Monday, April 07, 2008

More of Have Their Say?

Last week, we reported on the BBC's use of the Have Your Say to select quotes for stories and the possibility that this system was being abused by the BBC to give their own views. In that instance a quote was provided that was supportive of the BBC when it was way down on the list of popular sentiments.

Today I checked the Have Your Say page. The question asked is "Should sport and politics mix?" in relation to the Olympic Torch and the occupation of Tibet. There are two quotes selected. One reads "Those who disrupted the torch relay should be fined, jailed and where necessary, deported" which appears on page 11 when ordered according to recommendations, but at least it has 12 of those. The other comment reads "I have nothing but contempt for "personalities" who've chosen to endorse this mockery of the Olympic spirit" from one "Adrian, UK". Only trouble is, this doesn't even appear to be a published comment.

Perhaps the BBC could publish their rules for these sorts of things to avoid confusion. This comment may well be one of the 1149 in the moderation queue, but if it has been published one must assume that it has been moderated. And why have the "Readers Recommended" option if the BBC continually ignores those comments?

The entire system is open to abuse. Since effectively the BBC can get any quote it wants from the thousands provided it is left to someone to choose one quote. And with apparently no oversight on the selection process it is all too easy to choose a nice quote that fits the mindset of the person writing the article and instantly it becomes an opinion piece not a news article. So if the BBC is going to continue to use this quoting system there needs to be an awful lot more transparency.

Ken Twists

Ken was on a walkabout in Islington on Saturday with "peace and anti-war campaigners", according to a Press Release. It's a slightly fascinating statement for a number of reasons, not least it's aim. I'm going to try a little deconstruction.

Firstly, then, is the opening line:

Ken Livingstone will join Tony Benn and other peace and anti-war campaigners today on a walkabout in Angel Islington.
That's an interesting expression - "peace and anti-war campaigners". Perhaps Team Livingstone can explain what the difference is between these two breeds? The simple implication is that quite a number of those campaigners aren't interested at all in peace.

The next paragraph reads:
To reinforce the need to keep the forward-looking approach that London has seen over the last eight years, Londoners for Peace activists will be highlighting the clear differences between Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson's record on war and nuclear weapons.
Ever heard of this group "Londoners for Peace"? A Google search reveals that the only sites mentioning the group are those reporting on this event. The same result comes from Yahoo and MSN. So does this group really exist or was it conveniently set up for the Mayor's outing?

Next we have:

Veteran peace campaigner Bruce Kent said:
"Ken Livingstone has worked tirelessly for community harmony and international peace. He is my first choice for Mayor."

This would be Bruce Kent formerly of CND. One wonders why Ken might be his first choice? Could it have anything to do with Ken's allowing the CND to use City Hall for free? And how about "community harmony"? Won't take long for most of you to think of at least one community in London that Ken seems to have worked tirelessly to antagonise - to the extent that he was suspended for a while because he couldn't bring himself to apologise for the offence he had caused. And international peace? Well, if you include cosying up to certain unpleasant people like Castro and Chavez.

Ken Livingstone said:
"London rejected the war in Iraq from the start and subsequent events have shown that they were right.

From the start? That would be why according to GLA commissioned poll more Londoners supported the war than opposed it? [see here pdf]

But it's the end of the statement that is the most twisted:

The war has killed hundreds of thousands of people, created a firmer basis for terrorist organisations in Iraq and made our city more of a target for terrorist attacks.
I am proud as Mayor to support the anti-war movement and to join the millions of people who demonstrated against the war in Iraq. The majority of Londoners, and every major candidate at previous elections opposed the invasion of Iraq - as do myself, Brian Paddick for the Lib Dems, and Sian Berry for the Greens. Boris Johnson enthusiastically backed the invasion of Iraq.

If Boris "enthusiastically" backed it, what did the Labour party do? Of course, Ken wasn't an MP at the time so he didn't have to vote in favour of the war but isn't it just plainly dishonest to try and portray himself as some bastion against the war when he's very happy to be the candidate of the party that took us to war?

The statement finishes:
It would be grotesque if Londoners, who oppose the Iraq war by an overwhelming majority, were to have a Mayor who supported it.
And so what about a Mayor from the Party that instigated it? The duplicity is incredibly thick here. Ken himself might be opposed to the war but he's running for the Party that started it and is still the biggest supporter of it. And he claims it would be grotesque to have Johnson as Mayor - surely it would be worse to have Labour in charge from that argument?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Johnson Gets it Wrong

Boris Johnson has announced a new policy to ban alcohol from the Tube. He said:

London has a higher rate of alcohol-related crimes than any other region in England and I have been told time and again that people are scared of taking the Underground late at night because of aggressive behaviour by drunken yobs.
Too many people find themselves forced to sit opposite someone swigging from a can of lager and engaging in behaviour that is intimidating or worse. I want everyone’s journeys to be safer and more pleasant.
Iain Dale comments:
As a liberal Conservative I instinctively recoil from banning things. However, is it liberal to allow tube users to be abused by drunken louts? No, definitely not. I think this policy will be welcomed by many as long as it is policed properly.
I think this is the problem. How will this be policed? The press release states:
Under the London Regional Transport Railways By-laws, TfL staff are allowed to use ‘reasonable force’ to remove persons who breach any of the by-laws. TfL staff can prevent people from going through ticket barriers if they are in breach such as carrying any open alcoholic drinks. In the same way that anyone smoking can be prevented from travelling on the Tube.
This is all fine, but it only helps if a) there are TfL staff at the station and b) they see the person carrying an open alcohol drink. And what about unopened drinks that are opened on the Tube? Johnson could try banning all alcohol on the Tube but then runs the risk of stopping people taking bottles of wine to a friend or to work or wherever. And of course we have the problem of people already drunk before they get on the Tube.

