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Archive for the ‘news’ Category

Andy Coulson Open Thread

In news on October 4, 2010 at 21:29

Love him? Hate him? Sack him? Keep him?

Let your opinions be known, right here.

Man who planted the seed of Big Society dies, aged 78

In news on September 8, 2010 at 19:17

Photo: PA

The Prime Minister’s father, Ian Cameron, passed away from heart complications following a massive stroke, today.  He was 78.

Ever the hero in the eyes of his son, David, Mr. Cameron was a source of hope, love, compassion and endless supplies of optimism.  He is the man the Prime Minister credits with instilling that same optimistic outlook in his children.

Born with a severe physical disability in his legs, Ian Cameron struggled from an early age to cope with the pain and suffering caused by his deformity.

Mr. Cameron overcame his disability. He lived a life full of the rich rewards of a loving family, was a successful stockbroker, and left this world with few regrets.

His steely, determined glare at adversity gave his children courage, perseverance and obstinacy.  Three key ingredients, as it happens, that make a man a Great Man.

The Prime Minister, who has always been close to his father, said of his parents, “they showed me how a big society could work every day I was growing up…nothing will make me happier than to take that idea – using the values they gave me – to help bring our country together.”

There can be little doubt that those values – learned at his father’s knee – will see him fulfill his charge to lead the people of Great Britain out of the cold damp darkness of recession, into the rich, abundant Tory Blue skies of Ian Cameron’s Big Society.

Peace be with you, Ian.

O HEAVENLY Father, whose Blessed Son Jesus Christ did weep at the grave of Lazarus, his friend: Look, we beseech thee, with compassion upon those who are now in sorrow and affliction; comfort them, O Lord, with thy gracious consolations; make them to know that all things work together for good to them that love thee; and grant them evermore sure trust and confidence in thy fatherly care; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

New HackGate probe set to launch

In news on September 7, 2010 at 17:57

The Indy is reporting on the new probe that is to be launched following evidence given to the Home Affairs Select Committee, this morning.

The inquiry will focus on the police response, the ease of prosecuting such offences, and the treatment of victims after it emerged the New York Times refused to co-operate with British police looking into allegations of phone-hacking made by the newspaper last week.

Mr Vaz said: “The evidence of Assistant Commissioner John Yates today raised a number questions of importance about the law on phone-hacking, the way the police deal with such breaches of the law and the manner in which victims are informed of those breaches.

“I hope that this inquiry will clarify all these important areas.”

The inquiry is said to be looking at – among other things – the manner in which victims of phone-hacking are handled by the police. It is hoped that this will provide some clarity regarding how the police conducted the previous investigation, which resulted in the arrest of a News of the World reporter, and a private investigator.

The previous investigation also led to the resignation of Andy Coulson, former editor of the News of the World, now Director of Communications at Downing Street.

There is a growing faction of Tories in the Westminster village who are calling for action against Mr. Coulson.  It has been suggested that a fresh inquiry – and Coulson’s willingness to speak with the police – will quiet some of the more outspoken members of the group calling for his resignation.

You will read this.

A free press shouldn’t require a standing order

In editorial, news, wth on June 27, 2010 at 21:42

When I first took an active interest on the divergent ways that broadsheets cover stories – especially political ones – I honestly believed The Times (and The Sunday Times) to be the most intelligent and fair of the three major dailies (Times, Telegraph, and Guardian). I am now quite happy to admit the error of my ways.

As the Telegraph grows evermore sensationalist with its headlines, as the Guardian editors and subs appear to be consistently asleep at the wheel – or perhaps pissed (possibly both, I suppose) – and as the Times persists in demonising pretty much every member of the British public who doesn’t write love-letters on Labour policy, I have come to the conclusion that they’re all full of shit. Though, I am happy to be proved wrong.

The article that was the proverbial ‘straw’ for me was Why a free press is worth paying for, which was written by Richard Woods (who really ought to know better), and appears in the Sunday Times, today. But, let me first set the stage for you, as I’m sure that not everyone really apprehends what the role of a free press is.

First, consider this: the widely accepted role of a free press is to provide members of a society the information they need to make rational, informed decisions about the world around them, and to live in a free and democratic society.

This, at least in Britain, was argued for most strongly at first by Milton, who in his Areopagitica argued against government imposed limitations on the dissemination of information that could be used in free and rational debate. At the time, only those ‘licensed’ by the government could publish anything at all.

The end, for Milton, was not simply freedom of the press, but freedom for the press, with the explicit understanding that this freedom is what is necessary in order for citizens to make informed choices about government, based on something closely resembling the truth – if not the whole truth.

Second, this information must be reasonably available to the citizenry for whom the press labours. Milton, it is worth noting, went a step beyond this and suggested it should be freely available – but modern economies prevent this from being the case.

His assumption was that the citizenry at large are capable of taking such decisions on their governance, through public discourse, debate – or even an evening at the pub. People are intelligent creatures who can make accurate statements about the world in which they live.

It is on these two very key points that Richard Woods, and the Sunday Times, fail lavishly.

In his article Woods compares the cost of good journalism to the sacrifices made by heroic foreign correspondants who penetrate enemy lines to bring the world the very juiciest of tidbits from the front line. He says ‘frontline reporting comes at a high cost in courage, organisation and cash.”

But, the crux of his article really has much less to do with the sacrifices that these men and women make on behalf of their readers (and these are significant, dreadful and praiseworthy sacrifices), and much more to do with cold hard cash.

“That is why The Sunday Times and The Times are about to start charging a fee for their new websites, believing that it is in the best interests of both readers and journalists,” he writes.

I can recall writing an article on direct marketing campaigns, not so long ago. I interviewed a number of direct marketers (these are the people trying to sell you cheaper broadband on the doorstep), some of them working for charities.

One, working for a major international charity, spent six days per week going from door-to-door asking for less than £2 a week in order to save the lives of countless victims of car accidents, those in need of blood transfusions and the like.

Many of the doors she knocked on were those of good, working class people who actually did genuinely want to help, but simply could not afford the money out of their weekly budget. These are the same people who are making the majority of the decisions on British governance! These are the people in control of the votes. These are the people who most need the information that publications like The Times and The Sunday Times provide.

Woods encourages prevention of access to a vital method of obtaining the information they need to continue to make informed, rational decisions about their own governance. I think that’s really quite weird, given my first point, don’t you?

But, he doesn’t stop there. He also takes a swipe at new media. “Online, you can shovel out celebrity pap and press releases for virtually nothing. But properly informed reporting, analysis, investigations and the sharpest wit still cost money.”

Take a few slow, deep breaths to regain your composure. Then read that last bit, again.

Not only does Woods subvert those of us who actually take an active interest in our own governance and liberty, and not only does he judge online public discourse to be substandard, but he also seems to believe that only seasoned professionals are worth listening to.

That is a massive conundrum into which he has placed himself.

In two short sentences, he has written off the very media that he’s shilling for (the online sort), and engaged in some sort of weird alternate reality fantasy where the citizenry is stupid and just needs to listen to the alleged experts.

In the end, of course, we need to be practical, newspapers can’t afford to print and be free of charge, but they subvert their own roles in a free and democratic society when they put ‘quality journalism’ at such a premium.

This distinction is – contrary to Woods – already highlighted rather well, but reasonably. Just look at the price of – say – the Mirror versus the price of the Times, or the Telegraph. Woods’ justification amounts to little more than ‘well, The Economist does it.’ I mean, really, it used to be that you had to pay more to see girlies with big tits in print. Now, the reverse seems to be true. How on earth did that happen?

So, The Sunday Times, why not just be honest about this? The economy is shit, more people are reading your paper online for free, and you can’t afford to let it go on. Because, at the end of the day – if you’re not going to be honest about it – you’ve become those that you so love to demonise and expose.

In any event, in doing so, you have lost a very faithful reader.

hen I first took an active interest on the divergent ways that broadsheets cover stories – especially political ones – I honestly believed The Times (and The Sunday Times) to be the most intelligent and fair of the three major dailies (Times, Telegraph, and Guardian). I am now quite happy to admit the error of my ways.

As the Telegraph grows evermore sensationalist with its headlines, as the Guardian editors and subs appear to be consistently asleep at the wheel – or perhaps pissed (possibly both, I suppose) – and as the Times persists in demonising pretty much every member of the British public who doesn’t write love-letters on Labour policy, I have come to the conclusion that they’re all full of shit. Though, I am happy to be proved wrong.

The article that was the proverbial ‘straw’ for me was Why a free press is worth paying for, which was written by Richard Woods (who really ought to know better), and appears in the Sunday Times, today. But, let me first set the stage for you, as I’m sure that not everyone really apprehends what the role of a free press is.

First, consider this: the widely accepted role of a free press is to provide members of a society the information they need to make rational, informed decisions about the world around them, and to live in a free and democratic society.

This, at least in Britain, was argued for most strongly at first by Milton, who in his Areopagitica argued against government imposed limitations on the dissemination of information that could be used in free and rational debate. At the time, only those ‘licensed’ by the government could publish anything at all.

The end, for Milton, was not simply freedom of the press, but freedom for the press, with the explicit understanding that this freedom is what is necessary in order for citizens to make informed choices about government, based on something closely resembling the truth – if not the whole truth.

Second, this information must be reasonably available to the citizenry for whom the press labours. Milton, it is worth noting, went a step beyond this and suggested it should be freely available – but modern economies prevent this from being the case.

His assumption was that the citizenry at large are capable of taking such decisions on their governance, through public discourse, debate – or even an evening at the pub. People are intelligent creatures who can make accurate statements about the world in which they live.

It is on these two very key points that Richard Woods, and the Sunday Times, fail lavishly.

In his article Woods compares the cost of good journalism to the sacrifices made by heroic foreign correspondants who penetrate enemy lines to bring the world the very juiciest of tidbits from the front line. He says ‘frontline reporting comes at a high cost in courage, organisation and cash.”

But, the crux of his article really has much less to do with the sacrifices that these men and women make on behalf of their readers (and these are significant, dreadful and praiseworthy sacrifices), and much more to do with cold hard cash.

“That is why The Sunday Times and The Times are about to start charging a fee for their new websites, believing that it is in the best interests of both readers and journalists,” he writes.

I can recall writing an article on direct marketing campaigns, not so long ago. I interviewed a number of direct marketers (these are the people trying to sell you cheaper broadband on the doorstep), some of them working for charities.

One, working for a major international charity, spent six days per week going from door-to-door asking for less than £2 a week in order to save the lives of countless victims of car accidents, those in need of blood transfusions and the like.

Many of the doors she knocked on were those of good, working class people who actually did genuinely want to help, but simply could not afford the money out of their weekly budget. These are the same people who are making the majority of the decisions on British governance! These are the people in control of the votes. These are the people who most need the information that publications like The Times and The Sunday Times provide.

Woods is encouraging preventing them from using a vital method of obtaining the information they need to continue to make informed, rational decisions about their own governance. I think that’s really quite weird, given my first point, don’t you?

But, he doesn’t stop there. He also takes a swipe at new media. “Online, you can shovel out celebrity pap and press releases for virtually nothing. But properly informed reporting, analysis, investigations and the sharpest wit still cost money.”

Take a few slow, deep breaths to regain your composure. Then read that last bit, again.

Not only does Woods subvert those of us who actually take an active interest in our own governance and liberty, and not only does he judge online public discourse to be substandard, but he also seems to believe that only seasoned professionals are worth listening to.

That is a massive conundrum into which he has placed himself.

In two short sentences, he has written off the very media that he’s shilling for (the online sort), and engaged in some sort of weird alternate reality fantasy where the citizenry is stupid and just needs to listen to the alleged experts.

In the end, of course, we need to be practical, newspapers can’t afford to print and be free of charge, but they subvert their own roles in a free and democratic society when they put ‘quality journalism’ at such a premium.

This distinction is – contrary to Woods – already highlighted rather well, but reasonably. Just look at the price of – say – the Mirror versus the price of the Times, or the Telegraph. Woods’ justification amounts to little more than ‘well, The Economist does it.’ I mean, really, it used to be that you had to pay more to see girlies with big tits in print. Now, the reverse seems to be true. How on earth did that happen?

