On Tuesday 8th January, Suzanne Moore’s essay on the power of female anger went up on the New Statesman website. I read through it, liked it, winced at one line in it, and glanced at Twitter and saw I had not been the only one to like, but to wince. I also saw Moore’s reaction to the polite criticism she was getting, and I thought “Someone should explain to her why this is going to get people upset” and in this spirit (and because it seemed an appropriate article for LGBT.co.uk, for which I am contracted to Write Stuff) I wrote No, Not Moore Transphobia, pointing out too that a conversation about #TransDocFail had been going on before the article with the unfortunate line about “Brazilian transsexuals” went online.
I swear, I thought this was all going to calm down within a few days. Suzanne Moore did get a couple of very awful tweets (“cut your face off” / “you should have your head cut off”) were, while not (in my view, and I wouldn’t blame Suzanne Moore for differing in that) serious call-the-police threats, they were wretchedly unpleasant things to get – as unpleasant as the “cut your dicks off” line Moore tweeted – and I blocked both of the senders. But, most of the comments Suzanne Moore was getting initially were on the lines of “That line about Brazilian transsexuals is problematic” and I thought that once she cooled down, read the open letters and blog posts written by women for whom (I assumed) she could feel nothing but respect, she would have to admit; she screwed up.
What I didn’t think of either – and should have – was that the situation for trans women in Brazil was not going to get any better just for Suzanne Moore taking up all the media attention possible and claiming this was all about her hurt feelings. The distress of the privileged is real distress, even if it is different in scale from injustice. Moore was celebrating the anger of women: shouldn’t she get that anger is splendid even when it was directed at something she wrote?
Nick Clegg’s New Year message leans heavily on things he had less than nothing to do with:
“The last twelve months have been lit up by moments that will stay with us forever. When Mo Farah approached the final stretch of the 10,000m final, who wasn’t up on their feet, screaming at the TV?
“When Nicola Adams beamed at the crowd after winning the first ever women’s Olympic boxing, who didn’t smile back? I was lucky enough to be there, and that’s one I’ll never forget.
“Was there anything more British than that drenched choir in the Jubilee River Pageant, singing Rule Britannia! in the pouring rain?
“Incredible images. Spectacular shows. Jaw-dropping personal triumphs.”
Sadly, none of them involved the Liberal Democratic party or its leader.
To be able to form a government the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons needs to be able to count on a minimum of 326 votes: otherwise, as soon as the government does something which the opposition cannot approve of, they can hold a vote of no confidence which the government will lose: Parliament is dissolved, a general election occurs.
The median age of the population of the UK is 40.2: the last time there was a general election called in those circumstances was October 1974. Over half the population are not old enough to remember this except as a historical report: no one under 56 is old enough to have voted in 1974, the year of two elections. Gordon Brown would have been 23 that year.
Ed Miliband wouldn’t yet have been 5: Nick Clegg was 7: David Cameron would have been 7 at the time of the first General Election in 1974, and the second happened the day after his 8th birthday.
I was inspired to write this, if that’s the word, on reading Fleet Street Fox on the Leveson Report: The devil is in the detail, published yesterday in the Press Gazette.
It’s a fine example of a rant as you will ever find from an MP explaining with tendentious authority why the general public have absolutely no right to know about their Parliamentary expenses and how it will ruin a free democracy if this is allowed: you would think this was an investigative journalist who sees censorship on the cards, not a fox demanding the right to be unmuzzled in the henhouse.
But the devil is in the detail, and the detail of Leveson is the bit which will muzzle the Press as effectively as Hannibal Lecter strapped to a luggage trolley.
Leveson wants this backed up by law which is plain wrong, because there’s no bill ever passed by Parliament that wasn’t tinkered with later. Hacked Off and other campaigners may feel the suggested law is fine, but it’s the law it may mutate into which is why it should never happen.
So, we can’t have laws in the UK, because however nice a law looks when it’s proposed, Parliament may change it into something unspeakable, so all laws are wrong. We should instead trust to the kindness and gentility of the likes of David Grigson.
