Flamboyant labels on empty rail packages


The headlines of today’s press proclaim that the due to be renationalised given the previous behaviour of the conservatives and their ideological convictions I certainly won’t be taking these claims at face value.

The Prime Minister has an absolute genius for putting flamboyant labels on empty luggage. Nye Bevan

I suspect this will be another case of flamboyant labels on empty packages. Political reality lies in small print behind the headlines which, i.e. the stuff politicians don’t shout from the rooftops, rather than appearances the stock-in-trade of a spin obsessed political class.

Press Hypocrisy

As a Labour member & supporter, I have to confess a certain rueful amusement at conservative claims to be renationalising failing franchises. The irony here is that these are the policies contained in the Labour manifesto of 2019 which were derided by the tabloid press as proof of Corbyn’s ‘Communism’ just over a month ago.  Giles Udy in Standpoint claiming Labour’s proposals for the railways were part of Corbyn’s road map to a communist Britain [1]. With characteristic hyperbole, the Daily Express warned it’s readers. The communist Jeremy Corbyn would destroy the UK [2]. just a wee bit hypocritical there from the Press & Tories.

From a political perspective Renationalisation of the railways is a popular policy with the public with 2017 research by You Gov showing that 60% of the public supported the nationalisation of railways [3] This support is corroborated by further  polling, which showed that even  52% of conservative voters support  renationalising the  Rail Network [4]

The Beeching cuts of the 1960s resulted in the removal of 5000 miles of track and the closure of almost 1,500 stations. This week the conservatives have pledged to budget £500 million. Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of state for Transport has dismissed the proposed funds claiming that.

‘The Conservatives claim to have been reversing Beeching cuts since 2017 despite not reopening an inch of track.

‘Investing in the railway is a fantastic policy, but this is meaningless without a serious funding commitment of billions of pounds.

‘The timing of this announcement is also suspicious and seems designed to distract from the imminent collapse of the Northern rail franchise.’[5]Andy MacDonald MP(Labour)

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash was also dubious about the governments timing stating

‘The idea that this is a reversal of the Beeching cuts is PR spin way out of control. This is a bare-faced attempt to distract attention from the daily chaos on Northern, South-Western, TransPennine and Britain’s other basket-case franchises.[6]’ TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes was also scathing describing the proposed changes as an  “empty gimmick.”

He added: ‘RMT welcomes any investment in our railways, but £500 million is a drop in the ocean compared to what’s required.’ 3[6]

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes was also scathing describing the proposed changes as an  “empty gimmick.”[7]



Fleetwood – Poulton le Fylde

One of the initial lines proposed to be reopened is that between Fleetwood and Poulton le Fylde in Lancashire which closed in 1970 4[8]. On her Facebook page Cat Smith, the Labour MP for Fleetwood was cautiously optimistic about this writing

🥳 5 years of campaigning, lobbying ministers, presenting petitions to Parliament and the Prime Minister, and if today’s news reports are true our campaign takes another step forward with £100k for a feasibility study on re-opening the railway to Fleetwood. It’s not the re-opening, it’s just a small step on what’s already been a long journey. We will need to keep up the campaign and keep up the pressure to make sure our dream comes true. I’ll be keeping up the pressure and making sure this is delivered, and that it’s delivered in the right way.

Some people told me there’s no point in campaigning to get Fleetwood back on track because it would never happen. They said an opposition MP can’t change things. They were wrong.

Cat Smith MP(Labour)

As with so many conservative promises the devil is in the detail, so they have committed to a £100k feasibility study which isn’t the same as reopening the line it is a significant step towards opening the line if it proves to be economically viable.

Ashington – Blyth- Tyne

The other project mooted is the Ashington – Blyth- Tyne line in Northumberland. Rail Minister Chris Heaton- Morris MP(Conservative)visited Bedlington Station to announce the £1.5 million extra Funding for feasibility studies aimed at restoring passenger services on the Ashington – Blyth- Tyne. Northumberland Council Leader Peter Jackson (Conservative) claimed that

 “This is fantastic news which gives us even more confidence we can deliver this vital project for the people of Northumberland in the next few years”. There was some dispute about whether the Funding would be sufficient amongst local councillors, with Councillor Susan Dungworth (Labour) saying

“While we welcome any investment in the Northumberland Line, this pitiful offering from the Tory Transport Secretary doesn’t come anywhere near the amount needed.

