Cameron’s Sartorial ‘Dead Cat Manoeuvre’


John Crace, sketch writer for the Guardian, reckons that David Cameron let the mask slip at PMQs …..

‘Then came the playground game-changer. In reply to a heckle from Labour’s Angela Eagle about his own mother’s opposition to his welfare cuts, Dave let rip: “I know what my mother would say. I think she’d look across the dispatch box and she’d say: ‘Put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem’.”

But was it a slip – the Dave he tries to keep under wraps?

I think most people would agree that David Cameron’s sudden outburst was completely unexpected, and did not bear any conceivable relation to Jeremy Corbyn’s questions about the NHS… but then it is hardly the first time over the last 6 years that he has had a bizarre tirade about union-control, threatened national security etc..

As such, it fully corresponds with the Lynton Crosby (the Tory election guru) signature ‘dead cat’ manoeuvre. .. the essence of which Crosby explains:

‘The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout, ‘Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!’ In other words, they will be talking about the dead cat – the thing you want them to talk about – and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.’

But it isn’t simply a distraction technique. It is also a technique used in hypnosis. Out of awareness, our brains are constantly predicting what actions, memories, emotions and so on, that we may need to mobilise in the immediate future. This creates a ‘cone of expectation’ which is constantly being updated. A totally unexpected, and preferably an emotionally shocking event (like Derren Brown suddenly jerking your arm up in the air and bending you double) disrupts our brain’s ‘cone of expectation’ and we are left in a state of confusion with our brain desperately trying to recalibrate. In that moment, we are highly suggestible… with our neurotransmitters acting to clear our conscious memory so that we only focus on what may be ‘danger’.

This is all part of the normal fight, flight and freeze response. What it is not, is part of the normal democratic process … let alone PMQs when the Prime Minister is supposed to be answerable to the House of Commons.

The best known example of the ‘dead cat manoeuvre’ was in the 2015 GE campaign, when defence secretary Michael Fallon launched an unexpected, brutal attack on Labour leader Ed Miliband.

“Miliband stabbed his own brother in the back to become Labour leader. Now he is willing to stab the United Kingdom in the back to become prime minister.”

At this point, some polls had Labour narrowly ahead of the Tories, with Miliband’s pledge to crack down on nondomicile tax avoidance, dominating the headlines. By suggesting that Miliband would scrap the Trident nuclear deterrent, in order to strike an electoral deal with the Scottish National party, Fallon managed to switch media attention away from Labour’s popular policy.  And in so doing, he leveraged the defining theme of the 2015 Conservative campaign which was to target Miliband’s perceived weakness as a leader.

So Labour’s tax policy was pushed out of awareness (admittedly with the collusion of the press). And the question was left hanging in the air as to what Fallon ‘knew’ that had prompted his outburst, and the strong implication that Ed M was so desperate to win that he was prepared to roll over and give the SNP whatever they demanded.

I know that this worked psychologically because I wondered myself what was going on… no smoke without a fire etc. Of course, it is now acknowledged that this was a deliberate attempt to manipulate the electorate.

Ordinary btl commentators wrote in response when this underhand strategy was explained by Lynton Crosby himself:

“What is shocking in all of this is how completely unselfconscious the Tories are about feeling no obligation even nod towards reality in their campaigning, let alone propose real solutions.

The sole criterion is “Can we get people to believe this?”

 Crosby explained in detail the contempt with which he manipulated the public. It isn’t just lies, it is psychological techniques, deliberately playing on fears discovered using market research techniques. It works the same way it works to persuade us all to buy new shit all the time and not to make a fuss about a few mega rich Masters of the Universe ruling the world while we toil away making them even richer. Yes they won. That doesn’t make it right.”


Now, to get back to Cameron’s outburst, Paul Waugh writes in the Huffington Post:

‘The curious thing about PMQs was that Cameron and Jeremy Hunt are actually on very shaky ground on the weekend deaths effect (as academics and doctors keep pointing out). And in the FT today, there is an ominous quote from Fiona Godlee, editor of the BMJ. Godlee, who has been critical of the way the deaths data has been used by politicians, says a new article in the BMJ, expected to appear next week, “will aim to address concerns about political interference in the peer review process and the source of Hunt’s data”.’

