Thursday, June 30, 2011 

Raed Salah and the impossibility of making up our minds.

One of the sad certainties of becoming involved in the Israel/Palestine debate is that whichever side you're the more sympathetic towards you'll quickly find yourself in the company of those with deeply unpleasant conspiratorial or political opinions. Whether it's Melanie Phillips, confident a second genocide is just around the corner and this country is going through the period before a pogrom, or any of the innumerable pro-Palestinian activists that give a highly misleading impression of Israel as an apartheid state, not to mention those who think that giving complete support to Hizbullah or Hamas is going to bring a political settlement nearer, trying to remain above the gutter is a difficult task.

It's fair to say then that Sheikh Raed Salah doesn't exactly have the cleanest of hands. To the great embarrassment of the home secretary, if not the UK Borders Agency, Salah despite being banned from entering the country, his presence deemed by to be "not conducive to the public good" managed to sail through security at Heathrow and apparently completely unaware of how he wasn't meant to be here, went on to attend the various meetings he'd been invited to.

Whether Salah's feat was related to how almost no one had heard of him two weeks ago is difficult to tell. The leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel and former mayor of a small city on the border of the West Bank, it's probably best to start with the undisputed facts. In 2005 he admitted to "security offences", having been held on remand for 2 years charged with "membership in and support for a terrorist organization, contact with a foreign agent and money laundering" and was sentenced to three years in prison. In 2009 he was arrested, accused of inciting a riot during protests at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. While there doesn't appear to be any verbatim accounts of what he said, a judge agreed that "his presence could be inciting" and excluded him from the Israeli capital for 30 days. Finally, last year he served a further five months in prison after being convicted of spitting in a police officer's face in 2007 during a protest against excavations near Jerusalem's Mugrabi Gate.

It doesn't seem to be any of these offences though that led to the Home Office deciding he couldn't visit this country. It was almost certainly down to the far more contentious claims on what he's said in the past and which his supporters and he vehemently deny. Easy to verify is that in an interview with Ha'aretz in 2003 he declared that martyrs do indeed receive 70 virgins in paradise (along with the less reported 70 chosen members of his family and friends) and that homosexuality is a crime, although he doesn't elaborate on what the punishment should be. Harry's Place among others have also quoted from Memri's report on anti-Semitism and the myths surrounding 9/11 (PDF), which has Salah repeating the conspiracy theory regarding the "4,000 Jews" who were somehow forewarned of the attacks and didn't go into work at the WTC that day, although he's hardly unique in giving credence to that particular lie.

Most serious of all the accusations made against Saleh is that he invoked the ancient anti-Semitic blood libel slur during a speech in 2007. It also seems to be the one least likely to be accurate. Harry's Place sourced it to a Ha'aretz report which suggested he had been charged with incitement to racism and violence following a speech given during the 2007 protests at the Mugrabi gate. The problem for those claiming this proves Saleh's latent racism is that there doesn't appear to have been any follow-up, either correcting the original or reporting on Saleh's conviction/acquittal. Indeed, considering that Saleh was jailed for his assault on a police officer which occurred around the same time, it more than suggests that the press release issued on behalf of Saleh by the Middle East Monitor, claiming that he was only questioned about the speech at the time and never charged could be nearer the truth. This obviously doesn't mean Saleh definitively didn't make such a statement; it does however cast major doubt on it, doubts which Harry's Place and the journalists who seem to have based their reports on their posts don't seem to have even considered.

Exactly what it was that tipped the balance against Saleh we'll almost certainly never know. In previous cases, like that of Geert Wilders, whose presence back in 2009 was also deemed non-conducive having been invited to show his laughable film Fitna to the House of Lords, the given justification was that his mere being here would "threaten community harmony and therefore public security". As his visit following a successful appeal later in the year showed, such fears were ungrounded. Apart from the change of government, the other key difference between then and now has been the publication of the new Prevent strategy, much welcomed by the anti-Islamists on Harry's Place for its "muscular" stance on no longer working with or funding those who espouse "extremist" causes non-violently.

It is admittedly a relatively thankless task attempting to work out just which unpleasant ideologue might inflame public opinion enough for their mere being here to threaten community harmony and security, and when an issue is as polarised as it is on Israel/Palestine, those responsible are always going to get a kicking from one side. Nonetheless, Saleh's brief stay here was unbelievably predictable in its dullness: he attended a couple of meetings, said what those who invited him expected him to elucidate, and would have almost certainly returned home with the 99.99% of the population unaware he had ever been here. He didn't incite anything approaching hatred, although he hardly lived up to the laughable styling of him as a "Palestinian Gandhi" either. The real questions ought to be for those who invited him in the first place: did they know about the allegations against him and what he truly stands for? It certainly seems like the MPs who invited him didn't. If it's a sad reflection on our society that politicians believe those with views like Saleh are so dangerous that we can't even make our minds up for ourselves by hearing them speak, then those on the opposite side should at least know what those views are before welcoming them with open arms.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011 

The need to break a political orthodoxy.

Want an example of just how limited our politics has become over the last 30 years? I've been racking my brains trying to recall a politician of any stripe in a position with at least a semblance of power, including those in the shadow cabinet or opposition frontbench, giving even the slightest amount of support to striking workers, regardless of whether the action was richly deserved and necessary or the exact opposite. I could well be completely wrong, but I simply can't remember any such examples: the closest perhaps was the sympathy shown towards the sacked Gate Gourmet workers, mainly due to the echoes of the Grunwick dispute, and even then actual support for the action wasn't forthcoming.

The victory over not just militant but trade unionism in general in this country has been so massive that we're often treated to the dismal sight of those on the supposed left admitting the Conservatives and Thatcher had been right and openly welcoming the demise of mass, or almost any action to save jobs and livelihoods. Globalisation, without question, has triumphed, and those few, mainly in the public sector who remain in a trade union can be dismissed as a dying breed, treated as an annoyance which can be swatted away. Those remaining few leaders who can be considered a success, mainly as a result of being able to bring the public transport system to a temporary halt are attacked in a similar, if far more visceral fashion, their own pay and conditions subject to the highest scrutiny.

At least, that's the overwhelming view of both the media and politicians, nominal left and right united. The Labour leadership regards the unions as an embarrassment and liability despite needing them to survive, while the Daily Mirror and Guardian might make sympathetic noises but like politicians hardly ever actually support strike action when it comes down to it. The Conservatives and the right-wing press it almost goes without saying want to constantly rerun the battles of yesteryear, hoping to finally grind the small rump of agitators remaining into the ground.

