Saturday, October 01, 2005 

Bali bombing kills at least 22.

2 days after I post saying that no major "al-Qaida" targets have been hit twice, Bali has become the scene of another terrorist attack. Next time I'll keep my mouth shut. Condolences and sympathy to those injured and the relatives of the dead:

Bomb attacks on two busy tourist areas on the Indonesian resort island of Bali have killed at least 22 people.

About 50 others were injured in at least three blasts which took place just before 2000 local time (1200 GMT).

Two blasts occurred at Jimbaran - a seaside area packed with restaurants. Another was at Kuta beach, the area most popular with Western tourists.

In October 2002, bomb attacks blamed on Islamic extremists killed 202 people in Kuta, among them many foreign tourists.

Local TV has been showing pictures of people with terrible injuries and collapsed buildings.

A hospital official told Reuters news agency that at least 35 wounded foreigners had been taken to the island's main hospital.

Local media said the police had found a number of other unexploded devices.

The exact number of blasts, which happened almost simultaneously, was not clear. Some witnesses said they heard at least two explosions at each location.

A British tourist who was in a building next door to a restaurant that was hit in Kuta said there was a "thunderous boom" that caused all the shop's windows to blow out.

"It was just chaos," Daniel Martin told the BBC.

He said there were people lying in the streets with serious injuries, with everyone pitching in to help.

Journalist Maris Bakkalupulo went to the scene of the Kuta blast, and saw a noodle shop that had been badly damaged.

"It's completely gutted," she told the BBC. "Everything has been blasted out of the building, which is very mangled."

Another tourist in Bali, Anthony Brearley from Australia, said he heard two explosions in Kuta.

"I think the locals still think it's a gas explosion. I think they genuinely think it couldn't happen again," he told the BBC News website.

"All the Australian people automatically thought 'bombs', and they were gone.

Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, has said at least one Australian was killed and three injured.

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has condemned the blasts.

"These are clearly terrorist attacks because the targets were random and public places," he said.

"We will hunt down the perpetrators and bring them to justice."


The blasts come less than two weeks before the third anniversary of bomb attacks that killed 202 people - many of them foreigners holidaying in Bali.

The 12 October 2002 bombings have been blamed on Jemaah Islamiah (JI), - a south-east Asian militant group which is said to have links with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

JI is also suspected of being behind a suicide bombing at the Marriott hotel in Jakarta that killed 11 people in 2003, and a suicide bombing at the Australian embassy last September in which eight people were killed.

The BBC's Tim Johnston in Jakarta says the authorities had warned that militants had been planning further attacks on Western targets in Indonesia, although there had been no particular alerts over the past few days.

It's also worth mentioning here that at least 150 have died in Iraq over the past few days. I doubt they'll get the a similar amount of coverage to what this will.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


"Scandal" over lottery rapist.

Tabloid hysteria has been building for a while over the case of the unfortunately named Iorworth Hoare, who purchased a winning lottery ticket while he was on day release from prison, serving a sentence for attempted rape. He also had previous convictions for sex crimes. He won 7 million pounds. As soon as news of this came to light, there were predictable calls for him to not receive the money, and less unfair calls for him to donate at least part of it to charity, a move which would have been a gesture to show he was ashamed of his crimes and had repented. As far as I'm aware no donation was made. He should be forced to donate some, at least compensating his victims if they were not.

The Sun, favourite newspaper of this blog, managed to finally gain a scoop yesterday when it published details of where the man is now living having been released, as well as the revelation that apparently the cost of keeping him under surveillance and housing him is costing £10,000 a month. In addition they printed photos of his house and of the man himself walking around in the town centre.

That it is costing the taxpayer £10,000 a month to house him is undoubtedly in the public interest. What is not in the public interest is publishing photographs of his house or revealing where he lives to the country as a whole. The man has now already been moved following the Sun's story, using taxpayers money, such as my own. Thanks Rebekah Wade, I appreciate it. As this BBC story shows, Hoare would have visited by probation officers regularly, monitored and local schools and employers would have been made aware. In short, he was happily being contained in the community. Thanks to the Sun, this has all been put under threat.

Iorworth Hoare should be paying for the protection and services which he receiving, especially seeing as it is rumoured he is making £30,000 a month just in interest on his winnings. Once again though the Sun has gone beyond the realm of responsible journalism, not only putting a man who has served his time, whatever crimes he has committed in danger, but also costing the public more money thanks to the unnecessary intervention. They could have simply published the story saying that he was costing the public £10,000 a month without revealing where he lived. They chose not to.

Also worthy of criticism is "Women in Need" director Clare Philipson, who said she was delighted the Hoare's identity had been revealed. Perhaps she should take into consideration the recent panic in Northampton, with police warning that there were a gang of African rapists who had abducted and attempted to rape at least two young women. It now turns out that one of the women has been charged with wasting police time, and another is likely to be. Not only did these women waste police time, they worried thousands of women, who as a result were extra vigilant, scared or stayed home, and no doubt also stoked racial tension.

Clare Philipson also said that "Too often the criminal justice system protects the offenders and I do not believe that is what the public wants." Thanks for telling us what the public wants Clare. If we believed everyone who said they know what the public wants, then the News of the World would still be printing the photographs of alleged paedophiles on its front page, as it did under the editorship of Rebekah Wade, which led to a paediatrician being savagely beaten in a case of mistaken identity. Presumably Clare also wants all rapists to be castrated or hung up by the bollocks. Rape is a horrific crime which can lead to victims wishing they had actually been murdered. The conviction and reporting rate in this country is appalling, and needs to be drastically improved. Many offenders are without doubt getting away with it. However, those who are convicted need to rebuild their lives once they have paid the punishment for their crime, and revealing their identities and where they live in a national newspaper is not the way to go about doing that.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, September 30, 2005 

More anti-social policy suggestions, straight from the heart of No10.

Just completely depressing and soul-crushing after a bad enough week:

Tony Blair's willingness to embrace the law and order agenda became clear last night as Whitehall prepares to draw up powers for the police to dispense summary justice to combat antisocial behaviour and binge drinking. The new police powers are expected to include:

· Instant Asbos: much greater use of injunction-style "interim Asbos" granted to the police without evidence or witnesses having to be heard or the defendant informed. Bans and restrictions remain in place until a full court hearing.

· New police powers to cancel late-night extensions for rowdy pubs and clubs without having to bother the courts.

· Fixed penalty fines of £80 for drunk and disorderly behaviour. Three tickets and persistent binge drinkers will face a "drinking banning order" barring them from pubs and clubs in a specified area for a specified time, possibly a month. Underage drinkers and those who serve them will face similar fines.

· Extending £80 and £40 fixed penalty fines handed out by police officers for rowdy behaviour to 10- to 15-year-olds. schemes are under way in seven police forces. Those who do not pay or go to court will face fines of £120 and £60.

· Extending existing powers implemented in January 2004 to close down crack dens by giving the police wider powers to evict drug dealers first and insist they can only challenge the police action in the courts later.

The prime minister confirmed yesterday that this "radical extension of summary police powers" will be hammered out in the next few weeks and published before the end of the year. It will put the rights of law-abiding people to live in safety before the need to protect the innocent from wrongful conviction if necessary.

"I don't think that the traditional law can give law-abiding people adequate protection. We are trying to fight 21st-century crime - antisocial behaviour, drug-dealing, binge drinking, organised crime - with 19th-century methods as if we still lived in the time of Dickens," Mr Blair said in his Labour conference speech.

He spelled out yesterday what is going to be involved: "I want to go further," he said in a round of end-of-conference interviews. "I will have meetings in the next few weeks on this issue. Whatever powers the police need to crack down on this, I will give them," he said.

Judges have already warned the Home Office that they are not happy with the idea of imposing restrictions on people's liberty without a proper hearing. One district judge told Home Office researchers last year: "It would come under the human rights situation, wouldn't it? Making orders without there being any evidence considered?"

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said the prime minister wanted the police to dispense summary justice: "They are no longer investigating crime but dishing out the punishments themselves. If he goes any further than he has already gone, he will be modifying policing in this country for all time."

Instant Asbos: It sounds like a new drink, but it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Asbos are bad and authoritarian enough: now the police will have the power to give summary "justice" by not even having to prevent any evidence or witnesses to a court. Such things could be based on pure hearsay. What if a person breaches an interim-Asbo? Will they be thrown to rot away in the cells until a court has time to hear them? Will they be applied to beggars and prostitutes in the same way that Asbos have been?

Fining underage kids is another great way to fill the tax coffers with the money of the poor, I guess. The kids get the fine, go home, get a thick ear or worse, a beating from their parents, who are the ones left out of pocket. What exactly is "rowdy behaviour?" Is it the kind of behaviour that intimidates people, just youths hanging about on street corners, but actually not doing anything wrong? Fines are another great way of putting a problem to the back of your head, especially as so many go unpaid. The sad fact is that if they were enforced completely, many would be left destitute.

The fines for those serving the underage will further limit the rights of those old enough to buy alcohol but who don't look it. This already expands to videos and DVDs. Why should I have to carry ID to prove my age when I'm old enough to legally purchase goods? Why should I have to carry ID full stop?

The other ideas/proposals are reasonably sane, thankfully, as long as they are not abused. In a week which has seen the Terrorism Act used to stop Walter Wolfgang re-entering the Labour conference, I can't say I'm convinced.

I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. If you feel as strongly about this as I do, you should join Liberty. I did at the beginning of last month. It costs £8 a year if you're unwaged, or £24 if you're employed. I think it's a small cost to support an organisation that is launching campaigns to safeguard our rights on all fronts, including ID cards. Here's what Shami Chakrabrati, the director of Liberty, said about Blair's conference speech:

“The Prime Ministers speech contained much rhetoric about progressive values and the responsibility of true leadership. But there is nothing progressive or responsible about rubbishing the presumption of innocence or dishing out yet more summary police powers; after eight years it is time he changed the record”.

I couldn't agree more.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Thursday, September 29, 2005 

Moss dross week 2.

I really hoped it wouldn't go on this long, but it has. Both the Sun and Times had Moss on their front page today, apparently as she is now entering "rehab". Whether this involves laying in a hotel somewhere for a month or actually detoxing is up to you to guess. Oh and the link between the two? Yep, they are both owned by this blog's best friend, Rupert Murdoch.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


More scaremongering from London anti-terrorist police.

The police officer in overall charge of London's anti-terrorist operation has told the Guardian that Scotland Yard is tracking a number of potential terrorist suspects who may be planning further attacks.

In his first full interview since the July 7 atrocities, Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman said none of the individuals was linked to the blasts on July 7, or the attempted bombings two weeks later.

No master plot had been discovered, but Mr Hayman said that the force, and Londoners, would have to accept that the city was now a prime target. He anticipated other terrorist cells, which may well be British, would launch attacks.

"I don't want to scaremonger but it has to be said, when you look around the world and at the prominence of London, that the threat is real," said Mr Hayman. He said detectives were actively pursuing "other lines of investigation".

"We always remain active in covert operations. We have a number of people who are of interest."

He added: "London is an iconic site as a location for another terrorist attack. We have to be vigilant but you can't predict where or how or when they will try."

Yes, London is obviously an iconic site to attack. But let's remember one thing: none of the countries hit by "al-Qaida" since 9/11 have been hit again. America hasn't (directly). Spain hasn't. Bali hasn't. Istanbul hasn't. Tunisia hasn't. Morroco hasn't. Iraq and Afghanistan don't count for obvious reasons. You can argue against Chechnya also, but I'd describe that as an internal conflict with Russia rather than a international terrorist beacon. The London attempted bombings of the 21st were most likely done by incompetents or copycats, and it's also doubtful whether the 7th bombers had any link with "al-Qaida".

So who is likely to be targeted next? My guess is countries in the coalition of the willing that have up to yet emerged unscathed. Australia has not been hit directly, despite the Bali and Indonesia bombings. Italy has not been touched. Japan is another possible target, as is Israel, which has not had an al-Qaida spectacular, maybe only because Hamas and Islamic Jihad are just as capable. Poland is also another target, being the main member of "new Europe." This is not to say that other countries have no threat level, I'm sure they have. France's ban on the hijab in public institutions could be used as an excuse. I would find attacks on the above much more likely than further attempts on countries already hit, although the United States is undoubtedly the main target for Islamic fundamentalists everywhere.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


New Labour, no dissent.

There are some things you don't expect to happen, even at a Labour conference where the motto seems to be "don't mention the war". The sight of 82-year-old Walter Wolfgang being forcibly ejected for daring to heckle Jack Straw during a small mention of the Iraq war was one thing I genuinely did not expect even Labour to sink to.

Then again, this is from a party that over the last few years has expelled numerous members and even an MP for going off message. George Galloway was expelled for allegedly telling British soldiers to disobey illegal orders. In Blaenau Gwent, where life-long party member Peter Law stood against Labour after an all-woman shortlist was imposed, and a Blairite was parachuted in as the party's candidate, many members were expelled for supporting him. More recently other members have been threatened for tactically supporting Liberal Democrats in constituencies where Labour could not win, despite numerous columnists and the Guardian supporting tactical voting.

There still is dissent in the Labour party. Not all MPs are there to become government ministers to further their careers. The Campaign group is still vocal, despite its old-lefty image. However, as more groomed Blairites appear to be dropped onto constituencies whether they want them or not, Labour cannot pretend that it does not have problems with internal dissent.

Let's face it. Labour is and always has been governed by control freaks. One of the things Blair's reign will be remembered for will be spin, especially the David Kelly affair. If Labour wants to make the public believe that they are actually listening, the least they could do is actually start some proper debates within the party about what the post-Blair party really should look like. At the moment, the party is just heading for more of the same. If Brown cannot excite the party, what chance has he of gaining the public's trust?

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Wednesday, September 28, 2005 


Last week's news story about Rupert Murdoch saying that Tony Blair had found the BBC's coverage of Hurricane Katrina full of hate for America was big. Despite this, 4 newspapers didn't make a mention of it, or if they did, they didn't cover it to the extent of every other newspaper in the land. Those newspapers? The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and the News of the World. Now here's the question: guess who owns all 4 of those newspapers.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


'Darling, it's a long way in the future'.

Tony Blair yesterday completed his takeover of the Labour party. In his conference speech, he outlined exactly how he intends to "modernise" the public services, mainly by introducing "choice". Never mind that over half the population is unconvinced that the private sector has any place whatsoever in the NHS or running our schools, this is going to be Tony Blair's legacy.

It's worth going through Blair's entire speech to the Labour conference, just to show exactly how out of touch he has become with the average Labour or union member. The sad thing is that he has succeeded so well in destroying the Tories as a political force in this country that he has changed his adopted party into one slightly to the left of Thatcher's.

So what now? The world is on the move again, the change in the early 21st century even greater than that of the late 20th century. So now in turn, we have to change again - not step back from New Labour but step up to a new mark, a changing world is setting for us. The danger of government is fatigue; the benefit, experience.

I tell you my conclusion after eight years of being prime minister: the challenge we face is not in our values; it is how we put them into practice in a world fast forwarding to the future at unprecedented speed.

Over these eight years we have won the battle of values. The age we live in is democratic not deferential. We believe in solidarity. We believe in social justice, in opportunity not for a privileged few but for all, whatever their start in life. We believe in tolerance and respect, in strong communities standing by and standing up for the weak, the sick, the helpless.

Yes, the world is changing. China and India are undoubtedly rising, but their threat at the moment is being vastly exaggerated. Neither country is stable. Both have huge rates of poverty, with only a few being enriched. Our own country is barely democratic. When a party which won just 36% of the popular vote in the general election can have a majority of 60 seats in parliament, something stinks. If we believe in solidarity, why did Labour ministers condemn the strikers at Heathrow who walked out in support of the sacked Gate Gourmet workers? Why is Labour not prepared to remove the anti-union laws of the Thatcher era? The only solidarity Blair has believed in has been riding pillion with the United States in their foreign policy aims. If we believe in opportunity for all, why has Labour not done more to alleviate poverty? Tax credits, the minimum wage and Sure Start are all helping, but it is not enough. The gap between rich and poor continues to grow.

In the era of rapid globalisation, there is no mystery about what works: an open, liberal economy, prepared constantly to change to remain competitive. The new world rewards those who are open to it. Foreign investment improves our economy. Or take immigration. We know we need strict controls. They are being put in place, along with identity cards, also necessary in a changing world. But one of the most satisfying things about the election was that the country saw through the Tories' nasty, unprincipled campaign on immigration. People who come to work and make their lives here make Britain not weaker but stronger.

Yes, we need to remain competitive. But this is not at the cost of throwing all our benefits we worked for throughout this century out of the window. The Scandinavian model of society has been shown to work: high tax, liberal penal and social policies, care from cradle to grave. And their economies are not falling into recession. As for immigration, the Tories campaign was despicable. But this is the same Labour party which has deported the Kachepas back to Malawi to an uncertain future. It's the same party that was going to send back failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe until stopped by a court. It's the same Labour party sending back immigrants to Iraq, despite the UN saying it is too dangerous. The pandering to the tabloids continues unabated.

In the first two terms we corrected the weaknesses of the Tory years: boom-and-bust economics, chronic underinvestment in public services, mass unemployment. But our job was never simply to repair the Tory damage; it was to create an inheritance for future generations by taking the tough decisions needed to secure our future. That is the task in the years ahead. We know how hard it is for families to balance work and home life. Over the next few years, we will open up for the first time ever a new frontier of the welfare state: affordable, wraparound childcare between the hours of 8am-6pm for all who need it. We will get more people off benefit and into work.

Labour inherited an economy on the up, but this is mainly correct. The childcare of 8-6 is a great, laudable idea. But it must not come through ever greater use of the private sector whose only aim is to profit from the children they are looking after. Children also should not be expected to be there from 8 till 6 every weekday. The culture of teaching to exams and SAT targets must be further investigated and changed if necessary.

Let's be frank about why so many people are on incapacity benefit: under the Tories it was used to conceal unemployment. Next month we will publish proposals radically to reform the benefit for the future and help people who can work back into the workforce, where they belong.

This is an untruth, and Blair knows it. Incapacity benefit has been used by many of those who suffered in the industrial decline under Thatcher, especially in the north. Many of those on it will never work again. They should not be forced back into menial, depressing work on lower pay that what they currently get it, just to improve figures which the Tories themselves created.

Next year too, building on Britain's Kyoto commitments, we will publish proposals on energy policy. Global warming is too serious for the world any longer to ignore its danger or split into opposing factions on it. And for how much longer can countries like ours allow the security of our energy supply be dependent on some of the most unstable parts of the world?

For both reasons the G8 agreement must be made to work so we develop together the technology that allows prosperous nations to adapt and emerging ones to grow sustainably; and that means an assessment of all options, including civil nuclear power.

In transport, we will continue to develop proposals for a fundamental change in its funding, including road pricing. And next year, too, we will address the future of local government: a new and ambitious blueprint strengthening the leadership of our cities, giving good councils new freedoms and devolving more power to neighbourhoods.

Blair says the above, but we all know that energy policy won't go far enough. Some scientists already believe that global warming is too far advanced for anything to be done. As for depending on unstable countries for our energy supply, why doesn't he order the oil companies to actually drill what there is in the North Sea, rather than relying on easier to drill places such as in Russia? Part of the instability in the Middle East is our direct fault, and we continue to prop up regimes such as Saudi Arabia. Civil nuclear power is not going to solve anything. British Nuclear Fuels is badly run, costing taxpayers billions of pounds. Further plants would cost huge amounts of money, continue to create waste which we don't know what to do with, and would be unable to meet our energy demands on their own. All options must be on the table, but nuclear isn't the only answer.

In transport, we will continue to develop proposals for a fundamental change in its funding, including road pricing. And next year, too, we will address the future of local government: a new and ambitious blueprint strengthening the leadership of our cities, giving good councils new freedoms and devolving more power to neighbourhoods

No mention of the disaster of rail privatisation, a Tory blunder which Labour refuses to correct. Instead it is selling off a franchise which the public sector took over due to an appalling service, despite it being vastly improved and just as cost-efficient. The huge price increases in train fares have not resulted in an improved service. Buses are in a similar mess. Road pricing might work; it also might not. Instead of focusing on car-sharing, removing the car from the centre of our lives and developing alternatives, we continue with an unsustainable policy. New Labour, no change.

The truth is, command public services today are no more acceptable than a command economy. The 21st century's expectations in public services are a world away from those of 1945. People demand quality, choice, high standards. Why? Because in every other walk of life they demand them. And they are paying their taxes, so they feel they are entitled to them. If we misunderstand this, we will make a mistake of the proportions of council house sales in the 1980s. We know what makes a good school: good leadership, great teachers, strong discipline, a love of learning. We know what makes good healthcare: quick access, committed care, clean, comfortable surroundings. But what happens if you can't get them? If you've the money, you buy better. That is an affront to every progressive value we believe in. There's a great myth here, which is that we don't have a market in services now; we do. It's called private schools and private healthcare. But it's only open to the well-off. There is another myth: choice is a New Labour invention. Wrong. Choice is what wealthy people have exercised for centuries. The Tories have always been comfortable with that. But for Labour, choice is too important to be the monopoly of the wealthy.

A final myth: the way to keep universal services universal is to make them uniform. Again, wrong. The way to keep services universal is to make them of such quality that enough of those who can afford to go private opt to stay in the public service.

Of course people demand quality, choice and high standards. But they want it where they are, locally. They don't want to choose which hospital to have it, or whether to go part-private. They want it where they are. If that is being uniform, then uniform is what they want. What the rich have is access to quality; that is not choice. Choose between the NHS and private and if they can afford it they'll pick private anyway. The NHS is there for everyone's use, no matter what, but we shouldn't introduce needless reforms and markets to pander for those who always have and always will do otherwise. Quality at point of access is what is essential.

I will never return us to selection aged 11 in our schools. I will never allow the NHS to charge for treatment.

Under the Warwick accord, we are ending the two-tier workforce. But it isn't fair when parents have no option but to send their child to a poor local school, or a patient can't get diagnostic tests done in six months when the technology and the capacity exist to deliver it in days.

The wealthy, by their wealth, can change that in their lives. I want decent, hardworking families to have the same power. Every time I've ever introduced a reform in government, I wish in retrospect I had gone further.

Specialist schools, denounced at the time, have performed better than traditional comprehensives. Fact. City Academies are massively oversubscribed. Fact. And the beneficiaries are not fat cats. They are some of the poorest families in the poorest parts of Britain.

We only got big falls in waiting times after introducing competition for routine surgery. Fact. That is why the NHS reforms, to break down the old monolith, bring in new providers, allow patients choice, must continue. Money alone won't work; money and reform will, and if we stick with it, by 2008 we will for the first time in the NHS's history offer booked appointments at the patient's convenience and a maximum wait of 18 weeks from the GP to the operating theatre with an average wait of nine weeks - not the 18 months just to get off the consultants' list we inherited from the Tories but 18 weeks for the whole thing.

Selection at 11 still exists in many parts of the country, and Labour has done nothing to remove it. In fact, with the specialists and academy schools, it has continued to further it. Specialist schools can select some of their intake; academies are becoming massively oversubscribed because they're new and getting more money putting into them. Neither have yet been found to be improving standards when viewed on a basis with the schools they replaced. Instead of distributing the money fairly these schools are taking the pick over the "bog-standard comprehensives" loathed by Labour.

Every time he's introduced a reform he's wanted to go further. Did you want to make top-up fees even higher than £3,000 Mr Blair, when your education was free, even though you promised not to introduce them in the 2001 manifesto? Did you want to make foundation hospitals even more financially independent, even though they are having just as many problems without complete independence? Did you want to destroy the lives of even more single mothers by taking away their benefits? The numbers of those enduring long waiting times were dropping before competition was introduced.

The same adjustment to the modern world challenges traditional thinking on law and order. It is true: crime, overall, is down, burglary and car crime by big numbers. But it's not the point.

Respect is about more than crime. It's about the loss of a value which is a necessary part of any strong community: proper behaviour, good conduct, the unselfish notion that the other person matters. The roots of this are deep and are formed partly by the same forces of change at work in our economy: the break up of traditional communities and family structures, changing lifestyles.

The bonds of cohesion have been loosened. They cannot be tied again the same way. But, in a different way, they can. And, again based on my experience, I want to say how I think it can be done.

For eight years I have battered the criminal justice system to get it to change. And it was only when we started to introduce special ASB laws, we really made a difference. And I now understand why: the system itself is the problem. We are trying to fight 21st-century crime - ASB, drug-dealing, binge-drinking, organised crime - with 19th-century methods, as if we still lived in the time of Dickens.

The whole of our system starts from the proposition that its duty is to protect the innocent from being wrongly convicted. Don't misunderstand me: that must be the duty of any criminal justice system. But surely our primary duty should be to allow law-abiding people to live in safety.It means a complete change of thinking. It doesn't mean abandoning human rights; it means deciding whose come first.

I believe three things work. First, a radical extension of summary powers to police and local authorities to take on the wrongdoers. We will publish plans to do this by the end of the year. They will tackle, specifically, binge drinking, drug dealing and organised crime and develop existing laws on ASB.

Second, we need a uniformed presence on the street in every community. Officers on the beat is what the public have wanted for years, and they're right. I have seen teams of police and CSOs in action. It works. We want them across the whole of Britain over the next few years.

Third, give our young people places to go so that they're off the street. Invest in our youth services: more competitive sport in schools; give headteachers the full disciplinary powers they want; end the farce of half a dozen agencies all spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on problem families. Identify these families early, have them handled by one lead agency and give it whatever powers it needs to affect change or impose sanctions. And give local communities the powers they need to hold people to account.

Yes, the anti-social behaviour orders really have changed the criminal justice system. It's only in the last couple of years they have been fully implemented, and the results are there for all to see: the mentally ill, prostitutes, beggars, the disassociated of society, the different, they have all been targetted because of who they are. I'm not denying that ASBOs have worked in some cases, but they continue to be draconian as all Labour crime policy has been. The use of curfews meaning that law-abiding 16-year-olds cannot go out alone to the shops after dark without fear of being arrested is not what Britain should be associated with.

Blair once again gets the purpose of the criminal justice system utterly wrong; the system is meant to be neutral. It does not swing in either way. Deciding who comes first smacks of stacking the odds of the accused against the accuser, with all the problems that brings. If the summary powers involve on-the-spot uses of anti-social orders, then that must be opposed. Binge drinking is to be tackled at the same time as the government is handing out 24-hour opening licenses that will most likely change already no-go area town centres at weekends into permanent zones to be avoided. Joined-up thinking is not part of Labour's policy. Tackling drug dealing at the same time that cannabis is being reviewed as to whether it should become an arrestable offence again. Wasting police time is high on the agenda. There's still no direct evidence that police presence deters crime, but hell, I'd rather it'd been spent on more police than on ID cards, which are still going ahead.

The rest of the speech is mainly on terrorism and has all been said before. Notice what Blair didn't say: He didn't mention socialism. He mentions equality once at the end, but doesn't say how he attempts to achieve it. He doesn't mention the widening gap between the rich and poor. He doesn't mention the inflationary pay of those on the FTSE 100, as workers struggle on barely above the minimum wage. His whole arguments and repeated points for constant reform are tired. But Gordon Brown was no better on Monday. His vision is one only slightly less Blairite, but with the same pandering to business and the same private finance intitative schemes which have failed so spectacularly. Labour has become utterly moribund. The other two main parties are just even worse. The Lib Dems are moving to the right. Left behind are the Greens, Respect, UKIP, the nationalists and the BNP. All of them a wasted vote. If Blair's aim was to turn Britain into an effective one-party state, he has succeeded. If his intention was to make people feel a part of this one-party state, he has failed.

So where do we go from here? Today I feel utterly disenfranchised by a party which my father supported and campaigned for. Labour has become the party of big business. There seems to be little reason or even if there was, a way to stop it. Is there an alternative? Cherie Blair said it, but she was talking about her husband: "Darling, it's a long way in the future."

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 

Unionists react to IRA disarmament with predictable scepticism.

Let's face it, we weren't going to have Ian Paisley dancing around the maypole hand in hand with Gerry Adams just because General John de Chastelain confirmed that the IRA had completed its decommisioning, not only in front of him but also two independent church witnesses. They had already demanded photographs of the IRA destroying their arms caches, a call which was rightly ignored. Even so, the attitude the DUP has taken to the completion of one of their key demands, and which the IRA had vowed it would never take, has been completely irresponsible and shows their utter political bankruptcy.

The leader of Northern Ireland's largest unionist party claimed today there had been a "cover-up" over the decommissioning of IRA weapons after meeting the man in charge of monitoring the operation, General John de Chastelain.

Ian Paisley, the Democratic Unionist leader, said he was "shocked about what we learned" in the meeting with Gen de Chastelain, who announced yesterday that the IRA's entire arsenal had been put out of action over the past few weeks.

The decommissioning of IRA arms is considered a crucial step forward in the Northern Ireland peace process because unionists refused to join a power-sharing government with the IRA's political wing, Sinn Fein, while the IRA maintained its weapons.

But Mr Paisley and his party have been sceptical of the process, claiming that the IRA has hoodwinked Gen de Chastelain and his International Independent Commission on Decommissioning.

Asked whether he could see himself joining a government that included Sinn Féin, he said: "We will not be doing it."

After an hour spent discussing decommissioning with Gen de Chastelain, he said there was a "very big question" over what had taken place.

"The more spotlight is put on this, the more we discover there is a cover-up," he said. "When we came to any question which could unravel what needs to be unravelled and could put some light on these things, they refused to give us any answers."

He specifically asked whether the intelligence estimates of IRA weapons had been revised, and why improvised weapons had not been included on the lists.

"Part of the weapons that should have been decommissioned have disappeared, and the security forces admit they are probably in the hands of dissidents," he said.

Sinn Fein's deputy leader, Martin McGuinness, was flying to Washington today to try to regain political support shaken by the killing of Robert McCartney in Belfast in January.

A campaign led by Mr McCartney's widow, and claims of IRA involvement in last December's £26.5m raid on Belfast's Northern Bank, led to Sinn Fein leaders being snubbed at Washington's St Patrick's Day celebrations in March.

However, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, called confirmation of IRA disarmament "very encouraging for all those who support the peace process, the rule of law and a Northern Ireland free from sectarian violence".

Senator Edward Kennedy, the leading congressional supporter of Sinn Féin, also welcomed news of the IRA's disarmament.

"Hopefully, this dramatic and historic step toward peace will be embraced by the unionist community and become a new dawn for the peace process, so that the all-important restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly can take place as soon as possible," he said.

The Northern Ireland secretary, Peter Hain, said today that if the Independent Monitoring Commission gave the IRA the all clear in a report next January, talks towards a resumption of devolution should take place.

No one is denying that the IRA still has a long way to go. Its treatment of the McCartney family was indefensible. They need to disband fully, and stop the intimidation of families on some estates. They need to renounce criminality and not take the route of loyalist groups in fighting amongst themselves over drugs. But this is a huge step forward and should be acknowledged as such. Does Ian Paisley truly believe that two ministers, one whose father was killed by the IRA, have been tricked believingveing the IRA has destroyed its weapons when it did it right in front of their faces and even helped them?

The DUP, as I previously mentioned in my posts about the loyalist riots has a see no evil hear no evil approach when it comes to their own community. It only sees the nationalist community causing problems for its brothers. It ignores the feuds between loyalist paramilitary groups, who have made no mention of their intention to disarm. While the IRA and Sinn Fein have took action, the unionists have sat back on their hands and watched, and then criticised the final results. They have become the epitome of someone who was previously the centre of attention and calling the shots - once removed from such a position, they have become bitter and jealous, resorting to plotting. This is not just the politicians, it seems to be the majority of the loyalist community, convinced that the nationalists are receiving home improvements and getting an easy ride, while they have been left behind. This is not only nonsense, but ridiculous nonsense.

As Peter Hain says, power-sharing will not be able to resume until January at the earliest. Perhaps then Ian Paisley will have had to consider what is facing not only him but the country he has declared he will never surrender. He can decide whether his political legacy will be a historic sharing of power with Sinn Fein, leading to an outbreak of peace -- or he can decide to reject what has been achieved, continue in his navel-gazing and die having left the situation as it was. If the peace process then falls apart, it will not be because of the nationalists. It will be because of his party.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, September 26, 2005 

The Sun paid £30,000 to wife of suicide bomber.

The Sun has never been and never will be renowned for its high quality journalism. The newspaper that introduced the topless woman on its 3rd page to the world has always been racing to the bottom of the barrel. It's since been aped and beaten to the bottom of that barrel by the Daily Star and Sport, but continues to rule the roost. In a country that often finds itself staring into the abyss on a daily basis, it's still the highest selling and most read. The Sun hasn't broken any scandals recently (its sister paper the News of the Screws seems to get more than its share of late) but it's still the newspaper that many politicians fear and many love for its humour. Many of us also hate it because of the bile it preaches, how it betrays its working class readership and for its preaching of celebrity crap. For instance, today's front page features Sharon Osbourne confessing that she can't defeat bulimia. Fascinating.

All this said, you wouldn't expect the Sun, with its fiery right wing agenda and its attacks on "political correctness" to pay money to someone associated, however tenuously or dubiously to terrorism £30,000. That is exactly what it has just done.

There is no evidence or any question that Samantha Lewthwaite had any idea what her husband Jermaine Lindsay had been planning to do. She is free to tell her story and to earn money from it. That I do not question. What I do question is the Sun's rank hypocrisy. This is the same newspaper that for the last couple of years has been involved in a hate and vilification campaign against Maxine Carr, the girlfriend of Ian Huntley, who murdered the two Soham schoolgirls, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

Maxine Carr was found guilty of perverting the course of justice. She was not involved in the murder of the girls, as she was away from home at the time. She believed his pleas of innocence, and has paid the price. It's very likely that she was living in complete fear of Huntley, terrified of him. There's been allegations that he had beaten her. Despite Maxine Carr serving her sentence and paying her dues to society, she has since not been left alone by the howling tabloid press, always looking for someone to scapegoat and blame. With the moor murderers, they had the figure of Myra Hindley to target, a bleach blonde whose police photo became an iconic image of "evil". She was never released from jail, mostly as a result of the hatred whipped up against her. Despite Carr's attempts to carry on with her life, with the creation of a new identity, she has not been left alone. There have been numerous falsehoods written about her. The latest, true or not, was in yesterday's Sunday Mirror which reported that she had visited the graves of Holly and Jessica to grieve for them personally. This was evidence to the Sunday Mirror that she somehow doesn't care about what their parents feel. I'm not sure how they reached that conclusion, but that's what was printed.

Carr had been a teacher's assistant at the school where Huntley also worked as a caretaker. She had known both the girls well. Whether the girls had called at Huntley's home to see her or whether he had met them is not known. Carr no doubt has been through hell since the girls were murdered and now has to face the rest of her life living with the regret that she lied to police and was unable to stop the deaths of two little girls. That is a life sentence in itself.

Maxine Carr herself was interviewed by the Mail on Sunday. She was not paid. The Sun no doubt had something to say about it at the time, but I'm not going to waste time searching for it. The Sun didn't feel it was necessary to mention in their story that they had paid Samantha Lewthwaite for her interview. You can imagine what the Sun might have said if it had been the Daily Mirror that had paid her for her story. No doubt there would have been cries of leftist apologism for relatives of murderers. The Sun greeted the arrests of the July 21st attempted bombers with the headline "GOT THE BASTARDS". Rebekah Wade is not only a piss-poor editor doing the bidding of a billionaire media megalomaniac, she is one that can't even see the craven hypocrisy of her treatment of those who have gone through similar problems.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


  • This is septicisle



Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates