Daily Mail vs NICE

(National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence)

It is becoming clear that the Daily Mail hates NICE. Now for many people that is recommendation enough for the much-maligned body, however I think we do need to look at this in a little more detail. I am not sure why the Mail hates NICE so much except perhaps that NICE gets to decide a lot of national policy in terms of where healthcare funding priorities are. In this article I spent some time explaining how NICE do this but in short they decide what PCTs should fund on the basis of what works and is cost effective. I think this is the reason the  Mail do not like it because they seem to think it is their right to decide where NHS money is spent. Please pause for a moment and reflect on what a horrific prospect that is.

And to some extent it has already happening with the government’s ludicrous idea of setting up a special fund for cancer drugs. A couple of points before I explain my objection to this fund:

1.      I am a doctor – a surgeon in fact and am used to dealing with patients with cancer. I want my patients to have to best possible care.

2.      When I was seventeen my mum died from breast cancer. I know what it is like to watch someone slowly die from cancer.

These two statements are important because I do not think it right to set up this special fund. The reason NICE did not recommend these drugs is because they do not work very well and they are extremely expensive.  If we had an infinite amount of money then I would have no objection but one thing needs to be clear; by funding cancer drugs we are not funding something else – something that works a whole lot better. The technical term for this is opportunity cost. This is the problem, by doing one thing, we cannot do another, so it’s vital that we do things that work.

So today’s story really caught my eye: Azheimer’s victory for the Mail and comment here

I’m not sure if it’s the gloating or the glaring inaccuracies that annoyed me most.

So let’s summarise the story:

1.      The EVIL NICE wouldn’t allow doctors to prescribe three drugs for Alzheimer’s disease unless people were really ill.

2.      The Daily Mail raised lots of money for a judicial review forcing NICE to make a U-turn.

3.      Fewer than one-in-ten Alzheimer’s patient’s currently receive the drug whilst trials clearly show a benefit if started early

Dementia of whichever form is a very cruel condition, it slowly robs someone’s personality, often leaving relatives grieving for the loss of their loved one long before they’ve died.

I have read the NICE summary report and – even though it’s not my area, I know how to read clinical evidence, it’s part of my job. The main problem with these drugs is that whilst they are relatively cheap they do not work very well. In a small number of people they have significant benefits for a short space of time whilst in many they have no effect whatsoever.

I just want to answer those three points from above.

1.      One of NICE’s roles is to advise on new therapies and treatment’s effectiveness. When NICE recommends a drug/therapy PCTs (Primary Care Trusts, who currently control the NHS money) HAVE to fund it – by law. When NICE state that a therapy is not cost effective then the PCTs have it within their discretion to fund it if they want to. But to do so means not funding something else.

2.      The Judicial review is interesting, here’s what it said;

On 10 August 2007 the judge ruled in favor of NICE on five out of the six grounds bought in court. The judge found that NICE:

  • did appropriately take into account the benefits these drugs bring to carers
  • appropriately reflected the costs of long term care in its calculations
  • did not breach principles of procedural fairness by providing a ‘read only’ version of the economic model
  • was not irrational in concluding that there is no cumulative benefit to patients after 6 months’ treatment with these drugs
  • that NICE’s assessment and consideration of the AD 2000 study was not irrational.

The judge ruled against NICE on one of the six grounds bought in court. She found that NICE did breach its duties under the Disability Discrimination Act and the Race Relations Act by not offering specific advice regarding people with learning disabilities and people for whom English is not their first language in its technology appraisal guidance

3.      The trials clearly show that the benefits of these drugs is quite limited and are seen in a minority of patients.

I am very pleased that NICE has now recommended that these drugs be made available. I hope they bring help to many people. However my confidence in these medicines is not because the Daily Mail said so but because of what the evidence showed. Analysing the evidence is very complex. I am an expert and in the hour or two I had to spare today I was only able to scratch the surface. It takes a lot of time and skill to do this properly.

Reading through the NICE website today, particular the submission from the Royal College of Psychiatry it is possible to conclude that when NICE ruled not to approve these medicines five years ago for mild dementia they got it wrong. I’m not sure, but if they did, that’s not surprising, this is a particularly difficult decision in a field where none of the decisions are easy.

However, that does not mean that the process is wrong, that does not mean that NICE does not do a very difficult job well.

It is becoming clear that the Daily Mail believes it has the right to decide on Healthcare spending priorities and I want everyone to realise how terrifying that prospect is.

AFZ

P.S. Well done to anyone who’s managed to read all this!

Cameron Declares War on Benefits Cheats…

All regular fans of Angry Mob will know that Uponnothing, regular writer, editor and host is away on honeymoon. Which is great news for him and Mrs Uponnothing. The really keen amongst you (yes both of you) will know that I occasionally write articles for Angry Mob which I hope are interesting and informative. With the move to the new site, I was granted my own log-in to the blog so I can post whenever and whatever I want… hehe!

The Prime Minister has made a key speech, picked up by all the papers and the wider media on plans to combat the great evil of benefit fraud: You can read the various angles here: Daily Mail The Express The Telegraph.

You may notice that the figure of £5bn keeps coming up. This is an interesting one as this is the figure for fraud and various errors that lead to over-payment. The actual figure for fraud is only £1.1bn.

But we all know that fraud is rampant – because the press keeps telling us about case after case of fraud; a quick search of the Daily Mail website reveals dozens of such stories.

Let us have a look at some of the facts (all of this data comes from the Department for Work and Pensions Official figures 2008-9, last complete set of data.):

Fraud: £1.1bn (0.8%), Customer error: £1.1bn (0.8%),  Official error: £0.8bn (0.6%)

The percentages are of the total benefits budget. So fraud is less than 1% of total benefits spending.

A couple of other interesting statistics worth noting:

  • under-payment due to errors: £1.2bn (i.e. more than fraud)
  • £10bn. The amount of unclaimed benefit that people are entitled to.
  • since 2001, fraud has been reduced from 2.1% of the benefit budget to 0.8% (halved in cash terms)
  • £15.2bn – the estimated loss to the treasury of Tax Evasion.

What’s my point in all this? I am not saying that benefit fraud is acceptable, it’s clearly not. What I am saying is that this is all part of an on-going narrative that paints anyone on benefits as a drain on society and probably a thief. It is cheap political points scoring at the expense of the vulnerable and that is sick. The print media (especially the Daily Mail) are particularly guilty of this.

AFZ

P.S. A couple of good articles on Liberal Conspiracy about this issue:

An Unfair System: Interesting Consequences?

