Friday, October 31, 2008 

Rendition comes back to haunt Smith and Miliband.

You may well have missed it, but the government has at long last been forced into holding some sort of an official inquiry into our involvement in the rendition programme. Jacqui Smith has called the attorney general to investigate "criminal wrongdoing" by MI5 in the case of Binyam Mohamed, the last British resident to remain at Guantanamo Bay.

Not that it hasn't done so without kicking and screaming all the way. Smith has been left with little option but to after the series of damning rulings by Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones, brought about by the suing of the government by Mohamed's lawyers in an attempt to secure the release of documents they say are crucial to Mohamed's defence. Judging by the bitter resistance to doing just this, one really has to wonder what is in the apparent 44 pages of documents.

The US justification for not releasing the documents, in case you couldn't guess, is that doing so would threaten national security. Our own government, for its part, is rehashing the same justification it gave for shutting down the Serious Fraud Office inquiry into the BAE Systems Saudi slush fund: if they were to be released, the US government would stop sharing intelligence with us, which would obviously as a result threaten our national security. Like with the Saudi threat to do the same, it's an empty one: the US needs us as much as we need them.

David Miliband as a result seems to be held over a barrel. The judges have stated that Miliband and the Foreign Office have actually done much to help Mohamed's cause, but then you would also imagine that's the least they could do considering the apparent involvement of MI5 in Mohamed's interrogation. He appears to accept that there is at least an "arguable case" that Mohamed has been tortured and subject to inhuman treatment, but our subservience to the United States means that he has to follow their line of argument. Undoubtedly too he must somewhat fear the release of the documents held by the government: the judges themselves have said that Mohamed's lawyers' claims that the documents are not being handed over because "torturers do not readily hand over evidence of their conduct" cannot be dismissed and deserve an answer.

We should not though imagine that the attorney general's inquiry will lead to anything, especially considering the track record of late. At every stage the government or their supine committees have played down our role in the rendition programme, at times outright lying about our involvement in it. MI5 and MI6 are completely unaccountable organisations, where lies are second nature, and the fact that they may well have already misled MPs over the Mohamed speaks volumes. It will be a very long time indeed before we even begin to start learning the truth about this very greatest of scandals.

Related:
Torture cannot be hidden forever
Contempt of court
High court rules against US and UK

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Analysing the ashes.


After four days of moral panic, the BBC's actions in suspending Ross, with the Radio 2 director resigning does seem to have managed to bring the curtain down for the time being on the Brand-Ross-Sachs affair. What then, if anything, have we learned or have those involved learned?

For Andrew Sachs himself, if he had any illusions about what his granddaughter does with her life, he can't have any now. As always happens to those who choose to sell their stories, the rivals have digged up the not quite frankly very difficult to find "dirt" on her. The Daily Sport splashed on the finding of a lesbian hardcore video in which Baillie has a leading role, the Daily Mirror discovered that she was operating as a £110 an hour dominatrix, and even the Daily Mail, which this morning declared that their witch-hunt had led to a "victory for decency", has decided that the young woman they were so avid in defending the dignity of earlier in the week has a "sordid secret life". The Sun meanwhile, having paid Ms Baillie a princely sum for her story, has what looks like an exclusive video featuring Baillie alongside her fellow "Satanic Sluts". For what Baillie decried as an invasion of the privacy of her grandfather and herself, she has been amply rewarded, seems destined to feature in the lads' mags and on reality TV, and is doubtless thrilled with what has occurred. While impossible to know for sure how much Sachs knew about what his granddaughter got up to, it's hard not to think that he might be somewhat more humiliated by what has followed than by the initial insult from a show that he apparently said could be broadcast as long as it was toned down slightly.

For Lesley Douglas, it seems hardly likely that she'll be out of work for long. Just read the Sun's editorial defence of her, and try to dispel the feeling that there will be shortly be an offer coming her way from News Corporation or BSkyB:

POPULAR Radio 2 boss Lesley Douglas is the first person at the BBC to emerge with any dignity from the Russell Brand-Jonathan Ross debacle. But her head should not have rolled.

It was down to the production staff who let the filth be broadcast to fall on their swords or for Mark Thompson to fire them.

Instead, a talented senior executive whose only fault was that it happened “on her watch” felt compelled to take the blame for the whole sorry bunch of them.

A brilliant 23-year career at the BBC was thus ended by the disgusting stupidity of two highly-paid stars, only one of whom also chose to do the decent thing.

...

But many will question whether he was right to accept Ms Douglas’ resignation.

...

One thing is certain. Ross owes Ms Douglas an enormous debt for deflecting rather greater flak.

Either that or she already has friends in high places in Wapping.

Ross himself meanwhile has stood down from the British Comedy Awards, perhaps more out of the fact that he would be the joke of the evening rather than out of respect for his hiatus from the BBC. Still, the reporters are outside his home, watching the preparations for a Halloween party. Perhaps Paul Dacre might go along as himself?

As for the "self-appointed, self-obsessed metropolitan narcissists who control so much of our public life", they still must be wondering where this will all end. When year old comedy shows are being dredged for offensive jokes, and not just by the Mail but the Guardian as well, then the possibility for the neutering of Auntie can't be that far away. The Mail has even more examples of "smutty and degrading obscenities" that have recently been broadcast. It apologises to those who might be offended, but quite clearly these things must be repeated, such is the way our tax money is being spent. That there is a Facebook group urging the reinstatement of Ross and Brand which already has 23,549 members, getting close to the total number of complaints made about the Brand show is neither here nor there.

Perhaps though for everybody else this week will show just where the real power really does lie in this land, and it certainly isn't with the politicians. They're just useful when there's a bandwagon already running. No, it's quite clear that for all the advancements of the last decade, even with the rise of blogging and diversification of the media, what really still has the most ability to shape our lives and decide what is and isn't obscene and also potentially what we can and can't watch is the tabloid media. That these people are quite possibly the most unaccountable but powerful individuals in the land has been shown in extraordinary detail. We can at least attempt to get politicians voted out at the next election, but there is no similar way of telling newspaper editors and proprietors with conflicting commercial interests and hypocrisy in spades to take a running jump. Dacre especially, but all the others also will be sitting there tonight absolutely delighted with what they've achieved, and who could blame them? They're meant to be getting weaker, their circulations inexorably dropping, the internet and with it the young and urban now in control, but they've emerged victorious. Who could possibly have known last Saturday evening that two not very funny comedians could have led to such a turn-around over just the course of a week?

