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Lance Price

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  1. Lance Price

    BBC: Cultural Marxism

    It's been a tough couple of weeks for the BBC. First, it had to come to terms with having its wings clipped by the below-inflation financial settlement imposed by Gordon Brown. Then it faced a broadside from the editor of the Daily Mail accusing it of seeking to destroy all that's good about British culture and society. According to Paul Dacre, the corporation is a massive, many-headed hydra threatening all that decent Britons hold dear. It was enough to make you tremble with fear as you reach for the remote control. The Mail, of course, has a particular gift for instilling fear. Never an issue goes by without it warning readers that modern Britain is a nasty, dangerous place that should be ventured into only with great caution. Stray too far and you are likely to be attacked and brutalised by any one, if not all, of the following: violent criminals, illegal immigrants, paedophiles, mad mullahs, foreigners, and officials of the EU. Far better to stay inside with the Daily Mail and turn your face from the window. It's no longer even safe to stick on BBC1 or maybe listen to a bit of Radio 2. If you do, you'll be inviting the apologists for all that is wicked out there right into your home. And what's more, the corporation has the effrontery to charge you a licence fee to fund its insidious conspiracy of "cultural Marxism". Dacre offered some hope to those who share his views. He concludes that the BBC is so bloated and self-satisfied that it's in for a fall. American-style rightwing radio and TV channels will spring up to counter the corporation's bias and steal its audience in huge numbers. I believe Dacre is fundamentally wrong. Wrong in his analysis of the BBC. Wrong in thinking that the Daily Mail comes closer to representing the views of the majority of British people. And wrong in predicting a rupture between the corporation and its audience. There is another way of looking at the BBC. Far from undermining traditional British values, it upholds them with a tenacity that impedes any radical challenge to the status quo. Let's take just a couple of obvious examples. The royal family is treated with fawning coverage that sickens those of us who believe it's wrong for any position of power and influence to be a gift of birth. The content and tone of royal reporting is almost uniformly unchallenging and reverential. And when it comes to reverential, the special treatment meted out to the good reverends of the Church of England, and to a lesser extent to representatives of other religions, is monstrous. No organisation that gives free air-time to a minority sect like Anglicanism can truly be considered part of a Marxist conspiracy. Watch Songs of Praise and you would think that the people of Britain were filling our churches with undiminished enthusiasm every Sunday. Thought For The Day is an extraordinary anomaly in the otherwise rigorous Today programme. No economist, politician or businessperson is given a free slot to expound their take on the world completely unchallenged. And quite right too. What's so special about people of faith? More generally, BBC journalism has moved down market, closer to the "tabloid" style so beloved by the Daily Mail. Indeed, stories from the Mail itself stand a disproportionately higher chance of being followed up by the BBC than those from any other paper. So much so that a recent emailer to the Six O'clock News asked if it was the BBC's job to be the Daily Mail of the airwaves. Where the corporation differs from the Mail, however, is in its openness to debate. The Daily Mail has its view of the world and that's that. You can take it or leave it, and many of us chose to leave it. The BBC does indeed paint a different picture of Britain. More culturally and politically diverse, more open and more broad-minded. It can be guilty of an establishment bias but its airwaves are open to the public as never before to express more or less whatever opinions they like within the law. Sometimes those opinions reflect those of Mr Dacre. More often they do not. That, I believe, is why Dacre is really so angry with the BBC. It's starting to dawn on him that, having been a master of political and cultural propaganda