8 December 2022
Moderators and Review Bodies
by Don Urquhart
Nadhim Zahawi is one of those people you put on TV to defend the indefensible. On Sunday’s political programmes (Ridge and Kuenssberg) Mr Zahawi had two sets of responses. When asked about the deplorable financial performance and prospects he fell back on the vaccines – don’t forget that we saved the country with our vaccination programme. Then the root cause of our current ills turns out to be something called Putin or Lynch. His strategy was to claim responsibility for anything that has gone reasonably well (not much as it happens), while categorising the bad bits as Acts of God, Vladimir Putin or Mike Lynch. At any event “Nothing to do with me guv!” It seems that the new bright young thing in the Transport Department (Mark Harper) is continuing this noble tradition, vilifying the Union bosses and using the bosses’ organisation, the Rail Delivery Group as an impotent cat’s paw in order to perpetuate the narrative of the people being savaged by the rail unions. Try as they might the Tories cannot get Starmer to back the workers which would be propaganda Nirvana.
Our world is full of people pulling down a decent income for analysing events and coming up with judgements. The organisations employing them have exam questions to answer with varying levels of utility and lucidity. One such is the Independent Pay Review Body (IPRD) charged with recommending salaries for NHS staff. Their exam question is “how do we make it look as if we haven’t just recommended whatever the government told us to?”
I suspect that the term Independent Pay Review Body (IPRD) is a contradiction in terms. On Sunday Mr Zahawi like Steve Barclay before him told us of the government’s willingness to accept IPRD recommendations for pay rises in the NHS. Call me a cynic, but, given that the members of the IPRD are paid £300 per day by the government what chance is there of them coming up with anything other than what the government wants to pay? It is as transparent a fig leaf as you are ever likely to find.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) does a similar job in respect of MPs’ salaries and expenses. That word “independent” is there again and like IPRD its members are employed by the government. Their website tells you of the rigorous processes they go though including asking members of the public and convening focus groups. It’s a bit easier than NHS pay in that the exam question is “How much of a pay rise can we give the MPs before their constituents smell a rat?” Matt Hancock take note!
The analysts employed by social media companies must be confused about their role. In Iran and China they have to block messages critical of the government. Facebook and Instagram moderators will be looking for porn and anything that might lead you to commit suicide. So it is said. I am ready to believe that it’s virtually impossible. Elon Musk has sacked a lot of Twitter employees, many of them moderators. Is it now being monitored less thoroughly? What is their exam question? “Make it look as if you are terribly busy?”
Newspapers and magazines are responsible for the legality of whatever appears in their pages. Nobody across the political spectrum is proposing that Facebook, Twitter and the like should face legal action if their content is unacceptable. Why on Earth not? Well, for one thing the platforms would have to establish the identity of every contributor so that they can pass on liability for any illegal content. It’s a bit like the Money Laundering revolution in banking. KYC (Know Your Customer) was in vogue and you couldn’t claim it was nothing to do with me guv. I guess the effort involved in knowing who your customers really are would destroy the business model. Strange when they seem to know every product I have looked at and purchased.