Stealing The Constitution

In the greatest economic crisis since the 2007 financial crash, with imminent threats to the public’s standard of living even greater than the near collapse of the banking system; and before that the world changing crisis of World War II, the Conservative Party has now abandoned even the fatiguing chore of overseeing government, for basic neglect of duty; with the Cabinet casually on holiday, or campaigning for an insider’s Party job, rather than governing the country in a rapidly developing emergency, on multiple fronts.
The Conservative Party is pursuing an indulgent, narcissistic, closed campaign for a Party leader, extended over a tediously endless time span solely to exploit the political PR opportunities provided by the exclusive news focus on the Party, for a leader to be chosen solely by a small faction of electorally unrepresentative Party members who are pretended, somehow to represent the sole possessors of the British National Interest, even in the middle of a national crisis. This activity, in any other area of life than politics would be considered plain theft, in broad daylight; egged on by a supine media on whom the public rely to bring Government or Party to account when the system has clearly failed the public interest. Here is how dizzyingly incomprehensible the whole nonsensical manipulation of reality has become. The leading candidate, Liz Truss is fighting a simple campaign in which only Conservative voters (a right-wing gerontocracy) are the subject of the candidates campaign; but Truss is presented on the front page of the Truss-supporting ‘Express’ (Sunday, 14th August) with this headline quotation, and straight-to-reader simpering, smiling face: “I’m On Your Side”. Who is “You”? Whoever believes it. It is a deliberately obfuscatory manipulation of multiple electorates, just because it is so easy to do in this convenient-to-the-Conservative-Party, developing, toxic world of glossy, shimmering, empty smoke and mirrors. The Party interest is Your Interest, the Public Interest even if it quite clearly can’t be.
Work that one out as a responsible reaction to an enveloping disaster the Government brought upon itself. A disaster created by the Conservative Party’s urgent need, caught out in a Blue Funk, to overthrow its own reckless and irresponsible PM; all of the inevitable consequences foreseeable, and foreseen for many months before the Downing Street collapse.
Britain, in short has been taken over by an ill-judged right wing Party clique, relying on the votes of an elderly, reactionary, unrepresentative, fringe, ultra-Conservative demographic, over-celebrated in the media only for their exaggerated eccentricity. Meanwhile, the genuine British electorate are bit-part extras in this bizarre One Party election, which is as closed to challenge as the number of Conservative Party voters is closed to inspection; in Scotland a Conservative MP has decreed that the number of Scottish Conservatives who have a vote in this exclusive, rarified election is itself an official secret, as a matter of formal “convention”; thus are we governed …..
It is not even clear whether members of the Conservative Party, who do not even currently have a vote in UK elections (for example those members of the Conservative Party registered through ‘Conservatives Abroad’), are now actually entitled to the exclusive, Conservative-only privilege of electing the British PM. We may conclude that in Conservative Britain there are ‘voters’; and then there are voters – the ones who matter. This is a function of the FPTP voting system; which is why the Conservatives, Labour and LibDems were so keen to ensure it did not apply in Holyrood. In the 2019 General Election the Conservatives were able to ensure a minimum five year term with a virtually impregnable 80-seat majority (save their own imbecility); provided by 13.94m votes from a 47,1m registered electorate; under 30% of electors vote Conservative and guarantee a secure Government majority – no matter what. In Scotland such a system would almost certainly have delivered independence. Such are the ironies of Britain’s deep, reactionary commitment to political anachronism.
We may well discern in all this Conservative electoral casuistry, that we are now bound on the road to perdition. The Conservatives are trying to rebrand a dysfunctional, obsessively ideological Party, that has led Britain to this economic debacle with ordinary people confronting £4,000 to £5,000 simply to heat their family’s home, by shuffling a pack of notably weak, simple-minded, implausible Conservative MPs; the mere shadow puppetry of sinister Party propaganda. This ramshackle spectacle of Conservative ideology, under economic pressures it transparently is incapable of understanding, still less managing: is now falling to pieces in a welter of bitter internal recrimination, accusation, counterclaim, denial of responsibility, finger-pointing and the offer of inconsistent, incoherent, unworkable policies declared, disposed of, rejected and recycled on a risibly endless daily hustings basis; which – in spite of all – is now being sold to the public (who are ironically excluded from the election) as the answer to all their problems, through techniques of the crudest populism; envisaging only the incorporation of all legitimate economic and political debate and solutions within a single Party, a de facto transfer of legitimacy to the Conservative Party alone, that has been embraced and frantically promoted by broadcast schedules and spun by an almost uniform Conservative press.
