Saturday, May 12, 2007 

We are all bourgeois, err, I mean McCanns now.

We share your pain claims the Scum. Except that they don't, and we don't, do we? Can any of us who haven't been in the same position as the McCanns claim, and this includes when children briefly wander off, as they are wont to do, actually know what they're going through? No, of course not. We can however to pretend to know what they feel, we can go through the motions and, when you're a newspaper, you can make as much out of it as possible by trying to surf the wave of sympathy.

Hence this pointless plea from the Sun:

THE Sun today urges Britain to show support for the anguished family of snatched tot Madeleine McCann — by wearing yellow clothing in her honour.

We want our army of readers to show they are shoulder-to-shoulder with Kate and Gerry McCann during the agonising wait for news of their missing four-year-old.

Why? What difference will it make? When we choose to wear something that either shows our support for a cause or in memory of something that's happened, whether it's a poppy, or even a white wrist-band during the Make Poverty History drive, we're make a statement about our beliefs, whether it's about never forgetting those who sacrificed their lives for freedom or otherwise. What's the point of wearing a yellow ribbon except to show that you've got too much of an emotional connection about something that you can do absolutely nothing about? The McCanns, however much they claim they're being buoyed by the support they're receiving, are only thinking about one thing, and that's getting their daughter back: wearing a small piece of cloth or a certain clothing isn't going to do that.

It's the same with the requests to pray for her. Presumably these calls are being made to the same God which let her be snatched in the first place. Or is this a challenge from that same source to test their faith?

There's also nothing quite like getting some publicity out of the misery of others. How else to explain the decision of Philip Green, Richard Branson and the News of the Screws, the cunts of capitalism, to put up a reward which has now reached £2.5 million? The flyers being produced by the Scum couldn't possibly miss off their logo, and as for the footballers going out with yellow wristbands, even if requested by Madeleine's aunt, well, words fail me. Alan Johnston, as Chicken Yoghurt points out, captured by Islamic militants from one of Gaza's clans or not, could only wish for such measures. Between a bald journalist and a pretty 4-year-old girl, there's no contest, as both Gordon Brown and David Cameron can both attest to.

Give it another week, and if she's still not been found, the press will probably begin to forget and move on. Pounds of flesh extracted, good deeds fulfilled, police from foreign country sniped, hatred of paedophiles brought to the boil, jobs a good'un. Then we'll see who feels whose pain.

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Irresponsible and reckless, said the spider to the fly.

As much as some of us have cheered when the government has been rightly given a bloody nose by judicial decisions over the last few years, it's hard not to view the decision of the judge in the Al-Jazeera leaked memo trial as anything other than a disgrace to his profession.

Not that he was by far the only one worthy of the highest criticism. "Sir" Nigel Sheinwald, Blair's foreign policy adviser, which means he has to share responsibility over the Iraq disaster,
gave evidence suggesting that "lives would be put at risk" if the memo were to be openly published. The judge himself fell openly into believing this contemptible opinion, itself reputed during the trial, saying in sentencing David Keogh and Leo O'Connor:

You decided that you did not like what you saw. Without consulting anyone, you decided on your own that it was in the best interest of the UK that this letter should be disclosed. Your reckless and irresponsible action in disclosing this letter when you had no right to could have cost the lives of British citizens.

Reckless and irresponsible are of course adjectives which were used by Clare Short in the run-up to the Iraq war to describe Blair's arrogant, deluded refusal to budge from supporting regime change. David Keogh on the other hand attempted to get a memo into the public domain which he personally described as showing "President Bush as a madman". Now, we don't need a memo to know that Bush is a madman, but we're lead to believe that the contents of the memo were along the lines of Bush advocating bombing the headquarters of al-Jazeera because of their coverage, ironically enough, of war crimes in Fallujah. Bush was calling for a war crime in response to journalists daring to report on war crimes.

