Monday, June 30, 2008 

Learning by example.

Churnalism or not, the story of the examiner who gave two marks to a candidate that simply wrote "fuck off" in answer to a question is getting some rather unfair criticism.

I mean, let's be sensible for a second. Are we certain that the person taking the exam isn't a blogger? Who could possibly demure that telling individuals to "fuck off" via posts on the internet cannot at times be incredibly witty? Considering that one of the doyens of the blogging scene has come to much attention via the fact that he consistently comes up with new ways to call someone a fucking cunt, who are we to judge what is and what isn't worthy of marks at the GCSE stage?

Besides which, the examiner and the board are completely right in the view that if some sort of effort has been made to answer a question, regardless of its apparent inadequacy and wrongness, it still deserves to be given consideration. Let's also face it: at least the candidate bothered to turn up for the exam, whilst most of the others with a similar mindset would have done the opposite. In the circumstances, the candidate deserves to be applauded for overcoming the fear of failure for not even attempting a cogent answer, and when the youth of today have such glorious examples to learn from, just why are we so surprised when the first thing they can think of is to fire off an expletive? If he hadn't filled in any response, he most likely would have received a 'U', or ungraded. Instead, he might have achieved a 'G'. Under this glorious New Labour government, I think that's an achievement we can all be proud of.

Update: This post wasn't meant entirely seriously. QT takes issue not so much with me but with Patrick Vessey, whose point I'm more than sympathetic towards. Of all the questions you could be asked, and all the things you could be asked to describe in a GCSE English exam, being asked to tell the examiner what the room you're in looks like has to rank as one of the most unimaginative, banal and downright boring things that could have been raised. It's not just the students you have to feel for, it's also the individuals at the other end, the ones that have to mark them. Being forced to read hundreds if not thousands of descriptions of dank, dismal, suffocating dirt brown gym and PE halls is not something I'd like to do; by comparison, the more pithy response of "fuck off" would come almost as a relief.

The issue isn't so much with the exam board, which was just following things to the letter, but with the process which brought the student to writing "fuck off" instead of going through the motions. Most, as stated, would have simply either written their name on the paper and stopped there, or not even done that. There was a possibly apocraphyl story which went round when I was at school that writing your name on the paper got you a couple of marks, so it isn't just answering with expletives that potentially gets you points. This was a one-off blown out of proportion, but the real question is why so many accept or even celebrate their failure. One of the most fascinating sociological studies into the acceptance of failure was Paul Willis's Learning to Labour, which although conducted in the late 70s is still a seminal and influential text. A modern reanalysis and study of whether the same factors are still at work (from my own experience, I would suggest they most certainly are) would perhaps help with the debate. My own contention has always been that the lack of opportunities for vocational training, or when it is available, is considered by teachers and employers alike as either a "soft option" or as not equivalent to GCSEs or A-Levels has been at the heart of the problem of underachievement amongst some. The hope was that diploma system would do something to alter this, but with the current problems which seem to be plauging their introduction, this seems less likely. Despairing or over emphasising the lack of respect or collapse in standards this case apparently reflects doesn't seem much of an answer to me; understanding why is far more important and essential.

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Scum-watch: Could this be the most hypocritical statement by a newspaper ever?

Another teenager's died, so the Sun has to rush out the boilerplate response of this must change us immediately and irrevocably as a nation again. It's this quite remarkable paragraph however which is deserving of more attention:

The seeds of this destruction were sown long ago. A generation raised to believe that greed was good are now the hopeless parents of the savages who empower themselves by carrying blades.

A generation raised to believe that greed was good? This couldn't possibly be a reference to the Thatcher years could it, when the Sun was in the absolute vanguard of that mantra? Or that event that symbolised the greed of the 80s,
the Wapping revolution, when Murdoch established his fortress, sacked the print workers and ordered his hacks to go through the strikers while once inside they were treated to no view whatsoever? Murdoch of course epitomises the greed and power syndrome, a man who thinks that it's perfectly permissible to order about politicians through his media whilst paying as little tax as possible. If this is a generation raised to believe that greed was good, and that is now why one of the reasons we're seeing multiple deaths of teenagers in our capital city, then the Sun most certainly has to answer for helping to sow those seeds in the first place.

We can debate the root causes until the cows come home. But there is only one swift solution: The brute force of the law.

Not of course for tax dodgers though; only brats carry bladed weapons should be banged up for 5 years, a solution as self-defeating as any that the Sun has ever advocated.

Gordon Brown is at least moving in the right direction — insisting culprits be punished, not let off with laughable cautions.

But as we’ve said again and again he needs more jails for that to work.

Jails which are incidentally full agaim because of a direct result of the Sun's constant demands for crackdowns on crime. Now that everyone except for the tabloids and the public accept that crime has fallen dramatically over the last 10 years, the Sun still wants even more. We couldn't possibly realise that far too many of those currently in prison shouldn't be there and instead either on drug treatment programmes or receiving help for their mental health problems, freeing up space for the more egregious of the knife carriers, could we? No, that would make too much sense. Instead we'll just be treated time and again to some of the most hypocritical, sanctiminous and also dangerous nonsense from the biggest selling newspaper in the land.


Nothing to do with the Sun, but the Express has once again plumbed the depths with a front page splash. Ben Kinsella, the boy tragically killed, just happens to have a sister who was once in EastEnders, which gives them the opportunity to use a suitably fruity picture of her rather one of the person who was actually murdered. Some might call this revolting.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008 

One year on: the verdict.

Predictably, the week's press has been full of various articles commenting on Gordon Brown's anniversary in power, so there seems little point in writing a long narrative along similar lines (although, as usual, it seems that's what I've ended up doing) when you can go with either of these two instead.

It is however worth looking back, if it isn't too narcissistic, at what I wrote when Gordon ascended and what would hopefully be changed or altered. As you might have guessed, it doesn't make for good reading:

It's probably worth a slight cheer that the dross is getting cleaned out, although we won't have the full details of Brown's new cabinet until tomorrow. Patricia Hewitt and Margaret Beckett, united in being completely out of their depth in their respective jobs, are at least finally put out of their misery. John "not a single shot" Reid has already announced his departure, as has Lord Goldsmith and another Blairite apparatchik, Hilary Armstrong. If Hazel Blears, Tessa Jowell, Lord Falconer, Lord Drayson and Liam Byrne follow suit then Brown might just mean a certain amount of what he says.

Hazel Blears is now communities minister, and as useless as ever. Tessa Jowell is still Olympics minister, because you may as well keep one complete failure at the post rather than taint someone else with such a poisoned chalice. Lord Falconer has gone, and since taken to criticising Brown over 42 days and the constitutional changes, even though if he were still in government he'd doubtless be defending the same things to the hilt. Lord Drayson resigned to spend more time racing, and Liam Byrne is still at the Home Office. Adding to the dross that Brown has brought in, "Wacky" Jacqui Smith is just as bad a home secretary as we've come to expect from New Labour, Tony McNulty, is still polluting the airwaves with his absolute loyalty to the Supreme Leader and every bad policy which has ever been conjured up, Andy Burnham is now culture secretary, the execrable Blairite James Purnell is at work and pensions, and the supremely talented Digby Jones was last week celebrating the brilliance of the British arms industry as trade minister. With a team like that, how can it be possible that Labour's doing so badly?

