Monthly Archives: August 2014


I have a lot of affection and regard for the Slugger O’Toole site, and its Onlie True Begetter, Mick Fealty. Quite frankly, if you want All Northern Irish Life, that’s as good as any.

With all due respect, then, I was somewhat taken aback that the Man Himself took time out to argue  the significance of Douglas Carswell’s defection from the Tories to UKIP.  Let’s be honest: the only real surprise was the “who”. We knew the wind off the German Ocean was blowing chill for the Tories: witness, for just two obvious examples, the standing-down of Mark Simmonds at Boston and Skegness and Laura Sandys in South Thanet.

Mick Fealty’s argument was:

Carswell defection will bolster UKIP’s bid to become a ‘serious’ Westminster player.

Really! Really?

Did the election, in a full General Election, — not defection — of Caroline Lucas in Brighton, Pavilion, against four Party opposition, and against “Leo Atrides” (I still can’t take that one seriously) make the Green Party a ‘serious’ Westminster player?

Even in the specific Northern Irish context, did Naomi Long in East Belfast or Sylvia Hermon in North Down made either of them‘serious’ Westminster players?

This is the politics of froth.

Even were the Kippers to take (at the top end of every prediction) three seats — not half of one percent of Commons membership — at next May’s General Election, what rights of audience, let alone power, does that give them?

No: the issue is first and foremost that the Tory Party is suffering the political equivalent of a tectonic split. This time the widening divide is over the EU.

Such an event hasn’t been hasn’t been seen among Tories since 27th January 1846. That was when Peel announced he intended the repeal of the Corn Laws. The consequence was the amalgamation of the Peelite Tories and the Whigs to form the “Liberal Party”. It also kept that lot out of government for a decade — and even then, under Disraeli (who could turn his coat as soon as anyone), the traditional Tory presumption of land-owner interest was never restored.

And that, Mr Fealty, is far more important than any War of Carswell’s dubious “Loyalty”.

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Confused? You could be …

Soap boxOne of the few decent things that came out of the UK’s early experiments with cable tv was an American import, Soap. This originated with ABC and was a parody of the worst of tv serials. It always started with a voice-over:

 In last week’s episode of Soap, Chester’s secretary Claire had arranged for Chester’s mistress Pigeon to find them together at lunch, thus ending Chester’s relationship with Pigeon. But that’s not all, Claire has threatened to repost Chester’s illegal business activities, if Chester doesn’t divorce Jessica. Jessica has tried to end it with Peter but couldn’t, but tells Mary she’ll see him again to see if she can. Jodie has found that his quarterback boyfriend, in order to protect his image, has a girlfriend. Jodie tells him since he’s planning a sex change operation for that very same reason, his boyfriend can get rid of his girlfriend. Danny has tried to follow the Godfather’s order’s to kill Burt but couldn’t. Confused? You won’t be after this week’s episode of … Soap.

Each episode then ended with a series of bizarre hanging questions.

We had a close domestic equivalent, courtesy of today’s LabourList:

Carswell is now UKIP’s second ever MP, after 2008′s Bob Spink. Or it means he’s UKIP’s first ever MP, if you listen to Bob Spink who now claims he never joined the party. Or it means UKIP still have never had an MP, if you consider that Carswell has stood down, presumably with immediate effect.

Then there’s the small triviality of a by-election. By convention, the Whip of the “out-going” party moves the Writ. So that would put it in the gift of the Tories. When, then, will Michael Gove be authorised to rise and move that flaming Writ?

Surely not during the Conference season, in October, which logically would be the earliest moment? Conceive the effect of a defeat, or — at best — a narrow victory on the Tory faithful gathered at Birmingham, for what must be planned as the Great Electoral Send-Off..

Which would move it into the drab, dark evenings of clocks-gone-back November. Only the most convinced happily venture out to knock unwelcoming doors in such circumstances, with the cutting wind off the German Ocean. And, as of now, there are more swivel-eyed, dedicated, weather-proofed Kippers than Tories, especially in coastal Essex,

Confused? You will be after the next episode of … Westminster Soap.


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Snarf! Snarf!

The whole #Clactongate business has been a delight and an amazement this Thursday afternoon.

The vid of Farridge having to play second fiddle to the Main Attraction, the otherwise publicly-unnoted Carswell, was delicious in itself.

Since when, the entertainment value has got better and better. Hence the snarfing.

And then, at the bijou domain of ane Guido Fawkes, I came across this:


Do read that final Update II with great care. Next try to enunciate it, preferably with a rising volume and tone, especially as one reaches the final sentence.

Then experiment, again, with a theatrical Reichsführer-SS Himmler intonation.

Works, huh?

Ordnung muss sein!

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On with the monstering

That Dan Hodges piece (see previous) is about as subcutaneously irritating as it can get. But that is only part of the great flannelling which is how this Rotherham story has become.

  • At no time in all this does anyone recognise where the whole story, as currently represented, comes from. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham, 1997-2013 was commissioned by and for … Rotherham Council. And presumably paid for by them, too.
  • Ever since 2001 Rotherham Council has funded the Risky Business youth project, which:

worked with young people between 11 and 25 years, providing sexual health advice, and help in relation to alcohol and drugs, self-harm, eating disorders, parenting and budgeting. By the late ‘90s, it was beginning to identify vulnerable girls on the streets of the town. Its relationship with any young person was voluntary on both sides. It was part of the Council’s Youth Services, though it derived its funding from various sources in its early years. One of its main functions was the provision of training to voluntary and statutory agencies working in the field, to magistrates, the Police, schools and foster carers.

Risky Business is one of the few good-news stories here.

  • The failings were at management level, as Professor Jay calls it:

the collective failures of political and officer leadership were blatant. From the beginning, there was growing evidence that child sexual exploitation was a serious problem in Rotherham. This came from those working in residential care and from youth workers who knew the young people well.

Within social care, the scale and seriousness of the problem was underplayed by senior managers.

  • Surely, the main failing was with the South Yorkshire Police. Again from Professor Jay:

At an operational level, the Police gave no priority to CSE, regarding many child victims with contempt and failing to act on their abuse as a crime. Further stark evidence came in 2002, 2003 and 2006 with three reports known to the Police and the Council, which could not have been clearer in their description of the situation in Rotherham. The first of these reports was effectively suppressed because some senior officers disbelieved the data it contained. This had led to suggestions of cover- up. The other two reports set out the links between child sexual exploitation and drugs, guns and criminality in the Borough. These reports were ignored and no action was taken to deal with the issues that were identified in them.

This becomes even more glaringly obvious when we reach paragraphs 4.1 and 4.2 of the Jay Report:

4.1 Children’s social care introduced CSE as a category for referral in 2001. However, many exploited children were wrongly categorised as being ‘out of control’. Prior to January 2013, the Police did not have a separate category for CSE. Neither agency had compiled reliable data that the Inquiry could use to estimate the scale of the problem over time. There was good information about cases open to the CSE team or co-worked by them, but information about other children being supported by children’s social care was not easily obtained. [My emphasis]

Jay chart

4.2 In the chart above we summarise what we were able to find out about caseloads and contacts received by children’s social care. The data must be treated with caution. The figures were not collected or presented in a systematic way from year to year. Nevertheless, the chart gives a broad indication of the scale of the problem as reflected in children’s social care records.

 I am aware from my own past connection with local authority business that the casework-load for social workers is excessive. Even now, Rotherham’s specialist child sexual exploitation team has 51 active cases, and sixteen looked after children who were identified by children’s social care as being at serious risk of sexual exploitation or having been sexually exploited.

So, let’s consider spending constraints. In fact, Professor Jay does that for us, too:

The combined effect of changes to local authority funding in England has been a dramatic reduction in resources available to Rotherham and neighbouring Councils. By 2016, Rotherham will have lost 33% of its spending power in real terms compared to 2010/11.