In fact, Sheinwald went even further into the depths of rhetorical depravity during his evidence. He said that discussions between world leaders must stay secret no matter what they're discussing. This means that even if you were a civil servant and during your work came across a memo which involved the leader of the free world talking about, say, committing genocide, even in those circumstances you would just have to forget about it and wait for the bombs to start dropping and the missiles to commence launching.

The judge didn't stop at handing down prison sentences to two men who like Tony Blair, were doing what they thought was right though, oh no. Just to add to the general level of ridiculous bureaucracy involved in the whole case, he then gagged the media from err, reporting what Keogh had said in open court regarding what the minutes of the memo, and then also ordered that other allegations regarding the memo couldn't be reported in the same report as that involving the case, although they could on other pages of a newspaper, as long as that then itself wasn't mentioned in the original report. Understand? No, the only person who does is Mr Justice Aikens.

There were of course those other
leaks recently discussed that put lives at risk, but we can rest assured that no members of the police force or Whitehall appartachiks will be imprisoned for their roles in dispatching lurid details of the "beheading plot" to the tabloids. This always seems to be the way: when uncomfortable informations emerges, the first response is to shoot the messenger. Hence why when the BBC exposed the racism in the ranks of Greater Manchester police that they arrested the journalist responsible. When the brave woman from the IPCC leaked the reality of the death of Jean Charles de Menezes to ITV News, she had her door broken down in the early hours of the morning. Then again, who could forget the leak of the Hutton report to the Scum, which strangely was never successfully traced to anywhere.

Keogh and O'Connor and the media fighting the gagging orders all plan to appeal. One can only hope that they come across a judge without a seeming chip on his shoulder.

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100 years ago...

Last year, the Grauniad sent along the two daughters of Simon Hattenstone to the (Grauniad sponsored) Hay Festival to meet some of their favourite authors in the name of attempting to find out what the book week was like for kids. This involved plenty of photographs of the two precocious darlings with their heroes, and seemed destined for their scrapbooks, as I mentioned at the time. If my memory serves correctly, Private Eye also had a short piece about it in the Street of Shame.

Today, the following comment on the post dropped into my inbox:

fuck off

me and my sister wrote that article ourselves
and you must be very sad and desperate to write things like that about kids

and i dont have a fucking family album

alix h

Well A-licks, I can only offer my profuse apologies for daring to suggest that nepotism may have been involved, and judging by your way with words, a place at the Grauniad is no doubt waiting in the wings. Congratulations!

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Friday, May 11, 2007 

47 Blears later.

Sometimes, you wonder if you're on the same left as the others who proclaim to be "progressive" are. How on earth is it possible that I supposedly share the same political values and goals as these more than 47 members of the undead?

You at least have to hand it to Cameron for that insult. The description when applied to these brain-chewing decomposing throwbacks could not be more apt. Hazel Blears, a woman without a single idea of her own, without the slightest clue to how to deal with someone with a grievance except spit the same old platitudes back at them over and over again, someone who most probably loses Labour another thousand votes every time she appears on any political programme, who clearly doesn't know what to do if anyone so much as points out the complete vapidity of her entire belief system, a person who could test the patience of Ghandi with her half-baked whimpering, and still she and 47 other similarly deluded idiots for Labour think that she could honestly bring more voters in through her down-to-earth lack of any discernible talent or substance whatsoever. I suppose that's all right though, because according to Cosmo Landesman, that's what people like now. Maybe we can get Blears on Big Brother masturbating with a beer bottle. Or on seconds thoughts, let's definitely not.

Fair's fair, the deputy leadership of a party in terminal decline isn't that taxing a job, and it's hard to imagine anyone being worse than John Prescott, but I'd rather have a lying, shagging, ex-union semi-proletarian who can't get his words out right, but who clearly has a soul and a definitive ideology than this bag of dyed red hair and approximately sixteen braincells,
all of which contain only Labour's greatest achievements over the past 10 years, those being hospitals up to their eyeballs in debt thanks to PFI, and tackling anti-social behaviour, which Labour itself created by giving an 81-year-old woman and vulnerable suicidal people badges of honour while destroying civil liberties and creating a surveillance society.