“Dribs and drabs of Funding from Westminster and token visits from Tory Ministers is getting us nowhere. We need proper investment in the Northumberland Line and we need it now.” [10]

In an open letter to Grant Shapps MP(Conservative)Ian Lavery MP(Labour) shares the concerns of Councillor Dungworth described the £1.5 million as paltry arguing that the money was not sufficient to bring the line into use [11]

 The Department for Transport’s Transforming Cities Fund is providing the funding. Northumberland County council suggest that the links from Northumberland to Tyne & Wear are vital for the economic prosperity of Northumberland.

SENRUG (South East Northumberland Rail Users Group) has been campaigning for the reopening of the  line since 2004

A two phase project

The Proposed work on the Northumberland line is in two phases.

Phase One

Completion of Phase 1 in 2022/2023 with the opening of stations at Ashington, Bedlington, South Newsham and Northumberland Park

Phase Two

Completion of Phase 2 in 4004 2024 with the opening of  stations at Bebside and Seaton Delaval

So what is happening?

The following companies are losing their franchises.

Arriva   –    Northern Rail

First Group &MTR – South Western Rail

These will be taken over by the State-Operated Operator of Last Resort which is a form of state-operated safety net whose purpose is to

Maintain the continuity of passenger rail services. if a passenger rail service and is not immediately replaced

If we’re pedantic here, this isn’t  the same as the denationalisation that Grant Shapps is proclaiming to all and sundry it’s a temporary stripping of a franchise which will probably put back out to tender once it is operating successfully once more

This Government is ideologically committed to privatisation. Once the franchises reach the standards required, one suspects they will be put out totender. To boast about the renationalisation of franchises is deliberately misleading, or at best an oversimplification. The reality is not straightforward renationalisation but a case of failing franchises being taken over by the state-controlled /operators of last resort, whether the use of the Operator of last resort a temporary or permanent basis we don’t know yet. Given the actions of conservative governments in the past Id suspect this brief until a suitable bidder emerges.  Environmentally having a reliable, affordable transport network makes perfect sense. However, I’m inclined to agree with Mick Cash’s claim that ‘The idea that this is a reversal of the Beeching cuts is PR spin way out of control. This is a bare-faced attempt to distract attention from the daily chaos on Northern, South-Western, TransPennine and Britain’s other basket-case franchises.’ And its political considerations that have motivated the choice of the Ashington-Blyth-Tyne line in Northumberland as the Tories seek to consolidate gains at the last election.

  1. . Standpoint Corbyn’s road map to a communist Britain | Giles Udy link
  2. Daily Express:The communist Jeremy Corbyn would destroy the UK, says Tim Newark link
  3. Fullfact.org Do the public want the railways renationalised? link
  4. YouGov:Nationalise energy and rail companies, say public link
  5. Labour.Org.Uk “Meaningless” – Andy McDonald responds to Grant Shapps’ rail announcement link
  6. Government confirms £500m railway reopening fund link
  7. Morning Star:Rail unions brand the Tories’ reversal of the Beeching cuts as ‘PR spin’ link
  8. Transport Secretary set to pledge £100,000 towards reopening the Fleetwood to Poulton-le-Fylde rail line as Government steps up plans to reverse historical rail route cuts link
  9. Northumberland Gazette: 1.5million for Northumberland-to-Newcastle rail project will help heal ‘scars’ of railway closures Link
  10. Ian Lavery.Twitter Post,January 28,2020, 12:51p.m. link
Photo Credit
Flickr.com: Yomo 13

How to turbocharge the fifth-estate(uk)


This is an open letter to the UK’s independent media.  If it seems presumptuous from someone with a semi-active blog, please forgive me. . I propose a framework for the long-term objectives of the UK 5th Estate and identify priorities for this sector.

 the main priorities of the Fifth estate should be

  • Self-sufficient
  • Give progressives a more influential voice,
  • Challenge traditional media Press & Broadcasters the “mainstream” media.

Financially Self Sufficient

How can the Fifth estate be made sustainable in the long term? Firstly, it must  contributors a living wage.  Generating enough profits to enable further investment. i.e. become an effective business. This will be a challenge, though is feasible. Insuring the business to meet likely legal challenges. I’ll examine possible ideas in my next article.

Give progressives a more influential voice

The current situation is a number of smaller outlets. Diluting the impact of the progressive press. I propose a collective which will give the sector a more powerful voice. Publications will keep control of their own editorial direction while gaining a more influential voice.

 Challenge traditional media Press & Broadcasters

Eventually the Fifth estate will need to challenge the “mainstream” media. Public trust is the main factor here. The Fifth Estate should set out to publish balanced, accurate reporting and not simply reporting Government press releases to the public e.g. Unemployment Figures should be subject to detailed scrutiny. the Fifth Estate should always ask is this claim accurate? How are these figures compiled? Is it fair to compare them to previous figures if the criteria have been drastically altered? As the Fifth Estate will not be dependent on a licence fee it will be free to ask these questions without fear of government interference. Long term the aim has to be a high-quality progressive media trusted by the public to provide a fair and balanced picture of current events. There will be mistakes and challenges along the way. As long as a commitment to excellence is maintained, the NIM will be heading in the right direction.


A Framework for long term change

I propose the following framework for the Fifth estate. It should lead to a sustainable, profitable and effective Fifth Estate whilst avoiding the shortcomings of the “mainstream” media. A quality alternative to corporate media. One day I’d like to see it supplant the traditional media outlets.


There is a market for quality journalism which challenges the prevailing orthodoxy. and is not afraid to ask the questions and challenge narratives the MSM is unwilling to. in addition to debunking prevailing narratives, the Fifth Estate must never be afraid to be original and reject the ‘suffocating groupthink’ that characterises so much MSM output.



There is a need for greater diversity within journalistic circles, too many come from the same privileged circles and represent their worldview as the prevailing orthodoxy. Schemes such as unpaid internships prevent the less wealthy from training as journalists, so I’d like to ensure that the NIM offers effective apprenticeships that enable working-class & BAME talent to enter journalism as a career without running up ruinous debts in the process, in this way privilege is removed from the equation. These journalists will not need to imagine what it’s like growing up Black or Asian in Bristol, they’ll *know* and will have experienced discrimination at first hand. And be committed to combatting it, likewise, they’ll have experienced job hunting as a disabled person in Northern England. this goes far beyond mere tokenism it is driven by a desire to give those communities & demographics a resounding and powerful voice within our democracy. It should aim to shatter the ‘magic circle’ of privilege which characterises political journalism in the UK. I believe this contributes to the lack of genuine scrutiny politicians are subject to. They are old school chums or ex-workmates having come from the same milieu. to ensure that journalism is fresh, dynamic and asking the right questions unlike the current situation where journalists all seem to ask the same dull predictable questions. 



The NIM should have environmental values running through the sector’s DNA rather than indulge in what’s been described as greenwashing i.e. giving a pretence of a commitment to the environment. Rather, a genuine wholehearted commitment to safeguarding the planet for future generations this includes a commitment carbon neutrality by the earliest possible date achieving a paperless office if practicable in a prompt way by aiming for a paper-light office from the beginning, this should make the eventual adoption of paperless easier to achieve, that’s green on the local level, now to examine environmental impact on a global level, a common misconception is that the internet is carbon neutral it’s not, one estimate suggests the internet’s carbon footprint is 300 million tons of Co2 per year much of this is generated by server farms and data centres the Ecosia blog claims “Servers use a lot of power. If the internet were a country, it would rank #3 in the world in terms of electricity consumption”, internet giants such as Apple and Google have started moving to data centres powered solely by renewables such as solar and wind power with some companies such as Ecosia claiming that ‘Carbon neutrality is not enough’ aiming to become carbon negative by plantings trees to


