Saturday, January 06, 2007 

Scum and Mail-watch: The lies and excuses of both the police and gutter press.

Jason Croft and Michael Nixon, the two convicted murderers who went missing from Sudbury open prison in Derbyshire.

Another day breaks, and the tabloids are again united in shrieking at the Human Rights Act, when they should in fact be shouting at the police, the reality of overcrowding in prisons and their own hand in creating that exact situation.

Possibly prompted by an article in the Torygraph from last year, Derbyshire police supposedly defended their decision not to release the photographs of two murderers who have absconded from open prison with the following statement, taken here from the main Scum article:

“When making a decision to release any photograph, police forces must take into account numerous factors including the public interest test, whether there is a strong local policing purpose and, of course, the Human Rights and Data Protection Acts."
They've since claimed they were "misquoted", but this is plainly an excuse for not acting sooner, and possibly mislaying the photographs of the two men who have gone missing.

Not missing a trick, the Mail and especially the Sun have taken this as a great opportunity to bash the Human Rights Act, even though they've quoted both Charles Falconer and Shami Chakrabarti as saying that the Human Rights Act in fact provides the exact measures for those who have been deprived of their liberty to be apprehended, here in Article 5, the right to liberty and security:

1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:

(a) the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court;

(b) the lawful arrest or detention of a person for non-compliance with the lawful order of a court or in order to secure the fulfilment of any obligation prescribed by law;

(c) the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so;

And if this wasn't enough, then Article 8 additionally makes clear how these men have no right to the protections provided there either:

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The mistake may have been through a misreading of the ACPO guidelines (PDF), as Not Saussure points out, which are written with "suspects" in mind, and even then Article 8 is pretty clear that if there's a real risk to public safety then so-called "wanted posters" are permissible. The confusion may also have been down to the opposition lead by Liberty to those given anti-social behaviour orders being "named and shamed", which is mainly on the grounds that doing so doesn't help in the first place, especially as ASBOs are increasingly being seen by some as a "badge of honour". As Linda Smith joked, an ASBO may be the only qualification that some of those given them ever get.

Only when we get to the end of the Mail article do they actually bother printing the corrected statement from Derbyshire police:
In a new statement the force said: 'This decision was based on the fact that there was no policing purpose to be served by the release of these photographs in Derbyshire, as inquiries indicated that Croft and Nixon had fled the county and posed no risk to Derbyshire residents.

'Derbyshire Constabulary would like to strongly point out that the human rights of the individuals in question had no bearing and were not the reason the pictures were not released.

'In making this decision the rights and safety of the public will always come before those of convicted offenders.'
This still doesn't explain why Derbyshire police didn't bother to even contact the victims' families, or release profiles/photographs of the men as soon as they were informed that the men had escaped. Either they're incompetent, weren't informed soon enough or they'd lost/not been given the men's details. Greater Manchester police have now released images of the two.

Not that this has stopped blatant lies from appearing in both the Mail and Sun's articles:

Last year the government admitted public protection had to be given greater priority in the Human Rights Act after serial sex attacker Anthony Rice murdered a woman after using the Act to help secure his release from prison.
No they didn't and no he didn't. Instead ministers and others wrongly blamed the Human Rights Act, as a report by the joint human rights committee found:

The Anthony Rice case. The chief inspector of probation blamed the mistaken release of the convicted murder on licence on the fact that public protection considerations were undermined by human rights considerations. The MPs and peers, however, found that the official inquiry into the case fails to reveal any real evidence that public safety was prejudiced by the Human Rights Act.
The Mail also doesn't mention that Verna Bryant, the mother of the woman killed by Rice, has herself since been successful in using the Human Rights Act to win an inquest into the death of her daughter. It didn't report her win in the high court, but it did report her intentions to do so. The Sun has done neither.

The Sun also got dear old Norman Brennan, the rent-a-quote robocop who runs both the Victims of Crime Trust and the "Protect the Protectors" campaign (i.e. arming all cops so they can shoot more innocent people in the head 7 times) to comment:

“This is just another bizarre episode in the way the Human Rights Act seems to benefit criminals rather than law-abiding members of the public.
Obviously never heard of Verna Bryant then, or the woman who succeeded in stopping those accused of rape from extensively cross-examining the alleged victim. Then again, this is Norman Brennan, who recently has had his accounts questioned, who previously supported the release of a vigilante, and said this in the aftermath of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes:

"The long and the short of it is that this country is at war with terrorists and in war there are casualties. Normally in the majority of cases it is the enemy but innocent people will suffer. I am afraid it is tragic but that is part of any battle.
How true, and I'm sure de Menezes's family appreciated the lies, distortions and smears which resulted from him being misidentified and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Scum's leader though is the real villian of this piece:

IT is a law that puts the interests of the guilty above those of the innocent.
Here's a challenge for Rebekah Wade, because I'm sure you're reading. If you can point out how any of the 18 chapters of the Human Rights Act put the interests of the guilty above the innocent, then I'll stop calling you a traitor. Do we have a deal?

It protects terrorists rather than the lives of people they want to blow to smithereens.
As opposed to protecting the wider public from detention without charge, and the rights of those who have their lives restricted by control orders when no evidence has ever been presented to them, then yes, the Human Rights Act does protect "terrorists".

It creates an atmosphere where a murder suspect can skip the country with his face hidden by a Muslim woman’s veil.
The Sun is here blaming something that no evidence has been presented for happening on something that they're blaming the whole downfall of British society on, i.e. the HRA.

Welcome to the crazy world of the Human Rights Act, quoted by idiots at Derbyshire Police as one reason they refused to release photographs of two vicious murderers who escaped from jail TWO MONTHS ago.

Once the stupidity of this excuse was exposed, there was a crashing sound as Government ministers and cops went into reverse gear.

Err, there was? The cops did, because their pathetic excuse had been rumbled. Lord Falconer actually stood up for the Human Rights Act for a change, making it clear that he wanted a proper explanation for why they hadn't beeen released sooner. Anyway, I thought this was the fault of the Human Rights Act, not "idiots" in Derbyshire?

It beggars belief that police — paid to protect the public — can become so foolishly obsessed with political correctness that they arrogantly put the “human rights” of murderers before doing their duty.
Or, rather, that the Sun blames political correctness for the police making excuses for why they aren't doing their job properly.

This Government reckons that the 1998 law and the signing of the European Human Rights Convention is one of its proudest achievements.
And for once the government is right, it is.

In fact, letting British laws be determined by unelected judges and a ludicrous court in Strasbourg is an insult to our democracy.
Quite right. Our politicians, elected on 22% of the popular vote should instead be the last word on the deprivation of liberty, deciding what sentences should be given those convicted of crime and whether or not today's page 3 stunna is worth taking into the toilet during lunch.

Restoring common sense to our justice system is one of the great challenges facing Gordon Brown when he takes over in Downing Street.
Indeed. Seeing as the Sun has such a wonderful record on bringing common sense to the justice system and to prisons, here's hoping that Gordon Brown has many more lunches to have with both Mr Murdoch and dearest, doe-eyed Rebekah.

Related posts:
BlairWatch - Wanted Posters and the Human Rights Act

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Friday, January 05, 2007 

Jamil Hussein - rumours of his non-existence have been greatly exaggerated..

Carnage from yesterday's car bombing of a petrol station in Mansour. New York Times report.

Unlike the search for Osama bin Laden, the search by right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin for Jamil Hussein, the supposed non-existent source for numerous AP reports of violence in Iraq has finished before it has even begun.

The saga began when AP reported that four mosques and six people had been set on fire by Shia militiamen in the Baghdad neighbourhood of Hurriyah. Both the Iraqis themselves and the US military then disputed that any of this had happened, while AP later corrected the story to one mosque. The main source for the report was one Captain Jamil Hussein, an Iraqi police officer who had been one of the main providers of information to AP from within the force itself, and had been doing so since 2004. An initial search by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, at the request of the US military, found no record of a Jamil Hussein at any Baghdad police station. Only later did another search find a Capt. Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, assigned to the Khadra police station, but it seems that the Iraqis then didn't bother to inform the US of their discovery.

Sensing blood, right-wing bloggers had something a field day, linking in their other dubious claims about the massacre at Qana during the Israel-Lebanon-Hizbullah war, the Reuters photographer who added smoke to a photograph for reasons known only to himself and claims since repudiated by Human Rights Watch that photographs of ambulances struck by Israeli missiles had been faked. Now that Hussein has been recognised by the Iraqi ministry of the interior as existing, Michelle Malkin and friends, instead of apologising, are as Tony Blair likes to do, moving on. In fact, it was always a side issue on Malkin's trip to Iraq itinerary anyway:

The "Jamil Hussein" story is one important item on our agenda, but not the only one. As Curt and other bloggers on this story have noted from the beginning, Jamilgate isn't just about "Jamil Hussein." Bryan and I plan to do as much on-the-ground reporting as we can to nail down unresolved questions--not only about Jamil Hussein and the Hurriya six burning Sunnis allegations, but also about the AP four burning mosque story discrepancies and the many other AP sources that our military has publicly challenged--including "Lt. Maitham Abdul Razzaq" and more than a dozen police officers listed by U.S. military spokesman Navy Lt. Michael Dean. There's also the issue of detained AP photographer Bilal Hussein. And we are looking forward to reporting first-hand on the security situation in Iraq outside the so-called "Green Zone" (International Zone) and talking to as many American and Iraqi Army troops with insights on these and other broader matters.

Well congratulations Michelle, now you've got more time to get shot at on Baghdad's streets with all the over "hajis", as Jamil Hussein himself now faces being arrested for risking his own safety helping a tremendously under stress news organisation report what is actually happening in Iraq. It also comes as one of AP's other Baghdad staff has been found dead, bringing to 4 the total killed since the beginning of the Iraq war, with 129 journalists in total having died.

There is of course nothing wrong with asking questions about news coverage, and wanting to get to the bottom of what seem like potentially wrong or misleading reports. However, as IraqSlogger points out in a measured piece, mistakes were made by all sides. AP may have been too hot-headed in defending its reporting, but surely now that it turns out Hussein is real it's easy to see why it was so defensive and dismissive of the rabid efforts by some to denounce their efforts to produce a true picture of the violence enveloping Iraq. Apologies all round would not go amiss, but none should be expected from Malkin and co.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007 

From elephants in the room to the rutting of New Labour.

In one sense, you have to admire the chutzpah of Gordon Brown, his admirers and advisers in briefing the Grauniad that they believe British foreign policy has got itself into a "rut" due to the continuing occupation of Iraq. They're continuing in the fashion of Blair's own spin doctors, the one who wrote the highly humourous memo that was leaked to the Mirror about the plans for Blair's departure from office, where Iraq was merely referred to as "the elephant in the room". This is an elephant that has rampaging for 16 years, killing hundreds of thousands, either through sanctions, bombs or sheer criminal incompetence. After a brief lull in the violence during Eid, the bombings appear to have started up again, another 13 dying in an attack on a petrol station. Every morning dozens of bodies are found dumped in Baghdad's streets, having discovered themselves stuck in the same rut which is so vexing Brown's supporters.

Even more galling is that the admirers further briefed that once Brown ascends to the throne, he's no more going to "cut 'n' run" than Tony. How could he? He'd never hear the end of it from the Scum, for the start. For all their support of the troops there, they'd rather that they continue to return home in body bags than for us either to drastically draw down forces, finish training the Iraqis, and then get out completely. No, Murdoch's war for oil must continue until it reaches its $20 a barrel conclusion.

It's OK though, as Brown's been brainstorming some apparent ways to either distract us from the slaughter, or at the least, perhaps level out the deaths with initiatives that those on the left will find impossible to oppose. Who could reject the idea of spending 2 pence a day on educating the children of Africa? Better still, this scheme can be done without spending yet more of the Treasury's coffers - those in the "richest nations" will all apparently contribute - even though how this will work in practice predictably isn't fleshed out. Also mentioned by Brown's briefers, but not in Brown's actual article, is that he apparently plans to get tough on climate change, making clear that he considers it a "foreign" rather than "domestic" issue. One has to wonder, judging by the less than tough changes in policy in the pre-budget report whether this will in fact be Brown attempting to pass the buck: if other countries are still refusing to act, why should we may well be his argument if his powers of persuasion fail him.

The chancellor's strategy, should he succeed Mr Blair later this year, will be to dilute the influence of Iraq by moving other issues up the policy agenda.

Only once last year did something other than Iraq top the foreign policy agenda, and that was when Israel set about destroying southern Lebanon from the air, while ministers declined to call for an immediate ceasefire and dismissed the idea of recalling parliament to discuss the hostilities. In reality, the idea is utterly farcical. Iraq has dominated the political debate for the last 4 years, and until the troops come home will continue to do so, however much this government attempts to stifle parliamentary scrutiny of its myriad failures. However much Blair wants to push Israel-Palestine to the top of the agenda, glad-handing as many politicians he considers to be moderate as he can while thumbing his nose at the extremists on his trips to the Middle East, his legacy has already been written. The only way Brown can escape a similar one is to abandon the shoulder-to-shoulder approach with the neo-conservatives which has done so much damage, both to the wider Middle East and our reputation. He instead seems ready to carry on regardless.

There may however have been a more immediate political motive for why Brown's article and briefers were out in force yesterday: John "Dr Demento" Reid picked today to make the first of what is an apparent series of speeches, and would you believe it, he's defended his saviour Blair's legacy to the core. With the Dear Leader earlier in the week pleading for "New Labour" values to stay, which is so ripe for parody after 9 years in office that to do so would be overdoing the point, Reid has just reinforced the message in his predictable shutting down any dissent fashion. The unfathomable thing is that these ministers can't apparently see how being New Labour to the core has demoralised the party and its supporters, wiped out half its membership and brought it to the edge of financial ruin, beholden to the corporate donors it mortgaged itself for in exchange for peerages. The only reason things aren't worse is because Cameron's a Blair clone with no policies to speak of.

Whether Reid will actually stand for the party leadership once Blair departs is still unclear. Dividing the party on New Labour/Brownite lines would only deepen the infighting, something which is in the interests of no one. What is apparent is that Brown intends, rightly, to purge the most egregious New Labour ministers and replace them with ones more in his own image. How Reid and others react to such a potential bloodbath may decide whether there is a proper leadership challenge or not.

You can expect that the various majority of policies though will continue as normal. Brown's love of PFI certainly isn't going to go away, he couldn't even resist getting a mention in of extremism and potential terrorism in the article on Africa today, and we all know he personally supports the extension of detention without trial for "terrorist suspects" to 90 days, even though such a deprivation of liberty isn't supported by evidence. Health reforms will continue, the attacks on civil liberties go on unabated; all New Labour values which are stuck in much the same rut as Iraq, but which won't be glossed over through distraction.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007 

Scum and Scumday Times-watch: Invasions, thugs, and outting bloggers.

Some days, looking at the Sun's news page, it's difficult to even know where to begin, which contemptible stories to ignore and which ones to focus on. Today is one of those days.

Let's start then with this calm and measured article:

BRITAIN is bracing itself for an invasion.

Aliens? Locusts? Killer Bees? Vikings? Neo-Conservatives? Fox News hosts? Rupert Murdoch devotees?

Up to 15,000 Bulgarians will come to live here this year after the former Soviet state joined the European Union on Monday.

15,000? Christ, get the minutemen to the borders now! There also appears to have been a sub-editing failure, as while Bulgaria was a member of the Warsaw pact, it was a never a Soviet satellite.

Then there's yet another scare story about how we are shortly going to be swamped by the hordes from Bulgaria:

BULGARIANS jubilant at their country joining the EU headed straight for Britain yesterday — by crowding on to the first bus out.

As a packed coach set off for London, jobless Nikolai Miglevski, 45, declared: “Now I’m free.”

He slammed job curbs imposed as Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU on New Year’s Day — and said the threat of £1,000 fines would not deter his countrymen from finding work here.

Nikolai said: “I’m travelling on a tourist visa, of course. But I don’t know how long I’ll stay in the UK.

“I have many Bulgarian friends working in London. The Bulgarians already there will help the new ones. I like what I hear about London.”

Yes, after stories that only 3 dastardly Romanians had dared showed their faces after Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU, the Sun has taken itself to Sofia. It's managed to find the first bus apparently on its way to London, and describes it as packed - even though the accompanying photograph is taken at an angle which only shows half of the front of the coach, with just 7 people clustered near it. The Sun hack only speaks to 3 as well, and also didn't bother counting how many were actually on the bus, or getting a shot of it driving off in panorama for the true scale of those aboard. Still, I'm sure his dispatch was entirely accurate.

Elsewhere, the Scum is still defending the execution of Saddam Hussein, this time by turning on John Prescott for his daring to suggest that the abuse Saddam was subjected to just before he dropped from the scaffold was "deplorable":

SADDAM Hussein was a monster who tortured and murdered for pleasure.

By contrast, his own death was mercifully swift.

The jeering that accompanied it, from those he tormented most, was understandable though unseemly.

Understandable yet unseemly. That's all the condemnation that the Sun can find for the circus which surrounded him as he was put to death. The last public execution in this country was in 1875, when we decided that those about to die at least deserved the respect of not being insulted, ridiculed and mocked as they were executed, whatever crime they had committed. Not Saussure has posted up the thoughts of Dickens on public executions; they are as relevant now as they were then. Orwell's essay on a hanging in Burma, mentioned in the Grauniad leader, is also worth reading.
The Sun doesn't even deem the potentially dire consequences that the sectarian element to the execution may have in the next few weeks on the already out of control violence in the country worthy of a mention. Even those hostages murdered by Zarqawi et al only heard the chants of "God is great" rather than insults meant to humiliate them as they were killed.

It might even have been appropriate for a British minister to say something sensible about it. That rules out John Prescott. On both counts.

Yet this spluttering oaf — a disgrace even to his meaningless office as Deputy PM — was set loose on the BBC to denounce the incident as “totally deplorable”.

This, remember, is the undignified twerp who humiliated his wife and himself by cavorting drunkenly with the hired help who pleasured him under his Whitehall desk.

This is the man who never misses a chance to sneer, jeer or raise two fingers at opponents — if he can’t actually punch them in the face.

Exactly the sort of unpleasant thug who would be first out of the traps to jeer and dance on the grave of a political enemy.

Yes, and this "undignified twerp" is currently running the country, or was, as Blair is still off sunning himself at a home of a Bee Gee in America. All these insults though are aimed at the fact that by the Sun's reckoning Prescott had overstepped himself by calling what happened "utterly deplorable". In fact, as the Guardian leader mentions, it seems that Prescott was more concerned that the additional footage, shot on a mobile phone, possibly by a senior member of the Iraqi government, had emerged at all, more than the fact that Saddam was not allowed to go to his death with dignity. Some will, and can reasonably argue that as he showed his enemies no respect he didn't deserve any - but this could still have been the perfect opportunity to put previous abuses of power in the past, for the new Iraqi government to draw a line under the everyday brutality in the country and to show that they were going to do things differently. Instead things could have not gone more badly or been more indefensible.

The real reason for this editorial is that the Sun, having been so far behind the Iraq war that it would have supported the toppling of Saddam even if WMD had never been mentioned, cannot simply let something which it has took such delight in be bashed in such a way. That it was Prescott that did so made it all the more easier to attack.

On then, to the Scumday Times. For those who thought the journalism on the once revered newspaper was far removed from the abyss of its sister tabloids, it's worth reading this email sent to the sex blogger Girl With A One Track Mind, via BlairWatch:

Aug 5, 2006 11:08 AM

Dear Miss [my name],

We intend to publish a prominent news story in this weekend's paper, revealing your identity as the author of the book, Girl With a One Track Mind.