So, The Sunday Times, why not just be honest about this? The economy is shit, more people are reading your paper online for free, and you can’t afford to let it go on. Because, at the end of the day – if you’re not going to be honest about it – you’ve become those that you so love to demonise and expose.

In any event, in doing so, you have lost a very faithful reader.

Prezza, Shanghai, and the Manchester Coppers

In editorial, news, the labour party on May 28, 2010 at 19:27

John Prescott has been sighted at several of Shanghai’s best restaurants recently, as he continues on his speaking tour of the area.  The self-appointed man of the people stands to make (and/or gain) not a few pounds from the deal.

No doubt when he arrives back home to Hull, he will distribute it among the poor in – say – Manchester, where Greater Manchester Police have ruled that officers in the city will not be allowed any unofficial radios or televisions on which to watch the World Cup.

One GMP officer, speaking to the Telegraph, said “I guess that while it might save the force money it will also remove the temptation for officers to watch or listen to bits of games during quiter moments on shift.”

But, where are those quiet moments? We thought they only spent about 13% of their time out fighting crime because of the vast mountain of paperwork they face every day, not waiting around for baddies.

Gripping stuff, don’t you think?

Well, that’s how we see it.

(h/t Tim Walker for Prezza tip-off)

Is Twitter good for democracy?

In editorial, news on May 24, 2010 at 08:10

An interesting stab at the subject, this morning in the Independent by John Rentoul.

The tombstone for the article reads “Political commentators must possess a sense of history, an ear for gossip and the courage to hold our rulers to account. I also couldn’t do it without Twitter, writes John Rentoul.”

Perhaps a bit hyperbolic, considering there was excellent, substantive political discourse and commentary prior to Twitter, the Internet – hell, even before the computer. Call me a heretic if you wish, but it’s true.

What makes Twitter unique, found Korean scientists (South Korean, presumably), is the wild-fire manner in which it spreads information.

Researchers at the Department of Computer Science at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have studied Twitter and decided that it is a news medium more than a social network, but the joy of it is that it is both. I use it to keep in touch with other political journalists, politicians and other people who are interested in politics. The joy of it is its connectedness. The Korean researchers found that the average degree of separation between any two Twitterers is four. That is, information needs to pass through four hops to get from anyone with a computer or mobile phone anywhere in the world to me, from follower to follower, to someone whom I follow.

We’re not so sure, though, that is does actually qualify as a news service, per se.  For one thing there is no burden of verification, no accountability – apart from perhaps being ostracised by your peers.

Mind you, it does provide a great deal of information to the general public that allows them to make good decisions based on reasonably verifiable information.

That, of course, is one of the most important jobs of a free press; to give the public the information needed to take educated political decisions in order that they may live in a free and democratic society.

But then again, sometimes Twitter is more like a massive online Letter to the Editor. Except, it’s self-publishing, and self-propagating (to a certain extent).

That’s not news, though it is commentary. In many many cases it is very good and learned commentary, but commentary nonetheless.

Most of the time, however, Twitter is like a news service. It is different from social networks in that links are not necessarily mutual. People can choose to follow each other, but the Korean research found that four-fifths of links were one-way. This means that hub Twitterers with a lot of followers act as diffusers of news. When I started on this newspaper as a political reporter in 1995, the main source of UK “breaking news” was the Press Association wire – short bulletins of news, as it happened. Now Twitter fills that gap, as journalists and citizen-reporters let each other know when someone has left their microphone on, or has ruled out standing for the Labour leadership. When Adam Boulton started to lose his temper with Alastair Campbell on live television during the post-election negotiations, people tweeted to tell others to put Sky News on – to catch the best bits. William Hague announced that the talks with the Liberal Democrats were back on on Twitter. It is a way for politicians to speak to – or beyond – the conventional media. But it also offers journalists other ways of reporting.

Ding! Yes, it does offer a pretty unique tool to journalists.  A good and important one at that.  It’s free.  Freely available.  Used at the popular level. Subject to the editorial opinion of the reading public, but free of the corporate editorial line – to some extent.

It may just be one of the most important – and simple – defenders of freedom and democracy since the blog.

