s on next, usually a soap about rural GPs.

The BBC’s political editor, who’s in overall charge of everything the entire BBC says on politics, had engineered the on-air resignation of an opposition spokesperson for dramatic effect. Or ratings. Or something more sinister?

Let’s just for a moment assume that’s all it was: a rather boisterous lunchtime caffeine-rush idea to stir the news agenda a bit. A little reckless perhaps, but no real harm done. Maybe a little, to the Labour leader’s reputation for inspiring loyalty and unity, but not to the BBC political editor’s reputation for objective, balanced coverage. The trouble was, Laura Kuenssberg had form: she’d already blotted her copybook well before the Doughty incident.

Only a few weeks earlier, in November 2015, she’d filed an edited TV package for the 6 O’Clock News about police shoot-to-kill policies in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks. Her story included a clip of Jeremy Corbyn stating:

“I am not happy with a shoot-to-kill policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often be counterproductive.”

The Guardian report on the incident went on:

‘Kuenssberg had presented that as Corbyn’s response to a question put to him on whether he would be “happy for British officers to pull the trigger in the event of a Paris-style attack”, but the Trust concluded that Corbyn had been speaking in a different context.’

(The ‘Trust’ referred to here is the one I am hinting at in the title of this article. The BBC Trust used to handle the unenviable task of holding its journalists to account for truth, impartiality, accuracy, balance and objectivity. (OK I added that last one, but it definitely should be in there, because reporting objective facts should surely be prioritised over reporting journalists’ subjective views, right?) )

The Guardian’s Jane Martinson went on to explain that Corbyn was in fact responding to a question about whether he would be happy to order police or military to “shoot-to-kill” on Britain’s streets, which didn’t specifically mention a Paris-style attack here.

BBC Trust: Laura Kuenssberg “breached BBC impartiality and accuracy guidelines”

His response – not used – to that question made it very clear that he would order appropriate staff onto the streets to ensure safety. Instead, Kuenssberg had ordered her video editor to splice together the earlier answer, Corbyn saying he wasn’t happy with shoot-to-kill in general. After a complaint by a member of the public, the BBC Trust investigated, and over a year later it ruled that the BBC’s political editor had breached its impartiality and accuracy guidelines.

When she added a line of commentary stating that Corbyn’s message “couldn’t be more different” to David Cameron’s expected anti-terrorism proposals, the BBC Trust found that Kuenssberg had compounded the inaccuracy of the report.

Not long after my dressing down by Ms Unsworth, I moved upstairs from IRN to be a producer in the ITN newsroom, bumping into Sir Trevor McDonald at the tea trolley, covering the IRA ceasefire in Belfast, filing mountain rescue reports from Scotland. I was taught how to edit by senior staffers who’d been at ITN since the beginning, working with film, waiting for the developing tank to create the images on celluloid that would then be snipped and glued together to edit into coherent reports from around the world.
How ITN used to edit film

Videotape would make that process faster and easier, but one cardinal rule was never broken. A producer would never use an answer to one question as the response to another question. It might be a very similar question, but if the interviewee gave a fluffed answer, or a long-winded one, then, tough – it was just too bad: use what the film crew got, and keep the context. To break this rule was a sackable offence. Indeed, when Living Marxism suggested that ITN had edited film clips so as to exaggerate the concentration camp conditions of Bosnian Muslim prisoners, the broadcaster sued and won substantial punitive damages.

Newspaper hacks are faced with this dilemma all the time; the honest ones keep their quotes in context, and tell the truth; others, like Boris Johnson, are sacked for lying and making up quotes. Although Kuenssberg did nothing of the kind, she cannot expect to get away with blithely swapping around the answers given by the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, so that she could contrast his stance unfavourably with that of the Tory prime minister. And only this week, Kuenssberg was castigated on Twitter for helpfully sharing a blogpost by Dominic Cummings, urging Tory voters not to be complacent and to make sure they turned out to vote to avoid a hung parliament:

Last week’s reaction to the BBC sharing a Tory blogger’s post

For Fran Unsworth to continue to defend the BBC’s political editor on the receiving end of such damning criticism by the BBC’s own watchdog, is disappointing. And for the BBC Trust to be disbanded, as happened within 3 months of the Kuenssberg ruling, seems almost tactless.

