Saturday, September 09, 2006 

"Psychological issues."

Back in 1998, when the first tensions between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown started to show, Alastair Campbell famously but anonymously briefed the media, describing Brown as "psychologically flawed". As a man who suffered a nervous breakdown due to his reliance on alcohol, this was a insult that Campbell knew would deeply anger Brown. Charles Clarke, giving a second interview in quick succession, this time to the Telegraph, must have been thinking along similar lines.

He says the Chancellor has "psychological" issues that he must confront and accuses him of being a "control freak" and "totally uncollegiate".

Mr Brown is also "deluded", he says, to think that Mr Blair can and should anoint him as his successor now.
Clarke had earlier called Brown "absolutely stupid" for daring to smile when he left Downing Street on Wednesday, an image that was snapped and appeared on the front of the Daily Mail for the nation to enjoy. What's been more surprising about Clarke's outbursts was that it was a poorly kept secret that Clarke had been making covert moves towards ending his poor relationship with the Chancellor; it had been assumed that Clarke might make a return to a reasonably high profile ministerial post once Brown did take over.

It's Clarke's talk of psychological problems though that really casts the mind back over his own ministerial career, and it's only fair to go even further back to start with. There's a possibly apocryphal story, but one which has stood the test of time. Back when he worked for Hackney council in the 1980s, he came to be known as No Trousers Charlie. While it's hard to imagine many women finding the safety elephant, complete with Marx style beard a sex symbol, Clarke apparently was lucky enough to persuade a young lady to return to his place after a night out, for a coffee. He duly went to the kitchen, made two mugs of the finest Maxwell House, and returned to his date, only for her to flee screaming. The reason? The urge to remove his trousers while boiling the kettle had become too great.

While smearing Clarke over potentially untrue stories from the 80s may strike many as unfair, his record as Home Secretary may make some wonder whether he has psychological issues of his own. Describing his reign at the Home Office as "tough but not populist" in a interview after his downfall, this was surprising to those of us who had actually witnessed his attempts to
wallop the liberal press who questioned his restrictions on civil liberties. That his speech to the LSE came only two days before the foreign prisoner scandal broke was purely coincidental. In the process of getting the "glorifying terrorism" clause of 2006 act through the Commons, he slurred human rights lawyers for suggesting that they had a vested interest in opposing his plans. That the opposite was the case, as human rights lawyers' work would probably be increased as a result didn't stop him from opening his trap. On ID cards, Clarke did his best to do the opposite of what the Labour manifesto had promised. He attempted to force a compulsory scheme through the House of Lords, while the manifesto had said that the government would only introduce a voluntary scheme. It was after 5 rounds of "parliamentary ping-pong" that the Lords agreed to a compromise which meant that those renewing their passport before 2010 could opt out of having to get an ID card at the same time.

With Clarke at the helm, the disgraceful banning of protests within a mile of parliament without prior permission also became law, mainly in an attempt to get rid of pesky Brian Haw, who so annoyed the Dear Leader by ringing a bell as he went to PMQs of a Wednesday. Clarke also gave in to Blair's disastrous desire to detain terrorist suspects for up to 90 days without charge, something that he clearly didn't believe in,
resulting in the government's biggest humiliation in parliament so far.

In retrospect, and with John "we hope to leave Afghanistan without firing a single shot" Reid as the new home secretary, Clarke seems to have been an old-fashioned bleeding heart, but the reality was quite different. In any case, Clarke has thoroughly blotted his copy book now. Unless a "third way" candidate emerges to defeat Gordon, something incredibly unlikely, then he faces spending the rest of his time in politics in the wilderness. Stupid Gordon? More like petulant and embittered Charles.

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Friday, September 08, 2006 

A Brownian movement.

Joy of joys. After two days of highly vitriolic coverage of his "coup attempt", Gordon Brown has written or had ghost-written a very much Sun pleasing article for everyone's favourite semi-pornographic rag:

NEXT Monday is the fifth anniversary of September 11.

In a few days, I will visit New York, and reaffirm to the American people that Britain — under the courageous leadership of Tony Blair — stands now as then, shoulder to shoulder with them.

In al-Qaeda, we face an enemy driven by hatred of our very existence.

Between justice and evil, humanity and barbarism, democracy and tyranny, no one can afford to be neutral or disengaged.

That is why — even as we mourn the losses from a dark week in Iraq and Afghanistan — Britain can take pride that our heroic armed forces are leading in the global fight we must wage against terrorism

In other words, you're either with us or with the terrorists. You must watch all the television memorials over the weekend, you must watch those buildings collapse time and again, you must watch the fireball, you must never ever forget, you must endlessly mourn. Repeat until the end of time. (Simon Jenkins expands on this.) The only thing missing is for Brown to have said that this is a clash not of civilisations, but for civilsation.

September the 11th resulted in the deaths of just less than 3,000 civilians. Our heroic armed forces in Iraq have been involved in a war which has cost the lives of at the very least 40,000 Iraqis. Other estimates suggest over 100,000 could have perished as a result of our actions. If Iraq was meant to be part of the war on terrorism, as some would have us believe, then it has not just failed, it has spectacularly backfired. The only people that do not believe that the Iraq war has increased the threat to Britain and America from terrorism are the British and American governments. Only 1% of the public believes the war has left us safer. Not only has Iraq been turned into the new Afghanistan, where extremist militants can go to train and learn their craft, but it has so radicalised an already disaffected tiny minority in this country that they are prepared to fight and kill those that they have grown up with. The United States' plans to make Iraq a model democracy for the Middle East ought to be measured against how yesterday 27 "terrorists" were hung in a mass execution. The Iraqi government also shut down the Baghdad bureau of the al-Arabiya television after accusing it of inciting sectarian violence and of "unprofessional" reporting.

In Afghanistan, our occupation and rebuilding has been so successful that this year's opium crop is up an incredible 40% on that of last year's. Other news sources have suggested the figure could be as much as 60%. Where the Taliban once threatened opium growers with death, they have now learned to use it to their advantage. Hamid Karzai's government still has little authority outside Kabul, while warlords, some of them ex-Taliban, control their own fiefdoms. British soldiers, ill-equipped and deployed in far too few numbers are fighting against an enemy which they cannot possibly destroy or beat. They are effectively lambs to the slaughter, providing target practice for the resurgent Taliban and drug barons who now control most of Helmand province. Possible solutions, such as purchasing the opium crop for Western medical use, have been dismissed out of hand. The orthodoxy is that we cannot let Afghanistan fall back into the hands of those who planned attacks against the West and brutally oppressed their own people, but the reality is that it's already in back in their hands.

Brown goes on:
As a result of the August 10 terror raids alone, there have been 69 separate searches, with 400 computers, 200 mobile phones and 8,000 data storage devices seized.

When encrypted data takes weeks to decipher and thousands of email and phone contacts need to be checked, all across dozens of countries, it is obvious to me that the police need more than 28 days to investigate.

So — as well as money — we must ensure our police have the powers they need.

Brown believes every single word of what Peter Clarke said at his press conference, and comes to the conclusion many feared he already believed in - that the police need more than 28 days to investigate terrorist plots. This is nonsense. Buried by the leadership crisis, only two of the men who had been held for the full 28 days were charged on Wednesday evening. 3 others were released without charge after being locked up and interrogated for the best part of a month, subject according to one of the lawyers representing the men to repeated strip searches. The police knew full well this was their first real opportunity to put their case across for up to 90 days detention to be made, hence why they chose to keep the men in custody until the very last minute before charging them. The politicisation of the terror threat has resulted in the government and police agenda becoming almost entirely interwoven - an incredibly worrying development.

So, alongside the national ID card scheme, our next step must be the introduction of biometrics in new passports and visas, and the screening of all passengers.

Gordon doesn't seem to mind then that the ID card scheme, already delayed and likely to cost billions more than the original estimate, might rather put a dent in his finances. Then again, when the public may have to pay up to £300 for the privilege of having an ID card which will make it even easier for your identity to be stolen, backed up by a government database which will in effect monitor the movement of every citizen from cradle to the grave, the government's spending plans may be the last thing on his mind.

