this weekwe reportedthat,
followingSyriza‘s remarkable victory in Greece on a platform of
ending austerity and greater state intervention in the economy, 15 Labour
MPs including Michael Meacher had called for a similar change in direction
They issued a statement calling for an alternative to
austerity, for public ownership of the railways and for a return to collective
bargaining and employment rights in the workplace.
carried out a survey showing that 83% of their readers agree with that
statement, with only 13% disagreeing. That is a remarkable result.LabourListthemselves
say: This reflects
a general trendamong the public for
renationalisation of the railways and, more recently, support
The substantial support for such policies, arguably, reflects a desire from
grassroots Labour activists to move towards the party’s traditional base –
further to the left of the party currently stands.
Margaret Thatcher seems to have taken it as read that powerful men would have sex with children.
Her father did not give her away at her wedding, he did not attend her swearing in as an MP, and when he died her mother did not even have an up-to-date telephone number for her. She almost never went back to Grantham.
He was also a notorious toucher up of his shop girls. The mistresses at his daughters' school used to find it terribly difficult, in that more delicate age, to explain to the senior girls why they were not to take Saturday jobs at his establishment.
Further speculation would be the height or depth of bad taste.
I doubt that Ched Evans and I would get on. Indeed, I doubt that we should find very much about which to converse. I know almost nothing about football itself. I actively dislike what its attendant culture has become.
But after Vicky Pryce on This Week last night, and Chris Huhne on Newsnight the night before, not to mention Huhne’s several months as a Guardian columnist, followed by a pointed dig on this evening’s EastEnders by writers as middle-class and arts-graduate as I am, I find myself feeling a certain sympathy for a man who does not deny that he had sex with a stranger in front of his own brother.
Evans is a convict. He is free
only on license. He has not completed his sentence. Therefore, it might
have been better if he had not found work until after that completion. That,
however, would be to call for him to be dependent on State benefits.
The acts that he does not dispute are morally
reprehensible enough, and the attitude of his girlfriend’s father is a
most discombobulating insight into an entirely different world. But of course
footballers are not role models. Who, exactly, models his off-pitch behaviour
When the younger male fans of Oldham Athletic had
followed those of Sheffield United in not committing anything remotely
resembling either the disputed or the undisputed acts of their supposed idol,
then football itself would have had to have confronted the fact that its
practitioners simply were not national figures, or moral bastions, or “cultural
icons”, or even persons of the slightest especial importance.
Feminists used to challenge the cultural priority of
football. That priority arose entirely out of the process in the 1990s whereby
the game was changed from a working-class pursuit into one in which chavs
performed like monkeys for posh boys.
But now, it is scarcely, if at all, an
exaggeration to say that British feminism could not survive the upholding of
Evans’s appeal. Tens of thousands of people have been enticed into the
utterly undemanding act of signing online petitions.
Petitioning is in itself
an integral part of the democratic process, rather than any sort of “mob rule”. But these petitions have presupposed the earth-shattering importance of this
person and of his doings. Imagine if that amount of energy had been diverted
into something that really mattered. As, not very long ago, feminists would once
There is an obvious campaign to say the word “paedophile”
as often as possible in relation to this case of sex between a 19-year-old
woman and a 22-year-old man. That 19-year-old woman is always called “a young
girl”. Ordinarily, feminist opinion would rightly be outraged at the
description of an adult woman as a “girl”.
But it is the class thing that is most striking, when one
compares the calls for Evans to be denied at least prominent or
well-remunerated (indeed, I am the first to say, obscenely overpaid) employment
over something that had nothing to with football, with the warm welcome back
that is simultaneously being extended by journalism itself to the privately
schooled plagiarist and fabricator, Johann Hari.
City types whose incompetence or outright criminality has
brought ruin to vast numbers of people, while sending the bill to each and
every one of us, are rarely dismissed in the first place, and see their incomes
continue to rise exponentially. David Laws is back attending Cabinet.
Does anyone seriously doubt that there is or has been an
element of sexual violence to the Bullingdon Club? And not of the kind that the
victim does not remember. At the very least, that Club exists to commit
criminal damage and assault.
What if a group of young men on a council estate,
the same age as Oxford undergraduates, organised themselves into such a club,
complete with a uniform? What say the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the
Exchequer and the Mayor of London?
Tony Blair continues to make what he and his sycophants
clearly assume will be received as significant political interventions. It
bears its frequent repetition that Blair is, of all things, a Middle East Peace
None of the writers and broadcasters who cheered on the Iraq War, all of
them safely upper-middle-class or above, has ever suffered the slightest
adverse effect of that catastrophic misjudgement. Quite the reverse, in fact.
Until his retirement, Judge John MacMillan, who had used
the n-word in order to brand black people lazy in the course of his work as an
Employment Tribunal judge, and who had been found to be biased against
plaintiffs, was permitted to continue to sit without even having to notify the
sides in cases subsequent to his double disgrace.
Plummy commentators airily suggest that Evans become a
bricklayer, or a painter and decorator, as if lower moral standards were only
to be expected in such walks of life, and as if it were possible to walk
straight into those trades, which in reality take years to learn.
There are no outstanding allegations against Evans. But there are against Jeffrey Epstein, who has always remained a close friend of the Queen’s son.