For the current financial year (i.e. after Rotherham’s problem had been identified, and lambasted by the Commons Select Committee) that‘s:

a £23 million programme of cuts – as well as a tax increase – in Rotherham Council’s budget for the [present] year.

The authority has already had to slash £70 million from its spending plans over the last four years, and needs to find another £23m of savings by next April.

A council tax increase of 1.9 per cent – the first rise in the town for four years – has been proposed, but ‘frontline services’ will be affected in the latest round of cuts.

Those cuts to ‘frontline services’ include:

children and young people’s services will lose £3m.

Rotherham, lest we forget, ranks 310th of the 324 English authorities in the Experian Resilience Index.

Any monstering there should properly start with Eric Pickles at the Department of Communities and Local Government.

There is one other operation that requires a severe monstering: the South Yorkshire Police.

Read this, and weep:

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) concluded that officers in its public protection unit spent “a great deal deal of time trying to disprove” victims’ allegations.

HMIC’s chief inspector, Tom Winsor, ordered South Yorkshire police to end immediately the culture of “investigate-to-record”, where officers do not record incidents as possible crimes until they have been investigated.

Of the violent offences, including rape, that had been written off as “no crime” by the force, just under a fifth were wrongly classified and should have been pursued, inspectors found.HMIC examined 66 recorded crimes of rape, violence and robbery that South Yorkshire police had recorded as no-crime but found that 11 of these – equal to 17% – were incorrectly classified.

The report said: “This culture of dealing with reports of crime shows a disregard for victims and is unacceptable; it hides the true extent of the picture of crime from the force and is particularly concerning when the offences investigated by this unit are often of the most serious nature and victims are often the most vulnerable.” […]

The HMIC also raised concerns about South Yorkshire police’s recording of crimes including child abuse.

Winsor said that inspectors had examined 53 reports to South Yorkshire’s specialist departments. Out of those, 34 crimes should have been recorded – but only 18 were, the report said. Of these 18 crimes, eight fell outside the 72-hour limit allowed to record incidents.

The report found: “This level of under-recorded crime is a significant cause of concern and is a matter of material and urgent importance, particularly as some of these relate to violence and sexual assault against vulnerable children.”

South Yorkshire police currently have 173 “live” investigations into suspected child sexual exploitation, 32 of which are in Rotherham, a spokeswoman for the force said on Thursday. [again, my emphasis]

So there are 141 “live” CSE investigations going on in the other three administrative areas of the South Yorkshire Police Authority. Obviously Rotherham may not be quite the worst cess-pit of depravity.

South Yorkshire Police previously distinguished themselves in the 1984 Miner’s Strike and at the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

In 1984:

After Orgreave, South Yorkshire police claimed they had been attacked by striking miners, and prosecuted 95 people for riot and unlawful assembly, offences that carried potential life sentences. All were acquitted, after defence lawyers argued that police evidence was false, fabricated and that an officer’s signature on a statement was forged.

[Michael] Mansfield [QC], who defended three of the accused miners, describes the prosecutions as “the biggest frame-up ever”. Mansfield argues that South Yorkshire police, under [Chief Constable Peter] Wright, had been “institutionally corrupt” and was still unreformed when the Liverpool supporters came to Sheffield for the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

In 1989:

Lord Justice Taylor, in his official report into Hillsborough, published in 1990, judged that mismanagement by South Yorkshire police was the prime cause of the disaster, yet the force relentlessly sought to lay the blame on the Liverpool supporters. A unit of senior officers, reporting to Wright, oversaw that case, ordering junior officers to rewrite their statements, to delete criticisms of the police’s own operation and emphasise allegations that supporters were drunk and misbehaving.

In those days, of course, the South Yorkshire Police had a firm friend in 10 Downing Street. The private briefing that Margaret Thatcher was given (to be told only what she and the police wanted her to hear) the day after Hillsborough, and the equally-misleading report of Merseyside Chief Constable Sir Kenneth Oxford only came into the public domain in 2012.

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Monstering 2

We are currently spectators at a massive monstering. Today’s Daily Mail is a prime example.