When Britain and America set out to win the Cold War, we realised victory lay both in our military power and in persuading people under Soviet control to demand their economic freedom and human rights.

It was a battle fought though books and ideas, even music and the arts, and it helped bring Communism down from within.

So, as well as supporting our police, security services and armed forces in the front line of the war on terror at home and abroad, we also need to mobilise the power of argument and ideas to expose and defeat the ideology of hate.

I speak often of the challenges of globalisation. But upon overcoming the challenge of global terrorism all else we value depends.

In a week in which President Bush has compared Osama bin Laden to both Hitler and Lenin, Brown also uses the Cold War analogy. The problem with this is that the threat from the Soviet Union was all too real - it had weapons of mass destruction that is was prepared to use, even if it resulted in mutually assured death. The "ideology of hate", as Brown calls it, doesn't even control one country's government. If anything, the al-Qaida doctrine is actually in retreat in the Middle East, not down to the actions of the west but through the murderous actions of extremists who have targeted Saudis and Jordanians just as they have westerners. The victory for Hizbullah in the month long war with Israel has left it as the current hero in the Arab street, and although it certainly was a terrorist organisation at one stage and still is in many eyes, it shares very little of al-Qaida's ideology. Indeed, Hizbullah's Shia revolution, financed and backed up by Iran is a direct threat to the Wahhabist/Salafist mixture from which al-Qaida draws its ideology. al-Qaida in Iraq's attempts to provoke sectarian conflict through attacking the Samarra mosque was in effect a declaration of war against not just Iraq's Shia, but Shia everywhere. That Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida's second in command, demanded that Abu Musab al-Zaraqawi stop attacking the Shia showed how much he feared a backlash.

Brown is entirely right that the real war on terror will be won through arguments, but it has been our failure in arguments that led directly to the disaster in Iraq. Global terrorism, much as a menace as it is, is far less of a threat than that of climate change, something about which Brown has said very little.

As Ewen MacAskill argues on Comment is Free, Brown says very little of worth in the entirety of the piece. It's almost as if he let the Sun or one of his more awestruck aides write it for him, which is quite possibly what happened. Write something which pleases Mr Murdoch, get the arslikhan dogs of Downing Street off your back, for now at least. More of concern is the possibility that Brown actually believes what's been written for him. It's certainly been suggested in the past that he was fully in favour of 90 days detention without trial, but there's equally been whispers that he may well pull troops out of Iraq to show that he intends to have a more arms-length relationship with the Bush administration. Wishful thinking perhaps?

Depressingly, this article suggests what we've known for some time: that Brown will in practice be little different from the Blair we've come to loathe. The best thing we can start planning for is to get John McDonnell (or another left-winger, such as Michael Meacher, if he decides to stand) as a high share of the vote in the eventual leadership contest as possible, to show that Brown is going to have to listen to us, the real grassroots Labour supporters (members or not) as much as he does to the rants of both the Blairites and the Sun.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006 

Black holes and revelations.

Away from the media circus which is Blair's announcement that he's going to do what he was going to do anyway, which solves absolutely fuck all, (Lenin's Tomb has a brilliant post on a protest outside the school which they did everything they possibly could to stop from happening and Bloggerheads shows just how far up the arse of Tony Blair and Downing Street Rebekah Wade and her paper are) President Bush yesterday told the world what we already knew: that America operates a series of secret prisons, and will continue to do so.

Mr Bush said the prisons were a vital tool in the war on terror and that intelligence gathered had saved lives.

He added that the CIA treated detainees humanely and did not use torture.

He said all suspects would be afforded protection under the Geneva Conventions.

Mr Bush said the CIA had used an "alternative set of procedures", agreed with the justice department, once suspects had stopped talking.

But he said: "The US does not torture. I have not authorised it and I will not."

Quite so. The CIA treats detainees so humanely that it has been known to abduct them off the street in broad daylight and then fly them to a country which is more than happy to practice torture on their behalf.

As for the "alternative set of procedures", well, they're known to include waterboarding. Other delightful humane practices which the CIA use are:

4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.