Rock and pop royalty are treated much as if they were, as they sometimes are, the friends of real royalty. Bill Wyman has never been charged for having repeatedly and flagrantly had sex with a 13-year-old girl, while the matter of the impeccably middle-class Jimmy Page OBE’s sometime 14-year-old girlfriend is ignored completely.
Some lightning rod for all of these and similar concerns
has been necessary throughout the present century. But even if his appeal is
upheld, the pity, the tragedy, the shame will be that that will have had to
have been the disgusting Ched Evans.
criminal justice systemitself seems to have very little confidence in Evans’s
conviction, clearly regarding it as a noisy embarrassment that it wishes would
go away. Look at the evidence.
Evans was released on license after having served
half his time. That was despite the fact that his supporters maintained a
website that did not merely protest his innocence, but offered a £10,000 reward
for evidence against his accuser. Immediately upon his release, not only did
the Criminal Cases Review Commission fast-track his case, but it publicly
announced that it had done so.
Of the fully 10 people who have ever been prosecuted for
naming the victim, nine were not even fined, but were merely ordered to pay
£624 plus costs, while the tenth’s combination of that, a nominal fine, and a
victim surcharge of a whopping £15, came to a grand total of not much more than
At the time of writing, the action against the website for contempt of
court has been due “within weeks” in the way that Iran has been “two years away
from a nuclear bomb” for well over 10 times that long.
That football clubs have considered signing Evans can
only mean that the Probation Service regards him as posing as near as it is
permitted to say to no risk whatever. The powers that be pay more attention
than that to some people who have been acquitted, or never charged, or even
Or are we seriously expected to believe that a Probation
Officer might ever have been deputed to follow Evans and his teammates around
the country as a kind of valet, a footballers’ footman, not so much Falstaff’s
page as Prince Hal’s, undoubtedly fetching the drinks, quite conceivably
cleaning the boots, and not unimaginably arranging the “birds”? There you are,
Evans maintains his innocence and is appealing, as
is anyone’s right. Whichever way that goes, with any luck his case will almost certainly
place others like it, with no forensic evidence but with non-consent
presupposed under Harman’s Law, in a category similar to that of foxhunting:
rarely brought before the courts, even then mostly privately by a charity that
happened to be as rich as Croesus (although what would fulfil the role of the
RSPCA here?), hardly ever resulting in a conviction, and subject to sentences
all the way down to absolute discharge.
The Parole Board, the Criminal Cases Review Commission
and the Probation Service manifestly want that to happen. As is the view
of the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service where hunting is concerned,
they have better things to do than chase after people who, leaving aside
whether or not their actions were unpleasant or just plain weird, had had the
misfortune to be criminalised as politically distasteful by the
weirdo Blair Government that feels far longer ago than it was.
In view of Oldham Athletic’s previous contract with Lee
Hughes, Evans is now demonstrably less employable than a convicted killer. How
did that happen?
Evans was charged on the basis of what we should all
identify as entrapment techniques if they were to be employed in many another
country. He was convicted on no evidence except that his accuser could not
remember anything, including the sex that she only knew that she had had
because Evans and McDonald had said so.
He was thus convicted against the only other testimony,
that of a co-defendant who was acquitted and who remembered everything; we now
have Sharia Law in reverse, with the testimony of one (drunken) woman
overriding that of two (relatively sober) men. He was refused leave to appeal.
He was convicted of a singularly stigmatised offence with
which only a male can be charged, and the law of which was drastically altered
in the High Harman Era significantly to the detriment of the presumption of
Further changes have recently been proposed to the effect that those alleging rape would be placed at a very considerable advantage in the cross-examination process, and yesterday that the Crown Prosecution Service should legislate unilaterally in order to make possible the imprisonment of any man for rape on nothing more than the say-so of one anonymous woman.
Even EastEnders is being used to present this as somehow already the law, under which Clayton McDonald would also have been found guilty.
Although the ever-compliant Parliament of Blair’s pomp
must bear a great deal of responsibility for characteristically waving through Harman’s Law, locking up half the young male population would not bother those who
were behind it, still less those who are behind the latest schemes, which latter are in any case extraparliamentary, a kind of coup.
Especially if it were that half of the young male population which came from such places as Sheffield,
Oldham and Rhyl, then that was what they wanted. That is still what they
This clash has been coming for years. Now, it is here.
These foreign-born voters are precisely that: everyone born outside the United Kingdom, including Cliff Richard, Peter Hitchens and me. Although he does not vote, the Duke of Edinburgh would also fit the bill.
And there are two constituencies, out of 650, with bare majorities of such voters, most of whom would in any case be British passport-holders? What is all the fuss about there, then? It is well within living memory that at least 10 times that number had electorates at least 50 per cent of which held Irish nationality.
Anglosphere enthusiasts might care to consider that American citizens have never been eligible to vote in this country, and that British citizens are not so eligible in the Irish Republic (where, unless I am very much mistaken, they never have been), in Canada, in Australia or in New Zealand. Nor, indeed, in the United States. The former Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark may now be a Knight of the Order of Australia. But he could not vote if he moved there.