Where this leaves the view of the public themselves is more difficult to tell. They might no longer feel the need to join unions for the protection it provides in the numbers they once did, but they certainly aren't as immediately opposed to stoppages as politicians and the media echo chamber either seems to imagine or believes. True, it depends massively on how long the stoppages are and where they happen: the shut down of the public transport system or airports quickly tries the patience, and if the dispute is over the loss of a perk which disappeared elsewhere long ago then sympathy is always bound to be muted. They're also usually realistic about the temporary difficulties strikes pose: if it's just for one day, and persuades the management or government to return to the negotiating table, much can be forgiven.

The build-up to tomorrow's strikes has followed this modern pattern and orthodoxy to a dispiriting degree, with the government portraying the proposed changes to public sector pension schemes as a necessity regardless of the reality. Alan Hutton's report dispelled the myths that the schemes were "gold-plated" and increasingly unaffordable as society ages: the cost will in fact peak this year and then fall, even if only slightly, over the decades to come. All the tricks in the book have been used, whether it's been Danny Alexander's "surprise" confirmation of the changes regardless of the ongoing negotiations, David Cameron's patronising softly softly approach, Francis Maude's belligerence, Vince Cable's informing of those about to strike that they lack public support or Michael Gove's laughable advice to parents to break picket lines.

The right-wing tabloids for their part have employed hyperbole that would have come close to embarrassing Kelvin MacKenzie at the height of his pomp: the Sun has titled its campaign against the strikes "stop the summer of hate", although it seems to be the one providing it. Yesterday's editorial, supposedly an appeal to the "moderate majority" to keep schools open, denounced the unions for "dragging down standards in pursuit of clapped-out Socialist dogma" while hoping for victory against "Neanderthal union militancy". The one day strike "would harm pupils" and "damage our children's education", as though a few extra hours without the guiding hand of a teacher would permanently stunt their mental growth. Tomorrow's Mail meanwhile invokes the "Dunkirk spirit" to beat the union bullies. Anyone vaguely reasonable returning from an extended visit abroad would have thought the country had returned to the 70s, despite last year showing the least number of days lost to strike action since records began.

This isn't to suggest that the unions have conducted themselves in the best possible fashion and have been open to all possibilities of compromise. Some have been agitating against every single cut from the outset, which simply isn't realistic, while Dave Prentis's claim that this will be the longest sustained campaign of industrial action since the general strike was both unhelpful and a laughable exaggeration. The presentation of their case has been similarly poor, although when everyone is going to be affected differently it's always going to be difficult to provide an overall case for opposition. No one is objecting to the general retirement age increasing, but there have to be some sensible additional exceptions: expecting teachers or prisoner officers to work until they're 68 stretches credulity to breaking point.

The key to winning more support will almost certainly be through broadening the campaign: as Mark Serwotka argues convincingly, the real scandal remains private sector pensions, where the state will eventually have to pick up the pieces. It's in the government's long-term interest to not pursue a race to the bottom, as it currently seems determined to do, unsure of whether a fight with the unions would see a temporary boost in its popularity. For the unions to have an overall win would be to break all recent political orthodoxy; exactly why this deeply imperfect battle will be so vital.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011 

A dog called Bruno.

Apologies as ever for the unutterably piss-poor blogging the past few days, if not years. All I can offer today is this curio discovered by Adam Curtis, of a dog named Bruno. Apart from looking like Hitchcock in silhouette, he has a problem, as you'll discover. Unlike Curtis I can't imagine it's anything other than a fake, if only for the reason that if it's genuine the woman is remarkably unperturbed at being interviewed about her dog's gender realignment.

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Monday, June 27, 2011 

Another unfunny short post.

David Cameron has insisted human rights issues are not "off limits" with China after holding talks with the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao.

"On the contrary", Cameron said, "we had a long and fruitful discussion on the very subject. In line with Wen's insistence on treating each other as equals, he gave me a very helpful insight into how his government deals with unruly trade unionists, advice which I've passed on to Michael Gove. He isn't certain of the legality of arresting all the striking teachers, but it's an improvement on his parents breaching picket lines wheeze."

"In return, I was happy to explain to Wen how we're managing to maintain the moral high ground in Libya, even when increasingly all we're doing is bombing empty buildings, or 'command and control centres' as the NATO spin doctor insists on calling them. He was especially intrigued with how we're demanding one vicious autocrat in Libya leave power immediately, while in Bahrain we think nothing of inviting round the very people in charge of the repression there and shaking their hand. He told me he was thinking of carrying out a similar exercise in North Korea and Tibet, although I may have got the two mixed up."

Wen said: "We should not be addressing each other on these issues in such a lecturing way. That's why we've agreed to just not talk about it in the future at all. Look, pandas!"

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Saturday, June 25, 2011 


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Friday, June 24, 2011 

Unfunny short post.

Osama bin Laden was apparently considering changing the name of al-Qaida. He was pondering altering it to the frankly dull Monotheism and Jihad Group, or failing that, the Restoration of the Caliphate Group. Personally, I think he ought to have had a look at the average British high street and take inspiration from there: how about Jihads R Us, or even better, Caliphate-U-Like? If not, he could have followed in the footsteps of Simon Cowell, his equivalent in the music business, although sadly not yet deceased: calling his terrorist group The Jihad Factor simply couldn't have failed to attract the kids to the cause.Link

Or not.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011 

Paul Dacre must die!

It's always nice being surprised. Just when you think those behind this nation's tabloids couldn't be any more hypocritical, pathetic or cowardly, along comes the legal threat from the Daily Mail to Kevin Arscott, blogger at Angry Mob. Two years ago he wrote a furious post on an atypical piece of Mail immigration dog-whistling which took what was a heart-warming story on the number of babies treated on a ward in Chelsea and Westminster hospital and turned it into an example of how NHS services were being exploited by foreigners, while also expressing horror at the number of mothers who themselves had been born abroad even if they were British citizens or legally resident here.

By the standards of swear blogging (including some of my own angrier responses to Mail articles), it was fairly tame stuff. Arscott wrote:

I hope Paul Dacre dies a slow and painful death and that people queue up to shit on his grave.

