Saturday, October 31, 2009 

Weekend links.

First off, it seems that Islam 4 UK aka Anjem Choudary and co, chickened out at the last minute from holding their march for Sharia law, instead moving it to an "unknown" location, presumably Wandsworth, although no one seems to know whether it went ahead or not. The counter-demos did however take place, and Sunny has some pictures.

Elsewhere the exploits of David Nutt and Alan Johnson are foremost in the thoughts of others. Justin, Aaron, Chris Dillow and Neil Robertson all have posts on the sacking, sorry I mean resignation. Paul Linford isn't keen on the idea of Blair getting the EU presidency, although it seems highly unlikely he will, while Laurie Penny has a typically forceful post on the vigil for Ian Baynham.

In the papers, or at least their sites, Peter Oborne asks whether Blair was betraying Britain for years with his eye on the EU presidency, one of those newspaper questions to which the answer is always no. Matthew Parris says being on the fence on Europe is the least painful position, which rather depends on the type of fence, and Tom Whipple hardly makes the best case for the continued criminalisation of cannabis by saying it comes from "ruthless, violent men". Because we couldn't have it sold by the local off-licence alongside the fags, could we? Amy Jenkins argues we're all paranoid about drugs, while Howard Jacobson in his usual style rather wonderfully takes down Jimmy Carr. Article of the weekend though, amazingly, is Ed Husain for a quite wonderful take down of Melanie Phillips, one of the few people who might make some on the right listen about her rampant insanity.

As for the worst tabloid article of the weekend, Tabloid Watch has done another smackdown of Amanda Platell, while without blowing my own horn in the slightest I've rather slapped down the Sun over its latest bout of Facebook-bashing. Make your own choice.

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Friday, October 30, 2009 

That's how the cookie crumbles.

That Gordon Brown, eh? So indecisive that he can't even decide what his favourite biscuit is, even though he was asked twelve times? Indicative of his entire approach to government, right? Dithering and prevaricating and procrastinating while our metaphorical Rome burns, unable to take charge and leaving everybody incensed with his behaviour?

Well, surprise surprise, it turns out that the now infamous question posed by the hardnosed politicos over at Mumsnet was never actually given to Brown to answer, although Brown himself said at the time he had "missed" the question. In a blog posted on the site, an explanation behind how he "missed" it is given:

Now it’s not often we find ourselves feeling sorry for politicians but we have to admit to feeling more than a pang of sympathy for the PM over the past few weeks. Because the truth is that Gordon Brown didn’t follow the live chat on the screen directly - he answered the questions grouped and fed to him by MNHQ and his advisers. He didn’t avoid the biscuit question because it didn’t cross his path (as we said on Radio 5 on the day, in fact).

Why did we do it that way? Well, there were so many questions and they were coming in thick and fast on every subject under the sun, so we reasoned that the most effective way of getting as much ground covered as possible was to group them together for him, rather than him answering random ones that he happened to notice.

We had a pile as long as your arm on subjects ranging from climate change to childcare vouchers to treatment of asylum seekers. After he’d covered a question he would immediately demand, “What next?” Occasionally, we’d squeeze in a light-hearted one - for example, about what movies he wanted to see - but we were conscious of not merely focusing on frivolities. Fun as biscuits are, access to the Prime Minister is precious and we would have hated to waste time on Rich Tea Fingers at the expense of miscarriage or school starting age. Plus, of course, we’d rather not be seen as a soft touch in the GMTV sofa mould.


Why Downing Street themselves didn't point this fact out more forcefully is easy to explain - they knew they wouldn't be listened to and that if they did they themselves would have been accused of focusing on trivia. It must though have been absolutely infuriating for all involved for this nonsense to be used to attack both Brown and the government, as both the Times and Sunday Times even included mentions to it in leader columns, while the Mail, typically, suggested his failure to make up his mind was because he was "apparently unable to decide what the politically correct answer ought to be".

As the astute writer behind the blog on Mumsnet points out, this is one of those supposedly frivolous things that can actually colour minds more significantly than an actual decision or policy might. It was also manna from heaven for those who have already decided that Brown is a ditherer, even though this rather contradicts his supposed Stalinist ruthlessness that others have fingered him with having:

In fact the real message of Biscuitgate is that whatever you do or say as a Prime Minister can and will be woven into any commentator’s particular beef or agenda, in order to prove their point. Who’d be a politician, eh?

Well, indeed. Mumsnet does however some other pertinent criticism of the prime minister and his performance at the session:

That’s not to say Biscuitgate didn’t reveal something about the Prime Minister. We strongly suspect that Mumsnetters resorted to asking about biscuits repeatedly towards the end of the chat because they were frustrated at being fed chunks of official policy rather than being engaged with directly. It’s hard, of course, to keep up with the banter on a board like ours - particularly if you’re not reading the actual chat and you’re a Mumsnet virgin.

But the truth is it has come more naturally to other politicians to speak to and emotionally connect with Mumsnetters. That, I think, is a fair criticism of Gordon Brown, as is a a certain brusqueness, intermittently displayed during his visit. What is unfair is that Biscuitgate proves just how indecisive or insincere Gordon Brown is - he might be, of course - what do I know? But there was absolutely nothing he did during his visit to Mumsnet Towers to suggest it.


Or perhaps they simply had ran out of other things to ask? That Brown was brusque or short though does fit with some other pictures painted of the man: he probably didn't want to be there or thought he could make better uses of his time. After all, should the prime minister himself really be giving interviews to places like Mumsnet? New media might be great and all, but wouldn't appearing on say, 5 Live and answering callers as Brown has also done in the past, and reasonably well from memory, be both more representative and reach far more people? Wouldn't a health or family minister be a better fit and still able to answer other questions, if perhaps with not the same authority? Brown might deserve a lot of things, and you can certainly suggest he brought it on himself, but like with John Major and tucking his shirt into his underpants, sometimes the most ludicrous things stick while much else gets forgotten.

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How government science policy works.

1. In an effort to bring some evidence into a policy often made on the back of scaremongering, hysteria and misinformation, appoint an independent body to examine and advise on what the specific dangers and harms of drugs are, with a view to bringing their suggestions on which drugs should stay legal and illegal, and if illegal, which category they should be in into line with the actual law.

2. Ignore entirely what the board tells you when it doesn't fall into line with you want to hear, and especially so when it completely contradicts what the Daily Mail says.