Bruce Whitehead was an ITN producer 1993-97.


Lukewarm: Dugdale welcomes Corbyn, but does her party?

(Pub. 2016)

AS A RECENT joiner of the Labour Party, I want us to do well in the May elections for the Scottish and Welsh parliaments, London mayor and English local government among others. But witnessing the lukewarm support for the party leader at the recent Scottish Labour conference, I was concerned. Read the rest of this entry »

Bankers running away from businessmen

Bankers fleeing business borrowers

As small businesses report their highest confidence for three years, banks are still refusing to lend. And it’s not just that; the banks’ rules are unfair and “harsh” according to the British Bankers’ Association. Bruce Whitehead reports here for

Mr Referendum: but small firms don't back his anti-Europe views

Mr Referendum: but small firms don’t back Farage’s anti-Europe views

WITH A survey showing that a majority of British small firms want to stay in Europe, and Mr Referendum himself on the panel of BBC Question Time, it was odd that Europe didn’t even figure in last week’s edition. Bruce Whitehead wonders why. Read his latest Realbusiness column here:

Indha Adde: al Qaeda protector... and US employee

Indha Adde: al Qaeda protector… and US employee

From GREG PALAST: Every Tuesday, President Obama personally checks off the names of people he wants killed.  George Bush, a bit more squeamish than Obama, never did that; but Mr. Obama felt those decisions were the president’s responsibility: he want[s] to keep his own finger on the trigger,” according to one report.  A tidy, scheduled man, the President only picks his victims once a week, now called “Terror Tuesday.” GREG PALAST reports:

In today’s Scotland on Sunday,

Amber: will BID legal challenge get green lit?

Amber: will BID legal challenge get ‘green lit’?


Bruce Whitehead reports how traders in the Edinburgh seaside town of South Queensferry are taking legal advice on a possible challenge to the Business Improvement District levy, introduced last year. They feel the figure is too high, and many believe the scheme is unfair. Read his report here: Scotland on Sunday

(you can read a fuller version of this story below)

AS STRATHCLYDE Business School reports increased dragon activity in Scotland – start-ups now match those of the top 20 economies – there’s growing disquiet about one key government initiative: Business Improvement Districts. With smaller firms quicker to employ staff in any upturn, the scheme aims to force the pace of economic recovery by Read the rest of this entry »

Queensferry: will BID be the lifeboat the economy needs?

Queensferry: will its BID be the lifeboat the economy needs?

AS FUNDING for lending falters, Bruce Whitehead looks at the latest wheeze being peddled around the country by a coalition of networking enthusiasts – the levy-funded Business Improvement District, or BID. In one Scottish town, its backers confidently claim the venture will bring an extra £0.5m worth of investment, and they’ve enlisted government backing and council sheriff’s officers to enforce it. Whether the town likes it or not. Read Bruce’s latest article for here

STOP PRESS: This story has temporarily been removed from

It will be re-instated soon, and re-printed here.


Published in the Guardian, Friday 24 May 2013


Tidal turbines: totally reliable power

AS MPs issue a lukewarm report on the controversial fracking industry, could Scotland be about to see a Klondike-like energy rush from SMEs in renewables? In his latest column for, Bruce Whitehead reports…

It doesn't have to be this way

Online win: it doesn’t have to be this way

AS A Scottish journalist, I am naturally concerned about the latest redundancies at our national quality daily, The Scotsman, which fired thirty journalists last month. As a sometime contributor, I will try to be sympathetic to the paper’s publishers, Johnston Press if the reason is falling advertising revenue – down by 16% this year for print copies. But there is Read the rest of this entry »

Copyright: Alan Melville

Copyright: Alan Melville

MRS THATCHER was part of what Napoleon described as a nation of shopkeepers; her dad ran a grocer’s in Grantham. But she remained a supporter of small business throughout her battles with the left, right and centre. Bruce Whitehead was surprised though, to discover that she championed small business through the unusual medium of television. Read his latest article for here

sheepieAs the cold snap shows tiniest glimmer of a thaw, what effect has it had on our struggling rural small businesses in the agriculture line? Bruce Whitehead takes a baleful gaze at the compensation culture of some benefit-hungry country folk. Read his article here:


The guilty man

Conference darling?