Thanks to Google's wonderful algorithms, his post somehow became (and remains, for now) the second result when you search for Paul Dacre. Whether or not Dacre was Googling his own name (doubtful, considering his aversion to the internet) or he was simply alerted to it by an underling, it seems that he was enraged enough by Kevin's impertinence to set the Mail's lawyers after him. As Unity points out, it's apparent that nothing he wrote is either libellous or defamatory; it's simply abuse, nor is it similar to yesterday's case where a man in Northern Ireland was convicted of an offence after writing on Facebook that a DUP MP should "get a bullet in the head". Arscott merely hopes Dacre dies a slow and painful death, not the most pleasant thing to say, but by considering the depths some on the internet sink to it's incredibly tame.

The Mail's lawyers must have known that the chances of winning any case for defamation on something so slight were minute; that almost certainly wasn't their aim, however. Just through sending their threatening email to Angry Mob's UK based hosting company they will have counted on them caving in immediately, thanks to the notorious Demon ruling and successive EC directives, or demand that he take it down himself or else they'd terminate his account for breach of their terms of service. They did the second, and like myself when faced by threats from Schillings over Alisher Usmanov and Craig Murray, he's removed the post for now.

It is remarkable though, isn't it, that the editor of the very newspaper which has so fiercely campaigned against super-injunctions now resorts to the use of solicitors over something so unbelievably petty: he doesn't want an affair or something embarrassing about his private life hidden away, he just wants someone being nasty about him on the internet to feel his wrath. The editor of a newspaper that repeatedly attacks those whom it thinks have risen above their station, whether it be through a perceived lack of class or for "outraging decency", who feels so self-concious about the second Google result for his name being something that isn't entirely adulatory. An editor who according to numerous accounts treats his staff in the typical tabloid fashion, where they ask each other whether they've been "double-cunted" that day, having been called a cunt twice in one sentence by a man who dedicates page after page to why-oh-whying over the supposed decline of standards, dares to send in expensive briefs over a 2-year-old post which doesn't even begin to lower itself to such name-calling.

Mr Dacre, if you or your solicitors happen to come across this, I too hope that you die a slow and painful death and that people queue up to shit on your grave. It won't even begin to make up for the shit you've been forcing down the throats of the English public for the last 19 years.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011 

All aboard the Lulz boat.

The media, just in case you haven't noticed, is a strange beast. The people behind it get terribly excited about sexy, new things like "hacking", even if they have even only a very rudimentary knowledge of the subject; then they suddenly remember that the people behind it are mostly bedroom or basement dwelling virgins with greasy hair and bad teeth, qualities they share with a fair few bloggers (is this right? Ed.) and realise they could be next. Best then to spray around negative epithets in a similar fashion to someone who's just had their Facebook profile hijacked and their picture changed to goatse.

This Sun article is just such a glorious example. Even before Ryan Clearly had been charged with any offence his entire life story was gracing the pages of the Daily Mail and Sun, although quite where and how quickly they managed to discover that he had been suspended from school from disruptive behaviour at the age of 5 and had attempted at suicide at the age of 10 it's difficult to know. We're told that this geeky, nerdy oddball turned his sparsely decorated bedroom into the "centre of a global hacking movement", at the same time as which he was apparently attending an unnamed university even though his mother also said that he suffers from agoraphobia and hasn't left the house in four years.

Lulz Security, the group Clearly has been linked to, thought this a rather rum do. "If you don't kick, hit or throw some kind of sports-related object at least thirty-five times a week, you are a filthy recluse to The Sun", they tweeted, although as yet they haven't turned their sights on the paper, which is something of a shame. The group themselves are denying that Clearly had anything other than a extremely loose connection to them; they used his IRC server as one of their bases, and that was about as far as it went. Indeed, despite the briefings and claims that Clearly was a key member or even the only member, something which was always laughable, the charges brought against him tonight only back up LulzSec's denials, and the Met have not claimed, officially at least, that he was part of the group. Apart from controlling a botnet, he's accused of turning it on the websites of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and its British partner, as well as the Serious and Organised Crime's internet base, which was brought low on Monday. While LulzSec claimed responsibility for bringing it down, whether Clearly's (alleged) attack came after or was done in conjunction we simply don't yet know.

What is clear is that the media for the most part still doesn't know its arse from its elbow when it comes to anything even vaguely related to either internet subculture or online security. Hacking remains the catch-all term, even when Clearly hasn't been charged with any actual hacking, such as the recent security breaches which have befallen Sony or any other number of those targeted by LulzSec, most of which were achieved through relatively simple to pull off MySQL injections, or other vulnerablities. As LulzSec themselves tweeted, the DDoS attacks they've launched are "of course our least powerful and most abundant ammunition". Likewise, while LulzSec does seem to have emerged from Anonymous and the two, despite alleged ructions, are still working together, how far the links now go back to eBaum's World* is difficult to tell. True, the group's attitude and its effective mission statement are all based around the insouciant, uncaring, unforgiving nature of Anonymous, but this has now gone far beyond the targeting of specific groups which threatened internet freedom or had withdrawn their services from Wikileaks.

Certainly, in the current hilarious if it wasn't so serious climate where the United States has just declared that internet attacks on it could be responded to militarily, LulzSec's Operation Anti-Security proclamation urging assaults on any government that turns against them seems to be an open invitation for a mass party vanning. With the war against terror beginning to wind down, the good old military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned about needs to persuade governments of a new threat, and cyber attacks seem to be what they're latching onto. That this threat is even more imaginary than the much feared waves of suicide bombings that were meant to follow September the 11th, and even less dangerous than the average bedroom jihadist doesn't seem to matter; the defence budget has to go somewhere.

Easy as it is to approve of LulzSec forcing governments and corporations to put far better safeguards in place when it comes to the collection of their users' personal information, even if you don't find favour with their far less agreeable encouragement of Facebook or Paypal account hijacking with the data they've posted, it's difficult to see what it will end up achieving in the long run. For underneath the claim that they "don't give a living fuck at this point" at the potential for them to be "brought to justice", you imagine that if some of them do end up serving long stretches of prison time, as those in the US definitely are threatened with should the full force of the law be brought down, they certainly will later on. Then again, this could be the troll to end all trolls, us having been the victims of the "lulz lizards" all along. In any case, I'm just a loser posting shit I think matters, and someone will be shortly be along to tell me that my shit does not matter.

*Rules 1 and 2, people.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011 

And yet again, the tabloids win.

