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Tuesday 7 December 2010

TPA – Euro Bashing DIY

Another week, another “report” (available HERE [.pdf]) from the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), this time attempting to demonise the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Authoring the 115 page document – much of it the usual TPA padding and flannel – is one Lee Rotherham, who you can tell because he’s a doctor, well, a PhD at least.

At first sight, the sheer volume of the “report” appears daunting. But the smallest of details can give the game away, and reveal the truly abysmal standards being applied. That detail comes on Page 6, where it is asserted that “the deportation of an illegal immigrant was reportedly halted in part because he had formed a bond with a pet”. The cite for this was a report in the Daily Mail.

But the Mail report was of the usual Dacre standard: the immigrant had never argued that the pet was material, and nor had he been allowed to remain because of it. So now we know how high the evidence threshold for the TPA “report” is: not very high at all.

But Rotherham has marshalled lots of figures to back up his ECHR bashing: on Pages 15 to 17, “Implementation costs arising from Strasbourg Court rulings” are itemised. The total is a suitably big number, over 17 billion quid. But look at the column headings: two of these are “Estimated annual cost” and “Estimated one off ... cost”. No cite is given, even though they are said to be “known or assessable”.

Moreover, Rotherham then asserts that the “compensation culture” has the ECHR’s fingerprints on it, quantifies the cost of this at a suspiciously round 25 billion (again, no cite), and then inserts a quote connecting the culture to Article 8 of the ECHR, which is actually from himself.

These figures, without any independent verification, are utterly valueless. The almost casual throwing in of an additional 25 billion for the “compensation culture” gives the game away, but then, most hacks won’t get this far, and nor will they examine the detail. That is the TPA trick: big, important looking “reports” look authoritative, and hard pressed journalists look no further than the summary.

This is exemplified by the Appendix, with over 80 pages of case-by-case analysis: no hack will venture this far. So the standard of that analysis will not be questioned, which will suit the TPA fine. One look at Page 45 is all you need: commenting on the Spycatcher case, more prosaically Observer and Guardian v United Kingdom, Rotherham asserts that “Newspaper reports suggested Moscow was behind one print run”.

There’s only one word to describe that: bullshit. One more for the bin.

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