The only realistic way to police this policy is to have staff, preferably from the British Transport Police, on the trains. But if they're there anyway there is no need for the ban on alcohol.

Overall, the aim is good but the policy itself won't work. No doubt it will be something of a vote winner but in terms of practicalities and effectiveness Johnson has got this one wrong.

Olypmics Benefits

A survey carried out by the BBC revealed that 73% of people in the UK thought that they would receive no noticeable benefit from the Olympics in 2012. Tessa Jowell hit back saying:

We're not idiots here. We have actually given more thought and careful planning than any other city has ever done before, in making sure that people all round the country have a part in the Games and benefit from the Games.
Last year it was announced that the budget for the games had gone up to £9.4 billion. Of that £6bn is coming from central government, £2.2bn from the National Lottery and £1.2bn from the GLA. According to a report published by Oxford Economic Forecasting (read full report here [pdf]) London pays for approximately 20% of the UK's taxes. So, if we leave aside the National Lottery contributions for which breakdown of ticket sales is going to be tricky we are left with a total £7.2bn. Of this £1.2bn is being paid directly by Londoners through the GLA and a further £1.2bn is being paid by Londoners through central government. That leaves £4.8bn paid for by those living outside London, or 2/3rd of the cost.

So, if you're not idiots, Ms Jowell, how do you plan to ensure that 2/3rds of the benefits for the Olympics will be received by those outside London? Come to that, how do you plan to ensure that all Londoners share in the £2.4bn they are expected to pay for this?

Boris Battles BNP Best

Yesterday the BNP told their supporters to give their second vote in the London Mayoral elections to Boris Johnson, as he was the "lesser of two evils". In what can hardly be called a ringing endorsement they said:

Our suggestion … is that you hold your nose and cast it in favour of the Conservative candidate, Boris Johnson. This is not because we think that Johnson would be any good as mayor — he is as politically correct as any of the other candidates and has no real ties to our London — but because he wouldn't be actively bad in the way that [Ken] Livingstone [the Labour candidate] is.
Of course, the three main candidates had to react and rather unsurprisingly two tried to make political gain out of it. Ken said:
Two parties have now called for a second preference vote in London's Mayoral election. I am proud that the Green Party's Sian Berry has called for a second preference vote for me. That the BNP have called for a second preference vote to the Tory against me is no surprise. I hate and despise everything the BNP stand for as against every value of London as a great multi-ethnic tolerant and diverse city.
The message apparently being "I hate and despise the BNP but Boris doesn't." Brian Paddick also follows the same line:
Clearly the BNP have recognised Boris's talent for causing offence and creating division.
Whenever an extreme group endorses a candidate that candidate's opponents try and construe that into being indicative of the policies of the candidate. They try and make the candidate guilty by association. Never is it harder to do that then when the endorsers give such reluctant support as the BNP did to Johnson. Doesn't stop those who are desperate though.

As for Boris, he simply stated:
I utterly and unreservedly condemn the BNP and have no desire whatsoever to receive a single second-preference vote from a BNP supporter. I hope as many Londoners as possible turn out on May 1 to prevent the election of a BNP candidate.
No attempt to spin this support in his favour. Good on Boris. A pity the other mayoral candidates couldn't be so clear in their opposition to the BNP. It's one thing to oppose the BNP, but when that opposition is linked to an opposition to another candidate, as Ken and Brian did, the opposition is weakened and the principles blurred. At least one candidate has clear moral scruples.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Speaker, Labour and the BNP.

During today's PMQs one member asked Harriet Harman about a BNP candidate who had commented that rape is not a heinous crime and compared it to "force-feeding a woman chocolate cake". Conservative MP Charles Walker condemned the comment maintaining that the candidate was not fit for public office. Ms Harman replied agreeing with the condemnation and adding:

The best way to avoid a BNP member being elected to the London Assembly is to make sure that as many people as possible vote for all the other parties.
While I fully support the condemnation and hope people do not vote for the BNP I was left slightly bemused by the exchange. Before Tony Blair left office David Cameron asked him who he would recommend to be his successor as Labour leader, and hence Prime Minister. The Speaker refused to allow Cameron to ask the question. So why was this question allowed? Surely a question directly pertaining to the next Prime Minister is far more appropriate in the House of Commons than one relating to a local election?

If MPs cannot ask questions about political parties during PMQs why was this allowed, and if they may, why was Cameron's not? If anyone has an explanation please let me know.

Ben Elton and BBC Bias

Another day, another celebrity attacking the BBC for bias. Ben Elton told a Christian magazine that the BBC was scared of Islam jokes. He said:

There’s no doubt about it, the BBC will let vicar gags pass but they would not let imam gags pass. They might pretend that it’s, you know, something to do with their moral sensibilities, but it isn’t. It’s because they’re scared. I know these people.
He added:
I wanted to use the phrase ‘Muhammad came to the mountain’ and everybody said, ‘Oh, don’t! Just don’t! Don’t go there!’ It was nothing to do with Islam, I was merely referring to the old proverb, ‘If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain.’ And people said, ‘Let’s just not!’