There are countries in the Commonwealth that were never in the British Empire, but their membership suits their regional interests today. The nationality requirement for voting by permanent residents ought to be abolished, provided that you would have to be a British citizen in order to be a parliamentary candidate in Great Britain, or a British or Irish citizen in order to be a parliamentary candidate in Northern Ireland. Why would anyone not in that position even want to be such a candidate?
Likewise, if the voting age is to come down to 16, and that does now look inevitable, then, without prejudice to the position of anyone who was already sitting, the minimum age both for MPs and for jurors ought to go up to 30. There ought also to be a ban on any annual personal or corporate donation to a political party above the level of the trade union political levy, currently around three pounds.
What if it's true? What if the commercial schools really are not very good, or even any good? They have been academically dreadful for prolonged periods in the past. The present Government is drawn heavily from them, and look at that.
After all, in England, no one has ever bothered to check. They "inspect" themselves. Well, they inspect each other. But that amounts to the same thing.
At the very least, let the condition of a commercial school's continuing charitable status be its having been adjudged satisfactory or better by Ofsted, using the same criteria as for state schools, with the reports published, and with the value-added measure applied, thereby requiring those schools to have demonstrated how they had improved pupils' abilities.
Oh, and forget the drivel in the Daily Mail, great expert on the North East that it is, about the Durham Free School. It was closed for being rubbish. Simple as that. Indeed, the entire free schools programme has been an unmitigated disaster. Primary legislation ought to surcharge David Cameron, Michael Gove and Toby Young personally for the cost of it.
Stephen is the vicar or pastor of
Christ Church, the international community church of Virginia Water. He and his
wife have been in full time Christian ministry together for 35 years.
a Christian at university and served as an evangelist with Agape in the UK and
Eastern Europe for four years before training for the Anglican ministry at
Trinity College, Bristol.
Originally from Lowestoft, he has
served as Curate of St Leonard’s on Sea, Sussex, and then was Rector of St
John’s, Stoke, Guildford in Surrey for eleven years before being appointed
vicar of Virginia Water in 1997.
He is a member of the Fellowship
of Confessing Anglicans, formed at the Global Anglican Futures conference
(GAFCON) in Jerusalem in June 2008.
He has endorsed the Jerusalem Declaration
and supports the Third Province Movement.
He is a member of Anglican
Mainstream, Reform and Church Society and supports the Fellowship of Word and
Spirit, New Word Alive, Keswick and UCCF.
He is a member of the Executive of
the Guildford Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship and a member of Guildford Diocesan
He is an Advocate (trainer) for
the Christianity Explored Course and recently assisted Craig Dyer, the training
director with a CE training project in Uganda and Kenya.
Stephen is a Trustee of Biblica (the International Bible Society – Send the Light (IBS-STL) Ministries Trust,
who sponsored and publish the New International Version (NIV), the most widely
read Bible translation in English.
No liberal he. His critique of Christian Zionism is that of key Evangelical leaders such as the late Dr John Stott and the former Bishop of Durham, Professor NT Wright, as well as of bodies such as the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals in the United States.
The long-vacant Suffragan See of Maidstone has been kept that way for six years in order that it might eventually be filled by a Conservative Evangelical, with a roving national role, once women had become bishops.
Here's to Bishop Stephen Sizer, and the Stern Gang can swivel on that. As it can swivel on the presence of George Galloway on the Question Time panel from Golders Green next Thursday.
Get the message: you do not decide the staffing arrangements of the Church of England, and you do not own the BBC, or indeed Mentorn.
One of the greatest temptations of radical opponents of
the status quo – myself included – is to indulge the endemic cynicism that
exists towards politicians.
“They’re all the same”, “they’re all in it for
themselves”, “they’re just lining their own nests”, “they’re just interested in
power” – these phrases will be familiar to anyone who gauges popular opinion of
our political elite. So it was with some sympathy that
I read comments by Ed Miliband – he who despicably cannot eat a bacon sarnie –
to the press pack last night.
