Saturday, September 01, 2007

Boris on Target

Boris at his Best
As reported elsewhere the Evening Standard on Friday published an excellent analysis of the Compass Group's pretty pathetic attempt to smear Boris Johnson, by selectively quoting him in such a way that in many cases the meaning was completely reversed.

If you don't have time to read the whole thing, Dizzy has a very good precis of the key points. The way some of the appallingly selective quotes in the report were used would bring a blush to the face of a poster designer for a soon-to-be West End flop, as they cut and pasted the single good word from yet another critic's carpeting of the production.

A good idea of why the Labour party machine is so rattled by Boris' candidacy can be found in an excellent recent opinion piece for the Daily Telegraph. It shows all the wit and intelligence that the bumbling exterior so often hides, and deals with a very serious issue in a sensitive way despite the engaging way he puts over his points.

Moreover I think it shows an understanding of the concerns of many in society, from all parts of the political spectrum, about how our society is developing. His analysis is both common sense to the common man, and also a complete anathema to heavy handed statists like Mayor Livingston.

Talking of the kind of small scale crime that leads ultimately to the kind of world in which the tragic incidents highlighted in a couple of recent posts occur, Mr Johnson has this to say:
Yes, we need more policemen on the beat, and not filling out forms, and yes, we need to make sure that these thugs are properly punished. But we can flood the streets with police and fill our jails to American levels without addressing the fundamental issue: that children have lost respect for adults, and they know that adults will take no steps to win it back.

Source: The Daily Telegraph

He is almost certainly right, but moreover it is clear from the article that he understands the complexity of the problems.

It could be argued that he fails to put forward much in the way of concrete steps forward to address the challenges we face. To accept though, as I think most people do now, that the problems exist, to understand that they may not have some of the simplistic roots and solutions that some like to believe, and to have a grasp of the extent of the scale of the challenge is a vast improvement of the simplistic utterances of most politicians.

Turning the Screw

Blunkett and Vaz
Blunkett and Vaz
Further good news for the cause of securing the promised referendum on changes to constitutional arrangements with respect to the European Union emerged this week, with former ministers David Blunkett and Keith Vaz also joining the calls for the people to have their say.

The pressure on Gordon Brown must now be substantial with an estimated 120 plus Labour MPs not happy with the decision to renege on the manifesto commitment, as well as the pressure coming from the union movement. With Brown probably considering a snap election at around the time the final new treaty would be coming into its final shape before ratification, the need to relieve the pressure from within his own parties ranks, and from the elecorate at large could easily become overwhelming.

I'm not sure the intervention by Blunkett will add much to the debate, as he seems to have become somewhat semi-detached from the mainstream of Labour thought since his most recent resignation. More to the point, the less I have to think about the odious little control freak the better.

I wouldn't exactly call myself a fan of Keith Vaz either. As someone who has his concerns about the European project, former Labour Europe ministers are never going to be my favourite people, but at least he is better in this regard than serial failure Geoff Hoon.

For all of that, I welcome Mr Vaz's contribution to the debate. This time around there has been a small but still, heartening number of EU supporters who are beginning to realise that the organisation will never be fully accepted, let alone loved, until the public are given the chance to have their say. Without this the EU will continue to be something that is 'done to' the people of this country, not something they feel 'part of'. My preference is for there to be much less EU, but that said I would be happier with a country where there was more EU by popular consent, than the current unacceptable position.

The only fly in the ointment was a slight weakening in the tone of Liberal Democrat support for the concept of a referendum, with Ming opting to use his now very limited weight for a fairly unlimited amnesty for all illegal migrants. I tend not to use my pop-up information box for party leaders, however I think in Ming's case his profile is now so low people may need a reminder of who he is, and I wouldn't have to go back and add pop-ups in the case of sudden return to the back benches.

The Real Last Goodbye

I came across this a couple of weeks ago, but annoyingly when I came to post it, I couldn't remember the blog I found it on, in my normal disorganised way. Thankfully Daily Referendum has come to my rescue, so with apologies to whoever's blog I first saw it on, the hat-tip will go to him:

As with Daily Referendum I think the highlight has to be the "Tough On Crime, Tough On Manipulating The Statistics Of Crime" line.