Courtesy: Steve Bell

Courtesy: Steve Bell

In Bruce Whitehead’s latest column for he’s scooped together some of the fan mail received from SMEs (small-medium enterprises) in reaction to Tuesday’s Budget Statement. Click here for the full article:

Photo:  Bruce Whitehead

Independencers react to a “no” vote

Scotland today is a nation divided, and not equally. There’s the wealthy and middle  classes, with plenty to spend in M&S, two cars, holidays in the sun, gardens and home improvement on their minds; and then there’s the unemployed and working poor, their livelihoods precarious, their aspirations low. Education is often piecemeal for the poor, sophisticated for the rich. Healthcare is there, if you are eloquent and Read the rest of this entry »

Can he escape negative growth?

Gideon: Can he escape negative growth?

When the chancellor George ‘Gideon’ Osborne delivers his budget on 21 March, one part of his recipe for growth will be scrutinised very closely. Since the government has laid so much importance on the potential for smaller enterprises to spark economic recovery, there will be particular interest in his promised measures to help them. With a review of competing demands for budget favours, here’s the second of my opinion pieces written for

Steve Bell cartoon, 01.03.2013

I’m writing a fortnightly column for about politics and small businesses, and their potential to help re-start economic growth. Here’s the first piece; it’s about the Prime Minister’s trip to India, presumably to help them spend their meagre foreign exchange on devalued British products… oops, – sorry, that should read: work together in a mutually beneficial trade partnership… David Cameron’s Indian Bazaar



With work on the so-called Forth Replacement Crossing safely past the point of no return, the Scottish Nationalist government has finally admitted it has no case for building a new bridge. After wasting millions on the project, engineers have halted the corrosion alleged to have Read the rest of this entry »

Speech and Prejudice

28 January 2013


The BBC’s World Service: it allows ethnic accents; why not the UK Beeb?

Am I prejudiced? Probably; most of us are. Some of us try to cut down a little, a bit like saying “make me chaste Lord, but not yet”. Sometimes though, my subconscious prejudice alerts me to a wider, more insidious bias. This morning I heard the sveldt new voice of BBC News science, from the larynx of one Jason Palmer. I don’t care for his tone; it’s smooth, glutinous and Read the rest of this entry »

18.05.11-Steve-Bell-on-th-008Apparently the Queen (you know, that woman whose German ancestors married-in to a posh English family who get free publicly funded homes and huge salaries for smiling at horse races) regularly gives David Cameron advice with his Prime Ministering because, well she’s been Queen for 60 years and he’s aged less than that, so it’s fine, according to Hugo “Licker” Vickers, the man with the longest brown tongue in history. So what I want to know is; like what? Give us an example of the wise counsel which this great grandmother gives know-it-all spiv and Eton bully David Ca-moron?

Mervyn King at the Bank for International Settlements press conferenceOld moneypenny himself, Bank of England head cashier Mervyn King says he’s depressed that bankers will wait until tax rates fall before taking their bonuses for fleecing the world’s economies. Here’s my comment on the Guardian website:


Why are they getting bonuses? They are paid a very good salary to manage other people’s money prudently, ensuring a stable rate of return at an agreed level of risk. When this happens smoothly, they get paid a huge bonus. When it goes wrong they get maybe a later tee-off at the golf course, or a mild rebuke at the club over port. The bonus culture is the problem; it is crazy to pay employees to gamble with clients’ money, and when it goes wrong on a vast scale, ruining world economies and causing widespread suffering, they should face severe punishment. Instead it’s simply a slight delay entailing a reduced payment to the inland revenue. Our system is grossly unfair and in urgent need of complete reform. No wonder Merv’s depressed. How does he think we feel?

Illustration by Simon Pemberton

illustration by Simon Pemberton – ta

From The Guardian yesterday:

The breathtaking hubris award is the knighthood for Hector Sants, who was head of the Financial Services Authority before and during the crash, responsible for regulating the City (verdict of MPs on the FSA: “asleep at the wheel”). The new Dame Margaret Beckett is only slightly less horrible, because the Labour party’s first female leader should be more mindful of what her career was for, that is, not being suckered into an elite. The light entertainment award was to Arlene Phillips, the former Strictly Come Dancing judge, although this is probably a swipe at the BBC, who fired Phillips for daring to be middle-aged while female. Danny Boyle, who directed the opening ceremony of the Olympics, declined an honour, which was decent if necessary; had he accepted it, it would have implied he didn’t understand his own work.

