Nov 112012

This is clearly what people in the trade call a hatchet job.  It’s written by two journalists: one, unfortunately, called David Rose; the other, rather more identifiably, called Bob Woffinden.  More background to this complex and unclear situation, with corresponding links, can be found at the moment over at Tom’s place.

The only thing I’d add to Tom’s piece, which I don’t think I found included, is this story which came my way via Ally Fogg’s Twitter feed this evening:

Can anyone confirm that the David Rose who wrote the hatchet job on Messham in the Mail today is same DR writing here?…

The link and story it directs us to, written indeed in 2007 by a certain David Rose, admits quite openly to the following introduction to a deeper world of editorial collusion:

My secret life began, as if scripted by P G Wodehouse, with an invitation to tea at the Ritz.

The call came at the end of the first week of May 1992. I was the Observer’s home affairs correspondent, and at the other end of the line was a man we shall call Tom Bourgeois, special assistant to “C”, Sir Colin McColl, the then chief of the Secret Intelligence Service. SIS (or MI6, as it is more widely known) was “reaching out” to selected members of the media, Bourgeois explained, and over lunch a few days earlier with McColl, my editor, Donald Trelford, had suggested that I was a reliable chap – not the sort, even years later, to betray a confidence by printing an MI6 man’s real name.

I suggest you read on to get a full flavour of what was about to happen – though I suppose even the most naive of us out here might already realise the essence of the game …

  1. that just over a week ago a man – who most are prepared to admit was seriously and sexually abused in his youth whilst under the care of the state – should speak up in public to the BBC‘s “Newsnight” programme, and then proceed to retract his accusations …
  2. that the “Newsnight” journalists should fail to properly check the story having previously dropped an investigation into Jimmy Savile’s activities in the same organisation …
  3. that another man who was pinpointed by some in the mainstream and social media as having been one of the abusers, Lord McAlpine, should then have to issue this statement, denying – before he had actually been officially named by anyone of repute – that he had done anything of which he could be reasonably accused …
  4. and then that two journalists, one of whom has the same name as a host of other selfless individuals sadly labouring under public suspicion through mere association, should proceed to destroy what little reputation the accuser apparently had in any case …

… well, it does seems all rather weird, to borrow a term going the rounds at the moment.

In fact, there’s far more weirdness in all of this from the establishment side of things than anything a clearly sad and suffering survivor of sexual abuse could ever promulgate.

Just to underline two finally salient points.  Firstly, as Tom reminds us in another piece he posted today:

The fact of the matter is it wasn’t the BBC that wrongly implicated Lord McAlpine in the child abuse scandal.

It was North Wales Police.

Abuse victim Steve Messham – and the widow of another victim – told Channel 4 News that they were shown a photo and wrongly given Lord McAlpine’s name by police when they were interviewed by them in the early 1990s.

Now I’m aware that the McAlpine family tree is fiendishly complicated but it’s an extraordinary mistake to make on the part of the police – which is why it’s even stranger that the harsh, critical light of opprobrium is being concentrated in the direction of the BBC (and on Steve Messham too) and not in the least bit on North Wales Police.

Further to this point, you can find more from a couple of days ago from the BBC itself here:

A victim of sexual abuse while he was a resident of a north Wales care home has apologised for making false allegations against a Conservative politician.

Steve Messham said police had shown him a picture of his abuser but incorrectly told him the man was Lord McAlpine.

Secondly, Lord McAlpine’s own carefully couched statement already linked to above had this revealing sentence in its very first paragraph (the bold is mine):

“Over the last several days it has become apparent to me that a number of ill-or uninformed commentators have been using blogs and other internet media outlets to accuse me of being the senior Conservative Party figure from the days of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership who is guilty of sexually abusing young residents of a children’s home in Wrexham, North Wales in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

In a document I am sure was so obviously parsed and approved by his lawyer, that he should choose to say “the senior Conservative Party figure […] who is guilty of sexually abusing young residents” and not choose, for example, to say “who it is alleged was guilty of sexually abusing young residents” is surely revealing in itself.

Now I may be reading far more into this than is fair.  It may be true that – under Thatcher – we lived in a policed state and not a police state (more here).  But whilst the least shadow of a doubt remains, it is clear – at least to me – that something feels as wrong now as it did a decade ago during the lead-up to the Iraq War.