Huh? Wha?

In David Cameron, Nick Clegg, the conservatives, the lib-dems on May 19, 2010 at 21:41

We’re watching SkyNews. They seem to think George Osborne is Chancellor, now.  Was there an election?

Oh, yes!  There was!

We went into hibernation, focusing our considerable attention on Twitter for the duration – mainly because nobody reads this blog, and because we’re not so self-important to think anybody would want to, anyway.

But, it does seem that a breath of fresh air has swept through Whitehall. The Cameron-Clegg coalition actually does appear to show promise – and not just promise that is carefully engineered to appear hopeful.  We think it actually is hopeful, and reasonably so.

It does seem to go beyond spin.  We asked Paul Waugh of the Evening Standard whether he thought the CamClegg relationship reflected chemistry or tension. Waugh replied almost immediately – chemistry.

As we await the emergency budget – on June 22 – and watch as CamClegg continue to fulfill the hopes and dreams of a nation battered by intrusive, incompetent and arbitrary government, we do so with a sense of expectation, and hope.

“Britain is once again open for business” were the closing remarks from the Chancellor, this evening.  It implies, of course, that Britain was closed for business.  Indeed, it was.

Following the massive fiscal cockups of the Labour regime for the past 13 years, and the consequences that will be felt from those for years to come, let’s hope George can pull off a hat-trick.

If any government could do it, based on the momentum they appear to be continuing to build, this one can.  Boo to Nanny.  Go team.

p.s. We know the blog header needs to be changed, now.

George Osborne: One day left to change our country

In the conservatives on May 5, 2010 at 18:19

via email:

Tomorrow we have the chance to change Britain for the better. But this election is very close and we need all the support you can give in the time that’s left to make that happen.

We have just 24 hours to choose a new government led by David Cameron and save Britain from five more years of Gordon Brown. Only by voting Conservative tomorrow will you get a new government that starts cleaning up the mess on Friday. A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for five more years of Gordon Brown.

William Hague sent you this video yesterday about the last thirteen years under this Labour government. If you can think of any friends who need to be reminded about their record of failure, please click here to send this on to them.

WATCH: 13 years of Labour

David’s energy, leadership and values have really shone through in this campaign. As I write, he has been on the campaign trail for almost 36 hours non-stop, right through the night. Nobody has campaigned harder than him.

During this political marathon he has travelled across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and done an overnight bus tour to talk to groups of night shift workers. His final rally speech will be in Bristol at 6.30pm, so don’t forget to watch it on TV.

This tour shows that this campaign is all about winning door by door, street by street, constituency by constituency – and we need you to get out there and fight for every last vote.

But if you’re not able to get out onto the streets or do some telephone canvassing, you can still do you bit online to make a difference. As well as forwarding this email on, please tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter why you are voting Conservative, and please donate online to pay for last minute leaflets and online adverts.

The election moment we have been waiting for these last thirteen years is upon us. Together, if we work hard, we really can bring the change Britain needs.

Thank you,

George Osborne's signature

George Osborne
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

Douglas Alexander: Substance vs. Style

In ge2010, the conservatives on April 29, 2010 at 20:03

via email:

Let’s be clear – tonight’s Leaders’ debate on the economy is a huge opportunity to show the country the facts.

Labour has shown that it can manage the economy in good times and in the bad times of the global economic crisis. It was Gordon Brown that had the experience, judgement and substance to lead Britain from recession to recovery. Tonight is our chance to prove it.

So I’m asking you – one more time – to use the Labour Debates Dashboard to share our message with your friends through email, Facebook and Twitter.

Visit the Dashboard now and be the first to see our new Word of Mouth app

You know that Gordon can’t be matched on experience, judgement and substance by either David Cameron or Nick Clegg. And with a record number of undecided voters at this election, we can all make a difference tonight by playing a role in making that point.

To help you, we’ve added a new Word of Mouth app to this week’s Debate Dashboard – allowing you to show your support for Labour right up until polling day.

Visit the Debate Dashboard tonight and make sure everyone knows the important choice facing the country

In this word of mouth election, Labour supporters across the country know that we’ve got a real chance in the debates and in conversations afterwards to make our point – that Britain is on the road to recovery and we cannot let the Tories wreck it.

Visit the Debate Dashboard tonight and make a difference

Thank you

Douglas

Let’s be clear – tonight’s Leaders’ debate on the economy is a huge opportunity to show the country the facts.

Labour has shown that it can manage the economy in good times and in the bad times of the global economic crisis. It was Gordon Brown that had the experience, judgement and substance to lead Britain from recession to recovery. Tonight is our chance to prove it.

So I’m asking you – one more time – to use the Labour Debates Dashboard to share our message with your friends through email, Facebook and Twitter.

Visit the Dashboard now and be the first to see our new Word of Mouth app

You know that Gordon can’t be matched on experience, judgement and substance by either David Cameron or Nick Clegg. And with a record number of undecided voters at this election, we can all make a difference tonight by playing a role in making that point.

To help you, we’ve added a new Word of Mouth app to this week’s Debate Dashboard – allowing you to show your support for Labour right up until polling day.

Visit the Debate Dashboard tonight and make sure everyone knows the important choice facing the country

In this word of mouth election, Labour supporters across the country know that we’ve got a real chance in the debates and in conversations afterwards to make our point – that Britain is on the road to recovery and we cannot let the Tories wreck it.

Visit the Debate Dashboard tonight and make a difference

Thank you

Douglas

Why it’s important that the car exchange was aired

In editorial, Gordon Brown, the labour party on April 28, 2010 at 21:01

The story has well made the rounds by now. As have the images of Gordon Brown with his head in his hands, looking completely gutted in front of Jeremy Vine.  But, a question has been raised about the ethics of airing the exchange between Brown and a member of his staff following the encounter with Mrs. Duffy.

Well, let’s put this out front right away. The comments were made by a public servant, on a campaign stop funded by the British taxpayer, while sitting in a Jaguar paid for by the electorate.  Of course it’s ethical.

The media exists to provide the citizenry with the information they need to make informed decisions and live freely in a democratic society.

If the Prime Minister thinks they’re bigots, they have the right to know.  Besides, if he was stupid enough to forget he was wearing a live mic, it’s his own damn fault.  Period.

That said, we can’t help but feel somewhat sorry for him.  He’s losing spectacularly.  Lavishly.  He knows that.  His own party is now questioning his position as leader.  The pressure he is under must be immense and while he doesn’t deserve to be Prime Minister, he does at least deserve a certain amount of sympathy.

We’d like to point out that Mr. Vine could very easily have amplified the outcome of the gaffe live on the air.  He didn’t.  That is a credit to him as a broadcaster.  We’ve always thought Jeremy to be a gentleman, and today he really showed his true colours.  Good job, Jeremy.

However, getting back to what we said earlier; it was important that the exchange was aired, having been recorded – accidentally or not.

If the Prime Minister actually believes what he said – and there can be no doubt that he does – then the public needs to know.  It reveals some very important things about his views on immigration.

In other words, throw wide the doors of Great Britain.  To offer up constraints in the manner that Mrs. Duffy would like would be to admit a bigoted, narrow view of what a multi-cultural society ought to look like.

The sage academy of the Cabinet know what it should look like. Nobody else.

Just look at this – from October 2009 (thank you, Telegraph):

The huge increases in migrants over the last decade were partly due to a politically motivated attempt by ministers to radically change the country and “rub the Right’s nose in diversity”, according to Andrew Neather, a former adviser to Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett.

He said Labour’s relaxation of controls was a deliberate plan to “open up the UK to mass migration” but that ministers were nervous and reluctant to discuss such a move publicly for fear it would alienate its “core working class vote”.

Hmmm.

So, if you’re not on board with Labour’s immigration policies, you’re a bigot – and you deserve to have your nose rubbed in it.  Or you’re a working class drone that doesn’t have the right to an opinion.  Or if you do have an opinion, you have a right to keep quiet and let the Dear Leader do What He Knows Is Right For Britain.

In the end, BigotGate is not all that remarkable, as all it does is serve to exemplify all that is wrong with the Labour endeavour, and more specifically all that is wrong with Gordon Brown.