So, on the face of it things went pretty badly for the Liberal Democrats, who look set to end up with less sets than they had in 2005. However, you then start to look at how many people actually voted for the Liberal Democrats and you start to get pretty angry with the current system. The Conservatives gained 10,615,958 votes and currently have 302 seats. The Liberal Democrats received 6,781,005 votes (over 60% of the Conservative total) and currently have just 57 seats. That means the Conservatives have fewer than twice as many votes, but six times as many seats.

The results for Labour are equally unfair. Labour received 8,535,952 votes, fewer than two million more than the Liberal Democrats, but currently have exactly 200 more seats – nearly four times as many as the Liberal democrats, even though the Liberal Democrats had over 75% as many votes as Labour. The Liberal Democrats made electoral reform one of the central features of their campaign and, fittingly, the election results have more than proven their point that reform is needed.

I made these points on Twitter and someone responded with a ‘problem’: ‘ah’, they said, ‘but if you brought in Proportional Representation then UKIP and the BNP would win seats, and that is a bad thing’. I’d disagree in principle: it isn’t necessarily a ‘bad thing’, it is merely democracy in action. We need to realise the reasons why the BNP are gaining support (up 1.2% in this election) and it isn’t – as newspapers would argue – that immigration is ‘uncontrolled’ or that British people are being treated as ‘second-class citizens’.

If we want to stop the BNP gaining seats in an election we shouldn’t block electoral reform, we should actually tackle the reasons why people vote BNP. The reasons are simple: a lack of education, a lack of personal experience of immigrants – meaning that they always remain an abstract concept (the ‘other’, ‘them’, ‘they’), rather than a human being – and most importantly the constant dishonest stories run by the press that are regularly quoted on the BNP website and by BNP voters when they explain why they vote BNP. If we want to stop the BNP gaining voter share we need to tackle an unregulated, racist press that has an agenda of creating hatred towards immigrants.

As I pointed out recently, immigration is an issue that cannot be discussed whilst the current dishonest tabloid narratives remain unchallenged. Research has been conducted that has shown that BNP voter share is less in areas with a high immigrant population, precisely for the ‘access to reality’ reason I have mentioned above. When newspapers blame New Labour’s immigration policy for the rise of the BNP they are lying to cover their own complicity in the rise of the far right in this country.

This does raise an interesting dilemma for the tabloid press. Currently they can offer implied support to the BNP by printing a consistent stream of lies for BNP voters and leaders to feed on without having to overly worry about such lies having an electoral consequence. As we saw last night, most BNP candidates polled quite poorly (although in several areas – such as the almost exclusively white, immigrant-free Blaenau Gwent – they got well over 1,000 votes) and not even party leader Nick Griffin could win a seat. However, if PR was brought in then the tabloid press would be well aware that the current BNP vote could win the party seats. Then when the inevitable recrimination starts after such a result the press wouldn’t be able to avoid their own complicity in creating the very lies that drives people to vote BNP.

Essentially, PR would demonstrate just what a evil influence the tabloid press has over poorly educated or poorly integrated voters. Currently a lot of people understand that the tabloid press is the biggest recruiter for the BNP, but because of our electoral system we can all be content with just a quiet boo when the low polling results are announced for each BNP candidate. I cannot help but think that if BNP votes turned into BNP seats we’d all have to be a lot more vociferous about just who is to blame.

Whatever the Election Outcome, We Need Revolution

As I start writing this post it is 8:41 which means that polling stations all over Britain are still going to be open for another hour and 19 minutes. I’m nervous and judging by what I have read on various blogs, websites and Twitter, I’m not alone in feeling this way. For the first time in my life I genuinely care about the outcome of this election, not necessarily because I have anything more to lose at the outcome, merely that during this election I have tried to make an informed decision and as such my vote feels more valuable to me.

Judging by the people I have spoken to over the past few weeks not everyone makes an informed decision, not many people even try. They seem to try and make judgements based on hearsay or family voting patterns, or who looked good on TV, rather than taking the time to find out what each party or candidate actually stands for. I have some sympathy for them. I have received leaflets from the Conservatives, Plaid Cymru, the BNP and the Liberal Democrats, but I didn’t meet a single candidate or even hear whether any of them were in the area.

What is worse is that all of the leaflets were completely irrelevant to me because they were sent to the wrong constituency. I received a second leaflet from a different Liberal Democrat who was actually in my constituency, but I received nothing from any of his rivals. Strange that after 5 years of supposed planning only one party got the boundaries correct for my neighbourhood.

Adding to this sense of disappointment my local Conservative candidate’s email address did not work, even though when I eventually got in touch with her via Facebook she confirmed the exact email address that I had used for her. Labour got back to me with a message of thanks for the post I had written on Emma Moore – the same local Conservative candidate – and her dishonest leaflet as they had received feedback from various people that had read it. The local Liberal Democrats got in touch to say that they had forwarded my email on to the relevant candidate’s team, but I have heard nothing since. She called herself an ‘activist’, yet couldn’t even manage an acknowledgement via email. I voted Liberal Democrat, but they were extremely lucky that I had a different local candidate to vote for thanks to the border confusion.

So, politics has a long way to go to really engage with voters. Being a political ‘activist’ is all well and good, but too often I don’t think people realise that they need to move outside of political circles and actually engage with the voting public. As I experienced, even if you do try to get involved, to enter the political circle, you still find it hard to get even a one-word response from a candidate.

However, getting involved in politics has its own rewards. Today I cast a vote that genuinely meant something to me. I actually felt completely happy with my choice, because I knew what the party stood for and just as importantly exactly what the opposing parties stood for. I was glad I made the effort to read some manifesto summaries on various websites, as well as taking independent assessments such as VoteforPolicies.org.

I read the leaflets that got put through my door and posted articles about two of them. The post on Emma Moore’s leaflet is now the top Google search result for ‘Emma Moore Conservative’ and the post on the BNP leaflet received a solid amount of readers and confirmed that it was the same leaflet that was being used around the UK – each candidate just added their name and photo. Very lazy, almost as lazy as the lies it told.

To her credit Emma Moore left a detailed response underneath my post on her leaflet, although she failed to return to answer any further questions. Nonetheless, she got in touch and tried to politely back up and explain her views. Her use of Facebook to engage with voters also gained my respect. A relatively young candidate I think she is at least using the right tools to engage voters. Just a shame she happens to work on behalf of an elitist party that only wants to engage voters every five years and spends the time in between treating them with utter contempt.

So, as the polls close and the results come in I can at least be satisfied that I was politically active during this election. I asked questions, I responded to the propaganda that was put through my door. I tweeted, I blogged, I watched the live debates, I read manifestos, newspapers and encouraged those around me to do the same. Whatever the result, I can rest happy that I participated as fully as possible.