3. When the chief scientist on the board then complains about this and continues to maintain that his view is right while yours is wrong, demand that he apologises for the "hurt" he caused to the families of those who have died while taking drugs.

4. When the chief scientist then again repeats his argument and accuses you of "devaluing and distorting" the scientific evidence, demand that he resigns for daring to express the opinion which you asked him to provide in the first place.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009 

How very cosy.

Nadine Dorries, that noted flag carrier for lying and libel, has managed to wring a whole £1,000 from Damian McBride over the supposed libels he sent to Derek Draper while they were considering the setting up of the now infamous "Red Rag" website. McBride, fairly enough, decided it wasn't worth the potential cost of going to court, even though these remarks about the sainted Ms Dorries were never actually published, were private remarks sent from one person to another and which would never have entered the public domain had Derek Draper's email not been "hacked" by persons unknown and sent to Guido Fawkes. It would have been fun of course for McBride to argue in court that Dorries had no reputation to defend, and considering that Dorries' lawyer has turned out to be Donal Blaney, hardly the most feared silk in the libel capital of the world, you would have rated his chances.

Alas, it was not to be. It is of course completely irrelevant that Dorries spent that weekend herself making clearly libellous accusations that Tom Watson knew about McBride's behaviour and did nothing about it, something which both the Mail on Sunday and the Sun have now paid far larger sums out in damages to Watson for repeating. It is also by no means hypocritical that Guido, a person who laughs at libel laws and declares that he is above such things, has profited from delivering the writ to McBride. Fawkes is also, of course, a libertarian blogger and in no way associated with the Conservative party, despite the fact he has earned from delivering a letter on behalf of a Conservative MP, the other of which was also delivered by a piss-poor Tory blogger, and which was from the offices of the equally piss-poor Donal Blaney, a Tory blogger. Is that clear? Good.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009 

BNpeas.

From today's Viz:
Meanwhile, the Sun has figured out the best way to challenge the BNP: find a soldier who supports the party on Facebook, print a load of pictures of him doing things which 19-year-old BNP supporters do, and then claim that he brings shame upon his regiment. Bound to end the feelings of victimhood the party feeds off in an instant. Just to be consistently outraged by people doing things that others don't like which aren't directly harming anyone else, Jon Gaunt in his superb new blog attacks Harriet Harman for daring not to wear a poppy in the Commons, as well as namesake Jon Snow even though he's declined to wear one for years. Poppy fascism is still with us, and seems to be getting worse.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009 

The real reason for the Blair presidency.

We've heard a lot recently about self-inflicted harm and acts of suicide, mainly in connection with the Royal Mail, yet much the same could be said about the curious, perplexing campaign springing up for Tony Blair to be the first permanent president of the European Council. The power and prestige of the post is probably being exaggerated, as Nosemonkey argues, yet it's apparent it's not so much the job and the work involved but the title and impression which the person whom lands it will send.

The first, resounding and most bamboozling question which it raises is just what damaging, horrendous and career ending secret information Blair has on Gordon Brown. Despite everything we've been told about Brown's ever deteriorating relationship with Blair, he is still apparently "lobbying discreetly" for Blair to get the job. At times Brown and Blair apparently didn't talk; at the lowest point, when Brown felt that Blair had reneged again on his promise to hand over the reins, he told him that he would never believe a word he said again. A smart principle perhaps when dealing with someone as notoriously slippery as the "pretty straight kind of guy", but not one which is conducive to running a government. Why, after everything, would Brown now still think that he'd be the best man for the job? While Brown has always preferred the United States to Europe, even if unlike Blair it hasn't loved him back, he has never given the impression of wanting the EU to actively fail or to sabotage it from within. Perhaps Brown is envious at how, again despite everything, Blair has so successfully turned his hand from leader into money-maker, something which you doubt Brown when he exits Downing Street will emulate. Helping him get the job of EU president will for two and a half years at least severely undermine his earning power, even if when you're earning £12 million a year you can easily afford to take a couple of years "off". We're left with wondering just what this information Blair must have is. How terrible could it be that you have to support someone for a job who you so actively loathe?

Just as mysterious but for the opposite reason is the Conservative opposition to Blair gaining the post. Cameron and friends are still supposedly hoping that the Czech president will find a way to delay signing the Lisbon treaty, its last hurdle now that Ireland's voters were persuaded to change their mind and Poland's ratification, leaving them enough time to come to power and hold a referendum. Not because Cameron himself is viscerally Eurosceptic, but mainly become the Tory base and Rupert Murdoch demand it. Far more likely though is that the Czech president stops procrastinating and that Lisbon comes into effect long before the Tories get their shot at power, and that the other Tory promise to "not let matters rest" turns out to be as much froth as many of the other plans. How better then to undermine an organisation and institution you regard as bad for the country than by ensuring that someone as unpopular in this country and controversial elsewhere as Blair becomes its figurehead? Strangely then, despite joking about how bad it would make Brown look, William Hague supposedly would only allow Blair to become president over "his dead body". Cameron now thinks much the same, although he opposes the EU having a president, and that if it did, it should be someone who can chair meetings rather than grandstand on a global stage. This doesn't seem to be based on personal dislike for Blair: after all, Cameron was the person who made his front bench raise in applause for Blair has he left and who has actively based his entire persona on the great man. Could it be that, despite the Heresiarch's mocking, Cameron genuinely does fear being upstaged by Blair, or rather that he is much more afraid of a Europe which he would be far more inclined to agree with than would otherwise be the case? Then there's the Rupert Murdoch factor again: Blair as EU president might be someone who Murdoch would be far less likely to ceaselessly attack. Would a Blair presidency help somewhat with a reconciliation, something Cameron would most certainly not want to happen?

Strangest of all though is the apparent support of those who genuinely do believe in the European Union. The Guardian is concerned only by the fact that Tony Blair might be a war criminal; otherwise he would be the most obvious and easily the most qualified candidate. The European Union has never exactly been the most democratic of institutions, and the decision on who will become the president is certainly not with the European electorate as a whole but instead with the European council's 27 members, yet you thought even they might have seen the downsides of Blair becoming president. There are after all not many convicted criminals or potential criminals in charge of democratic nations, Italy being a notable exception, but even Mr Berlusconi, despite his involvement with the Iraq war, is only likely to be a small player in any eventual prosecution of both Bush and Blair for their role in a war of aggression, the "supreme international crime". Electing as your global representative someone who has never shown a moment's regret or pause and who declares that only God can be his judge is a difficult proposition to get your head round. David Miliband's argument was that Europe needs someone who can stop traffic in global capitals, although he probably didn't mean that those stopping the traffic would be the police in order to try to arrest him. Bush after all never showed any inclination to travel, which is probably just as well, and Blair, although he has been globe-trotting, is probably still wary of nations which could attempt to have him charged with some sort of offence. He probably couldn't get anywhere much safer than Israel, as the current representative of the Quartet, which must suit him down to the ground.