this election about “issues, choices and beliefs that matter to the country”,
he begged. “One of the biggest enemies of politics is cynicism, the
belief that we are all in it for base motives.” And here’s the thing: it is
those who believe in radical change who suffer most from this cynicism. Let me caveat this heavily. One of the reasons people are
so cynical about politicians is that Westminster’s denizens have behaved so
appallingly. They berated poor people receiving tiny amounts in benefit fraud
and then shamelessly milked their expenses. The Blair government spun the
country into a catastrophic war in Iraq – the effects of which we still suffer
– on a pretext that was false. And then in 2010 the Liberal Democrats inspired
young people withthe
promise of free education; young people marched to polling stations
for the first time, full of hope, only to be quite possibly left witha
lifetime of bitterness towards politicians. The worse that politicians
behave, the more they undermine people’s whole faith in the democratic system
as a potential vehicle of change. The polling speaks for itself. Onepoll
by Ipsos Mori in 2013suggested
that more than half of all Britons believed MPs put their own interests first,
and only 8% believed MPs put their constituents first; just a fifth trusted
them to tell the truth; and 33% believed all or most used their power for their
personal gain. This contempt for politicians is not new – and politicians of
course bear much responsibility. But it suits powerful media and corporate
interests very well. Why is it not tempting for the likes of me to indulge
such cynicism? We live in a country where unemployed people, immigrants, public
sector workers and other people not exactly abounding with power are
scapegoated for our society’s many ills. The finger of blame needs to be
redirected to the powerful, and that certainly includes politicians. But if we
end up thinking that politics is the preserve of the cynical and the venal then
nobody will ever believe it is capable of changing anything. Promises – however
positive and progressive – will always seem cynical and duplicitous, useful for
courting votes but never to be implemented. Take Miliband, a man pilloried in the most personal way
by the media for being, basically, a bit odd. He has made pledges which – in my
view – are not radical enough, even if they are facing in the right direction:
such as freezing energy bills, increasing the top rate of tax, introducing a
mansion tax, repealing the bedroom tax and NHS privatisation, somewhat tackling
zero-hour contracts, and so on. According to the polls, people support these
policies: hell, they’d like to go further, with the renationalisation of rail and
energy, for example, even winning over many or most Tory and Ukip voters. But
voters simply do not believe such promises will ever be implemented. Arguably
the more radical and popular the promise, the more it feeds into a sense of,
“Oh, they’ll promise the earth to get elected.” I spend a lot of time talking to
young people: this week, talking to inspiring students in comprehensive schools
in Walthamstow and Surrey. They have hopes, fears, insecurities, dreams. But
all too often they do not see politics as a means to address them. The media
pillories politicians and politics, not because they’re “sticking it to the
man” but because they know democracy is the only potential counterweight to a
rapacious elite that rules Britain. And before I’m accused of hypocrisy, I too
am among those who have risked fuelling a nihilistic cynicism. Yes I want more
politicians who say what they mean and mean what they say. But the contempt
towards politics does little for those who want real change and much for those
who defend the status quo.
In high school civics classes, Americans are brought up
to believe that in their nation a rule of law prevails.
Justice is depicted as
blind and the rules apply to everyone. All Americans will receive the same fair
hearing in court or at the hands of the government.
Of course the reality is
that experience tells us that those who trust in impartial justice are somewhat
delusional as the criminal justice and regulatory systems do not operate in a
reliably mechanical fashion.
Many factors determine whether a suspect actually
goes to trial or whether an organization is regulated or investigated and there
are a number of roadblocks along the way that influence the outcome. One of the federal government regulatory bodies that few
have heard about is the board at the United States Department of Justice’s
Counterespionage Section that administers theForeign Agents Registration
original FARA was passed in 1938 just before the outbreak of war in Europe and
was intended to monitor the activities of front organizations being directed by
the German and Italian governments. From its inception FARA was politicized and
selective. Rome and Berlin were potential enemies while the extremely active
British government efforts to draw the United States into what eventually
became a European and then a world war were largely ignored. The original act was loosely worded to include anyone
propagandizing for a foreign power but an amended version in 1966 narrowed the
definition of whom would be covered to include only actual “agents of a foreign
principal” working directly for a foreign government in an attempt to influence
U.S. economic or political decision making. Since 1966 there have been no
successful criminal prosecutions under FARA and nearly all compliance has been
more-or-less voluntary. There have, however, been a number of civil cases and
administrative resolutions in which the government asserted the viability of
the act. In 2004, for example, Susan Lindauer, a former congressional staffer,was charged withtaking payments from an Iraqi
government source. Her case was finally dropped in 2009. There are somewhat less than 2,000 foreign agentsregistered under the actrepresenting more than
100 countries. Their names and their periodic financial and activities filings
by the publicat the
FARA Unit office in Washington. Most are associated with law or lobbying firms
that represent foreign governments as part of their business. Former Speaker of
the House Dennis Hastert was, for a time, aregistered agentfor Turkey when he held that account
while working for the Dickstein Shapiro law firm, which he joined after leaving
congress. Former Congressman Dick Gephardt also headed a company engaged in
lobbying for Turkey. Both Gephardt and Hastert were involved in lobbying
Congress to oppose pending legislation calling the First World War massacre of
Turkish Armenians a “genocide. The disadvantage of registering under FARA is that you
have to disclose your sources of income and you also have to detail what you
are doing on behalf of the foreign government. Organizations that do not
consider that they are actually directed by a foreign government or who assess
their relationship to be borderline are consequently reluctant to comply. FARA inevitably is selective in its targeting. Agents of
nations hostile to the United States are pursued with some vigor while
organizations linked to powerful domestic political lobbies tend to get a pass. This has been historically true of Irish republican groups as well as of the
predecessor of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC),
which was founded in 1949 as theAmerican Zionist Council. The American Zionist
Council was funded directly by the Jewish Agency for Israel. Attorney General
Robert Kennedyordered the group to register in 1962but the death of his brother led to an