Labour was once a party which counted the likes of Nye Bevan, Ernest Bevin and even Hugh Gaitskell amongst its members. Today it's reduced to Tessa Jowell, Chris Bryant, Ruth Kelly and someone called John Heppell, who thinks this about Blears:

We need a deputy leader who can inspire, enthuse and lead. I have no doubt that Hazel can do all three.

Indeed. Straight to an inevitable Tory victory.

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Michael Howard vs Alastair Campbell.

Like most sensible people, you probably weren't watching Newsnight at around ten to midnight last night. Unfortunately, I was. Fortunately, Chicken Yoghurt has uploaded the following exchange between Alastair Campbell and Michael Howard, which has to be one of the best confrontations on the programme in a long time. You can see the deep, visceral loathing flashing in Campbell's eyes at the indignity of Howard daring to suggest that he, the power behind the throne, is almost personally responsible for helping to destroy public confidence in politicians. Not only is he doing just that, but he's got the nerve to say it directly to his face. Campbell's repeated quick blinking makes you wonder whether he's trying to make himself believe that it isn't actually happening.

If only someone other than a failed Tory politician had had the guts to do it.


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Thursday, May 10, 2007 

The great obfuscator.

Can it really be true that some are paying tribute to Blair by calling him "the great communicator"? Is Brian Brivati being deadly serious and not playing CiF for fools by praising him for the "humanitarianism" of his foreign policy? Can Martin Kettle get any more sycophantic without openly weeping about the political death of our lord and saviour, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair?

To call the coverage of Blair's end of the beginning of his exit overblown would be to do a disservice to those who specialise in going over the top: Muse and My Chemical Romance could learn lessons
from the hysterical response of the BBC, who seem to think that the man's died rather than announced that, err, he's still going to be around for the best part of another 2 months.

The thing is, plenty of us have been waiting for this moment for the last two to three years. It was always going to be an anti-climax. However much we dislike it, Blair has more or less been able to chose when he leaves and on what terms. He destroyed any plot there was last year, and has managed to survive for far longer than he should have been allowed to, due both to the weakness of his opponents and the astonishing way that parts of the media fought tooth and claw to make sure that he stayed put. It was this Faustian pact with the Murdoch media that helped him stay in Downing Street while also helping to ensure that he was loathed by vast parts of the party which he has never loved and which will never love him back. If in 1992 it was the Sun wot won it, in 2007 it was the Sun wot kept Blair there.

Handily enough, Blair's "farewell" speech in places sums up all that has always been wrong with the man. His hatred of ideology, the emptiness of the "third way", comes shining through in his analysis of Britain as he was growing up and coming towards his "political maturity":

And all of that was curiously symbolised, you know, in the politics of the time. You had choices. You stood for individual aspiration and getting on in life, or for social compassion and helping others. You were liberal in your values, or conservative. You believed in the power of the state, or the efforts of the individual. Spending more money on the public realm was the answer, or it was the problem. And none of it made sense to me. It was 20th century ideology in a world approaching a new Millennium.

And yet Blair was elected on the back of
"the longest suicide note in history". If none of Labour's 1983 manifesto made any sense to him, why on earth was he even a member of the party, let alone standing to represent both it and the people? Did he believe in it then, before this Damascene conversion to seeing the light and that the path to the light was paved with the bricks stamped with New Labour? Was he seeking power for power's sake, or was he back then fighting for social compassion and helping others? As has been pointed out, Blair's analysis is deeply flawed in any case: this isn't a reflection of Britain in the 1980s, the miner's strike, Greenham Common and the poll tax riots, when greed was officially good and when social unrest and misery reached their highest level until err, now, this is a vision of 1980s America, and the ideological battles there, not the ones that scarred and continue to scar Europe.

Most of what follows is the long listing of Labour's great achievements, how schools no longer have outside privies, how the NHS has successfully defeated cholera and how there's now a shiny 42" plasma screen in every home, but he does finally get to what is and always has been his biggest personal failing:

And in time you realise that putting the country first doesn't mean doing the right thing according to conventional wisdom, or the prevailing consensus or the latest snapshot of opinion. It means doing what you genuinely believe to be right. That your duty as prime minister is to act according to your conviction.

Except we know full well that the other members of his government have had to push through policies which they themselves regard as beneath contempt. That this is the government which can't do anything without first getting in a focus group, and that when it does do something of its own initative it does it so cack-handedly that you wish they had got in one of this soul-destroying groups of aspirational, middle England voters to give the thumbs up or down in the first place. It's only when he's been so utterly certain of himself, believing in his own powers of persuasion and conviction that he's rammed through policies with no thought for their consequences, his party or anyone at all. This happened over Iraq, it happened over trust schools, foundation hospitals, tutition fees and 90 days detention without charge. In his next paragraph he attempts to ridicule the accusation often made that he on these occasions he's acted like someone with messianic zeal, yet the evidence is there for all to see in this very statement. When he was defeated over 90 days, it wasn't a disaster because he knew he was right. History will judge him well, because he knows he was right, even it means he has to delude himself for the rest of his days.

And then came the utterly unanticipated and dramatic - September 11 2001, and the death of 3,000 or more on the streets of New York. And I decided we should stand shoulder to shoulder with our oldest ally. And I did so out of belief. And so Afghanistan, and then Iraq, the latter bitterly controversial. And removing Saddam and his sons from power, as with removing the Taliban, was done with relative ease - but the blowback since, in global terrorism and those elements that support it, has been fierce and unrelenting and costly. And for many, it simply isn't and can't be worth it.

For me, I think we must see it through. The terrorists who threaten us around the world will never give up if we give up. It is a test of will and belief, and we can't fail it.

See, the disaster in Iraq isn't our fault for invading it on a tissue of lies and distortions, it's all down to the evil terrorists and those that support them. It isn't down to our complete lack of ability to influence both US policy, which did more than anything to create the necessary environment for the insurgency, it's their fault for daring to attack a liberating force that is bringing democracy down the barrel of a gun. Blair did it, and he looked upon it, and he saw it was good. His belief is that it was right is all that matters. Nevermind that beliefs can be wrong; he had the best intentions at heart, and who can possibly condemn him for that?

We may as well then have a quick look at his assumed legacy. Relative peace in Northern Ireland, started by John Major, but Blair does deserve credit for carrying it through to the end, even though he ignored the role of Mo Mowlam, but then she's dead, so who cares? The introduction of the minimum wage,
which as Paul Linford points out, Blair hated, but did anyway. It still remains below a living wage. The introduction of the Human Rights Act, which we know full well the Blairites wish they'd never done, and the Freedom of Information Act, which they're trying to neuter. Despite all the veiled attempts at redistribution, through tax credits, which are a failure and hugely wasteful, however Polly Toynbee tries to spin them, or the tax system itself, inequality is actually worse now than it was at times under Thatcher. The prison system is hopelessly overcrowded, filled with the mentally ill, the drug addicted, vulnerable women and others who would be better doing community sentences than being locked up, as a result of Labour being tough on crime and forgetting entirely about the causes in order to appease the ever reactionary tabloids, even though crime is now at a historic low.

Then there's the emergence of a surveillance state,
John Reid choosing today of all days to write on CiF about ID cards are going to enrich and protect our lives, even though they're going to cost at least another £400m. The most CCTV cameras in the world, the removal of the right to protest within a mile of parliament, the police more powerful and influential than ever before, despite all the moaning that they can't do anything without filling in a form. In the name of the war on terror, we've been complicit in the transporting of suspects to places where they can be tortured, we're prepared to deport people back to their country of origin on the basis of a piece of paper which says they won't be mistreated, honest, and for a while we even suspended habeas corpus. Blair has led us into four separate wars, only one of which can be called truly successful. His government lied and broke international law by taking part in a illegal war which has killed at the very least 100,000 Iraqis, and out of a desire to prove that they hadn't done what he now know full they did do, hounded a man to his death.

