Archive for May 2011

On super-injunctions

Internet savvy lawyers including David Allen Green and Charon QA spent part of Monday decrying Twitter’s involvement in the outing of the adulterer Ryan Giggs.

A commonality between the two them was their denouncing those who took it upon themselves to name Giggs as ‘unpaid reportertweeters’ who were ‘cheered on by tabloid journalists’. Yet others have called the behaviour mob rule.

Are they right? Is the outing of someone who clearly couldn’t keep to his marriage vows really a useful thing for everyone to have done?

The answer, as always, is a shade of grey.

It is perfectly understandable that those who have being playing away from home would prefer that their partners didn’t find out. The question therefore is to what lengths they should be able to go to in order to avoid that happening. The average Joe who doesn’t have £50,000 plus to donate to large, well known law firms so that their lawyers can pay their children’s school fees quite plainly doesn’t have the same options as a rich banker or celebrity and so will not be protected by the courts. However they are also unlikely to find their infidelities spread across several papers of the Sunday tabloids for whatever readership there remains to gawk over.

Unfortunately for the rich this is considered, in an age where information is freely (or cheaply) available, a red rag to a bull. By hiding behind lawyers and the courts all they manage to do is invoke the Streisand effect and bring even more publicity down on their heads. One day they may realise the old adage of today’s news being tomorrow’s chip paper, take the hit and get on with their lives. Yes, the internet makes it harder for things to go away but memories fade and people will generally not care beyond a brief gossip around the water cooler on Monday morning. All that injections manage to do, especially once the name behind one is revealed, is show how far behind the law is in relation to technology,

Indeed, Justice Eady, someone many believe to have made a mockery of British libel laws as a result of his judgements in such cases, said, during one of the two hearings yesterday in which judg’s refused to lift the injunction:

Should the court buckle every time one of its orders meets widespread disobedience or defiance? In a democratic society, if a law is deemed to be unenforceable or unpopular, it is for the legislature to make such changes as it decides are appropriate.

He comes close but doesn’t quite get it. Social media sites such as Twitter have rendered privacy injunctions unenforceable should those who use them, and who have access to knowledge that the courts have decided should not be made public, decide to do so. Any law that is not respected by the mob is a law that should be overturned. The rule of law, a thin veneer of civilised respectability, cannot survive unless those who are subject to it consent to be so – and in this matter it seems that the mob has decided that has concluded that the law in question is out of date. The justice system simply cannot cope with 70,000 people all naming someone they shouldn’t – any more than it is willing to attempt to enforce old, yet possibly still valid, laws banning consumption of items such as mince pies at Christmas or putting a stamp on an envelope the wrong way up. Certainly mass disobedience of the courts is nothing new and the use of the perverse verdict by juries (going against the directions of the judge) is a factor in the use of the death penalty in the UK being scaled back from all manner of offences, including petty ones, to only the most serious of crimes as well as, probably, other changes to the law.

Injunctions though are not just used by people who do not want their infidelities revealed. They have also been used to cover up criminal behaviour on behalf of individuals or corporations. Readers may well remember Trafigura appointing Carter-Ruck in an effort to stop the media reporting on a question concerning them in the House of Commons back in 2009 and the storm of protest that erupted then. Currently live injunctions, that don’t deal with issues of sexual indiscretion, do, according to the bloggers Max Farquar and Fleet Street Fox, cover up criminal activity including the sexual abuse of children. That, not some footballer screwing a non-entity, is a scandal.

All this however is just talking about injunctions taken out by individuals. The activities of two arms of the state, namely the Family Courts and the Court of Protection, are routinely conducted behind closed doors with details kept hidden from the public – and perhaps even those whose case the courts are ruling on. John Hemming, the MP who has been breaking some of the private injunctions under parliamentary privilege, has been campaigning for openness in those two state organs for some time. Hopefully the current row will help his cause.

We don’t need a strengthened privacy law – or indeed the bastard thing we have now thanks to the Human Right’s Act and how it has been interpreted it. What we need is openness in the shape of a strong freedom of speech and a public that has matured enough to not care what the rich and famous get up to between their sheets and with whom. Sadly we have neither.

Thought for the Day

penny_dreadful said, in response to the last post:

If I see the phrase ‘pro-cuts march’ one more time…

Which finally made me realise what it was that had been getting my goat about some of the media and other coverage of the Rally Against Debt. It was described as a ‘pro-government’ rally. But we weren’t.

Why not?

Lets consider the positions of the two campaigns:

  • Uk Uncut wants spending on services to increase.
  • RAD wants spending to decrease so that we might begin to start reducing our National Debt.

Government spending is (as those who haven’t been blinded by the lies know) going up. Yes, spending on some services is coming down but total government spending will be higher in 2015 than it was in 2010.

On that basis, which campaign is ‘pro-government’?

That Rally then

So, that rally. Yes I went, and yes it was my first ever demo… and by all accounts I wasn’t the only one breaking that particular cherry on Saturday.

My impressions of the day? Not a huge turnout (The Met said approx 350 people; a petition being passed around is said to have collected 400 signatures) but then again I can’t say I was expecting anything huge. Among those who did show up were Helen, Devil’s Kitchen, Bella Gerens, Dick Puddlecote, Penny Dreadful, Katabasis, Mark Wallace, Old Holborn, Olly Cromwell and members of the LPUK. The Facebook group might have 1,400 plus likes but there is no way on earth that such numbers are ever going to translate into boots on the ground. Clicking a button is easy, getting to London for a Saturday morning on your own dime isn’t necessarily so.

We even managed some light relief in the shape of about half a dozen anti-protestors.

More! Faster George Deeper @OldHolborn meets the public Protestors in front of @the_tpa debt clock #rallyagainstdebt
A Monster Raving Loony The opposition #rallyagainstdebt Burning the symbol of the enemy

I didn’t hear much of the brief speeches made by Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes), Mark Littlewood, Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs, Priti Patel MP, Conservative Member of Parliament for Witham, Harry Cole, (Total Politics), Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, Bill Cash MP, Conservative Member of Parliament for Stone, Martin Durkin, documentary filmmaker and Nigel Farage MEP, UKIP South Eastern Region as I was at the back of the crowd behind all of the placards when they were going on. A note to the organisers: next time get a better sound system sorted out.

Then, when it was all done, we decamped to the Westminster Arms and proceeded (in my case anyway) to consume far too much alcohol.

Was it a success? The Left said no and proceed to laugh at us for what they considered to be a pathetically low turnout. That didn’t however stop them talking about it. There were plenty of members of the MSM around, including some from everyone’s favourite state broadcaster and their print wing so, to paraphrase Guido, if it was a publicity stunt it was certainly a successful one given that it generated publicity well beyond it’s size, even trending on twitter at one point.

The big question though is where does it go from here? If it isn’t followed up on then it will have been for naught.

Reminder: Rally Against Debt

Not that I think that many readers of this blog need the reminder but for those who do the Rally is tomorrow (Saturday 14th).

Where: Old Palace Yard, Westminster
When: 1100 – 1400

  • Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes)
  • Mark Littlewood, Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs
  • Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance
  • Martin Durkin, documentary film maker and activist

Barring something unforeseen I shall be there – and then no doubt in a pub somewhere afterwards. Hope to see you there.

Street Theatre

There has been some reportage, and blog coverage, recently of remarks made by Public Health Minister Anne Milton.

As said Minister was last seen on this blog looking longingly at your organs I thought I’d investigate and see how she’d managed to put her foot into it this time.

The answer, somewhat surprisingly, is that she didn’t. At least not to any great extent. Her remarks came in a Westminster Hall debate on May 3rd on the subject of Childhood Obesity at which she, as Minister responsible, was present to respond. Towards the end of her response she talked about her recent junket to the World Health Organisation sponsored ‘First Global Ministerial Conference on Healthy Lifestyles and Noncommunicable Diseases’ held in Moscow on the 28th and 29th April.

Passing over such questions as how noncommunicable diseases and healthy lifestyles are in any way related and why politicians feel the need to have an international conference on the subject (further documentation is available online for those who are interested) the comments in question are these:

…the Minister of Health for Columbia talked about a scheme they have there. On Sundays they close certain streets so that everybody can play in them. That is an outstanding idea. Before constituents e-mail to complain about their streets closing, I should say that I accept it would not work everywhere. It could, however, work in some places.

And that was it. A silly, unenforceable and completely impractical idea to be sure but hardly a proposal or anything binding. Certainly nothing worth getting overly excited about.

No, the real revelation, although it seemed to pass unnoticed by hacks who either don’t care or can’t be bothered to report anything beyond trivia, came earlier on in her remarks when she said, on the subject of food labelling:

The regulations surrounding front-of-pack labelling are an EU competence.

A government minster for once admitting that an issue is out of their hands? We can applaud, for once, some honesty by a politician in admitting that, as a result of the actions of all governments and Prime Ministers since 1972, they have surrendered their ability to set policy in at least one area to their masters in Brussels. Now all they have to do is admit everything else that they and their predecessors have given up.

Even if they do, what are the chances of the MSM reporting it rather than some piece of trivia?

I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.


It may have escape the notice of some (or even all) of you but today, May 9th, is Europe Day (EU version), not be be confused with Europe Day (Council of Europe version) which was last Thursday (May 5th).