But, here’s the thing that has become more apparent as this election campaign has gone on: now is not the time to rest, to stop, to give up. Whoever wins this election requires the utmost scrutiny, not from an unregulated and shamefully biased press, but from informed, active citizens. Thanks to Twitter, Youtube and bloggers who go the extra mile, lies are exposed at a faster rate than ever before, as is injustice. I sense a new spirit in the air, it is the spirit of revolution and disgust. Disgust at three weeks of solid attacks by a main-stream press desperate for the Conservative party to win the election. Disgust at the way that politicians come begging for votes every 5 years, only to lock the door of number 10 on us afterwards, treating us with utter contempt until the next time.

Britain needs a fairer voting system and an end to the two-party system. The vast majority of people in this country hate the Conservatives and everything that they stand for; yet here we are, the masses, nervously awaiting a possible Conservative majority because the voting system makes it possible and the scare-mongering press make it probable. This is no longer acceptable. It is no longer logical. The earth is not flat. The power resides no longer solely in the hands of the politicians. The sooner we realise this, the quicker we can remove the Conservative elite from power, forever.

A X for Liberal Democrats is Two Fingers to the Daily Mail & Friends

So. Here we are on the eve of the election and I’m nervous – pretty much for the first time – about the outcome. I’ve always voted Liberal Democrats because the only party I’ve known since voting age has been a Labour party pursuing an increasingly Conservative agenda and before voting age I lived through the sleaze of the Conservatives. I voted Liberal Democrats with the expectation that people would be surprised, that they would see it as ‘wasting’ a vote on a party that couldn’t possibly win the election. However, I never saw it like this. I always viewed the tactical voter or the voter choosing only a party that they thought might win as wasting their vote. For what can be more of a waste than voting for the party that you do not really want in power?

Before the first TV debate I asked a question on Twitter along the lines of ‘will anyone be voting Lib Dem, because I’m sick of people saying they would like to vote Lib Dem but they then do not because they won’t get in’. I received a lot of responses suggesting that they would be voting Lib Dem, largely because Labour had let them down and the Conservatives are a terrifying alternative. However, it wasn’t until after the first TV debate that a Liberal Democrat vote really started to vote for something, and after that point the right-wing press constantly attacked the party to confirm that perhaps they were a realistic option after all.

Now, suddenly, it seems as if people who once merely claimed that they would like to vote Liberal Democrat, might actually vote Liberal Democrat when the time comes. I’m genuinely excited at this prospect. However, because of the electoral system in this country Labour and Conservatives may not gain much more of the overall vote, but still seem likely to win a huge amount more seats than the Liberal Democrats. This system is likely to either create a hung parliament with a stand off between Labour and the Conservatives, or it will provide the Conservatives with a narrow victory.

I am dreading a Conservative victory. I work in Further Education in one of the most deprived areas in Wales and one of the target zones no doubt for Conservative attacks on the long-term unemployable, disabled or just poor people in general. During the third TV debate Cameron launched his evening with an attack on the welfare state, and there is every reason to expect he would launch any Conservative victory in exactly the same way.

I’m extremely distrustful of Cameron’s glib pledge to ‘fix Broken Britain’; firstly, because ‘Britain’ isn’t broken, it just seems that way if you read certain dreadful right-wing newspapers; secondly, because any parts of society that do require fixing – such as the vicious cycle of poverty, crime and failure – are not going to be fixed by hollow phrases about ‘getting people back to work’ or ‘giving responsibility back to volunteer armies’; and finally because the Conservatives seem to believe that small government can fix big problems, but haven’t explained in anyway how. All we do know is that the Conservative candidates have no experience of how the vast majority of people live in the UK, and they couldn’t give a damn about the poor.

I also cannot talk about voting without mentioning the disgraceful behaviour of the press telling us who we should vote for and why this is the best reason for us to vote Liberal Democrat. Think of it this way: Tony Blair cozied up to Rupert Murdoch for his support and then bent over for Murdoch after he was elected. Likewise, if the Conservative Party are elected they will owe the press for turning their newspapers into extended Conservative leaflets for the past 3 weeks, if the Daily Mail doesn’t agree with a progressive policy (this is hypothetical, I know I’m talking about the Tories here) then they will do all they can to force Cameron to back down – much like they did with Labour over drug classification.

Now, imagine that Nick Clegg is in power and wants to force through some progressive policies that has Dacre and other shit-stained editors frothing at the mouth. He and his party have already received every possible attack from the right-wing scare-sheets during the run-up to election, so not only does he not owe them anything, he can also safely ignore their opinions. If the Liberal Democrats can get elected without press support, why would they want to court it whilst making policy decisions? Wouldn’t it be lovely to have scientific policy, for example, dictated by scientists and experts rather than the constant interfering, lying and badgering of the Daily Mail?

I hope I wake up on Friday morning to find out that Cameron hasn’t won. However, if he does scrape a majority then I know his slash and burn policies, his elitism and his total lack of appreciation of how powerful the ‘little people’ are will lead to civil unrest. At the end of their term – if they even survive this long – the Tories will be thrown out by a landslide to give way to genuine electoral reform and they will never govern again. Every cloud and all that.

That, though, is a long way off. For now I will be voting Liberal Democrat and urging others to not vote for a Tory party that really does offer them nothing, unless they just happen to be very rich.


See this wonderful guide for more details on the ‘evil’ Tories.

The BNP: Another Consequence of the Tabloid Press

I received a BNP leaflet through the door the other day from Kay Thomas, my local BNP candidate and meant to post on it straight away, but got distracted by Gillian Duffy and the whole ‘You can’t talk about immigration‘ issue. However, picking apart a BNP leaflet is too easy a task to ignore, and because the BNP are almost entirely created by a dishonest and ill-regulated press, then they are also an issue too important to ignore.

bnp_leaflet_front bnp_leaflet_back

It is easy to get distracted from the real poison of BNP ‘literature’ on account of just how laughably terrible it is. What you have to remember is that nobody with a shred of intelligence or creativity could possibly be a BNP member, so when you get Nick Griffen’s chubby confused face overlapping the black and white face of Winston Churchill you have to remember that this is meant to create the notion that somehow they’re a bit similar. It isn’t supposed to just make Nick Griffen look very stupid. Likewise the phrases used are supposed to get you worked up and voting for the BNP, rather than just making you laugh out loud: ‘We’re NOT Second Class Citizens!’ screams the front of the leaflet. Then why do you keep saying we are? But the leaflet deserves more serious criticism as do the press which have created the mythical narratives that allows the BNP to create an entire manifesto on getting ‘even’ with immigrants and asylum seekers.

For example, take the two main pledges on the front page: ‘Put a stop to Immigration’ and ‘Raise the Weekly Pension to £150’; along with the claim of a BNP ‘voter’ on the back:

I’m voting BNP because I’m sick of seeing asylum seekers coming here and being given a better deal than our own pensioners! Charity begins at home and it’s time we looked after our elderly.