Who could possibly have wanted to be Ken Clarke over the past few weeks? At least when John Reid, David Blunkett or Jacqui Smith found themselves in the temporary eye of a tabloid storm over crime it was primarily a result of their failing to live up to the very image they had courted of themselves as common sense, salt of the earth hard liners, in tune with what the editors of the Daily Mail and Sun said was the prevailing public attitude towards criminals. He was certainly foolish to not quickly clarify his comments on rape, even if he was mainly responding to the utterly inaccurate claim that rapists could end up only serving 15 months of a sentence in prison if they pleaded guilty at the earliest possible opportunity under his proposals. Almost completely unreported went the meeting he had with Gabrielle Browne, the woman he spoke to on the initial 5 Live interview, who accepted his argument once he set out how the policy was part meant to prevent victims in the future from going through the additional trauma she suffered in court.

As it turns out, Clarke's real adversary hasn't been the tabloids but David Cameron. Having allowed Clarke to set out his reforms to the criminal justice system in last December's green paper, optimistically titled Breaking the Cycle, he's abandoned him at the last minute. This is becoming a habit of Cameron's: he's done it in quick succession to Caroline Spelman, Andrew Lansley and now his justice secretary. On each occasion the policy has passed through the cabinet, been given the apparent go ahead, and then the individual minister has been left to take either the entirety of the blame or almost all of it. On selling off the forests and reforming the NHS the "u-turns" have delivered slightly better, if still highly flawed policies; the exact opposite is the case this time round.

Indeed, there's few individuals or interested parties who believe that we can carry on locking people up at the rate we have ever since Michael Howard made his infamous declaration to the Conservative party conference. Those few include Michael Howard (natch), the Tory right, certain sections of the Labour party who still believe fervently in triangulation, and the right-wing press. Not only does it cost an astonishing amount of money, with £45,000 being the often stated cost of a year's imprisonment (the Prison Reform Trust's Bromley report agrees (PDF)), it only works in the sense that it contains the relatively few who need to be locked away either permanently or for long periods to protect the public and gives a temporary respite to communities from those other few who commit a majority of the "low-level" crime. It punishes, but it doesn't rehabilitate. It fails miserably in getting addicts on the path to recovery, and does little to help those with mental health problems get the individual care and therapy they need.

Clarke had firmly grasped this, and partially using the necessity to make cuts in the budget of the Ministry of Justice, had proposed some baby steps towards reducing the overall prison population, encouraging more use of community sentences, giving sentence discounts to those who admitted their guilt at the first possible opportunity, saving the cost of a prosecution, and making prison regimes more rigorous through work schemes which together with improved education opportunities could help begin to bring re-offending rates down. The majority of this has now cast aside almost entirely by Cameron, with Clarke left to make a brave, affable face in the Commons on what's left of his original plans.

Out then has gone any aim to cut the prison population, even if only by around a mooted 6,500, which now stands close to 85,000. At best the number will stabilise, although more likely is that it will increase thanks to the other changes introduced without warning by Cameron. Completely dropped has been any further discount for early guilty pleas, even for less serious offences. Community sentences will not be suggested as an alternative to short prison terms, with Clarke hiding behind the reasoning that "more than 10%" currently only involve a supervision requirement, generally a fortnightly meeting with a probation officer, even while the proposed bill makes the other nearly 90% more onerous, with a longer working day and week for those on "community payback" schemes. Where the Tories were thinking so radically to begin with that they suggested prisoners could earn something approaching a reasonable wage while behind bars, now the plan is to take more away from the tiny amount those working can earn to give to victim support groups. If the notion is sound, questionable on its own, then it becomes less so when the average weekly wage in prison is £9.60. Even those few working for private firms - Policy Exchange recently highlighted a highly lucrative scheme where DHL pays prisoners £30 a week for 30 hours work - are paid so little that any taken away only further disincentives those who choose to work.

The original proposals which do remain, such as drug recovery wings, are undermined when the bill pledges to "increase security measures to reduce the supply", plans which will doubtless further target visitors rather than the main source of such substances, corrupt prison officers. Anyone who has had to go through the deeply unpleasant experience of visiting a high security prison in the last couple of years will be delighted by any further tightening in the process of getting in to see a relative. To be welcomed is the softly stated promise to "ensure offenders with mental health problems receive treatment in the most appropriate and the most secure setting necessary", which should hopefully direct the sick and vulnerable away from prison, as is the emphasis given to restorative justice, the proposals for which may just eventually build a further alternative or supplement to short sentences or fines.

Most destructive of all though are the Cameron imposed "get tough" headline policies, exactly those that have failed in the past on all counts and which it was hoped had disappeared with New Labour. Having given a manifesto pledge to jail anyone caught with a knife, Cameron's given in to pressure from the Sun and insisted upon a mandatory sentence of at least six months for anyone who threatens someone else with a blade, removing a judge's discretion and ignoring the individual circumstances of each case. Clarke's planned reforms to the scandal of indeterminate sentences, where thousands of prisoners cannot even access the scheme necessary to prove that they are no longer a risk to public will instead be replaced by "even tougher" determinate sentences, helping no one. As for making squatting illegal and putting down in legislation the already unwritten rule that property owners who use "reasonable force" to defend themselves will not be prosecuted, gestures are already being resorted to.

With the savings then having to come from somewhere other than reducing the number of prisoners, everything else will take an additional walloping. Probation, the very thing that protects the public once offenders are released will face additional cuts, as will legal aid, already being slashed. What's more, it signals an end to any illusion that this government on criminal justice if nothing else would live up to its billing as being of a liberal conservative bent. Having called for the abolition of short sentences completely, Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats did nothing whatsoever to support Clarke when the crunch came. Finally, it shows Cameron will be just as beholden to the tabloids as New Labour was, creating new offences and indulging in legislating for effect the second they kick up a stink, the very things he said he would put an end to. Clarke could resign in protest, but it wouldn't achieve anything, and someone worse would simply be put in his place. Having had his reforms crippled, the only thing he and we can hope is that the good remaining parts work. There might then just be something to build on if Labour finally decides to stop playing the desperately destructive "who can be toughest" game.

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Monday, June 20, 2011 

How to put a crack in Cameron's façade.

