Naz Shah Bradfordrising j

The Election In Bradford West Has Been Hopelessly Tainted

Gallowayism smears again j

I believe that the orchestrated campaign of smears on the character of Nas Shah, Labour candidate for Bradford West, mean that the election has been hopelessly tainted by George Galloway and the Respect Party. Should Mr. Galloway “win” on May 7th where the electorate has been so thoroughly compromised, I cannot see how an election court could allow that result to stand. In this blog I will lay out evidence of this orchestrated and long-running smear campaign.

The smears that have been taped at the Bradford West hustings – where no cameras were supposed to be allowed – have already caused the Labour party to tell Respect that they are making a complaint under the Act. However, their complaint thus far is limited to the smears on Ms. Shah at the hustings. However, Respect have so maligned the character of this rape victim, and for so long, that I believe that according to section 106 there is no way this election can be held in a free and impartial manner if Mr. Galloway is the candidate.

Before I found the video of the Bradford West hustings on the Twitter feed of the rabid anti-semite Amar Rafiq, a friend of Mr. Galloway’s – in which Galloway waved Naz Shah’s nikkah and called her a liar over the age at which she was raped, it had received precisely 11 views on YouTube. I am grateful to BBC Trending for crediting me for breaking the story – other papers did not do so. I am proud of my work as an investigative journalist on this matter in the public interest, and would appreciate it if fellow journalists using evidence provided here would credit it.

This blog is necessarily long as it involves production of a large amount of evidence. But I believe the misogynistic abuse of a woman standing for office, based on slurs around her private life and to influence an election, is wholly illegal, and that as a feminist, a journalist, and a citizen, it is my duty to investigate and expose it. I do not support Ms. Shah’s candidacy as a private person – I am a supporter of the Conservatives and I hope George Grant wins Bradford West. However, that is completely irrelevant. I believe election law has been broken to such an extent that no free and fair election can now take place on May 7th in the Bradford West Constituency.

The abuse of Ms. Shah’s character is exactly what section 106 of the Representation of the People Act is supposed to prevent.

In 2010, Phil Woolas won the seat of Saddleworth and Oldham. His victory was overturned because an election court found him to have smeared the character of his opponent.

In this instance, the smearing of Ms. Shah is done in the textbook way that a Judicial Review of the Saddleworth Case determined was necessary, under Section 106, to invalidate an election result. In particular:

  1. In our view, the starting point for the construction of s.106 must be the distinction which it is plain from the statutory language that Parliament intended to draw between statements as to the political conduct or character or position of a candidate and statements as to his personal character or conduct. It was as self evident in 1895 as it is today, given the practical experience of politics in a democracy, that unfounded allegations will be made about the political position of candidates in an election. The statutory language makes it clear that Parliament plainly did not intend the 1895 Act to apply to such statements; it trusted the good sense of the electorate to discount them. However statements as to the personal character of a candidate were seen to be quite different. The good sense of the electorate would be unable to discern whether such statements which might be highly damaging were untrue; a remedy under the ordinary law in the middle of an election would be difficult to obtain. Thus the distinction was drawn in the 1895 Act which is re-enacted in s.106 and which is reflected in the decisions to which we have referred a paragraph 87.ii).
  2. In our judgment, as Parliament clearly intended that such a distinction be made, a court has to make that distinction and decide whether the statement is one as to the personal character or conduct or a statement as to the political position or character of the candidate. It cannot be both.
  3. Statements about a candidate which relate, for example, to his family, religion, sexual conduct, business or finances are generally likely to relate to the personal character of a candidate.

You will note that the Judicial Review states that “a remedy…. in the middle of an election would be difficult to obtain.”

The Electoral Commission guidance on personal character smears, made in order to influence an election, is also clear:

1.49 It is an offence to make or publish a false statement of fact about the personal character or conduct of a candidate in order to affect the return of a candidate at an election.

At the Bradford West hustings, Mr. Galloway produced a document that he claimed was the Nikkah of Nas Shah. Ms. Shah was forced into marriage, and therefore raped, when she was a teenager. He later admitted sending a supporter to Pakistan to obtain this document. He also said she had ‘only a passing acquaintance with the truth’ because ‘you were not fifteen. You were sixteen and a half.’

His claim was that Ms. Shah was a liar and unfit to be an MP because she entered into her marriage at 16 and a half instead of at 15.

He later claimed that Ms. Shah’s marriage was not forced, as she says, because it was arranged by her parents. Forced marriages are, in almost every case, arranged by her parents.

News reports have, in my view regrettably, concentrated on the fact that Ms. Shah does have an earlier nikkah from the age of 15. This is not material to a slur on her character under section 106. Whether or not Ms. Shah was raped at 15 or 16 does not matter; the essence of her story is that she was forced into marriage. Her family removed her from school at the age of 12 years old.

Mr. Galloway stated the following things about Ms. Shah, at the election hustings and afterwards: that she is a liar; that she lied about her rape in order to win votes; and that she did so for a racist purpose, in order to ‘slander of her own community‘. He made the latter accusation, that Ms. Shah was being a racist, (the tweet linked to there shows men watching at the Bradford West hustings) and that she invented the story of her rape in order to smear Muslim men, several times on Twitter.

it wasn’t she wasn’t it is slander of her own family community and city. We won’t have it. Might have impressed you but none locally

and

Respect: we’ll allow no-one to slander people of Bradford West or peddle their racist stereotypes

Her squalid sorry life was put front and centre of her campaign by her not me. And people of Bradford West are sick of it.