5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.

This is without going into other techniques which were authorized for use by a certain Donald Rumsfeld. The signing of that memo led directly to the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib.

Is Bush lying when he said that he has never authorised torture? Possibly not. He got Donald Rumsfeld to do that for him. He did however reserve the right to suspend the Geneva Conventions at any time. One memo which Bush certainly did see was written by Jay Bybee, later made a federal judge, which argued that torture and even killing of suspects was permissible if it would protect US security.

Has anyone else directly lied about the existence of these secret prisons? Condoleezza Rice was incredibly careful back in December when the row over extraordinary rendition was at its height to neither confirm or deny that these black holes existed. She did however tell a huge porker when she said that:

"The United States does not transport, and has not transported, detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture."

Similarly, British officials have been careful not to confirm the existence of secret prisons, or that they knew anything at all full stop about rendition flights coming through the UK. This is the ask no questions tell no lies form of defense; they didn't tell (although it's increasingly obvious that the security services know all too well what was and is going on, as the CIA pools its intelligence with both MI5 and 6. Whether they told ministers or not is something we'll probably not know until those likely to have been informed leave office.) and we didn't ask.

This is the reality behind the war on terror. We're told repeatedly that whoever it is we're fighting against are inhumane barbarians who love death while we love life. The truth is that we've been lied to and told misinformation time after time after time. In secret prisons terrorist suspects were tortured by the CIA; some of them were guilty of only being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Others were transported by CIA agents to countries where the authorities there carried out the torture for them. Call it outsourcing. All businesses do it now, and the US government is certainly a business.

Now that we've been told the truth, is anything or everything going to change? Err, no. In fact, the Bush administration plans to ignore the previous supreme court ruling and go ahead with military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay anyway. Why you ask? Well, they can hardly try them in a US court room when they've been tortured, can they? The evidence would be thrown out. Hence the cycle of idiocy and abuse continues. And we're all complicit.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006 


Margaret Beckett continues to prove what a brilliant Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was in comparison:
"Coalition forces can't go now because that would create a security vacuum."

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Coup? What coup?

The cliche is that a week is a long time in politics. Today has felt like one.

Martin Kettle, one of the few Guardian writers to be considered a Blairite, or at the very least sympathetic towards him, has posted on Comment is Free calling today's resignations by Tom Watson and six parliamentary private secretaries a Brownite coup. The Sun, edited by Rebekah Wade, a close friend of Cherie Blair and Tony, as well as the likes of David Blunkett, has a completely craven and arslikhan leader variously insulting those who were distributing letters calling for Blair to announce his timetable to leave or to go immediately as "childish", "silly babies", "immature pygmies" and "having no brains". Coming from a woman exposed as a liar (over her denials of walloping her husband), a traitor (her disgraceful attack on MPs who voted against 90 days detention without charge) and a coward (she never defends her own stupidity to the media, instead getting subordinates to do so), that's a little rich.

One thing should be gotten out of the way first. This is nothing to do with Gordon Brown. No one believes that Sion Smith and Chris Bryant, who were the first to go public with their calls for Blair to name the date, have suddenly gone from being toadying Blairites to Brownistas. This is also not yet meltdown, as David Cameron has predictably called it. They've just finally realised, along with a lot of other members of the Labour party, that Blair is doing far more harm than good. His approval ratings are half of what Thatcher's were when she was forced out. To some, the refusal to condemn Israel's disproportionate actions in Lebanon and immediately call for an unconditional ceasefire was the final straw. To others it will have been the interview in the Times last Friday, coupled with his disastrous and derided policy plans on interfering with children before they are even born, which he revealed to the BBC.

