Tuesday, January 30, 2007

BBC muck up casino coverage

The scene:

News 24. Three reporters at three location. Blackpool, Cardiff, the Dome. Two newscasters on the edge of their seats.

The countdown to 11:00 when the Casino Advisory Panel will make its announcement.

We jump from location to location - black pool the favorite, Cardif and the Dome nipping on the heals.

11:00. 11:01. 11:02 - the tension is unbearable. People frantically refreshing their browsers on the CAP website and then ...

YES!!! Its .....



And there you have it. The winner is Manchester and the press isn't there.

Other winners on smaller casinos are Milton Keynes (sadly), Leeds, Solihull and others - but not Blackpool, not the Dome and not Cardiff.

For the full report go here.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Bobby gets republican support

I doubt whether the republicans in Northern Ireland refer to the police as Bobbies, but at least they have just voted to support and recognize them.

This will mean that they will be part of community initiatives, sit on local police boards and, I suppose, dial 999 when they have a problem.

But one wonders over all these years, who did republicans call when their handbag was stolen? When a drunk driver caused injury to a child? When youths broken into the house and wrecked everything, just for fun?

Sean Sexton is a notable collector of early Irish photographs and staunchly republican sympathiser. I asked him this question once many years ago in the Toucan in Soho Square.

“We phone the police, of course.”

“But don’t you hate the police?”

“Now that depends on why you want to call them!”

But then, republican or no, Sean had lived in London a long time. He also added that if it were a really bad crime, there were always some lads that would sort it out for you.

Still this is a move in, I hope, the right direction.

After the political fighting and the war of words and hate and violence, then we will have the war of trust. I fear that will be a very much longer war than we have had thus far.

I am British, born in London and cannot pretend to understand the really deep undercurrents in Northern Ireland. But I recognise political posturing when I see it. And from all sides I have seen little else over these years. Yes, trust is going to take a long time.

Perhaps if the police were called the Bobbies of Northern Ireland, then people would be more accepting. But then again, Robert Peel, for whom the humble Bobby is named, also established the Royal Irish Constabulary in 1812 when Home Secretary, so perhaps that would be asking a bit much!

Now, to the home office.

I have had an interesting thought that is not to do with Home Office bashing – the sport of the moment, unhelpfully.

One of the arguments against Sarah’s Law is that paedophiles will simply go underground and we will be worse off than we already are. The 300 odd missing people from the register shows how difficult this is to manage (forget the blame game, this is just the practical reality) – and this is a tiny percentage of the numbers who are on the list. If we give them more reason to do vanishing acts, how many will be missing then?

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Tale of the Missing Exclusive

Last night on ITV News:


Police find delected emails on hidden Downing Street computer Network
Evidence of a cover up!
The Real Reson behind The Arrest!!!!

Or words to that effect.

Apparently, according to the "exclusive" report, during questioning a witness inadvertently let slip that downing street had a second, hidden IT system. Police were quick to investigate, and discovered a trail of emails, secretly deleted after their investigation began. These emails referred to giving donors to the Labour Party "Ks" and "Ps", thought to be Knighthoods and Peerages.

This was really the exclusive to end all exclusives. This was Watergate in Downing Street. This would rock our democracy to the core.

The trouble is, even before broadcast Downing Street had issued an unequivical statement saying there is no second network, there have been no emails of that type and the police had not approached Downing Street about this at all.

Oh, dear.

You see, when something has even the hint of truthfullness in it, you can be sure that Downing Street will come out with something like "we cannot comment at this time," or "We do not want to impede the investigation," or similar. Outright and clear denial, however, is not the normal reaction.

So, have ITV completely cocked up? Have they lead on a fabrication?

Today, on ITVs website, there is no mention of the story.
There is no mention of it on Channel 4s website.
The BBC has only the short denial article from yesterday.
It is absent on the Sun website, the Mirror, the daily mail and only mentioned in the Times in passing.

So where has the story gone? Is this some amazing conspiracy where Opus Dei has asked the Knights Templar (run by Cherry Blair) to threaten editors if they do not squash this government damning report? Of is it a case of a complete media fiasco followed by some rapid and very embarrassed deleting of stories?

The Latter, me thinks. Well done girls and boys!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Catholic Adoption Problems

It is a troublesome problem.

The government is bringing forth new legislation to stop discrimination against gay couples. As an affect of this legislation Catholic Adoption Agencies would no longer be able to turn down a couple purely because they are gay.

The Catholic Church has said it would like an exemption to this law or it will have to close its 10 adoption agencies. These handle around 4% of adoptions in the UK, but about 30% of the very difficult adoptions involving older children or children with problems.

It would be very problematic if these agencies were to close.

I am puzzled by some of this row. The Catholic Church has used potential closure of the agencies as almost a blackmail tool. In one breath they say there concern is the fate of these children, and yet they seem to be prepared to abandon them, to let them fall, over a debatable piece of doctrine.

On the other hand, the political press has transformed this issue into one about cabinet splits, Blair's loss of authority, etc, etc. The BBC has even said "this has turned into a debate about the Prime Minister’s authority ..." while conveniently forgetting that it is them and Nick Robinson (their political editor) that has done the turning.

They seem to not be able to understand that this is a very difficult issue whichever way you look at it, and I would be worried about a cabinet that DIDN'T go through all the options and discuss this issue both politically and ethically at length and with passion.

The media have been reporting that Blair and Ruth Kelly are pro an exemption. However, there has been absolutely no substantiation for these claims. They are just reported as if we ought to automatically believe them. Again.

Now Blair has come out and said he is personally in favour of Gay Couples adopting. So how does that fit? Is he lying, or have the Beeb been caught making it up as they go along.

I do not agree with many of Blair’s decisions, but I do believe that he is almost radically into the whole idea of fairness and equality. And I think Ruth Kelly holds a similar stance. Therefore, whatever their religious beliefs, it is hard to see that they would turn away from those core principles quite so easily.

To add to the confusion, the Arch Bishop of Canterbury has come out in support of the Catholics by saying that you should not legislate over a matter of concience. Does that mean that some one can discriminate against Jews if ther concience or teachings tell them they are devils? In which case we should allow radical muslims to be antisemitic and to ban Jews from their shops and streets and businesses ... does this sound familiar? Does the problematic archbishop realise what he has just said? (As an aside, if ever there was someone who should keep thier mouth shut, it is he!)

From my point of view, as I have no religion, I err on the side of sorting out the discrimination. But for somebody with deeply held religious beliefs I can see tha this is a mind bending puzzle.

Monday, January 15, 2007

More on Milton Keynes

Ooh what a bitter sweet debate!

I do love stirring from time to time.

Since I posted on John Gummer's blog a whole host (well, 17) people have responded with mixed feelings. It is interesting that out of the couple of thousand who must have read the article in MK Today, only 17 actually bothered replying. And I suspect that half of those only did so because I ruffled a few precious little feathers.

But there is a seriousness here that should neither be overlooked nor clouded by John's initial observations.

Milton Keynes was designed for the benefit the shopping centre, not the other way around. When all you who support Milton Keynes offer your continued support, make sure that the non-elected members that are involved in the growth of this town really do have YOUR best interests at heart.

When the theatre (and it is a good theatre) was launched, its own little district was billed by the council as "Just like Covent Garden." We know that that is far from the truth.

For instance it has been suggested that ALL premises in the theater district serve alcohol in plastic glasses (Bar-me already does). That says much about the area.

The food there is rubbish, plastic and as desposable as the glasses. It is as pretty as a breeze block.

You have to ask how the planning descisions were taken so that small, independent companies did not even have a look in at the site. It was simply advertised nationally to the chains.

A council is meant to protect and build a LOCAL economy. When they proudly announced the revolting Escape, a corrugated iron edifice that can be seen clearly from Ivinghoe beacon, or a couple of years ago trumpet the arrival of Debenhams, or inflict the most expensive and rip off German Market, you wonder who they are really working for.

Nothing Taller than the trees - where did that philosophy go?

Communities will grow up where they are allowed to. And communities within the older, pre MK areas are fighting on - and good for them. Some have already lost, like Bletchly and Fenny Stratford.

When the shopping centre opened all those years ago, it more or less killed off that bit of the local economy overnight. The councils idea of supporting a the locals is to allow a great big hyper store and then have a couple of small units shoved round the back. It looks better on the planning consent.

It takes two groups to kill a community:

Massive stores and chains who spend millions over long periods to push their way through planning. I did the sound on a couple of proposal videos some years ago, you would not believe how they operate. These videos cost Thousands and are only played to the council.

And it takes a council of idiots to be duped by the sell and sign on the bottom line.

Sadly, the public often have little real say in any of it.

