Saturday, January 27, 2007 

Scum-watch: Yeah, it continues.

First up, the Scum did at least have the guts to report the jailing of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, but didn't admit to belonging to the same parent company as the News of the Screws. The story also isn't by-lined, which is odd. Perhaps the journalist involved was frightened of the repercussions of reporting their colleagues' misdemeanors, when usually News International completely ignores them.

On then once again to the continuing shrieking about a situation that the Scum has had more than a hand in creating:

EMBATTLED John Reid was under fire from all sides yesterday as the prisons crisis spiralled out of control.

Judges were in open revolt after being forced to free more dangerous criminals because of the cells shortage.

But other judges were accused of being opportunist and using Reid’s plea to jail only the worst-case criminals as an excuse to go SOFT on other menaces to society.

Yes, of course they are. The "soft" judges are in fact being eminently sensible, as Not Saussure points out regarding the sentences handed down to the two sex offenders, Derek Williams and Keith Morris. Not that this matters one jot to the Sun, it's just something to grab and bash even further with; that they happened to be involved in crimes which are editor Rebekah Wade's favourite was just an added bonus. Instead, the Scum "names and shames" three judges, two of those responsible for the above:

THREE judges caused fury this week by using John Reid’s recommendations to go soft on offenders.

In the first high-profile case Judge John Rogers, QC, gave pervert Derek Williams a suspended sentence at Mold Crown Court.

Then evil Keith Morris was bailed by Judge Graham Cottle at Exeter despite attacking boys.

In case No3 Judge Nigel van der Bijl gave cannabis smuggler Darius Sawka a 12-month suspended sentence at Canterbury Crown Court.

The judge said the normal sentence would be up to three years’ jail. But he told Sawka, 33, a German arrested at Dover: “The current situation with the prison population is that we are being asked to look at alternatives.”

As NS points out, Morris would in other parts of the country likely have been bailed anyway, overcrowded prisons or not. It seems local circumstances intervened in his case. Either way, he's going to prison shortly, has been put under curfew, and will more than likely be tagged and/or have to report to the local cop shop daily. As for Sawka, does anyone still care about smuggling cannabis, or should we even care? It's a Class C drug for God's sake, the arguments for legalising it grow stronger by the day, and the time would be better spent stopping those smuggling the hard drugs that actually increase crime.

In the stakes for useful idiot ex-Labour minister of the day, John Spellar sounds his mouth off to the Scum:

Former Labour Minister John Spellar stormed: “I fear some judges are using this as an excuse for soft sentences. Some of them are perhaps still a bit sore after coming under fire themselves last year.

“I wonder if they are taking the opportunity to pursue their love of soft-touch sentences."

Yes, you're quite right Mr Spellar. Those judges just
love to give out soft sentences and then get screamed at by the ever-reactionary tabloids and opportunist MPs who want to get their names in the papers. Spellar is apparently referring to the Scum's campaign of last year based on the sentence given to paedophile Craig Sweeney, when the judge simply followed the government's own guidelines for sentencing in the circumstances. That the Sun's campaign backfired when the judges themselves struck back at the despicably cowardly naming and shaming, and was abandoned within a month isn't worth mentioning.

John Reid himself puts in a reasonably decent defense of his time as Home Secretary, at least before he gets onto attacking the Lib Dems and Tories in the same politically motivated way that simply turns people off politics.

Then there's this utterly sickening article which pretty much shows what the constant attention the Scum gives to "paedo-pervs" does to people and influences the way they react to a "pervert" being in their midst:

Neighbour Jamie Jones, 18, said: “He’s a beast and a nonce and should be locked up for life.”

Valerie Williams, 27, who has a girl aged two, said: “What more serious offence can there be than paedophilia? It ruins a child’s life. It’s worrying he could be wandering around and looking at my child and others in the street.

“I want signs and photos of him and to put them around the area. People need to be aware of the risk.”

Donna Armitage, 24, mother of a lad aged three, said: “He could look through my windows and see my son. That man should be in a hostel.”

Oh God, he could be looking at your kids?! The horror, the horror. It's no surprise that the man himself is fearing that there could be vigilante action against him or his family; judging by such comments, he'd be stupid not to. Williams himself claims that the images were already on the hard drive when he bought it second-hand, and although I can't find the relevant article now, I did read one which said the date on the files was from the early 00s, which although can be easily faked, does go along with his defense. This iCWales article gives a little more background. Either way, however predictable the response to such a crime is, the man clearly doesn't deserve further vilification than that he has already received.

Meanwhile it emerged that Judge John Rogers, who handled Williams’ case, could come face-to-face with his BROTHER next month in an unconnected case.

So why are you reporting it? Oh, it's because you're assholes.

The Scum's leader focuses on it all yet again:

The Sun has campaigned hard for the suspension of pathetically lenient judges who routinely side with criminals over victims. But Reid and Falconer’s letter was manna from heaven for them. Now they have an excuse, officially endorsed by the Government.

Yes, all very noble of you, apart from the fact that Williams' and Sawka's crimes didn't involve any victims except themselves. Instead of judges using their own common sense, which they appear to have been doing and are being attacked for doing so, this is all part of the judges being soft conspiracy which the Scum's dreamed up, no longer able to credibly attack the government itself for being "soft" on crime.

More than anything, that only 3 cases have come to light regarding the Home Secretary's reminding judges of the rules they know only too well shows that this is a situation which is again being whipped out of all proportion by the media. It's all well and good coming across morally righteous about "paedos escaping prison", but not having any other solution than the current one which is so obviously failing leaves those howling with little to back them up once the hoo-hah dies down.

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Friday, January 26, 2007 

Scum-watch: It had to be a dirty paedo pervert, didn't it?

The Scum is having a field day with John Reid. Gone from praising his illiberal rabble-rousing rhetoric, it's turned on him with all the typical tabloid viciousness of building someone up to then tear them down.

JOHN Reid was dealt a new hammer blow yesterday when a PAEDOPHILE was freed because of his failure to build prisons.

It just had to be. To quote an idiot, you couldn't make it up.

Paedophile Williams — who had more than 180 sickening images on his computer — was let off with a six-month sentence and suspended for two years. He was also placed on supervision.

Married Williams, 46, of Blaenau Ffestiniog, was ordered to be placed on the sex offenders’ register for seven years. He was caught after his wife called in police. The revelation that a paedophile is among those escaping justice makes any hopes Reid might have of succeeding Prime Minister Tony Blair seem ludicrous — without taking account of the crime figures released yesterday.

What I'm about to say a lot will probably disagree with, but Williams is not technically a paedophile. A pervert, yes, but a paedophile, no. A lot like sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken, looking at sexually explicit photographs of children does not make you a paedophile. If we want to get really pedantic about it, then Wikipedia reproduces the diagnostic criteria for psychiatrists:

The APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition, Text Revision gives the following as its "Diagnostic criteria for 302.2 Pedophilia":[27]

* Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger).
* The person has acted on these urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.
* The person is at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children in Criterion A.

So it's not clear that Williams would be a paedophile, unless we're also now considering thought crime when it comes down to labelling people. The Scum also doesn't bother to mention the mitigating circumstances which were involved in his case:
that he pleaded guilty, and that the case had taken a long time to come to court, through no fault of his own. It's not as if he was entirely let off or freed - his sentence has just been suspended, and he's been put under supervision and has to sign the sex offenders' register for 7 years. The head of the NSPCC therefore obviously didn't bother even to look into the background of the case before she opened her mouth:

It is unacceptable that people who have committed crimes against children are not jailed simply because prisons are too full if the severity of the crime requires a prison sentence."