Asked whether Galloway disputed Shah’s claim to have been forced into a violent marriage as a teenager – be that at 15 or 16 and a half – and was repeatedly raped in that marriage, McKay said: “In what sense was it a forced marriage? Her mother attended the marriage in 1990 as well as other family members and many witnesses did also, signing and giving fingerprints, so if it was forced presumably her mother and the others were part of that coercion?”

The government’s Forced Marriage Unit makes clear that parents are often the instigators of forced marriage, coercing their offspring to marry against their will.

McKay said that if Shah’s first husband had been violent to her, “then as a British citizen in Pakistan she could have jumped on a plane and left him behind, although I do appreciate that is often extremely difficult. If he was violent to her here – I’m not aware when they came back to Britain – then she could have gone to the police, social services, an imam or whatever. I am not aware, are you, of any such report by her to anyone, here or there?”

Ron McKay, the Respect Party spokesperson told Urban Echo, “Naz Shah has claimed in all the media she has trailed her story across – Times, Telegraph, Mirror, Mail and Guardian, and of course Urban Echo – that she was fifteen when she married. This narrative plays into the racist line of Pakistani men grooming/sexually abusing under-age girls.

“Recently when I pointed out to a Guardian reporter the true date of the marriage, based on Supreme Court evidence that her mother had gone to Pakistan in May 1990 for the wedding, Naz Shah’s response was to add a further lie, that her mother’s visit was for the wedding celebration – some 18 months at least after the alleged wedding! Naseem Shah has deliberately and cynically bent the truth in order to manipulate people’s emotions in an attempt to win personal support for her candidature. She is unfit to represent Labour or, heaven forfend, the people of Bradford West,” he concludes.

Note the reference to the Supreme Court and her mother’s case.
The Urban Echo piece, with its accusation that Naz Shah not only lied, but used the story of her rape for racist purposes  – two personal character slurs that Ron McKay stated should influence electors, during an election period – was also directly RTed by Mr. Galloway, and by his official “Team George Galloway”, when tweeted out by the personal account behind @TeamGeorgeG – it has thus been directly promoted by the candidate.
Urban echo RTed by George
All of that is on the record smears about the personal character of Nas Shah, promoted during an election period, by a candidate, and by his agent, in order to influence the election. It is more than enough to make any election result in Bradford West in which she is defeated, unsafe.
Having followed Mr. Galloway and Respect’s accounts on this matter for some time, incidentally, I have yet to discover even one tweet or attack on Naseem Shah from them that is policy based.
More than enough direct evidence appears of an attack on personal character to violate section 106 of the Representation of the People Act in the precise way the Judicial Review found should invalidate an election:
  1. Statements about a candidate which relate, for example, to his family, religion, sexual conduct, business or finances are generally likely to relate to the personal character of a candidate.
However, there is, unfortunately, more.
Part Two: Smear Accounts, blogs, and sock puppets
For weeks, a vicious, anonymous blog, tweeted and shared by several anonymous, pretending to be Naz Shah twitter accounts and fake Facebook accounts, has been circulated around Bradford West. It is incredibly vicious and it is libelous to the personal character of Naz Shah. It smears Ms. Shah’s mother, even her brother and sister. It calls her every name under the sun.
NS ss 1After the Labour party made a complaint under section 106, some sock puppets took their site links down, but others left them up. [EDIT – as I am composing this, all the links to the smear site with all the urls have been removed. As of last night, they were still live. Somebody removed the last of them just yesterday night. ] I should say that I have copies of the site in full, in screenshots, and copies of all known URLs for the website. Taking it down will be pointless. The site links back to this Urban Echo blog and quotes Mr. McKay:
NS ss 2 Ron McKay j
The link in the above screenshot led back to the Urban echo post.
Under the Urban echo blog story you find more Respect-supporting sock puppets directing you to the smear site:

P Simmons

11 days ago

I have been shocked at the untruths Labour’s Naz Shah, the Respect Party’s rival for the Bradford West seat, has been spreading in order to be selected for the constituency, gain publicity, attract sympathy from gullible people, and ultimately to try to win votes.
We all have a duty to spread the truth and not let crookedry infiltrate British politics. Please refer folk to this website on Naz Shah so they can find out what she really is all about! It exposes how she ended up getting selected when she polled by far the lowest number of votes in her local constituency’s Labour Party membership ballot.

 Reply

P Simmons

11 days ago

The link to the website is here: http://nazshah.eu.pn/ – a must read and highly shocking!

 Reply

P Simmons

11 days ago

Lies indeed as Urban Echo reports.
With the UK election campaigning period officially launching today, an exclusive exposé of the ‪Labour‬ Party’s candidate for Bradford West, ‪NazShah is being published‬. Researchers have spent weeks trawling through two decades of legal documents and interviewing Naz Shah’s family as well as grassroots Labour Party members in Bradford to reveal Naz Shah is a highly duplicitous character who has spun a fraudulent account of her life and her mother’s controversial past to a trusting media and Labour Party hierarchy.
Read the new, exclusive exposé – the first report ever to counter nearly 20 years of lies by ‪NazShahBfd‬ – here: http://NazShah.MediaNewsOnline.com
Spread the truth. Please refer people to the website!

