Thursday, 11 December 2008

The Daily Mail: Stabbing the government repeatedly.

From the Press Association:

"Stabbings have fallen in areas targeted by a police crackdown on knife crime, Home Office figures reveal. Figures from knife crime hotspots revealed the number of youngsters admitted to hospital with stab wounds fell more than a quarter between July and September compared to last year."

"In the 10 Tackling Knives Action Programme areas where there was increased use of stop and search, fewer youngsters were caught with knives - down from one in 30 to one in 65."


The Daily Mail, who you would think would applaud the success of stop and search, instead launch a criticism of the figures:

They claim that by probing "a little deeper" it is clear this is "more an exercise in spin than substance".

Let's see what their probing has revealed:

"Firstly, the figures relate to the ten 'hotspot' counties only. This is despite worrying evidence that a culture of knife carrying has spread to all parts of England."

So what is this "worrying evidence"? Maybe if I scroll down the article I'll find out. Keep scrolling... keep scrolling... It's got to be here somewhere, surely?

Moving on:

"Also, we are not told what the impact of pouring huge levels of police resources into knife crime has been on other offences. Has mugging or alcohol-related violence been allowed to soar, as officers concentrated on the Home Secretary's latest priority?"

Good point. Do tell us - Have they soared? Yes? No?

"This has happened with previous Government initiatives."

Which initiatives? Well? Anyone?

Great investigative journalism there: Who needs stats when you can rely on your copy of the Mail to provide some good old-fashioned rhetoric. It's the finest form of criticism.

On the subject of stop and search. Here is some advice from the Home Office website:

"You should not be stopped or searched just because of your age, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, the way you dress or because you’ve committed a crime in the past."

Yes, that's right: A middle-aged white stockbroker is just as likely to be stopped as a black teenager. Fact.

(I would provide you with some stats. But I can't be bothered.)

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Boris: Partying in the face of gloom

Q: How does someone who earns 15 times the average salary refer to the recession?
A: "What recession?"

Hot on the heels of complaining about people whingeing about house prices, Mayor Johnson tries to make sure people know he is as out of touch as possible:

"Eat, spend and be merry - this is not the end of the world"
Telegraph.co.uk, 28/10/08

"This isn't some disaster movie about a virus from Mars. It's a recession, a downturn, a correction of a kind that is indispensable to any kind of human activity, and it does not require us to go around under a special kind of credit-crunch pall. It does not mean we have to cancel all parties and talk in hushed credit-crunch tones... This is the moment for a life-affirming splurge..."

"...if we ban holidays for the British Establishment, where will it end? What about restaurants? What about taxis? What about going to a film on a Saturday night?..."

"...There is nothing remotely impolite, in these circumstances, about spending money and being seen to spend money. Far from it."


On that basis, I'm going to log off and go to the pub. For those of you with debts, who have been made recently redundant or struggling with mortgage payments, I say: f*** you all.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Boris: Voting on the basis of race to fight voting on the basis of race.

So Boris has endorsed Obama, to the disgust of many of his fellow right-wingers.

Over to Boris:

“If Obama wins, then the United States will have at last come a huge and maybe decisive step closer to achieving the dream of Martin Luther King, of a land where people are judged not on the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”

I can’t argue with that. He has a point. If he wins it will indeed be a huge step… wait… what did you just say Boris?

“And then there are millions of white Americans who will undoubtedly vote Obama precisely because he is black.”

So let me get this right: Boris is telling us that there are millions of white people who will vote for him BECAUSE of the colour of his skin, which will be a step closer to a land where you are NOT judged by the colour of your skin.

Ok…

Regardless, deciding that one of the reasons you are voting for someone is because they are black is surely not the best approach. It certainly shouldn’t be seen as qualifying someone to run a country. It’s like voting for someone on the basis that they are funny, right Boris?

On a side note, he also says:

“If Barack Hussein Obama is successful next month, then we could even see the beginning of the end of race-based politics, with all the grievance-culture and special interest groups and political correctness that come with it.”

Special interest groups? Political correctness? What could he be referring to? Let’s refer to what his PR man said back in June:

“And over the changes to the Rise festival, the heartbreaking news for the London Left is that beyond the usual suspect participants, such as National Assembly Against Racism (secretary: Lee Jasper) and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (what were they doing at an anti-racist event, by the way?) no ordinary Londoner, black or white, gives a damn. Rise-type events had a purpose in the Eighties, when antiracism needed to be made fashionable. But that battle won, it is not nowadays clear how a bunch of overwhelmingly white people going to a pop concert advances any cause beyond the participants' own feeling of righteousness.”

He’s also one step ahead of you Boris. Forget the “beginning of the end”. As you can see, Gilligan told us the battle has been won already. And Richard Barnbrook is proof of that.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The good, the bad and the politics of the media.

The trouble (or benefit) of lengthy reports is that by being selective you can take the best or worst of the results to form the basis of any news article.

For example, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has released a report entitled "Growing Unequal: Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries."

The report finds that "the gap between rich and poor has grown in more than three-quarters of OECD countries over the past two decades" and "economic growth of recent decades has benefited the rich more than the poor"

However, if you study the details it reveals that Britain is one of the countries where income inequality has decreased since the mid 1990's.

Despite this, the shortening has not outweighed the big increase in inequality that took place between the mid 1980's and the mid 1990's, and therefore over the whole period (mid 1980's to mid 2000's) income inequality has increased slightly.

So the report produces positives and negatives.

Now, depending on your politics you could take two approaches: One would be to acknowledge the recent decrease in the UK since 2000, which the report’s author, Mark Pearson, describes as ”remarkable”. However this would mean, by implication, that you accept that the decrease has taken place under the current Labour government.

The other approach would be to concentrate on the whole period covered by the report, which, although technically correct, glosses over this reduction.

Let’s see this in action, with two news sources reporting the results:

First, the BBC, with the positive slant:

“The gap between rich and poor in the UK has decreased since 2000, an international survey has concluded.”

Now the Telegraph, with the negative approach:

“The gap between rich and poor people in the UK is one of the widest in the developed world, a report has found.”

This means the right-wing leaning Telegraph, although they do acknowledge the recent UK decrease further on in their article, has avoided concentrating on any possible Labour success.

Coincidence? Perhaps. But I’m not so sure.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Tube doors: They'll be the new Routemaster

The Germans are at it as well. Routemaster designing.

It's all part of the Routemaster competition that the Standard will go totally CR-AZY about next month when the winner is revealed. It'll be plastered on the billboards, splattered all over the paper, and Gilligan will have an orgasm. The champion will get loads of dosh, and maybe a big Blue Peter-style badge in the shape of a bus.

A colleague at work, who recently arrived from South Africa, commented the other day: "I didn't really follow the London Mayoral Elections, but I know there was a lot of talk about the Routemaster"

A thought suddenly entered my head. I might stand for London Mayor on another relatively insignificant point, and try to somehow blow it out of proportion to make it a key decider in the election, using safety as a good angle again.

This will be it:

I would complain about the time it takes for tube carriage doors to shut.

"It's too quick", I would say. "At least 2 people have had their fingers slightly hurt in the last year when they were running onto a tube carriage. And 6 people got their coats caught."

And then it would spiral out of control.

Paxman would be drilling me on the time it takes for the doors to shut:

"How long do they take to shut? Is it 1 second or 2 seconds? Answer the question!"

Andrew Neil would catch me out on my figures on a live debate:

"You said it would cost £1,900 to change the time it takes to shut the doors. Actually it'll cost £1.9 million pounds. That's 1000 times what you said."

The audience would all laugh. But then vote for me anyway. I mean what's money when you've got the principle of door-shutting times, eh?

Yeah, tube doors. I'll write that down. Number one pledge. Just above crime.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Standard exclusive: Boris cares. Fact.

The Standard today leads its City Hall section with the exclusive news that Boris Johnson gives a damn.

The article, headlined "Boris Despair Over Knife Deaths", reveals that not only is Boris a human being, but he has also formed a cunning plan.

A ground-breaking key part of his long-awaited policy on tackling knife crime will be a pledge to provide "better education" to the disadvantaged, a novel approach which is comparable only to the pledges to provide better education which have been made by every major political party in the past few years.

On a completely unrelated note, there is a link to the Standard's Beat Knife Crime Charter, although this may or may not go the same way as the Save Our Small Shops Campaign, which went strangely silent after an article on the 6th August in the paper which reported that Boris had been accused of reneging on his pledge to, er, save small shops. (Coincidence of course).

