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Friday, 19 September 2014

Nadine Dorries Scots Twitter Hypocrisy

After the passion of the Scottish referendum campaign – with some of that passion coming rather too close to boiling over at times – there is a need for a period of calm, of healing, of reconciliation. And one MP south of the border has rightly looked at what has been going on in that campaign, and recoiled at some of what she has seen. Sadly, she has not practiced what she has preached.
That less than totally upstanding Honourable Member is (yes, it’s her again) Mid Bedfordshire’s Tory MP Nadine Dorries, who initially told her followers “Truly shocking to read and hear about abuse journalists and campaigners have received from the Yes campaigners in Scotland ‘off the scale’”. So she won’t be recycling abuse from the Yes camp, or slagging off Scots, then.
Well, only up to a point: even before her pronouncement, the fragrant Nadine had sat down to the evening’s TV and declared “Women over 50 removed from TV presenting for fear of giving offence and yet we are subject to Andrew Neil on Newsnight”. So Brillo is exempt from her “not being nasty to Scots” because he once took the piss out of her. Just like tens of thousands of other folks do.
Rather worse was in store, just four hours after her observation on the state of the referendum campaign, for Andy McSmith of the Independent: “back on Twitter you inadequate misogynistic bully? I’m delighted to provide you with an opportunity [to] vent your woman hating bile”. What did McSmith do to deserve that? He asserted that she was “an unreliable witness” (a masterful understatement).
In doing so, he was merely agreeing with her now legendary “70% fiction” claim, but, as the man said, there was more: “your book is doing really well Andy, 190,000 on Amazon. Maybe you should achieve something in life before you criticise others”. And then came the Retweeting of some particularly nasty abuse from one of the more forthright of the Yes campaign’s supporters.
Someone called Jason Dolan opined “People who voted no. I hope you die in f***ing agony of cancer. You don’t deserve to live”. Why would Ms Dorries be watching his Twitter RTs? Why indeed? But not only was she watching, she Retweeted that one, prompting cancer survivor Sarah-Jane Phillips to recoil in horror. Citing the book based on her experiences, she added “I am appalled by my MP!
The fragrant Nadine’s excuse – that she was attempting to shame Dolan – also left Ms Phillips less than impressed: “The comments were vile, why give him an extended audience, I found your Tweet upsetting”. Thus far there has been no apology from Ms Dorries to her constituent, and the RT is still there, which, given her recent supposed concern on Twitter excess, is interesting.

One might think that Nadine Dorries was guilty of double standards. Which she is.

Boris Says I Want Some More

Now that the wheels have been set in motion – however slowly – towards Scotland ultimately getting more power for its Parliament, calls for the same kind of thing to happen across England are bound to follow. This appears sensible enough: the problem comes when people realise just who might be getting their hands on more powers, given their track record to date.
Which areas would get more powers? Very probably these would accrue to regions of England, and to London, in the first case. And the latter example has one very keen fan: step forward London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, who has now declared his intention to go back to being an MP, remain Mayor, and thereby have his cake and eat it.

Boris Johnson today signalled a major push for London to seize greater power over its own future in the wake of Scotland’s independence referendum. The Mayor said the capital now had an opportunity to win sweeping new tax powers as the UK worked out a devolution settlement for the English regionstold an obedient Standard today. See – new powers are A Very Good Thing.

Bozza added “I am very pleased that the Prime Minister has identified one of the best and most elegant solutions – greater fiscal devolution for the great cities of England, London included. Together with the core cities of England – Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield – we have drawn up detailed proposals on how this would work”.

However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, a regional strategy does not do things that way: Liverpool and Manchester would be part of a North West region. Bozza should stick to London, and while he’s at it, consider that there might be considerable disquiet over handing over more powers to someone like him who has proved so adept at spraying public money up the nearest wall.

What is worse, he has already committed yet another act of blatant hypocrisy: as has been noted north of the border, Bozza “said that there is ‘no reason’ for Scotland to have more powers – and said instead that tax-raising powers should be granted to major cities in England”. So not only is he advocating a system that may not work outside London, he’s saying it shouldn’t apply to Scotland.

Bozza’s solution over more powers for Scotland appears to be “don’t give them more powers, but give them to Myself Personally Now”, or, put another way, a clear sign that he is not fit to lead a national party like the Tories. With Bozza at the helm, the chance of regaining seats outside England would start low and finish even lower. He wants more for himself and the rest can go hang.

Some Tory MPs think he is their saviour. He’s not even a very naughty boy.

Yes It’s No

There were thunderstorms over London in the small hours, but as I type this, looking out over a pleasantly quiet square in the West of the city, the sun has broken through and the late Summer warmth has returned. So it has been with the Scottish independence referendum, where some significant areas voted Yes – Glasgow being the largest – but overall the vote was a clear No.
That was, as I said yesterday, “the outcome that appears the most likely – that the ‘silent majority’ ensure there is a No vote, and this is upwards of 55% of the poll. All parties will try to claim credit for saving the Union, but the one that will garner the lion’s share of that credit will be Labour. So that will be Fair Play to them, then. But it will be grim news for Young Dave and his jolly good chaps”.

And so it came to pass: 55.3% voted No, against 44.7% for Yes. There was the inevitable last-minute movement in favour of the status quo. That part is over; now, attention has shifted back to the Westminster parties and how they will deliver not just more powers for Scotland, but a genuine regional settlement for England. But first came the reaction of the party leaders.

This, inevitably, put Young Dave in the spotlight, and straight away he misjudged the mood badly. It has been plainly obvious that the late intervention of Pa Broon was a significant help towards preserving the Union: Cameron has been all over the place, and his fellow Tories have been largely irrelevant to the No campaign. So what thanks did he give Brown? He gave him none at all.

That is at least consistent: Dave and next-door neighbour Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, have made denigrating Gordon Brown part of their raison d’être, the idea that he was part of the Rotten Lefty Bad Old Days that they are sweeping away by implementing their much-vaunted Long Term Economic Plan (which in reality is just a PMQs talking point).

The Union has been saved, mainly, by Her Majesty’s Opposition. Cameron cannot get away from that. Nor can he get away from the rising tide of resentment among his own MPs, the belief that he has given the Scots something that not only puts them at an advantage, but by the same token puts English voters at a disadvantage, something Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow Kippers will readily exploit.

Right now, the Prime Minister will be mightily relieved to have got through what could have been a career-ending event for him. But, as I noted yesterday, he will now “be facing Mil The Younger across the dispatch box, knowing that his opponent was keeping him and his increasingly fractious coalition on life support until next May’s General Election – and no longer”. Cameron is a Dead Man Walking.

His advisor “Shagger” Major will be able to tell him all about that.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Tories Will Be Biggest Referendum Losers

While Scotland votes today, some observers are looking ahead at the consequences for the established Westminster parties, and particularly the Tories, where voices of discontent are already being heard over the potential further devolution of powers to Scotland, and the mentality suggesting that they are getting something that decent (and of course hardworking) English people are not.
But let us look first at the outcome that appears the most likely – that the “silent majority” ensure there is a No vote, and this is upwards of 55% of the poll. All parties will try to claim credit for saving the Union, but the one that will garner the lion’s share of that credit will be Labour. So that will be Fair Play to them, then. But it will be grim news for Young Dave and his jolly good chaps.

Cameron being saved from having to walk the plank by Her Majesty’s opposition would be only slightly less humiliating than seeing a Yes vote and having to resign as a result. He would be facing Mil The Younger across the dispatch box, knowing that his opponent was keeping him and his increasingly fractious coalition on life support until next May’s General Election – and no longer.

That will be worth a dig at every PMQs in the intervening period. And it would be even worse if the Yes campaign wins: Cameron would become the PM who lost the Union. Despite claims to the contrary, or that Miliband should be the first to go, Dave would be almost certain to resign – and thus precipitate a bloodbath of the kind that only today’s Tory Party can serve up.
While the serially clueless Tim Montgomerie tells “If Cameron resigns in event of Yes vote the cabinet will aim to unite around a successor to avoid likelihood of damaging leadership race”, not all those Tories in the Cabinet will agree on who that successor should be. For starters, the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, will assume the job is his.

He would not be the only one so to assume: Theresa May would be another. Philip Hammond would fit the John Major role. And, outside the Cabinet, the likes of Liam Fox, despite the idea being beyond delusional, would see the chance to get his hands on the job for which he is manifestly totally unfit (as with any Cabinet level position). Unity – what unity?

Dave’s position is by no means secure even in the immediate term in the event of a No vote: already, the likes of Claire Perry are questioning what is seen as an unduly favourable settlement for the Scots. All it needs is something EU related to crop up – and there is plenty of scope on that front – and the in-fighting for which the Blue Team has become infamous will break out once again.

Win next May? Remain in one piece until next May would be more realistic.

Dan Hodges Confuses Himself

[Update at end of post]

He’s suffered for his art, and now it’s your turn: floor-crosser extraordinaire Dan Hodges has demonstrated via the platform afforded to him at the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs, and the occasional excursion on to Twitter, that Scotland’s referendum campaign has got the better of him. Dan may be saying no, or even yes, while also saying it could be a maybe.
Yes! He's a No! Or maybe not ...

And whatever the outcome, the Labour Party has automatically done the wrong thing, whatever that thing is. This diverts attention from his own lack of research, such as the assertionThe loss of the 40 Scottish Labour MPs would set an almost insurmountable barrier to an outright Labour parliamentary majority”. Ho yus? It wouldn’t have changed the result in 2005 (for instance).
Hodges’ hatred of Pa Broon and Mil The Younger knows no bounds; he calls them “The Labour Party’s nemeses” (probably not, Dan). But, even though he hated Labour, the No camp would prevail: “Despite everything, we are another day closer to the Scottish people voting No ... People commenting on the 17% ‘undecideds’ in the ICM poll. They’re not undecideds. They’re No voters”.
He voiced his opinion unequivocally at Tel blogs: “I predict that the margin of victory for the No camp will be larger than many people suspect”. So that’s that, is it? Er, no it isn’t: “Meanwhile, the bookies have started paying out on a ‘No’ vote. It’s too close to call. It really is. Honestly”. And the latter comment was made the day before the former.
You can forget Pa Broon’s speech, which did not impress Hodges one bit, or even as much as move him: “Gordon gave lots of speeches like that as PM. Didn’t have 95% of the press or 60% of public backing his cause then though”. So never mind all those people out on the streets enthusing about it.
In any case, by yesterday, while Dan was telling the readers at Tel blogs about that wider margin of victory for the No campaign, he was saying otherwise on Twitter: “Whatever your view on tomorrow’s vote, it’s clear that in constitutional terms the best thing would be a ‘Yes’ vote and a clean break”. They’re going to win, then?
The mood of personal confusion was completed by a rank non sequitur, as he tried and failed to demonstrate an Ealing films parallel: “Now Shetland wants to secede from Scotland. This referendum is ending as a cross between Passport to Pimlico and Whiskey Galore”. Very good Dan, Whisky Galore (note correct Scottish spelling) had nothing to do with moves to independence.

Dan Hodges has thoroughly confused himself. One wonders if the readers are, too – if, of course, any of them are still paying attention.

[UPDATE 19 September 1400 hours: true to form, after Labour saved the Union and Young Dave's bacon, Hodges has thrown a mardy strop in their general direction.

"This man wants to be Prime Minister in eight months time. And he clearly hasn’t got a clue in his own mind about what that United Kingdom should actually look like" bawls Dan petulantly.

Then, without bothering to find out what Mil The Younger and his team are thinking, he whines "Labour Party conference starts in less than 48 hours. Is Ed Miliband seriously just going to try and wing it?" Having resigned his party membership during a previous mardy strop, Dan won't be there, of course.

Why bother asking, Dan? You already made your mind up that, whatever Miliband does, it will be a disaster for the country, because you can't have a Mark 2 version of the sainted Tone, and you're going to jump up and down screaming "Look at me Labour people" until you start a froth at the mouth and fall over backwards.

Miliband, with Pa Broon's help, made sure in Scotland. Cameron did not. This is not a difficult proposition to grasp. Unless you're Dan Hodges]

Guido Fawked – Brown Speech Ignored

Yesterday was the last day of campaigning for the Scottish independence referendum, and one event that has been reported in media covering the whole political spectrum was a rousing speech by Pa Broon, widely regarded as one of his best: the thought has entered that this could be the one intervention that could save the Union. Approval has been universal.
Even the Labour-hating Daily Mail toldGordon Brown roars into life: On the eve of historic vote, ex-PM gives the speech of the campaign ... Former Prime Minister launches most passionate defence of the union yet”, while the Maily Telegraph, still the nearest thing to a Tory Party house journal, observed “Former Prime Minister delivers barnstorming speech at final Better Together rally”.

Steve Richards, at the deeply subversive Guardian, also approved: “Awkward no more: how Gordon Brown found his voice ... The former PM’s authentic passion for the union could well be a game-changer in the Scottish referendum vote”. Isabel Hardman of the Spectator conceded that “There are people on the streets of Glasgow talking about Gordon Brown’s speech”.

Her colleague John O’Neill was clearly approving of the Brown rhetoric: “It’s been called rousing, barnstorming, the speech of his life. Gordon Brown’s passionate message for Scotland, which he delivered to an enthused crowd at the Maryhill Community Central Hall in Glasgow, has certainly caught people’s attention”. But one observer of the referendum campaign was silent. Totally silent.

Yes, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog said nothing. Not a sausage. Bugger all. Instead, the Fawkes folks concentrated on such game-changing events as trousering more dosh for Themselves Personally Now from another sponsored post, sniggering at Kay “surly” Burley calling a Yes campaignera bit of a knob”, and trying to find anyone backing Alex Salmond.

Why would they do this? Ah well. Staines has made it a significant part of his life’s work to smear Pa Broon as somehow flawed and eccentric (yes, I know, pot and kettle), as well as cursing any enterprise he supports. An enthusiastic audience, followed by an equally enthused – and positive – public debate on the speech does not serve the interests of The Great Guido at all well.

So Staines will say nothing about Brown’s intervention – unless the Yes campaign, in defiance of all those opinion polls showing them between two and six points adrift, wins the vote. Then, and only then, will the Fawkes blog triumphantly and sneeringly present Brown’s speech as another part of the supposed “Jonah Curse”. Thus the lofty intellectual heights scaled by The Great Guido.

Staines leaves serious politics to the grown-ups. Another fine mess, once again.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Mel Says West Bank Land Grab Isn’t

Many will recall the sinking feeling experienced at the start of this month when, on the back of all the death and destruction in Gaza, it was revealed that Israel had decided to appropriate almost 1000 acres of Palestinian land to facilitate the construction of a new city near the settlement of Gvaot. The US and UK Governments, as the Guardian noted, condemned the move.
Definitely not Fair and Balanced

The paper reported “Israel's decision has been condemned by senior Palestinian government figures and Israel's chief negotiator in the stalled peace process, the justice minister, Tzipi Livni, who said the decision would damage Israel's security in the long run. ‘The decision was incorrect,’ Livni told Israel Radio News. ‘It was a decision that weakens Israel and damages its security’”.

Over at the Mail, a report notedIsrael has come under intense international criticism over its settlement activities, which most countries regard as illegal under international law and a major obstacle to the creation of a viable Palestinian state in any future peace deal”. The report told that Binyamin Netenyahu was using the peace accord between Fatah and Hamas as an excuse for lack of negotiation.

Ha’Aretz went into more detail: “Eighteen percent of the land declared state land this week is west of the West Bank separation barrier, suggesting that the intent is not just to expand the Gush Etzion settlement bloc but to link the area up with Israel proper, says Dror Etkes, of the Peace Now settlement tracking project. The cabinet decided to take over the land in response to the June kidnapping and killing of three teenage Jewish boys by Hamas militants in the area”.
Yasmeen Serhan spelt out the consequences: “By illegally building on occupied land and destroying the territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state, Israel severely undermines the opportunity to achieve a two-state solution to the conflict and ensure its own future security and stability”. But there was, as ever, a dissenting voice.
Yes, Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips was having none of it. “For those in West with still-functioning brain: why claim Israel illegally seizes ‘Palestinian’ land is wrong in law” she told subtly. Perhaps that was the law that comes from dubiously sourced scriptures from several thousand years ago.
And don’t tell her about the Palestinians having their own state: “Palestinians turn down yet another offer of a state of their own. There’s only one state that they want”. This was followed by the inevitable suggestion that information coming out of Gaza cannot be trusted: “‘Destroyed’ Gaza power plant miraculously repaired”, she crowed. To Mel, “put out of action” and “destroyed” are the same thing.