He should be similarly judged on just how far his familiar talk of a new politics is. It needs to involve a full, independent inquiry into the Iraq war - involving both how the intelligence was presented by the government in the build up to war, how apparently the planning for after the invasion was either ripped up and ignored or how there was none in the first place, and as Lord Goldsmith has already suggested, how the mistreatment and torture of detainees came to be both accepted and even encouraged, with predictable results. A similar inquiry into the 7/7 attacks wouldn't go amiss either.

Back in March the government argued successfully again that the "time wasn't right" for an inquiry into the war. There is also no chance whatsoever of an independent inquiry into 7/7.

Next Brown needs to set out just how soon the troops in Iraq are to be brought back - they are, as General Dannatt said, simply making the security situation in the south worse. Enough blood has been spilt, both Iraqi and British. Handover in the other provinces formerly controlled by the British has already taken place with only minor problems. The majority of troops could be back home within 3 months, with a complete withdrawal within a year easily being achievable.

Since then, the withdrawal to Basra airport has taken place and there have been no casualties in Iraq for some time. One of Brown's biggest mistakes was his trip to Basra during the Conservative party conference last October, quickly seized upon as him trying to make political capital out of bringing troops home while deflecting attention from the Tories. The opposition also quickly noticed that Brown's announcement was another New Labour classic strategy of re-announcing something already made public. The troops are still stuck in Iraq, serving absolutely no purpose whatsoever except making things easier for the Republicans in an electoral year. That Brown and Bush were far more chummy when he came to visit two weeks' back than at the initial meeting, where Brown was deliberately stand-offish to give the impression that the special relationship between Blair and Bush was not going to be continued showed where the real power lies.

Reid and Brown have already hinted at a new attempt at reaching cross-party consensus over anti-terror legislation. The introduction of intercept evidence, rejected so far, needs to be reconsidered, despite the concerns of the security services. The disappearance of those being held under control orders has only proved what the critics said they would be: both illiberal and ineffective. Rather than derogating from the article 5 of the ECHR, those being held under them should be either prosecuted or set free, it's that simple. Brown is meant to support up to 90 days detention without trial: he could signal a new approach to civil liberties by deciding that 28 days is in fact more than enough, especially combined with offences not yet used that make it illegal to withhold encryption keys. Putting into action the leak at the weekend of the possibility of the lifting of the protest ban within a mile of parliament should also be one of his first acts in office. Scrapping ID cards and reexamining the need for both the children's database and "the Spine" medical records database, indeed the whole National Programme for IT would also be more than welcome.

Starting with the good, Brown is indeed scrapping the ban on protests within a mile of parliament without permission. That he last week claimed this was a freedom that Labour had created when it was one that they had initially taken somewhat blotted the goodwill the gesture originally espoused. As for the rest, I think we all know what happened over 42 days, without needing to go into it yet again. Intercept evidence is still rejected; control orders are still in place; ID cards the same; the children's database and the Spine are still coming; and the National Programme for IT is still the wasteful disaster it was at the time of writing.

Columnists have talked of Brown wanting to make considerable constitutional changes, even as potentially radical as either a bill of rights or an actual constitution. If we're to have either, then the bollocks about "rights and responsibilities" has to be dropped. We have rights: we don't need to be reminded of our responsibilities while exercising them, especially in any document, which is the way the ludicrous debate has been going. Potential electoral reform, also hinted at, would also be welcome. Almost every other election going is now under a form of proportional representation, whether it be for the European parliament or the Scottish/Welsh votes, so let's at the very least have the alternative vote system at Westminster, if not full PR.

Far from the bollocks about "rights and responsibilities" being dropped, it's instead at the very heart of the mostly miserable constitutional changes planned. Electoral reform was briefly alluded to, with the alternative vote mooted, but again it seems to have now been forgotten.

This is without even going into the NHS or further education reform, on which Brown's ideas/plans have also not looked particularly promising. If he means what he says, then full consultation, rather than top-down enforced for the sake of it change must be the order of the day. There's next to no chance that he'll reconsider the huge wastefulness of his pet PFI projects, especially considering how they've helped keep him from breaking his so-called "golden rule" by keeping the costs off the public balance sheet, but it's a scandal waiting to happen, and he ought to act first.

On schools, we've seen the academy system being ever further hyped up, ignoring the inherent problems they have with the sponsors, the more subtle forms of selection, and the throwing of the "troublesome" children onto the other schools. Ed Balls, who despite the brickbats aimed at him by the right is one of the most promising ministers mainly because he stills seems to have an ounce of humanity left in him, recently announced that over 270 schools were for the chop if they didn't improve within 2 years. That a large proportion of these schools aren't failing in the specific sense doesn't seem to matter; we must have permanent revolution in education or we have nothing. On health, while Alan Johnson has mostly been an effective minister, the planned polyclinics are rightly attracting huge amounts of criticism and concern about the patient-GP relationship being broken down. Health is probably the government's biggest success since Brown's takeover: the losses have been turned into surpluses, waiting times are down across the board, but no one really seems to have noticed.

There's much much more, on criminal justice, immigration and the environment which could be discussed, but this ought to be a more than adequate basis on which his promises to be different should be eventually considered. An election sooner rather than later would also be a welcome step, if he's to firmly cement his mandate which not even Labour party members were called on to confirm. A year should be more than enough time to consider whether he's been true to his word. If so, rejoicing then might be in order. I'm not holding my breath.

The only really appreciable change over criminal justice policy was that quietly the reliance on ASBOs has been dropped, with Ed Balls again being fingered as the person responsible, with him wanting a return to a more welfare based approach. That is to be welcomed, but when your entire policy revolves around responding to whichever tabloid demands this or that on crime this week, it's constantly being undermined. The reclassification of cannabis to Class B is the prime example - a move that will simply criminalise yet more young people and those who have been smoking for years, distract the police from dealing with more serious crimes, and will have no effect whatsoever on those who'll carry on using the drug regardless, all because of one of the most hysterical and misinformed tabloid campaigns on "skunk" in years. Again, we all know what happened on the election front, and ever since we've been treated to constant, tedious allusions and remarks about "bottler" Brown.

When Brown became prime minister, I suspect many of us on the left hoped that Brown, while never likely or even able in the circumstances to reach the standard we'd like to set, would at least offer something different to Blair. In a way, he has. The spin has calmed down, we haven't had any outrages on the level of that day in December 06 when Blair was questioned by police while everything possible to distract from it was enacted, or the shameful response to the Israel/Hizbullah/Lebanon war. Brown is infinitely more of a real person that the messianic Blair, but yet it seems the public themselves don't want someone more cerebral, less natural in front of a camera, less charismatic. You look across at David Cameron, and it seems that is what a significant majority now seem to want from their leader: folksy, personable, the common touch while not being the slightest bit common. Brown of course doesn't help by the way he responds to the ribbing of Cameron at every prime minister's questions, the prime minister resembling the proverbial bear with a sore head, who roars at every jab while never landing a blow. In that, Vince Cable was wrong: Brown is Stalin, but he's only feared by his own people, in this case the Labour party itself. Everyone outside of it just pokes endless fun at him.

This difference though doesn't make up for the complete lack of change for those of us who are sympathetic, while it's disastrous for him and Labour among those who aren't. The overwhelming reason why Labour is 20 points behind in the polls isn't for any of the above reasons however, but because the economy has finally turned, and the cupboards are bare. The 10p tax debacle just reinforced that even the two things Brown was meant to be for, the end of child poverty and stealthy redistribution to the poorest, were dispensable when an opportunity to get one over on the Tories presented itself. So it was over 42 days.

The most damning verdict on Brown's first year in power has been given most forcibly not by any commentator or blogger, but by the voters in the Henley by-election. Labour was never going to win, but to come fifth behind both the BNP and the Greens and to lose your deposit could not be a bigger indictment. The hilarious solution to this from Hopi Sen is to donate money to the party, which contains the same amount of logic as putting your money on a horse with three legs. Most of all though, Brown has not just betrayed those who hoped for better things, he's betrayed himself. Blair never had any principles to jettison, and it was clear from the beginning he would say or do anything to get into power. The same is apparent with David Cameron. We thought differently with Gordon Brown, but we were wrong. There's no point changing leader, as no one can stop the ship from sinking. All that's left is to count the days until these bastards are finally out of power and the next set of likely worse bastards are voted in.

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Friday, June 27, 2008 


Generally, if a story's on the front page of the Daily Express, you can guarantee that the slant they've given it isn't warranted. Whether it's blaming Gordon Brown for something he hasn't done, scaremongering about how we're not going to be able to afford anything shortly due to run-away inflation, or its favourite subject now that Diana has finally been shuffled off the front page, how terrible Muslims are.

Today is no exception. Screaming in bold type, the front page informs us that "SNIFFER DOGS OFFEND MUSLIMS". Tom Whitehead, the Express's Home Affairs correspondent, sets the scene:

POLICE sniffer dogs trained to spot terrorists at railway stations may no longer come into contact with Muslim passengers – after complaints that it is against the suspects’ religion.
A report for the Transport Department has raised the prospect that the animals should only touch passengers’ luggage because it is considered “more acceptable”.

The statement in the first paragraph is immediately withdrawn or proved wrong, a typical tabloid tactic, just four paragraphs later:

British Transport Police last night insisted it would still use sniffer dogs – which are trained to detect explosives – with any passengers regardless of faith, but handlers would remain aware of “cultural sensitivities”.

The Express is referring to a series of trials carried out by the Department of Transport on the suitability of various security measures proposed to be installed at railway and underground stations after 7/7. It took me a while to actually find the reports themselves, as they're nowhere to be found on the DoT's press releases page and are hidden away on the site itself, but I did eventually track them down. There were five trials in total, but the one we're interested in is the sniffer dogs one conducted in London and Brighton, which is here, with both the executive summary and the report in full.

To call this document tedious doesn't even begin to cover how dull the report is, which makes even watching paint dry look exciting by comparison. You have to hand it to the Express on that level - they've at least looked at, or looked at the executive summary, noted that Muslims expressed a couple of concerns, and then managed to get an entire story out of it. Out of the full document, which is brimming over with the views of dozens of people who took part in the trials, here are the few Muslims who expressed specific concerns:

Respondents described how if a Muslim had performed Wudu, then it would not be permissible for them to have direct contact with a dog as this would invalidate the Wudu: ‘… we have what we call Wudu, where we’re just washed and clean for pray, and if a dog sniffs [or] comes near us and touches us … we have to do it again … we try to avoid them [dogs] mostly …

I don’t mind dogs in the park or walking near me, but sniffer dogs, I don’t think that’s right, on the station, the way they use it … I think it’s unacceptable.’

(Interview 11: Male, Asian, 45-59 years old, Muslim, Brighton, had not observed trial)

‘… we are not supposed to have dogs, it is against our religion. It is the culture - it is traditional … at home we are not supposed to have dogs. It is like, when you pray, if you touch a dog your prayer will never happen. It is bad. You are not supposed to touch a dog.’

(Interview 13: Male, Asian, 18-24 years old, Muslim, Brighton, had not observed trial)

By way of emphasising this point, it was mentioned that it was not typical for Muslim families to keep dogs as pets. This lack of contact with dogs seemed to add to Muslim respondents’ fear and worry in relation to the use of sniffer dogs:

‘I am a bit frightened … about dogs, but not all dogs. Small dogs are not a problem. But I am not accustomed to caring for a dog … in my country it is not normal to rear a dog in the house … dogs are not acceptable to be in the house.’
(Interview 03: Male, Middle Eastern, 35-59 years old, Muslim, London)

However, there were Muslim respondents who described how it would generally be acceptable for a sniffer dog to examine their luggage, as long as the dog did not touch them. Therefore the way in which the sniffer dogs were used in London would perhaps be more acceptable to Muslims than how they operated in Brighton, due to the greater likelihood for the dogs to make direct contact with people in Brighton, as opposed to solely luggage.

However, there were Muslim respondents who would be unconcerned if they came into contact with a sniffer dog as they described how they did not follow Islam strictly. This was particularly so for men under the age of 45.

And, err, that's it. The report itself doesn't come to any conclusions on whether because of these concerns that sniffer dogs shouldn't be used around Muslims, it only suggests that they might be more comfortable with them only sniffing their luggage.

In fact, the whole Express story is bollocks, because as the Transport minister Tom Harris made clear in his accompanying statement, based on the reports the government has decided that both bag-screening machines and sniffer dogs will be installed at a "handful" of rail and underground stations from now on. Typically, the view of the first two men who objected are also not necessarily representative - I know of a number of Muslim families who do have dogs to begin with - and their main concern was not that dogs sniffing them was against their religion completely, but concerned in case they had washed in preparation of praying. As some doubtless travel on the underground to get to the mosque to pray, this is understandable.

Back to the Express:

In the Muslim faith, dogs are deemed to be spiritually “unclean”. But banning them from touching passengers would severely restrict their ability to do their job.

Except they're not going to be banned from touching passengers. This article does however give that impression while not claiming directly that they are to be banned.

Critics said the complaints were just the latest example of minority religions trying to force their rules and morals on British society.

Tory MP Philip Davies said: “As far as I am concerned, everyone should be treated equally in the face of the law and we cannot have people of different religious groups laying the law down. I hope the police will go about their business as they would do normally.”

How on earth is seeking the views of Muslims on sniffer dogs and two individuals objecting possibly "minority religions trying to force their rules and morals on British society"? Again, this is a classic tabloid ploy: say "critics" when critics equal the hack himself and then quote someone who's been phoned up and only has the slightest idea of what he's commenting on, and wham, have we got a front page for you!

The article does in fact go on to make most of this clear, quotes someone from the Islamic Human Rights Commission (a laughable organisation) and then a spokesman and Tom Harris himself, all of whom make clear this isn't a problem, but the article's main point has been made with just the first few paragraphs and the banner headline. As someone on Mail Watch comments, he later overheard two colleagues remarking "now they can’t use sniffer dogs on Muslims." Job's a good 'un.

Seeing as we're here, we might as well also carry some of the comments on the story to get a flavour of the sort of thoughts it's inspired:

So it is culturally unacceptable to Muslims to have sniffer dogs get too close? I think that it is culturally and criminally wrong to carry bombs on the Underground and murder 52 human beings and destroy the lives of hundreds of others. What comes first in any sane society; the safety of its citizens to go about their normal lives, or the cultural sensibilities of those who would kill them? I notice that sniffer dogs are quite acceptable to Muslims when they are being used to detect people trapped in building rubble following earthquakes!

welcome to the new longer Gran Britannia.
My dog is seriously offended on HIS religious grounds! HOw dare they say this creature of God is unclean. He insists on a bath everyday! Doggy perfume and brushes his teeth and well...he has lots of little girlie doggie dates.

Seriously though.....this whole muslim demand thing is becoming a very unfunny joke.
So sorry to hear they maybe offended. Our country and our safety comes first. At least it should be the first priority. If they don't like the rules they have the freedom to leave. Heathrow is situated on M4 so hurry now and don't slam the door on the way out. Bye now!!!

Muslims represent 3% of the UK's population yet with their constant demands act more like 90%. Time for them to put up or shut up, there are plenty of countries around who practice their faith though they might find their freedoms curtailed when they get there.

... for a crack down! Are police and goverment gone insane! If muslims object to any laws and practises LEAVE Britain NOW! Or maybe not? Because where you are from there is no such a freedom and you can't object and complain about nothing! BAN women wearing face covers, DEPORT anyone who practisise hatred of non muslims or any other religion! WAKE UP BRITAIN! PS. I don't hate anyone but this is going to far now and will get worse if not dealt with. That includes all other religions which are trying to impose their wievs and practises by force!

his was once a great country that had the freedom of speech,luckily we still have one great freedom left ....the right to LEAVE,so if you don't like our way of life then a.go home and b.tell your muslim brothers not to bother coming here in the future.
you people are slowly turning the people of this great country against you,your own doing.

You get the idea.

In an odd way, you almost have to admire the forces at work here. It would have been easier, like the other papers and the BBC, to simply report the minister's statement and some of the executive summary of the trials and not mention the irrelevant point that a couple of Muslims who had been consulted raised some legitimate issues which have made no real difference to the end result. Instead, the Express took the laudable decision to reject the simple option, and attack a minority simply because it would make for a good story. The truth doesn't enter into it. Possible incitement to racial or religious hatred? Who really cares?

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Thursday, June 26, 2008 

Davis and the other Haltemprice and Howden candidates.

Keeping with the despairing theme, it's hard not to now that we can see who's standing against David Davis, the full list of which is here.

There seems to be a lot of people quite content with throwing £500 away, doesn't there? Anyone having second thoughts is more than welcome to send the cash straight to me, where I can guarantee it will be put to a better use.

With the list now known, it does seem apparent that the chance of a genuine debate over civil liberties has precipitately declined. While it's impossible to know just how many of the independents are serious candidates, the inclusion of David Icke means instantly that the whole thing is just bound to descend into instant farce: great fun for the tabloids, who'll doubtless be following him around the whole time, not so good for anything approaching a defining moment, but I suppose it's possible we could be surprised.

David Davis's decision was always going to be a risk, a noble idea that rested on Labour having the guts to put up a candidate to challenge him. There may be sound political reasons for not doing so, but the cowardice it also displays, regardless of whether the candidate would have had any chance of winning or not is of a piece with Labour's current predicament, unprepared to test the electorate's actual support for almost any of the recent policies to have emerged from No.10. After all, according to the polls the public overwhelming support 42 days, so where's the harm in taking the debate back to the constituencies themselves rather than relying upon the bribery and bullshit of Westminster? The problem is that Labour is absolutely terrified of losing anything, and the partisanship of some Labour-supporting bloggers, mocking the initiative from the beginning even if they opposed 42 days showed the contempt that has arisen over the last few years for the views of the public when not asked specific questions and giving specific answers.

Still, of the other candidates that are standing, it's good to see that the Greens have put up a candidate, which would genuinely make me think twice about voting Davis if I lived in Haltemprice and Howden. It's also good to see that Davis has made clear that he considers them the only serious opposition, which means that some good, however small, still might emerge from the contest itself rather than from the simple principle of giving up your job for something you believe in. Also serious though I would imagine are the Socialist Equality Party, who despite being a tiny far-left ultra-Trotskyist sect punch way above their weight online through their World Socialist Website. They're slightly over-the-top in already claiming that Labour's anti-terror legislation has "established the apparatus of a police state in Britain," and are as hard left as you might imagine, but judging by the apparent dearth of other serious candidates, and the failure of the SWP/Respect/Left List to stand a candidate, are most likely to pick up the few left of Labour votes there are.

After being so enthusiastic to begin with over Davis's decision, it was always likely that reality was going to bite back if Labour abrogated from defending itself. It still does mark a watershed in British politics, and one which still might yet not fall flat on its face.

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Beheading videos and sillily overreacting.

Sometimes you just have to simply despair at the overreaction where anything slightly related to terrorism comes to public notice:

Video clips of al-Qaida-inspired terrorists beheading people have been found on the mobile phone of a 12-year-old boy, a senior police officer revealed yesterday.

The footage was found by teachers who reported the child, who is white, to police after he sent clips to his classmates.

The discovery was revealed yesterday to show how children of all religions could be attracted to al-Qaida. West Yorkshire's chief constable, Sir Norman Bettison, said terrorist propaganda was spreading like a virus, and warned that every Muslim child in Britain could be at risk.

This ludicrous interpretation is based on the premise that jihadist propaganda is so dangerous that anyone so much as watching it is likely to be attracted to the ideology behind it. I'd argue that the absolute opposite is the case, at least when it comes to the snuff films that were for a while all the rage in Iraq; why else would al-Zawahiri himself have apparently ordered that al-Qaida in Iraq stop releasing them, other than because of the revulsion they were causing and continue to cause except in the most bloodthirsty of the gorehounds? ISI as a result switched to the slightly more humane execution method, at least when they were filming them, of a point blank shot to the head. A recent raid in Iraq itself that turned up a treasure trove of media releases, if you could call them that, revealed that AQI/ISI had continued to record most of the beheadings which were carried out, but hadn't released them, which as the account noted was close to the level of documentation which the Khmer Rouge gave to those that they murdered. Similarly, Mullah Omar, the erstwhile head of the Taliban recently made gave more or less the same edict, calling for an end to the beheadings of "spies" and other unfortunates caught up in the anarchy of Afghanistan/the lawless regions of Pakistan, presumably because of the outcry over the release of a video showing a child beheading a man.