Here’s my Guardian CIF comment on the issue:

Honours for the privileged and gifted make no sense. The people who deserve honours are the doctors and nurses who treated my 80-year old mum last week and stabilised her after a nasty broken shoulder. Step forward, Fife NHS, who immobilised her arm after rescuing her from a pavement in Leven; the local GPs in Queensferry who visited her and helped get her medication right; the on-call A&E doctors who admitted her to the Western General for tests when she wasn’t getting better, and who eventually admitted her for surgery next week.

She’s not out of the woods yet, but I would give every gong there is to the teams of kind, hard working and decent people who work for our NHS. There’s none like them in the world, and our politicians, media and business leaders should hang their heads in shame at the mediocre and greedy behaviour for which they reap the lion’s share of the Queen’s so-called honours.

Lord LevesonFrom The Guardian today:

Newspaper owners and editors are due to meet leading politicians on 10 January to table their latest proposals for press regulation amid signs that divisions are emerging within the industry that could lead to clashes with some politicians.

When Lord Leveson exonerated former culture secretary Jeremy Hunt over alleged improper contacts with Rupert Murdoch’s News International, the entire phone hacking inquiry became worthless. Labour didn’t object to the whitewash because they’d been drinking at the same well. Ex-Sunday Times editor Harold Evans confirmed recently how Thatcher bent the rules to help Murdoch grab enough share of national newspapers to ensure Tory rule by editorial endorsement.

With evidence like this Leveson could and should have named the guilty – including Blair and Campbell – who agreed to deliver whatever media ownership rules Murdoch wanted in exchange for his papers’ election support. Crucially, what enabled him to claim reader influence was the massive circulation guaranteed by repeated tabloid exposes of celebrities and unlucky ordinary people, obtained illegally through phone hacking.

Leveson has already failed to save our media and the poisonous arrangement of politicians, media and hapless victims will continue as before, with new illegality yet to be discovered.

imagesHow apt that the person chosen to deliver the latest blow against the BBC, Nick Pollard, is a former employee of Rupert Murdoch. A few years ago, James Murdoch waded into the BBC and forced the closure of much of its excellent online output. Since News International’s public shaming we have seen no restoration of that excellent service, so the BBC’s leadership clearly still feel under the Murdoch cosh.

However, the report is far too easy on the complacent and internecine fiefdoms which spend licence payers money. Those responsible for the lapses, whether willful or not, should pay a price for their incompetence, or trust in BBC standards will indeed plummet.



Now that The Sun has been implicated in fabricating stories I look forward to it following the same fate as the News of the World. Perhaps tabloid journalism can revive in the vacuum, and return to the standards of Cudlipp and the decent journalism of a pre-monetarist Britain.

Snapshot 2012-12-18 12-56-36

Barack Obama said last week that each time there is a massacre in America, he reacts not as President, but as a parent. Perhaps he should think again, and act as only the President can in finally confronting the insidious and lethal grip on public policy by the weapons industry. Not just the Newtown murder weapon maker Glock, the Austrian importer of pistols which boasts on its website that countless users swear by its advantages at work and leisure. Nor just Sig Sauer, the US company which supplied the backup weapon, which recently invested $18m in tripling its workforce.

Defence contractors also feed a parallel passion for destructive power by arming nations and encouraging conflict and insecurity. The President alone can start a real global disarmament, not just of nuclear warheads, but the lethal market in guns which enables the criminal traumatisation of millions. By using American power and influence it can treat all weapons manufacturers as parties to a global scourge and bring them to account through tax sanctions, human rights enforcement and laws to discourage and remove state and street weapons from our society. Only he can start this process; the various well-intentioned campaigns have utterly failed to stem the arms industry.