Curious? Curious?? Not only was Cameron well aware of the shaky ground over the NHS but he also knew that he was vulnerable over his mother (and aunt’s) criticism of cuts to local government. I find it extremely difficult to believe that his tirade was not fully thought out and prepared in advance.

In fact, the only thing that I find at all remarkable is that Cameron is prepared to open himself up to all that criticism, alienating ordinary Conservative supporters by his bullyboy tactics and humiliating media coverage, just to knock the privatization of the NHS off the front page…. His devotion to furthering the interests of the corporations is almost courageous (although more likely self-interested).

But on a more sinister note, to return to the hypnotic invite to our suggestible brains… Cameron’s outburst was a dog whistle of contempt for Jeremy Corbyn, and for us to completely forget the importance of Corbyn’s line of questioning.

As the commentator above puts it ‘It isn’t just lies, it is psychological techniques, deliberately playing on fears discovered using market research techniques.’

All this raises questions about transparency and democratic legitimacy. We do not expect politicians to be trying to manipulate our unconscious, using behavioural, marketing techniques.

In discussing the politics of ‘Nudge’ (Cameron’s Behavioural Insights Team were known as the Nudge Unit’) Will Leggett writes:

We expect governments to clearly state their policies, and persuade us of their merits. …. advocates of the Big Society never tire of pointing out the pitfalls of ‘nanny statism’. So it is curious that they are simultaneously endorsing a policy approach which makes even our unconscious decisions an object of government intervention.

The good news is that the more these psychological manipulations become the subject of open debate, the less effective they are likely to be. Our ‘thinking’ will kick in and we might actually remember the parlous state of the NHS instead of Cameron’s shameful, sartorial schema.


Related post:

Propaganda techniques – Glittering Generalities

Brighton Conference : Ed Miliband and Labour are about Fairness and Decency.


Labour Conference 2013 Brighton

From Gracie Samuels


I have watched the leader of the Labour party, Ed Miliband carry out an impromptu street appearance In Brighton on Sky News as he arrived for the start of the Labour party conference. If there was any “residue” from his last public appearance when he was egged by an idiot in London’s East Street market, then it didn’t show here and he looked not the slightest bit bothered. In fact at the time of the egging a few weeks ago he ‘yoked’ and laughed with Sky’s Jon Craig  and asked; “did you throw that”?

After Ed Miliband spoke, he took questions from the crowd mainly from ordinary shoppers who surprised to see him in their street had stopped to watch and listen to him. Unlike David Cameron at his “Cameron Direct” sessions  Mr Miliband did not know what questions he was going to be asked and again unlike Cameron,  he hadn’t been briefed and supplied with stat answers!  He calmly and adroitly dealt with the questions as they came. Taking questions publicly is a political minefield for any politician because as we all know members of the public can be pretty unpredictable – and quite right too! I suspect that no matter how awkward the questions get, Ed Miliband wouldn’t have it any other way.

A member of the public asked if he thought Tony Blair was a war criminal (strong stuff). However he didn’t balk and gave a straight and honest answer. He said he didn’t think Blair was a war criminal and that he thought Tony Blair had made the decision in good faith, but he still believed it to be the wrong decision  and we shouldn’t have gone to war in Iraq and that Labour had had to learn the lessons of Iraq which they have done, which is why he refused to back David Cameron’s decision to launch military action in Syria.

He dealt with a question from a homeless person which was pretty incoherent thankfully TV crews had the decency not to televise her as she was obviously distressed. Ed picked up on this and immediately sent one of his workers to to talk to her and try to help her.

Ed Miliband does plenty of these impromptu street visits apparently, not that we would know as they mainly go unreported by a hostile right wing Tory supporting press hellbent on keeping the public from learning who the real Ed Miliband is.

The Tory supporting right wing press have an agenda and it is a simple one, they want to keep Ed Miliband and Labour out of government at any cost. It really would not matter if Ed and Labour were absolutely perfect, the right wing press would still find ways to tarnish them and they will use just about every dirty trick in the book and more besides to bring about their aims.

The Damian “McWho – the hell cares” is a classic example of this. As we know timing is everything in politics so perhaps someone can explain this:

  1. First the long awaited Brooks and Coulson trials are suddenly deferred until 28th October after the Tories annual conference, (supposedly on a legal matter).
  2. Then the Daily Mail fills the void made by the absence of the Brooks and Coulson trials with the Damian McWho the hell cares book (which has obviously been specifically timed to be released at the beginning of the conference season).
If I wasn’t such an old cynic I would be wondering if the Tories Aussie attack dingo Lynton Crosby had not persuaded his master, PM David Cameron and the Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC MP (Conservative) to have a little word in the shell like of the judge conducting the Brooks/Coulson trials to see if a postponement could be arranged.
I sincerely hope not because if this were to turn out to be true this would be serious!
Andy Coulson the PM’s former aide is charged with several charges, amongst them two charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office. Makes the Damian McWho the hell cares spat between testosterone alpha males and their daft infantile power struggles look positively benign!
I wonder how long it will be before we all learn about what Lynton Crosby has been up to behind the scenes? Influencing and benefitting government policy on tobacco packaging? Alcohol pricing? Private healthcare contracts? Fracking? And the latest, the connection between one of Crosby’s clients and Syrian rebels? (Whom of which the British government have spoken about arming –  truly scary corrupt stuff).
The right wing press and the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties have vested interests in keeping the public from getting to know the real Ed Miliband, so they smear him and negatively spin against him at every opportunity.
For Cameron and Clegg it’s political and for the newspapers it’s because they do not want to lose any of their power, they are terrified that if Ed Miliband became PM he would implement the Leveson recommendations in full, and after the despicable behaviour of the Sun and Daily Mail in particular, if Ed does become PM, I sincerely hope he does implement Leveson it will serve them right!
The mad and bad ranting behaviour of these two papers over Syria was absolutely loathsome, anyone would think that Ed Miliband was some mad axe murderer, not a decent man/politician who had learned the lessons of Iraq and actually listened to the will of the people and managed to pull the PM David Cameron back from the brink of bombing innocent Syrians and thus preventing Cameron from making the biggest mistake of his political career, and God knows the prime minister has made some real howlers! Cameron should be thanking Ed Miliband not insulting him.
Because of Ed Miliband President Obama was also forced back from the brink, this has led to what looks like a diplomatic solution in Syria brokered by the Russians and quite possibly a ceasefire in the civil war destroying Syria. If Cameron and Obama had got the permission they sought to bomb Syria, then none of this would have happened.
Yet the Sun, Mail, Telegraph etc have totally ignored this fact! All Ed Miliband has got for his troubles is lied about, defamed, bullied and insulted in the most despicable way by these papers and the British PM and staff at Downing Street. The language emanating from Downing Street because Camerons lost the vote was truly shaming and an embarrassment to this country and totally unprofessional and unstatesmanlike.
Now Labour are starting to show their hand with some excellent policies, the hated Tory bedroom tax is to be scrapped andworking families with young children will get extra child care they desperately need and zero hour contracts to be outlawed Slowly we are seeing the start of Labour policies for the next election and it looks like the Labour manifesto is shaping up to be a pretty decent piece of kit for the ordinary person on the street. It is clearly showing how people will be better off under Labour.
It’s obvious who and what Labour stands for they stand for fairness and decency in all walks of life- “One Nation”

The Secrets of Finances of Academy Schools


The Secrecy of Finances of Academy Schools 

From @Earwiggle

Beneficiaries of Coalition policies are increasingly topical in the News, and recently we have heard of Cameron’s adviser Lynton Crosby’s involvement wiith the fracking industry and tobacco firms. When questioned, Cameron repeatedly attempts to evade the issue. While the press reports of “NHS” reforms and “Education Choice” as policies which are intent in improving public services, the reality is become clear. The Coalition is intent on stripping public assets. Services would continue to be funded by public money, but, open to profiteering – privatisation. Repeatedly, the monitoring methods are manipulated, and services starved of funds to give credence to the outdated idea of private good: public bad.

Head-teachers bought into the idea that schools should convert to Academy status because of financial incentives. In May 2012 overpayment to Academy Schools by £120 million pounds was revealed. A fair system should ensure that funds for education is distributed fairly, for all children. Certainly, funds intended for education should benefit the learners. But money intended for this purpose is benefitting the directors of Academy trusts as the Guardian reports..

The country’s largest taxpayer-funded academy chain, which was recently criticised for its poor performance in managing schools, has paid nearly £500,000 into the private business interests of its trustees and executives.

An investigation by the Observer has uncovered a series of payments over the past three years to companies in which those running the Academy Enterprise Trust (AET), a registered charity, have a beneficial interest. The payments were for services ranging from “project management” to “HR consultancy”, according to the academy chain’s company accounts. AET, which is based in Essex, has not provided further details. In all the cases the services had not been put out to competitive tender.

Ian Comfort, who has been company secretary since April 2012, was paid £232,960 in addition to his undisclosed salary for project management services that year.

A series of payments to AET’s trustees have also been revealed. Such payments, while legal, are described as “not normal practice” in a document published by the regulator of academies this month, and drawn up following consultation with the Charity Commission.

Henry Stewart reminds us how David Cameron promised that academy finances would be freely available to parents. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) demanded data showing academy level expenditure. But go to the DfE Performance Tables and you will find full financial information for maintained schools and nothing comparable for academies. Local Schools Network For maintained schools simply go to the DfE Performance Tables, (type in your post code and you will find comprehensive information for your local schools.)


We need to see how much money is going into schools

This is a direct contradiction of the statement that David Cameron made to the House of Commons Liaison Committee in March 2013 in response to questioning by Margaret Hodge, as Fiona Millar wrote about at the time

Hodge: “Take the case of academies . How do we know they provide value for money?”

Cameron: “People can increasingly see the funding per pupil that goes into the school and if we are successful in introducing a more national funding formula for schools that will be even clearer. The parent/teacher /local community knows how much follows the pupil into the school and can then see the results. We need to see how much money going into the schools and the results coming out. This will produce results for very transparent amounts of money that are going in.”

As citizens, who employ a government to serve us, we have a right to know exactly what is happening to public funds. This selective secrecy implies corruption. Furthermore, the repeated evasion of honesty by the prime-minister, when confronted by questions related to issues conflicts-of-interests is totally unacceptable, and parliament must address the issue. The Labour Party must demand answers.

It is time to show we have no confidence in this government and put it to the vote in the House of Commons. Who would support this corruption?

References and Further Reading:

How Shifty Osborne (and now Cameron) Evade the Fracking Truth!


How Shifty Osborne Evade ( and now Cameron) Evade  the Fracking Truth!

Don’t Frack our Future: Doreen’s story.

This excellent video from Frack Off puts the fracking issue in perspective.

Please share this widely. Fracking could be coming your way…. The government are “investing” millions of pounds of money in order to discredit the scientific argument which warns against the dangers of fracking. This is money which could be much better spent on renewable energy.

  • This video shows the underhand activity of the conservatives trying to undermine the coalition agreement on tackling climate change.

  • This yet again, raises the question of why are the LDs supporting the Tories to dismantle, and privatise for profit, everything that was good about the UK?

The coalition government cut the feed-in-tariffs for photovoltaic solar energy. Why has the government not invested in PV in schools, hospitals and all public buildings, and helped reduce energy bills? Why has the government recently announced its intention to provide tax breaks for fracking, while solar PV companies are failing? Why, in the same month as the tax breaks are announced have the planned cuts to feed-in tariff been brought forward? Is it that corrupt conservatives can’t get their hands on the sun?

Despite installations in the 0-50kW range falling short of the stated capacity triggers, the 0-4kW, 4-10kW, 10-50kW will all degress by 3.5% as a result of the controversial automatic degression model that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) included as part of the revised feed-in tariff.

Many in the industry had been expecting the feed-in tariff rates to be changed from 1 August in line with the regular quarterly reviews. However, DECC moved the reference date forward one month to 1 July. Industry reacted angrily to the changing of reference dates due to the lack of warning or formal announcement

Yet in the same week as Cameron’s aide Lynton Crosby is linked to the fracking industry, the massive tax cuts to fracking industry is announced. Even Tory Peter Lilley has said the tax breaks are unnecessary. Just what is fracking going on? If Cameron has any explanations, we would like to hear them.

References and Further Reading:

David Cameron under attack over fracking firm links to Lynton Crosby