intense lobbying campaign to influence his strongly pro-Israel successor Lyndon
B. Johnson who obligingly instructed the Justice Department to stand down. Since that timerepeated effortsto compel AIPACto registerhave failed due to White House and
Justice Department unwillingness to confront the issue but a new initiative by
the Israeli government might well be construed as having crossed the line in
violation of FARA. In early January the Prime Minister’s Office of the Israeli
government funded a joint project to be run by the government’s National
Information Directorate and StandWithUS, which has beendescribedas
an “Americanhasbaraorganization.” In Hebrew the
name, hasbara, means literally “public explanation” but the
expression is generally applied to anyone involved in generating pro-Israeli
propaganda. It is also sometimes more politely described as a program of
“perception management,” aeuphemism made popularby the Donald Rumsfeld Pentagon in
2004. Israel has long beenpaying
bloggers or exploiting diaspora Jews as volunteers to get its message out. In
2009 the Israeli Foreign Ministry wrote to a number of pro-Israel organizations
emphasizing the “importance of the internet as the new battleground for
Israel’s image.” Haaretzreported in 2013 how Prime Minister
Netanyahu’s office collaborated with the National Union of Israeli Students to
create “semi-military covert units” at the seven national universities
organized to work in situation rooms. Students use different names and IP
addresses, which enable them to make multiple posts, and are paid as much as $2,000 monthly to
work the online targets. Thehasbaraprogramincludes
recruitment, training, Foreign Ministry-prepared information sheets, and internet
alerts to potential targets. It is essentially an internet-focused “information
war.” It is supported by a desktop tool called Megaphone that provided daily
updates on articles appearing on the internet that are singled out for
confrontation or attack. Thehasbaracommenters flood websites where
commentary critical of Israel is observed in the belief that if something is
repeated often enough in many different places it will gain credibility
and create doubts regarding contrary points of view. They also can hound
critics and even destroy careers in journalism. Veteran CNN reporter Jim Clancy
wasforced to resignlast week after an exchange of tweets
withhasbaraover the Paris terror attacks. The joint enterprise between the American foundation and
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office is more of the same. Itreportedlyis
intended to strengthen “Israelihasbaraon social media platforms,” with
StandWithUs running “interactive media war rooms.” The National Information
Directorate’s role will be to draft the talking points and monitor the progress
of the “war. StandWithUs, which wasfoundedto
“educate others about Israel,” originated in Los Angeles. It now has 18
chapters in the U.S., Canada, Britain, and also in Israel. Incorporated as the
Israel Emergency Alliance, StandWithUs is a 501(c)(3) organization, which means
it has successfully claimed to be a tax exempt educational foundation. It is
reportedlylargely fundedby Las Vegas multi billionaire casino
magnate Sheldon Adelson, who also has been active in supporting Republican
candidates perceived as particularly friendly to Israel. StandWithUs is
aggressive in its defense of Israel, to include asecret programto compile critical dossiers on
pro-Palestinian speakers as part of an effort to help “Israel advocates respond
to and counter anti-Israel speakers who come to your campus.” The project is ostensibly being run through the
StandWithUs chapter in Israel, but it will include the training of British and
American students, and the parent organization is itself American in both
funding and its incorporation. As it has no other function than promoting the
Israeli government point of view so as to influence decision making in the
United States and in the United Kingdom. It would be a clear case where
registry with FARA would be mandatory as the political direction and half the
funding for the project are coming directly from the Israeli government. If
StandWithUS is compelled to register under FARA it will have to reveal all its
funding and its tax exempt status will presumably be revoked by the Internal
Revenue Service. And StandWithUs is far from alone. Israel is certainly
entitled to make its case to the American and international audience and one
might observe that it has done so extremely tenaciously and very effectively. But a number of organizations in the Israel Lobby are little more than fronts
for promoting the Israeli right wing government talking points in an attempt to
shape American policy, which indisputably makes them foreign agents as defined
by FARA. As foreign agents, they should be subject to some supervision of and
restraints on their activities and there would also be a certain transparency
in terms of who they are and what they represent which just might make the
media less inclined to go to them for commentary. One suspects that the Barack Obama/Eric Holder Justice
department has little stomach for going after any organization linked to Israel
and that reticence is regrettable, particularly as Israel will undoubtedly be
using the upcoming Netanyahu visit to ratchet up the intensity of its own
campaign to convince the American public that war with Iran should be a
compelling U.S. national interest. If the American public were made aware that
much of the war fever is being drummed up by organizations that are actually
acting as agents of a foreign government it just might make a difference in how
that sales pitch is perceived. But even if that were not the case, it would not
be a bad thing to observe that the United States government does indeed, at
least occasionally, play by its own rules.
Julia Hartley-Brewer has it right, even if the real solution would be for both sexes to behave better.
Still, law and morality, though far from unnconnected, are not the same thing.
I appreciate that this is a novel idea, but when is there
going to be a division of the House of Commons on this enormous change to the
law, and indeed to the very basis of our legal system? How
many women MPs want their brothers or sons to be liable to imprisonment for
rape on nothing more than the say-so of one woman, and
that purely in order to meet a conviction target that is not even specified? On nothing more than that woman's anonymous say-so, at
that? How many of those brothers or sons would vote to re-elect
any MP, of either sex, who had failed to vote against this? Away
with this, and away with the existence Harman's Law while we are about it.
Convictions under the latter, which would not have been possible before it,
ought to be set aside by Statute. If
not to make the law, and if not to uphold liberties as fundamental as the
presumption of innocence, then what is Parliament for?
Illustrated with a glorious photograph of Tony Blair and Colonel Gaddafi, Mark Steel writes:
It’s marvellous that, just as the election started to
seem dull and outdated,New Labour has returnedto make everything modern and relevant
They want Labour to return to the values of the Tony Blair days, when
everything conveyed newness and not stuck in policies that belong to the past,
which must be why Blair delivered a glowing tribute to King Abdullah of Saudi
him greatly, he was a sound and stable ally, a great moderniser,” he said
because everything about the exalted ruler of the House of Saud and his 30
wives said modern modern modern.