WTF, I hear you say, is Europe Day?

The EU themselves are all to happy to provide the answer:

On the 9th of May 1950, Robert Schuman presented his proposal on the creation of an organised Europe, indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations.

This proposal, known as the “Schuman declaration”, is considered to be the beginning of the creation of what is now the European Union.

Today, the 9th of May has become a European symbol (Europe Day) which, along with the flag, the anthem, the motto and the single currency (the euro), identifies the political entity of the European Union. Europe Day is the occasion for activities and festivities that bring Europe closer to its citizens and peoples of the Union closer to one another.

That’s right, it is the anniversary of the day that the political project, of which the UK is now just an a regional subdivision, began.

So be a proper EU citizen and wave the blue flag with the yellow stars on it whilst reciting Friedrich Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy’ (set to the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th) and remembering that you are ‘United in Diversity’.

You’ve done all that? Well done! Now, how does it feel to be a good little Soviet?

Local Election 2011 Round-Up: The Result

Those who read my taking apart of election leaflets of three of the five candidates standing in my ward on Thursday may wish to know the outcome. So, without further ado, here it is (names redacted to protect the guilty):

Party Votes
Independent 835
Labour 623
Conservative 415
Liberal Democrat 265
Green 217

35 ballot papers were spoilt and the turnout was 31.59%.

I’m happy to see that none of the cretins who bothered to leaflet me got in and, theoretically, I have no problems with being represented by an Independent although I may have to write to him and ask him what his platform was.

The borough however is still true blue Conservative (hardly a surprise) and the only change in the seat numbers is that the Liberal Democrats are down two whilst the Independents are up two. The good news though is that the one woman walking disaster area known as Anna Waite was quite comprehensively thrown out by her electorate.

Local Election 2011 Round-Up: Liberal Democrats

Also making a late dash for my vote are the Liberal Democrats and given the crudity of the leaflet (an A4 bit of paper that has obviously been run off on a standard laser printer) shoved through my letterbox it seems they either forgot or had little to no money to spend. Still, let’s not pre-judge them completely. It may (no laughing at the back) contain something that convinces me to vote for the candidate.

Like the two previous candidates mentioned he also lives in the ward, next door the the Labour candidate as it turns out. That must make for interesting conversations across the fence, no doubt. He also claims to know first hand the problems those of us in the ward face. Strangely I don’t ever recall speaking to him, let alone meeting him so I can only assume that he is a mind reader if he knows what problems I do (or don’t) have.

The only local issues he mentions though are the library (he ups the ante by suggesting it is in need of saving) and the rubbish so it seems that perhaps he and his neighbour do get along quite well.

The next half page covers the result of last year’s local elections when the Lib Dem candidate in this ward narrowly beat the Conservative one and in the process ousted the sitting Independent. Unsurprisingly last year’s victor is enthusiastically endorsing his party compatriot.

This is followed by the need to explain the break down of parties and seats within the ward and I am told that the Lib Dems are neck and neck with the Conservatives in the west of the borough. No mention of the eastern half but I suppose that their utter lack of a councillor out that way is not something they’d wish to trumpet. I am also told that only the Lib Dems can beat the Tories in this ward. No mention that the sitting councillor is an Independent, this is supposedly just a straight slugfest between two parties in collation nationally.

Not that the leaflet mentions the national situation anywhere. There isn’t a sniff of anything from Liberal Democrat high command anywhere on it. Too embarrassed perhaps? Hoping against hope that if they don’t mention it then perhaps the locals won’t give them too much of a kicking? Who knows.

It concludes by making an attack on the sitting administration, accusing them of incompetence, bad decision making and money wasting. All standard fair to be honest, even if former council leader Anna Waite does seem to have spent a lot of time in the local press for all the wrong reasons. However what it doesn’t say, amongst the claims that a Liberal Democrat administration would make things better in the borough, is that the maths is, I believe, against them. The best they can do is become the biggest party and to do that they will need to hang on to their existing seats and win almost everywhere else. That doesn’t seem likely.

Local Election 2011 Round-Up: Labour Party

With barely any time to go before voting day, the Labour Party tried to make a play for my vote on Tuesday by delivering their candidate’s leaflet. As they have finally made the effort I’ll be reasonable (yes, yes, I know) and take a look at what they have to say.

Like the watermelon he lives in the ward, which is a good start. He has also been a councillor before but I do not know which borough and when. I do know from looking up last years’s result for this ward that he stood then and came fourth.