Unless we go along with the assumption that those who view child pornography are as a result going to want "new" material and that this will drive abusers on, i.e. supply and demand, an argument that is shaky to say the least, then Williams wasn't committing a "crime against children". Rod Liddle, in one of his rarer lucid moments in the aftermath of the Pete Townshend arrest,
wrote a decent piece questioning the underlying assumptions all around the viewing of child pornography. I'd personally say that the sentence Williams received is about right. Others will more than likely vehemently disagree. In Keith Morris's case on the other hand, he would be a paedophile, or if we're being really pedantic and the child was older than 13, an ephebophile. He has been released, I assume with a tag, when otherwise he would have been held on remand. Anyway, I've been sidetracked. On to the Scum's hilarious piece for looking for Reid's brain:

JOHN Reid skulked off to his office yesterday as The Sun stepped up the hunt for his missing brain.

He looked blank as he emerged from his smart Westminster town house.

I said: “Good morning, Mr Reid. The Sun and our readers are desperately trying to find your brain — can you give us a clue?”

He stared at the floor and shuffled to a Jaguar.

I asked: “Can you recall the last time you used it?” — but he sped off.


Finally, Tim went to the last place likely to know anything — the Home Office. Staff wanted to help — but said they were “not fit for the purpose”.

Oh my aching sides.
But guess what? The Scum have found the prison ship!

THE Sun yesterday found a prison ship John Reid could use to ease the jails crisis — the SAME ONE the Government sold just six months ago.

HMP Weare is still moored at the same Channel port as it was when the Home Office got rid of it for just £2.5million in August.

Mr Reid repeatedly told The Sun that the Weare had been sold off and could not be bought back — while his aides even said it was being lined up for the scrapyard.

For just £2.5million? Seems like a shrewd deal considering its sea-worthiness certificate had ran out,
that it had no fresh air and that the ship itself was in the wrong area for a prison.

But last night it was revealed the vessel has undergone a huge refit and could be bought back — but at THREE times the amount the Home Office got for it.

The Sun stepped in after disclosing the scale of John Reid’s failure to deal with the prisons overcrowding fiasco.

Within a few hours we discovered the Weare, which was opened in 1997 and closed in 2005, is still moored at Portland, Dorset.

It had been completely refurbished by its new owners, Sea Trucks Group, a Nigerian-based firm specialising in supporting the offshore oil industry.

Sea Trucks have spent a small fortune upgrading the vessel to provide accommodation for up to 1,000 people such as oil rig workers.

Exactly, as would the Home Office have had to spend a small fortune to keep it going. It instead decided that it wasn't worth the money, and also explained that it could be shut
because a new private prison had opened in Peterborough. Instead of spending £10 million buying the thing back the money would be better spent on an actual new prison, or on refurbishing extra places that already exist. None of this matters though, it's just something to bash Reid about with.

“As I understand it, when it was used as a jail it only had the least dangerous prisoners so that the security measures did not need to be the very highest.”

At the height of its use the Weare — built in the 1970s and used to accommodate soldiers in the Falklands — held 400 low-risk inmates.

The Sun here doesn't bother to inform its readers of extra details other than it held "low-risk" inmates -
it was a Category C prison, one security level above an open prison. Elsewhere, it's time to "name and shame" some more people involved in the Home Office, whether they're actually responsible for the chaos or not:

NINE top civil servants are responsible for day-to-day running of the Home Office.

They are meant to ensure prisons, probation, immigration and other services meet ministers’ targets.

Sorry to break it to you lot, but if the Home Office’s current shambles is the best you can do, you need your heads examined.

Obviously. Now that they've been insulted by the UK's best-selling newspaper, they're just bound to look themselves in the mirror and think: God - am I really this shit?
On then to the Scum's leader:

THE fiasco that is the Home Office gets more ludicrous by the minute.

It is now clear that John Reid is not the only one whose brain is missing in this benighted government department.

There are 73,359 public servants serving under the Home Secretary and his clutch of ministers and senior mandarins.

Not one of them has managed to find an answer to the problem of a prison network littered with signs declaring: “Sorry, No Vacancies”.

While officials and ministers shrugged, it took The Sun just two hours to find a jail ship floating on England’s south coast.

It is empty but spruced up and ready to take 1,000 criminals.

Laughably, it is the same ship decommissioned by Charles Clarke when he had his turn at making a mess of the Home Office.

If you presented this as the script of a Carry On film it would be rejected as too ridiculous.

Yes, and this sprucing up wouldn't have involved removing any of the normal features of a prison by any chance, would it? I'm sure the workers for Sea Trucks would have loved having their doors locked from outside without being able to get out, or other workers spying on them through the hatches for looking in. It was decommissioned because it wasn't worth spending the money on fixing it up; the money is now not worth spending on buying it back.

But you would have to be an idiot not to know our jails were heading for disaster.
# Convicts and suspects have been crammed into police cells, taking hard-pressed officers off the beat.
# Courts have been told by John Reid to cut the numbers being sent to jail.

You'd also have to be an idiot to think that having a prison population of 80,000 is sustainable, even in the short term. This isn't a very popular view however though in the Scum.

Which helps explain why yesterday’s crime figures showed robberies rising, and big increases in vandalism and drug offences.

Yep - in overcrowded prisons those inside are even more like to come out and re-offend. The Scum just wants more places built, without thinking about how prison for minor offences, especially for vandalism and drug offences simply doesn't work, especially without treatment programmes in the latter case, which are hopelessly oversubscribed and underfunded.

At the centre of this mess the Prime Minister, The Chancellor and all four Labour Home Secretaries are unable to answer a few simple questions:

Why weren’t extra prison places built years ago?

Most likely because they hoped that judges would take notice of their pleas for only serious and violent offenders to be jailed, but instead they've taken more notice of the media and political climate to get ever tougher on crime. Who is this climate driven by? You guessed it.

Who is to blame for this monumental error?

The last few home secretaries, Michael Howard for starting the "prison works!" crap in the beginning, the tabloids, led by this very newspaper, and some judges themselves.

What about using old army camps in Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as England?

Because the money would be better spent on new prisons proper rather than doing up dingy and potentially unfit for human habitation army facilities, not to mention angering and not consulting those who live in the area.

How about that floating jail that has been staring them in the face?

Which err, doesn't belong to the government anymore, would cost way too much to buy back and wasn't worth refurbishing in the first place. Apart from that, great idea!

And why does a crisis have to be a catastrophe before this government gets its brains into gear?

But then, we were almost forgetting. Some of their brains are missing.

Probably because they would rather continue with the idiocy of banging up 80,000 or more rather than face annoying the Sun by going "soft". The current situation is still probably better than further riling the Wade and Murdoch banshee.

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Re-evaulating Dacre's Cudlipp.

The more thought I give to it, the more I think my response to Dacre's Cudlipp rant was far too fair. Although I was harsh on his claim that the BBC is the most powerful media organisation in the world, it ought to be called for what it is: a bare-faced lie. His speech (PDF) was littered with such brain-addled distortions, ignoring his own role in editing one of the most hate-filled newspapers in the country.

To cover one of his points I missed out, it's true that the Mail deserves to be praised for its naming of the men alleged to be guilty of the murder of Stephen Lawrence -- yet you also have to wonder whether by doing so the men will now never be brought to justice. Their lives are continuing, while Lawrence's was taken from him in a vicious racist attack.

The more you read into it the more you in fact start to realise that this is actually Dacre excusing himself and his own paper's coverage on the controversial issues of the day by concentrating all his own venom onto the BBC for doing its best to report the same things as impartially as it possibly can, for not furthering commenting and moralising, which is the Mail's first instinct. He genuinely believes that his values, the conservatism which his paper promotes and that his commentators, such as Richard Littlejohn and Melanie Philips howl about, are the ones most shared throughout the country. To realise just how distorted and inflammatory some of the Mail's reports are, you just have to read this exemplary post, along with many others on Five Chinese Crackers, who does a superlative if lonely job of taking them apart.

It's also coming to something when an ex-New Labour spin doctor actually *shock* tells the truth and rips the Mail apart. Lance Price's response to Dacre's lecture is well worth a read. If only he and his fellow apparatchiks had followed a similar policy of taming the Daily Hate tiger when they were actually in Downing Street.

Update: Newsnight tonight is having a snigger about Dacre's speech, before going on to debate the issue between Martin Bell and Richard D North, which obviously proves just how biased the BBC is.

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News of the Screws screwer set to meet screws.

So, farewell then to Clive Goodman for four months at least. The News of the Screws piss-poor royal editor has been sent down for intercepting messages on the phones of the royal family, while his private investigator co-conspirator Glenn Mulcaire has been sentenced to six months.

That Goodman has been sent down for accessing such banal information that not even the average News of the Screws reader would care about says much about the tabloids in the age of the internet. The scramble to get any tidbit of celebrity gossip has become so fierce as a result of the dedicated celebrity weeklies and websites such as Popbitch that the methods of journalists are increasingly entering the realm of the illegal, as the log books of a private investigator showed. As a result, they are bringing the whole profession into disrepute with their tactics.

One can only hope that Mazher Mahmood is the next one to feel the long arm of Inspector Knacker. Oh, and it'll be interesting to see if the Scum covers Goodman's sentence tomorrow.

Update: The Scum's website is reporting it, but we'll see if it actually appears in tomorrow's paper.

Update 2: Coulson's gone. Did he jump or was he pushed by Murdoch?

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Thursday, January 25, 2007 

Scum-watch: Downplaying Iraq, hypocrisy over prison overcrowding, and still lusting after young ignorant flesh.

What a happy coincidence it was for the first full debate on Iraq since 2004 in the House of Commons to come on the same day as John Reid was forced to go cap in hand to the judges, begging them to only jail serious and persistent offenders due to the crisis created by the government's perpetual crackdowns, spurred on by the tabloids. There was only ever going to be one topic on the mind of the Sun, but even by their standards the coverage given to the debate is utterly derisory and spectacularly dishonest. The article itself is dumped right down at the bottom of the online news page:

PM's rap for Ming over Iraq

TONY Blair dismissed calls yesterday for him to name the day British troops will leave Iraq.

The PM said it would be “disastrous” to set a deadline for withdrawal while killing continues.

He branded Lib Dem chief Sir Menzies ‘Ming’ Campbell “irresponsible” for demanding our forces are home by October 31.

Mr Blair vowed to see through the mission to put Iraq on its feet.

He stormed: “Our troops are there under a United Nations resolution, with full support of the government of Iraq.

“For us to set an arbitrary timetable — saying we will pull them out in October come what may — would send a disastrous signal to the people we are fighting in Iraq.

“Whatever its superficial attractions, it’s deeply irresponsible, which is probably why it’s Liberal Democrat policy.”

Mr Blair hit out after Lib Dems called for a phased withdrawal of our 7,000 troops from May.

Sir Menzies also rapped him for refusing to lead last night’s Iraq debate. But Mr Blair hit back during Question Time saying: “I’m debating the issue NOW.”

And err, that's it. They didn't even bother covering the actual debate, just the preliminary digs during PMQ's. Doing so might have exposed the war the Scum has supported before even Blair did for what it has been: a catastrophe.

Even so, the sophistry displayed here by Blair is glaring. The very policy Labour is currently pursuing is for a phased withdrawal to begin by the Spring - the Lib Dems are simply calling for all troops to leave Iraq by October, instead of being withdrawn to a barracks, an air base or close to the Iranian border, where they'll simply be an even bigger target for jihadists and roadside bombs. It's the very policy which Sir Richard Dannatt urged, calling for troops to leave soon in his interview with the Mail late last year.

Focusing on Campbell's call was the soft option for the Scum, attacking those who dare to differ from their own continuing support for never-ending war, while ignoring the Tories' more nuanced assaults on Blair's spineless response to whichever new initiative Washington announces. Trevor Kavanagh, the former political editor of the Scum also wrote an adulatory ass-kissing piece a couple of days ago about how Israel is ready to "blitz" Iran, marvelling at the same wonderful airborne harbringers of death that last year killed over 1,000 Lebanese civilians:

The Sun can reveal for the first time the astonishing force at Israel’s disposal.

It has 280 of the most sophisticated warplanes in the world — American-built F-16 and F-15 multipurpose jets, capable of flying to Iran and back without refuelling.

They carry at least two 2000lb long-range precision-guided bombs, capable of flying down an airshaft or through a window. Some have rock-blasting warheads which can reach deep underground, where Iran’s nuclear workshops are hidden.

With more pilots per aircraft than any other country in the world, Israel’s jets could be in the air almost 24 hours a day, flying hundreds of sorties over Iran.

Instead the Scum focused on Reid's failings to provide more prison cells:

A MASSIVE hunt was under way last night for Home Secretary John Reid’s BRAIN after his abysmal failure to solve the prisons crisis.

There were fears for the Home Secretary’s sanity after he broke a series of promises to get a grip of the overcrowding fiasco.

Mr Reid had pledged to build more cells, set up prison ships and turn disused Army camps into jails. But, in what could have been a sign of dementia, he has resorted to begging judges to let crooks loose rather than send them to the slammer.

No he didn't. Reid told judges to remember the other options, such as community sentences, except when dealing with serious and persistent offenders, which should be common sense in the first place. That it isn't is due in large part to the Scum's never-ending demands for tougher sentences, which has been shown before to highly influence judge's sentences as a whole rather than just for those who do genuinely need to be locked away both as a deterrent and to protect public safety.

Another article by the Scum's politicial editor goes on:

SWAGGERING John Reid was in the dock last night for a string of broken promises that fuelled the prisons crisis.

The big-talking Home Secretary was blasted for vowing to BUILD 8,000 more jail places, CREATE prison ships and GRAB disused army camps to relieve overcrowding.

But as jails are now so full that convicts are being kept in police cells, Reid has been exposed as delivering absolutely NOTHING.

This is bollocks to begin with, as the Scum only a few days ago praised the fact that a new prison is to open by the spring in Maghull on Merseyside. Still, at least there's one potentially bright spot to come out of this, as the whole situation seems to have led to the Scum dropping their previous support for Reid as Blair's successor:

Last night 152 convicts were being held at police station and court cells as the number “in jail” hovered above 80,000.

The fiasco will smash Reid’s proudly-held reputation as a self-styled tough guy.