Most of all though, it's just the simple horror of having to face yet another year like this year. Blair's delusions have risen to new heights, still convinced of his own powers in saving the world from itself. He still wants to make Israel and Palestine get along, all on his own. He wants to make certain that his New Labour revolution cannot be systematically dismantled. There has been scandal after scandal, all involving Blairites of various hues, one of which, the loans-for-peerages debacle, threatens to implicate him directly. His speech on "arcs of extremism" was Blair at his very worst, seeing connections between groups and countries where there are and were none. It was little short of President Bush's speech yesterday, where he compared Osama bin Laden's writings to those of Lenin and Hitler, which must have made Lenin roll in his tomb. To compare his ideas to that of the anti-semitic, laden, unreadable prose of Mein Kampf is absurd, but anything will do in the battle to try and convince both the American and British people that the threat from Islamic extremism is just as great as that from the Nazis and the Soviet Union, especially as the mid-term elections are coming up.

Downing Street knew full well that this was coming, and it did as much as it could yesterday to try and forestall it. The exact date of Blair's departure was leaked to the Sun, which has previously been given the dates of elections in advance. A letter saying that Blair had done enough to stay for another twelve months was organised by Karen Buck, MP for Regent's Park & Kensington North, which quickly gathered 50 signatures, mostly from Blair loyalists. David Blunkett has now been let out of the wardrobe he's kept in, telling Brown and his supporters to "back off", even though they don't appear to be directly involved. Finally, Tony Blair himself called Watson's decision to resign "disloyal, discourteous and wrong" even though both said very kind things about each other in their exchange of letters. As Bloggerheads notes, Blair's words are almost a direct echo of the Sun's editorial.

This certainly wasn't inevitable, or at least it wasn't until his return from holiday, where the heat had clearly affected his head (and hair) even more than usual. His position is now completely untenable. If Blair genuinely has the interests of the Labour party at heart, he'll resign forthwith. If he attempts to hang on, then this could turn into a bloodbath. Despite all the Blairite briefings, the blame will rest with Blair, and with Blair alone. Instead of Blunkett calling for Brown to back off, it should be Blair calling his dogs of war off. They've done enough damage to the party which so many down the years have put their dreams, however misguided, into that enough should be enough. If Blair goes now, then the election for the leadership can still be done and dusted before the party conference, with no resulting political vacuum in Westminster. If he refuses, then he must be forced out, washing of dirty linen in public or not. Anything else now will just confirm Blair's hubris and disregard for a party he has never loved.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006 

Mirror, Mirror on the memo.

There's plenty of reasons to be suspicious about the leaked memo which appears in today's Mirror, setting out a laughable exit strategy for Blair. In what amounts to a publicity blitz, Blair was meant to appear on Blue Peter, Songs of Praise and Chris Evans' Radio 2 show, as well as visiting up to 20 buildings finished since 1997 and turning up at hospitals and schools across the land.

The memo shows the same unbreakable optimism as that of a previously leaked one which was meant to have said that the public were upset and angry that the Dear Leader was leaving, hence why Labour's support and his own personal ratings were down. That Blair might not be welcomed with open arms in schools and hospitals, places where he has been both booed and accosted before doesn't seem have occurred to his spin doctors.

The more interesting thing is whether it was leaked purely to try and get those who are currently involved in the circulation of letters calling for Blair to either go now or to announce his so-called timetable to back down. The appearance of David Miliband, tipped to be a future leader of the party, saying that Blair is to stand down in around twelve months time is further evidence of this. As Nick Robinson says, this is more or less a timetable, just not personally endorsed by the prime minister himself. It shows the panic inside Downing Street that this could turn into an attempted coup, even if led by ex-loyalists such as Chris Bryant (best known for being caught wearing just a pair of white underpants in a photograph on the Gaydar website) and Sion Simon. The claims that it was leaked by someone sympathetic to Gordon Brown are ridiculous - for a start, how on earth would one of them get hold of it? It has the fingers of Alastair Campbell all over it, leaked both to his former paper and without a single mention of him in the article.

More than anything, the memo shows that the ultra-Blairites are determined to keep control of the party, or at the very least ensure that Blair has something of a legacy other than Iraq. As the memo states, Iraq is the elephant in the room. A more apt description would be of a festering sore on Blair's forehead, getting bigger by the day, with its pus continually streaming down his face. We all know that Blair will never accept that he was wrong to invade Iraq - he has convinced himself, whether spiritually or politically, that it was the right thing to do, despite the blow back spreading by the day and despite the blood which continues to flow across the decimated, broken country. He may however finally admit that there was no WMD, and apologise for that, a small meaningless confession that will attempt to draw a line under the matter, just as he has tried and failed to do so before.