It’s incredible. I’m quite certain that the average Muslim does not want everybody going around thinking, ‘We can’t mention you. We’ve just got to pretend you don’t exist because we’re scared that somebody who claims to represent you will threaten to kill us.’
The BBC didn't agree. A spokeswoman said:
No subject is off limits for BBC comedy. The treatment should not cause harm or offence as defined by the BBC's Editorial Guidelines or breach other BBC Guidelines. There is no evidence that the BBC is afraid to tackle difficult subjects.
No evidence? Dear me. Not that long ago the BBC held an "impartiality summit" and during a discussion concerning Room 101 - a comedy show - most of the BBC staff present including senior staff said that they would allow the Bible and the Archbishop of Canterbury to be thrown into Room 101 but not a Koran.

What evidence do the BBC need then, one wonders?

It's 'Cos I is Muslim

A councillor from East London was stopped today at Heathrow and asked questions about his visit to Cairo. Cllr Oliur Rahman had been there for the now annual and infamous Cairo anti-War conference. He was asked the purpose of his visit and decided that this was unfair. He reports the incident:

A man standing behind the desk when I went to immigration control asked to see my passport and said he was a police officer. He asked me why I'd been in Cairo, how long I'd been there, what contacts I'd made and where I lived. I asked him what was the purpose of these questions and he said he was from Special Branch and had the right to ask under the Terrorism Act. So I asked if he was calling me a terrorist. He said 'no' and went away and left me for half-an-hour.
One can't help but wonder if he didn't get himself into trouble by apparently refusing to answer the questions. But Mr Rahman knows what was really going on:
They didn't stop anyone else from that flight and I'm sure it was because of the colour of my skin and because I'm a Muslim. It really makes you realize what happens to people.
Now it's quite clear that Mr Rahman was convinced of this the moment he was stopped, hence his offended question "are you calling me a terrorist?" But this is patently untrue. Mr Rahman says that no one else was stopped, does he expect us to believe that on this flight from Cairo he was the only Muslim on board? How else could he be so sure that it was because he was Muslim that he was stopped.

Mr Rahman is second on the Respect Party ticket for the London Assembly elections. Do we suppose that his candidacy might be withdrawn for launching baseless and self-evidently untrue accusations at the police? I wouldn't hold my breath.

More Mosque Trouble

Councillor Alan Craig is running for Mayor of London for the Christian People's Alliance. One of his main policies is to ensure that the "mega-mosque" planned for East London does not get built. There are genuine concerns with regards to this mosque. It is being built with Saudi money by Tablighi Jamaat, a group described by French Intelligence as "an antechamber of fundamentalism". They have also declared that this mosque, which will be bigger than St Paul's, is designed specifically to encourage visitors to the Olympics to convert to Islam through Dawah.

Well, the UKIP candidate, Gerard Batten, has taken on this policy and gone one stage further, a stage too far. Writing to The Times today he says:

But I go further than Alan Craig in that as London mayor I would oppose planning permission for any new mosques in London until there are places of non-Muslim worship allowed in Mecca and Medina.

Moderate Muslims should support such a policy so that a message can be sent loud and clear to the extremists. Muslims must apply the same degree of tolerance to other religions in their heartland that they expect to be applied to them in non-Islamic countries.
Of course this is a ridiculous notion and if Mr Batten thinks any Muslims would support such a policy he is deluded. It seems that he is under the impression that all Muslims are one homogeneous group and they all take collective decisions. How else can he explain trying to hold London Muslims accountable for the actions of the Saudi Royal Family. Isn't this as bad as the BNP?

Difficult to see who is worse out of Mr Batten and Ms Ruoff. Which do you vote for?

Mosques and agreeing with the MCB

A member of the Synod of the Church of England said that no more mosques should be built in Britain. Alison Ruoff declared:

You build a mosque and then what happens?

You have Muslim people moving into that area, all the shops will then become Islamic, all the housing will then become Islamic and as the Bishop of Rochester has so wisely pointed out, that will be a no-go area for anyone else. They will bring in Islamic law. We cannot allow that to happen. We are still a Christian country – we need to hold on to that.
One wonders what Ms Ruoff is thinking. Does she believe that Mosques are incubators for Muslims? That somehow by virtue of there being a new mosque there are suddenly more Muslims in Britain than there were before? It's probably a safe bet that mosques are built in areas or close to areas where Muslims already live. And if some Muslims move into an area to be closer to their place of worship it's probably also a safe bet that they're not living in both places at the same time.

On this one I have to agree with Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain:
These are unfortunately very bigoted and, frankly, xenophobic remarks. There must be freedom for all communities and not just for some. I think heads of the Church will be disgusted with the comments.
Quite right, Inayat, for a change.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Pre-charge Detention, Outrage and Decadence

The big topic of the day, obviously, is the Government's bid to extend pre-charge detention to 42 days.

There is no widely perceived need for more authoritarian legislation. So far there has been no case where the police would have liked more than the current 28-day limit and only 11 suspects have been held for more than 14 days.
So why do police chiefs want up to 90 days? He explains:

It is during a wave of multiple, complex terror plots or attacks that, security sources say, the power to hold suspects for up to 42 days will be necessary.

They argue that the time to legislate for emergency detention powers is now – when it can be properly considered – rather than in the frenzied atmosphere of a national emergency.

The assumption behind this plan is clear, then. One day the police will have a suspect in custody, will be forced to release him after 28 days and he will go on to kill people. And then there will be such an outrage against the police and government that they will rush through an extension. The essential accusation is that we, the British public, would be so distraught at the loss of life that we will accept, nay demand, that our leaders compromise on our high standards to ensure our protection.

And he's probably right. Just this week we found out that a terrorist had been released a whole 17 days early from prison and there was such an outcry that the government very quickly changed its policy. It would seem that faced with the choice of danger of some deaths or compromise on moral high standards we will compromise every time.