Then the Sun blames Reid for not coming through on stupid and ill-thought out solutions which it suggested in the first place:

Reid cockily assured Sun readers in October that he would supply prison ships. He even ordered officials to scour ports looking for disused ferries.

The Home Office said at the time: “The Home Secretary has made it clear he wants to explore innovative solutions. We hope it will see us with extra capacity on floating vessels.”

But night Home Office officials admitted NO ships have been bought.

The Sun naturally ignores the fact that the last prison ship was closed because it had been recommended for closure by Anne Owers, head of the prisons inspectorate:

Her investigation found that the jail was "unacceptably cramped and claustrophobic" with prisoners having "no access to fresh air". The prison healthcare facilities were "very poor" and jobs for inmates were "very limited".

The money necessary to convert an "disused ferry" (ferries are only ever disused once they're utterly clapped out) to anywhere near something acceptable for use as a prison would much better spent towards building new prison space, or refurbishing current accomodation, something which has been cancelled throughout the system as a result of the overcrowding crisis.

The Scum continues:

In November, Reid vowed to open disused Ministry of Defence sites as prisons.

He said at the time: “We are in negotiations with relevant authorities over a number of sites in England and Wales.”

There is still no news of ANY MoD sites in the pipeline.

The Scum then very conveniently forgets both about its own role in suggesting MoD property as possible sites, and about its abrupt reverse ferret over Connaught Barracks, once it realised that families living locally had soliders serving overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. Seeing as the existing MoD housing for soldiers has recently been condemned, you have to wonder just how bad the out of use accommodation is. It should have been obvious to anyone with half a brain that such a scheme was half-baked and that it was contradictory in the extreme when the Sun has been fuming about the open prisons, being, err, open when that is exactly what the sites would be, but these are Sun hacks we're dealing with. That they were listened to seriously in the first place ought to give an insight into the mindset of John Reid's Home Office: appease the tabloids first, think about realistic solutions second.

Not that this has saved him from the vitriol of today's Scum, the leader of which is foaming at the mouth:

THIS government’s policy towards locking up dangerous criminals can be summed up in two words: promises, promises.

So today The Sun has this message for Labour: we are SICK of your promises. When the hell are you going to DO something?

The prison population has gone up by roughly 25,000 in the last ten years. They seem to have more than fulfilled their promise.

Once again we are faced with letting out offenders early — or not sending them to prison at all — while judges are urged to give more soft community sentences.

And so the Scum continues the cycle. Community sentences are "soft". The public see them as "soft". Judges don't want to be seen as "soft", so they imprison even more offenders. Continue until the end of time.

The Sun does not believe every lawbreaker should go behind bars.

Quite so. The ginger ninja herself might otherwise have found herself in Holloway for assaulting her ex-husband.

But serious offenders deserve time in custody to teach them a lesson and protect the public.

But it's not working, is it? Re-offending rates have gone up from 55% five years ago to 67% now. As much as "teaching them a lesson", it's further teaching those that go in young that there's nothing for them outside.

Home Secretary John Reid and Chancellor Gordon Brown must stop feuding and come up with the plans and money for more prison places.

Including a prison ship. Do you hear that, Home Secretary? A prison ship. Like you promised.

Brilliant idea. Fuck bricks and mortar, just bring on the floating vessels.

Wake up Labour, and put the country first instead of your own careers.

Perhaps Wade ought to follow her own advice and from now on think what's best for this country instead of what Mr Murdoch thinks is best for this country. That doing so would result in her dismissal would be no excuse.

The failure of mass imprisonment to solve the problem of crime could not be more apparent, as today's figures released by both the Home Office and British Crime Survey show. Despite nearly 80,000 being behind bars, the chance of being a victim of crime has risen for the first time in years, up 1%, while personal robbery, fuelled by the carrying of expensive and easily sold-on mobile phones and mp3 players, jumped by 14%. Only a complete reappraisal of what prison is actually for will solve the overcrowding crisis, but it seems that no one is willing to listen, and with the Scum never ceasing to scream, this government is too cowardly to even consider such "radical" proposals as that of the ex-head of the prison and probation service, Martin Narey. The Scum is already reporting the Reid appears to have heeled to Wade's cry for ships and MoD bases to be used.

Elsewhere, the Scum is today yet again advertising the creepy charms of its MyScum MySpace rip-off community by plugging the desperate flesh-flashing of those who don't know any better, written appropriately by Dave Masters (warning: nudity):

Page editor Di James praised the girls' efforts and said it could lead to one of them being spotted by a top agency.

She added: "It's a great way to put yourself in the shop window!"

Indeed. An Amsterdam shop window.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007 

War against bullshit gains a new convert.

There couldn't be more of a contrast between the Director of Public Prosecution, Ken Macdonald's excellent speech last night to the Criminal Bar Association than with the attitudes apparently held by the British public on civil liberties, according to a survey by the British Social Attitudes survey.

According to Macdonald:

"It is critical that we understand that this new form of terrorism carries another more subtle, perhaps equally pernicious, risk. Because it might encourage a fear-driven and inappropriate response. By that I mean it can tempt us to abandon our values. I think it important to understand that this is one of its primary

It might? Talk of 30 plots, of the "sky being dark", constant demands for 90 day detention without trial, of deporting "terrorist suspects" to their country of origin where they might be tortured, detention without charge? Macdonald is entirely right, yet this fear-driven and inappropriate response has happened and is continuing. A plot in which there was no ricin, in which the recipe for making it was taken from an online source which was phony, and in which there was no link to al-Qaida was turned by the police and politicians into a scare-story designed to make the public even more fearful.

"London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered on July 7 2005 were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, 'soldiers'. They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists. We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London, there is no such thing as a 'war on terror', just as there can be no such thing as a 'war on drugs'.

"The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws and the winning of justice for those damaged by their infringement."

How could Blair and Reid present themselves as the saviours of the public if they did this though? The whole "war on terror" nonsense has always fallen into the trap of giving too much credit to those responsible for what is mass-murder. What has always been apparent is that there are men and women out there who wish to harm those who they don't know purely because of their twisted, fanatical beliefs. It's not a new threat, but it does require different methods due to changes in their own. What it does not require is knee-jerk changes to periods that those arrested under the terrorism acts can be held without charge, nor does it require abandoning the traditional procedure of arrest, charge, prosecution, imprisonment, for those guilty of serious offences.

It's therefore depressing to find that the government appears to be winning its war for hearts and minds on diluting civil liberties:

The report said support for civil liberties in Britain peaked in 1990, before going into a steep decline. In 1990, 9% of adults thought the police should be allowed to question suspects for up to a week without letting them see a solicitor. In the latest interviews, this nearly trebled to 25%.

And this is without the government or media suggesting that such a change could be necessary in order to fight crime and/or terrorism. It also shows how quickly either we've forgotten the miscarriages of justice of the 70s, which were often due to those arrested being denied access to lawyers and having confessions being scared out of them, or how the current generation is simply not being educated about them. Whether this is down to the increasing prevalence of the media to treat those arrested and not yet charged as though they're fair game both for smearing and "revelation" after revalation or through the belief that the police, now backed up by forensic science, are close to infallible is unclear. Either way, it shows something is/has going/gone wrong.

You do have to wonder about the potentially leading nature of some of the questions, though:

The survey found seven in every 10 people think compulsory identity cards for all adults would be "a price worth paying" to reduce the threat of terrorism. Eight in 10 say the authorities should be able to tap the phones of people suspected of involvement in terrorism, open their mail and impose electronic tagging or home curfews.

