Thursday, November 20, 2014 

The speed of stupid.

It's hard to disagree with Chris when he writes of a turn away from politics.  Not in the sense of apathy, but in how so many appear incapable of seeing the wood for the trees.  Never has it been so possible to fully immerse yourself in politics, and yet many of those who chose to do so spend much of it squabbling at the margins.

Take just today's example:  Labour MP Emily Thornberry tweets a picture of a house in Rochester with three England flags adorning the outside.  There's also a white van in the drive.  Image from #Rochester is the message.  Almost instantly she's jumped on for her apparent blatant snobbery, veteran idiot Dan Hodges describes it as "an entire political movement defined by a single tweet", and those whom should know better like Anne Perkins are describing it as Labour's biggest mistake since Ed Miliband stabbed Myleene Klass live on TV (is this right? Ed).

Small things like how Thornberry had already tweeted a photo of a "vote Felix" sign and what ordinary voters had told her under a Tales from #Rochester hashtag obviously don't matter.  Her explanation, that she was surprised by how the flags were blocking a window entirely also makes no odds.  Clearly just a feeble effort from an Islington liberal to deny her own bigotry.  Right on cue, in calls a hopping mad Ed Miliband to reprimand Thornberry for not considering absolutely every possible way her tweet could be interpreted, and the inevitable apology is made.

Which is the key.  Being incredibly loud and not giving in works.  It's why #gamergate is still going on, despite everyone having long since forgotten what it was meant to be about.  It's why Sheffield United have now retracted their training offer to Ched Evans, Julien Blanc was refused a visa, and a real life Nathan Barley received far more attention than his alleged comedy had previously once he became the target for campaigners.  Both left and right can lead a monstering in this brave new world, where tribalism meets narcissism and threats are the most powerful currency.  Forgive me if nihilism seems ever more attractive.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014 

Bringing out the worst.

By-elections in marginal seats always without fail bring out the absolute worst in politicians.  They know full well that in the grand scheme of things i.e., as a guide to what might happen at the general election they're meaningless, and yet still they campaign as though it's the last ballot ever.  Every Conservative MP we're told has been ordered to visit Rochester and Strood 3 times, while cabinet ministers are expected to have made the journey 5 times.  Bizarrely, no one seems to have connected this swamping of the constituency with those lovable rogues from Westminster and the continuing rise in support for UKIP.  Can you imagine just how hellacious it must be to turn one corner and see Michael Gove in all his finery, and then discover Jacob Rees-Mogg further down the road holding forth on the iniquities of EU farming subsidies?  And this has been going on for a month.

24 hours before the vote and the campaign has predictably ended in a battle over whether it's the Tories or UKIP who are going to be nastiest to migrants.  For sure, it's being conducted as though it's truly outrageous Mark Reckless could ever have suggested Poles might be repatriated should the UKIPs' vision of leaving the EU become a reality, while the UKIPs for their part are feigning contempt for Tory candidate Kelly Tolhurst's letter-cum-leaflet which nearly suggests people might not feel safe walking the mean streets of Rochester because of uncontrolled immigration, but let's not kid ourselves here.  The fight over who can move closest to shutting our borders completely without being objectively racist or invoking the old policies of the BNP/National Front has been going on for some time now, and just when you think they've gotten near as damn it, they inch ever nearer.  The "go home" vans were just the start.

Because the by-election is obviously all about immigration, see?  It's all the Tories want to discuss, it's all Labour wants to broach, and err, are the Liberal Democrats bothering to stand a candidate?  Oh, they are.  That's £500 wasted then.  It's also the only topic the media wants to cover, as they can't seem to handle the idea a by-election might be about more than just the one issue, especially when they decided beforehand it was the only thing anyone was interested in.  As Frances Coppola writes, and she's unlucky enough to live in the constituency, even the BBC's local political editor says it's the immigration, stupid, and this in a piece headlined issues beyond immigration and in which she concedes the main topic of discussion on the doorsteps is the local NHS hospital.