 Reply

Update: In my haste to take screenshots of the links, and similarities, to and from the smear site and official Respect party sources, I missed the significance of the content of the above sock puppet’s comment. I draw Labour party lawyers to this now:
Researchers have spent weeks trawling through two decades of legal documents and interviewing Naz Shah’s family
Two decades of legal documents. The “legal documents” “court” line is taken up in the smear site BUT IT IS ALSO TAKEN UP BY MR. GALLOWAY AND RESPECT THEMSELVES.
Surely it beggars belief that these two things are a co-incidence. Again and again, “court documents” referred to in the smear site are referred to by officials of Respect. Mr. McKay says, on the record, in his interview with urban echo, that Respect attempted to “prove” a sixteen year old had given her consent to being trafficked abroad and forced into rape by looking at the testimony in the trial of her mother. That said testimony is referred to over and over in the smear blog. More importantly the sock puppet “P Simmons” says his smear site researchers have “spent weeks…. interviewing Naz Shah’s family”. On the record, Respect tell the Guardian and Helen Pidd that:
Asked where and how Galloway had obtained the nikah he waved around at the hustings, McKay said: “We were first given a copy of the nikah by a close family member in this country. We wanted to verify that it was authentic so we arranged for a person in Mirpur to obtain a copy directly from the registry office.
and
he said Respect was in contact with Shah’s first husband
Well then – Mr. McKay’s on the record comments have identical research claims to the P Simmons sock puppet underneath the Urban Echo blog (in which McKay first adduces the nikkah – you can see it on that blog) – and the P Simmons sock directs us to the smear site – which quotes Mr. McKay and directs the reader back to McKay’s interview in, er, the Urban Echo blog.
As Private Eye might say – could they possibly be related?
Update Ends – more Updated material below
These identical lines are taken up across the board by smearing sock puppets who RT the official respect accounts too. Language used in the smear blog is used to attack Ms Shah on Facebook and Twitter. For example Ms. Shah is said to have had a “chavvish obsession” with “washing her family’s dirty laundry from twenty years ago” and a big picture of the Jeremy Kyle show is used, with a gif:
Jeremy Kyle NS ss
This line about Jeremy Kyle is used by Respect supporters smearing her on Facebook, like one “Aky Ali”. The Facebook address on his profile uses the name Riaz Mahmood.
Aky Ali Jeremy Kyle NS
The Aky Ali account also makes the smear site references to her “murderer mother” as do the fake twitter accounts.
Aky Aki mother FB Naz Shah
Sometimes Respect party thug supporters like Amar Rafiq openly smear Ms. Shah under their own names: more often they use sock puppets. Here is the fake Facebook page created in her name. The contact details were a link to the smear site, now deleted; of course, I have screenshots. The fake “Jane White” also links to the smear site – the avatar is one of Ms. Shah’s face.
I hope the police will investigate very thoroughly, with a raid on computers, the explicit link to the court case described with lawyer-like referencing at the bottom of the smear site. Respect and George Galloway called – as a shoddy and obvious smokescreen – for Ms. Shah to prosecuted for perjury. The case of her poor mother is dissected all over the Naz Shah smear site in legal terms again and again. Look at the link “Jane White” makes in her post of four hours ago:

‪#‎NazShah‬ is extremely unwise to continually drag out her past, as she has been doing for well over a decade now. I confess it does help win over sensitive and gullible folk, as her story seems to be tragic. But politics should be contested on policies. This is not the Jeremy Kyle show.

Unfortunately Naz Shah has spent weeks relaying an inaccurate sob story to the press and barely touched up mentioning policies until recently.

The comprehensive report at http://nazshah.byethost10.com provides empirical evidence of her deceitfulness – including lying infront of the courts, a very serious offence as per today’s Respect Party announcement – and the best thing for Naz Shah to now do would be to give up on the campaign and, at the age of 42 try to be begin a respectful life.

Information about Naz Shah, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Bradford West
NAZSHAH.BYETHOST10.COM
The Respect Party announcement tweeted by Galloway is here.
Compare to the lawyerly nature of the smear site’s postings about Ms. Shah’s mother: there is more, these are just two excerpts.
NS ss mother court 1 NS ss mother court 2
Various smearing twitter accounts have tried to change their names. The @Bfdwest2015 smear site changed its name to “Strawmankiller.”
Beeks = Bfdwest2015
_MG_3144 (10 of 82)

Zero Hours? Zero Credibility

Labour are being so contemptuous with the voters in this campaign that it really is time to call them out.

‘Zero Hours’ is the new ‘Bankers’ Bonuses’. Say it loudly enough and often enough and maybe you will fool people into thinking this is real economic policy for a nation.

Labour chose to dedicate April Fools’ Day to this policy. Let’s look at what they take us for.

As {scroll to 7:59}, Andrew Neill reminded Lucy Powell on her car crash interview, zero hours contracts form a tiny part of the UK economy – a tiny part of the working population.

ON TV, Lucy was trying to get out of admitting that Labour would borrow much more to fund their huge spending programme.

So she said ‘We will increase the tax base by getting people into higher wage jobs.’

‘How,’ asked Neill, reasonably enough.

‘Zero hours zero hours zero hours’ Lucy bleated on. ‘Huge rise in zero hours and…’

‘There are only 700,000 people on zero hours contracts in Britain,’ said Andrew Neill. ‘Of those, a third are students and another third don’t want to work any more hours. So that leaves 233,000 people in a country of sixty-five million. How are you going to enlarge the tax base on that?’