So, do asylum seekers ‘get a better deal’ than pensioners? And would ending immigration be a good thing? Interestingly, the two points are intimately linked, and not in the way that the BNP would like to imagine.

The current Basic State Retirement Pension for a single person is £95.25 per week and £152.30 for a couple. This is the full basic pension, requiring you to have worked and contributed full National Insurance payments for 30 years – an improvement under New Labour as previously you had to clock up 49 years for a man and 44 woman (a total that assumes work starts at 16 which is no longer the case for the majority of people). The basic pension is lower than the income support threshold, meaning that if a pensioner has no other income then they can top-up their pension with income support. This is a means-tested Pension Credit that brings up the weekly amount to £130 for a single person and £198.45 for a couple.

These sums are not massive, but a range of other benefits are available to pensioners. The main problem is a large percentage of pensioners do not claim all of the benefits that they are entitled to; one estimate suggests unclaimed benefits for pensioners can amount to as much as £5 billion annually.

Pensioners are an age group that a lot of political parties are keen to offer extra support to, and a group that are seen as being badly let down by the current government. They are also a group that tends to vote, so they are a key election demographic. However, they are also a problematic group because providing a basic state pension has become more and more expensive – irrespective of whether the weekly payments have increased or not. In 1949 there were approximately 4 million pensioners in the UK. There are now 10.5 million and this number is expected to rise to £14 million by 2050. This is largely because people are living longer than ever before, meaning that pensions are paid for longer periods to more people, making the basic state pension an increasingly expensive proposition.

This increase is compounded by the fact that population growth is slowing, meaning that there are fewer younger people entering employment. Currently there are 4.5 working people to contribute taxes towards each pensioner, by 2025 there will only be 3.5. One of the economic arguments being made for increased immigration is that we need to increase our working population in order to support our retired population. Immigrants offer a quick boost to the economy because they are not immediately entitled to benefits, they have not required state education in the UK and are therefore a ‘free’ source of tax revenue – because they do come here to work. However, the BNP is pledging to end immigration and increase the basic state pension, seems like they just haven’t thought this through and just want to keep foreigners out – almost as if they were just a racist party and nothing else. You will not see this point mentioned often – if at all – in the mainstream right-wing press either, but if you sit down and look at it then the positive economic contribution that immigrants make  (£2.5 billion) is helping to fund the current state pension.

The reality is that if we want a more secure retirement we need a much larger working population and as this is not expected to be achieved through population growth then increased immigration is the only solution.

The real point that needs to repeatedly reiterated is that Asylum seekers are only a small group, and that they do not receive anywhere near the basic benefits of a pensioner. The reality is that asylum seekers receive a weekly living allowance set at just 70% of income support – the weekly payment for an asylum seeker over 25 is just £35.13, £95 (or 70%) less every week than a pensioner claiming income support; and just over half of what the government says a person needs to live on. Furthermore the vast majority of asylum seekers are not entitled to claim any of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Job Seekers Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Benefit
  • Social Fund
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Invalid Care Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Non-contributory incapacity benefit
  • Working Families’ Tax Credit
  • Disabled Person’s Tax Credit
  • Child Benefit

The UK asylum system is strictly controlled and this is reflected in the numbers of people seeking asylum in the UK. There were only 25,670 asylum applications to the UK in 2008. Applications have fallen by almost half over the last five years. The home office detains roughly 2,000 asylum-seeking children with their families each year. The treatment of asylum seekers is a national disgrace.

You will not read about any of the above in the vast majority of tabloid newspapers. Those newspapers instead prefer headlines like: ‘Asylum seekers are lured to the UK by its ‘enormous’ benefits, says Calais mayor in blistering attack on Britain‘ (The Daily Mail), ‘Former asylum seekers on benefits live in £1.8 million home‘ (The Daily Telegraph) and ‘Asylum seekers wrongly paid £10m in benefits‘ (London Evening Standard). These headlines are on the first 2 pages of Google results for ‘asylum seekers benefits’.

In a recent article on immigration I argued that tabloid newspapers are as poisonous as cigarettes in that you don’t have to directly read a tabloid newspaper to suffer, you are poisoned merely by existing in the same atmosphere as one. Just as the passive smoker inhales the carcinogens of the cigarette, so the passive tabloid reader inhales the toxic messages of the tabloid press. You cannot ignore tabloid newspapers anymore than you can dodge inhaling the smoke of a lit cigarette in your proximity. When a BNP leaflet lands on your doorstep urging you to vote BNP in order to stop putting asylum seekers above pensioners you are inhaling the toxins of a un-regulated tabloid press. When hatred and bigotry is typed onto glossy paper and posted through your door as a supposedly creditable political option then you should look not just towards the ignorant racists that put the message onto the leaflet, but also towards the tabloid newspapers who carefully created the message for them in the first place.

The next time you hear someone complaining about asylum seekers ‘getting it all’ or playing any part in the current economic crisis ask them how many people seek asylum in the UK each year. I doubt they would have a clue. Then ask them just how much an asylum seeker is entitled to each week, and what benefits they can claim. Again, I doubt that they have a clue. Yet they are happy to blame around 25,000 people living on just over half the amount that the government says a person needs to live on – 70% less than pensioners claiming income support – for ‘broken Britain’. Whenever someone exhales a tabloid lie about immigration or asylum seekers in your face, be as offended as you would be if a smoker exhaled cigarette smoke in your face. Say something, challenge them, let them know that parroting tabloid lies is not big and not clever. If you can make just one person see the reality the tabloids try so hard to obscure, then you’ve done something amazingly positive for humanity.

A Talk About Immigration

Yesterday I tried to point out that the whole notion that immigration was something that we were not as a society allowed to discuss was beyond ludicrious. I updated that post with today’s front page of the Daily Mail to demonstrate that the right-wing press are as keen as ever to portray immigration as the great unmentionable topic during this election. Here I am going to look at it in more detail, as well as looking at just what the truth is in respect to immigration in this country.

Firstly, the Daily Mail headline is absolutely laughable: ‘Politicians’ censorship of any debate on mass immigration explodes…’ and easily swept aside by the fact that immigration has been discussed at length by all three parties in something actually called ‘a debate’. Considering that these two live debates have been managed by ITV on one occasion and Sky on the other the idea that politicians have been ‘censoring’ the debate is a complete joke. The main reason people watch the TV debates I imagine is the fact that anything can happen on live TV, that they have a rare opportunity to view politicians without the stage-managed theatrics.