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And now for something completely different...

When things are getting you down, you can at least rely on Melanie Phillips to be a cool head of reason in a sea of insanity. She is incidentally here quoting someone else, but the point stands:

The flames of the urban uprisings in France, of the train bombings in Madrid, of the subway blasts in London and the school massacre in Beslan are only handwriting on the wall. The OPEC aggression against the US economy, the formation of gas cartels by Iran, Qatar and Venezuela with the enticement to Russia to join; all that are just ominous signs of what is ahead... The penetration of our systems, including educational, legal, bureaucratic, technological, defense and security by the Jihadists is ongoing and is projected to expand...

That was yesterday. Today she writes this:

So what if The One [Obama] should actually lose next week? The brainwashed hysteria whipped up on his behalf is, to put it mildly, dangerous.

Quite so. Thinking that there are jihadists under the bed though is perfectly rational.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008 

Spinelessness beyond belief.

Yesterday I wrote that this mind-blowing farce was beyond our finest satirists. You can actually probably go far further: this is now even beyond the most absurdist brainstorms of cartoonists, such is the ridiculousness not just of the entire situation, but the sight, yet again, of the BBC donning the sackcloth and ashes, down on its knees pleading for forgiveness whilst, as Aaron so vividly describes it, the "collective tabloid media buggers it silly with its enormous cock of hypocrisy".

It's really difficult to even begin to get your head around the cant we are talking about going on here. The young woman at the heart of this, the one so deeply offended and betrayed by Russell Brand's bringing up of the fact that he had a sexual relationship with her, has not just sold her story to the Sun for what is reportedly a six figure sum, via the auspices of Max Clifford, but gone even further into exactly what she did with Brand. There I was imagining that this was partially about a grandfather being humiliated by two overgrown teenagers with tales of sexual shenanigans involving a dear relative, something that very few would want to be informed of. Well, unless Mr Sachs is now staying in bed with the covers over his head to escape from this outbreak of hysteria, he's been informed via the front page of the nation's biggest selling newspaper that whilst pounding his granddaughter Brand shouted out a few of his most well known character's famous lines. Or, at least that's if you believe it, which I certainly don't. Still, at least Brand, according to Ms Georgina Baillie, is a crap lover. So crap in fact that she had sex with him three times just to make sure, as she also regales the positively salivating Sun hacks. This self-same newspaper, and I use that word in the loosest possible sense, then in its leader column attacks the BBC for daring to allow such filth to be broadcast.

Nothing though can exonerate the sheer supineness of the BBC's response. It's being criticised for reacting slowly, for not nipping it in the bud immediately as soon as the issue came apparent, but why on earth should the BBC act within moments of a newspaper deciding that something it has broadcasted simply isn't acceptable? It's really difficult to remember that not so long back the organisation stood up defiantly and in the face of really quite bitter pressure, went ahead and showed Jerry Springer: The Opera. The comparison with that majestic piece of theatre is partly why it's so difficult to defend the absolute opposite this time round, but the persecutors then are more or less the exact same ones as now. You can it seems thoroughly satirise religion and trash culture and get away with it, but instead play a prank call on a man who was due to appear on a radio show, who then gave the OK to the show going out as long as some of it was toned down, and the blood and contrition simply don't cease to flow.

Lesley Douglas, the head of Radio 2 has then resigned, but it seems impossible to imagine she would have gone if she hadn't been about to be either severely criticised or pushed out after today's BBC Trust meeting, or as it might as well have been, a kangaroo court upon which the full glare of the tabloid media was on. Brand's resignation was nowhere near enough they had decreed. These self-same moral arbiters, the ones that every single day authorise the effective stalking of celebrities via the paparazzi, who invade the privacy of others for their own short-term gain, who routinely find themselves having to apologise to completely blameless individuals whose grief they have either mocked or interfered with, as the records of the Press Complaints Commission routinely show, who just this year have had to apologise to Robert Murat for accusing him of being involved in the abduction of Madeleine McCann (and let's not even begin on the Express's payouts to the McCanns themselves and the Tapas seven) suddenly found themselves as judge, jury and executioner, with the supposed moral outrage of the public firmly behind them as cover, and they wanted the heads to roll, with them duly handed them.

The real one they wanted though was Ross's, and that's the one that they have as yet not got. Judging by tomorrow morning's front pages, their lust for blood may well have been sated, as they do not seem to be, on the first appearances, calling for his complete banishment. The suspension for twelve weeks though is no real solution, and Ross himself really ought to simply resign, with his apparent so far decision not to do so perhaps suggesting a deal has been made. He has been left high and dry by a management unwilling to throw back a single of the brickbats directed at it, and whilst it is very very difficult to feel sympathy for such a man, it's his salary that has been the scapegoat, and it was the management that decided he was worth £18m, when both ITV and Channel 4 had made clear they were prepared to pay £15m or more over three years for his signature. He will be left by this bizarre sudden disregard for perspective as an emasculated figure, no longer able to do the things that his contract says he is supposed to. What therefore is the point of him?

The real fire though deserves to be aimed at the politicians who decided that this was a bandwagon worth jumping on. The sheer lunacy of the Tories demanding a debate on the subject, just as the news emerges that this year's parliamentary session will amount to just 128-days is indicative of the lack of reality which currently afflicts both the main parties, not just the Conservatives. The bile in my throat had not really risen however until I noticed that Jack Straw's ghost-writer had felt that Ross and Brand were a suitable topic for his regular Lancashire Telegraph column. Here is a man at the heart of our current government's decision to go to war in Iraq, who has spent our collective blood and treasure decimating a country which is only now beginning to get back on its feet, a man that has lied about our country's role in the abduction and torture of "terrorist suspects", and a man that thinks we ought to completely ignore penal reformers in preference to the opinions of our nation's finest tabloid newspapers, and now here he is, asking completely without any apparent irony or self-awareness whether we agree with him that Jonathan Ross has "underwhelming skills". Yes Jack, he does; that however doesn't affect the fact that compared to you he's an absolute fucking renaissance man. Ross and Brand insulted someone; you pissed on our heads and had the audacity to tell us that it was only raining.