So now the Standard has informed us about the despair that overwhelms Boris on a daily basis, we can expect further revelations from them. These may include:

"Boris cries when he watches Ghost."

"Boris is watching over us. Like God. Only closer to home."

"Offical Standard poll: 99.99% of Londoners believe Boris is doing a fab job. Remaining 0.01% are idiots."

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Drivers: Pity them all

Motorists have a tendency to annoy me. Certain types of motorists, as I've discussed before, go beyond that.

I've never been convinced by the argument that all those who drive in London need to do so. Granted, some do. But for many it probably falls within the other categories:

1) Those who prefer to drive, maybe because they have an inherent fear of public transport and the "high-pitched beeping noises" they make.

2) Those who drive just to make a point: "It's my human right to drive" types. The sort of people who get in the car just to go to the corner shop 100 metres down the road, struggle to find a parking spot nearby, spend ages hunting for a space, and then inevitably end up walking 200 meters to get back. But it doesn't matter to them. Because they have made a principled stand, even if they do end up looking like a pr*ck.

The last group are the sort of f*ckwits who have Clarkson's crap books on their shelves (I think I've made it quite clear before exactly what I think of him).

Which brings us to recent news. First is the less than shocking news that Boris has decided not to follow Ken's idea for a 20mph city-wide speed limit.

Let's ask the Standard's readers what they think:

"I always wondered where the surveys were to see how many people get hit in 20mph zones rather than how many survive – I suspect the total is very high given that in a street where children might be playing, a driver would be much safer with his eyes on the road than constantly on the speedo."
- St, London


You suspect? By this logic why have a speed limit at all? That way you needn't look at the speedo at all. Brilliant.

"refreshing to see that you will still be able to drive across london in less than a day. spend the money on teaching kids not to run in the road! 0% of people not hit by a car because they looked where the hell they were going died."
- Jonty, london


Yeah, f**king pedestrians. Make them run.

"People of London - this is what you voted for.
and it's flippin fantastic news....Yippee!
Common sense makes return to London. KenCuckoo world voted out!"
- Ethan, UK, formerly East London


Some great analysis there to round it off.

On the same day the Standard provided a nicely spun article which apparently was supposed to persuade everyone just how badly the congestion charge is hitting some of us:

”Company car drivers have collected more than £1 million in fines for driving in the western extension zone without paying the congestion charge, new figures show.”

What? They have been fined for not paying it? The cheek!

David Brennan, managing director of LeasePlan, was given a chance to air his peculiar take on it all:

"Drivers will pay the majority of these fines themselves but employers spend a great deal of time processing the documents.

The charge itself is a big enough burden for companies to shoulder, but there are also implications due to the administration costs that come with these rocketing levels of fines.

With many businesses already struggling in the downturn, the last thing they need is the hassle of managing so many fines.”


The administration costs? Is that a joke? How about you pay the damn charge in the first place and you won't need to worry about administration costs.

So, using the Standard's regular policy of having no right to reply, the article apparently teaches us that fine evaders are hard done by, deserving of our sympathy and form the basis of another reason why we should abolish the charge.

This is just taking the p*ss.

To be honest I'm just in a foul mood. If you want to know what I think then you can read my earlier, (relatively) calmer post. For now though I'm going to log off. Otherwise I might decide to track down Ethan, Jonty and co. and beat them to death with their gearsticks.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Simon Jenkins feels the pain.

The controversy surrounding Ian Blair's resignation generated understandably extensive discussion across the media, which led me to inevitable news surfing, seeking out the various takes on the whole event.

My web travels led me to the Times, where Simon Jenkins provided some light relief with one of the most ridiculous (and arguably offensive) comparisons I've read in quite a while:

"As for the shooting of innocent men by Blair’s buccaneering gunmen, it tallies with my own experience of being stopped by a loud-mouthed, rifle-toting officer in an unmarked car for allegedly “driving dangerously” round Hyde Park Corner."

Ok, I get it.

On a similar note, when Hurricane Katrina destroyed the homes and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people, it tallied with my own experience of when a gust of wind blew my umbrella from my hands onto the pavement below, where it got all dirty. Bad times.

You see, Simon understands. He really does. He shares De Menezes' pain. (Apart from the being shot in the head bit).

Monday, 6 October 2008

How to insert unrelated HE'S A W*NKER sentences.

One of the worst, but sadly often used tactics bad journalists employ is to insert random, completely unrelated sentences into news articles, with the sole aim of attempting to influence the reader's perception of the story (or in this case the individual involved).

Here is a prime example, from yesterday's Evening Standard:

"Peter Mandelson was set to have an operation for kidney stones today after being rushed to hospital at 3am by health minister and surgeon Lord Darzi.

Mr Mandelson, 54, began complaining of abdominal pain over the weekend. Yesterday, as he was having dinner with a friend at his £3.5 million Regent's Park home, the pain worsened and he rang for medical help."


And here is proof that it works:

"Never mind the kidney stones - how can he afford a 3.5 million pound house??"
- Delphine, Oxford


"And how has he managed to buy a 3.5 million pound house?"
- P Istaker, London


"£3.5m home...Sleaze all over again."
- Asw, Hong Kong


"How did Mandelson come to be in possession of a £3.5 million home?
How is it that these 'socialists' usually seem to end up loaded?"
- George, Durham


Etc

What about another hypothetical example, one that the ES would not use?:

"Mayor Boris Johnson today announced his plans for a new initiative into tackling gun crime. Johnson, who owns a top of the range Ferrari, said he was pleased with the plans."

Except that would be ridiculous.

Disclaimer: As far as I know Boris doesn't own a Ferrari. And if he does, who gives a f***. It's of no relevance. At all.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Jeremy Clarkson, Swindon and a pile of stones.

On the most recent episode of Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson managed to achieve what I thought was impossible: He made me dislike him even more than I do now. We’re talking Melanie Phillips levels here.

How? He congratulated, to rapturous applause from the audience, Swindon Borough Council’s Councillor Peter Greenhalgh, for leading the Conservative-run council’s proposals to withdraw funding for speed cameras.

As the Independent reported, Greenhalgh recently labelled speed cameras “a blatant tax on the motorist”, and suggested that “there are much more important things we as a council should do instead of acting as a law enforcement arm of this government."

Meanwhile, back at the Top Gear studio, Clarkson, Hammond and co. reached orgasmic levels of excitement, and promptly awarded Councillor Greenhalgh the 'Top Gear Trophy of Excellence' for “services to common sense in the face of blatant Government stupidity”, before cutting to a picture of a throne (which, if I had my way, they would tie Clarkson onto before placing it on the fast-lane of the M25).

And so the story began to spread, virus-like, across the internet forums: A victory for common sense! A brave stand against attacks on the innocent motorist! A battle against the tax-stealing government! A step towards ending the nanny state! And so on.

SwindonWeb, an unofficial website which aims to cover “anything and everything to do with Swindon”, gave their local readership a chance to comment:

“Doing 70 in a 30 is wrong, but I’ll bet most people get done doing 40-45 in a 30. And on a dual carriage that's not the crime of the century!!!!!! God I hate the government."
L J


Exactly, what’s wrong with 45 in a 30? That’s only 50% above the legal limit.

"Nice one make a change for Swindon to lead the way, now to get the boys in blue to give us a break as they think its now a good excuse for them to take over and rake in the cash. Bike cops with laser guns police camera vans, Get back to work and catch some real criminals."
mikeyb


This is the tipping point: ‘Mikeyb’ uses the phrase which sums up all that infuriates me about a large proportion of motorists: Their beliefs that speeding, careless driving – and even drink driving – are somehow not crimes. (Or at most are just minor crimes).

“The police should concentrate on real criminals”: Those that oppose any interference in their motoring lives seem to operate from this mindset.

Except it’s not a human right to drive. It’s a luxury – it should be earned. To argue that clamping down on abuse of this luxury is an attack on your civil liberties is absurd.

Yet for some people the ‘unnecessary’ enforcement of driving laws is more than just an annoyance. It becomes a matter of principle:

A petition on the 10 Downing Street website to scrap speed cameras, set up by the pressure group 'Safe Speed’, attracted over 28,000 signatures.

The Safe Speed campaign was founded by the late Paul Smith, who died last year. Immediately under the heading on the homepage of their website is a lone advert which seems almost a deliberate attempt to alienate any potential convert who may have otherwise been prepared to give the site a chance: “A very significant number of prosecutions are defective. The trick is to find the defect. A good firm of specialist lawyers may well be able to help. Safe Speed recommends…”

The central theme of the entire campaign, once you’ve boiled it down, is summed up by the following: “As soon as we increase regulation individual responsibility is reduced”.