Meanwhile, there were still more than 500 children killed in the latest Gaza bombardment. But for Melanie Phillips, it’s just Carry On Screaming once more.

Don’t Menshn The Scottish U-Turn

The latest opinion polls on this week’s Scottish independence referendum all show the No campaign in the lead, albeit only by around four points, which is within the margin of error. Crucially, Rupert Murdoch, who always wants to be seen backing the winner, has cooled on his previous support for Alex Salmond. And where Rupe goes, his obedient pundits will surely follow.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

You think I jest? Only one exhibit needs to be viewed here, and that exhibit is the stream of pronouncements emanating from former Tory MP Louise Mensch, obsessively keen to respond to Her Master’s Voice. Last week she was unequivocally in the Yes camp, but Rupe is distancing himself, and she is still a good and obedient Tory supporter, and so has performed a U-Turn.
Then, it was “Hooray! I really support Scots independence and it would be fantastic for England and the Conservatives were it to happen”, but now she is not keen on many Yes supporters’ tactics: “Yes thugs [!] attacking [Ed Miliband] will swing thousands of undecideds to [the No campaign]. She even managed to deploy the #bettertogether hashtag.
Last week, she was telling everyone “You’d have two center [sic] right Governments and Labour would be totally shut out”, but now she’s attacking Salmond with a passion: “Salmond is utterly lying when he says to Scots they can keep the [pound]; also lying when he says it will take 18 months to join [the] EU”. Ms Mensch knows all about telling porkies – ask Piers Morgan.
From that point, the reasoning became utterly bizarre, displaying a lack of logic, or indeed, how organisations like the EU work. “Spain also confirms iScotland would lose all opt-outs of rUK including Schengen and VAT – higher prices, more immigration”. Spain does not drive the European Commission, and free movement of labour is not varied whether a country has joined the Schengen area.
And where last week she was musing “I am a Conservative, started out a unionist but always a bit iffy and the debate has made me not a Unionist anymore. Union with Wales, NI”, now she was rubbishing the whole idea of Scottish independence: “The Loch Ness monster is more credible than Salmond’s ‘Keep the £’ (No), ‘Stay in the EU’ (No)”.
Then the U-Turn was completed, as readers were told firmly that “Scottish autonomy must be recognised and simultaneously unfairnesses to England corrected. We’re better together”. Yes means no, independence goes from good to bad in ten days, whatever Creepy Uncle Rupe says, and please give me a show on Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).

She was allowed to become an MP. Political class? Competence? Er, no.

Has Dave Promised Dacre A Gong?

The last stages of the Scottish independence referendum campaign have been getting more than a little tasty, with Mil The Younger being subjected to more than a little pushing and shoving in an Edinburgh shopping centre yesterday. The thought that some, particularly on the Yes side, are in perhaps too high spirits, has driven many of today’s front pages. One in particular stands out.
That paper is the Daily Mail, which has thrown the proverbial kitchen sink at the story today, starting with “The Seriously Nasty Party: With one day to go, damning evidence of the bullying intimidation of voters by Scots nationalists ... Pro-union voters have endured stone-throwing and been called traitors ... Many are now said to be too scared to show their support of a No vote”.
The main attack wave has been supported by a hail of pundits, led by the odious Quentin Letts (let’s not), who claimed to have been in that shopping centre: “Organisers of the 2015 Rugby World Cup put out a photograph yesterday purporting to show the ‘world’s biggest scrum’. Pah! It looked a tame affair compared to what we had in an Edinburgh shopping centre early teatime”.
Quent’s outriders in this particular pundit plethora included Tom Bradby, intoning with great seriousnessThis bullying and intimidation is worse than anything I saw in Ulster”, while Chris Deerin toldAs a Scot, I despair of the Nats' nasty streak”. Added to this wasRow breaks out over allegations that Salmond 'tried to gag' leading Scots academic who questioned independence”.
As Sir Sean [not present for tax reasons] nearly said, I think we got the point. The Mail is throwing everything at an attempt to preserve the Union: one need only look at Daily Mail Comment, the authentic voice of the Vagina Monologue, and its cringingly bad headlineTo our Scottish cousins we say sorry for England's inept political class and beg you to stay in our great British family”.
All of which is routine and predictable; the Mail is a deeply conservative newspaper, and nothing could be more conservative than retaining a Union first formalised in 1707. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, this rush to proclaim the virtue of a No vote is not a coincidence: Paul Dacre was seen visiting 10 Downing Street at lunchtime yesterday.

But the Mail’s legendarily foul mouthed editor would not be happy with mere recognition: there was almost certainly some kind of quid pro quo involved. The Mail’s petulant attacks on the honours system should inform anyone wanting to know what that might be. So has Cameron promised Dacre a gong? Will the New Year’s honours list include the newly-created Baron Dacre of F***ing C***ery?

With that kind of recognition, Dacre might even contemplate retirement.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Rotherham – Enter The EDL

The fallout from the revelations that there had been as many as 1,400 children sexually exploited in Rotherham in the recent past has brought a number of resignations, with Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Shaun Wright being the latest and most welcome addition to the list. But it has also brought unwelcome attention for the South Yorkshire town.
Much of this has been confined to the scribbling of the variously clueless punditerati, but there has been, with the inevitability of night following day, a visit from the brains trust of the far right, not, you understand, that they want to pick a fight with whoever they can find who cannot be categorised “White British”. The most prominent of these groups, has usual, has been the English Defence League (EDL).