Out of all of this, apart from Iraq, I think Blair will eventually be remembered for two things, both connected. The mendacity of his government has made the public so cynical that politics may well have to be completely rebuilt, from the bottom up. This will be an uphill struggle because in destroying trust in government, he's at the same time helped convince vast parts of the media, if not the public, that ideology is dead, that long-held principled beliefs, whether they be on the right or the left of the political spectrum, are something to be suspicious of and that indulging in them will only alienate the modern, aspirational voter who just wants good public services and there not to be any pesky teenagers, old people or beggars on the street when they walk down it. The inevitable result of this enduring vacuity at the heart of modern politics? Hazel Blears.

For all his great assumed powers of communication, for his ability to persuade, convince and speak for the people, if we're to believe a breathless Nick Robinson, Blair is actually the great obfuscater. He wants to have his cake and eat it. He doesn't enlighten, he aims to confuse. He isn't responsible, yet he's right. He's right because he believes he was right. And if you don't like it, well, you're entitled to your opinion. But you're wrong.

Related posts:
Blairwatch - Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
Mr Eugenides - The party's over
Blood & Treasure - first rough draft


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Wednesday, May 09, 2007 

At least that wasn't £30,000 wasted...

The Scum must be breathing a sigh of relief tonight. When the news came across the wires that the wife of one of the 7/7 bombers had been arrested, there must have been a few moments of panic before they read further on. The newspaper, back in 2005, paid a cool £30,000 to the wife of Germaine Lindsay for her story. Somehow you get the feeling that Rebekah Wade might have been in some hot water had it turned out to be otherwise.

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Skewed priorities part 3.

Yesterday was, as the BBC informed us, quite possibly the most momentous and historic day in a century in Northern Ireland. Against all odds, and after 30 years of terrorism and indiscriminate violence, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, the least likely bed-fellows since, well, ever, are now respectively the first and deputy first ministers in the devolved Northern Ireland assembly, the never surrendering Democratic Unionists and the never forgetting, let alone forgiving Sinn Fein sharing power and apparently determined to make it work.

What then, you may ask, did the two middle-market tabloids decide to splash on their front pages this morning? Surely celebratory pieces that a previously thought intractable war was finally at an end, that talking to terrorists can work and that Blair, despite all his other legion of failings, has at least one thing that will in future years be looked back on as being worthy of the highest praise?

No such luck. For there was a far more important story, one which everyone except the most anal, tedious anti-European had forgotten about: the European Commission has finally, predictably, came to the conclusion that the imperial system of measurement can be continued to be used alongside that of the metric system. The back-story to this is that selling in imperial measures only was outlawed in 2000 - but as long as you put the metric equivalent price on the label/ticket, you could continue to do so. From 2009 it was proposed that we should go metric only, 9 years after the event and, as Nosemonkey points out, decades after the policy itself was originally proposed and agreed upon. This was however an obvious outrage and a Brussels diktat that had to be resisted. How dare those Euro-loonies demand that we change over to a measurement system that actually makes sense and which children have been being taught in schools now for who knows how many years?

So there we are. Instead of headlines about peace in our time, we have the Daily Mail informing us about having an ounce of sense and the Express telling us that obsolete measures have been saved. I, meanwhile, am off to drink a yard of battery acid.

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Raging against the Hilton machine.

Is it really possible that that petition is not a joke, not another prank by someone who knew the media couldn't resist taking the story and running with it? Is it possible it isn't yet another piece of publicity seeking from the cunt that could write a book about if it if she wasn't illiterate? After all, there are no named sponsors on the petition.

And yet, and yet, it seems to be legitimate. Yes, this means that there genuinely are people so fucking moronic, so indescribably retarded, so unutterably obsessed with celebrities and their worthless, miserable lives that they'll defend them even after they've been caught committing what should be one of the modern seven deadly sins, and then excusing her "mistake" by glossing over the fact that she was personally informed that her license was therefore revoked. You'd think that the semen-slurping, soulless, dead-eyed bitch from the depths of the very worst of American "culture" had been given an unfair sentence, such as a couple of years imprisonment, not 45 days, likely to be even less than that in practice.