As someone who at least attempts to try and understand politics, albeit badly as this blog's archives palpably demonstrate, it's slightly embarrassing to admit that I simply don't understand the appeal of David Cameron. Having rid ourselves of a messianic, slick, smarmy centrist authoritarian from a public school, we've now given power to a slick, smarmy Eton-educated self-described liberal Conservative, who will doubtless turn to authoritarianism when the wheels begin to fall off. This isn't necessarily a slur on the good sense of the British people: when faced with a choice between Cameron, Gordon Brown or Nick Clegg and (one hastens to add) their respective parties, it was little surprise that the fresh, somewhat detoxified Conservatives came close to winning a majority over a tired, clapped out Labour party. Clegg excited opinion temporarily, only to have to then row back on everything he said that won him support in the first place.

We have then a coalition government that still defies easy categorisation. Sure, it's nominally of the centre-right, regardless of the Lib Dem component and it's slamming through public sector reforms in education, health, welfare and pensions that are all built around traditional Conservative values and economics, including those influenced by the Blairite reforms, yet with the exception of a few big beasts from both parties this is a government where the prime minister is in effortless control of everything it does. It took a while for the so-called TB-GBs to consume New Labour, and that still could happen with Cameron's Conservatives considering the influence George Osborne wields, but for now it's this apparently deeply ordinary upper middle class gent who bestrides the nation.

If I can't quite get my head round the apparent genius of this particular PPE-graduate from Oxford, then I can at least humbly suggest one of the areas where he's especially lacking in that rare quality, genuineness. Prior to winning power one of his big motifs, rather than the big society, was the broken society, whether it be welfare dependency, crime, anti-social behaviour or a perceived lack of responsibility. Since the election we have heard precisely zilch about it, which is temporarily perplexing when you consider how the Sun ran with it for a good couple of years in a low-level campaign which effectively pointed towards Dave as the man to fix it. Considering that in the short-term the coalition's policies are likely to exacerbate social problems through the cuts and changes to benefits, it's only when you remember that the populist tabloids fully support such measures that the reason becomes fully clear.

While we've heard about some of the above themes in isolation, there's been no attempt to tie them together. It would be nice to imagine this is because society was never broken in the first place, simply frayed in places, and that Cameron now recognises this; more likely though is that Cameron simply couldn't carry the theme into power without now being required to do something to improve matters, or without being accused of doing the country down. Moreover, while he was good at painting a picture of a fractured and uncaring nation, his solutions were either poor or deeply questionable. One of his main speeches on the topic given back in July 2008 suggested that it was choices rather than circumstances that shaped the lives of individuals, rather than it being those very circumstances that determined and limited the choices on offer. Combined with his views on the breakdown of responsibility which were similarly flawed, it was symptomatic of his apparent failure to understand the lives of those even a couple of steps removed from his own privileged upbringing.

This weekend's foray into commenting on how we should treat absent fathers, wrapped up in an otherwise comfortable piece on Father's day and being a father, was a seeming return to this ill-advised territory. Get beyond his warm, fuzzy anecdotes about his own father and quotes from Mark Twain and Kent Nerburn and there he is urging us to be intolerant, hostile even to "fathers who go AWOL. They "should be looked at like drink drivers, people who are beyond the pale". Even if the relationship with the mother can't be patched up, they should "financially and emotionally support their child" through doing things like "taking them to the football or the playground" or going to their "nativity play". Even if we're to conclude that Cameron's reasoning is sound, this is a far more nuanced and difficult subject than the black and white of getting into a vehicle when intoxicated: being urged to demonise men (and we are taking purely about men here, rather than even considering that women can and do act in a similar manner) when we can't even begin to know the full details behind each separation isn't just unhelpful, it's downright ignorant.

Behind this fundamentally is the old Tory prejudice in favour of the nuclear family, the often mythical happy unit, with Cameron promising that marriage will eventually be recognised in the tax system. Much as this is in part a cynical sop to the Daily Mail and part a bribe to the middle classes, who get a tax cut for no reason other than they're of a certain age and have settled down, however chaotic or dysfunctional their families may actually be, it's also what he and his party still continue to believe, even as society itself has moved on: that what was once a "family", even if only for a matter of days and weeks, should be firmly encouraged, with money and "relationship support", to stay that way. Labour was accused of nanny statism, but one area they stayed more or less out of was passing judgement on the make-up of families, the odd stunt as a link from Cameron's article reminds us aside. So far attempts to portray Cameron as out of touch have failed miserably, mainly because they've focused purely and hypocritically on class rather than his actual beliefs. Showing him as imagining that one-size-fits-all when it comes to everyday life could just begin to crack his façade.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011 

Badman place.

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Friday, June 17, 2011 

What they said.

I think we've reached the stage where we can all agree that, rather than launching a War on Terror, it would've been cheaper and more conducive to enhanced national security if we'd just put those squaddies to work in Aldershot burning two billion quid a week with flamethrowers.

I wonder what Eisenhower would make of today's US, with a military grown from 3.5 million people to 5 million. The western nations face less of a threat to their integrity and security than ever in history, yet their defence industries cry for ever more money and ever more things to do. The cold war strategist, George Kennan, wrote prophetically: "Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial complex would have to remain, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented."

Yet so successful was Laurie's campaign of pre-emptive self-deprecation that when the time came to step up and tell the inconvenient truth – not that Hugh Laurie is an old Etonian, or a TV comedian, but that he has a voice like a Canada goose – no one (at least, no one I've come across) was prepared to do it. Come on, people! If this kind of mass abdication of aesthetic responsibility continues, we'll end up with Tony Blair as Middle East peace envoy and Miranda Hart winning three British Comedy awards.

This is also known in wanky terms as a 'false dichotomy'. Either you want disabled people to work for less than minimum wage or you don't want them to work at all. There is no position saying we need to try to change people's perceptions and make sure employers don't discriminate . That just doesn't exist, stupid. Stop trying to make an argument that doesn't even exist.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011 

5 ways to stay out of trouble on Facebook.

1. Don't ever join Facebook.

2. Err...

3. That's it.

Coming next: 5 ways to avoid annoying the fuck out of everyone by constantly going on about social networking sites.

Coming even sooner: The 5 most hilarious "Weiner" puns.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011 

If it bleeds, it sometimes leads.