This invented scandal has in fact been a real boon for both politicians and the media. There we were last weekend still talking over the fact that both our main parties were looking as sleazy as usual, the economy going down the tubes, oil supplies likely to peak between either 2011 and 2013, with no contingency plan whatsoever for that occurring, a new US president to be elected who will almost certainly be someone who puts our equivalents to absolute shame, questions being asked about Rupert Murdoch's involvement with them again, and up pops something completely irrelevant which for the last three days has been the only story in town, and what's more, one which they can jump on and grab plaudits for from the other press. It is of course directly in this government's interests for the BBC to be as weak, forlorn and unquestioning as possible, and this will directly affect that as well as on general decency standards. For those who haven't forgotten Hutton and still have a grudge to settle, what a fantastic opportunity when everyone else is already aiming the kicks at the corporation's stricken body! For those who want to be able to object to the slightest thing that might offend them or someone else, when better then to strike out for censorship than now, with the BBC itself more or less asking for it?

After all, just how many friends does the corporation now have left? Only the Independent tomorrow has a sympathetic front page, and the Guardian seems to have completely abandoned anything even resembling a kind word, with Peter Tatchell about the only person to have mounted something approaching a defence, and a poor one at that. The Mail's is so vile, so hypocritical, so completely beyond parody that it literally must have emerged from out of Paul Dacre's steaming arsehole. THE BBC WAKES UP TO DECENCY it screams, when the immoral paper wouldn't know decency if it came up and happy-slapped it. Above that, Richard Littlejohn calls it a "stunning victory over self-appointed, self-obsessed metropolitan narcissists who control so much of our public life." You really couldn't make it up. These are the people declaring victory, looking forward to be able to point out every single slightest thing that they don't like, comfortable in the knowledge that for a long time they are going to have a free ride to attack, attack and attack. Already on Newsnight Mark Thompson was asked by Emily Maitlis about a joke involving the Queen which was made on Mock the Week; you can only imagine the mileage that will be got out of everything similar.

What then should the BBC have done? Simple: by yesterday they should have said that the phone calls were out of line, apologised to everyone involved, immediately declared that there will not be a recurrence and that much stricter rules will be put in place before such content is authorised for broadcast. Both Ross and Brand would be reprimanded, told that they were on their last chance, and that their salaries would likely fall as a result. It also though would have additionally made clear that they would not give in to a witch-hunt conducted by a sickeningly unaccountable media, that standards in general would not be changing just because of two men going over the line, and that its commitment to pushing the boundaries, producing challenging programming and confronting those who need to be would undiminished, and that it would be saying no more on the matter. The press may have continued to scream until it was sick, but it would have tired of it eventually. Instead what we have is an organisation once again conducting an act of self-harm in front of the nation as a baying mob looks on, delighted by what it's achieved. It knows full well that self-harm comes before suicide, and they will be looking for every opportunity to provide the noose. And yet again, the BBC can blame no one but itself.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008 

A farce beyond satire.

At one point today the Guardian website had the row over "Sachsgate" or whatever completely unoriginal, moronic and false name you want to give this putrid manufactured scandal as its top story. Beneath it, two stories down, was the obviously less important fact that only 200 or so people had died in an earthquake in Pakistan. The contrast and lack of perspective really does say it all; even now the BBC, perhaps understandably, has Brand's resignation as its top story, whilst below it are the irrelevant bursts that Alistair Darling is set to relax the fiscal rules and that Debby Purdy has failed in her attempt to get the Crown Prosecution Service to reveal its thinking over assisted suicide in a foreign country.

Make no bones about it, the events of today have been beyond even our finest satirists. The only people who emerge from it with anything approaching dignity are, bizarrely, Brand for sacrificing himself because he realised he was just a fig-leaf for attacking the BBC, and Andrew Sachs for being magnanimous and as understated as you would perhaps expect. Jonathan Ross emerges looking as aloof as ever, issuing an apology through his solicitors; Georgina Baillie, erstwhile member of the "Satanic Sluts", rails against the "sicko" that she slept with, a cheque bulging in her pocket; the media as a whole looks ever more insular and self-regarding, and moreover smugly happy with itself for leading a witch-hunt that has resulted in just what it wanted, a BBC weakened and emasculated; and the BBC is left with no one to blame but itself.

To start back at something resembling the beginning, it must be pointed out that Brand and Ross did cross a line; regardless of whether Sachs was appearing on the show or not and then couldn't make it, informing a man down the phone that Brand had "fucked" his granddaughter is unacceptable, again, even when you consider that Baillie is hardly the shrinking violet that she wishes to portray herself as. This though is where it starts to get curious: according to the Guardian, Sachs was asked whether the show could be broadcast as it was, and he said yes, as long as it was toned down. We don't know whether it was or not, but it appears that Sachs either didn't listen to the show or the messages until informed by a MoS hack who contacted him on the following Wednesday for a comment. This set in train the complaint and the subsequent storm which has followed. While some of the show went beyond a line, parts of it also were undeniably funny, and I'm no fan of either man. Also to be remembered is that just two people complained after the show at this point, and that was about the swearing. There also was a warning before it went out about the language, but considering it was on past the watershed this should be a moot point in any event.

At most, what should have happened is that all involved should have been raked over the coals. Mark Thompson, rather than suspending the men or setting up kangaroo courts involving the BBC Trust should have repeated the profuse apologies, said that Brand and Ross would be given a formal last warning over their conduct, perhaps hinting their salaries would be cut as a result, and that the systems involved in broadcasting such material would be examined and overhauled if necessary. That would, I should imagine, have satisfied most reasonable people, without going in for empty self-flagellation and being completely craven to the demands of the gutter press and its owners which are the most despicable hypocrites as well as having commercial interest in the BBC facing further brickbats over its content. As soon as he suspended both however there was only one outcome, and that was one or both of them resigning, having apparently lost the confidence of the director general.

The BBC's problem is that it is held to a completely different standard to everyone and everything else. This is partially justified, considering the fact it is funded by the manifestly unfair but still in this writer's opinion lesser of two evils licence fee, but it also means that it has to be all things to all people, and as tastes and the media environment radically change this is becoming more and more difficult. Last year's "fakery" scandals were a case in point: the BBC's were relatively minor oversights that were mostly undertaken to keep a show going, for with the most part no one losing out. This was in complete difference to those involving all three of its main commercial rivals, all of whom had ran telephone competitions which had defrauded those who entered as a result of some never having a chance of winning. These, especially ITV's keeping of £7.8 million, and Ant and Dec's production company being directly involved in one case, were on a completely different plane of seriousness. This though simply wasn't reflected in the media coverage: the BBC was pilloried whilst the rest were almost brushed under the carpet, and it already seems forgotten. For all the claims of the purity and accountability of the private sector, as far as I'm aware not a single individual involved in the running of ITV, Channel 4 or 5 either resigned or was sacked, with Michael Grade, who had promised "zero tolerance" suddenly deciding that no one should be the victim of a witch-hunt. This was again in contrast to the BBC, where Peter Fincham, BBC1 controller resigned over "Crowngate". He was, naturally, swiftly re-employed by ITV. Whether this was partially down to the Daily Mail and General Trust's shareholding in ITN, broadcaster of news on ITV and Channel 4, or to BSkyB's 17.9% stake in ITV is up for you to decide.