This is the key point on zero hours contracts; they are essentially the bogeyman name for ‘casual labour.’ And 2/3 of the small amount of folk using them don’t want, or can’t, work regular hours – because they’re in college, or have another reason.

Leave aside that 68 Labour MPs, including Ed Miliband’s PPS, employ staff on zero hours or casual contracts. ( I paid my interns the London living wage and paid them a full day every day they worked. And I advertised the place openly).

Leave aside that Ed Miliband is the local MP for Doncaster, and his Labour-run local council, that reports to him as the party leader, is the BIGGEST user of zero hours contracts in the country – Doncaster has {edit – 2,750} people employed on zero hours contracts. What has Ed done to stop that?

Leave aside that forcing employers to offer a structured contract will simply mean fewer of these jobs, which 2/3 work perfectly happily in.

Here’s the key point. The numbers on zero hours contracts who might prefer like a regular contract – even if you put EVERY ONE of them into Miliband’s camp without asking them – are LESS THAN 250K people in a nation of 65,000,000 people.

Stop taking us for fools, Labour. Just stop it.

‘What else will you do to balance the books?’ Andrew Neil asked Lucy Powell.

‘Well, we’re going to cut ministerial pay,’ she said.

Pathetic. Utterly pathetic. Give us costed policies that matter.

John_Bercow_full

John Bercow Can’t Avoid A Ballot

It should never have come to this – and the outcome is inevitable.

Momentary humiliation for the Government as they lose the Speaker vote – and indeed, it was a foolish piece of politics, because it was so unnecessary.

All that was required was for the PM to write to Bercow saying he had lost his confidence, and that, whether as PM or LOTO he would ask Conservative MP’s to shout “NO!” on Parliament’s return.

The sneaky vote was distasteful to many MPs.

That said, Labour cheers and Mr. Bercow’s silly “I’m not going anywhere” will, I fear, have finished him off.

The House rules are that a Speaker is normally acclaimed on any new Parliament, but it is open to the House to shout “NO!” and divide. If fifty or one hundred or two hundred Tories shout “NO!’ that is it – a ballot will happen, an election will take place, and it will be secret.

John Bercow’s best play was to have accepted the motion calmly and with grace. That would have shamed the government and neutrals would have voted for him. It is not very likely that neutrals will now vote for the man who is, sadly and self-evidently, the darling of the Labour party in the House.

Who will the SNP want? What if one of their own or a Plaid Cymru MP wants the chair? They would get broad support.

Speakers have been politicized of late. There is no doubt Bercow now faces a secret ballot on his return to Westminster, and neither he nor Labour can stop that. If a Speaker does not have the acceptance of BOTH SIDES of the House, he or she CANNOT survive.

I fear that John Bercow’s lasting legacy may be to abolish the position of Speaker. I can see a new Coalition govt legislating to make the Deputy Speakers of equal rank with a Speakers’ Office determining rules. One man, or one woman, has too much power over the business of Parliament. An overtly party political Speaker who one side is “For” and one side is “Against” has lost that battle.

The treatment of the Clerk of the House, Richard Rogers, will also not be forgotten.

John Bercow had many excellent qualities including Urgent Questions, backbench reforms, and others. His greatest strength was holding the government to account. With all his flaws I would still have voted for him if I had a vote. None of that matters now. His only hope of survival are written proposals to the Conservatives of how he will reform in the chair, as he literally cannot survive without the consent of both sides of the House. I hope for Parliament’s sake he does that, but I fear anger is just too high.

Today was “good political theatre” for the Labour party and John Bercow. Neither will enjoy the massed shout of “NO!” from one set of benches or the other, as soon as Parliament returns.

Secret ballot for Bercow? Yes there will be.

Cathy Newman

Cathy Newman vs Harvey Price: What Channel Four *Didn’t* Apologise For

Today Channel Four disgracefully apologized to Streatham Mosque for Cathy Newman’s correct reporting, proven on CCTV, that she was ushered out of a mosque she explained she had come to visit.

Newman received multiple death threats and organized hatred on Twitter from supporters of the mosque (though they are not to blame for that) calling her a “bitch” a “whore” a “ho” and saying “I hope you die” and “I hope you and your family are killed”.

Channel Four in no way defended their female journalist from these attacks but they did issue a fatuous apology for Newman’s wholly correct use of the word ‘usher’ meaning to show, guide, or point as well as to physically escort.

usher j

However, Channel Four’s willingness to overlook the vile threats given to its female anchor are wholly on a par for what they WON’T apologize for. David Abrahams refused to apologize for this “joke” about disabled Harvey Price by Frankie Boyle – even when OFCOM ruled against him. Not only that, Abrahams personally, himself, OKed the “joke” he refused to apologize for:

“I have a theory that Jordan married a cage fighter because she needed someone strong enough to stop Harvey from fucking her”.

So… debate over whether ‘usher’ means to show or point out = apology, demeaning an autistic and multiply disabled child with an incest “joke” for ratings = no apology.

Channel Four’s actions in the Newman matter are misogynist. They are a disgrace to broadcast journalism.

The reason I remember so clearly David Abrahams refusal to apologize to Harvey, even after the OFCOM ruling, is he refused to do so to me.

Channel Four is looking more and more like a space where it unsafe for women to work. The liberal veneer is instantly abandoned when it comes to the health, safety and journalistic integrity of women.

Read what was apparently much less bad than Newman’s grammatically correct use of “usher”:

Q69 Mrs Mensch: I have to say, Mr Abraham, I have been impressed by your evidence throughout the session. I was not aware of the specifics until I saw the evidence in front of me. The second joke, I do not know if I can repeat it. Can I repeat it in this context? Is it unparliamentary language?

Chair: I think most people are already aware of it.

David Abraham: I do not think there is any need to.

Mrs Mensch: I think there is, actually, because the second joke is, “I have a theory that Jordan married a cage fighter because she needed someone strong enough to stop Harvey from fucking her”

. This is a disabled little boy that we are talking about. I am bewildered that you can sit here and say that it is challenging political correctness and that you will not apologise to the little boy for having put him on a television programme in this context. Surely, no cultural remit could ever possibly justify such a joke. While Katie Price and her ex-husband may be absolutely fair game and I would be the first person to accept that, we are talking about a disabled child, and a joke about a disabled child raping his mother. Do you not wish to take this opportunity to apologise to the child, Mr Abraham?

David Abraham: As we have said, we absolutely regret the joke being distributed out of context and out of the-

Q70 Mrs Mensch: In what context, sir, could it possibly have been justified? What context would justify a joke about a little disabled boy “fucking his mother”? You say that it is out of context and that is the regrettable issue. I put it to you that there is no possible context that could ever have justified that joke and I would urge you-as I did with the BBC in the Fogel massacre-not just to reflexively defend, because you stick up for your channel, a clearly appalling decision. Will you not take this opportunity to apologise to the little boy?

David Abraham: As I say, we do regret and will learn from the experience of this satire being taken out of context.

Q71 Mrs Mensch: You are not answering my question, sir. What context would have justified it?

David Abraham: I am trying to argue in the context of the balance between delivering our remit and the context for this satire, which was against the context of Katie Price in her own television show in which her family was portrayed in certain ways that Frankie Boyle was seeking to satirise. I was convinced by the arguments of the commissioning team that the intention was to reflect on a media construct that had its own context, because there had been media discussions around Katie Price and how the family had been portrayed in the TV series that she appeared in over many years. There is no doubt about the fact that this was only ever intended to be humour in that context and satire in that context. I have made that very clear in my open letter to Katie Price.

Q72 Mrs Mensch: Your argument then is that in the context of satirising celebrity culture, had it been delivered within context, the joke would have been passable-a disabled little boy raping his mother. By name, he is named in this joke. He is named Harvey. A disabled boy raping his mother, you believe that context would have justified that joke then.

David Abraham: The evidence that was shared with me by the commissioning team went into a whole story in the media that had preceded and surrounded that joke, which I could certainly take you through after the session; I could share with you the context for it. The context was to satirise a certain story around Katie Price and her celebrity status and how the family had been debated in the media; the followers of Frank Boyle understood that context.

Mrs Mensch: I find that completely appalling.

Whiplash-5547.cr2

Whiplash: the Film of the Year is a Hymn to Men

Whiplash is not a complicated film. That is not to say it is not brilliant. It is brilliant. Written and directed by the biggest young talent in film-making today, 29 year old Damian Chazelle, everything about Whiplash says genius. But, like men, to whom the film is a profound ode, Whiplash is uncomplicated and unpretentious. It has a clear storyline, compelling characters, a climb, a nadir, a resolution. It follows the classic three-act screenplay structure immortalized by Syd Field in his how-to book Screenplay. It employs no complicated structures, flashbacks, or other rhetorical devices. Rather, it is a classic, even predictable, story, told superbly.

I didn’t want to see it. I hate “art films” and I hate Jazz. My husband saying ‘let’s go see this film about a jazz drummer’ is not a winning lead-in. But it really isn’t about Jazz drumming. It’s about drive, ambition, fire, rivalry, and masculine approval. It’s the same essential story as ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ with Richard Gere, yet without the side characters, and imagine if Sergeant Foley was about a thousand times the badass and you would lay down your very life to win his approval.

Miles Teller is excellent as the lead, and up for an Oscar. His character is always there, driven, ambitious, isolated. He has a gift that is incomprehensible to those around him, and the movie plays nicely with these conventions; his character’s ordinary side struggling for release by getting up the courage to ask out a girl, his bemusement when, so unlike himself, that girl is not laser-focused on what she wants to do with her life. Teller has a loving father who, because he does not understand Jazz drumming, is unable to understand his son’s bitterly hard-won achievements. The genius is more or less alone, as talent often is. Teller carries off all these nuances extremely well; the resentment, the shame, the rivalries, the determination, the risks great people take when they put all their eggs in one basket.

On one level, discussed by most critics, the film is a meditation on achievement and mediocrity and how much of a price is worth paying to get it. But on another, one mostly missed, the film is in fact about men. Masculine men. Dominant men. Type A males and how men will do anything – literally anything – to obtain the good opinion of a man whose good opinion is worth having; of a man who will not compromise, will not accept anything less than perfection, and doesn’t give a fuck about you or your excuses or your feelings. The film is shocking because it breaches the same forbidden territory breached by Fifty Shades of Grey. I do not compare the artistic achievement of Whiplash to the schlock of Fifty Shades; rather I compare the essential premises. Fifty Shades broached the forbidden idea that women enjoy being sexually dominated by men they love, formerly a common assumption but today held to be misogynist, and that some men want to dominate women they love. Whiplash similarly posits that a talented, ambitious young man will do anything to win the praise of a superior male who gives it out sparingly if ever; and that the truly driven man will put achievement (conquering, winning, final victory) above all other things.