The old media adage goes "that if it bleeds, it leads". Of course, this is far too simplistic: it depends on who it is bleeding. Any overseas catastrophe that wouldn't normally merit front page treatment instantly takes on a new resonance if a British person or three were among those caught up in the tragedy. Also helpful is skin colour and perceived shared values: at some point it was decided that disasters or crime in America are far more important and of interest than similar events in Europe, even if we're much closer in proximity to floods in Germany or a school shooting in the Netherlands than we are to tornadoes in Missouri or a massacre at a mall in Utah.

Something similar has been going on this week. On Monday the BBC broadcast Terry Pratchett's Choosing to Die documentary, which followed Peter Smedley as he travelled to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to end his life. Having been flagged up weeks in advance, and coming shortly after The Human Body showed a man in the final stages of cancer dying, the programme attracted plenty of media attention, despite it hardly being the first time that documentary makers have followed those determined to end their suffering travel abroad to do so. The Daily Mail, learning the lesson of its coverage of the X Factor final, has just the seven screen grabs of Smedley's last moments in its piece describing the outrage at the BBC resorting to such "voyeuristic entertainment".

If showing a man with motor neurone disease carry out his wish to die at the moment of his own choosing is still too much for a section of the British public to countenance, with campaigners claiming that the BBC is in effect "cheerleading for assisted suicide" through its continued interest in the subject, then you'd expect that Channel 4's Sri Lanka's Killing Fields would come under similar or even greater scrutiny. Shown last night at 11:00pm, even advance warning that the documentary was being confined to such a slot due to it containing "the most horrific footage" the station has ever broadcast failed to garner much in the way of attention.

While that potentially sensationalist claim is debatable, certainly anyone flicking channels who caught the grainy mobile phone footage of three blindfolded men being executed out of the wider context of Jon Snow's narration couldn't have failed to have been alarmed or shocked, as the warnings given by the announcer before each part suggested viewers might be. The end game of Sri Lanka's bloody civil conflict was at the time not given much in the way of wider coverage, certainly nothing even approaching that which has been dedicated to the uprisings and repression across the Arab world this year. For those who have tried to share the blame out equally between the Tamil Tigers, who unquestionably had long used civilians as human shields and recruited child soldiers, and the Sri Lankan government, which regarded the supposed "no-fire zone" as the exact opposite, the programme was unrelenting in its exposure of the realities of near constant shelling.

Having followed the murderous depravity of sections of the insurgency in Iraq, where groups posted videos online of the execution of captured police and soldiers with depressing regularity, you still can't possibly get used to sight of those about to be killed kneeling, waiting for the bullet in the back of the head. The jihadists rarely killed women though, or if they did they certainly didn't record it, the odd exception aside. The images Channel 4 managed to obtain, shot by the soldiers themselves, show numerous dead women either naked or with their clothes torn open, the clear implication being that they had at the least been sexually assaulted or interfered with before or after their deaths. As the soldiers carried the dead bodies onto a truck, one remarked that the woman he was carrying had "the best figure", while in another scene one declared that he'd like to "cut the tits off" one of the dead, "if no one was around". Other photographs suggest that the alleged practice of murdering those who surrendered unconditionally, as admitted by General Fonseka before he later retracted it, more than has a foundation in truth.

Quite why such prima facie evidence of potential war crimes has passed by with so little adverse comment is difficult to properly ascertain. Apart from the few who tried to portray the Sri Lankan victory over the Tamil Tigers as a model either the West or Israel could follow in taking the fight to terrorist groups, no one had any great doubts that the last few weeks of the conflict had seen massive loss of life. With the report by a panel for the UN secretary-general concluding that the "conduct of the war represented a grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace", there's just as much a case for the indictment of the Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa at the International Criminal Court as there is for that of Colonel Gaddafi.

Our government may well have no stomach for another battle they'll conclude they can't possibly win, but that certainly doesn't excuse the almost complete silence of our wider media to draw further attention to Channel 4's investigation. Here was all the material they could possibly have needed to create an outcry against the leadership of a nation that has not only lied ruthlessly, but revelled in the blood it spilt. Two years ago though is already ancient history, and there's far more pressing issues here at home to attend to. The Libyans and Syrians will have to hope our collective attention span somehow manages to improve, and fast.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011 

Pause? Repeat.

There are times when you can't help but marvel at the amazing feats of rhetorical dexterity achieved by politicians. It's even more remarkable when the modern media, that supposed cynical, feral beast which always manages to cut through the bullshit to the truth takes on the main role of convincing the nation that their leaders aren't in fact men with feet of clay.

The government's success in turning its "pause" on their proposed NHS reforms into a substantial victory will probably become a case study in how to rescue presumed lost causes. Just two months ago Andrew Lansley stood up in the Commons and announced that his seemingly well-laid plans were in fact causing such disquiet that they needed to be brought to an immediate halt. Never mind that the consultation period on his initial white paper,which the Department of Health had presented as giving overwhelming support to his proposals had long since passed. There now needed to be more scrutiny, more thinking done on something so major.

Those of us who imagined that this was another example of the government attempting to legislate too quickly and not being able to see the wood for the trees couldn't have been more wrong. Everything had been sown up in advance. In was brought Prof. Steve Field, a practising GP, not an outright critic of Lansley's plans but in fact a keen supporter, albeit it one with some reservations. He and his future forum would review everything, and make recommendations in due course. Out would go the worst excesses, those parts which would have always been politically unacceptable once it was actually noticed they had been proposed in the first place, such as the opening up of the NHS to any outside provider who could offer a better deal and the role of Monitor in actively promoting such competition, and in would come ever so slight changes which most likely would have been inserted during further readings or forced by the Lords. Hence now the commissioning boards which would have been purely made up of GPs must have at least two lay members, as well as a nurse and a consultant on them, while the 2013 deadline for the abolition of primary care trusts will be "relaxed".

Everyone then has either had their personal objections somewhat pandered to, or can claim victory for their part in either ordering or demanding the "pause", with the exception of Lansley himself. GPs concerned they were going to be left holding the blame if things went wrong can point to the others on their boards, not to mention the health secretary, who takes on ultimate responsibility for the NHS and its continuation as a "comprehensive service". Managers, hospital consultants and nurses have all been told their views have been taken on board and will have representatives at various points of the commissioning process. Those healthcare firms looking to cream off the easy jobs might be perturbed at first, but nothing has actually substantially changed from the initial plan: their opportunities will just be "slowly phased" in. The Liberal Democrats can claim it was down to their sudden discovery of how disastrous the bill was that the "pause" took place, as they did at the weekend, despite Clegg and friends having initially signed off and voted for it, while Cameron has had a smashing time over the past few weeks making the same speech over and over again about how much he loves the NHS, just to drill it in to anyone who thinks the fact he's a Tory means he secretly wants to privatise the whole damn thing as soon as he can. The Tory backbenchers, ever wary of the Lib Dems gaining the upper hand, looked like mutinying until they saw the actual changes and decided quite reasonably that they're fairly minor. Potential banana skin sighted, the Conservatives have deftly skipped over it.