There are multiple reasons for deeply regretting what has transpired today. It may be over-the-top to suggest that this will potentially affect the BBC to a similar extent or more to the fallout from the Hutton inquiry, but at the moment it genuinely looks that way. Then the BBC had the benefit of the public siding overwhelmingly with it, and what's more with the Mail declaring a temporary truce, backing the Beeb while declaring war on the government. This time initial sound taking suggests that today a backlash had started against the Mail etc, or at least the Guardian's comment sections suggest that, when yesterday's were overwhelming filled with bile against the BBC. It does though set an absolutely dreadful precedent: the Mail and others have won, the BBC has been vanquished, and now they have carte blanche to object to every little thing that our moral arbiters decide is offensive or which the taxpayer shouldn't be funding. Already, as Greenslade points out, the emphasis is shifting from Brand and Ross to, incredibly, inoffensive pap like Love Soup. You could accept it if they were targeting Chris Moyles or some BBC Three nonsense, but not a harmless rom-com.

Additionally, it's also emboldened politicians who think nothing of deciding what we can and cannot watch. Just witness Jeremy Hunt, Conservative culture secretary with an appropriate name, giving a speech on how his party would like to introduce a "social responsibility" contract with the broadcasters, under which the likes of Brand and Ross's prank calls would not be broadcast lest they "legitimise negative social behaviour." This is censorship under another guise which would mean the cutting of Simpsons' episodes with Bart playing prank calls on Moe, or Channel 4's entire acclaimed series, Fonejacker. It puts all the onus on the broadcaster to justify itself while allowing busybodies of the kind I dearly hoped we'd got rid of to object to every little thing that appears on our screens. No surprises that John Beyer has turned up like a bad penny, having been mainly banished to the pages of the Mail and Telegraph, whilst the likes of Nadine Dorries who doesn't just want to control what women do with their bodies but also wants the wages of Brand and Ross redistributed to needy families, branch out into media comment.

This wasn't then, as it is already being described, a "perfect storm", but an example of just how the modern media are now going to operate. A minor act of bullying and unpleasantness that to an extent was authorised has been completely overwhelmed by a major act of bullying and unpleasantness by those who so often rail against political correctness. Hypocrisy, conflict of interests and sanity have all been cast aside in favour of sticking a quick boot in, whilst the majority of public I would wager are left completely bemused by the whole thing and wonder why the economy or even what's happening in the northern Congo isn't the top story. For brands which dedicate themselves to producing what the people apparently want, they've instead gone with their own interests rather than those of those they are meant to serve, and anyone not caught up in the drama can just go hang, because the editors and elite are interested even if you aren't. And yes, I myself am a glorious hypocrite for having excreted all of these pointless words on the subject. Those with an interest not just in public service broadcasting but also in freedom of speech and a return to casual censorship have much to fear from this stage-managed and sordid scandal.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 

An utter farce.

Is there really so little going on in the world right now that what Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross said to an actor over the phone on a radio show is not just the day's top story, but the top political story of the day as well? To suggest that this phony, invented scandal, just as invented as the Sun's attempts to smear Katy Perry because she dared to pose three years ago in the company of a knife has been spectacularly blown out of all proportion is an incredible understatement. It tells us absolutely nothing whatsoever about the current state of Britain or increasing concern at the tone of public discourse - it instead only highlights the media's obsessions, both with itself and with fighting each other as circulations fall and audiences plummet.

Alastair Campbell was wrong about many, many things, but he was completely right when he said that the media loves talking about itself. To be fair, bloggers are among the very worst for doing just that, but the point still stands. This was not about concern for Andrew Sachs being humiliated by two overgrown teenage boys, but rather almost certainly out of a desire to get at the BBC for daring to employ them. Here it must be stated that both in my estimation are colossal wastes of money, although Jonathan Ross, as his documentaries in the past and his more recent BBC 4 ones have shown does have insights, especially into more neglected film genres, but the BBC is perfectly within its rights to employ them - regardless of what those now at the forefront of the malestrom are saying about them, they certainly do have their admirers, otherwise Ross's chat show would not be so popular, and Brand's autobiography would have not been the hit of the last year. Yes, Ross's £6 million contract over three years is obscene and worthy of complaints, but this is a highly roundabout way of expressing discontent over that.

All you really need to know is that prior to the Mail on Sunday getting involved, just 2 complaints had been made about the 18th of October show on which Brand and Ross phoned Sachs voicemail and left the insulting and offensive messages, and those were about Ross swearing, not what he was swearing about. Considering that around 400,000 are meant to listen to it, this suggests that the majority tune in knowing full well what they'll be getting from Brand. That there is any need for a timeline of what happened when in this tedious "scandal" is perhaps an indictment of the entire thing, but it wasn't until the Wednesday that Sachs himself apparently even knew that any messages had been left, after being contacted by the MoS. With it then being brought to the attention of the BBC, Brand apologised on the following week's show, but without any humility in his usual fashion. The MoS prints the story, and before you know it, David Cameron and Gordon Brown are sticking their noses in for God knows what reason.

If the Mail had any real care for not further embarrassing Sachs about his granddaughter, then its articles featuring Georgina Baillie in various states of undress whilst revealing her role in the "Satanic Sluts" would not currently be featured pride of place on their site. The Mail hasn't at least created the montage which adorns one of the Sun's articles, featuring Baillie topless with Brand and Sachs included alongside. The Sun however at least isn't calling for either to be sacked, as the Mail is. It's difficult to believe in any case that he wasn't aware of her vocation, although obviously Brand's humiliating remarks were completely out of order. Again though, it's still difficult to have any sympathy for her; it certainly hasn't been denied that she has indeed had a relationship with Brand, and his behaviour towards women is notorious. In his book, for example, he relates how he had sex with a girl at school, who asks him not to mention it to her friends or anyone else, to which he promptly does, then wonders why she's upset. As has been used in different contexts over the past week, if you sleep with dogs you shouldn't complain when you get fleas.

Even more hilariously hypocritical of the Mail, apart from the fact that it is by proxy defending the dignity of a "satanic slut", is that when the Celebrity Big Brother racism row ballooned last year, the paper ran a front page ridiculing the fact it was the story of the day. This time round it's leading the outrage, despite the fact that there was and are far more notable news stories around both today and yesterday, in profound difference to then. All this is leading towards the idea that there are things that the BBC should do and should not do - and promoting new comedy talent such as Russell Brand is apparently one of the things it should not do, if the Mail got its way. It doesn't matter that there are far more worthy things that could be chopped from the BBC, such as much of the crap produced by BBC Three, which could be directed into nuturing real new comic talent such as those behind and involved with Peep Show (which the "moralists" on the Mail would loathe) or even not turning up the opportunity to develop the likes of Chris Morris's jihadi comedy, it's more that the BBC is even thinking of doing these things. It also doesn't seem to matter that this was broadcast after the watershed - even if it was on radio - and so the "offensiveness" of the material should not really breach any guidelines, let alone Ofcom's.

Once the involvement of politicians on a matter such as this would have been limited to the realms of satire. It's not quite apposite to bring in the 2001 BrassEye paedophile special and the hysteria which followed that, as clearly that was a case of Morris seeking controversy, achieving it, and skewering the media all at the same time. That though was followed by politicians involving themselves when none of them had watched it, with David Blunkett who certainly hadn't seen it even joining in. David Cameron and Gordon Brown certainly wouldn't have been listening, and Cameron's demands for full transparency just when his own shadow chancellor has refused to provide just that is laughable.

Eric the Fish is right when he says that this has done a disservice to those of us who do think that the BBC, despite its flaws, is great value, and that it has also done a disservice to itself. There should be questioning over who thought that this particular unpleasantness was acceptable, as it was recorded and reviewed before broadcast, but there should not be a witch-hunt, and apologies all round, perhaps more profuse than those already offered, should be enough. One additional thing this highlights though is the increasing power of the Mail, and the BBC's terror of being targeted by it. It has helped to develop this partly itself by regarding whatever is on its front page automatically as news. Most of all, the BBC needs to defend itself better when it comes in for unfair criticism, instead of taking the beating given it. Last week the Mail and Sun were outraged that the BBC devoted more time to the George Osborne story than to the competing Peter Mandelson debacle, but that was a sound decision based on the fact that far more was known about Osborne's transgressions, and that it involved donations in this country rather than what Mandelson might have done whilst EU trade commissioner. The more the BBC slinks back, the more blows it will take, even whilst it is far more accountable than any tabloid or almost any newspaper. How ironic it would be if newspapers and their proprietors that have done more than anyone else to both lower the tone in this country and to debase politics are those that bring down one of the few remaining bastions of quality and high-brow programming we have, and how they will celebrate it.

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Monday, October 27, 2008 

Just another act of terrorist aggression.

Why is it that whenever the need to strike out against ones foes becomes paramount is it that those damn civilians always seem to get in the way? Another 7 civilians were slaughtered by the United States on Sunday, in what has hardly been unfairly described by the Syrians as an act of "criminal and terrorist aggression". Throughout the last couple of months more and more Predator air drones, piloted back in cosy United States control rooms, have brought swift death to the tribal areas of Pakistan, routinely killing civilians, as well as or instead of those that they were targeting. Now Syria has become the latest victim to start bleeding.

Reputedly aimed at killing Abu Ghadiya, an ISI operative smuggling foreign fighters into Iraq, the images that flashed round the Middle East were undoubtedly those of the innocents caught in the crossfire, that the United States has typically made no comment on. The obvious question, like on the previous post, is why now? After all, while there once most certainly was problems along Syria's border, with foreign fighters able to more or less come and go as they pleased, not only have those wanting to fight their holy war instead increasingly plumped to go to Afghanistan or Pakistan, or one of the other theatres, abandoning Iraq as the "Islamic State" has been diminished, but Syria itself has clamped down on the practice, with even the Americans themselves admitting such. The intelligence this time round may well have been overwhelming, but has it not also been over the past 5 years, especially when disrupting the foreign fighters would have had far more of an impact?

For all the talk of legal justifications for the strike, there was just the one reason why this went ahead, just as it also the reason why the number of strikes within Pakistan has increased: both countries are becoming weaker, and while Pakistan is an ally and therefore unlikely to respond, Syria is simply unable to respond. Bashar al-Assad has faced one setback after another, with the loss of face increasing each time. While it is still disputed who killed Rafik Hariri, the withdrawal of the Syrian security apparatus from Lebanon was the undoubted result. Over the last few years, Syria's hosting of Hamas and Hizbullah and relationship with Iran has started to pall; being part of the second half of the "axis of evil" is taking its toll. Syria's hosting of the hundreds of thousands if not more Iraqi refugees has put serious constraints on the country's finances, further pushing it towards reconciliation with Israel and renewed although secret talks over the Golan Heights. The Israeli strike against the alleged nuclear facility, followed by the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, has only further pushed the state towards a deal and a form of peace. The implication that what could follow is attacks on fighters being trained in Iran is therefore wishful thinking, because Iran has both the means and will to respond, overwhelmingly

Sunday's strike will then hardly change anything in the long term as far as Syria itself is concerned. It would also be too nice to believe though that the outbreak of cross-border attacks is a symptom of the last days of the Bush adminstration. Even if we assume that Obama wins the presidency next Tuesday, there is little to suggest that he will order any drastic change in military policy, especially towards Pakistan, considering he has personally raised the spectre of increasing activity within that country. Pakistan itself is caught in the middle: looking for peace while knowing that any ceasefire is destined to be only temporary, with a foreign power that cares nothing for any internal deals and only for what might be being hatched in its autonomous regions. Whilst it may be that the US military is striking now before the change takes place as a contingency plan, there's more than a hint, as Juan Cole alludes to, of this being staged as a sop to McCain to show that Iraq is not over yet. There are also the domestic issues within Iraq itself to be considered, as a deal over keeping the US forces in the country post the end of the year continues to be fought over. A shot across the bows to suggest to the Iraqi politicians themselves that whatever they decide, the US will reserve the right, as ever, to do whatever the hell it pleases?

Whatever the case may be, innocents have once again been killed for no great reason. Again, for no great gain anti-Americanism has been inflamed. Again, those recruiting to extremist causes will be praising the actions of those that care only for the short-term. And no one has any hope that this will be anything like the end of it.

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Islamic State of Iraq 4 Abu Beavis and Abu Butthead?

Something which seems to have gone almost completely uncommented on, perhaps for good reason, is that al-Qaida in Iraq has very belatedly claimed that it was behind Abu Beavis and Abu Butthead doing jihad:

The leader of al Qaeda in Iraq claimed in an audio statement posted online today that his group was behind the June 2007 bomb plots in London and Glasgow. Abu Ayyub al Masri, who is also known as Abu Hamza al Muhajer, claimed that al Qaeda in Iraq carried out a number of operations, specifically mentioning the 2007 Glasgow plot and claiming that the operation failed due to a mistake by one of the militants, who made a phone call a few days before the operation advising that the attack was about to take place.

It seems a very strange time to suddenly announce the "Islamic State's" involvement, especially during the men's trial, although whether al Masri knows about that is perhaps open to question, and it could have been recorded before it began. He's also horribly wrong that the operation failed due to a mistake by the militants; it failed because they didn't even go through car-bombing 101, as the Register put it (although another blogger suggests Masri was referring to a different plot, not the Glasgow one).

The question does have to be though, why announce it now? Even if the ISI did have some involvement in the bombing, and there has been no evidence presented at the trial so far to suggest that they did, with the funding allegedly provided by one of the men also charged, it seems intuitive that they were too embarrassed with the results to say at the time they were involved. Why then now? Maybe because ISI are doing so abysmally currently in Iraq, with even themselves admitting that they have lost land and that they face unprecedented problems in launching attacks. The ISI has long relied on irrational online support from the true believers in the forums, completely divorced from the brutal reality on the ground where ISI was in control, and even when the conditions were brought to their attention, they continued and continue to excuse the wholesale murder which was often involved or put it down to anti-ISI propaganda. This might then have been one of its last gasps, trying to pretend that it is still relevant, and not just a threat within Iraq but beyond its borders. That the other attack linked to ISI/AQI, the suicide bombing of a Jordan hotel which resulted in public opinion in that country turning drastically against the jihadists, doesn't seem to have affected the thinking this time round.

Some will doubtless be relieved that a main group has claimed to have been involved, for the reason that it dispels the idea that those without any major link to a jihadist organisation or apparent training are likely to rise up and launch attacks entirely of their own accord, as these apparently did, although they did have links with Hizb-ut-Tahir as others have had. It still however doesn't explain Nicky Reilly, allegedly "radicalised" by individuals overseas. The main threat though remains those who return from the "universities of terrorism" imbued both with the zeal of their experience and the means with which to carry out atrocities, who can be definitively linked with organised groups. Abu Beavis and Abu Butthead most certainly were not.

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That insidious criminal justice lobby...

I have very little to add to what both Justin and Dave Osler have already said about Jack Straw's latest exercise in attempting to placate the tabloids, although the idea that there's even a "criminal justice lobby" is incredibly humourous, as is the idea that it has any real influence whatsoever over government policy. If groups such as the Howard League for Penal Reform or the Prison Reform Trust did, then we wouldn't currently have the largest prison population we have ever had, nor would the government be intending to even further extend prison capacity, or to build those self-same prisons with overcrowding built-in.

The parts of the speech released smack of "Unspeak". Straw it seems wants to reintroduce old-fashioned words like "punishment" and "reform", as if they had ever went away. The real reason why they might have become deprecated is because we no longer see prison purely as punishment or purely as reform; we've realised that pure punishment does not reform, just as without punishment there is no incentive to reform. This though is far too touch-feely for the tabloids, or for the victims' families that the Sun especially keeps inflicting upon us: what they want is little more than an eye for an eye, which the system can never provide. Equally disingenuous is his highlighting of terms such as "criminogenic needs of offenders"; a Google search turns up just 32,400 results, most of them American in origin or from psychological academic tomes.

It's not even as if Straw is being anything approaching original. Almost all the previous home secretaries under Labour, including Straw himself, and now the justice secretary since the changes in the Home Office have said they'll be ever tougher on crime, criminals and increasingly cater for victims. Each has also subsequently, after doing so and having failed to provide the punitive measures which they apparently favoured, been ridiculed and pilloried by those they attempted to woo. John Reid was depicted as brainless and Charles Clarke was sacrificed over the foreign prisoners affair; only Blunkett prospered, being given pride of place by the Sun in its columns for his "straight-talk". Straw must surely be aware of the dangers of his approach, but has gone ahead anyway.

And how has the Sun, for example, responded? In the way only it can:

But Helen Newlove, widow of Garry, who was kicked to death by thugs in Warrington, Cheshire, last year, said: “This is too little too late.

“Labour brought in the barmy Human Rights Act in the first place and employed many of these do-gooders themselves on huge salaries.”


Would Newlove like to name on single do-gooder that has been employed on a huge salary? It would be a challenge, as they number next to none.

As for the editorial:

Of course this is all true. Of course prison reformers get their way too often.

*snort*

You talk a good game, Jack. If you really mean business, though, give us those new prisons.

And end the early-release scheme that last year alone saw 31,000 inmates — yes, 31,000 — freed before their time.


All released a whole two weeks' before their sentence would have ended normally and that without which the prisons would be completely full, partially as a result of the Scum's own demands for incessant harsher sentences. Straw can't possibly win, but you almost have to give him credit for trying. The countdown to Straw being depicted as a crazed lunatic setting free criminals to murder your relatives begins now.

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Scum-watch: Katy Perry condones spoon crime!

Katy Perry (or at least her publicists) has provided a master class in how to take on the tabloids and win: don't apologise, and do it with humour. Perry has posted the above picture on her blog along with:

…But I DO condone eating ice cream with a very large spoon.

Dear Sun:

You deserve a time out. Your “journalistic” approach has half the soul of the National Enquirer. Shame on you.


Naturally, the Sun itself doesn't know when to give up. While failing to reproduce Perry's wounding second sentence, it has instead got straight on the phone to all the recent relatives of murder victims, which is getting really tiresome:

Furious Richard Taylor, 59, whose son Damilola, ten, was murdered, raged: “She has lost all integrity by this."

Ah yes, a young woman singing a song about kissing girls and liking it, while mocking "metrosexual" young men on another, whilst formerly being a gospel singer; she had and has integrity by the bucketload.

“It would have been better for her to have apologised. Youngsters would have seen that and taken it as something positive. Instead she has decided to challenge us.”

Yes, quite: how dare someone challenge the apparently perpetually grieving, those who can never let go, those who have apparently sold their own integrity in order to be available a provide an outraged quote whenever a newspaper invents a scandal. That's the real outrage here, not Perry's posing with a knife, but her refusal to take it lying down.

Paul Bowman, 45, dad of murdered model Sally Anne Bowman, 18, said: “MTV should pull this woman off air. She shouldn’t be rewarded with an appearance before billions of youngsters. She’s a bad role model.”

Indeed, they should probably get Snoop Dogg to do it again, like he did last year. He's never done anything bad.

Sylvia Lancaster, 52, whose daughter Sophie, 20, was killed in Bacup, Lancs, for being a Goth said: “It’s tasteless. She shouldn’t be allowed to perform in Liverpool considering that poor lad was stabbed to death only a few days ago.”

The idea that the Sun or its pages will ever have any influence in any case on what goes on in Liverpool again is laughable in the extreme, but hey, it's got to keep up appearances.

Note to Russell Brand: this is how you're meant to do it.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008 

Weekend links.

We can't help but start with the wonderful sight of Phil Woolas getting pied by the Manchester No Borders group. Hopefully they'll be many more where that came from.

The fallout from Corfu rolls on. Marina Hyde in her usual waspish way comments on how Osborne broke the golden rule of imagining himself bigger than his hosts, Matthew Parris compares the narrative, such as it is, to EastEnders, Paul Linford examines how the Prince of Darkness himself continues to weave his spell, the newly hitched Aaron (congrats) looks at the further connection of oligarchs, this time with the ghastly ex-spook Tory security spokesman Pauline Neville-Jones, and Anthony Barnett asks whether Mandelson is lying.

As the US presidential race enters the final straight, Jon Swift rounds up the various smears directed at Obama in fine style, Lenin dreams of the ideal Obama foreign policy, and MatGB examines the McCain campaign worker who made up her story about being assaulted by a black Obama supporter.

With the 0.5% fall in GDP over the last quarter, the news is generally grim, and Pollyanna Toynbee typically is comparing the have-nots with the haves. Chris Dillow meanwhile argues why the crash in Sterling is not as serious as some are claiming it is. Dave Osler also looks back at New Labour's economic policy.

In general miscellany, Justin attacks Miliband over the Chagossians in typical style, Shiraz Socialist rounds up the week's events over the Human Fertility and Embryology Bill, including Nadine Dorries' latest madness, Anton Vowl picks up on Littlejohn's linking of Mandelson with paedophilia and Laurie Penny launches an assault on Millie Tant herself, Julie Bindel, whilst also looking at the Poppy Project, which Bindel was also involved in and which yours truly also examined. Lastly, Howard Jacobson doesn't think much of the compromise over the bus atheist adverts, which Richard Dawkins himself explains in an interview with Decca Aitkenhead.

Finally, in a new weekly feature we cherish the weekend's worst tabloid comment article, with the prize this time going to the perpetually abysmal Lorraine Kelly for her worthless insight on Kerry Katona, who fittingly is a similarly worthless individual.

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Friday, October 24, 2008 

Of yachts and Murdoch.

Probably the thing about the now notorious meetings in Corfu that will most alienate the average person is not that they took place, but that they took place on yachts. Holiday homes or holiday getaways they could understand, as they could arranged parties, even perhaps in hired nightclubs. It's instead the presence of these monstrous indicators of wealth, the bling which only the squillionares can afford, synonymous not just with excess but also with debauchery and hedonism that will so raise eyebrows. After all, what else is a private 80m or longer yacht for if not hiring the highest class hookers available from the local area, sailing into international waters and then snorting cocaine off their appendages? The whole concept is inscrutable to 99.99% of the population, and that politicians so want to ingratiate themselves with the stinking rich just when the economy is tanking, mainly as a direct result of the avarice of the stinking rich, is far more damaging in the long term than any deals that may or may not have been agreed on board the vessels.

There is then something of the pretender to the throne travelling to see the monarch himself about David Cameron's jolly jaunt via a private jet provided by Matthew Freud (Murdoch's son in-law) to see Rupert Murdoch. You almost wonder whether he went so far as to kiss his ring, although what ring that would have been would be additionally open to question. Tony Blair did of course go on a much further jaunt to woo Murdoch, flying all the way to the fatherland to seek his approval, but at least he was honest and direct with what he was doing. Cameron's entry in the Commons register of interests doesn't so much as mention that the purpose of the visit was to have drinks with the world's most powerful media player. True, it had to be forced out of Blair that he talked with and met Murdoch throughout his reign, but Cameron's lack of openness hardly augurs well should he become the next prime minister.

While it's impossible to tell whether Cameron's visit persuaded Murdoch that he was someone who could be trusted not to affect his business interests, or indeed that he might be more receptive to Murdoch's woes involving the Competition Commission demanding that he sell BSkyB's stake in ITV, it should be noted that the Sun swung heavily behind Cameron following his piss-poor but high on Thatcherite rhetoric conference speech. Murdoch may not be convinced about those around Cameron, especially Osborne and his blabbing about private meetings, even if it is to Murdoch's own newspapers, but Cameron's dash to meet with Murdoch surely signifies another step in his long march towards power.

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Cooking the crime figures.

It's incredibly tempting to dismiss what appears to be little more than a misunderstanding based on confusion over what is and what is not grievous bodily harm with intent when it comes to recording crime as an understandable mistake and leave it at that. After all, the 22% rise in most serious violence against the person which comes from reassessing the figures involves just 1,000 more offences (PDF). As Mark Easton, and almost no one else additionally points out, with that 22% rise, accordingly there is a drop in the other offences against the person stats of 11,000, or 10% in offences with injury or 4% in offences with no injury. The figures as a whole again show a further drop in overall crime of 6% - on both the police statistics and the British Crime Survey interviews. The only real rises are a 28% rise in attempted murder with a knife, a further 8% rise in drug offences, again most likely down to cautions given for cannabis possession and a 17% percent rise in the BCS figures in theft from the person. Overall, the risk of becoming a victim of crime is unbelievably, considering the media coverage, at the lowest it has been since the BCS began in 1981 at 23%. Broken Britain this ain't.