It is not Miles Teller, then, good though he is, who is the point of this movie. It is J.K. Simmons, a dead cert for Best Supporting Actor in a world where there is any justice. Simmons is a conductor. He is ruthless. He is brutal. He will shout and bawl and keep his players up until four in the morning if they get it wrong. He throws chairs at heads and he screams in the face of his players until they weep, then mocks them and throws them out. He is utterly uninterested in anything other than perfection and therefore, for him, the men under his command (they may as well be soldiers) would follow him into battle and die for him – literally.

So effective was Simmons in the part that I could not get him out of my own head after the film, and indeed, desperately wanted to collate the actor and the character (a reaction to a performance that makes you wish that the character existed). It was a joy, therefore, to find out that Simmons has a degree in music from the University of Montana, that when he conducts with icy precision, he is reprising a genuine skill (he conducted), and that in asking for the music in the film, when sent MP3s, he said ‘No – the music – give me the score.’ Simmons said that the character on the page felt like destiny to him, that he responded viscerally to it. In interviews I have read, he defends the actions of his character. Me too. Reviews that call Simmons’ conductor “the villain” are missing the point. “There are no two words in the English language so destructive as ‘good job’,” he says to the young hero.

SPOILERS FOR THE PLOT BELOW THIS LINE

And that is exactly what the reviewers miss. Simmons’ character isn’t a villain. He is a hero. He is not abusive. If you don’t like it, you can drop out, or be assigned another teacher; his students want to be in his band. Desperately. He is uncompromising and he is there to find genius and push it to its limits. On a very basic level, that means the character puts others in front of himself. He is selfless. He is not seeking his own genius; he is attempting to draw it from Teller’s character. As Jane Austen had Mr. Darcy say to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice “But your good opinion is rarely bestowed, and therefore, more worth the earning.” He and Teller both recognize something others cannot see; Teller has genius.

There is a scene in which Teller dumps his friendly, nice girlfriend because she will get in the way of his drumming and not understand his drive to be great. It’s a beautifully acted scene, but the genius here is the writer’s, because he poses an uncomfortable situation well. The girl is nice, the lead character is nice. The audience superficially is meant to think it is a mistake to dump the girl. But it is not a mistake. Teller’s character is absolutely right. He’s right not to lead a nice girl on, and he is right to dump her because he’s right that she can’t reach into his drive, and she will get in the way. Later, he tries to make up with her and she’s moved on. Some in my movie theatre were sighing in sympathy. I shook my head because, so what. It just doesn’t matter. She was wrong for him and at that point in his life, almost any girl was wrong for him.

The only dramatic false step for me came when Teller’s character is expelled from the Schaffer Conservatory for having assaulted Simmons’ character. Simmons would simply not have expelled Teller. He would have beaten him up, or imposed some other back-breaking punishment (as in An Officer and a Gentleman incidentally). Just as Teller’s raison d’être is his genius, Simmons’ is training and developing genius. For his character, Teller would have had to walk out voluntarily (thus showing himself unworthy, and not the genius Simmons was hunting).

But there are no other complaints, apart from a slowing of the momentum in the final act. The last scene is what you imagine it would be. It ends, and the film ends, at a particularly precise, dramatic instance, which mimics – no doubt intentionally – Simmons’ precision conducting. It is a triumph. It was shot on a shoestring of $3.3m dollars, with no acting rehearsals, in nineteen days. Start to finish, it is a triumph.

END OF SPOILERS – NO FURTHER SPOILERS BELOW

Whiplash is correctly described by Miles Teller as a psychological thriller. It has that pace, that plotting, that drama. It uses its setting as a foil to underline its dramatic point; e.g.; Teller is alone because his family and friends don’t understand his world. No more do we (unless we are classical musicians, I watched it at Lincoln Centre and there were some knowing laughs). This is emphasized in one intense scene where Simmons is saying “Not quite my tempo” in a tone that means “Cut his head off” and as the attempts to get it right proceed, we cannot hear the slightest difference between A and B. There’s humor, too, mostly in in-jokes. My husband, a rock manager, was almost beside himself listening to Simmons whip the musicians into shape. He manages Metallica, whose drummer Lars Ulrich has seen the film about six times. Lars probably really enjoyed the poster on Teller’s bedroom wall that says “If You Have No Talent, You’ll Wind Up in a Rock Band”.

But I found the film intense, inspirational and life-affirming because I am a huge tomboy, and the desire to be more than mediocre, to achieve at the highest level, to beat all comers, has been with me my whole life. I would follow Simmons’ character to the ends of the earth, and in real life, when I found a man as uncompromising and driven as that, I married him. The more ambitious we are, the more manly we are (both men and women), the more we will relate to Whiplash. See it. It will make you want to do, and be, better.

Sturgeon

Britain’s New Political Force Isn’t UKIP – It’s the SNP

As I write this Douglas Carswell hasn’t yet been elected in Clacton but he will be. He will be UKIP’s second MP (Bob Spink was the first) but first elected MP. But Clacton is a special case; Carswell has a big personal following. I have no time for him whatever and I can only help he has the integrity his friends claim he does. If that is true, he will not remain silent in a party that is racist, sexist and allows the condoning of child abuse, blaming the victims. We’ll see.