Put like that, there's always going to be a majority believe that almost anything is worth it if it reduces terrorism. If you instead made clear that the cost of ID cards is going to be at least £93, that this government's record of creating and managing databases is execrable (even though it's now decided not to create a new one for the scheme), that they've abandoned the idea of storing a scan of the iris on the card because they weren't good enough at establishing identity and that the fact that those responsible for the Madrid bombings had ID cards, then it's likely that seven in ten would considerably drop. The latter part of the paragraph isn't potentially too troubling; it shows that there is public support for wire-taping to made admissible in court, which the security services are still arrogantly telling the government to reject.

Less than a quarter of the population said torturing terror suspects would be "a price worth paying" and only 35% would accept a ban on peaceful protests and demonstrations.

That word only doesn't make that 35% figure any more reassuring. That anyone would almost ever accept any ban on peaceful protests shows something isn't working properly. Gordon is desperately thrashing around for things that define Britishness; what could be more British than complaining and demonstrating peacefully?

But the nation is almost equally divided on whether people charged with terrorism-related crime should be denied a jury trial - with 50% finding that acceptable and 45% unacceptable.

Thankfully, this is something which you know that MPs would never accept were it to be put to a vote. It's worth remembering that capital punishment was abolished and abortion made legal despite public opposition to both at the time. Even so, we can't rely on our representatives to always be so principled; an attack on the scale of 9/11 here could change everything. It's also not acceptable to refer, as some do on the CiF thread here, as sheep or otherwise. This survey, leading questions or not, shows that those of us who are concerned about this government's attacks on civil liberties need to raise our own game. Conor Gearty's own suggestions for doing so are worth noting:

(i) do not take civil liberties for granted; work out why they are important without assuming anything;

(ii) in doing this, be pragmatic up to a point - recognise that sometimes the state is right to restrict our freedom, that in a democratic society, the state is us - in other words, beware of drifting into an anarchic libertarianism, because if you do, the general public will stop listening to you;

(iii) keep a sense of proportion: liberty is by no means dead in Britain; we are not living in a police state; the executive remains accountable to parliament and the courts and does not always get its own way;

(iv) take a leaf out of the book of radical political and devoted Christian communities: having worked out what you believe in, stand up for it - talk among your friends and work colleagues; attend meetings of the like-minded; proselytise;

(v) do not simply reject all politicians and those who have power in our society simply because they are powerful and/or political: praise as well as condemn; government is not homogeneous, there are different voices: people like our courageous Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken McDonald, deserve support.
The fifth point is especially worth taking into consideration. The Tories have of late rediscovered their libertarian bent, opposing 90 days, forcing the government to compromise over control orders, etc. Much as some of us on the left are loath to do so, they deserve praise for their stand, made in the face of the jibes of Labour and insults of the Sun. The Liberal Democrats' recommendations to scrap mandatory life sentences, in effect keeping life sentences only for those who will spend the rest of their lives behind bars, and to abolish entirely short-term, meaningless and ineffective sentences were a much needed dose of common sense and reality. That they were hardly reported and dismissed by both the Tories and Labour was an injustice.

In short, we shouldn't entirely despair. Instead we ought to be building on what we have already achieved, and make a major effort to both show this government up for encouraging and relying on the politics of a fear, while also making clear that the current response to acts of terror has rather than made them less likely instead done little to thwart the threat, while also removing rights which until recently were held as sacrosanct.

Update: Macdonald's speech is available here in full.

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Harriet Harman launches blog.

Everyone give a big blogobowl welcome to Harriet "I've got tits" Harman, minister for constitutional affairs, who in a blaze of publicity (surely silence? Ed.) has launched her own weblog. Things may not be off to the most promising of starts in her praise for Hillary Clinton, but government ministers blogging is a good thing, and ought to be encouraged, as long as they're not exercises in futility, such as Mr Miliband's.

Oh, and silly jokes regarding Harman's main campaigning battle-cry for deputy prime minister aside, she's one of the few Labour ministers who doesn't make you want to pierce your eardrums with an knitting needle on hearing them speak, and I'm sure we can all agree that we could do with more who don't spark such reflex movements.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007 

Somewhere, a village is missing its idiot.

They say that Paul Dacre doesn't often give speeches in public. Whether this is down to the fact that he can't help swearing like Jade Goody combined with a drunken sailor, notorious to his own staff for his use of "cunt" twice in one sentence, or the fact that judging by his Cudlipp lecture last night, he just doesn't haven't have anything much of interest to say, is hard to tell. Somehow, I think it's the latter.

Nevertheless, he's given this year's Hugh Cudlipp lecture (PDF). And across Britain, every right-winger who loathes the BBC for daring to be as impartial as humanly possible rejoices.

After 4 pages worth of teary-eyed, "good ol' days" crap, Dacre finally starts to get to his point:

Well, I’m sorry to piss on their parade, but, with the honourable exception of the Telegraph, which, of course, is the only right-wing “quality” - The Guardian, The Independent and The Times are all losing money.

Such papers are effectively being subsidised.
So when The Times’s Ms Sieghart, the very embodiment of modern free-thinking women, holds forth on feminism, she does so courtesy of the topless girls in the still vastly profitable Sun.

Equally, when The Guardian’s Mr Kettle vents his spleen on the excesses of the free market he does so courtesy of the fat profits made by that fine example of the free market – The Guardian-owned Auto Trader.

Well thanks for telling us something we didn't already know. The very nature of liberalism often means that those who claim to be and practice its values are horrible hypocrites: I know I am. Sieghart also isn't being subsidised just by the Sun; the rest of Murdoch's vast empire is also paying for her. Oh, and describing her sneeringly as the "embodiment of modern free-thinking women" obviously doesn't prove the Mail editor's oft-accused penchant for misogyny, not one bit. Speaking of which, didn't the Mail at the beginning of the year also say that the excesses of the free market were promoting the "politics of envy"? Yep, it certainly did. Not that Mr Dacre is one to comment. His salary and benefits last year rose, according to Private Eye, from £997,000 to £1.23 million. By comparison, the Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, earned £312,000 (as well as taking home a bonus of £175,000), while the BBC Director General, Mark Thompson, earned £459,000.

And while The Guardian’s Scott Trust is a magnificent construct that allows some gloriously elevated journalism – and praise be to God for that, say I, – let’s not beat about the bush: subsidised papers are, by definition, unable to survive in a free market. Their journalism and values – invariably liberal, metropolitan and politically correct, and I include the pinkish Times here, - don’t connect with sufficient readers to be commercially viable.

Does Dacre have a point here? Maybe, but only maybe. Taking the circulation of all the papers Dacre mentions together based on the December ABCs, they add up to 1,240,168, more than 300,000 more copies than the profit-making Daily Telegraph sold, and 80,000 of those were at a discounted bulk price.

In other words, there quite clearly is a market for just the journalism and values which Dacre sniffs about. In a way, Dacre has something of a point. The advent of the internet especially has meant that having two centre-left "quality" papers is perhaps not going to be viable for too much longer; the Independent will probably eventually shift entirely online, go free or fold. Its owner, Tony O'Reilly, may pull the plug one day. The way the Guardian especially has taken to the online challenge, the way it's managed to engage readers, especially from America, means that it isn't going anywhere any time soon, and the Times will never fold while Murdoch continues to rampage across the globe. Additionally, the Guardian website turned in a profit last year, and it's by far the most popular British newspaper site. How is that not success?