Okay. That’s nice, Fox. We should live in a lawless society because we can’t trust Parliament.
Let me answer a simpler question.
When is muzzling the Press appropriate and can you recommend a certain kind?
By and large, muzzles are used to keep the Press from biting or causing injury. There are two types of muzzles: prohibitive (also referred to as the “tyrant’s muzzle”) and regulatory.
In the 2012 council elections, in quite a few wards the SNP decided to improve their number of seats on the council by breaking the musical chairs rule: instead of having just one party representative per ward, they had two. They made a number of bad strategic decisions (not least, presenting themselves as the male pale stale party in the last election before they have to convince women voters in particular that independence is worth voting for) but this one was kind of obvious.
(The musical chairs rule, for those not familiar with it: in Scotland, there may be three or four seats per ward, and there are usually candidates from five major parties standing: Labour, Conservative, LibDem, SNP, and Green. In a ward with four seats, as people go down the list of candidates ranking the parties in order of favour, this can effectively be a game of musical chairs: when the votes are counted, four out of five of the main parties will have a seat.)
The SNP also made the mistake of assuming that voters would remember their individual councillor and vote for him specifically (in the SNP, it’s usually a him). In my ward, the SNP council election leaflets suggested voters put “1″ next to the second candidate, new man Adam McVey. (They did suggest people put “2″ next to the previous councilor, but people don’t rank the same party “1″ and “2″ on their ballots…) Consequently, Adam McVey got in, and the previous SNP councillor lost his seat. The same pattern seems to have repeated itself in Heldon & Laich ward in Moray, with variations typical of locality – the previous councillors had been three men, a Conservative, an Independent, and SNP. Carolle Roberts, who had been involved in the campaign to keep the local RAF base open, was chosen to run as the SNP’s “other candidate”. And won.
Over the past week, there was a big row in the press about three children who had been fostered for eight weeks by a couple who were members of UKIP (and who were heterosexual, as UKIP does not hold with gay foster parents).
The story the press were telling was that the evil social workers of Rotherham had taken these children away from righteous foster parents just because of the fosterers party membership. This was a good story and got lots of people talking seriously about UKIP and grumbling about social workers.
By the way, between social workers and a newspaper, I’m more likely to trust the social workers. Social workers are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to child protection. If they take children away from their parents, the media get on their case, attacking the social workers for breaking up families and acting with unbridled power.
If they leave children with their parents and the children are seriously hurt or killed, the media get on their case, attacking the social workers for failing to protect the children.
Whenever anyone claims that the British press has moved into a new ethical period because of Leveson and so no new legislation is required, remember David Rose of the Daily Mail and the ugly, libellous, hatchet-job he did on Steven Messham.
I wish Leveson had published his report at eight in the morning rather than lunchtime – I could have written this blog before Question Time. But Question Time was illuminating – the BBC chose four grey men in grey suits, and Michael Rosen for the BBC Extra Guest, and the only one who could speak about media sexism from her personal experience on the panel was Charlotte Church: and while better MPs had evidently fled in terror, Church shone. She was easily the most articulate and most intelligent panellist tonight: if the BBC don’t ask her back, sexism has trumped sense. (As it so often does.)
Of the other panellists, Patrick McLoughlin had reason to object to an inquisitive press: his MP expenses were exposed in 2009. Chris Bryant is another of the home-flipping MPs who decides which place is his “second home” depending on how much he can claim in expenses. Simon Jenkins used to edit the Times and the London Standard as well as write for the Guardian. And Neil Wallis used to be executive editor of News of the World, leaving a comfortable two years before Rupert Murdoch tried to shut down all the bad talk about phone hacking by sacking everyone except Rebekah Wade. Neil Wallis and Rebekah Wade were arrested in July 2011.
Much of the mainstream press is awash with very public horror at the thought that the government might legislate regulation on the national press if that’s what Lord Leveson recommends.