The real UKIP test comes in Rochester and Strood, where my friend Mark Reckless defected without the same personal following. I will always like Mark, having known him since we were at the same Oxford college together at the same time (OK OK he’s younger) and ran together on the same slate in the Union (roofing materials cough). But I fear Mark has made the mistake of his life. He is an able barrister and he has been a leading light on the best Select Committee in Parliament at the moment, the Home Affairs Select Committee. But UKIP help Labour and prevent the chance of any EU Referendum at all. I am so sorry that Mark was deceived into going with Farage, and I both hope, fear and believe he will lose his seat. I hope it politically because Ed Miliband must not be helped into power by UKIP voters – there will be no EU referendum and it will be  total disaster. I believe it because I can read the polls and the mood, I think (it’ll be close for sure), and I fear it, because ukip are a party without loyalty or principles. When Mark loses they will blame him, cast aspersions on his work as an MP, toss him to the wind and move on without looking back like they do to any candidate who gets in Nigel’s way.

But enough of Labour’s little helpers. Let’s look north, where I think the unnoticed revolution is going on. And it’s not purple – it’s plaid. In fact, it’s tartan.

The Scottish Referendum seems like yesterday north of the border and for us in rUK too it was the election of the year. Few nights will ever be as emotional. And yet a London-centric media has taken its eye off the Glasweigan ball. That’s a mistake.

The SNP have packed on tens of thousands of new members – that’s actual paying members who have gone so far as to sign up – imagine the latent support behind these numbers. I read somewhere that it might be a hundred thousand. Labour is in trouble in its Scottish heartlands. Real trouble, not just Holyrood trouble where they are used to getting their arses kicked, but Westminster trouble. John Curtice said they might pick up as many as 26 seats. I think they may also lose one or two to the Tories and LibDems – yes, you heard me correctly. Passions for YES and NO raged immensely, and where the SNP hold Westminster seats in areas that were strongly NO they are vulnerable. Ruth Davidson took back some of her ‘Tartan Tory’ mantle from the so-called Tartan Tories. There’s a long way to go to detoxify the Conservatives in Scotland but she gained wide respect in the IndyRef.

But let’s develop the idea of the SNP storming the Westminster elections. Every seat they gain will be a one for one loss to Labour.  Labour down 26 and the SNP up 26, for a max gain of 32 seats. That would give the SNP parity with the LibDems.

Semi-jokingly I suggested future SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon as Deputy PM under Cameron. There was a lot of kicking the football around on Twitter from SNP members, but let me develop the idea.

I am NOT suggesting that the SNP go into coalition with the Conservatives – it would be toxic for both parties north of the border. Ruth Davidson needs those Unionist votes to start rebuilding in SNP WM areas. And SNP are banned from propping up the Tories, their left-wing support wouldn’t like it.

But I AM suggesting a scenario where Sturgeon can demand a DEAL with an rUK Conservative majority – after all the Referendum itself happened because Alec Salmond and David Cameron made a binding deal. A deal isn’t a coalition and the SNP wouldn’t need to prop up the Tories in this scenario – because devo-max and English votes for English laws would have meant that the SNP was “mainly governing” Scotland via Holyrood, and in rUK, the Tories would no longer need any Scottish votes (or even be able to use them) – on devolved matters for Eng Wales and NI. Cameron would still need other parties like the DUP and probably even the LibDems for comfort, but Sturgeon’s SNP would not be involved.

Scenario goes like this – Tories largest party, no majority. SNP offer a deal whereby Sturgeon becomes Deputy PM as being able to command the second party of United Kingdom government, with or without a WM seat of her own. She need not have one, and she can always take a peerage if she likes, a nice Scottish peerage obviously :). Sturgeon and Cameron horse-trade over devo-max and the financial settlement for Scotland in exchange for immediate, first-order-of-business “English votes for English laws” legislation. EVEL has been long planned by the Tories and has been in the last three Tory manifestos. This constitutional deal done, Sturgeon repairs to Scotland to govern. Ruth Davidson opposes her now on tax, spend and policy as well as Unionism (because we assume the SNP will still aim for full independence).

South of the border Cameron governs with a coalition but one where the Tories can set more favorable terms.

In defence and foreign affairs, areas that all agree would remain United Kingdom competencies, Sturgeon would have the right to be consulted first, to have SNP seats in the ministries and the SNP would have a direct voice at the global table, as the LibDems do now. I cannot frankly imagine that the SNP view would be more left-wing than the LibDem view on either area of policy. In this area, Cameron would have to seek to have Scotland on board respecting the SNP’s primacy in the country.

That, then, is my vision of a revolutionary government – not a coalition, no propping up needed – a government that represented a deal between independent actors, even political opponents, to make constitutional changes that the SNP and Conservatives both believe in for Scotland and also for England.

Labour is the enemy of the SNP when it comes to devo-max or any version of devo-max. The more autonomy Labour allows in Scotland, the greater the demand in England for English votes, which deprives Mili of his Scottish block vote. It says much for Labour’s weakness in England that Ed Miliband thinks he can’t govern England, Wales and Northern Ireland without the votes of Scots MPs on matters that will never affect their constituents. Put another way, Miliband doesn’t want to introduce laws for England he knows English voters will approve of.

