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Friday, 30 September 2011

A Tale Of Two Farms

Most people, even in the north west, have not heard of Holme House Farm. Fewer yet know of its significance. But anyone with an opinion has heard of Dale Farm, and is well aware of what the name means. Both farms are connected by their falling foul of planning rules, and residents in both face the threat of eviction. Why only one of them appears on the news radar may become clear.

Holme House Farm has on its land fifteen “lodges” which have been converted from static caravans. They are home to around nineteen people. Those people, generally, cannot afford to rent elsewhere in the area, far less buy, for this is Kendal, a town in an area where many properties serve as second homes for those keen on the attractions of the Lake District.

Compare and contrast, as they say: Dale Farm in Essex, near Basildon, also has a number of static caravans and other homes which are there in violation of the planning laws. Unlike those in the north west, this is a community of travelling folk, most with family connections to the west of Ireland. Some locals resent the presence of travellers in the area.

No prizes for guessing which of the two farms features in the press: the Dale Farm residents have been the subject of an onslaught from the Daily Mail for some weeks now, with accusations that they have “lavish” homes back in Ireland (a half built shell is not “lavish”), or that they have “names on deeds, and of course Dicky Windbag has got in on the act.

The rest of the tabloid pack has been there in the vanguard with the Mail, but none of them has even managed a peep about Holme House. Why might that be? Well, there are less people involved in the Holme House Farm site than at Dale Farm, they aren’t living in such close proximity to their nearest neighbours, and they’re a long, long way from London, where the hacks are based.

But most of all, the people at Holme House Farm are just locals who can’t afford anywhere else in the area. And they aren’t travellers. Not that the Daily Mail and the rest of the tabs pull in the readers by trying to frighten them about travellers.

Perish the thought!

Dicky Windbag Kicks The Gays

Yesterday I looked at Steve Doughty’s piece in the Daily Mail – just what his legendarily foul mouthed editor ordered – which took recent survey data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and skilfully slanted it to fit the already written headline. I also told that this would give the green light for tedious and unfunny churnalist Richard Littlejohn to kick the gays, and to expect that the next day.

And Dicky Windbag has not disappointed: “Whatever the BBC say, Britain is still mainly white, Christian and straight” trumpets the million pound hack. But the level of accuracy is as dodgy as ever: “According to the ONS, it is the definitive study” asserts Dick, seemingly oblivious to the two words “Experimental Statistics” in large capitals at the top of every page.

But never mind that – and the possibility that many won’t discuss their sexuality in face-to-face interviews or over the phone when a significant part of the print media (guess which title that might mean) tells its readers that being gay is not, repeat not, normal – this is enough for Dick to lay into gays, Stonewall, and of course the dastardly BBC.

After all, 70% of the population are Christian – which Dick endorses, while slipping in the “BBC banning BC/AD” fairytale to order, and on cue – but then when he finds that just 4.4% of that same population are Muslim, he isn’t happy with the “definitive” survey (“seems like an under-estimate – especially if you live in London”). Littlejohn knows this because he lives in, er, Florida.

And, with the target in his sights, he’s off: “accepted picture ... peddled by ... the social engineering industry and endorsed ... by the BBC. Practising Christians are regarded as a dangerous minority cult to be persecuted and harassed”, “news bulletins and dramas refracted through the prism of diversity”, “no ... series is complete without a ... gay storyline”.

All boxes are ticked as Dick reaches the home straight: “News reports and documentaries ... presented from a Leftist, metropolitan perspective”, “every school classroom they see ... on the BBC ... full of little girls in Muslim headscarves”, and of course “Question Time audiences ... resembling a Guardian leader writer’s fantasy of what Britain should look like”.

But Dick knows what the problem is: “BBC producers, quangocrats and Left-wing political activists only ever meet other people like themselves” he declares. That would be as opposed to those who cower behind the gates of their Florida compound and don’t meet anyone else at all.

Not even someone to explain to them what “Experimental Statistics” means.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Iain Dale’s Lack Of Liverpool – Take 2

Spurred on by a commenter who pointed out that arriving in Liverpool at Lime Street Station – as I urged Iain Dale to do next time he visits, as I’m sure he will – would mean mentioning St George’s Hall, I concede that the photos in my first effort did not paint the full picture. So here are more views of the city, and a trip across the water to Birkenhead.

And to kick off, here is St George’s Hall, listed at Grade I and described by Pevsner as one of the finest Neo-Grecian buildings in the world. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Behind and to the right of the hall can be seen the Walker Art Gallery, which is listed Grade II*.

Down on the waterfront is the restored Albert Dock complex, the largest single collection of Grade I listed buildings anywhere in the UK. In the background can be seen the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, dating from the 1960s, listed Grade II* and known affectionately as “Paddy’s Wigwam”.

Adjacent to the Albert Dock is the rather newer Arena and Conference Centre, where this year’s Labour Party conference was held. In the background is Liverpool Cathedral, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott in the Gothic Revival style and listed at Grade I. It was stated before World War 1, but only finally completed in 1978.

Crossing the water to Birkenhead can be done using the Mersey Ferries, but more frequently by rail. The tall lift tower of the town’s Hamilton Square station is a local landmark, and clearly visible from the Liverpool side of the river.

From the ferry terminal at Woodside there is a heritage tramway running into the adjacent business park, through the former dock area. Waiting at Woodside is a former Lisbon tram, recently restored by the local transport museum.

Also recently restored is Egerton Bridge, a single leaf bascule bridge which crosses the former Wallasey Pool. The docks, though, have lain derelict for many years, although there is a scheme to redevelop the area.

So more to explore in and around Liverpool, and that’s without mentioning the shopping, restaurants, bars and all those other memorable buildings – like the Town Hall, another listed at Grade I. Time for Iain Dale to reconsider his judgment?

To Profess Allegiance To Dacre

The phrase “lies, damn lies, and statistics” may be thought overused by those who do not see the way in which statistics are routinely manipulated to fit the headlines ordered by the Daily Mail’s legendarily foul mouthed editor. And one order is both paramount and sacrosanct: that not only is the UK a Christian country, but it also must be seen and shown to be one.

Moreover, homosexuality is A Very Bad Thing, and so it must be shown to be thus at every opportunity. So a release of data yesterday from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has been gratefully churned over by obedient hack Steve Doughty, who has also used the opportunity to lay into the BBC for ordering something that it didn’t order on expressing dates.

At first, the figures appear to support the Mail view that “70% of us claim to be Christians ... and only 1.5% are gay”, but a little examination of the questions asked shows that not to be the case. On sexuality, 94.7% identified themselves as heterosexual or straight. So to assert that “only 1.5% are gay” is characteristically misleading. And “identified themselves as” is not the same as “are”.

But this does allow Doughty to lay into “Gay lobbyists and politicians” who “have long claimed that 10 per cent of the population is homosexual”. It also enables the Mail’s dubiously talented array of pundits to trivialise gays, while giving the green light to Dicky Windbag to kick them. Expect that tomorrow. But Doughty’s main event is religion, and that “70% ... Christian” figure.

Those convinced by the figure would do well to scroll down the document to Background Notes 3 [Page 15]. The question was “What is your religion, even if you are not currently practising?” [my emphasis] and the later caution reads “Belonging can be interpreted as both loose self-identification and active or formal belonging to a religious group. As such, some people may respond that they have a religious affiliation but not that they belong to a religion”.

Thus when Doughty asserts that people “profess Christianity” – defined as “to affirm faith in, or allegiance to”, he is being blatantly dishonest. Of the 42 million who describe themselves as Christian, just six million are actively practising. That isn’t 70% of the population – it’s a shade under 10%. If those 42 million “professed Christianity” then churches would be full to overflowing. They aren’t.

As so often with the Mail, this is an article that selectively interprets figures to stand up a headline that has always been written. In that it is successful, but as decent journalism it is a miserable failure.

No change there, then.

The Trashing Of Rory Weal Gets Nasty

Anyone who thought that the aggression shown by hacks at the Mail and Telegraph yesterday towards 16 year old schoolboy Rory Weal for the clearly heinous crime of addressing the Labour Party conference was bad should think again. Overnight, the tirade of unpleasantness has turned nasty and gloating, as well as routinely abusive, and that is down to one person alone.

That hack is Melanie Phillips, whose latest hatchet job on Weal has gone beyond the usual incoherent fact free ranting – and, indeed, has progressed beyond the pale, as she demonstrates a triumphalism and sadistic pleasure in knowing that her chosen victim is a mere teenager, without the means to fight back, nor the financial clout to take Mad Mel to the cleaners for her defamatory outburst.

One out of three's not bad - for Mel

So the banner headline in the MailOnline screams “Millionaire’s Son”. Maybe Mel would not mind being called a “Guardian columnist”, then, as it is equally true. There is also “hypocrite”, always a good route for a Mail hack to choose when seeking a draughty glasshouse. And the poor standard of punctuation – “Well that didn’t take long, did it” [comma and question mark missing] – betrays the hasty compilation.

Today, the teenage shooting star fell abruptly to earth” crows Mel, before telling that “Now further details have emerged” [comma missing] about Rory Weal’s background, although those details were there all the time. Mel just couldn’t be bothered to do her research. But she does have an authoritative source to back up her latest rant.

Blogs - they're so, like, now and current

And that source is the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, who styles himself Guido Fawkes, whose amateurish attempt to put the boot in to Weal I considered yesterday (in other words, before Mel penned her latest outburst). Sadly, though, she can’t even manage an up to date screenshot of the Fawkes blog: the one shown is from April 2009 – over two years ago.

This, though, does not detain Mel: like Staines, she shamelessly blames Labour for the failure of Weal’s father’s business – clearly Pa Broon was far more of a micro-manager than he ever imagined – and claims that grammar schools have been “possibly the greatest engine of social mobility ever invented”. Try telling that to all those who failed their Eleven Plus.

And nor does Mel consider that the “very uncomfortable spotlight being shone upon a 16 year-old boy” might be down to her. But she does maintain the mood of menace to the end, floating the idea that “the Labour party had a hand in his performance”, and that “if so, it has a lot to answer for”, which means she’ll use Weal as an excuse for more of the same, while not losing a moment’s sleep over it.

Besides, saying otherwise is defamation. Did someone say “hypocrite”?

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Iain Dale’s Lack Of Liverpool

There is always one politician who goes totally over the top and loses all credibility at a party conference” noted Iain Dale yesterday, before, er, going totally over the top and losing all credibility at a party conference. He compared Liverpool to Gaza – looking forward to reading his travelogue on that one – and then threw a mardy sulk when there was a consensus of adverse comment.

Why this intelligent and perceptive commentator couldn’t be arsed checking out this greatest of English port cities is unknown, but what is known is that he drove there – not a good idea for forming first impressions – and then stayed at the Adelphi, which has a formidable reputation, as in a formidably inadvisable place to stay when there are superior alternatives available almost anywhere else.

So here’s some of the things Iain missed on his journey: first is where he should have arrived in the city, the recently restored Lime Street station, where the area in front of the exit has been opened out and landscaped. The trainshed roof has been cleaned and re-glazed – rather like St Pancras in London – and natural light floods in.

Also restored is this original Joyce clock, overlooking Platform 7 – where the train from London arrives.

Down at the Pier Head are The Three Graces, buildings from the early 20th Century heyday of the port. Most prominent is the Grade I listed Liver Building.

Adjacent to the Liver Building at its south side is the Cunard Building, confirming the city’s connection with that great shipping line.

The third Grace is the Port of Liverpool Building, with that huge and almost cathedral-like central dome.

And a journey Iain missed out on, but no visitor to Liverpool should skip: a ferry crosses the Mersey (this last photo was taken in October 2010, with all others taken on Monday September 26. Iain’s stock photo is well out of date).

I know Iain is a busy bloke, but hope that he will take the comments made by others on board, and return to Liverpool – maybe for a weekend break – and by train. Oh, and stay at anywhere but the Adelphi. Seriously, this is a great city: its shopping, eateries, bars and sights are really worthwhile. And the people are friendly and welcoming.

Just don’t compare the place to Gaza, though.

The Trashing Of Rory Weal

As one Daily Mail hack told Nick Davies, “Dacre kills with headlines”. And no better example of this has been the reputational trashing of schoolboy Rory Weal, who has committed the sin of speaking at the Labour Party conference. Weal had enjoyed a privileged upbringing before the double whammy of his father going bust and then his parents going their separate ways.

And this was what he relayed to the conference, that suddenly he and his family had nothing, and became dependent on the welfare safety net. But he then told how he perceived the Government to be moving to rein back welfare, and after a short break – long enough, one might note, for a private investigator to dig up some dirt and a few phone numbers – the Daily Mail was off and running.

Today’s headline was predictable: “The child star of the Labour conference and the truth behind his ‘life of poverty’” it thundered, apparently free of irony when pitching the word “truth” in the Daily Mail. Note the use of “life of poverty”, which the Mail invented: Weal did not make any such statement or claim. And the paper managed to get hold of at least one family member for a quote. I wonder how.

The Mail infers that Weal misled the Labour party about his background: this, too, is invention, although it fits the headline. And in further reinforcement of the editorial line has come a rant incredible in its sheer incoherence from “Mad” Melanie Phillips, telling “The Labour mantra of hate finds a new star”, echoing a favourite talking point (left equals hate) of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).

Mel does as the iron law of Dacreland dictates: she trashes Weal’s arguments, invents circumstances other than those the young man describes, and even tries to blame the previous (Labour) Government for his father getting his houses repossessed! No, really! This orgy of attribute transfer hackery – calling someone else “hateful”, then being hateful herself – has been well debunked by Angry Mob.

The frothing has even spread to the Maily Telegraph, where former Catholic Herald editor Cristina Odone tells “I really don’t want to knock young talent” before embarking on a characteristically nasty and distinctly un-Christian rant, asserting “most school leavers today ... can barely write or do a sum” (I think she’s talking about mathematics there). The UK’s adult literacy rate is 99%. Go figure.

Even the blogosphere has been roped in: the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, who styles himself Guido Fawkes, has whined about Weal, mainly along the lines of “he’s got an iPad” (so 16 year olds who support the wrong party are clearly forbidden birthday presents). And Staines has found some “school chums”. Well, one “chum”.