By regulation, he primarily means speed cameras and strict speed limits. The former is an easy one – Smith sets out to try and prove that speed cameras simply do not work and can be counter-productive, and (to his credit) steers away from the cash-raising argument in favour of what is reported as being 5,000 hours of research.

The latter is more complex. His argument is hard to pin down. He begins by claiming he “welcomes properly set speed limits”.

But then goes on:

“Speed limits do little to modify the speed of traffic, and should never be used to attempt to modify the speed of traffic”.

Overall it is clear that although he argues for more variable limits, on the whole he means increasing the limit, the most extreme example being on rural roads:

“This is where we see the most problems with modern speed enforcement. The safe speed on British rural roads varies from 0 mph to over 150 mph, yet we have a "one size fits all" 60 mph national speed limit.”

Yes, that’s not a misprint. He is seriously suggesting you can safely drive on some rural roads at over 150 mph.

So if speed limits (and cameras, etc) detract from “individual responsibility”, what does he mean? And what, ultimately, is his solution?

“This leads us towards a very, very simple road safety strategy - if we can make our average driver just a little bit more like a class one police driver then we should expect accidents to fall. In order to achieve this we need to feed it right at the foundations of individual responsibility and attitude.”

I see.

Shortly after the Swindon story broke, the Independent ran an article entitled: ”The Big Question: Do speed cameras work, or are there better ways to make our roads safer?”

Rather fittingly they chose Swindon itself when arguing the case.

After a page of discussion, it reaches a few conclusions for and against speed cameras. So, do they work?

“Yes...
- Studies have shown that a reduction in the speed limit to 20mph in built-up areas causes a 60 per cent fall in accidents
- Evidence from Swindon showed a 30 per cent reduction in the numbers of people killed or injured since cameras were installed
- At 10 of the sites in Swindon where cameras were introduced, no road accident deaths have been recorded

No...
- Critics say it's not speed that kills but tiredness and careless driving. It's this that should be targeted with safer driving campaigns
- Speed cameras are being used as an easy way for the authorities to bump up their revenues, antagonising the public
- Cameras are counter-productive in creating a tendency for drivers to break the speed limit when they are not around”


This pretty much sums it up: The argument in support of cameras uses statistics, the arguments against do not. Worse, the opposing points actually drift from the question itself. The fact that speed cameras may be used as a money raiser is hardly an effective criticism of their effectiveness. And the third point is just bizarre. Surely if drivers break speed limits when cameras are not around then this is even more reason to keep them, unless this is some sort of twisted protest?

If I decided to start throwing stones inside a nightclub, it would raise two questions. The first would be: Why would you bring a pile of stones into a nightclub? To which I would respond: Ok, it is not the best analogy, but stick with me.

The second (and obviously more relevant one) is: Am I doing anything wrong? This seems a ridiculous question. Of course I’m doing something wrong, stupid and dangerous. I’m throwing stones around a dark room that is full of people. There is a pretty good chance I am going to hit someone and do some real damage.

But then again, maybe I’m not intending to hit anyone. Maybe I’m just enjoying throwing my stones. Maybe I think I’m an excellent shot and there is very little chance I will strike some bystander. And I’ll be damned if any nanny state starts infringing on my rights to hurl stones around. They should go and concentrate on real criminals – burglars and the like.

Granted, this is possibly the most ridiculous, convoluted analogy you could make, but I think the general point is reasonably clear.

I could drive at 50 mph on a road with a 30 mph limit, I could have a drink or two more than I’m supposed to before stumbling into my car, but still fool myself into believing I can handle it. (And I’m not going to have some PC government telling me otherwise!)

As for the effects: If I were mugged in the street, I may lose some valuable possessions, and it may be a traumatic experience, an event which could take a while to get over. But if I were hit by a car doing 50 mph when they should be doing 30 mph, I will probably not need to worry about my emotional state, because I’ll most likely be dead. Which is worse?

But somehow vast numbers of people don’t see the average careless or speeding driver as a criminal (unless they’re poor, working class teenagers from a council estate). Whole campaigns are set up to attack the laws and regulations which govern how we can drive, groups rally in support of a man who destroys speed cameras, and a councillor who plays political football with people’s lives gets a standing ovation from Jeremy Clarkson.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Right-wingers are wimps. Fact.

"Scientists studying voters in the US say our political views may be an integral part of our physical makeup.

Their research, published in the journal Science, indicates that people who are sensitive to fear or threat are likely to support a right wing agenda.

Those who perceived less danger in a series of images and sounds were more inclined to support liberal policies."


Want to know more about why some of us are namby-pamby, wimpy right-wingers? Then read on.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

The Andrew Gilligan Dictionary

For those who find themselves puzzled or frustrated when browsing the articles of award-winning journalist Andrew Gilligan, I have provided a series of definitions for some of the key words he uses which should clear up any confusion.

The Gilligan Dictionary
(Click links for examples of usage)

Bendy-buses: Death on wheels; a vehicle which produces “high-pitched beeping noises”.

Crony: A person who works or has worked with Ken Livingstone.

Experts: Individuals whose opinions matter, but only in certain circumstances. Often wrong.

Hypocrisy: A valid journalistic method to correct previous statements, employed when the focus of a news article changes.

Inverted Commas: A tool to underplay any attacks and mock critics (For example: “Scandal”).

Ken Livingstone: Satan.

Lee Jasper: A measure of corruption (For example: “I know Lee Jasper, and Ray Lewis is no Lee Jasper”).

Nit-picking: Any form of criticism directed at Boris Johnson. (Also known as ‘over-reaction’ or ‘whingeing’).

Olympics: A positive or negative event depending on the time or situation.

Routemaster: A conviction made flesh.

Tim Parker: An individual whose importance is dependant on his employment at City Hall.

Truth Check: A method of analysing the policies of individuals (Unnecessary in certain circumstances).

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Boris kicks non-existent staff out the building

From Britain's most impartial paper comes news of a "cost-cutting shake-up" at City Hall.

Here is my favourite little snippet:

"The Mayor said he wanted to streamline the Greater London Authority with around 100 job losses."

But then later on:

"He aims to cut the number to less than 700, although some of the posts that will go are already vacant."

Last time I checked (unless you're being very pedantic) getting rid of empty posts doesn't strictly class as job "losses", as the headline and initial paragraph states.

It's all in the semantics. It is true that removing as yet unfilled posts is still technically cutting. But the intention of the article - and indeed the headline - is to instil in the casual skim reader the idea that 100 overpaid wasters are literally going to be thrown out by their shirt collars.

Sniping aside, I'm genuinely interested to know how many of the cuts are vacant posts. "Some" is a touch vague.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The Lawyer fights back.

Last week a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found what it described as a "worrying trend of reversal" in the number of women in top positions of power across both the public and private sector. In 12 of the 25 job categories it surveyed it found that fewer women hold top posts compared to last year. In 5 the number remained the same.

Professions where the number of senior women had declined included those in the judiciary, politics and the press. For instance, according to the report "women make up just 19.3 percent of all MPs."

To put it in perspective the article on the EHRC website expanded on the "snail's pace" analogy used by the Commission:

"A snail could crawl:

- Nine times round the M25 in the 55 years it will take women to achieve equality in the senior judiciary.
- From Land's End to John O'Groats and halfway back again in the 73 years it will take for equal numbers of women to become directors of FTSE 100 companies.
- The entire length of the Great Wall of China in 212 years, only slightly longer than the 200 years it will take for women to be equally represented in Parliament.
"

Oh dear.

But hot on the heels of last week's report comes a study from 'The Lawyer'. As the article on their website states:

"More women are breaking into the top ranks of the UK’s leading law firms than ever before, research for The Lawyer UK 200 Annual Report has revealed."

However their enthusiastic revelation is somewhat dampened by the actual facts in the report which state that the number of female partners in the top 100 firms has increased by, well, 0.6% in two years. (Best hold off the champagne for now then.)

The article describes the findings as being "in ­contrast to a report from the ­Equality and Human Rights ­Commission".

This last statement, however, is a touch misleading. The EHRC only researched judges (high court and above), of which women make up just 9.6%, down 0.2% from 2006, and did not mention lawyers at all.

Regardless, for 'The Lawyer' to title the article "Female partners defy glass ceiling in record numbers" is a little over the top.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

BBC: Have your say, you cynical, moaning bastards.