Mail monitoring

We have the classic formula: a “most wanted’ list, and then the distortions.

Compare the on-line version:

Mail monstering 2

Of course Shaun Wright’s position as Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire is untenable. “Untenable”, not because he has failed in just two years at PCC for South Yorks, but because he had been defenestrated from Rotherham Council, and found a safe nook, over just this whole scandal.

Then there are at least three gross distortions there already:

1. Ged Fitzgerald is clearly identified as “Councillor”. #Fail. He was Chief Executive of South Yorkshire for just two years (2001-2003) of the decade-and-a-half in question. A simple fact check would have established that. Or even — perish the thought — a reading, let alone an understanding, of Professor Jay’s report.

2. The headline is perverse. It wasn’t “1,400 Young girls”. Professor Alexis Jay is clear:

Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1400 children were sexually exploited over the full Inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013.

Note: “children”, not just “girls”. But that lacks the sexualising of young girls that is a consistent Mail trade-mark. More on that here and here.

3. What about the assertion that child rapists are mainly of Asian origin?

What’s a bit of racism between consenting adults?

That has been another chronic #Fail throughout the whole of this horrible saga. It began, and continued from Andrew Norfolk’s original piece for The Times. Not to put too fine a point on it, Norfolk’s stories for The Times seem obsessed with proving the malignity and rapaciousness of Asians. Try it and see.

The whole focus, not just by Norfolk, has been on “gangs”, with the clear insinuation that the problem involves Pakistani men preying on vulnerable white girls. We may trace that one back to Jack Straw in January 2011:

Jack Straw has said that the “fundamental failure” in the Rochdale case, in which dozens of girls were groomed for sex by a group of men of Pakistani origin, lay with the police and social workers who failed to take action to protect them.

But, the former Home Secretary added, there was an added “issue here about colour,” in cases in which Asian men took advantage of white girls.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, he said: “There is an issue of ethnicity here which can’t be ignored.

“It is true that if you go into the sex offenders wings of prisons there are proportionally more white men than Asian men. But there’s also the separate issue of group grooming in the Asian community.

“In terms of group grooming, there is an ethnic dimension to this which is Asian men and white girls, and that has to be faced by the Asian community.

What Straw said, even as there reported by the Daily Telegraph, was almost balanced. What others read into it was definitely not. As with Sky News:

Former home secretary Jack Straw has sparked a row after claiming there is a problem with young Pakistani men grooming and sexually abusing vulnerable white girls.

The Blackburn MP talked of a “specific problem” involving Pakistani men who were “fizzing and popping with testosterone”.

He added that a minority of these young men considered vulnerable white girls as “easy meat”.

Same story; less nuanced.

Suzanne Moore made the case against this simplistic, even casual racism:

… when young myself and working as a residential care worker… [i]t was my duty to report a child missing if he or she did not come back to the home at night. For some girls, that was most nights. The police and my co-workers cheerily referred to these girls as “being on the game”.

If you want to know about ethnicity – as everyone appears to think this is key – these girls were of Caribbean descent, as were their pimps. The men who paid to rape these children, they said, were mostly white.

That was London in the 80s, so the whole “child protection is in tatters” number is not news.

Again, any nuance is unacceptable. Things must be seen as they are, in strict racial terms. So Dan Hodges, again for the Telegraph, channels his inner bigot:

The final attempt at exculpation is being constructed around the straw man of power. Suzanne Moore again leads on this today. “The bigger picture is not, as the right claim, about ethnicity but systematic abuse of girls and boys by powerful men”, expounds the subheading above her piece. “Our untouchables turn out to be little girls raped by powerful men,” she claims.

But they weren’t. Our little girls were raped by Kashmiri cab drivers. Yes, powerful men were involved in the Rotherham abuses. But they weren’t the ones doing the raping. They were the ones turning a blind eye to the rape. And why were they turning a blind eye? Because of the ethnicity of the rapists.

I had to read that twice to get the full splenetic spittle: Our little girls, forsooth. For Hodges (a reformed Lefty himself, but naturally) and his like, all detestable power has to be of the Left. The Guardian has to be monstered as part of the deal. If a bit of male-chauvinist monstering of a female columnist comes along, Steely Dan is up for it.

And that bit of nonsense is where I go to next.

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Monstering 1

We need a definition here, so let’s hear it from one who was there:

Hack AttackA monstering from Murdoch’s droogs is a terrible experience. If the damage they did were physical — visible — courts could jail them for years. As it is, they inflict grievous emotional harm, the kind of injury from which some victims simply never recover. Indeed, there are some who have been left suicidal by the experience. It can come out of nowhere, picking on some off-the-cuff statement or some tiny detail which has caught nobody else’s eye, least of all the victim’s, and suddenly the violence begins. It can be completely arbitrary in its choice of target. If Miss Muffet abandons her tuffet because of the approaching spider, the droogs can choose to attack her for cowardice; or to attack the spider for indecency and threatening behaviour.

Once it starts, the monstering cannot be stopped by the victim. If the spider says he meant no harm, he was simply looking for somewhere to sit, then ‘an unrepentant spider last night threatened to spread his regime of fear’. Apologising will not work — ‘a humiliating climbdown’. Nor will refusing to apologise — ‘an increasingly isolated spider’. There is no end to the potential angles. The droogs will call everybody who ever sat next to the spider until they find somebody else who didn’t like him. They will comb through arachnophobes everywhere, in search of alarmist quotes and calls for action. They can keep it going for days. A little distortion here, some fabrication there. The fact of the focus is itself a distortion: the relentless return to the same victim, the desire to destroy that corrupts normal editorial judgement. Often, other newspapers and broadcast bulletins will join in, so that simple commercial competition encourages the hunt for a new angle. The spider is helpless — if he speaks out, he fuels the story; if he stays quiet, the story tramples him.

Eventually, the monstering stops, usually because some new target has arrived; or because the target has been destroyed. Sometimes, even destruction is not enough. In his diary, Alastair Campbell recalls the ferocious monstering which was given to the then Transport Secretary Stephen Byers, in the spring of 2002, which continued even after he had resigned: ‘It’s like they get a corpse but then are disappointed there is nothing left to try and kill, so they kill the dead body too.’

And the fear of this monstering generates power far beyond the relatively small number of victims who are attacked. All those in the power elite are prone to fear Murdoch because none can be sure that they will not be next to be kicked by the tabloid boot. They all saw what happened to the former Labour minister Clare Short. Several times she criticised the Sun‘s use of topless women to sell the paper and found herself denounced to millions as ‘killjoy Clare. . . fat .. . jealous .. . ugly … Short on looks … Short on brains’. At various points, the paper offered readers  free car stickers (‘Stop Crazy Clare’); sent half-naked women to her home; and ran a beauty contest to ask their readers whether they would prefer to see her face or the back of a bus. Separately, the News of the World ran two bogus stories suggesting she was involved with pornography; tried to buy old photographs of her as a twenty-year-old in a nightdress; and published a smear story which attempted to link her to a West Indian gangster.

Pages 172-173 of Nick Davies’ Hack Attack, which has been my bedside, and gruesome, reading these last couple of evenings.

On to Monstering 2

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The homosexual flag came out of the closet…

Ever since Oxford and Cambridge Joint Board GCE English Language A made us explain “what is wrong in the following sentences?”,  I’m a fan of weird misplaced modifiers.

  • There’s a man at the door with a wooden leg called Phil. [What’s his other leg called?]
  • The antique dealer put her large chest at the front of the shop.
  • The statue’s erection completed the town’s square. [Those two guaranteed to raise a laugh in any classroom.]

Not to mention the “half-Shropshire chicken” on a local pub’s lunch menu. [What’s the other half of its ancestry?]

An all-time favourite, from an actual examination script:

  • Henry VIII wanted a divorce because his wife wouldn’t give him a son. So he asked the Pope, who wouldn’t give him one either.

But this one had me totally pole-axed, for more reasons than one:

Gay flag

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