He makes a point of saying that he sends his kids to the local schools but doesn’t say which ones. Given that the borough contains 4 of the grammar schools (all single sex, split evenly) left in the country as well as a well respected Catholic secondary school (plus plenty of dross) I wonder which schools he is referring to? This supposed attempt at being one of the locals is followed up by a swift dig at the Liberal Democrats over tuition fees. He’s obviously forgotten which party introduced university fees to start with…

Anyway, enough of the national issues, let’s see what he has to say about local stuff. The leaflet makes a great play about local services, such as the police, libraries and children’s centres being under threat. Well obviously no-one wants to see services like these cut, do they? So what claims is he making as to the likelihood of reductions in the aforementioned services?

  • Police: Allegedly up to 400 Police Officers are under threat, which is obvious electioneering as I doubt the borough has even seen 400 coppers within its boundaries, even at airshow time. Whether the 400 figure is accurate on a county wide basis, or indeed if all 400 job cuts will be from the ranks of the police, rather than support staff, I do not know.
  • Libraries: He is focused particularly on the one in the ward, which is only fair, saying he will oppose plans to reduce opening hours or close it completely. Seeing as how I never done anything but walk, cycle or drive past it I can’t comment on how well used it is but having checked it is second only to the one in the main town in the number of hours it is open for on a weekly basis so will having a few hours trimmed from this make a massive difference? He would also like it to become the focus for local activity within the ward, which rather implies that it isn’t currently and, assuming that market forces are at work here, seemingly doesn’t need to be.
  • Children’s centres: This was apparently a throw away remark as no further reference is made. Scaremongering? Looks like as ‘Children and Learning’ spending would appear to be going up according to a quick glance at the budget.

His priorities, aside from the local library are this familiar restrains of dog fouling and littering – both banes of any urban environment it seems. And here it seems I am in agreement with him and he wants action against those who are guilty of such annoying behaviour. Score one for a socialist, who’d have thought it?

The back of the has, as I suppose is mandatory, something from high command. In this case that something is a picture of Millipede Jr. trying to smile (he shouldn’t) and a message telling us we should vote Labour to oppose the cuts as they will mean that our children will be back in the workhouse. Ah no, sorry, he just said that they will mean only the privileged few children will be able to get good jobs and opportunities. That’s right, he is opposing the cuts for the sake of the children. He is already on that fallback line? Not good for someone who has only been leader for 6 and a bit months.

An Internet Storm in a Teacup

In a textbook example of how a story of ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ and ‘maybes’ can get out of hand, a report in the Daily Mail on May 1st about a potential tightening up of what can – or can’t be show pre-watershed caused a small amount of righteous fury yesterday.

Given that this is the Mail, they led the story with the idea that lesbian kisses could be banned from being shown under this potential change and this was picked up by The Sun which initially didn’t bother to pass on more information than just that, preferring instead to run with the outrage of an soap opera actress, who portrays a lesbian, who hadn’t read the full story either.

Cue snowball effect as various right-on internet publications, which also hadn’t bothered reading the story, all accused David Cameron and the Tories of going back to the days where they were the ‘Nasty Party’.

As the Daily Mail was at the forefront of the whole Section 28 palaver in the mid-80s and has been regularly accused of being economical with the truth by groups claiming to champion the rights of minorities you would be forgiven for thinking that such organisations wouldn’t have taken the story that they got second or third hand at face value.

Indeed, the whole basis for the original Daily Mail report is a single, anonymous source apparently close to the Bailey Review, commissioned by the government last year to ‘look at the pressures on children to grow up too quickly’, who said that:

For some parents, what has been considered acceptable in the past – such as that Brookside kiss – is not appropriate for children to see early in the evening.

And that ladies and gentlemen is it. A single line which stirred up a small internet frenzy. I suppose it would have been a bigger one but for the apparent death of someone in Pakistan which mean that, in the end, almost no-one was listening to the howls of anguish being generated by a small number of interested parties.

Shockingly, although you could have been forgiven for missing it, that wasn’t all that the anonymous source had to say. Not that the interest groups cared. Indeed I’m not sure the Mail did either as they probably thought that their job was done after giving lesbians and most of their male readership heart attacks at the thought of having to find pictures of two women kissing somewhere other than on prime time television.

Other things apparently in the firing line include raunchy dance routines on pre-watershed TV, sexual explicit advertisements in public places (by which they are generally referring to large posters of lingerie clad women) as well as a crackdown on internet pornography by enabling parents to ask web service providers to block obscene websites ‘at source’ rather than relying on parental controls.

Strangely there were no cries of outrage at any of that. No suggestions that ISPs shouldn’t exist to backstop parents who are too lazy to use controls that already exist to restrict what their children look at online. No thoughts on whether hiding away the semi-naked form is all just a touch puritan. No complaints about the potential suggestiveness of dance routines performed by the likes of Christina Aguilera and Rihanna.

Honestly, anyone would think that those making a fuss didn’t care about anything outside of justifying their own blinkered existence…