What is more, in the comfort of our safe armchairs, when is all is fine and calm, we will oppose these moves. We will cite freedom and people will talk about doing the terrorists' work for them. But as soon as the bomb goes off and people die we will be shouting for action against those very freedoms.

There is surely only one word for this, decadence. The Islamists accuse the West of this and we are guilty as charged. When all is peaceful we extol the virtues of civil liberties and freedom. We laud ourselves for our high moral standards and unshakeable values. But in reality we're scared, terrified. As soon as something goes wrong, someone dies, we will turn our backs on those freedoms in a heartbeat.

In WWII Britain's ability to take the punishment of the Blitz, of the V1s and 2s allowed us to stand firm for what we believed in. And we rightly look back at that with pride. People died and we accepted that as the price of freedom. A heavy price, but one we were willing to pay. Today we're not willing to pay that price. The result is evident.

We will compromise, demand compromise, on our standards to avoid the deaths of some citizens. We demand that Afghanistan and Iraq are left to fend for themselves against the Islamists lest some of our brave soldiers die in defence of democracy and freedom. We are at a point where safety and calm are more important to us than morality and liberty. We are truly decadent. We should be ashamed.

MCB Praises Fitna

The Muslim Council of Britain gave limited praise to the film Fitna. Acknowledging that it conflated all Muslims with terrorists and Islam with violence they said:

Nevertheless, the film raises important questions about the relationship between Islam and Islamism and lays down the gauntlet for all moderate Muslims to challenge those who would abuse our peaceful religion as a means to promote violence and extremism.
They added:
We plan to include parts of the film in an educational video aimed at teaching children about the dangers of Islamic extremism and we thank Mr Wilders for putting the particular issue of Koranic exegesis in the limelight.
The MCB also plans to send a delegation to Yad Vashem in Israel and is organising a celebration for Israel's 60th.

Fighting Our Supporters

Hassan Butt is a former terrorist. He admits this freely. He admits to having recruited British Muslims for jihad and raising money for terrorism. He admits all this because he has turned his back on Islamism and now fights against it. As part of that fight he is writing a book about terrorism and Islamism.

Last Sunday, Nick Cohen in the Observer spoke about the police's attempt to force the manuscript and sources to be handed over for investigation. He concluded:

If Butt and Malik are prosecuted, how the jihadis will laugh at the stupidity of a country that can't tell its allies from its enemies. 'Look,' they will say to their recruits, 'look at what happens to Muslims who go over to their side. Are they thanked? Are they honoured? No, they're prosecuted. All Muslims are the same to the British and there's no point in trying to please them.'
Well, the police won the right to force the book to be handed over. Newsnight reports:
Hassan Butt's co-author, an independent journalist, has been ordered to deliver draft manuscripts and notes for the book to the Greater Manchester Police.
The question must be asked, how stupid are we? What do we want? Do we want prisons full of Islamic terrorists or do we want a Britain free of Islamic terrorists? I think most people would prefer the latter. And this man is working, partly through this book, to help bring that situation about. We should be helping him, not impeding him. The police have already stated that he poses no danger, he has already done some work with the government to help stop Islamism being spread in Britain. So why would we interfere with that work?

Just a few days ago the Defence Secretary Des Browne suggested that we should try to reach out to members of the Taliban who might be persuaded to stop fighting. If we're prepared to reach out to them, why will we not do the same to the British Islamists. It seems that this government's approach to terrorism is muddled at best, but it looks more like incompetence and ineptitude.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Someone Explain the Voting System to the Greens

Sian Berry was on the Daily Politics show today. She was asked about her having told her supporters to put Ken down as their second choice. The following is an approximate transcript (~27:50 through):

JS: At the moment aren't you in danger of splitting the left vote, the anti-Boris vote?

SB: In the first round any vote that isn't for Boris is completely safe, basically, and your second round vote counts in the final round when the run-off will be. It's always been the final round that has decided every Mayoral election so in the first round essentially you've got a free vote.
As everyone is probably aware the second round vote only counts if no candidate secures more than 50% of the first choice votes. So the claim that anyone has a free vote in the first round is simply not true.

Now, we might credit Ms Berry by supposing that she knows this but is assuming that no candidate will ever win more than 50% of the vote. This is a risky assumption given that a YouGov poll just put Boris on 47% of the vote. In answer to Jenny's question then, the answer must surely be yes. But we shouldn't complain because if it gives Boris a bigger chance of getting in all the better.

Veil Row MkII?

An employment tribunal is underway that might spark a row similar to the Veil row resulting from Jack Straw's comments in 2006. Bushra Noah has taken Sarah Desrosiers to the tribunal after she was denied employment at a hair salon. Ms Noah insists on wearing a headscarf that covers all her hair and Ms Desrosiers felt that this was unsuitable for a trendy hair salon. She said:

The essence of my line of work is the display of hair. To me, it's absolutely basic that people should be able to see the stylist's hair. It has nothing to do with religion. It is just unfortunate that for her covering her hair symbolises her religion.

I now feel like I have been branded a racist. My accountant is Muslim. I have never discriminated against Muslims. My name is being dragged through the mud and I feel victimised.

Ms Noah claims that this amounts to "blatant discrimination".

As with the case of Aishah Azmi who was sacked because her full face veil prevented her from performing her job, it seems that this is no different. But just as that case caused much public comment it is entirely possible that this one will too. And extremists will no doubt point to this and try and claim that Britain is at war with Islam.

Last time around many people tried to distinguish between a face veil and a headscarf. But this case would undermine that argument and points to the very natural point that anyone can wear whatever they want, but choosing to wear certain clothes carries with it consequences. Just as if I refused to remove my trousers I could not get a job as a nude model, so too refusing to remove a headscarf seems a legitimate reason for not being employed as a hair stylist. As the old adage goes - never trust a skinny chef.