That said, I also recognise that the most lethal mass murder weapon in America was an airliner. So we do need to consider the motives for the murderers. Even the most deranged mentally ill person has some sort of rationale for their action. We need to stop ignoring the outcasts from society who tend to perpetrate mass killing, understand why they do it and try to put right the injustices that drive them to it. On a larger scale, that includes outcast states and cultures to which we deny basic human rights and respect. Have a guess who I mean. Start in the Middle East. Have a look at Africa. And don’t forget the Korean peninsula. Yes, we have a lot of ignoring to put right, and a lot of alienated angry nations and individuals to bring into the fold of caring, charitable humanity. Merry Christmas.

I am now publishing all my Guardian comments here as draconian moderators are removing more and more of them without due cause:

Bradley Manning is escorted away from his Article 32 hearingIs it true that the Guardian accidentally published the password which allowed redacted material in the original files to be read, exposing the names of informants and whistleblowers and putting them at risk? If this comment is removed I will definitely keep republishing it on my blog and twitter a/c, because the Guardian will have finally lost my trust.

If it’s not true then why did the names get released, against Julian Assange’s wishes?

Leveson: the real issue

11 December 2012

imagesIf the police had done their job properly, and journalists had refused to work illegally, none of this would have been needed. But the PCC was always toothless and a new one won’t be any better without effective legislation to force it to change.

What’s far more important is the iniquitous link between large-circulation tabloids which package ordinary tragedies to sell papers, and election-time endorsement backing whichever party is willing to legislate to help their owners. Leveson lost credibility by whitewashing Jeremy Hunt, Cameron, Blair, Campbell et al when he should have damned them for their duplicity and manipulation of the media for political and war gains. The media remains the biggest impediment to lasting reform of our moth-eaten democracy because it is not free and not fair.

as seen in South Queensferry Scotmid

As Palestinians try to rebuild their shattered homes and businesses – again – we can help by buying the little they are able to produce, and by boycotting Israeli fruit and vegetables grown on their stolen land.


Remember the 90s? Birtism returns to the BBC: with big glasses

My comment on Tony Hall’s appointment is No. 1 in the Guardian CIF article:

MPs must act to defend Gaza

20 November 2012

A Gazan family made homeless by Israel Photo: Suhaib Salem

OUR ELECTED representatives have a grave responsibility to bring diplomatic pressure to help end the murderous Israeli attacks which are killing Palestinian civilians. The coalition government in particular, despite William Hague’s spineless support of the bombing, can influence the war criminals in Tel Aviv, and must do so. Britain is a huge market for Israeli produce grown on stolen land. It could ban Israeli imports – and Palestinians, many of whom work in the fresh produce industry, have confirmed their support for this. We also supply Israel with Read the rest of this entry »

BBC rushes over libel cliff

16 November 2012

…but it needn’t have. Lord McAlpine would not get a penny from a libel court because he was not named or implicated in the Newsnight report of 2 NImageovember. The BBC once again compounded its problems by squandering £185,000 of licence payers’ funds out of court. McAlpine’s defamation action should be against those journalists who may have uttered his name at a social function in Oxford on 1 November, and against those who wrongly identified him on Twitter as the suspect in the child abuse investigation. Newsnight’s mistake was not in identifying Lord McAlpine but its assumption that police photos shown to the victim were his; they were not. The BBC should also re-publish video of the Newsnight report on its website, to correct the misleading view that it identified the Tory peer. (It can be seen here:

ImageEx ITN chief Stewart Purvis was suggested by a former employee of his today, writing in the Guardian, as a possible next Director General of the BBC. Here’s why she’s wrong:

1. He is a “Professor” of journalism at City University, home of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which brought Newsnight low. He cannot criticise the BBC while holding a senior job at the institution which produced the faulty report.

2. In 2000 he forced the Read the rest of this entry »

George Entwistle is the new BBC Director General. Former BBC freelance Bruce Whitehead offers the new boss a list of priorities – read here

Lord Leveson: Investigating press and media practices

For legal reasons, the NUJ was obliged to “redact” the names of the broadcasters about whom I gave evidence in the Leveson Inquiry into the press. Now I am revealing the redacted details in bold:

Read the rest of this entry »

Blair & Murdoch: do we really want these people controlling our media?

There is a degree of scepticism about Leveson, as there is among the proprietors. However, it’s still our best chance in a long time to make a formal contribution via a quasi-legal process which could at least start a dialogue that might in time bring the results we desire. This should entail regulation of media lobbyists (and those in other sectors of commerce) so as to ensure transparency and the ending of improper relationships with legislators. We need Leveson to find:
1. that improper media/governmental links are the most important issue for the Inquiry;
2. that ways must be sought to sever these links;
3. that diversity and pluralism are the top priorities in media legislation.