The Brownites though should beware. This memo clearly states just how much the Downing Street inner-circle loves Blair, and if Brown so much as dares to reverse some of the Blairite revolution, however unlikely that is, then the shit is going to hit the fan. The suspicion will continue to be that Blair doesn't want Brown to be the next leader; after all, Brown himself has long decided that you can't believe a word the prime minister says. Today's Times poll which puts John "We hope to leave Afghanistan without so much as firing a single shot" Reid just one point behind in support for Labour if he rather than Brown was prime minister will increase their fantasies of somehow getting him to take the top job rather than Gordon. Whether Blair will be prepared to snipe from the sidelines once he has gone is also something to ponder.

It should be worth celebrating that Blair is finally definitely going. That he still wants to hang on for as long as he can, regardless of the damage to the party and regardless of the damage to the country, ought to highlight the vain arrogance and deluded self-indulgence of a man once feted as being different from the old political class. The Labour party should be at the barricades. Instead the majority are still enjoying the fading power they have, while they still can.

Related posts:
Big Stick Small Carrot - Ugly Rumours
BlairWatch - Your Chance to Plan Tony's Departure

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Monday, September 04, 2006 

Scum-watch: Contempt for contempt.

Last night's raids, which have so far triggered no hysterical statements from politicians or police, ought to be seen in this light.

I spoke too soon. Today's Sun splashes partly on a quote from a "security source":

One security source said: “They mingled with ordinary members of the public. They must have seemed like innocent nature-lovers enjoying the outdoor life and the best that England can offer. But in reality we believe they were planning mass murder.”

During the surveillance, some watchers heard one leading suspect telling a group that as many people as possible should be killed.

A source told The Sun: “He was heard to say, ‘Let’s kill them — let’s kill them all’. It was damning proof they were intent on murder and it put the wind up us.”

Security chiefs used new legislation outlawing the training of terrorists to move in on the suspects over the weekend BEFORE they could put their wicked plans into action.

Anti-terror cops are confident they already have enough evidence to bring charges against a “substantial” number of those being held.

Usually the process involved in the criminal justice system is to charge someone, then give the evidence in a court of law. In these days of public relations terror alerts, all that's been thrown out the window. Now the process seems to be to either talk to the media anonymously and tell them the magnificent evidence you have against these evil fiends or what you fear they might have been planning, or to call a press conference once the suspects have been charged to tell the media how dangerous they are and what they've found. This has been partially down to the disquiet in the aftermath of the Forest Gate raid - which resulted in the Koyair brothers being smeared by the Murdoch press in particular, even after nothing was found at their house, as well as the suspicions rightly held that the government is over-hyping the terror threat.

Today's Sun article must surely be pushing the boundaries of contempt of court, however. The security source effectively accuses men that have not even been charged yet with being guilty of incitement to murder, even though it goes on to say they only might have enough evidence to charge a "substantial" number. It also remains to be seen how a group of young Muslim men could be effectively training for jihad within eyesight and earshot of other members of the public, which seems to be what the security source is saying that the men did. Last night's documentary by Peter Taylor on Islamic extremism had a section on a cell in France, whose training consisted of going for ten minute jogs round a park.

Naturally, the fact that Abu Hamza supposedly went to the school for a weekend but was told to sling his hook (groan) is casually dropped into the story (to be fair, all the reports have done this) to further the overwhelming line of the report: that something must have been going on for him to have gone there. One of his ex-hencemen was also arrested in the raid on the Chinese restaurant. The Sun also seems to think that the school itself is suspicious, something not highlighted in other media reports.

Meanwhile, officers who raided the Jameah Islameah school at Mark Cross, near Crowborough, East Sussex, were conducting an inch-by-inch search, focusing on a lake and woodland at the 54-acre former convent, which often lets outside groups use its grounds at weekends.

A security source said undercover agents were monitoring other suspected al-Qaeda camps.