We have matched up the dates of films you have worked on - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Batman Begins and Lara Croft Tomb Raider - and it is clear that they correlate to your blog. We have obtained your birth certificate, and details about where you went to school and college.

We propose to publish the fact that you are 33 and live in [my address] -London, and that your mother, [her name], is a [her address] -based [her profession]. The article includes extracts from your book and blog, relevant to your career in the film industry. We also have a picture of you, taken outside your flat.

Unfortunately, the picture is not particularly flattering and might undermine the image that has been built up around your persona as Abby Lee. I think it would be helpful to both sides if you agreed to a photo shoot today so that we can publish a more attractive image.

We are proposing to assign you our senior portrait photographer, Francesco Guidicini, and would arrange everything to your convenience, including a car to pick you up. We would expect you to provide your own clothes and make up. As the story will be on a colour page, we would prefer the outfit to be one of colourful eveningwear.

We did put this proposal to you yesterday, but heard nothing back. Clearly this is now a matter of urgency, and I would appreciate you contacting me as soon as possible. To avoid any doubt we will, of course, publish the story as it is if we do not hear from you.

Yours sincerely,
Nicholas Hellen

Acting News Editor

Remember, the privacy test is whether personal information published by a newspaper without permission is in the public interest. While it may be of interest to some people who the blogger actually is, it is certainly not the kind of information that is relevant to the running of the country, or even to the level of who a celebrity is having an affair with. If the Girl With A One Track Mind had entered into a relationship with a politician for instance, then maybe it could just about be argued that revealing who she is would be of great public interest. The reality is that she had simply just published a book based on her blog, which itself is based around her private sexual exploits.

Furthermore, the letter is clearly of a deeply threatening nature. It's the classic gutter journalism trap: we know who you are/what you've done, help us with the story and we'll make it all so much easier. Even this though is shot with malice and licks of sneering contempt, as they have a "less than flattering" shot of her, probably shot with a long-lens or covertly, meant to make both her readers and publishers wonder whether if she's some kind of a fantasist or fictionalising her accounts; clearly an unglamorous woman could never have such an eventful sex life. Then there's their suggestion for the clothes she should wear for the replacement photo shoot, which appears to translate to something tight, extravagant and possibly naughty; all the better for the old colonels and codgers to potentially get off on. The fact that the newspaper had obtained her birth certificate is also something that the information commissioner perhaps ought to investigate: private detective agencies like the one previously exposed by Richard Thomas may well have been involved. Not even the blogger's mother's privacy is safe: she's thrown in to embarrass the family as a whole, and make the deal even less likely to be rejected. That Girl With A One Track Mind refused to go along with Murdoch's minions blackmail was both brave and worth saluting. If this is the depths that the Sunday broadsheets are sinking to, then the tabloids themselves may not have finished scraping the barrel yet.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007 

Doing the goose-step to Swan Lake, and other stories.

I somewhat missed the full extended fallout from the Grauniad's infiltration of the BNP, but the majority appears to be around the less than interesting news that surprise, surprise, some at least halfway prominent people appear to be members. The most attention has been predictably on the telegenic and least likely member on the face of it, the ballerina Simone Clarke, who just happens to be married to a man of Cuban-Chinese descent. Defending herself, she gave an interview to the Daily Mail:

The reason is summed up in one word: Immigration. It has, she told the undercover journalist who exposed her, "really got out of hand' - and today she maintains the BNP" are the only ones to take a stand' on the issue that she believes troubles the majority of voters, even though such views have led to her being branded a racist and a fascist. "Using the word immigration is now a greater crime than cold-blooded murder," she claims.