Ah, say the bien pensants, but such papers are hugely concerned for the common good. But there is a rather unedifying contradiction here. For the Subsidariat, as I shall dub them, are actually rather disdainful of common man, contemptuous even, of the papers that make profits by appealing to and connecting with millions of ordinary men and women.

How often do you read in the Subsidariat, or hear on Newsnight, contemptuous references to the tabloid press as if it was some disembodied monster rather than the very embodiment of the views of the great majority of the British people.

Dacre here is confusing the paper people buy with the views they hold. Do all 800,000 Express readers honestly believe that Princess Diana was murdered? I somehow doubt it. As for contemptuous references to it, what do the tabloids expect when it's shown how by opinion poll how little tabloid journalists are trusted (9% compared to a narrow majority who trust TV news journalists), and what lengths they go to gain their "exclusives", not to mention their continuing reliance on paparazzi. While the furore over Kate Middleton has now died down somewhat, yesterday numerous papers printed photographs of Prince Harry's girlfriend, for err, wearing a dress similar to that which Ms Middleton had wore. When they're invading the privacy of the population for reasons far from the public interest, why are they so surprised think that the "Subsidariat" view the tabloids with contempt? They're bringing their own profession into disrepute.

Fair enough, you might say. The tabloid press – and it’s getting confusing here,because The Times and The Independent are, of course, tabloids now – is big enough to look after itself.

Except I don’t think it is fair because such arguments ignore the ever burgeoning growth of the most powerful media organisation in the world. I refer, of course, to the hugely subsidised BBC.

Oh, you're fucking kidding me. Is this meant to be satire? How on earth does the BBC in any way compare to the global behemoth which is News Corporation? It doesn't. As much as you may dislike the BBC Dacre, this is just plain bollocks.

Now before the liberal commentators reach for their vitriol – and, my goodness, how they demonise anyone who disagrees with them – let me say that I would die in a ditch defending the BBC as a great civilising force. I, for one, would pay the licence fee just for Radio 4.

As opposed to the tabloids, who just demonise those who can't fight back. Colin Stagg, anyone? Asylum seekers? Immigrants? Those accused of terrorism? By coincidence, today Mail and Express journalists were giving evidence to the joint committee of human rights, and a Guardian hack took the opportunity to show that they're misleading their readers into believing Britain has a far higher share of immigrants than it actually does have - 21% and 19%, compared to the actual total, which is 7% of the population. Also Mr Dacre, you would pay the licence fee alone for Radio 4, right? Doesn't Radio 4, with its high-brow Today programme, worthy dramas and otherwise exemplify the very things you hate about the BBC? Doesn't this make you too a hypocrite?

But as George Orwell said “to see what is in front of one’s nose requires constant struggle”. And what is in front of one’s nose is that the BBC, a behemoth that bestrides Britain is, as Cudlipp might have put it, TOO BLOODY BIG, TOO BLOODY PERVASIVE AND TOO BLOODY POWERFUL.

Firstly, consider the sheer vast size of the Corporation which is, despite its bleating about being underfunded, a conglomerate that employs 26,000 people, has a vast £3.2bn budget, and thinks nothing of paying £18m to a chat show host.

And so on it begins, a rant against the BBC and everything it does everywhere, complaining about how the BBC haven't gone after New Labour scandals, which is nonsense (the organisation quickly backtracked from offering £100 to those who helped break exclusives on the loans for peerages scandal - which the Sun jumped on - the BBC can't win whatever it does), how it's destroyed the Tory party (it didn't - the Tory party and the electorate destroyed the Tory party) mostly backed up by no evidence whatsoever, except than by Dacre's invective. About the only example given is that one journalist had his revelation that the HIV rates were being brought up by African migrants being diagnosed once they had reached Britain cut at the last minute. If so, it's appalling, but doesn't by any definition translate to such censorship being overwhelming throughout the organisation. For instance, take the BBC's recent rather sensationalist investigation into translation services - natural Daily Mail territory. Maybe that's why Dacre's really pissed off - they're increasingly stealing his thunder.

Freedom of Information enquiries tell us, and we should be very unsurprised here, that the BBC Newsroom has more copies of the statist Guardian delivered than any other paper and that 90% of the Corporation’s job ads are placed with that paper.

Thus are the values of a subsidised newspaper that sells 380,000 copies embraced by an organisation that reaches into virtually every home in Britain.

Or maybe it's that the Guardian has by far the most respected media coverage, and is as a result the best place to advertise. Maybe the fact that a broadsheet is the most delivered has something to do with the fact that the tabloids increasingly have less and less "news" and more and more garbage? Dacre also doesn't let us know exactly how many more copies of the Grauniad are delivered, the margin is probably tiny.

But then, the BBC is consumed by the kind of political correctness that is actually patronisingly contemptuous of what it describes as ordinary people. Having started as an admirable philosophy of tolerance, that political correctness has become an intolerant creed enabling a self-appointed elite to impose its minority values on the great majority. Anything popular is dismissed as being populist which is sneering shorthand for being of the lowest possible taste.

Indeed. As "political correctness" swept the tabloids other than the Daily Mail last week, all condemnatory over the Big Brother race row, the Mail instead belittled the whole thing, advising viewers to switch off. When the BBC showed "Jerry Springer The Opera", the advice from the Mail certainly wasn't to switch off.

This, I would argue, is perverting political discourse and disenfranchising countless millions who don’t subscribe to the BBC’s world view. Told repeatedly that their opinions are not considered respectable or legitimate these people are disconnecting – one of the reasons, I would suggest, for the current apathy over politics.

Or it could be that the politicians themselves are now so indulgent of a minority - which, shock - is the same lower middle class that Dacre so eulogises and which the BBC apparently hates, also known as the "aspirational", that politics has become meaningless. Of course, tabloid attacks on politicians, regardless of allegiance have also had no role in undermining faith in those who govern us, oh no.

How instructive to compare all this with what is happening in America. There, the liberal smugness of a terminally worthy, monopolistic press has, together with deregulation, triggered both the explosive growth of right-wing radio broadcasting that now dominates the airwaves and the extraordinary rise of Murdoch’s rightwing Fox TV News service.

Yep, and still the far-right decries the American press as being liberally biased, much like Dacre and others decry the BBC for being just the same. That the American press were so cowed in the aftermath of September the 11th, so loath to criticise anything the Bush administration pushed through for fear of being labelled anti-American and unpatriotic that the Iraq disaster took place, which is still being praised to the rafters by the very right-wingers which Dacre now mentions doesn't undermine his argument one bit. Nope.

And here I wish to digress for a moment and address an issue that should deeply worry all those who believe in press freedom: Britain’s judges –whose dislike of much of the media should not be underestimated – are itching to bring in a Privacy Law by the back door.

Under the Human Rights Act we are witnessing the development, at a frightening pace, of an aggressive judge-made privacy law over which Parliament has no control.

All then becomes clear. The very newspaper which promised after the death of Diana to stop buying any photographs by paparazzi and kept said promise for about 5 minutes, now continues to want to keep splashing on snatched shots of minor celebrities getting out of their cars. There is a legitimate concern that a privacy law will be introduced through the back-door by judges - who incidentally are trusted by 81% of the population, a mere 9 times more than tabloid journalists - and that it could have a chilling effect on press freedom, but this will be a result of the pathetic celebrity worship which the same tabloids indulge in it if it happens, rather than legitimate investigations into politicians. The tabloids will only have themselves to blame if it does.