Sometimes when I'm feeling a bit down I try to cheer myself up a little by logging on and laughing at the nauseatingly offensive, bigoted, often borderline racist, right-wing nuts that infest the BBC Have Your Say forums. It rarely works.

Alternatively, if I'm feeling in a good mood I feel compelled to log on anyway and despair at the cynical, selfish, mind-numbing vitriol that spews from the pages of what is a seemingly never-ending winge-a-thon.

Whichever way you look at it, it's an addiction.

So the best thing I could do was make a game out of it.

I call the game: "How F***ing Predictable Can You Be?"

The rules are simple:

First you must operate on the (safe) presumption that the most popular comments are going to be the sort of cliches you imagine would come from the mouth of someone who constantly yearns for rose-tinted times gone by, thinks 'taxes' is another word for 'stealing', is convinced an asylum seeker is about build a house at the bottom of their garden, is particularly sceptical of climate change, believes political correctness has 'gone mad', and uses the term 'Commies' to describe anyone vaguely to the left of Thatcher. To put it simply: They have 'had enough'.

That is your average BBC Have Your Say contributor.

Once you have that mindset it's easy. So here we go: In the morning the BBC will open a new discussion. Looking at the title make an educated guess as to what you think the typical contributor would say on the subject. When you have finished, open the debate and click on the "Readers Recommend" tab. Compare your answer to the most recommended comment and see how close you got.

Here are a few examples of the system in action:

Let's start with a crime debate from back in May, which can be found here:

How can we tackle knife crime?

An interesting debate. What steps could we take? Stop and search is a highly charged issue. So what does the most recommended Have Your Say contributor have to say about it?

"Oh, will it upset the knife carrying little darlings who clearly have done no wrong? No doubt it’s against their human rights not to carry a knife then?
This type of liberal thinking sums up everything that is wrong with fighting crime in the UK."
Cyrus P Turntable, At The Races
Recommended by 484 people


I see. (I almost forgot: A recurring theme in the forums is that the Human Rights Act is bad. Apparently it only applies to criminals or something.)

Now let's try an international issue, discussed in June:

"Should African leaders apply more pressure on Mugabe?"

Perhaps we need to discuss what form this pressure could take, how to encourage progress and what barriers lie in the way. Let's ask the most recommended contributor, responding here:

"All these states demanded independence from the old colonial powers after WW2 and they all got their wish, since then all they have done is scream for help and continuously held out the begging bowl.
It’s about time these countries were left alone to sort out their own problems maybe then they will start to grow up."
Alan Baker, Chelmsford
Recommended by 429 people


How sympathetic.

Just to show how ridiculously predictable this game is, move on to a potentially inoffensive topic. Such as this one here, which cropped up in August:

"What is Britain's happiest place?"

Surely the system can't apply here? It's a nice topic. Maybe the most recommended comment will be "Brighton - because it's fun!" or "York - because it's friendly and there are some lovely sights!"

Sadly not. Because when you factor in the mindset of your average Have Your Say contributor the answer is obvious:

"The happiest place in Britain? Any place that has not yet been "enriched" by enforced, unwanted "diversity", so that people still feel they belong to that place and share its history and traditions."
Robert Soria
Recommended by 220 people


Marvellous, isn't it?

UPDATE: This weekend provided a few more debates which neatly fit the mould.

On Saturday this debate was raised:

Do we care enough about the Paralympics?

The most endorsed comment summed up the general consensus of the forum:

"I'm not really bothered, nor interested in this PC nonsense."
Bored Indifferent Chap.
Recommended by 152 people


Well at least he's honest.

I'll leave this sprawling post with another fitting example from yesterday:

What is your favourite decade?

"The seventies. The last time I can remember England feeling like England before PC loonies made it Racist to be proud to be Heterosexual, White or Christian, Whilst encouraging every one else to celebrate their ROOTS!"
Louis Cannell, Northampton, United Kingdom
Recommended by 131 people


Ah, yes. Louis nails what the majority of Have Your Say contributors feel is wrong with today: It's today.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Evening Standard: "It's Ken's fault... What do you think Boris?"

The Evening Standard has launched into full defensive mode today.

Here is the news:

"Tube and bus fares will rise by up to 10 per cent in the new year, [London Mayor] Boris Johnson announced today.

The price of taking a bus with Oyster pay-as-you-go will increase by slightly more, from 90p to £1, in January.

Underground passengers in the morning rush hour will pay £1.60 - a 10p increase - for a zone one journey and from £2 to £2.20 if they venture into zone two on pay-as-you-go. Trains and daily and weekly travel cards will also go up by more than the rate of inflation."


In the main article the Standard uses half the space to allow Johnson to blame former mayor Ken Livingstone for ""cynical and irresponsible" pre-election cash freezes" and then generously provides Livingstone with just one line to defend himself - completely cutting out his core arguments.

The Leader comment then goes on a full-out assault against Livingstone:

"But we should be in no doubt about where the real blame lies: with Mr Johnson's predecessor, Ken Livingstone."

Finally, just for balance, Boris Johnson himself is given a column in the paper to justify the rise. By blaming Livingstone again.

Saying that, right-to-reply has never been an Evening Standard strong point.

Anyway, here is the Livingstone defence that the Standard deemed not worth printing:

"Boris Johnson has lost between £30 and £50 million a year by abandoning the £25 a-day charge on the worst gas guzzlers in the congestion charging zone, he has scrapped the cheap oil deal with Venezuela, costing London £16 million a year, and he may throw away a lot more by abandoning the extension of the congestion charge to Kensington and Chelsea."

Boriswatch.co.uk provides a more in-depth discussion. Click here for more.

Side note: My favourite reader comment on the main Standard article:

"If people worked a bit harder they could maybe afford a car and wouldn't need to worry about taking public transport.
- Henrick, Belgravia, London"


Well that's one solution I suppose...

Monday, 1 September 2008

The C-Charge: An exercise on fulfilling pledges

I was looking forward to this.

Without a doubt many people who opposed the congestion charge were under the impression prior to the election that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, was going to give them some form a vote to scrap the western extension or simply abolish it himself.

A brief glance through various comments and blogs across the net also clearly indicate that some believed he would get rid of the congestion charge completely.

Of course anyone who paid real attention would remember that his ideas were a tad vague and the latter simply incorrect.

So, finally, here is the news, as reported by the Evening Standard:

"Boris Johnson today launched a consultation on the future of the western extension of the congestion charge zone."

But the punch comes straight after:

"Although scrapping the scheme entirely is not a proposal..."

That is going to be a wake-up call for those voters who (mistakenly) thought this would be an option.

So what are the proposals?

"Possible changes include:

• Making the congestion charge easier to pay by introducing accounts for motorists.

• Introducing a charge-free period in the middle of the day in the western extension.

• Increasing the residents' discount to 100 per cent (this would apply to the extension and original charging zone)."


My money is on the first option being a near certainty: A minor adjustment to the system which can be spun to make it appear that he has somehow "fulfilled his pledge".

Then there is the justification for the second option: "The charge could be abolished during the middle of the day, making it cheaper for businesses to operate".

This is just confusing. Surely (for those businesses / traders that do oppose the charge) it would be better if they "abolished" it during the early mornings when they are bringing in goods?

I'm interested to see what the reaction to this will be. No readers comments on the Standard website as of yet.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Charlie Brooker: How to generate net traffic

Once again I failed to read / link to a classic Charlie Brooker piece when it was written. This one is only a month old.

The article, entitled "Online POKER marketing could spell the NAKED end of VIAGRA journalism as we LOHAN know it", relates to the net traffic that is apparently generated when certain key words are inserted (Sexy / Olsen Twins / barely legal, etc).

You can check it out here, but I'd thought I'd include some snippets.

Cue Charlie:

"In this day and age, what with the credit crunch and the death of print journalism and everything, the use of attention-grabbing keywords is becoming standard practice. "Search engine optimisation", it's known as, and it's the journalistic equivalent of a classified ad that starts with the word "SEX!" in large lettering, and "Now that we've got your attention . . ." printed below it in smaller type.

For instance, according to the latest Private Eye, journalists writing articles for the Telegraph website are being actively encouraged to include oft-searched-for phrases in their copy. So an article about shoe sales among young women would open: "Young women - such as Britney Spears - are buying more shoes than ever."

"And wait, it gets worse. These phrases don't just get lobbed in willy-nilly. No. A lot of care and attention goes into their placement. Apparently the average reader quickly scans each page in an "F-pattern": reading along the top first, then glancing halfway along the line below, before skimming their eye downward along the left-hand side. If there's nothing of interest within that golden "F" zone, he or she will quickly clear off elsewhere.

Which means your modern journalist is expected not only to shoehorn all manner of hot phraseology into their copy, but to try and position it all in precisely the right place. That's an alarming quantity of unnecessary shit to hold in your head while trying to write a piece about the unions. Sorry, SEXUAL unions."


The vast number of comments underneath Brooker's piece are well worth a scroll through as well.

They range from the seriously pissed off:

"You are clearly trying to nail that Bill-O'Reilly-of-the-British-media label, aren't you Brooker? Try to remember though, that even Bill O'Reilly understands that occasionally he has to appear normal and make sense. I reckon you were probably thinking of big tits in your squalid bedsit when they were doing the Critical Thinking part of your journalism course."

To the bloody hilarious:

"Eh! Who is this Brooker twat and where are the naked Lohan pictures Google have promised me?"

Ken to assist Chavez: Cue inevitable right-wing backlash

The news today is that the former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, is to work as a consultant for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

Here's some background the article provides for those who didn't follow the oil for advice deal:

"As mayor, Mr Livingstone struck a deal to swap cheap Venezuelan oil for city planning advice, but it was cancelled by his successor Boris Johnson.

He said at the time the agreement would help provide half-price bus and tram travel to some 250,000 Londoners on income support.

In return, the mayor was to offer officials in Caracas advice on municipal transport, environmental issues, waste management and tourism

But after taking office in May, Mr Johnson announced he would not renew the deal, saying many Londoners found it "uncomfortable"

Mr Livingstone said on Wednesday he hoped to help Caracas undergo a transformation in the next 20 years."

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Paxman on the plight of the middle class white man.

Renowned journalist and TV presenter Jeremy Paxman - best known for asking the same question a dozen times - has highlighted the desperate struggle of the middle-class white man in the television industry.

In a interview at the Edinburgh festival, Paxman, who reportedly gets by on a £1.1 million salary, suggests that any men trying to break into TV should "give up all hope" and that being a white middle-class male was "the worst thing" you could be in the industry.

He is right of course. It is hard to spot a middle-class white male fronting the shows on our box these days. Except on Newsnight. Oh - and BBC News, Channel 4 News, ITV News, Question Time, The Daily Politics, The One Show, University Challenge, Have I Got News For You, Mock The Week, Would I Lie To You, Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, The Graham Norton Show, The Sunday Night Project, The X-Factor, Eggheads, Rogue Traders, Masterchef, Match of the Day, Top Gear, etc.

And as for the management - well white men are all but obsolete. As long as you overlook Mark Thompson, Mark Byford, Andy Duncan, John Smith, Mark Sharman, Jeremy Darroch, James Murdoch, etc.

He is not the first high profile TV figure to raise the issue. Back in 2002 Michael Beurk (during a rant on a channel 5 show that gave celebs a chance to rant) similarly claimed that "all the big jobs in broadcasting are held by women" and that a "shift" in the balance of power between the sexes had gone too far.

A few years later TV astronomer Patrick Moore told the world how he yearned for the good old days when men read the news, went as far as to say he had stop watching Star Trek because they "went PC" by making "women commanders" and then pulled out all the stops by blaming women for the rise of everything from soap operas to quizzes.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Will Self: Ballyhoo.

Will Self: Often dry, witty, intelligent. And responsible for one of the best radio debates in the last decade.

His column in the Standard today, however, is an example of one of his more recent tendencies towards unfunny, cynical rambles. Cue the best (worst) moments:

1) "Boris was cheerily incapable of waving the [Olympic flag] even in the windless surroundings of the Bird's Nest stadium. It made my heart swell with Cockney pride."

and:

"No, our only hope lies with Boris. Let this be your finest hour, I say! Let your unworldly manner be a flaming beacon of hope in a world crazed by excellence, profits - and power."

BORIS YOU TW*T! LOL! I LUV HIM HE IS GREAT WELL BETTER THAN THOSE OTHER ONES!! HIL-ARIOUS! LOL!!

2) "I have a sneaking suspicion that Boris doesn't really like all the corporate ballyhoo that's already surrounding the London Games."

He doesn't really like it? Presumably this is a joke. If not, it's quite worrying.

3) "Moreover, a formidable classicist himself, [Boris] cannot be unaware that the modern games once had rather more high-minded aspirations: to foster excellence without regard for narrow, nationalist considerations."

Yes, I'm sure that was exactly what was on his mind as he waved the Olympic flag in front of a television audience of hundreds of millions.

4) "Frankly, Ken would have been a far more frightening-prospect as Gamesmeister, what with his sharp suits and brazen embrace of demagoguery."

Very cheap, tiresome shot. (Side note: Sharp suits? Ken?!)

5) "Lord Coe is still trumpeting about the great regeneration of Stratford... He points to the 2,000 long-term unemployed who are already employed on the 2012 site, but I say: you're going to have to do better than that for your £9billion."

Except if we didn't have the Olympics then the idea that real investment would have gone into that area is laughable. In my books any improvement there is a success.

(Where has my sense of humour gone today? Will Self - he's funny, right? Right?)

The Indy interview: Ken Livingstone

Here's a link to an interesting (although fairly brief) interview with former London mayor Ken Livingstone in the Independent yesterday talking about his new radio show (“I’m going to invite onto the programme everyone who hates me”), Boris Johnson and "nemesis" Andrew Gilligan: "Why Ken's still seeing Red".

One paragraph stands out, in which he talks about the large number of newspaper columnists:

“There are people who never did anything and I’m not terribly interested in their opinions. I don’t want to pick out anybody but Catherine Bennett (of The Observer) would be a good start. Why is anyone interested in her opinions? Has she written great literature, produced great art work, run a major corporation, been elected to office, or is she just paid to produce bile? You might as well pop into the local pub and say ‘What’s your opinion?’ It’s equally valid.”

Why Catherine Bennett? Almost certainly because of this article.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Gilligan does a Parker backtrack

Tim Parker.

When he was first hired Gilligan hailed him as being key to an "essential revolutionary moment".

But now he has resigned Gilligan miraculously changes his mind:

"Boris does need authority and experience behind him but more like that of, say, Jonathan Powell... than of Tim Parker".

I see.

Quick - Rewrite!!

An update on my last post about Boris' plane problem:

The main article obviously was not following the line.

A few hours have passed and it has now been re-written.

What sticks out immediately is that the reference to Johnson breaking his promise about downgrading to a cheaper hotel and instead staying in the £400 a night official Olympics committee hotel has been conveniently deleted from the new version.

Then there is the small matter of changing the headline and shoving the embarrassing content further down the article.

Ah well, it was never going to last...

(On a side note, it is always amusing to refer back to the reliable Mr Gilligan. Quoting his article I discussed last week:

"The size of his party and the grade of his hotel has been reduced and he will fly economy"

Whereas it turns out that the grade of the hotel hasn't been reduced after all and that he tried his best not to fly economy.)

Standard: How to undermine your own reporters

Advice to the Standard: If you are going to try and spin a story, it is a very bad idea to directly contradict it in an article on the same day.

Today, in a headline article by Pippa Crerar entitled "Weary Boris is refused an upgrade on China flight", we are told:

"British Airways denied the Mayor an upgrade from his economy seat on the nine-hour overnight flight to the Olympics.

City Hall aides are understood to have requested a move to business class for the Mayor before leaving Heathrow but were turned down."


Then, in a monumental gaffe Boris himself would be proud of, the Standard links to their own Comment section, which tries to congratulate our mayor. Unfortunately it directly contradicts their own article:

"As part of his efforts to cut back on needless extravagance at City Hall, the Mayor, Boris Johnson, made a point of travelling economy class to Beijing for the Olympics."

Let's see - he made a point of travelling economy by getting refused an upgrade?

Ok...

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Tories: Power to the impoverished

The Tories are 'best placed' to tackle poverty, apparently.

The BBC reports:

"George Osborne is set to claim that the Tories are best placed to tackle poverty and create a fair society."

Unfortunately he fails to point out that most Tories aren't remotely interested in creating a fair society, regardless of whether they are 'best placed' to do it.

Some radical suggestions he outlined include 'better education' and 'improving schools', words which have never before been uttered in relation to this issue.

On a more serious note a few of his suggestions immediately stick out:

"He said the party would strengthen tax credits by tackling the "couples penalty" which he says disadvantages couples who live together - and improving administration of the system."

and:

"...supporting families who are "trying to do right thing""

Supporting families? Couples?

Nice try with the re-branding. But it is clearly just the same old Conservative approach to 'family values' and the 'importance of marriage' revamped.