For example, his
government sentenced Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes for setting up a liberal
Maybe the sentence for setting up a liberal website in the 12th
century was 1,001 lashes so he was bringing it down bit by bit.
Saudi regime’s values never got as far as 1400 because the 15th century was a
bit too dubstep for King Abdullah, but he must have taken other modern measures
or Blair wouldn’t call him a moderniser.
Maybe the executioners that carry out
public beheadings are now allowed to wear firmer gloves to prevent repetitive
Some complain that it’s health and safety gone mad but he was
determined to be modern.
modernising the attitudes towards women as well, insisting people said “we’re
stoning a WOMAN to death for adultery” and never a “bird”, because it always
pays to be politically correct.
The New Labour
method is being applied in other areas as well.
So the Scottish Labour Party
elected Blair supporter Jim Murphy, the most strident campaigner against independence,
to lead Scottish Labour and stop the collapse in Labour’s support.
sense, because the reason so many voters switched from Labour to the SNP must
be that they felt Labour wasn’t rude enough about the SNP.
As a New Labour
man, Jim Murphy knows that to win elections you have to be modern, not stuck in
the past with old-fashioned SNP policies such as scrapping Trident and opposing
And so far he’s doing amazingly well.
When he took over, the SNP
were on 45 per cent in the polls, 14 ahead of Labour, and many people doubted
that Murphy would be able to change that.
But he’s proved them wrong, because after just two months
the SNP have gone up to 52 per cent, 28 ahead of Labour.
At that rate, in two
more yearsthe SNP will be
on 136 per cent, 196 ahead of Labour, achieving results that Stalin and Saddam
Hussein would have been delighted with.
SNP will be winning seats in the North Pole and on clouds. Because if someone’s
as determined as Jim, they CAN make a difference.
Similarly, in England it appears
that hundreds of thousands of votes that Labour expected to win will go to the
So Labour set up a special anti-Green unit to prevent this, making
statements such as “the Greens are obsessed with middle-class obsessions”.
That should win them over.
suppose the sort of middle-class obsession they’re obsessed with is the
railways, as one of the Green Party’s most popular policies is re-nationalising
And as we know, the only people concerned with railways are the middle
class, always going on a train somewhere so they can get to one of their
organic apricot conferences.
Look at them all, thousands every morning squashed
on to carriages so they can get into the town centre to buy antiques and go
Labour on the other hand has been
led by characters such as Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson, not the sort of
people obsessed with middle-class obsessions.
New Labour’s Alan Milburn said
the party can only win the election if it protects the “Blair legacy” by daring
to be modern.
By this he means repeating the trick of being even friendlier
with top businessman than the Conservatives.
The argument seems to be that,
for example, instead of appealing to the people who don’t own rail companies,
it’s much better to appeal to the people who do.
Maybe this is because there
are huge areas of Britain where almost everyone is on the board of a rail
I’m told that in the constituency of Gloucester West alone there are
200,000 members of the board of Virgin Trains.
So it’s essential Labour doesn’t
upset them by suggesting they change their behaviour in any way.
The problem the modernisers have
is the more modern they become the more outdated they look.
But as growing
numbers of people become cross with the behaviour of bankers and businessmen,
the old-fashioned outdated ideas seem like the modern ones.
It must be very confusing for any
New Labour supporters following the election in Greece.
They must think, “the
mistake the Greeks have made is they’ve elected a party that’s unelectable”.
Syriza’s policies, such as
providing free electricity for the poor, are ridiculously out of date.
they should have been more modern, and told the unemployed that if they want
electricity they should start an electricity company.
But New Labour has become even
more modern than it was last time round, so this time they’re probably
demanding Labour’s policy should be more forward-thinking than before, and that
they should promise a monarchy in which women aren’t allowed to drive and
anyone objecting is lashed a thousand times in the street.
When the public inquiry intothe death of Alexander Litvinenkoopened
at the Royal Courts of Justice in London this week, the very fact that such an
inquiry was happening at all constituted an almost unimaginable victory for his
widow, Marina, and a vindication of her admirable, if perhaps naïve, faith in
the quality of British justice.
In her place, I might have succumbed to
cynicism long ago, but she never lost confidence that, in her adopted homeland,
justice would be done.
victory has cost her is written on her face – just look at the telling picture
on The Independent’s front page on Wednesday.
It is more than eight years since
her husband, a fugitive from the Russian intelligence services, died a
tormented death from radiation poisoning at University College Hospital; in
three weeks, he had gone from being a reasonably healthy 43-year-old to a bald
wraith, whose body was so contaminated that it had to be buried in a lead
Thanks to his friends, we have the photographs to prove it. What we
don’t know, and what the inquiry is supposed to find out, is how and why.
You do not need
the benefit of hindsight, I think, to regard the eight-year delay and the
reluctance of two governments to authorise an inquiry rather than an inquest -
a reluctance they defended through the courts – as a national scandal.
opening day, the presiding judge, Sir Robert Owen, set the tone, saying that
the issues to which Litvinenko’s death gave rise were “of the utmost gravity
and international concern”.