Last week, Lord McAlpine’s lawyers met with the Metropolitan Police to begin what Scotland Yard calls a “scoping exercise” to discover if the police can treat the tweeting and retweeting of the allegations that McAlpine abused children as a criminal offence. I saw no mainstream press expressing horror that this might lead to legal curbs on a free press. Scotland Yard said:
“We have not received an allegation of crime at this time, however, we can confirm we will be meeting with interested parties to start the process of scoping whether any offence has taken place. It is far too early to say whether any criminal investigation will follow.”
Lawyers for McAlpine said they had identified up to 10,000 allegedly defamatory tweets about the former Tory party treasurer.
They announced plans to sue Twitter users and broadcasters, including the BBC and ITV, for libel following the inaccurate Newsnight report into child sex abuse on 2 November.
You might ask – as Tom Pride does – why a man who opts to live in Italy rather than pay his taxes in the UK, is getting this kind of special treatment from the Metropolitan Police. Let him call upon the Italian police to investigate Twitter, since he chooses to live there.
Tomorrow, Lord Leveson will publish his recommendations from the Leveson enquiry.
People have been asking, how did Jimmy Savile get away with rape and sexual abuse, hundreds of victims, for so long?
This cartoon in the Daily Mail today shows how Savile did it.
His victims knew no one would believe them, they’d be laughed at and told they were liars.
How’s about that, then? They were right.
Click for larger image. The cartoon depicts two police officers outside the BBC, interviewing a homeless woman, with the clear implication that she is lying about having been raped by Jimmy Savile. “Mac on… The victims of Jimmy Savile filing compensation claims worth millions”.
(From the actual facts, which clearly didn’t worry “Mac” when he saw a chance to make a rape joke, there are so many victims, and so many institutions which were clearly negligent, that the total cost of all of the compensation claims will very likely be millions. It took the Daily Mail to leap from that to “So they’re lying in order to get the money”.)
Samantha Brick on This Morning:
“I’m not a prude. I live in France. France is the home of erotic literature. In France if you refuse to give conjugal rights to your husband you can be sued.”
(Am I the only one who thought this was a four-statement example of Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking?)
Samantha Brick criticised the widespread availability Fifty Shades of Grey, saying supermarkets and high street giants shouldn’t be selling explicit content where children could view it.
“Madonna released an explicit book in the Nineties that was sold on the top shelf of the supermarkets in a special cover. It was sealed and there was a warning on it.” …. But there is nothing stopping children and young teens picking up Fifty Shades, she said.
I’ve never read Fifty Shades of Grey but I have listened to Mark Oshiro reading from FSoG and it sounds hilarible. (WARNING. DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS AT WORK. NOT EVEN IF YOU HAVE HEADPHONES IN. MAY CAUSE UNCONTROLLABLE GIGGLING.)
“Protection of Parliamentary privileges, election of Presiding Officer, etc”
In April 2011, Ryan Giggs’s lawyers managed to convince a judge that Giggs’s girlfriend had had an affair with him for six months with intention of blackmailing him, and so ought not to be allowed to name Ryan Giggs in any interview, nor ought the UK media to be allowed to publish this, and the judge granted a superinjunction, which of course attracted the intention among the vast majority who didn’t care who Giggs was having an affair with. On 22nd May the Sunday Herald took advantage of its ambiguous position as a Scottish newspaper to identify Giggs to anyone who’d been following the story… but on 23rd May he was named in the House of Commons under Parliamentary privilege by John Hemming. The woman who’d been falsely accused of blackmail went on to clear her name in court, and the judge then suggested with remarkable meiosis that “There is no longer any point in maintaining the anonymity” though the gagging order wasn’t dropped until February this year.
Because of this incident, and because of the other more justly famous incident in the precursor to Leveson, when in November 2011 Tom Watson told James Murdoch that “You must be the first mafia boss in history who didn’t know he was running a criminal enterprise” probably what most people know about “Parliamentary privilege” is that an MP speaking in the House of Commons can say literally anything and cannot be prosecuted for defamation or for breaking a superinjunction.