The success of this type of coup, for that is what it is; is easily spotted when it happens in the lurid propaganda colours of a Russian leadership election; but the constitutional proprieties are simply overlooked in Britain when it is all wrapped in a patriotic Union flag, however tattered and abused, and spun by right wing journalism funded by tawdry billionaire oligarchs. This process is easily executed, only because the political news Agenda that determines what I would describe as the ‘public terms of political engagement’ in the UK, relies on a standard, conventional response to the formation of ‘News’ by broadcast or social media and above all created by the Press; although notably few people now regularly read newspapers any more, save for hysterical Conservative headlines, promoted and amplified in turn by broadcast or social media.
News is no longer the prime purpose of newspapers. The only substantive object of most press journalism in the UK is carried out quietly in newsroom editorial meetings. This purpose has become increasingly ambitious in recent years; and is nothing less than the direction, control and framing of all political debate in the UK in a form acceptable to the political and financial interests that fund the Conservative Party. The purpose is not even to eliminate contradiction or anomaly in news stories (the ghost of openness remains), but simply to exclude all organised political opposition, even that which may be debated, to a process of political legitimation dependent on it being conducted within the Conservative Party itself or within a remit the Party frames; however that is achieved. The purpose of this project is achieved through a single, crucial mechanism; control of the News “Agenda”.
The compelling feature that attracts neoliberal money to invest in the financially antiquated, unpromising economic future of press journalism is its capacity to determine the national news Agenda, in spite of press journalism’s rapid commercial decay in the digital age: the gold standard promise it offers to the Conservative Party and its funders, is ultimately control of the public terms of political engagement on a daily basis.
The importance of a so-called “independent” press is essential to the functioning of democracy. This is a given in British democracy and taken for granted by the conventions of political debate; but when you examine the meaning of the term “independent press”, and how it functions in practice, nothing is quite as it seems. Nobody is observing the actual mechanics of the process, nobody is monitoring or recording the consequences, and nobody cares.
Notice that “independent” press here does not mean independent of being sold for a market price; the independent press is for sale to the highest bidder, and it has overwhelmingly already long been bought and sold to the financial interests of the Conservative Party. This provides the Conservative Party with its advantage, its political USP. The illusion of a genuinely “independent” press, however remains intact because ‘overwhelming’ does not mean absolute control. This gap is deliberate. The much smaller non-Conservative Press (Guardian, Mirror etc) in fact legitimises the power and purpose of the Conservative news cartel, in providing the required fig-leaf of seeming open, democratic news competition. In reality this is a mere convenience for the Conservative Party in a press market that has effectively monetised journalism, and is dominated by Conservative supporting titles. If there was no independent press whatsoever, the Conservative Party would, albeit reluctantly require to recreate it, if only to preserve the necessary illusion it provides to cover the manipulation of the political news Agenda in the interests of neoliberal ideology and the Conservative Party. It is not the dominant presence of Conservative titles alone that is the advantage, but how this advantage is turned into effective manipulation of the national news Agenda. The quiet, unseen functioning of the process of creating the public terms of political engagement is critical, not least as a process that passes entirely un-noticed by anyone; an unseen operation that frames the content of the political agenda with apparent self-regulating efficiency.