Moving on to the main headline it actually manages to be worse: ‘Demonised: The granny who dared to utter the I-word’. No point in going over old ground in dismissing the stupidity of the ‘you can’t talk about immigration’ claim, but look at the word ‘Demonised’. Who has really been demonised here? Gillian Duffy for being labelled a bigot in a personal, off-the-record remark by Gordon Brown who in public politely nodded and changed the subject as Gillian started rambling gibberish about foreigners like we are all supposed to (why is it socially unacceptable to challenge such remarks?). Or is it Gordon Brown who is being crucified by the press and has felt the need to offer a grovelling apology to Gillian Duffy despite the fact that her ramblings did seem to be bigoted? I think on the balance of evidence I’m going to suggest the only demonisation taking place here is the demonisation of anybody who tries to step outside the accepted right-wing narrative about immigration – which is: immigration is evil.

Consider Quentin Lett’s bizzare defence of Gillain Duffy which is headlined: ‘She was magnificent, she was eloquent. And she spoke, I suspect, for millions’. Am I alone in thinking that he must have read a completely different transcript, if the following is ‘magnificent’ and ‘eloquent’ then I really need to pick up a dictionary and check a couple of definitions:

…There are too many people now who aren’t vulnerable but they can claim and people who are vulnerable can’t get claim… You can’t say anything about the immigrants because you’re saying you’re – but all these eastern Europeans coming in, where are they flocking from?

Why then, is it so important for the Daily Mail to portray Gillian Duffy as ‘magnificent’ and ‘eloquent’? I suspect it is because here is a voter that just happens to be completely on message with the media narrative on immigration: vulnerable people are being screwed over because immigrants get all the benefits, but of course you can’t say anything about immigrants even though they’re all ‘flocking’ over here. Perfect. She is therefore the ideal proponent of the tabloid view of immigration and therefore if the Daily Mail gave the impression that she actually seemed confused, fearful and ignorant, it wouldn’t say a huge amount about the kind of person who understands, believes and repeats the tabloid narrative.

I understand that it is not productive to blame Gillian Duffy for having these views, she may well be a passive victim of consistent dishonesty from a poorly regulated press rather than the sort of bigot that buys a tabloid newspaper because it reinforces their view of immigration. It also isn’t her fault that she is being made into a faux martyr by the same dishonest newspapers. The only thing I can really do with regards to Gillian Duffy is shake my head in dissapointment that she has been fooled by the press into feeling the need to tackle Gordon Brown about foreigners coming over here.

The reason I am disappointed is that these inane mutterings have consequences for us all. I sometimes get smug comments on this site along the lines of: ‘Hey, you moan about people reading the Daily Mail to be angry, yet you do exactly the same! If you don’t like it, don’t read it, simple.’ However, it isn’t that simple because whether you read a tabloid newspaper or not, you cannot avoid being exposed to the poisenous narratives that they create.

Think of a tabloid reader as if they were a smoker and the tabloid newspaper is a cigerette. A lit cigerrete is hard to ignore, is has a fiery tip and billows smoke, the smoker inhales the poisenous smoke and then exhales it, often in the vicinity of others. You don’t have to be a smoker to inhale this second-hand smoke, nor do you have to be a smoker to see and smell the lit ciggerette. The tabloid press acts in the same way: the headlines scream at you from newstands, whilst any tabloid reader who inhales the message exhales it – frequently – in your company. We are all passive tabloid newspaper readers. The posenous stench is unavoidable.

Everytime you hear someone fearfully talk about the population hitting ’70million’; everytime you hear that immigrants / illegal immigrants / asylum seekers are ‘showered in benefits’ whilst ‘hard working taxpayers / pensioners’ are left without; everytime people say that there aren’t enough jobs because of immigrants; everytime you hear that local schools / hospitals are ‘full / stretched / overrun’; everytime you hear people moan about ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ or the ‘PC brigade’ or ‘political correctness gone mad’; everytime you hear someone talk about ‘open borders / no border controls / unlimited immigration’.

Everytime you hear these things you are the passive victim of a tabloid newspaper.

You may have never read a tabloid newspaper yet you and the rest of the country will have to sit through a third election debate this evening where the three candidates will compete to see who can be toughest on immigration. Once again, you are the passive victim of tabloid smoke being pumped out on immigration. You may not agree with Quentin Letts or Gillian Duffy yet whenever someone claims to speak for the ‘silent majority / average man on the street/ on behalf of the hard-working taxpayer’ the tabloid press attempts to steal your right to your own individual opinion. Your right to a proper democratic debate has been hijacked by the tabloid press, whether you read it or not, whether you even acknowledge its very existence is completely irrelevant.

It is difficult to change someone’s mind about an issue. I had an argument on Twitter today about whether I was being ‘dismissive’ of the opinions of people like Gillian Duffy, and whether I was wrong to give up trying to engage with such people to change their viewpoint. Firstly, in Gillian’s case I really don’t think this is her opinion, and secondly in my experience trying to argue against tabloid narratives is extremely difficult – hence why politics, religion and I imagine immigration are topics to be avoided at any dinner party because it’ll just turn into a row.

Shifting the existing culture of tabloid narratives is going to be tough, and clearly we have to focus on education the young in media literacy (I teach some sessions on this for the FE college I work in) so that they have a greater awareness that the majority of tabloid newspaper stories are extemely dishonest and designed to further an agenda that has nothing to do with news. One thing I have noticed teaching in areas with virtually no immigration is just how much hostility young people have to immigrants, even though they live in an area in which it just isn’t an issue.

Consider the following points taken from research into various immigration issues in the UK:

The main result of the empirical analysis is that there is no strong evidence of large adverse effects of immigration on employment or wages of existing workers. In this respect our findings are consistent with empirical results from international research. There is some weak evidence of negative effects on employment but these are small and for most groups of the population it is impossible to reject the absence of any effect with the data used here. Insofar as there is evidence of any effect on wages, it suggests that immigration enhances wage growth1.

These figures report the total number of international migrants – that is, without any separation by country of birth. In accordance with the United Nations defi nition, these figures also include British nationals returning after ayear or more abroad2.

A Home Office research study found that, in 1999/2000, first generation migrants in the UK contributed £31.2 billion in taxes and consumed £28.8 billion in benefits and public services – a net fiscal contribution of £2.5 billion3.

Work by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research suggests that around 17 per cent of economic growth in 2004 and 2005 is attributable to immigration4

The Treasury estimates that between Q3 2001 and mid-2006 migration added 0.5 per cent per annum to the working age population and therefore supported growth in economic output. On this basis, migration contributed around £6 billion to output growth in 20065.

More recent work by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found that migration has a positive and growing impact on the public finances. By 2003-04 it was estimated that migrants contributed 10 percent of government receipts and accounted for 9.1 per cent of government expenditure10.