In fact, I think I might have alighted on the real reason why Sarkozy and Merkel think Blair might be the right man for the job. Nothing would seem more calculated to further ostracise the EU from this country, where probably the only person equally as unpopular as Blair is Brown himself. Why not kill two birds with one stone? Piss off Brown even if he's lobbying for it, as it must piss him off, and help start the formal exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, as the nation's real leader, that man RM again, has long wanted. What could possibly go wrong?

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Monday, October 26, 2009 

Scum-watch: Yet more lies about "evil terrorists".

Last week the Sun had to apologise to Abdul Muneem Patel for calling him an "evil terrorist" and claiming that he had been involved in the liquid explosives plot. He had in fact been found guilty of having a document which could be useful to terrorists, which the judge accepted he had unknowingly kept for a friend of his father's. The judge also stated specifically that Patel was not a radicalised or politicised Islamist, but this didn't stop the Sun from telling Patel's neighbours a pack of lies about his supposed secret terrorist past.

As could have been expected, the Sun has learnt absolutely nothing from having to print such a humiliating apology. You might have thought they might have waited a little longer though to repeat almost exactly the same exercise, but obviously not. This time the paper is outraged that

THREE convicted terrorists who plotted to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier have been freed early from jail.

Hamid Elasmar, 46, Zahoor Iqbal, 32, and Mohammed Irfan, 33, were all caged less than two years ago.
Except these three weren't convicted of plotting to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier, as a few minutes of fact checking would have made clear. All three were in fact involved with the plot's ringleader, Parviz Khan, but in smuggling equipment to fighters in Pakistan. The prosecutors accepted that Iqbal and Irfan had nothing to do with the beheading plot, while Elasmar's house was used for discussing the plot, although whether Elasmar was there at the time or not is unclear; considering he received the most lenient sentence of the three one would suspect he wasn't. The Sun also has it completely wrong on Khan supposedly telling Elasmar that "we'll cut it off like you cut a pig"; Khan was in fact talking to Basiru Gassama, already released and presumably deported.

The Sun being the Sun, it couldn't just leave it at that. No, it had to include a leader comment on its completely wrong article:

HOW is it possible that three terrorists who planned to behead a squaddie have been freed within two years?

Err, because they didn't plan to behead a squaddie?

Simple: They all behaved themselves in prison.

Oh, right, that must be it.

The breathtaking evil of the crime they plotted counted for nothing.

Or it counted for nothing because they weren't involved in the "breathtaking evil" of the crime?

Good behaviour sprung them early from already derisory sentences. One was released in only five months, to a life on housing benefits.

Our justice system is a laughing stock.

Only the Sun could call a sentence of seven years "derisory", which is what Iqbal received. It might be derisory if Iqbal had been convicted of plotting to beheading a soldier, but he wasn't. The real laughing stock here should be a so called newspaper that either can't or won't do the very basics of actual journalism, checking facts. Anyone up for complaining to the Press Complaints Commission?

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Saturday, October 24, 2009 

Weekend links.

There's still only one thing anyone seems interested in talking about, and I think you know what it is, so may as well get on with it. Unity thinks Griffin might have lied about his father's war record, Paul Linford, Flying Rodent, Shiraz Socialist (x2), Hopi Sen, the Heresiarch and Don Paskini all also have varying views on our very own wannabe Fuhrer, while Tabloid Watch does my usual job of attacking Ms Amanda Platell.

In the papers, Matthew Parris writes on how we should not be sacrificing free speech, which both Mr Eugenides and John B comment further on. Bonnie Greer, the only person on QT apart from Dimbleby and some members of the audience who came out of it well, also contributes a piece on it to the Times. Diane Abbott further comments on QT in the Indie, while Howard Jacobson without knowing it also adds to the debate started by Parris. Peter Oborne in the Mail worries about those advising David Cameron on foreign policy, while Andrew Grice reckons that Cameron has still yet to win over significant parts of his party.

As for worst tabloid article, again the job seems to have been done for me by Anton Vowl, who slaughters both the Mail and Express for their ridiculously hysterical criticisms of how Question Time was put on.

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Friday, October 23, 2009 

Dick Griffin and the Question Time stalemate.

There was always going to be two ways which Nick Griffin and the BNP would react once Question Time had shown: if he put in a relatively good performance, they were going to crow about how the mainstream had been taken on and vanquished. If he wasn't so good, they were going to claim that it was the usual establishment stitch-up, and that when forced into such a bear-pit, Griffin was always going to struggle.

As it happened, Griffin and the party have actually done both. Within an hour of the programme ending the party had sent out an email filled with "quotes" from viewers of how well he did and how despite being roughed up by the other panellists he had came out on top. Even in that though there was the starts of the moaning of how it was all a set-up: no "current affairs" questions; how the show was filmed in central London in the "most 'enriched' and 'diverse' part of Britain". Since then, clearly worried by just how poorly he was perceived to have done, Griffin's gone into meltdown, claiming bias, that he couldn't get a fair crack of the whip because London has been "ethnically cleansed", that the audience was a "lynch mob", and that if the show was filmed in Thurrock, Stoke or Burnley then the true picture of the support for him and his party's policies would become evident.

This was always going to be the problem with inviting Griffin onto Question Time and not instead dedicating a programme to him and his party alone with set questions. The whole Question Time format is based on the audience asking the questions, and the audience was always going to be concerned first and foremost with him and his policies rather than what's actually been happening this week beyond the QT studio. Even in such a benevolent atmosphere though the panellists, with the exception of Bonnie Greer, were mainly incredibly poor, Sayeedi Warsi and Jack Straw especially so. There was next to no actual discussion or consideration of the BNP's policies outside of immigration and racism, and not even for example the bringing up of the party's policy on voluntary repatriation, which is such an open goal it was absurd not to mention it. Griffin still however managed to hang himself with his own rope, his gaffe on David Duke being from the "non-violent Ku Klux Klan" being both amusing and revealing. His only real success was that he didn't say anything objectively outrageous, instead doing his usual act on why Islam isn't compatible with the British society which he actively loathes. At times he was just cowardly, claiming that he couldn't explain his past reasoning on why he denied the Holocaust because he could be arrested if he did so. As much as New Labour has made this a less free society, there is not yet any law which explicitly criminalises Holocaust denial, although seeing as Holocaust denial and inciting racial hatred usually go hand in hand you could perhaps see some sort of reasoning behind his caution.