All the legal counsel subsequently used similar
terms to describe what happened as a “miniature nuclear attack on the streets
If such a death did not warrant a public inquiry in the eyes of
government, it is hard to imagine what would.
The eight years
of delay and legal wrangling, however, have allowed a version of events to
coalesce that has been widely accepted around the world (with no discouragement
whatsoever from the British authorities).
It was introduced with characteristic
verve and bite by Marina Litvinenko’s counsel, Ben Emmerson, on Tuesday, when
he spoke of a “political assassination, authorised at the very top of what he
called the “mafia state” that was, and is, Putin’s Russia.
According to this,
Litvinenko was murdered because he had made an enemy of the service he had once
belonged to and its erstwhile head, who became Russia’s president.
There are those -
and I am one – who suspect that even if there is truth in this version, it may
not be the whole truth, and we have become used to being dismissed as deluded
and/or apologists for Vladimir Putin.
Yet some of what has emerged in just the
past few days suggests, at very least, that there is more to the Litvinenko
saga than has so far seen the light of day.
Last weekend, for
instance, it was reported that US intelligence, in the shape of the NSA (think
Edward Snowden), had intercepted communications of the two Russian suspects,
Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun (who both deny any involvement), and that it
was these findings that had clinched the case against Russia.
It is not clear
whether any of this information will be heard at the inquiry, either in public,
or at all.
But the claim raises interesting further questions about when the
eavesdropping took place, what country the two suspects were in at the time
(remember the all too brief discussion, post-Snowden, about the legality of US
and UK intercepts) , and what exactly was recorded – the fact of the Russians’
communications or their actual contents.
It has also
emerged that British intelligence was “on the case” quite early.
We knew that
Litvinenko was interviewed by the police as he lay gravely ill in hospital – an
unusual, possibly unique, instance, the inquiry was told, of a victim giving
evidence about his own murder.
But it was also reported, a couple of days
before, and almost in passing, that Litvinenko was also visited in hospital by
a UK intelligence officer.
Is this true, and why?
Mystery still surrounds the
Counsel for the inquiry, Robin Tam, suggested that two
attempts were made to kill Litvinenko with Polonium-210; a newspaper report on
the eve of the inquiry suggested there had been three.
At the heart of the
multiple poisoning theories, however, is the need to explain why Litvinenko
appeared to be leaving traces of radioactivity several hours, and possibly
days, before he drank the notorious tea at the Millennium Hotel’s Pine Bar.
sequence of events has to be cleared up.
The inquiry has also presented
the outline of a strange and seductive story about Dmitry Kovtun on a trip to
Hamburg in the month before the poisoning.
According to Robin Tam, he asked a
long-time friend and restaurant worker whether he knew a cook in London who
might be able to administer some “very expensive poison”. (Answer: yes.)
is a completely new claim. But is it correct, or might it have been confected?
One of the central arguments for
the original assumption of Russian state complicity, however, has been quietly
Do you remember how it was said early on that the polonium had to
come from Russia and from a particular laboratory?
This, it appears, was so
much nonsense. On the opening day, the inquiry was told that this could neither
be proved, nor assumed.
Russia did manufacture most of the world’s polonium
-210, but much of it was exported and there is apparently no global register of
who has polonium and where it comes from. (So much for the International Atomic
The origins of the polonium in this case could not be traced,
and this was not an avenue the inquiry would pursue.
All that can be divined from this
is that the Litvinenko saga is nowhere near as straightforward as it might once
In his opening remarks, Owen repeated his promise to be
“fearless” in pursuit of the truth.
The test of this inquiry will be not
whether it proves that “Russia did it”, but whether it can convince sceptics
such as myself that the evidence points incontrovertibly in that direction.
in the event that the conclusion is different – and Sir Robert has insisted
that even the most cherished theories will be challenged – that this different
conclusion is accepted by those long convinced of Russia’s guilt.
Eight years is a long time. The political assassination
theory is deeply ingrained and supported by layers of Cold War suspicion.
one consolation, perhaps, which is hardly a consolation at all, is that
relations between Russia and almost everyone else in the Western world are now
so bad, because of Ukraine, that even the most damning conclusion is unlikely
to make them much worse.
An earlier comment suggested that if you Googled "Churchill" in Britain, then you would be directed to the insurance company with the dog before you were directed to anything relating to the long-dead Prime Minister. I have checked this, and it is correct.
To anyone who is any younger than 30, with that age rising all the time, anyone of Churchill's background and political affiliation can only ever be King John, with his bourgeois enablers as the Sheriff of Nottingham. "The Tories" are the bad guys of history and politics. These days, that is just how it is.
By now, Mr Cruddas should be
focused on translating his review into the forthcoming manifesto.
has been collaborating with a former key aide to the Tory Prime Minister on a
speech lamenting that “the challenges we face are big but our politics are
small.” Although Mr Cruddas’s text
contains no whiff of criticism of the Labour leadership, his choice of
co-writer is telling. Danny Kruger, a former adviser to Mr Cameron, was a prime
architect of the Big Society and thus a founding father of compassionate
For a while it looked as if his
ideas would reshape the Conservative Party.