There is no theoretical reason why immigration need either depress native wages or increase native unemployment. Given that there is a strong long-run correlation between the size of the labour force and employment, there is no “lump of labour”; it is not true to say that there are only a fixed number of jobs to go round6.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has performed an extensive and thorough statistical analysis of claimant count data, the Annual Labour Force Survey and the Workers Registration Scheme (WRS). This analysis found no discernible statistical evidence that A8 migration has resulted in an increase in the claimant count rate since May 20047.

we have found no discernible statistical evidence to suggest that A8 migration has been a contributor to the rise in claimant unemployment in the UK9.

Vacancies, including those in sectors where migrants are concentrated have been and remain historically high. The magnitude of vacancies in the UK in a given month is far greater than the inflow of A8 migrants8.

Most new migrants have no entitlement to social housing… Foreign-born populations who have arrived in the UK during the last five years are overwhelmingly housed in the private rental sector, and not in social housing. New migrants to the UK over the last five years make up less than two per cent of the total of those in social housing; some 90 per cent of those who live in social housing are UK born12.

Our findings suggest that areas that have higher levels of recent immigration than others are not more likely to vote for the BNP. In fact, the more immigration an area has experienced, the lower its support for the far right. Rather, the evidence points to political and socio-economic exclusion as drivers of BNP support11.

Think back to these points when each party leader talks about the importance of ‘reducing’ or ‘controlling’ or ‘capping’ immigration and consider whether these pledges are being in the best interest of the country. Or, whether they are being made to mollify a huge electoral swathe of people addicted to tabloid smoke. Not to mention whether the politicians are keen to appease the creators of this smoke: the right-wing tabloid press whose dishonest, hateful and shameful reporting has led to this ‘issue’ taking center stage in the first place.

We all know that any politician or political party brave enough to have a real debate about immigration would be absolutely crucifed by the right-wing press. Yet, we must also realise that whether we inhale it first-hand, or passively inhale it from others, we are all being subjected to the same poisenous message and if we don’t want to be poisened we all have to fight for change. A passive smoker no longer enters a pub for a few drinks and comes out stinking of smoke. Imagine a world in which we could enter a pub and not inhale the stench of tabloid lies either. As I said on Twitter earlier: we cannot have a real debate on immigration as long as the tabloid press exists in its current form. It is that simple.


For more on this topic also see the excellent Tabloid Watch.

References

1, Dustmann, C. Fabbri, F. Preston, I. and Wadsworth, J. (2003) The local labour market effects of immigration in the UK. Home Office Online Report 06/03 [pdf]. Accessed 29 April 2010: http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/14331/1/14331.pdf

2, A Cross-Departmental Submission to the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs (2007) The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Immigration. Accessed 29 April 2010: http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm72/7237/7237.pdf

3, IBID

4, IBID

5, IBID

6, Blanchflower, D. Saleheen, J. and Shadforth, C. (2007) The Impact of the Recent Migration from Eastern Europe on the UK Economy. Bank of England. Accessed 29 April 2010: http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/speeches/2007/speech297.pdf

7, A Cross-Departmental Submission to the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs (2007) The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Immigration. Accessed 29 April 2010: http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm72/7237/7237.pdf

8, IBID

9, Gilpin, N. Henty M. Lemos, S. Portes, J. and Bullen, C. (2006) The impact of free movement of workers from Central and Eastern Europe on the UK labour market. Department for Work and Pensions, Working Paper No. 29. Accessed 29 April 2010: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/wp29.pdf

10, Reed, H. and Latorre, M. (2009) The Economic Impacts of Migration on the UK Labour Market. Accessed 29 April 2010: http://www.ippr.org.uk/publicationsandreports/publication.asp?id=649

11, IPPR (2010) Exploring the Roots of BNP Support. Accessed 29 April 2010: http://www.ippr.org.uk/publicationsandreports/publication.asp?id=743

12, Rutter, J. and Latorre, M. (2009) Social housing allocation and immigrant communities. Accessed 29 April 2009: http://www.ippr.org.uk/publicationsandreports/publication.asp?id=689

Your Local Candidates: who are they?

This election is supposed to be exciting because we have seen the leaders on TV having a carefully staged discussion. A discussion that allowed some pretty inane questions to be asked and answered without any further questioning from the person asking the question or others in the audience. It says a lot about the state of British politics that such a rigid and unrevealing ‘debate’ has caused such a stir amongst the voting and non-voting public.

Whether it has actually changed anything remains to be seen in terms of votes cast on May the 6th, but I imagine for many of us we are more interested in meeting our local candidates, and here for me lies the problem: so far in this election I have not met any of my local candidates.

This isn’t to say they haven’t been visible locally or even called on my house whilst I am out, it is merely to say I haven’t heard of anything happening locally and I haven’t answered my door to a single candidate. I have received a Plaid Cymru leaflet from Danny Clark, a Liberal Democrat leaflet from Jackie Radford and a Conservative leaflet from Emma Moore (I think I got something from Labour but have misplaced it). All of it pretty uninspiring and in Emma Moore’s case, a disgraceful mish-mash of lies, implied racism and contradictory drivel.

So, how am I or any other voter supposed to choose between candidates based on one leaflet? Perhaps the problem is that many politicians feel just as apathetic about politics as the general public. If they know that an area normally votes Labour, irrespective of whether Labour has abandoned its roots by making the rich richer as well as getting involved in illegal wars and torture, then they send out a leaflet to simply go through the motions, they do not expect any vast change in voting patterns, so they do not bother really trying to win votes.

However, all of the candidates have put contact information on their leaflets and this includes a website. So I visit them to see what else I can find out.

The Liberal Democrat Candidate website is pretty uninspiring on a local level, just six mainly short paragraphs of information about Jackie and an invitation to click on the Liberal Democrats website. No details of what Jackie is up to, whether I can see her or whether she’ll be in my area in the run up to the election. I find out a bit more about what Jackie has done in her career, but I don’t find out anything more about the kind of person Jackie is.

The Conservative Candidate website is a more personal affair, with more details and a few photos of Emma and South Wales. However, the political priorities are the same as on the leaflet so I’m still not finding out a great deal more. She does have a Facebook page, and this does get updated quite regularly with comments on a range of matters. It is these opinion pieces that give me a better idea of what kind of views she has – this is the kind of stuff as a voter I’m looking for.

The Plaid Cymru Candidate website is not at all personal and you have to dig around to find the one paragraph dedicated to Danny, and no contact details are given (nor are they on the leaflet) this is a huge minus for this candidate. If I cannot easily contact you when you want my vote, what chance I have got if you actually get in?

I guess my point is, on a local level I am still as much in the dark as I have been during previous elections. I might have seen the three party leaders on TV, but on a local level I know nothing more about the actual person I would be voting for to represent my area.