As well documented by observers such as media lens advertising from major polluters such as fossil fuel companies, airlines and car manufacturers undermines the green credentials of newspapers. Depriving the publication of the ability to criticise advertisers who are polluters. If an advertisement dependent model of funding is chosen for the sector then it should not accept adverts from polluters



Research has shown that that the general public doesn’t trust journalists much with the British press is the least trusted in Europe according to one study. The ethical failings exposed by the Leveson Inquiry won’t have helped the reputation of British journalism. These finding also points the way to an ethical free press that operates in the public interest. Ethics before sales, never vice versa. I suggest that the NIM considers voluntarily adopting the recommendations of Leveson II. One would hope the editorial focus of the NIM would not be on celebrity & royal tittle-tattle, such subject matter is of no interest to me, and those seeking it can rely on the tabloid press. However, Political shenanigans are of interest. I’m convinced politicians and those participating in the political arena can be investigated ethically, the activities of the NIM should be focused on genuine public journalism alone following both the spirit and letter of ethical guidelines. the raison d’être of the NIM is a commitment to progressive values and obtaining progressive government, rather than financial gain.



NIM should endeavour to sign up to a press regular recognised by the PRP press regulatory panel such as IMPRESS. Most major UK publications (but not the Guardian, Times or Telegraph) are signed up to The Independent Press standards organisation (IPSO) which campaign groups such as hacked off continue to have grave concerns about.


Neither metropolitan nor provincial 

One of the features of the MSM which irritates me is that a lot of it appears to are written by metropolitan writers for a metropolitan audience, this is a facet of the Westminster bubble which is oft talked about. Politicians such as Nigel Farage have sought to take advantage of this with his talk of a cosy North London elite, a feature of his ‘man of the people” schtick. The NIM should cover all of the current UK equally where possible and it should never appear as if it has been written by someone with only a cursory or superficial understanding of your region/country. Bella Caledonia does a great job of highlighting Scottish cultural life. eventually, I’d like to see publications of similar quality doing the same for Wales and the English regions. both Bella and the National fly the flag for Scottish politics. Unlike the MSM the role of the NIM should be to prevent the voice of parties not in government from being side-lined and should always represent truly progressive politics and to be free of the spin & PR which blights Westminster.

The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. H.L.Mencken

Political consciousness & literacy

Political consciousness is an awareness of a country’s politics and economy and one’s position within it. For Marx, an authentic consciousness was linked to understanding one’s true position in History 5 In Marx’s view, consciousness was always political, for it was always the outcome of politic-economic circumstances. What one thinks of life, power, and self, for Marx, is always a product of ideological forces. The role of the NIM is to raise the level of political consciousness & debate within the UK, this will allow the public to make informed decisions about issues such as Brexit, Trade Deals and Scottish independence. The NIM should ALWAYS be an honest broker of news and political comment, utterly opposed to the post-truth politics currently on offer in the UK, the Dilemma here is how can political theory be discussed without appearing preachy and sophomoric a failing that can be attributed to the left at times, such a perception will win progressive politics no new supporters.

The NIM should always encourage its readership and contributors to think critically and to eschew political apathy/ignorance

In Conclusion

I hope this first Request for Comments (RFC)piece has covered all the important objectives of the NIM and that nothing major has been left out. If you believe something has please feel free to comment in the section below, constructive feedback is very welcome. This feedback will be considered for the rest of the RFC Series where I’ll examine the major points (e.g. funding) in greater detail, it will be an interesting challenge to see if an effective fifth estate can be created which will challenge the narratives and influence of the MSM, this could be run along socialist lines, an exercise in practical socialism if you like.in the aftermath of the 2019 General election it’s obvious there’s a pressing need for independent outlets to restore the imbalance between establishment media and the SNP/Labour parties. The election raised serious concerns about BBC ‘impartiality’ which will not easily go away, if the NIM can provide a relatively balanced and accurate news outlet then its quite possible inroads might be made into MSM Dominance, quite a challenge but not impossible. I hope this post has been thought provoking and offered ideas about how this might be achieved in the long term