As for the media, the majority still can't get enough of Cameron's shiny bonce. The novelty effect of having another party leader alongside him also hasn't yet worn off, and everyone's written Lansley's obituary already anyway, so it was only natural to portray this as another great success for this new Teflon leader. Oh, and there was a shouty doctor too, always helpful when going into actual details is as mundane as it is on this topic. This whole nauseating stunt had it been attempted by Labour would have resulted in those involved being pilloried for resorting to such spin, a word it seems which has mysteriously fallen out of favour now the Tory-supporting press have their one true loves back in power. Only a few naysayers are pointing out that this top-down reorganisation, the exact thing the coalition promised they wouldn't do is now going to take place just as the NHS needs to be making massive efficiency savings. Cameron after all made his one great promise that he'd cut the deficit rather than the NHS, while Labour for once being both realistic and honest declined to ringfence the health budget, knowing that savings have got to come from somewhere.

This isn't by any means the end of the matter; it's just another temporary sticking plaster on reforms that haven't been anywhere near properly thought through, where it's still not clear that GPs are ready to take on a commissioning role despite have signed up to the pathfinder consortia, and where if the waiting lists continue to increase real, open, discontent with the coalition's promises and policies will begin to develop. A highly embarrassing political mess though, one of the coalition's own making, has been turned into a shining example of Cameron's leadership abilities and the Liberal Democrats' influence within the government, with all the blame shifted onto the unfortunate Lansley. Everyone wins, except for us plebs in the long term. And isn't that what modern politics sets out to achieve?

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Monday, June 13, 2011 

The responsibilities of a Labour leader.

Difficult as it is to believe, Ed Miliband has only been leader of the Labour party for nine months. It's fair to say that he hasn't exactly set the world alight so far, while at the same time he also hasn't made any major mistakes. Sure, calling for the head of Ken Clarke over his disastrous interview on 5 Live was daft, having previously said how he wouldn't be calling him soft for doing exactly what he was attempting to articulate on the radio, and he's struck a few bum notes at prime minister's questions, but which novice leader hasn't? William Hague often supposedly got the better of Tony Blair in those distant days when he was Tory leader, and it didn't win him the 2001 election.

All the curiouser then that Miliband is now apparently in crisis mode, having failed to take advantage of the coalition's mounting mess-ups when facing David Cameron in the Commons, with the leaking of the incredible revelation that Ed Balls and Gordon Brown wanted Tony Blair out in the mists of 2005, followed swiftly by the Graun obtaining the speech the elder Miliband would have given to the Labour party conference had he won. The two Eds can't get along, we're told, and David Miliband's truculent supporters are starting to agitate again. If you're dull enough, like me, to have been following Labour's quiet attempts to regain ground, then you'll know that much the same was being said around Christmas time. Ed couldn't make a break-through, the shadow cabinet weren't behind him, and moves were being made to overthrow him. A couple of weeks later and all was right again, thanks to a change in the spin team. Now we're back in Iain Duncan Smith territory.

No one slightly in touch with reality is claiming that the party is already on its way to a win in four years' time. It's also apparent though that things are nowhere near as bad as those like Dan Hodges and the increasingly laughable Labour Uncut blog continue to make out. Hodges may well have been right about the AV referendum, he has something resembling a point on the mythical "progressive majority", and he's dead wrong on almost everything else. Only slightly tongue in cheek, he writes of how the party has been seized by "progressive McCarthyism", with everything associated with Tony Blair being seen as untouchable, unclean. The May local election results weren't anything approaching a beginning to a comeback, Miliband's personal ratings are hopeless, and the Tories are already confident of gaining an overall majority come 2015, just as they were at the beginning of last year. Elsewhere Peter Watt, former general secretary of Labour despairs at how the party is still disagreeing with the coalition over the cuts, when what the public expects and wants is for them to move on, not least because it reminds them of how it was all Labour's fault anyway and all politicians are grasping knaves. Kevin Meagher goes even further back, to the loony left and how they destroyed Labour's image in the 80s (Is this right? Ed) (Only if you consider that much of what the "loony left" argued for has since been implemented).

Suggesting that it's only been nine months is to be complacent. Imagining that because the party is ahead in the polls it's making an impact is ridiculous, not to mention ahistorical. Thinking that the tide may be beginning to turn against the coalition on the economy is laughable. The party needs to do more to repudiate the real legacy of the Blair/Brown years. The debt that was built up which no one, not even the Tories, complained about at the time. It needs to regain the trust of the working and middle classes which it forfeited over immigration and welfare. Labour has to smash this notion that it's a party for benefit claimants, asylum seekers and bankers.

If taking advice from the "flat earthers" of Liberal Conspiracy is a bad idea, then it's nice to see what appeasing those advocating triangulation, as that's what it fundamentally is, looks like. Ed's speech today wasn't just woeful in execution, vacuous and fatuous in content and tone deaf in delivery; it was the perfect example of what you don't do to put an end to a supposed political narrative. When Theresa May stood up at the Tory party conference and said that some even referred to them as the "nasty party", it may have been the beginning of efforts to detoxify the party's brand, but it was also the beginning of the entirety of the media treating them as having an image problem which needed to be fixed. The former took longer because of the latter. For Ed to today say that "Labour did too little to ensure responsibility at the bottom" he's not just ignoring the ignoble efforts of James Purnell and others down the years, he's allowing the media to now set in stone the idea that the government he was a minister in allowed scroungers to multiply and get away with their indolence.

The effect leaves an enduring bad taste because of the false equivalence the speech draws between the poorest and the very richest; even the worst benefit cheat didn't contribute to the global economic crash, let alone the hopefully fictional man Miliband describes in his introduction, who had been on incapacity benefit for 10 years when in Ed's view "there were other jobs he could do". He tries to sugar the pill somewhat by saying how he doesn't want to demonise anyone in society, or suggest welfare claimants are feckless or worthless; no, they're simply irresponsible. As Chris points out, completely absent from Miliband's analysis is any notion of power: everything instead is purely down to a lack of values. I suspect, and hope, that Miliband doesn't really believe this: he's simply attempting to draw a line and is doing so in as simple a way as he can feasibly get away with. If so, then he's still doing a grave disservice to those currently having their cases reviewed, or those being put on the laughable new "work" programme, whose lives are being turned upside down. He criticises the government's welfare reforms but gives ammunition to the Conservatives in pushing them through.

Hodges is as pleased as someone still pining for the elder Miliband can be. Ed has found a voice he writes for Comment is Free, while as usual the Fabians read too much into one small change in policy. Even Frank Field is delighted, his prejudices on reintroducing a contributory factor to welfare having been listened to. Whether Labour should be getting into the idea of there being a deserving and undeserving poor, as criticised by the Archbishop of Canterbury is neither here nor there. Miliband has shown that he can reach out beyond his base by alighting upon on two incredibly easy targets.

If this was a ham fisted attempt at picking a fight with the party, as Blair did so often, then it didn't exactly work. He was pushing at an open door; it's only us old sentimentalists and bleeding hearts that believe comparing the down on their luck or ill with those at the top getting filthy rich is unhelpful. It also didn't go far enough to attract the attention of the tabloids, or the public, failing on both counts. It also couldn't distract from his brother's notional winning speech, as leaked to the Guardian. We can't of course know that it hasn't been drawn up over the past nine months, honed and weighted until perfect, rather than drafted and redrafted back then. Even so, it's impressive, although the delivery would have been everything. It doesn't mention Iraq, there's a very dubious unexplained part mentioning the war on drugs and he overeggs Labour's achievements on law and order, but on so much else it was the speech Ed should, and still can give. A peace settlement for Afghanistan; effective welfare reform which doesn't stigmatise; a job for every 18-24-year-old out of work for six months; and the kind of attack on George Osborne that genuinely resonates. As that flat earther Sunny Hundal suggests, Ed needs to make interventions that have long-lasting impact. If he follows the example of his brother and the Archbishop rather than Hodges and his ilk, the fight back really does begin here.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011 

A debt repaid.

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Friday, June 10, 2011 

Nice work if you can get it.

Andrew Bridgen, the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire no doubt has other things on his mind at the moment. Just as interesting for his constituents though might be the wage he receives from his other job as non-executive chairman of AB Produce plc; his family's business, naturally. For his six hours work a month he's paid £7,773, which amounts to £93,276 a year, the equivalent of an hourly rate of £1,295.50. At least he can hardly be accused of being distracted from work at Westminster.

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Thursday, June 09, 2011 

Scum-watch: The libelling of Sylvia Henry.

For those of you who want to cast your minds back to the deeply depressing days of late 2008 and the furore following the conviction of the three individuals found guilty of causing the death of Peter Connelly, you might remember that shortly afterwards the then Sun editor Rebekah Brooks gave the Hugh Cudlipp lecture, in which she defended her paper's "campaign for justice". She certainly had no regrets:

Campaigns provide a unique connection to the public especially when the subject matter is of a serious nature. For me, nothing can illustrate this connection better than our recent Baby P campaign.

The public outcry was deafening. And we began our fight for justice with a determination to expose the lack of accountability and responsibility for Baby P’s brutal death.


We received many many thousands of letters at The Sun about our Baby P coverage.

I’d like to read you one: ‘I have never been a huge fan of The Sun, however I thank you for the coverage of Baby P. I am so grateful for the campaign. This is not a modern day witch-hunt but a petition for justice. Please, please do not relent.'

In contrast, I’d like to quote from an article in... The Guardian.

“Full of fury and repellent hysteria, but isn’t that part of the game? This is less about the creation of public emotion and more about its manipulation."

This knee-jerk tabloid kicking reaction is just dull.

But total disregard and respect for public opinion never ceases to amaze me.

They demanded accountability.

And as a result of the campaign, some, just some, of those responsible were removed from office without compensation.

Or as this Sun reader wrote: ‘The tabloid press, which the arty-farty press like to look down on so much, has shown that it prides morality over political correctness.’

Brooks is now spending most of her time as chief executive of News International trying desperately to contain the ever growing phone-hacking scandal, having first claimed with a straight face that it was all lies and that the Guardian had likely deliberately misled the British public. Even then though her approving quoting of a reader who described her campaign as "morality over political correctness" was questionable: she knew full well that her determination to target not those genuinely responsible for Peter Connelly's death, who couldn't at the time be named, but instead the social workers at the centre of the case had led to two of them becoming suicidal. Her paper's website had allowed readers to leave comments encouraging Maria Ward to take their own life, such was the hatred the paper was well aware it was helping to whip up.

Today in the High Court the Sun had to admit that its targeting of Sylvia Henry, one of the Haringey social workers who had worked on Connelly's case, was based on completely inaccurate information. Henry was one of the five individuals the paper demanded be immediately sacked for having failed to prevent Connelly's death. The paper's campaign continued even after the BBC's Panorama had disclosed that Henry had wanted Connelly taken into care in 2006, following his admission to hospital with what she suspected was non-accidental injuries. She was overruled, and had no further role in Connelly's case after that point.

The paper however was absolutely certain of her culpability. In around 80 separate pieces over four months she was described as "grossly negligent", "shameless", to "blame for his appalling abuse and death", "lazy" and that she had "generally shown an uncaring disregard for the safety of children, even in cases where they obviously required urgent protection". It really doesn't get any more potentially libellous but the paper couldn't have cared in the slightest, not only of the damage to Henry's reputation, but also of the potential danger their vituperative articles posed to her personally: both Sharon Shoesmith and Maria Ward received death threats, with Shoesmith advised to avoid tube stations in case someone recognised her and pushed her under a train.

For once, the paper's apology is about right, both in length, its clarity and hopefully also in prominence, although it will be interesting to see where it appears in tomorrow's paper. She should never have had to pursue such a lengthy libel action though: if the Sun had bothered to investigate the case anything approaching properly in the first place they would have found, like Panorama, that she had worked conscientiously and with Connelly's best interests at heart throughout. Instead it was far too concerned with painting a picture of Haringey as a whole as out of touch and unaccountable. As the paper's leader had it at the time, "a price must be paid for his little life". That price could well have been paid in blood. Morality never even began to enter into it.

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