Indeed, had you told me 36 years ago that a cuckolded husband didn’t have the right to speak about his wife’s adultery, that a paper would be banned from referring to royal indiscretions contained in a round-robin journal distributed to scores of people and that the media cannot reveal the identity of a Labour ex-Education Minister who sends her child to private school – three issues that have come up recently on the privacy front - I would have simply disbelieved you.

I don't know about the first example, and can't say I could give a shit if I did. The second is referring to Prince Charles's journal, which was printed by the Mail on Sunday in part, before he then stopped them from revealing it in full, but not before his amazing opinion that the Chinese who took part in the handover of Hong Kong were "appalling old waxworks" was made public. The third is err, about Ruth Kelly, who was named and seems likely to fail in her attempts to get the PCC to intervene. The Mirror was just more forthright in naming her than the Hatemail on Sunday was.

Such restrictions are not conducive to producing adventurous journalism but, the judges, I fear, are all part of a movement by a liberal establishment to curb what they see as the excesses of the press.

Yes, of course they are dear. It's all one big conspiracy, which doesn't involve judges having to interpret the law as they see it one iota. Also, who could blame them if they actually were when the Sun "named and shamed" and attacked them last year for simply handing down sentences under the government's own guidelines?

Such papers need to be sensational, irreverent, gossipy, interested in celebrities and human relationships and, above all, brilliantly entertaining sugar coated pills if they are to attract huge circulations and devote considerable space to intelligent, thought-provoking journalism, analysis and comment on important issues.

Or they could, as Lord Northcliffe suggested, just provide their own little "Daily Hate", which the Mail definitely does.

Moving on:

The bitter irony, of course, is that when, for once, the BBC was proactive in its journalism and did stand up to the Labour Party by breaking a genuine story, the Corporation and its craven governors all but imploded under pressure from a rabid Campbell.

And what is interesting is that this contrasted with the ruthless support for the Iraq war that Rupert Murdoch imposed on his papers and their equally ruthless suppression of any criticism of the invasion whether it involved the Attorney General’s malfeasance, virtually ignored in The Times, or Dr Kelly, all but hung drawn and quartered by The Sun.

Indeed, I would suggest that the intimacy and power-brokering between these two papers and No 10 and the question whether Mr Blair would have got away with his falsehoods and misjudgements over Iraq – indeed, whether Britain would have gone to war at all - without the support of the Murdoch empire, is a brilliant doctoral thesis for some future media studies student.

It is a good question, and this is the only part of Dacre's entire lecture which is entirely and documentarily true, yet even this is tempered more by the Mail's hatred of Labour more than it is of support for the BBC's journalism. As soon as the Hutton whitewash passed, the Mail was back to attacking the BBC in every way.


And what’s in front of one’s nose is that Britain needs greater freedom, plurality and diversity in its media.

All of which is provided in your super-soaraway Daily Mail! Oh, wait...

Update: Today's Grauniad published an edited version of Dacre's rant on its comment pages, sans most of the bits about the Groan itself. Here's a question worth putting to Dacre and the Daily Mail as a whole: would it give over comment space to Alan Rusbridger, ranting about Sky and the tabloids? Somehow I doubt it. Additionally, the piece is also up on CiF, where the debate has been as usual, reasonably fierce. CiF, unlike the Mail's site, doesn't moderate comments before they're posted, and it also doesn't censor comments which are highly critical of the newspaper. The Mail, on the other hand, heavily filters comments on its reports and comment pieces, generally only letting a token objection or disagreement with the article be given space alongside the adulatory masses and disgusteds of Tonbridge Wells. The difference between the politically correct liberals and the right-wingers which Dacre so loves is that we're not afraid to debate and do so without having to resort to the kind of news-management which would be more at home in Downing Street than in Islington.

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Monday, January 22, 2007 

Just fancy that!

This dropped into my inbox tonight:

You recently signed a petition asking the Prime Minister to
"Resign immediately."

The Prime Minister's Office has responded to that petition and
you can view it here:
Excellent. An example of e-citzenry in action. How can the prime minister justify his continued stay when it's so obvious he should go immediately?

Err, he doesn't.

Read the Government's response

The PM has made clear that he will be leaving office before the next Labour party conference.

Yep, even online, faced with just a simple text petition asking him to resign, he still avoids answering why he won't. Like an England fan who can't realise we're doomed to never win the World Cup again, but still bellows out his devotion to his nation, Tony is New Labour until he dies.


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It's the end, why don't you admit it?

According to "Dr" Cliff Arnall, today is the most miserable day of the year. Despite this not having any basis in fact whatsoever, seeing that Cliff Arnall has already been exposed by Ben Goldacre as a corporate whore, it seems that New Labour really does want it to be the day when you're most likely to think of doing a Saddam. Nothing could be more apparent than the continuing attempts of ministers both to questioning the police for so much as daring to question Ruth Turner, as well as the Blairite's continuing belief that only the "super-marginals" matter.

Let's start with Frank Field, who has written what can only be described politely as an "interesting" comment piece for CiF:

A successful terrorist attack on London could make part of the capital uninhabitable for decades and make Britain permanently poorer.

New York, despite having the two tallest buildings in the city demolished without warning, managed to be back up and running within weeks, although whether the dust created by the collapsed buildings will turn out to be a long-term health hazard remains to be seen. Unless our suicide bombing loving friends manage to explode a nuke, there's not much that could make the capital "uninhabitable" for decades.

This is only part of Field's first paragraph. This is where it gets really "interesting":

Yet, while London awaits its fate, Scotland Yard is fiddling away on an enquiry into the alleged sale of honours. How can the Metropolitan commissioner defend this enquiry as the best use of scarce police resources?

How can the Metropolitan commissioner defend investigating kids getting mugged for their iPods? How can the Metropolitan commissioner defend sending officers out to arrest people caught shoplifting 2 or 3 chocolate bars? How can the Metropolitan commissioner defend apprehending burglars?

This is quite possibly the most pitiful argument that an MP could ever possibly come out with. Believe it or not Frank, the police have different departments to investigate different crimes. See, there's the Counter-Terrorism Command, there's a Economic and Specialist Crime Command, and gasp, John Yates has set-up his own team of six detectives to investigate the "loans for peerages" affair. And you know what, the Met are even kind enough to provide a web page with all the information on each different department of the force. You could have seen it there.

In criticising the Metropolitan Police commissioner for a serious misuse of police time I have not assumed that there is no case to answer on the honours front. No 10 has at the very least been sailing close to the wind. The whole saga is tacky, to put it mildly.

Tacky. Prostituting the party to huge corporate sponsors because no one else was willing to stump up the cash at the last general election, possibly selling honours as a sweetener on the deal, and then deliberately hiding what had been done by exploiting a loophole in the very law which Labour brought in, and Field only finds this tacky, to put it mildly. I'd call it as bad as some of the worst sleaze which the previous Tory government indulged in, and seeing as Neil Hamilton received money in brown envelopes for asking questions and Jonathan Aitken prepared to have his daughter lie for him in court, that's quite an achievement.

The way that the police have conducted the enquiry suggests to the media that it is the PM who is in the frame. But where did those senior Labour party figures who run the party, particularly in the run-up and during the election, believe the £18 million spent on the election came from, if not from wealthy donors? When the small group of top Labour officials, including the prime minister and the chancellor, mapped out the campaign, did they all believe that the £18 million or so they were committing to election campaign grew on trees?