Fair play to the 45, they have no objection to English voters getting our own devolution. The SNP don’t vote on English only laws unless it will affect Scotland – that’s to be decided in the initial horse-trading before EVEL passes. Sturgeon would be a conquering heroine in Scotland with the prestige of deputy PM of the UK and the delivery of the best possible deal for Scotland. Rather than ‘propping up’ Cameron or any coalition, she’d follow SNP creed of leaving the sassenachs to sort themselves out. And Labour’s offer to Scotland of tiny changes while chopping England up into already-rejected-in-a-referendum “regional assemblies” would get the contempt it deserved – north and south of the border.

WhoKip? The SNP is the real story this year – and they didn’t quit and go home when they lost that vote. Trust me, the 45 are just warming up.

Margot

Dear Prime Minister, please promote Margot James

There was only one true mystery after David Cameron’s pitch-perfect reshuffle last week.

Where was Margot James?

I realise the risk in publishing a ‘please promote my mate’ blog about any MP, not least to the MP themselves, but that is not what I am doing here. Firstly, I know and like just about every Tory MP in the 2010 intake, and I understand there isn’t room in government for all of them, especially when LibDem obstructionists have a third of government seats (notice all those female and BME LibDem ministers by the way? Oh. Me neither). Secondly. Margot James had absolutely nothing to do with this blog and would never have approved of my writing it. And I know those that feed back to the PM will understand that.

Now that my interest has been properly declared, it is worth saying that the entire political lobby in the UK agrees with me on the merit of Stourbridge’s finest. “What, pray, has Margot James done wrong?” tweeted Tim Shipman of the Times, formerly the Mail, a grande dame of Fleet Street himself, being then retweeted by Jane Merrick, Political Editor of the Independent on Sunday. Prior to the reshuffle, Margot James was being tipped everywhere from the Guardian to the Belfast Telegraph – her name was on nearly every list.

And this is because, inexplicably, Margot James has not been promoted before. Every Parliament-watcher was expecting her elevation long before now. She is a hard worker, above average in both speaking and voting. She is loyal: “Hardly ever rebels against their party”. She is extremely nice, and has no enemies that I know of on either side of the house. She is well-regarded locally, and her local paper were none too pleased to find their favorite daughter overlooked yet again. 

James is that rare breed, a person who has truly succeeded before entering politics. One of Britain’s most successful female entrepreneurs, she worked as a corporate leader in PR, winning “communicator of the year” in 1997 and selling the company she founded for millions not long after that. She resigned from the Tory party after Maggie was ousted, but rejoined, and fought the safe Labour seat of St. Pancras before taking Stourbridge from Labour in the last election.  Her service to the Conservative party is not four solid Parliamentary years, it is in fact a lifetime of work.

And James, who had a life and a business before getting elected, is not as young as she looks. She is 56 with a lifetime of achievement few MPs can ever hope to match. I say this with hesitation, but somebody has to, so it may as well be me; not promoting Margot James in this Parliament is more than a mistake, it is an insult.

The PM has made Nicky Morgan Education Secretary, but also Minister for Women. Because Nicky voted against equal marriage, he has given implementation of that law to the promoted Nick Boles MP, now an education minister. This is a mistake. I have long argued in public and in private that the women and equality brief should not be an afterthought shunted as a secondary responsibility to this ministry or that ministry, distracting a SecState from her more important job (previously Maria Miller, as SoS for Culture, was also Minister for Women). Margot James would be the perfect person to be Women and Equalities Minister. She is gay, and she is a feminist, previously Vice-Chairman of the Party for Women. But more than that, she brings a Conservative, libertarian, business-minded feminism to the brief. Women and Equalities should be a Minister of State position inside the Cabinet Office, and the holder should have the right to attend Cabinet.

Margot James would do things with this brief. She would end the scandal of OFSTED guidance on Muslim schools that breaches the Equality Act (forced wearing of the veil, even for non-Muslim girls, forced segregation). She would get rid of the anomalies that favor men throughout the system. She would stand up for equality of opportunity – that was at the heart of Thatcherism.

Failing this, the PM should correct his mistake. It would be a sign of his strength and flexibility. He should either make her a senior whip or make her co-Chairman of the Party (I don’t care if there are three) and a Cabinet Minister right away. She is able, loyal, experienced, hard-working, 56, charming, and has proven ability to run a whelk stall.

Come on David – make us all happy.

David Cameron has had a lot of work and loyalty from Margot James, who because she was an entrepreneur, gay, telegenic and full of substance, was asked by CCHQ to do much extra work in 2010 on the media to win our party the election. She took on those duties unstintingly, as well as ousting a Labour MP from her marginal seat. The Prime Minister owes Margot James a debt. He too is hardworking and loyal. It is time for him to pay his debt. Margot was chosen to represent the ‘new face’ of the modern Tory party and she surely does. It’s time to show that this was not just a PR stunt, and that we believe that impressive entrepreneurs like her are exactly what the Party offers the voters to run the nation.

To my knowledge, Margot, though undoubtedly disappointed at not having been promoted up until now, has always bitten her tongue. This time, though, it clearly bothered her. To Shipman’s tweet, she replied “I don’t know Tim, but if you ever find out, let me know!”

If Margot James is lost to the party it will be a massive embarrassment. It should not happen. She should be promoted now, to give her a year in place before the election. Cameron can make it happen. We need Women to Win, is a great Conservative slogan. We also need women WHO win. And that’s Margot James, Conservative MP for Stourbridge.