BBC News - Have Their Say?

Kevin Spacey has attacked the BBC for talent shows such as How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? He said that they were "essentially a 13-week promotion for a musical". He makes a good point. The end result is not a BBC performance but a commercial enterprise that has been hyped throughout the show.

But the BBC report of this story has a number of problems. For a start, why is it hidden in the "Entertainment" section with, at the time of writing, no link or mention on the UK or Front Page of the News Site. If the BBC is abusing its position of trust this is more than an "entertainment" issue.

My main issue, though, is with the apparent abuse of the "Have Your Say" system. The BBC a while ago started a forum on its site allowing users to leave their thoughts. Recently the BBC has included a thought from Have Your Say in some of their news articles. This system seems to be abused.

On this article the BBC has a Have Your Say forum running and has a quote from one user, a certain Rob from Leicester. His comment is:

It can be seen as a promotion for a musical, but it can also be seen as decent family entertainment
Now, head over to the actual forum. Rather conveniently the BBC allows you to sort the responses by "readers recommended" to gain some idea of which thoughts people most agree with. Going down the first page not a single response is in support of the BBC. Rob's response is buried on page 39. There are 15 responses to a page which makes Rob's response less popular than 570 responses.

So the question must be asked - is this Rob's opinion or the BBC's. It certainly isn't the popular opinion of the readers. They are all entirely in agreement with Mr Spacey and entirely opposed to the BBC's position. Yet the one single response quoted by the BBC is in support of their position, even though it is more than 570 places down the recommended list.

Is this Your say, or Their say?

Which is worse, Sky or BBC?

It's a difficult choice in this instance. Sky News managed to get an interview with Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal in Syria. During the discussion Mashaal said that kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was still alive. He also said that the Holocaust was exaggerated by Zionists and, incredibly, that Hamas doesn't deliberately kill anyone.

The BBC also reports that:

Mr Meshaal also urged Israel to agree that civilians should not be part of the current conflict, which has recently seen Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks on Israel by Palestinian militants.
This is some spin on what happened. Here is the Sky News transcript:

TM: It's 2008, can you make an offer that you would only have action against military personnel.

KM: We renew our offer to Israel to let the civilian people from the two sides be free from our conflict. Israel should respond to this offer.

This is an offer which we would like to renew. The problem is on the Israel side.

So which is worse? That Tim Marshall of Sky News considers it an "offer" to not murder civilians deliberately in terrorist attacks or that the BBC spins this "offer" into an urging that Israel stop killing civilians during their targeting of terrorists? It's a close one. But perhaps Sky has an excuse - they were in enemy territory and perhaps they didn't want to end up like Andrew Johnson. What's the BBC's excuse?

Poll Trouble

Ken Livingstone's campaign has thrown something of a political fit over YouGov polls suggesting that Boris Johnson is way ahead. They have released a press statement calling into question the methodology of these polls and declaring that:

Ken Livingstone's campaign therefore states clearly that it does not accept this poll as accurate and, in light of its continuing errors, it does not regard YouGov polling on London as accurate.
One is inclined to tell them to chill. Only one poll really counts, the one on May 1st. But if the Livingstone campaign is so threatened by a YouGov poll that they feel the need to attack its results and methods, well, what does that tell you about confidence levels at Labour HQ?

Crime Claims

On Friday Ken Livingstone unveiled his crime manifesto. At the time we reported on his claim regarding engaging with religious leaders who are unequivocal in their opposition to terrorism. This time, though, it is the crime statistics that are the problem.

Many of the claims from Livingstone's campaign hide important facts.

Ken cites murder as an example of improvement in policing. He claims a 28% reduction in murders. This may well be, but murders account for less than 0.1% of violent crimes against the person in the capital. Focusing on murder hides the fact that since he was first elected ABH is up a whopping 80%, Harassment is up 90% and in total violence against the person is up 12%.

Ken cites rape as being down 25%. But here too rape accounts for less than 25% of sexual offences, and the other kinds are up. Overall during his term in office sexual offences have fallen by less than 1%.

Ken claims that in 11 boroughs there has been a 50% reduction in gun crime and a 26% reduction in knife crime. But what he doesn't tell you is that overall crime involving an offensive weapon is up by nearly 10% since he became Mayor.

In his manifesto he says:

Much of the crime that still takes place in London, including that involving gangs, is linked to the trade in illegal drugs. I will ensure tackling this is another top priority for the Met.
What he doesn't say is that since he started drug trafficking has increased by just under 20% with possession sky-rocketing by nearly 200%. Overall drug related crime is up 165%. And what's more, it has increased by over 25% every year for the last three years. If Ken recognises that drugs fuel crime why has so little been done to tackle it?

When one reads through his manifesto two crimes come up again and again - murder and rape. Why? Because in these areas the crime rate has fallen. But murder and rape combined accounts for just one quarter of one percent of all London crime.

In many of the areas that really matter crime is increasing. Violent crime is up 12%, sexual offences are basically unchanged, drug crime has soared by more than 150%.

We should not be fooled by Ken's carefully selected stats. Despite investing heavily in extra police officers large areas of important crime remains out of control.

Please note that all data in this report come from the Metropolitan Police Service's crime statistics, available here: and that all years refer to the end of the financial year so that 2003, for example, refers to the financial year ending in 2003.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Muslims "Victimised" by Terrorism

In a statement from the Muslim Association of Britain regarding Fitna, the organisation's president makes a ludicrous claim. Aside from calling for the film to be removed from the UK based website, and asking the police to investigate the film and taking this opportunity to condemn the cartoons, he also claimed that Muslims were victimised - by Islamist terrorism. He said:

European Muslims have been victimised twice – firstly by being targeted, along with the general public, in the recent attacks on London in July 2005 and on Madrid in March 2004
While it may be true that some Muslims were killed in those terrorist attacks and that the Islamist terrorists have no compunction about killing fellow Muslims, it is something of a stretch to claim that Muslims were victimised by those attacks.

But perhaps the MAB is taking a leaf out of its sister organisation, Hamas's, book. Just as they claim to be victims of Israeli aggression while they fire missiles into Israeli towns and cities, MAB are claiming to be the real victims of Islamist terrorism launched against the West. Once again we ask why the media quote these people as "moderate voices".

Terrorist Released Early and the BBC

The Government confirmed today that they released a convicted terrorist early because of prison overcrowding. Yassin Nassari was convicted of possessing documents likely to be useful to a terrorist. These included blueprints for Qassam rockets as used by Hamas against Israeli civilians. Included with these plans were details on how to construct the rockets, explosives and propellants.

The BBC report is again shocking. For a start the headline reads:

Terrorism convict released early
By normal standards a person convicted of terrorism offences is a terrorist. But apparently the BBC cannot bring itself to use that word even when a court has convicted the individual.

The report also says:
A man convicted of a terrorism offence has been released 17 days early
Given that Mr Nassari was arrested in May 2006 and sentenced to three and a half years in prison that makes his release more than a year and a half early. The point is clarified 9 paragraphs later:
Nassari would have been eligible for release 18 days later, having served enough of his sentence to be considered for parole.
In other words this "man convicted of a terrorism offence" was released 17 days earlier than his early release.

It's difficult to tell what is worse, that the Government is forced to release prisoners earlier than their already early release because they have allowed the situation to become so bad, or that the BBC finds it impossible to call someone a terrorist even when they've been convicted by the courts.

UPDATE: A new story on the BBC site does call him a "terrorist" in the headline. But the old story has not been changed.

Ken's Admission to Letting Londoners Down

Ken Livingstone released his crime manifesto today. Discussing terrorism he says the following:

I will continue my policy of engaging with and seeking support from all community and religious leaders who make clear their unequivocal opposition to terrorist attacks. To do otherwise would be to let Londoners down and increase the risks the city faces.
Indeed it would be. And yet that is precisely what Ken has done. This is the man who invited Yusuf al-Qaradawi to City Hall. Does al-Qaradawi "make clear" his "unequivocal opposition to terrorist attacks"? Of course not. He supports terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. And Ken knows this and knew this before he invited him. And he knew it when he said he would invite him back and he knew it when he wrote that he should not be banned from entering this country.

So, if it "would be to let Londoners down" to not engage with "religious leaders who make clear their unequivocal opposition to terrorist attacks" how much more of a let down would it be to engage with leaders who are equally unequivocal in their support of terrorist attacks?

Reality Denial at MPACUK

We all know that MPACUK is deluded about Islamic terrorism, apparently convinced that it has nothing to do with Islam or ideology but rather is entirely caused by our foreign policy decisions. To that end it must have been disturbing to hear the likes of Hassan Butt, a former Islamist, declare:

By blaming the government for our actions, those who pushed the 'Blair's bombs' line did our propaganda work for us. More important, they also helped to draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamic theology.
How can MPACUK continue to peddle the line that Islamism is the result of foreign policy when Islamists themselves say that it isn't? The answer is simple - believe it's all a conspiracy. To that end they are asking the question:
Hassan Butt-Al Qaeeda Or Mi5? - You Decide!
This is not the first time that people have tried to claim that British Islamists are evil stooges of the State desperately trying to provoke hatred against peace-loving Muslims who only want to oppose the terrible foreign policy of Britain. Back in 2006 after Abu Izzadeen, another British Islamist, heckled the then Home Secretary, one George Galloway wrote:
Either our police and security services are so fantastically incompetent that Bin Laden himself might have slipped in to beard you at your podium. Or someone somewhere wanted to engineer precisely this confrontation to show you in a certain light and to portray the Muslims of Britain in the most aggressive violent and extreme way possible, as a justification for the utterly counter-productive policies you are following.
The formula is simple, declare that ideology has nothing to do with Islamism and that it is all foreign policy. When evidence is presented that this isn't true declare that that evidence was part of a Government conspiracy. And the media still quote these people as the "moderate voice".

BBC Whitewashes Fitna

Dutch MP Geert Wilders posted his film Fitna on the Internet last night. Let me say that the film is anti-Islamic in as much as it makes no attempt to distinguish between Islam and Islamism. It is also not very dissimilar to probably thousands of videos available on YouTube and other similar sites. But for all that it fails to distinguish between Islamism and Islam and between most Muslims and extremists it does contain some serious messages. Not new ones but real ones.

The BBC's report on the film (which is only about 15 minutes long) is a whitewash. The report says:

The opening scenes show a copy of the Koran, followed by footage of the attacks on the US on 11 September 2001.
What it doesn't mention is that the copy of the Koran is shown along with selected quotes. The film is drawing attention to specific, disconcerting verses in the Koran, not the Koran in general. Not that there aren't similar verses in other scriptures, but the BBC report implies that it is simple a copy of the Koran and doesn't tell the reader that the focus was on specific and real verses.

The report continues:
And pictures appearing to show Muslim demonstrators holding up placards saying "God bless Hitler" and "Freedom go to hell" also feature.
What was that? "Appearing to show Muslim demonstrators"? They were Muslim demonstrators. What game is the BBC playing here? Is it peddling the line spread by some extremists that any Muslim who carries out terrorist attacks or the like isn't a Muslim? Surely it is not playing dumb, pretending that the people shown might be Christians or Jews?