Groundhog Week

Beer Bottles
Another Friday, same old story
It seems pretty certain that if it wasn't fairly pointless repetition I could probably continue my rather depressing posting of a few days ago pretty much indefinitely.

There's such a sad familiarity with some of the stories that you have to read them carefully to make sure that it really is a completely new act of random violence that is being reported upon.

Thursday brought this, courtesy of the BBC:
Police have begun searching for a group of youths seen running away from where a 17-year-old boy was stabbed to death.


The victim has not been identified because police are still trying to trace his family.

A post-mortem examination is to be held on Saturday. Two 16-year-old youths have been arrested in connection with the death.

Source: BBC News

Friday saw yet another mindless violent assault back in the Village at the same Pub where the previous week's violence still looks to be heading towards an attempted murder charge.

As yet the predicted 'eye-catching but pointless' policy proposals from the Government have yet to emerge, as the senior members of the government have preferred to concentrate on accusing anyone who has the temerity to suggest that there is a problem of 'scaremongering'.

For what it's worth I am prepare to accept the figures for some classes of violent crime are down. What is perfectly clear though is that this is not the perception of the public at large, and I'm not convinced that we in the general public are wrong in this perception.

Faced with this apparent contradiction, my personal belief that it is explained by the increasing randomness of some of the violence. There was a time when much violent behaviour could often be clearly associated with particular areas, or particular activities, such as football's thankfully largely eliminated problems of decades past. If you avoided these areas and these activities your chance of becoming an innocent victim of violent crime was pretty minuscule.

Today you cannot say the same with such confidence. A substantial part of the violence has its roots in segments of society that exist in every part of the country, such as younger, poorly educated men who seem to have scant regard for boundaries of acceptable behaviour that were once at least partially respected.

Perhaps some of the criticism of David Cameron's comments on 'Anarchy in the UK' are partially justified, but only insofar as he was perhaps guilty of a bit of hyperbole. What is not justified is the complacent reaction of Association of Chief Police Officers president Ken Jones when he...
...told BBC News violent crime was "at the lowest it has been since the mid-1990s".


He said he was therefore "baffled" by comments relating to high crime levels.

Source: BBC News

He went on to accuse 'people', by who he clearly must mean Cameron and his team of "distorting the figures for their own ends". I didn't actually notice any figures being distorted, and certainly Mr Jones gave no examples. David Cameron was just reflecting the concerns of the British people about this subject, and that is part of the job of the leader of the opposition.

As it happens, it should also be part of the job of Mr Jones and the members he represents.

The Environmental Jet Set

Best place for them
A few weeks ago I felt obliged to take a swipe at Derek Wall, the slightly ludicrous joint co-spokesman (or whatever he is) of the Green Party. I perhaps slightly unfairly omitted to mention that in among his litany of silly flat-earth society policies covered in his 18 Doughty Street interview, that there was something that he said that did somewhat redeem him. He made it absolutely clear that he now never used air transport. No wiggle room, no 'only for official, necessary business', no flights, period.

It's a somewhat unique position amongst the green lobby, whose blinkered form of evangelism usually involves flying all over the globe, often to very environmentally sensitive locations, to spread their virulent anti-human message.

This particular piece of news from the EU Observer came as very little surprise:
[Leftist GUE/NGL] Members of a European Parliament fact finding mission to Greenland have found themselves caught in the midst of a domestic airline strike, leaving the MEPs and staff stranded some 200 kilometres north of the polar circle at the foot of the Arctic island's biggest glacier.


A spokesperson for the political group, said that the party might charter an Icelandic airplane to transport the MEPs to the European continent. Another option is to lease two helicopters.


The delegation, consisting of six MEPs and four party staff members, had travelled to Greenland to meet political representatives, NGOs and local experts to discuss a series of issues and challenges facing the people of Greenland, such as the impact of global warming.

Source: EU Observer

I did have to enjoy the thought of a group of hapless left wingers, firmly aboard the green bandwagon, being stranded in a remote wilderness outpost by a strike by their brothers and sisters, forcing them to choose between two enormously polluting options to get them home again. Even the thought that some small part of my taxes will go towards getting these idiots home doesn't take too much shine of it.

What the hell were they doing there? Was there anything in their objectives that couldn't have been achieved over a basic video conferencing set up other than getting a few nice taxpayer subsidised photos for their next election handout?