Quite right. I mean, the journalists who expunged the huge amount of words over the last couple of days about the ascension to the European Union of Romania and Bulgaria and whether it'll mean a repeat of the mass migration of mainly Poles which happened in 2004, not to mention months of articles in the tabloid press scaremongering about invasions of gypsies and mongrel hordes, have all been charged and are currently waiting in the Tower of London waiting to be executed. Similarly, John Reid, who attempted to impose restrictions on the amount of said Romanians and Bulgarians allowed to come here has been stripped of the Home Office, had his bollocks zapped with a cattle prod, and his head now rests on one of the railings outside Buckingham Palace.

Like Melanie Philips, who spends her time ranting that no one is talking about subjects like Londonistan, before going on to spend 1000 words doing just that, with Michael Gove and others running behind her like dogs chasing a bitch on heat, there are numerous people out there who are convinced that some subjects just aren't talked about. Sometimes, they're just waiting for the chance, like the range of invective which followed Jack Straw's measured comments about the wearing of the veil, which quickly turned into the Express demanding the banning of said garment and Blair and cronies saying it was a mark of separation. When it comes to immigration however, the supposed lack of comment on it is complete nonsense. The tabloids are banging on about it every day almost. Today's Express for instance has another load of lies on its front page about foreigners stealing all our money.

There is a grain of truth in the allegation that politicians themselves are ignoring the issue of immigration. David Cameron, in his efforts to reposition the Tories, has notably put the issue down the party agenda. Yet it's only a year and a half since the Tory election campaign which told us time and again that "It's not racist to impose limits on immigration". Quite right it isn't. Since then John Reid, Ruth Kelly and others have told us repeatedly that we have to abandon "political correctness" about things as various as multiculturalism and immigration. The reality is that the issue has dropped down the political agenda, not just the Tories', in the last few months, probably helped by Reid's imposition of quotas on the new EU member states. If anything, it's been replaced by renewed fear and controversy over Muslim dress, the general integration of "them" into society, with terrorism not too far behind.

But her story has wider implications. When one of the country's principal ballerinas, a 36-year-old woman who spent much of her recent working life as the Sugar Plum Fairy, decides to join the British neo-fascists, there is an argument that something has gone badly wrong with democratic British politics.

Really? Perhaps this is explained slightly more further on in the interview:

"I'd never been a member of any party before, although I'd voted Conservative a couple of times,' she explains. "I'm not a particularly political person but I read the manifesto and I took it on face value. Sometimes it feels as though the BNP are the only ones willing to take a stand.

“I am not too proud to say that a lot of it went over my head but some of the things they mentioned were the things I think about all the time, mainly mass immigration, crime and increased taxes. I paid my £25 there and then”

"I have been labelled a racist and a fascist because I have a view on immigration - and I mean mass immigration - but isn't that something that a lot of people worry about?

Now, it would be incredibly easy to make fun of Clarke because she couldn't even understand the BNP manifesto, as other blogs have. This though is potentially sneering at the dispossessed, poorly educated through no fault of their own, and as the Mail interview describes her, the politically naive. There's a reason why the BNP manifesto documents are relatively easy to understand, while also being written with enough political jargon in order to convince of their relevance and authenticity, not to mention integrity: these documents are targeted at those who have no time for in-depth political discussion, let alone wider knowledge of the intricacies of the legislative process, say. They're meant to appeal without being overbearing, pretentious or full of the technocratic New Labour speech which permeates everything they produce. As such, they're a success, and as Clarke points out, the documents are relatively honest, but only relatively.

Just take a look at the 2005 manifesto: 18 themes set-out straight away, with no room for nuance. Leaving the European Union; Immigration: a crisis without parallel; abolishing multiculturalism, abolition of income tax; tough on the causes of crime: criminals, etc. Your average Joe isn't going to read every single word, so they're only going to look at what appeals to them. For instance, many might miss what is hiding at the bottom of abolishing multiculturalism, if they hadn't already been appalled by the belief in eugenics at the top of page:

10. A massively-funded and permanent programme, using and doubling Britain's current foreign aid budget, will aim to reduce, by voluntary resettlement to their lands of ethnic origin, the proportion of ethnic minorities living in Britain, for as long as the majority of the electorate are willing to fund such expenditure.