And lastly:
The film shows a young girl in a headscarf making derogatory comments about Jewish people.
"A young girl in a headscarf". Muslim is what they mean to say. You might argue that the entire film is about Muslims so it is obvious, but then why mention the headscarf? And given the comment above about "appearing to show Muslim demonstrators" it isn't so obvious that the BBC is not trying to glide over the M-word. Truly this report is a whitewash of the contents of the film.

UPDATE: Even The Independent manages to include the details the BBC has tried to hide. It's report says:
It interspersed images of the 9/11 attacks and other bombings with quotes from the Koran.


The film shows ... Muslim women with banners reading, "Be prepared for the real Holocaust" and "God Bless Hitler".
If The Independent can do it, why can't the BBC?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Muslim Leader's Duplicity and the Daily Mail

Panorama airs tonight on BBC1 with a program about Asian men grooming white girls for prostitution. Mohammed Shafiq, Director of the Ramadhan Foundation, appears on the documentary. He is quoted in the Daily Mail as saying:

I think the police are overcautious on dealing with this issue openly because they fear being branded racist and I think that is wrong. These are criminals they should be treated as criminals. They are not Asian criminals, they are not Muslim criminals, they are not white criminals. They are criminals and they should be treated as criminals.
He explains his motivation:
I am the only Muslim leader in the UK that speaks up against this sort of thing and I do it because these teenage girls are somebody's sisters and they are somebody's daughters. I have got two daughters and I wouldn't want that to happen to my daughters. "If there is a drug dealer grooming a white teenager into prostitution then I don't want the police service or local authority not to be open about it.
It all sounds very reasonable. Some of you may even be thrilled to see a Muslim leader speak out against what appears to be too much PC nonsense hampering the police efforts. In fact, some comments on the Daily Mail site say just that:
I for one welcome Mohammed Shafiqs views on policing the Asian sector. Thank God he has the common sense to speak out for justice in this country, unlike others.
The law is the law and should not come under the umbrella of political correctness. Police are here to uphold the law and if young girls are being prostituted then it must be stopped. I don't care what race the perpetrators are they must be stopped.

- Jules Ackers, Eastbourne, UK
There is only one problem - Mr Shafiq is not being straight. On his organisation's website is another explanation of his actions:
Whilst there is no evidence that the Police or local authorities are deliberately not speaking out about this evil practice due to the fear of being labeled racist, their silence is contributing to a vacuum where only the BNP benefit.

I would urge the Police, local authorities, religious and community groups to be open about the practice and encourage all to work together to eradicate it, only working together can we defeat it and ensure that the BNP are not seeking political advantage.
So his accusation is not only baseless but more worrying is his motivation. Far from being driven by some humanitarian desire to help these girls his real concern is that the BNP might make "political advantage" from it.

In fact, the police refute his baseless accusations. Det Supt Graham Herrmann of Lancashire Police told a local paper:
It doesn't matter what part of society these people are from we will investigate stringently. It is not about race. Mr Shafiq has talked about a vacuum where the BNP will prosper but there is no vacuum. We are working hard to target and identify those people who are at risk and work to protect those young people in the future.
Here we have a community leader discussing criminal activity within his own community. He recognises the problem but instead of challenging his community's leaders and supporting the police he flings an unfounded accusation at them all the while concerned only that the BNP should not gain any advantage from it. Shame on Mr Shafiq. And shame on the Daily Mail for falling for it.

UPDATE: It appears that Mr Shafiq has a blog on which he has posted the article from the Daily Mail (without a link) and with no mention of his comments on the Ramadhan Foundation website.

UCU Reconsidering Boycott

The National Executive Committee of the University and College Union has agreed to reconsider a boycott of Israel. This union tried this last year and was hit with an international, prolonged opposition. In the end it had to stop all talk of a boycott after it emerged that it might well be completely illegal to do so.

Of course, the question becomes why is it OK to consider boycotting the Olympic games in China but not Israeli academics. Well, there are a number of reasons but here is one that I haven't heard often.

The point of a boycott is to apply pressure for the person or organisation or country being boycotted to take some action. This is entirely predicated, then, on the assumption that the target of the boycott is in a position to take that action. In the case of the call to boycott Israel this is an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories.

Now, it must be asked is this an action that Israel can perform unilaterally? Of course not. It cannot simply remove its troops and settlers and hand control back to Jordan and Egypt - they don't want that land. The only way to end the occupation is through a negotiated settlement resulting in the creation of a Palestinian state. By its very nature Israel cannot unilaterally make a negotiated settlement.

The obvious conclusion then is that a boycott serves no purpose. Israel is pressured to do something it cannot unilaterally do. The aims of the boycott might be toned down to be more reasonable. Perhaps a demand that Israel negotiate? But they already are doing that. Perhaps the boycott should be on both parties to force them to come to some settlement? But that could never happen and would not help.

So all that is left is a one sided boycott aimed at forcing Israel to take steps that it simply cannot take. When examined we see that the boycott is not a push towards peace or a hope for the future. It is punishment for the occupation that Israel now cannot end by itself.

MPs Revolt on Terror Bill

The Independent are reporting that 10 more Labour MPs plan to revolt over plans to detain terrorist suspects without charge for 42 days. Many readers may think that extending the deadline is necessary, but it isn't. The 42 day figure is made up and is just a larger number than 28 and less than 90.