You could however predict what the response would be to what is not lies, not a conspiracy, but honest mistakes, the classic cock-up. The government is not to blame; if anyone is, it's the police and Crown Prosecution Service for the complexity of what both consider as GBH with intent and what is not. No one as a result of the statistical errors was given a lesser sentence or charged with a lesser offence; the only crime committed here has been one of hubris. The government itself has become, quite rightly, it can be argued, increasingly proud of the fact that by both measures crime has dropped by a third since 1995. Why this has happened can be argued over, and whether Labour's policies are responsible is equally uncertain, especially considering that across the Western world over the same period crime has generally fallen, but any government regardless of hue would be trumping what has happened. Last time round however the government went too far, especially in the face of the rise of teenagers being stabbed to death on the streets of London,
and played up the fall in crime to such an extent that there was almost bound to be a reckoning come either the first rise, whether due to recession, which as the figures bear out has not yet happened, or the first mistake, which has come far sooner than they imagined.

Regardless of what any newspaper or politician will say, this will broadcast just one message to the public: that the crime figures can fundamentally not be trusted. It doesn't help when the Sun for example directly accuses politicians of lying and the police of hiding the true figures as if this was a conspiracy rather than the obvious cock-up, but it's the recounting itself that will cause the damage. It also fundamentally undermines everyone who does consider the numbers to be accurate, whether they be the police themselves, who overwhelmingly do not think that crime is rising, or the academics and policy makers that attempt to turn the evidence into something approaching a strategy.

What is not true is
that people do not believe statistics full stop. They do, but only as long as they back up what they think they already know. A fascinating survey conducted for Louise Casey's crime review found that when one group was told that crime had decreased, 21% said they didn't believe it had. When a separate group was told that crime had increased, not a single person challenged what they were told. Overwhelmingly when told that crime had increased, 42% blamed the government. When told that crime had decreased, just 15% gave the government any credit. The conclusion to be gleaned is simple: the government is on a hiding to nothing. It cannot possibly hope to get across its message that crime has fallen, either because of public cynicism and the general contempt for politicians, or because the most popular newspapers, in some cases certainly because it contradicts their narrative of just how bad things are in Broken Britain, will only highlight the rises while playing down the falls. This is exactly what happened earlier in the year. Also wrong is the Sun's claim in its leader column that people locally believe crime is going up: the last BCS yearly figures showed that two-thirds thought crime had gone up nationally, while just 39% thought it had gone up locally. Most think things aren't too bad where they live, but think they're awful elsewhere. Why this is the case is probably for the exact same reasons as why the government cannot get its message across.

Something of an answer to this would be to make the gathering and presenting of the statistics on crime completely independent and also transparent. The government and the statisticians need to stop fiddling around and changing the way the figures are counted so that they're not comparable over the long term, something they seem obsessed with doing, even if it is generally for good reasons. This won't stop the tabloids from screaming blue murder every time the figures go the wrong way, and it won't stop them resorting to the tawdry tactics
of reaching for comment from the highly unrepresentative victims of crime which they always do, but they quite clearly need to be depoliticised. With a government however that is committed to politicising security policy, something on which bipartisanship is vital, and when control from the centre is ever more formalised, this seems ever further away than ever.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008 

Stealing a nation and getting away with it.

The worst scandals are those that are already known but which are consistently either underplayed or entirely ignored because those involved are not the right kind of people. The asylum system ought to be a scar on the conscience of this country, where children are routinely imprisoned in conditions which do just that to them, whilst control orders can now be issued against "terrorist suspects" without any evidence whatsoever needed to be given to them in explanation for their treatment.

Most truly shocking about what happened to the population of Diego Garcia, the Chagossians, is that every detail of their plight since their home was leased to the United States of America is in the public domain. There doesn't need to be any journalistic sleuthing; everything is already there, from the US request for "an austere communications facility" in the Indian Ocean that turned into a massive base which has since been used to flatten the homes of other civilians in both Iraq and Afghanistan, to the depopulation of the islands and the crushing poverty that the Chagossians then experienced in Mauritius, where the government washed their hands of them. The colonial and imperial contempt for these few "Tarzans" and "Man Fridays" was not even slightly hidden, and time has only made the attitude towards them even more disgraceful.

Why then is it that even the Guardian dumped yesterday's House of Lords decision, overturning the Court of Appeal's verdict that the islanders must be repatriated, back on the 20th page? The BBC News at 10 last night did not so much as mention it, and as for the tabloids, a Google search suggests that only the Mirror ran anything about them. The result itself was even a surprise: almost everyone thought that the House of Lords could not possibly rule in the government's favour, and in the event, the decision was by a majority of just one.

At the same time however, no one also believes for a moment that the Chagossians are ever going to be allowed to return to their home, however many courts rule in their favour. Before the world changed forever™ on September the 11th 2001, Robin Cook knew that this had to be a historical wrong that had to be righted. In 2004, this was simply unthinkable: the Diego Garcia base is now integral to the "long war", or as it was formerly known, the war against terror. While their other bases throughout the Middle East are subject to the vagaries of their hosts, not to mention their populations and the possibilities of them quite literally exploding in indignation at the gates, Diego Garcia is an oasis of calm and stability. To even consider that some noble savages might be allowed back to within spitting distance of the occupiers is anathema, just as it's similarly unthinkable that the Palestinians will ever have anything other than an emasculated husk of land which was once theirs. Indeed, the Palestinians will probably eventually get something; both sides will get tired of killing each other one day and do some sort of deal. The Chagossians however are being denied even one of the minor islands in the archipelago, such are the security concerns.

It's perhaps this complete lack of interest that means that the government and their learned friends can continue to get away with expressing such contempt for those they have treated so abominably. According to Jonathan Crow QC, leading the case for the government, "the Chagossians do not own any territory ... [W]hat is being asserted is a right of mass trespass," which is about as churlish and specious an argument can get without descending into outright sophistry, and only that is because it's true, in the sense that the government of the day ensured they did not own any territory.

The blame then should not reside with the judges, as some have lashed out at. The judgement in full, incidentally, is a joy, with quotes from Shakespeare, Magna Carta and the kind of sharp legal argument which you will now only find in such rulings. The 3 judges who ruled in the government's favour have undoubtedly reached the wrong decision, but the real anger should be directed at that government which continues to treat those "Tarzans" and "Man Fridays" as just that, as fictional characters that have no right to exist, let alone to return to their homeland which was so cruelly snatched from them. As Lord Mance concludes and quotes from Richard the II:

“A heavy sentence, my most sovereign liege,

And all unlook'd for from your Highness’ mouth".

To which in my opinion the Crown cannot here simply reply:

“It boots thee not to be compassionate;

After our sentence plaining comes too late".


The only difference is that it seems unlikely this time that Mowbray's prediction that Richard will sooner or later be overthrown can be applied to the Chagossians' situation.

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