ITV told thatSouth Yorkshire Police revealed today that the cost of policing protest rallies in the town is expected to rise above a million pounds. Seven people were arrested as 1,000 members of the EDL marched in response to the town's child abuse scandal”. So now we know that the EDL still has a thousand supporters who can figure out how to converge on Rotherham.

It was not a pleasant time to be nipping into town for a spot of shopping: “Police erected 10ft (3m) barricades around the town centre, while extra officers were drafted in from around the country. South Yorkshire police said officers had been ‘confronted with missiles and barriers’ but said no injuries had so far been reported” told the Guardian, confirming that Police had been attacked.

Elsewhere, the HuffPo informed readers thatThree men were held on suspicion of going equipped to commit crime shortly before hundreds of supporters of the EDL were expected to march through the South Yorkshire town ... Later, officers dealt with a small group of protesters who were ‘failing to comply with direction’”. But the larger problem was the lack of such reporting.

Most of the press ignored the EDL’s visit to Rotherham. And even those that did managed to miss the inconvenient fact that a door at one mosque had been kicked in, despite, as Tell Mama noted, “it seems that far right groups turned up and fought between themselves whilst marching through Rotherham”. Well, if they can’t fight anyone else, scrapping with each other is the only alternative.

This is what the pundits, most of whom are working out of comfortable offices in London, cannot get their heads around: rabble-rousing causes misery for those wanting to go about their business, fear for minority communities, and costs significant amounts in Police resources, which someone – like us – has to pay for. The last thing Rotherham residents need is the EDL rolling into town.

If the press is offering help, fine. If it’s just making mischief, it shouldn’t bother.

Free School Splits Community

As a result of the coverage given by Zelo Street to the curate’s egg that is the Free Schools programme instigated by Michael “Oiky” Gove, a regular reader has brought my attention to the recent case of the Etz Chaim school in Mill Hill, and its divisive effect on the local Jewish community. Some remarkably dirty tricks appear to have been used to facilitate the school’s relocation.
Yes, "Oiky", a consequence of your policy

Much of what went on after Etz Chaim was approved as one of the first wave of Free Schools has been covered by the Evening Standard, but one article appears to be missing. It is, to no surprise at all, the most damning one where those running or supporting the school are concerned. But let us begin at the beginning, when the school opened in 2011 in temporary premises.

A permanent site – the sticking point all over the Greater London area, given property demand and therefore prices – was high on the school governors’ wish list. One location, the former Wyevale garden centre, was on land where Barnet Council owned the freehold. The owners of the centre were, of their own volition, going to close it. Barnet gave permission to build on the site in late 2011.

Residents objected. Etz Chaim applied again, and this was accepted. Residents went for another Judicial Review. The 2010 Equality Act was cited: many of those who visited the garden centre were elderly or disabled. Many of them were transported there by the Council’s own adult social services department. There was clearly a divergence of opinion. That did not excuse what came next.

Here’s what Standard readers are missing: “the school sent out a leaflet threatening local objectors with possible financial consequences ... [warning] local residents who contributed towards the costs of a second Judicial Review ... to take legal advice as they may be liable to pay the school damages ... The school’s threat ... caused one 85-year-old widow, who donated £20 to support the campaign to save the Garden Centre, to panic that the Department of Education is about to take her to court”.

Another resident asserted “As a school teacher in a local independent school for 30 years I have supported the right of parents to choose the education they wish for their children but I have never taught children to threaten those who hold opposing views in this way”. Unintended consequences, maybe, but real ones, nonetheless.

The Standard pulled their article after a barrage of complaints from Adam Dawson, who is chair of Etz Chaim’s governors, and also a barrister. Meanwhile, as my reader understands it, “the school got what it wanted, the residents lost their Garden Centre and the (mainly Jewish) objectors have been gagged with threats of being labelled anti-Semitic”. That’s the kind of outcome that serves no-one’s interests.

One wonders if Gove thought through his brave new idea first. Or maybe not.

Scotland – NHS Sting In The Tail

Showing that press deadlines can leave the papers looking flat-footed, and at the same time chucking a grenade of unspecified explosive power into the already steaming cauldron that is the Scottish independence debate, has come a superbly-timed leak from someone modestly called “an NHS whistleblower” to put the boot into Alex Salmond and his fellow nationalists.
Yes, while the Murdoch Times was obeying His Master’s Voice and telling readers “Unionists outgunned in final push for Scotland” (Rupe may, of course, change tack and embarrass his supposedly upmarket troops even more in the next couple of days), news had reached the Herald – and the BBC – that the NHS in Scotland was facing a £400 million funding shortfall.

And that is likely to get the Yes campaign and its supporters even more annoyed: they were already gunning for the Beeb after political editor Nick Robinson asked Salmond a question (in other words, he was doing his job) and the First Minister decided to cut up rough over it. Now the Corporation has information that reflects badly on the current Scottish Government – that would be them.
The BBC report will make grim reading for the Yes camp: “The documents state: ‘The status quo and preservation of existing models of care are no longer an option given the pressing challenges we face’. The whistleblower has alleged that pressures on the NHS come from Scottish government policies”. That is in direct conflict with the assertion that the UK Government was the biggest threat.

There was more: “The documents suggest that health boards will have to consider centralising hospitals and closing services - a measure which the SNP vowed to stop when it was elected in 2007. The Scottish government reversed the closure of Accident and Emergency departments at Monklands and Ayr hospitals, but the papers suggest such dramatic measures may be back on the table”.
And there was this conclusion: “Services are unsustainable right across Scotland from three emergency centres in Lanarkshire, to emergency care at the Vale (of Leven) to paediatrics at St John's (in Livingston), and with particular issues for more rural boards hence the problems at Grampian. The current pattern of services is underpinned but short-term money and fixes won't stack up going into next year”.

Scotland’s Health Secretary Alex Neil made a positive counter to the news, but, tellingly, did not dispute the shortfall figure. As in the rest of the UK, and despite the best efforts of the right-wing press, whenever an NHS issue is thrown into an election campaign, it can spell trouble for one of the parties, and that party is usually that of the incumbent Government. That means it’s trouble for Salmond.

As another Scot might have put it, it’s squeaky bum time for the Yes campaign.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Press Says Leave Brit Attacks To Us

The tabloid press loves to tell us how our country – well, England at least – is, as the Daily Mail’s unfunny and talentless churnalist likes to put it, going to hell in a handcart. And part of the problem, they will tell you, is all that binge drinking and consumption of horribly fatty food. They will tell you about all those grossly overweight folks roaming our seaside resorts.
João Magueijo's home town, Évora. Nobody openly drunk or throwing up can be seen

Stories of violent behaviour are routine, despite the overall level of violent crime falling. Yes, we in England are appallingly badly behaved, and the cheaper end of the Fourth Estate tell us about it week in, week out. So it must be, even if in the smallest of measure, true. But then someone from another country says more or less the same thing, and it’s all very different.

You may not have heard of João Magueijo. He is a cosmologist and professor in Theoretical Physics at Imperial College, London. He is also a pioneer of the varying speed of light (VSL) theory. But Senhor Magueijo is not British, but Portuguese, and he has written a not totally serious book titled Bifes mal Passados ("undercooked beef") about the British. The press is not happy.

The Mail was aghast: “A best-selling book written by a Portuguese academic has offered a dismal portrayal of English people, calling them 'unrestrained wild beasts who eat food so greasy it needs detergent' ... He moans 'It is not unusual to drink 12 pints, or two huge buckets of beer per person ... Describing a four-hour wait in a Blackpool hospital's A&E department one Sunday afternoon, he says 'it looked like a field hospital after battle'”. And, as the man said, there’s more.

On some people’s eating and drinking habits, he observed “Even a horse would get drunk with this [on 12 pints] but in England it is standard practice. In England, real men have to drink like sponges, eat like skeletons and throw up everything at the end of the evening'”. Just as the Mail has been saying for years.

His claim that “Oral sex is not considered a sexual act among the English. It is something a woman can perform on a stranger whose name she doesn't even know...No one cares”. Anyone thinking about that Magaluf shock horror expose from earlier this year? The Mail just forgot about it.

Anne-Elisabeth Moutet at Telegraph blogs is not at all impressed: “Back in his homeland, this tome is a bestseller, which is a real cheek. For Brit-bashing is a French pursuit, thank you very much”. So the dastardly garlic-crunching French can slag us off, but those from the country that has 365 different recipes for salt cod (joke, Portuguese people) cannot.

João Magueijo has a point: in his home town of Évora, or in Lisbon’s Bairro Alto, folks do not behave like that. Some Brits do. We just don’t like foreigners saying so.

Fake Sheikh – The Net Closes

Roy Greenslade, in his blog at the deeply subversive Guardian, brings more bad news today for Mazher Mahmood, more usually known as the Fake Sheikh: he notes that “The Crown Prosecution Service has dropped a case against a doctor and a pharmacist because it relied on evidence provided by Mazher Mahmood”. Maz is finding that his name doesn’t engender confidence these days.
He ain't smiling now

Greenslade continues “He wrote a Sunday Times article in September 2012 about the two men - Dr Majeed Ridha and Murtaza Gulamhusein - in which it was claimed they had risked women's lives by illegally selling abortion pills. They were arrested, but the CPS told Southwark crown court 10 days ago, on 5 September, that it would offer no evidence against them”.

The Fake Sheikh is already suspended from his last berth, the Sunday edition of the Murdoch Sun, after the collapse of the Tulisa Contostavlos drugs trial. That came down to the judge believing Mahmood had lied to him, and that “the underlying purpose of these lies was to conceal the fact that he had been manipulating the evidence”. It was not the only Fake Sheikh trial to collapse.

The allegation that there had been a plot to kidnap Victoria Beckham was found to be largely false, and the trial collapsed after it was found that a key witness was “unreliable. His lack of reliability was not unconnected to his having received £10,000 from Mahmood for his role. There was no conspiracy, no intent to kidnap. The BBC’s Nick Higham explained this to readers.

A witness who has been offered money may be tempted to exaggerate their evidence to justify their fee - or hold something back for publication later. Either way the witness becomes unreliable”. The judge referred the affair to the Attorney General “to consider the temptations that money being offered in return for stories concerning celebrities give rise to”.

And there could be worse to come for Mahmood: consider the headlineHow Rebekah Brooks Withheld Beckham Kidnap Info, Hired Criminals for the Fake Sheikh, and Scotland Yard and the CPS Did Nothing” from Peter Jukes’ contributor Joe Public at Bellingcat. There had been considerable concern about Mahmood’s modus operandi, as seen in Chris Brace’s post, also for Bellingcat.

On top of all that, there are cases like that of actor and singer John Alford, whose career was destroyed by one of the Fake Sheikh’s stings: trashed just to give the now-defunct Screws an edge in the Sunday tabloid marketplace. There is much for Police and lawyers to consider here: Mahmood has, it seems, not been so much an exceptional journalist, as just another very naughty boy.

Mazher Mahmood’s past may be about to catch up with him. Good thing, too.

Guido Fawked – Thin Skin Hypocrisy

The supposed effrontery of BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson in asking an allegedly “difficult” question of Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond got many "Yes" supporters so worked up that they marched on the Beeb’s Scotland HQ brandishing a banner passing severely adverse comment upon Robinson’s judgment.
Yeah, I joined the Yes campaign after a skinful, sod it, no, careful consideration of the wine, shit no, facts. After opening my brandy, bugger it, no, mind, to the possibility of achieving a state of alcoholic derangement, bollocks no, independence. From getting nicked. Oh sod it

The BBC, as is its wont, dutifully reported the criticism of itself, although it stopped short of telling that the hostile crowd had voiced opinions such as “you can stick the license fee up your arse”. The Maily Telegraph had no such qualms; for it, and the rest of the right-leaning press, this was an opportunity to play both sides of the field, laying into the Nationalists and the Beeb equally.

Laying only into the Beeb, though, one commentator who has recently experienced a Damascene conversion to the Yes campaign was keen to underscore his belief that the Corporation really is biased, probably because it does not give sufficient televisual opportunities to Himself Personally Now. Yes, step forward the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, aka Guido Fawkes.

The Great Guido provides a background ramble, taking a pot at the likes of Alastair Campbell and Baron Mandelson of Indeterminate Guacamole, before musing “The suspicion of an imperial [!] BBC amongst Yes supporters is pretty much universal and has become focused on Robbo after he asked a tricky question of Alex Salmond based on a briefing from the Treasury”.

So far, so routine, but then comes a ramping up: “The personalisation [spelling corrected] aside, the feeling is that the BBC is a partial propagandist is inevitable given the British Broadcasting Corporation is seen as institutionally biased in favour of the British status quo. The clue is in the name”. Really? That the Beeb should represent the whole of the United Kingdom? Come off it.

And then he lets it slip: “Journalists are remarkably thin-skinned when it comes to being on the receiving end of what they dish out – that is why they invariably hate unfiltered comments below their articles and the feedback of the mob on Twitter and the streets. Tough, freedom of speech is for everyone, not just journalists”. The hypocrisy hooter is sounding long and loud.

The Fawkes rabble are the stuff of legend when it comes to being thin-skinned. And the Fawkes blog is also well-known for censoring comments that hit too close to home: anyone trying to allude to drink-driving will know that. Free speech, when it is inconvenient to The Great Guido, can provoke a viciously unpleasant backlash.

Anyone not familiar with that interpretation of “free speech” should check out Zelo Street’s outing of the initially anonymous Alex Wickham, the Fawkes blog’s newly anointed teaboy (HERE and HERE). Another fine mess, once again.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Murdoch Meddles In Scotland Again

As if there were not enough of the good and great fetching up all over Scotland to tell those whose votes actually matter in next week’s referendum, a businessman whose company is under investigation on both sides of the North Atlantic, and whose son was accused by an MP of “running a Mafia operation”, has arrived to give Scots the dubious benefit of his largely unwanted advice.
Yes, Rupert Murdoch has fetched up in Aberdeen, where he apparently tried to make an incognito visit to a pub (as if). Don Rupioni was quizzed by reporters wanting to know if he would be duly instructing the Scottish edition of the Sun to back Alex Salmond, but what they missed is his apparent desire, in the event of a Yes vote, to keep on sticking his bugle in.
For starters, he was not happy about the kind of company the Yes campaign was keeping: “Scotland. Have to worry about some of Salmond’s allies. Far left socialists and extreme greenies. Must change course to prosper if he wins”. Nothing like self-determination, is there, Rupe? You must think you’ve made Alex an offer he can’t refuse.
And his ability to suggest that everyone “looks over there” is as strong as ever: “Should remember Scots invented modern world 200-odd years ago with Scottish Enlightenment. Free people, free markets, decent restraints”. Murdoch likes free markets? That’ll be news to his competitors.
He also believes that, having stoked up feelings on both sides to rather greater heights than is good for respectful disagreement, it will all be OK after the vote. “Despite English patronising, whatever the outcome, extremists on both sides will fade, warm feelings return”. He won’t have to be there to pick up the pieces.
But what emerges after the vote will clearly be to Rupe’s liking: “With all-party promises of max devolution, if kept, Britain will be a different place, certainly better managed. Tough negotiations ahead”. Murdoch fancies a federal structure for the whole of the UK – that way, he retains all his power, and the politicians with rather less than at present will be easier to pick off.
But there is a cloud on his horizon: “Coincidence or fate? Sept 18 2014 700 years since Battle of Bannockburn threw off English yoke. But now SNP wants to swap UK rule for EU”. Don Rupioni doesn’t like that: EU means proper regulation and properly free markets. Less chance of him getting away with rubbing his competitors’ noses in the crap. Less chance of rigging the game in his favour.

Leave it, Rupe. You keep sticking your oar in where it isn’t wanted. This decision is for the Scots, and they alone. Some of us respect that. Pity Murdoch does not.

Telegraph Supports Yes Campaign

Some in the press have yet to grasp the more basic dynamics of the Scottish referendum campaign, one of which is that those leaning to a Yes vote are not likely to be persuaded by hyperbolic excess, especially when it is underpinned by a false premise. Moreover, deploying someone with a track record for shameless dishonesty is equally prone to engendering an adverse reaction.
The Sunday paper not getting a handle on these basics today is the Telegraph, which goes completely OTT with its main headline: “Scottish soldiers lost their lives trying to preserve the United Kingdom. What will their families say now: ‘Well, it no longer matters’?” They may, for starters, ask the Tel to show a little respect for their ability to make an informed choice of their own volition.

Moreover, “trying to preserve the United Kingdom” is plain flat wrong. What conflict has the UK joined since 1945 that threatened the integrity of the Union? Well, we haven’t. More correctly, this should read “serving their country”, which right now is that same United Kingdom. If Scotland votes Yes, then “serving their country” may in future have a different meaning. That is all.

Sadly, the Tel has doubled down in its disrespect of Scots voters – not a wise move when the current level of interest in next Thursday’s vote makes that electorate one of the best-informed ever – by engaging the services of Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan to patronise them in his own inimitable style, or lack thereof. Gilligan has form when it comes to honesty, and his form is that he is woefully short of it.

One of the key themes of the Yes independence campaign – I saw it scrawled on a No poster in Edinburgh only last night – is that a ‘free Scotland’ will no longer be tricked into illegal wars based on lies” he tells, before proudly declaring “as the BBC reporter who first exposed those lies”. The Hutton Inquiry found differently, and Gilligan hasn’t been a BBC reporter since. They won’t have him back.

One of their largest donors ran a campaign to keep the anti-gay Section 28” he protests. That was a reference to Brian Souter of Stagecoach. That company, along with First Group, is headquartered in Scotland. The two of them control a significant part of the UK’s public transport. From Scotland. And will still be making money for Scotland in the event of a Yes vote. Think about that.

Gilligan does not wish to do that, instead asking “How on earth has a famously rational, unemotional, cautious place like Scotland – birthplace of the Enlightenment – come so close to being swept into this land of the unknown by a last-minute wave of shallow populism, emotion and fairy-tale lies”? He manages not to realise that he was part of something similar with his pal Bozza in London.

Scotland will make its own decision. And patronising its voters will not work.

Another Free School Money Pit

The travails of Kings Science Academy (KSA) in Bradford will be well known to Zelo Street regulars: notable events in the recent past include the arrest of former head teacher Sajid Raza on fraud charges – he was later bailed – and then the news that the school had gone for a whole year (at least) without a chair of governors. Now there is the matter of how much public money the school is consuming.
Or rather, there is the matter of not only how much public money the school is consuming, but also who may be benefiting therefrom. Here we find the media outlet making the running is a generally highly conservative paper, the Leeds-based Yorkshire Post. It is unashamedly Tory supporting; former Thatcher confidante Bernard Ingham has a regular column there.

So the supporters of Michael “Oiky” Gove and his successor Nicky Morgan have no complaint, no means to suggest that this is all being got up by a bunch of rotten lefties. Moreover, the MP asking the questions, Lib Dem David Ward, who represents Bradford East, represents the governing Coalition. Ward has fixed on the role of Tory vice chairman Alan Lewis.

Lewis was named as chair of the school’s governors only to deny it. But now it appears “that in a document bidding to open another Kings Science Academy free school in Sheffield, Mr Lewis is referred to as chairman of governors or of the academy trust on ten separate occasions”. Lewis was appointed to his vice-chairmanship by Young Dave.

Ward’s Early Day Motion “says that Mr Lewis’ name appears beneath an executive summary, a mission statement and a conclusion in an application ... This application document has been seen by The Yorkshire Post ... Mr Lewis is also listed as a main contact for the application ... [the trust’s] address on the application was the same as Mr Lewis’s company”. Then we come to the money side.

There has also been controversy over the separate issue of the land deal and the level of rent being paid to Mr Lewis’ company, the Hartley Group, which has helped to make it the most expensive free school to taxpayers in the country, according to the latest DfE figures”. KSA has been built on Lewis’ company’s land “in a deal worth around £295,000-a-year in rent over a 20 year lease”.

You read that right: Alan Lewis’ company is getting close to £300,000 a year of our money, and every year for 20 years. That comes to a cool six million notes just for rent. Yet Lewis, whenever the spotlight is shone on KSA, appears to suggest he has nothing to do with the whole thing, honestly. The Government needs to get a handle on what is going on here, and sort it out.

Otherwise, the questions will continue to be asked until someone does sort it out.

Top Six – September 14

So what’s hot, and what’s not, in the past week’s blogging? Here are the six most popular posts on Zelo Street for the past seven days, counting down in reverse order, because, well, I have food preparation stuff to do later. So there.
6 Rupert Murdoch – Stay Off Twitter Rupe wasn’t making too much sense – but it seems no-one can wrestle control of the Twitter feed from him.

5 Murdoch Gets His Doggies In Line The man whose empire brought us Phonehackgate was now getting his obedient hacks on-message in the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum.

4 Toby Young’s School Employs Right Wing Author Tobes’ Free School now has a genuine think-tanker on its staff. What parents are going to make of that will prove rather interesting.

3 The Curse Of Gove All those Free School proposals he encouraged with hand-crafted additions to the acceptance letters – and which had problems afterwards.

2 Don’t Menshn Child Sex Abuse Off she went again – Louise Mensch made a number of creative accusations against Nafir Afzal of the CPS. All were wrong and potentially actionable.

1 Murdoch Meddles In Scotland Poll Rupe decided to stick his bugle into the referendum campaign in Scotland. Why? Alex Salmond had offered to support the BSkyB bid, and Young Dave had dropped Rebekah Brooks like a hot potato.

And that’s the end of another blogtastic week, blog pickers. Not ‘arf!