Were it not for not wishing these MEPs on the good people of Ilulissat, I'd be quite happy for them to be left there.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

That Was the Week that Was

All but one of these stories will be familiar to almost anyone, after seven days of sickening headlines.


"The mother of 11-year-old Rhys Jones cradled her dying son in her arms after he was shot on his way home from football practice, a friend has said."


"Witnesses said a youth on a BMX bicycle, who had his face covered with a hood, rode up to the car park and fired three shots."

Source: BBC News

"Three people, including two teenagers, have been charged with murder after a man with learning difficulties was attacked by a gang.

Brent Martin, 23, died in hospital after being found injured in Town End Farm estate in Sunderland on Thursday."

Source: BBC News

Even the Village, a quiet, affluent London suburb was not immune. On Friday night a man was beaten to unconsciousness at one of the local pubs in an assault that involved broken glass wounds and repeated striking of the victim's head with a heavy bar stool.

The police are reported to be treating the incident as attempted murder.

Source: Personal Account

"A teenager has appeared in court charged with killing a man who died following a street attack on Tyneside. Thomas Fellows, 51, suffered fatal head injuries in the incident in Wallsend, early on Saturday."


"Jeffrey Gosling, 18, of Hazelwood Terrace, Wallsend was initially charged with assault, but was re-arrested and charged with manslaughter[sic]."

Source: BBC News

"Three men are appearing in court today charged with murdering a man just hours after his 21st birthday.

David Haynes was knifed outside a kebab shop in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, in the early hours of Sunday."


"Two, aged 26 and 24, come from Wellingborough - the third, a 22-year-old, is from Northampton."

Source: Sky News

"Five male youths have been arrested after the sudden death of a 95-year-old man in Wiltshire.

Three of the youths being questioned are aged 17, and the other two are aged 15."

Source: BBC News

"Police are investigating two shootings, one involving a 14-year-old boy, at the Notting Hill Carnival.

The youngster was injured on Monday night, at the junction of Portnall Road and Harrow Road in Kensal Town.

Earlier, a 17-year-old was taken to hospital with a shoulder wound after shots were fired. A man in his 20s was injured in a stabbing."

Source: BBC News

It doesn't make for very pretty reading. At the moment we are hearing very little from the government other than the usual messages of regret well intended as they may be, and some complacent references to gun-crime statistics, aided and abetted by a piece of weak analysis by the BBC as highlighted by the Croydonian and Dizzy Thinks.

I'm sure that we will soon be faced with an eye catching initiative or two, the need to be seen to be doing something becoming almost overwhelming. The roots of the problem are very complex, and not easily curable with the type of headline grabbing initiatives that the government tends to prefer. I do expect them though to stay true to type. You can't tax illegal activities, pretty much halving their preferred options, so expect something to be banned.

I might have some sympathy with further restrictions on replica weapons, though if they do act in this regard I suspect it will be typically clumsy and authoritarian NuLab fare. I really can't believe that it's beyond the wit of man to produce a replica or deactivated weapon that is to all intents and purposes impossible to convert into a functional firearm, but I have a sneaking suspicion that a blanket ban would be more typical NuLab fare, impacting most greatly on people pursuing a perfectly legal hobby.

Another option may be an airgun ban, especially as it would relieve a pressure point with relations with the Scottish Parliament. A Very British Dude has just written a fine post highlighting the inanity of most of NuLab's firearm legislation, but even when you consider his thoroughly sensible arguments and the fact that none of the incidents of the last week or so have involved airguns, the desire of the government to be seen to be taking decisive action, even if it is wholly pointless action, should not be underestimated.

The real problems are much harder to address, and even the mother of Rhys Jones, to whom, along with the family and friends of all of the victims of the last week or so all our sympathy must go, seemed to acknowledge this fact when she questioned the role of the parents of those who may be involved in her son's death.

There are no easy solutions out there, certainly no quick 'tax it or ban it' ones. There are deeper issues in sections of society that need to be examined, and tackled with a longer term perspective. There are attitudes that have become ingrained in parts of the public's psyche that need to be challenged, and even more so those in the minds of policy makers whose presumptions and theories seem so patently to be failing.