The biggest failing of the evening by far was in fact the cowardice of the other panel members to challenge the overwhelming consensus on immigration, that it has been both uncontrolled and to the detriment of the country. This cowardice is centred on the view that on this point, the BNP actually has the upper hand, and indeed, the moral authority. Jack Straw, questioned on whether Labour's policies had helped the BNP, which they undoubtedly have, not so much on immigration but on the complete abandonment of their former base in favour of the mythical "centre" ground and aspirational middle class, simply prevaricated and waffled. Sayeedi Warsi advocated the equally unrealistic Tory policy of a cap and Chris Huhne brought up the old red herring of Labour's prediction of how many would come when the eastern European countries joined the EU, without mentioning that was an estimate based on the other EU states also opening their borders, when only ourselves, Ireland and Sweden did, without offering an real alternative to Labour's policy except the empty promise of "counting people out". How can you even begin to challenge the BNP when you won't even make the case for a policy which has been to the vast benefit of the country as a whole?

Apart from Griffin, it was Jack Straw who looked out of his depth. His claim that the BNP was different from the other political parties because they all had a "moral compass" while the BNP didn't was fatuousness at its finest, leading Griffin to score his only real point of the evening. How could Jack Straw claim to have a moral compass when he indirectly had the blood of 800,000 Iraqis on his hands? There was no answer to that, and the audience was also sheepishly quiet as he made it. Even stopped clocks are right twice a day, but it also underlined how Labour has still yet to have its real day of reckoning for some of the things that it has done.

At worst, the spectacle was the bear-baiting some have described it as. At its best, it was a show that will have done nothing to alter the views of absolutely anyone. Those already sympathetic towards the BNP will hardly have been put off, and may well have felt sympathy for the way Griffin was barracked. Those on the opposite side should perhaps be worried about just that, and how despite coming off badly, Griffin was hardly given anything resembling a knock-out blow. This is certainly not Weimar Germany, and Griffin is certainly not a Fuhrer in waiting, and while we shouldn't keep ourselves awake at night about the BNP's support, it still remains an indictment of our politics that Griffin should have achieved the votes necessary to make his appearance on our televisions a requirement of the BBC's "impartiality".

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Thursday, October 22, 2009 

A very much precendented case of newspaper hyperbole.

Last night Keir Starmer, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service, gave his usual annual lecture to the public prosecution service. It was a typical lawyerly sermon, touching on both human rights and the independence of the prosecutors. Those who were there and awake probably didn't give it a second thought; Starmer gave a decent defence of the Human Rights Act, but hardly the strongest and most detailed one ever. The Telegraph however thought that this was somehow worthy of a splash. "An unprecedented attack", it bellowed, and since then the usual Tory suspects, the two Davies', have added their voices at this apparent broadside at Conservative policy.

Starmer, as it happened, didn't so much as mention the Conservatives, probably because he wasn't just attacking the Tories but also Labour. Here is what he did say:

However, one cannot escape, particularly in recent months, the debate that has emerged around the extent to which it is appropriate - and these are my words here - to repatriate the Human Rights Act and make it "more British."

While the Tories have promised to repeal the HRA and introduce a "British" Bill of Rights in its place, without of course providing any detail whatsoever as to what these rights would be and which might be different to those enshrined in the HRA, Labour has also continued to talk about a bill of Rights and Responsibilities, even though it has been shelved for now. These Rights and Responsibilities, Jack Straw hoped, would give a British feel to the HRA. It doesn't matter that, as Starmer points out, the European Convention of Human Rights, on which the HRA is based, was mainly drafted by us Britishers, because it's "European" in origin this somehow infers that it's a foreign creation imposed on us. The Sun, the main campaigner for a repeal of the HRA, has so often mistakenly referred to the ECHR as being a construct of the European Union when it is not and is entirely separate from it that it's difficult to believe it isn't being done deliberately.

The main flaw with any plan to repeal the HRA, something which Starmer doesn't mention, is that it's difficult to believe that we would also then leave the ECHR in its entirety, something we would have to do to make sure that the "criminals' charter" doesn't interfere with our law in any way, shape or form. All repealing the HRA will do is mean that breaches of the ECHR will not be able to heard in our own courts; instead those seeking redress will have to go to Strasbourg, and wait potentially years for their case to be heard, such is the backlog which has built up there and continues to mount. As Starmer argues, it's absurd that rights which the rest of Europe has never had any problem with should "stop in the English Channel". After all, even Russia is signed up to ECHR, even if it isn't as proactive in falling into line with its rulings as the more democratic nation states of Europe are. The closest Starmer gets to really attacking those who wish to do away with the HRA is this line:

And it would be to this country's shame if we lost the clear and basic statement of our citizens' human rights provided by the Human Rights Act on the basis of a fundamentally flawed analysis of their origin and relevance to our society.

It doesn't really help the Tories' cause that Starmer is entirely right. The main reason why the Conservatives want to get rid of the HRA is not because it's a criminals' charter or any of the other things which its critics say it is, but because from the very beginning the press, and especially the Sun and the Daily Mail, have been worried about its implications for their business model. Article 8, the right to privacy, has meant that the tabloids can no longer be certain that their celebrity stories and sex scandals will get into the papers unmolested, or if they do, that they won't then be brought up before the beak afterwards. There is, it must be noted, potential for abuse of Article 8, but this is slight when compared to the overall benefits which the legislation as a whole brings. In any case, the real threat to press freedom is not Article 8 but our libel laws and the tenacity of the libel firms and their pursuit of "super-injunctions", as last week's assault by Carter-Fuck on behalf of Trafigura showed. The supposed "madness" which the HRA has brought is partially dealt with by Starmer, although not fully:

A police force unable to circulate a photo of a wanted, dangerous and violent criminal because it might breach his Article 8 rights to privacy? My advice - go ahead - it is essential to protect the public.