This is now available here from 7.22 to 7.27 inclusive. I am awaiting NUJ approval before re-publishing with the names etc. re-instated.

The Forth replacement crossing scandal continues without proper opposition from any political or campaign group. The two Green MSPs and the ForthRight Alliance, of which I was chair, have apparently given up fighting against this flawed scheme.

The latest development Read the rest of this entry »

Miserable tartan-trewed old fiends who guard the refreshments at Holyrood have been roundly ridiculed in the Guardian diary

Steam excursion on Stranraer line last week

Steam excursion on Stranraer line last week Photo: Marc Turner

by Bruce Whitehead, Sunday Herald 18 April 2010

Transport campaigners have warned that the rail line which links Stranraer to Glasgow could face closure in under three years due to rising costs and the loss of direct ferry connections to Ireland next year.

The Scottish Association for Public Transport says there is a real prospect that the line could face closure south of Ayr from 2014, when the franchise is due for re-tender.

A spokesman said: Read the rest of this entry »

Gaza – a year on

20 March 2010

I’ve finally managed to open more photos of the convoy to Gaza in Feb 2009. Here are some of them.

BBC Strategic Review

7 March 2010

Since Mark Thompson announced cuts to 6 Music and other programmes (no doubt partly to pay for his enormous £800,000 salary), there’s been a massive howl of fury from music fans and staff. But the problems with the BBC go much deeper. Here is my response to their consultation for the Strategic Review; please feel to free to borrow from it and to make your own response here

The headings are the BBC’s from its strategy review consultation website:

Are the priorities right?

No. They should be: Read the rest of this entry »

On Tuesday the Scotsman – noisy cheerleader for a second Forth road bridge – finally did its job as a nationally trusted newspaper and reported the facts about the government’s flimsy case for building a new one. My letter (unpublished, surprise surprise) sums it all up:

Dear Editor,

At last The Scotsman has seen the light: the case for the new Forth road bridge is falling to bits. As Damascene conversions go, this one takes the biscuit. This paper was the cheerleader for the renewed campaign in 2006 which led to the main parties foolishly scrambling to win votes in 2007 on the rash promise of a new bridge. At last Bill Jamieson – executive editor no less – has decided to put into print what he must have known all along – because the ForthRight Alliance has been saying it – by reporting the manifest flaws in John Swinney’s collossal bridge folly, to whit: FETA are highly confident drying will arrest the corrosion so why spend £2.3bn on a new bridge? The FRA chair Read the rest of this entry »


30 December 2009

I am very sorry to announce that Al Noor from Preston, one of the best of our group of convoy drivers who brought medicines to the people of Gaza last February, has died in a road accident. He was killed along with two of his brothers-in-law. I know that his steadfast faith would have been a comfort to him in his final moments, and to his family in this sad time. I would like to say that his conversation, his joie de vivre and even his jaunty walk left me with a smile on my face every time I was with him. I shall miss him and regret always not having met up again after our return.

Bruce Whitehead, co-driver, Vehicle 7 (Ryder)

Al Noor, on extreme right.


TOMORROW the long awaited Bill for a new road crossing of the Forth will be presented to parliament with the likely support of all MSPs except the two Greens.

The government is pressing ahead despite last week’s YouGov poll for Friends of the Earth showing that 57% want the bridge repaired, not replaced. A funding row with Westminster means the government will have to take money from other public transport schemes to pay for what environmentalists say will be yet another subsidised car route. A local residents’ pressure group say the new approach roads will be illegal, as the two access slip roads will be too close together to meet European traffic planning safety rules. On top of all this, the ForthRight Alliance, which is considering a legal challenge, says the engineering and economic case for another bridge is highly dubious, contradictory and worst of all – a colossal waste of public funds on a project which will double traffic CO2 across the Forth. Read the rest of this entry »

Thie week President Trump approved sale of leases to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wilderness Reserve. I was asked about it for Singapore Radio by Stuart Smith of Feature Story news; starts at 4mins 17 secs.

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