Other reporters point towards concerns about the Medway as well and, staggeringly, this might just be why Mark Reckless despite being far less popular than UKIP itself seems to be winning.  It's also no doubt helpful the Conservatives haven't learned anything from the Eastleigh by-election, where it was decided their candidate should try and out-UKIP the UKIPs and came third for her trouble.  Tolhurst if elected will apparently "demand something be done" immediately, although seeing as David Cameron is yet to figure out exactly how to temper free movement without angering business and coming off the worst at the European Commission it's not exactly clear what the tactic will achieve.

Then we have the never knowingly unconfused Labour party.  Last week Ed made great play of how Labour wouldn't pander to UKIP, as once you looked "[at their vision] it is not really very attractive".  This week, first up was Yvette Cooper informing the world one more time it's not racist to be concerned about immigration as she announced yet another new border force, this time complete with shiny uniforms, and then yesterday it was Rachel Reeves' turn.  Apart from the heart sinking at the very mention of the name, it's an odd sort of not pandering to all but agree with the greatest myth of them all, that it's the welfare system attracting EU migrants and not the promise of better paid work, or increasingly, a job at all.

In the name of listening to real concerns people have Labour will prevent migrants claiming out of work benefits until they've paid into the system for two years, an arbitrary period of time if there ever was one, and also stop migrants from claiming child tax credits and child benefit for children back in their home countries.  Reeves also intends to look at migrants claiming tax credits in general, as "it is far too easy for employers in Britain to undercut wages and working conditions ... knowing that the benefit system will top up their income".  The inference seems to be it's fine if Brits have their income topped up in such a way as has become the norm, rightly or wrong, while for migrants it's a subsidy too far.

Quite apart from the obvious problem of basic fairness, one the EU isn't likely to peer kindly on, it once again makes you wonder if the logical next step isn't to extend the same restrictions on JSA to everyone. Small things like how claimants are sanctioned for the slightest alleged "infraction" don't matter, nor does the false economy of reducing so many to relying on food banks, a development Labour has never condemned too loudly, presumably as it has no intention of changing the JobCentre regime.

If as expected UKIP win tomorrow it most likely won't result in the reckoning or further defections some predict.  For a start we're getting too close to next May for there to be any point in more by-elections prior to then, especially when UKIP's real aim has always been to keep the Farage bandwagon rolling on.  Second, if more defections are in the offing, delaying them until nearer the election will damage Cameron and the Conservatives that much more.  Third, it'll go some way towards confirming a pattern: as we saw in Clacton, voters who already favoured their MP aren't too bothered if they move slightly more to the right, especially when most Tory voters are sympathetic to UKIP in the first place.  There was some anger locally at Reckless's betrayal, but if anything Tory support will likely hold up thanks to tactical voting.  Lastly, the sensible will point out how by-elections are always fought on local, rather than national politics.  No doubt however the media and parties both come Friday will be crowing on how it proves immigration is set to dominate next May.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014 

Ched Evans is an unashamed rapist. That doesn't mean he shouldn't play football again.

Amid the outrage, the group resignation of patrons from Sheffield United Community Foundation and 160,000+ signatures calling for him not to be re-signed, you'll struggle to find any summary of how and why Chedwyn (you can see why he shortens it to Ched) Evans was convicted of rape, beyond that his victim was drunk and the jury decided that while she had consented to sex with Clayton McDonald, she did not with Evans.

This isn't because it suggests Evans is, as he claims, innocent, guilty only of infidelity to his girlfriend, who has supported him throughout.  If anything, it makes him look even worse.  According to the account provided by the Court of Appeal, the facts are these.  The victim  "literally stumbled across McDonald's path" some time after 3am on the morning of the 29/30th of May 2011.  CCTV footage from before then shows her falling over in a kebab shop, and indeed, she was such the worse for wear she left her handbag behind.  The taxi driver who took McDonald and the victim to a nearby Premier Inn said the victim's "upper clothing was somewhat dishevelled".  While in the taxi McDonald texted Evans "telling him that he had 'got a bird' or words to that effect".  The night porter at the Premier Inn described the victim as "extremely drunk".