All of which begs the question: why are they so keen to trash the name of a 16 year old kid? What a bunch of sad losers (no change there, then).

TPA – Desperation In Transit

Yesterday brought another pretentiously titled “Research Note” from the assembled non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), this time on surplus staff at Transport for London (TfL). As is usual for the TPA, this consists of the usual Freedom of Information (FoI) fishing expedition, with the objective of proving that waste is occurring, while actually proving nothing at all.

As the TPA has framed its analysis using only its FoI responses, they do not say whether the “surplus staff” were usefully employed: any suggestion of waste is therefore baseless. Without going into the case-by-case detail, no conclusion can be reached, other than that a small number of TfL staff were looking for another role in the organisation between 2004 and 2011.

How small a number is that? Well, the TPA has identified 138 employees that have passed through TfL’s redeployment unit over a seven year period. At any one time, an average of less than 20 would be so classified. Given that the total TfL headcount in 2004 was 18,800, and in 2008 was 27,000 – since reduced to around 25,000 – this number is less than one tenth of one per cent.

And the TPA does not, in even one case, make any attempt to find out what work was being done by those allocated to the redeployment unit. In the case of Royal Mail, the TPA’s previous redeployment target, those between roles were employed on project work, and once more, no waste was proven. So the salary numbers being pitched are next to meaningless.

But the proportion of TfL employees in the redeployment unit expressed as a percentage of the total will be familiar to anyone at the TPA: “less than one tenth of one per cent” also applies to the proportion of UK taxpayers that the TPA – which erroneously claims to represent all of them – actually speaks for. And the press coverage extended only to a mention in the Evening Standard.

For their annual investment of well over a million notes, the TPA’s backers might wonder what they’re getting in return – because this lame effort by a group of non-job holders trying to call out gainfully employed people really is not good enough.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Guido Fawked – The Draughty Glasshouse

In late January, one interviewee told Guardian man Adam SherwinI’ve developed a thick skin. But I’m ferociously protective of my family”. The person adhering to the belief that one’s private life should remain so was none other than the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, who styles himself Guido Fawkes. But this high principle is not something he applies to others.

Staines, along with his tame gofer Henry Cole – together forming the Laurel and Hardy of the blogosphere – have petulantly gone after Labour MP Tom Watson, partly because he has made the right call on Phonehackgate, taking on Rupe and his troops in the process, and partly because he has taken Staines’ pals at the Daily Mail and Sun to the cleaners.

Now, the less than dynamic duo are after Watson once more, this time making allegations about the MP’s marriage and asserting that he is “partying hard and drinking quite heavily on the pull in London’s Soho night-after-night [sic]”. This is followed by stating that Watson was “the worse for wear” in Liverpool on Sunday evening, although Staines and Cole were elsewhere at the time.

Staines has made his allegations to paint a picture of a print media frightened to say anything about Watson because of his involvement in Phonehackgate, but as anyone who comes across the tedious outpourings of Quentin Letts (let’s not), Fat Dick Littlejohn, or any of the other dubiously talented occupants of the Dacre cab-rank will know, that doesn’t stop them going on the smear.

The problem for Staines is, firstly, that in his perverse worldview the Murdoch empire is something benign, whereas the BBC is the one what done it, so all the hacking is only bad if he can pin it on the appalling Piers “Morgan” Moron or a paper that won’t touch him with its worst enemies’ longest bargepole. And secondly, he’s got no room to start calling out anyone for drinking to excess.

Such is Staines’ propensity to become Elephants Trunk and Mozart that, when he stood before the bench at Tower Bridge Magistrates’ Court in May 2008, it was his second drinking and driving conviction, and his fourth alcohol related offence. He even merited an electronic tag, such was the perceived severity of the deed. One more drinking and driving and it could be a handful in the Scrubs.

And that’s the difference between Staines and Private Eye’s editor Ian Hislop: the latter keeps himself out of the news, being able to behave in a civilised manner and interact with his fellow human beings in a way that does not bring unwanted attention upon him, whereas the former is a fat lush of unknown maximum capacity who should by now have grown up.

Another fine mess, indeed.

Dick Terrorises The Readers

The Daily Mail’s tedious and unfunny churnalist Richard Littlejohn would be at the head of the queue when taking broadcasters to task over the use of repeats, but the same clearly does not apply to him, as today brings another Human Rights Act rant (or, in Littlejohn land, “yuman rights”). Giving human beings of whom Dick does not approve any kind of rights is clearly A Bad Thing.

Making things doubly bad is that giving all human beings equal rights before the law is, in Littlejohn’s mind, something only done by politicians he doesn’t like. So while Young Dave and his jolly good chaps get a free pass, Corporal Clegg gets both barrels from Dicky Windbag, and he and his fellow Lib Dems get smeared as “Terrorists’ Friends”.

Terrorism? It's what I say it is, innit?!?

Dick draws his conclusion because two men involved on the periphery of the failed July 21 2005 bomb plot have been freed from jail after completing part of their sentences, and are still in the UK. Littlejohn does not tell his readers exactly what the two did to earn their sentences, but then, why should trousering the thick end of a million notes a year mean being arsed to do some research?

That last point is important in this case, as the two that Dick wants to see deported – Ismail Abdurahman and Siraj Yassin Abdullah Ali – did not take part in a terrorist act. We know this because the Guardian has set out the facts. Factual journalism, eh? Small wonder Littlejohn hates the Guardian.

Abdurahman, in fact, did not even know about the plot in advance, and was only convicted because one of the failed bombers stayed with him afterwards. Abdullah Ali did know of the plot: his crime was that he failed to tell the authorities. They didn’t “plan to murder” anyone, and neither was “involved in the plot”. So Dick’s assertion that in the USA they would have been serving “35 years to life” is drivel.

And so is his petty description of the Human Rights Act as “venal”. Once again, Dick is let down by not bothering to do five minutes’ Googling: venal” means “open to corrupt influence and especially bribery.

Like being bunged a million notes a year to write knocking copy to order. What goes around comes around, eh, Mr Dickie Venal?

Monday, 26 September 2011

Serenade In Blue?

Thanks to the good offices of Liberal Conspiracy and Labour List (not to mention the Fabian Society and Unite), a fascinating fringe meeting occurred today at Liverpool Town Hall on the subject “Should Blue Labour take over from New Labour?” and I went along to hear the panel and the subsequent debate.

What was interesting from the start was hearing the kind of ideas that had come from those associated with the “Blue Labour” tag with the prism of media reinterpretation removed: thus far, there has been little general coverage, and too much of it has splashed on Maurice Glasman’s supposed comments on immigration.

And what had not been splashed was much of the message: straightforward ideas like less managerialism, more community engagement, and more mutualism – although, as was pointed out by one Liberal Conspiracy regular, that last needs to be in a form where people become properly consulted and involved.

So far, so interesting, but I have two immediate concerns. First is to make sure that any new ideas regarding a less managerial and more community oriented approach are differentiated – and in the public mind – from Young Dave’s “big society” and the localism agenda which the Tories claim to be pushing.

But my greatest concern is how any new approach is put before the electorate. It’s clear from the Glasman immigration hooha that even the least hostile media outlets can amplify events in a distinctly unhelpful way. How does any party of the centre and/or left cut through the mire of media misinformation?

This is particularly relevant when Rowenna Davis – author of Tangled Up In Blue, which looks at the ideas behind “Blue Labour” – put directly the thought that many potential voters look at today’s crop of politicians and conclude that they do not understand the concerns of ordinary people.

Part of this may be down to those politicians, but an equal or maybe larger part is due to the impression that voter gets through his or her consumption of print, broadcast and internet media. Changing ideas within a party may appear to be a mountain to climb: changing the media will be the same over again.

Anyone believing otherwise need only look at where the media world is right now: the broadcast part increasingly battered by a dysfunctional press more ready to devote resources to invention and agenda satisfaction rather than factual journalism, and that when the latter is not chasing slebs and their hangers-on.

Mountain to climb, indeed.

Let Us Not Offer One Another A Sign Of Peace

[Update at end of post]

Anyone who thought that the invention by the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre of a BBC “diktat” to abolish Anno Domini was a bit of weekend froth has been disabused of that notion by the faux outrage emanating from the Daily Mail today – and followed obediently by the Maily Telegraph, demonstrating just what a quality paper of record it really is.

As has been shown, there is no “diktat” from the Beeb, but now the Mail’s entirely bogus story has got legs and is away and running. There is even room for a spurious piece on those brave BBC faces determined to keep using BC and AD in the teeth of the non-existent onslaught of political correctness, so the Mail is briefly in favour of Andrew Marr and James Naughtie.

But it is the pundits that have now marched into the breach in the Beeb’s defences punched by yesterday’s invention. And the Mail has ordered the most seriously batshit pair it can muster into action. First of the not at all dynamic duo who have journeyed beyond Barking and are en route to Upminster is Peter Mullen, whose name the Mail prefixes “Reverend Doctor” (it sounds less batshit).

No-one should be surprised that the BBC has stopped using the abbreviations ... BC for Before Christ and AD for Anno Domini” he begins, apparently unaware that the lack of surprise is because it hasn’t happened. And then he goes completely Gaga and brackets the Beeb with Pol Pot and Josef Stalin. That’s after he tells that the Corporation wants to “obliterate Christianity from public life”.

And having set the bar low, there is another hack to set it yet lower: step forward “Mad” Melanie Phillips, who kicks off with an excellent attribute transfer ploy by labelling the BBC as “bigoted”, a description that many followers of The Prophet might readily apply to her. Mel takes the baton from James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole and runs with it.

Our language is being hijacked by the Left to muzzle rational debate” she screams, in a clear attempt to, er, muzzle rational debate. But she’s away with the fairies: “sinister ... political correctness”, “the majority who want to destroy their own culture”, “another attack on British culture”, “wider desire to obliterate Christianity”, and the excellent “morality itself has been reversed or negated”.

Then for sheer brassneck, the biscuit is well and truly taken by occasional London mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, collecting yet more “chicken feed over at the Telegraph. Tearing into the BBC, he tells “I pay through the nose for ... having a TV. I think the last bill was about £148”. Shine a light Bozza, you get £250k a year and you can’t be arsed doing a fact check (it’s £145.50).

That’s today’s gallery: ranting vicar, mad hack, upmarket Littlejohn. Marvellous.

[UPDATE September 27: by the most unusual of coincidences, all the papers that had been pushing this story - the Daily Mail, Maily Telegraph, and (characteristically a day late) the Daily Express - have ceased coverage, although Bozza's rant is still available. It is as if there had been a collective realisation that this wasn't worth any more effort. Also worth noting is that the Murdoch Sun did not jump on this particular bandwagon, which reinforces the thought that it wasn't really news at all - or that Rupe's troops are being nice to the Beeb. Why might that be? Well, with more phone hacking coverage to come, the thought may have entered that the Murdochs would do well not to antagonise those who might give them the most even handed treatment]

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Del Boy And The Elite Ambiguity

Anyone looking in on Zelo Street may have formed the impression that I rather enjoy putting the boot in on the appalling James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, that I may be enjoying myself just a little when pointing up his sneering and often unpleasant behaviour. Up to a point, Lord Copper. But what makes Del Boy such an appealing target is his obvious hypocrisy.

And, returning to Del’s drivelfest in today’s Mail On Sunday, we can see a classic example of that hypocrisy in action. Elitism, says Del Boy, “ought to be a desirable thing”. But those rotten lefties have been doing bad things to this word: “thanks to more than a decade’s abuse by New Labour ministers, ‘elitism’ has acquired an almost wholly pejorative sense”.

It has? Pay attention at the back. As Del Boy tells, the “free schools” set up on the initiative of “Oiky” Gove are being “damned for their supposed ‘elitism’”. Sadly, that’s the only example offered, but it’s quite clear that the Left have turned “elitism” into a dirty word. So from that it follows that nobody out there in the sun-drenched uplands of the libertarian right would do such a thing.

Hmmm, what’s this? “What the liberal elite feel you should know about ‘Climate Change’”. That’s an article which clearly doesn’t like elitism – if it’s “Liberal”. And here’s another attack on elitism – this time it’s the “Global elite” or the “Global power elite”, some of whom ought to be subjected to a “Global warming Nuremberg”. So some elitism should be punished as a war crime, then.

It goes on: here’s an attack on anelite group” who are controlling the peer review process (sadly, the citation is part of Andrew “Batshit” Breitbart’s empire, so a bit of a giveaway). But what’s this? A warning against aNew World Order” run by an “enlightened elite”. That’s a whole lot of attacks on elitism. And they all come from the same source.

Who might that source be? Step forward James Delingpole! So, as ever, Del Boy the sensitive flower gives off the sickly stench of rank hypocrisy.

No change there, then.

Peace Be Not With You (Again)

Christianity is, in case anyone not reading the outpourings of the Daily Mail or Maily Telegraph has not been paying attention, under attack. Quite apart from the supposed BBC diktat that has swept away the use of BC and AD – except, of course, it hasn’t – there is the continuing case of GP Richard Scott suggesting that his patients “turn to Jesus”. And now there is Jamie Murray.

Who he? Murray runs a cafe in Blackpool, and is a practicing Christian. And he’s a client of the Christian Institute, whose narrative of their flock being under attack from, well, everywhere chimes with the agenda of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre. It’s a change from Andrea Williams and the Christian Legal Centre, but the idea is monotonously similar.

Murray’s cafe has Bible passages displayed on a screen. Someone visiting that cafe wasn’t happy with some of the words they saw, so made a complaint. The Police visited Murray and explained the law to him. And there events might have rested, had it not been for the Christian Institute, who have decided that the Police have a case to answer.

Lancashire Constabulary have pointed out that they haven’t received a complaint about their officers’ behaviour, and that Murray wasn’t arrested, although this cuts no ice with the why-oh-why brigade at the Mail. Because this is about gays. And we know what the Mail agenda is on gays: they are A Bad Thing. So gays complaining about the Bible is doubly bad.

Meanwhile, Richard Scott’s troubles, it has emerged, come from his suggesting that Christianity may offer something to a patient that his own (undisclosed) religion may not. There had been, as I noted at the time, a complaint, and Dr Scott was given the chance of accepting a GMC reprimand. He refused, and so now matters have progressed to a full hearing.