for so long, he's beginning to lose his touch. Or rather, Britain is moving on and leaving him behind. How does he know? Because even the Conservative party has abandoned his agenda, or says it has. David Cameron routinely denounces Daily Mail values because he knows that the broad centre of public opinion in this country, to which he has to appeal, doesn't agree with them. Dacre thinks that because people buy his paper they agree with its politics. Cameron is calculating that many of them don't, and he's surely right. And so, if the Fox News-style rightwing news channels were to try and break into the BBC's market they would fail because the BBC upholds something that the Daily Mail never has and never will - fairness. And that's something I and, I suspect, the vast majority of licence-fee payers are more than happy to pay for. http://media.guardian.co.uk/bbc/story/0,,1999227,00.html
  2. Having seen the prime minister answer questions so often, I felt a little cheated when he gave his answers to the Metropolitan police behind closed doors. It was surely a bravura performance. Like any good lawyer-turned-politician, Tony Blair approaches questions rather differently from the rest of us. Barristers know they should never ask a question in court to which they do not already know the answer. Top politicians rarely allow themselves to be asked questions for which they haven't formulated a response. And this interview has been anticipated for so long that he'll have had his answers word-perfect. The allegation is that honours were awarded in return for large sums of money in Labour party coffers. The defence is that the peerages weren't really honours at all. That's to say they weren't designed as a recognition of any public service or charitable works. They were political appointments, in the same way that party leaders have put their own supporters in the upper house for decades now. Working peers, as they're known, play a valuable role in the functioning of the Lords. Indeed they are supposed to be there on a regular basis doing exactly that - working. So would these new donors-turned-peers have been expected to turn up loyally for lots of votes to help push the government's programme through? Or make themselves available as whips or even ministers? Would they have sacrificed their business careers, which helped them earn all that money in the first place, for the good of the party? Or were they offered political peerages simply as a reward for their past generosity? If it's the latter, the defence is no defence at all. There's no room in a modern democracy - if we can claim to be that - for any parliamentarian who owes his or her place only to financial support of a political party. Or is there, Mr Blair? Some questions are so straightforward that even prime ministers can't evade them forever. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...1972801,00.html
  3. Rupert Murdoch has never been a man to let details get in the way of a good headline. This week he accepted the accolade of being the most influential Australian of all time, even though by his own admission there were others on the shortlist who'd done a lot more to make the world a better place. Surely he should be stripped of his title without further ceremony - and not because of the inconvenient little fact that he's been an American citizen for the past 21 years. His editors insist that he never influences the way they produce their papers. The politicians maintain that, for their part, they act in the best interests of the country, not those of Rupert Murdoch. He may carry some clout in the boardroom, but in the cabinet room? Mr Murdoch should throw up his hands, give back the award and admit that he has no more influence over government policy than you or me. Less, in fact. At least we have a vote in this country. In my spin-doctoring days I might have tried an argument like that, although not without that tell-tale flicker of a smile. It's true that Rupert Murdoch doesn't leave a paper trail that could ever prove his influence over policy, but the trail of politicians beating their way to him and his papers tells a different story. There is no small irony in the fact that Tony Blair flew halfway round the world to address Mr Murdoch and his News International executives in the first year of his leadership of the Labour