But Mr Kruger, who helps
disadvantaged young people through his Only Connect charity, was to see his
By early last year, he was pronouncing Mr Cameron’s attempt to
resurrect big society ideas “a disappointment.”
The Prime Minister, he wrote“sounded like
he sees Britain as a nation of litter pickers and that progress in 2014 would
mean a few more church hall tombolas.” His work, however, did not lack
admirers, one of whom was Mr Cruddas. “I share Danny’s belief that what is
missing in our politics is the idea of fraternity,” he tells his audience
today. Some might think that the two men have more than a credo in common. Like Mr Kruger, Mr Cruddas may
not see his best ideas realised. Promoted to be the key figure in reshaping the
Labour party, he produced a prospectus for grassroots revival that initially
found great favour with Mr Miliband. But others within the party warned that
Labour’s offer should be more modest than the shake-up of the state proposed by
Mr Cruddas. Proponents of a 35 per cent
strategy, under which Labour hoped narrowly to make it over the line, appeared
to win the day. Meanwhile Mr Cruddas’s devolution plan for cities was seized on
eagerly by the chancellor, George Osborne, as Labour dithered. There has been
little talk of late of the Cruddas vision, and he is not thought to be at the
heart of the election team. Yet Mr Cruddas’s ideas remain
hugely popular within powerful elements of his party. They have bridged a gap
between the traditional, Blue Labour wing and New Labour stars, such as the
shadow care minister Liz Kendall – mentioned in the Cruddas speech and a
possible future leader.
Mr Kruger also has his admirers,
but for now the Tory direction is established. Not so the Labour machine, which
appears in turmoil after a grim week.
The latest internal rows, on the plan for
the NHS, yesterday prompted Lord Kinnock to warn his party that it must stop sniping
and start uniting. But behind what banner should the
party rally? Mr Cruddas’s policy review, which many fear is gathering dust, may
still be the best foundation for a Labour victory. His collaboration with Mr
Kruger begs the question of why neither a Tory nor a Labour leader has dared to
harness the ideas of their most transformative thinkers. With the odds of a Labour victory
lengthening, it is not too late for Mr Miliband to revive a plan for a politics
that appeals to hearts and minds. If he does not seize on his best chance to
reconnect policy and the people, then it may fall to some future Labour leader
to rectify that omission.
The stats show the government has failed – again
– to get a grip of its new benefit, leaving thousands of disabled people
without support. PIPs were introduced from April
2013 to replace Disability Living Allowance for working age claimants. But Iain
Duncan Smith soon performed his ‘reverse-Midas’. Delays, backlogs and criticism
forced the department to revise rollout plans significantly. The majority of
DLA claimants were to be assessedafter October 2015. TheNAO still warnedthat DWP was not on track, disabled
people were hit by the impact of delays and theOBR revised DLA/PIP
forecasts six timesas
a result of repeated ministerial failures to get a grip. Ministers also shifted the
timetable for how long disabled people seeking PIPs can expect to wait for
support. Initial plansproposed 12-15 weeksfrom claims to decisions by DWP.
This becamean expected 26 weeks just for people
to get an assessment as part of the new, multi-million pound process; additional
weeks of delays are experienced waiting for DWP to process applications and
Despite the much lower number of
people requiring PIP assessments and the extended waiting times, DWP still
failed to clear the backlog.
Last month the process was subject to significant
criticism by the independent reviewer ina reportpublished by DWP.
It concluded that
not enough was being done to tackle delays for disabled people.
IDS and the minister for Disabled
People published ad hoc stats today in response to adebate securedby Labour last week.
The stats were an
attempt to demonstrate DWP is meeting the promise ministers made to deliver all
assessments within 16 weeks by the end of 2014.
This promisewas secured during an Opposition Day
Debate called by shadow secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Rachel Reeves
MP in June 2014.
But the stats show that thousands
of disabled people are still waiting over 16 weeks just to get an assessment.
This week theGuardianreported on
one man with cancer who has waited ten months for an assessment. The
fudged stats also pose more questions than ministers have been willing to
Why are one in
ten people still waiting more than 16 weeks for an assessment? Why are over
180,000 people still stuck in a backlog waiting to have their claims assessed? How many of
the 64,000 claims that have been ‘disallowed’ by the department were due to
disabled people being unable to supply medical information from GPs and
hospital consultants within the timeframe stipulated by DWP; and how many of
them will simply reapply? How many of
the 143,000 disallowed claims were due to disabled people being unable to
attend assessments; and how many of them will reapply? And how long is the average wait from claim to DWP
decision for disabled people and their families across the country?
DWP has admittedit had to employ 76 additional
temporary staff to try and reduce the backlog. But DWP hasn’t said how many
staff in total it’s had to redeploy to cope with the delays in the benefit. Nor do we know when DWP expects
rollout of PIP to be complete; how many disabled people will not qualify for
support; and how much more will it cost overall than initially projected. Disabled people are right to feel
aggrieved by the way the government has mishandled this issue, leaving
thousands without help for months. Labour are committed to tackling the delays
and the backlog that’s built up. We’ll also ensure no one with
cancer waits longer than 11 weeks for PIP assessments. After months of Tory
welfare waste, and hardship for thousands of claimants, it’s time to get a