Some time after the pair were showed to the room, Evans arrived with two other male friends.  Evans persuaded the porter to give him the key card to the room as he had "booked the room for a friend who no longer needed it".  McDonald and the victim stopped having sex when he opened the door.  This is when according to Evans the victim was asked whether he "could join in" and she replied in the affirmative.  The night porter, for whatever reason checking on what was happening, heard what he thought was a couple having sex and thought no more of it.  Evans' friends meanwhile were outside the bedroom window filming the goings on until the curtains were drawn.  It doesn't seem their recording picked up the exchange Evans says there was between him and the victim.

About half an hour later Evans and McDonald left the room.  McDonald spoke to the porter before leaving the hotel, telling him to look out for the girl in room 14 as she was sick, while Evans went through a fire exit.  Both men then went back to Evans' home.  The victim woke up at 11:30am with no memory of what had gone on, and straight away went to the police.

The prosecution's case was the room at the Premier Inn was booked for the "sole purpose of procuring a girl or girls later that night".  The defence stated Evans had in fact booked it for McDonald and a friend to use to stay in.  Despite being in Rhyl all evening, it seems McDonald hadn't succeeded in meeting anyone who wanted to go back to the hotel with him until by chance a young woman he must have realised was extremely drunk approached him and asked what he was doing.  The jury in acquitting McDonald and finding Evans guilty seems likely to have decided, as the Court of Appeal puts it
 

that even if the complainant did not, in fact, consent to sexual intercourse with either of the two men, that in the light of his part in what happened -- the meeting in the street and so on -- McDonald may reasonably have believed that the complainant had consented to sexual activity with him, and at the same time concluded that the applicant [Evans] knew perfectly well that she had not consented to sexual activity with him (the applicant).

They also note the jury might have considered the different ways in which McDonald and Evans left the hotel to have been relevant.

Regardless of what you think of the behaviour of all involved, the case was as the CoA puts it, a "classic case for decision by the jury".  A different jury might well have reached a different verdict on the same evidence.  Nonetheless, all of Evans' appeals to date have failed.  It could be he is the victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice.  It could also be, and it has to be said this is my view, that both he and McDonald took despicable advantage of someone they must have known to have been incapable of truly consenting to sex.  When you then consider the further extenuating circumstances, that immediately after Evans' conviction the victim's name was being spread on Twitter and she was being denounced as a liar and worse, not to mention his wholesale lack of remorse, you can more than understand why some don't want to see Evans playing football for Sheffield United again.

Except the campaign against Evans isn't being fought on those grounds, for the good reason a person sent to prison shouldn't be stopped from returning to their job once released unless it was directly relevant to the crime, or if the conviction makes it impossible for them to resume, i.e. if they were in a position of true authority.  All the onus has instead been put on the "role model" argument, the exact same one so often snatched at by tabloids when they've uncovered a footballer having an affair or a celebrity taking drugs, having failed to prove hypocrisy.  This assumes first that anyone who plays football at a professional level can be held up as a role model, that the simple act of pulling on a football shirt elevates them above normal mortals and demands they show extra responsibility, lest anyone is naive enough to think what a player does off the pitch is just as worthy of emulation as what they do on it.  This is quite the burden to put on the shoulders of young players, whom regardless of their new found status are likely to be just as immature as their peers who aren't in the public eye.