That furious pitter-patter of guilt-ridden establishment brogues was never louder or more worrying than today.

From banking to the BBC, from Murdoch to the police, from MPs’ expenses to democratic deficit, from the destruction of public services to the reconstruction of private-sector graft … well, little it now seems is out of the frame of our suspicions.

Little it now seems is too incredible.

Who can we turn to?  Who can we trust?  Who can help clear up this mess?  Who has the moral authority and right?

These are the questions our politicians need to answer.  These are the issues of the day.

Nov 112012

I’ve been wondering on this one for a while now.  It’s clear that the Tories are engaged in a blitzkrieg of terrifying proportions as they fight alongside their American cousins to destroy the infrastructure of public-service delivery here in Britain.  It’s even been argued that they don’t care about cost: that the substitute National Health Service, as operated by private institutions, will spend far more as it does the job worse, both in terms of patient care as well as staff working conditions and pay, than the previous structures ever did.


They’re not interested in cost.

They’re not interested in delivery.

What an earth, then, are they interested in?

I think to be honest the only conclusion we can now reasonably come to is blame, culpability and responsibility in general.

The state has always been criticised quite savagely by the right here in Britain for being generally cumbersome and overly procedural – as well as lacking in responsiveness and customer focus.  Every time a disease has broken out at an NHS hospital or a child has been abused at a state school or  a police force has been accused of ignoring rape victims, we get another case added to an apparent litany of crimes which the overbearing nanny state continues to commit.

How much better would it be, then, for the state to be divided up into small and focussed gobbets of good practice which worked alongside their communities in beautiful and cogent consonance and agreement!

A kind of sociopolitical heaven on earth, don’t you think?

And that’s the way they’re telling us it’ll go.  Except that I’ve realised, today, how that’s not the real intention.

Why do makers and shakers really want to eliminate the state?  Because they’re fed up to their unprofessional back-teeth of having to respond to a public oversight of everything they undemocratically cook up on their cosy sofas behind their carefully closed doors.  Having a relatively concentrated state with relatively clear lines of responsibility makes it evermore difficult, especially in a social-media age of rolling 24-hour Internet judgement, to maintain a proper narrative which serves to win elections.

You can just hear them discussing it in one or other of their top-level strategy meetings:  “How much better then would it be if we could find a way of diluting that responsibility?  Of making it impossible to pin down – not only to the politicians but also the service deliverers themselves?”

And so this is what they’ve been doing, since Tony Blair’s time at least.  In this sense, Thatcher was anything but a diluter of responsibilities.  She shouldered them vigorously, frontally, aggressively.  Not for her this lily-livered hiding-behind-contracting-corporations.

She may have used the state to destroy whole communities – but, for her, the state was a tool that should continue.

These lot, however, are post-Thatcherites in one very important sense: deviating lines of responsibility to make one’s job easier is the least attractive behaviour any person at the top of a hierarchy can demonstrate.  And this is precisely what Cameron & Co are now doing.  Not only do they not care to make the public sector more efficient, they prefer to substitute it with a more expensive private sector which will act as a shield for their continued political survival and protection.

They are getting us to expensively pay for that which will assure their long-term permanence in their chosen fields of endeavour.

The great advantage of the democratic state was that everyone who worked in it used to think that bad deeds would one day come – sooner or later – to very public light.  The great advantage of the private-sector state, however, at least for this most recent crop of post-Thatcherite politicos, is that everyone who works in it just knows that responsibilities will be inevitably hidden.

That’s why it’s called the private sector.  It keeps most of the very bad things it does very much to itself.

Makers and shakers of this nature really only want one thing: not to be blamed for anything at all.

By claiming to reduce the state to its minimum expression, and – at the same time as destroying the legal aid system – proceeding to shift the burden of proof to the patient, parent and crime victim, they’ve discovered a wonderful way of absolving themselves of all direct responsibility.

For they’ve now found the perfect mechanism to achieve this hugely damaging goal.

Once named the taxpayer, we now have the newly 21st century patient, parent and crime victim: as hapless and confused consumer without enforceable rights, they become political cannon fodder to the personal and careerist enrichment of the most evil political class in Western democracy.

The cowardly right.