Rather, the beheading videos just show the barbarity of the likes of AQ/ISI, especially when so many of those executed, rather than being Westerners, were Iraqis that had committed the crime of "spying" for the occupiers or working for either the police or Iraqi army. Two of the most horrific executions were in fact not carried about by al-Qaida in Iraq/MSC/ISI but by Ansar al-Sunnah, which has now reverted to its original moniker of Ansar al-Islam, a group with an almost indistinguishable Salafi takfirist ideology from ISI, but which has never joined the ISI for reasons unknown. The first, and one of the most notorious was of 12 Nepalese cooks. Only one was beheaded, but the deliberately appalling way in which he was killed has stuck in the memory of many due to the killer only initally severing the man's trachea, leaving him unable to breathe, his windpipe making a chilling, blood-curdling noise as he struggles for breath, before he finally succumbs, some 25 seconds later. The other 11 were lackadaisically shot, almost as an afterthought, with hardly any of them being killed instantly, or even approaching quickly. The reaction in Nepal could have been predicted; Kathmandu saw its two mosques attacked, and riots across the city. Seif Adnan Kanaan was the second, who in the video says he works at Mosul airport, where he also supplied Americans with beverages. He is later seen being beheaded slowly, before the masked man cuts deep enough to sever the jugular, leading the killer to pull his head back, with the blood gushing from his neck in a torrent. Like in many of the other recorded murders, his head is then placed on his back. If anyone is seriously attracted to such groups and their mindset after viewing either, then their psychiatrists are going to be incredibly happy.

Instead, what has obviously happened in this case is that the boy has been browsing the numerous video websites with a slightly more challenging selection of delights than YouTube, or visited one of the similarly vast selection of gore websites that also exists. He and his friends have already doubtless browsed the porn sites, and he's just gone the next inquisitive step up. His mistake appears to have been in getting caught and someone in the chain of command completely overreacting; this has nothing whatsoever to do with any attraction to a terrorist group.

He [Bettison] raised the example of the 12-year-old during a speech at the Association of Chief Police Officers annual conference in Liverpool. The boy has been referred to a project to divert people from extremism before they turn violent. His parents are not Muslim.

Sigh. This boy didn't need referring to any spurious project; he needed to be treated like anyone else at that age examining death and life's extremes which the internet provides in spades. Yes, he shouldn't be viewing such things at all at that age, but that's no reason for him to be treated as a potential terrorist simply because he's seen such videos. The whole thing comes across as some grotesque charade, to be seen to be doing something, especially in its apparent view that Muslims are more susceptible simply because they share the religion, as if they too aren't disgusted and turned off by some of the brutality recorded by insurgents in Iraq and elsewhere.

Jihadist propaganda is potentially a worry, but that it is only really likely to be sought out by individuals already inquisitive about the current conflicts where mujahideen groups are fighting shows the limited reach it is always likely to have. Influencing those in the West is only one of the aims of such releases, whether they be potential jihadists or the public at large, in order to give the impression that such wars can never be won against such hostile enemies, but the main aim by them has always been an insular one, to keep the jihadi community itself salving at the bit, while showing off the group's own achievements. At the same time it also provides those monitoring such groups with an invaluable insight into them, one which almost balances out the negative effects of their release in the first place. This is why legislation against them, something which has been threatened, needs to be opposed. A change in attitude from complete horror and the "something must be done" attitude whenever someone also gives into temptation and inquisitiveness also wouldn't go amiss either.

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Infantile gesture politics.

I have been meaning to write a post on Zimbabwe, but with one thing and another and then the conviction of our new friend Martyn Gilleard I haven't quite managed it.

Very little however sums up our complete impotence and increasing reliance on gesture politics than the decision to strip Mugabe of his knighthood. Part of the growing myth surrounding Mugabe, putting him alongside other demonised autocrats and dictators once feted or at least supported in the West has been of our own creation, especially over the initial reaction to the seizing of the white farms. Although short-sighted and subsequently the root of the downfall of the economy as they were distributed not to those who had the skills to develop them but to the Zanu-PF hierarchy, few pointed out that far from the majority of the white farmers growing food crops, most had grown tobacco, not often chosen as a source of nourishment. Zimbabwe may once have been the bread basket of southern Africa, but tobacco was the major crop.

Removing his knighthood in fact almost resembles a counter-intutive move. Here's a man continuing to fight under the pretence that the opposition intends to hand over the country to Britain, making much of his own struggle and that of his party to overcome colonial rule, yet all along he had been recognised by the British as worthy of such a high accolade! This was something to use against the demagogue, to stress his links to the country he professes to hate, and instead we're doing him the favour of snatching it from him. While Morgan Tsvangiari is again forced to seek refuge in the Dutch embassy, desperately attempting to not just save his country but potentially his own life, we're further snatching the carpet from under him, or working on other such pointless initatives as extending the sanctions which up until now have no effect whatsoever. There is no simple solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe, but the current approach has not just failed, it's been another foreign policy debacle to rival so many others of recent years.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008 

More on Martyn Gilleard and trawling the internet sewer.

Rather unsurprisingly, Martyn Gilleard was today handed down a sentence of 16 years, 5 for the 39,000 images and videos of child abuse, some of which were rated at the most extreme scale, and 11 for terrorism offences. In the current circumstances, that was to be expected. Whether Gilleard was that dangerous, and like some of the jihadists imprisoned more of a fantasist with ludicrous ideas than someone about to go out and use his nail bomb grenades is impossible to tell. Few however will shed tears over his lengthy incarceration.

More interesting is the response by those on the far-right to Gilleard's sentence and the thoroughly embarrassing revelation that apart from being someone allegedly prepared to start a race war while being the member of a number of neo-Nazi organisations, is that he was that far more hated individual: the paedophile. The British People's Party, of which Gilleard was allegedly the Goole and East Yorkshire organiser, seen yesterday with the BPP's National Advisor Eddy Morrison, has produced a further statement to their original one. If you were expecting a condemnation of Gilleard's storing of explosives and his potential to resort to violence, then you'd be disappointed:

Following the BPP announcement that Martin Gilleard had been summarily expelled from the BPP (see 16th June entry on this site), the BPP would like to re-state their total abhorrence and repugnance of this individual who in no way represents the thinking of any decent White Nationalist.

Had the full extent of his criminal activities been clearly known to the BPP then he would have been expelled at the time of his arrest. As it was, no mention was made of the most of the charges against him to us, either in the press or by Gilleard himself. On learning of the full nature of this mans criminal activities the BPP acted swiftly in condemning and expelling him.