After my previous post on Emma Moore’s leaflet campaign I emailed Emma to offer her a right to reply, to which she has not responded. I also emailed both the Liberal Democrats and Labour. The Liberal Democrats responded quickly that they would be forwarding the email on to the relevant team, but I have heard nothing since. Labour have yet to issue any kind of response. I’m pretty disappointed with this, and it seems to dent any spirit of public activism.

I spent a couple of hours of my time pulling apart some lies being delivered to thousands of houses by the Conservative candidate and I don’t have a single proper response from the three main parties on this matter. As a user of social media perhaps my expectations are too high. I kind of expect my candidate to have a blog, a Twitter page, a decent website and I expect them to check their emails regularly. I kind of expect to get a real feel for the candidate through the open sharing of their views on a range of matters. Apart from Emma’s Facebook page I don’t get any of this from the candidates. I am no wiser than before.

It is clear politics is changing and social media will play a huge part in this – I genuinely believe we will start to learn an awful lot more about local candidates in the next few years as we expect them to share more of themselves with voters. However, at the moment most of us will have to make do with staged TV debates in a studio far, far away.

Emma Moore, Conservative Candidate for Ogmore and her dishonest leaflets

On Saturday morning I received a personal message (addressed ‘Dear Resident’) from Emma Moore, my local Conservative candidate for Ogmore. In this personal message she outlines ‘why we need change in Britain today’, and I was immediately struck by a a series of tabloid lies being wheeled out by Emma in an attempt to gain my support. I therefore decided to take some action and post on it. So here we go, tabloid lie number one:

The Conservatives would review the effects of Labour’s misguided laws – such as those which results in a grandmother being tagged for selling Goldfish to an underage customer

Oh dear. Emma Moore is using a story about a grandmother being tagged for ‘admitting causing suffering to a cockatiel’ and for selling goldfish to a person under 161. So of course the tabloids like the Daily Express and Daily Mail used this as ‘proof’ that Britain had gone mad because they buried the animal cruelty bits and tried to pretend the punishment was just for selling a fish to an underage child – which, we should not forget is still a crime and I thought the Conservatives were traditionally tough on criminals?

Unfortunately for Emma Moore an ‘and’ follows the above quotation and she continues:

terrorists not being deported as it would be against their ‘rights’

Ah yes, the tabloid obsession with ‘rights’, notice the use of inverted commas around ‘rights’, making it clear that Emma doesn’t believe terrorists have any ‘rights’. Presumably she is happy to have extraordinary rendition and torture because people we label terrorists shouldn’t have ‘rights’.

As has been pointed out before, the tabloids have an agenda to discredit the human rights act, the very thing that attempts to guarantee every individual basic human rights irrespective of the colour of their skin, the religion they may or may not follow, whatever crimes they may have been accused of, their sexuality and so forth. It is the basis of trying to create a world in which everyone is guaranteed not to be abused by any state that signs up to the charter. This doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but here we are being told that ‘rights’ for certain groups are bad.

However, as the Guardian reported in 2009 the majority of tabloid scare stories blaming the lack of deportation of a criminal in most cases has nothing to do with human rights and more to do with legal loopholes and other complicated aspects of international law. Rarely does human rights have any impact on deportation, and if it does it is because the country to which they may be deported is likely to kill or cause unnecessary suffering to the deportee. We are supposed to be a civilised country, we have no form of capital punishment, so should we really deport criminals or ‘terrorists’ to a certain death sentence? To do so undermines the morality of us all, it would appeal only to the basest instincts of a minority of people in Britain – the dark instincts which the Human Rights Act is designed to keep in check2.

So far from Emma Moore we’ve had two tabloid myths repeated, but she’s happy to keep ploughing the ‘aren’t you outraged’ furrow and moves onto bail:

Simple things have been overlooked. Can you believe it is not illegal to breach bail?

Now, I’m moving outside of my comfort zone here, but from what I have read bail – like most aspects of law – is quite a complex subject and Emma is trying to oversimplify it. From what I have read it is true that the ‘breach of bail conditions is not an offence as such’, but a ‘constable may arrest a person who is believed to be likely to breach or has breached any condition of their bail’3. Furthermore, there are two aspects to breaching bail: firstly, the breaching of bail conditions (moving house, breaching a curfew, moving within areas that are off limits, approaching witnesses etc); and secondly the failure to attend court at the set time without a reasonable excuse – this is a separate criminal offence under the Bail Act 19764.

I’m not going to pretend to fully understand the intricacies of bail, but I know that the subject is far more complex than Emma is suggesting and that because breaching bail conditions normally results in arrest and the reconsideration of whether bail will be granted a second time I’m not overly sure what making it a criminal offence will actually achieve. Sadly, Emma doesn’t make any attempt to inform me.

Emma Moore isn’t finished with bail yet though:

In most cases bail is offered automatically, even for relatively serious crimes, only for some people to commit more crime whilst awaiting trial.

Here is where the tabloid world of crime starts to contradict itself, for only a couple of paragraphs earlier we were being shocked at the harsh sentence handed out when a goldfish is sold to an underage customer, now we’re being told that ‘relatively serious’ crimes allow the accused to get automatic bail. Well, which is it? Do we have a system that penalises even the most petty offence harshly, or a system that is too weak to deal with those accused of ‘relatively serious’ offences? You cannot have both Emma, unless your paranoia makes you imagine that the criminal justice system is more interested in persecuting goldfish selling grandmothers than hardened criminals. Considering the justice system remains independent from the government I’m not sure you’d be able to argue this point5.

Furthermore, bail is normally granted unless:

Once charged, the police must release you on bail unless the custody officer reasonably believes that:

  • There is doubt about your name or address; or
  • Detention is necessary to protect you or somebody else; or
  • You will fail to attend court or will interfere with witnesses or the administration of justice.

That seems to leave a significant level of discretion for those involved with the case to refuse bail. Whilst it is true that bail is granted in the majority of cases, it must be remembered that the majority of alledged crimes are not actually serious. If the allegded crime was serious and any member of the public was in danger, then bail could easily be refused. I understand that sometimes this system isn’t perfect, because a certain element of human judgement is involved and human beings are not perfect, nor can the behaviour of other human beings be predicted accurately. However, as far as I am aware no-one else seems to be putting the bail system at the heart of their election manifesto, presumably because their are real problems to tackle. Emma seems more concerned with scaring me into voting for her, rather than winning my support by tackling the real issues. At least she is clearly on-message with the rest of the Conservative Party and the Tory press.

Next up, a very predictable and depressing attack:

We would scrap the European Human Rights Act… stopping ridiculous compensation claims like prisoners getting money for not having heroin supplied to them in jail and being ‘forced’ to go cold turkey.