Second, the argument seems to suggest some people can be so overawed by the status of someone they admire that any other bearing on their thinking, whether it be friends, parents or siblings can be disregarded.  There is perhaps something to Jean Hatchet stating that for Sheffield United to re-sign Evans would be to send a message that "men who commit such atrocious crimes will suffer only a small penance whilst the women they attack suffer for the rest of their lives", but Evans, whether he plays again for United or not, will forever be remembered as being convicted of rape and having caused this entire furore.  Some Sheffield United fans have responded in a way that gives credence to the claim re-signing Evans trivialises his offence, and the club while condemning the abuse meted out to Jessica Ennis-Hill could have justified its decision to allow Evans to train with the team instead of hiding behind the PFA's request far better, yet fans will nearly always defend their club when they perceive it as under attack, as we saw with Liverpool and Luis Suarez.  Sheffield United players have not worn t-shirts defending Evans for one thing.

It's also come to something when Julie Bindel, of all people, wonders if the campaigns against Dapper Laughs and Julien Deblanc aren't in danger of morphing into a censorship akin to the one her generation detested when it was led by Mary Whitehouse.  Evans is clearly a separate issue, but it does as she writes distract from dealing with the wider issue of misogyny and outdated attitudes in general in the game; when Richard Scudamore can say he wouldn't employ a rapist, but is more than happy to bully smaller clubs and remain friends with people who refer to women as "gash" then it's not as though an example is being set at the very top.  The underlying sentiment may be the right one; whether Evans and Sheffield United are the right target at the right time remains to be seen.

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Monday, November 17, 2014 

Islamic State and the "glamour" of war.

If there's one thing war most certainly isn't, it's glamorous.  Only the truly chuckleheaded try and make it look that way, most of whom are by coincidence looking for fresh recruits.  All too often accounts of soldiers, defenders, even those on the offensive, fall into adulation and hero worship, any qualms about the hideousness of what those being chronicled are doing, for the greater good or not, forgotten amid the need to create a myth.  Those defending Kobani against Islamic State for instance are without a doubt fighting a noble cause, against an enemy whose inhumanity, barbarity and bloodlust is most certainly not mythical.  They are not however uniquely heroic, the best of humanity against the worst or any other hyperbole; they're still a militia, a people's militia or not, and turning your back on any militia isn't advisable.

Islamic State is hardly likely then to document how their fighters around Kobani will be shitting in dug pits, if of course they have enough food to be able to think about shitting, desperate for water or any liquid, constantly watching the skies terrified of a drone or US warplane getting too close for comfort.  No, instead they ramp up how a tiny minority when not on the front line are housed in seized properties where it's not all that different to back home, chilling with their Muslim brothers, truly living rather than merely existing, as they would have been had they stayed in Jeddah, Tunis or err, Portsmouth.

As Shiraz Maher says, the stuff IS does make available to the world is of "exceptional quality", at least in comparison to a decade ago when IS's predecessors were uploading videos depicting much the same thing, only it appeared to have been filmed with a potato.  It's also revealing in how it mixes the utterly banal with the unbelievably narcissistic, the most vapid and disposable of Western culture appropriated to promote a creed and cause antithetical to everything Hollywood holds dear.  Under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's glorious caliphate, the message seems to be, even the executions will be choreographed and directed by someone with much the same talent as Michael Bay or McG.  Not for these poor bastards a bullet in the back of the head; whereas before IS eschewed all out gore, the screen fading to black as a Western hostage's neck began to be slashed, the camera on this occasion delights in the blood spilled onto sand, the vivid red deliberately set against the dull yellow for maximum impact.

It's not meant for me, of course.  This is your fate, it says to those in Syria and Iraq fighting against IS, whether it be government forces, the Kurds, Shia militias or rebel factions they might have once battled alongside.  This is what you could be doing, it says to the disaffected radically inclined Sunni youth of everywhere, whether they be psychopaths, the sexually frustrated or those with notions of doing good, all are invited and welcome.  Sure, our masked friend with the London accent is once again centre stage, promising to bring the slaughter he's about to lead to "our streets", but it's an empty threat.  After cutting the neck of the man who a second ago was kneeling before him, he then pulls his victim's head back, slow motion is deployed, and he fixes the camera with what is meant to be a stare of defiance.  All I see in those eyes is fear.  A supposed terrorist not at his most powerful but his most bestial, with the man he's just mortally wounded helpless, and still he's terrified.  The victims by contrast go to their deaths with a courage the killers are incapable of emulating.

The video also distracted, intentionally or otherwise, from how things suddenly aren't going the way of IS.  Whether al-Baghdadi was injured or not in the missile strike near Mosul, the group still hasn't taken Kobani and doesn't look as though it can.  It's also losing territory in Iraq, mainly thanks to the involvement of the aforementioned Shia militias backed by Iran, and it's not beyond the realms of possibility the Syrian government might soon win back control of Aleppo, with the obvious next target for Assad the IS capital of Raqqa.  A movement that previously looked unstoppable isn't going to attract the same numbers of recruits, especially those who aren't looking for martyrdom and instead have treated their journey to Syria as little more than a gap year.

Enter then David Cameron, who somehow confused parliaments, announcing new anti-terror legislation in Canberra rather than at Westminster.  A compromise has been reached between stripping citizenship altogether from those who go to fight and instead excluding them for two years, unless they accept they could be prosecuted, as well as subject to stringent monitoring.  Except in reality statelessness was never an option as it's illegal, and nor has it been explained whether someone who decides to wait out the two years will then be treated in the same way on return anyway, as you expect they would.  This rather ignores how the main threat comes usually from those who are stopped from travelling in the first place, as both of the recent attacks in Canada were carried out by men whose passports were confiscated, or from those chosen specifically for a plot, as the 7/7 jihadis were.  Most who head for Syria will end up dead extremely quickly, or left embittered and/or damaged by their experience rather than further radicalised.  It might seem blasé or irresponsible to let those set on jihad go to Syria, but it could be the least worst option, so long as combined with a policy of prosecution and heightened surveillance for those who do choose to come back.

Hyperbole is admittedly tempting when it comes to IS.  Their aim is to instil fear and hatred, and when you really could be next the effect is always going to be palpable.  The best way to respond here though is not to ramp up the panic or to scaremonger, it's to fight back against the narrative of their propaganda, to not give them almost pet nicknames but regard them as what they are: the lowest of the low.  They're not revolutionaries or religious fundamentalists (although they are) so much as murderers and rapists of fellow Muslims, and that is what they will remain.

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Friday, November 14, 2014 

The Rake's song.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014 

The downfall.


Ah, Mazher Mahmood.  Time was all we had to identify him were a couple of grainy photos filched from an Albanian newspaper website, obtained by them from who knows where and which also soon disappeared down the memory hole thanks to "Maz's" ever busy legal beavers.  It took a long damn time, but the collapse of the Tulisa Constovalos drug trial finally prompted a media organisation to challenge Mahmood's claims his life would be put in danger should his true countenance be widely publicised.  The last time Maz tried and failed to prevent the media publishing his fizzog, winning a temporary injunction against among others, this blog, only the Graun went ahead and did so anyway.

Panorama and John Sweeney are thankfully more indefatigable beasts.  Twice Mahmood's lawyers forced the BBC to postpone the broadcast, first with the renewed claim he couldn't possibly be unmasked lest those he exposed come after him, always a risible argument considering his victims know his face all too well, and then after that failed with a challenge over the evidence involving John Bryan's procuring, or rather non-procurement of prostitutes.  With this last desperate attempt rejected, BBC1 was at last able to show the documentary last night.

And while for those of us who've followed Mahmood's activities down the years there was little we didn't already know included, the exception being the claims of Mahmood's links to corrupt Met officers, you can more than understand why he and News UK tried everything to stop it from airing.  Apart from identifying Mahmood, his methods were laid bare, vignettes taken from the secret recordings made by his team which he and the News of the World never wanted you to see.  John Alford declaring himself teetotal, with Mahmood then urging him to drink anyway, page 3 model Emma Morgan given cocaine by the person she was then entrapped into "buying" it from to supply to Mahmood, Constovalos made to believe she was being considered for a role in a Hollywood film alongside Leonardo DiCaprio as she was the obvious choice to play a "bad girl"; whoever the source was for the material, and the guess would have to be it came from within News UK, it showed Mahmood in just about the worst possible light.

As contemptible as Mahmood is, this was never about just him.  Mahmood could only work as he did for so long with the support of first the News of the Screws, and then following its sad demise, the Sun on Sunday.  It should be stressed that on occasion, Mahmood's entrapment tactics produced important, genuinely in the public interest stories, such as the corruption he uncovered involving the Pakistani cricket team.  Those kind of targets didn't satisfy either him or his editors though, nor one could say did they NotW readers.  No, instead they had to stitch up foolish but otherwise decent people somewhat in the public eye, such as Emma Morgan, Johnnie Walker or the Earl of Hardwicke.  At his very worst, he and his team concocted entire fictional plots, whether it be the one to kidnap Victoria Beckham, with the trial of those accused collapsing when it become public Mahmood had paid the man who "informed" him of the nefarious deal, or the "red mercury" plot, with those entrapped thankfully found not guilty.

Yet despite these failures, both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service continued to work with him, going ahead with cases such as the one involving Constolvalos when it was an obvious example of entrapment.  They carried on doing so even after the Screws was put out of its misery, and as we now know, 3 further cases have been dropped as Mahmood was to be the key witness.  It's possible other previous cases could now be the subject of appeal, especially if Mahmood is charged with perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice over the collapse of the Constolvalos trial as many expect.

Indeed, as Roy Greenslade writes, this level of protection seems to be continuing, as the attorney general asked the BBC not to screen the docu.  Presumably on the basis it could make it more difficult for Mahmood to get a fair trial should he be charged, the real objection is more likely "Maz" and his editors still have friends in high places.  Why else would News UK still be providing Mahmood with their largesse for vexatious litigation when he is supposedly on suspension, unless they still have a glimmer of hope that he could still return?

Regardless of that wishful thinking, Mahmood is finished.  The real motivation behind his attempts to stop Panorama was not over his safety, but his ability to carry on as before.  His methods detailed, his visage shown, few will now make the mistake of being drawn in by the image and boasts of a serial offender.  And with him, hopefully, also ends another disgraceful period in British journalism.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014 

There isn't a whitewash at the Home Office.

Not provenSuch was the verdict given by Theresa May yesterday on the allegation there was a Home Office cover-up after Geoffrey Dickens MP sent his now famed dossier on establishment paedophiles to then Home Secretary Leon Brittan for his perusal.  She couldn't say categorically there hadn't been a conspiracy, as the review she commissioned by NSPCC head Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC also couldn't be certain there wasn't, as all but one of the 114 documents found to be missing, presumed destroyed remain unaccounted for.  They also however found nothing to suggest there had been an concerted effort to remove evidence; the majority were likely shredded in line with the 2 year retention policy the Home Office had at the time.

Had this been a report into nearly any other aspect of policy or alleged wrongdoing by government, the minister would have ignored its inconclusive findings and claimed it proved nothing untoward had gone on.  Nor could you particularly blame them for doing so: for a report that decides to hedge its bets in its conclusions, the evidence fairly speaks for itself.  Wanless and Whittam, despite what critics have suggested since, did not feel constrained by the somewhat restrictive terms of reference they were given (paragraph 12, page 5 of the report), and so went beyond the Home Office to see if they can find anything related, including asking MI5 to delve into their archives.  They failed to discover anything either.

