In June 2020, at the height of the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign, Guido published an article about the Guardian’s own links to the slave trade. The story was soon followed up by the Mail, Sun and Telegraph. Echoing our call on the Guardian to pay reparations.
A year later, the Guardian issued a partial mea culpa, Guardian Admits Historic Support for the White Supremacist Confederacy, Still Covering Up Slavery Links Report. Today, however, the Scott Trust-commissioned investigation into whether there was any historical connection between slavery and John Edward Taylor, the journalist and cotton merchant who founded the newspaper in 1821, as well as the other Manchester businessmen who funded its creation, is published. The Scott Trust Legacies of Enslavement report confirms that Taylor, and at least nine of his eleven backers, had links to slavery through the cotton industry.
Ole Jacob Sunde, the chair of the Scott Trust, says:
“The Scott Trust is deeply sorry for the role John Edward Taylor and his backers played in the cotton trade. We recognise that apologising and sharing these facts transparently is only the first step in addressing the Guardian’s historical links to slavery. In response to the findings, the Scott Trust is committing to fund a restorative justice programme over the next decade, which will be designed and carried out in consultation with local and national communities in the US, Jamaica, the UK and elsewhere, centred on long-term initiatives and meaningful impact.”
Katharine Viner, the editor-in-chief of the Guardian writes:
“We are facing up to, and apologising for, the fact that our founder and those who funded him drew their wealth from a practice that was a crime against humanity. As we enter our third century as a news organisation, this awful history must reinforce our determination to use our journalism to expose racism, injustice and inequality, and to hold the powerful to account.”
We would point that the £10 million in reparations is over 10 years. £1 million-a-year is 0.1% of their capital reserves. As the report makes clear, the profits that were used to fund the Guardian’s pro-confederacy propaganda were made on the backs of thousands of slaves.
N.B. Our original story was based on an unearthed 1962 history student’s thesis by Robert Allen Schellenberg of the University of Nebraska at Omaha “The Manchester Guardian and the American Civil War“. Unfortunately Schellenberg died in 2016 and did not live to see this day.
With the mourning period now well and truly over, Alicia Kearns’ campaign to become chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee is in full swing. Last week she made her case for the gig in the Times, claiming:
“The decisions we take now, from investment and supply chains, to defending our multilaterals and the rule of law, and upholding human rights […] matter.”
All well and good, although it does beg the question of why this donation appears in her register of interests:
£5,349 for an all expenses paid trip, courtesy of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Here’s how Human Rights Watch described that same Kingdom of Bahrain in 2021:
“The human rights situation in Bahrain did not improve in 2020 […] Authorities arrested, prosecuted, and harassed human rights defenders, journalists, opposition leaders, and defense lawyers, including for their social media activity. All independent Bahraini media have been banned since 2017 from operating in the country and all opposition groups dissolved.”
At least they picked up the meal tab…
The Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman is lobbying Parliament to water down key provisions in the Bill of Rights currently going through Parliament, according to leaked confidential documents seen by Guido.
One of the key provisions of the new Bill of Rights is aimed at reducing challenges to public authorities on dubious human rights grounds and reducing retrospective court challenges that second guess bodies’ “professional judgement exercised under considerable pressure.” One example the government cites as proof this is needed is the 1998 Osman case:
“[When] a teacher became obsessed with one of his pupils. He shot the boy, injuring him, and killed his father. The family claimed that the police had violated the father’s right to life, by failing to prevent his death.
The claim of negligence against the police failed in the UK courts. The claim was then taken to the Strasbourg Court in 1998. The family’s claim was rejected on the facts of the case, but the court nonetheless held that the right to life placed a general duty on the police to do everything ‘that could be reasonably expected of them to avoid a real and immediate risk to life of which they have or ought to have knowledge’
In the confidential document, the PHSO calls for Clause 5 of the Bill to be amended to maintain Section 6 requirements of the current 1998 Human Rights Act. The current Section 6 places a positive obligation on all public bodies to consider “Human Rights”. “Ensuring public services or private contractors acting on their behalf are proactive in protecting the rights of citizens in their care.”
In July the government published a consultation response on the Bill of Rights, in which they set out the reasoning behind Clause 5 – which the unelected ombudsman now wants to quash – as a key section behind the drive to reduce wasted police time, which deprives the force “of their ability to take their own decisions about where to allocate time and resources.” Retaining a positive obligation on public bodies would largely remove the whole point of replacing the Human Rights Act 1998 in the first place. The government wants to bring an end to the make-work legal gravy train where breaking a finger is a violation of one’s human rights. Bring it on.
UPDATE: A government source responds to the leak, telling Guido “The courts and ombudsman play a vital role in holding the government to account, but they should not be using the Human Rights Act to shift the goalposts or expand the law. It is the role of elected lawmakers in Parliament to make the law of the land.”
A bit of a tortured metaphor from Emily Thornberry last night as she attempted to dismantle the government’s new British Bill of Rights, publishing this morning. Appearing on Newsnight to criticise the Tories for “just choos[ing] the bits they like and the bits they don’t” over plans to detach UK courts from the European Court of Human Rights, Thornberry revealed what she thinks is “really going on” with the announcement:
“Do you know what I think is really going on? They’re just behaving like some sort of drunk when the pubs are throwing out, and they’re in the car park, and they’re rolling around and they’re going ‘fight me, fight me!’ They’re just trying to think of anything that they can take on at the moment in order to distract us all from what’s really happening, which is their inability to govern. They’re trying to pick another fight.”
Confirming the details of Guido’s exclusive yesterday, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab announced in his Conference speech this morning that the government plans to reform the Human Rights Act. They will detach it from the ECHR, enabling quicker deportations of convicted criminals and swifter action on domestic abusers:
“Too often [the public] see dangerous criminals abusing human rights laws. In one case, a drug dealer convicted of beating his ex-partner, a man who hadn’t paid maintenance for his daughter, then successfully claimed the right to family life to avoid deportation. Conference, it is absolutely perverse that someone guilty of domestic abuse could claim the right to family life to trump the public’s interest in deporting him from this country. We’ve got to bring this nonsense to an end. So, today I can tell you that, under this Prime Minister and before the next election. We will overhaul the Human Rights Act to end this kind of abuse, and restore some common sense to our justice system.”
You’re either in front of Guido…
That this House has considered the matter of prorogation with the imminence of an exit from the European Union and accordingly resolves–That a Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that she will be graciously pleased to direct Ministers to lay before this House, not later than 11.00pm Wednesday 11 September, all correspondence and other communications (whether formal or informal, in both written and electronic form, including but not limited to messaging services including WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Facebook messenger, private email accounts both encrypted and unencrypted, text messaging and iMessage and the use of both official and personal mobile phones) to, from or within the present administration, since 23 July 2019 relating to the prorogation of Parliament sent or received by one or more of the following individuals: Hugh Bennett, Simon Burton, Dominic Cummings, Nikki da Costa, Tom Irven, Sir Roy Stone, Christopher James, Lee Cain or Beatrice Timpson; and that Ministers be further directed to lay before this House no later than 11.00pm Wednesday 11 September all the documents prepared within Her Majesty’s Government since 23 July 2019 relating to operation Yellowhammer and submitted to the Cabinet or a Cabinet Committee.
Dominic Grieve, Stephen Doughty, Sir Oliver Letwin, Ian Blackford, Jo Swinson, Caroline Lucas, Liz Saville-Roberts, Hilary Benn, Guto Bebb, Anna Soubry, Mary Creagh, Jonathan Edwards, Chris Leslie, Justine Greening
Remainers in parliament have passed a motion to present a Humble Address to the Queen with the aim of forcing the government to reveal communications with journalists. Downing Street says that “under no circumstances will No. 10 staff comply with Grieve’s demands regardless of any votes in Parliament”. Guido has notified those named in the humble address, with whom he has communicated, that he expects them to protect his rights under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act and notify him in advance of any action or inaction which might potentially prejudice his rights under the Act.
Article 10 of the Human Rights Act states
Freedom of expression
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
Article 10 guarantees the absolute right of journalists to “to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority”. Ironically Grieve was always very keen on this right being incorporated into UK law, it ultimately allows people to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights…