Battle Of Ideas: Enemies of the people! Who rules in a democracy?

Enemies of the people! Who rules in a democracy?

SUNDAY 29 OCTOBER10:0011:30CINEMA 3 Barbican London

Of the six speakers at this event, two have direct links to an informal group of right wing libertarians based at the on line magazine ‘Spiked’. A third, Alex Deane, is a contributor to Spiked and Battle of Ideas as well as linked to right wing ‘think tanks’ and libertarian and pro tobacco lobby groups.

Spiked on Line is the parent organisation of the Battle of Ideas and The Institute of ideas

Jon Holbrook is a barrister and is associated with the libertarian anti-environmental LM network, through being a shareholder of Spiked Ltd.  and having written for Spiked.

Tessa Mayes (born 13/09/1965) is a journalist, author and filmmaker and is associated with the libertarian anti-environmental LM network. She has written for Living MarxismCulture Wars and Spikedbeen a director of the London International Research Exchange and contributed to the Battle of Ideas.

Alex Deane has written for Spiked and appeared previously in Battle of ideas debates. He is the managing director of public affairs at FTI Consulting in London. He is a former head of public affairs team at Weber Shandwick, director of Bell Pottinger Public Affairs, a former chief of staff to David Cameron in opposition, and the founding director of Big Brother Watch.  He is linked to a number of right wing libertarian lobby groups and was also on the council of the notorious Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF). This organisation became known for its far right ideas, boorish bullying behaviour and the suicide of one of its members.
 “Being more active in our wards, stiffening the spine [of the City] on Europe and standing up for bankers and high earners,” says the YBF’s Alex Deane.

So that’s three right wing libertarians on the same panel.

You can see details of the debate and speakers here:

Question: Is the ‘Spiked on Line’ involvement with the ‘Battle of Ideas’ as transparent as it should be?

Here is some analysis of a previous ‘Battle of Ideas’:
‘Battle of Ideas 2012’ and ‘Spiked On Line’:


Who Are They?
Jenny Turner reports from the Battle of Ideas:

Revolutionary Communist Party (UK):

What’s a nice Trot doing in a place like this?


Spiked on line deletes comments – so much for free speech.

The writers at the right wing on line magazine Spiked are nothing but zealous in their enthusiasm for free speech. However, in my experience their commitment to free speech is left wanting when you try to post a critical comment on one of their articles.

Every now and again I make the mistake of visiting the Spiked on Line web site. On a recent visit I came across an article by their guru Frank Furedi.

The anti-populist rhetoric of the elite is now off the scale. (Spiked on line 26 DECEMBER 2016)

As usual this article contains enough straw men and ludicrous, unsubstantiated assertions that I am surprised the Guinness Book of Records hasn’t taken an interest.

Even the subtitle: “The anti-populist rhetoric of the elite is now off the scale” could, with more basis in reality, be written as: “The anti liberal / anti left rhetoric of Spiked is now off the scale”

I will leave you to read the article and judge it for yourself.  From my reading, it is, at best, a narrow one sided attack, based on straw men and cherry picking of evidence to fit a preconceived agenda. It is shamefully lacking in objectivity coming as it does from an academic at a British University.

I was so annoyed by the article that I quickly typed off and submitted the comment below in response to his cherry picking of examples to support his complaint that “The degradation of public discourse, and the use of words to mystify, distract from and evade certain issues, has been a feature of political life for some time.”. According to Furedi this can, of course, all be blamed on the lefty liberal elite.

My response:

Frank Furedi is deploying the Karl Rove tactic of “accusing your opponents of doing exactly what you and your collaborators have been doing all along”. I note that his cherry picking conveniently misses the following from his analysis: “Snowdrops, libtard, will of the people, take back control, you lost – get over it, virtue‑signalling, liberal elite, enemies of the people, the people have spoken” etc.