Milton Keynes has been built on this principle.

I wrote a song about it:

You tear the heart from the land to build your city,
A million tons of concrete, don't you think it's pretty?
It's all about sleeze wrapped up in big money,
And you hope we dont mind that you find it funny,
And I am Crying
You keep us crying.

You can hear the whole song HERE


PS: According to the sign I live in MK11. How nice!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

All Hale John Gummer!

John Gummer, not normally someone with whom I can find much to agree, has laid out his opinions on Milton Keynes in his blog. He starts:

"Once hailed as the great example of 20th Century living Milton Keynes does have its good points. The shopping is ‘brilliant’ and the snow dome ‘fantastic’– it’s just the living that can be so lonely and confining."

For the rest go here.

I have replied to him on his page - but I repeat it here for the record:

My Dear Mr Gummer

Your tirade against Milton Keynes will probably find far more support than the blinkered Dr Starkey will have you believe. Indeed, her political view point is well known for her support (Alluded to on this page) of the 70,000 new homes about to drown the exsisting TOWN of Milton Keynes.

But, while looking at the problem, you have rather missed the more vital point. Yes, the Redways are somewhat empty, and even I would be careful in some parts of this place, however, please feel free to put the weight of your critique on the planners and politicians that are building a future for retail in this place.

We all know how Milton Keynes was designed - a central retail park to be supported by an instant town. What provision was offered as an incentive to people was very thin - just enough to make the marketing work. I remember being involved in one of the marketing waves in the late seventies. The recording session was populated by representatives of the Retailers making sure that the increase in population benefitted them directly. I remember someone commenting that after all Milton Keynes exsisted for the benefit of the retailers, not the public.

Nothing Has Changed. When you look at the plans for the future its central resourse is a wonderful, bright, new, modern, shopping centre. Again. Oh, and suitably high rents so that only the rubbishy, bland chains can afford to be there.

"Love the City?" Some will. Many know that this place is one great big suberb with all the conveniences and none of the things that makes a city, or much of a town either. Personality? No. Culture? Well, if the council call surrounding the theatre with tacky clubs and greasy chain restaurants culture then the council must be very untravelled! High Quality living? Well, all the cultured people have stayed in the villages and use Milton Keynes as the shopping centre it is.

At the end of the day, Milton Keynes is exactly what the planners wanted it to be - London Overflow.

PS: I am writing this as the local paper has published an article asking people to deluge your blog with defensive articles. I though I would get in fast and defend you!

Interestingly enough, just below the article in MK News that so derides John Gummer is another:

"Cops hunt gang after man is stabbed outside restaurant."

The restaurant in question is outside the town centre and on the shores of one of the lakes Dr Starkey refers to.
EDIT: I have been corrected - the restaurant is not on a lake but in the safe, tranquil setting of Shenley Church End. My mistake. Nobody

Monday, January 08, 2007

Media and the idiotic Tara Flood Slam Ruth kelly

The situation: Ruth Kelly, former education minister, has a child with learning difficulties. In consultation with experts who look after her child she is sending her child to an independent school who can help the child best. That is the entire story.

"Does this prove that Labour education policy is failing?"

"All this after Labour closes hundreds of special need schools?"

This not from antagonistic opposition politicians but from the BBC. And in fact the opposition has said "This is a private matter."

Now Tara Flood of the Alliance for Inclusive Education has joined the fray without, I suspect, actually checking on the facts. She is furious that Ruth Kelly, as a minister, should have made this decision for her own child. No, she should do what Tara Flood (whose has never met the child) says and send them to a local mainstream school whether that is good for the child or not. "Segregated Education," Tara Flood provocatively labels Ruth Kelly's personal, private and advised choice.

While I do believe that many children with educational difficulties can benefit from mainstream education, I am also aware that many fair much better in specialised schools where all the emphasis is on special needs, not just some of it. Including everyone might make Tara Flood feel better, but it is not always right for the child.

As for the school in question being independent, very specialised schools often are and the council pays the fees where they need to use them. This makes more sense than the council paying the high capital costs of setting up a school them selves and then having to attract people from out side the council area to make it worthwhile doing.

Of course, the BBC on their Have Your Say page say in bold:

Former Education Secretary Ruth Kelly, is expected to make a
statement later on reports that she is sending one of her children to a
private school."

A nice provocative statement, and nicely misleading. But then, that is becoming the overriding trait of the BBC these days.