Unelected judges can now tell Parliament that their laws need not be enforced? No - judges cannot strike down legislation.

Human Rights mean that school teachers cannot enforce discipline at school? No - it is domestic legislation - section 548 of the Education Act 1996 - passed 2 years before the Human Rights Act - that banned corporal punishment in schools. Interestingly enough, it is section 93 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 - passed 8 years after the Human Rights Act - that now allows school teachers to use reasonable force to prevent a pupil from committing an offence.

It is often in the interests of those who want to debase a principle to chip away at it by citing examples of its occasional misapplication. We should all take care to examine critically the so-called restrictions brought about by the Human Rights Act and consider where the misunderstanding truly lies before condemning a constitutional instrument that has provided legitimate comfort to so many.


Some of these I've touched on before, but it's indicative of the misinformation which surrounds the HRA that the Telegraph in its report repeats the myth that Learco Chindamo, murderer of headteacher Philip Lawrence, couldn't be deported back to Italy when he finished his sentence because of the HRA. It was in fact because of the EU's 2004 directive on citizenship, but as usual the initial myth has become fact.

Has Starmer though strayed into politics with his pronouncements, something that the head of the CPS shouldn't be doing? Despite the Telegraph's suggestion, the previous head of the CPS, Ken Macdonald, did something rather similar in a speech to the Criminal Bar Association, where he made clear his view that terrorists should always be treated as criminals, and that there was no such thing as a "war on terror", something uncontroversial now, but rather more heated back in 2007 when the attempt to ram through 90 days without charge was fresh in the memory. Macdonald also made clear on a number of occasions that he felt 28 days detention without charge for terrorist suspects was sufficient, something which was hardly popular with the government, and which was definitely straying into politics. Few now object when the police demand new powers, although they should; why shouldn't the head of CPS express his view that the Human Rights Act shouldn't be abolished? Is it that it's only when it's the government that it's critiquing that it's OK, when if it's (perhaps) the opposition that it isn't?

The Tory plan to repeal the HRA has always struck me as something which they're likely to forget about once they actually do get in power. Labour has thrashed around hopelessly with the Rights and Responsibilities idea, and if you really believe that the Tories are more suited to constitutional change for the better, I don't think you've been paying enough attention. It's true, as Henry Porter has argued repeatedly, that the HRA has not prevented this government from its attacks on civil liberties, but the key to that is not more legislation, but better governance in general. It seems just as unlikely we will get that from the Tories.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009 

A challenge for Unite Against Fascism.

I mentioned in passing yesterday Islam4UK (site seems to be down at the moment) without noting that they're planning a "march for Sharia" on the 31st of October, a rather appropriate date. This threatens potentially to be a repeat of both the protest in Luton back in March and before that the protests outside the Danish embassy in the aftermath of the "Motoons" affair. Not because the protest itself will be significant, either in terms of attendance or of the demands, as we've heard it all before from al-Muhajiroun and its numerous splinters and successor organisations, but because of the ridiculous coverage which it will almost certainly be given by the media.

It's welcome then that Inayat Bunglawala is proposing a counter demonstration, ostensibly you would presume by ordinary Muslims against the loons although doubtless all colours and creeds etc will be also encouraged to attend, and it's especially helpful considering the Muslim Council of Britain's own occasional intransigent behaviour. The one thing that would be even more helpful would be the presence of Unite Against Fascism. They're the sort of group that would be able to mobilise significantly enough to dwarf the Islam4UK demo, and considering that the English Defence League are also bound to rear their ugly heads as well, would be able to face off both groups and help to balance the coverage of the march. Whether they'd be interested in facing down radical Islamists as well as the far-right though is uncertain, but would certainly help to counter their own critics. Choudary and friends might be idiots that are best ignored in the main, but this is one of those occasions when delivering something approaching a smackdown would be in the interests of everyone.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009 

The BNP, no platform, Churchill and Question Time.

Nick Griffin must be having what is almost certainly the greatest week of his political life. At last invited to join the political mainstream on Question Time, the target of an incredibly crass and perplexing campaign by the armed services of all people against their pathetic but predictable use of imagery from WW2 in their election literature, and now with the member list leaked yet again, he can't really have wished for more attention or publicity for either himself or his party.

At the very heart of the debate about how to deal with extremists, not just including the BNP but also the likes of the English Defence League as well as the more radical Islamists is whether giving them enough rope to hang themselves with is a good idea or not. As you may have guessed from that last sentence, I've always doubted the efficacy of the "no platform" stance which was taken against the party up until very recently. As much as the likes of Unite Against Fascism and other similar groups have the right intentions, their own authoritarian leanings and determination to stop the BNP from exercising their democratic right, especially when invited to student debates, is self-defeating in the extreme. There was perhaps a case when the British National Party was more anti-democratic than it currently is, and more openly racist and radical in its policies for it to be denied the right to spread their hatred, but even if Griffin's "sanitising" of the party is just for show as it almost certainly is, that time now has almost certainly passed.

The English Defence League, on the other hand, is probably the most dangerous organisation outside of the actual terrorist groupings currently active in this country. Their tactics, clearly aimed at inciting tension, have the very real possibility of starting race riots akin to those which shook northern towns and cities in the summer of 2001. If you're now expecting that I'm going to say that they therefore have to be denied the right to protest or make their point, I'm not. No, in this instance they both need to be exposed as the deeply racist morons which they clearly are, by more widely distributing footage and reports of their marches, and by being challenged by the likes of the UAF, which seems to have resulted mainly so far in the UAF being the clear winners. In some circumstances their demonstrations may well have to possibly be banned, much as I loathe the idea of outlawing any expression of dissent, purely because of the potential there is for widespread disorder.

Lastly, we have the likes of Anjem Choudary and his ilk. The main threat from such extremists is again, not from anything they are likely to do, but instead from the rage which their bile induces in others. The difference here is that the best way to deal with Choudary and co is to, simply, ignore them. The English Defence League speak for those who find the BNP too tame, which is a distinct minority, but a minority which is almost certainly far larger than that of those they are claiming to be demonstrating against. The remnants of al-Muhajiroun are best dealt with as internet trolls are: don't feed them, ignore them and laugh at them. There is after all something deeply amusing about the Islam4UK campaign, and their page on how Trafalgar Square would look under Sharia law itself is certainly a humourous attempt at trolling; either that or Choudary and his willing army of photoshoppers has cracked even further than before. The seriousness with which the likes of the Express treats this silliness only encourages them further, as almost certainly will the coverage their doubtless tiny march will receive. 5,000 marching for Sharia? They'll be lucky to get 500.

It's a similar kind of silliness which is behind the speaking out of past generals against the BNP's use war imagery and evocations. When neo or post-fascists in, Italy, say, use wartime propaganda, it's worrying. When neo or post-fascists in Britain use it, it's just ridiculous. A fascist party putting Winston Churchill on their leaflets, Spitfires and calling their European parliament campaign the "Battle for Britain"? It's almost Monty Python-esque, unless you take it seriously and get outraged. Here's a question for Nick Griffin: which side should have won WW2? For someone who has previously denied the Holocaust, his reply, or non-reply, would be fascinating. It's also hardly as if it's just the BNP using Churchill and faux-patriotism for their ill-gotten gains: UKIP had Churchill on their election paraphernalia as well, equally deceptively, while as the Heresiarch points out all parties and this government have abused history. The biggest insult to Churchill right now is that most people only associate the name with a nodding dog that advertises insurance, and no one's suddenly going to start a campaign about that.

It's dispiriting enough that Griffin is likely to come off reasonably well from his appearance on Question Time without giving him such an open goal to shoot into. The BNP did after all oppose the Iraq war, although I'm uncertain over what their position on Afghanistan was at the time and what is now; while Griffin's referral to the Nuremberg trials falls into the category mentioned above, just how does a general who commanded his forces in a war of aggression respond to being alluded to as a war criminal? How does the attack on the "Tory" generals not ring true? Who possibly thought this campaign was a good idea and would achieve anything other than giving the BNP further publicity?

All this said, the BBC's claim that they suddenly have to include Griffin on QT because they've now got a few seats on councils and in the European parliament is false. They primarily want Griffin on and have wanted him on because they know it'll make good television; now they finally have their excuse. It comes at a time when the BBC's interpretation of what their impartiality and legal responsibilities are is becoming ever muddied: refusing to show the appeal for Gaza mainly because of the fear of the Israel lobby, yet Griffin must be allowed on because of the law? Poppycock. There is a case for giving BNP much more coverage than it currently gets, giving Griffin a proper, Paxman or Humphrys grilling, even putting him before an audience as other political leaders are, where others have often come unstuck. Question Time though is just general discussion: Griffin will simply be the centre of attention, distract everyone, and subvert the whole programme to be all about him rather than questions from the public. This isn't to argue he shouldn't appear, but when Griffin is up against such a piss-poor panel, with Jack Straw, the horrendous, screeching Sayeedi Warsi and Bonnie Greer, with Chris Huhne the only person likely to be able to begin to hold him to account, you have to wonder whether the BNP themselves didn't leak their membership list, just to add to the free ride they're being given.

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Monday, October 19, 2009 

A truly amoral newspaper.

It just had to be, didn't it? The week I'm dragged away turns out to be the week when two of the biggest media stories of the year break. First Trafigura and Carter-Fuck try to censor parliament, never a wise thing to do, even when MPs were more concerned about their expenses, then the Daily Mail does what the Daily Mail does best and publishes an utterly heartless piece of grief intrusion masquerading as a columnist attempting to articulate what the readers are really thinking.

At long last the Mail chose to attack someone so completely harmless, so apparently lovable and so popular that even it couldn't manage to brush the outrage under the carpet. As it is, compared to the Mail's past record and other similar articles, Jan Moir's screeching on Friday was almost tame. Sure, it has the blatant homophobia, the knowing better than everyone else what the two men were doing that night, and the gratuitous, ignorant insults, such as Moir's claim that he "couldn't carry a tune in a Louis Vuitton trunk", when he could in fact sing perfectly well, unlike numerous other members of boy and girl bands and doubtless Moir herself. It has the same "I know best" attitude, ignoring point blank the actual facts of the case while relying entirely on her own prejudices; a 33-year-old man can't possibly die of "natural causes", especially a gay 33-year-old man who had invited another man along with his civil partner back to their holiday apartment, most certainly not a gay 33-year-old man who had been smoking the devil weed cannabis. Yet, it still feels by the Mail's standards to be not harsh enough, not as completely without redemption as it should be.

You can't after all really compete with the utter heartlessness, the downright beastliness of describing the murder of five young women as "no great loss", as Richard Littlejohn did back in December 2006 after Steve Wright had killed 5 prostitutes from the town of Ipswich. That piece of nastiness made very few ripples, except for becoming part of a Stewart Lee comedy sketch which finishes with Littlejohn being described as a part of the female anatomy. Moir's attack on Gately wasn't close to being as vindictive and shameless as Allison Pearson's description of Scarlett Keeling, the 15-year-old raped and killed in Goa, as a "ripe peach", and who variously blamed her mother for leaving her behind with friends while she travelled further on in the country while also noting that she was in "a culture where Western girls are all too readily viewed as sexually available", meaning that brown people just can't wait to get their hands on the white women. It also wasn't as so utterly without dignity or research as Amanda Platell's assault after Rachel Ward tragically died whilst on holiday. To quote myself:

According to Platell, rather than this being a tragic accident, it's instead indicative "of the lives of many middle-class young women". Variously, her death seems to have been down to the following facts: firstly, that she was middle class, and therefore should have known better than to have been taking part in such working class pursuits as going on a skiing holiday and drinking whilst on it; secondly, that her friends abandoned her when she decided to go back to where she was staying on her own, therefore it's their fault too; and finally, that it's actually neither her own fault nor her friends' fault, but rather the fault of equality:


Sadly, in a world where women have fought for generations for equality, where they insist on their independence, where drunkenness and debauchery are actively encouraged, you can’t really blame a young man for failing to act chivalrously.

Yes, Rachel’s death was tragedy — but it was an accident waiting to happen.


There you are then girls - you weren't fighting for equal rights, you were in fact fighting for the right to die alone in a freezing river, because Amanda Platell says so.

As far as I'm aware, the only complaint made about any of these grief intruding attacks was on the latter, by the father of Haydn Johnson, which resulted in the Mail noting that the piece was inaccurate and removing Platell's viciousness from the website. No apology, no thoughts about whether attacking the grieving is ever justified, just an article flushed down the memory hole with no repercussions.

Whether the difference this time was because Gately was a celebrity, while all those mentioned above were just commoners, with only family and friends to be angered and shocked by their treatment at the hands of the press doesn't really matter in the end. The most significant factor to my mind is most likely the obvious culture clash, a mirror image culture clash to that which took place over "Sachsgate". Then the Mail was the ringleader in getting its readers and others to complain to both the BBC and Ofcom over the humiliation of a much-loved actor by two arrogant bullies, one of whom was and is on a vast salary. As offensive, unfair and low as the abuse masquerading as humour was in that case, it was still blown out of all proportion. Those who complained were the Mail's target market, the older, the more middle class, and overwhelmingly those who would have never listened to Russell Brand's show and so only complained after they were alerted to it. Who knows this time how many actual Daily Mail readers have complained about Jan Moir's article, but I doubt it's higher than a few hundreds out of the 22,000 complaints which the PCC has now received. This isn't to suggest that Daily Mail readers want and expect the kind of thing which Moir delivered; far from it. It is however what the Daily Mail thinks that its readers want. The editor is a man who believes that the bedroom door should be wide open when the activities within it pass outside the "norm", as they did in the Max Mosley case, and that Justice Eady's ruling, that the NotW infringed his privacy, was in effect, "amoral".

All newspapers make mistakes. All newspapers misjudge the feeling of both the public and their readers at times. Only the Daily Mail however has repeatedly and consistently attempted to intrude into grief, regarding the death of almost anyone as fair game. Some might believe that the truly amoral in this instance to be those who have got it so horribly, terribly wrong on so many occasions, and who will doubtless continue to get it wrong in the future.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009 

Weekend links and hiatus.

Most of the blogs are still reflecting on the Conservative party conference this weekend. Paul Linford provides his usual weekly column on Cameron's vision and emulation of Blair, Dave Semple and paulinlincs provide 10 lies about the Tory conference and a critique of Michael Gove's speech, as does Neil Robertson, Paulie waxes lyrical on the Tories and the economy, Tom Freeman glimpses into his crystal ball and finds the Tories winning the Nobel prize for economics and Hopi Sen notes the contradictions in Cameron's speech. In general miscellany, Craig Murray explains why he's certain the inquiry into MPs' expenses by Thomas Legg will be a whitewash, Ten Percent is glad the EDL protesters in Manchester were outnumbered, Phil BC explains why MPs' second jobs are about to become an issue, Tory Troll is stunned by an act of obvious cronyism by Boris Johnson, one which if New Labour had committed they would doubtless have been more than ridiculed about, while both Dave Cole and the Heresiarch have thoughts on Barack Obama winning the Nobel peace prize.

In the papers, or at least their websites, Howard Zinn also considers Obama's win, Marina Hyde reflects on the Strictly race row, Charlie Brooker attacks the BBC's awful Radio 1 promos, David Blancheflower is decidedly unconvinced by the Tories' economic policies, Matthew Parris is already worrying about the problems Cameron might have with his backbenchers, Janice Turner provides easily the finest piece of the weekend in noting that the Tories' policies on taxing alcohol seem to be based on social snobbery just as much as practicality (take note Graun and Indie: she's far too good for the Times, although the same could probably be said about Parris), Andrew Grice thinks the Tories still need to flesh out their policies, Yvonne Roberts is yet another person critical of Michael Gove's education plans and lastly Howard Jacobson provides his usual take on something completely different, this week on art and privilege vis-a-vis Tracey Emin.

As for worst tabloid article, it's one of those weeks when we're treated to a whole host of potential winners. The Daily Mail out does itself in deploring a "happy slapping" video posted on Facebook, then helps to propagate it by providing six all action screen shots (via Tabloid Watch). Elsewhere in the Mail Amanda Platell has her usual go, this week wondering what all the fuss surrounding someone saying something racist is about, as well as providing an especially paranoid conspiracy theory "explaining it". She also naturally thinks Gove's education plans are wonderful. Meanwhile the Sun has fallen victim yet again to Maddie-balls, this time convinced that a photograph of a girl that looks slightly like Madeleine might look now that she's six could be her. Let me confidently predict that it isn't. The winner though is the Sun's leader column, which launches a quite extraordinary attack on Rowan Williams for daring at yesterday's memorial ceremony for those who died in Iraq to wonder whether "freeing" the country was the right thing to do. If a religious leader can't explore such questions of morality without fear of being monstered politically, who can? Would they attack the Pope in such a way, who has also expressed highly similar sentiments and when the previous one also opposed the war? Or is it, to remember Stalin's question of how many divisions did the Pope have, that the Sun can get away with it when it's Beardie?

And with that, I shall be indisposed until next Monday. Have fun.

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Friday, October 09, 2009 

Terror target Madonna?

Following on from the still reverberating TERROR TARGET SUGAR/Glen Jenvey Sun story, Unity has uncovered an until now unnoticed similar story in the Sunday People from the very same week back in January, this time focusing on posts supposedly left on the Islambase forum about Madonna. Interesting here is that the site targeted, islambase.info, is of a much more decidedly radical flavour than Ummah.com was and is. Islambase has, as Unity points out, been of special interest to those involved in the tiny "anti-jihadist" movement, with the Centre of Social Cohesion, ran by the neo-con Douglas Murray, producing an entire tedious report on it (PDF). Westminster Journal has two equally fascinating articles, written by a "Guy Baldwin", which show even jihadists enjoy pornography, amazingly enough. More recently a document posted on scribd.com entitled "Islambase exposed", since deleted and also now vanished from the Google cache, contained the personal details of many of those who post on the forum. Finally, there is also an Islambase Exposed blog, linked to one of the "Cheerleaders", which has a post containing very personal details on one of the key members of the forum.

Undoubtedly these connections are just simple coincidence. It's also doubtless coincidence that the Sunday People story, written by one Daniel Jones, was the person being contacted by Edward Barker, one of Patrick Mercer's office staff, with a view to getting a Glen Jenvey sourced report into his paper almost two months after Jenvey's Ummah.com fabrication was exposed.

As Unity concludes:
The role of Mercer’s office in, seemingly, placing dubiously sourced terrorism-related stories into the British press, at a time when Mercer was (and still) serving as Chairman of a Commons sub-committee on counter-terrorism, is a matter that Tim is still working on and although, at present, there’s no evidence to link Mercer or his staff directly to the faked Madonna story, it nevertheless seems clear that there is altogether more that needs to scrutinised in all this than just the [lack of] ethics of Britain’s tabloid press.

The plot continues to thicken.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009 

The shape of the Tories to come part 2.