Billboards: Screaming Ken in your face

The Evening Standard billboards - which crowd around London's tube station entrances - have always been a pet hate of mine. They are responsible for some of the most disgraceful content I have come across. Prior to May's London mayoral election they entertained every passer-by with non-stop attacks on then mayor Ken Livingstone.

One such billboard printed the infamous "Suicide Bomb Backer Runs Ken Campaign", a headline so misleading that it could be labelled a blatant lie.

I quote Decca Aitkenhead, who referred to this in a Guardian interview with Andrew Gilligan back in April:

"The story referred to Azzam Tamimi - a Muslim academic who endorsed suicide bombs in Palestine during a BBC interview four years ago - and a campaign group called Muslims4Ken. The problem was, Tamimi is not involved with Muslims4Ken at all, but is merely urging Muslims to vote for the mayor.

Had Livingstone made such a misleading claim - say by suggesting that because the BNP's leader is urging supporters to give their second preference vote to the Tories, which he is, this means a "Racist Runs Boris Campaign" - he would undoubtedly have found himself quoted in another of Gilligan's "Truth Check" articles, which scrutinise the candidate's words for lies."


Even after the election the billboards, scattered across London, continue relentless attacks on Ken and - unsurprisingly - random non-political stories whenever a Boris "problem" arises.

Over to Mr Stop Boris, writing at Boriswatch, for the latest example of the laughable lack of impartiality on London's only paid for newspaper's billboards:

"I’ve been in central London quite a lot lately, so I’ve been delighted to be reacquainted with the horrors of the Evening Standard display boards.

Last Friday I couldn’t move for being SHOUTED AT by their signs about Ken Livingstone’s all-expenses-paid trip – sorry, junket – to China for the Olympics. On visiting their web site I find I correctly predicted the author of the piece, Ken’s creepy stalker Andrew Gilligan, but also I was quite pleased to see a good half or more of the comments were quite sensibly pointing out that the Chinese government’s use of its money isn’t really of any concern to Londoners, and asking when Gilligan was going to start the long-awaited scrutiny of Boris he promised us before the election. Nice work.

Anyway, after making such a big deal out of a story of next-to-no relevance to Londoners, I approached the Evening Standard stall at my railway station with interest this evening to see what they had to say today following Tim Parker’s surprise resignation.

Oh no, what a shame! For some completely unrelated reason, today the Standard decided there wasn’t room for any political news, or any other usual blue-bordered headline, on their boards. Instead, both boards trumpeted Team GB’s achievements at the Olympics."


Any nerdy billboard-watcher such as myself will not be shocked by this. Just annoyed.

I've got a few suggestions for up-coming billboards, which the Standard could consider:

"Red Ken seen drinking champagne"

"Livingstone: I didn't watch all of Olympics."

"Johnson doing good job, says insider"

"Boris helps elderly black woman cross road"

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Farewell to the "Prince of Darkness"

This morning London awoke to the sad news that the First Deputy Mayor of London, Tim Parker, has become the 3rd senior aide to resign from Boris' administration, following Deputy Mayor Ray Lewis and Deputy Chief of Staff James McGrath.

Boriswatch has compiled some immediate reactions - just click here.

However, my first response - as ever - was to bring up the Evening Standard's Comment, who concluded with this:

"He [Johnson] can survive the loss of two deputies; any more will look like carelessness."

Always a good strategy: When it's difficult to find a positive, just do your best to play it down.

Here are some other versions the Standard could use should any more deputies suddenly depart:

"Three is unfortunate; any more may be damaging to the mayor"

"Four is recoverable; any more could reflect badly on Mr Johnson"

"Five could be seen as a problem; any more could lead to serious questions being asked"

etc.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Tired of "Ken's games"? Apparently not.

Few things make me mad.

Drivers who class any tightening of laws on speeding or dangerous driving as an infringement on their human rights are up there.

Bloggers who casually dismiss decades of meticulously gathered evidence by environmental scientists about global warming as being some lefty, tax-raising conspiracy are another.

However, award-winning journalist Andrew Gilligan pips them to the post as number one. (I left out Tories - that's a given).

To be fair, even a ten second scroll down through my previous entries will tell you that, but it always feels better to reinforce your opinions over and over again. Just like Andrew Gilligan does.

Today - like most days - he is writing about Ken. So let's take a peek....

What?! Ken has gone to the Olympic Games! On taxpayers' money! (No, hang on... not on taxpayers' money. The Chinese paid.). The nerve of the man!

According to Gilligan he has "defended the communist regime's human rights record.". Loosely.

Tory MP Greg Hands, an obvious choice to consult in these matters, is inserted near the end of the article. Presumably to ensure we can get a word such as "appalled" thrown in for good measure.

But what about our current mayor? He's going to go there to collect the torch isn't he?

"But the size of his party and the grade of his hotel has been reduced and he will fly economy"

Ok, Andrew, no need to get defensive.

Within the paper's comment section we learn more about "Ken's Games".

One sentence sums up the whole ridiculousness of this story. Without a hint of irony the Standard prints this gem at the end of the Comment piece:

"But as ever since his election defeat, Mr Livingstone's words are in fact peripheral."

Which is why they dedicated three pages of their paper to it today.

Friday, 8 August 2008

A victory?

No-one could have expected the outcome of Guantanamo's first war crimes trial.

Osama Bin Laden's former driver, Salim Hamdan, was aquitted by a miltary jury of 'conspiracy to commit murder' and convicted of 'material support for terrorism'.

But it was the sentence which was the shock.

Facing up to 30 years in jail, Mr Hamdan was instead handed a sentence of 66 months. As he has already been held for 61 months he will be eligible for release early next year.

The BBC reported the emotional response by the defence team:

"The lead defence laywer, retired navy officer Charlie Swift, was standing next to Mr Hamdan and raised his arms in a cheer when the sentence was announced.

He appeared on the verge of tears as he hugged his client, relieved after five years of working on a case that seemed doomed to fail."


In addition came some words of empathy from the judge:

""After (you have served your sentence), I don't know what happens", the judge, Capt Keith Allred, told Mr Hamdan. "I hope the day comes when you return to your wife and your daughters and your country".

Mr Hamdan, replied with "Inshallah" (God willing) and got an "Inshallah" back from the judge."


But The Times spelled out the depressing reality of what Salim Hamdan's future may hold, regardless of this seeming victory:

"He is eligible for release in just five months, but the White House has made clear for months that whatever happened to Hamdan, he would still be held indefinitely because of his classification as an 'unlawful enemy combatant'."

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Boris disappoints Standard

Mayor Johnson has let down the Evening Standard. So much so that they have decided to make it (almost) front page news today.

As the Standard reports:

"Boris Johnson was accused today of reneging on two key pledges - to stop the spread of "inappropriate" tower blocks and to preserve small shops"

A negative Boris story from the Standard? But why?

The clue is in that first paragraph:

Pledge number two... where have I seen that before?... Oh yes! It's the Evening Standard's "Save Our Small Shops Campaign".

No wonder they are so annoyed.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Charlie Brooker on rightwingers.

No idea how I overlooked this before - but here is a classic Charlie Brooker piece from 26 May of this year.

If I was promised to be endowed with even half the comedy talent as Brooker I would happily kill a man (preferably Andrew Gilligan, although I'd make do with George Osborne).

What makes Brooker great is his ability to write articles which are simultaneously hilarious and absolutely spot on. For me it feels like he is picking the random thoughts right out of my head and putting them into print. Funny print.

This section is a perfect example:

"In recent years, scientists have begun exploring the notion that your political leaning may be hardwired into your biology, invisibly imprinted on your cells. This would explain a lot.

For instance, I know in my bones that rightwing policies are wrong. Obviously wrong. They just are. It's Selfishism, pure and simple. Nasty stuff. Consequently I don't "get" Tories, never have and never will. We don't gel. There's something missing in their eyes and voices; they're the same yet different; bodysnatchers running on alien software.

Yet that's precisely how I must seem to them: an inherently misguided and ultimately unknowable idiot. (I'm right and they're wrong, of course - but they can be forgiven for not working that out. They can't help it. They were blighted at birth.)"

Monday, 4 August 2008

Hmm, what shall I write about today?...

Any idea what Andrew Gilligan has been writing about today? Tell you what - don't bother guessing - you know what the answer will be anyway.

Today he expresses his disgust at the payouts to Ken's "closest cronies" (apparently there is a scale of cronyism).

Don't worry though - Livingstone is given a whole three sentences to defend himself. (Which is three more than he usually gets).