In other words, as much as we say that if you're here legally you're more than welcome, we actually want you back to your land of "ethnic origin". Hey, we'll even help you out! What kind be kinder than that? How would Miss Clarke like her husband to feel as if he isn't welcome, when he knows that the party that even he apparently supports would really like it if he went back to either China or Cuba?

But oh, she complains, you don't have to agree with all the parties policies to support them:

"As with all parties, you can't agree on all things. You have to take the good bits and ignore the bad bits and that goes for any party. When I think about it I wonder, "Well, who's going to look after people like me?" People who work hard, who like to celebrate Christmas; people who are law-abiding citizens who pay their taxes - more and more of them - but feel that no one is speaking for them."

This though isn't like turning a blind eye to the equivalent of not agreeing with Labour on introducing ID cards or the Iraq war, but still supporting them in general; none of their, or the other party's plans (except the far far left and arguably UKIP on leaving the EU) are so radical that they could result in the break-up of British society or in the reintroduction of capital punishment for instance, as mooted here:

4. We support the re-introduction of corporal punishment for petty criminals and vandals, and the restoration of capital punishment for paedophiles, terrorists and murderers as an option for judges in cases where their guilt is proven beyond dispute, as by DNA evidence or being caught red-handed.

12. While every effort will be made to help addicts to recover, individuals convicted of the importation and large-scale dealing of hard drugs will face the death penalty.

This is only scratching the surface of the document. Hidden further inside it are references to the Iraq war being a neo-con project on behalf of the "Zionists", remarks about "the creeping Islamification" of Britain, and various other nonsenses. What marks the document and most of the BNP's output is just how "moderate" it has become. There is as little openly racist language as possible, masking their views in an air of respectability. As the actual Grauniad investigation found, and others have known for a while, the BNP strategy now is to appear just like any other political party, and hide behind the mask of being merely nationalist and economically to the left of Labour, when in fact their belief is in pure white nationalism. Their actual foot soldiers, rather than the middle class ones they're trying to lure, are the same old racists and hooligans of before, as evidenced by the likes of the Stormfront forum. In fact, let's go over there and see what they think about Clarke etc, shall we?

There's two threads, the first mainly based on the Guardian article published yesterday, and the second on the Mail's article:

Click on the images to see them full-size:

The comments on the Mail thread, are however, far more telling:

Simone Clarke to the BNP rank and file is a dream come true. She is in essence the archetypal useful idiot: so much so that there's no way she can be accused of racism, as the posters point out. It's a win-win situation for them; if she's sacked by the ENB, then she's a martyr for free speech. Since she hasn't recanted her support, she can be used as a propaganda piece for the "changed party". Yet the true BNP strategy shines through in these comments: moderation while out of power, no compromise once they are in power.

Nick Griffin, in his speech to the white nationalist conference in New Orleans of all places, made clear that they are waiting for a disaster of some sort that reflects the hyper inflation, mass unemployment and economic collapse that occurred in Germany in the run-up to 1933, leading to the rise of both the Communists and the Nazis, which along with the Reichstag fire enabled Hitler to come to power and liquidate his opponents and then democracy. In the mean time, they're preparing the ground for mass support by appearing to be everything they are actually not. That the middle-classes, drip fed the outrage by the tabloids which so often reflects mainstream BNP rhetoric are coming to support them shouldn't be a surprise, nor should they be condemned for doing so. The axis of the Guardian and Lee Jasper calling for Clarke's resignation simply confirms that the elite are against them and their beliefs.

What is so desperately needed is a genuine political alternative that reassures while it listens. Labour isn't doing this, the Tories still aren't trusted, and the Lib Dems are a joke. That the BNP aren't doing immeasurably better should be the real shock. If we don't acknowledge the threat, and move to counter it (ignoring it does not work) then if in a few years the BNP could possess the same amount of power as Jean Marie Le Pen's National Front.

Related posts:
Tim Worstall - Simone Clarke and the BNP
Five Chinese Crackers - Hurrah for the Blackshirts!
Pickled Politics - She won't play the black swan
Not Saussure - The BNP Ballerina

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