Normally, I oppose capital punishment, but I think in this case we can make an exception, and bring back the chair for one long final day of judgment. In return for all the brains she's helped fry, all the young people she's helped to teach that you too can become famous and successful as long as you suck some ugly neanderthal's disgusting flaccid dick while being filmed and show absolutely no evidence of having any braincells at all, we can put numerous volts through her anemic, emaciated, diseased cunt. Think of it as a peace offering to the Iraqis: we're sorry that so many of you have died so that this rich blonde racist weasel and millions of others like her have their so-called freedom, so we're going to let her burn until there's nothing left but her teeth and the part of the tongue she bit off as the first wave of electricity flowed through her limbs as a way of making amends. Then we'll put a bullet through the heads of every person who's signed the petition, even if they did so "ironically", just because we can.

Or you could just sign the numerous other petitions calling for her to be imprisoned. Personally I prefer the first option.

Related post:
Mr Eugendies - 44 nights inside for Paris

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007 

Emotional pornography continued.

It’s easy to criticise from afar, but their failure to act more promptly and efficiently is deplorable.

So the Sun informs us, in a sentence from its leader which sums up the whole hypocrisy of the newspaper in one easy line.

Not content with reprinting the mother's statement yesterday on the front page of the newspaper, as did the Daily Mail, when there's absolutely nothing that anyone here can do about the whole situation, Scum Online has now opened up a sort of guestbook of woe, where you can add your faux concern about the disappearance of the McCann's daughter, which is somehow meant to be giving them support, entitled "write a message for Maddie". Three footballers, for reasons similarly known only to themselves and possibly for good PR, have also appealed for anyone with information to come forward, as if being urged to do so by the PFA player of the year will make the difference to someone who otherwise wouldn't have done.

Unless the police get their act together, Madeleine’s traumatised parents may be condemned to spending the rest of their days wondering if their lovely daughter is dead.

Or living her own nightmare in the hands of inhuman monsters.

The Sun seems to have got it mixed up. Madeleine's traumatised parents already seem to be living their own nightmare in the hands of inhuman monsters. They're called the media, and they're more than extracting their pound of flesh.

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Off the record.

Liberty has published its proposals for a protocol governing so-called "off the record" briefings on terrorist raids that have been given by both the police and Whitehall sources in the past. While commendable and worth supporting, there's absolutely no chance of them being put into practice:
Liberty's conclusions on the protocols are:

• The current situation where no proper guidelines, protocols, guidance or procedures exist regarding off the record briefings to the media by police officers or civil servants during anti-terror operations is unacceptable and potentially disastrous. Such guidelines should be developed as a matter of urgency.

• In developing such guidelines the over riding concern is that nothing should be done to jeopardise any potential trials or ongoing operations.

• The guidelines should be based upon the presumption that the flow of information about anti-terror operations should be as open as possible rather than ‘on a need to know’ basis.

• The guidelines should ensure that information comes from appropriate and readily identifiable sources within the police or civil service to allow for proper accountability. Failure to adhere to the guidelines will be a disciplinary matter.

• A commission should be established as a matter of urgency to draft such guidelines for the police and civil service concerning off the record briefings in line with the above conclusions.
Despite Peter Clarke's attack on those who leaked the alleged background to the Birmingham terror raids before the arrests had even taken place, both the police and government have shown that they have no real interest in stopping such briefings, purely because despite the anger they generate, they serve their own agenda too well. At the same time as they urge the media not to speculate, both the police and John Reid were only too happy to point out that the Birmingham raids proved that the terrorist threat is very real, as the released logs from Liberty's FoI request show (PDF).

If the government really gave a damn about Clarke's allegations, they would have ordered an inquiry, even if it would have meant sacrificing a minor civil servant who was given the task of briefing the tabloids. If Clarke had really meant what he said, he'd have denied the reports in the
Guardian following his speech which suggested that some of the information that he was so angry about had indeed came straight out of Scotland Yard itself. The anger about the briefings didn't come from the Met, who had been only too happy to wildly brief, as Liberty sets out in its case studies on the "ricin" case and Forest Gate (PDF), but from the West Midlands force, who weren't used to such raids and then were left looking foolish after they didn't even question 3 of the men subsequently released about the plot which was being reported in the media.

All of this is down to the politicisation of the terror threat. Clarke spent much of his speech which included the denunciations of the leaks trying his hardest to deny that the police had been involved in either scaremongering or that there was anything wrong in trying to get 90 days detention without charge on the statute book, both issues which are highly contentious. We've had speech after speech and interview after interview with Ian Blair and friends telling us how
"the sky is dark", and how they still consider 90 days as essential, and then they take umbrage when this is pointed out to them. The ricin plot which never was involved crowing on both sides of the Atlantic, opportunistically used by Colin Powell in his now notorious presentation to the UN Security Council. We're meant to believe that it was pure coincidence that the day before last summer's "liquid explosives" raids John Reid made one of his biggest attacks, not on those actively plotting terrorist acts, but on those he said "didn't get it".

This makes for a wonderful Catch-22. For the government and police to inspire confidence that they're not exaggerating the threat, as they supposedly recognise they need to do, they need to introduce the very reforms that they're not going to because they would make it far too difficult to use the intelligence they have for their own ends. In short, nothing's going to change.

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Monday, May 07, 2007 

Do we have to share in this voyeuristic misery?

There's something eminently distasteful in being forced to stare into the face of abject heartache. Since last Thursday, when Madeleine McCann was apparently snatched from the bedroom of the hotel where her parents were on holiday in Portugal, we've been deluged with the images and video of the worried parents, their anguish growing with every hour that their daughter isn't reunited with them, making increasingly desperate pleas for their child to be returned and for help. Yesterday Madeline's mother asked for everyone to pray for her, and today begged whomever's taken her to let her go.

It has to be questioned just what sort of role the media is playing in this, and about the whole morality of causing further discomfort to the parents when there is absolutely nothing that they can do to help. The parents' are between a rock and a hard place; if they refused to play the media's game, as it's unlikely that the police are involved in urging them to make public statements, then they could quickly find themselves accused of not being distressed enough, that somehow they could be involved in the kidnap. Instead, they're being backed into a trap where with each day that passes they're expected to be ever more upset, making increasingly futile gestures such as the ones today, begging the abductor to let her go when such pleas are almost certain to be ignored or go unheeded.

If the abduction had happened in this country, I might feel somewhat differently. As it is, there's nothing that anything of us here can do. We can't take part in any searches, we can't string up the nearest sex offender from a lamppost, all we can do is watch and indulge ourselves in seeing the misery of two people who have had their pride and joy taken from them.

The way the tabloids react to these sad cases is always a sight to behold. It's the worst nightmare which some of them scaremonger about, yet when it happens they almost wallow in the way the frightened individuals react, the Sun reporting every nuance about the service attended by Madeleine's parents yesterday, as if it mattered or gave any further insight into what they're going through. The current Sky News front page combines the mother's plea with a gallery offering "holiday snaps of youngster", so any aspiring paedo can at least jerk himself silly over the kidnapped girl's image.

This is in essence the monster that the 24 hour news culture has helped create. In the quest for ratings and constant updates, they demand every reaction be recorded, every uttering by a police officer be decrypted for any clues about the disappearance, and for the parents to edge themselves ever closer to complete emotional collapse. It's grief tourism, it's a voyeuristic desire to record the pain of someone else then throw it away once it's become old, and before we know it we're on to the next missing white woman or school shooting.

This model was perhaps set by Holly and Jessica, who've become so ingrained in the collective conscience that like the sites of massacres and battles they're now known by just those three words. We went from seeing the photographs of them in their Manchester United shirts and the CCTV of them going for their walk right up to their funerals. We shouldn't have perhaps been surprised that some people found themselves so involved in the disappearance that Soham itself became a popular ghoulish tourist attraction in the days and weeks afterwards. The Sun has helpfully this time provided us with a "Kidnapper's view" of the hotel, perhaps not seeing the sheer tastelessness of such a gesture.