What is really required is that there be no maximum. The police should be able to hold a suspect for as long as they can prove to a judge that they need to. As it stand the police need to appeal to a judge to extent the limit up to a maximum of 28 days. So why do we need that maximum time limit? If the judge agrees that the police should continue to hold the suspect then they should be allowed to hold the suspect. Providing an arbitrary limit serves no purpose.

Bailing Islamists

Last year we reported that members of Al Muhajiroun who had been arrested for inciting hatred at the Danish cartoon protests had been released on bail. At the time we pointed out that an Al Muhajiroun leader, Anjem Choudary, had similarly been treated too leniently over that protest.

The Sun reports today that after having been arrested for his role in that protest he was released on bail, and while on bail he advised fellow Islamists how they could avoid being arrested for their parts in the incitement.

This once again underlines the dangers of Islamist leaders who do not carry out attacks themselves but radicalise others to do so. And allowing them out on bail on the premise that they pose no harm fails to take into account this radicalisation.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

MPACUK vs Muslims

MPACUK claim on their site that

MPACUK are aiming to bring the community together, disunity among Muslims has been our biggest downfall in recent years.
This video, proudly posted by themselves on their site, suggests otherwise:

MAB - Cemetery Opposition is Racism

Residents in a village near Glasgow are opposing a plan put forward by Glasgow City Council to build a new Muslim cemetery next to the village. According the Osama Saeed of the Muslim Association of Britain the opposition is because of prejudice against Muslims. Apparently all 300 people attending a meeting about the issue and the 700 signatories of a petition are solely motivated by Islamophobia. Saeed said told The Guardian:

Planning tends to reflect the overall prejudice against the Muslim community that goes on around the country. Whenever a new mosque or cemetery like the one in Glasgow is proposed, you'll always get a range of objectors who'll use environmental or green-belt concerns to mask a deeper hostility towards perceived outsiders.
Of course, that doesn't explain why residents in Leicestershire opposed a new crematorium there, or why Castlereagh councillors were likewise opposed to similar plans from Belfast city council. Perhaps, Osama, this is just people not wanting a new cemetery in there village?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Anti-Semitism over at MPACUK

On MPACUK's website is a page of FAQs. The first is, naturally, "Are you anti-Semitic? Do you deny the holocaust?" And the answer is "In a word, NO." And yet, the evidence is to the contrary. On their site today is an article entitled, "4 things Israel will get away with if you don't attend our event - Saturday 29th March".

MPACUK's obsession with Israel is well known and so it will come as little surprise to readers that they make claims such as "More than 130 Palestinians MURDERED in the last few weeks", confusing self defence with murder. But it is the anti-Semitism that is of concern in that article.

The first thing Israel "will get away with" is "The BLOCKADE of supplies into Gaza will continue". MPACUK make the following claim:

The sea and land borders of Gaza are controlled by Israel. Gaza: a concentration camp in all but name.
All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism recommended that the Government adopt the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia working definition of anti-Semitism. In that definition it states
Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:

Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis
I guess MPACUK didn't read that report (odd when you consider that there is a whole section devoted to them). Accompanying the article is a poster for an MPACUK event in Manchester. Yet more extremism on that with the question "Why is Israel allowed to commit Genocide [sic] in Palestine [sic]?". There is also the statement "The Israel Lobby - We expose the powerful force shaping both the media coverage and the actions of your MP" yet again repeating the offence that caused the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) to state "MPACUK has also articulated Jewish conspiracy theories through the language of Zionism".

And finally on that poster is the boast "MPACUK made British History in 2005 by removing a pro-Israel MP!" For those who don't know about this, this was when MPACUK campaigned to have Lorna Fitzsimons unelected during which they sponsored leaflets calling attention to her Jewish origins (even though she actually has none). This was another incident that the APPG wasn't happy with stating, "it is concerning to see the ‘accusation’ of being Jewish being used in such a way in the context of an election campaign."

All in all, another example of extremism, radicalism and anti-Semitism from MPACUK.

We're Back - What to Expect

After a very lengthy absence we're back!

And this time we have a slightly different focus. By now most people are aware of the ludicrous "Covenant of Security" that was operating for many years in this country. This seems to have ended now, finally, but in its place the Government has enacted a new "covenant". This time instead of allowing actual terrorists to operate with impunity in return for not committing acts of terror in Britain, the Government is funding and supporting Islamist and other radical Islamic groups in the hope that they will stop Islamic extremism. There is a perfect article on this point in The Times today entitled "No way to combat terrorism" and everyone should read it

It's as if the Government responded to a violent insurgency from the neo-Nazi terrorists of Combat 18 by turning to Nick Griffin of the BNP, on the ground that he enjoys nationalist “cred” with alienated skinheads. After all, Mr Griffin is non-violent and believes that whites should participate in the political process. Perhaps he might stop bombs from going off. But what price would he exact for it - and what kind of society would we then be living in?
And the MSM is following the Government's lead by trotting off to these radical and extreme groups whenever they need a quote. The result is that the entire debate is skewed with radical and extremist Islamist groups being portrayed as the normal Muslim groups. It makes it impossible to have a reasoned debate on issues regarding Muslims and Islamism.

So this is one of the new focuses of the site, to reveal and expose the extremism and radicalism of some of these groups. But sites like this serve other purposes too and one of the most effective is as a watchdog on the MSM. So expect some of that too. And also expect other interesting tidbits along the way.

But know in advance, I am a strong believer in Civil Liberties and am a strong opponent of the BNP. If some of my posts seem confused or contradictory it might be a reflection of the inherent problems of tackling extremism while upholding the rights of people to express their opinions. Still, I hope to make a good fist of it.