Wow, you’re selling me the Conservative dream Emma! A vote for the Conservatives, is a vote to scrap your basic, fundamental human rights. I know, a vote for the Conservatives has always meant this, but at least they used to be subtle about it. Now they actually think it should be a policy they can show off. As for the heroin story, yes, you guessed it, it is taken from the Daily Mail: ‘Drug addicted prisoners receive compensation for being forced to go cold turkey’ (I suspect that Emma is a Daily Mail reader).

Like most stories in the Daily Mail, it is also palpably untrue, as a serving prisoner points out on his blog in a post about prison myths:

One such lie, a myth in the making, is that hundreds of prisoners were awarded compensation after being refused heroin. It speaks to the sanity of Mail readers that they could ever think this could be true, but there you are. The case in question was actually about de-toxing from heroin. In the community, detox via the NHS is supported with a regimen of drugs which lessen the pains of the process. But in prisons, this support was absent, forcing the detoxers to suffer. The compensation came about because of this inexplicable disparity in treatment, which led to their being caused unnecessary suffering. Feel free to object to that, as you please, but it had bugger all to do with being refused heroin.

It is terribly depressing to think that the Daily Mail is not just directly attempting to force a Conservative government on us for the next four years, but also that their lies are indirectly being fed to people in my constituency. People who will not have immediately spotted the lies because they don’t spend their spare time writing or reading this blog and others. That there is little more to her opening statement than the above tabloid lies says a lot about the Conservative tactic of scaring people into voting for them. I can understand this from their point of view because their policies are directed at maintaining and increasing the wealth of the richest 6% of the country, and these policies are hardly likely to convince many in this area of Wales to vote for them.

And one final point, Emma Moore, if I may direct this at you personally. Under the heading ‘Safer Communities’ you have three bullet points; I have serious issues with two of them.

Firstly, you state that you want to ‘Have a dedicated border police to crack down on immigration and visa offences’. How exactly is this point related to ‘Safer communities’ unless you’re trying to link the idea that immigrants make a community inherently unsafe? I find you wedging immigrants between serious crime and drug-related crime, under the heading you have chosen, deeply offensive and it smacks of racism. You actually seem to be stating that our communities would be safer if we cracked down ‘on immigration and visa offences’. Do you seriously not understand how racist that sounds? Immigrants are human beings who seek a different way of life in a different country for a huge variety of reasons, they are human beings, the same as us all9. Yet here you are stating that they make our communities unsafe. I wonder how safe immigrants will be if you do scrap the European Bill of Human Rights.

Secondly, you state you want to ‘increase drug treatment programmes to tackle addiction-driven crime’. Sounds like a good idea, in fact this is exactly the kind of programme that the prisoners were refused when they sought compensation for being denied this treatment. You know, the story you used as an example of the UK’s crazy compensation culture. You manage to completely contradict yourself in the space of a few paragraphs and if you actually spent an hour looking into your ‘evidence’ you probably would have spotted just how stupid you were being here.

It staggers me that you would not even conduct the most basic research before publishing a leaflet and posting presumably thousands of them through doors all around this constituency. You have so little respect for your prospective voters that you feed us this tabloid drivel as ‘evidence’ of why we should vote for you, yet even your own pamphlet inadvertently undermines your own arguments.

I have emailed you a link to this article and offer you the right of reply, I will publish it underneath this post. So, if you want to argue any of your points further then I will publish them here. I am still considering printing this on leaflets and doing my own mailshot because I am that disgusted with your leaflet.

UPDATE 1 – 25th April, 2pm

I appreciate the early comments and take on board my perhaps simplistic idealism with regards to the Human Rights Act, however, I stand by my assertion that to alter or scrap the act requires judgements to be made about who deserves and who doesn’t deserve human rights. If history has taught us one thing, it is that governments and human beings in general are not the right people to make these judgements. It is only safe and fair to ensure that everyone has basic human rights, irrespective of how testing that can be at times.

Secondly, in response to how long this took me, well, under 2 hours with Google at my side. I would like to spend more time tidying up what I have written, considering my points a little more and attempting to write something better but as a one-man-band with other commitments I have to be satisfied with off-the-cuff posts like this. Still, I think I have demonstrated that it wouldn’t have taken Emma Moore long to research her stories and consider her prospective voters.

With regards to Emma Moore, I am still awaiting a response. I have passed this post to the local Liberal Democrats, but am still awaiting a Labour leaflet to get contact details of who their candidate is.


1, See Enemies of Reason: ‘The Proof at last‘ and ‘April Fool‘ for more details on how the tabloids skewed this story and the Express even laughably campaigned to ‘free her now’.

2, See Guardian: ‘Bad Press: human rights myths exposed‘.

3, See wikicrimeline: ‘Breach of bail conditions‘.

4, See Your Rights: ‘The rights of defendants‘.

5, See Wikipedia: ‘Separation of powers‘.

6, See Your Rights: ‘The rights of defendants‘.

7, See The Daily Mail: ‘Drug addicted prisoners receive compensation for being forced to go cold turkey‘.

8, See Ben’s Prison Blog (written through sending written blog posts via the Royal Mail to a friend on the outside who uploads them to his blog): ‘Myths in the making’.

9, See Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!: ‘We need to change the rhetoric on immigration‘. And Angry Mob: ‘Deport me, I’m not even integrating‘.

Some Important pre-election links

It has been a very busy week for the blogosphere and Twitter, given the wealth of bullshit being printed by Tory-supporting newspapers.

One of the best round-ups of this can be found over on Tabloidwatch and makes essential reading, also pay Die Dog or Shite the Licence a visit for his take on this story. Enemies of Reason also has an important post on the matter, as well as a brilliant selection of worthwhile articles to read that almost makes this post rather pointless.

Beau Bo D’Or has created some graphics highlighting the importance of disobeying Rupert Murdoch at this election. He is not advocating voting for any particular party, but just not voting for the Murdoch-backed Conservative Party:

Disobey Murdoch

Johann Hari has been in fine form (not that he ever isn’t) with some important articles on the election: ‘The forces that have been blocking British democracy are becoming visible in this election‘; ‘If you’re looking for class war, you can find it – in David Cameron’s policies‘ and ‘The great bloody hole in the British election campaign – Afghanistan‘ – all essential reading.

Five Chinese Crackers has screen grabbed an Express headline declaring that David Cameron has already won the 2010 election.

Finally, if you’re not on Twitter I think now is the time to seriously consider joining. The amount of interesting articles I’ve read this week that I have only found from following people on Twitter has been immense. Twitter is helping to drive the truth forward, and has managed to destroy the Tory-press’ amazing smears this week within minutes of their publication. You can follow me on Twitter here.