In typical Evening Standard style the article is accompanied by a less than flattering photo of an adviser to the former mayor: sneering, scruffy and not that far removed from an average press snap of some recently convicted criminal.

For more examples of this photo-spin, compare those accompanying stories about Ken and company, which you can find by clicking here (scroll to 3rd photo) and here, with a typical one about Boris, located here.

"Cronyism". That must be Andrew's favourite word. For those who want a definition of the word, the Gilligan Dictionary defines it as: "A person who works or has worked with Ken Livingstone."

I've said it many times before: The man, by any measure, is completely obsessed with the former mayor. His inability to change the subject is bizarre. But it is one particular aspect of this that concerns me: His criticisms go beyond the last mayoralty, beyond the former staff, beyond previous policies. It centres on the man himself. It would not be unfair to go as far as to say that Gilligan hates Ken Livingstone.

Beyond this is an overt policy from both Gilligan and the Standard as a whole to protect and support Mayor Johnson - the man who gave Gilligan a job - from criticism.

Any negative stories that surface are immediately dismissed as over-reactions, non-events, "nitpicking", the early blips that come from a new start, or someone else's fault.

If all else fails and a positive spin cannot be put on such a story then it is simply sidelined or ignored completely.

It is this that destroys any attempts to claim journalistic impartiality.

For me, the hypocrisy of Andrew Gilligan can be best summed up by the following:

Back in March of this year, in an interview with the Independent about his "war with Ken", Gilligan said:

"We are just doing what journalists should do, which is holding people in power to account. I will do exactly the same to Boris if he becomes mayor."

Mr Gilligan - you lied.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Miliband or no Miliband?

Will he or won't he? (Probably not).

But more importantly - would it make any difference at all if he did have the top job?

Labour's disastrous result in the Glasgow East by-election allowed political pundits to entertain themselves with wild predictions: If the swing away from Labour were to be repeated at a general election then Labour could be left with just one MP in Scotland, the PM and the Chancellor could be among the many who would lose their seats, etc.

But, assuming a Labour win is all but impossible, could a change of leader at least provide damage limitation come the next election?

The Daily Mail reports that allies of Brown have warned that "pressure for an election would be "unstoppable" if a new Prime Minister was installed for the second time since 2005 without voters having a say."

Of course the idea of any other parties demanding that any new leader this term should immediately call an election (as they did when Brown took office) shows a deliberate refusal to acknowledge political history.

As John Kennedy O'Connor pointed out on ABC's 'Perspective' program back in June 2007, the Tories hardly a have a good record in this area when "five of their last seven Prime Ministers took over mid-term, four of whom doing so without even an internal party election"

Despite this, the myth that Labour did anything out of the ordinary - or wrong - when Blair handed power to Brown without immediately calling a general election is one that is (unfortunately for the Government) rife amongst the electorate, perpetuated by the media and the opposition.

But whether or not a challenge is made this term, undoubtedly behind the scenes Labour will already be looking for a successor as leader. The bookies certainly rate Miliband's chances.

Anthony Browne: A foreigner opened his eyes.

Anthony Browne: Recently appointed Policy Director for Mayor Johnson.

Moderate? Keen on multiculturalism? Fan of public sector management? Respects left-wing views? Enjoys walks in Hackney?

Not quite.

A selection of his best articles, educating the masses about how to cut down on the unwanted masses, can be found splattered across the internet. The Spectator is a good place to start. Thought I'd include a few quotes and respective links.

Don't feel obliged to read them all. They are pretty much identical anyway.

Over to Browne:

"Sharing the same language, culture and values as the people you come into daily contact with may not be excitingly multicultural, but it means you end up with deeper relationships, a sense of community, belonging and security."

"The decline of diversity within countries preserves the diversity between them."

See more of this, including why he admires Japan, here.

"On top of all the legitimate Eastern Europeans from the enlarged EU, the open border mania has let in lots of less legitimate immigrants, from Russian mafia bosses to Kosovan and Albanian gangs."

(Double-take... Yes, he did write Russian mafia bosses.)

That gem can be found hidden somewhere here.

"Sometimes it takes a foreigner to open your eyes."

(Don't get excited. It's more of the same. His eyes have obviously been "open" for a while now).

To find out what he means, jump here.

You get the picture. In a nutshell: Immigration = bad.

He won't be moving to Hackney or Finsbury Park anytime soon.

Friday, 18 July 2008

How to make a problem disappear.

The Evening Standard may have found ways of underplaying - or dismissing - the dropping of the anti-racism message in this year's Rise Festival. Gilligan did a particularly good job of it.

But, the question is, what about next year? Won't Boris’ administration have the same problems?

Well, not if they find a more permanent solution. Page 26 of the FAP report makes a suggestion:

There may also be scope for reviewing the list of events offered through Events for London; it is possible that a detailed critical analysis could generate substantial savings, particularly if entire events such as the ‘Rise Festival’ (which cost over £300,000) were cancelled.

Well, that’s one way of avoiding the issue I suppose.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

FAP Report: Ken wasted money. (We think).

After months of thorough investigation by a panel which seemed to forget what the term 'impartial' means, Wheatcroft and co. have released the FAP report into the evil workings of Ken's corrupt, thieving regime. (Or for those who are not Andrew Gilligan: The last London mayoralty.)

For those with enough energy to plough through it then I pre-warn you: Prepare for 40+ minutes of reading which culminates in the realisation that you have read pages of points which seem to have no relevance to each other.

It essentially amounts to a 'D' Grade undergraduate essay, on which the tutor has written: "Good structure, but needs work. Try drawing conclusions from actual facts."

My two favourite points from the report:

"We suspect that projects may have benefited also from this desire to use up the budget."

Suspect? In an official report the investigators decide that guessing is appropriate.

"There is some anecdotal evidence that the previous Chief Executive congratulated people who spent up to budget in the year"

For those who don't see how ridiculous it is to print those words within what should be a respectable official report, I thought I would provide a dictionary definition of 'anecdotal evidence':

"An informal form of hearsay obtained from random sources and having no legal basis."

I see.

Side note: I notice a certain Andrew Gilligan is credited within the FAP report. Bet he's chuffed.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Ray Lewis: The conspiracy.

Anyone with an interest in the real reasons behind JFK's assassination, who was actually responsible for 9/11 and which studio the moon landing was filmed in are in luck:

Today's Standard runs an article which investigates whether "a plot" was behind the whole Ray Lewis scandal, which obviously relies on the rather comical assumption that elements of the church are somehow secretly seeking to destroy Boris Johnson's administration.

So, what was the real reason why the church didn't warn Boris Johnson about Lewis'past?

"The Tories at City Hall smell a plot. The Mayor's senior aide Nick Boles thinks that, at the least, Church leaders have been negligent: "The Church sat on it and suddenly decided to bring it into the public arena now. Why?" he asked."

Why, indeed. What ghastly plan have they concocted?!

"Some suspect a political agenda behind the fact they surfaced at a time apparently calculated to cause Boris Johnson maximum embarrassment."

Hmm... Perhaps the Church of England is in league with the Labour Party?

"Senior figures at City Hall asked why, when nearly 10,000 letters were delivered to the Mayor's office shortly after he was elected, this one was not marked private and confidential to denote its significance?"

Precisely. Everybody knows that whenever you send a letter to City Hall you should always write: "URGENT! READ ME NOW!!" on the envelope. Otherwise it just goes straight in the bin.

"But mayoral aides have said that to include a veiled reference in paragraph six of a long letter was, effectively, burying it in code."

Well of course - no-one reads WHOLE letters. People get bored after the first few lines. It is borderline negligent to write something of importance within the main text of a letter. It should always be scrawled at the top in capital letters. Preferably in blood for maximum effect.

(Reminder to self: Draft a letter to City Hall. Include the words "YOU'RE MAD" halfway through and see if they can crack the crafty code...)

Monday, 7 July 2008

Gilligan: Knives not Knifing

In my last post I said to keep an eye on Gilligan's response to the Ray Lewis mess. Once again he never fails to disappoint.

I want to start off by making clear that I am prepared to reserve judgment about the financial allegations - a luxury not afforded to Lee Jasper.

So, let's begin:

"Of course Ray Lewis... had to go."

Agreed. But then...

"Ordinary Londoners may see Lewis as a man... brought down by petty enmities and long-ago mistakes."

So it's a valid excuse to have done something seriously wrong provided it was in the past? And by what measure, exactly, is this 'petty'?

"Well, I know Lee Jasper, and Ray Lewis is no Lee Jasper. No public money is missing."