party and that he's doing so again next month in what may prove to be his last. I have never met Mr Murdoch, but at times when I worked at Downing Street he seemed like the 24th member of the cabinet. His voice was rarely heard (but, then, the same could have been said of many of the other 23) but his presence was always felt. No big decision could ever be made inside No 10 without taking account of the likely reaction of three men - Gordon Brown, John Prescott and Rupert Murdoch. On all the really big decisions, anybody else could safely be ignored. The rest of this article can be read here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...1810266,00.html
  4. Rupert Murdoch has never been a man to let details get in the way of a good headline. This week he accepted the accolade of being the most influential Australian of all time, even though by his own admission there were others on the shortlist who'd done a lot more to make the world a better place. Surely he should be stripped of his title without further ceremony - and not because of the inconvenient little fact that he's been an American citizen for the past 21 years. His editors insist that he never influences the way they produce their papers. The politicians maintain that, for their part, they act in the best interests of the country, not those of Rupert Murdoch. He may carry some clout in the boardroom, but in the cabinet room? Mr Murdoch should throw up his hands, give back the award and admit that he has no more influence over government policy than you or me. Less, in fact. At least we have a vote in this country. In my spin-doctoring days I might have tried an argument like that, although not without that tell-tale flicker of a smile. It's true that Rupert Murdoch doesn't leave a paper trail that could ever prove his influence over policy, but the trail of politicians beating their way to him and his papers tells a different story. There is no small irony in the fact that Tony Blair flew halfway round the world to address Mr Murdoch and his News International executives in the first year of his leadership of the Labour party and that he's doing so again next month in what may prove to be his last. I have never met Mr Murdoch, but at times when I worked at Downing Street he seemed like the 24th member of the cabinet. His voice was rarely heard (but, then, the same could have been said of many of the other 23) but his presence was always felt. No big decision could ever be made inside No 10 without taking account of the likely reaction of three men - Gordon Brown, John Prescott and Rupert Murdoch. On all the really big decisions, anybody else could safely be ignored. The rest of this article can be read here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...1810266,00.html
  5. There was an auction organised by my publishers in the usual way and, yes, the Mail on Sunday were the highest bidders. In some ways I felt very bad about it because, of course, they hate the Labour party with a vengeance. You can see an account of my dealings with them on my web-site: http://www.lanceprice.co.uk/. It's fair to say that I lost more friends in politics by the serialisation than I did from the book itself - just as Alastair Campbell warned me I would! It certainly was not just spin. Indeed is not - we shouldn't use the past tense just yet. As I have observed in response to John Simkin's questions, the Blair government has achieved a huge amount that no Tory government would ever have attempted. And you might note that, according to the Guardian, Dennis Skinner said last week that this was the best Labour Government there has ever been! Internal democracy was suppressed for a long time, partly through great self-discipline on the part of many members (a good thing) and partly from the control demanded by the centre (less healthy). the worst example was the strong-arm tactics used to stop Ken Livingstone becoming Labour candidate for Mayor of London the first time around. But things are improving. Ken is back in the party, the NEC is showing greater independence over party funding and other issues. It certainly is not terminal. The current leadership and, even more so, whoever succeeds Blair, will know that they have to reconnect with their own members to regain support in all those places where it has been lost.
  6. Lance Price