The plan for the Tory conference has been both obvious and has worked: ensure that Osborne and Cameron get all the coverage and limelight and hope that the underlings stay in the shadows, or at best don't make any horrendous gaffes. This was clearly what was in action yesterday, hoping that only the faithful or interested would notice that both Michael Gove and Chris Grayling were making speeches on their specific areas and announcing either new or somewhat new policies. As it turned out, this was further helped when Grayling himself gaffed by describing the appointment of General Dannatt as an adviser as potentially a gimmick, not realising that it was err, his side, not Labour, that had done so.

It was Gove's proposals though which were clearly the more ghastly. Alix Mortimer thinks of him as a prep school teacher circa 1965 and it's clearly a description which fits. His proposals for what should be in and out of education when the Tories come in are so overblown it reads like a an old reactionary's wish-list. What's wrong with our school system, it seems, is that the kids aren't dressed archaically enough. Just as much of the rest of society decides that suit, blazer and tie aren't perhaps the most practical or comfortable of clothes, in comes Gove, who thinks that as adults are giving up on it, children should wear it instead. His other great wheeze, setting by ability, is just as old and hoary. Listening to Gove you'd think that state schools haven't so much as tried such a thing. I hate to break it to him, but at my bog-standard, at times failing comprehensive we had setting by ability, and all it did was further entrench those in the particular sets at that level of knowledge, not stretching them or helping them, just leaving them to get on with it, failing everyone. Adding to the sense of nostalgia, rote learning was the next thing to be mentioned. He also wants "the narrative of British history" taught, without mentioning whether or not history will be made compulsory post-14, and which in any case Alix Mortimer demolishes. Just when you think it couldn't get any worse, he also wants soldiers to be brought into instil discipline, which is just the thing that we need in general in schools: ex-military personnel with a high opinion of themselves thinking that all the children of today need is regimentalism and a shared bond which develops in the line of fire.

Chris Grayling didn't have much of a chance of living up to such a litany of pure bollocks. He did though have a go, further broadening the mind-bogglingly stupid policy of taxing strong lager and cider as well as "alcopops" because of their link to anti-social behaviour. There is a case for taxing the likes of Special Brew and the ultra-strong ciders which have never seen an apple for the simple reason that the only people who drink them are alcoholics and those looking to get drunk as quickly as possible, but the downsides are obvious: when an ordinary can of Wife-Beater isn't going to cost any more, you might as well just downgrade slightly, and it's what people will do. You have to challenge the behaviour, not the drink itself. I've also lost count of the number of times I've said it here, but it needs stating yet again: those meant to be targeted by this tax do not drink alcopops. The people who do are those might get drunk, but are not those who specifically go out looking for trouble; it can be best described as a tax on those who don't like the taste of other drinks. Despite all the mocking, Grayling also still believes in the "21st century clip round the ear", now examining "grounding" as an "instant punishment". We laughed when New Labour proposed taking yobs to ATMs; now the Tories, that party of the family, wants police officers to take over parenting. Finally, once again the Tories want to ban Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a group which although reprehensible and may have incited hatred in the past, most certainly does not incite violence. If we're going to ban every group alleged to do both, why focus on HuT and not the BNP or EDL, who are the number one current threat to community cohesion? Answer came there none.

All everyone was interested in though was the main event. There is one thing to be said for Cameron's speech, and that's at least that it was a speech rather than just a series of connected thoughts, as both Brown and Clegg's attempts were. It was also a good speech in another sense: that it at least partially showed what Cameron does believe and think, and quite how wrong his interpretation is of what has gone wrong, primarily with the economy:

And here is the big argument in British politics today, put plainly and simply. Labour say that to solve the country's problems, we need more government.

Don't they see? It is more government that got us into this mess.

Why is our economy broken? Not just because Labour wrongly thought they'd abolished boom and bust. But because government got too big, spent too much and doubled the national debt.


It is indeed putting it simply, and also not accurately. Labour may have massively increased the size and scope of the state, but to break this down to saying that Labour's only solution is more government is nonsense. If it was, it wouldn't have spent the last 12 years trying to insert the private sector into every public service or continued with the horrendously wasteful private finance initiative, to give but two examples. More gob-smacking though is that Cameron seems to be suggesting that the reason our economy's broken is because of the size of government and because it spent too much: this isn't just wrong, it's politically bankrupt. The reason the economy's broken is primarily because there was too little regulation of the financial sector, not too much. Even if we had saved for that "rainy day", we'd still be in the same recession even if the deficit could be dealt with quicker, and considering that the Tories would have hardly done anything different on the economy to Labour until very recently, this is hindsight of the lowest order. He continues:

Why is our society broken? Because government got too big, did too much and undermined responsibility.

This is even more nonsense. Even if you accept that big government has and does undermine responsibility, and even if you accept that society is broken, the real thing that broke it was the undermining and even open destruction of economic communities over 20 years ago. Labour has tried and mostly failed with its initiatives, but at least it has tried. All Cameron offers, and continues to offer in this speech, is the firm smack of responsibility and the recognition of marriage in the tax system, something just bound to cure problems at a stroke and not just provide the middle classes with a helpful cut. And so it goes on:

Why are our politics broken? Because government got too big, promised too much and pretended it had all the answers.

Cameron on the other hand doesn't pretend to have answers, as he doesn't offer any specific reform of politics in this speech except for the cutting of some ministerial salaries. All the talk of a new politics has completely evaporated, and who could possibly be surprised? Cameron doesn't need to change anything to win, and so the status quo is far more attractive.

Again, like Osborne on Tuesday, Cameron also offers precisely nothing on economic recovery. It's presumably just going to happen magically, while all we need to worry about is getting the deficit down. As Chris Dillow and an increasing numbers of others are now arguing, the preoccupation with the deficit is potentially dangerous when there are other threats and decisions to be taken. The Tories have focused on the deficit because this is one of their very few selling points, yet it's also a point on which they could be attacked if Labour was reasonably sure of itself, with even the potential to turn everything back around. While trying not to be triumphalist, what is clear is that the Tories themselves are now absolutely certain of their return to power. From his mention of Afghanistan at the very beginning to the condemnation of the EU at the end, this was also a speech written to touch every hot button on which the Sun newspaper has recently focused. Nothing is being left to chance. The irony of it all is that on the one thing that the Tories are significantly at odds with Labour on, they're wrong. The sad thing is that it seems it won't make any difference.

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