  1. The Ecosia Blog. ‘“Carbon Neutral” Is Not Enough: Ecosia Built Its Own Solar Plants’, 1 August 2019. https://blog.ecosia.org/why-carbon-neutral-is-not-enough-ecosia-has-built-its-own-solar-plants/.
  2. ‘Political Consciousness: Definition of Political Consciousness and Synonyms of Political Consciousness (English)’. Accessed 20 December 2019. http://dictionary.sensagent.com/Political%20consciousness/en-en/.
  3.  Charlotte Tobitt. ‘UK News Media Least Trusted among Eight European Nations to “get the Facts Right” and “Cover Important Stories of the Day”, Report Shows’. Press Gazette (blog), 15 May 2018. https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/uk-news-media-least-trusted-among-eight-european-nations-to-get-the-facts-right-and-cover-important-stories-of-the-day-report-shows/.
  4. ‘Nearly Half of People in the UK Don’t Think BBC News Journalists Tell the Truth, According to YouGov Poll’. Accessed 5 January 2020. https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/nearly-half-of-people-in-the-uk-dont-think-bbc-news-journalists-tell-the-truth-according-to-yougov-poll/ar-BBY54mX?ocid=st.

  5. ‘Political Consciousness’. In Wikipedia, 25 June 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Political_consciousness&oldid=787517829.

Denying right-wing populism the oxygen of publicity

Propaganda,DO NOT TALK!

Right-wing populists such as Nigel Farage, Katie Hopkins, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson tend to use the same Modus Operandi/Tactics to raise their profiles and generate publicity . in this post I’ll analyse these tactics, why they’re effective and what YOU can do to derail them.

Calculated outrage lies at the heart of this method; it uses comments calculated to offend certain groups who generally lie outside the right-wing tabloid reading white demographic(i.e. think Sun/Mail reader). Minority groups such as Scousers, Muslims and fat women being examples of the targets chosen.Here are a few examples of these.Boris Johnson claimed Liverpool is a self-pity city.Characteristically Katie Hopkins took things too far with her ‘Final Solution’ tweet; the aim is to generate social media outrage, column inches and backlinks not lose your job. Nigel Farage is the master of this tactic (in the UK at least)examples being linking Brendan Cox with extremism and a UKIP poster which deliberately had overtones of a past Nazi campaign. Next, I’ll examine how and why this tactic is so useful.

How the method works

Once the ‘outspoken’ pundit or demagogue has started to make a name for his or herself, the right-wing press will eagerly pounce upon future utterances. So far so obvious, but the clever part is the liberal press will nearly always provide a backlash ‘ has Farage gone too far this time?’ Style articles and handwringing, the Liberal press is quite good at this, especially The Guardian.in addition to this outraged left-wingers and liberals will discuss and share articles featuring the offenders’ ad nauseam. In effect advertising the views of their political opponents. Likewise creating memes of these offenders is increasing the profile of this figure they probably intensely dislike, which neatly brings us to what can YOU do about it?

You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.

Fortunately, the solution to this tactic is quite simple and requires no great effort on your part.Don’t link to any articles or media outlets which mention the would-be demagogue or do anything to increase their impact or reach.Deny them the oxygen of publicity, reducing them to spluttering impotence. Where possible, you should delete tweets and posts which mention the offender’s names. The way to view it is every time the demagogue is trending the left have failed.Do your bit! think before you link.


  1. In one article, Boris manages to offend an entire city & and his boss
  2. Boris Johnson apologises for Hillsborough article
  3. Your view: Is Boris right to say sorry to Liverpool?
  4. Peter Reid’s “f***ing disgrace” tirade to Boris Johnson
  5. Katie Hopkins to leave LBC ‘immediately’ in wake of Manchester attack ‘final solution’ comments
  6. What’s the truth behind Katie Hopkins ending her contract ‘by mutual consent’ with Mail Online?