But in this case, the Telegraph, which had previously championed Scott, appears to be hedging its bets. That won’t please the Christian Legal Centre, but it may signify the understanding within one part of the Fourth Estate that it is not a case of Christianity being under attack, but someone letting their faith get the better of them and crossing a professional line.

So maybe a turning point has been reached: it’s a pity that the Mail will carry on with its agenda of “Christianity under attack”, at least until Dacre gets kicked upstairs.

Del Boy, The Sensitive Flower

Today, to back up its preposterous suggestion that the BBC has “jettisoned” the use of Anno Domini in the expression of dates in favour of “Common Era”, the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre has been joined by the preening and sneering James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, who has penned a magnificent drivelfest on the matter.

Monbiot observes a sneerfest in the raw

Del Boy says that the Beeb has fallen “for a Marxist plot to destroy civilisation from within”, thus setting a modest and thoughtful tone at the outset. He asserts that “all reference to Christ has been expunged” by the Beeb, then gives the source of this plot: “the Q&A page on the section of its website bbc.co.uk/religion”, and tells that the BBC is doing it to be “in line with modern practice”.

Needless to say, there is no Q&A page on the bbc.co.uk/religion site, and few references to “Common Era”, or CE, one being on the BBC Northern Ireland page. Oh, and there’s one article from December 2009 that uses CE without using AD. Those who know Del Boy and recall his use of the “Littlejohn Defence” against a recent complaint made to the PCC will not be surprised.

What will also cause no surprise is the tsunami of pejorative language: “the BBC’s weaselly, passive-aggressive excuse”, “a tiny minority of politically correct busybodies have wormed their way into ... the BBC and taken control”, “Their goal is to create a world where Left-wing thinking ... becomes the norm”, and the inevitable “capture of the language for political ends ... George Orwell”.

And Del Boy knows who’s behind this dastardly plot: it’s Herbert Marcuse. Who he? Well, he was a German-born philosopher who not very many people have heard of, but as Del Boy is so incredibly clever, he’s heard of Marcuse and just knows that he done it. And those he indoctrinated don’t know they’ve been brainwashed. And they’re all at the BBC. Scary stuff!

Gentle and subtle, isn't he?

Ah, those lofty intellectual heights

But Del is, in reality, a sensitive soul. You might not know it from his bombastic denunciation of the Economist, or the aggressive and abusive response he Tweeted to Jo Abbess, who had the temerity to express an opinion.

Not fair! Bwaahhh!! Rotten lefty!!!

Yet, when the boot shows the merest sign of being on the other foot, Del Boy is more than happy to call out others for supposed libel. This from the author of a piece in the Mail full of invention, abuse and more of that sneering nastiness that is the trademark of someone who claims that it is his opponents that want to shut him up.

Anyone could get the impression from his articles and Tweets that James Delingpole is just another thin-skinned stinking hypocrite. So ideal Mail material, then.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Murdoch Is Served (59)

In Eric Idle and Neil Innes’ send up of the Beatles, a band called the Rutles – the pre-fab four, a legend in their own lunchtime – makes its journey from Liverpool to fame, fortune and break-up. As relationships become ever more acrimonious, each member of the group sues all the others. And then one of them accidentally sues himself by mistake.

Now, Phonehackgate is heading in the same direction, except that at least nobody has yet sued themselves. Dozens of slebs, sportsmen, agents and relatives of those in the news have sued News International (NI). Yet more are getting ready to sue. Rumours build of action in the USA against Rupe and Junior. And now NI’s former staff are suing NI.

You lot been listening in to me?

Wait, what? Yes, there are now two former NI men taking action: Glenn Mulcaire has been joined by Young Dave’s former jolly good spinmeister Andy Coulson in taking action against their former employer. They have good reason: NI has stopped paying the two mens’ legal fees, costs which they are now incurring as a result of actions which they took in the service, and for the benefit, of NI.

And those actions continue to be exposed: Tone’s former spinner Alastair Campbell has previously told how meetings that had been arranged by phone, and with no-one other than the participants informed, being doorstepped by hacks and snappers. His entry into the ring was inevitable, and has now been confirmed. George Best’s former agent is also joining the action.

But the most poignant is the news that Jade Goody and her mother Jackiey Budden had their phones hacked, and at the time when Goody learnt that she had contracted the ovarian cancer that was to kill her. Budden had realised when seeing coverage of the Milly Dowler case that there was only one way the hacks could have got hold of so much on her daughter.

By now, though, although many will be disgusted, and some will recoil at the thought of a young woman going through surgery, chemotherapy and ultimately preparing for the worst, and all the while having Rupe’s troops eavesdropping on her personal tragedy, not many will be surprised. And no-one should have been suckered into thinking that the illegal behaviour stopped after Mulcaire went to prison.

What d'you f***ing mean, I'll be next?

Because one former participant in the Dark Arts told Nick Davies – the year after the Mulcaire case – that it was “back to business as usual ... they won’t touch the Police National Computer any more ... but they are busy once again, taking calls from Fleet Street newspapers who want them to break the law for them”.

The sad, sad case of Jade Goody only goes to confirm that the hacking, blagging and other illegal acts never stopped, and may still be going on.

Hail Mary, The Bonk Of England

The Mail Online Right Minds section, a repository of frothing and ranting punditry without equal on the web, has changed its right hand top link twice now since launch day: first was Peter Hitchens, then Melissa Kite (another refugee from the Maily Telegraph). Now the spot is taken by Mary Ellen Synon. It’s not a name heard in the same breath as Mad Mel and Fat Dick, and that’s a pity.

Because Ms Synon can froth and rant with the best of them, especially when the subject is the EU. She hates the EU, which is a strange paradox, given the benefits that ranting about it have conferred upon her. But what she doesn’t hate is telling everyone how bad the EU is, and that those who work in its service are supposedly labouring under the belief that their presence in Brussels is pre-ordained.

So no-one should be surprised at her latest outburst, posted yesterday evening, in which she attacks “eurocrats”, the latest pejorative term for anyone who works for the EU. In fact, the piece uses the word seventeen times. Along the way there are comparisons to Arthur Scargill, the Borgias, and the assertion that UK taxpayers are the second highest contributors to EU employees’ pay.

This last is a commonly used attempt to whip up anti-EU feeling: when you consider the per capita contribution to the EU, the UK comes out seventh. But this, like adding bank holidays to make EU workers’ allowances look more generous than they actually are, typifies the hardened Europhobic, although the piece’s unpleasantness may deter some from examining Ms Synon’s credentials further.

And that would be a pity: this devotee of Ayn Rand and champion of half-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has enjoyed an occasionally colourful and controversial past. In London in the early 1990s she embarked on an affair with Rupert Pennant-Rea, deputy governor of the Bank of England. They were rumoured to have had sex on the carpet in the governor’s dressing room.

Sadly, Pennant-Rea decided to spend more time with his family, leaving Ms Synon to turn to full time ranting punditry. Thus engaged, she went after travellers and asylum seekers, no doubt hastening her arrival in Dacreland. Her time at the Irish Independent was brought to a close after she penned an article attacking the Sydney Paralympic Games, bringing forth universal condemnation.

But now the woman once nicknamed “The Bonk Of England” is 60, has missed the boat at Threadneedle Street, and is reduced to whingeing jealously about those in Brussels who earn more than she does. It is a sad twilight to a career that never really took off – or maybe it did, but only in brief.