Not then because he was a man who talked of bombing mosques and killing Muslims, but because he also had huge amounts of child pornography hidden away on his hard drive.

Gilleard was also a member of the NF and we know they also condemn his shocking agenda.
Gilleard seems to have associated himself with just about every group on the Nationalist scene.

The problem is, no organisation from the BPP to the BNP has any way to know in advance the nature of a person who joins. Anyone can join and in 99% of cases these people turn out to be decent, level headed patriots.

He doesn't also seem to have been the organiser for any of the other groups though, does he? It is of course understandable that the BPP couldn't have known that Gilleard was a paedophile; they doubtless knew however of his violent views on those other than his own colour. Talking bullshit to your nationalist buddies is of course a requisite for being a member of the far-right; acting on it is something different.

However, as in the case of Gilleard, complete sociopaths do sometimes get in and it is only when their activities come to light that action can be taken.

In this SICK SOCIETY every organisation - including all the major parties - has a minor percentage of these abominable people. This holds true for every group - not just political ones. Every day our papers are full of cases involving such people who are also doctors, lawyers, teachers, clergy etc - it is NOT an isolated phenomenon and one solely attached the the Nationalist Movement.

Christ, are we being defensive much? Few people are going to claim that the far-right is full of nonces based on one case. That it shows up the far-right as being only a few steps away from going from passive aggressive racism to potential terrorism and murder of people simply because of their skin colour or religion is something that the BPP doesn't seem to be so worried about.

The BPP clearly states it is vigorously opposed to any form of illegal activity of the sort Gilleard has been found guilty of. Any member who involves themselves in planning such illegal activity will be subject to immediate expulsion.

The BPP is a legally registered, law abiding party and our path to power is through legal demonstrations, meetings, magazines, printed propaganda and elections.
Gilleard deserves the stiffest of sentences for all the charges,whatever their nature, he has been found guilty of.

Oh, we did get to it eventually.

The BPP's real views can however be tracked down if you want to dip deep enough into the cesspool which is the various neo-Nazi websites, forums and guestbooks that litter the internet. One of the major hangouts of some of those to the right of the British National Party is the Blood and Honour international website, which features a "Combat 18" guestbook. That probably no one on there is actually a member of Combat 18, which itself has long been rumoured to be a security services creation doesn't really matter. If you don't really want to read unabashed racism and various unpleasantness it might be an idea to stop reading now:

You should bear in mind that its not just Nationalist eyes that are watching these sites this week (police & media) and we should all bear that in mind before hurling accusations at each other.

Gilleard himself has created this unique & ugly scenario by not being honest with comrades from here and the BPP/NF!!! Infighting and aimless finger pointing is both futile and counter productive at a time when we really should all be standing together as a united front against the media & police spotlight!

The main reason i didnt put the moco message on here was a legal reason but thats right out the window now along with my anonymity!

My main complaint here is with a so called justice system that can hand down an 11yr sentence for Nationalist activities but only sees fit to sentence him to 5yrs for the kidporn!!! What sort of message is that for a court to be putting out??? Is Nationalism twice as offensive as paedophelia??? Thats what the ZOG courts seem to be suggesting by giving Martyn twice as long for his political crimes than he got for his kidporn activities???

Quite, I mean, after all, who cares about someone who thinks it's time to start the fire by killing Muslims and bombing mosques when they've downloaded such abject sickness from the internet? Nationalism, even such far-right nationalism, isn't always synonymous with such hatred or potential violence, but you won't find any condemnation of Gilleard for that.

Then you have the nut-job conspiracy theorists:

@ Aryan, USA, I agree with you regarding the ZOG, which is behind gay, multiracial and paedophilic pornography, aimed at reducing our White Aryan Race and making money, but officially, the system is against child porn (and "terrorism" etc.) and in my opinion, we shouldn't blame paedophilia on Jews because these numerous paedophiles in Europe or elsewhere are sick race traitors and monsters themselves and don't deserve any kind of sympathy or gentleness. They know what they do.

The ZOG, for those not up on neo-Nazi conspiracy theories, is short for Zionist occupied government.

Most interesting here however is someone attempting to be wise and exposing the rest of the posters for supporting someone who turned out not to be a "political prisoner" but actually a nonce:

All I have to say is that we all should be very careful about jumping to conclusions whenever someone is picked up by the police for something and not automatically assume that he is a political prisoner.

When this whole thing with Martyn first erupted, several individuals on here got behind this guy and started kissing his ass, foremost among these was HJ, who used Martyn's situation to advance his agenda. Now HJ has turned on his buddy very quickly once the truth is known- if anything he should keep his mouth shut in shame for being such an idiot in the first place.

I was criticized for calling HJ out on this back when he was posting photoshopped pictures of Martyn... I was told how great Hey Jew was because he wrote letters in support of Martyn. Well, you have your foot in your mouth now, don't you? This is why I never blindly jump on the bandwagon to support someone until all the details are out in public.

Get smart comrades.

and the response:

Admin Comment: Numerous people from this Guestbook supported Gilleard, not just Hey Jew! It was never an issue as to whether he was a political prisoner, he was, the issue is that the other charges had not been made public until the 16th June 2008. At this point, all ties were severed with Gilleard from his known supporters. You're most definitely barking up the wrong tree and sounding a tad sanctimonious at the same time. I know of six people off this Guestbook who you're similarly labeling as arse-lickers and I take exception to it.

A couple more that are interesting or revealing here:

Nevertheless, It is not the end of the world. Gilleard didn't actually rape anyone.....unlike the immigrants that enter Britain everyday. We need a sense of propotion here. Immigants rape everyday. I've never read read anything where a Nationalist has raped. But the left are full of rapist.....

It's really abominable, exasperating, disappointing and painful. The more I look at this paedophilic child porn loving monster, the more it reminds me of a sick mongrel subhuman. What a fucking paedophilic cunt. This person is a liar, a worthless criminal and schizophrenic pervert, and I really hate and despise this asshole. I can't believe I was fooled like many other comrades on this GB and actually trusted this paedophile and even sent him a letter, but we didn't know this thing had a double life. Now that I know its true face, I'm terribly ashamed and am very sorry for supporting this evil child porn loving bastard. He wanted me and others to get in 'touch', but I wouldn't touch this thing if it was on fire. Fuck you, Martyn! Hang yourself and burn in hell, you bastard! Fucking paedophilic waste of oxygen! This person is the worst enemy of National Socialism and all aryan children, worse than all Jews, reds, muslims and niggers together! I'm fucking ashamed and very very disappointed. You never know who you support.

Gilleard didn't rape anyone, but he was quite all right with the idea of killing Muslims, should it ever take his fancy. Murder when it involves "immigants" is perfectly OK.

It wouldn't do to not look in on that other repository of knuckle-draggers, Stormfront:

The media are going to have a field day with this.

I wonder how long it will be before any make the point that under a National Socialist regime this abomination against nature would be done away with.