Maybe, just maybe Frank, they thought that the funds had been properly donated, all above board, keeping in line with the very measures which Labour introduced. They didn't have any reason to be suspicious, so they didn't ask.

What is the financial control structure in the Labour party that allows the treasurer to claim that he had no idea of the source of the £18 million? Does not the Labour party have an audit committee to ask such elementary questions before money is committed?

From what we know, Labour was so desperate for money that Lord Levy had to go out glad-handing, begging and bribing. Neither Jack Dromey, the Treasurer, or Jeremy Beecham, the head of National Executive Committee, knew about the loans until the papers exposed them. In fact, Dromey was so concerned that he was going to end up being the fall guy, that he then he made clear that he had, to paraphrase Manuel, "knew nothing". This didn't spare him then being attacked for not being inquisitive enough when he had no reason to be. John Prescott, and it has to be assumed, Gordon Brown also didn't know about the loans. According to the Independent, only Blair, Levy and the then party general secretary, Matt Carter knew about them. This is what is known as shifting the blame. Even if the treasurers had been aware of the loans, would they have been able to persuade Labour to either forgo them or convert them to donations? It seems unlikely.

These are some of the very important questions the Labour party leadership needs to answer. They are not questions which have so far been put in public debate. But we shouldn't have to turn to the police to gain answers to questions which tell us something pretty fundamental about how political parties are run in Britain today. That a full scale police enquiry was put in hand raises not for the first time the judgement of Ian Blair the commissioner.

Much as Ian Blair has to answer for, this is nothing to do with him. Sure, he has ultimate say over the investigation, but once a complaint has been made, the police have a duty to thoroughly investigate it, which is exactly what they have done. Much as Field would like for it not to have been turned over to the police, the very reason a complaint was made was because there is a suspicion that the law as it stands very well may have been broken. There have been claims in recent days of the Yates' inquiry discovering a "smoking gun", which may well be the other reason why New Labourites of all shades have taken it upon themselves to question both the police's remit and their tactics.

The commissioner has found himself in choppy political water recently and it was obviously easier for him to allow the enquiry to advance than to defend that with all the issues facing the Yard, the honours for sale fiasco was no where near the top of his agenda. But the easy option is, in this case, a negation of leadership.

During Ian Blair's watch the nature of the terrorist threat to Britain has fundamentally changed. Irish terrorists were about destroying buildings, usually after giving a warning. The nature of the threat posed by Islamic extremists is carried out by suicide bombers. What none of us know is when the next outrage is going to occur.

And your point is what, Frank? Are you trying to suggest that Ian Blair is negating his duties in countering-terrorism? Blair is more than open to the charge of being all mouth and no trousers, since he's more than happy to exaggerate the true level of the threat and to demand even more draconian powers, but surely he can't be accused of lacking leadership over tackling it, especially over an investigation that involves only six detectives.

Speaking of scaremongering, here comes Frank "I'm shitting bricks" Field's take on what the evil terrorists could possibly do to London:

Nor is the threat, awful as it is, confined to such horrors visited on innocent individuals. An explosion of a dirty bomb could make parts of London uninhabitable for decades or more. Such an explosion would bring down more than the surrounding buildings. Twenty per cent of Britain's income comes from the financial services sector. A dirty bomb would see much of this industry leave our shores. At a stroke our national income would be reduced from being at the top of the league of advanced countries, to the bottom, with huge repercussions for income and employment levels.

Likewise, bombing the Thames barrier at a record high tide with strong incoming winds would not only flood Canary wharf. Such an attempt would result in a pack of financial lemmings scuttling from our shores with the same devastating effect on national prosperity as a chemical or dirty bomb attack.

Field has then came up with two nightmare scenarios, and that is exactly what they are, nightmares. As a commenter on the thread notes, the studies into the threat posed by dirty bombs have all played down the threat, or rather, have concluded that there is a threat but that it's nowhere near the fevered imaginations of some of our politicians and other defense "experts". The real threat posed, as has been made all the more obvious by the 21/7 bombing trial, is from jihadists preparing their own bombs with easily available materials. A more realistic nightmare scenario would be multiple suicide bombers attacking multiple cities and multiple targets in a co-ordinated attack. That doesn't however pose the same horror as the use of nuclear material, or flooding the city through bombing the Thames barrier.

It is against the need to try and prevent a catastrophe on this scale for our country that I continue to question the use of police time over the alleged sale of honours. I know it's much easier for the police to chase a somewhat old fashioned crime as the alleged sale of honours than to try and foil the next, and then the next, terrorist outrage.

Right, so apparently our police have suffered so much under Field's own government that they can't do two things at once. He must realise that this is a completely false argument, so completely ludicrous that you almost do wonder whether he actually does realise that. Have you finally lost it, Frank?

The commissioner has put what we are told is his most gifted senior policeman onto this task but it is these very gifts that we need to employ trying to keep ahead of the new terrorists. Given the choice between ruffling some feathers of the smaller creatures at No 10 for perverting the course of justice or reinforcing the unglamorous daily grind of trying to protect the security of our country, Ian Blair's judgement looks eccentric, to put it mildly.

And so this litany of disingenuous garbage finally comes to the end. Is this is what Labour has now been reduced to? Faced with a police inquiry right at the top, a government that has given the police nearly every single new power they've wanted, all of sudden the supporters of Blair come out to question the very same organisation they've time and again defended to the hilt. Field doesn't just question the police's actual reason for existing, to investigate allegations of breaking the law, he has to bring in terrorism, the new catch-all for justifying anything and everything to cover the backside of the current occupier of 10 Downing Street (see today's ruling on Brian Haw for another example of this). It'd be easier to understand if a rabid Blairite had written this pathetic, new low for a Labour MP, but Field isn't, and never has been.

Which brings us neatly to Hazel Blears. She too believes, like Liam Byrne and Bill Rammell that the next election will be won through targeting the "super-marginals".

New Labour came to power with its belief in the "third way", that left and right politics no longer applied and that such labels were obsolete. It now even seems that vacuum has been thrown out of the window, in favour of anything that pleases a few select people. Gone is the belief in any broad narrative, that's so 20th century. Instead, we are all consumers and we're all going to choose what we want. Blears however, unlike Liam 'n' Bill, seems to know what the voters want; while Liam 'n' Bill think aspiration will win the day, Blears thinks that what the people are interested in are what she wants to talk about i.e. the police, the NHS and education, rather than foreign policy, civil liberties concerns or immigration.

All this though is just a waste of breath on their own concerns. Blair's downfall, Field's attack on the police for doing their job and Liam, Bill and Hazel's ideas are all connected. All of them are doomed. All of them are on their way out. It's the end for Blairism. Sure, it might be about to replaced by a slightly lesser form of Blairism in Brownism, but they're finished. It's the end. They just can't admit it.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007 

Phil Davies MP retracts his "fuck off".

Following on from Mad Mel's non-apology about the Sun's inaccurate Windsor Muslim yobs report, the Tory MP Philip Davies has been good enough to retract his plea for those responsible to "fuck off", with again, major kudos to Mask of Anarchy for bothering to contacting him:

Anyone up for attempting to contact Damian Green MP and Sir Andrew Green to see whether they'll also do the decent thing?

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