[That’s enough double entendre – Ed]

Friday, 23 September 2011

Del Boy Swallows The Shale PR

Today has brought a superb example of Billion Dollar Brain syndrome – hearing news you want to hear from those who want you to swallow it – from the undisputed leader of the gang at the bear pit that is Maily Telegraph blogland, James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole. Del Boy has heard that there are shale gas reserves underneath someone else’s house, and he is ecstatic.

What Delingpole seems not to have noticed while interpreting Cuadrilla Resources’ interpretation of reality in their press release – which is what yesterday’s Telegraph article was churning over – is the hedging (“believes there are [reserves]” ... “more testing is needed”) and the caution (“it is currently banned from drilling”). He has seen only what he wants to see.

Del Boy has also not seen “Its 200 trillion cubic feet figure has not been independently verified and often only a small percentage of a probable reserve can be extracted”. He also has not stopped to think why Cuadrilla has decided to make its frankly extravagant claims now, preferring instead to trowel on as much sneering abuse over anyone opposed to him as he can muster.

Cuadrilla began drilling at the end of March, and on April 1 there was an earth tremor in the area. After the drilling continued and there was a further tremor, with what the British Geological Survey called the same mechanism, the drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was stopped. Cuadrilla wants to restart drilling and fracking, and coincidentally, the decision is due soon.

So what has been announced this week is no more than a prospective beneficiary of shale gas extraction lobbying for permission to keep on fracking. That there is no verification of the claim does not concern Delingpole. Nor do the earth tremors. Nor does the lack of candour over the mix of chemicals that goes into the millions of gallons of water that is used for each and every frack.

But, as Del Boy observes, all that fracking, along with the earth tremors and potential pollution of groundwater, is going on “Oop North”. So he and the rest of his right leaning metropolitan elite pals will not worry too much about it, providing they get cheaper energy. After all, climate change won’t happen if they keep sneering at all those rotten lefties loudly enough.

That is the level at which the denial lobby is pitching its argument. It doesn’t listen to any news it doesn’t want to hear, the damage to other folks’ environment and lives doesn’t matter as it’s “Oop North”, any objection from those of differing political opinion can be dismissed, and above all ... it’s not good enough.

Cripes TPA Chaps, Mum’s The Word!

With singular predictability, the cost of the Thames Cable Car, Bozza’a spiffing new wheeze to improve the waterfront between somewhere near North Greenwich tube and Royal Victoria DLR, has increased yet again, this time to a cool 60 million, which is going some for a project that was originally going to come in at £25 million and be paid for by someone else.

Back in April, the total cost of the cable car was given as £50.5 million, at the time when it was also revealed that nobody had come forward to offer to stump up the money for it – meaning that that cost would have to be paid by TfL, with the distant prospect of a sponsor coming along afterwards. Now it is conceded that there is still no sponsor, and that the money will come out of the rail budget.

While those who commute by rail and tube let that thought sink in, also worth considering is Bozza’s New Bus For London, aka the BozzaMaster. This, as I pointed out in May when the first prototype was unveiled, is another needless and costly project, with the first five buses costing around £8 million, or £1.6 million per vehicle, or six times more than one of those hated bendy buses.

So, with Bozza spraying money up two walls at once, who will step in and expose this waste for what it is? Who will speak up for the ordinary taxpayers of London, those hard-working people whose fares and council tax will go to pay for the Blond’s follies? Ah yes, what about those good folk at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA)? They claim to be speaking for hard pressed taxpayers.

And with Google being our friend, we can see very easily what kinds of interventions the TPA are making on cable car and BozzaMaster: none at all. That’s zero. Zilch. Nada. Richie says No Score. On the BozzaMaster there has been no word from the TPA, and on the cable car, an item of press coverage for June 26 comes up in a Google search but is not present when clicked.

But the TPA is happy to whinge about £1.3 million spent on a Park and Ride car park, a piece in which south-west England representative Tim Newark referred to a female councillor as “he”. They were equally happy to go out “campaigning” in Ashton under Lyne over £337,000 of trade union representatives’ facility time. But £60 million of blatant waste from Bozza does not get a mention.

Not that the TPA are Conservatives, of course. Perish the thought!

All Hail The Mail Numbers Fail

Some aspects of family life are set in stone in the world projected by the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre. One of these is that those families be headed by a married couple: mere cohabitation is frowned upon, and same-sex couples are not, repeat not, normal. At all. Anyone stating otherwise should wash out mouth and consult Bible at once.

So a piece in the Daily Mail today, titled “Conservative UK: Most Britons still oppose gay marriage” is, by the happiest of coincidences, just what the editor ordered. And the headline is backed up by A Government Report. But one sentence gives the game away: “The findings ... suggest ... plans to upgrade civil partnership laws to let gay couples describe themselves as married may prove unpopular”.

Shades of grey in the Daily Mail are a rare sight, so why the hedging? Ah well. The report cited by the article, from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) is genuine enough – it’s the findings that undermine Dacre’s finest in their efforts to paint same-sex relationships as not normal. The numbers can be found in the latest Population Trends release of statistics.

The second item in the table, Civil Partnerships Five Years On, yields the data [.pdf] and the table the Mail piece is referencing is on Page 25, Figure 15. It is titled “Percentage who agree that ‘homosexual marriage should be allowed throughout Europe’” and it should be noted that the data is already five years old. The figure for the UK is just over 45%.

What the Daily Mail does not tell is that there is no figure for those dissenting from the proposition, nor one for those who neither agreed nor disagreed. And without those figures, it is impossible to conclude whether “Most Britons still oppose gay marriage” or not. Moreover, any reliance on five year old data puts that assertion on shaky ground at the outset.

But what the Daily Mail article does tell us is that the paper continues to selectively use information to fit the story to the headline, and so satisfy the Dacre agenda. It was ever thus.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Nadine And The Shortness Of Memory

Last Monday on her “blog” – in reality a comment-free bully pulpit – Tory MP for Mid-Narnia (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries sang the praises of a right leaning commentator who had posted on ConservativeHome. Thus far, nothing is surprising about such an event: Dorries is a Conservative. But the commentator was Bruce “Brute” Anderson.

Anderson was not in receipt of such praise back on April 8 2009, when he was part of a panel discussing events under a future Tory Government. The other speakers were Andrew Haldenby of REFORM, Iain Dale, and Dorries, who posted her thoughts on her blog. Sadly, that post has not survived, but Dale very kindly quoted much of it on his own blog, which can be read today.

Iain Dale was in no doubt as to Anderson’s behaviour: “I have to say I was appalled by the behaviour of Bruce Anderson towards Nadine. Throughout her speech he interrupted, and when he wasn’t interrupting he was whispering very loudly so as to put her off”.

Dorries concurs: “Bruce Anderson was bloody rude ... I stood to reply, at which point Bruce Anderson began to talk, loudly, to the person sat next to him, and he carried on and did not stop”.

Anderson’s interruptions even caused the normally mild-mannered Dale to momentarily lose it, demanding of the Brute “Bruce, will you stop being so f***ing obnoxious”. It was clear from Dale’s and Dorries’ accounts that Anderson was not flavour of the month with either.

But, happily, all is now forgiven, and Dorries can say of the Brute “You won’t read anything as good as this anywhere else today”. And what is this wonderful and enlightening article? More formulaic anti-EU knocking copy. You can get the same drivel in the Daily Mail or Maily Telegraph.

But it does have the advantage of showing how short and selective some memories can be.

The Laws Don’t Work – 12

[Update at end of post]

The principle of cab-rank hackery at the Daily Mail is something that Zelo Street regulars will know already: when an opinion piece is required by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, whoever is at the front of the rank will be ordered on to the attack. Hence the now infamous hatchet job on Stephen Gately, when Jan Moir happened to find herself next in line.

This should be borne in mind when reading today’s attack piece by Ross Clark aimed at broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, who has had the temerity to advocate legalising drugs. No public figure can be allowed to get away with such an utterance by the Dacre press, and Clark has clearly been instructed to subject his target to a weapons grade rubbishing.

So readers are given all kinds of horror stories, none of which has any reference to back it up, mainly because Clark is at best exaggerating, and otherwise just making it up to fulfil his orders. There are “studies” from Greater Manchester (latest mass arrests actually related to alcohol fuelled disorder – that would be a legal drug), the spectre of mental illness, and children of addicts dying.

And those children are dying in their thousands, because this article is aimed at those people that the Daily Mail needs to frighten so much that reality is not then allowed to get in. The mental illness angle is dealt with in such a cursory way that Clark gets away with not explaining that some people’s mental state makes them more likely to become drug users, and then addicts.

Anyone telling that the “war on drugs” has failed is also demonised: such people are “self appointed” (that’s as in Daily Mail hacks), and their statistics are “questionable” (that’s also as in Daily Mail hacks). And that war hasn’t failed, because Clark says it isn’t being fought properly: just like his fellow ranter “Mad” Mel Phillips, he’s all for a properly authoritarian approach.

Just how many tens of thousands of extra law enforcement officers Clark wants to see deployed in this “proper” war against drugs is not told, and of course nor is the cost of those tens of thousands of extra prison places that would be needed to lock up everyone dealing currently illegal substances. And it goes without saying that the lack of quality control is not addressed.

No, all we get is the usual why-oh-why call for more authoritarian punishments, abuse of any politician who dares to raise their head above the parapet (that’s all the Lib Dems, then), and enough dubious statistics to frighten the readers into believing that drugs are very bad and they shouldn’t talk about it.

And so the debate goes nowhere. That’s not good enough.

[UPDATE: Clark's assertions in his Daily Mail rant that drug use around the world has plateaued or is falling does not stack up, as a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report has shown that global drug use has increased significantly. It really will not do for Paul Dacre to keep ordering his hacks to produce evidence-free knocking copy in the face of reality]

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Journey From Chelsea To Hackney

In its recent attempt to invent extra costs and therefore discredit the HS2 project, the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) asserted that the Chelsea-Hackney line, now known as Crossrail 2, would have to be built as a result of HS2 terminating at Euston. From this they then asserted that the whole cost of Crossrail 2 would be attributable to HS2 and form part of that project’s business case.

So what is Crossrail 2, and where will it run? Well, the scheme has gone through various incarnations over the years, but the route protected in 2008 connects the Epping branch of the Central Line near Leytonstone with the Wimbledon branch of the District Line near Parson’s Green. It therefore relieves both Central and District lines in central London. But there’s one route detail the TPA omitted.

It doesn’t serve Euston.

Have a think about that. How can the entire cost of this new line be attributed to HS2 if it doesn’t even serve the HS2 terminus? Ah well. Here we discover how the TPA got its logic back to front – probably deliberately – in order to pursue its objective of demonising Government, together with public service and public works.

The HS2 business case does not need Crossrail 2 to stand it up. And, as I noted recently, HS2 does not need more improvement to the Tube than that already slated – a new Automatic Train Operation (ATO) system for the Victoria Line and opening out the east end of Euston Square station – to enable its passengers to be dispersed without overloading the network.

However, the Crossrail 2 business case would be improved significantly if the route went via Euston and HS2 were built. So it is Crossrail 2 that needs HS2, not the other way round. Despite HS2 being a long distance project, paradoxically its presence reinforces the justification for an underground link in London whose primary purpose is to provide extra capacity only within that city.

So it should come as no surprise that Bozza is talking of HS2 and Crossrail 2 together. Ken Livingstone and Brian Paddick may well do likewise. But there is no credible justification for apportioning the costs of one to the business case of the other: once again the TPA has been caught out attempting a piece of dishonest creative accounting.

And it won’t be the last time, either.

Contempt And Loathing In Stockport

On ITV’s This Morning yesterday was the latest client of the great Cliffus Maximus, nurse Rebecca Leighton from Stockport, who has been freed from custody and cleared of all charges following her arrest in July on suspicion of criminal damage with intent to endanger life. The arrest had come after five patients at Stepping Hill Hospital, where Ms Leighton worked, had died there.

The newspaper reporting of her release has been rather low key, and with good reason: the tabloids have given every appearance of overstepping the mark yet again, despite all the warnings they were given after the Christopher Jeffries case, which resulted in substantial damages being paid out for libel by eight titles, which in turn showed little had been learned from the case of Robert Murat.

Following initial reports of the deaths at Stepping Hill, and the questioning of Ms Leighton, there was a routine trawl for any information the papers could use to drive the story: her Facebook page was pored over and photos and messages repeatedly published to illustrate copy and drive a narrative suggesting that she was more interested in her social life than her work as a nurse.

From there followed the inevitable suggestion of guilt by inference: the Daily Mail published Ms Leighton’s photo below the headlineInside the hospital of fear where a mystery poisoner stalks the wards”, with another piece suggesting many more deaths were involved ending “Coroner’s Shipman link”. And the Mirror sailed very close to the edge with theirKiller nurse suspect” headline.

Then the real nastiness came with the deliberate attempt to connect Rebecca Leighton to the Beverley Allitt case: the Super Soaraway Currant Bun told thatthe ... killer may have murdered more victims than Angel of Death Beverley Allitt”, above a photo of Ms Leighton. As if the Murdoch press is not in enough hot water right now.

But pride of place has to go to the empire of Richard “Dirty” Desmond: “Now 50 Deaths To Be Probed At Poison Hospitalscreamed the Express, telling that “the number may spiral into hundreds” before going on to “the probe has been compared with the 1993 conviction [my emphasis] of nurse Beverley Allitt”.

And, just in case anyone was in any doubt, the Daily Star put them straight: “Hero Nurse Nabs ‘Angel Of Death’” thundered the headline, above a photo of Ms Leighton. Small wonder that poor Rebecca Leighton cannot leave her parents’ house alone, nor that she has engaged the services of Max Clifford.

The appearance on This Morning is a first step: the Daily Mail and Mirror might get away with this one, but with Cliffus Maximus in the van, the Sun, Express and Daily Star can expect to be opening their wallets as more “substantial damages” are paid.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Telegraph That Tax Tale!

We are still more than a year away from the next US Presidential Election, but that has not deterred those scrabbling around in the bear pit that is Maily Telegraph blogland, where three of their number have queued up to talk out of the wrong orifice on Barack Obama, class warfare, allegations of statism, and – bizarrely – Neil Kinnock. I kid you not.

First out of the traps has been Ed “Case” West, who is championing Mark Steyn. Who he? Steyn is good at Islamophobia, he’s filled in for the deeply unpleasant Rush Limbaugh, and has guested with Sean Hannity on Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse). Steyn claims that Barack Obama wants to introduce statism to the USA. West thinks he’s dead good.

Having seen West set the bar low, Tim “another fine mess” Stanley sets it yet lower, with an accusation of class warfare against Obama. The Prez’ mistake has been to tell the citizens of the USA something obvious: that some at least of the Bush era tax cuts will have to be rescinded to help draw down the deficit. Obama’s move is, of course, not put into recent historical context.

Instead, Stanley accuses the Prez of having “professorial disdain for the common man”. Obama, he tells, makes the mistake of not removing his tie before drinking beer. And, sounding the dog-whistle as required, readers are told that he has “swung to the hard left”. But this is a mere warm-up act for the rictus smile of Nile “Chauncey” Gardiner.

Gardiner is clearly miffed that Obama got out of bed this morning. So we get more accusations of class warfare, and of divisive language. There is a comparison with Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock, thus doing his own bit for dog-whistling. The usual accusations of the Prez being “left-wing”, “foolhardy”, “desperation”, and “in denial” are then added to the steaming pile.

Fortunately, and more entertainingly, we have the latest Real Time With Bill Maher to put things into context. Maher and guest Keith Olbermann took turns to try and get through to a “typical Republican voter” that taxes in the USA are at their lowest in fifty years, that Ronald Reagan raised taxes eleven times as well as tripling the debt, and that, er, wrestling is fake.

Trying to get today’s Republican to accept basic facts is like trying to get your dog to take a pill” asserts Maher. The same looks to be true of those Telegraph bloggers.

Trains Running On Time Is Not Enough

The attention given by the markets to the southern periphery of the Eurozone has now focused on Italy, with the country being given a sovereign debt downgrade by agency Standard and Poor’s from A+ to A, which puts it behind many large companies (Siemens, as we know from the Thameslink saga, has a credit rating of A+). The response has been telling.

S&P’s judgment has been denounced by “Duce” Berlusconi as being driven by “political considerations”, and for once he is dead right: the political consideration is that he is Italian Prime Minister, and useless with it. There is more attention being given to his extra-curricular activities than to addressing Italy’s sclerotic Government, weak growth, and endemic tax evasion.

As I’ve already noted (see HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE), the situation in Greece has always been going to end up with those further down the food chain of lenders taking less than 100 cents on the Euro. What needs to happen, though, is that restructuring of Greek debt is done in an orderly and disciplined manner for there to be an orderly and disciplined result for the country and the Eurozone.

In the case of Italy, which is also sitting on a significant amount of sovereign debt – much of which needs to be rolled over very soon – the prospect of lenders not getting their money back may not be yet in view, but unless the country gets some leadership in short order, rather than the clown that Berlusconi has become, matters could get worse, and fast.

While the wider Eurozone needs the ECB and its partners to move more rapidly on the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), the Italians need to wake up to the fact that their Government has lost the confidence of even the country’s own employers’ organisation Confindustria (the equivalent of the CBI), whose president has said that “Duce” has to start reforming, or resign.

When your country has had average growth of 0.2% for the past decade, and needs to get to grips with its debt, the last thing you need is a Prime Minister mired in allegations of sex parties, favours for pimps, and the more routine bribery and corruption. As with the original “Duce”, making the trains run on time – generally true nowadays – is not in itself enough.

It is time for Silvio Berlusconi to go.

EXCLUSIVE: TPA Abandons “Grassroots” Campaign

What a difference a fortnight makes: in early September, the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) began what was to have been a series of “campaigning” days with a visit to the Manchester satellite town of Ashton-under-Lyne. But, following a less than ecstatic reception from the public, and the revelation of the whole farcical business by this blog (HERE and HERE), the “campaign” has been quietly dropped.

While the TPA’s Andrew Allison was happy to advertise the appearance in Ashton’s Market Square, the next venue – in Southampton, an easier journey for the TPA’s London based staff and supporters who would have been needed to substitute for the lack of real grassroots – was mentioned only briefly, by Research Director John O’Connell. The reasons behind this are not difficult to ascertain.

Since the excursion to Ashton, the TPA’s characterisation of union representatives’ facility time as “taxpayer funded trade unionism” has been challenged, and wherever there are shades of grey, the TPA is absent. And O’Connell’s defamatory smear of trade union reps – saying they “dip back in to taxpayers’ pockets” (“dip” is slang for “pickpocket”) – has won his team no friends.

Worse then came for the TPA when Liam Billington, their representative in the north west, who O’Connell had praised as “brilliant”, maliciously smeared the Labour Party by asserting that an arson attack on the Stalybridge Labour club was an “insurance swindle”. Billington was caused to remove the offending remark from Twitter, but the damage had been done.

Moreover, the knowledge that the TPA “grassroots” had been exposed as a sham clearly weighed on the decision on whether to go ahead with the trip to Southampton. Zelo Street can now reveal that this excursion was called off, but kept quiet in the hope that nobody would notice. No more “campaigning” days have yet been scheduled.

Zelo Street can also reveal that an increasing number of trade union members and their representatives have been made aware of the TPA “campaign”, and of the gratuitously unpleasant remarks the group has been making about them. Of course, if the TPA really does have a grassroots following, a few rotten lefties won’t stop them carrying the day.

But, as is becoming clear, the TPA does not have any grassroots. And, if there is to be a next time, there will also be questions over their advocacy of an end to the minimum wage, lowering the poverty line, ending transport subsidies, and increasing the income tax burden on pensioners and freelances.

The TPA is therefore in a lose/lose situation: whether they campaign or hide themselves away, they’ve been rumbled. Game over.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Very Poor Telegraph Form

The Maily Telegraph, no longer a paper of record, is also apparently having problems with remaining a paper of correct grammar – at least, in its web incarnation. Perhaps it’s the Lib Dem conference that has caused the assembled hacks to froth so much that they have taken their eyes off the ball, but whatever the cause, the results are not good.

Yesterday, we were told that party president Tim Farron considered any rescinding of the the 50p income tax rate to be “Morally repugnant”. Well, that was what Farron said, but by the time the clearly incandescent Telegraph hack had calmed those trembling fingers, it came out as “Morally pugnant” (my version of Word flags that up as incorrect spelling ... Hmmm, pungent or poignant?).

But by today, the howler had been corrected. It could well have been a one-off, but not so “Nick Clegg hits out a ‘ridiculous’ critics”, which I admit Word didn’t flag up, not even for suspect grammar.

This appeared on the Telegraph homepage, and perhaps the slip is understandable, given that it’s allegedly “live”.

But it’s been replicated to an area that isn’t “live”. And someone must have edited the text to add “who say he has betrayed party”.

And it’s appeared in another supposedly “live” context, which also looks as if it would have needed editing, given the addition of Vince Cable’s photo.

Remember all the stick that the Guardian used to get for iffy spelling? Many still affectionately refer to the paper as the “Grauniad”. I must put some effort into renaming the Telegraph. Telegaff, perchance?