Ok, so apparently it is acceptable to steal money from individuals who trust you as long as it doesn't hit the average taxpayer.

"Boris needs to get back to the story Londoners really care about."

Exactly: Who cares. No big deal is it. Bit of lying, incompetence, etc. No harm in that...

"That [knife crime], rather than this "scandal", is how he will be judged."

This is a curious one: why has the word scandal been written in inverted commas? The implication seems to be that, once again, Gilligan sees this as an over-reaction.

The trouble is that he makes the mistake of trying to play down the issue - and once again shift the topic back to Lee Jasper and the Labour party ("Labour can usually be relied on to trump any Tory disarray.")

There is something depressing about how Andrew Gilligan has developed as a journalist. Little more than a year ago he was writing reasonably balanced columns, with more well-thought out, logical arguments.

However, as the election approached he appeared to get more and more angry, which badly damaged his approach.

And since the election it has descended into bitterness. He is dismissive, defensive and even patronising.

If he continues down this path he is also in danger of sounding desperate.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Mayor's aide in claims of sexual and financial misconduct

Oh dear. First Boris loses one aide - deputy chief of staff James McGrath - over remarks with arguably quite obvious racist undertones. Now, little more than a week later another aide - deputy mayor Ray Lewis - is facing a double whammy of allegations of both sexual and financial misconduct.

Keep an eye on Gilligan's next column. Surely he's going to take a similar line as he took to Lee Jasper from the start? Surely?

Hmm...

Gilligan: IT'S THE BUSES!!!!!!!

Gilligan is excited: The launch of the new Routemaster bus design competition is upon us.

So why is it all so important?

"What the Routemaster symbolised was public-service idealism: a conviction made flesh"

A 'conviction made flesh'? It's a bus, Andrew.

Anyway, to get more flesh on the roads we need to push ahead. Trouble is there are just a few small barriers to Gilligan's (sorry, Johnson's) vision. Basically, TFL, the mayor's transport advisor and Boris himself are "doubtful", due to the "difficulties".

Oh dear. Hang on though:

"Yet experts are often wrong, and they're wrong about this", says Gilligan.

Exactly - who needs spectacle-wearing transport professionals when the Standard's resident bus expert is here to impart his wisdom.

I say wisdom. But actually it's more of a rant:

"Theoretically, a bendy does carry about twice the old RM's load, but all the extra people, and more besides, have to stand. The new RM will be larger than the old one, and will let you sit down. And what TfL tended to do when a route went from Routemasters to bendies was to reduce the frequency - so it should be easy enough to increase the frequency right back again."

Ok...

Any problems you have with current double-decker buses?

"The air is filled with high-pitched beeping noises”

No, that's just the voices in your head Andrew.

But to be fair on Gilligan, he does get one point right:

“It's [Johnson's] only specific manifesto item that most Londoners remember.”

Actually - hang on a minute... Boris had a manifesto?!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Crime and Education: A question of "integrity"

Doing the rounds in the papers today is the news of Majid Ahmed, an applicant to Imperial College's medical school, who was rejected on the basis of a spent criminal conviction.

The 18 year old, who is described as coming from a "deprived area", was convicted of burglary in 2005 but "turned his life around" by getting 4 A's at A-level.

Patrick Butler, editor of SocietyGuardian, refers to it as being a "vivid example of why social immobility in Britain seems so entrenched".

Imperial has defended itself by claiming that in most cases they would usually only request unspent convictions, but that medicine is an exception, being one in which "the public must have confidence in the integrity and probity of its doctors."

However, as Jessica Sheperd reports in the Education Guardian, Dr Shahid Ali, Deputy Director of GP Provider Services at Bradford and Airedale Teaching PCT, stated that he would "support Ahmed" should he achieve the required grades.

Without a doubt there is need for caution when it comes to criminal records, but you could argue that these cases can hinder the desire for those in similar situations to try and change their circumstances.

Many of the comments readers have posted on news websites in response to this story seem to share a view that people who have worked hard to correct mistakes, especially when they were young teenagers, should be given a chance to have their slate wiped clean.

Yet Imperial College, it seems, believes there are limits to rehabilitation.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Gilligan on Ken. Again.

Try as he might, Gilligan just can't get seem to get Ken out of his head. In his latest column he has a dig at Ken for making "roughly his 850th interview" since he lost the London Mayoral election. (Which is a figure probably only topped by the number of comments Gilligan has made about Ken in the same period.)

Thursday, 26 June 2008

The Daily Mail: Not a fan of bra-burners

A fair amount of coverage has been given to the Equality Bill, which Harriet Harman (Minister for Women & Equality and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party) has been championing.

The Daily Mail is not happy. For a change.

"What a moment equalities minister Harriet Harman has chosen to heap further burdens on British employers."
"Here we are, heading for the worst economic storm for decades, with jobs at risk all over the country."
"Yet here is this time-warp feminist (who despite being a woman has enjoyed every privilege Britain can offer!) jeopardising our competitiveness for a cause that lost all relevance to the real world long ago."


The paper seems to be most concerned with the education element:

"Indeed, in our increasingly feminised education system it is boys and young men who are desperately falling behind".

It is quite interesting to see what the definition of a "feminised" education system is. The Times Educational Supplement ran an informative article a few years ago about the issue.

For the most part, the general consensus seems to be that the argument boils down to exams versus coursework.

Of course this is not the first time the Mail and its contributors have expressed their disapproval of female-orientated testing methods. At the beginning of last year Jill Parkin wrote an article entitled “Stop feminising our schools – our boys are suffering”.

Without a doubt many of the points are worth debating. Do different testing methods benefit a certain group? Perhaps. Do different subjects require different approaches? Probably.

But it is always possible to undermine this with a few careless words:

“Instead of the make-or-break sprint to the exam deadline, boys have to endure stultifying coursework."
"This system of continuous assessment means that anyone who can call up Google on a computer can cut and paste answers from the internet at home. Girls, with their more patient approach to learning, thrive under such a system.”

So let me get this right – girls thrive under a system where they are able to cheat? I see.

Discuss. (1000 words maximum. Pencils down at the end).

Gilligan just wants people to laugh...

Some may argue that when the London Mayor has said to have dropped the anti-racism theme from an anti-racism festival it is worthy of discussion.

However, raising questions after Boris Johnson appears on TV seemingly not knowing what the Rise Festival is, let alone what decision he has supposed to have just made regarding it, after a newspaper has printed it and his own office has commented on it, is "nitpicking", apparently.

Journalist Andrew Gilligan certainly thinks so:

"The fuss over Rise symbolises the other "narrative" failure of Boris's opponents so far: their unfortunate tendency to nitpick about absolutely everything he does and proclaim it a disaster."

After a year of light-hearted commentating, he apparently thinks the Mayor's critics should take a leaf out of his book and look on the bright side of life:

"[Boris'] good nature seems to beat their humourless whingeing", he says (presumably with a chuckle)

Well, what should we take away from this whole episode then? Over to Gilligan:

"No ordinary Londoner, black or white, gives a damn"

I see.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

On The Buses

Related to perhaps one of the most pointless political issues in election history, the Standard is running a light story about a Routemaster that has been turned into a tile showroom, alongside a list of a few more conversions of the decommissioned vehicles.

Might be worth a visit though. Because - let's face it - it's probably the only place you'll be seeing them anytime soon.

Johnson fights for "gas-guzzler" rights

The Standard today reports on a statement from Boris Johnson's spokesman highlighting the London mayor’s opposition to higher parking charges for "gas-guzzlers"

(I'm presuming Johnson said it - but going by his recent apparent unawareness of the Olympic memo and the Rise Festival re-branding - one can never can be certain)

"The Mayor shares the goal of the boroughs to reduce carbon dioxide emissions but he is not convinced this sort of scheme is the best way of doing so. Rather than penalise the families that own larger cars, which might be hit by this type of charge, his focus is on reducing emissions by reducing congestion."
"He said Transport for London was drawing up plans to re-phase traffic lights and promote cycling and walking as well as encouraging people to 'drive more efficiently'".

Of course there is no surprise about this stance – Johnson’s attitudes towards any similar penalties or schemes were clear long before the election.

However, of more interest are his suggestions to tackle the problem: "reducing emissions by reducing congestion", which refers to a few vague ideas about encouraging cycling and walking and the re-phrasing of traffic lights.

The problem is that by replacing concrete schemes (whether you agree with them or not) with rather sketchy proposals about promoting healthy alternatives and efficient driving, it does raise questions about how seriously this issue is being taken.