The report makes clear this wasn't a half-arsed quick look behind filing cabinets and inside previously locked cupboards.  777 storage units were checked (para 2, page 13), and nothing that shouldn't have been in them was found, with all the physical holdings of various branches of the Home Office searched.  In addition, the CPS, Department of Health, Department of Education, Department for Communities and Local Government, the Attorney General's office, HMRC and the Cabinet Office were all asked to see if they had anything that could be related to the missing files or of relevance to the inquiry, and none did.  One new discovery was the Ministry of Justice, split off from the Home Office by the last government, found it had destroyed one of the lost files as late as two years ago (para 38, page 24).

One other highly significant document that was found by the Home Office following the publication of the first inquiry poses as many questions as it answers.  Not located initially due to its title failing to suggest it contained anything relating to child sexual exploitation (para 3, page 13), it records details of a meeting between Dickens and Brittan in November 1983, a couple of months after an attack on a child in Brighton made front page news.  Dickens gave Brittan two letters containing allegations, and sent a further letter in January 1984, thanking Brittan for his "splendid support" along with more cases for investigation.  Brittan sent a reply in March the same year outlining the progress made, with the DPP having decided two of the cases should be the subject of further inquiries by the police.  Wanless and Whittam note that contrary to contemporary media coverage of these meetings, there is no mention of "prominent politicians or celebrities" in the cases under discussion (para 9, page 14).

Could it possibly be that Dickens' dossier, which might in fact be nothing more than a slab of letters if it has any relation to the attachments sent to Brittan in January 1984, didn't in fact name the establishment figures it was claimed in the media?  We know Dickens was one of the first MPs to go out of his way in courting the press, and it wouldn't surprise if there was some mutual exaggeration going on for additional effect.  It would explain why Dickens didn't so much as mention or ask whether progress was being made on these high profile individuals, and also why contrary to the media coverage of their meetings no further cases involving VIPs were presented.  That Brittan was also more than cooperative rather casts doubt on the point of hounding two successive heads from the overarching inquiry into child abuse due to their links to him; Brittan may well have been treated unfairly.

Indeed, as Wanless and Whittam note, of the missing files not assumed destroyed at the end of the standard 2 year retention period, most seem to have vanished this century (para 2, page 34), well after the point at which most of those employed at the Home Office will have moved on.  Why someone at this remove would feel the need to "protect" the Home Office isn't clear.  Nor are these 114 files a trove of exposes.  Annex I of the report (PDF) details what is known about them, and 67 are letters from MPs, while the rest are mostly on paedophiles or paedophilia in general.  Some do relate to the Paedophile Information Exchange and discussions on whether it should be outlawed, with the report in its second part considering whether PIE was funded either directly or indirectly by the Home Office.  With no files again being found to support the evidence of Tim Hulbert, who believes £30,000 was paid to PIE via the Voluntary Services Unit, possibly to assist Special Branch with infiltrating or monitoring the group, Wanless and Whittam can only conclude there is nothing else to back the claim up.

It is, as the report concludes, "very difficult to prove anything definitive based on imperfectly operated paper records system at 30 years remove".  This suits those who are convinced something has to be there just fine, as they can point to omissions in the search process and carry on regarding 30-year-old media reports and the works of not taken seriously by almost anyone for good reason MPs as gospel.  It also means those like me who are sceptical at best about the idea of an establishment cover-up when the establishment is terrible at cover-ups can say there's better things those worried could be doing than looking for something that probably isn't there.  Like how the raids on Tor last week targeted not the real source of depravity on the dark net, the paedophile forums, but instead some of the drug markets and Doxbin (which is already back online).  The most sexually exploitative site seized was the Pink Meth, a "revenge porn" onion.  We also have vigilantes targeting those of very little brain, prompting Jim Gamble to suggest we should have police officers sitting in stations entrapping potential abusers on social media, something guaranteed not to result in injustice or abuses of power.

Obvious is that the child abuse inquiry needs a new chairman, and quickly.  When the likes of Simon Danczuk refuse to accept the findings of a report by the head of the NSPCC though, it's difficult to know just who will be acceptable.

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