    An interview with Lance Price

    There was an auction organised by my publishers in the usual way and, yes, the Mail on Sunday were the highest bidders. In some ways I felt very bad about it because, of course, they hate the Labour party with a vengeance. You can see an account of my dealings with them on my web-site: http://www.lanceprice.co.uk/. It's fair to say that I lost more friends in politics by the serialisation than I did from the book itself - just as Alastair Campbell warned me I would! It certainly was not just spin. Indeed is not - we shouldn't use the past tense just yet. As I have observed in response to John Simkin's questions, the Blair government has achieved a huge amount that no Tory government would ever have attempted. And you might note that, according to the Guardian, Dennis Skinner said last week that this was the best Labour Government there has ever been! Internal democracy was suppressed for a long time, partly through great self-discipline on the part of many members (a good thing) and partly from the control demanded by the centre (less healthy). the worst example was the strong-arm tactics used to stop Ken Livingstone becoming Labour candidate for Mayor of London the first time around. But things are improving. Ken is back in the party, the NEC is showing greater independence over party funding and other issues. It certainly is not terminal. The current leadership and, even more so, whoever succeeds Blair, will know that they have to reconnect with their own members to regain support in all those places where it has been lost.
  7. Clearly my political trajectory has been somewhat different to yours. I joined the Labour Party at Oxford in 1977 when the then Labour government under James Callaghan was already in difficulty and heading for defeat at the hands of Mrs.Thatcher. I certainly thought of myself as a socialist and would probably have put myself on the centre-left of the party. Defeat was a heavy blow for us all but how to respond was far from obvious. Like many I saw the choice being offered respectively by the Benn and Hattersley wings as dispiriting and dangerous. I knew of Labour's more successful periods in power only as a student of politics and recent history, but I was sure of one thing. I knew nothing could be achieved in opposition, unless one was in politics only to admire the purity of one's own principles. I believed that only by winning power and keeping it could Labour do anything for the people it sought to help. I understood that winning power and keeping it would involve compromises and that disappointments and accusations of 'betrayal' were inevitable. It took longer than I hoped but we got there. I am still a member of the Labour Party. That doesn't mean that I support everything that has happened since 1997. It does mean that I believe that the Labour Party is the only vehicle for radical reform capable of achieving anything in this country and that if you turn against it, however great your disappointments, you only help its enemies on the right. Tony Blair's Labour Government may not be the ideal Labour government but it has done a vast amount since 1997 that no Tory government would ever have done and it deserves credit for that. Politics is about hard choices. It has never been a choice between a Blair government and an ideal Labour adminstration, it has always been a choice between Labour and the Tories. I happen to believe that is a meaningful choice and I am proud to have helped in some small way to keep Labour in power and the Tories in opposition. 'Spin' was a useful tool in opposition but damaged the party hugely in government. During my time in Number Ten that realisation began to dawn on everyone - but it was too late by then. Yes, ministers spouting the party line on Newsnight can be very irritating but Labour's opponents in the media and the Tory party will exploit any sign of division as we have seen so often in the past. Good government requires discipline. If you want to serve as a minister you are rightly obliged to defend the government's policies. There is nothing wrong with that. Having said that I would much prefer a political environment in which genuine debate within parties is respected and not simply attacked as evidence of 'splits'. Proper debate is beginning to re-emerge and I welcome that. But, again, if we attack each other the only people who benefit are our enemies. Blair opposed Livingstone because he genuinely believed he would fracture the party again and damage Labour in government. I agreed with him. Now I think Blair would accept that he was wrong - Ken is of course the Labour mayor of London - and I would certainly concede that the camapign to stop Ken was one of the most discreditable exercises I have ever been involved in. In my experience most politicians are woefully poor at self-awareness. Blair himself is something of an exception. He thinks and cares about how people perceive him. There have been times, many more recently, when he has decided to do what he believes to be right even though he knows how it will appear to people. But he has greater sincerity and self-awareness than people give him credit for. Peter Mandelson, on the other hand, seems at times to relish being despised. He wears it almost as a badge of honour. Although like all politicians he secretly wants to be loved and can't understand why we don't all worship him. Alastair told Peter what his weaknesses were to his face many times. So did I. But, of course, unlike his grandfather Herbert Morrison Peter really has always been his own worst enemy. I could write a book in answer to that one. Tony Blair did once write a Fabian pamphlet called, rather cheekily, 'Socialism'. The philosophy of New Labour is not socialist, however. It is broadly social democratic. It seeks to promote both economic prosperity and social justice. I hear you groan, but that is not just a slogan. Is 'New Labour' Thatcherite? No, it is not. Would Margaret Thatcher have introduced a national minimum wage, invested billions of extra money in the NHS and schools, significantly reversed the decline in Britain's overseas aid budget, legislated for equality for same sex couples, ended unemployment as a tool of economic management, brought in new rights at work for women, devolved real power to Scotland and Wales? She would not. She did not. I am not claiming that the New Labour government is perfect, far from it. But a fair assessment gives credit where credit is due. Just imagine what Britain would be like if the Tories and not Labour had been in power since 1997.
  8. Lance Price

    An interview with Lance Price

    Clearly my political trajectory has been somewhat different to yours. I joined the Labour Party at Oxford in 1977 when the then Labour government under James Callaghan was already in difficulty and heading for defeat at the hands of Mrs.Thatcher. I certainly thought of myself as a socialist and would probably have put myself on the centre-left of the party. Defeat was a heavy blow for us all but how to respond was far from obvious. Like many I saw the choice being offered respectively by the Benn and Hattersley wings as dispiriting and dangerous. I knew of Labour's more successful periods in power only as a student of politics and recent history, but I was sure of one thing. I knew nothing could be achieved in opposition, unless one was in politics only to admire the purity of one's own principles. I believed that only by winning power and keeping it could Labour do anything for the people it sought to help. I understood that winning power and keeping it would involve compromises and that disappointments and accusations of 'betrayal' were inevitable. It took longer than I hoped but we got there. I am still a member of the Labour Party. That doesn't mean that I support everything that has happened since 1997. It does mean that I believe that the Labour Party is the only vehicle for radical reform capable of achieving anything in this country and that if you turn against it, however great your disappointments, you only help its enemies on the right. Tony Blair's Labour Government may not be the ideal Labour government but it has done a vast amount since 1997 that no Tory government would ever have done and it deserves credit for that. Politics is about hard choices. It has never been a choice between a Blair government and an ideal Labour adminstration, it has always been a choice between Labour and the Tories. I happen to believe that is a meaningful choice and I am proud to have helped in some small way to keep Labour in power and the Tories in opposition. 'Spin' was a useful tool in opposition but damaged the party hugely in government. During my time in Number Ten that realisation began to dawn on everyone - but it was too late by then. Yes, ministers spouting the party line on Newsnight can be very irritating but Labour's opponents in the media and the Tory party will exploit any sign of division as we have seen so often in the past. Good government requires discipline. If you want to serve as a minister you are rightly obliged to defend the government's policies. There is nothing wrong with that. Having said that I would much prefer a political environment in which genuine debate within parties is respected and not simply attacked as evidence of 'splits'. Proper debate is beginning to re-emerge and I welcome that. But, again, if we attack each other the only people who benefit are our enemies. Blair opposed Livingstone because he genuinely believed he would fracture the party again and damage Labour in government. I agreed with him. Now I think Blair would accept that he was wrong - Ken is of course the Labour mayor of London - and I would certainly concede that the camapign to stop Ken was one of the most discreditable exercises I have ever been involved in. In my experience most politicians are woefully poor at self-awareness. Blair himself is something of an exception. He thinks and cares about how people perceive him. There have been times, many more recently, when he has decided to do what he believes to be right even though he knows how it will appear to people. But he has greater sincerity and self-awareness than people give him credit for. Peter Mandelson, on the other hand, seems at times to relish being despised. He wears it almost as a badge of honour. Although like all politicians he secretly wants to be loved and can't understand why we don't all worship him. Alastair told Peter what his weaknesses were to his face many times. So did I. But, of course, unlike his grandfather Herbert Morrison Peter really has always been his own worst enemy. I could write a book in answer to that one. Tony Blair did once write a Fabian pamphlet called, rather cheekily, 'Socialism'. The philosophy of New Labour is not socialist, however. It is broadly social democratic. It seeks to promote both economic prosperity and social justice. I hear you groan, but that is not just a slogan. Is 'New Labour' Thatcherite? No, it is not. Would Margaret Thatcher have introduced a national minimum wage, invested billions of extra money in the NHS and schools, significantly reversed the decline in Britain's overseas aid budget, legislated for equality for same sex couples, ended unemployment as a tool of economic management, brought in new rights at work for women, devolved real power to Scotland and Wales? She would not. She did not. I am not claiming that the New Labour government is perfect, far from it. But a fair assessment gives credit where credit is due. Just imagine what Britain would be like if the Tories and not Labour had been in power since 1997.
  9. Lance Price

    Toulouse presentations...

    The publication of The Spin Doctor’s Diary is September of last year caused a minor storm in Whitehall. I was told it had provoked “apoplexy” in the Cabinet Office and I know that many people in No.10 believe it should never have been published while Tony Blair was still Prime Minister. The serialisation in The Mail on Sunday, not surprisingly, fuelled the flames. Not least because they decided, without informing me, to publish those parts of the Diary that I had agreed to alter at the request of the Cabinet Office prior to publication. Among the more controversial stories were that the Prime Minister had “relished” first sending British troops into action in Iraq back in 1999; that he had cursed the “xxxxing Welsh” over the first Assembly elections and that he had apparently promised Rupert Murdoch not to change policy towards Europe without speaking to him first. The House of Commons Select Committee on Public Administration will report shortly on the whole business of whether and if so when it is acceptable for former civil servants to publish diaries. And the North Wales Police are still investigating whether Tony Blair committed and offence under the Public Order Act with his choice words about the Welsh. I will confine my remarks to the business of engaging in instant or more-or-less instant history in the way that I have, although I’m happy to answer questions on the Welsh or anything else. One of the questions I asked the Select Committee to consider when I gave evidence to them was ‘Who Writes History?’. Should rules designed to protect legitimate rights to government confidentiality prevent anybody other than ministers and Prime Ministers from setting out their experiences shortly after leaving the corridors of power? Because when I first submitted the manuscript of my diary to the Cabinet Office the then Cabinet Secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull, replied and not only refused consent to publish but also said he found books like mine “totally unacceptable”. I will try to explain why I believe he was wrong to come to that snap judgement and why future writers in my position deserve to be treated more fairly.
  10. Lance Price

    James Files

    Let me 'come out' as the person John is referring to. Last year I published 'The Spin Doctor's Diary' in which, among other things, I admitted to lying on behalf of Tony Blair's government. I am now in the planning stage of another book and I am very interested in James Files. I have read many of the claims and counter-claims about him on this forum and others. Unfortunately relatively few are suported by what, as a former BBC journalist, I would call real evidence. That may simply be a product of seeking to investigate claims about a murder committed almost 45 years ago. However if people had the time to enlighten me on why they believe Files should be taken seriously or not I would be delighted. No more than two or three reasons for or against please. And if you can back up what you say with facts, evidence or (dare I hope) proof so much the better. For now I have a completely open mind. I have no idea whether he pulled the trigger that fired the fatal shot and maybe we will never know. Even if he did not, however, I suspect his testimony might well shed important light on the involvement of the CIA and the Chicago mob. So perhaps even if not everything he says can be believed it would be irresponsible to reject it all. Am I wrong? I am relatively new to this debate so bear with me. But for now at least I have the advantage of having nothing to prove myself and merely a desire to be convinced one way or the other. Private emails also welocme on mrlanceprice@yahoo.co.uk Lance Price
  11. Lance Price

    Associate Introductions

    Lance Price was educated at Sackville School, East Grinstead, and Hertford College, Oxford, where he was awarded a First in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). Lance Price is a writer, broadcaster and commentator who divides his time between the UK and France. He is the author of two books, The Spin Doctor's Diary, an account of his time working at No.10 Downing Street, and Time and Fate, a novel. He appears regularly on the BBC, ITV and on radio. He has written for newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Sunday Telegraph, The New Statesman and The Independent on Sunday. He is also the co-author and principal photographer of the Berlitz Guide to Iceland. As a travel photographer his work has appeared in Rough Guides, Bradt Travel Guides and Berlitz Guides. As Alastair Campbell's deputy in No.10 and then as the Labour Party's Director of Communications, Lance Price was at the heart of Tony Blair's media team. Before working for New Labour he was a BBC journalist. He was a Political Correspondent for most of the 1990's and had worked previously in Northern Ireland, Birmingham, London, Washington and the Middle East.
  12. Lance Price

    Biography: Lance Price

    Lance Price was educated at Sackville School, East Grinstead, and Hertford College, Oxford, where he was awarded a First in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). Lance Price is a writer, broadcaster and commentator who divides his time between the UK and France. He is the author of two books, The Spin Doctor's Diary, an account of his time working at No.10 Downing Street, and Time and Fate, a novel. He appears regularly on the BBC, ITV and on radio. He has written for newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Sunday Telegraph, The New Statesman and The Independent on Sunday. He is also the co-author and principal photographer of the Berlitz Guide to Iceland. As a travel photographer his work has appeared in Rough Guides, Bradt Travel Guides and Berlitz Guides. As Alastair Campbell's deputy in No.10 and then as the Labour Party's Director of Communications, Lance Price was at the heart of Tony Blair's media team. Before working for New Labour he was a BBC journalist. He was a Political Correspondent for most of the 1990's and had worked previously in Northern Ireland, Birmingham, London, Washington and the Middle East.
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