Andy Gray is an idiot, but Murdoch is much worse

Those with too much power are becoming extremely clever at using liberal values to scapegoat their enemies.

First Julian Assange, and now Andy Gray. Two individuals brave enough (whatever you think of them, and I personally think they’re both morons, they are brave) to stand up to some of the world’s most powerful governments and News International respectively, both discredited in the name of feminism.

Naomi Wolfe wrote a furious piece in the Huffington Post about Julian Assange’s charges, and why we shouldn’t trust the accusations of rape, the logic being that rape is not usually treated this way. I would very much like to see an article comparing Sky Sports’ dropping of Andy Gray to other dealings with sexism in the Murdoch media. How do reporters usually talk about women when they’re off-air (believing themselves, with as much naivety as Gordon Brown when he accidentally called Gillian Duffy a bigot, to be in private)? Are these comments really unheard of in the workplace?

Obviously Sky Sports, and the rest of media, judging by their condemnation of Gray, are much more enlightened than most of the places I’ve worked, because ‘banter’ like this doesn’t surprise me. Don’t get me wrong, it infuriates me. It’s just fairly commonplace.

So the question isn’t whether we like Andy Gray, or want him to stay in the job. The question is, as with Julian Assange, is he being singled out and treated differently from any other employees? Employees who perhaps hadn’t tried to take legal action against News International?

Judging by the number of people who think his remarks were spot on (equally infuriating, by the way), I have to imagine that yes, he is.

Let’s ask ourselves this. If a left-wing News International employee who had brought charges against News International for phone-hacking made a controversial comment off-air, perhaps of the bigot-gate variety, and they were sacked, without consultation or warning, would we really be celebrating?

I am disgusted by the comments he made. I think he’s an idiot and I don’t, on any personal level, feel sympathy for Andy Gray or give a damn that he’s gone. But underneath it, there’s a much more alarming message to us all: don’t mess with Murdoch.

IN THE DOCK: Ed Balls

The charge: as a key advisor to Gordon Brown, Ed Balls is responsible for both high spending levels in the public sector, and flimsy financial regulation during the Labour years, making it impossible to argue against the cuts that we are now told must follow.

First things first: were spending levels that high during the Labour years? According to official figures, UK public spending in 1979 was 42.75% of GDP; in 1983 it was 43.20%; in 1997 it was 38.35%; in 2001 it was 35.41%; in 2005 it was 38.94%; and even when Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister the figures hardly zoomed upwards as his critics seem to argue, with public spending only reaching only 39.75% of GDP in 2008, 44.54% in 2009 (following the economic crash), and 44.84% in 2010. Indeed, it looks like public spending as a percentage of GDP was considerably higher under Margaret Thatcher than it was under most of the Labour government. (Here’s a link if you don’t believe me: http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/uk_20th_century_chart.html)

Secondly, how can the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats lambaste any lack of economic regulation? They did not call for it at the time, and they’re unlikely to force any through now. And do we really want the government to be accountable for the successes and failures of business practices anyway? Perhaps if we didn’t bail them out when they go bust, they would regulate themselves in the first place. The problem is too much interference, not too little.

Curious that the same critics of Balls’ economic policy strategy who complain about Labour not imposing strict regulations on the banks then try to paint him as an overly illiberal, authoritarian, statist figure. Or perhaps it’s not curious. Because all the throwaway mentions of poor regulation are quite clearly an attempt to make the centre left blame Labour for the economic crisis in Britain, since blaming everything on government spending is obviously not going to be enough to win their votes. It’s an inconsistent, dishonest, and actually rather dangerous way to have the debate.

And it’s this misleading and patronising approach to the economic problems of the nation that most alienate impartial centrist voters. People don’t like being talked to like they’re stupid, especially on serious questions like the economy. Far from being the voice of government interference, Ed Balls – whether you agree with him or not – is potentially just what we need in opposition. Not afraid to trust us to understand the genuine complexities of the economic problem, not afraid to risk unpopularity by showing real substance, Ed Balls has an impressive brain, and he is tough. He is the perfect antithesis to the dull gloss that George Osborne thinks we are all believing.

The verdict: innocent.

2 MIN RANT: Christian B&B verdict is right – but is the law itself really necessary?

Mr and Mrs Bull rightly lost their case because they weren’t upholding the law. But how necessary is the law in the first place?

Instinctively, most liberals think yes; most libertarians think no. The question isn’t, for most people, one of whether they like the idea of gays being turned away from B&Bs, or whether a B&B owner is being reasonable to expect their homes to be exempt from the laws that bind other businesses. It is a question of whether we can trust the market or not.

Mr and Mrs Bull broke the law, and it’s right for the law to be enforced. But why did they break it? Morality and faith is generally accepted as their reasoning, allowing the whole discussion to be portrayed as two minorities whose conflicting rights are up against each other, with the law taking the side of gay rights over Christian rights. This confuses the issue. If Mr and Mrs Bull believed that what they wanted to run – a B&B where only married heterosexual couples could share a room – was legal, which they apparently did, they could have checked, when taking a booking, that anyone wanting a double room was a married, heterosexual couple. It’s up to them, surely, to check potential customers meet any unique standards they might have before taking their money? If your event has a dress-code, for example, you state it in advance, don’t you? But they didn’t. The fact that they didn’t, despite feeling so strongly about it morally, is interesting. They must believe that they would lose business, significant business, if they were open about their homophobic beliefs. They must have some level of faith in the market. Perhaps the law can actually focus on honest trade practices, rather than social equality. Perhaps we, as a society, are actually more enlightened and decent than those who pass laws think we are. Perhaps the majority of us are actually old enough and ugly enough to choose these things for ourselves? Ironically, Mr and Mrs Bull seemed to believe we are.

The law should be enforced, to everybody, equally. But the presentation of this case as being about one minority’s rights clashing with another is misleading, and helps neither side of the argument. The real issue is the provision of services, and rights of the consumer. And legally, if you’ve been mistreated as a consumer because you’re gay, that reason should legally be of no more relevance than if you’re breaking the law because you’re religious.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: