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Sunday, 30 June 2013

Leveson – More Charter Excuses

Another supposed error from Lord Justice Leveson has surfaced today, and this should surprise no-one, because the paper concerned, the Mail On Sunday, has given the game away by also publishing a jaw-droppingly dishonest editorial which lays bare the rationale behind the exercise. What is being attempted is to get the press’ Royal Charter over the finish line first.
Leveson gagged me over police smears: Whistleblower tried to expose Met dirty tricks but was stopped by Press inquiry” proclaims the headline as the plight of Peter Tickner is outlined. But the story does not stand up: first Leveson is accused of gagging him, then we read “senior figures within the Met Police prevented him from ‘speaking a truth that no one wanted to hear’”.

How so? “The judge made his ruling after objections by the Metropolitan Police”. Ah, so not unlike all the objections from Counsel representing newspapers like, oh I dunno, the Mail titles, making sure that Leveson stuck to his terms of reference and screaming blue murder if he looked as if he might be tempted to stray from his remit. Oh, and Tory rent-a-quote MP Rob Wilson’s been sticking his bugle in, too.

Thus we arrive at the editorial, and the blatant giveaway. “Royal Charter set up by the Press is the ideal answer as Leveson fades away” says someone who has entered Ron Hopeful mode. And there’s more: “Since no agreement has yet been reached on how to implement the Leveson recommendations, these developments strengthen the case for politicians to re-examine their positions”.

And here comes the brass neck special: “The newspaper industry’s proposed Royal Charter is a very radical and severe set of reforms which offers thoughtful and workable remedies to the major public concerns about the press”. Yeah, right. Re-heating the old PCC is “radical and severe”. Like heck it is. And there has been agreement on Leveson – between all three major political parties.

The editorial concludes “Given the growing doubts surrounding Leveson, and the need for action, this seems to be the best available course”. The only doubts are the ones manufactured in papers like the Mail to try desperately to stop properly independent press regulation. But let’s pop back to Peter Tickner, and his assertions that senior cops were using the press to smear their colleagues.

Mr Tickner also wanted to show how information about a £3million Metropolitan Police contract with former Commissioner Ian Blair’s skiing friend Andrew Miller and his business, Impact Plus, had been leaked by a senior officer to the media”. Hmmm, I wonder who would object to that one being discussed. Maybe the paper that used the information and lost a libel action to Miller as a result?

That paper was the Daily Mail. You really couldn’t make this up.

EasyJet Delay No Shock Horror

Full disclosure: I’ve travelled a lot with EasyJet, from the days when I was working in the Netherlands and commuting weekly on what we used to call the Stelios Speke-Schiphol Shuttle to last week’s long weekend in Paris. I’ve done dozens of sectors with the carrier. And timekeeping has never been a problem: last Tuesday we were back in Liverpool quarter of an hour early.
An EasyJet Airbus A320. That can carry 164 passengers

But clearly there are sometimes delays, and a recent one at Sharm-el-Sheikh has had the Sun – with the Mail close behind – in full why-oh-why mode. A flight to Gatwick suffered a bad delay, and was on the tarmac for five hours before the passengers were disembarked and sent to a hotel for the night. Then the flight was delayed the next day. It’s in the category of “stuff that happens”.

Normally there would be a quick turn-round of the flight and it would be away back to the UK. So what happened? Apparently some kind of technical issue, and the press would have been happily playing the other side of the field if passengers had been subjected to any kind of danger while in the air. Unless the carrier can find another aircraft – not easy at the height of the season – there will inevitably be delays.

This, though, does not concern the Sun, which blusters “30-hour flight fury ... 160 Brits stranded in Egypt by monster easyJet delay”. The clear inference is that the airline doesn’t care about its passengers, which is not helped by the paper using a photo which clearly shows the Captain taking time out to talk to them and explain the situation. But Rupe’s downmarket troops plough on.

There are complaints that people had no food for five hours. Shine a light, lads, haven’t any of you ever gone from lunch to evening nosh without a snack in between? For those of us who eat at around 2000 hours, that’s well over five hours. Then the Mail says passengers were “told to stay on board”. You board an aircraft, you’re under the command of the Captain. You didn’t know that?

And, had the aircraft taken off within, say, half an hour of closing up, the passengers would have spent more than five hours on board – it’s a five hour flight back to Gatwick. Then the Mail shows just how seriously it takes air travel, by illustrating its piece with a photo of an Airbus A319. Mail people, there were 164 passengers on this flight, and an A319 can’t carry more than 156. You figure it out.

Then, bizarrely, both Sun and Mail start banging on about EasyJet’s new cabin baggage policy, which comes in next week, despite it having nothing to do with this story, and – as the Mail admits – not imposing any additional costs on passengers. It’s an excellent example of Phil Space journalism, and another sign that the original story was a bit on the thin side.

Such is the strength in depth of most papers’ transport reporting. Or maybe not.

After Google Reader

Google Reader is about to be retired – tomorrow will be the last day that you can use it. That will affect well over a hundred of you that read Zelo Street that way, and if you have not already made alternative arrangements, here are a couple of suggestions as to how you can keep on reading the blog in a similar kind of way (and no, I have no connection with any product mentioned).
Don't get stuck with rubbish like this

Already established – and with a one-click Google Reader import – is Feedly. What’s it like, and how do you move over to it? The New York Times has provided a handy review, which brings the reassuring news that you should have no problem if you use Chrome or Firefox. However, and there in inevitably a however, Internet Explorer is a no-no (but I wouldn’t advise anyone to use it in the first place).

And you have to install a plug-in to use Feedly, but even so, the people behind the product reckon to have expanded their installed base from around four million to seven million since Google announced the cessation of the Reader service. And the NYT’s David Pogue gives it the thumbs-up, especially if you’re a former Google Reader user. And an alternative offering, perchance?

Well, there is now Digg Reader too, which as I type has gone live, although the review in PC Mag is of the beta version. This, like Feedly, is free, but there are upcoming extras for which there will be a charge. You pays your money, and all that. Digg Reader imports feeds the same way as Feedly, from a Google login. Even the layout is – reassuringly – similar.

The PC Mag review also mentions other candidate successors to Google Reader. So it’s not as if you’ll be stuck with nowhere to go. Of course, you can also follow Zelo Street (publicly or anonymously) and read it that way, plus the Twitter feed and Facebook page are always available. I express no preference for any one successor product to Google Reader – that’s up to you, the, er, reader.

Have fun!

Top Six – June 30

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 some shopping to do later. So there.
6 Mail White Frightener The Daily Mail pitched a badly researched “race war” article about South Africa. It had been written by a hack with form for misleading stories, and was highly selective with its facts.

5 Murdoch Is Served (96) Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and three other former Murdoch retainers lost their attempt to have their trials stopped. Their defence might not have been the wisest. And there is now nothing between them and the trial proper.

4 Julie Bailey – Another Media Casualty A campaigner whose mother died at Stafford Hospital, and who founded Cure The NHS, was in reality being used, and particularly cynically, by the Mail. Not that they’ll be paying her bills.

3 West Anglia Overground Foul-Up It was announced that “West Anglia suburban services” would be devolved to Transport for London. But which services? The Government didn’t say – because, apparently, it didn’t know.

2 Leveson And Hacking – Look Over There! The Fourth Estate found out that they were not the only ones hacking and blagging. So Leveson was smeared again, despite his terms of reference not including anything outside the press. And despite the same press making sure those terms of reference were not exceeded.

1 Leveson Appearance Spin Lord Justice Leveson was invited to appear before the Commons culture Committee, so the Sun and Mail pretended he would refuse (he didn’t) and that he would be grilled (he wouldn’t) about subjects which wouldn’t be covered.

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

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Guido Fawked – Can’t Do Salary Sums

[Update at end of post]

Sometimes the right-leaning part of the blogosphere can be a little too keen to pile in behind its pals in the Astroturf lobby groups, and one particularly clueless part of it today has fouled up in right Royal fashion in a particularly lame attempt to support the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS): step forward the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog.
Yeah, of course I can do my sums, especially when I'm on the piss, shit no, working, yeah, to work up a thirst for a good skinful, sod it no, cup of coffee. With a slug of JD in it. Oh bollocks

The CPS has put out a post entitled “Tax simplifier 6: Our marginal tax rate structure has no logic”, possibly in support of the idea of flatter taxes, which will, by sheer coincidence you understand, benefit, among others, wealthy people who bung a little of their disposable income to, er, Astroturf lobby groups like the CPS. But the description of marginal tax rates is accurate.

These vary as income increases: for instance, for the first £7,748 of income, no Income Tax or Employee’s National Insurance (NI) contribution is due. This changes as NI comes in, followed by Income Tax, then higher rate Income Tax but reduced NI. From these figures, the amount of total tax paid can be calculated. But the Fawkes folks have not grasped this simple concept.
Of course I can do my sums, cos I'm on telly!


This assumes that there is no personal tax-free allowance, which there is for someone earning £50k. It also assumes that there is no benefit to them from the 20% Income Tax band, which there also is: it is only when total income exceeds £41, 450 that the 40% band kicks in (and NI reduces at that point from 12% to 2%). So let’s “Do The Math”, and see what the numbers are.
Oh dear

For someone earning £50k and no other allowances, the Income Tax and NI is 12% on the £1992 between £7448 and £9440, then 32% on the £32010 between £9440 and £41450, then 42% on the £8550 between £41450 and £50000. Those tax amounts are, respectively, £239.04, £10243.20, and £3591, and they total £14073.24. Deduct that from £50000, and you get £35926.76.

So the example used by the Fawkes rabble “begins to provide for his wife and children” before lunchtime on Tuesday. Yes, The Great Guido has misunderstood the nature of progressive taxation and gone completely wrong. By so doing, Staines and his rabble demonstrate that they are, yet again, full value for their positive trust rating of 4%. And I didn’t forget the 40.5p on the 50001st pound of income, thanks.

Don’t give up the day job, lads. Another fine mess, once again.

[UPDATE 30 June 1030 hours: to no surprise at all, The Great Guido has edited the post in the hope that no-one will notice the howler, but as can be seen above, I took a screenshot. Now here's another screenshot, this time of the edited post.
Note that "That means he works to provide for the state Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and only begins to provide for his wife and children on Thursday and Friday" has been edited out. This, though, came after Ryan Bourne of the CPS happily Retweeted the item, which at the time he pressed the button, was in its original form (in other words, with the howler still there).
Bourne states in his Twitter bio that he is "Head of Economic Research" at the CPS. Looks like he missed one item of economic research there, then.

And one final item for those who might be wondering who wrote the offending Fawkes blog post - it was written, not by either of his gofers, but by Paul Staines himself. That would be the Paul Staines who styles himself an "entrepreneur", a supposed business-savvy individual who one might have expected to be able to work out his, or indeed anyone else's, Income Tax and NI.

So either he's wilfully inept, or wilfully dishonest. Either way, anyone thinking of buying a used car from him would be wise to reconsider their prospective purchase. Another fine mess]

Edward Snowden – Now Murdoch’s Involved

Ever since Edward Snowden’s revelations first appeared, the story has been spun for position by every last clueless pundit, and they don’t come much more clueless than at the bear pit that is Telegraph Blogs, where Damian “Bad Omen” Thompson presides over a fever of speculation, Obama-bashing, and Guardian baiting. Sometimes he and his pals manage to combine all three.
Thompson, along with his colleague Tim Stanley, who you can call as he’s a doctor, kicked off their Snowden-a-Thon earlier this month, agreeing that it was all A Very Bad Thing for Barack Obama, which by the happiest of coincidences is what their editor and readers wanted to hear – rather than the reality, which was that Obama was not going to be driven out of the White House any day soon.

Edward Snowden has blown the whistle on this presidency. You have to wonder: Will Obama see out his full term?” asked Thompson, in Ron Hopeful mode, to which the answer at the moment looks like “yes”. Stanley added “Edward Snowden has exposed both the ambition and the incompetence of Obama's security state”, which was more to his readers’ liking than mentioning “Dubya” Bush.

Yes, the snooping had ramped up under the previous administration, and had Obama even looked like he was going to roll it back, the righteous right would have been down on him like the proverbial tonne of bricks. Then Stanley remembered that it is also his duty to lay into the Guardian: “Is Edward Snowden's story unravelling? Why the Guardian's scoop is looking a bit dodgy” he proffered, dutifully.

Then Snowden left Hong Kong, and looked as if he would evade the USA’s grasp, so Stanley was off again: “Edward Snowden flees to Ecuador – a country that's cracking down on press freedom. His tyranny tour has undermined his cause”. Except he hasn’t fled to Ecuador, and is still, as far as is known, in Moscow. Or in transit while in Moscow. And there it all stopped – until Murdoch arrived on the scene.

Yes, now the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has opened up a front against the Guardian, and in particular against Glenn Greenwald, trying to accuse the latter of being part of a pre-planned conspiracy. “Edward Snowden 'was helped to steal state secrets', says Wall Street Journal. Guardian's Greenwald explodes. It's all kicking off now” gurgled Thompson enthusiastically – note the single quotes.

What Damian Thompson cannot see is that the WSJ, since its purchase by Rupert Murdoch, has become partisan, cheap and downmarket in turn, and that with its new owner facing FCPA suits and phone hacking claims Stateside, joining in on the side of his adoptive homeland will help his cause no end. Thompson and Stanley were wrong on their Obama speculation, and wrong about the Guardian’s story.

Now they’re wrong about why the WSJ is piling in. Do try and keep up, chaps.

Mail White Frightener

[Update at end of post]

Have there been too many column inches devoted to speculation about the state of South Africa after Nelson Mandela passes? Not in the Daily Mail, there haven’t: “Mandela's passing and the looming threat of a race war against South Africa's whites. As a widow mourns the latest murdered Afrikaner farmer, a chilling dispatch from a nation holding its breath” demonstrates this magnificently.
No, I haven't got a f***ing twitchy right arm, c***

The recipe is as with so many other Mail targets: take a sample of one – a farmer shot dead by intruders – and freely extrapolate from there, selecting only those views that support the direction signposted by the headline, before throwing in a scrap of counter argument at the end, well after the point when the readership will already have made up its mind – or had it made up for it.

There was no “race war” in 1994, when the African National Congress (ANC) formed a Government after South Africa’s first elections under a universal franchise. There was no “race war” when Mandela stepped down in 1999. But the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre knows that his readership is overwhelmingly white, and equally susceptible to the occasional frightener.

So the narrative goes to a gated Afrikaner community, which claims not to be racist, except there are no black people there (they get round that one by insisting that everyone speaks Afrikaans). Behind the security fences, the Mail finds voices telling that the blacks are going to come and murder them. Zimbabwe is mentioned. Readers are ushered gently but firmly to the required conclusion.

The reality of South Africa, as with so much of the Mail’s selective hackery, is rather different, and less easy to categorise. The murder rate is appalling, at 31.8 per 100,000 of the population (the UK comes in at 1.2, and the USA at 4.8. Even Zimbabwe is better, at 14.3). But it is not just well-off whites who are living in gated communities: this applies to all ethnicities.

Guns are getting harder to obtain, but the problem is that there are so many out there already: around six million, or 12 per 100 of the population. Many keep guns in their homes in the belief that they need them to protect themselves: the reality is that they are four times more likely to have those guns used against them instead. Private security firms are proliferating, as fear of burglary, and worse, continue.

But the murder rate, despite being so high, is actually falling. The problem is, with so many guns out there, the process is likely to be long and painful. The legacy of the most brutal part of Apartheid is also yet to heal. And there is still widespread poverty and unemployment. But most black people want less crime just as much as their white neighbours – along with jobs.

That is why the Daily Mail’s 1930s throwback is so totally out of order.

[UPDATE 1430 hours: as Africa Check has pointed out, white South Africans are less likely to be murder victims than any other racial group. A 2009 study found that whites made up 1.8% of murder victims, even though they comprise 8.85% of the population. It concluded that the murder rate for whites was equal to, or even less than, it had been between 1979 and 1991 - the later Apartheid years.

Moreover, Adrian Malone, who wrote the Mail article, has form for slanted copy: his was the name on the by-line of "The wild, raunchy past of Foxy Knoxy", yet another of those "Amanda Knox did it" pieces. There have been more: Septicisle has the details right HERE. So Dacre knew full well the kind of copy that was going to come in.

It's another example of selecting the facts to fit the conclusion. So no change there, then]

Friday, 28 June 2013

Guido Fawked – Still Not Stars

A thread of desperation appears to run through rather too much of what passes for content at the Guido Fawkes blog nowadays. Quite apart from the practice of recycling existing stories and pretending to have had some influence on events, and the creative use of figures to put the boot into anyone not of a right-leaning persuasion, is a wilful ignorance of how their own industry works.
Yeah, I should be on Question Time. Provided there aren't any questions about bullying, and bankruptcy, and telling porkies, and drinking and driving, and if anyone mentions that photographer I didn't knock over, I'll sue them

That would be the media, where the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his tame gofer, the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, along with their newly anointed teaboy Alex Wickham, have collectively sold out to Richard “Dirty” Desmond, the Barclay Brothers, and Rupert Murdoch, while being so frightened of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre that they have even stopped snarking at Andrew Pierce.

But they most certainly are still snarking at Liverpool Wavertree MP Luciana Berger, because she represents Labour, and quite rightly does not consider the Fawkes rabble worth the time of day. And, for the Fawkes folks, ignoring is only A Good Thing when they do it to other people. For Ms Berger to do it to them cannot be allowed, because, well, they’re Real Media Stars, don’t you know.
Course I should be on telly, cos I'm on telly!

So teaboy Wickham has been put on yah-boo duty, and has duly obliged, with a post titled “Berger’s Climate Change Whopper”. This follows her article for the Staggers titled “David Cameron hasn't spoken about climate change for three years. Time is running out”. That Ms Berger probably didn’t write her own headline is not allowed to enter, and nor is the clear inference that this isn’t about occasional mentions.

According to They Work For You it turns out Dave has mentioned climate change 32 times in Hansard over the last three years” sneers Wickham, clearly having inherited the tendency to dodgy punctuation so characteristic of Master Cole. But Ms Berger wasn’t saying that: “Remarkably, David Cameron hasn’t made a single speech on climate change in the three years since he became Prime Minister”. See?

This is desperately thin stuff for the “brand” that is supposed to cause MPs to quake in their boots (which, in most cases, is probably because they are suffering convulsions of laughter). And this post isn’t the only recent example of the “look at us ‘cos we’re important” genre. Only yesterday, readers were treated to “Graph of Everything That’s Wrong with BBC Question Time”.

Nigel Farage has been on eight times in the past three years! And George Galloway five times! And David Starkey four times! And someone from The Apprentice twice! The clear sub-text is that the Fawkes rabble believes it should be able to feature on the panel occasionally, especially as they are all legends, if only in their own lunchtimes. But one of the figures on the graph shows why it isn’t happening.

There have already been 13 comedians on the programme. Another fine mess.

Murdoch Is Served (96)

OH WHAT A HACKING GIVEAWAY!

Today may have dawned grey and cloudy, but for the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks, her pal Andy Coulson, and former faithful Murdoch retainers James Weatherup, Stuart Kuttner, and Ian Edmondson, there was a little silver lining to look forward to, as they attempted to have their phone hacking cases thrown out on a legal technicality.
This was quite straightforward: their argument was that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 did not regard listening to voicemail messages, after the recipient had first listened to them, as hacking, and that it was therefore not an offence under the Act. Thus they applied to have the case against them dismissed. There was also the question of reporting restrictions.

Sadly for the Famous Five, though, there was to be no happy ending, and the appeal was dismissed. The ruling included this comment: “contrary to the submission on behalf of the appellants, the resulting situation is not lacking in legal certainty”. This means that RIPA 2000 does indeed call listening to voicemail messages after they have been read by the recipient an offence.

And any hope that the names of those making the unsuccessful appeal would be kept quiet was also dashed. Allowing the appellants to be named, Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge (for it was he) observed “We can see no possible prejudice to the fairness of the forthcoming trial. We must not be unrealistic - there can hardly be anyone in the country who does not know to whom this case applies”.

So we now know who made the appeal, what the grounds for the appeal were, and that the appeal failed. Moreover, the thought enters that, in putting forward the argument they have, the five may not be exactly enhancing their prospects when the case proceeds further - which it now will. That makes their appeal a Very High Risk Strategy Indeed.

And it is a strategy that has signally failed. Murdoch’s faithful five have been refused leave to take their appeal further – given that the Lord Chief Justice and two other senior judges were in agreement on the decision to reject the appeal, there would have been little point in any case – and they are now looking down the proverbial gun-barrel as their trial proper approaches.

Can anyone have the slightest sympathy for them, considering the sheer shamelessness of their appeal? No doubt there will be the usual suspects in the Fourth Estate dribbling on about how terribly unfair this all is, and what a wonderful editor Coulson was, but the public can now see just how systemically rotten the cheaper end of the press really is. Roll on the trial.

Leveson To Appear – Press Silent

If ever those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet wanted to advertise to the world that most of their number are interested only in reporting what is in the interests of their editors and proprietors, and that the interests of the wider public are irrelevant, they have succeeded brilliantly with their coverage – or, latterly, lack of it – concerning Lord Justice Leveson’s select Committee appearance.
John Whittingdale, chair of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, had written to Leveson with the clear intention of getting his opinion on how the two competing Royal Charters on press regulation measure up to what was recommended in his report. At this point, the Mail and Sun – the two loudest voices in the playground – were only too happy to run the story.

As I pointed out the other day, the Mail asserted that Leveson was being “summoned, and that he would be questioned on why he did not mention the SOCA report on hacking, as well as the later relationship between David Sherborne and Carine Patry Hoskins. This was weapons grade bullshit: Leveson had not been summoned, and there was no intention to question him about these matters.

The Murdoch Sun went further, telling that MPs “order hacking judge to face grilling”. There was talk of a “constitutional crisis”, with the clear inference that Leveson was reluctant to man up and face the representatives of We The People. So one might think the latest news – that Leveson has accepted the invitation to appear – would be splashed across both papers with equal prominence.

And that thought would be misplaced, because, although Leveson’s acceptance has been reported by the deeply subversive Guardian, there has not been so much as a mention from either the Mail or the Sun. Why so coy? Well, there clearly isn’t going to be a “constitutional crisis”, and Leveson is equally clearly not running scared of Whittingdale and his Committee.

Also, it’s clear that Leveson has not been subject to any kind of summons or order. Nor is there any prospect that he will be questioned about David Sherborne and Carine Patry Hoskins (not relevant to press regulation reform), or the wider part of the SOCA report, which is outside the terms of reference for the Leveson Inquiry (“To inquire into the culture, practices and ethics of the press”).

But perhaps the Mail and Sun have more important stories to share with their readers? Like telling them that the average house price in Virginia Water has now exceeded £1 million? Or that a couple died after falling out of a window which broke as they were having sex against it? Either houses or humping are bigger than the future of their own industry, or the Mail and Sun are full of crap.

As to which is true, you might wish to speculate, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Nadine Dorries About Turn

What a difference four months makes: back in February, Mid Bedfordshire MP (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries reacted furiously to the news that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) was investigating her claims for travel and subsistence. “Nadine Dorries threatens Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority after new allegations on expenses” reported the Independent.
The Spectator, normally more favourably disposed towards those of a right-leaning persuasion, told that “Nadine Dorries says Ipsa is ‘asleep on the bloody job’, but MPs’ pay and expenses will cause even more grief this year”. ITV News reported “Nadine Dorries vows to 'go after' expenses watchdog”. Yes, the fragrant Nadine was gunning for those who questioned her integrity.

Well, IPSA was not put off, and the investigation continued. And there were, to its credit, no leaks, hints or any kind of nudge-nudgery in the meantime. So what was the fuss over? Unity at Ministry Of Truth pored over the assembled Dorries expense Magnum Opi, crunched the numbers, and presented his conclusions, but there was no sign of blatantly improper conduct.

Meanwhile, there was the side-show of Ms Dorries’ fee for her controversial appearance on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here – the main controversy being that her going on the show led to the withdrawal of the Tory whip – which had not been declared. Unity was on the case once more, letting the world know about Averbrook Limited, the company Ms Dorries has now declared.

But the most significant news is today’s announcement that the fragrant Nadine is to stop claiming expenses, which kicked off with this sentence: “I can’t talk about the IPSA investigation until it reports other than to say that so far I am happy with the way the investigation has been conducted and I am looking forward to the report”. What happened to the vow to “go after” IPSA?

And will she really stop claiming expenses? All expenses? Well, not all expenses, it seems: “The cost of running the office, postage, staff salaries and constituency mileage will still be claimed”. What’s the difference? The most significant item appears to be the Dorries apartment in central London. So it’s not so much “working for free”, as “not claiming for an apartment as well”.

But fair play to Ms Dorries, it’s at least a positive gesture. So how will she manage? “I'm lucky because I've got personal support and can do that. I've got a great partner”. And how that works is her business (and his). But the move, coming before IPSA have announced the conclusions of their enquiries, suggests that she is anticipating a less than favourable outcome, and is trying to pre-empt it.

Because right now, everyone will be ready and waiting when IPSA reports.

We Don’t Do God – Redefined

There are many memorable moments from the New Labour years: Tone arriving in Downing Street, the Diana tribute, the “regular kind of guy” observation, the second and equally decisive General Election victory are some. And from Big Al, there is “We Don’t Do God”. It was pretty clear what Alastair Campbell meant – he wouldn’t be engaging with anyone asking questions about his boss’ religious beliefs.
Cristina Odone

And that was that, until, in yet another attempt to redefine history and blame Tone’s former spinmeister for something else he didn’t do, the Telegraph’s Cristina Odone has announced “David Cameron should stop dancing to Alastair Campbell's atheist tune”. Wait, what? How can Young Dave stop doing something he hasn’t even thought about doing in the first place?

Ah well. Silly me – I missed the real meaning of “We Don’t Do God”: “That sentence condemned Christians and other believers to a life in the shadows. They were improper, unwelcome. Ally had said so. It was an attitude that quickly percolated to the lawmakers and to the streets: time and again, the right to express a religious belief has been quashed, in or out of court”.

And this is total bullshit, made yet more breathtaking when you realise that Big Al’s then boss was a practising Christian who has since converted to the Church Of Rome, Ms Odone’s preferred flavour of Christianity. But she’s clearly not for listening: “Even Alastair Campbell would be shocked at how quickly and thoroughly he erased God from public life”. He’d be shocked at her dishonesty and brass neck.

Because, as the man said, there’s more: “Yesterday, a YouGov poll among 18-24-year olds found that 41 per cent believe religion is a force for evil in the world”. Ah, now we’re getting to the business end of the discussion, and I have to tell Ms Odone that Big Al has sweet stuff all to do with that. Folks can see for themselves what effect organised religion has had over the years since it appeared.

They can see all the blood-letting that has followed, starting with events chronicled in the Bible (the books of Kings being a good place to start), going on to the Crusades, the Reformation, persecution of, well, anyone and everyone, and arriving at the present day with followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam all engaging in less than savoury practices, and justifying their behaviour via their religion.

None of that was down to Alastair Campbell. Young people do not need to even know about him to make an informed decision about organised religion. While there are many religious people who are peaceable, and just want to get along with their neighbours, there will always be those who give this particular dog a very bad name indeed. Ms Odone should direct her efforts towards them.

But it’s much easier for Telegraph hacks to kick Big Al. So no change there, then.

Julie Bailey – Another Media Casualty

Attacking the last resting place of the dead – one act for which the word “desecration” is absolutely appropriate – is bang out of order. And that statement comes without any ifs, buts or asterisks. It doesn’t matter whether you loved or loathed the person, their memory, or their relatives. Sadly, that has happened to a campaigner and business owner in Stafford.
Julie Bailey’s mother Bella died at Stafford Hospital. Whether or not her death was avoidable I do not know, but this spurred Ms Bailey to start a group called Cure The NHS. Later, standards of poor care on some of the Hospital’s wards were exposed. The Francis Report followed. Stafford Hospital is now vastly improved, but is threatened with run-down or, indeed, total closure.

The closure threat has contributed to tempers running high in the debate about Stafford Hospital, which in turn has led to Ms Bailey being used by the NHS-bashing tendency of the Fourth Estate. It is too late for anyone to point out to her that she should never have gone anywhere near the Daily Mail, which is now pretending that Stafford as a whole has “driven” her from her home.

What may not occur to the average Daily Mail reader is that Stafford is not Royston Vasey, but a large town of over 120,000 inhabitants. They did not all meet in secret and devise a dastardly plan to drive Ms Bailey out of town. And no campaigner – the Mail, as is its wont, reserves most of the nudge-nudgery for the Labour Party – can achieve that kind of leverage on his or her own.

Most of the heat that has been generated over Stafford Hospital has come from out of town, and the Daily Mail has been the unquestioned cheerleader, this being another opportunity to demonise the NHS. One of Paul Dacre’s obsessions is to seek out stories showing the organisation in the worst light  (recent examples HERE, HERE and HERE). Dacre goes private. He wants his readers to do the same.

The Dacre attack doggies have also massaged the numbers to keep up the attack on both the NHS and the population of Stafford: readers are told of “the horrific neglect at Stafford Hospital which cost up to 1,400 lives” (“think of a number” territory there) while the Save Stafford Hospital march, where more than 40,000 took part, is downgraded to 30,000 to make it look less relevant.

And one thing is certain: when the Mail talks of Julie Bailey having to sell up and leave her business, going to live in a static caravan somewhere, they won’t be around to pay the bills. There is only one winner when folks go to the Daily Mail. Everyone else loses: apart from Ms Bailey, the town of Stafford gets its reputation trashed, along with that of all of its NHS workers.

But the Daily Mail makes the mugs buy their papers, so that’s all right, then.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

West Anglia Overground Foul-Up

[Updates, two so far, at end of post]

During the Comprehensive Spending Review announcements from the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the Seventeenth Baronet, the news for Londoners was that “West Anglia Suburban Rail Services” were to be devolved to Transport for London (TfL), and become part of the Overground brand. But someone has been a little economical with the actualit√© here.
Because what has not been told is what “West Anglia Suburban Rail Services” actually means. So yet another firing up of the Speculatron is in order: did the Government have in mind the old West Anglia Great Northern (WAGN) franchise that ended some years back? If it did, then First Group might have something to say about First Capital Connect (FCC) being split up so soon after the franchise began.

And Abellio, the external arm of Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), might have some interesting comments to make about some of its Greater Anglia franchise being abstracted. In both cases, there would be a number of stations where keeping the Overground part completely separate (as with the exclusive use of two platforms at Clapham Junction) might prove problematic.

The easiest routes to split out would be the ones from the former Great Northern part of WAGN that operate out of Moorgate to Welwyn Garden City and Hertford North (with some services extended beyond the latter to Letchworth). The West Anglia ones would present the biggest problems, not least with the use of London’s Liverpool Street terminus. There would be little scope for more services.

Then comes the splitting out of “suburban”: will the Overground involvement extend only to the Enfield, Chingford and Hertford East services? Will the Stansted Express be thrown in, as it serves one of London’s three main airports? And who will run the stations where Overground will share with at least one other operator (Liverpool Street will, like Euston, continue to be run by Network Rail)?

So there is going to be a lot of work to do even before this addition – whatever its extent – to the Overground brand. And, unless TfL can magic some extra funding from somewhere, one thing that won’t be happening with the transfer from franchised operator to TfL will be the new trains that made such a difference to existing Overground routes. So the new operator would soldier on with the existing stock.

Some of those trains are 36 years old. Many of the remainder that TfL might be expected to take on are past their thirtieth birthday. And with TfL’s budget being cut, there may not be much in the pot for significant station improvements. So whatever optimistic noises may be emanating from occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, the reality is that there is unlikely to be a new reality.

That means the new train service will be the same as the old one.

[UPDATE1 28 June 1425 hours: my thanks to William Lucas, who has obtained the information from Greater Anglia about which of their routes will devolve to TfL. There are just three: Liverpool Street to Chingford, Enfield Town and Cheshunt (via Southbury).
 So services to Hertford East are not included, and nor are Stansted Express ones. As there has been no word from FCC about services out of Moorgate, it has to be assumed that these, too, are not part of the package.

That's not such a great expansion of the Overground brand - and, as I've already noted, it comes with trains that are over 30 years old, and little prospect of new ones]

[UPDATE2 2 July 1735 hours: Mayor Watch has now confirmed the routes to be devolved to TfL, and that this will happen in 2015. Their report uses a photo of a Class 378 electric multiple unit, the standard for new Overground trains, but whether TfL could fund any more of these is doubtful.

Moreover, Bombardier, who built the trains, may have closed the production lines by then. It will be an interesting challenge for the Overground brand to deliver improvements when they share much of the mileage with other operator's services, and with trains that are over 30 years old]

Leveson Appearance Spin

Once again, Lord Justice Leveson finds himself in the news, and once again, the gulf between reality and reporting is significant enough to shame the Fourth Estate – if only it had any shame. Commons culture Committee chairman John Whittingdale would like Leveson to appear and has said “I think we would like to hear his views on the developments that have taken place since the publication of the report”.
How so? “As the man [who] authored the report and spent 18-months looking at it and reaching conclusions, we would like to hear his view of what is on the table”, Whittingdale explained. There were now two rival Royal Charters, and the question arose as to whether either of them delivered what Leveson had in mind when he delivered his report, along with its conclusions.

So that’s that: what the Committee wants is some guidance on how compliant the Royal Charters are with Leveson’s original proposals. But that isn’t how the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre sees it: “Leveson is summoned by MPs for a grilling: Judge called to give evidence on future of press regulation” thunders the Mail headline. And, as the man said, there’s more.

Questioning would be “expected to include the issue of why wider evidence of phone hacking and surveillance by law and insurance firms was not highlighted in his report”. Brilliant, James Chapman, Mail Political Editor. Attaboy, obedient Dacre doggie. You know sodding well why it wasn’t “highlighted”: what part of “To inquire into the culture, practices, and ethics of the press” do you not understand?

Chapman continues to obey His Master’s Voice: “Lord Justice Leveson is also likely to be questioned about the revelation that a lawyer to his inquiry had an affair with a barrister representing celebrities complaining about the Press”. No he intercoursing well isn’t. Or does Paul Dacre have delusions of running Government, rather than merely scaring the shit out of far too many MPs?

It’s no better at the Murdoch Sun: “MPs order hacking judge to face grilling” is the totally dishonest sub-heading. The invention in the article extended to “a potential constitutional crisis looms” (bullshit), “a ‘strongly worded’ letter” (it wasn’t), and “committee chairman John Whittingdale said their patience had snapped”, which he didn’t, because it hadn’t. The Sun is full value for its 10% trust rating.

Oh hang on, the Sun has a quote. From rent-a-quote Tory Conor Burns: “It’s disappointing it hasn’t been a more straightforward exercise to get him to appear before us”. It’s equally disappointing that the Commons culture Committee has to call on purveyors of meaningless drivel like him, who can’t see that the press is pursuing a particularly nasty self-interest agenda here.

And that agenda means resisting independent press regulation at every turn.

Nigel Farage, This Is Your Passport Queue

Anyone making the evening journey from Paris’ sprawling A√©roport Charles de Gaulle back to the rather more humble Liverpool Airport – as around 140 punters did yesterday, courtesy of EasyJet – will have noticed the one thing that makes travel to and from the UK so different to that around EU member states and other countries that have signed up to the Schengen agreement. It’s called queuing.
There in CDG Terminal 2D, passengers joining EasyJet inter-Schengen flights went from security to boarding. We UK-bound people had to also submit our passports to a bored-looking French border guard. Because we’re not signing up to Schengen, as we want to remain in glorious isolation and keep out all these rotten foreigners. And immigrants. And security hazards. To keep control of our borders, dammit.

Then, on arrival at Liverpool, the flight takes around 25 minutes to clear the UK Border. OK, it only took me 20 minutes of my life that I won’t be getting back, but the sheer pointlessness should be screamingly obvious to anyone with a hole in their backside. Every passport fed through the scanner. As if the security agencies that we now know are snooping on us might have missed something.

And if the likes of Nigel “Thirsty” Farage get their hands on the levers of power, this farce is set to get a whole lot worse. Not for nothing do folks return from the USA with tales of it taking three hours or more to get from landing to exiting the terminal building. With the inter-connectedness of the EU, Schengen makes sense, and not just for individuals, but businesses too.

Talking of businesses, one that suffers from the Great British Obsession with border controls – and will continue so to do – is rail travel, with airline-level check-in times at St Pancras, Paris Nord and Brussel Zuid, combined with yet more sodding passport checks and intrusive personal searches, none of which would prevent a serious terrorist attack – like one aimed at the line the train travels on.

Over at Paris Est, the trains departing for destinations in Germany do not leave from securely fenced-off platforms, and nor do those from Paris Nord to Belgium and the Netherlands. Even before Schengen, border controls were being done more and more on the move. Eurostar could do this. The UK obsession will not permit it. Two and a quarter hours London to Paris becomes well over three hours.

That hurts competitiveness. It drives visitors away. It deters businesses from locating here. After all, who wants to set up in a country that might walk away from the European club, just to appease the party of an ale-swilling Grade A spiv? Next time you fly EasyJet, look at the flag painted next to the plane’s registration mark. It used to be the Union Flag. It’s now the EU one. They’ve made their choice already.

Somebody is trying to tell the politicians something. But they aren’t listening.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Automatic For The People

While en tour over the weekend visiting Paris – as one does at this time of the year – I used the city’s Metro network to get around the sights. And, following all the heat generated by London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson over the idea of automatic operation for London’s Underground, I also checked out how this is accomplished in Paris.
Odd French technology (not an automatic route this)

And the answer is, it’s done in a way that will be impossible to replicate over almost all of the London system. Paris now has two Metro lines operating on automatic – Line 1 was the example touted to Londoners of how to convert an existing route, with Line 14, the newest on the system, having followed more recently. Both these lines are simple end to end operations.

Moreover, they have little or no exposure above ground: Line 1 comes into the open briefly at Bastille, and when it crosses the Seine, and that is that. There is nothing on the scale of the surface sections of Tube and Sub-surface Lines (SSLs) in London. And both these lines have platform doors at all stations (the 14 was built with them). This, though, does not hamper ventilation.

That is because Line 1 runs in double track tunnel (rather like the SSLs in London), and so there is none of the constraint that tube tunnels would impose. Platform doors on older Tube lines would make ventilation of the stations more difficult. And then there is the particularly French running gear, which most certainly does not exist anywhere on the London system.

Some lines on the Paris system have been adapted to use rubber-tyred trains: these still have conventional tracks, but only for guidance. This is supposed to produce a quieter and smoother ride, but modern suspension systems for conventional rail vehicles do just as well. The automatic lines use this system. So is Bozza looking to bring that to the UK? He doesn’t know. He’s shooting from the hip.

So how do the automatic trains perform? The acceleration and braking is often unsubtle in the way that Automatic Train Operation (ATO) was on the Central Line when first used over a decade ago. There are occasional “pathing stops” as trains are ordered to wait at stations to even out the gaps between them. And the ones on Line 1 suffer from braking snatch, often juddering to a stop.

To be fair, ATO on the Tube does better than that, so the version used in Paris probably needs a couple of software revisions to improve things. And the punters seem to like sitting up front, even though there is nothing to see for most of the journey. But London doesn’t have simple end to end lines in double track tunnel with almost all the route underground or easily fenced off.

So the comparison with Paris is largely meaningless. No change there, then.

Edward Snowden – What Did He Do Wrong?

Edward Snowden told the world that the USA’s security agencies routinely trawled through the social media content of millions and millions of people. Some of these – although the assertion is disputed – may have been US citizens. Most were not, although whether their number includes those resident in the UK and the rest of the EU is not told. But he did not endanger anyone’s life.
Yet, following Snowden’s departure from Hong Kong, where he first made his revelations, all hell has broken loose, and the order has clearly gone out to paint him as the bad guy. In the UK , much of the Fourth Estate has acquiesced because he went to the deeply subversive Guardian, and they are definitely the bad guys for many who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet.

Secretary of State John Kerry, not normally used to using plain language when verbal complexity serves his cause better, has been unusually forthright: “it would be ‘disappointing’ if Russia and China had helped him evade an attempt to extradite him”, he said after Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow, after the US had tried to get him extradited from HK beforehand.

Kerry said of China (now in charge in HK) allowing Snowden to leave that “There would be without any question some effect and impact on the relationship and consequences”, maybe without thinking who it is who holds enough US debt to do the latter country’s economy serious damage. Then Kerry turned his attention to Russia, where Snowden is still reported to be.

He called on the state now ruled by Vladimir Putin, former KGB man and increasingly less than concerned what anyone thinks of him, especially given the dependence of much of eastern Europe on the natural gas his country produces, to “live by the standards of the law because that's in the interests of everybody”. Vladimir Vladimirovich was unavailable for comment.

That may have been because he was too busy doubled up laughing. Sure, he could have Snowden detained – assuming he’s still in Russia – but then, perhaps the USA would like to make a gesture of his liking on the subject of, oh I dunno, how about Syria? Or would they like to talk about Iran? They wouldn’t? Then they can say dasvidaniya to getting their man on the next plane to NYC.

It’s not just that the influence of the USA has declined over the years – and we in the UK know all about that kind of thing, thanks – but that other countries have their own self-interest at heart first, and any kind of special pleading second. It ain’t going to change the world for the worse to let Edward Snowden get on a plane to somewhere in Central or South America, so he can enjoy a little freedom.

Something to think about for those who represent The Land Of The Free.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Boris Pools Misinformation

London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is kept on his toes briefly of a weekend by the need to interrupt the otherwise agreeable preamble to his luncheon appointment to chuck together his latest column for the Maily Telegraph, for which he garners £5,000 a week of “chicken feed”. And this week’s concurs with the Tel’s editorial line on climate change, which is, roughly, that it’s all rubbish.
Cripes! Piffle! Codswallop! Can I have my money now?

And the first noticeable tic in Bozza’s stream-of-consciousness prose is that he refers to rectangles as oblongs. One can only conclude that the teaching staff at “school”, as old boys call Eton College, were either excessively lenient with young Johnson, he’s unlearnt what he was taught, or whichever of the Tel’s subs that gets the short straw and sorts his column had a problem translating it.

The “oblongs” in question are swimming pools: Bozza has noticed that some more upmarket residences have these out the back. One way he may have been reminded is that, when MP for Henley, one of the residences that had a pool was the one owned by Himself Personally Now. So why the sudden fascination? Is it because Bozza has fond memories of his time as a mere MP?

Well, no it isn’t. The swimming pool is nothing more than a device to enable Bozza to construct a strawman of epic proportions, as he rails against climate change (again). The rest of the strawman asserts that global warming has been sold as meaning summers would be like 1976 all the time, and that’s a strange one, given that there were four warm and mainly dry ones from 2003 to 2006.

Moreover, 1990 was at warmer at its peak than 1976, so why would Bozza quote the latter year? Ah well. This tells us something about the target audience: clearly, you have to be at least 50 to read the Telegraph. And you have to buy the schtick about someone, somewhere telling you that it would never snow again (hasn’t happened) and that swimming pools were sold on it getting “Mediterranean” (ditto).

Then Bozza makes the mistake of equating global temperatures with those at the location where he is bashing out his column. The key is in the word “global”: as I pointed out recently, while temperatures in London were below average, those in central and eastern Europe were well above. Now there has been a supposedly exceptional heatwave in Alaska. You have to average it out.

Meanwhile, Bozza correctly notes that aircraft chuck out air pollution. So does all other transport, and as Christian Wolmar has noted, this has caused the air quality in London’s Oxford Street, and around the North Circular Road, to fall to unacceptable standards. If the former isn’t going to get a tram running along it, then making it pedestrian only should be a priority. And that’s down to the Mayor.

Now, who’s the Mayor of London again? That would be you, Boris Johnson.

Leveson And Hacking – Look Over There!

The first reaction to the Phonehackgate revelations was to claim they were payback by rotten lefties for Damian McBride. The next was to claim that not only all papers had done it, but also that it was no big deal and that the broadcasters were somehow also implicated. And now, as another wave of smearing is launched in a desperate attempt to stop properly independent press regulation, has come another excuse.
And this is that, although the press may have hacked, they were in a minority, and that the authorities should be going after someone else. “80% of hacking was by lawyers and major firms... and the Leveson inquiry knew all about it” howls the Mail in protest. The paper is selectively drawing conclusions after lifting a story from the Independent about a Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) report.

This is the paragraph the Mail has latched onto: “It is understood that one of the key hackers mentioned in the confidential Soca report admitted that 80 per cent of his client list was taken up by law firms, wealthy individuals and insurance companies. Only 20 per cent was attributed to the media, which was investigated by the Leveson Inquiry after widespread public revulsion following the phone-hacking scandal”.

Now, there is a debate to be had on Soca apparently sitting on the report, despite the apparent criminality that has been uncovered. But the Fourth Estate would not have given a fig about that aspect, had the whole sorry saga of phone hacking and other illegal information gathering not come to light. Now they are, for once, championing Labour MP Tom Watson, rather than kicking him.

And there are three aspects of this saga that the Mail has managed to somehow overlook. Firstly, the Independent refers only to “one of the key hackers”. Unless this matched the clientele of all the hackers, blaggers and other purveyors of illegally obtained information, then any assumption that “80% of hacking was by lawyers and major firms” is another false assumption.

Second, that someone else does something illegal does not excuse what the Screws, in particular, got up to before Glenn Mulcaire got nicked – and possibly even after that. It just means someone else figured out what the press knew. And the Mail does not stop and think that the hacker they are talking about may be someone that was not already known to be working for the press. Oh what a giveaway!

And third, the reference to Leveson is utterly irrelevant. That Inquiry was “To inquire into the culture, practices, and ethics of the press”. Papers like the Mail, via their lawyers, made sure it kept to that remit. Now the same paper wants to suggest it should have gone further, except that it didn’t want to widen the remit at the time. In other words, the Mail wants once more to have its cake and eat it.

So, ultimately, this is another example of press hypocrisy. No change there, then.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Benefit Hate Attack Green Light Proposed

Libertarianism is growing among politically active young peopleobserved Mark Littlewood, rightward-marching Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), another of those Astroturf lobby groups that makes endless appeals to authority, earlier this month. Thus the latest pronouncement from the man involved in campaigns like No2ID, the campaign against the “Database State”.
Do not approach this man. He may be appallingly smug

So it may surprise some to read that the same Mark Littlewood has today advocated a quantum leap in the very same “Database State” so that information on every benefit claimed by and paid to every citizen should be made openly available. Thus the ability to snoop on our neighbours would be massively enhanced. And it wouldn’t just be levels of benefit payments that would be made public.

For starters, we would by implication discover the level of disabilities endured by all those fellow residents. We would know how many dependent children they have – whether at home or otherwise. We would presumably also know about anyone with student loans outstanding – after all, these are guaranteed by the state. We would be able to find out about our neighbours’ other dependents.

So much for any kind of data protection. Moreover, Littlewood does not appear to understand that benefit claimants and taxpayers are not mutually exclusive. And he clearly does not understand just what happens when information about benefit claimants gets out there, as happened when a couple living near Nottingham claimed a universal benefit even though they had a lottery win.

The Mail – that’s the same family of papers that published Littlewood’s piece – published close-up photos of the couple’s house, while suggesting that they didn’t deserve their Motability car – another favourite Mail target – because they had another house in Ireland. The suggestion was then made that the couple, one of whom has arthritis in both legs, only remained in the UK to claim benefits.

What happened to Mick and Jeana O’Shea, who were too frightened to go out in the street after the Mail (and the Sun) went after them, would be magnified hundreds of times over if Mark Littlewood got his way. The elderly and disabled would be driven underground, if not straight away, then after the first wave of attacks. They would be easy prey – especially as their incapacities would be made public.

That is what “classical liberal” means: freedom for Mark Littlewood and his pals, while the less able and less well-off have to bar their doors against the hacks seeking cheap copy, and the hate mobs who read their papers. This suggestion is so wicked and predatory that it beggars belief that it is being touted in a supposedly mainstream newspaper. And I have one word of warning for the IEA man.

Anybody is only one accident away from dependency, Mark. All of us.

Mail NHS Bashing Hits New Low

If anyone was in any doubt as to the lengths that the Daily Mail will go to to pursue its meme that the NHS is something that goes round killing its patients with all the vigour of Passchendaele, today has banished any thought to the contrary as the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre has ordered the singularly unappealing Amanda Platell over the top following the Morecambe Bay maternity unit saga.
Nasty shock for unwary Sunday morning viewers

Here, there had been fourteen deaths of new-born children which may have been avoidable (note that, unlike Ms Platell, this blog considers its wording with some care and thought for the subject). The health regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), did not investigate, and there has been a suggestion of a cover-up (which, in Daily Mail speak, is something that becomes a fact in the retelling).

While enquiries progress, as they should, the Mail is in no doubt that the former CEO of the CQC should beleft unemployable and with her credibility and career in tatters”, unlike for instance Jan Moir, or the unfunny and talentless Richard Littlejohn, or indeed the Mail hacks who penned articles such as “BBC Turns Its Back On Year Of Our Lord”, which was both malicious and totally untrue.

But it is when Ms Platell comes to make her comparison with what happened in the London borough of Haringey that the barrel is well and truly scraped. First, she talks of “the family of 'Baby T', Joshua Titcombe, a newborn who died needlessly after nine days from an infection that could have been treated by antibiotics” (note also that the death is, in the retelling, a matter of certainty).

Then comes the comparison. This case “unwittingly stirred memories of another baby, 'Baby P', who also died after shocking negligence from those in authority. No one can forget baby Peter Connolly's death. It was one of the most horrific child abuse cases ever recorded”. No, Amanda, it does not stir memories of Baby Peter, who had the living daylights beaten out of him by his guardians.

The comparison is as gratuitous as it is utterly wicked, on top of which the Mail is the most blatant at playing both sides of the field on social services: when they intervene, they get crapped on by the Dacre attack doggies, and when they don’t, they also get crapped on. And then those same hacks shamelessly wonder, with their faux innocent faces, why such jobs are so hard to fill.

And this latest Amanda Platell outburst really will not do. What appears to have been an oversight by a hospital is not, repeat not, repeat not equivalent to a small child being repeatedly beaten until its bones are broken and its internal organs ruptured. That people like her are given airtime by broadcasters just shows how the fear of the Vagina Monologue trumps decency any time.

If the BBC had any spine, it would bar her from its studios forthwith. Job done.

Top Six – June 23

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’m supposed to be sightseeing, like right now. So there.
6 Gove Polecats Get Twigged The @toryeducation Twitter feed was fired up once more, to rebut a speech made by Labour’s education man. But it was just the same old abuse, plus whoever was running it couldn’t tell the difference between a play and a novel. Must try harder.

5 Saatchi Pleads Guilty Charles Saatchi was given the opportunity by the Standard to talk about the incriminating looking photos of him holding wife Nigella Lawson by the neck. He duly put foot in mouth and admitted assaulting her.

4 Murdoch Is Served (95) The first Stateside hacking case kicked off. And here are some more potential litigants – ready and waiting.

3 TPA – Rail Hypocrisy The so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance was suddenly in favour of new rail links – because a private company wanted to build them. So all the nit-picking and objection that they had marshalled against HS2 vanished.

2 Obama Defeats Chauncey Terminally stupid pundit Nile “Chauncey” Gardiner failed to do his homework and asserted that JFK gave his “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech at the Brandenburg Gate. He could not possibly have done – because that location was on the other side of the wall in 1963, in East Berlin.

1 Saatchi – Pundit Foot In Mouth Routine idiocy from Richard Littlejohn and Cristina Odone as they told their readers how Charles Saatchi holding his wife by the neck was not really important, and for the couple to sort out, which was then overtaken by Saatchi owning up and accepting a Police caution. Deadlines, eh?

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