The whole thing could not be more summed up by the mother's apparent request for the kidnapper "not to scare her", a plea so redundant considering that he would have terrified her in grabbing her in the first place that it ought to make everyone involved think about exactly what they are additionally putting the poor woman through. We're not gaining anything, they're not gaining anything, it's time that we knew when to pull the plug.

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Goodbye so soon?

Good riddance then to John Reid. Even by the standards set by recent Home Secretaries, and we have the Safety Elephant, Shagger Blunkett and Jack Straw's ignominious reigns to consider, he was most certainly the worst. No sooner had he entered the job than he was immediately caving in to numerous campaigns that the Sun had started, interfering in the Craig Sweeney case and as a result ensuring that he didn't receive a tougher sentence. He went along with the Sun's ludicrous, idiotic and inhumane plan to turn old Ministry of Defence bases into prisons quick sharp, only to find that the local residents weren't much enamored with the solutions of everyone's favourite daily tabloid. He recently delivered some of the most inflammatory and downright dangerous rhetoric on immigration, thinking only of how it might reignite the passion that the tabloids had originally felt for him, only for it to have evaporated when the prison overcrowding crisis kicked in.

Historically, Reid is going to be seen as the bruising straight-talker who said that his new department was "not fit for purpose", further demoralising the very people he needed to get on his side. Within a year of taking the job, he's ripped it up and effectively started it again: this week will see the creation of the Ministry of Justice, with its Orwellian overtones highlighted by how it's going to be run by the unelected, ex-flatmate of the outgoing prime minister.

Reid's decision to return to the backbenches, according to him purely because of a desire to "recharge his batteries" and enjoy his family and football more, means that his reforms will go on without the person who has brutally pushed them through being there to take the blame when they inevitably turn sour. This is in fact only the last act in such a pattern: Reid has spent the last 10 years in 9 different ministerial jobs, and in at least the last couple he's moved out before he could take the flak for his own changes.

His short stint as health secretary has come in for heavy criticism for the way he characteristically acted like a bull in a china shop, ordering ever more reforms and being involved in the new pay contract for consultants, which recently came under fire after the National Audit Office found they had been paid more for doing less work than they were when the deal was signed.

As defence secretary, supposedly his ideal job, he announced the deployment of thousands more troops to Afghanistan, while claiming that their itinerary while there involved only reconstruction and that he'd rather that they return home with firing a single shot. Nearly two years on, and dozens more body bags have returned, while the Taliban has regrouped and increasingly adopted the tactics of the Iraqi insurgency.

Quite why he's really decided to resign now is more difficult to work out. We know that he and Brown loathe each other in a way only two rival Scots can; yet Brown was apparently prepared to stick with the thug, maybe because it would mean that one of his pals wouldn't have to carry the can when the next scandal arrives. Even so, it doesn't seem possible that there isn't some sort of maneuvering going on here. Reid might well be thinking that Brown is doomed to failure, and that he could be the man to pick up the pieces when Labour is turned out at the next election, but this seems improbable: the party would almost certainly turn to someone younger, probably Miliband, not an old bruiser like Reid who would antagonise the party and grassroots rather than unite it.

There are several other theories worth considering. Reid could be in effect taking one for the Blairite team, sacrificing himself so that Brown is forced into keeping some of the dead Blairite wood he would have otherwise cleared out. Most people thought that Tessa Jowell, Patricia Hewitt and probably some others are almost certainly going to be out on their hides, and many would think not before time. Reid's move could cause Brown to reconsider. Alternatively, Reid might have jumped before he was pushed, thinking that he would have gone no further and he's now free to plot and snipe as much as he likes, whatever he says to the media now. Or he could simply, however unlikely it seems, be telling the truth.

In any case, not only are we getting rid of Blair, we're getting rid of another bastard at the same time. If that's not worth a mild celebration of some sort, I don't know what is. We can at least take heart that the next home secretary can't be any worse. Can they?

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