The comment was initially accepted but then removed as spam. I repeated this about 4 or 5 times over two days.  Each time it appeared but was then removed as spam. See the final two attempts below. (As you can see, I clicked the button each time to have this checked but no response was forthcoming)

frank furedi spiked

So it looks like the “snowflakes” at Spiked have a thinner skin than they make out.

More here:




Seems I am permanently barred from posting comments on The Spiked On Line web page.

Here’s my latest message to be deleted ( a reply to a comment on WHAT’S SCARIER THAN TRUMP? THE ELITE REVOLT AGAINST HIM). Here’s the screen shot (from my profile – but removed from their web page):

censored trump spiked


UPDATE 7/11/2017 – another comment not allowed to appear on a Brendan O’Neill article.

In this article O’Neill excels himself by invoking the Stalinist version of Godwin’s Law and then, irony of ironies, deletes my comment from his blog post:

spiked deleted

‘Spiked’ launches a demented, fact free attack on “Stop Funding Hate”.

The bizarre on line magazine, Spiked, has launched another fact free attack on a campaign it doesn’t like.  These two very similar articles from Spiked writers were published within days of each other:

“The hatefulness of stop funding hate” by Naomi Firsht,
Staff writer at Spiked:

“Stop Funding Hate: a nasty, elitist campaign for press censorship” by Brendan O’Neill, in the Spectator (16th Nov 2016):
  (Brendan O’Neill is editor of Spiked)

I don’t hold any brief for the “Stop Funding Hate” campaign apart from noting the obvious good sense of its title, so I took a closer look.

Try what may I couldn’t find any evidence whatsoever to support Spiked’s claim that this campaign is a “hateful, nasty elitist campaign for press censorship”.

What the two Spiked writers have done is simply made stuff up, distorted reality and mixed it all up with an endless stream of worthless straw-men arguments.

The inflammatory and, to be honest, demented and hate filled  tone of the two Spiked articles is in stark contrast to the calm reasoned tone of “Stop funding hate”.   If you are a Spiked supporter nothing I say will influence you, but if you came this way interested in a more open minded, evidence based view of “Stop funding hate”, I suggest you check out “Stop funding hate” for yourself.

Here is their video advert:

Here are some more links:

Meet the man behind Stop Funding Hate, the campaign tackling racist tabloids (Article from The Tab by Callum McCulloch):

Stop Funding Hate:    Facebook page         Twitter account.

Lego ends advertising with Daily Mail after calls for companies to ‘Stop Funding Hate’:


Most of us are very wary of government involvement in monitoring the press. Spiked authors take this further and are generally  opposed to any government involvement in any aspect of our lives but on the other hand are very happy for market forces to replace the role of democratically accountable government. It’s therefore pretty hypocritical of Spiked to criticise anyone who dares to make use of those market forces.   Lego and Waitrose etc are free to do as they wish, customers are free to do as they wish, ‘intellectual elites’ are free to do as they wish, what could Spiked possibly object to?

Finally, I repeat, where is the hate in this campaign – perhaps it’s only in the minds and straw-men of Spiked authors.

To get some reality based perspective on this debate let’s remind ourselves of some tabloid front pages:

xenophobic headlines



Spiked Authors – Apologists for the far right
Here is a Spiked article by their deputy editor Tom Slater in which he acts as apologist for the far right groups, Breitbart and Alt-right.

Here’s a video of an alt-right conference meeting led by Richard B. Spencer, in Washington, D.C., where Trump’s victory was met with cheers and Nazi salutes. (Read the full article:…)

Spiked authors assert that worrying about Trump, his cronies and advisers is “hysteria and fear-mongering”. I’ll leave the reader to watch this video and decide for themselves.

Finally, a message to Spiked writers:  If the only time you defend free speech is when the speech is racist, sexist, homophobic or white supremacist, …. you don’t love free speech.