The source said: “It would be naive to think there aren’t other schools of this type operating in the UK.

“A number of similar high-level surveillance operations are taking place as we speak.”

Mystery surrounds financing at the school, which has been criticised by Ofsted inspectors.

It has only nine boys on its roll — but annual fees of just £1,000.

Imam Bilal Patel, who runs it, has been questioned but NOT arrested over the allegations of terrorist training.

Neighbours said last night the sound of gunshots had been heard coming from the school.

Compared to the Guardian:

Counter-terrorism sources indicated that it was not the activities of the school itself but what might have gone on in its grounds that was the subject of the investigation.

Mystery wouldn't surround the financing situation if the Sun writer (Mike Sullivan, who you may remember from the non-existent House of Horrors reports) had done a search of Google for Jemeah Islameah, which brings up the school's website as the first result. The school is not a normal everyday institution, but rather one for those aged 16-65. It only has classes for girls aged 11+ running in various parts of London in the evening. The site also provides a phone number to call and enquire about camping weekends, as well as openly stating that fees are £900 PA.

While the Sun mentions how the recent anti-terror bill made the attending of a terrorist training camp an offence punishable by up to ten years in prison, it only alludes to the fact that the men have actually been arrested under the new "glorification" of terror offence created in the 2006 Terrorism Act.

As it happens, the men might well be charged. They might well be guilty of something or other. The Sun is as ever though already certain that they are definitely evil-doers and potential murderers. The casual erosion of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty continues then unabated, and the current government is unlikely to start making much noise about possible contempt of court. After all, it's partly down to them that so much hysteria has been generated about the threat facing Britain. Rebekah Wade ought to remember though that it was only 6 years ago that the Sunday Mirror was taken to court after it published a story which led to the collapse of the trial of Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate, two footballers accused of a racist attack, of whom Bowyer was cleared and Woodgate found guilty of affray. It's something that could easily happen again.

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Grauniad-watch: Shome mishtake, shurley?

Even by Grauniad standards, it's dropped a major clanger today. Mark Ravenhill, the playwright best known for "Shopping and Fucking", writes in the G2 section about racism and television. He has something of a point in general, but he completely blots his copy book by writing this bilge:

But it's there in other dramas, too. Take the hugely entertaining Life on Mars, the time-travel cop drama. Isn't a great deal of the action created because the central character, a 1970s cop thrown into the modern world, needs to be educated out of his sexist, homophobic ways? The show is about the reform of the white, working-class male - still the most dangerous breed in the mind of the liberal urbanite. He probably loved Maggie. Could vote BNP. Almost certainly has a pitbull. Give him some educative drama - fast!

What the show hasn't ever shown, though, is the central character expressing any racism - even if he is later to be educated out of it. Which parallel 1970s universe does this cop come from, I wonder? A pretty obscure one, if everyday police conversation wasn't peppered with racist jokes and banter.

All of which must make you wonder whether Ravenhill has actually ever seen Life on Mars or has instead just read about it. Life of Mars is actually the other way around - a 1970s cop isn't thrown into the modern world, a modern cop is thrown into a 1970s world. We don't see a 1970s cop having to come to terms with a world in which "political correctness" has run rampant, but rather a modern cop having to cope with casual prejudice and petty corruption. Where Ravenhill may well be right is that racism wasn't featured as prominently, to my memory at least, as the pre-mentioned sins were.

If anything, the show revels in this slightly edgy premise, which made it all the more fun and enjoyable. That Sam Tyler, played by John Simm, is almost believeable as a police officer with principles is all the more credit to the writers and performers.

These days, it's incredibly easy to fact-check anything. A quick search on Wikipedia, Google or IMDB will bring up all the information needed on practically any TV show or film. Ravenhill has the excuse of writing from memory, but the sub-editors don't. Either they're lazy, or just don't bother to check the crap that sometimes fills out G2. I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't been looking for the handy chart G2 does on a Monday with all the arts reviews from the weekend papers. Others have probably beaten me to it, but I've emailed the fabled Readers' Editor, and doubtless we shall have a suitably ashen-faced apology within a couple of days.

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