It is, however possible to observe the operation of the underlying manipulation, if only indirectly and through the curious by-products that accidentally befall this devious system. Think of the fall of Boris Johnson. In the crevices of the news coverage, the public could observe a revolving door in 10, Downing Street through which Spads and senior staff shuffled between neoliberal Conservative ‘Fleet Street’ and Government Whitehall operations, in both directions; in an endless cycle of spin and news management that envelopes senior politicians and press in an elaborate ritual ‘danse macabre’, conjuring shrouds of political smoke and mirrors over the clandestine manoeuvres between Government and a supposed free and independent press. The personnel in this merry-go-round act  in their Protean roles of journalist-one-minute, Downing Street-staffer the next: solely to orchestrate the media Agenda strategy win Downing Street, and then as PR agents and cheerleaders for Downing Street and the Conservative administration in ‘Fleet Street’ harmonise the public message; of which Johnson’s own career was merely the most egregious example of the worst of journalist-cum-politician consequences. All of this was quite accidentally and inadvertently revealed by ‘Partygate’, which – most observers did not choose to notice – briefly but brutally marked out the euphoric, self-congratulatory, drunken celebration of the arrivals or departures of these journalist-staffers; professional confectioners and spinners of an endless web of Conservative propaganda-as-news, and purveyors of fiction-as-fact during the worst of times, at least for everyone else in Britain, at the height of lockdown. This deceit, unmasked simply marks out the sign posts of the dismal, incompetence of the Conservative Party’s own duplicity in the management of news; but the irony of Partygate as political nemesis should be unmissable to the rest of us.
Another mark of the mendacious system is the lack of real journalism now required by press journalism. Journalism is now just ‘opinion’ (sources irrelevant, research redundant, sound-bites essential; the ‘cheap shot’, endlessly repeated is all it takes); and politicians move back and forth between this new form of ‘two-bit’ journalism and elite political life (which depends on electoral success, or equally of political patronage, but mostly the latter), because the new journalist-politician lives solely by political opinion, and by self-promotion (whether their own opinion or not is a matter of indifference, since an independent opinion assuredly has no political future at all, in any Party). Like everything else in cheapskate Britain politicians are in a market; they are bought and sold.
The crucial political effect of all this remains un-noticed. The object of the system for Government is effectively to set the overall media (not solely ‘press’) political news Agenda, each day and without the jeopardy of descending toward a system of overt censorship; which simply wouldn’t work in the UK. This is the key to the triumph of the Conservative ambition to create effectively, a One Party State out of a democracy. The trick is to guide compliance toward self-censorship, particularly in discourse on the economy.
The political Agenda is not set by measuring the numbers of readers, or examining the breadth of opinion offered by press news sources. Nevertheless, the Agenda is created each day, in the editorial decisions made in press rooms (in recent years, sinisterly in increasingly close liaison with Downing Street), to establish the daily political Agenda; every day of the year. The Agenda establishes, so far as it can, the way every political debate in Britain is framed, and which legitimates what are viable political solutions for the news issue at hand, and what options may not only be approved or rejected (and the relentless daily influence is considerable); but far more importantly, identify those questions that challenge neoliberal Conservative hegemony; at source removing unacceptable solutions from the oxygen of publicity, and ensuring they are instantly, editorially selected for news extinction. The triumph of the management of the News Agenda for the Conservative Party is not in fact primarily what is included, but rather what it successfully excludes from debate, especially in monetary economics.
Ideas are not defeated by forensic argument (almost ever, by anyone). They die from lack of support, or not being understood, or where there are political consequences of moment, from lack of the oxygen of publicity in a hostile environment led by the defenders of authority. They are then simply prematurely ‘disappeared’ where possible; artificially selected for early news extinction. It may be thought that in the tradition of parliamentary conventions, which somehow are supposed to protect an assurance of political decency in the exercise of the absolute sovereign power of Parliament that is in principle at least, automatically delivered to he or she who holds a Commons majority (see Dicey), will protect the public from such manipulation of public discourse by such a cabal of Fourth Estate and Government.
Such, however was the forlorn basis of, for example; the over-confidence in the power of the Sewel Convention to protect the Devolution Settlement from a Predatory Westminster Executive, that was demolished before the Supreme Court as a vain illusion. For the Sewel Convention, see
For the Supreme Court’s deconstruction of the illusion in 2017, in this ruling; “since the Sewel convention remains just a political convention, ‘policing the scope and manner of its operation does not lie within the constitutional remit of the judiciary’. This means the devolved governments cannot turn to the courts to enforce the legislative consent convention”; see The Supreme Court decision had quickly followed a watershed in British politics with the 2016 Brexit-ERG-British Nationalist far right triumph, which was underestimated in its cataclysmic political effects by everyone; until long after the 2019 election, when the neoliberal Conservative economic phantasy collapsed in an abrupt awakening from the neoliberal self-delusion in skyrocketing energy prices delivered by a fake domestic energy market that exposed the lie at the the heart of Hayekian Neoliberalism. Under the crushing reality of multiple economic crises quite beyond the capacity of mere, hapless market corrections to survive, Dicey’s cold realpolitik in Parliament had however prevailed, red in tooth and blue in claw, where the law dared not venture. Perdition, however cannot so easily be cheated.
Political power in Britain is daily maintained and reinforced, primarily by the process of setting the political News Agenda. The Agenda is the essence of both politics and journalism in Britain. It is vital. It goes almost entirely publicly un-noticed as a decision process that is the key to British politics. The crucial, wholly overlooked element of “independence” in journalism is the politically charged relationship between Press journalism and the media broadcasters; and especially between the Press and regulated (terrestrial) broadcasters in the UK. Regulated broadcasters require to fulfil the obligations of a licence, or Charter granted by Parliament. The essential requirement for modern regulated broadcasters is to meet a standard of news “impartiality”, set by Government sponsored Licence or Charter.
The Press is far less restricted than media broadcasters, hence they represent a different standard, the standard of “independence”; the source of the Press claim to freedom; a historically vibrant and telling role from the turbulent age of Toland or Defoe, that first flowered after the withdrawal of the English Licensing Act of 1695, which not only ended the censorship of heterodox and seditious works, but withdrew a monopoly held by the Stationer’s Company in London. Regulated Broadcasters begin at a historical disadvantage to the Press in the claim to free comment.
Impartiality is a difficult philosophical concept, but instead of focusing on the incommensurable philosophical conundrum the concept presents for interpreters (perhaps first and most fully examined by Adam Smith in the ‘Theory of Moral Sentiments’; but which in modern broadcast terms has never been adequately defined, described or explained); impartiality’s political importance rests on how, de facto it can be interpreted and tested by broadcasters in real broadcast operational terms. In conventional media debates, too much attention is given to the detail around the individual right to reply, or to a ‘balance’ of views being expressed across a broadcast schedule. Worthy enough issues in their own right, but matters which fundamentally miss the most important point of all. By far the most crucial element of impartiality in politics is never discussed. It is too difficult for participants to confront. Here the real problem is; how is the (political) News Agenda for broadcast media actually established – every day? It is not plucked out of the air. What counts as politically newsworthy? How is it contextualised. Who sets the Agenda and how is it done? This process unfolds editorially, first in press news rooms, under time pressures to break stories first. It is not a convenient environment for rigorous and subtle philosophical deconstruction.
The regulated broadcasters know very well how crucial this is, because the greatest threat to their existence is exercised by Government; and – every single day – Government is judged by the Agenda through all media (which dictates the terms of public debate of all political issues), and in turn judges the broadcaster’s use of the Agenda, against a poorly defined standard of ‘impartiality’. How regulated broadcasters measure their Agenda performance is therefore a critical existential matter for their own reputation or even survival. This has been sorely tested ever since Reith, the BBC and Government established a ‘modus vivendi’ when the State issued the first spectrum licence in 1922; and has been exercised by governments with increasing existential threat to regulated broadcasters, especially by neoliberal Conservatives through Thatcher and her intimidation of devolved ITV franchises via the franchise renewal system (which finally led to the dissolution of the independent regional ITV structure); and on to Nadine Dorries and the threat of C4 privatisation. The attraction of the Conservative Party to such proposals is not only its free market ideology, but more important, when the  “independent” media becomes a market commodity, for sale to the highest bidder, it becomes open to capture by the friends of the Conservative Party. Real Conservative control of the News Agenda is most easily asserted in an unregulated, private media and press that has been financially marketised.
How do broadcasters establish the Agenda in these pressurised circumstances? In establishing a conventional standard used by Regulated Broadcasters to measure the framing of a usable Political Agenda for broadcast, without attracting accusations of bias that would breach their regulated requirement for ‘impartiality’ (a task Government claims routinely they fail), impartiality can only be sustained over time if regulated broadcasters do not exclusively set the political Agenda themselves on their own terms, except in very narrow or exceptional circumstances. Generally, regulated broadcasters can only follow or assent to a given Agenda by comparison to some standard of independent News judgement, a standard beyond ‘themselves’; for which the only accessible independent test ever actually used, or in truth that is usable day in, day out, is the standard of what is political “news” that is already offered by the “independent” press. Hence the degree to which news programmes by regulated broadcasters report or reflect the Agenda which has already been set by press journalism. The proof of this is seen in broadcast news, which regularly programmes discussion of the press “headlines”; interviews journalists, or even provides segments or whole programmes to the news provided by newspapers; often presenting the front pages in broadcasts – as news. All of this extraordinarily provides daily free gratis advertising to independent newspapers by the BBC (which does not allow advertising), and by ITV/ITN (which relies on paid advertising). This is not gifted solely as news reporting; but more importantly it is a form of news authentication for regulated broadcasters. What regulated broadcasters are authenticating is their impartiality, by properly presenting the spectrum of press news opinion, into which their framing of the news Agenda may plausibly fit, or as a quasi-extension of their own news coverage (implicitly, in turn providing press journalism with an authoritative regulated broadcast seal of approval as to its comprehensiveness and impartiality). Hence also the importance given by journalists to front page headlines; often the headline itself is sufficiently the story in a modern attention-span reductio ad absurdum. The rest is gossip; and social media, a catch-all that catches all that is good or bad, is despatched to an area of the news world that is safely established by this righteous consensus of both press and broadcast media that has in consequence of this faustian bargain, set between them the legitimate boundaries of impartiality: as justifiably excluding non-press or non-regulated broadcast social media as ‘excluded’, and typically beyond contempt.
The problem for the survival of independent opinion then becomes obvious; the “independent” press is largely owned by vested financial and political interests that support the Conservative Party: but the regulated broadcasters have nowhere else to go for impartiality authentication. This is the key to the power of an antiquated print-press that survives as a major news and political influence in Britain’s life, in spite of the fact that as print businesses in the 21st century, they are a commercially failing anachronism; yet they survive and thrive, because business is no longer their prime business (ironically, their commercial survival depends increasingly on the digital social media they disparage as a matter of moral principle). The print press has enormous influence in setting the political Agenda, the framing of debate, the acceptance or rejection of the politically possible – every day of the year.
Regulated broadcasters, historically ‘terrestrial’ and typically dependent on a spectrum licence (BBC, ITV, ITN, C4) dare not simply write their own ‘news agenda’ without resort to this standard, that provides them with the required independent evidence on which they are measured by Government. They rely on the public Agenda being framed overwhelmingly in the context of a press media invariably owned by Conservative Party-funding billionaire newspaper owners (such as the Daily Mail, Telegraph, Express etc), with very obvious economic interests to serve, beyond the mere print media.
The Conservative Party and its vested interests are using a One Party PM election in the process of stealing the Constitution in plain sight, and reframing it for future repetition of a new convention: to present a fake ‘new’ Conservative Party that is failure-washing its guilt for the multiple, badly governed crises into which Britain has fallen. It can only do this by effectively controlling and dominating the political news Agenda; even when it has obviously and catastrophically failed Britain over the last twelve years.
The Conservative Hustings are advertising slots; political stain-removal adverts for mud-splattered candidates, turned shiny-new by Spring-fresh policy pods which miraculously vanish the old ideological dirt; ‘just like that’. Democracy is being relegated to a fringe operation, in the service of the absolute power of Party interest in Parliament; and the news Agenda is allowing it to happen.

Comments (16)

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  1. Colin Kirkwood says:

    Brilliant analysis, confirming my argument that there is now no real democracy in Britain. The Party system, led overarchingly by the Conservative Party, the ownership of the great bulk of the press by private capital, and the coercion of the whole of the BBC and ITV through the threat of sale to the highest bidder, is running the public show. Our old friend Paulo Freire used to argue consistently for fundamental democratisation. He was right. In the final section my Adults learning, democratisation and the good society paper (see also in Bellacaledonia) I outlined what needs to be done. Is it really not worth bothering? Surely it is. Well done, John S Warren!

  2. James Mills says:


    Sorry , John . A very long article to tell us what we already knew .

  3. Adrian Roper says:

    Brilliant. Thank you.

  4. Sandy Watson says:

    This piece is painfully and unnecessarily long-winded.
    Full of pointless repetition.
    The same stuff could be outlined in two or three short paragraphs.

    1. 220815 says:

      Yep, basically it does little more than kick the *rs* out the claim that crown’s ministers have ceased to oversee our government, which might not even be true.

      First of all, it might not be true because it’s not the job of the crown’s ministers to oversee our government. That’s the job of our elected representatives, the judiciary, and the news media, both in the latter’s explicit capacity of advocacy and in its implicit ability to frame political issues.

      Secondly, it’s evident in the fact that our government is continuing to function in the day-to-day administration of our public affairs, that the present cabinet is more or less successfully carrying our the caretaker role it’s been assigned until such time as a new prime minister can be appointed. Alas, the country has not been plunged into anarchy but only into the usual hyperbole.

      1. JP58 says:

        Let’s look at what you have written – yes MPs are supposed to hold executive to account but Westminster in recess. Tory MP’s (majority) consumed by the leadership contest.
        Ministers quietly doing their job – your having a laugh – many ministers new in post due to mass resignations at beginning of July and many on holiday or more interested in leadership contest. Civil Service running country in neutral gear at moment.
        Johnson a ‘caretaker’ PM – he is a narcissistic who doesn’t care’ about anyone apart from himself and had ‘taken’ the huff because he has been sacked. He is now on his second holiday in Greece I believe. When I retired from a managerial post (3 months notice
        ) I was still accountable for day to day running of my section but ensured greater discussion with staff about decisions that had longer term impact. I don’t think Theresa May was so hands off and anonymous during her last few months.
        In normal times none of above would matter so much but we have a cost of living crisis looming and the economy going into stagflation. People are looking for plans and action to ease their fears but it appears nothing of any substance can be done until new leader is in post. This is unacceptable and responsibility for this drift can be laid soley at door of Tory party who are indulging themselves with a leadership contest when what country needs is effective leadership,

        1. 220815 says:

          Sure, and when you strip out all the empty ad hominems and hyperbole, we’re left with the speech-bubble ‘Those Tories are rascally fellows.’, which is something the readers of Bella all know. The piece is not only long-winded; it’s also inconsequential – it tells us nothing new, but simply confirms our present prejudices.

          1. JP58 says:

            I didn’t comment on the article which I commented specifically on your response and refuted all the nonsense you wrote about how the country is being run during Tory leadership contest.
            I am glad you said sure and agree with me – makes a change for someone like you – a narcissistic contrarian who likes the sound of his own voice but offers little light on a subject.

          2. 220816 says:

            I don’t see much in the way of refutation; only some name-calling, which breaks no bones.

            And, yes, I agree with proposition out of which John kicks the *rs* in his overlong and overblown article, that the Tories are rascally fellows, as will everyone else who reads Bella.

  5. Derek says:

    “…a revolving door in 10, Downing Street through which Spads and senior staff shuffled between neoliberal Conservative ‘Fleet Street’ and Government Whitehall operations…”

    See Eyes passim, as they say.

  6. SleepingDog says:

    I failed to digest this in one go, but my impressions include a failure to include an international dimension (if the British Empire is essentially slaved to the USAmerican Empire, this is a pretty big omission) in politics, media and news particularly. See for example:

    UK news coverage is often hardly flattering to the the Westminster party political court politics it (the BBC in particular) substitutes for politics as a whole. The effect, intended or otherwise, may be to inculcate disgust, apathy and disengagement, so that the unscrupulous and corrupt segments of the electorate who continue to vote will hold significant sway. The most pressing political issues, as with much of UK ruling policy outwith democratic influence (foreign relations, military, security, intelligence, anti-corruption and constitutional reform, all the royal prerogative stuff), are given disproportionately little coverage.

    I don’t know where ‘forensic’ comes in, but bad ideas are being defeated by argument and evidence all the time. This is the essence of the real woke, and how working science works. This is often why traditions are rejected by new generations. That is often why ideologies lose their support in the first place. That is why rulers fear and suppress the good example, or reasonably accurate histories being taught in schools, psychology being largely concerned with comparisons.

  7. Daniel Lamont says:

    I often wonder who the intended/expected audience for Bella is and this article exemplifies my uncertainty. It assumes a particular level of knowledge – for example, knowing who A.V.Dicey was, since there is no footnote. It is expressed in an extraordinarily clotted English where some sentences have a string of sub-clauses. I am a retired university lecturer used to reading academic journals and, like Sleeping Dog, I struggled to digest the article. It cries out for drastic editing. This is a shame because underneath the verbiage John Warren is making some important and pertinent comments. What are your assumptions, Mike, about your readership? I am sometimes asked by people, who are well educated and well informed, what I would recommend as a source for comment on Scottish affairs. Sadly, when I come across an article like this, I realise that I cannot suggest Bella.

    1. It was quite a long read, it’s true Daniel.

      I wouldn’t dismiss the whole of Bella from one article you didn’t like though. We have literally hundreds and hundreds of contributors:

      What is the Bella readership? Very mixed I think.

      “I am sometimes asked by people, who are well educated and well informed, what I would recommend as a source for comment on Scottish affairs. Sadly, when I come across an article like this, I realise that I cannot suggest Bella.”

      And yet, here you are.

      1. Daniel Lamont says:

        It is, of course, one thing to read something oneself and another to recommend it to others. I am sure that your readership is mixed but none the less you do make some assumptions about your readership and perhaps their knowledge base. My Canadian friends who are interested in Scotland might struggle with some articles.

        My objection to John S Warren’s article is not to its length but to its clotted and convoluted English which obscures the important points he is trying to make and that it is unecessarily hard to read. I don’t often comment so I can safely say that I read Bella as much for the comments as for the main article.

        1. Well Bella does do long-form writing sometimes and we don’t really apologise for that, though most of our articles are about 1000-1200 words. Contributors have different writing styles and come from a range of backgrounds which reflects our 5th Estate status, but this does sometimes mean our output is inconsistent. If all of our writers were professional journalists we’d gain something but we’d also lose something.

          I don’t think its so much that we make assumptions about our readers knowledge base as we treat people as if they are intelligent.

          1. John S Warren says:

            Mr Lamont,

            Thank you for your comment. May I respond to some of your observations? First, I should confess I am well acquainted with academic literature, university culture, and the review process; and have published articles in my subject area of intellectual history in the journals. I did not add footnotes because Bella is not an academic journal; the reference to Dicey was for those readers who might be seeking an appropriate context. I confess I recognised it was a very long article and did not wish to add to it with a diversion on Dicey. The article was – I am fairly sure – the longest I have written in Bella, and I can see from the comments that some readers liked it; others have forcefully described it as too long. Point taken.

            The idea I was developing – the manipulation of the News Agenda – I have discussed before on Bella, and have not felt its significance was fully understood, although I have made it in one form or another. I was intent on developing the argument more fully, and deliberately with some repetition (a favourite device of politicians that has proved effective!). I was, however driven to write this urgently now, by the degree to which the Conservative Party had managed to produce a leadership campaign that excluded Parliament, excluded the Opposition, excluded the electorate and at the same time engineered, through Press/Media a total political news focus on the Conservative Party itself, and develop a complete national campaign in which the Party presents itself as both Government and Opposition. It is now like the operation of a One Party State. Perhaps this comment is all that needed to be said…….. at least from your point of view.

            I have written a large number of articles for Bella and I no longer generally comment on my articles below the line, but I felt your comment demanded and deserved a response from me. I also wished to make the point that the main responsibility for the article is mine.

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