More about Spiked on Line here:



Invoke Article 50 Now – Invoke Democracy Now – Uphold the Brexit vote!


spiked protest (2)

‘Invoke Democracy Now’ and ‘Invoke Article 50 Now’ are campaigns sponsored by the online magazine ‘Spiked’ (see web page header above). Their latest “Demo for democracy: uphold the Brexit vote!” was held on 5th September to coincide with a debate in the invoke democracy nowcommons on a petition which gained over 4 million signatures.  The petition, set up by a Brexit supporter before the referendum was held, called for the Government to annul the results if the Remain or Leave vote won by less than 60 per cent on a turnout of less than 75 per cent (the turn out was 72%).

Whether you supported Brexit or Leave it might be interesting to know a little more about ‘Spiked’.  The history of Spiked and many of its contributors is bizarre to say the least, as is its current output.

The team at Spiked and the associated Institute of Ideas are part of a loose and informal network of individuals and organisations sharing a libertarian and anti-environmentalist ideology. It is led by people associated with the defunct Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) and its publication Living Marxism.  Members of this network, who seem to have transitioned from marxism to right wing neolibertarians, have obtained influential positions with other organisations and the network also has extensive youth oriented programmes.

For more information check these links:

Spiked, The institute of Ideas and Living Marxism

Invasion of the Entryists

Who Are They? Jenny Turner reports from the Battle of Ideas

Brexit: the battle for democracy starts here. (Institute of Ideas / Spiked on Line)

Why does this matter?

It is clear from reading Spiked on Line that this is an organisation that is unashamedly post fact, post evidence and post reason. Their articles invariably take the simplistic and evidence free route of blaming all our problems on experts, a ‘metropolitan elite’, left wing media and of course the EU. You will have to search very hard to find any analysis of the role of banks, corporations, free market ideologues, press barons, or right wing politicians that exploit populism for their own ends.

I don’t expect you to take my word for it – just take a look for yourself.

If you think that the ‘chattering classes’ are the source of all evil you will love this Andrew Bolt interview with Spiked editor Brendan O’Neill. If you prefer a more rational and reasoned approach I suspect you will be horrified. Let me know.




Who is behind the campaigning group “Invoke Democracy Now”.

invoke democracy now2

“Invoke Democracy Now”  Claims to be a “post-Brexit campaigning group set up to inspire wider public discussion of Brexit and democracy and to call on the government to uphold the vote.” but who is behind the organisation?

The answer looks like ‘Spiked‘, a right wing neo-libertarian online magazine.


Prominent speakers at “Invoke Democracy Now”‘s first meeting (14th July) were:

Claire Fox – Director, Institute of Ideas and writer for Spiked.

Brendan O’Neill – Editor, Spiked Online

invoke democracy now


The contact details for the meeting and the organisation were via Saleha Ali, who happens to have written five articles for Spiked.

On Twitter the meeting was promoted by Justine Brian, who also happens to be a writer for Spiked and the National Administrator of the Institute of Ideas and Pfizer Debating Matters Competition, an “innovative and engaging new style of debating competition for sixth form students in the UK”.Justine Brian Tweet 2

The leading organisers of both the Institute of Ideas and Spiked are linked by their bizarre background in the Revolutionary Communist Tendency/Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) and its principal publication Living Marxism.  This link gives a summary of this informal network of individuals and organisations: Living Network (LM):

In response to Justine Brian’s Tweet above I asked her for information about the people behind “Invoke Democracy Now” her response is below:

justine brian 3

Ironically, Justine’s response is very similar to the first sentence of this summary of the Living Marxism Network.

Justine’s lack of transparency matches the lack of transparency on the meeting’s publicity material as in this example from Eventbrite.

Strangely Spiked seem to be running two almost identical campaigns in parallel.  Unlike “Invoke Democracy Now”, “Invoke Article 50 Now” is clearly sponsored by Spiked as indicated on the professionally produced posters of this small band of protesters.

spiked protest

I have written about the Spiked “Invoke Article 50 Now” campaign here.

More on Spiked and the Institute of Ideas:

Invasion of the Entryists

Who Are They? Jenny Turner reports from the Battle of Ideas

Brexit: the battle for democracy starts here. (Institute of Ideas / Spiked on Line)


Brexit: the battle for democracy starts here. (Institute of Ideas / Spiked on Line)

“Brexit: the battle for democracy starts here” is the title of an ‘Institute of Ideas’ and Spiked on line, event with apparently just three speakers, all Spiked members, Frank Furedi, Claire Fox and Tom Slater.


I was attracted by the title but appalled by the briefing notes for the meeting:


Throughout the notes the author does exactly what he/she accuses the opposing camp of doing, i.e. showing contempt for the opposing view by taking individual examples of outrageous slurs and then attributing them to everyone in the opposing camp.  The author has made unfounded assertions, and cherry picked the evidence, and/or distorted it to fit a narrative.

This did not bode well for the meeting especially when the only speakers appear to be members of the right wing, neo-libertarian ‘Spiked’ online magazine. Surely effective planning to engage in a battle for democracy needs input from, and be open to, a wide range of opinions and views.

I voted to remain. I thought about the issues carefully and tried very hard to be objective and reasoned. I appreciate that others came to different conclusions and I admit that my vote was for what I considered the least worst of a binary choice which did not allow me to express my actual preference. However it was made in good faith. To be smeared and denigrated by the Spiked speakers because I did not make the same choice as them is not the best way to involve me in an open debate on the way forward.

I did not attend the meeting so cannot judge what actually happened but I can only say that the closed minded tone of the briefing notes would have put me off attending even if I didn’t happen to live 300 miles away.

Out of interest I listened to IoI’s latest podcast “Podcast of Ideas: post-referendum special”. Three Spiked members spend 30 minutes on a partisan, narrow minded rant about those who voted to remain.  With no other guests there was no one to call them out on their litany of straw man arguments, unfounded assertions and cherry picked examples.  A waste of 30 minutes and not an encouragement for me to engage further.

Here’s the link (Podcast of Ideas: post-referendum special”) – check for your self:

UPDATE (03/07/2016).  OK I have now listened to all bar the last 30 minutes of the two hour “Brexit: the battle for democracy starts here” (Link:

Early on, one of the speakers, Frank Ferudi, I think, said that the meeting was not a Brexit rally. But in reality as far as the speakers were concerned this was pretty much what it turned out to be. There were a few good questions from the audience and Frank Furudi indulged in a bizarre and meandering discussion about identity. However the over riding impression was that Ferudi and particularly Clarie Fox, spent a significant amount of their time slagging off those who had voted remain using stereotypes and caricatures – exactly what they accused the remainers of doing.  There was a forceful but unsubstantiated defence of the referendum process without any analysis or even mention of the aspects of the process that concerned those who regard the referendum as a travesty of democracy.

What stood out for me about the input of Ferudi and Fox was the total absence of any discussion about how our democracy might be developed post Brexit and how we should “fight the battle for democracy”. This was the title of the meeting but was absent from the speakers input apart from a plea that we should make sure that Brexit actually happens.  No discussion of the future of democracy or the mechanics of how we make our political system more democratic.

The title of the meeting attracted my attention. I wanted to hear from Claire Fox and Frank Ferudi  how we might ‘fight the battle for democracy’?  I was badly disappointed. In reality the meeting was simply a Brexit Rally aimed at motivating the faithful.

If the Spiked On Line speakers want to recruit non zealots to their ‘Invoke Article 50 Now’ campaign they could start by at least trying to substantiate their assertions about brexit and democracy.  “Carrying out the will of the people” and “the people have spoken” are words taken from the vocabularies of demagogues, not democrats and result in the tyranny of the majority. History gives us ample evidence that this is not a wise system of government.

The lack of any substantive discussion about how democracy after brexit involves anything more than a transfer of control to a more right-wing branch of the Tory party, plus increased influence by right-wing plutocrats like Arron Banks does not convince. Our current flawed and limited democracy is subverted by neo libertarian politicians, demagogues and corporate power, the Spiked speakers have not offered any plan for preventing this process from accelerating after brexit.

Oh and finally just a reminder – democracy does include the right to dissent, including immediately after an election or referendum.


“Not on the backs of the most vulnerable in our society.”

Salisbury MP, John Glen, made the following promise back in 2010 “we must not balance the books on the backs of the most vulnerable in our society”

Salisbury MP, John Glen, has consistently voted in favour of cuts to local government spending (40% since 2010) that have had a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable in our society.

In fact John has voted in favour of every cut his government has made, irrespective of the damaging impact those cuts have had on the most vulnerable.

Those votes have included votes in favour of successive welfare changes that have disproportionally hit disabled people, such as cuts to social care and the recently passed cuts to employment support allowance. The cuts will reduce benefits by £30 a week for those in the work-related group.

John has failed to publicly acknowledge any concern about his government’s use of spin, misuse of data and misleading rhetoric to smear all benefits claimants as scroungers and skivers. [2]

We now have a budget in which George Osborne is taking $4bn from disabled people to fund tax cuts for the wealthy. Those who will benefit from the tax cuts include MPs like John Glen who have just had an 11% salary increase.

To make matters worse, the way the cuts in personal independence payments (PIP) for disabled people were announced, has inevitably caused maximum upset and fear amongst the most vulnerable in our society.

So perhaps it is time to remind Mr Glen of this promise he made in 2010:

John Glen MP – “we must not balance the books on the backs of the most vulnerable in our society”

It’s time for John Glen to come clean and stand by his promise.

UPDATE (22.29 18.03.16): Since I wrote the above, the government seems to have retreated on the PIP cuts and Iain Duncan Smith has resigned stating as his reason the shambles that is George Osborne’s cuts to disability benefits.  This stretches our credulity to breaking point given that IDS has been the government cheerleader for benefit cuts and has a very nasty line in benefit scrounger rhetoric.

A more plausible explanation is that his resignation is an opportunistic but desperate attempt to distance himself from the disaster that the Department of Work and Pensions has become under his leadership. [3]

Another possibility is that his resignation may be an even more desperate attempt to give some life to his Brexit campaign by undermining his chief opponent, George Osborne.

Whatever the motives, they do not appear honourable.


[1] IDS loses legal challenge to keep Universal Credit problems secret:

[2] The demonisation of the disabled is a chilling sign of the times:

[3] Universal credit is a tale of failure that’s still unfolding:

[4] If we are not ‘all in it together’, this is largely due to Duncan Smith:

[5] Chancellor’s Budget giveaways failed to support an all-out assault on poverty ( Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF)):

[6] George Osborne’s credibility has been brutally exposed by the departure of the secretary of state for work and pensions:

The IDS way: Victorian morality, reforming zeal and gross incompetence:

Here are 15 cuts and failures Iain Duncan Smith didn’t resign over:–byx3nvyu3JZ

George Osborne’s only solution to our economic problems – more austerity. No rationale, no logic, no evidence, just the ‘right thing to do’.  Very reminiscent of Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity – “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”:

All that is needed for vested interests to prevail over the public interest is that good men don’t understand what the hell is going on.

CDSThe Tories (including my own MP, John Glen) have been brilliantly successful in selling us the lie that the financial crisis was caused by excessive welfare spending by the Labour party. This enabled them to sell the argument, despite all the contrary evidence, that only the Tories can be trusted with the economy. It also allowed them to get away with their phony ‘long term economic plan’ which was in reality nothing more than a doctrinaire political  programme to drastically reduce the role of democratic government and outsource it to international corporations like G4S, Capita, Virgin, Atos, Serco etc.

The reality of course is that the financial crash of 2007/8 and the resulting UK debt mountain were not caused by ‘immigrants’ or ‘welfare scroungers’ or ‘health tourists’ or ‘Polish plumbers’ or the disabled and they weren’t even caused by Labour Party spending on schools and hospitals.

The crisis (which had its foundation in the deregulation of banking and financial services in the 1980s) was caused by greed and incompetence in the banking industry. It culminated in the US where banks had lent colossal sums of money in worthless, sub prime loans and then repackaged those loans and sold them on to the rest of the global finance industry disguised as respectable investments. This was legalised fraud on a massive scale.

This is all common knowledge to those who have been paying attention so why remind ourselves yet again? Well the success of government double speak means that the underlying problems within the national and international banking and financial sectors have not been addressed and it’s looking as if the next financial crisis is just around the corner (see graph at top of page). Only this time we will be far less well placed to face the consequences.

Is Deutsche Bank the next Lehman Brothers? Who knows? Our governments are in hock to big finance. George Osborne is a politician with an ideological agenda, he is is not an economist and has no economics training. The people who caused the last financial crisis are, with only a very few exceptions, still in place, have they learnt their lesson? The regulators are controlled by the regulated and most of the potential reforms have been shelved or watered down.

The only thing we know for sure is that it is ordinary people who will pay the price for the hubris, incompetence and greed of our financial elites.

Addendum: Adair Turner (head UK regulator at the height of the 2008 crisis) told the Today programme that the idea that the public will never again be called on to bail out the banks is not only untrue but, as he put it, a “dangerous” assertion.

“Deutsche Bank Is ‘Absolutely Rock-Solid,’ Cryan Tells Employees”

Banking failure NOT public expenditure created the financial crash and UK Debt mountain:

Conservatives are the party of high UK borrowing and low debt repayment, contrary to media misinformation:

All that is needed for vested interests to prevail over the public interest is that good men don’t understand what the hell is going on.

Update: 26th March 2016.  After engineering the slowest recovery in 150 years George Osborne has suddenly spotted that the economy is going pear-shaped again.  His solution – more austerity. No rationale, no logic, no evidence, just the ‘right thing to do’.   Very reminiscent of Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity – “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.


Tim Montgomerie and his parallel universe.


monitie letwin

oliver letwin

I see tweets like the ones above and wonder if I live on the same planet as Tim Montgomerie. (Tory Party activist, blogger, columnist, co-founder of the Centre for Social Justice and Conservative Christian Fellowship and creator of the ConservativeHome website)

I share Tim’s concern that UK politics is well on the way to becoming as partisan and nasty as it is in the US. However it beggars belief that he should single out, as an example, the rather mild treatment received by Oliver Letwin at just the moment Lynton Crosby, the arch exponent of the ‘dark arts’, has been given a knighthood for services to the Tory Party.

All parties are guilty of misdemeanours but the reality is incontrovertible – it is the Tory party spin machine and its media supporters that are masters at cynically and ruthlessly exploiting every dirty trick in the book in their fight to gain or retain power.

It also appears that the remaining two obstacles preventing our politics becoming as dysfunctional as in the US are about to be dismantled.

We are being prepared for the destruction of public broadcasting in this country. And with the cosy relationships between the cabinet and Rupert Murdoch fully repaired it must be just a matter of time before Murdoch is allowed to grab a monopoly position in British media and introduce Fox style news and commentators. This would have happened back in 2011, facilitated by Jeremy Hunt, if the News of the World hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone had not been exposed.

Now that the farce of Levenson and Cameron’s phony promises are on the scrap heap Murdoch is free to resume where he left off.

If Tim Montgomerie really is worried about the americanisation of British politics, he needs to address his owns party’s tactics and its relationship with the right-wing press and big business lobby groups, well before worrying about the very mild treatment of Oliver Letwin.

Note: It is a matter of fact that Oliver Letwin was guilty of making what, even for the 1980s, was a racist statement and has subsequently been in a position to allow that sentiment to influence Tory policy. He is also on record, as are others in the cabinet, for being in favour of the privatisation of the NHS.  It is therefore difficult to see that the tweet Tim mentions is particularly controversial when compared to the treatment regularly dished out by the Tory spin machine, supported by the Tory press, at anyone who gets in their way.

Here’s Tim promoting a Sun headline (not a word of criticism here):

Screenshot 2016-01-18 15.12.32


The 5 most shocking quotes in Oliver Letwin’s ‘racist’ memo: