Saturday, May 20, 2006 

Lining them up and knocking them down: Lies about Iran's "dress code".

It's sometimes difficult to ascertain whether a news story is pure propaganda, designed to harm and misinform, or whether it's based on a tiny amount of truth and then embellished further along the line. This is further complicated when it involves a country such as Iran, where correct translation is everything. While the latter could be the case in this instance, with the Canadian National Post printing on its front page that Iran is "eyeing" badges for Jews, it seems a lot more likely that it's the former.

What makes the story seem almost like the latter instance of the above is that is based on a small amount of fact. Amir Taheri states that the law replaces an original one from 1982 that dealt with women's clothes. That is exactly what this one also does. As Juan Cole points out, this much is true. The law is meant to further restrict women's clothing, and what is regarded as "un-Islamic" dress. Already police have been ordered to crackdown on those who wear their headscarves with too much hair showing, or on men with "outlandish" hairstyles. Apparently dog-walking is also considered a no-no.

Where the report gets into inaccuracy, and is downright misleading, is that it says that the law establishes a dress code. It does not. Nor does the law even mention "badges" or identifying marks for different religious denominations, as the only Jewish Iranian MP has come out and made clear. What makes the report seem so terrifying is in its parallels with Nazi Germany. Not only would the Jews have to wear a piece of material identifying them, but the material would also have to be yellow, exactly the same colour as the star which was imposed on them by the fascists. All this ties in exactly with what some politicians and commentators are increasingly doing; comparing Iran, and Ahmadinejad himself directly with Hitler. George Bush and his aides themselves now do this, according to a former senior intelligence official.

Not that comparing the next rogue state with our favourite historical enemy is by any means a new thing. Before the Iraq war we were constantly reminded of the dangers of "appeasement", the failed policy pursued by Neville Chamberlain. That Iraq had been bombed for twelve years, that there were UN-imposed no fly zones, that the country had no air force and that the longest range missiles it had were being destroyed was still no obstacle to this comparison. With Iran, the country is nowhere near such a miserable state. Hence why the propaganda against the Iranians and Ahmadinejad is coming on even heavier than that which we saw before the battle for Baghdad.

Amir Taheri himself, is as you might expect, a partisan figure. The end of the National Post's article mentions that he's a member of Benador Associates. A quick trip over to their website reveals that other members of Benador include James Woolsey and Richard Perle, both signatories and members of the Project for A New American Century. Another member was the recently deceased A.M. Rosenthal, an ex-executive New York Times editor, who supported the Iraq war and who supposedly suggested that other "rogue" nations should be given a 3-day ultimatum to reveal the truth about their WMD programmes after which bombing would commence. Taheri's other recent articles include his analysis of Ahmadinejad's letter to George Bush, which he claims shows that:
the present regime in Iran is the enemy of the current international system and is determined to undermine and, if possible, destroy it.
Another recent article, this one for our very own Torygraph, claims that Iran's lust for a nuclear weapon is err, all about the hidden Imam, stoopid.

As increasingly happens in the 24-hour news environment, the story was quickly gobbled up with gusto by those on the right, who seemingly didn't bother to check it before going to air or print. Taheri himself repeated the claims for Murdoch's New York Post, while his Faux News also reported the story. The Drudge Report, ex-scourge of Clinton, had the story up for 6 hours before it was removed with no explanation. Harry's Place, everyone's favourite bomb 'em and see what happens next repository also posted the story up, now with a disclaimer saying that it may well not be true. The National Post itself now has an article up reporting that experts are casting doubt on their original claims.

The most worrying thing about the whole episode is that everyone is prepared to believe the worst about Iran. Despite the disaster which has taken place in Iraq, which Ghaith Abdul-Ahad today shockingly reports on in the Guardian, we seem to be willing for the same thing to happen again. It needs urgently repeating that Iran is not Iraq. The situation could not be more complicated, but military action at any stage is only likely to make everything even worse. That Iran was earlier this week mocking the latest attempt at a deal from the EU shows that we may have left the carrot and stick diplomacy too late. With the enrichment having started, a light water reactor isn't good enough for the Iranians. Hard bargaining may yet happen, but the problem certainly isn't going to go away. With the propaganda against the mullahs not yet reached fever pitch, we may yet have a lot more debunking to do, or in the long run, accepting that Iran has gone nuclear and that any action now is more dangerous than the status-quo.

(Thanks to both Lenin's Tomb and Juan Cole for some of the sources on this piece.)

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Friday, May 19, 2006 

Express-watch: Britain's our next stop!

With immigration not being out of the news over the last few days, what with the civil servant giving evidence to the Home Affairs committee saying he "hadn't got the faintest idea" how many illegal immigrants were in the country, the foreign prisoner non-deportation scandal rumbling on and with five illegal immigrants turning up for work at the Home Office (although they were cleaners, employed by a contractor and were found out when security checked them over, although Channel 4 News apparently got the company to admit that have actually worked for the immigration service before, and Newsnight is currently airing its own allegations.) it's not much of a surprise that the newspaper which most frequently distorts the true picture of immigration in this country is leading on it. However, even they today seem to be completely making it up.

The Express story is about the thousands of migrants which are making the perilous trip over the sea, usually from the Atlantic ports of Mauritania and Senegal to try and reach mainland Europe. Mostly, they don't make it to Spain itself, but instead to the Canary islands. Tenerife, known mainly to Brits as a holiday island, has been receiving the most, with reports that up to 150 a day have been arriving via boat.

So where does Britain come into all this? Well, it err, doesn't really. These immigrants, who have paid all the money they have either saved or managed to get hold of to traffickers who take them to the ports and then abandon them once they've been given a boat, might have the intention of coming here, but it's huge unlikely that they'd ever be able to make it, or manage to. They have no documentation when they arrive (if they arrive, reports suggest up to 1,000 people already this year have died trying to reach Spanish territory) and no money. The Spanish have reopened an ex-army barracks to house those who have so far made the journey. The Spanish have also not found a solution to the problem, although they have suggested that they will take to using satellite monitoring to prevent yet more waves of immigrants reaching the islands. Even if the immigrants managed to get another boat once they had reached Tenerife and then get to Spain itself, they are faced with the problems of having no money. Smuggling using lorries coming through the Channel no longer works - all trucks are swept by sniffer dogs, and drivers face heavy fines if any immigrants are found. This leaves the immigrants with again making the journey by sea, or perhaps being used as one-way drug mules and there have been no reports of migrants managing to make it across the busy channel via yacht.

There's no doubting that there is a serious problem with illegal immigration, both with how it is seen and how the Home Office is dealing with it (or not, which seems to be what's happening.) The problem with those entering the country though is mainly with people traffickers who charge huge sums to get them to mainland Europe or through to Britain. Those who are making the trip from Africa via boat face almost insurmountable problems in making it to Britain. So why is the Express claiming that these migrants will be coming to these shores? Well, it makes for a nice scare story, it helps bash the Blair government and in the current climate, hardly anyone is going to bother questioning it. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story, after all?

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Summarising Big Brother.

On a day when there appears to have been a slight uprising at Guantanamo Bay, when the Express is printing blatant lies on its front page yet again (see above post) and when Romano Prodi makes an impassioned speech about withdrawing Italian troops from Iraq, the top story for the red-top tabloids is of course Big Brother. It's not just the tabloids though, the Guardian web site is getting excited about this fantastic human spectacle as well.

In line with this, Obsolete is happy to provide a cut out 'n' print guide to all the contestants, so that you'll never have to watch the programme or read about it again until the end of its run (although Obsolete is going to keep a tally of how many times it features on all newspapers front pages), in as few words as possible:

Pete - Crossdresser, Tourettes. (Although judging by the amount of swearing on the show, whether anyone will notice or not is doubtful.)
Shahbaz - Asian, gay.
Lea - surgically enhanced older slapper.
Nikki - surgically enhanced younger slapper.
Imogen - slapper.
Mikey - moron.
Dawn - misanthropist.
George - toff.
Grace - "Sloane ranger".
Lisa - Braindead loudmouth.
Sezer - "Self-made" capitalist.
Bonnie - naive attention-seeker.
Richard - gay, Canadian.
Glyn - Welsh, moron.

(That's enough fame-seeking nobodies. Ed.)

(I wrongly identified Pete as a transsexual. Apologies to transsexuals everywhere.)

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Thursday, May 18, 2006 

13 weeks of absolute fucking hell.

Yes, it's that time of year again. No longer is the British summer time the season during which the newspapers print more surveys and PR crap than usual, or concentrate on how hot or cold or rainy the weather is, because the tabloids at least now have something even worse to splash on. For those of us who actually like watching television which educates or entertains, or heaven forbid, tries to do both at the same time, it's the season which makes you want to slam your head repeatedly into the screen in a futile attempt to break both it and your skull at the same time. Oh lordy, it's time for Big Brother once again.

When first launched, the show was vaguely interesting and something slightly different than the norm. The first lot of contestants weren't really that outrageous or some would say, that interesting. The big happening was that one of the contestants had managed to smuggle in a mobile phone, and had been conspiring against the others, only to be found out and booted from the show. It was eventually won by a likeable builder called Craig, who has since gone to appear in the inevitable DIY shows on the BBC, and for a while, on Avid Merrion's celeb-mocking (and later loving) Bo Selecta!

The problem that the producers of the show then had was that while it had enthused a reasonable amount of the public, and they were likely to return, it was thought unlikely that it would happen if the show was just, well, the same thing again. The first pointing towards what was going to happen to the later series was with the late appearance of an airheaded girl called Claire, who just happened to have had a breast enlargement, which inevitably caused both interest in the house and in the papers. From then on the die was cast. Series two, while still featuring some of the likable or boring people that the first had, also had among its cast a woman called Helen who is still most remembered for saying "I like blinking, I do". Along with her, the series had its first openly gay man in Brian Dowling, who went on to win and who now is presenting ITV's new call-in game show, the Mint. In a voyeuristic and somewhat tacky turn, another gay man entered the house half way through the series, who was meant to sent Brian's pulses racing. What actually happened was that the two didn't get along at all. The tabloids, which had noticed that covering the show helped boost circulation in otherwise low-selling months, started to call the show "boring" in their droves. Frightened by this, the producers decided to turn the show "evil", along with introducing the most dysfunctional people it could find for the third series.

It worked. The third series contained Jade Goody, a complete and utter vacuous moron who was abused in the tabloids from the beginning, only for those watching the show to come to like her, which resulted in the papers' performing a famous reverse ferret. From calling her fat, ugly and stupid, she was soon turned into the nation's favourite working class gal. Her stripping naked during a poker game, while none of the others took off any clothes wasn't degrading or silly, it showed that she was up for anything and took it in her stride. After drunkenly performing fellatio on one of the men in the house under the cover of the bed clothes, it wasn't sleazy or unsettling television, it was riveting and "true to life", as well as being followed by days of discussion of whether it had happened or not. Along with Jade Goody, the show for the first time had what could be properly described as very attractive young woman on it. To the Daily Sport, this was a boon, as it managed to get hold of stills of the eventual winner, Kate Lawler, naked about to enter the shower.

The fourth series turned out to be the true turning point. The show was again derided as boring, as the producers had took fright at the criticism that when the show had been harsh and nasty that the people inside the show had suffered most. The producers changed their minds, and gave in to tabloid demand for sexier, younger and more naive and self-obsessed people to go into the house for weeks on end. Since then, all that has come from the show has been a transsexual who made a single then disappeared, numerous young women who have stripped off for the likes of Nuts and Zoo, and the ever rising star of the host, Davina McCall, despite her having no talent whatsoever, as evidenced by her recently derided attempt at a normal chat show on the BBC.

So what's wrong with the show you might ask? Isn't it just catering for a young audience which acts exactly like those it sees in the house? Well yes, that is was what it does to a certain extent. Yet you have to wonder about the sanity of those who enter and whether it further warps them or prevents them from leading a normal every day life after they leave. As mentioned above, it seems that some of the young women who have entered have become so desperate for cash and or recognition that they have given in to the no doubt abundant offers from the men's magazines to get their baps out, whether they had the intention of doing so in the first place or not. Also of concern is the way that the push for ratings has meant those selected to enter the house are meant to annoy one another and lead to ructions between them all. Last year's was only really notable for two things. A mass violent brawl, which led to the channel being strongly rebuked by Ofcom, and one of the female contestants decision to sit in the middle of the garden outside the house and masturbate with a bottle, after getting very tired and emotional. Both caused uproar, and questions over whether something even worse could possibly happen which the producers would not be able to control. By what's been reported so far, it seems that the new series is carrying on where the old one left off.

This is without going into those of us who were at first fairly interested in the show's premise and how people could live with only having a few others they had met before, working together to get over the challenges set. Now the show is simply a launchpad for a celebrity career, massive greed and cheap pornography. It could have been something like the Stanford prison experiment, except in a social setting. Instead it's been turned into a dumbed-down atmosphere which only exists for conflict to arise between those foolish enough to enter, or for the tabloids to leer and jeer at whether the equivalent of pandas will indeed decide to fuck while under the gaze of millions.

So no, Obsolete won't be watching. It's a shame when Channel 4, which has been one of the TV innovators, and has recently produced the likes of Peep Show, Nathan Barley, Black Books, Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights and Green Wing, as well as excellent Dispatches documentaries can't have the heart to end what has become a glorified freak show. Like the travelling circuses, it will eventually die out. Whether someone will die as a result before that is impossible to tell.

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Move along please.

It's not just demonstrations against government policy which are now being stopped under the Serious and Organised Farce Act's banning of protests within 1km of parliament without getting prior permission. Yesterday Annabel Holt tried to protest outside the annual general meeting of GlaxoSmithKline, that same company which got the outrageously broad injunction which makes publishing the address of any Glaxo shareholder an imprisonable offence. Let's hope that or BT are taking note, otherwise Inspector Knacker might be making a call.

Anyway, you can guess what happened next. Approached by three police officers, she was told to move on or face arrest. She moved on. The only other protestor was a Sylvia Bailey, from a group called the Stevenage Ladies, who seemingly had asked permission. One can only wonder if defence or oil companies will move their AGMs into the restricted zone at short notice to take advantage of the government's ban on protests, which remember, in no way removes the right to protest or to free speech.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006 

Blair: Nuclear is back with a vengeance.

Despite all that has recently happened, Tony Blair is still going out of his way to anger his own party. In a speech last night to his favourite group of people, the "voice of business", the CBI (expect him to become chairman or member of the boards of a few companies that belong to it when he leaves office), he seemingly decided to pre-empt the government's own energy review which is due to report in July, by saying that "failing to replace the current ageing plants would fuel global warming, endanger Britain's energy security and represent a dereliction of duty to the country".

All the signs are that new nuclear plants are going to be pushed through, whether anyone likes it or not. Parliament seems unlikely to get a vote or even a say in the process, those who might build the plants are demanding that the normal planning restrictions be bypassed so they can get right on with it, and the Guardian reports that the ex-environment minister sacked in the reshuffle has said that the figures behind the case for new nuclear power stations have been a fit-up. This is without going into the fact the North Sea gas and oil fields are nowhere near as dry as they have been claimed to be. The reality is that the quantity that remains is just harder to get at, which means that those precious profits will have to be eaten into a little, and the companies aren't prepared to do that.

John Vidal over on Comment is Free has nine questions which Blair has to answer. I wouldn't hold out too much hope that he will.

Related post: Shiny new Chernobyls.

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Sun-watch: How journalism works.

Apart from whether Jane Moore will ever manage to free her hand from her face, the main question recently regarding the Sun is why Wayne Rooney is currently getting such nice coverage from the Scum. The reason? You might remember that not so long ago Rooney had been getting ready for a legal battle against the newspaper, after both the News of the World and the Sun had printed stories alleging that he had hit his girlfriend, and then told her to "fuck off home" in front of other Manchester United players. The Sun, realising that a possible legal battle over libel with England's wunderkid might not be very good publicity for it during the World Cup campaign, as well as possibly leading other players to give interviews and exclusives to its rivals, settled the case for a cool £100,000. That doesn't include the costs of the action, which are estimated to have run to £500,000 for Rooney and £300,000 for Screws (sorry, News) International. Since then the Sun have run headlines such as "MAKE OUR DREAMS COME TROO" (geddit??) and today has been very sympathetic all over its front page about the fact someone took a hammer to Rooney's cars. Even so, why such a story is front page news when there was by no means a dearth of news yesterday raises eyebrows at just how arslikhan the Sun is going to become to him.

That Rooney has since broken his foot must be causing Wade worries. Wasting £800,000 of Murdoch's money seeing it's unlikely he's to play in the World Cup will not go down well with the Dirty Digger. That said, all may be forgiven if Rooney does by a miracle make the cup, or if even more dream-like, England somehow manage to win. Hunter Davies, who is currently ghosting the first part of Rooney's autobiography, was supposedly meant to be phoned by Rooney every day during the event with his thoughts on what was happening. The publisher which Rooney chose to sell his story to? HarperCollins, owned by one Mr Rupert Murdoch. It perhaps goes without saying that the Sun or Times may well get first rights to the serialisation, which would be expected to boost circulation and help get Murdoch's hard-stolen (surely earned? Ed.) cash back.

Not that Rooney's legal problems with the newspaper are all finished. Patricia Tierney is suing the Sun after it printed her photo and named her as the older prostitute that Rooney slept with after his notorious visits to brothels with other footballers. Tierney maintains that she had only ever worked as a part-time receptionist at the massage parlour, and that her life has been ruined by the article. Rooney may yet be called as a witness.

In other Sun-related news, the parents of the murdered teenager Rochelle Holness are furious at a story which the newspaper published about the circumstances in which she was killed by John McGrady. The Sun, probably informed by a police-source who was completely and utterly wrong, splashed that she was strapped to a table and then dismembered while still alive. The toothless Press Complaints Commission is investigating their complaint, and her parents have said that the paper has been as cruel to them as the murderer was. Not very good publicity for a newspaper which screams for tougher and tougher punishments and removal of rights legislation but falls victim to its own lust for lurid stories about death and sex. Perhaps that's why the Sun has offered a £10,000 reward to anyone who comes forward with information which helps catch the killer of Nisha Patel-Nasri, a police special constable who was apparently murdered outside her own house with one of her own kitchen knives. That bit of information made the commentators who were screaming for anyone caught with a knife in public to be sent to prison look rather stupid.

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Joined-up government.

Friday May the 12th, 2006:
Health secretary Patricia Hewitt declared an end to the "Prozac nation", launching a programme to cut the number of patients on SSRIs and extend counselling to the thousands of people with mild to moderate depression and anxiety.

Monday May the 15th, 2006:
Obsolete's local NHS trust "redeploys" staff in charge of cognitive behavioural therapy groups for those suffering from depression and anxiety as part of the changes to reduce a budget deficit of around £7,000,000. The mental health sector is being hit especially hard, despite already being underfunded. It's a shame that those who have mental health problems don't move politicians as much as women who demand breast cancer drugs that cost £20,000 a year that have not yet been properly tested, only benefit a certain type of cancer and which have even more troubling side effects than the already currently effective drugs available.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 

Sun-watch: Another day, another distorted editoral.

Tony Blair is right to say the human rights laws need "rebalancing". But it's time for the Prime Minister to stop talking and start acting. Mr Blair is rightly outraged over the catalogue of rapes and murders by thugs who have been set free early from their sentences. And he is surprised that Afghan hijackers cannot be deported. Mr Blair should not be surprised. These scandals did not come out of a clear blue sky. The laws which allow them were enacted by Mr Blair's Lord Chancellor Derry Irvine - in the face of what the PM now calls "common sense". They were backed by his QC wife, Cherie, a human rights lawyer. And they are still defended by his current Lord Chancellor, Charlie Falconer. But this is not a time for apportioning blame, as the Tories have sought to do, or for political point-scoring. It's too important for that. We need to recognise and admit that mistakes have been made, both by the lawmakers and by those who interpret the laws. And we need to set about putting this scandalous situation right as soon as humanly possible. Mr Blair seems at a loss what to do. We have some suggestions.

First and foremost, he MUST tear up the act enshrining the EU convention in British law. If he is afraid of Brussels, he MUST at least demand opt-outs from its worst clauses. In addition, he MUST abolish rules that set violent criminals free after half their sentences. If, as he says, rogue judges are to blame, he MUST name and shame and - where necessary - suspend them. He MUST end privacy rights for hardened criminals and allow their IDs to be published on the internet. The Prime Minister said yesterday: "The demands of the majority of the law-abiding community have to take precedence." We couldn't have put it better ourselves. There is no higher priority for any government than protecting the public. This legal farce has been going on too long, and Mr Blair's time in Downing Street is finite. He needs to get a grip... And soon.

Firstly, Blair did not say that human rights laws need rebalancing. He said that the debate on civil liberties needed rebalancing. They're not the same thing. Blair was also not surprised that the Afghan "terrorists" could not be deported; what he said was that the ruling was an "abuse of common sense".

After blaming Derry Irvine, Cherie Blair and Charlie Falconer and in previous editorals Labour and Blair, the Sun then decides that it's not time to apportion blame.
(Start apportioning blame immediately or you're fired. Murdoch.) Rebekah Wade then does decide that someone else might be to blame, and it's of course those out of touch old duffers the judges, the same ones that hear all the arguments in court and then make their decision in line with the law, instead of just listening to the juicy bits and obeying the latest Sun editorial. Apparently they should be named and shamed - even though the Judge's name is always given in reports of such cases. Also relevant is the fact that judges cannot hit back or defend themselves, as the Sun well knows. The other solutions to this "legal farce" apparently are to - you've guessed it, rip up the Human Rights Act. If Blair can't do so, he should demand opt-outs from its worst clauses. What clauses would be the worst ones? The right to a fair trial, as guaranteed in article 6? How about freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as guaranteed in article 9? Or could it possibly be article 8, respect to private and family life? After all, as Lord Lester today writes in the Guardian, both the Sun and News of the Screws seem to infringe on the private lives of many people if it makes for a good front-page screamer or if they've shagged some slapper.

The Sun also says that rules letting violent offenders out half-way through their sentences must be stopped. There are no such rules - all the cases are reviewed by the probation panel as and when the time approaches - it is up to them and the prison service whether anyone is released or not. Recent cases have shown that both their training and following up of those released has been poor. This is the fault of the government, but to stop a whole scheme because of a tiny number of mistakes is not the answer, much as keeping everyone in prison until they've served their full time and then dumping them out on the streets without any support is also not the answer. Apparently privacy rights of hardened criminals must be removed, which must be a surprise to almost anyone who is not under 18 who is arrested or charged, as their identities are almost always revealed on the news or in local papers. Recently courts have been given the power to let juries know of the accused's police history, something that also hasn't had problems with being put into law. It's funny that the Sun thinks that hardened criminals should be exposed on the internet, but thinks the opposite when its sister newspaper's star reporter Mahzer Mahmood's photograph, who has procured drugs from dealers to sell to celebrities and paid witnesses to trials which have come of his investigations, is published, as it amounted to a "threat to his life".

Finally then, Bloggerheads managed to obtain a screenshot of the Sun's online poll on whether the Human Rights Act should be scrapped before the results screen was removed. Imagine my shock at why that must have happened:

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Monday, May 15, 2006 

Sun-watch: Yet more distortions.

You would think from the Sun's front page that in some way the law was to blame for why Daniel Charnock was released on bail, to then rape a third victim. Rather, as is usual of Sun distortions and with its on-going campaign against the Human Rights Act, which it today calls "disgraceful", it had nothing to do with it. He was released on conditional bail first by the magistrates, and then by the Judge. They didn't have to, and the blame must lie with them for not recognising just how dangerous the man was.

On the Sun's campaign against the "crazy" Human Rights Act, it claims that 35,000 phoned its "You The Jury" Hotline to call for it to be repealed. Like its claims that 100,000 of its readers had demanded the 90-day detention without trial bill should be made law, it's a rather less impressive figure than it first looks. The Sun, according to ABC circulation figures, sold an average of 3,154,781 copies in April.
35,000 then, comes to approx. 1.1% of its total readership. It gets worse though. The Sun often claims to its advertisers that it commands an actual average readership of about 8.5 million, down from its previous claim of 10 million. If we take its claim at face value, that amounts to a whole 0.04% who agree that the Human Rights Act is both "madness" and "disgraceful". Clearly then, the Sun has a mandate for demanding that the government act. Incidentally, you can vote for whether you think the act should be got rid of at the above Sun link. Sadly, you can't see the real time results. One can only wonder at why that is.

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(Ex)Tory bigot of the year award contender for 2006!

Despite dear old Dave Cameron trying his best to turn the nasty old Tories into the caring 'n' compassionate Conservatives that want to stop chocolate oranges from being near checkouts and make sure that children's clothes aren't sexually suggestive, he was always going to have trouble with some of the party's members who are hard to reconstruct. Step forward Reverend Robert West, until recently a Tory member of South Holland district council in Lincolnshire.

Private Eye runs a yearly award in its Rotten Boroughs column for the most bigoted comment, speech or otherwise by a Tory. It seems it might have already found this year's winner, for Robert West has now formally defected to the British National Party, outraged by Cameron's A-list of potential Tory candidates for the next general election, which was made up of a fair number of women, ethnic minorities and one ex-soap star. (The list also includes Maria Hutchings, a one-issue woman who has been rather derogatory about causes other than her own.)

West has in the past said that "the mixing of the races challenges the glory of God", without explaining how or why. Surely an all-knowing, benevolent God who created men of all races knew that they would intermix? Or is West one of those Church of England members, who like the BNP, believe in Darwinian evolution? After all, when Stephen Green, member of the lunatic Christian Voice group which has been picketing the play Jerry Springer The Opera while it has travelled around the country, had a meeting over possible workings between the two, he was told if he believed in the "literal truth of Genesis than he was even dafter than he appeared."

Following Cameron's A-list, West has now said the following:
[I] have decided to seek refuge from political correctness by applying for asylum with the British National party, Britain's finest and most decent party.

No further comment necessary.

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