I would not advise holding our breath while we wait for that.

Well, today's your lucky day "raffles": consider it mentioned. Not really sure that anyone's going to be particularly won over by the fact that you'd treat paedophiles harsher than murderers, but hey ho.

This is probably the closest that anyone on any of these sites has come to condemning anything other than Gilleard's penchant for children:

Whilst politically I don't agree with the more extreme stuff that is spouted by some on the far right I am still very shocked about that no one ever shopped this pervert.

Yup, that's as close as it comes.

This is serious stuff, they have mentioned three organisations on the news, two current and one disbanded. Those who have named the parties cannot be allowed to spew their crap without comment from senior party officials. Disassociation is imperitive, the message must be strong and everyone must hear or read it.

It is however difficult to disassociate from someone who many supported prior to his sexual predilection becoming known. It perhaps says something about how the far-right in this country has progressed that rather than being worried about the fact that year by year their views are becoming more and more abhorrent to a ever higher majority, they're more concerned about how one man, who just happened to be a paedophile as well as a potentially violent extremist, might derail their entry to the mainstream. Something to think about.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008 

The paedophile Nazi nail bomber.

Martyn Gilleard only had the 39,000 indecent images of children. Oh, and the four nail bombs under his bed. Not to mention the knives, swords, handcuffs, and print-outs on how to make bombs and poisons. Then there's the writings on the impotence of the far-right for not carrying through on the often talked about online ideals of bombing mosques, killing Muslims and so forth. Just in case anyone thought he wasn't serious and just some lone figure, he was also a member of the National Front, the White Nationalist Party (although that might be expired as the WNP morphed into the Nationalist Alliance) and the British People's Party. Finally, he also posed in front of a AWB flag (also taken up as the Blood and Honour group's logo), although doubtless he's never been to South Africa or has any links with the country whatsoever.

Gilleard with Eddy Morrison, National Advisor of the British People's Party.

It's the British People's Party that's integral to this story however. According to Indymedia, far from being just some ordinary member of yet another split from a split from a split, Gilleard was the BPP's Goole and East Yorkshire organiser. Handily, Indymedia also has a photograph of Gilleard with Eddy Morrison, the "National Advisor of the BPP". The BPP's leader is Kevin Watmough, who also runs the Redwatch website, and whom as Indymedia report, was forced to protest that Gilleard had not been grassed to the police by any members of the BPP. Perhaps that's true, but just in case the BPP and others until recently had pages up making clear their support for Gilleard.

Sadly, it seems that Gilleard never saw fit to mention that far from just being raided for his equipment gathered in case the imminent race war breaks out, he was first targeted because of his predilection for children. If there's one thing that the neo-Nazis hate more than someone with a skin colour other than white, it's a paedophile of any colour. Understandably, the BPP quickly changed its tune over its "martyr", as evidenced by this page:

Having just learnt (today) the exact nature of the charges against Martyn Gilleard in Leeds Crown Court, he has been summarily expelled from the British People's Party and we strongly advise that no White Nationalist should give him any further support. The BPP has been lied too regarding this former member's charges and has acted swiftly to remove him from the membership rolls. We advise all patriots to withdraw any and all support from this man in the light of what has been revealed today (but is subject to court restrictions of reporting), and also be advised that this man should never again be allowed into any decent Nationalist group.
The National Executive Council,
The British People's Party

Not, you understand, because he dreamed of bombing mosques, but because he was a nonce.

Seeing as this blog has been notably sniffy in the past about some of the scaremongering over takfirist jihadists and the threat they pose, it should be pointed out that Gilleard was hardly about to become the next David Copeland; his "nail bombs" were 35mm film canisters with nails wrapped around the outside, intended to be used similarly to hand grenades. Like those he castigated as being all mouth and no trousers, it seems doubtful that Gilleard himself was going to actually act on his rhetoric, especially when surrounded by such cowards as those within the BPP.

It does bear repeating though that if this had been a Muslim found with nail bombs under his bed, thoughts on starting a jihad in this country against the indigenuous population along with photographs of him in front of al-Qaida's or the ISI's various banners, we might have heard rather more about it at a national level than we did prior to this man's trial. The real worry with the extreme far-right and its more belligerent members is not so much whether they'll go further than Gilleard and actually bomb mosques etc, but the response which will come afterwards. Their real agenda is not to kill Muslims, but to attempt to set off a reprise of the riots of 2001, albeit on a grander scale than before and through which they can attempt to benefit from the inevitable fallout. That could potentially have far more serious repercussions in the long run than any attempt by the next generation of jihadists to emulate the horrors of 7/7, and while we're obsessed with finding insights into the radicalisation of young Muslims, we also need to be aware of the anger building on the exact opposite side of the spectrum.

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In every headline we are reminded that this is not home for us.

Sometimes you just have to love the Daily Mail and its wonderful sense of encouragement, optimism and by no means exclusive view of exactly what makes you British. You can almost sense the touch of the manic depressive in whoever wrote the headline, starting off encouraged, falling to uncertainty and finally to utter despair. A BRITISH WINNER, but it's only day one, and in our view she's not really British anyway, and she's probably lower class, and not very good looking with poor dress sense too...

And so forth. Now Tim Henman, he knew how to lose a game in typically middle class fashion....

Somewhat related, Anton Vowl looks at the Mail's not at all sexist or demeaning coverage of the women's game, and also the execrable Liz Jones (who has a rather excellent Wikipedia entry).

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Scum-watch: Making it up as it goes along.

In its latest leader on how our brave boys and girls are saving the entire world from Islamic tyranny, the Sun is now attempting to tie together the Taliban and the Iranians into one homogeneous bloc:

The whole world — especially the Afghan people — will pay a price if the Iranian-backed Taliban prevail.

Ah yes, the Iranian-backed Taliban. It doesn't seem to matter that Iran helped and co-operated with the overthrow of the Taliban back in 2001, having long funded the Northern Alliance, while our other friends in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, both funded and recognised the Talibs, but hey, who cares about the past? After all, Bush rewarded the Iranian help by casting them in the axis of evil, and from then on we haven't really seen eye to eye.

The claim of Iranian support or backing for the Taliban-led insurgency (although how much of the original Taliban actually remains, with there being both paid fighters and the wandering jihadists now also joining the mix) is based almost wholly on claims that they've been supplying the same IEDsEFPs) that the likes of the Hizbullah Brigades in Iraq use against the Americans to the fighters in Afghanistan. That this in itself proves nothing, as there are as many arms dealers in Iran as there are here doesn't seem to matter; Iranian weaponry in the hands of anyone fighting against the Americans or British is cast-iron proof of personal Iranian-backing for them. That most of the funding for al-Qaida and the Taliban, that which doesn't come out of the opium crop which they originally destroyed only to turn to once we made our blessed intervention is donated by Pakistani and Saudi businessmen again is one of those facts that just can't be spoken.

Still, it gives the impression to the Sun-reader who won't think of inquiring further that all those Muslims are one and the same and equally dangerous. Just how long will it be until those dastardly Iranians give the Taliban a nuclear weapon? Buy the Sun tomorrow to find out!

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Monday, June 23, 2008 

We are ruled over by vermin pt. 94.

Following the last post, sometimes it would be nice if it didn't require the accusation of racism for someone to either be fired or lose their job. According to Jacqui Smith, as long as homosexuals in Iran are discreet, there isn't a "real risk of discovery of, or adverse action against [them]," hence why it's perfectly reasonable to deport those seeking refuge from there back.

It's easy to reminisce and wear rose-tinted spectacles over the Labour party's past, how it was the home of Bevan and Attlee, and even now of those who have since blotted their copy books, such as Peter Hain and Harriet Harman, with their campaigning pasts, but when you compare such past alumni to the utter dregs we're currently dealing with, whether it be Smith, whose only previous job was a teacher, or the likes of Andy Burnham and James Purnell, who don't seem to have any past at all prior to their becoming researchers or employed by other MPs, it's hard not to come across all lachrymose over a party that is now being so unutterably betrayed by its current leaders.

The sheer wrongness of Smith's comment, backed up or not by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, tells you much about the party's current trajectory. As long as you don't bring any attention to yourself, you know, such as dressing up similarly to Big Gay Al, you'll be fine in Tehran. Don't let the punishments for being caught give you the wrong impression that homosexuality in Iran is frowned up: those 100 lashes for the rubbing of the "thighs and buttocks" are simply the state joining in the fun. After all, who are we to decide where the pleasure ends and the pain begins? As for the death penalty, which is the ultimate sentence for homosexuality, it's not employed very often, so don't worry your pretty little heads about it. We've more important things to worry about, like the next set of figures detailing how many asylum claims were made and how many of those whose claims failed were deported. The Sun and the Daily Mail get rather sniffy if the figures don't fall enough for their liking.

Similarly, it doesn't seem to matter that Smith's comments rather undermine the whole point of the asylum system: that it provides sanctuary for those who do raise their heads above the parapet in nations bordering on totalitarianism, in an attempt to not just improve standards for themselves but for their nation and people as a whole, but who might eventually be forced to leave or face death, imprisonment and torture themselves. You could imagine the outrage if an MDC activist fleeing Zimbabwe now after having his or her family killed was then subsequently told on reaching Britain that they'd have been perfectly all right as long if they'd been discreet in the first place, or would be as long as they didn't bring any attention to themselves upon their return. It's almost reminiscent of the tale of the German communists recounted in Antony Beevor's Berlin who proudly showed their Soviet liberators their party cards which they'd kept hidden since the darkness descended in 1933; that the Ivans then proceeded to rape their wives and daughters despite this might well have made them think that they should have been more discreet also.

New Labour's hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil approach is also remarkably similar to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's own, having famously commented that there are no gay people in Iran. Jacqui Smith would like that too; then they wouldn't come over here demanding sanctuary in the first place. I, like some others, am starting to count the days until this shower of shits are finally thrown out of office. I might then have to start numbering the days until the shower of possibly even worse shits in the Conservatives are subject to the same treatment, but at least the Labour party in the meantime might finally be forced to sort itself out.

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Taking your ball while sending someone else home.

You're fired!

The sacking of James McGrath, Boris Johnson's chief political adviser, probably tells us less about whether he's racist, whether Boris is racist or whether it was a politically correct decision made out of blind panic than it does about Johnson's determination to not go down the route that did damage over time to Ken Livingstone - his tendency to make off the cuff remarks which he then refused to apologise for.

As to whether it was racist, to begin with, my immediate thought was that no, it wasn't, and that it was a ridiculous decision to force him out over it. However, as Sunny reminds us, the remark which McGrath came back with in response to Darcus Howe's own daft comment that some from Caribbean nations might return following Johnson's election, was the old response to any complaint from an ethnic minority - if you don't like it, you can always get out and go back home, as if here wasn't their home. With McGrath himself hailing from Australia, it's quite possible that he isn't aware of this sort of legacy, and that it was a simple off the cuff response to what was a hardly a penetrating critique of Johnson. I still don't believe it was racist, but I can quite understand why some have been offended or at the least perturbed by it.

It's curious then as to why Johnson, McGrath and David Cameron, whom Johnson apparently personally consulted before acting didn't just do what his predecessor Ken notoriously serially failed to do - to simply apologise and make clear that no offence was intended. Instead, what they did to begin with was to shoot the messenger, McGrath firing off a response to and Marc Wadsworth's piece that objects to the title of the piece, "Blacks should 'go home if they don't like Mayor', and which is probably warranted, as it doesn't provide the context that the actual text does. Doubtless the Johnson campaign didn't object so fiercely however when the Evening Standard did this on a number of occassions during the contest itself. The next step was to legally threaten the Guardian, and then finally once McGrath was history, Johnson's own statement said that his comment "was taken out of context and distorted."

The whole incident is reminisicent of Cameron swiftly moving to sack Patrick Mercer after he made similarly misjudged but also not racist comments about what routinely happens in the army. More offensive in that was what was not so well covered: that Mercer also said that ethnic minority soldiers sometimes covered up for their own laziness by claiming that they were discriminated against. It's not so much the merits of each case however but the ruthlessness with which Cameron acted in both cases - Mercer was out before anyone could defend him, and so it was also with McGrath. This certainly doesn't seem to be because Cameron was worried about the impact of being accused of giving succour to racism, no matter how relatively benign, but because it affects what he's really after: power.

It's not a new revelation that the Conservatives were terrified that Boris was going to do what Boris does best and make a huge cock-up during his campaign for Mayor, hence why he was so careful and covered by his advisers and spin doctors during it. With him now Mayor, they're similarly worried that in the two years to the next election that he's going to do something that will allow Labour to paint the entire Cameron revolution as either a sham or as incompetent; what they didn't expect was that one of his own advisers would make it, or do it so quickly. Hence his almost immediate ejection, even if it would raise the Tory roots in short-lived anger over "politicial correctness". Much was the same over Patrick Mercer, but it was quickly forgotten. Johnson and Cameron's thinking and hope is that it will be the same this time round, and there's nothing to suggest that anything else will be the case.

McGrath's "crime" is probably far less inciteful that another of Livingstone's jibes, which is actually remarkably similar, when he said of the Reuben brothers, "[P]erhaps if they’re not happy here they can go back to Iran and try their luck with ayatollahs, if they don’t like the planning regime or my approach." Some at the time suggested that was another of Livingstone's antisemitic remarks, as the Reubens were Jewish, which was slightly far fetched. As far as I'm aware, Livingstone again didn't apologise. In both cases, a simple "sorry" and a clarification would have sufficed rather than a instant dismissal. What is apparent however is that Cameron and Johnson don't really care that much about racism; what they care most about is their own political careers. Anything that threatens them must be liquated post haste.

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